COVID-19: Rio cancels New Year’s Eve celebrations amid spread of Omicr…

Rio has cancelled its world-famous New Year’s Eve celebrations as the Omicron COVID variant spreads around the world.

Announcing the move on Twitter, the mayor of the Brazilian city Eduardo Paes said the decision was taken “with sadness”, but that organisers “respect the science”.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, people would travel from all over the world to join millions of revellers on Copacabana Beach to experience the iconic celebrations.

The scrapping of the event for the second year running comes as countries around the world wrestle with the transmission of the worrying new Omicron strain, first identified in South Africa.

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Eduardo Paes says the important thing is ‘vaccinating and saving lives’. Pic: AP

Latest official figures show Brazil registered 221 coronavirus deaths on Friday and 10,627 additional situations.

The South American country has now registered a total of 615,400 coronavirus deaths and 22,129,409 confirmed situations.

Mr Paes said: “We respect science.

“As there are divergent opinions among scientific committees, we will always stick with the most restrictive.

“The city council says it can. The state’s says no. So it can’t.

“We’re going to cancel the official New Year’s Eve celebration in Rio in this way.”

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The last organised New Year celebrations were held to see in 2020. Pic: AP

He additional: “I make the decision with sadness, but we cannot organise the celebration without the guarantee of all the health authorities.

“Unfortunately, we cannot organise a party of this size, in which we have a lot of expenses and logistics involved, without the minimum time for preparation.

“If this is the command of the State (this was not what the governor had been telling me), let’s accept it.

“I hope I can be in Copacabana hugging everyone from 22 to 23.

“It will be missed but the important thing is that we continue vaccinating and saving lives.”

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Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is to be investigated after he claimed coronavirus vaccines may increase the chance of contracting AIDS.

Mr Bolsonaro has flouted local health rules since the start of the pandemic and has complained that restrictions aimed at controlling the coronavirus do more harm than good.

He also remains unvaccinated.

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