Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous carnival has been postponed for the first time in a century as Brazil continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic.
The president of Rio’s League of Samba Schools has announced the pandemic means it will be impossible to safely hold the massive traditional parades next February.
In a pandemic, Rio’s carnival, the world’s biggest and liveliest, is an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare.
Every year, tightly packed crowds sing and dance through the city streets and jampack the iconic Sambadrome for enormous parades featuring scantily clad dancers, armies of drummers and all-night partying at close quarters.
But not in 2021.
Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was on 26 February, just one day after 2020’s carnival ended.
As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that star in the annual parades halted preparations for 2021. This at least removed the cloud of uncertainty that was hanging over the city.
Leisa, the independent samba league, did not give a new date for the festival.
“It’s increasingly difficult to have carnival without a vaccine,” Leisa president Jorge Castanheira said. “There is no way to have carnival without safety.”
Samba school drummer Laudo Braz Neto said the children he taught before the pandemic took hold are now disappointed but there is no way to put on carnival without being able to safely gather.
“Carnival will only happen again when the whole world can travel. It’s a spectacle the world watches, and brings desperately needed income here,” he said. “I have no hope for 2021.”
The money that nearly two million carnival tourists bring to the city’s poorest every year will be sorely missed.
Rio City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the street parties that take place across the city, though many have already been cancelled.
Brazil has the world’s third-worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States and India, with more than 4.6 million cases.
Rio de Janeiro’ s metropolitan region, home to 13 million people, has so far recorded more than 15,000 deaths from Covid-19.