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As Omicron surges, Victorians are getting ready for New Year's Eve. Here's what's happening to ring in 2022

By Rosanne Maloney†and staff, Thursday December 30, 2021 - 01:18 AEDT
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People are being urged to avoid large crowds for New Year's events and to stay outdoors where possible. - ABC

It's that time of the year again where we start telling our mates "I'll see you next year".


However, as Victorians are preparing to say goodbye to 2021 and celebrate their way into 2022, there's a number of things that might not feel normal.


Tens of thousands will spend the countdown in quarantine or isolation, either as a COVID-19 case or a close contact of one.


Authorities are urging caution amid record daily case increases, a trend expected to continue into the new year.


Most major events ? even those that are free ? require tickets to attend, proof you're fully vaccinated and check-in on arrival.


And a heatwave is forcing some last-minute changes to plans.


Here's what to expect this New Year's in Victoria:


What's on in Melbourne and regional Victoria


Melbourne is welcoming back its fireworks displays this year, but you won't be able to wander into the city to catch the shows.


Unlike the usual rooftop displays, the fireworks are being held across four private "Celebration Zones" in an effort to reduce crowds and keep track of all attendees.


All 42,000 registered free tickets are already taken.


"We've gone to great lengths to ensure revellers can ring in the New Year in Melbourne in a COVID-safe way," Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.


"These Celebration Zones will allow smaller crowds to gather in a controlled setting at different ends of the city, ensuring the safest possible event."


However, if you've missed out on fireworks, tickets are still selling for the New Year Street Feasts which is continuing again after a successful first run last year.


Public transport will be free for all Victorians from 6pm on New Year's Eve to 6am on New Year's Day.


Regionally, some major fireworks events will be held in Bendigo, Geelong, Paynesville, Mildura, Phillip Island, Shepparton and Warrnambool.


Along the Murray River, border venues are hoping there won't be a repeat of last year's New Year's Eve which saw the Victorian government announce people had to return to their home states within 48 hours.


In Moama, the local golf club is holding a music concert with fireworks which has almost sold out its 500 tickets.


"Keeping our fingers crossed, we don't see a repeat of last year," said Rich River Golf Club's chief executive†Shane Gloury.


Meanwhile, music festivals will ring in the new year around the state, such as the Beyond the Valley replacement, Beyond the City, in Melbourne's CBD and the NYE†on the Hill event.


However, a New Year's Eve festival to be held in Tallarook has already been cancelled due to COVID-19.


King Gizzard's Timeland was slated to run from December 31 at the regular site of the Boogie Festival but, in a statement, festival organisers said the risks of infection for staff and attendees was too high.


"We have weighed up the risks, and it is just not fair and safe to proceed," they said.


A heatwave is cancelling some events, but inspiring others


Hot temperatures are forcing changes to some events over the New Year period, with fireworks displays cancelled in Horsham at the annual free New Year's Eve celebration at its†showgrounds.


Weather forecasts for Victoria are expected to be hot and sunny, with 33 degrees expected in Melbourne and temperatures closer to 40 degrees elsewhere in the state.


Andrea Cross from Horsham's Agricultural Society said the heat had presented issues.


"We aren't having fireworks because the Wimmera is dry and crusty. We have some spot fires this month, and so we are having a 'responsible shazam' as we're calling it, at midnight," Ms Cross said.


There will also be arm painting, the socially distanced version of face painting.


The hot weather is a good thing for one other event†?†Bendigo's community-run Golden Square Pool†annual family New Year's Eve party.


"A lot of people will be looking for a place to relax and cool off and the pool is probably the best place to be," said Golden Square Pool president Sam Kane.


Some of us are seeing in the new year in isolation


While most of us are trying to find what to do or where to go, thousands of Victorians will be spending the countdown at home with COVID-19 or isolating because they are close contacts of someone with the virus.


Melburnian Claire Brady, 30, had tickets to an event until she found out her housemate had tested positive to COVID-19 on Boxing Day.


"I'll probably pretend it's not happening and watch a movie and go to bed early," she said.


"It's mainly a bit annoying, I think, but working as a nurse I know that I can't do anything else and I'd hate to put other people at risk."


More than 40,000 people ? those with COVID-19 and their close contacts ? were reported to be in isolation, as of December 29, and it's expected that number will grow.


If you're planning a party, there are some things you can do


Despite rising case numbers in Victoria, the state government said authorities were asking people to take a commonsense approach to New Year's celebrations to protect themselves.


Health Minister Martin Foley said following rules that were in place ?†such as mask-wearing indoors and social distancing ?†would be key.


He also urged people to hold New Year's Eve parties outside or with full ventilation if they were indoors.


People have also been told to take a rapid antigen test as an extra screening measure†and to stay home if they have even the slightest symptoms.


"These are important measures that Victorians can take to protect themselves and protect each other in an environment in which we are seeing a large circulation of these variants of concern in our community," he said.


COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the state was running about 10 to 12 days behind New South Wales when it came to case numbers.


"But it's also in our hands in terms of how we behave," Mr Weimar said.


Police are stepping up patrols


Victoria Police is running a "major operation" over Friday night and into Saturday.


Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said police would have a particular focus on beaches and waterfronts across the state, and the Melbourne CBD.†


"We have thousands of extra police, which incorporate specialists, water police, mounted branch, public order response teams, as well as general duties and plain clothes police, together with highway patrol," he said.


"So we will absolutely be out in force, doing all we can to ensure that people have a really happy and safe new year's celebration."


Ambulance Victoria and Fire Rescue Victoria are also preparing for a surge in demand over the new year period.


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- ABC

© ABC 2021

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