The photos that sum up 2020: Pictures show a wet, cold and empty Sydney on New Year’s Eve

Eeerie pictures comparing New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2019 with 2020 highlight how the coronavirus pandemic flipped Australian society upside down in just 12 months.  

Hundreds of thousands of eager Sydneysiders and international tourists typically pack the harbour from the early hours of December 31, to ensure they can snatch the perfect spot for the city’s globally renowned firework display.

In 2019, bikini-clad and shirtless revellers protected themselves with umbrellas as they braced sweltering conditions in the hours long wait for the clock to strike midnight. 

But in the final moments of 2020, Sydneysiders were effectively locked out of the CBD due to a mystery coronavirus outbreak plaguing the city.

Residents instead marked the rainy start to 2021 by watching the fireworks from their television screens. Heath authorities had advised against unnecessary social mingling – with only five guests allowed to visit households in greater Sydney.  

Vantage points across the harbour were blocked off from the public by fences and signage. Police were out in force patrolling the eerily quiet CBD streets.

Pictures comparing New Year's Eve celebrations in 2019 and 2020 highlight how the coronavirus pandemic flipped Australian society upside down in just 12 months (pictured, above, 2019 under the Harbour Bridge compared to 2020, below)

Pictures comparing New Year's Eve celebrations in 2019 and 2020 highlight how the coronavirus pandemic flipped Australian society upside down in just 12 months (pictured, above, 2019 under the Harbour Bridge compared to 2020, below)

Pictures comparing New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2019 and 2020 highlight how the coronavirus pandemic flipped Australian society upside down in just 12 months (pictured, above, 2019 under the Harbour Bridge compared to 2020, below)

TOP IMAGE: Crowds gather at Mrs Macquarie's Chair to watch the fireworks during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019 in Sydney. BOTTOM IMAGE: Sydney Harbour is seen from a deserted Mrs Macquarie's Point on New Year's Eve 2020.

TOP IMAGE: Crowds gather at Mrs Macquarie's Chair to watch the fireworks during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019 in Sydney. BOTTOM IMAGE: Sydney Harbour is seen from a deserted Mrs Macquarie's Point on New Year's Eve 2020.

TOP IMAGE: Crowds gather at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to watch the fireworks during New Year’s Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019 in Sydney. BOTTOM IMAGE: Sydney Harbour is seen from a deserted Mrs Macquarie’s Point on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Crowds pack Circular Quay for the globally renown fireworks display in Sydney on December 31, 2019 (pictured) after queuing for hours

Crowds pack Circular Quay for the globally renown fireworks display in Sydney on December 31, 2019 (pictured) after queuing for hours

Crowds pack Circular Quay for the globally renown fireworks display in Sydney on December 31, 2019 (pictured) after queuing for hours

But this year looked very different in the same spot. Security guards are seen walking along the Circular Quay foreshore ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney on December 31

But this year looked very different in the same spot. Security guards are seen walking along the Circular Quay foreshore ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney on December 31

But this year looked very different in the same spot. Security guards are seen walking along the Circular Quay foreshore ahead of the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney on December 31

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – one of the most popular vantage points – was a ghost town on Thursday and a world away from celebrations seen at the end of 2019.

That year, some excited tourists began queuing up at 7am on December 30 – more than 40 hours before the first fireworks were due to be launched. 

Video footage also showed hundreds of people running through the Botanical Gardens the moment the gates opened to secure the best viewing spots. 

Sydney’s 2019 firework display controversially went ahead despite widespread fire bans across the country amid a devastating bushfire season.

Families were forced to ring in the New Year in evacuation centres across the country.

TOP IMAGE: A women in a bikini looks on, as crowds gather at Mrs Macquarie's Chair to watch the fireworks during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019. BOTTOM IMAGE: A general view of an empty Mrs Macquarie's Point on December 31, 2020

TOP IMAGE: A women in a bikini looks on, as crowds gather at Mrs Macquarie's Chair to watch the fireworks during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019. BOTTOM IMAGE: A general view of an empty Mrs Macquarie's Point on December 31, 2020

TOP IMAGE: A women in a bikini looks on, as crowds gather at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to watch the fireworks during New Year’s Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019. BOTTOM IMAGE: A general view of an empty Mrs Macquarie’s Point on December 31, 2020

There was no such thing as social distancing in 2019 when thousands flocked to vantage points across city (top image) compared to same deserted spot this year (bottom)

There was no such thing as social distancing in 2019 when thousands flocked to vantage points across city (top image) compared to same deserted spot this year (bottom)

There was no such thing as social distancing in 2019 when thousands flocked to vantage points across city (top image) compared to same deserted spot this year (bottom)

Crowds of people typically line up at Mrs Macquarie's Chair as early as two days before the fireworks. Pictured: Spectators run towards the foreshore on December 31, 2018 to snap up the best spot possible

Crowds of people typically line up at Mrs Macquarie's Chair as early as two days before the fireworks. Pictured: Spectators run towards the foreshore on December 31, 2018 to snap up the best spot possible

 Crowds of people typically line up at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair as early as two days before the fireworks. Pictured: Spectators run towards the foreshore on December 31, 2018 to snap up the best spot possible

Little did we know that 2020 celebrations would be marred by a different type of crisis.

The day-to-day lives Australians once enjoyed were flipped upside down when the coronavirus pandemic first riddled the nation in March.

Face masks and restrictions on social gatherings quickly became the norm and they will likely follow us beyond the New Year.

On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian further tightened restrictions following an outbreak on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, as the number of active cases in the state swelled to 170.

Residents in Greater Sydney, including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains, are restricted to hosting five visitors in their homes, including children.

Sydneysiders were told to watch the fireworks from their television screens. Pictured: An empty Sydney Harbour foreshore is seen from Mrs Macquarie's Point on Thursday

Sydneysiders were told to watch the fireworks from their television screens. Pictured: An empty Sydney Harbour foreshore is seen from Mrs Macquarie's Point on Thursday

Sydneysiders were told to watch the fireworks from their television screens. Pictured: An empty Sydney Harbour foreshore is seen from Mrs Macquarie’s Point on Thursday

'Due to Covid-19, we're celebrating New Year's Eve a little differently this year,' a sign near the Sydney Harbour foreshore read on Thursday

'Due to Covid-19, we're celebrating New Year's Eve a little differently this year,' a sign near the Sydney Harbour foreshore read on Thursday

‘Due to Covid-19, we’re celebrating New Year’s Eve a little differently this year,’ a sign near the Sydney Harbour foreshore read on Thursday

Pictured: People are seen sitting and sleeping before access is granted for New Year's Eve celebrations at Mrs Macquarie's Chair on December 31, 2019

Pictured: People are seen sitting and sleeping before access is granted for New Year's Eve celebrations at Mrs Macquarie's Chair on December 31, 2019

Pictured: People are seen sitting and sleeping before access is granted for New Year’s Eve celebrations at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair on December 31, 2019

A security guard patrols a near-empty Sydney Opera House forecourt during New Year's Eve celebrations in 2020

A security guard patrols a near-empty Sydney Opera House forecourt during New Year's Eve celebrations in 2020

A security guard patrols a near-empty Sydney Opera House forecourt during New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2020

The limit for outdoor gatherings has been reduced from 50 to 30. The changes will remain in place indefinitely.   

Sydney largely banned crowds for its world-renowned pyrotechnic display on New Year’s Eve, while Melbourne’s fireworks were cancelled weeks ago.

Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide also cancelled their fireworks.

The restrictions ensured the Sydney foreshore, including popular vantage points such as the Opera House and The Rocks, were on Thursday night deserted, with no revellers or firework-watchers in sight.

The lively seven-minute fireworks display at midnight carried themes of love and solidarity amid COVID-19, which has killed 909 Australians to date.

Fireworks forming the shape of a heart were set off on the stroke of midnight.

Central Melbourne was also mostly vacated on Thursday night, with a smattering of people in restaurants but parks and public spaces deserted. 

Crowds battle the heat as they wait for the New Year's Eve fireworks at Mrs Macquarie's Chair on December 31, 2019

Crowds battle the heat as they wait for the New Year's Eve fireworks at Mrs Macquarie's Chair on December 31, 2019

Crowds battle the heat as they wait for the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair on December 31, 2019

A large gathering of police patrol near a deserted Circular Quay in the Sydney CBD to watch the annual fireworks display

A large gathering of police patrol near a deserted Circular Quay in the Sydney CBD to watch the annual fireworks display

A large gathering of police patrol near a deserted Circular Quay in the Sydney CBD to watch the annual fireworks display

A man films the Sydney Harbour on Thursday, ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks. The 9pm kids-friendly fireworks will not go ahead and people will need permits to enter zones at Circular Quay, North Sydney and the CBD

A man films the Sydney Harbour on Thursday, ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks. The 9pm kids-friendly fireworks will not go ahead and people will need permits to enter zones at Circular Quay, North Sydney and the CBD

A man films the Sydney Harbour on Thursday, ahead of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. The 9pm kids-friendly fireworks will not go ahead and people will need permits to enter zones at Circular Quay, North Sydney and the CBD

The Victorian government urged people not to head into the Melbourne CBD on Thursday night unless they had a hospitality booking.

The city’s new eight-person outbreak prompted authorities to cut indoor gatherings from 30 people to 15 from 5pm on New Year’s Eve.

South Australians were allowed no more than 50 people at their house – indoors or outdoors – for New Year’s Eve celebrations. A maximum of 200 people were permitted at private outdoor gatherings.

Fireworks in Hobart went ahead but, like in Sydney, people were urged not to gather on the waterfront. Darwin residents needed to register and wear wristbands to attend the city’s two fireworks displays.

In marked contrast to the rest of the country, Perth planned celebrations that were close to normal, with two fireworks displays.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his New Year’s Eve message lauded the courage, resilience and attentiveness of Australians in 2020 and said he had never been prouder of his compatriots after a year blighted by bushfires and COVID-19.

'Vantage point closed': A digital warning sign is seen in Kirribilli ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks on December 31, 2020

'Vantage point closed': A digital warning sign is seen in Kirribilli ahead of the New Year's Eve fireworks on December 31, 2020

‘Vantage point closed’: A digital warning sign is seen in Kirribilli ahead of the New Year’s Eve fireworks on December 31, 2020

There were no crowds under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Thursday as residents were told to stay at home for the New Year's Eve fireworks

There were no crowds under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Thursday as residents were told to stay at home for the New Year's Eve fireworks

There were no crowds under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Thursday as residents were told to stay at home for the New Year’s Eve fireworks

While Sydney's world-famous harbour and bridge exploded with a seven-minute fireworks display at midnight the skies over Melbourne and Brisbane remained darkened

While Sydney's world-famous harbour and bridge exploded with a seven-minute fireworks display at midnight the skies over Melbourne and Brisbane remained darkened

While Sydney’s world-famous harbour and bridge exploded with a seven-minute fireworks display at midnight the skies over Melbourne and Brisbane remained darkened

What are the rules for New Year’s Eve? 

For New Year’s Eve in Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains) the following will apply:

· Household gatherings will be limited to 5 visitors (including children).

· The limit for outdoor gatherings will be reduced from 50 to 30.

Restrictions for the northern zone of the Northern Beaches remain the same but for the southern zone of the Northern Beaches the following will now apply;

· Household gatherings will be limited to 5 visitors from within your zone (including children).

These changes come into effect from midnight tonight (Wednesday 30 December) and will be in place until further notice.

For New Year’s Eve Celebrations:

• The CBD frontline worker fireworks vantage point offering is cancelled. Frontline workers will be offered another opportunity in 2021.

• Hospitality venues will remain open but must adhere to the one person per four square metres rule.

• Council events may continue but they must be controlled and seated with no mingling, and record keeping requirements must be strictly adhered to.

• A short, seven minute fireworks display will continue at midnight. 

Unless you have a New Year’s Eve Pass through Service NSW, you will not be able to enter designated zones around Circular Quay, North Sydney and the City.

From midnight Monday 28 December: 

For the Northern Beaches peninsula zone (North of Narrabeen Bridge, and east of the Baha’i Temple), the following rules apply until January 9:

· The health situation remains volatile and the current restrictions will remain in place to supress community transmission.

· However, indoor and outdoor gatherings will be allowed for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will be restricted to five visitors in total from within your zone (and includes at homes).

· Current arrangements allowing five people to gather outdoors (not at homes) for exercise and recreation, from within the same zone, continues.

· No restaurants, cafes, pubs or clubs (except for takeaway) will be permitted to open, including for New Year’s Eve.

For the remainder (southern zone) of the Northern Beaches, the following rules apply until January 2:

· The health situation remains volatile and the current restrictions will remain in place to supress community transmission.

· However, indoor and outdoor gatherings will be allowed for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will be restricted to five visitors in total from within your zone (and includes at homes).

· Current arrangements allowing 10 people to gather outdoors (not at homes) for exercise and recreation, from within the same zone, continues.

· No restaurants, cafes, pubs or clubs (except for takeaway) will be permitted to open, including for New Year’s Eve. 

For regional NSW there is no change to current arrangements   

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