Trinidad Carnival 2021 latest public event to be cancelled
By Ricky Browne
While many people have been looking to put 2020 in the rear view mirror, and are relishing the idea of starting a crisp new year with all the public events that can muster, those dreams are fading fast.
In fact, by the looks of it, 2021 is looking to be 2020 version 2.0.
London’s New Years celebrations were cancelled last week. As of yesterday, the latest landmark event to be knocked off pubic calendars is Trinidad’s Carnival for 2021, originally set to culminate on February 16.
The number of people to have died from the coronavirus is expected to now surpass one million people. There are predictions that 40 per cent of the world population will be infected and that tens of millions of people will die before the virus is contained. Deaths may even exceed the 50 million people who died in the Spanish Flu pandemic 100 years ago.
The potential magnitude of the virus was not being fully coonsidered back in February, when Trinidad Carnival was held as per usual.There was only mild concern about the approaching COVID-19 —at that point still an unnamed virus, starting to spread out of China. Thousands upon thousands of revellers turned out in the streets to gyrate in packed crowds to the pulsating sounds of the latest soca music.
Few realised that it was a last blast.
But a couple weeks later the virus was in full swing, ripping through Italy and Iran and spreading quickly to other countries. Canada claimed that its first coronavirus infected person came from Trinidad, although the country had not yet had any known cases.
Traditionally, many carnival lovers start the Carnival year in Port-of-Spain before heading off to Jamaica Carnival to party some more. Jamaica Carnival, heavily influenced by the style of Trinidad’s, was set to happen just after Easter in April, but due to the virus it was cancelled.
The even larger Notting Hill Carnival in London —also like an offshoot of Trinidad’s more established carnival — was set for the bank holiday in August but it too fell victim.
But still, Carnival lovers hoped, the new year would bring back Carnival with even more reason to celebrate in 2021.
That hope was finally put to rest on Monday by Trinidad Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who stated that it would not be happening.
There is “no future for Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago in the months ahead,” the Prime Minister said.
“It would be madness to be talking about Carnival. Today I can put everybody on notice — unless there’s some dramatic wind that will blow across us where by Christmas the pandemic would have been a thing of the past —Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago in 2021 is not on,” Dr Rowley said.
“Let us remember what our country passed through in 1918 , and let us understand what is happening in countries abroad that have not been able to control the spread. A carnival, which is the perfect environment for spreading the virus, is not something that we can countenance at this time.”
He noted there would have serious knock-on economic effects but “by the same token, we can’t hope to gain on that swing and die on the merry-go-round.”
Carnival in Trinidad is a massive affair, a big part of the culture and a big contributor to the economy. Half the country seems to be on the streets gyrating or at least watching, with thousands of tourists and Trinidadians living abroad flying in for the celebration. Port-of-Spain is filled to the gills with every bed in the city seemingly taken. Many residents actually leave the capital for a break and rent their houses out to incoming revelers.
With Carnival cancelled, its not a good sign for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which have been postponed to next summer, although keeping the 2020 title.
Other carnivals, particuarly those that take place on Shrove Tuesday, as in Trinidad are also in doubt. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, has already cancelled it carnival. Venice Carnival hasn’t yet been cancelled however, and nor has Mardi Gras in New Orleans.