World welcomes in 2022 with New Year celebrations impacted by Covid once again

Fireworks explode over the Chao Phraya River during New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand. Credit: AP

Countries around the world have welcomed in the New Year, with celebrations once again impacted by the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Due to time differences, countries in Asia and the Pacific region have been among the first to usher in 2022.

In New Zealand, a light display marked celebrations in Auckland on Friday night, local time, after authorities cancelled several fireworks displays.

New Zealanders herald in the New Year with muted celebrations in Auckland

The decision was made as a precautionary approach in the country which hasn't yet seen any community spread of the Omicron variant.

In full: Australia marks the New Year with fireworks, music and lights in Sydney

Australia celebrated with a spectacular firework display in Sydney, despite a recent explosion in Covid cases.

The pyrotechnics were accompanied by a light show at Harbour Bridge and the famous Opera House.

Because of the Covid surge, crowds were far smaller than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as one million revellers would crowd inner Sydney.

In Japan, Tokyo cancelled its official New Year's countdown at the famous Shibuya crossing intersection. Authorities turned off all billboards at 11pm and asked people not to gather in crowds.

In spite of this, thousands of people turned up to celebrate.

Earlier in the day on New Year's Eve, people thronged to temples and shrines, most of them wearing masks,. Many were also seen dining and drinking in downtown Tokyo and flocking to shops, celebrating being freed from recent virus restrictions.

Crowds celebrating in Shibuya, Tokyo:

In South Korea's capital, Seoul, the annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second year in a row due to a rise in infections. The ceremony was instead broadcast online and on television.

Beaches and other tourist attractions along the east coast were also closed and on Friday, the government extended tough distancing rules for another two weeks.

Neighbouring North Korea marked the start of 2022 with fireworks in Pyongyang.

Watch the celebrations in Pyongyang:

In Beijing, which had no plans for public festivities, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an address to the nation.

Mr Xi stressed that the aspirations and concerns of the people are what he always cares about and said China is ready to present a great Beijing Winter Olympics.

Mr Xi said: "Greater public involvement in winter sports also contributes to the Olympic Movement. We will spare no effort to present a great Games to the world. The world is turning its eyes to China, and China is ready."

He concluded his address: "I extend to you my best wishes for the New Year. Let us all work together for a shared future. May our country enjoy prosperity and our people live in peace and harmony!"

Popular temples in Beijing have been closed or had limited access since mid-December. People were urged to avoid leaving the capital and people arriving from areas with infections are required to be tested.

Popular temples in other major Chinese cities, including Nanjing and Hangzhou, cancelled traditional “lucky bell-ringing” ceremonies.

Hong Kong celebrated with a fireworks display and live orchestra at Victoria Harbour.

The city, which has recorded 81 Omicron cases, has confirmed the first cases of community transmission of the variant.

Watch the fireworks show in Hong Kong

Crowds gathered in Taiwan's Taipei 101 skyscraper to watch a fireworks emanating from the tower.

Taiwan's fireworks display at the Taipei 101 skyscraper:

Thailand celebrates new year with colourful firework display

Fireworks explode over the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Credit: AP
In Thailand, authorities were allowing New Year’s Eve parties and fireworks displays to continue. Credit: AP

Fireworks could be seen exploding over the Chao Phraya River during New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand.

Despite concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, authorities allowed parties and firework displays to go ahead, given they adhered to strict safety measures.

But New Year’s Eve prayers, which are usually held in Buddhist temples around Thailand, will be held online instead.

People in India find new ways to celebrate the end of the year

People hold cut-outs to welcome 2022 on New Year’s Eve in Ahmedabad, India. Credit: AP
Indian balloon vendors walk back home as the sun sets on New Year's Eve in Jammu, India. Credit: AP

In India, people have found novel ways to celebrate the new year, despite restrictions on restaurants, hotels, beaches and bars amid a surge in cases fuelled by the Omicron variant.

Flares lit amid jubilant scenes in Egypt

People fire flare as they celebrate the new year in Cairo, Egypt. Credit: AP
Tuk Tuk driver Ashraf Mahmoud drives with his family wearing Santa Claus costumes as they celebrate the new year in Cairo, Egypt. Credit: AP

People have lit flares in Egypt's capital Cairo as they celebrate New Year's Eve.

The country was officially into 2022 at around 10pm UK time.

Fireworks exploded from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and a special laser show took place.

Dubai brought in 2022 at 8pm UK time.

Fireworks explode at the Burj Khalifa, Dubai. Credit: 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.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a New Year’s Eve vespers Mass in St Peter’s Basilica Credit: 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.

The rung in the New Year with an epic fireworks and drone display over the Thames, but people were urged to stay away, as Covid cases continue to rise across the country.

The capital's mayor, Sadiq Khan, had cancelled the Trafalgar Square fireworks event due to the spike in Covid cases and the public were told to watch it on television instead.

Organisers had promised a behind closed doors event but at the 11th hour, as the clock struck midnight, London's skyline suddenly lit up with spectacular fireworks and the famous Shard projected colourful beams of light across the city.

The Shard projected colourful beams of light across the city as it counted down to 2022

Scotland's traditional Hogamanay celebrations were cancelled and the limit on the number of people who can take part in events saw many other New Year’s Eve street parties cancelled.

The Scottish government has urged people to “stay at home as much as possible”, with any meet-ups to be limited to a maximum of three households.

But Scots did not let the rules dampen their spirits and many were seen out in smaller groups enjoying quieter nights in the city centres at pubs and bars.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

In Northern Ireland, nightclubs are closed while dancing is banned in hospitality venues.

For those venturing out to restaurants, table numbers are limited to six people and diners must remain seated for table service.

In Wales, nightclubs are also closed and only a maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 for outdoor events.

Groups of no more than six are allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants, while licensed premises can offer table service only.

In New York the annual Times Square Ball Drop - which was not held last year due to the Covid pandemic - took place as the clock ticked to midnight and ushered in 2022.

The world-famous ball drop in Times Square marked the start of 2022 in the US

Shortly afterwards, Democrat Eric Adams was sworn in as the city's new mayor.

He held aloft a picture of his mother, Dorothy, who died in 2020, as he took the oath.

Eric Adams held a picture of his mother aloft as he was sworn in as New York City's mayor. Credit: AP

Brazil kicked off 2022 with a massive, 15-minute fireworks display which crowds of people enjoyed from the world-famous Copacabana Beach.

A spectacular fireworks display heralded the start of 2022 in Brazil

Rio de Janiero's New Year's Eve party was cancelled at the beginning of December due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, but officials later decided to maintain the fireworks display, without live shows and restricting public transportation and traffic into the area.

Despite this, locals and national and international tourists - dressed largely in white - flocked to the beach to watch the spectacular display and jump in the waves, a tradition said to bring good luck.

A year on from not being able to host a New Year's firework display due to a high Covid infection rate and death toll, the city has become a main tourist destination thanks to its high vaccination rate and adoption of vaccination passports for many activities.

The yearly celebrations on Copacabana beach have in the past gathered more than one million locals and tourists.