Brazil: Rio de Janeiro clubs get OK for June training despite rising number of coronavirus cases

The Rio de Janeiro government told football teams on Monday they could resume full training in June despite coronavirus cases being on the rise in Brazil.

The city's mayor met with club representatives on Sunday and agreed that players can immediately begin gym work and physiotherapy, with full training to begin next month.

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"The understanding is for the adoption of a security protocol. In this initial phase the clubs can only do physiotherapy, work on rehabilitating the players' muscles [and] physiotherapy with the ball," Mayor Marcelo Crivella said.

"As for collective training and games, it was established these will be permitted only from the start of June."

The decision came a week after Brazilian champions Flamengo brought their players together to restart training, against official guidance.

Two of the city's top clubs, Fluminense and Botafogo, did not attend Sunday's meeting and are opposed to any quick return.

Brazil has seen more COVID-19 deaths than any country in South America, with the death toll now exceeding 22,000 people.

The decision comes one day after the United States government moved to deny entry to foreigners coming from Brazil, which is second to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases and with that number continuing to surge. Hospitals in multiple states have been pushed to the brink of collapse with the Amazon city of Manaus having to bury people in mass graves. The pace of deaths has been accelerating and, with a peak still approaching, the country has only an interim health minister.

The Rio de Janeiro state championship, along with Brazil's other state tournaments, were suspended in mid-March. Other state leagues have yet to rule on when to permit a full return.

The secretary-general of the Brazilian Football Confederation told Reuters last week that competitive football could return by the end of June, with games played behind closed doors.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.