Sydney Scales Back New Year’s Eve Fireworks Celebrations
(Bloomberg) -- Sydney’s world-famous New Year’s Eve celebrations are being scaled back in a bid to stop a cluster of Covid-19 infections from spreading.
While the seven-minute fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House and iconic harbor bridge will go ahead, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people to stay home and watch the display on television instead.
The maximum size of outdoor gatherings will be halved to 50, and people without a special permit must stay out of the usual prime viewing spots around the city and harbor, she said. Only tightly controlled, ticketed events organized by local councils will go ahead.
“My strong message to everyone in Greater Sydney this year is to watch the fireworks on TV,” Berejiklian told reporters Monday. “We don’t want any crowds on the foreshores around Sydney whatsoever.”
The outbreak is a blow to Australia, which had largely suppressed community transmission through rigorous testing and contact tracing, and by shuttering the international border -- with all returned overseas travelers made to isolate for 14 days in quarantine hotels. Authorities are still trying to pinpoint the source of the cluster that’s forced some 250,000 people in Sydney’s Northern Beaches into lockdown and seen the city’s 5 million residents barred from traveling to other states and territories in the peak summer holiday season
Five new cases were recorded overnight and the cluster now stands at 126. A stay-at-home order for the worst-affected part of the Northern Beaches has been extended to Jan. 9, and until Jan. 2 for the area that’s seen fewer cases.
The fireworks display is usually a huge tourist drawcard for Sydney, and tens of thousands of people cram into parks and public spaces for the best views. This year, the state government had issued special tickets to some 5,000 front-line health and emergency services workers to thank them for their efforts in tackling the pandemic and wildfires earlier this year. But even those limited celebrations have now been canceled.
“We don’t want to create any super-spreading events on New Year’s Eve which then ruins it for everybody across the state moving forward,” Berejiklian said.
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