The first countries in the world to enter 2021 – Samoa and Kiribati in the South Pacific – have less to celebrate than usual, as both are cut off from the world due to Covid-19 and face rising waters due to climate change.
Samoa’s business district in the capital Apia is struggling to recover from floods due to storms, as well as revenue lost at the country closed its borders to tourists for most of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Some of these businesses could be closed for good,” warned the Samoa Observer newspaper in an editorial. Samoa began 2020 with a measles outbreak that killed 81 people.
Like Samoa, Kiribati is closed to tourists due to Covid-19 and there are no fireworks to mark the New Year.
The 3,000 islands that make up Kiribati face a growing threat in 2021 from rising sea waters due to climate change and most of the country’s atolls are just three metres above sea level.
Meanwhile, New Year revellers who try to breach Sydney harbour lockout laws to watch the midnight fireworks risk being hit with 1,000-Australian-dollar (770 US dollar) fines, as authorities try to stem a Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
Wire fences have gone up around the city and police are ordered to block anybody from heading towards harbourside vantage points, where usually a crowd of over a million people come to watch the world renowned fireworks.
This year the fireworks display will be toned down, centred on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for seven minutes.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation was “volatile” and urged Sydneysiders to stay home and join the rest of the world in watching the fireworks on television.
“The last thing we want is to welcome in 2021 with a superspreading event,” she told reporters Thursday morning.
A Covid-19 outbreak in the northern beaches region of Sydney has grown in two weeks to more than 150 infected people.
Taiwan's iconic New Year's Eve fireworks display at the 509-metre tall Taipei 101 building, one of the tallest buildings in the world, will still take place, while some planned outdoor events around the island have been downsized or cancelled.
After Taiwan on Wednesday discovered a new coronavirus variant first detected in Britain had entered the country, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je on Thursday limited the number of participants at a New Year's Eve outdoor gathering in front of the city hall to only 40,000 revellers.
A number of large music festivals and fireworks shows are taking place across New Zealand as the country sees in the new year.
With no community cases of Covid-19 in the country, events are going ahead as planned with no crowd limits or other health restrictions.
A light show will be projected on to landmarks in the country’s largest city Auckland, before a five-minute fireworks display at midnight.