Another Carnival indoors for Brazil

When Brazil appeared to be surfing the Delta coronavirus wave relatively unscathed in the latter part of 2021, seeing case and death numbers dwindle, there was certainly hope and expectation that in 2022 the country could once again celebrate its favorite — and most famous — party: Carnival.

Parades and block parties were canceled in 2021, coinciding with a truly desperate time in the country’s pandemic trajectory. The official samba school championship parades eventually did go ahead almost two months later in April. However, the heart and soul of the celebration — the so-called “street Carnival” — was nowhere to be seen. The idea that this could happen again in 2022 was out of the question for many.

But then came the Omicron variant. While this form of the virus has not been nearly as severe, it spread across Brazil like wildfire and made a second successive Carnival cancellation almost inevitable.

Beyond its pride of place as many Brazilian’s favorite celebration, the party is also a key cash cow for scores and scores of informal workers, heavily reliant on the revelers and parades to make a tidy profit.

The general population was largely in favor of canceling street carnival and postponing the famous samba parades — but there were counter-arguments to be had. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, and football matches are working as normal in Brazil, and in several cities, carnival block parties were transformed into closed ticketed events, which legally can be held providing capacity limits are adhered to.

Those who called for Carnival 2022 to go ahead point to the fact that street block parties are held entirely in open-air spaces, and could perhaps pose less of a risk of viral transmission than going to watch a movie in a closed cinema — or certainly less dangerous than private and ticketed block parties.

In the meantime, for Carnival-starved Brazilians, there’s always next year.

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