Crowds – yes, crowds – wait for the fireworks to start in Auckland.

Crowds – yes, crowds – wait for the fireworks to start in Auckland.Credit:Getty Images

Good riddance, 2020. Hello, 2021.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian probbaly summed it up best: “What a hell of a year it’s been,” she said. “Hopefully 2021 will be easier on all of us.”

With more than 1.7 million people dead and 82 million infected around the globe since last New Year’s Eve, the end of 2020 was like none other in memory.

Angela Merkel, in her 16th New Year’s Eve address as German Chancellor, said as much. “I think I am not exaggerating when I say: never in the last 15 years have we found the old year so heavy,” she said. “And never have we, despite all the worries and some scepticism, looked forward to the new one with so much hope.

“I can only imagine how bitter it must feel for those mourning loved ones lost to corona or who are having to fight against the repercussions of an illness when the virus is disputed and denied by some hopeless individuals.”

Germany had banned the sale of fireworks to discourage crowds.

The sun sets on New Year's Eve in Karachi, Pakistan.

The sun sets on New Year’s Eve in Karachi, Pakistan.Credit:AP

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic originated a year ago, thousands were expected to gather at popular landmarks across the city centre for the countdown to 2021. Some said they were being cautious, but weren’t particularly worried.

“Safety is the priority,” said Wuhan resident Wang Xuemei, 23, a teacher.

In Madrid’s usually teeming Puerta del Sol square, tradition was being thrown out the window. Spain’s midnight curfew had been extended to 1.30am, but most people were staying at home.

As police dragged metal barriers across the square, 61-year-old retiree Jose Angel Balsa said he would spend the evening “with family, just the four of us at home, holding lots of video calls and hoping for this to end as soon as possible.”

Tokyo called its New Year's celebrations off.

Tokyo called its New Year’s celebrations off.Credit:Getty Images

In Britain, where a highly contagious variant of the virus is rampaging and most people are under strict restrictions, official billboards instructed the public to “see in the New Year safely at home”. Barriers were erected in London’s Trafalgar Square and at Parliament Square.

In Italy, bars, restaurants and most shops were closed, and a 10pm curfew imposed for New Year’s Eve at 10pm. Pope Francis had cancelled plans to lead New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services, blaming a flare-up of his sciatica condition.

In France, an 8pm curfew and a limit on no more than six adults per household was limiting celebrations. But this was France: small, perhaps, but with style.

At A la Ville de Rodez, an upmarket Parisian delicatessen, manager Brice Tapon was preparing packages of foie gras and truffles for groups of two or three.

“I will … stuff myself with foie gras, champagne and all this food,” said Annie Chaplin, a customer. “And I’ll stay home.”


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