Sombre scenes as Sydney fireworks kick off New Year's 2021

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read

Australians have rung in 2021 with a shortened fireworks display on a vacated Sydney Harbour themed on love and unity amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide have also cancelled their fireworks.

The restrictions 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.

Police on horseback are seen before the Sydney Harbour fireworks display during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2021 in Sydney. Source: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
An empty Sydney Harbour outside the Opera House on New Year's Eve. Source: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

The lively seven-minute fireworks display at midnight carried themes of love, unity and solidarity amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 909 Australians to date.

The Harbour Bridge before midnight was lit up with the words "we are one".

Sydneysiders mostly watched the fireworks on television, with a permit system established for the CBD only for those with pre-existing hospitality bookings.

Boats were permitted on Sydney Harbour with strict guidelines, while the children-friendly fireworks at 9pm did not go ahead.

Residents in Greater Sydney, including Wollongong, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains, were restricted to hosting five visitors in their homes, including children.

The limit for outdoor gatherings was reduced to 30.

Backyard fireworks could be heard going off on Sydney’s Northern beaches, currently grappling with a 144-person cluster and a stay-at-home order that will linger in some suburbs until at least January 9.

And as midnight passed, backyard fireworks could be heard all across Sydney.

The Sydney Harbour fireworks display is seen over a near-empty Sydney Opera House forecourt. Source: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Fireworks display over a near-empty Sydney Opera House forecourt. Source: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
A composite image compares the New Year's Eve crowd size in 2019 and 2020 at Sydney's Circular Quay.
The New Year's Eve crowd size in 2019 (left) and 2020 (right) at Circular Quay. Source: AAP

New Year’s Eve restrictions in other major cities

Central Melbourne was also mostly vacated 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 had 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.

Patrons are seen at the Opera Bar during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2020 in Sydney.
People at Opera Bar during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2020. Source: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Police are seen at the Sydney Opera House during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2020.
NSW Police officers at the Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve. Source: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Wearing masks indoors was also made mandatory.

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 went ahead but, like in Sydney, people were urged not to gather on the waterfront.

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

In marked contrast to the rest of the country, Perth's celebrations are to be close to normal, with two fireworks displays.

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