Toned-down New Year’s Eve celebrations as the world welcomes 2022 under an Omicron-shaped COVID shadow

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Wellington, New Zealand — Good riddance to 2021. Let 2022 deliver contemporary hope. That was a standard sentiment as individuals round the world started welcoming the new year.

 

In many locations, New Year’s Eve celebrations have been muted or canceled for the second straight year as a result of a surge of coronavirus infections, this time pushed by the extremely contagious Omicron variant. But even earlier than Omicron hit, many individuals have been pleased to say goodbye to a second grinding year of the pandemic.

 

So far, at the least, the Omicron surge hasn’t resulted in the identical ranges of hospitalizations and deaths as earlier outbreaks — particularly amongst vaccinated individuals — providing a glimmer of hope for 2022.

Because of the place the worldwide date line sits, nations in Asia and the Pacific area are amongst the first to usher in every new year, and New Zealand was certainly one of the first locations to welcome 2022, with a low-key lights show projected onto Auckland landmarks, together with the Sky Tower and Harbor Bridge. That changed the conventional fireworks present.

A light-weight present from the Skytower and harbour bridge throughout Auckland New Year’s Eve celebrations on January 1, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Dave Rowland/Getty/Auckland Unlimited

While there hasn’t but been any neighborhood unfold of Omicron in New Zealand, authorities nonetheless discouraged crowds gathering.

 

Australia went forward with its celebrations regardless of an explosion in virus instances. The centerpiece of festivities was the famend fireworks show from the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House. The present went on, lasting about seven minutes, however entry to downtown Sydney was restricted to these with bookings at eating places and lodges with a purpose to restrict the unfold of COVID-19.

New Year’s Eve fireworks erupt over Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House (L) throughout the fireworks present on January 1, 2022.

DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty

Hours earlier than the celebrations have been as a result of start, Australian well being authorities reported a report 32,000 new virus instances, lots of them in Sydney. Because of the surge, authorities anticipated far smaller crowds than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as 1 million revelers would crowd inside Sydney.

Celebrations have been banned in Tokyo’s glittering Shibuya leisure district, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took to YouTube to induce individuals to put on masks and restrict numbers at events.

But some individuals appeared to shrug off virus fears by eating and ingesting raucously in downtown Tokyo and flocking to retailers, celebrating not solely the holidays however a way of exhilaration over being free of current virus restrictions in the nation.

People go to retailers to buy meals and provides to rejoice the new year in Tokyo’s Ueno procuring district on December 30, 2021.

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty

Across Japan, many individuals deliberate to take new year journeys to spend time with their households.  

China, the place the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, was on excessive alert and canceled formal New Year celebrations. As CBS News correspondent Ian Lee reported, 13 million individuals in the metropolis of Xi’an noticed in 2022 under strict lockdown, as the nation offers with its newest outbreak of COVID-19.

The coronavirus was casting a protracted shadow over a lot of Europe’s celebrations, in the meantime.

In London, Big Ben was to usher in the new year for the first time in 4 years after restoration work was accomplished. But CBS News’ Lee mentioned many cities in Britain weren’t holding conventional concert events or fireworks exhibits as COVID-19 instances soar to report highs.

Big Ben goes silent

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Italy canceled public events after it, too, hit a report variety of new infections. In Rome, locals and vacationers rapidly acquired examined earlier than meeting family and friends.

Pope Francis additionally canceled his conventional New Year’s Eve go to to the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, with officers saying the pontiff wished to discourage crowds. The pope nonetheless delivered a Mass throughout the first Vespers and Te Deum prayer at St. Peter’s.

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass throughout the first Vespers and Te Deum prayer in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, December 31, 2021.

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty

But the concern of yesteryear appeared to have been tentatively changed by a brand new optimism.

“I am not at all worried,” mentioned Mark Hanly, a vacationer visiting the Italian capital from the U.Okay. – “We have lots of vaccines.”

Heather Baumgartner, visiting Rome from the U.S., was additionally upbeat: “I am confident that we’ll get over this and everything will be ok.” 

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