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The world says goodbye to 2020, a year unlike any other

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New York City rings in the new year
New York City rings in the new year 01:16

The world marked the end of 2020 with enthusiasm, but public celebrations largely muted by the coronavirus pandemic as it continues to rage across the globe. Many cities scaled back events or canceled them entirely as local leaders urged people to celebrate safely. 

Times Square was eerily quiet in the hours leading up to the ceremonial New Year's Eve ball drop as New York City officials closed the area off to most revelers. The NYPD had about 80% fewer officers guarding the area than in previous years, but security was still tight. 

"If you come to Times Square, the police department will turn you away and  tell you to go home and watch from the safety and comfort of your home," Times Square Alliance Vice President Tom Harris warned residents on CBS New York before the virtual celebration kicked off.

In Sydney, Australia, one of the first places to ring in the new year, fireworks illuminated the Sydney Harbor Bridge. But in other major cities, including Melbourne and London, local leaders said they had canceled fireworks to discourage people from congregating. London ended up putting on an elaborate laser and light display over the iconic Tower Bridge for people to enjoy at home, but the streets remained quiet.  

Countries including France, Italy, Turkey, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Greece implemented nightly curfews. 

 

Brazil rings in 2021 with nearly empty Copacabana beach

Brazil rang in the New Year with Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach nearly empty — the usual swarms of revelers kept away by police because of the pandemic — and pot-banging protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Rio usually hosts one of the world's biggest New Year's Eve parties, but authorities canceled the festivities this year as Covid-19 racked the country. 

New Year's Eve, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro
A couple celebrates during New Year's Eve, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil January 1, 2021. LUCAS LANDAU/REUTERS

"It was a complicated year, with this pandemic that has devastated the entire world," said Claudio Miranda, a 29-year-old salesman who was part of the relatively tiny crowd gathered on Copacabana.

"But we have to celebrate life — our lives, our families' lives, everyone who's still here. Even if our hearts are aching for those who have left us," he told AFP.

Covid-19 has killed nearly 195,000 people in Brazil, the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States. The South American country of 212 million people is currently in the grips of a nasty second wave.

The cancelation of the official festivities did not stop revelers across Rio from lighting up the city's iconic skyline with fireworks of their own at midnight.

The loud booms blended with the sound of pot- and pan-clanging demonstrators shouting "Get out, Bolsonaro!" from their windows in Rio and Sao Paulo, Brazil's two biggest cities, in protest against a leader they accuse of disastrous handling of the pandemic.

By AFP
 

Ball drops on a quiet New York City

Gone were the revelry and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that typify Times Square on New Year's Eve, replaced by empty streets and an eerie quiet as the final hours of 2020 ticked away. This was New Year's Eve in the age of COVID-19.
 
Crowd control gave way to crowd prevention, as police closed the Crossroads of the World to vehicles and onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of the glittering, crystal ball that still descended down a flagpole to mark the stroke of midnight. Would-be partygoers were urged to watch the ball drop on television.

People wearing protective mask look for the Times Square ball near Times Square during the virtual New Year's Eve event following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City
People wearing protective mask look for the Times Square ball near Times Square during the virtual New Year's Eve event following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, December 31, 2020. JEENAH MOON/REUTERS

Still, throngs of tourists crowded around the police perimeter, which took on the feel of a tailgate as midnight neared. Many said they wanted to end a challenging year on their own terms — and groused that they couldn't get closer to the storied ball.
 
Some celebrity performers took to stages set up in the mostly empty square to sing to a small group of masked essential workers. In the final minutes before midnight, Jennifer Lopez sang the Aerosmith classic "Dream On" beneath a blast of confetti.

Confetti flies around the ball and countdown clock in Times Square during the virtual New Year's Eve event following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City
Confetti flies around the ball and countdown clock in Times Square during the virtual New Year's Eve event following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, January 1, 2021. JEENAH MOON/REUTERS

A brief burst of fireworks blasted and more confetti flew as the countdown hit midnight.
 
The blocks surrounding the ball drop were blocked off, leaving a scene that Police Commissioner Dermot Shea described as "surreal."
 
"It's dead," said Ali Jameel early Thursday, who owns a store a block from Times Square. "We are dreaming for it to come back again like before."  

By Associated Press
 

The top international stories of 2020

While the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 also saw devastating wildfires in Australia, terror attacks in Europe, and the deadly port explosion in Beirut. Watch some of the most important international stories of 2020 below.

The major international stories of 2020 02:36
 

The pivotal people and moments that shaped the U.S. in 2020

2020 will be forever remembered for the pivotal moments that changed lives across the world. Watch a recap of the most important news stories of the year below. 

The moments that shaped 2020 09:47
 

New Year's Eve celebrations scaled back amid pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic limited New Year's Eve celebrations around the globe. Watch how major cities adapted to the pandemic below: 

New Year's Eve parties scaled back during pan... 04:01
By Nikki Battiste
 

Britain finalizes economic split with European Union after long Brexit journey

Britain's long and sometimes acrimonious divorce from the European Union ended Thursday with an economic split that leaves the EU smaller and the U.K. freer but more isolated in a turbulent world.

Britain left the European bloc's vast single market for people, goods and services at 11 p.m. London time, midnight in Brussels, completing the biggest single economic change the country has experienced since World War II. A different U.K.-EU trade deal will bring new restrictions and red tape, but for British Brexit supporters, it means reclaiming national independence from the EU and its web of rules.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose support for Brexit helped push the country out of the EU, called it "an amazing moment for this country."

"We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it," he said in a New Year's video message.

The break comes 11 months after a political Brexit that left the two sides in the limbo of a "transition period" — like a separated couple still living together, wrangling and wondering whether they can remain friends. Now, the U.K. has finally moved out.

Read more here.

By Associated Press
 

Bidens give message of optimism, encourage getting vaccine

For the first time, New Year's Rockin' Eve featured President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden. The Bidens said they were optimistic about 2021 and encouraged Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I'm more optimistic than ever about America's chances than I have ever been," Mr. Biden said from his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Mr. Biden praised Americans for being "productive" amid the pandemic and said "I find that we're in a situation where we once again have to lead the work, have to lead the nation."

The Bidens praised the frontline workers who were invited to Times Square, with Jill Biden saying " all Americans truly appreciate what they did for us" by going to work everyday amid the pandemic.

"We owe them, we owe them, we owe them," Mr. Biden said. 

The Bidens received the first does of the COVID-19 vaccine on December 21. Jill Biden encouraged all Americans to receive it when they can, saying "it didn't even hurt."

"Everyone has to take it so we all can be safe," Jill Biden said.

By Caroline Linton
 

Coronavirus restricts celebrations in South Korea

After initial success in subduing earlier waves of infections, South Korea has struggled to reduce its latest and largest surge, with daily cases hovering around 1,000 for weeks. Amid the strictest social distancing restrictions yet, authorities shut down the beaches on the country's east coast where people traditionally gathered to watch the first sunrise of the New Year.

In Seoul, the Bosingak bell-ringing ceremony was canceled for the first time since 1953, though it was streamed on the city's website.

Global K-Pop sensation BTS celebrated New Year's Eve with an online concert on Thursday along with other K-pop groups from its management agency Big Hit Entertainment and fans from around the world.

South Koreans Celebrate A Covid-influenced New Year
A man prays at the Chogey temple during the New Year Eve on December 31, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.  Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images
By Associated Press
 

Kamala Harris reflects on "difficult year"

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday reflected on the struggles that so many have had to endure during the past year. 

"From a global pandemic, to reckoning with racial injustice, to the devastating wildfires and hurricanes, there has been so much grief, struggle, and pain," she tweeted. 

But, she said, there were also good things that sprouted from the bad, like Americans going grocery shopping for their elderly neighbors. 

"As we look ahead to 2021, I am filled with optimism that we can accomplish the good, hard, necessary work to confront the challenges we face and turn a new chapter in our nation's history," she tweeted. "Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy new year." 

Harris and President-elect Biden are set to be inaugurated on January 20. 

By Caitlin Yilek
 

President Trump and Melania spend New Year's Eve at White House

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived back at the White House on New Year's Eve after spending the Christmas holiday at Mar-a-Lago, the president's resort in Florida. 

The couple originally planned to spend the evening at their Palm Beach residence, where the president hosts a large New Year's Eve party each year, but they cut their trip short without explanation. 

The first lady tweeted: "As 2020 ends, we remember the loved ones lost & give thanks to our leaders, frontline workers & others who have come together to fight the global pandemic. The resilience of our country is strong. I send my best wishes for a #NewYear full of health & peace." 

By Caitlin Yilek
 

Los Angeles mayor urges residents to stay home on New Year's Eve

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to not attend gatherings or leave their homes on New Year's Eve as the coronavirus pandemic ravages Southern California. 

"Do not get together with those outside your household today. Do not host or attend a party in person. Do not travel," Garcetti tweeted Thursday. "Please celebrate virtually and welcome the New Year with the people in your household." 

There will likely be more than 1,000 officers patrolling the city on New Year's Eve and breaking up parties, Garcetti told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. 

Earlier this week, Los Angeles County said everyone who traveled outside of the county is required to quarantine for 10 days. About 1 in 5 coronavirus tests in Southern California are coming back positive. 

By Caitlin Yilek
 

Las Vegas plans to implode "2020" sign

Las Vegas plans to usher in 2021 and close out a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic by imploding a "2020" sign as part of an online celebration on Thursday night. 

New Year's Eve is typically one of the biggest parties Las Vegas sees all year, with more than 330,000 revelers. It's scaled down this year after a signature fireworks show on the Las Vegas Strip was canceled, but tens of thousands are still expected to gather and celebrate in the casino corridor.

By Associated Press
 

Rio de Janiero tightens restrictions

In Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, where official fireworks and celebrations also were canceled to limit the rapid spread of the virus, police officers braced for what promised to be a long night.

Rio officials decided to seal off Copacabana, where millions of people dressed in white usually gather on the beach to marvel at fireworks and attend large concerts. This year, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on January 1, only local residents will be able to access the city's iconic shore, authorities said.

By Associated Press
 

Tens of thousands take to the street in Dubai

Dubai pressed ahead with its revelry despite a surge of infections. Images of masked health care workers briefly lit up Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, before fireworks exploded in the sky over the building. Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets and squares marked out for social distancing were largely ignored.

Still, the pandemic robbed the night of its freewheeling spirit. Authorities implemented a raft of anti-virus measures to control rowdy crowds in downtown Dubai. At luxury bars and restaurants, music blared and people drank, but dancing was strictly prohibited.

For some, the restrictions spoiled the fun.

"People come to Dubai because it's open, but there are so many rules," said Bashir Shehu, 50, who was visiting from Nigeria with his family. "We pray that next year we can celebrate with some real freedom."

Dubai welcomes the new year with fireworks at the iconic Burj Khalifa
Fireworks explode from the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, during New Year's Eve celebrations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on January 1, 2021. AHMED JADALLAH / REUTERS
By Associated Press
 

Frontline workers invited to Times Square

A select group of VIP guests and about 40 local frontline workers and their families will be allowed in Times Square. Each group will watch the festivities from separate viewing areas, CBS New York reports.  

"I'm really happy to be here as one of the select few who get to kick 2020 out the door," EMT Paul Nebb said. 

"Don't believe any 'Doubting Thomases' that say because there's not going to be a million people or more in Times Square, it's not going to be special. It's going to be actually arguable the most special," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. "We are going to be honoring our health care heroes, first responders and folks who did amazing work this year."

An ER doctor, school teacher, grocery store worker and pizza delivery person are among the people invited to watch in person.

They were chosen after submitting their stories of how they helped in 2020. 

 

Times Square nearly empty

Times Square typically sees tens of thousands of people for New Year's Eve, but this year there are no crowded streets packed with spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic, CBS New York reports.

As CBS2's John Dias reported, Thursday's weather matched 2020 perfectly — a gloomy day to end an even gloomier year. Most people he spoke to said 2021 can't come soon enough.

"Thank God it's over. Start fresh tomorrow," said Greg Mazza, of Staten Island.

"Hopefully, it'll be a better year. We can stamp this virus out and get on with our lives," Tommy Casale, of Dyker Heights, said. 

For almost 120 years, Times Square has been the center of worldwide attention on New Year's Eve. But this year, it's closed to the public to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"I grew up in Hell's Kitchen. This is surreal," said resident Jacqueline Vera. "I think this is the safe and smart thing to do. New Yorkers, let's just calm down one year."

The NYPD will have about 80% fewer officers guarding the area than years past, but security will still be tight.

"If you come to Times Square, the police department will turn you away and  tell you to go home and watch from the safety and comfort of your home," Times Square Alliance Vice President Tom Harris told CBS New York.

Police attend a muster point near Times Square ahead of New Year's Eve
Police attend a muster point near Times Square ahead of New Year's Eve amid the coronavirus pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, December 31, 2020. CARLO ALLEGRI / REUTERS
 

Australia rings in 2021

Australia was among the first celebrate the new year. In past years, 1 million people crowded Sydney's harbor to watch fireworks. This time, most watched on television as authorities urged residents to stay home to see the seven minutes of pyrotechnics that lit up the Sydney Harbor Bridge and its surroundings. Melbourne, Australia's second-most populated city, called off its annual fireworks show to discourage crowds. 

New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge during downsized New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia, January 1, 2021. LOREN ELLIOTT / REUTERS
By Associated Press
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