Virus that shut down world: 2020, a year like no other

The United Nations

COVID-19 is everywhere, literally, and during 2020 its spread and resulting impact has led to a global crisis of unprecedented reach and proportion. In a six-part series closing out this tumultuous year, UN News looks at the impact on people in every part of the world and some of the solutions that the United Nations has proposed to deal with the fall-out of the pandemic. In this first feature, we lay out some of the key events of the past 12 months.

Health facilities around the world, like here in Gaza, were stretched to their limits as the number of cases increased.

As 2020 comes to an end and people around the world try to make sense of how the world has changed, they are faced with one stark and brutal statistic. The number of people who have died after catching COVID-19, is creeping towards the two million mark.

Passengers wearing face masks and disposable ponchos get their passports checked at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Early in the year, international travel was severely restricted, and people like these travelers in Thailand learnt of the importance of PPE, an acronym which quickly entered the global lexicon (which is short for personal protective equipment).

The UN Development Programme in China has supplied critical medical supplies to the Chinese government.

Soon, there were concerns about a global shortage of PPE and the UN supported various countries in the procurement of supplies, including China where the virus first emerged.

A dental office in Brooklyn, New York, posts a grim reminder of the changes brought about by the coronavirus.

As COVID-19 took hold, countries and cities across the world entered lockdown with the closure of schools, cultural and sports venues and all non-essential businesses.

It’s hoped that downtown areas in cities like Nairobi in Kenya, will recover strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally bustling city centres, like the Kenyan capital Nairobi, were eerily quiet as people stayed at home.

Delegates in the UN General Assembly hall observe social distancing as meetings get underway during the busiest week of the year at the United Nations

The United Nations did stay open for business across the world, although most of the key events, like the annual meeting of the new session of the General Assembly in New York, did look very different. Only a small number of delegates were allowed into the chamber as world leaders gave their speeches virtually.

Social distancing, here seen in Yemen, will need to continue around the world, at least until a vaccine is developed.

Across the world, people were adapting to new social distancing guidelines…..

Community workers, supported by the UN, promote coronavirus prevention awareness and distribute hygiene packages among poor urban households in Bangladesh.

…and were reminded about the importance of handwashing as a way to reduce the transmission of diseases.

Two siblings study at home in Mathare slum, Nairobi, Kenya, accessing their lessons on the family mobile phone.

Students who were not able to go to school had to adapt to a new reality and find ways to keep up with their studies.

Women in Nigeria collect food vouchers as part of a programme to support families 
struggling under the COVID-19 lockdown.

While Africa appeared to suffer less from the virus than other continents, at least in terms of absolute infections and deaths, the UN did voice concerns that the pandemic would push millions more into poverty.

Health care professionals are working around the clock to provide adequate support to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

Especially important to the UN was supporting refugees and other vulnerable people on the move across the world, such as the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people who have sought shelter across the border in Bangladesh.

The coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford was shown in trials to be highly effective at stopping people developing COVID-19 symptoms.

Progress has been made, in record time, by scientists developing new effective vaccines against COVID-19 and by the end of 2020, the first people, mainly in developed countries, were being inoculated.

A New York City resident advocates for how he thinks the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak should be tackled.

As the world enters 2021, the pandemic is still raging and, after an apparent mid-year lull in many countries, more infections and more deaths are being reported. With more vaccines being rolled out, the international community is being urged to work together to stop the spread and follow science-based guidelines.

For a more detailed picture of how the world looked in 2020, look out for our UN News end-of-year series of special reports, as the year draws to a close.

/UN News Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.