The 1st January 2020 was celebrated as any normal new year, with millions out drinking and partying and the usual London fireworks lighting up the skyline in celebration. Now, as we edge closer to the 1st January 2021, this celebration seems like a very distant memory. With nearly three-quarters of the UK now under the strictest tier four restrictions, the reality of a year battling against a global pandemic is really setting in.
2020 has exposed the fragility of people in many senses but has also exemplified the strength and unity that can come out of such troubling global events. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit negotiations have dominated the news across the year, it is also important to celebrate the instances of ‘good news’ and the success that can be applauded in the wake of a global pandemic.
The onset of school closures presented a harsh reality of how the pandemic would impact on children, both in their exams and university prospects but also with access to food. The pandemic really shed light on how schools exist as a bedrock of society, in many ways more than what initially meets the eye. In applauding the successes of 2020, it goes without saying that Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign has exemplified the collective effort to challenge government policy. There was a real sense of the community being called to action, with many restaurants, cafes and supermarkets offering supplies for children who would be without their free school meals during the lockdown period.
Furthermore, in creating a more positive outlook of what has been an undeniably challenging year, there have been real highlights in improving inclusivity in the world of politics. The election of Joe Biden (and the end of a rather tumultuous presidency under Donald Trump) can be celebrated for having the highest voter turnout since 1900. In early September, at least 860,000 Americans had voted, less than 10,000 people had voted at that point in 2016. Joining the Biden administration is Kamala Harris, becoming the first woman to serve as Vice President and also the first black and Indian Vice President. In October, New Zealand also voted in its most diverse Parliament, with more women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In November, Scotland made history, becoming the first nation in the world to supply free period products for all. This marked an immense turning point in something that has been campaigned for years and represents an important move in recognising women’s menstrual rights. The bill was introduced by Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who argued that the pandemic has shown more than ever the need for essential items such as tampons and sanitary pads to be available for those in need.
The news of more stringent controls and an increasingly strict tier system as we move into the new year has placed more pressure on the wellbeing of individuals and businesses in the UK. Despite these challenges, it is important to celebrate the medical advancements in the creation of a vaccine and look forward to (hopefully) a year of successfully battling the virus and a return to normality. The pandemic initiated a wave of global collaboration in the creation of a vaccine, and the coronavirus vaccine became the fastest vaccine ever developed. The news of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine also prompts hope that with immunisations the risk of serious disease and hospitalistation can be significantly reduced.
2020 without doubt has challenged the very structures and habits of society that we have all become very well accustomed to. Whilst we bring in the new year in still rather troubling circumstances, the vaccine does bring us a more well-founded hope for better times ahead. Headline news and the constant political rhetoric around COVID-19 and Brexit can often give a rather damning account of the state of the world, but it is important that we celebrate the successes of the year and look with optimism to what will hopefully be a happier and healthier 2021.
By Lydia Stroud
Image: via Freepik