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Brazil's Maracana stadium tapped to serve as coronavirus hospital

Brazil's Maracana stadium tapped to serve as coronavirus hospital
By Reuters

26/03/2020 at 20:22Updated 26/03/2020 at 20:44

Brazil's Maracana sports complex in Rio de Janeiro, which includes the world famous soccer stadium, will become a temporary hospital to help fight coronavirus, state authorities said on Thursday.

As cases of coronavirus have spread in Brazil, reaching over 2,900 on Thursday, state authorities have sought sports venues for use as temporary hospitals.

Seventy-eight people have died from the disease, although right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the illness, comparing it to a "little flu."

At the state level, governors have been implementing lockdowns and trying to expand medical facilities, even as Bolsonaro harshly criticizes them for what he has described as an unnecessary slowdown of Latin America's largest economy.

The Maracana will join Sao Paulo's Pacaembu stadium and the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia as they are converted into temporary health facilities. Brazil's soccer federation has suspended the current season of the country's national tournament due to the outbreak.

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Rio de Janeiro authorities said they had yet to decide how many beds the Maracana would hold. It was also unclear whether the temporary hospital would be built on the soccer playing field itself or elsewhere in the sports complex, which is also home to a track and field stadium and an aquatic park.

Overall, Rio de Janeiro's state, Brazil's second most populous, expects to build six temporary hospitals.