The world’s 7.8 billion people are preparing to bid a hearty farewell to 2020, but without the usual fanfare and public gatherings, thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic.  
 
The small central Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati were first to welcome 2021 due to their location on the international date line, with the bigger regional powers of New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and South Korea following.   
 
New Zealand’s port city of Auckland rang in the new year with a major laser light show and fireworks display at the iconic Sky Tower, as residents celebrated the island nation’s successful response to the coronavirus outbreak that resulted in just 2,162 total infections and 25 deaths.   
 
Many of the traditional celebrations around the world that mark the chronological changeover, however, have either been curtailed or called off, as public officials struggle to contain a rising surge in the number of infections.   
 
In Australia, the 1 million people who normally gather at the Sydney Harbor to watch the world-famous fireworks display over the city’s renowned Opera House will be watching the proceedings from home.  New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced earlier this week that the public will not be allowed at the harbor due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at its Northern Beach suburbs.   
 
The pandemic has forced the outright cancellation of the midnight fireworks show over Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, as well as the pyrotechnics over the River Thames in London, which has been under a strict lockdown that curtailed Christmas celebrations and shopping sprees.   
 The Times Square ball is reflected in a nearby building as it is tested out for the media ahead of the New Year’s celebration in Times Square amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Dec. 30, 2020.Across the Atlantic, New York City’s historic Times Square is banning visitors from gathering to witness the traditional “ball drop” that counts down the final minutes of the previous year.People stand on a balcony and ‘flight test’ some confetti ahead of the New Year’s celebration in Times Square, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Dec. 29, 2020.In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, officials have called off its annual New Year’s Eve beach party, which normally attracts hundreds of thousands of people with live music and a spectacular fireworks display. 

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