A cloud of uncertainty that has hung over Rio de Janeiro throughout the pandemic has been lifted, but gloom remains—the annual Carnival parade of flamboyant samba schools, known as the "world's biggest party," won’t be held in February. And while the decision is being characterized as a postponement of the event, no new date has been set. Rio’s League of Samba Schools announced Thursday night that the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood. Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said Sept. 17 that without a coronavirus vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can resume.
“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,” historian Luiz Antonio Simas tells the AP. “An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID.” Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was Feb. 26, one day after this year’s Carnival ended. The last year Rio’s Carnival was suspended was 1912, following the death of the foreign relations minister. The mayor of Rio, at the time Brazil’s capital, postponed by two months all licenses for the popular dance associations’ Carnival parties. The mayor also voiced opposition to unregulated celebrations, but many Rio residents partied in the streets anyway.