RIO DE JANEIRO – As Rio de Janeiro’s renowned carnival parade continues, the city will cancel its street parties, which usually draw millions of partygoers, says the mayor, quoting the Omicron variant.
The free-riding public celebrations “will not be possible,” Mayor Eduardo Paes Casaid said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It is certain: there will be no street carnival in the tradition of the past.”
Mr. Paes said the official parade, in which samba groups host elaborate choreographed shows flanked by grandstands with seating for 56,000 people, will be held, with some health precautions.
Last year, the carnival was canceled in its entirety due to the pandemic, but for many Brazilians, the real show is the street parties, and Cariocas, as the people of Rio are known, were devastated to hear that they would not take place.
“I was very excited, very hopeful, for the carnival in 2022, even more so after a year without a carnival,” said João Ramos, 26.
Mr. Ramos, a designer, said that as soon as he read the news, he shared it with friends, who had already discussed what costumes he should wear.
“Cold water poured over us, everyone was so sad,” he said.
Still, Mr. Ramos said, the decision is understandable. Already the effect of the year-end celebration can be seen: The number of cases is ticking up again, after diving for months.
As the carnival approached, many Brazilians had begun to rehearse carefully, planning for that outburst of samba-driven joy as they and millions of visitors took over public spaces and shook off last year’s grief.
After two years of a pandemic, they said, it was badly needed.
“With most Brazilians completely immunized, we thought it was happening,” said Tatiana Paz, organizer of a street performance group. “But then the situation got worse, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Other major cities such as Olinda, São Luís and Florianópolis have also canceled carnival events in the last 24 hours.
Rio canceled both the parade and the street parties in 2021, when Brazil’s death toll increased as the vaccination campaign started slowly. But towards the end of the year, as shootings became more widespread, Brazilians embraced them: About 68 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, and the country’s death toll and death toll have dropped.
The period of relative calm that followed made the population begin to socialize again. Streets, beaches and bars became crowded as summer set in. On Copacabana Beach, the sky was filled with fireworks as spectators welcomed the new year.
However, cases began to increase again as Omicron spread around the world.
Rio’s annual carnival, considered one of the largest in the world, takes place in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, the Western Christian holy day that marks the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday falls on March 2 this year.
The city’s tradition, with its lively music and elaborate costumes, has endured and often flourished even in difficult times. Brazilians have danced through wars, hyperinflation, oppressive military rule, street violence and the 1918-19 flu pandemic. Official calls to postpone the carnival in Brazil in 1892 (for sanitary reasons) and 1912 (to mourn the death of a national hero) were largely ignored.
In another city known for the carnival, New Orleans, it seems that this year’s Mardi Gras parades are moving forward. The event was canceled in 2021.