Unmourned, but never to be forgotten, 2020 went down in history today New year fireworks in New Zealand and Australia and scaled-down festivities planned almost everywhere else as humanity offers good relief for the year of the pandemic.
New Zealand was one of the first countries to welcome the start of 2021, along with a handful of Pacific islands and parts of Australia and Russia. The rest of the planet is set to cross the invisible threshold in the coming hours.
In New Zealand, where only 25 people have died from Covid-19 so far and there are virtually no restrictions, many partygoers flock to the streets of Auckland for midnight fireworks. In Australia, which also held off the worst of the pandemic, life has been normal enough for some night owls to congregate in Melbourne and Sydney.
But for most of the seven billion people in the world, a dragging year ends with typically muted celebrations, with fireworks, pyre burnings and live performances that should be seen from home or canceled entirely.
From France to Latvia to Brazil, police and military personnel are being used to enforce night curfews and bans on large gatherings, with much of the world still on lockdown and the vaccination race just beginning.
AUCKLAND: In scenes unthinkable in most of the world, 2020 ended with a crowd of revelers on Queen Street in New Zealand's largest city as the country was one of the first to greet the start of 2021
AUCKLAND: Fireworks streamed from the SkyTower in New Zealand in the first moments of January 1, 2021, as an exhausted world left a year of sickness, death and unprecedented restrictions on normal life behind
SYDNEY: The fireworks at Sydney Harbor Bridge were more spectacular than ever, but there were few spectators in the harbor to greet the opening moments on January 1, 2021
MELBOURNE: In Australia, which has also held off the worst of the pandemic, life was normal enough for small crowds to congregate in Melbourne and Sydney
AUCKLAND: In New Zealand, where only 25 people have died from Covid-19 so far and there are practically no restrictions, many partygoers flock to the streets of Auckland for the New Year
AUCKLAND: Fireworks went off when New Zealand became the first major country to cross the invisible threshold, entering in 2021, after a year of rare success during the global coronavirus pandemic
MELBOURNE: Two people take a selfie in front of a neon Happy New Year sign in Australia in the last hours of December 31st
MELBOURNE: Some revelers were seen in town on New Year's Eve in a part of Australia that saw a major outbreak in the winter of the southern hemisphere but has since returned to very low levels of infection
SYDNEY: New Years friends enjoyed drinks at the Opera Bar in Sydney around midnight, with the fireworks shortened and the amount kept to a minimum due to the coronavirus
WUHAN: In the city where the coronavirus first appeared a year ago, a light show was projected onto buildings by a river on New Year's Eve, as China, on January 1st, in a country where the New Year celebrations are in the foreground, holds low-key events
VLADIVOSTOK: People gather around a Christmas tree in the far east of Russia, where parts of the vast country were among the first to cross the threshold of 2021
LONDON: Before New Year's Eve, parts of Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square were fenced off and London and most of the UK population were closed again due to resurgent coronavirus cases
NEW YORK CITY: A stage has been set up in Times Square that will host the famous midnight ball throw, but police will prevent spectators from gathering to take a look
Though New Zealand is still isolated by international border closures, months of zero recorded cases in the community have seen life return to relative normalcy – with crowds gathering for fireworks in Auckland, in scenes that for the most part seem unthinkable to the world.
In Sydney, fireworks lit the glittering harbor at midnight with a dazzling display, but few spectators were there to watch in person.
Crowd-in plans were abandoned amid a buildup of around 150 new infections that severely restricted travel to and from Sydney.
People were only allowed into downtown Sydney if they have reserved a restaurant or are one of five guests in an inner city apartment. People are not allowed into the city center without permission.
"I think everyone sees 2021 as a fresh start and a fresh start," said Karen Roberts, one of the lucky few people allowed to pass checkpoints in the area, at a bar near the Sydney Opera House.
Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide have all canceled their ads to avoid large gatherings and possible community transmission of the virus.
Kiribati and Samoa were the first to cross the 2021 threshold at 10 a.m. GMT, and the last Pacific islands were to follow suit 26 hours later.
Although the Pacific Islands were spared the worst of the devastation of the pandemic, border restrictions, curfews and lockdowns meant that New Year's Eve was something else.
At the palm-fringed Taumeasina Resort in Samoa, manager Tuiataga Nathan Bucknall was delighted to be open with no guest limit, but stopped serving alcohol at 11 p.m. thanks to a state of emergency.
In harder-hit countries like Italy, where shocking images of makeshift morgues and exhausted medical professionals first awoke the world to the horror of the pandemic last spring, curfews and bans are still in place.
In London, the American singer-songwriter Patti Smith will usher in the new year with a tribute to NHS employees who have died of Covid-19, projected onto the screen in Piccadilly Circus and streamed on YouTube.
And in New York, the famous Ball Drop in Times Square this year will unfold without the usual crowd of cheering night owls. The police will block the area so that spectators cannot even take a look.
AUCKLAND: Spectacular fireworks erupt from the SkyTower as the first major nation to cross the threshold by 2021 was almost the only one to hold New Year celebrations with a full neck
AUCKLAND: Crowds are gathering on the New Zealand coast, which sealed its borders at the beginning of the pandemic and suffered only 2,162 infections and 25 deaths throughout the year. Those numbers seem wonderful in most of the west
MELBOURNE: During Australia's New Years Eve celebrations in the final hours of 2020, people walk past Flinders Street Station
SYDNEY: People are having dinner by the water in Australia, one of the first nations to cross the 2021 threshold and one of the few where the country's relative success against the pandemic leads to some level of celebration happening can
MELBOURNE: A group of people stand in line at a venue with no social distancing or mask, a scene unthinkable in much of the world in the long months of the pandemic and resulting lockdown
MELBOURNE: Although some people were able to gather in person, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide have canceled their ads to avoid large community collection and transmission of the virus
SYDNEY: Police patrol an eerily quiet circular quay on New Year's Eve while Sydneysiders are told to watch the midnight fireworks from home
SYDNEY: After dark there were boats in the harbor, but only a few spectators were allowed to personally watch the midnight fireworks past checkpoints in the area
SYDNEY: A group of friends dressed in sombreros are heading to Sydney's city for goodbye in 2020 – but they won't have much company
Since it surfaced in China in late 2019, the coronavirus has infected more than 80 million people and resulted in nearly 1.8 million deaths, most of them in Europe and America.
Although mass vaccination efforts have begun in many countries over the past few weeks, with hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight, it will likely be months before normal life can return to most parts of the world.
In China, where the New Year celebrations usually take precedence over January 1, Beijing is hosting a countdown ceremony with only a few invited guests, while other scheduled events have been canceled.
In Hong Kong, with its British colonial history and its large emigrant population, heavy festivities were usually celebrated along the waterfront and in pub districts.
For the second time in a row, however, the New Year's Eve fireworks display was canceled, this time due to coronavirus and not due to public safety concerns.
In Japan, some people have skipped the usual opportunity to return to their ancestral homes for the holidays in hopes of reducing health risks for extended families.
Business declined in rural restaurants, while home delivery of traditional New Year lucky foods called "osechi" boomed.
Instead of waving from a window with the imperial family, Emperor Naruhito delivers a video message as cheering crowds visit the palace.
LONDON: The statue of Winston Churchill is surrounded by fences as UK authorities tell people to stay home on New Years Eve. It comes months after the Churchill memorial was covered up for various reasons during racial protests
SEOUL: Festive decorations on display outside a department store in the South Korean capital, where cases have spiked in recent weeks after staying generally low in 2020
ISTANBUL: Divers are preparing for a symbolic trip underwater from Gurpinar Beach and wish for a new year "without a pandemic".
THE NETHERLANDS: A man takes part in a traditional "hard metal shooting" in Holland, which is currently undergoing its toughest measures to date, with a one-month lock-up period that is slated to last at least until January 19th
JAPAN: Shinto priests walk through a wooden gate in a shrine in Tokyo on the last day of the year to purify sin and laziness. Japan is suffering from a recurrence of virus cases after keeping numbers generally relatively low
In Dubai, thousands are expected to attend fireworks and a laser show at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, despite numerous new cases.
All participants of the event – whether in a public place, in a hotel or in a restaurant – must wear masks and register with QR codes.
In Beirut, a city still ravaged by the port explosion on August 4th, the authorities are also breaking up. A night curfew has been postponed to 3 a.m. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs have reopened and are promoting large parties on the occasion of the New Year.
Social media networks are already inundated with pictures and videos of crowded clubs and restaurants. This warns the authorities that a new lockdown could come into effect after the holidays.
Fears of such a New Year hangover are widespread, and there are ominous signs that new strains of the virus could make the months to come even tougher.
In Brazil – where more than 193,000 Covid-19 deaths have already been recorded, the second largest number in the world – fearful medical professionals are waiting for a new wave.
In the past few days, social media has been filled with videos showing unmasked revelers spending an evening out, and TV channels have even shown live images of police officers closing bars full of customers.
“The peak of the pandemic was between May and July when there wasn't a lot of exercise and we took care of ourselves more. Now there are many cases and people are pretending that there is no pandemic, ”said Luiz Gustavo de Almeida, a microbiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.