The world’s 7.8 billion people are bidding a hearty farewell to 2020, without the usual fanfare and public gatherings because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
South Korea, where the government banned gatherings of more than five people, saw a different New Year’s Eve as a traditional bell ringing in Seoul was canceled for the first time since 1953. Beaches where South Koreans flock to watch sunrise were closed with some outlets planning on broadcasting it instead. Ski resorts and other tourist spots were closed.
In Taiwan, officials held a fireworks show near the iconic Taipei 101 tower. A New Year’s morning flag-raising ceremony took place in front of the Presidential Office Building, but it was limited to government officials and invited guests.
Taiwan is seen as a success story in fighting COVID-19, registering only seven deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases, the Associated Press reported. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Hong Kong canceled public celebrations for the second year in a row. Last year, it was because of public security concerns. Restaurants closed at 6 p.m. local time and live performances were canceled. Gatherings were limited to two people, but the AP reported crowds were still present in shopping areas.
The small central Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati were first to welcome 2021 thanks to their location on the international date line, with the bigger regional powers of New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea following.
Many of the traditional celebrations around the world that mark the chronological changeover have either been curtailed or called off, as public officials struggle to contain a rising surge in the number of infections.