COVID-19 has been changing the world, from human interactions, air quality to how gangs threaten people. Drug traffickers reportedly roam around some areas in Brazil telling residents to stay inside and take coronavirus seriously.
The Red Command gang leaders imposed a coronavirus curfew in Rio de Janeiro, requiring people to go inside by 8 p.m. The gang controls the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela in western Rio, IFLScience reported Monday.
The move comes amid the growing concerns that the Brazilian State has been failing to protect its poorest citizens. Some areas were left without travel restrictions or social distancing policies despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
Brazil reported 4,661 people infected by the coronavirus and 165 deaths. In Cidade de Deus, gangs imposed the curfew after it became the first area in Rio to confirm a coronavirus infection.
Gang members roam around the favela with loudspeaker announcements telling residents to avoid going out at night and spreading awareness of the pandemic, local newspaper Extra reported.
“We will do a curfew because no one is taking [coronavirus] seriously,” the recorded message states. “It’s best to stay at home and chill. The message has been given.”
Gangs in other favelas around Rio have also imposed curfew. In Morro dos Prazeres, residents were told to walk in groups of two, while drug traffickers ordered shops and churches to close earlier in Complexo da Maré.
An 8 p.m. coronavirus curfew has also been set in the Rocinha, Rio das Pedras and Muzema favelas.
“It isn’t the majority of favelas and it’s not coordinated. It is sporadic things around the city,” Edmund Ruge, editor for RioOnWatch, told The Guardian. “It’s the exception to the rule – the rule being that civil society is really stepping up right now because they know that the state is not going to do it for them.”
Gangs are leading efforts to encourage people to practice isolation and social distancing since Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro rejects the idea of lockdown aimed at containing the coronavirus. He said in the past week that the country “must return to normality,” The Guardian reported.
Bolsonaro also said he does not have any reason to worry because he would “feel nothing” if infected by COVID-19. The president described the disease as “just a little flu.”