For billions across the globe, 2020 will be remembered as a year which changed the way we live, think and act for all the wrong reasons. While the raging coronavirus pandemic has been the biggest talking point this year, let us take a look back at the big events and happenings which changed the world this year.
COVID-19The coronavirus – whose diameter is between a microscopic 60 nanometers (nm) and 140 nanometers (nm) – forced millions across the world to go indoors and stay at home under lockdown for the larger part of the year. As on December 27, there were 79,232,555 confirmed coronavirus cases the world over.
As cases continued to surge, WHO’s role drew sharp criticism from US President Donald Trump who accused the global health body of ‘covering up’ for China from where the virus first spread.
Eyebrows were raised again once word spread of a new more virulent strain of the virus coming to light in at least nine European nations. The global death toll stood at 1,754,493 as of December 27.
However, the year-long nightmare, came with a silver lining as pharma majors rolled out the much awaited vaccine and began vaccinations in different countries.
DRACONIAN HONG KONG LAW
Rattled by widespread pro-democracy protests, China rolled out a sweeping new security law for Hong Kong making it easier to punish and crack down on protesters and reduce the city’s autonomy.
Drawing sharp criticism from across the world for enacting a law aimed at curbing voices of dissent, Beijing ensured that the draconian law came into effect on 30 June, an hour before the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China from British rule.
The law prohibits four broad activities: secessionism, subversion, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces.
CHINA UNDER SCANNER
Barring China’s deliberate attempt to suppress information about COVID-19 leading to widespread spread of infection across the world, if there is one story which grabbed international headlines all through the year was China’s aggression.
Be it in the South and East China Sea or along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and desperate attempts to change the status quo with regards to Indo-China border and South, China’s unbridled expansionist designs drew angry reactions from the world over.
As India took the lead in banning Chinese apps over national security concerns, the US upped the ante against China. Beijing and Washington traded charges over the coronavirus pandemic, remained locked in a bitter trade war, competed over 5G networks and other technologies, and clashed over human rights abuses in Xinjiang and clampdown on pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong besides a host of other issues.
To counter China’s aggression, the US, India, Japan and Australia laid emphasis on the QUAD strategic dialogue which infuriated China even more. While many Chinese nationals came under the scanner for their alleged involvement in espionage and cyber security issues, diplomatic relations between the US and China also nosedived further with diplomatic missions being shut down as well.
Even as the world was waging a war against coronavirus, Australia struggled hard to contain the massive bushfires which sent shockwaves across continents.
as per a report in Al Jazeera, the bushfires destroyed 2,448 homes and led to 25 deaths. As a result of the fires, vegetation in Canberra was adversely affected. The fires devastated communities, destroyed wildlife populations and left many feeling bereft and overwhelmed.
It is estimated that over 1 billion animals were killed in the bushfires which raged on for months from September last year.
At least 100 people were killed and nearly 4,000 injured in a massive explosion in a warehouse in Lebanon’s capital Beirut.
According to the Lebanon government, the explosion was of over 2700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for six years in a warehouse in the port.
Primary observations by experts revealed unpardonable lack of maintaining safety norms at the explosive storage. There are also questions about how ammonium nitrate and another source of fire — possibly firecrackers — were present so close to each other.
HISTORIC ISRAEL, UAE & BAHRAIN PEACE DEAL
The course of history and world politics changed forever with the signing of the historic Abraham Accord in September. This incidentally was the first Arab-Israeli peace deal in 26 years.
Hailed by President Trump as a new dawn in the Middle East, the agreements have now now paved the way for UAE and Bahrain to establish embassies, exchange ambassadors, cooperate and work together with Israel across diverse sectors including tourism, trade, healthcare and security.
According to strategic affairs experts, the agreements go much beyond the often tenuous “cold peace” that Egypt and Jordan made with the Jewish state decades ago. Not only do the UAE and Bahrain deals bring about a sea change in Arab-Israeli relations, many say they might even present a golden opportunity to resolve the contentious Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
America erupted in anger and massive protests took centrestage following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who died in Minneapolis while he was being restrained by the police. Video footage of the incident, which went viral, showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he gasped for breath.
Floyd’s repeated cry for help, “I can’t breathe”, while being restrained prompted comparisons between the incident and the death of Eric Garner in 2014. The incident amplified the concerns over law enforcement agency’s alleged bias against the African American minority, with Floyd’s death being described as the most recent incident of racially-driven police brutality.
Black Lives Matter became the domineering slogan across the United States yet again with people saying enough is enough.
‘ISLAMIST TERRORIST ATTACK’ IN FRANCE
French history teacher Samuel Paty’s gruesome murder in October sent shockwaves across the country. 47-year-old Paty was decapitated in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine after showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad published in satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo during his class. His murderer – 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov – was shot dead by police.
President Emanuel Macron announced a crackdown on Islamist terrorism leading to anti-France protests and calls for boycott of French products in several Muslim countries around the world.
Even as the country was coping to come to terms with the brutality of Paty’s beheading, a knife attack was reported from a church in Nice. Among those killed was 55-year-old Vincent Loquès, a devout Catholic who had reportedly worked at the basilica for more than 10 years. He was attacked and his throat slit when he was opening the church building. President Macron reiterated that France will never give in.
Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona who scored the iconic ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986 steering Argentina to World Cup title died in Buenos Aires due to cardiac arrest, two weeks after being discharged from a hospital following brain surgery, leaving behind a huge vacuum in the world of soccer. He was 60.
Captivating fans for over two decades with his bewitching style, Maradona’s death plunged the world into grief. Living legend Pele also issued a statement to mourn the death of a “dear friend’.
In 2001, FIFA had named Maradona as one of the two greatest in football’s history along with Pele.
AMERICA ELECTS JOE BIDEN
A high decibel vitriolic election campaign, charges and counter charges and grave allegations of vote fraud. And the emergence of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. That’s the other big international story which caught global attention this year.
Showing the door to Donald Trump, Americans chose Joe Biden as their next President and Kamala Harris as the next Vice President.
While Trump continued to talk of stolen votes and election fraud, US Supreme Court gave a blow to Republicans seeking to throw out 2.5 million mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and undo Biden’s election victory.
After the Electoral College confirmed his victory, Biden said that “democracy prevailed”. Biden will be sworn in on his Inauguration Day on January 20.