Fireworks light up the Sydney Harbour Bridge during New Year celebrations on Sydney Harbour. File/Reuters
Gulf Today Report
Plans to let thousands of frontline workers ring in the new year around Sydney Harbour were ditched on Monday as Sydney, one of the world’s first major cities to welcome each New Year with a public countdown featuring a fireworks display over its well-known Opera House, has banned large gatherings that night amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Ordinarily, hundreds of thousands of eager partiers flock to vantage points for the midnight fireworks launched from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Only residents with permits for hospitality venues downtown will be allowed there on New Year’s Eve.
About a quarter of million of people there must stay in strict lockdown until Jan. 9 as mid-December resurgence of COVID-19 in the city’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 125 cases after five new infections were recorded on Monday.
That has led to further restrictions of the already toned-down plans for the New Year’s Eve. New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian banned most people from coming to Sydney’s downtown that night and limited outdoor gatherings to 50 people.
“We don’t want to create any super-spreading events on New Year’s Eve, which then ruins it for everybody across the state moving forward,” Berejiklian said at a news conference, adding that watching the fireworks from home was the ‘safest’ way to do so.
“On New Year’s Eve we don’t want any crowds on the foreshore around Sydney whatsoever,” she said.
Only residents with permits for hospitality venues downtown will be allowed there on New Year’s Eve. Households across Sydney are only allowed to host 10 people until further notice.
NSW Police have issued 15 notices for breaking public health orders since Christmas Eve in Sydney, including to 11 people at a house party at North Bondi on Saturday.
“When most of New South Wales, indeed most of Australia, is doing the right thing, I would say to those people half contemplating doing anything stupid in the next few days, forget it,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Australia as a whole, has avoided the worst of the pandemic due to swift border closures, lockdowns, widespread testing and social distancing. It has recorded just over 28,300 infections, the overwhelming majority in Victoria state, and 908 deaths.
The fireworks display will be driven by two attempts to set Guinness World Records through pyrotechnics on a scale never attempted before in the world.
Spectacular fireworks in 25 different locations lit up not only the skies, but also the hearts of the people across the country.
The traditional drop of a Waterford crystal ball on Times Square in New York capped a six-hour New Year's Eve show. Intermittent rain did little to dampen the festivities as hundreds of thousands of people were treated to performances by pop star Post Malone, the Korea-pop band BTS, and singer song writer Alanis Morisette.
"In view of the declining cases of corona, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal approved the proposal," the official, who declined to be identified, said of a suggestion from authorities that the weekend curfew be scrapped.
The winds were dust stirring and resulted in a decrease in horizontal visibility to less than 300 metres at times over the open areas, especially the north and east.
At least 20 confirmed or preliminary positive cases were found in a public housing block in the Kwai Chung neighbourhood, said health chief Sophia Chan. "Clearly there is a community outbreak and the situation is worrying," Chan told reporters.