The immediate post-New Year period frequently has a cathartic feel to it. The excesses of Christmas are over, and we can resign ourselves to a quieter period as we sit out the long, dark days of January, awaiting the first signs of spring.
This year, of course, it is different. Christmas, in yet another lockdown, was a more muted affair: fewer get-togethers of the sort that make the holiday special; perhaps a Zoom call or two with family and friends, but certainly a less than festive feel to the putative festive season.
As a reaction, perhaps, to the low-key Christmas, people have noticeably been braving the early January chill and getting out and about. Rhos promenade has, for the last few days, been thronged with socially-distanced walkers – a large number accompanied by dogs – stepping out in determined fashion, wishing one another a Happy New Year, usually followed by: “Let’s hope it’s better than the last one.”
It cannot be denied that, as years go, 2020 was one best forgotten. It will, however, be hard to forget. Many of our fellow-citizens have been cloistered away from their families, unable to leave their homes, deprived of the very human contact that makes us human.
Businesses have been closed, their owners wondering when and whether they will ever open again. Workers have spent months on furlough. Children have missed the education that is vital to their life chances.
All this could make for a January that is even bleaker than usual. Yet there are points of light in the darkness, the brightest of which is the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (OAZ) vaccine, which began its rollout this week.
The OAZ vaccine could, indeed, prove to be a game-changer in the fight against the virus. Unlike other vaccines, it can be stored in a normal refrigerator, so can be easily deployed. The Government has ordered 100 million doses, enough to vaccinate most of the population.
The challenge now will be to ensure that vaccination happens as quickly as possible. Daunting, certainly, but one that offers the best prospect of a genuinely happy 2021.