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Carnival street parades canceled in Rio de Janeiro amid Covid surge

By Karol Suarez and Stefano Pozzebon, CNN

Rio de Janeiro has canceled its world-famous Carnival street parades due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the city’s mayor Eduardo Paes announced Tuesday during a YouTube live stream.

While some major Carnival events will still go ahead, organized street parties, known as “blocos” are to be canceled for the second year in a row, he said.

“We had a meeting today with the people from the ‘blocos,’ and we informed them that the street carnival, which didn’t take place in 2021, cannot happen (again) this year due to the epidemiological data that we have,” Paes said.

“It would be very difficult to organize a street carnival,” Paes said.

The Sapucaí carnival — the parade performed by Rio’s samba schools, which people watch from the stands of the Marques de Sapucaí Sambadrome stadium — will still take place in accordance with health protocols, he added.

This year’s Carnival will take place from February 25 to March 2, and while street parades won’t go ahead, visitors attending the Sambodrome will be able to watch Rio’s top samba schools performing to the sounds of drums, trumpets and cymbals.

The Marques de Sapucaí Sambadrome has capacity for more than 80,000 people. Authorities have yet to specify if it will be allowed to fill to capacity during the event, however, health protocols will be established soon, they said.

Omicron’s arrival

While Rio’s pre-pandemic event attracted more than seven million people — generating up to $387 million for the city — Carnival is typically celebrated all over Brazil.

Some other cities have also called off their street parades. Among them: Salvador, Campo Grande, Cuiaba, Teresina, Belem, Fortaleza, Florianopolis and Curitiba.

In Belo Horizonte, the southeastern city’s mayor said Carnival wasn’t canceled, but sponsors and investment in street parades were.

In the financial capital Sao Paulo and the coastal cities of Recife and Maceio, Carnival is still expected to go ahead, pending final decisions from health authorities.

Rio has seen a surge in Covid cases in recent weeks, with three confirmed as the Omicron variant and another 180 suspected, its mayor said.

Overall, Brazil has so far detected 170 cases of the Omicron variant and experts predict Omicron will become the dominant variant in the next few weeks, according to CNN’s affiliate CNN Brasil.

On January 5, Brazil’s health ministry reported 18,759 new cases of Covid-19 and 175 deaths.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an image of Rio’s traditional Sambodromo area where the city’s official parade has not been canceled.

Top image: Revelers at a “bloco” or street party called Escrevos de Maua before the Rio Carnival on February 4, 2018. Credit: Carl De Souza/AFP via Getty Images

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