Pandemic-Weary World Welcomes 2021 

The world’s 7.8 billion people are bidding a hearty farewell to 2020, but without the usual fanfare and public gatherings because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.   Japan rang in the new year quietly due to rising cases.  Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, had asked people not to attend countdown ceremonies. “The coronavirus knows no year-end or New Year’s holidays,” she said. World Bids Farewell to Year 2020Pandemic restrictions limiting crowds and many people bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget. South Korea, where the government banned gatherings of more than five, saw a different New Year’s Eve as a traditional bell ringing in Seoul was cancelled 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 total cases, the Associated Press reported. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus. Hong Kong cancelled public celebrations for the second year in a row. Last year, it was due to public security concerns. Restaurants closed at 6 p.m. local time and live performances were cancelled. 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 due to their location on the international date line, with the bigger regional powers of New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea following.    New Zealand’s port city of Auckland rang in the new year with a major laser light show and fireworks display at the iconic Sky Tower, as residents celebrated the island nation’s successful response to the coronavirus outbreak that resulted in just 2,162 coronavirus infections and 25 deaths.    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.    In Australia, the one million people who normally gather at the Sydney Harbor to watch the world-famous fireworks display over the city’s renowned Opera House watched the proceedings from home. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced earlier this week that the public will not be allowed at the harbor due to an outbreak at its Northern Beach suburbs.    The pandemic forced the cancellation of the midnight fireworks show over Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, as well as the pyrotechnics over the River Thames in London, which has been under a strict lockdown that curtailed Christmas celebrations and shopping sprees.    Across the Atlantic, New York City’s historic Times Square is banning visitors from gathering to witness the traditional “ball drop” that counts down the final minute of the outgoing year. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, officials have called off its annual New Year’s Eve beach party, which normally attracts hundreds of thousands of people with live music and a spectacular fireworks display.