Friday, August 5 2022

Beaches that normally spring back to life for cold-water dives on January 1 could remain deserted as the annual New Year’s fundraising swims have become another casualty of the Omicron variant.

The swims are a quirky tradition in many Western countries, requiring participants to enter freezing waters to raise money for charity.

But the emergence of Omicron – the highly transmissible variant that is now powering records around the world – has shut down a whole range of cultural institutions, from New Year’s Eve celebrations to Broadway shows. And now, thanks in large part to Omicron, some of the world’s boldest and most charitable swimmers will be kept out of the waters on New Year’s Day.

The status of the charity swims reflects the world’s patchwork approach to Covid restrictions. For some organizers, cancellations were a yes or no decision, while others headed into January 1 with contingency plans should the Covid situation worsen.

Many North American events are still ongoing, although some have Covid guidelines. At Coney Island in New York, the New Year’s dive was to go as planned. But at an event in Seattle, swimmers must wear masks and receive a booster shot.

In Canada, a series of events have been canceled in Ontario and British Columbia. But participants in Vancouver and Oakville, Ont., could still take a “digital dip” by sending in a photo of themselves in a snowbank or kiddie pool.

Swimming events on Achill Island in Ireland and The Hague have been cancelled. But in County Wicklow, Ireland, and Catalonia, Spain, charity swimming was progressing tentatively.

In the UK, where charity swims are a beloved remedy after New Year’s Eve revelry, events have taken place in North Yorkshire, England, but Edinburgh, Scotland, and Pembrokeshire, Country of Wales, among others.

“We are deeply disappointed,” organizers of the Tenby Boxing Day Swim in Wales said. “Covid wins again.”


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