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Covid pandemic dampens New Year celebrations around the world

Reported by lily | January 4th, 2021 @ 03:26 AM

Covid pandemic dampens New Year celebrations around the world

New Year celebrations around the world have been muted as many countries struggle to curb new spikes in coronavirus cases.

Fireworks displays and other public gatherings were cancelled from Sydney to New York.

Festivities were particularly restricted in Europe, amid fears over a more contagious variant of the virus.

France mobilised 100,000 police to break up New Year's Eve parties and enforce a night-time curfew.

More than 1.8 million people have died with the virus across the world since the start of the pandemic a year ago. More than 81 million cases have been reported.

What is happening in Europe?

In France,the government ordered a visible security presence in urban areas from 20:00 (19:00 GMT) on Thursday, when the curfew began. In Paris half of the metro lines were closed.

Several departments banned the sale of fireworks and limited alcohol sales as part of measures to stop the unrest and torching of cars that often takes place on the final night of the year. Although incidents of violence were reportedly fewer, police were attacked while trying to break up several large illegal raves. In Alsace, a 25-year-old man died when a firework he was holding exploded, local media said.

France has had two lockdowns and bars, restaurants and cultural attractions will remain shut into the new year.

In his New Year's address, President Emmanuel Macron tried to address criticism of the slow pace of vaccination in France, vowing to avoid "unjustifiable delays".

In England - where the new coronavirus variant is spreading fast and more than 40 million people in the worst-affected regions are forced to stay at home - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to follow the rules.

"That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors, unless they're in the same household or support bubble, and avoiding large gatherings of any kind," he said on Wednesday.

London's streets were quiet during New Year's Eve after police there warned people to celebrate at home.

Instead of the usual celebrations in front of the London Eye, a giant fireworks and light show was held across various locations in the capital.

Ireland moved to its highest level of restrictions on Thursday, banning all household visits, closing all non-essential retail and limiting travel to 5km (three miles).

Germany is currently under lockdown until 10 January. The government has banned the sale of fireworks and placed tight restrictions on the number of people who can gather in public.

In what is expected to be her last New Year's Eve address as chancellor as she plans to step down in nine months, Angela Merkel took aim at conspiracy theorists.

Making a rare show of emotion, she said she could only imagine how cynical and cruel their dangerous lies must feel to those who had lost loved ones to the virus.

In Italy,a 22:00 curfew was imposed, and bars, restaurants and most shops were closed. Meanwhile, Pope Francis is not leading New Year's Eve and New Year's Day services in Rome after suffering a recurrence of chronic hip pain.

The Netherlands is also under a lockdown, which is set to last until 19 January. Its usual countdown took place behind closed doors at a football stadium in Amsterdam.

Turkey has begun a four-day-long lockdown.

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