Many hope for better in 2022, but New Year's Eve is muted by the omicron

WELLINGTON (AP), New Zealand -- Goodbye 2021. Let 2022 bring you new hope.

Many hope for better in 2022, but New Year's Eve is muted by the omicron

This was a universal sentiment that people all over the globe shared as they welcomed in the new year.

Many places saw New Year's Eve celebrations cancelled or muted for the second consecutive year because of a spike in coronavirus infections. This was due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Many people were glad to see the end of another year of pandemics even before omicron arrived.

However, so far the omicron spike has not caused the same level of deaths and hospitalizations as previous outbreaks, especially among those who were vaccinated. This is encouraging news for 2022.

New Zealand was the first country to celebrate the new Year with a low-key light display that was projected onto Auckland landmarks like the Sky Tower or Harbor Bridge. This replaced traditional fireworks shows. Authorities wanted to discourage crowds from gathering, even though there hasn’t been any community spread of the omicron yet in New Zealand.

However, Neighboring Australia was continuing to celebrate despite a surge in viral cases. To give children younger than 5 years old a glimpse of the main event, fireworks were set off at the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

Just hours before the celebrations started, Australian health officials reported a record 32,000 virus cases. Many of these were in Sydney. The surge in crowds was far less than it was during pre-pandemic years when 1 million revellers would crowd Sydney's inner city.

Due to the position of the international date line, countries in Asia and Pacific are the first to welcome in the new year.

Naoki Matsuzawa, a Japanese writer, stated that he would spend the next few day cooking for and delivering food to the elderly in Japan because many stores would close. He stated that vaccinations have made people less worried about the pandemic, despite it being a new variant.

Matsuzawa, a resident of Yokohama (southwest of Tokyo), said that a numbness had set in and that they are not afraid anymore. "Some people are beginning to assume that it won’t happen to them."

Matsuzawa, like many others, hopes that 2022 will bring about a better life.

He said, "I hope that the restrictions can be removed."

Many Japanese people plan to travel to Japan for the new year to spend more time with their families. People flocked to shrines and temples on New Year's Eve wearing masks.

Some seemed to ignore virus concerns, but they were eating and drinking excessively in Tokyo's downtown area and flocking to shops to celebrate the holidays and a feeling of exhilaration at being unaffected by recent restrictions.

Due to an increase in cases, Seoul's annual New Year's Eve bell-ringing ceremony has been cancelled for the second year.

Officials stated that a prerecorded video from this year's bell-ringing ceremony will be broadcast on TV and online. The ceremony was attended by tens to thousands of people in the past. The ceremony was cancelled last year for the first time since 1953.

South Korean authorities plan to also close tourist attractions and beaches along the east coast. These areas are often crowded with tourists hoping to catch the first sunrise of the new year. South Korea announced Friday that it would continue to enforce strict distancing rules for two more weeks.

India was home to millions of people who planned to celebrate the new year at their homes. However, nighttime curfews, and other restrictions, took the fun out of many celebrations in major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.

In response to an increase in cases of omicron-related violence, authorities have placed restrictions on the use of bars, restaurants, hotels, beaches, and other venues.

However, some areas, such as Goa, a tourist destination, and Hyderabad (an information technology hub), have been exempted from night curfews due to fewer infections. Other restrictions are still in effect.

After the ban on many New Year's Eve celebrations, many Indonesians decided to forgo their usual festivities in favor of a more peaceful evening at home. Fireworks displays, parades, and large-scale gatherings were banned in Jakarta. However, restaurants and malls were allowed to stay open with curfews.

Also, fireworks displays and celebrations were canceled in Vietnam. Authorities closed Hanoi's central streets while Ho Chi Minh City banned people from viewing live countdown performances. Instead, they were to be broadcast on social media.

Around 3,000 people were planning to attend a New Years Eve concert in Hong Kong featuring local stars like Mirror. After events being cancelled in 2019 and last year due to the pandemic, this concert will mark the beginning of a major New Year's Eve celebration.

The Shanghai government cancelled events in mainland China, including an annual light show that runs along the Huangpu River and draws hundreds of thousands of people.

Beijing's popular temples were closed or restricted access since mid-December, so there was no plan for public celebrations. The Chinese government is asking people not to leave the capital and requires travelers who are coming from areas with infections to undergo tests.

Popular temples in Nanjing, Hangzhou, and other cities in eastern China cancelled traditional New Year's Eve bell-ringing ceremonies and asked for the public to refrain.

Authorities in Thailand allowed fireworks displays and parties to continue as usual, but with strict safety precautions. They wanted to stop the spread of the omicron variant and soften the blow to Thailand's struggling tourism industry. New Year's Eve prayers are normally held in Buddhist temples throughout Thailand. They will now be done online.

A powerful typhoon that struck the Philippines two weeks ago decimated basic needs for thousands of Filipinos ahead of New Years Eve. Typhoon Rai claimed the lives of more than 400 people and left at least 82 others missing. Half a million houses were destroyed or damaged.

Leahmer Singson (17-year-old mother) lost her home to fire last month and her temporary wooden shack in Cebu City was destroyed by the typhoon. Her husband, a glass and aluminium factory worker, will be welcoming the new year together with her baby, aged 1. They will live in a small, ramshackle tent on a beach clearing, where hundreds of families have erected tents made from rice sacks, debris and tarpaulins in order to protect themselves from the sun and rain.

When asked what she wanted for the new year, Singson answered with a simple wish: "I hope that we don't get sick."

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