• Sat. Sep 10th, 2022

Coronavirus restrictions are heavily influencing how millions Australians are celebrating New Year’s Eve, but there are still plenty of revellers still determined to ring in the new year with a bang.

Dec 31, 2020

Coronavirus restrictions are largely determining how millions of people across Australia are seeing in 2021.
And the impact is greatest in Sydney and Melbourne as both cities deal with COVID-19 clusters.
Sydney’s Circular Quay would normally be shoulder-to-shoulder with revellers, jostling for prime position to see the New Year’s Eve (NYE) harbour fireworks, but this evening it is empty, with an exclusion zone around the area.
Harbourside locations are fenced off, popular parks are closed and a strict permit system in place for anyone who sets foot in the CBD.
The strict measures are in response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases in Sydney after a new cluster emerged in the inner west.
NSW police officers will be out in force in public areas, doorknocking homes and licensed venues.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)
And while the fireworks display is going ahead, it has been cut to seven minutes.
NSW Police have warned New Year’s Eve revellers officers will not hesitate to visit homes to check people are abiding by health rules.
Ben Ferris and Vida Irani marked New Year’s Eve with Ben’s parents before going for a walk along Sydney’s Bronte Beach.
“It’s very quiet, it’s a bit sad actually everyone is in really small groups,” Ms Irani said.
“I guess everyone is doing their best to put this year behind them and get a fresh start.”
Ben Ferris and Vida Irani say they are very hopeful about what 2021 will bring for them.(ABC News: Kathleen Calderwood)
The couple is expecting a baby in January and agreed that was what they were most looking forward to for the New Year.
Ms Irani said despite the uncertainty of the pandemic she was feeling optimistic about having a baby.
Melbourne COVID cluster dampens celebrations
Many Victorians are feeling shellshocked as they enter New Year’s Eve, just one day after the state’s 61-day streak of zero locally acquired coronavirus cases came to an abrupt end.
So far, eight cases have been linked to a cluster authorities believe may have begun on December 21, when a returned traveller from NSW dined at a restaurant in Melbourne.
Household gathering sizes have been cut from 30 to 15, and Victorians must also now wear a mask at all indoor locations outside their home, except when they are eating or drinking.
Thousands of Victorians in New South Wales are abandoning caravan parks and holiday spots as they race to get back over the border before midnight tonight, to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in their homes.
Victorians who get back after Victoria shuts its border to all of NSW at 11:59pm on Friday will face a fortnight in hotel quarantine.
The fireworks display that normally draws more than 400,000 people to the city has been replaced by a two-day Street Feasts food festival.
The state’s Assistant Commissioner of Police Luke Cornelius urged people to celebrate locally if possible.
More than 1,500 officers will be on duty, with police largely focussing on areas where crowds are likely to gather, such as the CBD and beaches.
Fireworks also cancelled in Brisbane
Although Brisbane’s annual fireworks display has been cancelled, people are gathering in the city’s parks to see in the New Year.
Ticketed events are being held at venues around the city, including the Factory Summer Festival at the Brisbane Showgrounds.
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Around 2,500 people are expected to attend the event and organisers are taking measures to ensure people social distance.
Squares have marked out on the ground for dancing and COVID marshals will patrol the site to keep people 1.5 metres apart.
Rachel Bergin said she was enjoying a much quieter New Year’s Eve than usual at South Bank with her husband Kieran and son Jack.
“We just came in for a swim and dinner then we’re heading home before midnight,” she said.
Rachel, Kieran and Jack Bergin will be home earlier than usual this year.(ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
“[This year] is a lot quieter. Usually we’re here for the fireworks and home pretty late, so it’s very different.”
Ms Bergin said she was happy to see the end of 2020, but nervous about what was to come in 2021.
Amy Plumridge and husband Zak arrived from Townsville earlier in the day, and were also enjoying a low key celebration at South Bank.
“We actually thought there were fireworks so a little disappointing that it got cancelled, but we thought we’d just walk around and have a look around Brisbane,” she said.
Amy and Zak Plumridge travelled from Townsville to Brisbane for New Year’s Eve.(ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
“It was a little unsettling at like 6:00pm thinking ‘are there people around?’
“It’s nice to see a few people out tonight though.”
North of Brisbane, thousands of people packed the Redcliffe Esplanade for firework displays off the local jetty.
The fireworks display at Redcliffe Esplanade was popular with families.(ABC News: Patrick Williams)
A brief burst of rain just before the 7:30pm show was not enough to deter the crowd of mostly young families from sticking around for the 10-minute display.
WA takes advantage of COVID-free status
With Western Australia free of community COVID transmission, many locals are snapping up the chance to celebrate.
The City of Perth is hosting all-ages entertainment throughout the evening, including fireworks off Northbridge rooftops at 9:00pm and midnight.
Around 40,000 people are expected to visit the city, with free public transport across the entire network after midnight.
“It is incredibly fortunate that we can celebrate New Year’s Eve, as it’s been incredibly fortunate that we can live our normal lives through much of 2020,” Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said.
For venues like the Wembley Hotel, the crowds are a huge turnaround from COVID shutdowns earlier this year.
“The hardest part was letting staff go, then it was a matter of getting on with the job, adapting the pub to do whatever we can to keep things ticking over,” hotel owner Kane Mansfield said.
Now, the beer is flowing and the locals are back.”
Wembley Hotel owner Kane Mansfield is pleased to have crowds return after COVID shutdowns earlier in 2020.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)
WA’s Acting Premier Roger Cook is warning partygoers to keep COVID safe and ensure they check into venues with QR codes.
“You should not kiss strangers at the stroke of midnight,” he said.
“I understand everyone wants to party on New Year’s Eve and get out with friends and family, but it’s still important to remember that we stay vigilant, that we continue to observe the two square-metre rule, and observe good physical distancing and personal hygiene.”
Adelaide’s Big Bash
With Adelaide’s major fireworks shows cancelled, Elder Park, the usual vantage point, was much quieter than it usually would be on NYE.
The regional centres of Victor Harbour, Port Lincoln and Murray Bridge will still hold their fireworks displays.
Thousands have flocked to Adelaide Oval for the Big Bash game, with the Adelaide Strikers taking on the Perth Scorchers.
While fireworks in Adelaide were cancelled, Philip put on his own show at Henley Beach.(ABC News: Mahalia Carter)
A cap of 50 people at homes in South Australia remains in place, with no more than 200 people allowed at private gatherings outside the home.
QR codes and social distancing measures are in place when attending licensed venues.
Police are expecting a busy night.
“The number of police officers out and about is similar to previous years for New Year’s Eve, but in addition to that we’ve also got a COVID compliance capability,” Assistant Commissioner Ian Parrott said.
“We’re going to be out monitoring people’s behaviour as we ordinarily do and then sitting over the top of that is our ongoing commitment to ensuring people are doing the right thing by the COVID directions and restrictions that are in place.”
The ABC is running a New Year’s Eve Your Mental Health appeal in partnership with Lifeline Australia and Kids Helpline to raise funds for their frontline call centre workers.
All money raised across the two days will go directly to frontline services with the aim of getting additional counsellors to answer more calls to help Australians in need.