Earlier this week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged people to rethink their party plans. “It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later, than to celebrate now and grieve later,” he said.
However, despite spiking cases, some places are ploughing ahead with events regardless, including Sydney, the first major city to usher in the New Year, which is hosting its annual fireworks spectacular over the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Last year, the state banned crowds from attending the fireworks, when case numbers were in the low 100s, compared with more than 12,000 new infections reported on Thursday.
Likewise, New York said it would hold its Times Square party, albeit in a scaled-back version, with far fewer people allowed to watch as the iconic, giant ball drops down a pole to mark the arrival of 2022.
US infectious disease official Dr Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that family gatherings where everyone was vaccinated should be all right, but cautioned that large-scale parties were still too dangerous.
“If your plans are to go to a 40-to-50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles, and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year, I would strongly recommend that this year we do not do that,” he said.
Many people have taken the warnings to heart, leaving restaurants and hotels to count the cost of mass cancellations.
Cancelled bookings in Spain’s capital would cost the hospitality industry some 350 million euros, 3 per cent of annual revenues, said Jose Antonio Aparicio, the president of Hosteleria Madrid, an industry association.
In Italy, restaurant and club owners called for urgent government support, saying 25 per cent to 30 per cent of New Year’s Eve dinner bookings had been pulled.
“December … which alone accounts for 10 per cent of restaurant revenues, is largely compromised,” said business group Fipe-Confcommercio.