Sydney kicks off the New Year’s Eve party in vintage style as…

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(Redesigns with Australia)

* Fireworks canceled in London, Paris, Kuala Lumpur

* South Africa lifts curfew and announces Omicron wave has passed

* “It’s going to be amazing” on the beach in Cape Town

* Countdown to Times Square with a quarter of the usual crowd

* Sydney kicks off the new year in vintage style

By Renju Jose and Sisipho Skweyiya

SYDNEY/CAPE TOWN, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Australians bid farewell to 2021 with a traditional fireworks display over Sydney Harbor as good news from South Africa – the first country to speak out after his Omicron wave – brought hope for a happy new year.

Thanks to Omicron, the New Year has begun its annual east-west roll quietly – without an official fireworks display in Auckland, New Zealand.

Sydney opened the global celebration in vintage style, with its usual spectacular pyrotechnics reflected in the harbor below the Sydney Opera House. But there would be no display above many of the world’s traditional landmarks, with fireworks shot off Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, London’s Big Ben and Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers.

The Golden Ball was due to drop in Times Square in New York, but the crowd shouting the countdown to the release of the year would be a quarter of the usual size, masked, socially distanced and with vaccine papers in hand .

Yet South Africa, which first sounded the alarm over the new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant, gave the world one of the last big surprises of the year, announcing that the Omicron wave had peaked without a huge increase in deaths. He abruptly lifted a nightly curfew, allowing celebrations to ring in 2022.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be amazing. I just hope Cape Town goes back to being the old Cape Town we all knew,” said Michael Mchede, manager of a Hard Rock cafe near Cape Town’s white sand beaches. . Town’s Camps Bay Beach, delighted to find themselves preparing the place to host an unexpected party.

“I’m glad you don’t have to go back to the hotel. You can take a walk on the beautiful beach from here, and let’s see if it brings a party!” said tourist Jochem Verbunt, who said his hope for 2022 was “for the corona to go away”.

HORRENTLY BAD

The sudden arrival of Omicron has led to a record number of cases in countries around the world. Although deaths have not risen as quickly, raising hopes that the new variant is milder, many countries have reimposed restrictions to prevent health systems from being overwhelmed. Even where gatherings are permitted, many people have chosen to stay at home.

At Le Querida, a restaurant serving grilled octopus and stuffed peppers in Madrid’s Pozuelo district, only four tables out of two dozen were reserved for New Year’s Eve. The place was nearly packed every night a few weeks ago shortly before Omicron cleared the cases, said butler Juan Lozano.

“We all thought…we would be able to make money and pay for a lot of things that are overdue,” he said. “The outlook is terribly bad.”

Regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso has promised New Year celebrations at 60% capacity: “If Madrid isn’t free, it’s not Madrid,” she said. New Year’s revelers will see 12 grapes eaten to the rhythm of the chime of the bells of the old post office building. About 1,500 people turned out for a dress rehearsal the day before.

“It’s a time to be together, to mark a new year and to feel that excitement when the bells ring, to share chocolates and sweets,” said Wendy Garcia, who brought her seven-year-old son to the dry race to avoid the big crowd. to the main event.

The celebration in New York’s Times Square, with just 15,000 spectators instead of the usual 55,000, will be another big improvement on last year’s attendance of a few dozen. In Los Angeles, the countdown party in Grand Park has been canceled. Rapper LL Cool J had to quit his headlining job on ABC’s New Year’s Eve telecast after testing positive.

At a Party City store in Texas, Dana Fenner’s hands were full of hats and horns for a low-key party she was throwing at home with her husband and three kids.

“Normality. I want everything to be back to normal,” she said.

Global coronavirus infections have reached an all-time high over the past seven-day period, with an average of just over a million cases detected per day worldwide between December 24 and 30, some 100,000 more than the previous peak published on Wednesday, according to Reuters data. .

Yet in Sydney, queues formed in the morning at the best vantage points to watch the fireworks over the harbour, an annual staple of TV shows around the world as one of the world’s first major cities. world to welcome each new year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians to enjoy the evening. Dominic Perrottet, premier of the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, said he was taking heart because hospitals were facing Omicron: “Our position remains incredibly strong,” he said. told reporters.

Elsewhere in Asia, celebrations have mostly been scaled back or canceled. In South Korea https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/skorea-extend-curbs-amid-omicron-surge-serious-covid-19-cases-2021-12-31, a traditional bell of midnight- The ringing ceremony was canceled for the second year and authorities announced an extension of stricter distancing rules for two weeks to deal with a continued rise in infections.

Celebrations have been banned in Tokyo’s glittering Shibuya entertainment district, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has taken to YouTube to urge people to wear masks and limit the number of people at parties.

China https://www.Reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/china-reports-195-new-covid-19-cases-dec-30-vs-207-day-earlier-2021-12-31, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, was on high alert, with Xian City in lockdown and New Year’s Eve events in other cities cancelled.

Authorities in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, planned to close 11 roads that usually draw large crowds for the New Year. Malaysia has banned large gatherings nationwide and canceled the annual Petronas Twin Towers fireworks display.

Secretive North Korea has promised midnight fireworks at Kim Il Sung Square in its capital, Pyongyang. (Reporting from Reuters offices Writing by Peter Graff; editing by Nick Macfie)

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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