Monday, January 25

Australia celebrates the end of a year like no other


Australia has finally completed a year that many felt would never end.

At the stroke of midnight, residents across the country’s east coast were the first to celebrate the end of 2020, looking forward with hope for what 2021 might bring.

New Years Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbor, seen from Mrs Macquarie’s Point. (Dominic Lorrimer)

Masks and kisses as countries welcome 2021

The fireworks were as bright as ever, but the atmosphere was very different: CBD’s forests and parks were largely quiet, and the traditional sound of restaurants and pubs was muted.

It has been a more challenging year than many have ever seen: from devastating wildfires to a global pandemic, nearly all Australians have been affected by events that began abroad.

New Years Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbor, seen from Mrs Macquarie’s Point. (Dominic Lorrimer)

The 2020 Olympics were canceled, family events and holidays were postponed, weddings were reduced to single-digit guests or canceled altogether, and in the middle of it all it was an American choice.

Interest rates fell to record lows as unemployment (temporarily) threatened to rise to record levels.

Surgical masks have become commonplace in supermarkets, and hundreds of thousands of businesses have learned to adopt the “pivot” to keep cash flowing.

The Sydney Harbor fireworks display is seen over a nearly empty Sydney Opera House during New Year’s Eve celebrations. (Getty)
The Sydney Harbor fireworks display is seen over a nearly empty Sydney Opera House during New Year’s Eve celebrations. (Getty)

But many realize that the passage of a calendar year means little for a global virus that seemingly mutates every few months.

NSW is currently fighting an outbreak of cases that started on the North Beaches and has since spread to the inner west of Sydney.

New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney, viewed from Mrs Macquarie’s Point. (Dominic Lorrimer)
New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney, viewed from Mrs Macquarie’s Point. (Dominic Lorrimer)

Victoria, having endured the longest lockdown of any Australian state, snapped its 61-day streak after three new cases were discovered yesterday.

As a result, Victorians are now being asked to wear masks indoors and borders have been strengthened once again for domestic travelers.

Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT and Western Australia remain free of locally acquired cases, but each has introduced border restrictions or quarantine mandates to prevent it from spreading further.

A woman raises a glass of champagne to residents as she and her partner sit on a traffic island in Bronte Beach during New Years Eve celebrations on December 31, 2020 in Sydney. (Getty)
Police inspect a nearly empty Sydney Opera House concourse on December 31, 2020. (Getty)
Police patrol a nearly empty Sydney Opera House esplanade during New Years celebrations on December 31, 2020. (Getty)

But, despite all the pessimism, there is hope: A COVID-19 vaccine has been developed, several in fact, and is currently in the process of obtaining regulatory approval.

While not foolproof, the vaccine is expected to facilitate domestic and international travel and reduce fear of community transmission.

Officials say the vaccine launch is “on target”, with the first Australians to receive their vaccine in March.

Masks and kisses in Melbourne

A couple is seen kissing as they celebrate the New Year at Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia. (Getty)
People are seen cheering and celebrating as they bring in the New Year at Federation Square in Melbourne. (Getty)

New Zealand first to enter 2021

Fireworks from SkyTower in Auckland as New Zealand becomes the first major country to start 2021. (Getty)
Fireworks from SkyTower in Auckland as New Zealand becomes the first major country to start 2021. (Getty)
Not much social distancing is required in Auckland. A crowd enjoys the Jordan Luck Band during the Auckland New Years Eve celebrations in Auckland, New Zealand. (Getty)
Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Well-Being Support Service is a free 24/7 service to all Australians. Visit the site here or call 1800512348.
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