At this time of the year, most of us would normally recap the highlights of the year – both good and bad – but 2020 was a bit different. It will definitely go down in history as one of the most (in)famous years ever. So many (weird) things happened that it feels like we’re all living in an episode of Black Mirror. Or a zombie flick.
Here’s a recap of what probably will be the most famous year in history.
Covid-19, aka The Pandemic
You can’t mention 2020 without the pandemic – although Covid-19 was technically around since November of 2019, it wasn’t until 2020 that sh*t truly hit the fan. With vaccines approved before Christmas, the world saw a sliver of hope of returning to normalcy. However, the year has brought about a few things that only something that catastrophic can do, namely:
By April 2020, about half of the world’s population was under lockdown – that’s more than 3.9 billion people from over 90 countries/territories. The hashtag #stayhome became a battle cry. Overnight, cities became ghost towns.
China was the first to have a regional lockdown in Wuhan in January. As the virus spread, many countries implemented nationwide lockdowns, including Singapore’s Circuit Breaker (CB) which was implemented between 7 April and 1 June. Suddenly, everyone wanted a dog to walk, or started jogging/cycling just to get out of the house.
Towards the end of the year, instead of having case numbers go down, it did the opposite – there were second, third, and even fourth waves happening around the world, with more lockdowns issued. Then came the highly contagious strain from the UK…
- WFH, HBL, and Zoom
During this period of staying home, everyone went online to do everything. Company staff worked from home, and for those with kids at home, it was both a blessing and a curse. Students studied online, with younger ones requiring their parents to also study with them. Zoom sales went through the roof as the de facto platform to do virtual meetings, along with laptops.
Even social gatherings went virtual, with people meeting online to “drink”. Which was why after the CB ended, everyone went out with a vengeance to drink with people they hadn’t seen face to face in 2 months. Suddenly everyone who wanted to wine & dine out needed to make reservations one week ahead on average to secure a seat.
The year kicked off hot – with huge bushfires in Australia, brought on by record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought. More than 11 million hectares of bush, forest, and parks across Australia burned, killing an estimated 1 billion mammals, birds, and reptiles – with around 25,000 koalas feared dead on Kangaroo Island alone.
On the other side of the world, California also suffered the same fate with their forest fires. As of December 24, 2020, just under 10,000 fires have burned more than 4% of the state’s roughly 100 million acres of land. It’s the largest wildfire season recorded in California’s modern history.
If this doesn’t convince you of climate change, what will?
Black Lives Matter
When George Floyd became the latest casualty of long-running race-based police violence against African-Americans in the US, it triggered the #BlackLivesMatter movement with massive protests and demonstrations. From Minneapolis, the BLM movement spread around the world – even to Singapore, sparking discourse on race relations on home ground.
Discussions ranged from lived experience of being a racial minority to the treatment of migrant workers, and even the issue of Singapore’s colonial past (should Stamford Raffles be commemorated through a statue?).
Fight for Democracy
Protests in Hong Kong
Beijing introduced a wide-ranging new security law on 1 July for Hong Kong, prompting a multitude of arrests, and several prominent pro-democracy activists have fled the country for fear of arrest.
While Hong Kong’s democracy protests reached fever pitch late last year, people took to the streets again this year in September, clashing with police for challenging the government’s decision to postpone the election for at least a year amid the pandemic.
Citing the new security law, Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam were sentenced on 2 December for inciting and organising an unauthorised protest in 2019.
Protests in Thailand
Closer to home, youth-led pro-democracy protesters in Thailand took to the streets from July, demanding a new constitution, limits on the monarchy, and the end of Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military-backed government.
Authorities placed Bangkok in a State of Emergency from 15 October to 13 November – but tens of thousands of people gathered in Bangkok instead, clashing with police and yellow-shirted royalists. Things hit fever pitch by late November when inflatable yellow rubber ducks and the three-finger Milk Tea Alliance salute became symbols for their movement.
The movement quieted in late December, coinciding with resurgence of COVID-19 in the country; protest leaders said they were taking a “break”.
After 47 years of membership within the bloc, the UK left the the EU on 31 January 2020, but agreed to keep many things the same until 31 December. The agreement of 24 December signed between the EU and the UK will provisionally enter into force on 1 January 2021. As the Guardian puts it: “This lousy deal is bad for Britain.”
2020 US Presidential Elections
One of the most-followed events of 2020 (that’s not Covid-19-related) is the 2020 US presidential elections. Trump was the Republican nominee, while Biden secured the Democratic nomination over rival Bernie Sanders in a competitive primary that featured the largest field of candidates for any political party in the modern era of American politics.
Prior to the election, both Trump and Biden faced each other off in the presidential debates on 29 September 29 and 22 October – both of which were less of a debate and more of a bickering match between two elderly men. On live television. In fact, they were so bad the third debate was simply called off on account of the first two having been a huge waste of time.
On 3 November, citizens across the country took to the polls, with a record number of ballots cast early and by mail due to the pandemic. However, before, during, and after Election Day, Trump (and numerous Republicans) attempted to overturn the results, falsely alleging widespread voter fraud. Trump even refused to concede and falsely declared himself the winner on several occasions.
On 14 December, Biden crossed 270-vote threshold with California’s electoral votes, effectively ending Trump’s long-shot attempt to overturn results. This means that Kamala Harris – Biden’s running mate – will become the first first female vice president of African-Asian descent. Biden and Harris are scheduled to be inaugurated on 20 January, 2021.