Rio's Carnival Celebration Canceled for the First Time in 108 Years Due to Pandemic

Rio de Janeiro has suspended its Carnival parade for the first time in over a century as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Brazil and across the globe, multiple outlets reported.

The annual event, set to take place in mid-February, was suspended on Thursday night. Rio’s League of Samba Schools (LIESA) said that the global outbreak has made it impossible to safely hold the parade.

"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, said in an interview, according to the Associated Press.

“An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID," Simas added.

This is the first time the parade has not been held since 1912, when it was canceled due to the death of the long-time foreign minister Jose Maria da Silva Paranhos Jr.

Rio's City Hall has yet to announce a decision regarding the street parties that also take place across the city during Carnival. In a statement to the Associated Press this month, the tourism promotion agency said that it is uncertain when large public events can resume until a coronavirus vaccine is produced.

Brazil, one of the hardest-hit countries amid the pandemic, has reported over 4.6 million cases of COVID-19, while at least 139,808 people in the country have died from coronavirus-related illnesses as of Thursday, according to the New York Times' database.

Rio de Janeiro has over 257,000 confirmed cases and over 18,000 deaths from the virus, the Times reported.

The 2020 Rio Carnival ended on Feb. 25, just one day before Brazil reported its first COVID-19 case. As the number of infections grew in subsequent weeks, the samba schools that participate in the week-long event halted preparations, such as float construction, costume sewing and dance rehearsals, for the 2021 parade, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Processions at the annual carnival involve elaborate floats accompanied by drummers and costumed dancers who sing for a panel of judges, witnessed by tens of thousands of spectators who pack the bleachers of the arena, known as the Sambadrome.

Rio's carnival offers crucial tourism revenue to the country each year. The 2020 parade, held from Feb. 21-Feb. 26, attracted 2.1 million visitors and generated about $725 million in economic activity, the LA Times reported.

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