SAO PAULO (AFP): Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are postponing the glittering parades that are the highlight of carnival festivities due to a surge in the pandemic, the Brazilian cities said Friday.
The samba school parades originally scheduled for late next month will instead be held in late April, authorities said in a joint statement, citing the pandemic and “the need to save lives.” Brazil has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic.
Raucous street celebrations associated with one of the world’s biggest parties have already been cancelled altogether for the second year in a row.
The part being postponed now, which is better known, are processions of floats and dancers from famous schools of samba, which work for months fashioning colorful costumes by hand and rehearsing musical numbers.
In the case of Rio, the procession of schools unfolds in a stadium called the Sambadrome, which can hold 70,000 people. The spectacle draws tourists from elsewhere in Brazil and around the world.
This is being allowed to go ahead, at least for now and later than originally scheduled, because authorities can control who goes into the arena and demand proof of vaccination, for instance.
The street party part of carnival is considered too wild and spontaneous for that.
“It is a necessary postponement. We can carry out the procession much more safely in late April,” said Rio’s top health official, Daniel Soranz.
“Looking at the curve of the pandemic in other countries, we think it is very unlikely that the current wave will last until April,” he added.
The pandemic has killed more than 622,000 people in Brazil — a toll surpassed only by that of the United States — and this country is in the middle of yet another wave, fueled by the Omicron variant of the virus.
As that strain spreads, and after New Year’s get togethers, this week the country set a record for new daily infections at nearly 205,000.
Nearly 70 percent of Brazil’s adult population has received two vaccination shots.
Associations of samba schools endorsed the decision to wait until April to launch the samba processions.
“We don’t want to force a procession if people are worried,” said Sidnei Carriulo, president of the League of Samba Schools of Sao Paulo.