As the New Year progresses, we ponder what the future has in store for us. The past two years have been characterised by a pandemic, several lockdowns, and, above all else, absolute uncertainty. As the pandemic drags on, it’s safe to say most of us long for a return to nostalgic normality, but many are increasingly skeptical of this happening in the foreseeable future. Depending on a range of factors, 2022 could be this much-anticipated return to normal- or more of the same.

Admittedly, the year has started on a low note with the Omicron variant. With daily cases reaching almost 200,000 – met with increasing Plan B restrictions for at least three weeks- the pandemic seemingly shows no sign of stopping. However, one month into the Omicron outbreak, hospitalisations (the crucial factor in the ability of the NHS to handle the surge) have been relatively low compared to their peak of over 38,000 this time last year- but they are increasing. On the 5th of January, over 15,000 people were hospitalised due to Covid. Overall, 1 million Covid cases have been reported in the past two weeks, and this could continue to increase. The pandemic is certainly not over.

But even whilst the Omicron variant continues, there could still be hope. Hospitalisations and deaths are currently much lower than in previous waves of the virus- herd immunity, and a success in the UK’s vaccination programme are among a few factors perhaps responsible for this. South Africa- the starting point of this Omicron outbreak- reached a peak of nearly 25,000 Covid cases on the 16th of December before slowly diminishing afterwards. It’s possible that the Omicron variant in the UK could also peak very soon and subside, though nothing can be said for certain at the moment. 2022 could be the year Covid finally becomes endemic- it could continue to circulate but with minimised impact due to vaccination, herd immunity, decreasing severity, and reduced pressure on the NHS.

On the surface, economic recovery continues as the UK projects a strong 4.5% growth rate in 2022. However, inflation and energy supply continue to be areas of concern. Inflation hit 5.1% in November 2021, and energy costs continue to rise. If these issues continue, they could contribute to an increased risk of renewed recession.  Interest has increased from 0.1% to 0.25% in an evident attempt to combat rising inflation- but is this enough? An atmosphere of absolute uncertainty certainly clouds the economy too.

Overall, 2022 could either be the year the 2020s finally hit their stride, or another year of dismal uncertainties around the corner. This pivotal year isn’t all doom and gloom, but nothing is guaranteed either. The only certainty of this era has been uncertainty, but so many factors need to be considered. The circumstances are different from those of previous years, but the general tone being set by this year seems to be cautiously optimistic.