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No samba, no festival

Agence France-Presse

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THERE’LL be no dancing and big crowds in Rio de Janeiro this time. / Agence France-Presse

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) — Brazil has postponed Rio de Janeiro’s famed carnival for next year, the latest spectacle hit by the pandemic as governments across the globe struggle to contain a surge in coronavirus infections.

Rio’s carnival, famous for its gyrating Samba dancers, drummers and dancing crowds, draws millions for all night parties in packed streets, making social distancing all but impossible.

Brazil now has the world’s second highest death toll after the United States — nearly 140,000 fatalities — and is still battling to bring the virus under control.

Rio’s samba schools had already warned in July that without certainty of a vaccine this year it would be difficult to organize the February 2021 festival.

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

It was the first time the carnival had been postponed since 1912, joining a growing list of major entertainment and sporting events disrupted by the pandemic with the virus showing no signs of slowing its track across the globe.

Australia also postponed plans to host a Test cricket match against Afghanistan and a one-day series against New Zealand Friday, saying the pandemic had made arranging the matches too difficult.

French Open tennis tournament will now allow only 1,000 spectators each day in line with tougher restrictions introduced this week by the French government.

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.

The European Union raised the alarm on Thursday, saying the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, as governments in Europe and beyond order new anti-virus measures.

Europe’s death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year but new infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern.”

France reported an all-time high in new daily cases of over 16,000, one day after announcing tougher infection control measures especially for hard-hit Mediterranean port Marseille.

Bars in Paris and 10 other cities will be forced to close early but Marseille will see restaurants and bars close completely.

Fierce reactions from local officials underscored the struggle governments face balance health risks against the need to revive businesses battered by lockdowns.

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