Carnival over Covid: Panaji to host annual float parade amid pandemic

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Panaji, Feb 4 (IANS) The spirit of Carnival appears to have trumped the fear of the Covid-19 pandemic in Goa, with civic authorities in Panaji finally permitting the colourful festival which is due to begin on February 13.
According to the mayor of the Corporation of the City of Panaji Uday Madkaikar, private and corporate funding for the popular event is expected to dip this year, but the event would nonetheless be held as scheduled.
And apart from the carnival parade, an entertainment zone ‘Samba Square’ would also be set up on the sidelines of the Iberian-inspired event.
“The festival will be held on February 13. The carnival parade will travel through the city and a two-day event, ‘Samba Square’ will also be held simultaneously,” Madkaikar told IANS.
Carnival processions are symbolic of Goa’s colonial Portuguese legacy and are held here every year before the holy season of Lent, which is marked by fasting and an air of solemnity.
The festival, which involves a public celebration in form of long continuous parades of gaily coloured floats, with masqueraded dancers, is led by King Momo or king of the carnival, who is a locally chosen celebrity, who is given a key to the city.
After the inaugural parade in Panaji, which holds the pride of place of launching the carnival festivities in Goa, similar float parades are also organised in other cities namely Margao, Vasco, Ponda, Morjim and Curchorem. This year though the float parade has been limited to two major towns, Panaji and Margao in south Goa.
While Panaji’s civic authorities have been allowed to hold the carnival event by the Goa government, this year though the festivities are expected to be a slightly toned down affair, especially because of lack of sponsorship from private and corporate donors.
“We will seek private donations, but this year, we do not even want to request (for donations). Even if we do, then we will take it into consideration that people’s businesses have been disrupted due to Covid. We will try to only tap whatever money we receive from the government,” Madkaikar said.
This year, the Goa government has allotted Rs. 20 lakh to be spent on carnival festivities in Panaji along with Rs. 6 lakh in prize money, which is to be distributed to winners of the participants in the carnival float parade with the best decor and theme.
When asked if the civic authorities were serious about implementing Covid-19 related SOPs especially in wake of such norms being flouted along beaches, markets and other tourist destinations in the recent past, Madkaikar said: “We will request the crowd to maintain social distance. In a way we know that it will not happen, but still people should take adequate care and the government will issue an SOP. We will raise this issue with the government in the next meeting”.
Goa Congress spokesperson Trajano D’Mello said organising an event such as the carnival, where people normally throng together is a dangerous proposition, especially when the state continued to detect Covid-19 cases on a daily basis.
“Inviting people to attend Carnival is akin to inviting Covid to spread. There are a number of cases which are being reported everyday. It will take just one super spreader event to create chaos,” D’Mello said.
On an average, less than 100 Covid-19 cases are being reported in the state every day. The tally of active cases in Goa is currently at 768, while in all 53,638 persons have tested positive in the state since the pandemic broke out last year.
A senior tourism department official said that the Goa government had given a green signal to the festival in order to boost the state’s tourism prospects which have been severely impacted due to the pandemic. “We will once again generate an interest in Goa as a tourism destination this year with the Carnival, which will be organised on a limited scale though,” the official said.

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