Between canceled parties, curfews and other restrictions, the world has begun entry in 2022 after another year of pandemic in which, despite the deployment of vaccines, the variant omicron It has caused a boom in infections never seen before.
The last 12 months have left a change of president in the United States, an Olympic Games without spectators, dreams of democracy broken from Afghanistan to Burma or Nicaragua and the shocking image of Leo Messi without the Barcelona shirt.
But it was the pandemic, entering its third year, the one that has once again dominated the life of a large part of humanity. More of 5.4 million people have died since the virus was detected in central China in December 2019.
More of 280 million contracted the virus, according to a France Presse balance based on official data, although the real figure may be much higher.
And almost all of humanity has been dragged by a back and forth of confinements and restrictions depending on the evolution of the pandemic.
Vaccines provided hope, with more than 60% of the world population immunized. But its distribution has been unequal, especially in poor countries, which has facilitated the emergence of new variants.
The last of them, omicron, has caused for the first time more than a million infections in a week.
France, which has reached all-time highs in new cases, became the last country on Thursday night to announce that this strain is already the majority in its territory. Other countries, such as United States, United Kingdom, Spain, or Argentina they have also recorded records of new daily infections.
From Seoul to San Francisco, passing through Mexico or Athens, New Year’s celebrations have once again been limited or outright canceled. But in Rio de Janeiro, which usually gathers 3 million people on Copacabana beach, the party goes on.
As in New York’s Times Square, official events are down, but crowds are still expected.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city and one of the first to ring in the new year, has also decided to keep the fireworks that often illuminate its iconic harbor.
Unlike 2020, the show has brought together tens of thousands after Australia this year abandoned its virus eradication strategy and seeks to live with it, based on the high vaccination rates of its population and growing evidence that omicron it is less lethal than other strains.
“I try to focus on the positives this year,” said 22-year-old medical student Melinda Howard as she waited for the fires by the Sydney Opera House.
In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai holds its fireworks display at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower at 828 meters, and the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah will once again attempt to break the world record for the largest fireworks display.
But in the face of the wave of unparalleled infections caused by the contagious new variant, many governments have decided to restore the restrictions for this festive period. Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Bangkok canceled their New Year celebrations, Greece banned music in bars and restaurants, and Pope Francis suspended his regular New Year’s Eve visit to the manger in St. Peter’s Square.
Most Spanish cities canceled their public festivities, but not Madrid, with a less restrictive approach, which will allow 7,000 people to eat the grapes during the traditional bells at Puerta del Sol.
For many, in Bombay, Barcelona or Montreal, the party will have to end earlier due to the curfews imposed against the virus, in some cases even before midnight.
In South Africa, where the new variant was detected at the end of November, the presidency decided the opposite: to lift the curfew just before the New Year, after having worsened the peak of infections caused by omicron.
“Our hope is that this measure will be maintained,” Minister Mondli Gungubele told the Presidency on Friday, although the use of a mask will remain mandatory in public spaces and meetings will continue to be limited to 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 outdoors.
Experts expect this trend to be replicated elsewhere, leading to a less deadly phase of the pandemic in 2022.
But the World Health Organization does not want to lower its guard and warns that the “tsunami” of infections could put health systems “on the brink of collapse.”