The world has ushered in 2022 not with its typical bravado, but with a far more muted, understated start to the New Year.
Some 5.4 million people have died of COVID-19 since humanity welcomed in a new decade two years ago and with Omicron still rampant, many countries decided to scale down or cancel their celebrations.
In Ireland, both north and south, nightclubs were banned from holding events. As countries in the east eased into 2022, the Department of Health announced a record 20,110 cases had been recorded in the Republic.
Despite this, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said there were reasons to be optimistic about the coming year:
"Advances in science and public health including the development of new treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies - and the continued evolution of our understanding of this virus - give us grounds to hope that 2022 may be a better year from a COVID point of view than either 2020 or 2021."
In Auckland, which has yet to record any community spread of the Omicron variant, authorities cancelled its firework display entirely.
While in Sydney, spectacular fireworks erupted as the clocks hit midnight but the city’s famous harbour was far less busy than usual. With tourists banned and many locals concerned about high case numbers, it was a markedly more muted affair than previous years.
— City of Sydney (@cityofsydney) December 31, 2021
Similarly, in New York City, crowds were allowed to gather once again in Time Square but this year it was an event for vaccinated people only and at a quarter of its usual capacity.
In Paris, police officers patrolled the Champs-Élysées looking for revellers without masks, while the daily Le Parisien speculated that most French people would spend the holiday wearing slippers.
In London, city authorities kept details of its celebration secret to discourage people from gathering. A repaired Big Ben chimed to welcome in the New Year and Britons at home watching the BBC were treated to a firework display and performances from Olly Alexander, Kylie Minogue and Pet Shop Boys.
However, an even more quiet start to the New Year was recorded in the Chinese city of Xi’an. There authorities have ordered all 13 million people into lockdown as they battle to contain an outbreak of COVID-19. Lockdowns in China are notoriously strict and on Monday it was announced that people could only leave the house to get tested. Officials have been delivering food but many locals have complained that supplies have yet to reach them.
Main image: Champagne glasses ready to celebrate the New Year.