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Miami Beach was placed under a curfew and a state of emergency after police fired pepperballs to disperse crowds of revelers who defied coronavirus safety guidelines over the weekend.

Outdoor dining places have been suspended and roads have been closed in parts of the city, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States for the annual “school break” vacation.

Defying the curfew, hundreds of people poured into the streets of Miami Beach on Saturday night, prompting police to take aggressive action to disperse the crowds.

“Frankly, I am concerned that the behavior is becoming more difficult to manage,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said at a press conference on Saturday. “All we are focusing on now is public safety.”

The unrest came when Florida surpassed 2m of Covid-19 cases.

Raul Aguila, Acting City Manager of the popular Florida resort town, issued the curfew after police expressed “significant concerns” over larger than expected crowds during spring break which, at times, were sagging. in street fights and destruction of property.

Police arrest man as they enforce an 8-hour curfew imposed by local authorities in Miami Beach Reuters

The city has ordered an 8 p.m. curfew on a designated “high-impact area” of the busiest streets, including popular Ocean Drive, a strip of bars, clubs and restaurants.

Ocean Drive was closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic except for residents, hotel guests, and employees of local businesses.

Police arrest man as they enforce an 8-hour curfew imposed by local authorities in Miami Beach © Reuters

All alfresco dining was suspended in the high-impact zone while take-out orders were to cease at midnight.

Bar and restaurant owners told local media they feared the new order could reverse the gains they had made from spring break crowds to help them recover from the pandemic.

Police blocked most traffic on three roadways connecting Miami Beach to the rest of the Miami metro area to prevent new visitors from entering.

Aguila told the Miami Herald that he recommends keeping emergency measures in place until April 12, or the end of spring break.

The Miami Beach curfew came days after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, suggested the state would ease Covid-19 restrictions further.

The Florida Department of Health on Saturday announced 5,105 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the state’s total to 2,004,362 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Another 64 deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of deaths to 33,337. Of those who died, 32,713 were residents and 624 were non-residents.

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