The Long 2020: year of the COVID-19 Pandemic

According to historians the long 19th Century lasted 125 years. It started in 1789 with the French Revolution and ran through until the beginning of World War One in 1914. The 20th Century was, however, short. Closing with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 it lasted a mere 77 years. What this suggests is that whilst our calendars reflect the orderly nature of celestial revolutions, human events are not so neat. More often than not, true significance attaches to periods, and not units, of time.

This is likely to be true of 2020. Whilst it is apparently a unit of time, the year of COVID-19 is, in fact, a period of time. The long 2020 began with the first symptomatic patients, which have been traced to the start of December 2019. Indeed, this is why it is called COVID-19 and not COVID-20. As a result, and despite writing merely hours from the advent of 2021, one can still ask: what event will mark the end of the long 2020?

Of course, the day that the pandemic ends is the obvious choice. However, whilst the pandemic will eventually end, it is unrealistic to think that this will mean that COVID-19 will no longer trouble us. Although there are facts about the presence or absence of the virus SARS-COV-2 in a particular population, such facts alone do not determine the presence or absence of a pandemic. There is very little of the virus in Australia, and yet we are also living through the pandemic and the long 2020 alongside those in countries with far higher rates of infection. Thus, a certain kind of significance must attach to the virus if we are to declare a pandemic and the same applies if we are to declare its end.