(Reuters) – Fireworks exploded in the sky above the Sydney Opera House, but the harbor below was a deserted ghost town, an utterly spooky one-year consignment not to be missed.
No light show illuminated Beijing from the top of the TV tower. Saint Peter in Rome was almost empty for vespers. Trafalgar Square in London, Red Square in Moscow, Puerta del Sol in Madrid and Times Square in New York were all barricaded.
Good riddance, 2020. Hello, 2021.
While some cities threw fireworks on empty streets, others, like London and Singapore, canceled their exhibitions. Paris, Rome and Istanbul were under curfew.
The New York countdown was about to drop on Broadway. But instead of the thousands of people trapped side by side in Times Square, the audience would be made up of a few dozen short-listed key workers – including nurses, doctors, a grocery store worker and a pizza delivery man – their families. kept six feet. (2 meters) away in socially remote enclosures.
The organizers have booked Gloria Gaynor to sing her disco classic “I Will Survive”. (Lyrics: “You think I would collapse? Do you think I would lie down and die? Oh no, not me!”)
“This will in fact be, without doubt, the most special, the most moving and the most moving New Years Eve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will press the button to start the descent of the ball, told reporters. crystal. “In 2021 we’re going to show people what it’s like to recover, to come back.”
With more than 1.7 million dead and 82 million people infected worldwide since the last New Years Eve – but hope emerging that new vaccines may help tame the pandemic – the year has ended as no other in memory.
Angela Merkel, in her 16th New Years Eve speech as German Chancellor, said: “I think I’m not exaggerating when I say: never in the past 15 years have we found the such a heavy year. And we never, despite all the worries and a certain skepticism, waited for the new one with so much hope.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the extraordinary hardships of the year made it possible for people to demonstrate their resilience: “It is only in difficult times that courage and perseverance can manifest. Only after polishing can a piece of jade be finer.
“ HELL OF A YEAR ”
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic first appeared a year ago, large crowds took to the streets, including a group of hundreds who gathered in front of the old Hankow customs building. When his old clock struck at midnight, many of them clapped and threw balloons in the air.
“I am so so incredibly happy,” said 20-year-old student and tourist Yang Wenxuan. “I hope (in 2021) I can get my bachelor’s degree and I hope I can find a boyfriend.”
There was a strong police presence and strict crowd control, but the countdown seemed to be going in a relaxed atmosphere.
In Australia, where the Sydney fireworks annually serve as the world’s first major visual display of the New Year, gatherings have been banned and internal borders closed. Most people have been excluded from the city center.
“What a hell of a year it’s been,” said Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of the State of New South Wales, who includes Sydney. “Hopefully 2021 will be easier for all of us.”
The virus did not stop North Korea from hosting its celebration in Pyongyang. State media showed revelers wearing face masks filling the main square for a concert and fireworks display.
But at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, where Spaniards usually count until midnight by stuffing grapes in their mouths every time the clock strikes, police have erected barriers to keep people out. Jose Angel Balsa, a 61-year-old retiree, said he would spend the evening “with the family, the four of us at home, making lots of video calls and hoping it ends as soon as possible.”
In Britain, under increasingly stringent restrictions to tackle a new, more contagious variant of the virus, official billboards are calling on the public to “see the New Year safely at home”.
Italian bars and restaurants have been closed and a 10 p.m. curfew imposed
The rules prevented the traditional assembly of thousands of faithful Roman Catholics for New Year’s vespers at St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis canceled plans to lead the service due to a sciatica outbreak, the Vatican said, and a cardinal read the pope’s sermon to a small congregation at a secondary altar.
At “A la Ville de Rodez”, an upscale delicatessen in Paris, the manager Brice Tapon sent customers home with packages of foie gras, truffles and pâté for groups of two or three. The rules prohibit more than six adults from gathering around the dinner table.
One customer, Anne Chaplin, said she would “gorge on foie gras, champagne and all that food.”
“And I will stay home.”
(Reporting from Reuters; Writing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis)
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[This article may have been written with information from various sources]