New Delhi | Jagran World Desk: The world is waiting to welcome 2022 in the hope to breathe a fresh air of relief from the threats continuously being posed by COVID-19 pandemic, currently driven by the spread of more transmissible Omicron variant. However, throughout the world, the New Year celebrations remain muted for the second straight year. People all over the world were looking forward to welcoming 2022 because parts of the world found the second year of pandemic more difficult than the first.

If the anonymous graves in New York’s Central Park symbolised the horror of pandemic in 2020, it was the floating bodies along North India’s Gangetic plains of people suspected to have died of COVID-19 that marked the pain and suffering the pandemic dispensed. Both in India and the US, the New Year celebrations will remain muted affair due to restrictions in place amid Omicron spread.

People in Asia and Pacific are the first to record New Year because of their foremost location at the International date line.

South Korea, New Zealand cancels New Year celebrations; Japan, Australia keep it business as usual

In South Korea's capital Seoul, the annual New Year's Eve bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second straight year due to a surge in cases. South Korean authorities also planned to close many beaches and other tourist attractions along the east coast, which usually swarm with people hoping to catch the year's first sunrise on New Year's Day. On Friday, South Korea said it will extend tough distancing rules for another two weeks.

Across Japan, many people planned to take new year trips to spend time with their families. On New Year's Eve, people thronged temples and shrines, most of them wearing masks. Some appeared to be shrugging off virus fears, however, by dining and drinking raucously in downtown Tokyo and flocking to shops, celebrating not only the holidays but a sense of exhilaration over being freed from recent virus restrictions.

Australia was planning to go ahead with its celebrations despite an explosion in virus cases. The centerpiece of festivities is the renowned fireworks display from the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Hours before the celebrations were due to begin, Australian health authorities reported a record 32,000 new virus cases, many of them in Sydney.

Because of the surge, authorities were expecting far smaller crowds than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as 1 million revelers would crowd inner Sydney.

In neighbouring New Zealand, where there hasn't yet been any community spread of omicron, authorities took a precautionary approach by cancelling several fireworks displays, including a popular one from atop Auckland's Sky Tower. Auckland instead will mark the new year with a light display projected onto the tower and other city landmarks.

India: Goa, Hyderabad spared of restrictions as rest of the country reels with night curfew

In India, millions of people were planning to ring in the new year from their homes, with nighttime curfews and other restrictions taking the fizz out of celebrations in large cities including New Delhi and Mumbai.

Authorities have imposed restrictions to keep revelers away from restaurants, hotels, beaches and bars amid a surge in cases fueled by omicron. But some places, including Goa, a tourist paradise, and Hyderabad, an information technology hub, have been spared from night curfews thanks to smaller numbers of infections, although other restrictions still apply.

In Hong Kong, about 3,000 people planned to attend a New Year's Eve concert featuring local celebrities including boy band Mirror. The concert will be the first big New Year's Eve event held since 2018, after events were cancelled in 2019 due to political strife and last year because of the pandemic.

Posted By: Mukul Sharma