Japan train subway mask covid
A station passageway is crowded with commuters wearing face masks to help in Tokyo Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Image Credit: AP

We are now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a tumultuous time for us all and one that is tinged with pain and sadness for the families of 2.5 million people who have died from this virus. All told, more than 113 million people have contracted the virus that has brought unprecedented peacetime changes and challenges to every facet of society.

Not since the dark days of the Second World War have nations been so challenged, this time from an enemy that is unseen and hard to overcome. Earlier this week, the death toll in the United States surpassed 500,000 — a loss greater than it endured during the First, Second and Vietnam wars combined. In California, a state synonymous with sun, surf and healthy living, 50,000 dead are now mourned.

But no one place has a monopoly on misery. In India, the death toll stands at 157,000 and counting, while 11 million have contracted the virus. In the UK, more than 120,000 families mourn the passing of loved one.

Across Europe, where borders were gone as goods, people and services moved freely from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, and from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, nations have retreated within their frontiers. Yes, coronavirus has changed the way most people live.

As vaccines take hold and greater immunity becomes widespread, we might learn to live with vaccine passports — where proof of injection means the freedom to enjoy limited travel, to holiday, to simply taste once more what we all took for granted.

But there is positive news even though challenges remain. The World Health Organisation says that the rates of COVID-19 infection has been halved across Europe from its winter peak. Many thousands are being vaccinated daily, adding to the great numbers who have built up antibodies against the virus and its mutant strains. Daily too it seems as if medical researchers are making positive announcements in their war on coronavirus. And in the US, President Joe Biden has renewed his nation’s efforts to turn the corner in this pandemic.

This challenge of our time has tested our mettle and changed the way we work and interact. But together, using the strength of our collective resolve, the knowledge of our medical and scientific communities and the determination of our governments and leaders, the end of this pandemic is in sight. And together we must all pull our chin closer to our chest and face the final headwind. Calmer days are ahead.