Fireworks and Big Ben mark subdued UK new year amid Covid spreadon January 1, 2022 at 4:24 am

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Public events to see in 2022 were scrapped in London and Edinburgh amid the spread of Omicron.

Fireworks in Greenwich

Image source, EPA

Fireworks have marked the arrival of the new year in London, despite many events being cancelled as the Omicron Covid variant continues to spread.

The public were told to stay away from the displays in the UK capital, with a series of fireworks and drone shows broadcast from a number of landmarks.

In Scotland, restrictions meant Hogmanay events were cancelled.

But the start of the new year did see Big Ben’s bongs return for the first time in almost four years.

The famous clock in the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower has been undergoing restoration since 2017 which led to the outside of the landmark being covered in scaffolding and the bell silenced.

While London’s usual New Year’s Eve fireworks display would see crowds gather on the banks and bridges of the River Thames to watch the show, due to fears about coronavirus there were no spectators for the second year running.

Instead, a series of locations around the capital including the Shard, Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral were used as backdrops for smaller light and drone shows as well as traditional fireworks.

Fireworks on the Millennium Bridge

Image source, PA Media

Drones and fireworks illuminate the night sky over the Old Royal Naval College

Image source, PA Media

A light display to mark the New Year is seen over St Paul's Cathedral

Image source, Reuters

Despite Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh being cancelled – and a warning from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that people should “stay at home as much as possible” – the PA news agency reported that around 1,000 people went to the top of Calton Hill in the city to see in the new year.

Edinburgh Castle and the Balmoral Clock seen at midnight on New Year's Eve

Image source, PA Media

The celebrations in Wales were also muted as Alert Level Two restrictions have placed a limit on the number of people who can meet in pubs and restaurants.

Nightclubs have also been closed and a maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events – or 50 if gathering outdoors.

The night was also said to be quiet in Belfast because nightclubs are closed due to Covid rules and dancing has been banned in other hospitality venues.

The smaller-scale festivities took place against a backdrop of the UK reporting 189,846 new Covid cases in the latest 24-hour period – another record high.

New Year’s Eve was also the warmest ever in the UK, with a temperature of 15.8C (60.4F) being recorded in Merryfield, Somerset, beating the previous high of 14.8C (58.6F) set at Colwyn Bay, north Wales, in 2011.

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