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Over decades, humankind has vied to reach new heights of development. Yet, despite the unparalleled advances, in this frenzy, mankind has lost itself. 2020 marks the turning point; the year that unmasked the lessons of the past, the ones forgotten by all over time except the few perspicacious individuals. So, through the power of words, let us take a walk through 2020, the year that carried powerful lessons every step of the way.

Dry January, which normally signifies the non-consumption of alcoholic drinks, took a more literal meaning in Australia. The country was battling one of its worst bushfires, which raked 47 million acres of land and mercilessly obliterated three billion terrestrial vertebrates. Heart-breaking photos of incinerated koalas, charred kangaroos and forests turned to ash travelled the world in a click, shocking even the most stoic.

“Society was no longer looking up to white collars but white coats”

Little did humanity know that the Australian bushfires were only the start. By mid-January, whispers of a virus, mysterious and unknown were creeping into the streets of Wuhan. People were dying, yet again. But dying of what? Severe pneumonia, they said. The World Health Organisation was soon informing the world of the new and deadly COVID-19. In order to quell the spread of the virus, the Chinese government instated ‘lockdown’, a term unfamiliar to most before. Such Draconian measures meant people were bound within the four walls of their houses and the only freedom authorised was travelling for essential needs. As Australia continued to battle its bushfires and Wuhan fought to control the spread of the virus and to save the lives of those infected, the rest of the world carried on with their routine, oblivious to the devastating crisis that awaited them, merely days away…

Owing to the ease of travel across the world, it did not take long before the previously unknown Wuhan virus reached every single street and home across the globe. Lockdowns became commonplace and a new norm was starting to take shape. For the first time, men, women and children stayed at home and traffic, be it on the road, in the air or the sea became a thing of the past. New attires were adopted, swapping make-up for face masks and formal clothes for gym wear and pyjamas. Handshakes and hugs were replaced by virtual calls, holidays abroad were replaced by ‘Tik Toks’ and fights for pasta and toilet rolls became a familiar sight.

“And when the battle seemed lost and all hope disappeared, the world woke up to good news: the welcome relief of a vaccine at last”

Overnight, the definition of a key worker was revised. Society was no longer looking up to white collars but white coats. Healthcare professionals led on the fight against the invisible enemy whilst scientists, all races and ethnicities, worked day and night towards the same goal; how to tame this unstoppable virus. Meanwhile, hospitals witnessed an unprecedented influx of patients and feared being overwhelmed any second. Doctors and nurses honoured their oath. For them, it was never a question of if but when would they be asked to put their own lives at risk. They treated, cared, comforted - and cried. And when the battle seemed lost and all hope disappeared, the world woke up to good news: the welcome relief of a vaccine at last.

2020 however, was not all about COVID. It unmasked countless other ugly truths, the ones society has long shied away from; the George Floyd story laid bare the racial inequalities rampant in Western society, whilst the Wakashio shipwreck and the tragedy in Lebanon exposed the appalling inequalities of resources between developed and developing countries.

As the world slowly and painfully recovers, the lessons learnt aren’t new. We can only hope that history will not repeat itself.

 

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CONTRIBUTOR
Vedika Dhunnoo

MBchB, Foundation Year 2 Doctor, Liverpool University Hospitals, Aintree, UK.

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