Sydney to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks from home amid outbreak
MELBOURNE: Sydney, one of the world's first major cities to welcome each New Year with a public countdown featuring a fireworks display over its well-known Opera House, has banned large gatherings that night amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.
A mid-December resurgence of Covid-19 in the city's northern beach suburbs has grown to 125 cases after five new infections were recorded yesterday.
That has led to further restrictions of the already toned-down plans for New Year's Eve.
About a quarter million people there must stay in strict lockdown until Jan 9.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian banned most people from going to Sydney's downtown that night and limited outdoor gatherings to 50 people.
"We don't want to create any super-spreading events on New Year's Eve, which then ruins it for everybody across the state moving forward," Ms Berejiklian said at a news conference, adding that watching the fireworks from home was the "safest" way to do so.
"On New Year's Eve, we don't want any crowds on the foreshore around Sydney whatsoever," she said.
Only residents with permits for hospitality venues downtown will be allowed there on New Year's Eve. Households across Sydney are allowed to host only 10 people.
New South Wales police have issued 15 notices in Sydney for breaking public health orders since Christmas Eve.
"I would say to those people half contemplating doing anything stupid in the next few days, forget it," state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt backed the curbs. "What we have been doing is working," he said.
Because of swift border closures, lockdowns, widespread testing and social distancing, Australia has recorded just over 28,300 cases and 908 deaths.
Officials say this has given regulators time to evaluate vaccines without the pressure of mounting cases, as has been the case in much of Europe and the United States.
"Our approach is to under-promise and over-deliver," Mr Hunt said, reiterating that the government is sticking to a March timetable to start vaccinations. - REUTERS