Taipei, Thousands of people gathered in Taipei City Hall Square on Thursday evening, to participate in the New Year’s Eve countdown to 2021, even as the country remained in the grip of a strong cold front and other cities in Taiwan banned live audiences at their celebrations due to COVID-19 concerns.
Braving temperatures as low as 7 degrees Celsius in some parts of northern Taiwan, revelers began queuing up at the various entry points around Taipei City Hall Square as early as 2 p.m., an hour before the venue opened.
In keeping with the city government’s COVID-19 prevention regulations, they were wearing surgical face masks and waiting to register their names and identification numbers at the entry points, in case contact-tracing becomes necessary.
While many local governments across Taiwan have moved their New Year’s Eve countdown shows online due to the detection of the new COVID-19 virus variant in Taiwan a day earlier, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) decided to proceed with the city’s celebrations, though on a smaller scale.
A group of Myanmar students from National Chi Nan University in central Taiwan were among the first attendees to arrive at Taipei City Hall Square.
First-year student Nan Thue Thue Oo (楊金君) said she was excited about seeing live performances by her favorite Taiwanese singers and artistes.
On the issue of COVID-19 risks in the crowded area, she said she had “faith in the Taiwan government’s ability to control the situation.”
Her school mate Khaing Tha Zin (王顯玉), meanwhile, said it was her first New Year’s Eve in Taiwan and she was looking forward to the countdown party and Taipei 101 fireworks show.
Other revelers said the Taipei countdown was a bright spot in these dark times of a pandemic.
Malaysian Yang Jun Hung (楊駿宏), who has been studying in Taiwan for almost two years, said it was a great way to welcome the New Year in Taipei, as the world is struggling with the pandemic.
“The countdown can help promote people-to-people relations, while the performances at the party will certainly bring hope and cheer to people,” he told CNA.
However, not all foreign students held the same view, as indicated by Lorenzo Ramos, a Filipino graduate student at National Taiwan University.
In a phone interview, he told CNA that he had decided to avoid the large crowds at the countdown party, even though he thought that Taiwan was one of the safest places in the world for such celebrations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Taiwan’s government has managed the situation very well, with its quick response and systematic procedures,” Ramos said. “But I’m still cautious and chose to find a location in Taipei that would have less foot traffic.”
He said his New Year’s wish is that “the COVID-19 situation globally will improve and fewer people will suffer losses this coming year.”
As of 7 p.m., over 4,000 people had entered Taipei City Hall Square, where a star-studded lineup is scheduled to perform at the countdown party that will climax with a five-minute light and fireworks display at the Taipei 101 skyscraper, according to the Taipei City Department of Information and Tourism.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel