Dubai: When the world celebrated the dawn of 2020, little did it know that over the next 12 months a microscopic coronavirus would toy with the human body and send mankind scurrying for refuge.
Over the past year the pandemic has mutated, left scientists baffled, devastated economies and paralysed communities.
More than 81 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1.7 million have died.
COVID-19 has not been a respecter of race, wealth or region, infecting people in 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
Children became orphans, grandparents were lost, loved ones died alone – even funerals were considered risky.
Hardly anyone was left untouched, either by the virus or its impact.
When Chinese authorities announced 27 cases of ‘viral pneumonia of unknown origin’ baffling doctors in Wuhan on December 31, its scale was barely imaginable.
On January 11, China announced the first death in Wuhan and within days cases flared across Asia, Europe and the United States.
By the end of the month, countries began airlifting foreigners out of China, borders around the world started to close and more than 50 million people living in Wuhan’s province of Hubei were in quarantine.
On February 11, the World Health Organisation named the new disease as COVID-19. Four days later, France reported the first confirmed death outside Asia and Italy soon turned into an epicentre. By mid-April, 3.9 billion people or half of humanity were living under some form of lockdown. Buzzling cities fell silent and people were entrenched in their homes. Supermarket shelves were stripped bare by panic buyers. Doctors and nurses struggled to cope and hospitals were overwhelmed.
Businesses downed their shutters. Schools and colleges shut. People began working from home. Flights were cancelled. Shops and restaurants closed. Hugs were discarded, masks became the norm.
The United States, the world’s biggest economy, rapidly became the single worst-hit nation. Even the rich, the famous, leaders of government and celebrities were not spared.
But mankind could not be silenced so soon. The human race marshalled its resources and got to work to find a vaccine. Laboratories around the world put their regular work aside and joined hands in the race to beat the coronavirus.
In December, Britain became the first Western country to approve a vaccine for general use, developed in the BioNTech lab in cooperation with Pfizer. More countries quickly followed suit. Other vaccines are on the way.
As we stand on the cusp of another year, millions are waiting to be inoculated, hoping there will be a semblance of normalcy soon.
The human spirit of survival in the midst of all odds has won.