The world is waving goodbye and good riddance to 2020, as most countries are still gripped by the pandemic and governments cancelled fireworks and told people to stay home to curb infections.
The first countries to enter 2021 on Thursday – Samoa and Kiribati in the South Pacific – have less to celebrate than usual, as they are cut off from the world due to border closures and face rising waters due to climate change.
New Zealand rang in the new year with a number of large music festivals and fireworks shows as well as a light show in the country’s largest city Auckland.
With no community cases of Covid-19 in the country, events went as planned without crowd limits or other health restrictions, reported dpa international.
Australia’s capital Sydney, on the other hand, was like a ghost town as the clock ticked over from 2020 to 2021.
The harbour fireworks were smaller than in previous years and aimed at a TV audience. Wire fences blocked entry to the foreshore and police stopped anybody from heading towards vantage points, where normally up to a million people watch the world famous fireworks.
New Year’s revellers who breach Sydney harbour lockout laws risk being hit with fines of 1,000 Australian dollars (770 dollars), as authorities try to stem a Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
In Seoul, the traditional bell-ringing ceremony was performed without an audience and broadcast on TV. Usually, tens of thousands of people watch as a large bronze bell at the Bosingak pavilion is rung 33 times for luck. Outdoor celebrations were also cancelled in other Korean cities.
Taiwan staged its iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks display at the 509-metre tall Taipei 101 building, one of the tallest buildings in the world, while some planned outdoor events around the island were downsized or cancelled.
Some fireworks went ahead in Chinese cities without restrictions, as the pandemic is largely under control there. However, Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated in February, meaning December 31 is not a particularly important holiday in the country.