2020 was a long year, it feels like an entire decade has passed instead of only 366 days. Who would have thought that a December news story about a virus in a Wuhan seafood market would morph into a life-changing global pandemic? But here we are, nonetheless, in 2021, in a world still paralyzed by quarantine, lockdown, and curfews. But it was not just coronavirus that made 2020 the catastrophe of a year that it was.
We had Australian bushfires and California forest fires, the impeachment of a U.S. president, the worst single day ever for the stock market, the Black Lives Matter protests, the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, and most recently, the dramatic election of a new U.S. president. And to top it off for us Hungarians, this all happened during a national year of mourning for the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon. Definitely not a good recipe for a people already known for their melancholy nature. Despite this train wreck of a year, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are in 2021, for a start, so hopefully the curse of 2020 has passed by now.
First and foremost, various Covid-19 vaccines have finally reached the distribution stage, with hundreds of thousands of doses being delivered all around the world. It will, without a doubt, be a long process, but we can count on the most at-risk individuals and healthcare workers being vaccinated within the next few months. Compared to March of 2020, when most European countries had no idea of just how large of a medical emergency Covid-19 would cause, we are much better prepared now, with extra capacity in hospitals and tens of thousands of ventilators. If you just look at the data, despite the number of cases being much higher than in April, the number of deaths has been significantly reduced due to better equipment and improved medical practices. Masks are a good example of this; while many people (and even governments) questioned the effectiveness of wearing a mask at the start, it has now been proven to reduce the spread of the virus. Society has, by and large, accepted that wearing a mask at all times is one of the things that we need to do for the time being to keep the vulnerable as safe as possible during this pandemic.
Beyond medical procedures, the European Union recently came to an agreement on the EU budget. The European Parliament voted yes to a 1.8 trillion-euro budget from 2021 to 2027. This includes a 750 billion-euro Covid-relief package, called NextGenerationEU, intended to help European countries recover from the recession caused by the pandemic. Continuing on the topic of the economy, we can count on European governments to continue to find innovative methods to open certain economic sectors in a Covid-safe way. It took us half a year to realize that you do not have to shut down everything to fight the virus, even now, with our 8pm curfew here in Hungary, the economy is much more open than it was this past April. Humans are adaptive and resourceful, thank God for that, and even when the world is on the verge of falling apart, we manage to find solutions to even the most complicated problems.
I asked a friend of mine: Why will 2021 be better than 2020? He responded with “because it can’t be any worse”. So, there you go 2021, you have the easiest job of any year in history: just be normal.
Featured photo illustration by MTI/AP/Michael Sohn