Beaches that normally spring back to life for cold-water plunges on Jan. 1 may remain deserted, as annual New Year’s Day fund-raising swims have become yet another casualty of the Omicron variant.
The swims are a quirky tradition in many Western countries, requiring participants to enter frigid waters to raise money for charity.
But the emergence of Omicron — the highly transmissible variant that is now fueling record surges around the world — has shuttered a range of cultural institutions, from New Year’s Eve celebrations to Broadway shows. And now, largely because of Omicron, some of the world’s most daring — and charitable — swimmers will be kept out of the waters on New Year’s Day.
The status of the charity swims are a reflection of the world’s patchwork approach to Covid restrictions. For some organizers, the cancellations were a yes-or-no decision, while others were inching toward Jan. 1 with contingency plans if the Covid situation worsened.
Many of the North American events are still on, though some will have Covid guidelines. At Coney Island in New York, the New Year’s Day Plunge was set to go on as planned. But at one Seattle event, swimmers must wear masks and have a booster shot.
In Canada, a slate of events have been canceled in Ontario and in British Columbia. But participants in Vancouver and Oakville, Ontario, could still take a “digital dip” by sending a picture of themselves in a snowbank or a kiddie pool.
Swim events on Achill Island in Ireland and in the The Hague were canceled. But in County Wicklow, Ireland, and Catalonia, Spain, charity swims were tentatively moving forward.
In the United Kingdom, where the charity swims are a beloved remedy after New Year’s Eve revelries, events were on in North Yorkshire, England, but off in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in Pembrokeshire, Wales, among other places.
“We are deeply disappointed,” the organizers of the Tenby Boxing Day Swim in Wales said. “Covid wins again.”