SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Police broke up an illegal party with nearly 600 people in a windowless Sao Paulo nightclub in the early hours of Saturday, highlighting violations of social distancing rules that have made the country’s outbreak the deadliest in the world today.
COVID-19 killed 12,000 Brazilians over the past week, more than any other country. With a total of 275,000 lives lost, Brazil’s death toll only lags behind the United States, where the epidemic has slowed dramatically.
Sao Paulo’s governor Joao Doria was among state and city authorities imposing restrictions as Brazil’s outbreak spiked to record levels, fueled by a more contagious local variant. However, many Brazilians still oppose the measures, pushed by President Jair Bolsonaro, who oppose lockdowns as unnecessary and job killings.
Sao Paulo officials have taken increasingly dramatic steps to show they are serious, including a amplified ‘blitzkrieg’ to suppress the city’s notorious nightlife.
With axes and assault rifles, police officers broke down the door of a nightclub in the city district of Capao Redondo, breaking through the darkness with lights in their guns. Hundreds of young attendees, some of them masked, huddled on the dance floor as police silenced the music and arrested the organizers.
“I can never imagine hundreds and hundreds of people in a place without a single window, with all doors closed,” said Eduardo Brotero, the police officer who ran the operation.
Jefferson dos Santos, one of the revelers of being forced to leave the party, voiced his disapproval of the operation: “We pay taxes and we know the risks, we may get sick or infect our family. But we need to do something in life. “
Consumer defense agency Procon-SP said it had fined about 100 companies for violating the latest restrictions. Carlos Cesar Marera, director of law enforcement at Procon-SP said the city’s clandestine party was being held via the internet.
“These young people, usually 18 to 23 years of age, gather at these parties without social distancing at a time when thousands are dying.”
Reporting by Leonardo Benassato in Sao Paulo; Written by Tatiana Bautzer; Edited by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell