Kamis, 31 Desember 2020

Here's how Australians are marking New Year's Eve in a year dominated by COVID-19 - ABC News

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 on the streets of Sydney on NYE.
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.

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The fireworks display that normally draws more than 400,000 people to the city has been replaced by a two-day Street Feasts food festival.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.

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 at South Bank.
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."

Me Bergin said she was happy to see the end of 2020, but nervous about what was to come in 2021.

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 sitting at a bar.
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."

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.

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2020-12-31 08:40:00Z

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