Rio de Janeiro cancels New Year's Eve festivities over coronavirus

People walk along a popular shopping street in Rio de Janeiro, in June 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - The annual New Year's Eve celebrations which traditionally see millions of people gathered on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro have been cancelled this year as Brazil grapples with surging coronavirus infections, city authorities said.

The celebrations are "not viable in this pandemic scenario, without a vaccine," the city's tourism office said in a statement, noting that the world-famous Carnival celebrations, normally set for February, might also have to be cancelled.

Instead, a virtual New Year's celebration was being planned.

"There is no great reason to celebrate, with more than 80,000 deaths" from coronavirus in Brazil, an official told AFP.

The state of Rio de Janeiro has counted the second highest number of deaths from coronavirus in Brazil, after Sao Paulo, and its death rate far exceeds the national average.

Of the 85,238 deaths recorded as of Friday in the country of 212 million people, 12,654 occurred in Rio de Janeiro state and nearly 8,000 in the capital's metropolitan region alone, according to official data.

The national average is 406 deaths per million residents, but in the state of Rio it reaches 733 per million, with an even higher 860 per million in the metropolitan region.

A decision on Rio's world-famous Carnival celebrations will come later.

Earlier this month some of Rio's biggest samba schools said they will not participate unless a vaccine is widely available.

Sao Paulo said on Friday (July 24) it was indefinitely postponing its 2021 Carnival because of the pandemic.

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