Pre-sales for Carnival, held a few months later, are also open. Rehearsals of samba schools that will compete during the parade have resumed for the first time since the pandemic, filling the city's streets with rhythm and joy.
Rio has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with nearly 100% of its adult population fully vaccinated.
The city of Sao Paulo has not ruled definitely yet, but in October, Mayor Ricardo Nunes spoke in favor of maintaining Carnival, which is expected to attract some 15 million visitors.
But as many as 70 other cities in the interior of Sao Paulo state have chosen to cancel the festival, citing either health reasons or lack of budget, according to online news site G1.
In the state of Parana, state lawmaker Cobra Reporter requested that Carnival be cancelled, stressing the obvious and “sad effects” of last year’s celebrations that helped spread the virus and the number of deaths both in the country and his state.
Brazil’s Tourism Minister Gilson Machado Neto declined to take sides on Thursday, saying that legally, the decision lies with states and municipalities.
Brazil's National Council of Health Secretaries told The Associated Press that decisions should be made based on scientific studies and on the state of the pandemic in each municipality.
In the absence of national guidelines, many mayors are still undecided, especially since cases and hospitalizations are rise in countries with similar vaccination coverage to Brazil's, such as Germany.
In Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state, the mayor said last week he could not force people to stay home, but that the city would not “sponsor” Carnival.
The mixed message brought criticism from state officials, who called for mayors not to shirk responsibilities. “The worst thing a city can do, is not to interfere in anything,” said Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema on Nov. 23.
The position was echoed by his health secretary, Fábio Baccheretti: “Carnival will happen, we cannot close our eyes. The parties are happening, the events are happening. And if we don’t give guidance, Carnival will happen in a disorganized way, with greater risk for the population.”
A Brazilian flag hangs on a clothesline on Copacabana beach amid white scarves that represent those who have died of COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. The action was organized by the NGO "Rio de Paz" to protest the government's handling of the pandemic as the country nears a total of 600,000 COVID-19 related deaths. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
Credit: Bruna Prado
Credit: Bruna Prado