New Year’s meetings are usually the parties to end all parties. Each country is waiting for its own time zone to reach midnight so it can greet January 1st.
And while most would love to see 2020, a year that has seen 1.8 million deaths and 83.4 million cases from Covid since it first appeared 12 months ago, the celebrations have been largely muted.
Fireworks soared into the sky over many famous cities – London, Sydney, Moscow – but the streets below were an abandoned ghost town, a suitably spooky farewell for a year won’t be remembered with much jubilation.
And as the UK, Europe, the US, and much of the world grapple with a new mutant strain that continues to cause unrest – countries like New Zealand that have been largely home to normal NYE celebrations – offer hope.
And Wuhan, where the pandemic began, has wiped out the virus and has become the poster child for heavy lockouts with no headroom.
Although the Elizabeth Tower was shrouded in scaffolding, Big Ben led the bongs despite the marked lack of crowds to complete the traditional countdown.
When the impressive fireworks display from Tower Bridge was fired in a stripped-down but still impressive extravaganza, multiple projections filled the sky over the O2 arena to pay tribute to the heroes of the past 12 months.
A handful of Londoners brave the cold and highest coronavirus restrictions to enjoy a New Year’s Eve drink like New Cross and South Bank – while illegal parties have been stopped by police.
Photos have emerged of locals in Wuhan – where the virus originally appeared in 2019 – partying in crowded nightclubs to greet the New Year.
Notably, the city of 11 million has not reported any new locally transmitted disease since May 10 after going through one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.
In scenes that have become unimaginable in the UK and elsewhere in the world, Wuhan’s residents gathered in their thousands at several popular landmarks.
In Australia, where Sydney’s fireworks display serves as the world’s first major visual presentation of the New Year, gatherings have been banned and internal borders have been closed.
However, the city still hosted an impressive exhibition hailed as the “Beacon of Hope” for 2021.
“What a damn good year it was,” said Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister of New South Wales, which also includes Sydney. “Hopefully 2021 will be easier for all of us.”
New York City marked the beginning of 2021 with its famous ball drop in Times Square – but it was largely closed to the public as Americans were instead forced to watch over live streams.
The same place where over a million people saw the annual tradition as well as live music performances last year was far grimmer.
Only a handful of invited guests, including health care workers and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, gathered to usher in the new year.
Dubai spared no expense and ushered in the New Year with one of the most expensive fireworks in history, which thousands of people – including many tourists – encouraged to watch.
In contrast to previous years, when viewers stood shoulder to shoulder, the restrictions strictly enforced social distancing from people standing in masks in marked areas.
The celebratory fireworks at the Burj Khalifa – the tallest tower in the world – lasted just under seven minutes. Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed hoped 2021 would get better.
Thousands gathered at Auckland Waterfront Bridge to watch stunning fireworks display as the streets filled with party-goers after New Zealand all but wiped out the coronavirus.
Only 25 people have ever died of Covid-19 across the country and there are virtually no restrictions with no currently active cases.
Hundreds of others celebrated in the Viaduct Harbor, where people basked in the sunshine before the last sunset in 2020.