In 2021, the world continued to battle with COVID-19. With fresh cases on the decline globally and an uptick in the pace of vaccination, the world returned to the 'new normal' right until the end of the year when Omicron hit. The new strain has once again forced countries to impose travel restrictions and lockdowns. The year which started with the US Capitol riot seems to end with a new COVID-19 variant spreading around the world. Yet, 2021 was filled with critical moments in the news, let’s take a look:
COVID-19 – no end in sight
The COVID-19 has killed at least 53 lakh people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019. Taking into account excess mortality linked to COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the overall death toll could be two to three times higher.
People tried to return to the ‘new normal’ even as countries across the globe grappled with the second and third waves of infections driven by the more deadly Delta variant.
In 2021, the world saw new quarantines and lockdowns and unlock guidelines being put in place. But borders slowly reopened and the Olympics were held in Tokyo a year late to empty stadiums.
Just as uptick in pace of vaccinations raised hopes of a return to normality, a new highly infectious Omicron strain emerges. Experts have warned that the new strain, first detected in South Africa, is more transmissible in comparison to other COVID-19 variants.
US Capitol riots and the chaos that followed
Hundreds of supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, the seat of American democracy, on January 6 attempting to block the confirmation of Joe Biden's presidential election victory over the property tycoon two months earlier. The assault stunned the world.
Biden was sworn in as the 46th US president two weeks later, with Trump breaking 152 years of tradition by refusing to attend the inauguration.
The return of Taliban
The Taliban entered Kabul without meeting resistance on August 15, following a lightning offensive after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops. They seized power 20 years after being driven out by a US-led international coalition.
Panicked people subsequently descended on Kabul airport in a bid to flee as a chaotic evacuation of diplomats, foreigners and Afghans took place.
The last remaining troops pulled out on August 30, marking the dramatic end of the United States' longest war.
Farmer Protest in India
Thousands of Indian farmers headed home in December following a year-long protest against the Centre's farm laws. Farmers started local protests in Punjab and Haryana before tens of thousands headed to New Delhi to oppose the three agricultural laws passed in September 2020 aimed to deregulate farm produce markets from state control and allow private companies to enter the sector
The retreat came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced and pushed through parliament the repeal of three laws that farmers claimed would let private companies control the country's agriculture sector.
On May 3, violence exploded between Israel and the Palestinians after clashes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, sparked by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over Arab homes.
Hundreds were injured as violence spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. A week after the first clashes, the Islamist movement Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip, fires rockets at Israel, which hits back, leading to an 11-day war in which 260 Palestinians died. Thirteen lost their lives on the Israeli side, including a soldier.
Extreme climate events
Prolonged global warming beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) agreed under the Paris accord could produce "centuries-long and... irreversible consequences" UN experts warned in a report.Meanwhile, extreme climate events multiplied across the world, from catastrophic floods in Germany and Belgium to devastating and long-running wildfires in the US, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Algeria.