Every New Year’s Eve, Sydney, Australia, is one of the world’s first major cities to welcome the new year with a spectacular fireworks display that is watched on TV around the world.
Enormous crowds normally pack together around the harbour bridge to watch the display and cheer the arrival of the New Year.
However, 2020 is not a normal year and as 2021 arrives, Sydney will be like a ghost town.
The state authorities have banned large gatherings on New Year’s Eve amid a recent outbreak of the coronavirus.
A mid-December resurgence of Covid-19 in the city’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 125 cases after five new infections were recorded on Monday, reports Reuters.
About a quarter of a million people there must stay in strict lockdown until Jan 9.
That has led to further restrictions of the already toned-down plans for New Year’s Eve. New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian has banned most people from coming to Sydney’s downtown for the celebrations.
“We don’t want to create any super-spreading events on New Year’s Eve, which then ruins it for everybody across the state,” Berejiklian said at a news conference, adding that the city’s famous fireworks display would still go ahead at midnight but watching the fireworks from home was the safest way.
Plans to allow about 5,000 frontline workers to watch Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display from the foreshore have been scrapped.
Berejiklian said the government believed having frontline workers from Sydney and the regions gathered together in the CBD for the fireworks display was too much of a health risk, the Guardian reports.
“We’ll find another opportunity during the year to recognise what you have done,” she said. “On New Year’s Eve, we don’t want any crowds on the foreshores around Sydney whatsoever.”
This means the centre of the city is likely to be eerily quiet on what is normally one of its busiest nights of the year.
Berejiklian said there were still “too many concerning aspects” of the northern beaches outbreak, including that authorities have been unable to trace some cases.
“You can’t just jump on a bus or a train and come to the city centre on New Year’s Eve,” the premier said.
“Please know that singing, dancing, even speaking loudly and mingling really accelerate the virus spreading and we ask everybody, please, be sensible this year.”