Police target parties fueling Brazil's COVID-19 surge

Police broke up an illegal party with nearly 600 people in a windowless Sao Paulo nightclub in the early hours of Saturday, highlighting defiance of social distancing rules that has made the country's outbreak the world's deadliest at the moment.

Authorities are ratcheting up restrictions as Brazil's outbreak surges to record levels.

Sao Paulo officials have taken increasingly dramatic steps to show they mean business, including reinforced 'blitzes' to suppress the city's famous nightlife.

Police officer Eduardo Botero ran Saturday's operation:

"Today was a situation that we would never have imagined. There were hundreds and hundreds of people in a place without a single window, with all the doors closed. It was Sodom and Gomorra."

With axes and assault rifles, police officers broke down the door of the nightclub in the city's Capao Redondo district, piercing the darkness with flashlights mounted on their weapons. Hundreds of young partiers, few of them masked, cowered on the dance floor as police silenced the music and arrested organizers.

Revelers who were forced to leave, like Jefferson Dos Santos, criticized the operations.

"We pay taxes and we know the risks, we may get sick or infect our family. But we need to do something in life."

Officer Botero said the crackdown, while harshing people's vibes, would save lives.

"This operation is about social and public health, rather than a police operation. We are here to disperse the crowd. It was very positive and certainly many lives were saved today."

COVID-19 killed 12,000 Brazilians over the past week alone, more than any other country. With 275,000 lives lost in total, Brazil's death toll lags only the United States, where the epidemic is slowing.