As the number of Corona-virus deaths worldwide looked set to pass a million within days, Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability in the pandemic.
A cloud of uncertainty that has hung over Rio de Janeiro throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been lifted, but gloom remains — the annual Carnival parade of flamboyant samba schools won’t be held in February, 2021.
And while the decision is being characterized as a postponement of the event, no new date has been set. An entire cultural and productive chain has now been disrupted by Covid-19.
Carnival is a party upon which many humble workers depend. The samba schools are community institutions, and the parades are just one detail of all that.
Brazil’s first confirmed Corona-virus case was February 26, one day after this year’s Carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event.
Nearly all of Rio’s samba schools are closely linked to working class communities. Their processions include elaborate floats accompanied by tireless drummers and costumed dancers who sing at the top of their lungs to impress a panel of judges.
Tens of thousands of spectators pack the bleachers of the arena, known as the Samba-drome, while tens of millions watch on television.
Before the schools began competing in the 1930’s, Carnival was celebrated in dance halls and haphazardly on the streets. The parades entered the Samba-drome in the 1980’s, and have become Rio’s quintessential Carnival display.
The last year Rio’s Carnival was suspended was 1912, following the death of the foreign relations minister. The mayor of Rio, at the time Brazil’s capital, postponed by two months all licenses for the popular dance associations’ Carnival parties.
The immense labor required for each show was already stymied by restrictions on gatherings that Rio’s governor imposed in March.
Even with those measures, Rio’s metropolitan region, home to 13 million people, so far has recorded more than 15,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Delay of the Carnival parade will deprive Rio state of much needed tourism revenue. In 2020, Carnival drew 2.1 million visitors and generated 4 billion reais ($725 million) in economic activity, according to Riotur.
Some parties are small — for example one including a few dozen dog owners exhibiting their pets wearing wigs or funny hats.
But most feature amps blasting music to throngs of thousands who dance, kiss and swill booze in a crush of celebration.
In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures.
Israel, which a week ago became the first country to re-enter a strict national lockdown, further toughened its measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate.
The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations in the promised Land.
NBC / ABC Flash Point News 2020.