Major tourist sites in Rio de Janeiro, including the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the Brazilian city, reopened to the public after being closed for five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Visitors will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing, and will not be allowed to lie on the ground - as many do in attempting to get the best angle for photos at the feet of the huge Art Deco statue with its arms outstretched.

Located atop the 710-metre Corcovado hill in the centre of Rio in Tijuca national park, the monument offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city.

Since social-distancing measures forced its closure in March, Christ the Redeemer has continued to function as a religious sanctuary, offering public masses and holding vigils.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles (C) and Fr Omar Raposo (R) at the reopening ceremony

Also reopening to the public yesterday were the Pao de Acucar cable car, which offers its own panoramic view of the city, the AquaRio aquarium and the gigantic Rio Star, Latin America's largest Ferris wheel.

Brazil's National Confederation of Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC) estimates that the country's tourism sector has lost 154 billion reales ($28.4 billion) over the last five months, operating at only 14% of its capacity.

The state of Rio de Janeiro, with 17 million inhabitants, has registered more than 14,500 deaths and nearly 190,000 cases of the new coronavirus, according to official statistics.

The capital itself, which in June began a gradual economic reopening, has seen 33 deaths and 1,365 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Brazil, with 106,500 deaths and 3.2 million cases to date, is the second hardest-hit country in the world, after the US.

President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the disease as a "little flu" and railed against lockdown measures imposed by state governors.

He has been criticised by experts for his stance - but nearly half of Brazilians believe he is not responsible for the death toll, according to a survey published by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper yesterday.

47% of those surveyed by the Datafolha Institute answered that Mr Bolsonaro "is not to blame" for the high number of deaths, compared to 41% who consider him "one of the culprits (but not the main culprit)," and 11 percent who see him as the "main culprit".

The survey also showed that Mr Bolsonaro remains more popular than ever.

With no certainty about when a vaccine might be available, Rio authorities have announced a new format for the year-end celebrations that traditionally bring millions of people to Copacabana beach for a huge fireworks display.

This year, the authorities are working to organise a series of smaller celebrations around the city and are urging people to watch the events online.

Rio's world-famous carnival, with its huge street parties, also risks being cancelled by the pandemic.