In Haiti, Carnival celebration goes on despite COVID-19

(Miami Herald) – Carnival, the annual colorful street party where revelers throw caution to the wind in an uninhibited, exuberant atmosphere, was canceled again this year in Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago, thanks to COVID-19 and its new highly infectious variants.

But one country did opt to have the show go on despite the global pandemic — and now that decision by Haiti, already knee-deep in a political and constitutional crisis, is receiving backlash.

The Bahamas, one of Haiti’s closest neighbors, began a temporary ban on all travel from Haiti as images of densely packed crowds partying during the celebration that ends Tuesday filled social media.

Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said the ban is in response to Haiti’s decision to host the pre-Lenten event, which has been barred in countries across the region. After struggling to keep COVID-19 cases down, the Bahamas is finally starting to see infections decline with an average of 12 new cases reported each day. The emergency order was imposed over the weekend. It took effect Monday and will be in effect at least 21 days.

“We didn’t have a regular Junkanoo as we normally do,” Henfield said, referring to his nation’s annual New Year’s Day street party that usually features bands performing in the streets. “We are just concerned about a mass gathering in a Carnival-like atmosphere that can be a potential super-spreader.”

Haiti’s three-day National Carnival started Sunday and ends two days later with Mardi Gras. Recent reports from the country’s health ministry do not yet show a spike in cases. The country has registered 12,2016 laboratory-tested cases and 247 deaths since the pandemic’s outbreak. The resource-strapped nation has consistently reported lower case numbers than others in the Caribbean, despite little compliance with preventative measures like mask wearing, a trend that has perplexed scientists.

However, recent mass protests triggered by a dispute over the term of President Jovenel Moïse and the staging of Carnival, or Kanaval as it is referred to in Creole, in the country’s northwestern city of Port-de-Paix, have heightened concerns about a potential spike.

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