Rio de Janeiro (CNN) – Miguel Oliveira firmly pushes the limes and sugar into the shaker, for the first time that day. It is noon and this, together with the sparsely populated promenade on which its bar kiosk is located, is only a sign that something is wrong with Rio de Janeiro.
“It has never been so bad,” he sighs. “We are open to seeing if we can sell anything – being closed is worse.” Doubts that business will improve soon, the only positive point is that “at least the rent is postponed to next year”.
Miguel Oliveira waited until noon to get his first cocktail order of the day.
Jo Shelley / CNN
Four years ago I saw the beach swarming in the heart of Rio’s Olympic dream. The bars couldn’t find a place for you; every inch of the waterfront was fully booked; swimwear and a disregard for time or worry were required. Even the strong police presence did not stop the dance.
Now the beach is closed. Masks are mandatory. Shops, restaurants, bars – and most of the kiosks on the beach, except Miguel’s – are closed. Covid-19 unearthed Copacabana police officers. Even the music is silent, replaced by police sirens, which warn the reluctant locals to get off the beach.
The most famous beach in the world is emptied of the rules that try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Jo Shelley / CNN
Firefighters firefighters – a mix of firefighters and lifeguards – slowly guide the length of the beach, their speakers resonate with the question that people leave the sand. Lieutenant Colonel Fernando Melo said that most people adhere to the closure of the beach, but constantly one or two figures are walking or gathering on the coast, unaware of why the sands are so unusually empty.
“In the beginning, when people didn’t believe in the crown, we held meetings in kiosks, parties at night,” said Melo. “The schools were closed so that people came to the sand with their children.”
Now it’s better – but the joggers, walkers and dogs are all lined up on the sidewalk. One group is missing: tourists. Foreigners are prohibited from entering Brazil temporarily. (CNN has been granted entry by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report).
Lieutenant Colonel Fernando Melo patrols the beaches with fellow firefighters and lifeguards, telling anyone to leave.
Jo Shelley / CNN
Locals are finding it difficult to perform in a mask. In his daily jogging, Ronaldo Nussbaum is without a mask. He said he has asthma and needs to get some air. “Some days have many people, but today is fine.”
“He said a lot of things I don’t like. But I just voted for him. My mother loves him. He can (say) swear words, but I can’t,” he laughed.
A June 2019 image shows the most common scene of a crowded Copacabana beach.
Mauro Pimentel / AFP / Getty Images
Nussbaum reflects a changing public opinion of the president, which recent polls have shown that he now has a disapproval score of 50%. I wonder if he will vote for him again? “I’m not sure,” he said.
Sometimes, volleyball games go on and on. Runners and surfers continue. The police ride ATVs on the sand, greeting people, but return quickly. Homeless people stand out on the sand and occasionally deserted streets: noisy and lonely in this new landscape. The Belmont Hotel, symbol of this promenade, has closed for the first time in 97 years.
The very rhythm that defines Copacabana has stopped and the fear that grows here – between companies and even those places that briefly enjoy the space – is when and if it will return again, and if it will be the same joyful rhythm as before.
Coffee enthusiast. Travel scholar. Infuriatingly humble zombie fanatic. Thinker. Professional twitter evangelist.