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Buzios, “Brazil’s Saint Tropez,” shuts down and throws tourists out

and . Dec 17, 2020
Buzios, "Brazil's Saint Tropez," shuts down and throws tourists out Armação dos Buzios is a picture-perfect destination. Photo: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Located just 130 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro on a jutting peninsula with 17 beaches, Armação dos Buzios is a picture-perfect location for tourists. Its Mediterranean feel and cobblestone streets earned the city the nickname “Brazil’s Saint Tropez.” Cosmopolitan magazine once described the vibe in the lazy fishing village as “sea, little fishing boats, colourful wildflowers, and total silence. Bliss.” 

But during a deadly pandemic, bliss is nowhere to be seen in Buzios.

A court ordered the city to be shut down

on Thursday and gave tourists 72 hours to check out from their hotels and hit the road. The ruling came after Buzios registered 490 new coronavirus cases between December 9 and 16 — a 3,700-percent increase from averages in October.</p> <p>Judge Raphael Campos said the explosion of new cases in Buzios has put the region in a &#8220;red zone&#8221; — at a very high risk of a healthcare collapse — according to a covenant signed in June by several municipalities in the region, establishing measures to curb infections. But the agreement has never been respected&nbsp;and the municipal healthcare network was made no changes to deal with a surge in cases. In his sentence, Judge Campos says Buzios still has &#8220;less than a dozen&#8221; intensive care beds.</p> <p>The decision prohibited any non-residents from entering Buzios — and all beaches are off-limits. All forms of public gatherings are prohibited, and non-essential stores can only operate on a delivery basis. As hotels and inns will close, tourists were sent home too.</p> <p>Failure to comply would cost Buzios BRL 100,000 (USD 19,700) per day. The mayor&#8217;s office issued a statement saying it will abide by the decision, but has hired lawyers to challenge the ruling in higher courts.</p> <h2>&#8220;We&#8217;re going to starve to death&#8221;</h2> <p>A traditional fishing village, the local economy of Buzios traditionally revolved around aquaculture. But discoveries of nearby deepwater oil reserves — which generates royalties to the city — and the development of tourism developed a whole new side to Buzios. Official data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics says the services sector accounts for <a href="https://www.ibge.gov.br/estatisticas/economicas/contas-nacionais/9088-produto-interno-bruto-dos-municipios.html?t=pib-por-municipio&amp;c=3300233">half of the municipal GDP</a>. Local establishments started to invest in order to attract business tourists, and the city has sustained the highest-possible <a href="https://buzios.rj.gov.br/buzios-se-destaca-como-destino-turistico-no-novo-mapa-do-turismo-brasileiro-2019-2021/">A-grade level</a> on Brazil&#8217;s tourism map.</p> <p>The services sector, however, has been brutally hit by the coronavirus crisis.</p> <p>Commerce and travel were disrupted for seven full months, and local vendors were hoping for a strong summer season to make up for their losses. Further social isolation measures, however, would be a death blow for many.</p> <p>&#8220;What they are doing is cowardice. Courts will go into recess on Friday — and unless we get this decision overturned by then, an appeal will only be possible in February,&#8221; one 23-year-old vendor <a href="https://plantaoenfoco.com.br/cidades/vamos-morrer-de-fome-diz-comerciante-de-buzios-em-protesto/">told</a> reporters. &#8220;The little money we had we invested for the summer. We&#8217;re going to starve to death.&#8221;</p> <p>Besides the money they won&#8217;t earn, many are worried about having to issue refunds for holiday packages paid for in advance. The local hotel association said 88 percent of rooms have been booked for the holiday season — and some places were selling admittance to private New Year&#8217;s Eve parties for BRL 3,000 (USD 591) a head.</p> <p>In protest against social isolation measures, local workers and business owners shut down the city&#8217;s entrances and, perhaps fittingly, staged a public gathering in front of City Hall.

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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