Countries everywhere eagerly welcomed the arrival of a new year after one filled with sickness and separation. A pandemic-weary world has said goodbye and good riddance to 2020 and welcomed in the new year. Celebrations took place around the globe, but with restrictions on gatherings consigning many people to the couch.

Every year on Dec. 31, the approach of midnight finds us drawing a line in time. The way we do this varies— we watch fireworks shoot across the night sky, or gather with our family and friends, or run onto the bustling streets — but the idea is always the same. On this night, we put something behind us and seal it off, so it is part of the past. And then we try to begin again. It is difficult to imagine any year when our need of this ritual has been greater. Many of us have lost those dearest to us, and absorbed those losses in isolation. Livelihoods have been wiped away like vapor from a window. And yet, without the fireworks, the giddiness of crowds, we have never been so constrained in our rituals. However, that does not mean we are not celebrating. Inside lighted rooms, we raised glasses to the people who sacrificed for us, to the triumphant performance of our health care workers, and to a thousand small kindnesses already receding from memory. The end of a year may be an illusion, just a way to trick ourselves into keeping going. But we made it. In the grip of a pandemic that has disrupted lives, the economy and even milestones, many of us eschewed the customary trappings of New Year’s Eve festivities for subdued observances, much like how they have spent most of 2020 — away from loved ones, in virtual settings or alone.

More than 83 million people around the world have been infected by the coronavirus and 1.8 million people are dead. It is a grim toll that has come to define the annus horribilis of 2020. In less than a month, on Jan 23, Singapore will also have endured a full year battling the deadly coronavirus since the first Covid-19 case was detected here. The virus has killed 29 people and infected more than 58,000 to date. The end of 2020 ushered in a wealth of excitement over advancements in coronavirus vaccines. With Covid-19, there are more than 200 vaccine candidates under development, and around 50 of the most promising ones entered clinical trials in under a year. It is amazing how fast the vaccines were developed. Singapore’s health authorities have approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for pandemic use. It is also looking at vaccines by American biotech firm Moderna and Sinovac from China.

Several pandemic protocols will need to carry over into the new year if there is going to be any hope of slowing the spread of the virus. Until the majority of the population is vaccinated and more information is available on the vaccines’ ability to stop virus transmission, masks are still going to be needed. The same goes for social distancing, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor areas. Just remember, if you’re feeling a little bit weary at the end of this very long year, you are not alone. Chances are, as you look back on the last 12 months, you feel a raft of mixed emotions about it. Gratitude you made it through. Sadness for those who did not. Relief that it is over. Undoubtedly 2021 will hold new challenges for us. Just like those we have faced before, what matters most is not the problems themselves, but how well we respond to them and how we apply their lessons to grow and thrive in our career, relationships, leadership, and life. It is only the start! Happy 2021!


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