Trinidad and Tobago's world-famous Carnival season would already be well underway under normal times, with fetes and soca concerts drawing large crowds, and the early rounds of steel pan and masquerade competitions in full swing.
It would all lead up to the two-day street parade on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 2 this year. But the pandemic still pervades and just like the 2021 festival cancelled and creatives feeling the fallout, the government has created a version of Carnival happen for 2022.
‘A Taste of Carnival’ is an attempt to allow every sector of the Carnival community to have events at designated “safe zones”. These three COVID-19 protocol-compliant venues are the Queen's Park Savannah, the traditional mecca of the local festival, and Queen's Hall, both in Port of Spain; as well as the Naparima Bowl, a performance art space in south Trinidad. They will only be accessible to fully vaccinated patrons and performers.
Unlike the recently staged Miami Carnival, patrons use physically distanced pods at events. Most notably, the beloved J'ouvert celebrations, which herald the start of the street festival, and the Parade of the Bands will not be on offer, but other events have already begun.
Public reaction to the news has been mixed. Not only is Trinidad and Tobago in the throes of community spread of the Omicron variant, with daily new positive cases at around 600 and an estimated 49.5 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, but an untried and scaled down version of the festival seems like fickle economics to some cultural activists.