New Year’s Eve is synonymous with large crowds. In Times Square, people stand shoulder-to-shoulder, almost hugging each other for warmth in the middle of winter as the glowing ball drops. In Rio, travellers and locals pack the ever-popular Copacabana Beach, hoping for dry weather. And in Sydney, the harbour becomes dotted with all walks of life.
But this year’s gonna be a bit different…
And don’t think that cities will willingly cancel their celebrations — because most of their preparations would have already been done. Even well before the outbreak of Covid-19.
In my home of Sydney, Australia, the city usually begins planning New Year’s Eve 15 months prior to the countdown. And that’s one reason why we didn’t cancel the fireworks display in the midst of those nationwide bushfires early this year. (Does anyone still remember that?)
The fact is, Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are a great boost to the local and national economy. Much like every other major city
In a recent email, the City of Sydney responded to my query about this year’s celebrations amidst the global pandemic:
“While the National Cabinet [federal government] has released plans for a phased easing of restrictions, there is currently no timeline for the return of major events and festivals,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said.
“We are working with the NSW Government to assess the impact of Covid-19 on all our major events including Christmas, Sydney New Year’s Eve and the Sydney Lunar Festival.”
And then, to drive the point home, they said they are ensuring all future events meet “physical distancing guidelines to safeguard the health and safety of our audience, staff and contractors.”
Which begs the question:
What does a socially distanced New Year’s Eve look like?
Considering how animalistic New Year’s Eve can get, especially when vying for a good viewing spot, how are we to socially distance?
I can just imagine thousands of green dots laced around the harbour of Sydney that will simply be ignored — just like the way many are ignoring the stickers on public transport and at the shops. And then you’ll have that one person who will inevitably kick up a fuss about it all and cause a riot.
Or will everyone be ordered to wear a face mask? Not that I’m against it. In fact, many studies show that they work. But could you imagine lifting your mask to drink from your plastic champagne glass and exposing yourself to possible floating particles of coronavirus?
And how will it be policed?
Of course, some areas around Sydney are cordoned off for ticketed events, so they could strengthen the precautions by hiring a few muscly men to control the public. And then a few more to make sure people keep 1.5 metres apart (or six feet) during the night. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
But not every spot along the harbour is cordoned off. Some areas are open to everyone. And it’s gonna be tough to control all these areas considering that Sydney only has a finite amount of authority. Surely not enough to keep everyone at arm's length.
Indeed, there is the possibility that New Year’s Eve will be called off. In the USA, it would be a miracle if any state lets off even one firework. But I’m not holding my breath for that. In Australia, the chances are a little more plausible. However, recent days are not panning too well, especially for Victoria, and quite possibly New South Wales if things get haywire.
All in all, this year is gonna have a really weird ending. Not just for Australia and the USA, but for every country around the world.
So what will you be doing this New year’s Eve?