Confetti flies around the ball and countdown clock in Times Square during the virtual New Year’s Eve event following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in New York City on January 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Traditionally on New’s Year Eve, people gather to watch fireworks and join festivities while commemorating the start of the new year. 

But this year, fear of spreading the coronavirus has encouraged leaders from around the world to limit celebrations. 

These photos show how the pandemic quieted New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world. 


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Every year, New Year’s Eve brings out masses into the streets. Worldwide, people gather to watch fireworks and festivities while commemorating the start of the new year. 

But 2020 was different. Fear of spreading the coronavirus had encouraged leaders around the world to limit celebrations. 

In countries like China, Germany, and Brazil, national fireworks displays and events were canceled. Lawmakers in the Middle East and Europe imposed curfews and lockdowns in an effort to limit crowds outside.  

In other parts of the world, traditional events still went on as planned with scaled back attendance. 

These photos show what was perhaps the quietest New Year’s Eve celebration in recent history. 

New York City

A woman throws confetti during the 2021 New Year’s Eve celebrations on January 1, 2020, in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Officials went forward with the iconic ball drop in New York City’s Time Square, a moment that event runners say has attracted about 1,000,000 people in the past. But this year, crowds were limited and streets were closed to people who did not receive an invitation to be there. 

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea encouraged New Yorkers to watch the ball drop from the safety of their homes. 

Select first responders and front-line workers were among those invited to participate in the festivities at Times Square. 

Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Harbour fireworks display is seen over a near-empty Sydney Opera House forecourt during New Year’s Eve celebrations on January 01, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Officials shortened the fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House to seven minutes this year. Normally, it’s a 12-minute spectacle. 

Additionally, only a few hundred people were allowed into the harbor area. 

Most people watched the fireworks from the comfort of their own homes, according to the BBC. 

Story continues

London, England

Police officers disperse people on Westminster Bridge in a near-deserted London on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2020, as authorities hope the message to stay at home is obeyed. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged London residents to follow coronavirus restrictions and avoid large gatherings. Key parts of the city were blocked off to prevent people from gathering. 

“Covid loves a crowd, so please leave the parties for later in the year,” Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said Wednesday.

The city also canceled its fireworks display over the Thames River in an effort to dissuade crowds. 

Despite the warnings from officials, people still gathered and broke coronavirus regulations. Police gave fines throughout London and other UK cities. London had 58 unlicensed gatherings, Business Insider’s Anna Medaris Miller reported.

Paris, France

A view down the Champ de Mars in Paris on December 31, 2020, with the Eiffel Tower in view. Getty Images

French authorities imposed a strict 8 p.m. curfew to discourage people from gathering in large groups on the day of celebrations. The curfew lasted until 6 a.m. the next day.

About 100,000 police officers were stationed throughout Paris and directed to intervene if they spotted any gatherings. 

Fireworks displays in Paris were canceled. 

Montreal, Canada

A general view of a street in old Montreal, which is usually packed by thousands of people, during new year’s eve in Canada on December 31, 2020. Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Canadian officials announced ahead of the celebrations that gatherings would be prohibited. Police would disrupt and break up gatherings on New Year’s Eve. 

Several large groups gathered in some parts of Montreal, but police cracked down on them.

Barcelona, Spain

A street remains empty in Barcelona, Spain, on the New Year’s Eve, January, 01, 2021. Albert Bonsfills/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On New Year’s Day, residents were instructed to stay indoors after 1 a.m. 

Travel was allowed between countries, but only if the parties booked their trips ahead of time. The government continues to encourage residents to follow COVID-19 protocols.

Milan, Italy

A view of Piazza Duomo on December 31, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Italy’s curfew requires all residents to be indoors by 10 p.m. That curfew was in place for New Year’s Eve as well. 

Midnight mass during the holiday season was also banned. 

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