The New Year’s Eve ball drop at Times Square in New York City will be allowed to happen but with 15,000 attendees instead of the normal 58,000 (Picture: PA Images)
The iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop at Times Square has been cleared to happen despite a surge in coronavirus Omicron cases – but there will be a significant cap on the crowd size and all attendees will have to wear masks.
While 58,000 people have gathered for the iconic ringing of the New Year on typical years, the event next Friday will be limited to 15,000, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday afternoon.
‘New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year,’ de Blasio tweeted.
‘There’s a lot to celebrate and the additional safety measures we’re announcing today will keep the fully vaccinated crowd at Times Square safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year.’
People planning to attend the outdoor event will not be able to enter until 3pm, which is much later than previous years. In the pre-pandemic years, attendees were known to camp out the night before or early on New Year’s Eve to snag spot close to the ball drop and performances.
Viewing areas will have fewer individuals to allow for social distancing. That means the crowd may look different from past years when a sea of people in fenced off areas could be seen for blocks around Times Square.
Revelers will have to wear masks on top of the previous requirement of proof of being fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means that as of December 31, a person received their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna jab at least 14 days prior, or gotten the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at least 14 days before.
Times Square Alliance president Tom Harris applauded de Blasio’s decision.
‘We applaud the leadership of Mayor de Blasio in finding a way to welcome revelers into Times Square on New Year’s Eve in an even safer way than we originally planned,’ Harris stated.
‘This year, revelers will be fully vaccinated, masked, and we will have reduced occupancy in the viewing areas.’
The fate of the Times Square ball drop had been in limbo as Omicron cases surged in New York City and accounted for 75% of new cases in the US last week, becoming the dominant variant in the country.
De Blasio had said he would make a decision before Christmas on whether to hold the ball drop, for which preparations were underway, or cancel it.
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