Wars, disease and political turmoil have never prevented Rio de Janeiro from putting on its famous carnival. Now, the pandemic has forced a suspension of the annual parade for the first time since 1932.
“I want this moment to come, this moment when we will celebrate life that defeats death, when we will reunite, gather,” said Leandro Vieira, the artistic director of Estação Primeira de Mangueira, one of Rio’s most traditional samba groups. “But this moment is not possible yet.”
Faced with a pandemic that has killed nearly 144,000 people — Brazil’s toll is second only to the United States — a deep economic crisis, and a president whose inner circle is engulfed in a growing number of criminal and legislative investigations, Rio residents are being robbed of the moment of catharsis that many look forward to year-round. Few places have been hit as hard as Rio de Janeiro, a state of 16 million people where the virus has killed more than 18,000.
The decision to suspend the parade will deprive the city of an important source of revenue and its citizens of performances that often deliver skewering political commentary.
But the heads of the city’s leading samba organizations found that without a vaccine, conditions would not be safe.
With the official parade postponed indefinitely, it is unclear if — and how — Rio residents will celebrate come February, when the festivities are scheduled.
“I feel like crying, seeing they haven’t started the work of building the floats,” said Nicilda da Silva, 80, who was elected queen of the Porto da Pedra samba group this year and helps plan their parade. “But our hands are tied.”
In other developments around the world:
More than one in 200 people in England, about 0.55 percent of the country’s population, have the coronavirus, according to the latest update from the country’s largest study of Covid-19. “The prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date,” said Professor Paul Elliott, one of the study’s authors. People between 18 and 24 have the highest rate of infection, the study found, although cases are also increasing among people over 65. Based on the results of tens of thousands of random tests, the researchers said the growth of new cases had slowed, in part because of a variety of government restrictions. Britain recorded at least 7,100 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database.
Singapore’s civil aviation authority said the city-state would no longer require visitors from Vietnam or most of Australia to self isolate, starting on Oct. 8, as long as they pass a Covid-19 test on arrival and have not traveled to other countries in the two weeks leading up to the flight. The new rules do not include the Australian state of Victoria, which reported 15 new cases on Thursday. Self-isolation requirements were lifted for travelers from Brunei and New Zealand on Sept. 1.
South Africa will begin allowing some international tourists to enter the country on Thursday, for the first time since a national lockdown took effect in March. In a blow to hopes of reviving the country’s tourism sector, at least a dozen high-risk European countries, the United States and most of Latin America will remain on a no-fly list.