Australia has finally completed a year that many felt would never end.
At the stroke of midnight, residents across the country’s east coast were the first to celebrate the end of 2020, looking forward with hope for what 2021 might bring.
Masks and kisses as countries welcome 2021
The fireworks were as bright as ever, but the atmosphere was very different: CBD’s forests and parks were largely quiet, and the traditional sound of restaurants and pubs was muted.
It has been a more challenging year than many have ever seen: from devastating wildfires to a global pandemic, nearly all Australians have been affected by events that began abroad.
The 2020 Olympics were canceled, family events and holidays were postponed, weddings were reduced to single-digit guests or canceled altogether, and in the middle of it all it was an American choice.
Interest rates fell to record lows as unemployment (temporarily) threatened to rise to record levels.
Surgical masks have become commonplace in supermarkets, and hundreds of thousands of businesses have learned to adopt the “pivot” to keep cash flowing.
But many realize that the passage of a calendar year means little for a global virus that seemingly mutates every few months.
NSW is currently fighting an outbreak of cases that started on the North Beaches and has since spread to the inner west of Sydney.
Victoria, having endured the longest lockdown of any Australian state, snapped its 61-day streak after three new cases were discovered yesterday.
As a result, Victorians are now being asked to wear masks indoors and borders have been strengthened once again for domestic travelers.
Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT and Western Australia remain free of locally acquired cases, but each has introduced border restrictions or quarantine mandates to prevent it from spreading further.
But, despite all the pessimism, there is hope: A COVID-19 vaccine has been developed, several in fact, and is currently in the process of obtaining regulatory approval.
While not foolproof, the vaccine is expected to facilitate domestic and international travel and reduce fear of community transmission.
Officials say the vaccine launch is “on target”, with the first Australians to receive their vaccine in March.
Masks and kisses in Melbourne
New Zealand first to enter 2021