Covid-19: what you need to know today

If 2020 was the year of the virus, then 2021 will rightly be the year of the vaccine. If we hadn’t ended the year with a vaccine – luckily we have, and not just one but a handful; and we might just be approved in India on Jan 1 – 2021 would have been the year of the mutant strain, which makes it look like 2020 really was, a paste-up horror novel.

But 2020 was not just the year of the virus.

It was the year of the healthcare worker. Throughout the year, around the world, doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical professionals worked around the clock, putting themselves in danger, showing physical endurance, mental and emotional like the world has not seen in decades.

It was the year of the scientist and the researcher, the data scientist and the epidemiologist. Never in history have so many scientists and researchers around the world worked to achieve the same two goals as in 2020: better understanding the virus that caused Covid-19; and find a cure or vaccine for it. What do we have to show for this? Tens of thousands of research studies, a very clear understanding of the virus and how it attacks the human body, several effective vaccines and a few effective drugs.

It was the year of the house. It became the office and the school, the gymnasium and the restaurant, and it became both a sanctuary and a prison.

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It was the year of the screen, the year of the Zoom background; the year of baking and family meals.

It was, for people like my parents who are pretty much stuck in Chennai and can’t even meet friends and relatives because they are in the most vulnerable age group, the year of the loneliness and fear (none of which can be assuaged in any way from video calls).

It was, for those of us who lost family and friends to viral illness, a year of pain and grief, and a grieving process that seemed too insufficient.

For me, it was also a year of writing – thanks to this column, I wrote more than I have done in years (although probably as much as I usually rewrite in a few months).

But for many others, certainly less privileged than anyone reading this column, 2020 was something else.

For some, it was the year that pushed them back into a life they thought they had given up; many may not have the will or the means to start over.

For some poor students who saw education as a way out of their situation, this was the year that ended their dreams. Many will give up; some have already done so, either because of their financial situation or their inability to take online courses.

And for some who left home to pursue their dreams elsewhere, it was a year that reminded them of how little they mattered – to the people and establishments they worked for; to the cities and neighborhoods where they lived; even governments that have to look after everyone.

Read more | India to receive Covid-19 vaccine within days: AIIMS director

And so, even as economists say 2021 is the year of the big rebound, and CEOs speak eloquently in investor briefings on how their businesses have become more efficient and are on the path to profitability, and the rest of us are simply treating 2020 as what it really is for the privileged – a Formula 1 pit stop – it’s important to make sure that in this new year, all of us – individuals, businesses, governments, let’s do all we can for those whose lives have been ravaged by the past year. .

They need opportunities; they need understanding; they need the playing field to be level; and they need someone who can help them make their dreams come true.

Happy New Year.