New Year celebrations have started to kick off around the planet after a rollercoaster 12 months.
People are preparing to bid farewell – and perhaps good riddance – to 2021, but the pandemic hangs heavy over festivities.
The Omicron variant is casting a shadow on New Year around the world, with populations hoping to get together with friends and family contending with varying levels of restrictions.
Millions of Europeans will have to make do with scaled back events after restrictions were reintroduced across the continent.
But the party is already well under way in New Zealand and the goons are on ice in Australia with a couple of hours to go until their countdown.
Auckland has been lit up after the government gave the go ahead to celebrations in recent days.
New Zealand has managed to keep the virus at bay but is dealing with a small outbreak of the new strain which was imported by a traveller from the UK.
Authorities traced 88 people who may have come into contact with the infected person and are satisfied there hasn’t been community transmission.
The person arrived in New Zealand from Britain on December 16 but only tested positive on the 17th, the health ministry said in a statement.
The country has has no Omicron cases in its community yet but has recorded 17 cases at its border quarantine facilities
Despite worries the new variant could take hold, the vast majority of the country was moved to a looser set of rules at midnight yesterday in time for NYE.
Australia tried to suppress the virus in a similar fashion to its neighbours but has had less success keeping Omicron at bay.
New coronavirus infections have soared again in Australia to a record of more than 32,000, just days after surpassing 10,000 for the first time.
Varying levels of restrictions are in place around the country but millions are determined to ring in the New Year a couple of hours after New Zealand.
Global coronavirus infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period, with an average of just over one million cases detected a day worldwide between December 24 and 30.
That amounts of an increase of 100,000 on the previous week, according to analysis from Reuters.
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