Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous carnival has been suspended for the first time in over a century due to the country’s rising COVID-19 cases.
Rio’s League of Samba Schools (LIESA) announced that the global pandemic made it impossible to follow through with the annual tradition.
“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,” Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian who specializes in Rio’s Carnival, told the Associated Press.
Brazil has registered 4,849,229 cases of the virus since the pandemic began. The official death toll stands at 144,767 according to ministry data. with 4,212,772 recovered. Brazil’s coronavirus cases are second only to the United States.
Last month, Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, announced that COVID-19 vaccinations would not be mandatory when available.
“Many people want the vaccine to be applied in a coercive way, but there is no law that provides for that,” Bolsonaro said via Facebook Live.
The right-wing leader also stated that vaccines developed in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and China, while “scientifically proven in these other countries,” would require further examination to be used for Brazil’s immunizations.
Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his lackadaisical approach to the pandemic, despite testing positive for the virus months back.
Speaking to The New York Times, Marcelo Vieira, the carnival art director, said that in suspending this year’s parade, Rio’s carnival associations’ leaders had proved they were more responsible than the federal government.
“Carnival is an artistic and cultural activity that is also a mirror of Brazil’s social makeup,” he said. “The least important thing about carnival is its festive aspect.”