Barring any major change to the local COVID-19 trend, masqueraders will be chipping in the streets for Carnival 2021, Culture Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly confirmed yesterday.

After being severely restricted for months during the pandemic, mas lovers have been fearing they may not get the escape they are looking forward to next year. But well-placed sources involved in the planning process said Carnival 2021 will not be cancelled but in a worst-case scenario, restrictions may be placed on international visitors, who account for the majority of arrivals during the season, if the pandemic is still a major concern. It means the event may only be put on for the domestic or regional market and will essentially be scaled down significantly compared to previous years. Revellers from the United States, United Kingdom and Europe may thus not be allowed into T&T to participate in the festivities. Sources say they are also monitoring the Jamaica scenario since it has been more liberal with its border measures.

Gadsby-Dolly confirmed to Guardian Media that a local or regional carnival is “on the table.”

“We know that Carnival is not intended to be cancelled, once things continue on the current trajectory,” she said during a telephone interview yesterday.

“The form of it—local, regional or international­—is dependent on factors we cannot yet determine.”

But Gadsby-Dolly offered some wiggle room on the decision, saying there are multiple considerations and all of it would depend on decisions taken with the country’s borders, public gatherings and what happens globally with the pandemic.

“If our borders are restricted in any way that overlaps with Carnival, certainly it will be restricted to local or regional.”

But how will social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures be followed during a massive street festival?

Gadsby-Dolly and other sources say T&T will have to learn from other carnivals held in the coming months, including Miami and Jamaica carnivals which are scheduled to happen.

“Carnival is a contact event, so we will have to balance that,” Gadsby-Dolly assured.

Another option is limiting the size of crowds at fetes, which would significantly scale down the number of people participating in such events in the lead up to the two days of revelry.

“From a probability standpoint, we stand a better chance keeping our eggs in the regional basket,” one source familiar with the discussions told the Trinidad Guardian.

The source added that once the medical advice is positive, “it seems natural that something would happen even if it’s to the exclusion of the externals,” the source said.

Carnival 2020 was held despite concerns raised by some citizens about the teen prospect of COVID-19 hitting our shores.

But according to the Culture Minister, in the same way the risk factors were considered then, “the calculation of that risk will be much more serious” for 2021. The Ministries of Health and National Security, she said, would play a major role in any carnival discussions.

She acknowledged that restrictions on visitors will affect large bands significantly since they have significant international following. But, she said, some local stakeholders are already imagining a scenario that gives them a local carnival.

“A lot depends on what happens with the borders and what happens with public gatherings. Those two depend on what happens globally. To some extent, it is out or our hands,” she said.