Like 12 months ago, the main topic of the outgoing year is the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the vaccination campaign, the virus continues to spread around the world, infecting more people and quarantining entire countries. Another outbreak of COVID-19 fell on the holiday season and has already disrupted the Christmas plans of millions of people. Now the next in line is the New Year. Metropolitan areas and large cities cut the festive program or cancel it altogether. The onset of 2022 is greeted by the wo-rld with new restrictions, hospitalizations and gloo-my forecasts of experts.
On the eve of the World Health Organization (WHO) reported an 11 percent increase in the number of people infected in the week from 20 to 26 December. Despite all the efforts of the authorities and doctors, the coronavirus pandemic is setting new records. The strains “delta” and “omicron” can lead to “tsunami of new cases”, said the head of the WHO, Tedros Adan Ghebreyesus.
The largest number of infected in the week was reported by the United States (1,185,653), where a 34 percent increase in infections was recorded. The maximum daily incidence rate has been updated in Canada, France has set an anti-record . Outbreaks are observed in the UK, Brazil, Denmark, India, Italy.
Experts explain the new wave of infections by the spread of the omicron strain, which, according to them, “surpasses the delta variant in terms of its growth.” Due to the holiday season, experts expect more people to become infected with the coronavirus in January. Against this background, the authorities of countries and individual cities are trying to take measures on the ground, canceling or limiting massive New Year’s celebrations.
Thus, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio ordered to cut the traditional celebration of the New Year in Times Square. Typically, on December 31, about 60,000 townspeople and tourists gather in the area to watch a giant New Year’s ball descend on a flagpole while the clock ticks down to the last seconds before the holiday begins. On December 24, a record 44,000 infections were recorded in New York State. Almost the same number of people (43 thousand) fell ill with coronavirus on December 28. Because of this, the city even limited the entrance to Apple stores, and now the scale of New Year’s celebrations.
This year, the number of guests in Times Square will not exceed 15 thousand people. Anyone wishing to attend the show will have to confirm that they have been vaccinated and must have a medical mask. Last year, the square was mostly empty. Only local workers and people from other parts of the city watched the fall of the ball of light.
For the second year in a row, Tokyo authorities have refused to host mass festivities at the giant Shibuya intersection, even though it is one of the world’s most popular New Year’s Eve spots. Every year it attracts tens of thousands of people from different countries and regions. Usually, people watch the countdown to the New Year on specially installed information screens in the area. However, this year the monitors will remain off. Moreover, the police will patrol Shibuyu and ask passers-by not to linger on the street. Local shops will be banned from selling alcohol. In France, where the number of infections rose by 48%, the authorities also had to revise their holiday plans. So, in Paris, the traditional fireworks over the Champs Elysees and other events were canceled.
“The fireworks will not take place and, unfortunately, there will be no DJ performances,” AFP quoted the mayor’s office as saying. In addition, parties in nightclubs were banned throughout France until the end of January. The head of London, Sadiq Khan, also abandoned the celebrations in Trafalgar Square, which were already going to be held under restrictions. No more than 6.5 thousand people were planned to enter this part of the city.
“I am proud that we will still have an incredible, breathtaking broadcast that will demonstrate the beauty of our great year to the whole world. It will be possible to watch it from the screens,” added the mayor of the British capital.
They also decided to launch streaming without spectators in Los Angeles and Berlin. Athens also refused fireworks with spectators, where a pyrotechnic show was usually staged over the Acropolis. Rome will do without festivities this time, although other Italian cities have also refused open-air concerts. Visitors to Venice will not see fireworks either. In the Campania region, authorities have even banned eating and drinking in public places from December 23 to January 1. All social, cultural, political and holiday gatherings in New Delhi have been postponed until further notice .
The holiday continues
Despite the fact that most major cities around the world restrict holiday events, in some of them guests and residents can still enjoy the New Year’s mood.
In early December, the head of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paez, “with sadness in his heart” annou-nced on Twitter that the city was canceling the New Ye-ar celebrations. The may-or’s office was going to close all city beaches, incl-uding the iconic Copaca-bana, where millions of people gather every year to watch the fireworks.
However, five days later, the authorities nevertheless reconsidered their decision and announced that there would be a holiday. The city administration considered that, in general, the situation with the infection rate is not so alarming, which means that there is no reason for the complete cancellation of the New Year. But the holiday will still be held with reservations.
The authorities agreed to launch the fireworks, but scrapped the music concert that usually follows the performance. To avoid overcrowding on the Copacabana, fireworks in Rio will be launched in nine more different locations, where residents of nearby areas can come. In addition, vaccination points will operate in the area of the holiday. With certain restrictions, the celebrations will take place in Bangkok, Dubai, Sydney and even Cape Town, despite the fact that it was in South Africa that the omicron strain, which began to dominate, was first discovered.
As stated on the website of the Mayor of Moscow, according to tradition, festive fireworks will also be launched into the sky in the capital on New Year’s Eve. At the same time, the authorities remind that “large crowds of people can be dangerous and the risk of contracting a coronavirus infection is still high.”
The fact that the relatively calm situation with the incidence in Russia may worsen due to the holidays is also said in Rospotrebnadzor. As said the head of department Anna Popova, “the risks of the spread of a new strain” Omicron “increase. And we can expect a deterioration of the epidemiological situation after the weekend.” She also urged regional leaders to organize festive events in such a way as to prevent large crowds and the risk of new infections.
At the same time, throughout the entire New Year holidays, the Russian health care system will continue to operate on high alert.