Source: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
The biggest problem for all countries in 2021 is that the pandemic remains serious. Although some countries have begun to expand the vaccination campaign, there is still no answer to the question “when will the pandemic end?” with the number of new infections continuing to rise sharply in the final days of 2020. According to Worldometers.info, as of December 26, the world has recorded more than 80 million COVID-19 cases, including nearly 1.8 million deaths. Over 19 million infections have been reported in the US, while the figure stands at over 10 million in India.
It is worrying that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – has appeared, making the anti-pandemic battle in countries much more arduous. Over the weekend, France and Switzerland detected their first cases of the new virus variant recently identified in the UK, which appears to be more contagious than previous strains of SARS-CoV-2. The head of the WHO Regional Office for Europe recently announced that the new variant of the virus has been found in eight European countries, while advising people to strengthen responsive measures. WHO warned that unlike previous strains, this new variant is likely to spread rapidly among younger age groups.
The aforementioned situation has forced countries, especially European nations, to tighten pandemic prevention measures, travel restrictions and entry regulations. This year, people in most countries around the world had to celebrate the quietest Christmas season in decades in the midst of economies struggling due to the disease. In many places, most church services were even performed online and some churches had to announce the cancellation of Christmas holy masses. In Africa, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper declared this year’s Christmas as “Christmask” hinting at the rule that all people need to wear masks to prevent COVID-19.
Together with the pandemic, ahead of the New Year 2021, fears of terrorism and uncertainty have arisen in many countries. In Germany, a shooting took place in Berlin early on December 26, leaving at least four people injured. Meanwhile, in the United States, a big explosion rocked Nashville, Tennessee, on Christmas morning (December 25). A representative of the Nashville Office of Emergency Management said that a parked camper van suddenly exploded, burning many cars nearby, blowing out windows and felling many trees. The US has experienced a year of turbulence and uncertainty, and this situation is likely to continue in the coming days. The US media said the wave of anti-racist anger was in danger of erupting in the country after an unarmed African-American was recently shot dead by police in Columbus, Ohio. Protests have been planned to commemorate two African-Americans who were shot dead by Columbus police in the past three weeks.
Together with the serious risks of the pandemic and uncertainty, global political and security hotspots are expected yet to cool down in 2021. The strategic competition and trade war between the US and China, the two largest economies of the world, are expected to be prolonged. Meanwhile, security hotspots in the Middle East remain complicated. In the aforementioned context, the world economic prospects can hardly be seen as bright. In a recently released report, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that, due to the impact of months-long anti-pandemic lockdowns, global GDP has dropped by 4.2% in 2020. The OECD forecast the world economy will recover with a growth rate of 4.2% in 2021 thanks to the prospect of COVID-19 vaccination coverage and unprecedented actions from support policy of governments and central banks.
However, in the context of the pandemic and the world security-political situation proceeding in a complicated and unpredictable fashion, the signal of world economic recovery is still only a “glimmer light at the end of the tunnel”. And the world will enter the year 2021 filled with concerns and worries.