SAO PAULO, Brazil, Mar 22 – Brazil’s top football clubs are handing over their stadiums to allow health authorities to turn them into field hospitals and clinics to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
With football in the country suspended until further notice, more than half the clubs in Brazil’s Serie A have given up their stadiums as authorities in densely populated Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro seek to expand hospital capacity to deal with the crisis.
Current South American champions Flamengo are giving control of their famous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro to health authorities, said club president Rodolfo Landim.
“In this grim moment, I wanted to invite our great Red and Black nation to renew hope and work for better days. Let us take care of our elders, help those who need it most,” Landim wrote in a message to supporters.
Authorities in Sao Paulo — Brazil’s biggest city — said they would install 200 beds in a field hospital at the Pacaembu municipal stadium to relieve pressure on the city’s hospitals, while two of the city’s big clubs were also lending a hand.
Corinthians said they have made their Itaquerao stadium and their training headquarters available “so that the authorities can evaluate how they can be used to combat the spread of the disease”.
Santos announced that a temporary clinic would be set up in one of the lounges inside its Vila Belmiro stadium.
Brazil currently has 1,128 confirmed infections and 18 deaths.
Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta on Friday predicted the virus would reach its peak in the country between April and June, anticipating a drop in COVID-19 infections from September.
Mandetta warned the health system in the country of 210 million people could reach saturation by the end of April.