COVID puts final damper on 2020, limits New Year's Eve celebrations

Workers secure a panel of Waterford crystal triangles on the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Workers secure a panel of Waterford crystal triangles on the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

'The coronavirus knows no yearend or New Year’s holidays.'

Posted: Dec 31, 2020 7:30 AM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — This New Year’s Eve is being celebrated like no other, with pandemic restrictions limiting crowds and many people bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget.

Australia will be among the first nations to ring in 2021 because of its proximity to the International Date Line. It is a grim end to the year for New South Wales and Victoria, the country’s two most populous states, which are battling to curb new COVID-19 outbreaks.

In past years 1 million people crowded Sydney’s harbor to watch fireworks that center on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, but most will be watching on television as authorities urge residents to stay home.

Locations on the harbor are fenced off, popular parks closed and famous night spots eerily deserted. A 9 p.m. fireworks display was scrapped but there will be a seven-minute pyrotechnics show at midnight.

People are only allowed in downtown Sydney if they have a restaurant reservation or are one of five guests of an inner-city resident. People won’t be allowed in the city center without a permit.

Some harborside restaurants were charging up to 1,690 Australian dollars ($1,294) for a seat, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday.

Sydney is Australia’s most populous city and has had its most active local transmission of the coronavirus in recent weeks.

Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, has canceled its fireworks this year. “For the first time in many, many years we made the big decision, difficult decision to cancel the fireworks,” Mayor Sally Capp said.

“We did that because we know that it attracts up to 450,000 people into the city for one moment at midnight to enjoy a spectacular display and music. We are not doing that this year.”

In notable contrast, the west coast city of Perth — which has not had community spread of the virus since April -- was gearing up to celebrate the new year almost normally with large crowds expected to watch two fireworks spectacles.

New Zealand, which is two hours ahead of Sydney, and several of its South Pacific island neighbors have no COVID-19 cases, and New Year celebrations there are the same as ever.

In Chinese societies, the Lunar New Year celebration that falls in February in 2021 generally takes precedence over the solar New Year, on Jan. 1. While celebrations of the Western holiday have been growing more common in recent decades, this year will be more muted.

Beijing is holding a countdown ceremony with just a few invited guests, while other planned events have been canceled. And nighttime temperatures plunging to -15 Celsius (-5 Fahrenheit) will likely discourage people from spending the night out with friends.

Taiwan is hosting its usual New Year’s celebration, a fireworks display by its capital city’s iconic tower, Taipei 101, as well as a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office Building on New Year's morning. The flag raising will be limited to government officials and invited guests after a traveler who recently arrived in Taiwan was found to be infected with the new variant of the coronavirus.

The island has been a success story in the pandemic, registering only seven deaths and 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Hong Kong, with its British colonial history and large expatriate population, has usually seen raucous celebrations along the waterfront and in bar districts. For the second year running, however, New Year’s Eve fireworks have been canceled, this time over coronavirus rather than public security concerns.

Hong Kong social distancing regulations restrict gatherings to only two people. Restaurants have to close by 6 p.m. Live performances and dancing are not allowed. But crowds still throng shopping centers.

Much of Japan was welcoming 2021 quietly at home, alarmed after Tokyo reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases at about 1,300. It was the first time that daily cases in the capital have topped 1,000.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked people to skip countdown ceremonies and expressed concern about crowds of shoppers.

“The coronavirus knows no yearend or New Year’s holidays,” she told reporters.

Many people skipped what’s customarily a chance to return to ancestral homes for the holidays, hoping to lessen health risks for extended families.

Rural restaurants saw business drop, while home deliveries of traditional New Year’s “good luck” food called “osechi” boomed.

Emperor Naruhito is delivering a video message for the new year, instead of waving from a balcony with the imperial family as cheering crowds throng outside the palace.

Train services that usually carry people on shrine visits overnight, as well as some countdown ceremonies, were canceled.

Meiji Shrine in downtown Tokyo, which normally attracts millions of people during New Year holidays and is usually open all night on New Year’s Eve, closed at 4 p.m. this year.

In South Korea, Seoul’s city government canceled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony in the Jongno neighborhood for the first time since the event was first held in 1953, months after the end of the Korean War.

The ceremony, in which citizens ring a large bell in a traditional pavilion when the clock strikes midnight, normally draws an estimated 100,000 people and is broadcast live.

Authorities in eastern coastal areas closed beaches and other spots where hundreds of thousands of people typically gather on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise. The southeastern city of Pohang instead planned to broadcast live the sunrise at several beaches on its YouTube channel.

South Korea’s central government banned private social gatherings of more than five people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide from Christmas Eve until Jan. 3 to help bring a recent viral resurgence under control.

Millions of Indians planned to usher in the new year with subdued celebrations at home because of night curfews, a ban on beach parties and restrictions on movement in major cities and towns after the new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus reached the country.

In New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, hotels and bars were ordered to shut at 11 p.m. The three cities have been the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Drones were keeping watch on people’s movements in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital. Large gatherings were banned, but there were no restrictions on visiting friends, relatives and public places in groups of not more than four people, police said. Face masks and social distancing were mandatory, they said.

Many revelers flocked to Goa, a former Portuguese colony and popular backpacking destination with numerous beach resorts. Authorities decided against imposing a curfew with coronavirus infections largely controlled there.

In Sri Lanka, public gatherings have been banned due to a resurgence of COVID-19, and health and law enforcement authorities urged people to limit celebrations to close family members. Health officials have warned of legal action against hotels and restaurants that hold parties.

Officials have also closed schools and restricted public transport in response to the renewed outbreak.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 485230

Reported Deaths: 6554
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1006801585
Ramsey43047801
Dakota36254390
Anoka33274384
Washington22065255
Stearns18723201
St. Louis14794262
Scott13273107
Wright12517115
Olmsted1177988
Sherburne871572
Carver771040
Clay690387
Rice670091
Blue Earth593835
Kandiyohi579474
Crow Wing519681
Chisago498445
Otter Tail481870
Benton446190
Winona418049
Mower404131
Douglas392568
Nobles386847
Goodhue385568
Polk342762
McLeod339349
Beltrami337351
Morrison324247
Lyon313044
Itasca312746
Becker310941
Isanti305754
Carlton300149
Steele299711
Pine282016
Freeborn280523
Nicollet258141
Todd247830
Brown244637
Le Sueur235020
Mille Lacs227247
Cass219924
Waseca208917
Meeker207434
Martin189328
Wabasha18623
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15214
Renville149540
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134116
Wadena130920
Faribault122917
Aitkin118933
Sibley117310
Watonwan11728
Rock115714
Kanabec107419
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9438
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8025
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake73718
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68316
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Unassigned47968
Norman4768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40821
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362189

Reported Deaths: 5414
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58146549
Linn20653312
Scott18288207
Black Hawk16249291
Woodbury14961211
Johnson1383473
Dubuque13537194
Dallas1135890
Pottawattamie10765143
Story1021645
Warren555274
Clinton543284
Cerro Gordo533681
Webster518787
Marshall496272
Sioux494369
Buena Vista473236
Des Moines457661
Muscatine451191
Wapello4330108
Jasper416966
Plymouth394577
Lee375352
Marion359069
Jones294154
Henry292737
Carroll285548
Bremer280154
Crawford274735
Boone259630
Washington254147
Benton252854
Mahaska224346
Jackson221438
Dickinson217439
Tama213465
Kossuth208154
Clay193525
Hamilton192042
Delaware188839
Winneshiek188427
Buchanan185129
Fayette185035
Page183219
Hardin181039
Wright179731
Harrison179669
Cedar177923
Clayton168053
Butler166331
Mills163120
Floyd162740
Madison154518
Cherokee153935
Poweshiek153730
Hancock146829
Lyon145841
Allamakee145646
Iowa144423
Appanoose139147
Grundy139030
Jefferson138232
Winnebago138230
Cass134151
Calhoun133711
Mitchell130840
Louisa128241
Union126331
Chickasaw125213
Sac124218
Emmet121240
Shelby121033
Franklin118419
Humboldt117425
Guthrie116528
Palo Alto104921
Montgomery103936
Howard103121
Clarke100520
Unassigned9890
Keokuk98129
Monroe93128
Adair91928
Ida91032
Pocahontas85519
Davis82623
Monona81627
Greene77310
Lucas73821
Osceola70514
Worth6987
Taylor66412
Fremont5919
Decatur5789
Van Buren55918
Ringgold52020
Wayne48821
Audubon4869
Adams3264
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Clear
24° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 12°
Mason City
Clear
24° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 11°
Albert Lea
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 15°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 9°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 11°
Mild conditions expected this week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events