Mass, Masks to Mas’ for carnival in Trinidad & Tobago

Jamaica’s Olympic champion Usain Bolt participates in the carnival celebrations in Port of Spain
Jamaica’s Olympic champion Usain Bolt (C) participates in the carnival celebrations in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Feb. 28, 2017.
REUTERS/Andrea De Silva/File

The usual exodus from New York to Trinidad & Tobago during Carnival Week could prove to be a delayed tradition forced by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

In any given year prior to the pandemic, during this period diasporans from the Eastern Caribbean region followed a migration pattern destined for revelry, fetes and parties.

This year, not so much.

“I don’t know of anyone personally who plan to go down,” Herman Hall, publisher of Everybody’s Magazine said. “But there are people who go to TT during carnival time to be with family and friends. They don’t necessarily go to Port or Spain or the Savannah, they go down for food and family.”

Despite the lifting of mask mandates, low infection rates and mandatory vaccination rules, as a pre-caution, more than few die-hard revelers are avoiding the annual alluring attractions in order to mitigate what could emerge a super-spreading event from Feb. 28 to March 1.

Some believe mass assembly in the twin islands could prolong infections or even invite new mutations.

Postponed last year, this year’s limited bacchanal offers a scaled down version of the raucous spectacle, only permitting limited gatherings at 50 percent capacity to concerts with proof of vaccinations.

There will be no calypso tents, fetes or parties.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Arts, Randall Mitchell said “the limited carnival represents a first step in restarting the events sector.”

“Given the economic importance of carnival we felt it was necessary to consider what was possible, and what events can be had safely,” the government spokesman explained. “While we remain committed to safely restarting the events and entertainment sector, we must consider the global scenario which is that Trinidad and Tobago, like rest of the world are in the midst of a global pandemic which continues to evolve with new variants being detected causing health organizations worldwide to quickly adapt and change strategies.”

Mitchell also encouraged the wearing of facial protection to stave off infections.

Safe zones will accommodate soca and calypso. chutney competitions, steel band competitions, carnival king and queen shows and carnival theatre.

“It is not safe,” Peter Noel, a Harlem resident and avowed carnival loyalist said. “Once upon a time, I never missed carnival but people are still being infected, many are dying and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Although infection rates are plummeting throughout the world, recently in England, 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for covid-19.

The high-risk royal is being monitored and is reportedly experiencing mild symptoms akin to those of a cold. The monarch was allegedly fully vaccinated when she became infected. Her son, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla also tested positive for the virus. It is the second time that the future king has tested positive.

Celebrity pop star Justin Beiber reportedly postponed his Las Vegas, Nevada and Arizona concerts for the same reason. And New York State’s Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin announced he is now in self isolation after getting positive test results.

On the other hand, Monday, Australia reopened its borders to visitors hindered by rigid restrictions imposed since 2020 when the pandemic first started.

Recently the federal Center for Disease Control announced the emergence of an Omicron sub-variant named BA.2. Even more contagious than the previous strain, its 30 percent infectious rate could cause a surge here similar to those reported in Denmark and South Africa.

Nevertheless, determined die-hard revelers are heading south to masquerade (play mas) with the same vigor they were denied last year when the government paused celebration of the pre-Lenten revelry.

Hall explained that he believes in isolated areas and villages twin islanders will publically mark the tradition that ends on the eve of Ash Wednesday, March 2 signaling the start of Lent.

More from Around NYC