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Plenty of people and plenty of masks but no Carnival fun in Venice

Monitoring Desk

VENICE, Italy (AP) — In another year, masks would be a sign of the gaiety in Venice, an accessory worn for games and parties as big crowds parade about to show off their frivolous, fanciful costumes, especially ones with decorative face coverings.

A view of the Canal Grande or Grand Canal, in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. The canal city’s Carnival festivities should have started Saturday, but the COVID-19 pandemic made the annual appointment for more than two weeks of merry-making impossible. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

The Italian canal city’s Carnival festivities should have started Saturday, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made its annual appointment for more than two weeks of merry-making impossible.

Last year, with fears over the new coronavirus mounting, authorities abruptly shut down the Venice Carnival on its third day, just before Italy became the first country in the West to face a outbreak.

Venetian artisan mask maker Gualtiero Dall’Osto works in his workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. In another year, masks would be an accepted sign of gaiety in Venice, an accessory worn for games, parties and crowds. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic face masks are worn now to protect, not amuse. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Back then, a “surge” meant crowds squeezing through Venice’s maze of carless streets, intent on meeting up in the vast St. Mark’s Square. The day that Carnival shuddered to a stop last year, the confirmed coronavirus cases in all of Italy numbered only 133.

Now Italy has logged more than 2.5 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 88,000 deaths but not including thousands who died without being tested. A “surge” has taken on a different, more ominous context. Masks are worn now to protect, not amuse.

A woman wearing a sanitary mask walks next to a carnival masks shop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Carnival should have begun on Saturday, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made that annual appointment of days of merry-making impossible. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Gondolas and other vessels are moored instead of preparing for Carnival’s popular boat parade in the lagoon. Alleys are eerily empty. Venetians and the city’s few visitors must be masked in public places, indoors and out, under a nationwide mandate.

Italy’s current infection-control restrictions do not allow traveling between regions. Foreign tourism, especially from the United States, dried up in the last year as governments imposed bans on international travel for nonessential purposes. Even if Carnival had been held, relatively few people would have made it to Venice.

A Venetian artisan mask maker works on an item in a workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. In another year, masks would be an accepted sign of gaiety in Venice, an accessory worn for games, parties and crowds. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic face masks are worn now to protect, not amuse. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

The Carnival’s appeal is rooted back centuries, when, for a brief stretch in the run-up to Lent, the Catholic period of penitence that begins on Ash Wednesday, ordinary Venetians would strut about masks, taking on temporary new identities, and for a few days become indistinguishable from members of the proud maritime city’s ruling class.

A Venetian artisan mask maker works on an item in a workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. In another year, masks would be an accepted sign of gaiety in Venice, an accessory worn for games, parties and crowds. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic face masks are worn now to protect, not amuse. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

During Carnival, the mask served to “to protect, to reveal, and also to guarantee anonymity,” says Gualtiero Dall’Osto, who owns Tragicomico, an artisan’s shop making artistic masks. “Now, paradoxically, we are not able to experience the mask in this way, and we are forced to wear these masks that in some way block the liberation, the freedom, of our so-called senses.”

A sanitary face mask hangs next to carnival mask in an artisan workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. In another year, masks would be an accepted sign of gaiety in Venice, an accessory worn for games, parties and crowds. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic face masks are worn now to protect, not amuse. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Venetian artisan mask maker Gualtiero Dall’Osto works on a carnival costume hat made to resemble the COVID-19 virus in his laboratory in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Last year, with fear over the new coronavirus mounting, authorities abruptly shut down Venice Carnival on its third day, just before Italy became the first country in the West facing a outbreak. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Carnival masks are laid out on display in Venetian artisan mask maker Gualtiero Dall’Osto’s workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
A young man walks in an empty St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Gondolas and other vessels are moored instead of preparing for Carnival’s popular boat parade in the lagoon. Alleys are eerily empty. Venetians and the city’s few visitors stroll must be masked in public places, indoors and out, under a nationwide mandate. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
People walk down a passageway near St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Gondolas and other vessels are moored instead of preparing for Carnival’s popular boat parade in the lagoon. Alleys are eerily empty. Venetians and the city’s few visitors stroll must be masked in public places, indoors and out, under a nationwide mandate. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Carnival masks placed on display in a Venetian artisan mask makers workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Last year, with fear over the new coronavirus mounting, authorities abruptly shut down Venice Carnival on its third day, just before Italy became the first country in the West facing a outbreak. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Carnival masks on display in a shop window in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. In another year, masks would be an accepted sign of gaiety in Venice, an accessory worn for games, parties and crowds. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic face masks are worn now to protect, not amuse. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Venetian artisan carnival mask maker Gualtiero Dall’Osto wears one of his creations in his workshop in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Courtesy: AP News

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