Coronavirus: Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities suspend street Carnival due to omicron threat | Society

Participants in the Rio Street Carnival in 2020, days before the first case of covid was detected in Brazil.
Participants in the Rio Street Carnival in 2020, days before the first case of covid was detected in Brazil.MARCELO CARNIVAL (REUTERS)

Brazilians and tourists are going to be left without a Carnival like those before the pandemic for the second consecutive year in more than a century. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, announced this Tuesday at the last minute the suspension of the acts of the street Carnival, that is, the concerts of artists who from buses with loud music gather crowds of hundreds of thousands of people. The decision, he explained, is due to the increase in infections by the omicron variant. In the same appearance, he stressed that the parade of samba schools is maintained at the end of February.

Paes is very interested in calibrating the message well because Carnival is one of the economic engines of the city, the great attraction for local and foreign tourists. Hence his determination to distinguish the annulled street festivities from the samba parade that is televised to all the world and is celebrated in the sambadrome. Brazil is one of the most vaccinated countries in South America.

The Carnival of 2021 entered history because it was not celebrated. The coronavirus prevented the celebration of a party that in the Rio de Janeiro capital had survived other epidemics, all kinds of calamities and the dictatorship. Those of 1892 and 1912 were suspended, but were held months later.

Other cities known for their spectacular and massive Carnival parties such as Salvador de Bahía or Olinda have also announced that they are suspending official acts due to the advance of the new variant of the coronavirus. São Paulo, which for years has been successfully betting on street carnival events to rival and complement Rio, plans to make a decision this Thursday based on epidemiological data. The authorities of this city of 12 million inhabitants are considering adapting the party to the coronavirus and celebrating it in an enclosed outdoor area, the Interlagos Formula 1 circuit. Recife has not decided yet either.

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The arrival of omicron has already detracted from New Year’s Eve celebrations in coastal cities. Rio had fireworks launches on Copacabana beach, but no concerts.

Covid positives have increased in Rio de Janeiro capital from 1% in mid-December to 13% this week. An increase in line with what happens in the rest of Brazil and in Europe. The massive parties in the open air threatened to become veritable nests of contagion. “Street Carnival, by its very nature and its democratic aspect, makes it impossible to exercise any type of inspection,” explained Mayor Paes. Over 500 blocks (troupes) had signed up for this year’s festivities.

Precisely that, the possibility of controlling the attendees, is what saves the party at the sambadrome, the event that with the permission of the covid is one of the postcards of Rio in the entire planet. “In Sapucaí (official name of the sambadrome) we will have Carnival because there it is easier to control the entrance,” said the councilor. The idea would be to require the vaccination card and at one point also a negative test to enter the enclosure designed by Oscar Niemeyer, which is located in the center.

The carnival parade of samba schools is itself an economic sector of Rio. Among seamstresses, shoemakers, designers, musicians or composers, it generates thousands of vital jobs in these times of inflation and high unemployment rates. Each of the schools that parade over several nights in a contest that the country follows closely on television mobilizes up to 5,000 sambistas who interpret a story as they advance along the half-kilometer to the rhythm of the music.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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