Brazil's Rio cancels New Year celebration as pandemic continues


FILE PHOTO: A couple celebrates during New Year's Eve, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil January 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

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

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

"We respect science," Paes tweeted, saying there are dissenting opinions between scientific committees in the city and the state, but he would rather stick with the most restrictive one. "The city's committee says it can go ahead and the state's says no. So it can't take place. Let's cancel the official New Year's Eve celebration in Rio," the tweet said.

The cancellation of the party, which attracts millions of residents and tourists to the world-famous Copacabana beach to watch the fireworks, does not come as a surprise.

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

(Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Diane Craft)

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