In Pictures: Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world

Good riddance to 2021 and let 2022 bring fresh hope – that was a common sentiment as people around the world welcomed the new year.

Many New Year’s Eve celebrations were muted or cancelled for a second year due to a surge of coronavirus infections.

New Zealand was one of the first places to see in the new year and opted for a low-key lights display projected on to Auckland landmarks, including the Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge.

While there has not yet been any community spread of Omicron in New Zealand, authorities still wanted to discourage crowds gathering.

Neighbouring Australia went ahead with its celebrations despite an explosion in virus cases. The centrepiece of festivities was the renowned fireworks display from Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

Hours before the celebrations were due to begin, authorities had reported a record 32,000 new virus cases, many of them in Sydney. Because of the surge, there were far smaller crowds than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as a million revellers would crowd inner Sydney.

Revellers in the Far East made the most of subdued celebrations.

New Year China
Fake snow is blown overhead in Beijing, China (Ng Han Guan/AP)
A New Year’s Eve concert in Hong Kong
A New Year’s Eve concert in Hong Kong (Vincent Yu/AP)
Taiwan New Year
Fireworks explode from the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)
New Year South Korea
Illuminated decorations in Seoul, South Korea (Lee Jin-man/AP)

And midnight continued to move westwards through Asia and the Middle East.

New Year India
Revellers prepare for 2022 in Ahmedabad, India (Ajit Solanki/AP)
Pakistan New Year
Students in Lahore, Pakistan (KM Chaudary/AP)
New Year Israel
An Israeli vendor takes Covid precautions (Oded Balilty/AP)
New Year Egypt
Boys wore Santa Claus masks as they posed in front of Christmas decorations in Cairo (Amr Nabil/AP)

President Vladimir Putin wished Russians a happier new year, hailing their solidarity and strength in the face of challenges like the coronavirus pandemic, in a televised address broadcast just before midnight in each of Russia’s 11 time zones.

New Year Ukraine
Crowds celebrate in Kiev, Ukraine (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

In Europe, Pope Francis cancelled his New Year’s Eve tradition of visiting the life-sized Nativity scene in St Peter’s Square to discourage large crowds from forming.

Vatican Pope New Year
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a New Year’s Eve vespers Mass in St Peter’s Basilica (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Meanwhile, major Italian cities scrapped their traditional open-air concerts as the country battles a record surge in coronavirus cases.

Naples banned the use of fireworks outright in a bid to keep crowds from forming in a city known for its explosive new year festivities.

New Year Serbia
There were large crowds in Belgrade (Darko Vojinovic/AP)
New Year Germany
Spectators gather at the boulevard Unter den Linden near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (Markus Schreiber/AP)

New York City was limiting the number of people it let into Times Square to witness a six-ton ball, encrusted with nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals, descend above a crowd of about 15,000 — far fewer than the many tens of thousands who usually descend on the nation’s marquee New Year’s Eve event.

New Years Eve Times Square
Officials prepare the New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball (Ted Shaffrey/AP)