New year: Omicron crashes global New Year party, but South Africa offers hope – archyde

SYDNEY / CAPE TOWN: Twenty-one snuck away with farewell parties that were largely dampened by the pandemic. But good news from South Africa – the first country to speak out beyond its Omicron wave – brought new hope for a happy one New Year.
As the New Year moved from east to west and New Zealand was without the official Auckland fireworks as early as 2022, Australia promised to open the global celebration in vintage style, with the usual spectacular pyrotechnics set in the harbor below the Sydney Opera House reflects.
Fireworks were also canceled over the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Big Ben in London and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The golden ball was supposed to fall in New York’s Times Square, but the crowd calling the countdown to the end of the year would be a quarter of the usual size, masked, socially distant, and vaccine papers in hand.
South Africa, which raised the alarm for the first time about the new fast-spreading variant of coronavirus, brought the world one of the last big good surprises of the year, announcing that the Omicron wave had hit without a big surge in deaths. It lifted a night curfew, so the festivities could unexpectedly ring in 2022.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be great. I just hope Cape Town returns to the old Cape Town we all knew, ”said Michael Mchede, manager of a Hard Rock Cafe on the white sands of Cape Camps Bay Beach in town, excited to set the place up for an unexpected party.
“I’m glad you don’t have to go back to the hotel. You can walk around on the beautiful beach over here and see if there’s a party! ” said tourist Jochem Verbunt, who said his hope for 2022 was “that Corona is gone”.
The sudden arrival of Omicron has seen record-breaking case numbers in countries around the world and a return of restrictions in many countries to prevent health systems from becoming overburdened. Even where gatherings are allowed, many people have chosen to stay at home.
At Le Querida, a restaurant with grilled squid and stuffed peppers in the Pozuelo district of Madrid, only four out of two dozen tables were booked for New Year’s Eve. The shop was almost full every night just a few weeks ago before Omicron went out of business, said the head waiter Juan Lozano placeholder image.
“We all thought we could make some money and pay off a lot of things that were overdue,” he said. “The prospects are dire.”
Aber Regional President Isabel Diaz Ayuso has promised that the New Year’s Eve celebrations will take place at 60% occupancy: “If Madrid isn’t free, it’s not Madrid,” she said.
Night owls will see 12 grapes eating in the New Year, just in time with the bell ringing in the old post office building. The night before, around 1,500 people had come to the dress rehearsal on Thursday under a huge Christmas tree.
“It’s a time to be together, celebrate a new year and feel that excitement as the bells ring, share chocolates and candy,” said Wendy Garciawho came for a test run with her husband Javier and their seven-year-old son to avoid the crowd at the main event.
Global coronavirus infections hit a record high in the past seven days, with an average of just over a million cases detected worldwide between December 24th and 30th, around 100,000 more than the previous high on Wednesday, according to Reuters data .
Nevertheless, queues formed at the best vantage points in Sydney in the morning to see the fireworks over the harbor, one of the first major cities in the world to be a staple on TV shows around the world every year at the turn of the year.
Prime minister Scott Morrison told the Australians to enjoy the evening. Dominic Perrottet, Prime Minister of the state of New South Wales, which also includes Sydney, said he had taken courage as hospitals could cope with Omicron: “Our position remains incredibly strong,” he told reporters.
Elsewhere in Asia, celebrations have mostly been downsized or canceled. In South Korea d-curbs-amid-omicron-surge-serious-covid-19-cases-2021-12-31, a traditional midnight bell ringing ceremony was canceled for the second time, and authorities announced a two-week extension of the stricter distance rules to combat a sustained surge in infections.
Celebrations were banned in Tokyo’s glittering Shibuya entertainment district, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida went on YouTube to encourage people to wear masks and limit the number of parties.
China, where the coronavirus first appeared in late 2019, was on high alert as Xian city was locked and New Year events in other cities were canceled.
Authorities in the Indonesian capital Jakarta planned to close 11 streets that usually draw large crowds on New Year’s Day. Malaysia has banned large gatherings nationwide and canceled the annual Petronas Twin Towers fireworks display.
The mysterious North Korea promised midnight fireworks at Kim Il Sung Square in its capital Pyongyang.


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