Billions around the world are starting to ring in 2022, despite Omicron concerns putting a dampener on the revelry in a second year of muted celebrations.
While some parties in major cities have been cancelled due to rising infections, South Africa, where the mutant strain was first detected, has lifted a curfew to allow the end-of-year parties to go ahead.
One of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve gatherings took place in North Korea where thousands gathered in the main square in Pyongyang for a fireworks show.
China put on a number of its typically extravagant shows with stunning lights, fireworks and pyrotechnic displays, although its usual celebrations were slimmed down due to the surge in cases.
New Zealand, the first major country to see the New Year, kicked off the celebrations after easing its rules on public gatherings, and held a lights display in Auckland.
Australia’s largest city Sydney pressed ahead with a firework display that lit up the city’s harbour, despite one of the world’s fastest-growing caseloads, before Tokyo joined in with the festivities.
Sydney’s ‘family fireworks’ took place three hours before midnight, with pyrotechnics illuminating the Sydney Opera House in a stunning display throughout the night.
But just hours before the celebrations were due to begin, Australian health authorities reported a record 32,000 new virus cases, many of them in Sydney.
CHINA: Tourists visit the 23rd Harbin Ice-Snow World on New Year’s Eve at one of China’s impressive light shows to celebrate the turning of the year
AUSTRALIA: New Year’s Eve fireworks erupt over Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House on the stroke of midnight to mark the arrival of 2022
JAPAN: Shintoist priests walk past paper lanterns after concluding a ritual in preparation for the New Year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
NEW ZEALAND: A light show from the Skytower and harbour bridge in Auckland kicked off New Year’s Eve celebrations in New Zealand
NORTH KOREA: Thousands gathered in Pyongyang for celebrations in North Korea during a firework display in one of the biggest New Year’s Eve gatherings
RUSSIA: Fireworks are set off over the city of Vladivostok as eastern Russia kicked off the country’s celebrations at midnight
CHINA: People visit a lantern show to welcome the new year at Penglaige in Yantai, Shandong Province of China
CHINA: In Beijing, a child wearing a face mask stands in front of a 2022 sign as countries around the world mark the new year
AUSTRALIA: The ‘family fireworks’, displayed three hours before midnight every year ahead of the main show at midnight, fill the sky over the Opera House in Sydney
AUSTRALIA: New Year’s Eve celebrations continue to be somewhat different as some COVID-19 restrictions remain in place due to the ongoing pandemic
AUSTRALIA: The festivities proved too much for some as police arrested a reveller in Sydney while his friend was on hand to capture the moment on her phone
NEW ZEALAND: The Skytower lit up as the clock struck midnight in the toned down celebrations in New Zealand, the first major country to see 2022
AUSTRALIA: Authorities are expecting far smaller crowds than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as 1 million revelers would crowd inner Sydney
AUSTRALIA: After the midnight celebrations, some headed home after a night of partying with their shoes in hand while others struggled on their feet
AUSTRALIA: Despite a surge in infections in Australia, many still headed out to party and listen to live music in Sydney on Friday
AUSTRALIA: Plenty jumped into the party spirit despite the warnings about surging cases in the second year of pandemic restrictions over NYE
RUSSIA: Fireworks light up the night’s sky over Vladivostok in eastern Russia, sparking a string of celebrations across the world
AUSTRALIA: In Melbourne, signs informed masked partygoers that no fireworks would be taking place due to the Covid restrictions
AUSTRALIA: Revellers were partying into the night in Sydney and Melbourne long after the smoke from the firework displays had dissipated
NEW YORK: The Waterford Crystal Installation is illuminated during a test run at Times Square ahead of the celebrations
KOSOVO: Decorations in downtown Pristina are already in place for the New Year’s celebrations after an end to a turbulent year
AUSTRALIA: A young girl watches the family fireworks with her mother at Alexandra Garden in Melbourne during the countdown to midnight
AUSTRALIA: Performers on stilts are seen performing in Federation Square during the celebrations in Melbourne as it rang in the New Year
AUSTRALIA: Millions around the globe will be celebrating, with Sydney the first city to hold a major fireworks display
AUSTRALIA: While there were still face masks and smaller crowds than usual, Australians still headed out in numbers to welcome in 2022 across the country
AUSTRALIA: The crowds were smaller at Circular Quay in Sydney, offering a stunning view of the world-famous festivities for those not daunted by the Covid doomsayers
AUSTRALIA: Revellers were only too happy to say goodbye to a tough 2021 and welcome in 2022 during scenes of festivity
AUSTRALIA: Sydneysiders were in a mood to welcome in 2022 and who could blame them as 2021 didn’t produce much to celebrate
AUSTRALIA: Sydney’s famous harbour was awash with colour in a stunning display during the much-anticipated midnight fireworks display
Because of the surge, there were smaller crowds in pre-pandemic years, when as many as 1 million revelers would crowd inner Sydney.
Sydney normally bills itself as the ‘New Year’s Eve capital of the world’ but the vast harbour where people gathered to watch the city’s famous fireworks was notably uncrowded.
With tourists still unable to enter the country and many residents fearful of the rapid spread of Omicron, tens of thousands were estimated to have attended.
Still, the city saw New Year’s Eve in with a bang – igniting six tonnes of technicoloured fireworks that lit up the Opera House and floating barges, turning the Harbour Bridge rainbow-like.
Dubai is planning a pyrotechnics spectacle at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, while the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah will attempt to break two world records with a huge fireworks display.
In Rio, celebrations on Copacabana Beach will go ahead in a scaled back format – though crowds of revellers are still expected.
In South Korea’s capital Seoul, the annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second straight year due to a surge in cases.
A pre-recorded video of this year’s bell-ringing ceremony was instead broadcast online and on television.
The ceremony had previously drawn tens of thousands of people. Last year’s cancellation was the first since the ceremony began in 1953.
South Korean authorities also closed many beaches and other tourist attractions along the east coast, which usually swarm with people hoping to catch the year’s first sunrise on New Year’s Day. On Friday, South Korea said it will extend tough distancing rules for another two weeks.
CHINA: A televised New Year’s speech by President Xi Jinping was broadcast across China including in restaurants and bars (pictured)
THAILAND: Devotees lay down in coffins during a resurrection ceremony to cleanse themselves of bad karma at the end of the year
CHINA: Kindergarten children hold Chinese character ‘Fu’, meaning ‘good luck’, to welcome the New Year during a day of muted celebrations
POLAND: A traditional New Year’s Eve run took place in Krakow in the Small Square as part of the annual celebrations
RUSSIA: In Moscow, a Christmas tree was decorates with lights and baubles overhanging the Manezhnaya Square during the celebations
In India, millions of people were planning to ring in the new year from their homes, with nighttime curfews and other restrictions taking the fizz out of celebrations in large cities including New Delhi and Mumbai.
Authorities have imposed restrictions to keep revellers away from restaurants, hotels, beaches and bars amid a surge in cases fueled by omicron.
But some places, including Goa, a tourist paradise, and Hyderabad, an information technology hub, have been spared from night curfews thanks to smaller numbers of infections, although other restrictions still apply.
In Hong Kong, about 3,000 people attended a New Year’s Eve concert featuring local celebrities including boy band Mirror. The concert was the first big New Year’s Eve event held since 2018, after events were cancelled in 2019 due to political strife and last year because of the pandemic.
AUSTRALIA: Partygoers in Melbourne hit the town despite a surge in new Covid infections with many deciding to join in on the New Year’s revelry
INDIA: A kitemaker flies a kite ahead of the New Year celebrations on the outskirts of Amritsar in Punjab state in India
Popular temples in the eastern Chinese cities of Nanjing, Hangzhou and other major cities canceled traditional New Year’s Eve ‘lucky bell-ringing’ ceremonies and asked the public to stay away.
But in Thailand, authorities were allowing New Year’s Eve parties and firework displays to continue, albeit with strict safety measures imposed.
They were hoping to slow the spread of the omicron variant while also softening the blow to the country’s battered tourism sector. New Year’s Eve prayers, which are usually held in Buddhist temples around Thailand, will be held online instead.