A year to remember. 2020, Covid-19 and much more

2020 will go down in history, for good and unfortunately especially for bad. It goes without saying that what will remain most impressed in our memory is the Covid-19 pandemic, but the virus is not the only occurrence destined to leave a mark.

Here are some of the most relevant facts, worldwide, of a very challenging 2020.

January

The year starts off on the wrong foot. We’ll remember January for the terrible Australian wildfires that devastated the country. Unfortunately, fires will become one of the saddest leitmotifs of the year.

January 5 - The world holds its breath when Iran pulls out of the 2015 nuclear deal, and declares it won’t limit uranium enrichment. Three days later, in retaliation for the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, Iran also launches missile strikes on two bases in Iraqi, where American troops were housed.

January 26 - Kobe Bryant, the legendary player of the Los Angeles Lakers, dies. His private helicopter crashes, causing the death of Bryant’s 11-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, and of six other passengers, plus the pilot.

January 30 - WHO declares Covid-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

January 31 - the UK formally withdraws from the European Union.

February

February 1 - an emergency of biblical proportions kicks off the month. Somalia declares national emergency when a giant swarm of locusts flies over East Africa.

February 9 - “Parasite” is an excellent movie from many points of view. Academy Awards voters notice too, and “Parasite” becomes the first non-English movie to win in the Best Picture category. The Korean director Bong Joon-ho also wins as best director.

February 13 - the Turkish army bombs Syrian government posts in an attempt to slow the advance of the Damascus troops into the Idlib region, the last stronghold of the Syrian opposition, and of the fundamentalist rebels supported by Ankara, in north-western Syria. The UN estimates around 800,000 people have been displaced from December to this date.

February 17 - India’s Supreme Court grants equal rights to women in the armed forces, giving hope for constant progress on the human rights front. Yet just a week later a new citizenship laws that discriminates against Muslim citizens causes riots which leave dozens of people dead.

February 26 - due to Covid-19, for the first time in history Saudi Arabia has to forbid overseas pilgrims from accessing the sacred towns of Mecca and Medina.

February 29 - a deal between the USA and the Taliban is signed, which enshrines the end of the war in Afghanistan after 18 years. US and NATO will withdraw their troops within 14 months. Yet it looks like the peace in Middle East is not meant to last.

March

March 1 - Turkey attacks northern Syria in retaliation, after the death of 36 Turkish soldiers killed at the end of February.

March 9 - Covid-19 now spreads without brake. Italy passes 10,000 cases and becomes the first western country to announce total lockdown.

March 10 - Russian Parliament votes a law that allows President Putin to hold the office for life.

March 11- Harvey Weinstein, the infamous former Hollywood producer is sentenced to 23 years on rape charges. Previously his sexual crimes resulted in the birth of the #MeToo feminist movement.

March 11 - this is a scary day, and one that will probably end up on history books. The Covid-19 epidemic is officially declared a pandemic by the WHO.

March 13 - in Louisville, Kentucky, the Afro-American medical worker Breonna Taylor, is shot and killed by the police during a raid on her apartment. Her unjust death will lead to wide-scale demonstrations.

April

April 5 - Queen Elizabeth II delivers a speech to the UK to thank the government and the people for their efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s only the 5th time in 66 year of reign that the Queen speaks to the nation.

April 14 - president Donald Trump accuses the World Health Organization of mistakes in handling the coronavirus pandemic, and of being “China-centric”. Following these still unproven accusations he also freezes the USA funding for the WHO.

April 20 - for the 1st time in history the price of US oil turns negative.

April 22 - an important day for civil rights, justice and feminism: Sudan bans female genital mutilation and makes it a criminal offense.

April 23 - during a White House press briefing president Trump suggests that injecting disinfectant or UV lights in human body may cure Covid-19. While this arouses a fair amount of hilarity in the rest of the world, both the US government officials and disinfectant companies feel the need to quickly clarify that this measures would be not only useless, but also deadly.

May

May 6 - to this day, all over the world, at least 90,000 healthcare workers were infected, and more than 260 nurses have died due to Covid-19.

May 15 - the largest EU economy, Germany, is officially in recession, once again, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 19 - incredible as it is, the pandemic has one positive side effect. “Nature Climate Change” publishes a study stating that the lockdown, however harmful to the world economy, at least reduced gas emissions until 17% worldwide.

May 25 - a video showing the death of George Floyd, an Afro-American US citizen, is shared and becomes viral. Pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, held down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, Mr. Floyd dies. The episode ignites new anti-racists protests all over the country.

May 26 - for the first time ever Twitter adds labels to president Trump’s posts, to warn his followers about possible inaccuracies.

June

June 10 - the Norwegian Refugee Council declares the Cameroonian civil war the world’s most-neglected conflict. The fight between the Government and the separatists in the Anglophone territories, who declared the independence of Ambazonia, started in 2017.

June 20 - despite the reduction in gas emission registered in May, the highest temperature ever in the Arctic circle, 38°C/100F, is recorded in Verkhoyansk, Siberia.

June 30 - China passes a new security law for Hong Kong, which allows the government to punish protesters and reduce people’s autonomy. This scares a lot of people and provokes violent riots.

July

July 6 - the USA officially begins withdrawing from the WHO.

July 20 - finally the world can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. The University of Oxford announces the development of the first vaccine able to trigger immune response against Covid-19.

July 23 - it’s an exciting day for science fiction and space lovers: from Wenchang Site on Hainan Island, China launches its first mission to Mars.

July 27 - Google is the largest tech company to commit to smart working. Its employees are allowed to work from home until the summer of 2021.

August

August 4 - at the port of Beirut, in Lebanon, a cargo of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate has been stored after being confiscated by the Lebanese authorities from an abandoned ship. Apparently the cargo was left there without proper safety measures for six years, untill a fire caused a terrible explosion. At least 204 people die, more than 6,500 are injured, and 300,000 lose their home. The estimated property damage is US$ 15 billion. As of today, December 2020, the exact cause of the incident is unknown.

August 9 - in Belarus Alexander Lukashenko wins the election against the main opposition candidate, Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya. Many people suspect election fraud, which ignites protests in the country, together with international condemnation. A few days later, Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya flees Belarus, while the largest demonstration in the country’s history takes place, with more than 100,000 people gathered in Minsk. Despite that, on September 23, Lukashenko will swear in for his sixth term in a secret ceremony.

August 13 - an historic deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is signed, with the purpose of normalizing the relations between the two countries. Israel also declares the will to renounce to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

August 16 - thousands of people in Bangkok, Thailand, demonstrate asking for a reform of the monarchy.

August 20 - Alexei Navalny, a Russian opponent of the current government falls into a coma. Later on, unsurprisingly enough, it’ll be confirmed that he was poisoned.

August 25 - in a period marked by very serious threats to public health, Africa celebrates 4 years since the last registered polio’s case. The WHO therefore announces that the disease has been eradicated from the African continent.

September

September 8 - the largest European migrant camp, seated on the Greek island of Lesbos, burns down. It’s an immense tragedy and 13,000 people are left without a shelter.

September 18 - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1993, dies in Washington. After a life full of important achievements, she’ll also become the first woman to lie in the US Capitol, in Washington D.C.

September 22 - President Xi Jinping pledges at the UN that China will make more efforts in order to stop climate changes. One of the country’s main target is becoming carbon-neutral by 2060.

September 28 - according to Johns Hopkins University’s experts in global public health, COVID-19 death toll passes 1 million worldwide. The registered cases of infection to this date are over 33 millions.

October

October 7 - Nigerian people start demonstrating against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), well renown especially among young people for its brutality and constant violation of human rights. After several days of curfews, barricades, shootings, SARS will be dissolved. It’s not the first time that Nigerian police gets ‘reformed’, just to come back even more violent than before, this is why people keep on asking for broader reforms.

October 16 - a French teacher, Samuel Paty, is beheaded by a 18 year-old Islamist militant in Éragny, a suburb of Paris. This is the first of a series of terrible terrorist attacks to shock France first, and Austria later. On October 29, indeed, three more people get killed in a church in Nice, France. On November 2, in Wien, Austria, five more people die, shot by a 20-year-old man of Macedonian origin, already convicted of trying to reach Syria.

October 21 - Pope Francis backs same-sex civil unions in an interview in the documentary “Francesco”.

October 24 - off the coast of Senegal the deadliest shipwreck of the year claims 140 lives, when a ship with 200 migrants on board sinks.

October 25 - Chile votes en masse to scrap the constitution drafted during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

October 28 - a new coral reef 1,640ft (500m) high, taller than the Empire State Building, is discovered north of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This is awesome news, since the reef is in constant danger due to climate change and sea pollution.

November

November 2 - at least 22 people die during a terrorist attack at Kabul University, in Afghanistan. Islamic State claims responsibility.

November 7 - Joe Biden is declared the winner of the US Presidential election, while his vice president Kamala Harris becomes the first woman, and the first woman of color, to fill the position.

November 9 - after a trial involving 44,000 people, the two pharmaceutical firms BioNTech and Pfizer announce that their COVID-19 vaccine is over 90% effective.

November 10 - it’s probably not surprising at all that, according to Collins English Dictionary, the Word of the Year 2020 is “lockdown”.

November 10 - a conflict the world ignored almost totally, the one between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, ends. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia announce ceasefire.

November 27 - Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is assassinated outside Tehran. Predictably, the tension in the region escalates quickly.

November 30 - in a remote and inaccessible part of Colombia, a team of archaeologists discovers a huge wall of rock art. The paintings depict in outstanding details extinct animals and the life in the region how it was 12,000 years ago, when the rainforest was actually a savannah. The area is now referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of the ancients”.

December

Looks like the last month of this dreadful year brings a tiny ray of light, with a few good news and some hope for the future.

December 7 - Breaking, a form of competitive breakdancing, will become an official Olympic sport starting from the Paris 2024 games.

December 16 - Ella, a nine-year-old girl who died of an asthma attack in 2013, becomes the first person in the world to officially have air pollution listed as cause of death. According to a UK coroner the death of the girl, at least partially, was caused by the levels of pollution near her home, in Southeast London.

December 17 - in Katsina state, northern Nigeria, 344 students are rescued after being kidnapped from their school the previous week. The jihadist group Boko Haram claims responsibility: its members believe that western education, as it’s taught at the Government Science Secondary School where the boys study, is against Islam.

December 21 - 2020 winter solstice is special. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest observable since 1226. The next time we’ll get to see such a show in the night sky is going to be on March 2080!

December 26 - Pompeii never ceases to amaze, the equivalent of a street food kiosk, a counter for hot drinks and snacks has been found in perfect condition, with some food still in the amphorae, and the frescoes still intact.

December 27 - it’s Vaccine Day in Europe. The EU has chosen one symbolic date for all its members to kick off the vaccine campaign against Covid-19. Other countries, such as the USA, Russia, and China started vaccinating people a few days before.

  • At the end of the year 2020, the registered Covid-19 cases worldwide are 80.9 mln, with 1.77 mls deaths, but also 45.8 mln recovered.

This is where it ends

Has 2020, with its challenges and achievements, made us better or worse?

It’d be nice to think that everything happens for a reason, this time life has given us a hard lesson and some curveballs, that’s for sure. Hopefully we’ll be able to treasure what we learned, and we’ll go back to whatever we did before knowing that sometimes we take too many things for granted.

Fate will play its part as always, but I like to think that 2021 will be as we want it to be, so let’s do our best to make it a spectacular year.

Best wishes to everyone!

Sources: onthisday.com, cnn.com

Italian, content writer, globetrotter

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