It was a horror show that began with out of control wildfires in Australia and in the US. This was followed by scarily provocative tweets from the leader of the free world, the horror of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent riots with the heavy handed police reactions to Black Lives Matter protests. Even so, it was not these events that overshadowed the year. 2020 became dominated by a strange, new type of pneumonia coming out of China and racing around the world at pace. This modern pandemic took the world back into pre-modern type catastrophes, like the plague or cholera, in its virulence and infectious capacities. Millions have been infected, huge numbers have died, economies have crumbled and personal liberty has been eroded like never before. Not to mention exam chaos and the schooling, social and economic infrastructures fragmenting under these unique pressures. The worst part is that we do not know when, or indeed if, we can go back to normal. 

But there were good moments too amongst the gloom and the terror. Weren’t there?

In the UK, we ended the year by having two vaccines that have been approved; the Oxford AstraZeneca and the Pfizer BioTech vaccines, with the Moderna vaccine newly approved in 2021 with supplies to follow in the spring. These vaccines are very effective at reducing the effect of the virus, and are needed more than ever, with the discovery of new and more potent strains of the virus. Which is amazing news! We have weapons that are really effective against a deadly widespread threat that has decimated communities, countries and continents in 2020. And this was something that many feared would not happen for large swathes of 2020, so when not just one but a series of vaccines were approved, there was instant rejoicing.

So 2021 looks more hopeful than 2020 in this respect.

Although almost as soon as the good news emerged, groups of people started saying they wouldn’t take the vaccine, or that the virus wasn’t even real. Some argued that vaccines would have chips hidden within them to track people globally, as if that wasn’t already true for every smart phone user. Social media abounded with conspiracy theories even as the NHS groaned under the weight of newly rising cases of the second wave.

Or is it the third wave? I’ve lost count.

However, we want to be positive here. So there were ancillary positives from the virus too. Everyone has talked about the impacts on the environment: from the clear waters of the Venice canals, to the goats invading a Welsh village or the kangaroos going into cities Down Under. The natural world has become more visible and significantly appreciated during lockdown. When the only thing to do is to go for a walk in the woods and peer at baby ducks, then this becomes the most charming and most educational of activities. And the numbers of cars on the roads and planes in the air plummeted too and many argued this was a boost to the environment as never before.

Other positives probably include a greater appreciation for some of what people already had: an enjoyment of domestic activities and hobbies, like the banana bread and sourdough baking crazes, for one example. There was also a thankfulness generally for our health and survival and a positive mindset for the future. People stood outside week after week and clapped for carers, shopped for strangers, walked the dogs of isolators and provided free content for school kids and the bored alike. So we all found a new sense of society and community and wellbeing. 


But will any of these good intentions survive as we limp helplessly towards a new normality? So far in 2021 we are already in another lockdown, with spiralling case numbers and an almost overwhelmed NHS, especially in the south east and London, and no one knows what will be the new normal. Everyday we have a better understanding of the virus, but how humanity will come out of this and what our economies and social structures will be like no one yet knows. Exams have been cancelled and replaced with teacher assessments. This is a massive improvement from the disaster that was the algorithm which favoured private school students and which left many state school students with damaged future prospects. University students are still locked down. Most people are back in their houses, trying to work out how to feed their families and run the WiFi for yet more zoom meetings and online learning, shopping and messaging.

So it’s not looking better so far. But there is still hope: and this is what we have to cling to now.  Hope that 2021 and beyond will be virus free, or at least that the virus will be well controlled. We have a new leader of the free world arriving on the 20th January, insurrection depending, and he has a more global, inclusive and proactive approach.

I hope that 2021 turns out better than 2020 did!