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The New Years Eve edition: Hope springs eternal in 2021

*Picture credit: NASA

Did you know that the Hubble telescope is the size of a large school bus 🚌? Neither did we, until we started researching what innovations we’ll be witnessing in 2021. What better way to see out a pandemic than with binge-watching the next season of our favourite doomsday series? We share what’s on our watch list. And, if you’re a Serena Williams fan (who isn’t?), you won’t want to miss this week’s edition…Welcome to our special New Years Eve edition of The Wrap. We’re saying goodbye to 2020, and looking ahead; maybe even back to the beginning of time…

🔶Our take: Hope springs eternal in 2021

We’re not going to tell you that 2021 is going to be better than 2020. We’re all feeling pretty gatvol: new lockdown restrictions are in place, and many of us were not able to see our friends and family this festive season.

This edition is not about telling you to look on the bright side – we’ll spare you that cliché. We also wouldn’t want to minimise the grief and disappointment that so many of us are experiencing. 

Rather, we want to remind you that in spite of it all, there are good things, and important trends, to look forward to next year. This week, we look to the stars, to sport, and to musicians for hope.

Take the James Webb Telescope, for instance. Imagine if there was a way mankind could look back all the way to the beginning of time, to find out what the earliest universe looks like… That’s happening in 2021. 

There are few sporting events on earth that bring people together quite like the Olympics, and it’s set to go ahead in 2021, with all Covid-19 protocols in place. 

And when last did you hear a new Stevie Wonder album? 

The USA will officially be free of Donald Trump as of January 20, and of course, there’s the Covid-19 vaccine.

So while we know you’re reading this with a sense of deep anxiety about what the future might hold, there’s one cliché we just can’t resist: hope springs eternal. 

Here are a few things we’re looking forward to in 2021, and trends that give us some hope for the future 😊.

Covid-19 in 2021

🔹The vaccine 💉

During Monday night’s family meeting, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in SA in the second quarter of 2021. 

It’s a long way off, and approximately only 10% of the population will get the vaccine at first. 

In another exciting development, on Wednesday, the UK approved another vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, for use. For now, it’s just being rolled out in the UK but is 90% effective, CNN reported. It can be stored at normal fridge temperatures making it far easier to transport and store than the other two vaccines on the market, which have to be stored at extremely cold temperatures. Plus, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has promised to supply low to middle-income countries, like SA, and to do so on a not-for-profit basis, which makes us really hopeful.

Civil society takes up vaccine fight 

One of the things we love most about SA is our robust civil society. So as concern around unequal access to the vaccine rises around the globe, our civil society is gearing up to pressure government and business to do the right thing. 

A quick catch-up: there has been international concern that richer countries will buy up the world’s vaccine supplies, leaving poorer countries, like SA, struggling to access the scarce commodity when they need it most. As The New York Times reported this week, countries like SA are considered too rich to get vaccines for free, but are actually too poor to pay for them. 

In SA, there are also concerns that when a vaccine eventually arrives, it won’t be distributed equally among rich and poor people. As Daily Maverick reports, the Health Justice Initiative – a coalition of medical professionals and activists – is considering going to court to force the government to release its vaccine distribution plans. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as the saying goes, and we’ll be watching the fight for transparency around the vaccine process in 2021.

🔹Trials on pregnant women and children to start in 2021 🤰🏾

We know that at least two Covid-19 vaccines have high rates of efficacy in adults – but we don’t yet know how they will affect pregnant women and young children. In January, trials will start to measure the safety of the available vaccines on these two vulnerable groups, reports US-based news outlet CNBC

Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has pointed out the potential dangers for pregnant women and young children. As with all things Covid-related, there’s so much we don’t know. But Fauci said there’s some evidence that children can suffer from an inflammatory disease affecting the organs after being infected. For pregnant women, it’s possible that Covid could cause premature delivery. 

The sooner we can extend the vaccine to everyone, the better. 🙌🏾

🔹Working from home is here to stay 👨🏾‍💻 

Don’t pack that home office away just yet. Flexible hours and working remotely are the biggest workplace trends of 2020 by a mile, thanks to the pandemic, and you can expect this to be the norm for a while to come. 

It hasn’t been a joyride for everyone: working from home has been disruptive for many, and some businesses have found it difficult to cope without the informal office interactions that make up a big part of day-to-day working. As we’ve previously reported, it’s also placed disproportionate stress on women, who have to juggle work, childcare and homeschooling thanks to school closures. 

But according to The Economist, Harvard University researchers have suggested that working from home does make workers more productive, at least in certain sectors. This makes a business case for employers who want to give their employees more flexibility in terms of hours and office location. 

Science and tech

🔹Back to the future in 2021

You may have heard of the Hubble Space Telescope – the largest telescope in space. Launched in 1990, Hubble, the size of a large school bus, orbits 500 kilometres above the Earth’s atmosphere. 

It has let us see way back in time, showing us amazing pictures of galaxies and even comets crashing into Jupiter ☄️. It’s one of the reasons scientists have been able to estimate the age of the universe. 

Now, its successor is on the way. The James Webb Telescope will be launched in 2021, and it’s pretty awesome. According to NASA, James Webb is so powerful, it will look back nearly to the beginning of time, and show us what the first galaxies looked like. Pretty amazing, right? It will also show us how galaxies are forming inside giant dust clouds in our universe, right now 🤯 . 

While we don’t know where 2021 is going yet, James Webb may help us understand where we came from. 

🔹Faster internet 

In 2021, awkwardly shouting out “You’re frozen!” in a crucial meeting could be a thing of the past. With the demand for faster internet for work, leisure and education needs, tech companies are fast tracking the roll out of 5G and even 6G networks, reports tech blog www.inc.com.

5G was rolled out by some service providers in SA in late 2019 and early 2020, according to Business Insider. 5G is much faster than fibre and 4G, and can even be used to connect the smart cities of the future. 

There have been some hurdles in SA to rolling out 5G, and more cell phone towers need to be built to ensure that it’s distributed everywhere. Currently, you can’t get 5G outside of the big metros. But all that could change in 2021. 

And no, you with your tinfoil hat on over there: 5G is not the reason for Covid-19. 

🔹A “make or break” moment for climate change 

Covid has provided humanity with a window of opportunity to do something about climate change 🌍. 

Thanks to lockdowns all over the globe, the world has seen the biggest drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 since World War 2. Greenhouse gas watchdog Global Carbon Project says the reduction was a whopping 7% this year.

Researchers expect that number to rise again in 2021. BUT, UK-based climate science outlet Carbon Brief says that if governments opt for “green” economic recovery plans, it could have a huge impact on global warming by the middle of this century. 

But it’s not just governments who need to do their part. The United Nations says the global elite – the top richest 1% in the world – must drastically reduce their high flying ways to make sure that post-Covid emissions don’t spike as a result of increased travel, and other expensive lifestyle patterns. 

Come on, leaders of the world. Let’s give future generations something to thank us for. 

Politics and governance

🔹A new era for USA 

US president-elect Joe Biden, and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, will be sworn in on January 20, officially putting an end to Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency. 

From Trump’s outright sexism (“grab ‘em by the pussy”) to his alleged tax dodging, many people will breathe a sigh of relief after his term ends. 

Importantly for SA, Biden appears to have extended an olive branch to the African continent and countries previously ignored by Trump 🕊️. Read more about that at explain.co.za

Oh, and let’s not forget that Harris will be the first woman, and the first black and Asian American, US vice president. It’s an historic moment. 

🔹Bringing justice to the people

Public access to the courts in SA is really important. In order for people to have faith in the justice system, they have to see how it actually works. Most court cases in SA are open to the public, unless they involve sexual offenses, children, or divorce proceedings. 

While court closures in 2020 delayed many cases, cases were broadcast live online, allowing access to the public on an unprecedented scale. Think the Oscar Pistorius trial, but in nearly every courtroom. Expect this trend to continue in 2021. 

Although we don’t know how the second surge of Covid will affect court closures in 2021, we know that online streaming of cases is now so normal, that it might well become the method of preference for judges in the future. 

This means you can have a front row seat to our justice system, from the safety of your own home.

Sport

🔹Wimbledon returns 🎾

Wimbledon was postponed in 2020, for the first time since World War 2. But, the Grand Slam Championship will return in 2021, taking place from 28 June to 11 July. 

Wimbledon CEO Sally Bolton says a decision will still be taken as to whether the tournament will be at full capacity, reduced capacity, or behind closed doors. This year’s US Open was behind closed doors in October, whereas the French Open took place in a reduced capacity in May. 

Either way, we can’t wait to see our favourites (did someone say Serena Williams?) take to the court once more.

🔹New Olympics dates confirmed

Since the first torch was lit in 1896 by the Greeks, few sporting events have captured the world’s attention quite like the Olympics 🏅. The Games were postponed for the first time ever in 2020, thanks to the pandemic. The new dates for the Olympics will be 23 July 2021 to 8 August 2021, and the Paralympics from 24 August 2021 to 5 September 2021. 

The 2021 Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan – a country which has been praised for the effectiveness of its Covid-19 response. Japan has had about 223 000 COVID-19 cases in total, and about 3 000 deaths. 

To reduce the risk of infection, athletes will be permitted to arrive at the Olympic Village five days before their events, and will be required to leave two days after.

The change in date actually turned out to be pretty symbolic for the Japanese nation. 2021 marks 10 years since the 2011 East Japan Earthquake, which caused over 15 000 deaths. After the traditional lighting of the Olympic Torch, which begins on 25 March, the torch will travel through the country’s municipalities which have recovered since the earthquake: a light of resilience and hope for many Japanese citizens.

Entertainment

🔹New music

Whether you’re into old school, rock, or hip hop, there’s something for everyone in 2021.

According to The Guardian, there will be a number of exciting new releases. 

If you’re an old soul, you’ll be delighted to know that Stevie Wonder is releasing a new album in 2021 called “Through the Eyes of Wonder”, his first offering since 2005. If the two songs he released in 2020 are anything to go by, the album will be a reflection of the current political mood, with references to the Black Lives Matter movement likely to feature.

For the rockers in our midst, the Foo Fighters are releasing a 2021 album called “Medicine at Midnight”. It was reportedly recorded at a haunted house in California and the Foo’s frontman Dave Grohl has described it as… a party album.

If you’re into rap, Cardi B is hooking you up in 2021 with a new record, as yet untitled. Her single WAP was one of the biggest jams of 2020, and her debut album “Invasion of Privacy” was the longest charting album by a female rapper in US history. Cardi B reportedly says her new stuff has hints of Beyonce’s “Lemonade” in it. We can’t wait 😁. 

🔹What we’ll be watching in 2021: 

  1. Fate: The Winx Saga: This live action series adaptation, based on the original cartoon, Winx Club, is due for release in January 🧚🏾‍♀️
  2. Blood and Water (Season 2): The successful South African Netflix series is set to return in 2021, and hopefully we’ll find out whether or not Fikile and Puleng are really sisters
  3. Coming 2 America: The long awaited sequel to the 1988 Coming to America comedy classic will make its way onto big screens in March
  4. The Bachelorette South Africa: Model Qiniso van Damme will be South Africa’s first bachelorette in February
  5. Black Widow: The blockbuster Marvel comic adaptation will be released in May
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 4): Covid-19 slowed down production on this long awaited next season, but the show is still expected to return in 2021

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3 thoughts on “The New Years Eve edition: Hope springs eternal in 2021”

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