Carnival Parties Defy COVID Ban

Brazilians criticize restriction when other events are allowed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 26, 2022 3:20 PM CST
Carnival Parties Defy COVID Ban
Dancers fill a block during an unofficial Carnival party Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.   (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

The pandemic may have disrupted Carnival plans in Rio de Janeiro for a second straight year, but revelers who have flocked to the Brazilian city for sun, sea and samba still found ways to party on Saturday. Thousands defied an official ban on street parties by dancing, singing, and mingling to the rhythm of Samba, the AP reports, often as police looked on. Others attended more formal events that moved indoors this year after City Hall banned "blocos," the tightly packed street parties traditionally thronged by those who cannot or do not want to lay out for pricey tickets for the official parade at the Sambadrome—which this year has been postponed to April because Brazil is still not past the omicron wave.

"I think it’s a shame this has to happen this way," said Tulio Brasil, a 29-year-old music marketing director who found one of the unauthorized street parties in the city center. "It doesn't make sense to crowd everyone into a closed place when the street, an open space, much more airy, is prohibited." The indoor parties—and the fee to get in—are a heresy for many Brazilians who say that Carnival's block parties are essentially and historically parties by the people and for the people. "There is great hypocrisy about all this," said Deivid Domênico, a samba composer. "In January, when the omicron wave was peaking, they didn't take any public measures to limit the spread of the virus; bars and restaurants were still open. But they canceled Carnival."

The city's decision to postpone Carnival has frustrated many professionals whose livelihoods center around one of the largest festivals in the world. "Stadiums are full, churches are full, evangelical temples, concerts, bars, restaurants, hotels, Airbnbs," said Rita Fernandes, who leads an association of street blocos. "This seems quite contradictory, as if the virus only spread on the streets and at Carnival." Tourists have come anyway. As of Thursday, hotels in Rio were at about 80% capacity, according to the city's hotel association.

(More Carnival stories.)

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