Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue was last night lit up with the flags of countries struck down by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 125ft monument, which towers over Rio de Janeiro, had #praytogether projected on it in different languages.
Archbishop Orani João Tempesta held mass at the landmark during the light show and called for people to pray for the sick.
The Corcovado mountain site, which attracts around 2million visitors a year, was closed to the public on Tuesday for at least a week.
The Chico Mendes Institute had ordered the closure of all national parks it oversees, including the one that’s home to the Christ, to try to contain the virus.
Brazil has seen 529 cases of the killer bug and four deaths since it first hit the country on February 26.
The last selfies were taken at the foot of the famous statue on Tuesday afternoon on an overcast day.
Rio is entering crisis mode as firemen roll down the streets blaring recordings urging beachgoers to stay home.
City Governor Wilson Witzel’s decree implored restaurants and bars to limit themselves to 30 per cent capacity for 15 days.
It also called for boats and buses to halve their passenger loads, shopping malls to close and people to avoid beaches and public pools.
The decree suspended classes and all other activities and events that entail gatherings.
Maurilivia Gomes, a 35-year-old baker visiting Christ the Redeemer from Goias state on Tuesday, said: ‘We are afraid, we feel unsafe. We’re taking the necessary measures.
‘And we’re also going to enjoy what we can and circulate in open spaces, because we can’t travel this far then stay confined in a room for four days.’
The company that administers transport at Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain – another postcard destination with 1.5 million visitors annually – also closed on Tuesday.
Even before the governor’s decree, Bondinho Pao de Acucar halved the number of passengers on its cable cars to 32, and begun wiping them down with alcohol after each journey.
Brazil reported its first death from the virus on Tuesday – a 62-year-old man in Sao Paulo.
As local leaders imposed and recommended precautions, President Jair Bolsonaro said they could damage the economy and was sceptical of the virus’ severity.
He told a local radio station, Radio Tupi: ‘What is incorrect is the hysteria, as though it were the end of the world.
‘A nation like Brazil, for example, will only be free when a certain number of people are infected and create antibodies.’
For most people, Covid-19 entails only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.
But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The vast majority of people recover.
Tour guides said they were concerned about the impact closing down Rio’s main tourist sites will have on their livelihoods.
Alexandre Faria Carbonelli said in the plaza beneath Sugarloaf’s cable car: ‘We have to count on the hope that we can find a family that wants to walk around and do something at least, so we can earn something this month.
‘For guys who work autonomously, don’t have savings, have a family, it’s kind of desperate.’