December 31 (Reuters) – Australia celebrated its first ban-free New Year’s Eve after two years of Covid disruptions, as the world bids farewell to a year marked for many by the war in Ukraine, economic tensions and the effects of global warming. started
Celebrations were held across Asia, from China to the Philippines to Thailand.
Sydney, one of the world’s first major cities to welcome in the New Year, did so with a typically dazzling fireworks display, featuring a rainbow waterfall from the iconic Harbor Bridge for the first time.
“This New Year’s Eve we’re saying Sydney is back as we kick off the festivities around the world and bring in the New Year with a bang,” said the city’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore ahead of the events.
A lockdown in late 2020 and an increase in Omicron cases in late 2021 led to reduced crowd restrictions and festivals in Australia. However, restrictions on celebrations were lifted this year when Australia, like many countries around the world, reopened its borders and lifted social distancing restrictions.
The display in Sydney included four aircraft from the Sydney Opera House and thousands of fireworks from the Harbor Bridge.
In China, strict Covid restrictions were lifted just this month by the government in a reversal of its “zero-Covid” policy, a switch that has led to a spike in infections and means some people are in no mood to celebrate. were
“This virus should just go and die, this year I can’t even find a healthy friend to go out and celebrate the New Year with me,” wrote a social media user based in eastern Shandong province. .
Others expressed hope that the New Year would herald a return to China’s pre-pandemic life.
“I lived and worked under Covid during 2022 … I hope 2023 is when everything will return to the way it was before 2020,” said a user based in the neighboring province of Jiangsu.
Presence of security
In the city of Wuhan, where the epidemic began three years ago, thousands of people gathered to celebrate amid a heavy security presence.
Barricades were erected and hundreds of police officers and other security personnel stood guard on the night of the first large-scale spontaneous gathering in the city since nationwide protests in late November — soon after Chinese authorities announced a zero-covid policy. left the
Officers turned people away from at least one popular New Year’s Eve gathering spot and used loudspeakers at various locations and a short message on a loop advising people not to congregate. pulled out
“In the interest of your health and safety do not congregate or stay,” Sandesh advised the large crowd, who took no notice.
In Shanghai, many people gathered on the historic riverside walkway, the Bund.
“We all traveled from Chengdu to Shanghai to celebrate,” said Da Dai, a 28-year-old digital media executive who was traveling with two friends. “We already have Covid, so now feel safe to enjoy yourself.”
Days after Hong Kong lifted limits on mass gatherings, thousands gathered near the city’s Victoria Harbor for a countdown. Lights shine from the city’s largest harbor-front buildings.
It was the city’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in many years. The event was canceled in 2019 due to often violent social unrest, and scaled back in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
Malaysia’s government canceled its New Year’s countdown and fireworks display at Kuala Lumpur’s Dataran Merdeka after floods left thousands homeless across the country and landslides killed 31 people this month.
Celebrations at the country’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers were toned down with no shows or fireworks.
Europe was saying goodbye to a year in which a major war erupted after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, with no end in sight to the conflict.
A 7pm to midnight curfew remained in effect across Ukraine, making it impossible to celebrate the start of 2023 in public spaces. Several regional governors posted messages on social media warning residents not to break restrictions on New Year’s Eve, with some warning that police presence would be increased on city streets at night. .
Kyiv resident Oksana Mozorenko, 35, said “I really want this year to be over”, although she said her family had put up a Christmas tree and bought presents to make it a “real holiday”.
Russia launched its second major round of missile attacks on Ukraine in three days on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said, with explosions reported across the country.
“The terrorist country launched several waves of missiles. They are wishing us a happy New Year. But we will stand firm,” Kyiv region governor Oleksiy Kuleba wrote on Telegram.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated his annual New Year’s address to rallying the Russian people behind his troops fighting in Ukraine.
Paris was set to stage its first New Year’s fireworks display since 2019. A 10-minute fireworks display was scheduled to begin at midnight, with 500,000 people expected to gather on the Champs-Élysées avenue to watch.
Like many places, the Czech capital Prague was feeling economically weak and therefore did not put on a fireworks display.
“The main reasons include the situation in Ukraine and the adverse economic situation of many households in Prague and the need to demand financial savings on the part of the capital,” said City Hall spokesman Witt Hoffman. “It doesn’t seem appropriate to celebrate.”
In an echo of sometimes violent weather around the world in 2022, heavy rain and strong winds on Saturday meant that the national television display in the Netherlands’ main cities such as Amsterdam and The Hague – and the port city of Rotterdam – was cancelled. . .
But many European cities were recording record heat for the time of year. The Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said on Twitter that it was seeing the hottest New Year’s Eve on record, with temperatures in the center of Prague, where records date back 247 years, reaching 17.7 Celsius (63.9 Fahrenheit). ) has been reached.
Official weather forecaster Meteo France said it was also the hottest New Year’s Eve in France on record.
In Croatia, dozens of cities, including the capital Zagreb, canceled fireworks after pet lovers warned of the harmful effects of noise and gases on animals and people, calling for environmentally conscious celebrations.
The Adriatic town of Rovinj planned to replace fireworks with a laser show and Zagreb was putting on confetti, visual effects and music. The port city of Rijeka aims to redirect funds allocated for fireworks to animal care associations, officials said.
In Reuters 2022 year in review
Reporting by Stella Qiu in Sydney, Chu Mei Mei in Kuala Lumpur, Anjen Tham in Shanghai, Martin Pollard in Wuhan, Julie Zhu in Hong Kong, Ingrid Melander in Paris, Daria Sitto-Sukic in Sarajevo and Jason Howett in Prague; Written by Neil Fullick and Frances Carey; Edited by Hugh Lawson and David Holmes
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