Rio postpones world-famous carnival over COVID-19

RIO DE JANEIRO: Rio de Janeiro's world-famous carnival parades became the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic Thursday as officials announced they were indefinitely postponing the February 2021 edition, with Brazil still reeling from COVID-19.

Rio's carnival, the world's biggest, is an epidemiologist's nightmare in a pandemic: an extended festival of tightly packed crowds dancing through the streets and flocking to the city's iconic "Sambadrome" for massive parades featuring scantily clad dancers, small armies of drummers and all-night partying at close quarters.

Advertisement

Advertisement

The event draws millions of tourists from around Brazil and the world to the beachside city each year.

The city's elite samba schools, which typically spend the entire year preparing their elaborate parades, had said in July it would be difficult to organize the event for February 2021 if there were still no certainty of a vaccine for the new coronavirus by late September.

READ: Latin American nations plan to join COVAX vaccine facility after deadline

Meeting again to assess the situation, "we came to the conclusion that the event had to be postponed," said Jorge Castanheira, the president of the group that organizes the annual parades, the Independent League of Samba Schools of Rio de Janeiro (LIESA).

Advertisement

Advertisement

"We just can't do it in February. The samba schools won't have the time or financial and organizational resources to be ready," he told journalists after a plenary meeting by the group's directors.

"It's not a cancellation, it's a postponement. We are looking for an alternative solution, something we can do when it's safe to contribute to the city … But we aren't certain enough to set a date."

PLANNING PROBLEMS

In reality, "carnival" comprises numerous events, from the elite samba school parade contest organized by LIESA to less-formal "blocos," or street parties.

LIESA's announcement applies only to the samba school competition. City authorities have not yet announced whether "blocos" will be allowed.

Speculation had been mounting that authorities would have to cancel or postpone carnival in 2021, given that Brazil is the country with the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States, and is still struggling to bring the virus under control.

READ: Brazil's Rio risks second wave of COVID-19 with ill-timed reopening

Brazil has registered 4.7 million infections and nearly 140,000 deaths from COVID-19.

And while the spread of the virus has slowed somewhat since its July peak, the numbers are still alarmingly high in Brazil, with anRead More – Source