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Brazil carnival 'bate-bolas'

Groups of "bate-bolas" -- revellers who dress up in exuberant, identical, hand-made costumes each Carnival -- gathered for a symbolic celebration on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.

The world famous Brazilian carnival festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting not only the big samba schools.

Small local groups like the "bate-bolas", usually a common sight in Rio suburbs, are also missing out on the parades, the partying and the magical atmosphere.

Every year a theme is chosen for their clown costumes, but with none planned for 2021, most revellers used last year's "Uncle Sam" theme.

Usually, they tour local streets hitting a "bexigas" -- a rubber ball connected to a pole by a cord -- and playing with other revellers.

This year they paraded through only one street, as fireworks were let off, in a quick symbolic act.

City officials said they would not tolerate any illegal celebration, saying harsh restrictions were necessary to prevent a rise in COVID-19 cases.