Rio de Janeiro cancels carnival street parade over Omicron variant
Published: Jan 05, 2022 06:29 PM
Authorities in Rio de Janeiro announced on Tuesday the cancelation of February's carnival street celebrations due to an increase in COVID-19 cases brought on by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

It is the second year running that the coronavirus has forced the Rio street parade, which was due to take place from February 25 to March 1, to be called off.

"The street carnival in the form that took place in 2020, which did not happen in 2021, will not take place in 2022," Mayor Eduardo Paes said in a live broadcast on social media platforms.

The street parade by musical bands called blocos is different to the better known procession by samba schools that takes place in Rio's Sambadrome.

The Sambadrome can hold 70,000 people in a stadium that allows authorities to control those that enter.

Amongst the options available to them are proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test and the wearing of masks for those in attendance.

"The street carnival, given its nature and its democratic aspect, makes any type of control impossible," said Paes.

In 2020, there were an estimated 7 million revelers for the days-long street parades, according to the Riotour travel agency.

Although previous meetings between Rio authorities and the blocos failed to reach a compromise, new talks are planned for Friday, during which Musical Groups Association President Rita Fernandes told AFP they will make "a more decentralized proposal."

The arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant, coupled with an increase in social gatherings over Christmas and the New Year, has seen COVID-19 cases soar in Rio.

New cases jumped from 21 on December 14, 2021 to 458 just two weeks later.

So far, though, the rise in cases has not led to a significant increase in hospital admissions or deaths.

Four-fifths of Rio's population have had at least two vaccine doses while almost a quarter have also been given a booster shot.

Some 67 percent of the South American country's 213 million population are vaccinated with two doses, while 12 percent have had the third.

Almost 620,000 people in Brazil have died of coronavirus, second only to the US.