An Ivorian traditional chief receives a COVID-19 vaccine in a truck at a mobile vaccination center in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
An Ivorian traditional chief receives a COVID-19 vaccine in a truck at a mobile vaccination center in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Image Credit: REUTERS

At this time last year, and as the world was almost celebrating the end of the coronavirus pandemic, a new variant arrived — it was called Delta. And it wreaked havoc. As we prepare to bid 2021 farewell, another COVID-19 variant — Omicron is here.

In the time between the arrival of the two strains, there have been other challenges. But reflecting on the outgoing year, it turned out fine. Despite those trials, 2021 was actually not a bad year, especially at a local level. The UAE witnessed many things that made us proud.

We marked the Golden Jubilee of the UAE, celebrating 50 years of unmatched progress in the human development. Expo 2020 Dubai opened its doors to millions of visitors with 192 countries taking part in the greatest show on earth.

President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan approved the biggest legal reforms in our history with updated legislations to cement the nation’s position as an oasis of tolerance and peaceful coexistence and a hub for trade and investment. We ended the year with a historic change in the work environment as the weekend changed from the traditional Friday-Saturday to the new, universally followed Saturday-Sunday off-days.

Globally, 2021 was equally an eventful year. Joe Biden became president of the United States in January, with the slogan “America is back”, ending four years of the peculiar and sometimes perilous four years reign of Donald Trump.

World leaders again failed planet Earth as they bickered in Glasgow’s climate change summit without any conclusive result, despite several extreme weather events that devastated entire areas — flooding in Europe, unusually late monsoons in India and Nepal, wild fires in Australia, North Africa and the US.

The global economy, which had begun the process of recovery after a year of shutdowns, was hit with the continuing crisis of ‘supply chains’ shortages. When consumer demand returned strongly in 2021, as the health situation improved, there weren’t enough goods and supplies, to go around. That led to a peak in inflation, the biggest jump in more than 30 years.

In Afghanistan, Taliban is back too — following unexpectedly quick collapse of the government in August as major cities fell to the Islamist movement in a matter of days. There has yet to be any a geopolitical impact on the region but that may change in the coming year.

The biggest story of 2021 however was the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines. Inoculations against the virus gave the world the ultimate weapon to beat the pandemic. Vaccines reduced the number of infections, minimised the symptoms and allowed countries to reopen and the economy to recover.

The vaccines were developed in less than a year, the quickest production of vaccine in history. So far, nearly 7.5 billion doses administered worldwide. The UAE today tops the world in the vaccination rate, it must be noted. Studies are underway to establish if the current vaccines work against Omicron. Nevertheless, the vaccine has given us hope that it will not be long before we see the end of one of the worst pandemics in history. Therefore, and despite the trials of COVID-19, 2021 turned out to be not a bad year indeed.