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World rings in 2022 under COVID cloud

SYDNEY (AFP) – The world ushered in 2022 after another tumultuous and pandemic-ridden year capped by new restrictions, soaring case numbers, and a slight glimmer of hope for better times ahead.

The past 12 months saw a new United States (US) president and a new Adele album, the first spectator-free Olympics, and dreams of democracy from Afghanistan to Myanmar crushed by authoritarian regimes.

But it was the pandemic – now entering its third year – that again dominated life for most
of humankind. More than 5.4 million people have died since the coronavirus was first reported in central China in December 2019.

Countless more have been sickened – subjected to outbreaks, lockdowns and an alphabet spaghetti of PCR, LFT and RAT tests.

The year 2021 started with hope, as life-saving vaccines were rolled out to around 60 per cent of the world’s population, although many of its poor still have limited access, and some of its rich believe the jabs are part of some ill-defined plot.

New Year’s Eve fireworks light up the sky over Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House. PHOTO: AFP

As the year drew to a close, the emergence of the Omicron variant pushed the number of daily new Covid cases past one million for the first time, according to an AFP tally. Britain, the United States, and even Australia – long a refuge from the pandemic – are breaking records for new cases.

In Rio, celebrations that usually bring three million people to Copacabana Beach, went ahead.

As in New York’s Times Square, official events in the “Cidade Maravilhosa” were scaled back – with expected crowds of revellers.

In contrast, Australia’s largest city Sydney pressed ahead with a firework display that lighted up the city’s harbour.

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