World begins muted 2021 celebrations as 2020 comes to an end | World News
New Zealand is among the first countries to mark the start of 2021, with millions around the world celebrating the New Year at home because of COVID-19.
From Paris to New York, many large cities are preparing for the New Year by implementing strict crowd control measures to limit the spread COVID-19.
In Auckland, New Zealand, residents were treated to a five-minute fireworks and light show when the clock struck midnight.
Crowds were allowed to gather in the city to mark the occasion due to the nation’s low number of new coronavirus cases.
Thousands of people watched the display up close, which began at midnight from the Sky Tower.
The crowd screamed with excitement at 11.45pm when a man on the public address system announced: “We only have 15 minutes”.
The Sky Tower has been adorned with colourful animated laser displays of geometric shapes and animals including a green gecko which appeared to be climbing down the 328m tall tower.
In one of the largest gatherings, 30,000 revellers celebrated at a three-day music festival at a winery near Gisborne on the North Island.
The Pacific Island of Tonga was the first country to mark the start of 2021 at 10am GMT.
Another one of the earliest places to ring in the New Year will be Australia at 1pm GMT, where officials have banned people from gathering near Sydney Harbour Bridge to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
The celebrated annual event, which normally attracts around one million people to the city’s harbourside, can only be watched live by those who live in the area and their guests.
The display has been shortened to seven minutes and the city precinct will be restricted to those with restaurant and hotel bookings.
New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said those who live in the city centre can invite up to 10 friends and family to their homes to celebrate. Guests had to apply for permits to enter the area.
In Wuhan, where the pandemic is thought to have originated, thousands are expected to gather from 2.50pm GMT at several popular landmarks across the city centre for the countdown to 2021.
Some said they were being cautious, but weren’t particularly worried.
“Safety is the priority,” said Wuhan resident Wang Xuemei, 23, a teacher. “It’s fine because these measures aren’t enforced very strictly,” added her friend and colleague Wang Anyu. “You can still go out.”
In Tokyo, not only have all-night trains been cancelled on New Year’s Eve, but several of the city’s big countdown parties, concerts and other seasonal gatherings have been called off as well, including the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing party.
A bell will ring at the Sensoji temple at 3pm GMT.
Officials in Hong Kong have cancelled the pyrotechnics over Victoria Harbour, as well as the annual iconic Lunar New Year parade in February.
This makes 2021 the second year in a row the city will miss out on the usually lavish annual celebrations.
Last year’s countdown fireworks and the 2020 Lunar New Year parade were both held in much diminished form due to the threat of anti-government protests.
France has mobilised 100,000 police and gendarmes to break up New Year’s Eve parties and enforce a curfew from 8pm.
Half of the metro lines in Paris will also be closed in the evening to discourage gatherings.
Composer and performer Jean-Michel Jarre’s avatar will play a set from inside a virtual Notre Dame Cathedral while he himself performs it live at a nearby studio in the city.
One of the most iconic New Year’s Eve events is the Times Square Ball Drop in New York.
The ball will still be dropping this year, but the party, which usually sees hundreds of thousands cramming the famous LED-lit intersection, will be for an “extremely limited” group of socially distanced in-person “honourees”.
Everyone else will need to tune in virtually or watch on TV.
There will be a performance from singer Gloria Gaynor, who will see the year off with a rendition of I Will Survive.
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