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Major cities worldwide cancel New Year’s Eve celebrations due to Omicron

Times Square
People look at confetti as it's thrown from the Hard Rock Cafe marquee as part of the annual confetti test ahead of the New Year's Eve ball-drop celebration in Times Square in New York City, December 29, 2017. |

While New Yorkers are going ahead with their iconic New Year’s celebration, authorities in many other major cities around the world have canceled celebrations due to the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Rome, London, Edinburgh, Athens and New Delhi are among the cities where New Year’s celebrations have been canceled or large gatherings prohibited, according to media reports.

In Germany, which is in the midst of a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a “massive fifth wave” with omicron infections is feared while the hospitals are already overloaded, according to DW. New Year Eve’s private fireworks have also been banned due to possible injuries caused by such fireworks.

The German health agency recently confirmed its first death — a person between the ages of 60 and 79 — related to the omicron variant.

In the U.K., the Trafalgar Square New Year’s Eve celebration has also been canceled due to the surge of omicron cases in London, the city’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced, according to The Telegraph. The occasion will instead involve a live broadcast highlighting the most defining moments of 2021.

“With infections of COVID-19 at record levels across our city and the U.K., I’m determined to work closely with partners in our city to do everything we possibly can to slow the spread of the new variant and ensure our NHS services are not overwhelmed this winter,” Khan was quoted as saying.

“This means that we will no longer be hosting a celebration event for 6,500 people on Trafalgar Square this New Year’s Eve,” he continued. “This will be very disappointing for many Londoners, but we must take the right steps to reduce the spread of the virus. I’m proud that we will still have an incredible broadcast spectacular to watch on our screens, which will showcase our great city to the rest of the world.”

In the U.K., about 144,000 people a day are getting infected with omicron and feeling unwell, according to the Zoe COVID study, the BBC reported last week. Preliminary studies suggest the omicron variant is milder, with fewer people getting severely ill than with other variants.

The study also suggested that half of people with cold-like symptoms could actually have the coronavirus.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, public New Year’s Eve celebrations have been canceled, according to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The move will “also mean unfortunately that large-scale Hogmanay celebrations — including that planned here in our capital city — will not proceed. I know how disappointing this will be for those looking forward to these events,” Sturgeon explained in a statement.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has also announced a ban on major public parties and fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

In Athens, Greece, fireworks show over the Acropolis has been canceled. The country’s Health Minister Thanos Plevris has said all public New Year celebrations planned by municipalities have been canceled, according to Fox Carolina.

According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90% of the coronavirus infections in some parts of the United States are of the Omicron variant.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has said the New Year’s Eve celebration will be “scaled back,” as those who want to attend a party will have to be fully vaccinated, wear face masks and practice social distancing.

“New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year — we are leading the way on vaccinations, we have reopened safely, and every day we work toward building a recovery for all of us,” the mayor said, Fox News reported. “There is a lot to celebrate, and these additional safety measures will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year.”

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 flights in the U.S., and thousands more globally, were canceled Sunday due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant, The New York Times reported.

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