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Rio de Janeiro postpones Carnival parades as Covid cases surge in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Carnival festivities are being postponed as the number of coronavirus cases in Brazil rises.

The South American nation has been seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the year due to the highly contagious omicron variant, prompting officials to reschedule Carnival parades to late April rather than the final weekend of February.

“The decision was made respecting for the current situation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil and the need, at this time, to preserve lives and join forces to drive vaccination throughout the country,” said a statement issued Friday jointly by the cities of Rio and Sao Paulo, which also delayed the start of its Carnival parades until April 21.

Carnival festivities were delayed after Brazil reported a new record number of daily Covid-19 cases. At least 137,103 new cases were reported on Tuesday as the omicron becomes the dominant variant in the country. The previous record was reported on June 23 when the number of new daily cases reached 115,228.

The number of deaths has also risen, to 351 reported on Tuesday, the highest number since mid-November.

Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes and his Sao Paulo counterpart Ricardo Nunes held a video call along with their respective health secretaries and each city’s league of samba schools that put on the parade on Friday.

Members of samba school rehearse for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 16. Lucas Landau / Reuters

Paes said his city’s street parties, some of which draw hundreds of thousands of partygoers, wouldn’t proceed in the manner they did before the pandemic, but without clarifying what shape they might take.

Brazil has now registered over 23.5 million cases since the pandemic began in 2020, while the official death toll has surpassed 622,000, according to NBC News’ tally.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.

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