Fireworks return to London amid UK’s subdued New Year celebrations

·3-min read
Fireworks illuminate the night sky over the Old Royal Naval College in London (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Fireworks illuminate the night sky over the Old Royal Naval College in London (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Big Ben bonged again and fireworks returned to the capital as much of the UK marked the New Year with subdued celebrations amid the ongoing spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Authorities said rising coronavirus cases would ensure the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display in London did not proceed for a second year, and crowds were told to stay away, however a smaller display with drones was broadcast at midnight near the city’s landmarks.

And signalling the start of the celebrations was Big Ben, which rang out 12 times along the shores of the River Thames in the absence of the thousands of revellers who normally watch the show.

Fireworks lit up the night sky above London as the weekend and year began (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Fireworks lit up the night sky above London as the weekend and year began (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

The BBC broadcast of the event featured Hamilton actor Giles Terera performing a poem by Thomas Roberts reflecting on the country’s recent achievements.

“As Big Ben’s chimes ring out around us, signalling a year that’s new, raise a glass, turn up the volume and welcome 2022,” Terera said.

“And as we share this midnight moment, and imagine all that’s still to come, let’s relish the magnificent things we achieved in 2021.

“We rallied around our NHS heroes as they rolled out the vaccination, and we stood beside our Three Lions heads raised and proud, united together as a nation.”

Visitors from China celebrate on Calton Hill (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Visitors from China celebrate on Calton Hill (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

It was a quieter affair in Scotland, where Covid restrictions caused large event cancellations for the second straight year.

Before Christmas, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to “stay at home as much as possible” during Hogmanay to limit Omicron’s spread.

But despite the rules, about 1,000 people of all ages climbed to the top of Edinburgh’s Calton Hill to make the traditional countdown to the bells at midnight.

Some people were not deterred by the cancelled events and instead chose to make the most of a scaled-down New Year, including Eileen and Chris Chalmers from Dreghorn in Aryshire who had a few days extra holiday to use.

Mrs Chalmers said: “We specifically chose to visit Edinburgh and the site at Mortonhall, in our campervan, because the large scale festivities were cancelled. It seemed an ideal time to come to the city.”

It was also fairly subdued across Wales which moved to Alert Level 2 on Boxing Day, mainly restricting the number of people who can meet in public events and settings, including reintroducing the rule of six in hospitality venues.

Nightclubs were closed and a maximum of 30 people were able to attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people able to be present for outdoor events.

The public in Northern Ireland which on Friday recorded its highest number of daily cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, have been urged by health minister Robin Swann to limit their contacts over coming days.

It was quiet in Belfast due to nightclubs being closed, while dancing has also been banned in hospitality venues.

The muted celebrations took place after Britain on Friday marked its hottest New Year’s Eve since records began, with the mercury climbing to 15.8C in parts of the country and similar temperatures forecast on January 1.

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