Toned-down New Year's Eve celebrations as the world welcomes 2022 under an Omicron-shaped COVID shadow
Wellington, New Zealand — Good riddance to 2021. Let 2022 bring fresh hope. That was a common sentiment as people around the world began welcoming the new year. In many places, New Year's Eve celebrations were muted or canceled for the second straight year due to a surge of coronavirus infections, this time driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. But even before Omicron hit, many people were happy to say goodbye to a second grinding year of the pandemic. So far, at least, the Omicron surge hasn't resulted in the same levels of hospitalizations and deaths as previous outbreaks — especially among vaccinated people — offering a glimmer of hope for 2022.
Because of where the international date line sits, countries in Asia and the Pacific region are among the first to usher in each new year, and New Zealand was one of the first places to welcome 2022, with a low-key lights display projected onto Auckland landmarks, including the Sky Tower and Harbor Bridge. That replaced the traditional fireworks show.