Rio de Janeiro's world-famous carnival parades became the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday as officials announced they were indefinitely postponing the February 2021 edition, with Brazil still reeling from COVID-19.
Rio's carnival, the world's biggest, is an epidemiologist's nightmare in a pandemic: an extended festival of tightly packed crowds dancing through the streets and flocking to the city's iconic Sambadrome for massive parades featuring scantily clad dancers, small armies of drummers and all-night partying at close quarters.
The event draws millions of tourists from around Brazil and the world to the beachside city each year.
The city's elite samba schools, which typically spend the entire year preparing their elaborate parades, had said in July it would be difficult to organize the event for February 2021 if there were still no certainty of a vaccine for the new coronavirus by late September.
Meeting again to assess the situation, we came to the conclusion that the event had to be postponed, said Jorge Castanheira, the president of the group that organizes the annual parades, the Independent League of Samba Schools of Rio de Janeiro (LIESA).
We just can't do it in February. The samba schools won't have the time or financial and organizational resources to be ready, he told journalists after a plenary meeting by the group's directors.
It's not a cancellation, it's a postponement. We are looking for an alternative solution, something we can do when it's safe to contribute to the city ... But we aren't certain enough to set a date.