July 27, 2021

Covid pandemic dampens New Year celebrations around the world

Restrictions are being placed on New Year festivities around the world as many countries struggle to curb new spikes in coronavirus cases.Fireworks displays and other public gatherings have been cancelled from Sydney to New York.Festivities are being particularly muted in Europe, amid fears over a new more contagious strain of the disease.France has mobilised 100,000 police to break up New Year’s Eve parties and enforce a night-time curfew.More than 1.8 million people have died with the virus across the world since the start of the pandemic a year ago. More than 81 million cases have been reported.New Year, but not quite as we know itWhich countries have been hit hardest?What is happening in Europe?In France, the government ordered a visible security presence in urban areas from 20:00 (19:00 GMT) on Thursday, when the curfew began. In Paris half of the metro lines are closed.France has had two lockdowns and bars, restaurants and cultural attractions will remain shut into the new year.In his New Year’s address, President Emmanuel Macron tried to address criticism of the slow pace of vaccination in France, vowing to avoid “unjustifiable delays”.French police check motorists’ documents in central Parisimage copyrightEPAimage captionPolice are enforcing the curfew in central ParisIn England – where the new coronavirus strain is spreading fast and 20 million people in the worst-affected regions are forced to stay at home – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to follow the rules.”That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors, unless they’re in the same household or support bubble, and avoiding large gatherings of any kind,” he said on Wednesday.media captionBoris Johnson says he’s confident the UK’s Covid situation will be “very much better” by 5 AprilLondon’s streets were quiet during New Year’s Eve after police there warned people to celebrate at home.Instead of the usual celebrations in front of the London Eye, a giant fireworks and light show was held across various locations in the capital.’We’re happy the big night out is cancelled’Ireland moved to its highest level of restrictions on Thursday, banning all household visits, closing all non-essential retail and limiting travel to 5km (three miles).Germany is currently under lockdown until 10 January. The government has banned the sale of fireworks and placed tight restrictions on the number of people who can gather in public.In what was expected to be her last New Year’s Eve address as chancellor as she plans to step down in nine months, Angela Merkel took aim at conspiracy theorists.Making a rare show of emotion, she said she could only imagine how cynical and cruel their dangerous lies must feel to those who had lost loved ones to the virus.In Italy, a 22:00 curfew was imposed, and bars, restaurants and most shops are closed. Meanwhile Pope Francis is not leading New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services in Rome after suffering a recurrence of chronic hip pain.The Netherlands is also under a lockdown, which is set to last until 19 January. Its usual countdown took place behind closed doors at a football stadium in Amsterdam.Turkey has begun a four-day-long lockdown.And the US?Officials have placed restrictions on festivities in many states and cities.In New York, just a handful of people were allowed into Times Square to watch the famous midnight ball drop – mainly frontline workers, first responders and their families.Stars performed as usual at the televised event.Confetti flies around in Times Square during the New Year celebrationsimage copyrightReutersimage captionIn New York, only a small number of people were allowed into Times Square to see the celebrationsFireworks have been cancelled in cities including San Francisco and Las Vegas.How new variant was identifiedCovid vaccines comparedIn a new-year address posted on Twitter, President Donald Trump hailed the rapid creation of vaccines as a “medical miracle” and paid tribute to the work of Operation Warp Speed, the US programme aimed at producing and delivering vaccines.But he failed to mention that nearly 350,000 Americans had died with the virus.How have Asia-Pacific countries been affected?One of the first nations to ring in the New Year was Australia. The Sydney fireworks display went ahead, but crowds were not allowed to gather on the city’s harbour to enjoy it.”We don’t want to create any super-spreading events on New Year’s Eve,” New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said.Many Sydney residents simply watched the pyrotechnics on TV at home, where gatherings are limited to five guests.Crowds celebrate outside Customs House Clock Tower in Wuhanimage copyrightEPAimage captionCrowds were out on the streets of Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have originatedIn China, the annual New Year light show in the capital Beijing was called off. Celebrations were scaled down in cities across the country. But in Wuhan, where the pandemic is thought to have originated, thousands of people gathered in the city centre to celebrate as balloons were released into the air.Japan cancelled a traditional New Year event at which Emperor Naruhito and other imperial family members were to greet people.In India, Delhi and several other cities imposed a night curfew and other restrictions to prevent large New Year gatherings.However in New Zealand, where a strict lockdown and border closures have all but eliminated Covid, New Year celebrations were held as usual.

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