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Looking back at the year when everything changed

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, from the way we shop for groceries to the way we conduct work and interact with healthcare providers and our families.

I think it’s fair to say that 2020 will not be particularly missed by anyone. Many started the year with big plans, whether for overseas trips, weddings, or industry events, and then the unthinkable happened. While the world first heard of the novel coronavirus in late 2019, it was not until March 11 that it was declared a global pandemic and it finally sank in just how serious of a threat it was. We are literally living through a major historic event.

Over the 12 months that followed, COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, from the way we shop for groceries to the way we conduct work and interact with healthcare providers and our families.

Major global events

COVID-19 has amplified many of the issues that society was already facing. Although the pandemic has largely taken the media’s focus away from the climate crisis, it has given us a preview of what’s to come if we do not stop exploiting the planet and our wildlife. Indeed, 2020 brought new record forest fires and extreme weather events.

In addition, 2020 was the year where social justice (not least in the form of Black Lives Matter protests) was brought into focus. Racial discrimination and bias were also uncovered in healthcare, with stark differences in COVID-19 rates and mortality between different ethnicities in many countries.

COVID-19 has widened the already large class divides seen between white-collar and service workers, with the former typically having the option of working from home and taking the recommended social distancing precautions. Conversely, the latter group is largely being forced to carry on with their work with little protection and low compensation, if they even have a job to go to after many smaller businesses closed their doors.

Public health became politicized

Somehow, in 2020, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a highly contagious disease became a controversial and political issue. People were asked to stay home, watch Netflix, and bake sourdough bread to protect those who are vulnerable, yet photos of packed bars and sports stadiums soon emerged and anti-masking protests were held across the world.

This year, epidemiologists, researchers, and clinicians have become household names, with people like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Sweden’s Anders Tegnell drawing their fair shares of both praise and criticism domestically and internationally. Countries’ strategies to contain the spread of the virus have been debated and criticized, and it will likely be years before we’ll be able to say which approaches were “right” and “wrong.”

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23rd February 2021

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