Cities around the world pare back New Year celebrations, again

Only months
ago, expanding COVID vaccinations and loosening travel rules had promised a
return of raucous New Year gatherings amid hopes that the pandemic might
finally be waning. But the emergence of omicron — the highly transmissible variant
that is now dominant in the United States and fueling record surges in many
nations — has prompted governments to reinstate travel restrictions, mask
mandates and bans on large gatherings.

Even as
early studies suggest that omicron produces less severe illness, experts warn
that the staggering caseload could still overwhelm health systems. A number of
Dec 31 events have been canceled in countries where caseloads are rising
swiftly, including in Italy, where the 14-day average of new cases is up 128 percent,
and in France, where cases are up 48%, according to the Our World in Data
Project at the University of Oxford.

In the
United States, where daily cases have doubled over the past two weeks, some
events have been cancelled, but the annual celebration in Times Square in New
York will go on, with attendance capped at 15,000.

Dr Anthony
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, recommended Monday that
people “stay away” from large New Year’s Eve parties, especially when it is not
clear who has been vaccinated. Speaking on CNN, Fauci said, “There will be
other years to do that, but not this year.”

As another
12 months living with the pandemic draws to a close, here’s a look at how
omicron has forced some cities to change their plans for Dec. 31:

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New York

Last week,
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a downsizing of the celebration in Times Square
to at most 15,000 guests, nearly a quarter of the usual amount, who will be
allowed in at 3 p.m. at the earliest. Attendees will be required to wear masks
and show proof of full vaccination. Fox canceled its “New Year’s Eve Toast
& Roast 2022” live broadcast from Times Square. The network said in a
statement that “the recent velocity of the spread of omicron cases has made it
impossible to produce a live special in Times Square that meets our standards.”

Los Angeles

Several Los
Angeles County holiday events have been canceled, including the New Year’s
countdown in Grand Park, which will now be streamed.


For the
second year in a row, there will be no crowds allowed at the Space Needle’s
fireworks show. People can watch on a livestream instead.


Sadiq Khan,
the mayor of London, announced last week that the New Year’s Eve event in
Trafalgar Square was canceled, saying, “The safety of Londoners must come


According to
the broadcaster France24, Paris has canceled its celebration, which was to
include fireworks over the Champs-Élysées. Prime Minister Jean Castex also
announced that large public parties would be banned on New Year’s Eve.


have been scrapped in several Italian cities, including Rome and Venice.
Outdoor events have been banned and nightclubs will be closed for the month of


annual New Year’s Eve party at the Brandenburg Gate will go on, but without any
audience members. The performances will be live on television. Chancellor Olaf
Scholz has also announced that gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people
starting Tuesday.

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Crossing in Tokyo typically attracts tens of thousands of people for one of the
biggest New Year celebrations in the world. This year, like last year, the
revelry has been called off. Public drinking has been banned in Shibuya on Dec.
31 and Jan 1.

New Delhi

The Delhi
Disaster Management Authority has banned all social, political and cultural
gatherings, including Christmas and New Year celebrations, according to The
Economic Times newspaper. Restaurants and bars are allowed to operate only at
half capacity.

Cape Town,
South Africa

Cape Town is
still allowing New Year’s Eve gatherings, but several restrictions are in place.
There is a curfew from 12-4 am, masks are required in public areas and
nightclubs are closed.


banned New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the country, including in
Casablanca, the most populous city. Restaurants will close 30 minutes before
midnight, and there will be a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m.


The national
police force Monday announced a ban on New Year’s Eve fireworks across the
country, including in Kampala, the capital. Nighttime religious services will
also be prohibited.

© 2022 The
New York Times Company

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