Rio’s State of Emergency Closes Christ Statue

    18 March 2020

    The Christ the Redeemer statue has sat on top of Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro for nearly 90 years. Almost 90 million people visited the nearly 40-meter high statue last year. Now, it is being forced to close, at least temporarily. The reason: the coronavirus outbreak.

    The Christ the Redeemer statue closed at day's end on Tuesday and will not reopen for at least a week.

    Christ the Redeemer in Rio on its last day open to the public
    Christ the Redeemer in Rio on its last day open to the public

    Brazil's Chico Mendes Institute ordered the closure of all national parks it oversees to fight coronavirus and COVID-19, the name of the disease caused by the virus.

    On Tuesday, Rio's governor, Wilson Witzel, declared a state of emergency. Just one day earlier, the city's famous coastline was filled with people. Now the beaches are empty.

    Witzel's declaration calls on restaurants and bars to limit themselves to 30 percent capacity for 15 days. Boats and buses are to cut their passenger loads in half. Brazilians are being told to avoid beaches and swimming in public places. The declaration also suspended classes and all other activities and events that involve gatherings.

    "We are afraid, we feel unsafe," said Maurilivia Gomes, who was visiting Rio from Goias state. She spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday from inside a near-empty train to the top of the statue.

    "We're taking the necessary measures. And we're also going to enjoy what we can," she added.

    Brazil has recorded almost 300 confirmed cases of Covid-19. More than 50 percent are in Sao Paulo, followed by Rio, notes the health ministry.

    Across the country, some local government leaders have announced steps aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has warned the measures could damage the economy. He expressed skepticism of the virus' severity.

    He told one radio station, "What is incorrect is the hysteria, as though it were the end of the world. A nation like Brazil, for example, will only be free when a certain number of people are infected and create antibodies." .

    People who work in the tourism industry are worried about their jobs.

    "We have to count on the hope that we can find a family that wants to walk around and do something at least, so we can earn something this month," noted Alexandre Faria Carbonelli. He spoke to The Associated Press.

    At the Christ statue, Rio's Catholic Church is planning a light show for Wednesday night. It will show the flags of nations fighting coronavirus on the lonely statue.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words In This Story

    redeemer – n. to make new or clean

    outbreak – n. the sudden occurrence of war or disease

    park – n. a green place where children play and people gather

    bar – n. a place where people go to drink alcohol

    capacity – n. the full amount

    skepticism – n. to express disbelief

    hysteria – n. uncontained panic and fear

    tourism – n. visiting a place for entertainment