The coronavirus crisis has caused grief and stress for millions in 2020, while turning everyday life upside down.
Throughout the year the headlines have been grim, as the Covid-19 numbers got worse and worse here in the UK.
Even the recent good news of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was tarnished by concern about a number of new variants or strains of coronavirus, which appear to be more infectious.
These mutant versions of Covid have led to the year ending with a new wave of tough lockdowns, under the Tier 4 system.
But there are reasons to be optimistic about 2021 being a little closer to normal life.
We must not forget the continuing threat of the virus, especially to the elderly and vulnerable.
It will remain vital to follow social distancing guidelines and obey local restrictions next year.
However, there are also signs of progress we must cling to for some hope.
Here are 5 reasons to be positive about 2021 and the fight against Covid-19:
1 – Sunak pledges to return to normality early in 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, writing in the Mail on Sunday this weekend, has said he can foresee an end to coronavirus restrictions in the first half of next year.
He said “we can now see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic”.
The Brexit trade deal is another reason to be cheerful, Mr Sunak argued.
The Mail on Sunday also reported the Government is planning to ease restrictions by February if possible – once the 15 million most at risk from the virus have been vaccinated.
2 – Thousands have already received Pfizer vaccine
On Christmas Eve, the Department of Health and Social Care said more than 600,000 people had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but the roll-out in care homes has been limited to seven areas.
It added larger care homes with 50 to 70 beds would be prioritised first, with around 2,900 care homes of this size in England.
It means progress is already being made to protect those most vulnerable to Covid.
3 – Oxford vaccine likely to work against new strain
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times the vaccine his company has developed with the University of Oxford “should remain effective” against the new strain of the virus which is currently spreading rapidly across the UK.
4 – Vaccine a ‘winning formula’ after two doses
Mr Soirot also told the Sunday Times he felt the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had a “winning formula” to help end the crisis.
There was originally concern when the Oxford vaccine published its test results, which suggested it was less effective at protecting people from Covid (around 60%) than rivals like the Pfizer vaccine (which boasted of around 90% protection).
But Mr Soirot said: “We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else.
“I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point.”
The Oxford vaccine also has the benefit of easier storage – at fridge temperature – while the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at very low temperatures until shortly before use.
It’s hoped this could lead to a faster rollout.
The UK Government has ordered more does of the Oxford vaccine than any other jab in development to fight Covid.
5 – Oxford jab available to millions in January
The Sunday Telegraph reports the Oxford jab could be rolled out en masse from a few days into the New Year.
The Government hopes that the approval could mean more than two million could receive their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine within a fortnight, with doses of the Oxford medicine available from January 4.
A government spokesperson said: “The medicines regulator is reviewing the final data from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca phase three clinical trials to determine whether the vaccine meets their strict standards of quality, safety and effectiveness.
“We must now give the MHRA the time to carry out its important work and we must wait for its advice.”