Gladys bans NYE kissing over ‘super-spreader’ fears
Hugs and kisses have been forbidden when the clock strikes midnight and crowds banned from the harbour foreshore in a first-of-its-kind New Year's Eve in Sydney thanks to COVID.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged people to keep their distance and their hands to themselves on Thursday night as the state bids farewell to a year most people are itching to put behind them.
"The more restrained we are at midnight, the better 2021 will be for all of us," Ms Berejiklian said.
"As difficult as it is on New Year's Eve, mingling, singing, dancing … these are all highly contagious ways of spreading the virus."
Household intimates aside, when it comes to making new friends on the night strict no-contact rules apply.
"I know that is a very emotional time, where we like to kiss and hug everybody around us," the Premier said.
"Can I please ask for absolute restraint. As difficult as that it is, we ask people to refrain because that could be a super-spreading event … especially in the CBD."
Even with only five new coronavirus cases recorded in NSW on Monday, the Premier is still taking a cautious approach to controlling the pandemic.
Families have been encouraged to watch the fireworks on TV, with the foreshore closed to the public.
For one night only, five guests including children will be allowed inside homes in the top zone of the northern beaches. In the southern zone, the limit is 10 people from the zone per home.
The rest of NSW can invite 10 guests into their home.
Ms Berejiklian warned that police would patrol hospitality venues for COVID compliance ensuring patrons were seated and there was only one person per four square metres.
In a bid to avoid overcrowding, the government withdrew its offer for frontline workers to view the seven-minute firework display from a prime vantage point in the CBD.
A NSW Health permit would be needed for residents along the foreshore and people entering the popular central venues.
"Australia, anywhere in the world for that matter, can enjoy the seven-minute display from home and that is the safest way this year to enjoy the fireworks," Ms Berejiklian said.
"To all the frontline workers … unfortunately we'll have to pick a different time, a different way to thank you."
Local councils will only be able to hold ticketed and seated events.
The fireworks crowd cancellation is a huge loss for the local economy, with the City of Sydney previously stating the annual display brings in more than $130m.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged residents to order takeaway and watch the fireworks on TV, to support local businesses.
Ed Cameron and Stefania Schiller took time yesterday to enjoy the view from Kirribilli before the area will be closed to the public on NYE.
Danielle Taylor, 22, has watched the fireworks with her family harbourside for years. She said this year would not be the same. "We'll most definitely watch it on TV with about nine of us, but it's not the same atmosphere."
NORTHERN BEACHES LOCKDOWN EXTENDED
Northern beaches residents will be locked away until at least January 9 as the state government aims for zero COVID transmissions.
Five new cases linked to the Avalon cluster were detected in the 24 hours to 8pm Sunday night.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said tough stay-at-home restrictions for the northern peninsula zone will remain for another fortnight.
"That's because of the number of active cases we have (51), the number of people we have in isolation, the concentration of cases and also the fact that we still haven't found the real root cause of how the virus actually got to the Avalon RSL," Ms Berejiklian said.
"We appreciate the frustration that many of you are experiencing, but if we ask you to do the hard yards now, we're confident we'll be able to regain normality much sooner than anticipated."
Ms Berejiklian said current restrictions in the southern part of the peninsula will also continue until at least January 3.
"Our ultimate aim is to make that zone part of greater Sydney as soon as possible. There will be an easing of restrictions from the third, but what that looks like yet is yet to be determined," she said.
This means restaurants, cafes, pubs, restaurants, except for takeaway, will be closed, including for New Year's Eve.
US PASSES $3 TRILLION COVID RELIEF PACKAGE
The United States has narrowly avoided a national shutdown after President Donald Trump passed an emergency stimulus bill.
The bill passed the House and Senate on Monday evening and will see the US$2.3 trillion relief packages offer millions of Americans direct checks of $600 if they earn up to US$75,000 (AU$98,633) per year. People who make over US$95,000 (AU$124,935) will not receive a check.
The bill also included a new US$300 weekly unemployment benefit, and additional funding for vaccine distribution across the nation.
Over the weekend, Mr Trump tweeted his interest in changing the bill, saying individuals should receive checks of US$2000 per person, an increase of US$1400.
"As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child," Mr Trump said in a statement.
On Saturday night, Mr Trump tweeted, "$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600. Remember, it was China's fault!"
Had Mr Trump not signed off the on the bill, the US could have seen a shutdown similar to that of 2018, when the government entered a 35-day-long shutdown that lasted well into January 2020 and ultimately cost US$11 billion.
Originally published as Gladys bans NYE kissing over 'super-spreader' fears