Rio cancels New Year's Eve celebrations amid spread of Omicron variant

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Rio has cancelled its traditional New Year's Eve celebrations as the Omicron COVID variant spreads around the world.

Announcing the move on Twitter, the mayor of the Brazilian city Eduardo Paes said the decision was taken "with sadness", but that organisers "respect the science".

It comes as countries around the world wrestle with the transmission of the worrying new COVID-19 strain, first identified in South Africa.

Mr Paes said: "We respect science.

"As there are divergent opinions among scientific committees, we will always stick with the most restrictive.

"The city council says it can. The state's says no. So it can't.

"We're going to cancel the official New Year's Eve celebration in Rio in this way."

He added: "I make the decision with sadness, but we cannot organise the celebration without the guarantee of all the health authorities.

"Unfortunately, we cannot organise a party of this size, in which we have a lot of expenses and logistics involved, without the minimum time for preparation.

"If this is the command of the State (this was not what the governor had been telling me), let's accept it.

"I hope I can be in Copacabana hugging everyone from 22 to 23. It will be missed but the important thing is that we continue vaccinating and saving lives."

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