Will Covid-19 prevent Brazil from celebrating Carnival in 2021?

Photo: Carnival is not pandemic-proof. Photo: Fernando Maia/Riotur
Photo: Carnival is not pandemic-proof. Photo: Fernando Maia/Riotur

The first Covid-19 case in Brazil was confirmed on February 26, falling on the very last day of the country’s famous Carnival celebrations. At the time, Brazilians could take some comfort in the fact that the arrival of the pandemic had spared the country’s largest popular festival. However, the prolongation of the coronavirus crisis in Brazil means the 2021 Carnival may be affected by the pandemic, potentially being canceled altogether.

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador — two of Brazil’s main Carnival destinations — have said they would consider postponing or canceling Carnival 2021. For both cities, the street festivities scheduled for February 12-16 would only be feasible if a coronavirus vaccine were to be available by November of this year.

Salvador Mayor Antonio Carlos Magalhães Neto said “City Hall might not have enough elements to keep Carnival safe in 2021.” Meanwhile, in Rio de Janeiro, five of the city’s top 12 samba schools — which organize the world-famous parades of floats and feathery costumes — threaten to halt all activities if a vaccine is not available by the beginning of festivities. The samba league has suggested pushing the parades back to April or June, but this is also conditioned to the release of a vaccine.

Missing the party isn’t the only concern — Carnival is a huge moneymaker. In Rio de Janeiro alone, the holiday attracted 2.1 million tourists this year and raised BRL 4 billion (USD 748 million). Hotel occupancy rates topped 93 percent for weeks — something unthinkable amid a pandemic.

One thing is certain: if the “new normal” means no Carnival, we don’t want any part of it.

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