The new year is here. 2021 – the year everyone was looking forward to for a respite from the exhausting barrage of doom and gloom of yesteryear. 2020 was by far one of the worst years for humanity in recent memory, and easily the worst year since the turn of the millennium. People would be forgiven for hoping the problems of 2020 would magically disappear with a countdown, or a flip of the calendar – even if we all know that won’t happen.
The truth is, the year is now 2021, but we are still left with the biggest problem of 2020. The world has seemingly learned nothing from nearly 12 months of COVID-19. Total cases are nearing 100 million, and deaths are a stone’s throw away from reaching the 2 million mark. But still, international governments are still fumbling their way through on-off lockdowns, inconsistent guidance, and a general mismanagement of the pandemic as a whole. Luckily for us in the GCC, things have been handled in a more calculated manner, and cases are an inkling of what they were before.
While it’s easy to simply blame the world’s governments for mishandling the pandemic, a lot of the blame also falls on irresponsible citizens. Nobody enjoys wearing a mask, but we all have a responsibility towards our fellow man not to endanger their lives (or ours) by simply inconveniencing ourselves with a face covering. When we consider the grueling experience of medical personnel around the world – basically operating on the front lines of this pandemic that’s not unlike a war of sorts – wearing a mask for a trip to the supermarket or the bank doesn’t seem so bad. If only more people would realize that.
2020 ended, but the year closed in a manner that reminds us that many people have not learned their lesson yet. Reports from around the word informed us that despite the warnings of governments and medical professionals, many broke social distancing protocol to celebrate the turn of the year.
It’s nearly 100 million cases and 2 million deaths later, but still we repeat the same mistakes.
One silver lining we can look forward to is that of the upcoming vaccines. While lots of conspiracy theories have been making the rounds online, especially on social media, these vaccines could be the key to a return to a semblance of normal. The world’s economy is strained, and many sectors devastated by the pandemic are hanging by a thread. All of this could finally reach a turning point should successful vaccines come into play.
Regionally, we’re seeing a growing drive towards vaccination, and two variants are currently available in the UAE: Sinopharm and BioNTech-Pfizer. According to the Khaleej Times, the country aims to vaccinate 50% of its population in the first quarter of 2021. Over 1.167 million people have already been vaccinated.
In Saudi Arabia, vaccination programs went into effect last month. According to the Kingdom’s Health Ministry, more than 178,000 citizens have received the jab so far.
As we look towards a brighter 2021, we hope that 2020’s affairs can finally be put to rest, and that this pandemic can be finally relegated to the history books. How successful we are at this endeavor, however, is a responsibility that falls into our collective hands.