Gloomy New Year for many as COVID-19 once again wreaks havoc on the party

SYDNEY / SEOUL, Dec.31 (Reuters) – New Years celebrations around the world were called off as coronavirus darkens the festivities for a second year, but Australia was determined to make the most of the night and there were even signs that North Korea was planning fireworks.

Global coronavirus infections hit an all-time high in the past seven days, with an average of just over one million cases detected per day globally between December 24 and December 30, an increase of 100,000 than the previous peak posted on Wednesday, according to Reuters data. .

With many countries registering historic highs, authorities in many places have canceled celebrations to host in 2022, fearing that the all-conquering Omicron variant will take advantage of rallies to spread even faster.

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Global Coronavirus Spread Interactive Chart: Open in an external browser.

But Australia is determined to ring the New Year with a bang despite the infection outbreaks at record levels in some places.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wished people ‘to enjoy the evening’, while Dominic Perrottet, Premier of the State of New South Wales, urged everyone to ‘go out and enjoy the New Years’ so even as daily infections in the state nearly doubled to a record high of 21,151.

Perrottet said he was pleased with the higher levels of immunization and the fact that hospitals were facing the Omicron wave.

“Our position remains incredibly strong,” he told reporters.

Social distancing rules are in place and masks are required inside Sydney, but thousands are expected to flock to its port to watch the New Year’s fireworks, with queues forming at many views from early in the morning.

The secret North Korea also appeared to be preparing to turn the tide and celebrate the New Year with midnight fireworks at Kim Il Sung Square in its capital, Pyongyang.

Commercial satellite imagery showed preparations were underway with a scene being set up in the plaza, according to NK News, a Seoul-based website that monitors North Korea.

State newspaper Rodong Sinmun published photographs of flower shops in Pyongyang crowded with customers wearing masks buying flowers for the celebrations.

North Korea sealed its borders after the start of the pandemic and has not reported any cases of COVID-19.


On the other side of the South Korean border, the atmosphere was not so festive.

A traditional midnight ringing ceremony has been canceled for the second year, and authorities have announced a two-week extension of tighter distancing rules to deal with a persistent rise in infections.

China, where the coronavirus first appeared in late 2019, was on high alert against the virus, with the city of Xian closed and New Year’s events in other cities canceled and authorities urging the detention.

Authorities in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta will close 11 roads that typically draw large crowds on New Years, police said, while Malaysia has banned large gatherings nationwide and canceled a spectacular fireworks display at the Petronas Twin Towers in the capital, Kula Lumpur.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took to his official YouTube channel to urge people to wear masks at parties and limit attendance, while Tokyo’s famous Shibuya entertainment district has banned parties the end of the year.

New Zealand, famous for its success in keeping the virus at bay, will see celebrations. Its largest city, Auckland, eased restrictions this week to allow people to sing and dance.

Indian authorities on Thursday began imposing strict rules to prevent large gatherings with nightly curfews in all major cities and restaurants in order to limit clientele.

Despite the borders, domestic tourists flock to Goa’s famous beaches, pubs and nightclubs on the west coast to see the New Years.

(This story corrects the link to Reuters coronavirus tracker)

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Report by Reuters offices, written by Robert Birsel, edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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