The New Year took off in a subdued manner for the second year in a row following the emergence of Omicron, dashing the hopes of the end of the pandemic.

However, within the ambit of restrictions, most hotel and tourism establishments were full on New Year eve on Friday. Hotels and restaurants in Muscat and other tourism destinations in the Sultanate of Oman were packed with the allowed capacity.

Only those who had got two doses of the vaccine were allowed after checking their certificates. There was also a 50 per cent occupancy restriction.

The measures followed instructions by the authorities to the public to ring in the New Year responsibly in light of the risk posed by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Although there was concern among the revellers who attended group parties in hotels, Covid-19 and the new variant did not dampen the festive spirit among many.

“It will be a lie if I say I have no concerns and fear about the pandemic,” said Kevin Ivens, a British national, adding, “albeit I think it’s worth to come and celebrate.”

A year ago, the newly available vaccine offered hope that the coronavirus spread may be under control by the start of 2022. Instead, the sudden arrival of Omicron has brought a surge in coronavirus cases across the globe.

“Although the fears arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and Omicron have diluted the mood, people still had a good time on New Year eve,” said John Douglas, an official with an international hotel brand in Oman.

In normal circumstances, New Year eve in the capital Muscat is one of the vital celebrations, including traditional and contemporary parties with vibrant fireworks in major hotels and other premises.

“Since we adopted the pandemic operating procedures early on, we hosted our annual festive season buffets and a New Year gala dinner at our restaurants with special menus and musical entertainment for families,” John said.

Within permitted levels, guests turned up, and most hotels across the country were full. Bookings were done in advance and last-minute reservations were not entertained.

By six in the evening, most roads in the city witnessed heavy traffic with people coming out in large numbers to enjoy the New Year, especially on the beachfront.

Royal Oman Police personnel were assigned to ensure social-distancing norms were being followed at religious places.

Churches nationwide curbed attendance in the evening services, owing to the restrictions on public gatherings. Some have cancelled physical services and opted to stream online. Others have scattered parishioners across different venues, and changed timings.

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