'Huge undertaking': Top doctor's drastic plea for New Year's Eve fireworks

The Australian Medical Association has urged the NSW Government to cancel Sydney’s iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks event as the state struggles to contain a new Covid outbreak.

“The NSW Government should consider cancelling the New Year’s Eve fireworks display to discourage crowds and avoid any confusion in its public messaging,” Federal AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said in a statement.

“We all need to be extra vigilant during this holiday period to the stop the spread of Covid-19, especially as at this time of year when people travel, attend events, and spend time in close proximity with family and friends”.

Sydney's New Years Eve fireworks in 2019.
Medical experts have warned the Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks could be a disaster for Covid. Source: Getty

Sydney’s NYE fireworks not manageable, AMA says

The warning comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced limited gathering restrictions for Greater Sydney and the Northern Beaches over the holiday period, but confirmed the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead.

“The NSW outbreak could not have come at a worse time,” Dr Khorshid said.

Usually about one million people pack Sydney Harbour foreshore to watch the fireworks in person. AMA Chairman Dr Michael Bonning told 2GB's Chris Smith on Thursday morning an event of that size is not manageable under the current circumstance.

"Big events where there's mixing of people – especially when you see how packed those foreshores get before Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks – it's difficult to police and patrol," Dr Bonning said.

"We've got a huge undertaking by the NSW Government and police and emergency workers to try and keep this virus under control.

“Do we really need to pull them away to manage the fireworks as well?"

Crowds watching the Sydney New Years Eve Fireworks
About one million people pack Sydney Harbour to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks but health experts warn that's not manageable this year. Source: Getty

New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead

Ms Berejiklian announced on Thursday the fireworks will “definitely be happening” but has encouraged people to watch them from home as the state battles to get on top of cases emerging from the Northern Beaches cluster.

“The fireworks display themselves will definitely be happening at midnight, and we have already said that we encourage everybody to watch that from home,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian said she was pleased after it was revealed 60,000 people had presented for virus testing in the past 24 hours, describing the turn out as “outstanding” and “beyond amazing”.

The premier said details about the public being able to access popular fireworks viewing spots will be announced after Christmas and “some access” had been granted to front-line workers.

“We will provide information to the community in a timely way. But we will also wait until the end of the couple of days now over Christmas before we make an assessment,” she said.

People in Sydney line up for Covid testing
60,000 people in NSW presented for virus testing in the past 24 hours. Source: AAP

Public encouraged to watch fireworks on TV

Last year the New Year’s Eve display was watched by an estimated one billion people worldwide on television, something Sydney residents are encouraged to embrace this year.

“The fireworks at midnight will be happening no matter what. I'll certainly be watching it at home, we encourage everybody else to do that as well,” Ms Berejiklian said

Entertainment venues will have to adjust any bookings made based on the previous two metre square rule.

“The restrictions have gone to four square metres in hospitality venues so we asked businesses to start making assumptions around that. You have taken bookings based on the two square metres, you'll re-evaluate that and make sure you base that on the four square metres,” Ms Berejiklian explained.

“But obviously we won't make the final call on any of those matters until a few days has passed.”

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