MELBOURNE, Australia — With countdowns and fireworks, revelers in major city centers across the Asia-Pacific region ushered in the first new year without COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began in 2020.
While COVID-19 continues to cause death and consternation, particularly in China, which is battling a surge in infections across the country after anti-epidemic measures were suddenly relaxed, countries had largely lifted requirements. quarantine, visitor restrictions and relentless testing that limited travel and locations. people can go.
Celebrations are taking place on the Great Wall of Beijing, while in Shanghai authorities said traffic along the waterfront Bund will be halted to allow pedestrians to gather on New Year’s Eve. Shanghai Disneyland will also hold a special fireworks display to welcome 2023.
On the last day of the year marked by the brutal war in Ukraine, many in the country returned to the capital, Kyiv, to spend New Year’s Eve with their loved ones. As Russian attacks continue to target power supplies leaving millions without power, no big celebrations are expected and a curfew will be in place when the clock strikes in the new year. But for most Ukrainians, being together with their families is already a luxury.
Still dressed in his military uniform, Mykyta clutched a bouquet of pink roses as he waited for his wife Valeriia to arrive from Poland on platform 9. He hadn’t seen her in six months. “Actually, it was very difficult to wait that long,” he told The Associated Press after hugging and kissing Valeriia.
The couple declined to share their last name for security reasons, as Mykyta has been fighting on the front lines in both southern and eastern Ukraine. Valeriia first sought refuge from the conflict in Spain but later moved to Poland. When she was asked what her plans were for New Year’s Eve, Valeriia replied simply: “Just to be together.”
Concerns about the Ukraine war and the economic impacts it has had around the world were also felt in Tokyo, where Shigeki Kawamura has seen better days but said he needs a free hot meal this New Year.
“I hope the war ends in the Ukraine so that prices stabilize,” he said. “Nothing good has happened for the people since we have Mr. Kishida,” he said, referring to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“Our salary is not increasing and our condition is getting worse. The privileged ones may be doing well, but not those of us who are working so hard,” Kawamura said.
He was one of several hundred people huddled in the cold in a line around a Tokyo park to receive free New Year’s meals of sukiyaki, or slices of beef cooked in a sweet sauce, with rice.
“I hope the new year brings work and self-sufficiency,” said Takaharu Ishiwata, who lives in a group home and hasn’t found a lucrative job in years.
In addition to the sukiyaki boxed lunches, volunteers were handing out bananas, onions, cartons of eggs and small hand warmers in the park. Cabins for medical and other consultations were installed.
Kenji Seino, who runs the Tenohasi homeless meal program, which means “bridge of hands,” said people coming to eat were increasing, jobs became harder to find after the coronavirus pandemic hit. coronavirus and prices went up.
More than 1 million are expected to throng along Sydney’s waterfront for a multi-million dollar celebration based on the themes of diversity and inclusion.
Organizers have said that a rainbow waterfall will be a prominent feature of the New Year’s Eve party. More than 7,000 fireworks will be launched from the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and another 2,000 from the nearby Opera House.
It’s the “party Sydney deserves,” the city’s biggest event and festival producer, Stephen Gilby, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ve had a pretty tough couple of years; we are absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people to the shores of Sydney Harbor for Sydney’s world famous New Year’s Eve celebrations,” he said.
In Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, organizers staged a family-friendly fireworks display along the Yarra River in the late afternoon before a second session at midnight.
The Pacific nation of Kiribati was the first country to ring in the new year, with the clock striking 2023 an hour earlier than its neighbors, including New Zealand.
In Auckland, huge crowds gathered below the Sky Tower, where a 10-second countdown to midnight preceded a fireworks display.
Celebrations in New Zealand’s largest city were well received after COVID-19 forced them to be canceled a year ago.
Authorities in military-ruled Myanmar have announced the lifting of their normal four-hour curfew in the country’s three largest cities to allow residents to celebrate New Year’s Eve. However, opponents of the army government are urging people to avoid public gatherings, claiming that the authorities could stage a bombing or other attack and blame them.