New Year's Eve: Can you celebrate in a pandemic? Here's what the world's biggest cities are doing

·7-min read

Australian officials have banned people from gathering near to Sydney Harbour Bridge to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks display, due to coronavirus.

The celebrated annual event, which normally attracts around one million people to the city's harbourside, can only be watched live by those who live in the area and their guests.

New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said those who live in the city centre can invite up to 10 friends and family to their homes to celebrate. Guests will have to apply for permits to enter the area.

Doctors had warned that going ahead with the traditional display risked public safety as policing the crowds would take essential workers away from dealing with an unfolding coronavirus cluster in the state.

Sydney has recorded 126 infections since 10 December, with five new cases linked to a cluster in the northern beach region.

Party organisers around the world have had to make tough decisions over their celebrations. Many have scrapped them but a few are pushing ahead.

Here's a rundown of the state of play in some of the usual New Year's Eve hotspots, as each city enters 2021.


The New Zealand city is pushing ahead with its traditional celebration at the Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge landmarks.

Mayor Phil Goff said that thanks to the "incredible efforts of all New Zealanders to eliminate COVID-19" the five-minute show would go ahead as usual.

He added: "We are in the fortunate position of being able to live our lives relatively normally. People can go to work and school, gather with friends, and our economy is one of the most open in the world.

"That's worth celebrating, and this year's spectacular display will be a perfect opportunity for Aucklanders to do that."


Due to rising COVID-19 cases in and around Tokyo, not only have all-night trains been cancelled on New Year's Eve, but several of the city's big countdown parties, concerts and other seasonal gatherings have been called off as well, including the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing party.

Hong Kong

Officials have called off the pyrotechnics over Victoria Harbour, as well as the annual iconic Lunar New Year parade in February, due to the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.

This makes 2021 the second year in a row the city will miss out on the usually lavish annual celebrations.

Last year's countdown fireworks and the 2020 Lunar New Year parade were both held in much diminished form due to the threat of anti-government protests.


The Asian island nation's flagship display in the shadow of the Marina Bay resort will not be happening this year but Singaporeans can still catch them at 11 other smaller locations.

The People's Association (PA) fireworks displays will take place in Housing Board (housing association) areas and will be live-streamed on the community Facebook pages.

Kuala Lumpur

With the Malaysian capital under the Conditional Movement Control Order, bidding farewell to 2020 and welcoming the new year will be a much-subdued affair.

There will be no outdoor concerts, no fireworks and with social gatherings banned, no groups of friends to sing Auld Lang Syne.

Most cinemas and entertainment outlets, including nightclubs, are closed - and local councils, shopping malls and major tourist spots have called off their annual New Year's Eve celebrations.


The main firework display in Taipei will go ahead - with masks mandated for attendees - but Taiwan's tourism department has cancelled an annual New Year celebration at the northeast tip of the island, after a report of the first locally transmitted COVID-19 case since 12 April.

The event, to watch the sun rise on the first day of the year, was due to take place in the coastal town of Fulong.


Although all mass gathering events, including countdown parties on New Year's Eve, have been cancelled across the city due to a re-emergence of COVID-19, it has been confirmed that a firework showcase hosted by luxury hotels and a shopping centre along the Chao Phraya River will continue.


New Year's Eve in Dubai is always huge - and authorities are saying 2020 will be the same - but with strict social distancing and health and safety measures in place.

Its display will as usual be centred around the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.


Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has announced that - amid record coronavirus infections and deaths in recent weeks - Moscow will not hold its traditional New Year's Eve celebration.

Mr Sobyanin suspended all mass events and ordered late-night establishments to close until mid-January 2021.


France has been under an 8pm curfew for the holiday season and it will not be lifted for New Year's Eve.

Composer and performer Jean-Michel Jarre's avatar will play a set from inside a virtual Notre Dame Cathedral while he himself performs it live at a nearby studio in the city.

The public can watch online.


The Berlin Senate has introduced a fireworks and firecracker ban for New Year's Eve in 54 areas of the city. Even staying in those areas will be forbidden on 31 December and 1 January.


Sadiq Khan, the city's mayor, has told people to stay at home.

The annual fireworks display on the Thames, around the London Eye, was cancelled in September. There will be no other public gatherings in the capital.

Huge swathes of England joined London in the strictest COVID-19 restrictions on Boxing Day, meaning millions of people can only gather outside with one other person not in their household.

Nearly everyone in Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be subject to the highest level of restrictions after Christmas - which means large gatherings, even outside, will be banned.


For the first time in its history, Scotland's flagship Hogmanay event is moving online - where it will be headed by actor David Tennant.

Rio de Janeiro

Brazil has been among the world's hardest-hit by the pandemic and new COVID-19 infections are on track to match the peak of the first surge.

The city's 31 December fireworks have been cancelled.

New York

The Times Square Ball Drop is one of the most iconic New Year's Eve events.

The ball will still be dropping this year, but the party, which usually sees hundreds of thousands cramming the famous LED-lit intersection, will be for an "extremely limited" group of socially distanced in-person 'honourees'.

Everyone else will need to tune in virtually or watch on TV.

There will be a performance from singer Gloria Gaynor who, quite fittingly, will see the year off with a rendition of I Will Survive.

Los Angeles

LA's Grand Park will this year stage a pandemic edition of its New Year's Eve party with a 90-minute streaming celebration of music.

About one in 95 people in LA county are contagious and public health officials have warned conventional New Year get-togethers would create a "viral wildfire".

As the coronavirus infection rate in Southern California continues to rise, stay at home orders look likely to be extended into the New Year.

Las Vegas

The firework display over Vegas's world-famous strip is cancelled this year, with public officials citing "the safety of our guests" as the reason.

More than 300,000 people usually visit to see the fireworks and enjoy the beginning of the new year in the Las Vegas valley.

The traditional party in downtown Vegas's Freemont Street will not be the same as in previous years but it will happen, albeit in a scaled-down way.

Last year, more than 30,000 people attended the party. This year, only those with limited distribution wristbands will be able to go along.