Rio shelves plan to allow fans into matches

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The mayor of Rio de Janeiro has shelved a plan to allow fans back into professional soccer matches and warned residents of the resort city on Thursday they are courting trouble by continuing to frequent its famous beaches.

Sunbathing and swimming in the sea are officially prohibited in Rio but many locals and tourists have ignored the ban and flocked to world famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema.

Mayor Marcelo Crivella appealed for caution and said beaches filled with maskless visitors could jeopardise "everything we’ve done so far".

His comments came amid widespread criticism over last week’s easing of lockdown rules which led to bars and restaurants in the city being packed.

Almost 11,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro state and over 126,000 are confirmed as having contracted the virus.

Overall, 67,694 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, according to Health Ministry figures, more than any other country outside the United States.

Crivella last month floated the idea of allowing clubs to use up to a third of their stadium capacity starting this weekend.

However, he rejected that proposal on Thursday, saying the spread of the virus had not been sufficiently contained.

The Rio state football championship was the first of Brazil’s regional leagues to restart on June 18 and the Sao Paulo state championship, the country’s biggest, is rescheduled to begin again on July 22.

The national league is due to resume on Aug. 9.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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