Friday, September 30 2022

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The mayor of Rio de Janeiro canceled New Year’s celebrations after Brazil confirmed the first known cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Latin America’s largest country.

Eduardo Paes tweeted on Saturday that he would follow the recommendations of the state of Rio de Janeiro to cancel the celebrations, despite the city’s opinion to the contrary.

“We respect science,” Paes tweeted, saying there are divergent opinions between city and state science committees, but he prefers to stick to the more restrictive one. “The city committee says it can go ahead and the state says no. So it can’t happen. Let’s cancel the official New Years celebration in Rio,” the tweet said.

The cancellation of the party, which draws millions of locals and tourists to famous Copacabana Beach to witness the fireworks, is no surprise.

“I am very sad as mayor and personally. The celebration of New Year in Rio is one of the most incredible and incomparable holidays in the world,” Paes said at a press conference.

In Brazil, the pandemic has killed more than 615,000 people, the second highest total in the world after the United States.

Paes said no further restrictions would be imposed, stressing that vaccinated tourists are welcome in Rio de Janeiro as the city has seen a drop in the number of deaths and cases, and a high level of vaccination.

The cancellation was backed by health experts, through a tweet from Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro after Paes’ announcement gave way to a possible overthrow.

Castro said he and Paes had agreed to hold a meeting next week with state and municipal health authorities “to make a final decision” on the matter.

(Reporting by Ana Mano and Rodrigo Viga in Rio de Janeiro; editing by Diane Craft)

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