New York scales back New Years Eve party in Times Square
New York is dramatically scaling back its famous New Year's Eve celebrations that were due to ring in 2022, amid mounting concerns over the coronavirus pandemic ROB KIM GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

New York's famous New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square will be drastically scaled back due to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, as the Omicron variant fuels a "staggering" surge in Covid cases.

Typically some 58,000 New Yorkers gather to watch a giant ball drop marking the arrival of a new year, but next week the capacity will be reduced to 15,000, with each attendee required to wear a mask and prove they have been vaccinated.

The additional safety measures "will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year," said de Blasio.

Times Square was largely empty on New Year's Eve last year, with only essential workers and invited guests able to watch the ball drop from socially distanced areas.

Several major world cities including Paris and London have cancelled upcoming New Year festivities due to the Omicron surge.

New York reported a "staggering" number of new Covid cases, nearly 11,000, across the city's five boroughs on Wednesday, the mayor said.

© 2021 AFP