Sydney CBD vacant as 2020 peters out

Angelo Risso and Gus McCubbing
·2-min read

A vacated Sydney CBD is seeing out 2020 with a whimper, with restriction gatherings forcing most Sydneysiders to spend New Year's Eve inside.

Sydney has largely banned crowds for its world-renowned pyrotechnic display on New Year's Eve, while Melbourne's fireworks were cancelled weeks ago.

Restrictions across greater Sydney were tightened further on Wednesday as NSW battles to control its growing outbreak of coronavirus. This includes two clusters in Sydney's northern beaches and inner west.

Residents in Greater Sydney, including Wollongong, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains, are restricted to hosting five visitors in their homes, including children. The limit for outdoor gatherings has been reduced to 30.

Those measures ensured the Sydney foreshore, including popular vantage points such as the Opera House and The Rocks, were on Thursday night deserted, with no revellers or firework-watchers in sight.

Small groups of people with pre-existing bookings were dining at the Opera Bar, while police officers patrolled the foreshore area.

Instead of masses thronged on the harbour foreshore, as in prior years, Sydneysiders are instead welcoming 2021 in small groups in homes or backyards, and mostly watching the fireworks on television.

Boats have been permitted on Sydney Harbour with strict guidelines, while the 9pm kids-friendly fireworks did not go ahead.

However, backyard fireworks could on Thursday be heard going off on Sydney's northern beaches, currently grappling with a 144-person COVID-19 cluster and a stay-at-home order that will linger in some suburbs until at least January 9.

Likewise, Melbourne was mostly quiet on Thursday night, with a smattering of people in restaurants but parks and public spaces deserted.

The Victorian government urged people not to head into the Melbourne CBD on Thursday night unless they have a hospitality booking.

The city's new eight-person outbreak prompted authorities to cut indoor gatherings from 30 people to 15 from 5pm on New Year's Eve.

Wearing masks indoors was also made mandatory.

Melbourne's fireworks would normally attract almost half a million revellers, but the display was cancelled more than a month ago.

Canberra also dropped its fireworks display for the second year in a row, joining Adelaide and Brisbane in cancelling the event.

Eastern capitals are experiencing mostly cloudy conditions on New Year's Eve, with the weather unlikely to impact the Sydney fireworks.

South Australians may have no more than 50 people at their house - whether indoors or outdoors - for New Year's Eve celebrations. A maximum of 200 people will be permitted at private outdoor gatherings.

Fireworks in Hobart will go ahead but, like in Sydney, people are being urged not to gather on the waterfront.

Darwin residents needed to register and wear wristbands to attend the city's two fireworks displays on Thursday night.

In marked contrast to the rest of the country, Perth's celebrations will be nearly normal and there will be two fireworks displays.