2021: a look back at the second Covid year

The year began on an optimistic note: although Europe was in the midst of the second Covid wave, an end to the pandemic seemed within reach thanks to several newly approved vaccines. One year on, new variants are driving up infection rates to record levels even in countries with high vaccination uptake, and uncertainty prevails. Commentators take stock of the damage inflicted by the virus but also point to encouraging signs.

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Profil (AT) /

The world united in a drop of liquid

International cooperation was raised to a new level this year, Profil stresses:

“Whereas apart from in rare exceptional circumstances such as world wars and meteorite impacts, local situations usually determine people's emotions, this has changed in recent times. Covid-19 has given the world a common destiny for the first time ever. ... Scientists from China to Germany to the US have worked together. Only in this way was it possible to contain the pandemic by decoding the virus genome and thus securing the formula for vaccines and their production. Science, in turn, was networked through industrial production and distribution logistics on a global scale. The world was united in a drop of liquid. Literally.”

To Vima (GR) /

We've lost our lightheartedness

The "new normal" of Covid-19 has deprived us of our lightness of being, To Vima laments:

“The British use a short term that sums up the change that has taken place: 'new normal'. ... And this normality has a clear name: insecurity. ... Lightheartedness seems to have become a thing of the past. The result is what most people don't even want to admit to themselves: feelings of depression which everyone experiences differently.”

Contributors (RO) /

Global psychosis instead of clarity

Pluralism has been badly harmed, laments political scientist Ioan Stanomir on Contributors:

“The individual is seen as immature and irrational, so that a coercive framework must be developed to regulate his or her behaviour. Any open scepticism is treated as a symptom of intellectual pathology. Public conversation has been disrupted, dominated by a hysterical dialogue caught up in apocalyptic fears and global conspiracy fantasies. Between these extremes, there seems to be nothing else. Under the supremacy of the state and global psychosis, there is an absence of clarity. The disappearance of an authentic conversation among citizens is a sign of the weakening of pluralism.”

hvg (HU) /

Danger of education lagging behind

More and more people are overwhelmed by the complexity of the world, says hvg journalist Árpád Tóta W.:

“A new era of enlightenment will come - that's what I wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, and that's what I hoped for. Because only science can describe the danger that threatens us and offer protection against it. ... But why do false beliefs remain so attractive? The world has become frighteningly complicated. ... The masses and science have moved together for a hundred years: technological advances and the spread of education have fortunately gone hand in hand. Until now, education had been able to keep up.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Here's to the people and their patience

Freedom-loving democracies have proven their resilience, Corriere del Ticino writes in praise:

“In the face of unforeseen difficulties, the communities with the strongest sense of solidarity give their very best, true to their principles of freedom and responsibility. While the Omicron variant is plaguing hospitals and triggering new and confusing restrictions in Europe, we should all sit back and give ourselves a small therapeutic gift: the realisation of how disciplined and patient the vast majority of the population really is. And all the more so the higher the transparency of information, the stronger the sense of citizenship and the better the level of scientific education was. In the face of an unknown enemy, medicine and research have achieved extraordinary things (thanks to the much despised Big Pharma).”