New Year's Eve subdued in Europe as Covid cases spiral

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New Year's Eve Subdued In Europe As Covid Cases Spiral New Year's Eve Subdued In Europe As Covid Cases Spiral
Pedestrians walk along the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris on New Year's Eve 2021. Photo: Getty Images
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More record daily totals of Covid-19 cases dampened New Year's Eve in Europe, with traditional celebrations restricted in many nations due to the Omicron variant.

New daily highs were confirmed in France, Britain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and more on the last day of 2021.

In a New Year's Eve address, French president Emmanuel Macron said the next few weeks would be "difficult" as the country headed into subdued celebrations after registering 232,200 new Covid-19 cases, its highest-ever total.

"The weeks to come will be difficult, we all know that", Mr Macron said.

New infections over the last 24 hours were above 200,000 for the third day running, making France one of the epicentres as a wave of infections linked to the Omicron variant sweeps across the continent.

French president Emmanuel Macron delivers his televised New Year's address to the nation. Photo: Getty Images

The Eiffel Tower lit up in blue to mark the French presidency of the European Union during New Year's Eve in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Infections in France, one of the countries carrying out widespread testing, stood well above the tally recorded in Italy and Britain, which also reported new records on Friday, with 144,243 and 106,122 cases respectively.

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England is the exception among UK nations in not imposing extra curbs for the festive period, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland closed nightclubs and imposed limits on how many people can socialise together.

Thousands of people were expected to travel to England on Friday night to avoid restrictions imposed in Scotland and Wales, where pub landlords fear their New Year’s Eve profits will be “killed”.

Pedestrians walk through the centre of Manchester in England on New Year's Eve 2021. Photo: Getty Images

A quiet street on New Year's Eve 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Getty Images

A quiet High Street at 7.45pm on December 31st, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Getty Images

In Paris, the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display centred on the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs d’Elysees has been cancelled because city authorities said they feared it would lead to large crowds of people unable to observe social distancing.

Dancing at hospitality venues and nightclubs has been forbidden.

President Macron on Friday reiterated his call for mass vaccination, calling the jabs France's "sure shot" solution for a way out of the pandemic which he said he believed was possible in 2022.

Greece meanwhile reported 40,560 Covid-19 cases on Friday, setting a new record high for the fourth successive day following a surge in the Omicron variant. Health authorities said 76 deaths had been reported on Friday.

Greece introduced new restrictions this week, ordering bars, restaurants and nightclubs to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music. An exception is New Year's Eve, when establishments can close at 2am.

A pedestrian walks past coronavirus slogans written at a wall in central Athens on December 30th, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

A pedestrian walks past Athens Academy in central Athens on December 30th, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Portugal also reported a new daily record of 30,829 cases on Friday, up from 28,659 the previous day, with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant accounting for an estimated 83 per cent of all new cases.

Health authority DGS registered 18 fatalities from Covid-19, up from Thursday's 16, but that was only a fraction of the more than 300 daily deaths suffered in late January, when Portugal had just begun its vaccination campaign.

Portugal has one of the world's highest Covid-19 vaccination rates with around 87 per cent of its 10 million population fully inoculated.

In the run-up to New Year's Eve, the government ordered nightclubs and bars to close, people to get mandatory Covid-19 tests to enter hotels, casinos and restaurants, and limited outdoor gatherings to 10 people.

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