Brazil’s most populous state is to reopen shopping malls from June 1, despite the country recording a daily death toll of more than 1,000 on five different days over the past week.
Brazil has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Latin America, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called the epicentre of the pandemic.
Globally, Brazil’s death toll comes second only to the US.
Despite a still rising number of deaths, São Paulo state has announced that some economic activity will resume in areas where the daily increase in cases is slow and enough intensive care beds are available.
Governor João Doria said stay-at-home recommendations will remain in effect until June 15 for the state, which is home to 46 million people.
However, some businesses, including shopping malls, will be allowed to reopen on Monday.
Stores, offices, car dealerships and real estate brokerages are also permitted to open, so long as social distance is maintained and masks are used.
Brazilian health officials told ITV News they don’t think the country has reached the peak of the virus.
They also said the country has a shortage of hospital beds and respirators, alongside an estimated 90 percent capacity in critical care units.
The officials added that field hospitals were being built.
It’s widely believed that Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been prioritising the economy over public health.
Infamously, he called Covid-19 “the little flu”.
Bolsonaro has frequently criticised Doria and urged his supporters in São Paulo’s to ignore restrictions on activity.
The move to reopen the state is a sign of Brazil’s ambivalence over whether to open up or impose stricter lockdown.
Several cities in the country’s impoverished North East region are also planning to reopen after initially using more restrictive measures.
In the capital of Brasilia, 20 malls and shopping centres were allowed to reopen, but few people showed up at stores.
On Thursday, Brazil’s total confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 438,238, while the confirmed death toll had risen to 26,754.