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New York City’s usual celebration to bring in the new year involved massive crowds gathering in the central Times Square district to watch the iconic ball drop event. However, with the coronavirus pandemic still putting restrictions on crowds around the world, organisers of the event confirmed yesterday most people will have to watch the celebrations on their phones.
The countdown will still go ahead, organisers have said, with events still to take place in Times Square, with celebrities present and pop culture still to be a big part of the night.
Tim Hopkins, President of the Times Square Alliance, said in a press release the event will provide “significantly new and enhanced virtual, visual and digital offerings” which are still in development.
He added: “And because any opportunity to be live in Times Square will be pre-determined and extremely limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be the opportunity to participate virtually wherever you are.
“Because more than ever in these divided and fear-filled times, the world desperately needs to come together symbolically and virtually to celebrate the people and things we love and to look forward with a sense of renewal and new beginnings.”
Jeff Straus, President of Countdown Entertainment, said organisers would “miss” the usual crowds.
He added people would still be able to take part “whether you want to turn off and turn away from the bad news of 2020, or turn to the new year with a sense of hope, renewal and resolution.”
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New York mayor Bill de Blasio praised the virtual plans, thanking organisers for making a “safe, creative, and innovative way” for the event to continue.
The press release from organisers did not say how people will be prevented from gathering around Times Square in the usual manner.
New York state was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic early in the year. At the time of writing, the state has recorded a total of 452,847 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 25,439 deaths, according to the most recent New York State Department of Health data.
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As of Wednesday, there were 955 new positive cases in the state, the data also showed.
New York’s New Year’s Eve Ball ceremony is a tradition that goes back to the early 20th century.
In normal times, a huge ball around 12 feet across and weighing nearly 5,500 kg, begins descending down a pole at the 11:59 PM mark.
It reaches the bottom of the pole at the same time the clock strikes midnight, ringing in the new year.
It is covered with 2,688 crystal triangles which are attached to tens of thousands of LED lights, giving the ball its glow.
The first New Year’s Eve ball descended in 1907. It was significantly smaller and made of wood and metal, adorned with 100 lightbulbs.
The ball has been lowered every year since as part of the city’s New Year celebrations, with the exception of two years during World War II when city lights were turned off.
The Times Square website reads: “Nevertheless, the crowds still gathered in Times Square in those years and greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower—a harkening-back to the earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to “ring out the old, ring in the new.”
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