Rio Delays Carnival for the First Time in Over 100 Years

Major events around the world continue to be canceled due to COVID-19.

For the first time in more than 100 years, Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival celebration won't happen in February.

Officials stopped short of canceling the event, instead opting to position it as a delay as Brazil continues to battle COVID-19. The last time Carnival was disrupted was in 1912, when it was pushed back by two months after the death of Brazil's foreign relations minister.

Rio’s League of Samba Schools said coronavirus has made it impossible to hold the public parades the event is known for, The Associated Press (AP) reported. Jorge Castanheira, the League’s president, told journalists in Rio on Thursday that the organization is awaiting updates on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID,” Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian whose work focuses on Carnival, told the AP.

Brazil has reported more than 4.5 million cases of COVID-19 since its first in late February. It has since seen more than 140,000 deaths.

Brazil’s tourism promotion agency told The AP it isn’t clear whether large public events will be able to resume without a coronavirus vaccine.

Rio de Janeiro has already canceled its iconic New Year’s Eve beach party, which typically brings millions of people to Copacabana Beach for fireworks. This year, the city will broadcast a light and music show online instead.

One Brazilian drummer told The AP he has no hope of seeing Carnival return in 2021. “Carnival will only really happen when the whole world can travel,” Laudo Braz Neto said.

Brazil confirmed its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 26, the day after Carnival 2020 ended.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter @meena_thiru and on Instagram @meenathiru.

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