By ALLISON HORE
The Sydney CBD was a virtual ghost town as the clock struck midnight, marking the beginning of 2021.
Unlike previous years there was only one fireworks display. A shortened 7-minute show with the fitting theme of love and solidarity amid COVID19 marked the beginning of 2021.
But more stark of a difference were the empty foreshore areas around the harbour. Despite extreme high temperatures and smoke lingering in the air, millions of revellers turned up to the harbour to mark the beginning of 2020.
This year the popular vantage points were eerily quiet.
The original plan was for front line workers such as teachers, nurses, firefighters and police to have a front row view of the fireworks at a number of vantage points throughout the city. However, as the Northern Beaches cluster grew and a number of other clusters started to emerge, Ms. Berejiklian said it would be “too risky”.
“We think it’s too much of a health risk having people from the regions and from Sydney and from broader regional areas congregate all in the CBD.”
Instead, as the midnight fireworks lit up the sky the only ones with front row views were on duty police officers patrolling popular vantage points to make sure no-one had entered the CBD without authorisation.
The area closest to the harbour, both on the north and south sides of the bridge, was designated as a green zone meaning special passes were required to enter- even to go to a friends’ home. Travel in the broader CBD area, the “yellow zone” was discouraged, with police moving crowds on as they assembled.
Bars, pubs and other venues were allowed to open and hold events but with a one person per four-square-metre rule in place.
“By and large” behaviour good
Reflecting on the evening’s proceedings on New Years’ Day, Assistant Police Commissioner Mick Willing said The CBD was “as quiet as we’ve ever seen it”. He said only 5,000 passes had been scanned for people to enter the green zone.
“That was mirrored on the harbour, with only 20 per cent vessel patronage compared to what we have seen in previous years,” he added.
Throughout the night five fines of $5,000 were issued to premises in relation to COVID-19 breaches. Police are still compiling data on the total number of fines issued to individuals and residences who failed to comply with public health orders as some matters are still under investigation. Mr. Willing said that one large airbnb party in the Hills area may see up to 30 infringements issued.
Mr. Willing said while police had to attend “a lot” of residences to investigate reports of potential breaches, the majority of these reports turned out to be false. He said the behaviour of Sydneysiders was “by and large was very good across the board.”
He added that a number of groups of people who had congregated in the CBD complied with police orders when asked to move on.
“I would like to thank those members of the community who made their plans COVID-safe and celebrated the beginning of 2021 responsibly, in what we hope is a better year for everyone,” Mr. Willing said.