Rio Carnival to be postponed in 2021 for the first time in more than a century

It comes as Brazil continues its battle to get the coronavirus outbreak under control in the country

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For the first time more than a century, Rio de Janeiro's famous carnival has been postponed.

Organisers announced on Thursday that the event, due to take place in February 2021, would be postponed as Brazil battles to bring the coronavirus outbreak in the country under control.

"It's not a cancellation, it's a postponement," said Jorge Castanheira, president of the group that organises the parades. "We are looking for an alternative solution, something we can do when it's safe to contribute to the city."

The announcement follows a warning in July that the February’s festivities may not be able to go ahead without the certainty of a vaccine in place.

The carnival is famous around the world for its colours, drummers, and Samba, and can attract up to two million people each day, making it all but impossible to hold in the midst of a pandemic. The celebration dates back to the 1600s, and was originally devised as a food festival, held in the lead-up to Lent.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 23, 2020 members of the Viradouro samba school perform during the first night of Rio's carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Rio de Janeiro indefinitely postponed world-famous carnival over Covid-19 on September 24, 2020. / AFP / MAURO PIMENTEL
Up to two million people can attend each day of Rio Carnival. AFP

From the 1920s onward, the event became more widely associated with samba, thanks to the growing popularity of the music in the country. Nowadays, a typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revellers, floats, and adornments from samba schools from across the city Rio, with more than 200 taking part each year, divided into five leagues and divisions. Each samba school is made up of a collaboration of local neighbours who want to attend the carnival together, sharing some kind of regional, geographical or common background.

The decision to postpone the carnival marks the first time it has not taken place in the run up to Lent since 1912.

Rio Carnival joins a growing list of major entertainment and sporting events disrupted by the pandemic, which shows no signs of slowing its track across the globe. London’s Notting Hill Carnival was cancelled in August, as were most of the summer's music festivals around the world.

After the United States, Brazil now has the world’s second highest Covid-19 death toll, with nearly 140,000 thousand fatalities recorded.

Worldwide deaths are nearing one million and more than 31 million cases have been detected since the coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

With scientists still racing to develop a vaccine, governments are being forced to reimpose crippling lockdown measures that slowed the virus spread earlier this year but sent much of the world economy into a tailspin.