Sydney told to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks from home

Large gatherings have been banned and people told to stay away from the city after a spike in COVID cases.

Sydney puts on a huge fireworks display on New Year's Eve [File: Peter Parks/AFP]
Sydney puts on a huge fireworks display on New Year's Eve [File: Peter Parks/AFP]

Sydney, renowned for the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display over its iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge, is cracking down on large gatherings on December 31 amid continuing efforts to curb an outbreak of the coronavirus in the city’s northern beach suburbs.

A mid-December resurgence of COVID-19 has grown to 125 cases after five new infections were recorded on Monday. About a quarter of a million people in parts of the area have been told to stay in strict lockdown until January 9, and the already toned-down plans for New Year’s Eve have been further restricted.

“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,” New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at a news conference, adding that the “safest” way to watch the fireworks was from home.

“On New Year’s Eve, we don’t want any crowds on the foreshore around Sydney whatsoever,” she said.

Berejiklian wants to discourage people from travelling to Sydney’s city centre for the New Year’s Eve display, usually one of the most popular events of the year. The family fireworks that take place at 9pm (10:00 GMT) have been cancelled and the traditional midnight display limited to only seven minutes.

Beyond the city centre and the immediate harbour area, some parks will be closed and people gathering in “large numbers may be moved on by police,” the state government said.

Huge crowds usually turn out to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour [File: David Gray/Reuters]
Only residents, workers and those with confirmed bookings at hotels, restaurants and bars with permits will be allowed into the city centre on New Year’s Eve, and will require special permits.

People across Sydney have been told they can only host 10 people in their homes and 50 outdoors.

NSW Police have issued 15 notices in Sydney for breaking public health orders since Christmas Eve.

“I would say to those people half-contemplating doing anything stupid in the next few days, forget it,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, backed the Sydney restrictions.

“What we have been doing is working,” he said.

Because of swift border closures, lockdowns, widespread testing, social distancing and a high rate of public compliance with anti-virus measures, Australia has recorded just over 28,300 infections and 908 deaths related to the coronavirus.

Officials say this has given regulators time to evaluate vaccines without the pressure of mounting cases of COVID-19, as has been the case in much of Europe and the United States.

“Our approach is to under-promise and over-deliver,” Hunt said, reiterating that the government is sticking to a March timetable to start vaccinations.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters

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