New Year’s celebrations are muffled again by Covid-19

After the grim reception that greeted 2021, many viewed this year’s holiday season as a time to revel in a return to near-normalcy. But New Year’s celebrations around the world have again been canceled or reduced amid a new wave of Covid-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant.

In Germany, large public gatherings, including those organized outside, have been banned in some places. France has banned drinking in the streets and has canceled many fireworks, including in Paris. London and San Francisco have also suppressed their fireworks. New York City reduced its Times Square celebration, while Atlanta canceled its Peach Drop.

Even with early data suggesting Omicron is producing a milder form of Covid-19, executives and public health experts have urged people to take extra precautions during the holidays as patients flood emergency rooms and emergency care centers.

“Omicron and Delta are coming to your party, so you have to think twice,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker told residents earlier this week.

At the Brandenburg Gate hostel in Berlin, where outdoor gatherings are limited to 1,000 participants this year, the traditional New Year’s Eve television production took place on Wednesday.


Markus Schreiber / Associated press

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, said people should limit their plans to home celebrations with vaccinated and boosted family members.

“If your plans are to go to a 40 or 50 person New Years party with all the bells and whistles and everyone hugging and wishing each other a happy new year, I would highly recommend that this year we do. not… that, ”Dr Fauci said.

Erin Iknayan had invited about 20 people to her home in Charlotte, NC, to ring in 2022. Afterwards, she thought, maybe they’ll go to a bar. But the 24-year-old hospital psychiatric technician canceled her party two days before New Year’s Eve, worried about Omicron and the number of people she knows who test positive.

Instead, Ms Iknayan will spend the night the same way she did last year: at home, with her three roommates. “It’s a little sad,” she said.

The four plan to have dinner together in the living room, but only after passing a quick Covid-19 test at home.

Many cities have also preemptively canceled events. Atlanta has canceled its Peach Drop. San Francisco has suppressed its fireworks display. “We must remain vigilant in doing everything possible to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant,” said the Mayor of London Breed.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the United States is at an all-time high, with more than 300,000 new cases reported on Wednesday, according to the latest seven-day average of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Two weeks ago, that average was around 120,000.

As the New Year approaches, an increase in Covid-19 cases and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant are forcing cities around the world to change New Year’s Eve plans. Photo: Seth Wenig / Related Press

The show will take place in several locations, including Chicago and Las Vegas, where police expect more than 300,000 people to party on the Las Vegas Strip. In New York, the annual celebration in Times Square was small, with 15,000 people in attendance, compared to an average of 58,000.

Overall, the picture is just as mixed. In Dubai, the party capital of the Middle East, upscale hotels offer dinner and entertainment packages, including live concerts, which cost over $ 2,000. The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, will host a fireworks display and light show.

Authorities in the UAE have imposed some restrictions, however, including an 80% capacity cap for attending New Year’s celebrations and requiring a PCR test within 96 hours of the event.

In France, there will be no curfew, as there was last year. But the authorities have banned drinking in the streets and canceled many fireworks, such as the one in Paris. Nightclubs have been closed in the country since early December, a rule that also prohibits dancing in bars and restaurants.

“It will be a less friendly atmosphere,” said Fantine Dekens, waitress at Penty, a bar-restaurant in eastern Paris, which will stay open until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve but expects less. customers – with more people partying. at a friend’s house. “All of these restrictions are a real detriment to bars. “

The Pullman hotel in Paris held a silent celebration on its balcony on New Years Eve last year, when a curfew was in effect.


Kiran Ridley / Getty Images

In England, the government has decreed that New Year’s celebrations can go on without restrictions despite the growing number of people infected with Omicron. This leaves the English free to attend house parties, outdoor events and nightclubs.

Despite this, in the hard-hit areas, some major events have been canceled. In London, the traditional fireworks display has been phased out, as has an alternative music event in Trafalgar Square. Instead, the Mayor of London said a film about the “defining moments” in London in 2021 would be released by the British Broadcasting Corp.

Scotland has banned gatherings of more than 100 people at standing indoor and 500 outdoor events for several weeks. This means that the traditional Hogmanay celebrations are effectively canceled, with Edinburgh’s famous annual street party closed.

Owners of clubs in England have said they expect buses full of Scots crossing the border to drop off on New Years Eve.

German clubs, discos and other dance venues, as well as brothels, will remain closed. Large public gatherings, including outdoors, are prohibited in some states and restricted in others. But in Berlin, the party capital of Germany, outdoor gatherings of up to 1,000 participants will be allowed, while indoor events will be limited to 200 participants. Private gatherings are limited to 10 people who must be immunized.

In neighboring Austria, which has just emerged from partial containment, bars, restaurants and other gastronomic or entertainment venues will have to close at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Gatherings or celebrations organized outdoors are prohibited and Private gatherings are limited to 25 immune people.

Fireworks over the Burj Khalifah tower in Dubai on New Years Eve last year.


Agence France Presse / Getty Images

Stephen Kalin, Bojan Pancevski, Joseph Pisani and Sam Schechner contributed to this article.

Write to Talal Ansari at [email protected] and to Max Colchester at [email protected]

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Joshua B. Speller