Ultra-reduced crowds in Times Square in New York, almost empty beaches in Rio de Janeiro and deserted Champs-Elysées in Paris: many countries around the world have muted New Year’s celebrations, entering 2021 on Friday under the influence of the pandemic.
The new epidemic waves have forced billions of people to celebrate the New Year’s Eve in the privacy of their homes and to follow the celebrations virtually, after months of restrictions or even lockdown.
In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display was fired at 2 p.m. (Swiss time) over the Bay, but with almost no spectators appearing after the appearance of ‘a recent outbreak of contamination in the north of the city which totals some 150 cases.
“I will survive”
In New York, the Manhattan neighborhood was cordoned off and revelers encouraged to follow from home the televised countdown and the shows of Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Gaynor, responsible for performing at the age of 77 her famous disco track “I will survive” ( “I will Survive”).
In Times Square, which usually overflows with euphoric revelers for the traditional “fall of the ball” in a shower of confetti, the crowd has been replaced this year by a group of frontline workers against the pandemic, specially invited, and separated by barricades to enforce social distancing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to 2020 as “arguably the toughest year in New York history”. “In January, we are going to vaccinate a million New Yorkers,” he promised.
The United States is the country in the world with the highest death toll from the coronavirus. But US President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office in January, expressed his optimism in a video interview with ABC just ahead of the New Year: “America can do anything and I am absolutely confident that we will. come back and come back even stronger than we were before, “he said. Outgoing Donald Trump congratulated himself on Twitter that the United States “ended the year with the highest stock market in history”.
Celebrations canceled in Rio
In Brazil, the second country most bereaved by the pandemic, the festivities were canceled this year in Rio de Janeiro, which usually hosts one of the biggest New Year’s parties in the world. At the stroke of midnight, famous Copacabana beach found itself almost empty, with revelers being kept away by police.
However, across town, Brazilians lit up the skyline with their own fireworks. And protesters shouted “Get out Bolsonaro!” from their windows in Rio and Sao Paulo, Brazil’s two largest cities, to protest against what they consider disastrous handling of the pandemic by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
In China, thousands of Wuhan residents fervently celebrated the transition to 2021, just one year after the first cases of coronavirus were reported to the WHO in this city of 11 million people. “This is something we can never forget,” a Wuhan resident named Xu Du told AFP. “We were locked up for months (…) but we survived”.
In his greetings to the Chinese, President Xi Jinping said Thursday evening that they had written “an epic” by their fight against the epidemic.
In Hong Kong, despite the restrictions, a few revelers have ventured to the Victoria Harbor waterfront to take selfies.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin acknowledged in his New Year’s speech that a second wave of infections is hitting the nation. “Unfortunately, the epidemic has not yet been completely stopped. The fight against the epidemic does not stop for a minute,” he said.
Shortly before, a dozen people had, as every year, swam in the icy waters of Lake Baikal in Siberia, braving extreme temperatures ranging between -26 and -35 ° C.
“Act like you have it”
The British government had urged people to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus, with the slogan “act like you have it”.
In London, American singer Patti Smith, 74, gave a livestream concert in tribute to caregivers of the British public health system who died of Covid-19. But its giant screen live stream at Piccadilly Circus was canceled at the last minute due to a pandemic, and its fans had to settle for YouTube.
At the same time, the United Kingdom entered a new era at midnight (Swiss time), leaving the single European market and the customs union. Only a few dozen revelers showed up in Parliament Square in London to listen to the Big Ben chime.
Paris has offered the image of its empty Champs-Elysées, when hundreds of thousands of people usually flock there on the last evening of the year.
France was experiencing a “31st New Year’s Eve” under curfew, exceptionally supervised by 100,000 police and gendarmes.
In Madrid, one of the cities in Europe hardest hit by the pandemic, the famous Puerta del Sol square, usually crowded at the stroke of midnight, was empty when a former member of the Mecano group, Nacho Cano, visited it. performed a piece on the piano, in tribute to the victims of Covid-19.
It is from their living room that the Romans must have attended the festivities organized at Circus Maximus, the oldest stadium in the Italian capital.
Italy is under confinement until January 7 with a curfew from 10 p.m.
In Beirut, the authorities, however, relaxed the measures. The curfew had been pushed back to 3 a.m. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs had reopened to host big New Years parties.