London’s iconic Big Ben was tested on Thursday (December 30) ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The clock bell in the British Houses of Parliament’s Elizabeth tower was being prepared for ringing in the new year with 12 “bongs”, which struck at intervals on Thursday using its temporary mechanism while the clock is being restored.
Big Ben is due to sound at 1200, 1600, 2100, 2200, 2300 and finally midnight on December 31.
The original Victorian mechanism is expected to replace the temporary electric motor when the four-year conservation project is finished in Spring 2022.
New Year celebrations in Europe are set to be curtailed as the Omicron variant takes hold. Almost one million people have died of coronavirus in Europe over the past 12 months.
London’s firework display and traditional concert that typically draws thousands of people on to the streets were cancelled, as were events in other European capitals.
Despite the growing number of cases in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will not bring in new restrictions this year in England to limit the spread of Omicron, which now accounts for 90% of all community infections, according to health officials.
Johnson said the high number of people who had received COVID booster shots, which now stands at more than 33 million or about 58% of the population aged over 12, meant there was no need for new rules ahead of New Year celebrations.