MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Revelers have begun gathering in major city centers across the Asia-Pacific region to celebrate the first New Year’s Eve without COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began in 2020.
As COVID-19 continues to cause death and consternation, especially in China, which is battling a nationwide spike in infections after suddenly relaxing anti-epidemic measures, authorities are now treating the virus as a threat that people live with.
As a result, over a million people are expected to gather along Sydney’s waterfront for a multi-million dollar celebration based on the themes of diversity and inclusion.
Organizers said a rainbow stunt will be a prominent feature of the New Year’s Eve party. More than 7,000 fireworks will be launched from the top of Sydney Harbor Bridge and another 2,000 from the Opera House neighbor.
It’s the “party that Sydney deserves”, Stephen Gilby, producer of the city’s major events and festivals, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ve had a pretty tough couple of years; we are absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people back to the shores of Sydney Harbor for Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve celebrations,” he said.
In Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, organizers staged a family-friendly fireworks display along the Yarra River as dusk falls ahead of a second midnight session.
The peace-loving nation of Kiribati will be the first country to greet the New Year, one hour ahead of 2023 for neighbors including New Zealand.
In Auckland, large crowds are expected under the Sky Tower, where a 10-second countdown to midnight will precede a fireworks display to welcome in the New Year.
Celebrations in New Zealand’s biggest city are set to be welcomed after COVID-19 forced them to be canceled a year ago. Authorities expect revelers to congregate at several vantage points across the city, including Devonport, which provides views of the festivities across the harbour.
Other features include an animated laser light show, which will include several landmarks in Auckland.
Most Australian state capitals enjoyed fine weather until midnight, but forecasts of severe thunderstorms and winds dampened celebrations in Darwin, Northern Territory.
Flooding in the tropical upper part of Australia, which is currently experiencing its rainy season, has forced the evacuation of around 20 people living in the town of Urandangi in Outback Queensland.
Other cities across the country are also facing flooding issues through 2023 after higher than usual rainfall across large parts of Australia.