Posted on Jan 1, 2021
New year, new rules: World celebrates 2021
through COVID restrictions
New Zealanders had it first and best, celebrating as normal because the country has no active COVID-19 cases.
Sydney, Australia, despite the country’s recent success controlling the virus, launched its famous harborside fireworks display two hours later to few in-person spectators. With the area barricaded off, the vast majority of the usual 1 million party-goers had to watch on TV.
In contrast, South Koreans and Singaporeans got no major celebration to ring in 2021.
Since the Korean War ended, a bell in Seoul has rung in each new year in South Korea — except this year, when COVID-19 forced the ceremony’s cancellation. Singapore, which canceled its event in early November, had no official fireworks.
But in India, individuals and some cities set off fireworks 2½ hours after Singapore’s non-celebration, the Times of India reported. Mumbai and New Delhi, the country’s two most populous cities, were under pseudo-lockdown, with private parties allowed but businesses closed.
In Russia, Moscow’s famous Red Square, traditionally the country’s New Year’s Eve answer to Times Square, was cordoned off, according to Euronews. Russia has seen a U.S.-like winter surge in COVID cases.
Dubai has also seen a recent spike in coronavirus infections, but that didn’t stop the city’s major celebration at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The fireworks display and laser show went off with only minor restrictions for attendees.
But while there was music and drinking, dancing was prohibited.
“People come to Dubai because it’s open, but there are so many rules,” Bashir Shehu, 50, who was visiting from Nigeria with his family, told The Associated Press. “We pray that next year we can celebrate with some real freedom.”
Official ceremonies in South Africa were also muted, though many people celebrated privately. South Africa has been the hardest-hit country in Africa and recently discovered its own fast-spreading COVID variant.
Religious celebrations in the continent’s most-populous city, Lagos, Nigeria, saw attendance cut in half by pandemic restrictions, according to Agence France-Presse. Many gatherings across Nigeria were canceled.
In the same time zone, celebrations in France and Italy were stunted by curfews. In France, 100,000 cops enforced an 8 p.m. curfew; Italy’s started at 10 p.m.
Celebrations in the U.K. weren’t as strictly curtailed, with government leaders begging, but not forcing, people to limit their revelry. London canceled its official fireworks display in mid-September.
City fireworks were also called off in Rio de Janeiro, but the mood was more Mumbai than Moscow with many people planning private parties for their New Year’s Eve.