Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks are going ahead this year — but they're going to be a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September, it was reported that the iconic midnight fireworks display over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on December 31, which is broadcast globally, would be shortened this year. Last year's fireworks display went for approximately 12 minutes. The usual family-friendly 9 p.m. fireworks were also cancelled.
Then, earlier this week, the State Government revealed its COVID-safe plan for the fireworks, which will see the best viewing spots, at Mrs Macquarie's Point, the Opera House, and Campbell's Cove reserved for frontline workers and firefighters as a thank you for their service. Information about the ballot for tickets to the event will be available here.
"2020 has been a tough year for everyone," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told The Daily Telegraph. "New Year's Eve celebrations will be a symbol of hope and optimism for next year.
"It is also an opportunity to thank people across NSW who have stepped up during this difficult time. Key areas of the Harbour will be reserved for frontline workers only."
The display will be broadcast on the ABC. When it was revealed that responsibility for the event would be passed from City of Sydney Council to the NSW Government this year, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore told the Sydney Morning Herald, "We encourage people to watch this year's display from the COVID-safety of their homes."
The Government has also warned revellers that only people with confirmed bookings at hospitality venues will be able to enter the Sydney CBD. Hospitality workers may also need a permit to enter the city.
If you're celebrating at home, the number of visitors to any household remains capped at 20 people. Capacity restrictions for venues are ongoing, and rules for outdoor gatherings also remain in place, with no more than 30 people allowed to get together in parks, beaches or other public spaces. Increased public transport services will be running in Sydney, and police will be handing out fines for people not complying with social distancing regulations.
Last year, some called for the Sydney fireworks to be cancelled in the wake of Australia's bushfire crisis, saying the $5.8 million could be better spent supporting devastated local communities. Except that the money had already been spent by the time a Change.org petition, ultimately signed by over 370,000 people, was circulated. Instead the Council raised over $3 million in donations for impacted communities and wildlife. At the same time, the Rural Fire Service reserved the right to cancel the display at short notice if the bushfire risk was deemed too great.
We'll keep you updated on what you need to know about the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney as more information arises.