Tighter COVID curbs stir unrest in parts of Latin America | Coronavirus pandemic News

Tighter COVID curbs stir unrest in parts of Latin America | Coronavirus pandemic News

People are protesting in some Latin American countries, unhappy because of tighter coronavirus restrictions imposed to fight a surge in infections.

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez asked all cabinet ministers to resign on Saturday, following riots at a demonstration against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Benitez was responding to the demands of the people, Communications Minister Juan Manuel Brunetti told journalists.

In the capital Asuncion, security forces used rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters, with the protesters throwing back stones on Friday evening.

Protests resumed on Saturday night in Asuncion and Ciudad del Este, broadcaster ABC TV Paraguay reported, with police using water cannon to disperse demonstrators who once more responded with stones.

As of Friday, Paraguay had reported 165,811 coronavirus cases and 3,278 deaths.

It is awaiting the arrival of four million vaccine doses from the COVAX scheme set up by the World Health Organization and one million doses of the Russian Sputnik V, for a population of just over seven million.

So far, Paraguay has received just 4,000 doses of vaccines from Russia, intended for intensive care personnel.

‘Indiscriminate violence’

In Argentina protests also broke out against renewed coronavirus measures, followed by a police crackdown.

Regional police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in the provincial capital Formosa after authorities moved to close down some businesses to stem the recent increase in cases.

The regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the resident coordinator for the UN in Argentina said in a statement they were concerned police had employed “indiscriminate violence that resulted in people being injured and detained”.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on its Twitter account that it was concerned over reports that “police officers had used rubber pellets, tear gas and beatings against protesters and journalists”.

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez’s chief of staff, Santiago Cafiero, said on Twitter that “the state must guarantee the free peaceful expression of citizens … violence is never the way”.

Formosa, in northern Argentina, is one of the poorest provinces in the country and has been hard hit by a recession made worse by the coronavirus crisis.

Argentina, a top global grains producer, has reported 2.14 million cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, and more than 52,784 deaths from the disease.

Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti said new infections were on the rise in Chile as well, despite moving fast on vaccine distribution.

“For a second day the country registered more than 5,000 new cases, the highest infection rate in nine months,” he said on Saturday.

“Two-thirds of the capital Santiago is under strict lockdown, as are a number of other regions.”

Rio shutdown

Meanwhile, in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro on Thursday announced new restrictions on bars, restaurants and beaches, seeking to contain a surge of COVID-19 that is pushing Brazil’s hospitals to the breaking point.

The city of 6.7 million people is the latest to go back on partial lockdown in Brazil, which has registered record COVID-19 death tolls the past two days and is having its deadliest week of the pandemic.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the new coronavirus, leaving cities and states to implement a patchwork of containment measures on their own.

Rio’s new decree, which took effect on Friday for one week, orders bars and restaurants to close at 5:00pm, shuts all commercial activity on the city’s famed beaches and bans night clubs, “samba circles” and other parties.

The decree also forbids people from lingering in public spaces from 11:00pm to 5:00am, though traffic will not be restricted.

The measures come after Sao Paulo state – Brazil’s largest, with 46 million people – declared a new “code red” on Wednesday, ordering non-essential businesses closed for two weeks starting Saturday.

Brazil’s health ministry has recorded an average of more than 1,300 COVID-19 deaths per day over the past week, the worst yet for the hard-hit country of 212 million people.

Nearly 260,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States.

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