Rio delays reopening amid Delta variant surge

delta reopening
Bar in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Tânia Rego/ABr

Brazil’s second-biggest municipal economy, Rio de Janeiro planned a grand reopening next week. Public outdoor events would be permitted once more, and multiple event venues would be able to operate at half capacity. On November 15, the three-phase plan would reach its pinnacle — with masks becoming optional outside of health units and public transportation.

But then came the Delta variant.

While Covid deaths are trending down across Brazil, they have spiked 55 percent in the city of Rio de Janeiro over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations in intensive care units jumped 63 percent between July 22 and August 22, crushing City Hall’s bold plans.

“From the first announcement on reopening, we made it clear that flexibilization was conditioned to a favorable epidemiological scenario.” Without these conditions, “the plan is hereby postponed,” they wrote.

The Delta variant has delivered a crushing blow to many cities’ reopening plans. In Brazil, some argue its impact might be limited, considering that isolation rates have remained at very low levels throughout the pandemic. The leading social isolation index was even discontinued in March of this year.