Thanks to Covid-19, New Year’s Eve celebrations will be just as different as the rest of 2020 has been.
If ever a year’s end seemed like cause for celebration, 2020 is probably it.
Yet the coronavirus scourge that dominated the year is also skulking over New Year’s festivities and forcing officials worldwide to tell crowds to stay home.
New Year’s Eve will look different around the world after a year in which the virus killed an estimated 1.8 million people, says the AP.
From New York’s Times Square to Sydney Harbour, big public blowouts are being turned into TV-only shows and digital events. Fireworks displays have been cancelled from the Las Vegas Strip to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Germany banned the sale of fireworks, which residents usually set off in on the streets, and a pyrotechnics show at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is off.
So, too, are the fireworks over the River Thames in locked-down London, where New Year’s Eve also marks Britain’s final divorce from the European Union. However, Big Ben, which has been largely silent since 2017 while its clock tower is restored, will sound 12 bongs at midnight.
The Netherlands moved the national countdown from an Amsterdam park to a soccer stadium, where spectators won’t be admitted and pyrotechnics will be replaced with “electric fireworks”.
In Rome, the fireworks are still on, but customary concerts in public plazas have been scrapped in favour of livestreamed performances and art installations. Pope Francis will skip his typical Dec 31 visit to the Vatican’s life-sized Nativity scene in St Peter’s Square and plans to deliver his New Year’s Day blessing indoors, to prevent crowds from gathering.
Rio de Janeiro has nixed the fireworks, and open-air concerts and rooftop parties that normally draw crowds of white-clad revellers in Copacabana will this year only allow residents in.
Turkey has declared a four-day lockdown starting on New Year’s Eve, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that security forces will inspect hotels for illicit parties.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa suggested a new way of observing the holiday by lighting candles to honour Covid-19 victims and front-line workers and to hope for a healthy 2021.