Sydney, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 31st Dec, 2020 ) :The world readied to usher in the New Year Thursday, with pandemic controls muting celebrations for billions of people eager to bid virus-ridden 2020 farewell.
After a grinding year that has seen at least 1.7 million people die from Covid-19, fresh waves of infection have sparked renewed lockdowns and forced would-be revellers to extend their 2020 tradition of watching events from the sofa.
The eagerly awaited first lights of 2021 will fall on the Pacific nations of Kiribati and Samoa from 1000 GMT, with the uninhabited Howland and Baker Islands the last to tip over into the New Year, 26 hours later.
Although the Pacific islands were spared the worst ravages of the pandemic, border restrictions, curfews and lockdowns mean this New Year’s Eve will still look a little different.
At the palm-fringed Taumeasina resort near the Samoan capital Apia, manager Tuiataga Nathan Bucknall is pleased to be open without a limit on guest numbers, but thanks to a Covid-induced state of emergency “we do have to stop the service of alcohol at 11pm” he said.
Even a proposal to allow 5,000 frontline workers to replace absent tourists on the harbour foreshore as a token of thanks had to be abandoned.
Most Sydneysiders will simply watch proceedings on tv at home, where gatherings are limited to five guests.
Similarly, Romans will livestream the burning of an enormous pyre in Circus Maximus, the ancient city’s stadium, alongside a two-hour event featuring artist performances and illuminated views of iconic sites.
In hard-hit London, 74-year-old American singer-songwriter Patti Smith will ring in the New Year with a tribute to National Health Service workers who have died from Covid-19, projected on the screen at Piccadilly Circus and streamed on YouTube.
– Social gathering – One place that residents can celebrate without the help of a screen is virus-free New Zealand, where several cities will host firework displays with only limited restrictions.
A night curfew has been pushed back to 3am. Bars, restaurants and night clubs have all reopened and are advertising large parties to mark the turn of the year.
The fears of such a New Year hangover are widespread, and there are ominous signs that new strains of the virus may make the coming months even tougher.
“The pandemic peak was between May and July, which was when there wasn’t a lot of movement and we looked after ourselves more. Now there are many cases and people are acting as if there wasn’t a pandemic,” said Luiz Gustavo de Almeida, a microbiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.