London (CNN) Many people will want to put 2020 firmly behind them. But governments around the world have pleaded with people not to see in 2021 with traditional New Year’s Eve parties and street celebrations for fear of accelerating the spread of coronavirus .
The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, India and Australia are among the many nations where this year’s New Year festivities remained a muted affair.
Millions of people are under lockdown and many more face tough restrictions on everyday activities as governments battle to keep health care systems afloat until newly approved vaccines can be rolled out.
In Australia, the traditional firework display lit up the skies above the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
But the display was shorter than usual and people were banned from gathering along the harbor unless they were in hospitality venues, where numbers were capped, the New South Wales government said.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian apologized Monday for the restrictions but said they were necessary to prevent a potential super-spreading event. “On New Year’s Eve, we don’t want any crowds on the foreshores around Sydney whatsoever,” Berejiklian said.
A mass gathering on Sydney’s Bronte Beach on Christmas Day, in breach of local anti-Covid-19 rules, caused public outcry at a time when authorities are tackling a cluster of infections in the city’s northern beaches area.
Meanwhile, the neighboring state of Victoria issued fresh coronavirus restrictions hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations were due to begin. Gatherings of more than 15 people are no longer allowed and masks are mandatory indoors.
The move came as Victoria reported three new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Thursday morning, breaking a 61-day streak of zero locally transmitted cases. There are currently 10 active cases in the state, according to Victoria’s Department of Health.
New Zealand’s widely envied success in stamping out coronavirus infections meant New Year’s Eve could be celebrated more or less as usual. Fireworks lit up the night sky above Auckland as the city welcomed in the New Year.
In Hong Kong, the traditional New Year’s celebrations were replaced by a virtual countdown with the Hong Kong Tourism Board live streaming a celebratory video to mark the arrival of the New Year.
In China, President Xi Jinping delivered a taped New Year speech on Thursday, praising the country for its response to the pandemic.
Fireworks went ahead as planned in Taiwan’s Taipei, although some restrictions were placed on those attending public viewing spots. According to the Taipei city government’s website, masks were mandatory and people were required to bring their cell phones for possible contact tracing. Food and drinks other than water were banned at the gatherings.
Several major cities in India issued restrictions on New Year’s celebrations. Authorities in Delhi limited public gatherings to five people and imposed an overnight curfew between 11 p.m. on December 31 and 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Restrictions were also imposed in Mumbai and Bengaluru. “After 11 p.m., no parties — whether they are in restaurants, bars, pubs, the beach or on rooftops will be allowed… And we will be monitoring all this through drones,” S. Chaitanya, a spokesperson for Mumbai Police, told local media.
The rate of coronavirus infections has declined steadily in India since October. The country has registered a total of 10.26 million cases, with more than 148,000 deaths.
In Europe, where cases have risen sharply in recent months, the usual end-of-year festivities have been heavily restricted in many countries.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “see in the New Year safely at home” at a Downing Street press briefing Wednesday, as he said there had been a 40% increase in cases in England in the past week.
The UK recorded 964 coronavirus deaths and 55,892 new cases on Thursday, government figures show, as the country grapples with the rapid spread of a new, more contagious coronavirus variant.
“Covid loves a crowd so please leave the parties till later,” said the National Medical Director of NHS England, Stephen Powis, as he too urged people to stay at home on New Year’s Eve.
As of Thursday, more than three-quarters of the English population are now living under the country’s toughest “tier 4” restrictions, which require people to stay at home except for work, education, exercise or essential activities. No household mixing is allowed indoors, while outside, one person from each household can meet with just one person from another household. Read from source….