31st December, 2021
Australians welcomed 2022 with a traditional fireworks display over Sydney harbour, but there would be no displays above many of the world’s traditional landmarks.
There will be no fireworks over Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, London’s Big Ben and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
Thanks to Omicron, the New Year began its annual roll from East to West quietly – with no official firework display in Auckland, New Zealand.
Sydney opened the global celebration in vintage style, with its usual spectacular pyrotechnics reflected in the harbour below the Sydney Opera House.
Still, in Sydney queues were forming in the morning at the best vantage points to watch the fireworks over the harbour, an annual staple of television broadcasts around the world as one of the first big cities in the world to welcome each new year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians to enjoy the evening.
Dominic Perrottet, premier of New South Wales state which includes Sydney, said he took heart because hospitals were coping with Omicron: “Our position remains incredibly strong,” he told reporters.
Elsewhere in Asia, celebrations were mostly scaled down or called off.
In South Korea, a traditional midnight bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second year and authorities announced an extension of stricter distancing rules for two weeks to tackle a persistent surge in infections.
Celebrations were banned in Tokyo’s glittering Shibuya entertainment district, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took to YouTube to urge people to wear masks and limit numbers at parties.
China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, was on high alert, with the city of Xian under lockdown and New Year events in other cities cancelled.
Authorities in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, planned to close 11 roads that usually draw big crowds for New Year. Malaysia banned big gatherings nationwide and cancelled the annual Petronas Twin Towers fireworks display.
Secretive North Korea promised midnight fireworks at Kim Il Sung Square in its capital, Pyongyang.