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All aboard the 'Samba Train' for the first time since COVID

Samba groups performed on a train filled with passengers Saturday as doubts are raised about the return of Rio De Janeiro's famous carnival due to the emergence of the omicron variant.

The "Samba Train" is an event that celebrates the Samba National Day, 2 December, where samba school members and samba lovers board a train from Central do Brasil station in downtown Rio towards Oswaldo Cruz neighborhood, repeating the same itinerary that samba's forefathers did 80 years ago.

This year, only each school's "Old school group", formed by senior members, and a few guests were allowed as a safety measure, with proof of vaccination also mandatory.

Normally the event has massive crowds squeezed inside train carriages.

It took place just hours after Rio's Mayor Eduardo Paes cancelled the country's famous New Year's Eve party in Copacabana beach, due to renewed COVID-19 fears, increasing doubts that the famous carnival will suffer the same fate next year.

Other Brazilian cities, including Sao Paulo and Salvador, have also canceled New Year's Eve celebrations due to fears of the omicron variant.

So far, the Ministry of Health has confirmed five omicron cases in Brazil.