RIO DE JANEIRO — While Rio de Janeiro’s renowned Carnival parade will go on, the city will cancel its street parties, which ordinarily draw millions of revelers, the mayor said on Tuesday, underscoring concerns ignited by the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The freewheeling public celebrations “won’t be possible,” Mayor Eduardo Paes said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It’s been decided: there won’t be street carnival in the tradition of the past.”
Mr. Paes said the official parade, in which samba groups put on elaborately choreographed shows in an area flanked by bleachers that seat 56,000 people, would be held, but with some health precautions.
But cariocas, as Rio residents are known, were devastated.
“I was very excited, very hopeful, for the 2022 Carnival, even more so after a year without carnival,” said João Ramos, 26.
Mr. Ramos, a designer, said that as soon as he read the news on his phone, he shared it with friends, who were already having a good time deciding on what costumes to wear.
“It poured cold water on us, everyone was so sad,” he said, before adding that the decision is understandable, as the effect of year-end celebrations of Brazil’s caseload is already noticeable: The number of cases is ticking up again, after plunging for months.
Many had begun cautiously rehearsing again, planning for that outburst of samba-fueled joy when they and millions of visitors take over public spaces and shake off the previous year’s sorrows. After two years of a pandemic, they said, it was sorely needed.
“There was a twist that we were not expecting,” Tatiana Paz, the organizer of a street performance group known as a “bloco,” said. “With most Brazilians fully immunized, we thought it was happening. But then the situation worsened again, and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Other major cities such as Olinda, São Luís, and Florianópolis also canceled their carnival events in the last 24 hours.
Rio canceled both the parade and the street parties in 2021, when Brazil’s death toll surged as its vaccination campaign was off to a slow start. But toward the end of the year, as shots became more widely available, Brazilians embraced them: About 68 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, and the country’s caseload and death toll plunged.
The period of relative calm that followed allowed the population to begin socializing again. Streets, beaches, and bars became packed as summer set in. On Copacabana beach, watchers welcomed the New Year over a sky of fireworks.
However, cases started rising again as the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which can break through vaccine protection in some cases, spread around the world.
Average daily reports of new virus cases in Brazil have surged again in the past few days, although the numbers remain far below the peaks reached in May and July.
Rodrigo Rezende, who is the head of a group of “blocos,” said they were already applying for official permits when the bad news came through.
“We were getting ready,” he said, “but were very aware that it could eventually not happen.”
Rio’s annual Carnival, considered to be one of the largest in the world, takes place in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, the Western Christian holy day that marks the start of Lent. Ash Wednesday falls on March 2 this year.
The city’s tradition, with its lively music and elaborate costumes, has endured and often thrived even in difficult times. Brazilians have danced through wars, hyperinflation, repressive military rule, runaway street violence and the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. Official calls to postpone Carnival in Brazil in 1892 (for sanitation reasons) and 1912 (to mourn the death of a national hero) were largely ignored.
Conversely, this year’s Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans appear to be moving forward after the event was canceled in 2021 because of the pandemic.