Researchers Hermano Castro, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), and Roberto Medronho, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), sent a proposal to Tarcísio Motta, president of the Special Carnival Committee of the City Council of Rio. the realization of a safe carnival in 2022. The report was also sent to the Scientific Committee of the municipality.
According to Motta, the most important issue is vaccination and that vaccination coverage reach significant numbers, not just in the capital of Rio de Janeiro. “Since carnival is an event that receives many tourists in the city, we need to keep 80% of the vaccinations in the state and in the country as well,” he said. The index refers to two full doses or a single dose.
In an interview with Brazil Agency, researcher Hermano Castro, from Fiocruz, explained that there is a need to establish the same percentage for the city, state and country, because Rio de Janeiro is the center of carnival in Brazil and receives many people from other locations. “Ideally, you have achieved collective immunity of 80%,” he said.
This immunity is based on a calculation that is made in epidemiology, which has to do with the rate of contamination, the transmission rate of the Delta variant, which is from 5 to 9.5. In other words, one person can change from covid-19 to another five and even nine. Before, it went to three. “It’s based on that.” Castro assessed that, with the advance of vaccination, it is possible that by Carnival, 80% will be reached. “The municipality of Rio itself will reach this level”.
In the report, researchers defined other indicators for the state capital. One of them is the mobile average of attendances in the municipal health network. “The indicator of care in the urgency and emergency network per day in the city can be used through daily care and its seven-day moving average, computing cases of flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome,” says the report.
The proposal that is being submitted to the expert committee of the capital of Rio de Janeiro involves a weekly moving average of less than 110 cases, or the same as 1.63 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with the shortest time and the least number of people to guarantee access to the wards and ICU units. The call sign is that there is no queue. “We put a number of three people, at most, waiting an hour. Ideally, it should be zero, as it is currently. The queue is zero. There’s no one waiting. It means that there are few cases being attended to in the municipal network”.
Another indicator is the rate of positive tests. Of every 100 tests that are collected and taken to the laboratory, the positivity rate is less than 5%. “Last week it was 4%. It means that out of every 100 samples collected in the population to diagnose covid-19, only four were positive. It is a good rate”, said Hermano Castro.
The city’s contagion rate, defined as R, which determines the potential for the spread of the virus, should be below 1 and, preferably, around 0.5, when fewer and fewer individuals become infected and the number of infections decreases. This number must be sustained for a minimum period of seven days. According to Castro, these indicators are not difficult to achieve. “I think it’s an important government effort to move forward with vaccines.”
The president of the Special Committee on Carnival at the Chamber, Tarcísio Motta, argued that these are the elements that must be observed in order to have a safe carnival. “It is very likely that this will happen. We have all these indicators improving. If nothing bad happens along the way, we can have a happy and safe carnival”. He hopes that the Scientific Committee advances in its analysis so that, by December 2nd, the commission’s final report can present its recommendations to the city of Rio. “The issue is to follow up, inspect and monitor these indices.”
Motta stressed that if nothing unusual happens from now until February 2022, the carnival could be held. “Our question is this: we can only have carnival if it is not a risk to life. It will not be life-threatening if these indicators are monitored. If distance and mask are necessary, there will be no carnival”.
The researchers also suggested protocol guidelines. For the hotel chain, for example, the recommendation is that before and during carnival, hotels charge guests with a vaccination passport. “You can only stay at the hotel, at the hostel (hostel) or at the airbnb (accommodation in private homes) if you have the vaccination card from the place of origin, whether from another country, another state or another municipality in Rio de Janeiro. This must be a preliminary requirement, so that the hotel can only admit accommodation if its vaccination card is up to date”.
Hermano Castro recalled that the report really seeks a safe carnival. “At this party, it is difficult for us to propose the use of a mask, other than the carnival mask, and social distancing. These are difficult things”. He believes that in order to have carnival and agglomeration, with people close to each other, without the mask, it is necessary to have very strict standards and indicators so that the environment is as safe as possible.
The president of the Chamber’s Carnival Committee, Tarcísio Motta, suggested that, in closed environments, there could be a charge for the vaccination passport. To the city hall, he said that testing stands could be set up for revelers, with studies being carried out on how the virus will behave during Carnival, for control purposes.
The report was a response by researchers from Fiocruz and UFRJ to the public hearing in which they participated, promoted by carnival artists in Rio and by public authorities in Rio de Janeiro, with a view to forwarding suggestions to the municipality’s scientific committee.
Hermano Castro recalled that before Carnival, Rio de Janeiro will have the experience of New Year’s Eve. Therefore, he believes that the committee members would already be studying the indicators and guidelines proposed in the report. “New Year’s Eve also receives thousands of people from all over the world”, he highlighted.
Vaccination coverage in the city of Rio is at almost 60% currently. Hermano Castro believes that in November, it will reach 65%, reaching 80% in December. “As Carnival is in February, I think we can achieve these indicators”. In Brazil, coverage is slower, on the order of 46%. But, with the first dose, the percentage of Brazilians reaches 70%. “As long as all of these are going to take the second dose in Brazil, you now have 70% vaccinated. It’s pretty close already. What cannot be lacking is a vaccine”. In the state of Rio, vaccination is further behind (around 41%), because there are municipalities that have not even vaccinated 10% of the population yet. For Castro, it is important to pressure the authorities to vaccinate the population. “It’s fundamental”.
He also recalled that the indicators help authorities to decide what can and cannot be released during Carnival. If a vaccination passport is required, for example, it reduces the risk of unvaccinated people going to the city, in addition to the risk of transmission, illness and death during the carnival itself, although the impact of this is only perceived after the event.
The report indicates further steps to be taken by the authorities. Among them is the requirement of a vaccination passport in closed spaces, such as the Sambódromo, clubs, bars and party houses, a form of protection and collective right in public health. In addition, the survey suggests control of air and land borders, mainly with the requirement of vaccine, guarantee of safe work in the sheds for employees, with the offer of a health security project, where testing for workers can be offered, distribution of mask, physical distance and hand hygiene.
The document also suggests the construction of public mechanisms, such as a Carnival Panel, to monitor indicators throughout the process, starting at least 100 days before the carnival and ending up to 30 days after the party. A public disclosure system should be set up to inform carnival associations and collectives about the health safety and viability of the carnival, as well as to calculate the impact on the city after the event.
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