COVID-19's impact on 2021: The Agenda with Stephen Cole
The Agenda


The COVID-19 pandemic has once again dominated the news agenda in 2021 as countries around the world grappled with arguably the biggest global crisis since World War II. 

Over the past year, The Agenda has been at the heart of coronavirus coverage – from the devastating economic effects to how populations have coped with repeated lockdowns and the way vaccines have increasingly been seen as the way out of the crisis... at least for those with access to them.

This week we're continuing our look back at some interviews with those who are fighting against the virus on the front line and those who study the impact on people's daily lives.



"Vaccine nationalism" has seen the world's richer countries buying up the vast majority of supplies at the expense of poorer nations. Back in February, The Agenda asked Siddhartha Datta from the World Health Organization to tell us more about the progress of the COVAX initiative, which was set up to ensure the fairer distribution of vaccines.  



The squabbling over vaccine supplies between the world's richer nations hotted up as soon as they began being approved for use. Coming soon after Brexit, it exacerbated the deterioration of relations between the UK and its European neighbors. In April, Stephen Cole solicited the opinions of three experts about whether they thought the initial success of the UK's vaccine drive was the result of its new-found freedom from the European Union.



The rapid COVID-19 inoculation drive earlier in the year threw up a whole host of questions about vaccine safety and efficacy across the world. In February, we asked our viewers to put their questions about the vaccines straight to the experts in a special edition of #AsktheAgenda.



Of course, away from the pressure on healthcare systems across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the deepest ever peacetime economic crisis.

Global economies may now be starting to recover, but for some industries, the lingering effects will be felt for years, perhaps even decades to come. 

The aviation sector was grounded as global travel almost came to a halt. 

In July, Willie Walsh, former CEO Of British Airways and now head of the industry body International Air Transport Association outlined to us the true scale of the impact.



The coronavirus pandemic and the rolling lockdowns imposed around the world often came with orders from national governments to stay away from offices and work from home. And many of those who were able to do just that say they have been more productive and enjoyed a better work-life balance. 

In March, Heejung Chung, who has conducted research into the subject, told Cole the global health crisis may have changed the way we work forever. 



Of course, the social impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt for decades – perhaps nowhere more so than in the fight for gender equality. Indeed, as many women were forced to leave work to care for family during the pandemic, one report from the World Economic Forum and UN Development Programme suggested COVID-19 may have set gender parity back by an entire generation.



It may have been a year later than planned, thanks to the pandemic – but the Tokyo 2020 Olympics did finally take place in 2021. And they were the first Games in modern history to be held without spectators present.

Just before the event in July, The Agenda asked the President of World Athletics and two-time Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe what sort of effect empty stadiums would have on the athletes.



Of course, the Olympics wasn't the only event to be affected by the pandemic. Many leagues and competitions across the globe in myriad sports were suspended when COVID-19 first hit.

In 2021, some managed to get back up and running, firstly behind closed doors, but then slowly, thanks largely to the vaccine roll-out, supporters in many countries were let back in to watch their favorite teams. But, as Steven Zhang, President of Italian soccer giant Inter Milan told us just ahead of the European Football Championships in June, the pandemic has had a devastating – and possibly permanent – impact on the beautiful game.


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