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Countries around the world prepared for muted New Year's Eve celebrations due to Covid-19

Authorities in Australia are advising revellers to watch Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks on television.

The park near the Sydney Opera House is fenced off
The park near the Sydney Opera House is fenced off
Image: Mark Baker via PA Images

COUNTRIES AROUND THE world are preparing for muted New Year’s Eve celebrations as a result of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Australia will be among the first nations to ring in 2021 because of its proximity to the International Date Line. In previous years a million people flocked to watch fireworks at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Authorities are advising revellers to watch on television this year. People are only allowed in Sydney city centre if they have a restaurant reservation or are one of five guests of an inner-city apartment resident. People will not be allowed in the city centre without a permit.

Some harbourside restaurants are charging up to 1,690 Australian dollars for a seat, according to reports in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Sydney is Australia’s most populous city and has its most active community transmission of Covid-19 in recent weeks. Melbourne, Australia’s second-most populous city, has cancelled its fireworks.

Melbourne mayor Sally Capp said: “For the first time in many, many years we made the big decision, difficult decision to cancel the fireworks.

“We did that because we know that it attracts up to 450,000 people into the city for one moment at midnight to enjoy a spectacular display and music. We are not doing that this year.”

New Zealand, which is two hours ahead of Sydney, and several of its South Pacific island neighbours have no Covid-19, and New Year celebrations there are the same as ever.

embedded257325223 People wearing face masks in Beijing Source: Mark Schiefelbein

In Chinese societies, the Lunar New Year celebration that falls in February in 2021 generally takes precedence over solar New Year on 1 January. While celebrations of the Western holiday have been growing more common in recent decades, this year will be more muted.

Beijing will hold a countdown ceremony with just a few invited guests, while other planned events have been cancelled.

Taiwan will host its usual New Year’s celebration, a fireworks display by its capital city’s iconic tower, Taipei 101, as well as a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office Building the next morning. The island has been a success story in the pandemic, registering only seven deaths and 700 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

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Hong Kong, with its British colonial history and large expatriate population, has usually seen raucous celebrations along the waterfront and in bar districts. For the second year running, however, New Year’s Eve fireworks have been cancelled, this time over coronavirus rather than public security concerns.

Hong Kong social distancing regulations restrict gatherings to only two people. Restaurants have to close by 6pm and live performances and dancing are not allowed. But crowds still fill shopping centres.

In Japan, some people skipped what is customarily a chance to return to ancestral homes for the holidays, hoping to lessen health risks for extended families.

Rural restaurants saw business drop, while home deliveries of traditional New Year’s “good luck” food called “osechi” boomed.

Emperor Naruhito is delivering a video message instead of waving from a window with the imperial family as cheering crowds visit the palace.

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