Riding out the pandemic, Rio surfers catch a wave of controversy

By Gram Slattery and Sergio Queiroz
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Riding out the pandemic, Rio surfers catch a wave of controversy

A surfer performs in a wave on Copacabana beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro

By Gram Slattery and Sergio Queiroz

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Despite stay-at-home orders aiming to protect people from the new coronavirus, many of Rio de Janeiro's famous beaches have been buzzing with surfers seeking to catch the season's first big swell.

That has thrown surfers such as Guilherme Faria headlong into a public debate about the legal limits on outdoor sports - in his case, a question that will be soon be decided by a judge.

The 22-year-old said he was catching 9-foot curlers on Copacabana Beach on Sunday morning when a policeman with a whistle between his teeth hauled him out of the water and down to the station.

"Unfortunately, surfing is now a crime," said Faria, who received a court summons - seen by Reuters - after his booking. "I hope I don't end up with a criminal record for something as silly as that."

A few hours later, even with the threat of a fine, Faria and his board were back in the Copacabana surf.

Like thousands of Rio's famously sporty locals, Faria could not resist the call of the outdoors. The esplanade lining the city shore is packed with joggers. Groups of spandex-clad bicyclists zip up and down the city's serpentine mountain roads.

On March 17, city and state officials implored residents to stay at home, nominally closing beaches and city parks as the coronavirus pandemic tears through Latin America's third-largest city.

Rio is Brazil's second-most infected state, according to the Health Ministry, which reported 12,056 confirmed coronavirus cases across the country as of Monday.

Some athletes have complied, citing the danger of spreading the disease en route to beaches. Many argue that sports-related injuries could divert vital medical resources away from the coronavirus fight. The debate has also roiled other solo sports, from skiing to climbing.

"There are different opinions among different sports associations. New guidelines come out every week," said Ana Carolina Corte, the official doctor for the Brazilian Olympic Committee. She added that some sports could still be done "alone, without crowds, without running alongside other people."

Even legal decrees have been subject to debate.

The governor of Rio state, for instance, banned "spending time at beaches," as some might describe a surfer bobbing in the water, but not a roller skater gliding past.

Yet some surfers have argued they merely cross over the sand to enter the ocean or even enter the water via rocky outcroppings.

Still, many athletes acknowledge their concerns pale next to the challenge Brazil faces. State governors, including those in Rio de Janeiro, have warned that underfunded public healthcare systems could soon collapse.

Bruno Bocayuva, a surfing journalist in Rio, has given up surfing for weeks in favor of jumping rope, doing push-ups and keeping in shape any way he can.

"I'm really missing that sensation of being in the water, of paddling, of catching a wave, of connecting with nature through surf, which provides such an intimate connection. But I know this is the moment to think of the collective good," he said.

"I'm letting this wave pass, to surf the next one in the near future."


BITTER DEBATE

Perhaps due to its high visibility or anti-establishment vibes, surfing has emerged as unique target of ire across the region.

In Costa Rica, a video on social media last week showed a police officer apparently firing a gun in the direction of 28-year-old law student Rafael Villavicencio as he left the water.

Reuters could not verify the video's authenticity. The head of the Costa Rican police said they had opened an investigation into the incident.

"Although it's true that the surfers weren't following orders, that doesn't mean an official should act in that way," said Villavicencio's lawyer, Rafael Brenes.

Argentina's media heaped scorn on one surfer for entering the country from Brazil with boards on the roof of his car. The man later violated a mandatory quarantine, according to police.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez called him "an idiot" on national television.

Similarly, Peruvian authorities raised eyebrows when they nabbed two surfers in a highly publicized operation involving a police helicopter.

In Brazil, a surf-crazed nation where urban beaches are often clogged before and after work, the debate has taken an acrimonious and even political turn.

President Jair Bolsonaro has berated Rio Governor Wilson Witzel for closing beaches, calling the move "dictatorial."

Bolsonaro's son Eduardo, a congressman from Sao Paulo state, just down the coast, argued in a Facebook post on Thursday for a decree to allow surfing that conforms with social distancing.

With or without a decree, many surfers are simply doing what they can to dodge attention - and each other.

"I came early to avoid this total isolation controversy," said Ricardo Bacão, a 65-year-old surfer from Rio's Ipanema neighborhood, as he exited the water on Sunday morning.

"In the same way that people run, they hike, they ride bikes, somebody can grab a board, leave the house, go directly to the water, paddle and go home."


(Reporting by Gram Slattery and Sergio Queiroz; Additional reporting by Sergio Moraes in Rio de Janeiro and Alvaro Murillo in San Jose; Editing by Brad Haynes and Aurora Ellis)

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This, however, is “beneficial to the industry’s supply and consumers,” Qin said, adding that they will contribute to the upgrading and reform of the industry.Still, new supply will not come quick enough to help end the crisis, or soothe the misery among the consumers, according to Wen Pengcheng, chairman of Wens Foodstuffs Group, who expects “high level” of prices to persist this year. China plans to restructure meat supply system after triple health scares sparked by animal virus: Jefferies“China's sow herd is still at a historically low level, even though output has recovered somewhat since late last year. This will impact the hog production this year substantially, he said in a written statement. “The African swine fever virus remains a major challenge to China's pig farming industry.”Pork is one of the biggest components in the basket of goods that make up the consumer price index. The index has risen for 11 consecutive months through January, driving China’s inflation to an eight-year high, before the coronavirus outbreak cooled demand.Pork supply will remain tight this year, Liu Yonghao, chairman of New Hope Group, one of China’s largest pig breeders, predicted recently.“Hog output won't form a surplus this year. We will still see a shortage of pork and high pork price in 2020,” said Liu, adding that there may be oversupply in the coming few years.Muyuan has set the target to produce 17.5 million to 20 million hogs this year, almost doubling its output last year at 10.3 million, Qin said in the interview.The company adopts a heavy-asset model of building and operating its own pig houses, unlike most of its competitors who commission villagers to raise pigs on behalf of the company. This means Muyuan has control over how it raises the hogs, a key to better efficiency.Muyuan is trying to introduce smart technology to the pig farming industry, such as unmanned inspection equipment that can be applied in multi-story pig houses, which could potentially improve the herd’s health, according to Qin. It is also boosting automation in the farming process, making sure procedures from feeding to room temperature control are all automatically performed.Sign up now and get a 10% discount (original price US$400) off the China AI Report 2020 by SCMP Research. Learn about the AI ambitions of Alibaba, Baidu & JD.com through our in-depth case studies, and explore new applications of AI across industries. The report also includes exclusive access to webinars to interact with C-level executives from leading China AI companies (via live Q&A; sessions). Offer valid until 31 May 2020.More from South China Morning Post: * China’s pork imports surged 158 per cent in January, February * China’s African swine fever outbreak drives 150 per cent jump in pork imports * China set to receive first shipment of chilled pork from Argentina in move to offset African swine fever * China’s pork prices to hit record level in 2019 due to African swine fever, even as imports surge, report says * Pork price is likely to remain high in China as swine fever wipes out hog population – but that is music to WH Group’s earsThis article China’s billionaire farmer sees a tipping point in sky-high hog prices as herd recovers from African swine fever’s decimation first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Coronavirus: Hong Kong reaches 14 days without local transmission of Covid-19
    News
    South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong reaches 14 days without local transmission of Covid-19

    Hong Kong recorded no new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a day before social-distancing rules were expected to be eased and some businesses allowed to reopen.The city also extended its run of no locally transmitted coronavirus infections to 14 days. After an imported case on Wednesday, involving a 24-year-old student who had returned from the United States, the total number of infections remained at 1,066, with four related deaths.On Friday, entertainment venues such as karaoke lounges, nightclubs, bathhouses and party venues, will be allowed to reopen, under certain conditions.No more than four people will be permitted at each table in nightclubs, which must operate at half their usual capacity, while karaoke lounges and party venues can only allow a maximum of eight people into a room.Nightclubs cannot stage live performances or dances, while sauna facilities in bathhouses will remain shut. All venues must ensure customers wear masks, check their temperature and provide hand sanitiser.The venues were ordered to close in late March and early April as part of the city’s social-distancing measures to combat the virus.But the city’s ban on gatherings of more than eight people remains in force until at least June 4. A government source has told the Post the cap might be relaxed to 12 or 16 people, but is unlikely to be dropped entirely.With no new cases to report, the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority cancelled their daily joint press conference.Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.More from South China Morning Post: * With almost 100,000 coronavirus deaths, does Trump feel America’s pain? * UK closes embassy in North Korea, evacuates diplomats amid coronavirus restrictionsThis article Coronavirus: Hong Kong reaches 14 days without local transmission of Covid-19 first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Alibaba extends its reach in China as coronavirus outbreak opens doors
    Business
    Reuters

    Alibaba extends its reach in China as coronavirus outbreak opens doors

    Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is emerging as one of China's biggest corporate winners of the coronavirus crisis, gaining the opportunity to expand its businesses and solidify its status as a critical part of the country's socio-economic engine. While many companies are hurting from disruption caused by the virus, Alibaba has seen traffic at its online marketplaces shoot higher and demand grow for services like food delivery. The company, which emerged as China's leading e-commerce company after the 2003 SARS outbreak, is now positioning itself as a hirer and a lender too, advertising for over 100,000 jobs and offering billions of dollars in loans to small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) at a time when many others are retrenching.

  • GSK aims for 1 billion doses with COVID vaccine booster plan
    Business
    Reuters

    GSK aims for 1 billion doses with COVID vaccine booster plan

    The world's largest vaccine maker said it was in talks with governments to back a manufacturing expansion that would help to scale up production of future vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It gave no indication of the programme's costs, saying only that production would take place at sites in Europe and North America and that it would reinvest any profit into coronavirus research and preparation for future pandemics. GSK is working on its own COVID vaccine with French drugmaker Sanofi <SASY.PA>, one of the many projects to counter the respiratory illness that currently that has no treatment and has killed about 350,000 people.

  • England's COVID-19 test and trace system begins as adviser row rumbles on
    News
    Reuters

    England's COVID-19 test and trace system begins as adviser row rumbles on

    Britain's government faced questions over how closely people would abide by its new COVID-19 test and trace service on Thursday, as a row persisted over the prime minister's closest adviser taking a long-distance journey during lockdown. Lawmakers from the governing Conservative Party continue to add their names to those calling for Dominic Cummings to quit, after it was revealed he had travelled 400 km (250 miles) in March with his four-year-old son and his wife, who was sick at the time, to be close to relatives. Asked why the public should stick to the rules when many believe Cummings did not, health minister Matt Hancock told BBC radio: "The vast majority of people will understand that it is in everybody’s interests that those who are at higher risk follow these ... instructions and it is very, very important that they do."

  • From settlement to counselling, Taiwan promises help for fleeing Hong Kongers
    News
    Reuters

    From settlement to counselling, Taiwan promises help for fleeing Hong Kongers

    Taiwan on Thursday promised to settle Hong Kongers who flee the Chinese-ruled city due to political reasons, offering help from employment to counselling as China pushes new security legislation that has triggered fresh protests. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen this week became the first world leader to pledge specific measures to help people from Hong Kong who may leave the former British colony due to the new legislation, a move that is certain to sour already poor ties between Taipei and Beijing. Chen Ming-tong, head of Taiwan's top China-policy maker, the Mainland Affairs Council, told parliament the government will establish an organisation to deliver "humanitarian relief" that includes settlement and employment in a joint effort with activists groups.

  • Singaporean gets four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook post
    News
    Reuters

    Singaporean gets four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook post

    Singapore jailed a taxi driver for four months on Wednesday over a Facebook post in which he falsely claimed food outlets would close and urged people to stock up due to impending COVID-19 restrictions. Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, 40, deleted the message sent to a private Facebook group with around 7,500 members after 15 minutes, case records show, but the public prosecutor called for a sentence that would deter others. Singapore, which has seen bouts of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus, has imposed tough punishments on those who breach containment rules or spread misinformation as it tackles one of Asia's highest COVID-19 rates.

  • Hong Kong loses US 'special status' -- what next?
    News
    AFP News

    Hong Kong loses US 'special status' -- what next?

    Washington's declaration that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous from China is a historic moment with potentially far-reaching consequences for the finance hub -- though much will depend on what President Donald Trump does next. The revocation of special status could radically rearrange the fortunes of a city that has served for decades as China's economic gateway to the world if targeted sanctions, tariffs or trade restrictions are imposed. - What is Hong Kong's special status?

  • Heat, water woes and coronavirus: India's perfect storm
    News
    AFP News

    Heat, water woes and coronavirus: India's perfect storm

    Bollywood stars and political leaders have urged Indians to wash their hands to protect against coronavirus but that's a pipe dream for slum-dwellers like Bala Devi, now sweltering through a summer heatwave. Outside it is around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) but her one-bedroom tenement house has just an improvised ceiling fan to keep its occupants cool. - Liquid gold - Even before the coronavirus pandemic, water was in short supply for the 100 million people living in India's urban slums.

  • US virus toll crosses 100,000 as pandemic rages in Latin America
    Health
    AFP News

    US virus toll crosses 100,000 as pandemic rages in Latin America

    The US coronavirus death toll passed 100,000 as the pandemic tightened its grip on South America, which is outpacing Europe and the United States in daily infections. Global cases have surged to nearly 5.7 million, with more than 354,000 deaths, and the worrying acceleration of the disease in South America has marked the continent as the new hotspot. Deaths in Brazil topped 25,000 on Wednesday, and its caseload is second only to the United States, where authorities have moved to ease lockdowns and help the battered economy, despite experts recommending they remain on guard for a resurgence of the disease.