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Omicron dampens end of the year celebrations in Southeast Asia

Bangkok, Dec 31 (EFE).- The spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has put the brakes on celebrations scheduled to see out 2021 in several Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, while Myanmar is immersed in a post-coup crisis and Typhoon Rai has overshadowed the festive season in the Philippines.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority announced on Dec. 23 the cancellation of all public events organized to celebrate the new year, citing concerns about the spread of Omicron.

The shows leading up to the 2022 countdown, the fireworks display over the Chao Phraya River and the Jan. 1 religious ceremonies, among other events, have been suspended.

Thailand recently suspended its one-night-only quarantine scheme not long after it opened to international arrivals, which was expected to revive its massive tourism sector, key to the local economy.

The island of Phuket will continue with its planned celebrations, which includes a concert by the Italian singer Andrea Bocelli.

The Philippines, which has the most Catholics in Asia, started December in a much better position than last year with respect to the pandemic, but devastating Typhoon Rai has overshadowed Christmas and the New Year for the millions affected.

The entire country is at alert level 2 of the pandemic, which allows most activities and the opening of restaurants and other businesses, with limited capacity for the vaccinated.

Many Filipinos celebrate Christmas with family meals and Catholic Mass, and with the deafening noise of firecrackers they will greet 2022.

Typhoon Rai has been a severe blow, especially in the central region of the archipelago. According to the latest published figures, at least 405 people died and 1,147 were injured, while more than 500,000 were displaced.

However, millions of Filipinos are able to celebrate the holidays this year without the strict confinement to which they were subjected in December 2020, mainly in the metropolitan Manila.

Ho Chi Minh City, the most populous city in Vietnam, announced last week the cancellation of fireworks and most of the events scheduled for New Year’s Eve as a result of the Covid-19 situation.

The city-state of Singapore, which will not celebrate with its traditional fireworks in Marina Bay for the second year in a row, to avoid large crowds, has invited residents to celebrate in their homes.

In Myanmar, the Feb. 1 military coup and the violent repression unleashed against civilians opposing the junta en masse has put celebrations on the back burner.

Indonesia was also among the many countries celebrating the New Year amid tough restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the Omicron variant. EFE


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