In Dhaka, New Year’s Eve saw a ban on events held in open spaces outside the home
The festival-loving Bangladeshis have welcomed 2021 in a rather quiet manner because of restrictions on new year's celebrations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Being forced to confine themselves to their homes, the people of Bangladesh celebrated New Year's Eve with the hope of a pandemic-free time – leaving behind the fear of death, anxiety and uncertainty about the future.
This time in Dhaka, there was no opportunity for anyone to take part in any event in an open space outside the house on New Year's Eve. The rooftops of houses were also under purview of the ban.
But even then, many people made the first moment of the new year memorable by having a barbecue party on the rooftop, releasing lanterns and setting off fireworks.
Meanwhile, people from the upper classes took part in various events including parties at five-star hotels.
New Zealand was the first country in the world to welcome the new year. Thousands thronged Auckland on New Year's Eve. But a nighttime curfew was imposed in major cities of several countries, including France and India, to prevent any New Year's Eve party due to a spike in novel coronavirus cases.
The beginning of 2020 in Bangladesh was a festive atmosphere. People aimed to make the year memorable by celebrating the golden jubilee of the country's independence. Various programmes were also held in the beginning of the year. But when the novel coronavirus outbreak occurred in January, the global situation changed quickly.
Shiuly Nahar Toma, a student at Dhaka University, told The Business Standard (TBS) that the pandemic has dampened the joy of the new year. On top of that, Covid-19's new strain has tainted the new year's journey, she added.
"For this, the celebration of the last night of 2020 has had to be observed in accordance with the special instructions of law enforcement agencies. So, there was a kind of bad feeling. It is our wish the world will return to normalcy in the new year," she added.
Several five-star hotels in the capital usually organise cocktail parties, DJ parties and other lavish events to celebrate New Year's Eve in normal times but, considering the current situation, they made limited arrangements this year.
An official of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dhaka told TBS, "We have tried to celebrate the Thirty-First Night by maintaining social distancing. However, not all of our guests are the same. Some agreed while some did not."
"The liquor bar usually remains open on this day in normal times. DJs usually have dance party arrangements. But this time around, all these were closed. We just arranged dinner. And there was the count-down," he added.
Meanwhile, Nazmul Hossain, marketing officer of Pan Pacific Sonargaon, said they had arranged Pool Cafe, Cafe Bazaar and special arrangements in the bar on the occasion of New Year's Eve.
"These were organised in compliance with the hygiene rules in their own management. Compared to other years this time there were limited arrangements," he continued.
Apart from this, most of the entertainment centres in the capital saw fewer visitors compared to normal times due to the pandemic, according to the authorities of: the National Museum, Lalbagh Fort, the National Zoo, Wonderland, Fantasy Kingdom in Savar, the Botanical Garden, Ahsan Manzil, the Air Force Museum, and Bangabandhu Novo Theater.
Normally, thousands of tourists flock to Cox's Bazar beach on New Year's Eve. This year's picture was very different.
Rana Karmakar, operations manager of Mermaid Beach and Eco Resort – which is one of the top destinations for domestic and foreign tourists in Cox's Bazar – told TBS, "Normally, we have special arrangements on the occasion of New Year's Eve every year. But, considering the current situation, we have not done much this time. This time, our guests have come, spent their time on their own, eaten, and then left. The number of tourists has been a little lower than usual this year."
Due to the pandemic, various social and cultural events, including national and religious festivals, have not returned to normal since the beginning of 2020.
Renowned playwright Mamunur Rashid told TBS, "Let our world be more beautiful in the new year than before! This is our desire. Bangladesh has a cultural heritage. But, in the last year the country has not been able to organise any event spontaneously!"
There are some similarities between the current global pandemic and the Spanish Flu.
However, if one takes the catastrophic virus outbreak of 1917 as a yardstick, the thought of how 2021 will turn out will not make one feel relieved. This is because the flu that started a century ago lasted for three years.
This time around, however, there are a number of good things starting from the battle to recover the economy from the shocks induced by the pandemic. As a result, one can be optimistic about the new year and the years to come.
Government employee Shahan Shahrior told TBS that the new year has come with some fresh air as the relentless scientific efforts have made it possible to develop vaccines for the novel coronavirus. "The mammoth challenge is to make the vaccines available for the general public. We can only hope that our financial and political constraints do not affect the distribution process of the vaccine."