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The world welcomes 2022 with muted celebrations as COVID-19 cases surge

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New Year's celebrations across the globe
New Year's celebrations across the globe 02:58

The world rang in 2022 with muted celebrations for another year, as the coronavirus pandemic — now fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant — continues to upset daily life across the globe. The new variant, which is now driving record case numbers in the U.S., forced many cities to tone down celebrations or cancel them altogether. 

New York City's Times Square still held an event, but it only allowed a small fraction of the typical crowd, and all attendees over the age of 5 who do not qualify for an exemption were required to be fully vaccinated and wear face masks. Cities such as Atlanta and San Francisco canceled typical celebrations. 

In New Zealand, one of the first cities to kick off the new year, a light display replaced the traditional fireworks show. Australia proceeded with its seven-minute fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House, but limited access to downtown Sydney, the Associated Press reported. 

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans not to attend large gatherings on New Year's Eve. 

"What I would suggest people do not do, is to go to very large 50-to-60-person parties where people are blowing whistles and all that sort of thing, and celebrating, and you don't know the vaccination status of the people in that environment," Fauci said.  

Australians Celebrate New Year's Eve 2021
Fireworks light up the sky over Sydney Harbour as the clock strikes midnight on January 01, 2022 in Sydney, Australia.  Brook Mitchell / Getty Images

New York City rings in 2022

Though attendance was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, New York City rang in the new year with the iconic Times Square ball drop. Watch the city celebrate the final moments of 2021.

New York City rings in 2022 01:46
By Victoria Albert

The biggest political moments of 2021

In 2021, an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop Congress from formally certifying the presidential election results. Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, and Kamala Harris made history — and that was all just in January. Watch CBS News' Natalie Brand review the major political developments of the year. 

The biggest political moments of 2021 02:44

The biggest national news stories of 2021

More people in the U.S. died of COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020, driven in part by highly contagious variants. Vaccines became available, but hesitancy remained. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced in June in the death of George Floyd, and the nation once against reeled from mass shootings. Watch CBS News' Michael George review the biggest national news stories of the year.

The biggest national headlines of 2021: COVID-19, George Floyd and more 03:09

Times Square prepares to ring in the New Year

People from across the globe have gathered in New York City's Times Square to ring in the New Year. The Omicron variant has caused the city to scale back the celebrations, but those gathered for the ball drop are hoping for better times in 2022. Watch CBS News' Courtney Kealy's report here.

Times Square prepares to ring in the New Year 02:26

Biden says there's "no quit in America" in televised message to the nation

In a televised address to the nation that appeared on ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest" on Friday night, President Biden and first lady Jill Biden offered a message of hope. 

Mr. Biden said "there's no quit in America," adding that "the virus has been tough, but we've been tougher." The president also said he's "more optimistic about America's future than I've ever been." 

The pre-taped message also featured an appearance by the Bidens' new dog, Commander. 


U.K. COVID cases hit new record on New Year's Eve as prime minister urges caution

The U.K. reported nearly 190,000 new COVID infections on New Year's Eve, a new record for the nation, according to government data. There have been more than 1 million reported cases in the last seven days, a nearly 50% increase from the previous week. 

In his New Year's Eve message, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged eligible adults to get vaccinated and take precautions if celebrating the holiday. 

"I must of course urge everyone to be cautious and to take a test if you are going out and to remember the importance of ventilation," he said. 

Fireworks and drone display marks new year in London
Fireworks explode during a midnight display celebrating the new year at the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich in London, United Kingdom on January 01, 2022. David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
By Caitlin Yilek

Biden praises Americans' perseverance and urges unity in New Year's Eve message

President Biden praised Americans for their resilience after another year of fighting COVID in a New Year's Eve message to the nation. 

The president released a short video on Twitter, saying there is "nothing ordinary" about Americans who have overcome so much loss and hardship since the pandemic began. 

"We often hear people described as 'ordinary Americans.' There's nothing ordinary about them. After losing loved ones, jobs and facing uncertainty, we're persevering. We're recovering. Back to work. Back to school. Back to joy. That's extraordinary. That's how we made it through this year and how we'll embrace the next — together," he said. 

"As we head into 2022, I want folks to remember: There's not a single thing America cannot do when we do it together," the tweet said. 

By Caitlin Yilek

Much of Europe sees muted celebrations

Many major European cities scaled back their planned celebrations due to a surge in cases. In Berlin, police urged people not to gather near the Brandenburg Gate, where a concert was staged without a live audience. In Madrid, authorities allowed only 7,000 people into the city's Puerta del Sol downtown square, a venue traditionally hosting some 20,000 revelers.

In Paris, officials canceled the fireworks amid surging infections and reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing outdoors, an obligation followed by the majority of people who milled about on the Champs-Elysées as the final hours of 2021 ticked away.

France's unprecedented 232,200 new cases Friday marked its third day running above the 200,000 mark. The U.K. was close behind, with 189,846 new cases, also a record. In London, officials said as many as 1 in 15 people were infected with the virus in the week before Christmas. Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the U.K. rose 68% in the last week, to the highest levels since February.

Yet boisterous New Year's Eve celebrations kicked off in the Serbian capital of Belgrade where, unlike elsewhere in Europe, mass gatherings were allowed despite fears of the Omicron variant. One medical expert predicted that Serbia will see thousands of new COVID-19 infections after the holidays.


Fireworks explode at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to celebrate the New Year on January 1, 2022. JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

New York City health official: "It's been a difficult few weeks"

New York City's health commissioner said he expects the surge in COVID cases will get worse in the coming weeks. 

"It's been a difficult few weeks and, unfortunately, we have a tough few weeks ahead of us as well," Dr. Dave Chokski told CBS News correspondent Nancy Chen. "We all have to dig deep muster our energy and will, and I have a deep conviction and a belief that we will get through this."

Arnel Margen, who was visiting from California, said he planned to celebrate the holiday despite the surge. 

"We just take a bit more risk and go out of our way and try to celebrate it," he said. 

U.S. tops 2.5 million COVID cases in one week 02:36

Chicago moves forward with New Year's Eve celebration plans

As some cities scrap their New Year's Eve plans, Las Vegas and Chicago are moving forward. 

"Since it's outdoors and we're spacing people out, we have some confidence" about mitigating the spread of the virus, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. 

Meanwhile, CBS Chicago reported that some restaurants in the city will be closed on New Year's Eve because of the surge in cases in the city and state. 

John Manion, owner and executive chef at El Che Steakhouse and Bar, told CBS Chicago that he believes he's likely lost $100,000 in revenue due to the recent COVID-19 spike. But he said he still won't be opening his restaurant for the holiday. 

"In my mind, I can't put anybody in that situation," Manion said.

Illinois reported more than 30,000 new cases on Thursday, according to CBS Chicago.   


Putin warns COVID-19 "isn't retreating yet"

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin mourned the dead, praised Russians for their strength in difficult times and soberly warned that the pandemic "isn't retreating yet." Russia's virus task force has reported 308,860 COVID-19 deaths but its state statistics agency says the death toll has been more than double that.

"I would like to express words of sincere support to all those who lost their dear ones," Putin said in a televised address broadcast just before midnight in each of Russia's 11 time zones.

New Year celebrations in Moscow
Fireworks go off over Red Square marking the beginning of 2022 in Moscow, Russia on January 01, 2022. Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
By The Associated Press

Pope Francis declines to visit life-sized manger in St. Peter's square

Pope Francis canceled his New Year's Eve tradition of visiting the life-sized manger set up in St. Peter's Square, again to avoid a crowd. In an unusual move for Francis, the 85-year-old pontiff donned a surgical mask for a Vespers service of prayer and hymns Friday evening as he sat in an armchair. But he also delivered a homily standing and unmasked.

"A sense of being lost has grown in the world during the pandemic,'' Francis told the faithful in St. Peter's Basilica.

Pope Francis Presides Over First Vespers Prayer
Pope Francis wearing a protective mask against COVID-19 celebrates a mass during the first Vespers and Te Deum prayer in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on December 31, 2021 in Vatican City, Vatican.  Getty Images
By The Associated Press

China cancels formal celebrations

China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, was on high alert and canceled formal New Year celebrations. As CBS News correspondent Ian Lee reported, 13 million people in the city of Xi'an saw in 2022 under strict lockdown, as the country deals with its latest outbreak of COVID-19.


People wearing face masks attend a New Year's countdown at an amusement park in Beijing on January 1, 2022. JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images

Australia proceeds with fireworks display despite spike in cases

Australia went ahead with its celebrations despite an explosion in virus cases. The centerpiece of festivities was the renowned fireworks display from the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House. The show went on, lasting about seven minutes, but access to downtown Sydney was restricted to those with bookings at restaurants and hotels in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Hours before the celebrations were due to begin, Australian health authorities reported a record 32,000 new virus cases, many of them in Sydney. Because of the surge, authorities expected far smaller crowds than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as 1 million revelers would crowd inner Sydney.


New Year's Eve fireworks light up the sky over Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the fireworks show on January 1, 2022. David Gray/AFP via Getty Images

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