The world is preparing to celebrate a New Year once again placed under the sign of Covid-19. Celebrations canceled, music and dancing prohibited … 2022 is also the third year of the pandemic, and contaminations are exploding.
Festivities canceled or severely framed, music prohibited, New Years Eve limited to the family “bubble”: the world is preparing to begin in 2022 a third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, while contaminations are exploding but only timid signs of hope appear.
The past twelve months have seen the arrival of a new US president, dreams of democracy fade from Afghanistan to Burma to Hong Kong and Russia, and the first Olympics without spectators.
But it is the pandemic that has once again ruled the daily lives of most of humanity. More than 5.4 million people have died since the virus was first identified in China in December 2019.
Countless others have been infected, subjected to lockdowns, curfews and a host of tests.
The emergence of the particularly contagious Omicron variant at the end of 2021 pushed the one million daily cases of Covid-19 to exceed for the first time, according to an AFP count.
France in turn announced Thursday evening that Omicron was now the majority on its territory, after a meteoric increase in recent days.
New case records
Britain, the United States and even Australia, which had long been immune from the pandemic, are breaking records of new cases.
However, the distribution of vaccines to around 60% of the world’s population offers a glimmer of hope, although some poor countries still have limited access and a segment of the population remains reluctant to do so.
The Kiribati Islands in the Pacific were the first to celebrate the New Year starting at 10 a.m. GMT.
But from Seoul to Paris or San Francisco, New Year’s celebrations have again been canceled or reduced.
AT Sydney, a city that usually boasts of being the “New Year’s Capital of the World”, crowds were unusually small in the harbor to watch the traditional fireworks display.
Only tens of thousands of spectators were there, while the event usually brings together over a million people.
“I’m just trying to focus on the positive things that happened this year rather than the negative ones,” said Melinda Howard, a 22-year-old medical student who waited outside the Opera House for the show to start.
The celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, which usually bring together three million people on Copacabana Beach, are also maintained.
Reduced official events
As in Times Square in New York, official events will be reduced, but large crowds are still expected.
“People only want one thing, to get out of their homes, to celebrate life after a pandemic that has forced everyone to lock themselves up,” said Francisco Rodrigues, 45, a server at Copacabana.
Some Brazilians are more dubious, in a country where the pandemic has killed nearly 619,000 people, the worst death toll in the world after that of the United States.
The Tunisian government for its part announced at the last moment the cancellation of the festivities in Tunis “in view of the development of the epidemic situation”.
In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is still planning a fireworks display at Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world with its 828 meters, and the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah will once again try to break the world record for the largest fire in the world. ‘artifice.
In South Africa, the first country to report the new variant at the end of November, the nighttime curfew in effect for 21 months and which had been reduced to times between midnight and 4 a.m. was lifted on the eve of the celebrations. for the new Year. Wearing a mask remains compulsory in public spaces and gatherings remain limited (1,000 people outside, 2,000 inside).
During the past year, many countries, particularly in the West, have hesitated to reinstate the drastic measures of 2020, in order to avoid another economic recession. But 2021 nonetheless saw an increase in protests against the restrictions in Europe and beyond, while a minority still hesitated to be vaccinated, raising fears about how the pandemic could end without the spread of disease. vaccination rate.
Experts hope that the year 2022 will mark a new, less deadly phase of the pandemic. But the World Health Organization foresees trying months ahead.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he feared “that the more transmissible Omicron circulating at the same time as Delta will cause a tsunami of cases” and “immense pressure on exhausted caregivers and health systems in the world. edge of collapse “.
The year 2021 also ends with a rise in geopolitical tensions, including in Europe with the threat of Russian intervention in Ukraine.
“We have firmly and constantly defended our national interests, the security of our country and our citizens,” said President Vladimir Putin in his televised greetings, already broadcast in the far east of the country, more than 20 years after s ‘to be engaged in exercise for the first time.
He mentioned the Covid-19 epidemic, without citing the figure of more than 600,000 deaths established the day before by the national statistics agency – twice the figure communicated by the government – which places the country among the most bruised in the world.
Finally, the announcement in the UK, with over 15 ° C recorded in the northeast, of the hottest New Year’s Eve on record in the country, recalled another concern of 2021, which will persist in the news. year: climate change.