Omicron Waves Floating During New Year Celebrations

ONE recording Covid-19 infections fueled by the spread of the infectious Omicron variant have cast a cloud on New Year’s celebrations around the world, with partygoers advised to exercise caution when face high cases.

While it is hoped that 2021 will mark a return to normalcy after the pandemic shut down many celebrations on New Year’s Eve last year, many cities and countries have canceled or scaled back festivals that have already been celebrated. plan, and urged people to limit the size of their gatherings.

London has canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks display, but celebrations in New York City’s Times Square will go on even as infection rates in the city hit a record high. However, only 15,000 people will be allowed to attend the ball drop event, which usually attracts close to 60,000 people from around the world.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate New Year’s Eve Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Friday © AP

Guests must be vaccinated and wear masks to attend the outdoor event, although public health experts have questioned whether the event should continue. This event is closed to crowds in 2020.

Eric Adams will be sworn in as the city’s new mayor at celebrations in Times Square shortly after the ball drops, after canceling an inaugural party in his home in Brooklyn due to an increase in incidents.

In New York state, the Covid-19 infection rate is more than double the national average, with more than 230 cases per 100,000, the highest since the start of the pandemic, according to a new report. FT analysis Data.
Streets that span several neighborhoods have become a common sight outside of test centers.

Experts have warned against mass gatherings, as the seven-day average of new cases in the US has risen to nearly 350,000, the highest ever. San Francisco canceled its fireworks display, while Atlanta, Georgia, ceased its annual “Peach Drop” fire.

Revelers celebrate the New Year in front of Flinders Street Station during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Melbourne, Australia. © Getty Images

At a White House press conference on Wednesday, Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said that for those planning to attend large gatherings with “people hugging, kissing and wishing Happy New Year – I highly recommend doing so, this year, we don’t do it. ”

New Year celebrations around the world began in muted fashion. Australia went ahead with a traditional fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House, but crowds were much smaller than usual after the country’s health authorities reported a record 32,000 new Covid cases, mostly in New South Wales.

Meanwhile, New Zealand, which has not reported any local spread of Omicron, has scrapped its usual Auckland fireworks display in favor of a smaller light show.

Students hold candles during the 2022 peace prayer rally on New Year’s Eve in Lahore, Pakistan © RAHAT DAR / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

In Germany, Olaf Scholz used the first address of the new year as prime minister push for an ambitious push to deliver 30 million Covid-19 booster injections by the end of January, as the country braced for a growth in cases of the Omicron variant.

Germany has introduced tight new contact restrictions to combat the spread of Omicron, putting limits on how many people can join social gatherings. “Tonight we will once again have to do without big New Year’s Eve parties or grand fireworks,” Scholz said.

In South Africa, which has officially passed the peak of the fourth Omicron wave after avoiding a significant increase in the death toll, “better times are ahead” in 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa said. learned in a televised address on New Year’s Eve on Friday.

A runner in a custom coronavirus hat waits for the start of the Sao Silvestre international race in São Paulo, Brazil, Friday. The race, which was canceled last year because of Covid, has been closed to spectators © AP

South Africans will be able to go out after midnight to celebrate New Year’s Eve for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, after Ramaphosa’s government ended a nightly curfew, one of the major lockdowns. last remaining of the country. On the night that the curfew was lifted, restaurant managers rushed to tell patrons, and bars celebrated in Cape Town.

South Africa has suffered a heavy death toll from past waves in 2021, said Ramaphosa, and that “millions of families are struggling to get food” in Africa’s most industrialized economy.

But “we are grateful that nearly 18 million South Africans have been vaccinated against Covid-19” and the scientists “who are helping us better understand the pandemic, plan and respond to it.” suitable deputy,” he added. South African scientists were among the first in the world to discover the Omicron variant.

Reporting by Guy Chazan in Berlin, Joseph Cotterill in Johannesburg, and Madison Darbyshire and Imani Moise in New York

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