Representational Image
Representational Image

Take a moment to yourself and try to imagine whatever you were doing exactly a year ago, in a world where anyone barely even knew the SARS-CoV-2 exists. A world where an extraordinary coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was a distant dystopian nightmare, limited solely to the pages of pulp fiction and box-office screen duds.

If you have, chances are that you'll start to vaguely remember a world where the internet was still content with glossing over the brand new iPhone or the latest superhero flick.

You lived, you travelled, guzzled, and laughed at the VSCO girls, TikTok videos, and "OK, boomer" clips. No one had the slightest peek into a rather indefinite world just around the corner, where hellish predicaments involving broken health-care systems, mass identification of suspected patients, and overflowing hospitals would be realised. Even if you did, no one could possibly fathom a reality where truth would put Kafkaesque visions of fiction to shame.

On an increasingly literal sense, though, the world turned around on its head in 365 days. Now the coronavirus has spread to 218 countries and territories around the globe and infected (at the time of this writing) more than seven crore people and killed as many as over 17 lakh.

Much like the World Wars or the 9/11 attacks, the pandemic has imprinted itself upon the world's psyche and it is here to stay, no matter how voraciously experts project a distant "post-COVID" world.

The internet hardly stayed sane, of course. A global pandemic of this scale inevitably led to panic searches and a deluge of online resources kept at bay for netizens. COVID-19 almost turned into an academic discipline, and with it being more personal and disruptive for modern society than anything of the sort previously imaginable, Google's search history had some real highs and lows.

Being the insufferable journalists that we are, we have shuffled through all the books, op-eds, and think pieces to take a look at all the top expectations that people have from the next year – you know, the one "after" the pandemic, or so they say. Here’s everything that a curious soul is looking forward to in 2021:

1. Vaccine:

Sort of a no-brainer at this point, but the one thing people all around the world are definitely looking forward to for the next year is a vaccine that works against the minacious COVID-19, across all strains – since new mutant variants seem to keep popping up with each passing day.

By mid-December 2020, 57 vaccine candidates, globally, were in clinical research, including 40 in Phase I–II trials and 17 in Phase II–III trials. In Phase III trials, several COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated efficacy as high as 95% in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections.

Six of them are currently the top contenders – two RNA vaccines (tozinameran from Pfizer–BioNTech and mRNA-1273 from Moderna), two conventional inactivated vaccines (BBIBP-CorV from Sinopharm and CoronaVac from Sinovac), and two viral vector vaccines (Gam-COVID-Vac from the Gamaleya Research Institute and AZD1222 from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca).

Closer home, in India, sources believe that the drug regulator might give its nod to the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine next week, meanwhile the process of granting emergency use approval for Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine 'Covaxin" may take time as its phase 3 trials are still underway, while Pfizer is yet to make a presentation.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has expressed hope that people in India will potentially receive vaccine doses from “sometime in January” next year.

2. Economic recovery

With Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman scheduled to present the Union Budget on February 1, 2021, expectations are sky-high that the central government will tackle the burgeoning national financial issues of unemployment and sinking GDP.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central bank, had earlier this week said that the real GDP growth for 2020-21 was projected as being -7.5%, which has skyrocketed concerns over the economic recovery.

At the end of August this year, data from the National Statistical Office showed that India's GDP shrank by 23.9% in the April-June period of this year - the steepest ever decline. And in the July-September quarter of 2020-21, data released by the National Statistics Office showed that the Indian economy had contracted 7.5% as compared to the same quarter last year.

Not only does the Indian economy need to be pulled out from the deep abyss, but also it needs to be accelerated into a high growth economy.

3. Parties, fetes, and festivities

In view of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented virological disaster that mankind had seldom an inkling of, has led to the death of what many would say… “fun”.

Indeed, not only has the pandemic-necessitated lockdowns and associated norms regarding the same imprisoned people inside their very homes, but also it has spilt water on the prospect of all parties, fetes, festivities and ruined “social lives”, that many used to boast of.

Here in India, curfews run amok on planned mass gatherings in several states, many of which stretch from the year-end to the beginning of the next year. Public celebrations in restaurant, clubs, pubs, resorts, beach resorts, and beaches are banned and while eateries stay open, they operate under strict COVID-19 regulations.

In view of this, the prevailing idea among the majority of the aforementioned “fun”-loving people is that they will get to enjoy returning back into their frolicking social lives once vaccines subdue the menacing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic somewhat. Talk about spoiling a party, now you’ve seen what a pandemic can do.

4. Work from office

As mentioned above, the pandemic has deconstructed and reshaped our social lives in more ways than one, and mankind, being the persistent species they are, have reimagined the meaning of a workplace.

Throughout the period of the pandemic, which is almost the entirety of this year, we saw workplace coordination on Slack and Discord, boardroom meetings and interviews on Zoom, and digital resignations. To say that corporate culture has taken a hit would be criminally underselling human adaptability that found ways to bypass the work impacts during this unexpected hindrance.

Even so, reimagining office culture and work-life “after” COVID-19 seems like a tall order, but by the very rule of nature, all of us will predictably fall back into the prime office space with our work, slowly walking back into the habit of long commutes and day-offs.

However, the hope is that there will be a definite shift in the attitude of our corporate work-culture as a whole, so as to better integrate the novel technologies of digital collaboration that we conceived of during the crisis.

5. Schools, colleges, and educational institutions

Citing the fear of a potential second (or a rumoured third) wave of coronavirus, administrations across the country have kept the gates of our schools, colleges, and other educational institutions locked.

The obvious, and somewhat perverse, effect of this is that pupils are almost on the verge of forgetting how it felt like to physically attend a class, take a stroll around the university campus, or remain seated inside a library for hours on end.

In most states in India, government and private schools and colleges remain closed till December 31 or till varying dates in January next year.

It is currently expected that students will find their rightful place at the educational institutes of their choice from after January 15-18 next year, as the administration controls the pandemic situation in the hotspots. Hopefully, they can find the strength to reassign themselves to the rigorous schedules of classes that can’t be muted, or Q&A sessions that can’t be ruined by bad internet.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal