New York City welcomed the new year — and bid good riddance to 2021 — as confetti and cheers spread across Times Square as a New Year’s Eve tradition returned to a city beleaguered by a global pandemic.

The new year marched across the globe, time zone by time zone, and thousands of New Year’s revelers stood shoulder to shoulder in a slight chill to witness a 6-ton ball, encrusted with nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals, descend above a crowd of about 15,000 in-person spectators — far fewer than the many tens of thousands of revelers who usually descend on the world-famous square to bask in the lights and hoopla of the nation’s marquee New Year’s Eve event.

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It did so as an uneasy nation tried to muster optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are now behind it — even as public health officials cautioned on Friday against unbridled celebrations amid surging COVID-19 infections from the omicron variant.

Though the crowds were smaller, the throngs nevertheless stretched for blocks to soak in the celebration, with many traveling from afar to take part. Confetti lit up by electronic billboards swirled in light wind on a mild winter night in New York City.

A child attends the New Year’s celebrations in Times Square, as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US, on January 1, 2022. (Reuters)
A child attends the New Year’s celebrations in Times Square, as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US, on January 1, 2022. (Reuters)
Mary Gonzalez stood a few feet behind a crowd, wanting to keep her distance from anyone unwittingly carrying the virus.

“I’m happy that 2021 is over because it caused a lot of problems for everybody,” said Gonzalez, who was visiting from Mexico City and wanted to take in an American tradition. “We hope that 2022 is much better than this year.”

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