New Year's Eve around the world: How countries are celebrating with widespread COVID restrictions – Sky News

New Year’s Eve plans have largely been muted or cancelled for the second straight year due to a surge in coronavirus infections – but countries across the world are still celebrating the beginning of 2022.
Saturday 1 January 2022 05:34, UK
Despite COVID curbs hindering celebrations, street parties and gatherings are still taking place across the globe as each country rings in the New Year.   
New Year’s Eve plans have largely been muted or cancelled for the second straight year due to a surge in coronavirus infections – this time driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
However, many nations are making the best of it and going ahead with extravagant fireworks displays and celebrations.
Here’s a snapshot from around the world.
The UK’s “spectacular” began with a countdown to midnight on the Shard, before a monologue took place following a scattering of fireworks on the Millennium Bridge.
The speech walked through the UK’s achievements this year, including the successes of the Tokyo Olympics and Emma Raducanu’s win at the US Open.
Cameras then cut to displays in Greenwich Park, where an impressive drone show took place amid a dazzling display of colourful fireworks.
Fireworks and a light display took place over St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge to welcome in the New Year.
New York
Around 15,000 people in the Big Apple gathered to watch the traditional ball drop in Times Square, far fewer than the usual tens of thousands who usually descend on the area.
There were fears the city would have to cancel the annual event for the second year in a row amid record infection numbers.
Organisers had initially hoped more than 50,000 people would gather, but the plans were scaled back because of COVID.
Those who attended had to be vaccinated and wear masks.
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Sydney erupted at the stroke of midnight as Australia celebrated the start of 2022 with six tonnes of fireworks – making for a breath-taking extravaganza over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
The event had fewer spectators than usual and most viewing areas were capped by the council and required tickets.
Last year, before mass vaccination, spectators were banned, but this time people were urged to wear masks where they could not properly distance.
New Zealand
In New Zealand, where there hasn’t been any community spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, authorities called off several fireworks displays as a precautionary measure, including a popular one from atop Auckland’s Sky Tower.
Auckland instead rang in the New Year with a light display projected onto the tower and other city landmarks.
North Korea
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Hundreds of people have gathered in the North Korean capital Pyongyang to watch a fireworks display to welcome in the New Year.
Footage shows people wearing masks to watch the display near the Taedong River, which cuts through central Pyongyang.
Hong Kong
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Hong Kong earlier welcomed 2022 with a fireworks bonanza, which was given a dramatic backdrop by a live orchestra.
Around 3,000 revellers attended the New Year’s Eve concert starring local celebrities including boy band Mirror.
The concert was the first New Year’s Eve event held since 2018, after events were cancelled in 2019 due to political conflict and last year because of the pandemic.
In mainland China, the Shanghai government called off events including an annual light show along the Huangpu River in the city centre that usually draws hundreds of thousands of spectators.
But thousands of people gathered in Shanghai to celebrate the New Year, with photographs from near the Bund – a waterfront promenade in the city – show revellers standing together, close to a skyscraper lit up with “2022”.
The Southeast Asian country held an impressive fireworks display this evening as it ushered in 2022, with authorities allowing New Year’s Eve parties and fireworks displays to continue, albeit with strict safety measures.
But New Year’s Eve prayers, which are usually held in Buddhist temples around the country, have been held online instead.
In Bangkok, fireworks exploded over the Chao Phraya River, while further festivities took place in Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Phangan.
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Revellers in Tokyo were photographed ringing in the New Year this evening, as several countries around the world celebrated 2022 with impressive fireworks displays.
Thousands of people gathered at the Shibuya crossing at midnight, despite the annual countdown celebration having been cancelled due to COVID.
South Korea
In South Korea’s capital, Seoul, the annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for second year due to rising COVID cases.
A pre-recorded video of this year’s bell-ringing ceremony was instead broadcast online and on television, officials said.
The ceremony has been known to attract tens of thousands of people in previous years – and it was cancelled last year for the first time since its first ceremony in 1953.
South Korea is also closing many beaches and other tourist attractions along the east coast, which usually draws crowds of people hoping to catch the year’s first sunrise.
Muted celebration are underway in India where several states have imposed blanket bans on New Year celebrations.
Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai have banned gatherings.
Celebrations are going ahead with limited numbers in Kolkata, West Bengal, but many clubs have opted to cancel events in the face of the Omicron variant.
United Arab Emirates
People in Dubai are welcoming the New Year with an extravagant fireworks display at the Burj Khalifa skyscraper tonight, while a laser show takes place at the nearby Dubai Fountain.
In Ras al Khaimah, a 12-minute show will feature hundreds of pyrotechnic drones and span almost three miles in length, lighting up the sky over the Arabian Sea.
Russia’s 11 time zones will welcome 2022 at different points throughout the night – with the capital Moscow having already ushered in the start of the New Year.
The Red Square in the city, where festivities typically take place, was closed to the general public due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, this did not stop thousands of people from gathering at the nearby Manezhnaya Square to watch a fireworks display.
Greece introduced new coronavirus restrictions earlier this week, forcing bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music.
However, an exception was given for New Year’s Eve, when venues were permitted to stay open until 2am.
Images show fireworks exploding in the sky above the Parthenon temple atop the Acropolis hill in Athens as the country welcomes in the New Year.
People have gathered in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid to welcome in the new year.
The celebrations come as coronavirus cases are surging in the country.
In Berlin, one of the world’s largest open-air New Year events is taking place at the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the start of 2022.
Musicians have been performing on stage in front of the landmark, with a light show also having taken place.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up – as it is at the top of every hour – to mark midnight.
People have also been celebrating the New Year on the Champs Elysees avenue in the French capital.
The start of 2022 was celebrated almost three hours ago in Nairobi, but festivities are still under way.
As the country marked midnight, fireworks lit up the sky above the UAP Old Mutual Tower.
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