By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Sunbathers wanting to visit Rio de Janeiro's famous beaches, despite Brazil's raging COVID-19 epidemic, could soon be able to reserve socially-distant sand space through a mobile app, the city's mayor said on Monday.
Rio's beaches currently have a hodgepodge of sanitary restrictions in place. Visitors and cariocas, as local residents are known, can swim and practice individual sports on the sand during the week. But team sports can only be played Monday through Friday. Merchants can sell beverages, but not alcoholic ones.
The one thing nobody has been allowed to do since the coronavirus outbreak, officially at least, is to simply plunk down on the beaches and take in the sun.
Rio's beaches have often been full recently, especially on weekends, as visitors ignore restrictions aimed at fighting the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak, with deaths surpassing 100,000.
Now city officials are hoping to turn to technology to help ensure that social-distancing measures, including and proper conditions for sunbathing, are respected.
"People are going to be able to occupy marked zones depending on when they arrive, and also by reserving through an app," Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella told reporters on Monday.
"The idea is that that way we will be able to better organize what today is not working," he said.
Crivella had said in July that beachgoers might not be allowed to lie on the sand again until a coronavirus vaccine had been approved.
His comments on Monday were notably short on details about the mobile app, however.
He said the city was in talks with companies to create the app to reserve beach space, but it was not immediately clear when the system might be introduced.
(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Tom Brown)