Once again, global headlines in 2021 were dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic – and in 2022 the world is entering its third year living with the deadly virus.
Last year was marked by other seismic events, too. The world watched as the Capitol building was stormed by supporters of the outgoing president Donald Trump in January; in February, one-time Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was removed from power in a military coup in Myanmar; and the summer saw the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games finally go ahead – to name but a few.
So what might grab world headlines in 2022?
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The beginning of the end for Covid-19?
2022 could be the year the pandemic begins to “fade away”, said The Economist, in the developed world, at least. Global immunity to the illness is rising, thanks to either vaccination or, less fortunately, people having contracted the virus.
By mid-December, around 4.5 billion people across the globe had had at least one jab, while more than 3.5 billion were fully vaccinated. As The Economist said in November: “Together with those who have caught the disease, around half the world’s population has some level of immunity.” Eventually, the disease will become endemic, helped along by a “glut” of new vaccines as well as other treatments like molnupiravir, an oral anti-viral drug.
Vaccination inequality will continue to hamper the recovery of poorer nations, but in the developed world it is likely to start to fade into a non-life-threatening illness. Of course, “looming over these positive developments is the prospect of mutation”, the paper continued. And as the world nervously watches to see how the new Omicron variant will affect the course of the pandemic, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) has warned the UK government that the new variant could “trigger a surge in virus infections bigger than previous waves in the UK”, said Sky News.
Fifa World Cup in Qatar
The 2022 Fifa World Cup is set to take place in Qatar this year from 21 November to 18 December. It will be the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world, but footballing fever in the nation has been tempered by the “shadow of abusive labour practices and workers’ deaths” in the run-up to the tournament, said The Guardian. Some 6,500 migrant workers are thought to have died since the country was awarded the tournament a decade ago, many of them thought to be employed on World Cup infrastructure projects, said The Guardian in another report.
Although still almost a year out, bookmakers have already begun making their predictions over which teams could emerge as potential winners of the tournament. England are currently third favourites at 7/1, while Brazil and France are joint favourites at 6/1, Bet365 told The Telegraph.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
The Queen is set to mark 70 years since she ascended to the throne, aged just 25, in 1952. She will be the first British monarch to reach the milestone, having celebrated her Gold, Silver and Diamond Jubilees. The occasion will be marked with celebrations that will continue throughout 2022, culminating in a four-day-long bank holiday weekend in June, as detailed on the Royal Family’s official website.
In 2020, Oliver Dowden, the then culture secretary, said the jubilee will be “a truly historic moment – and one that deserves a celebration to remember”.
“We can all look forward to a special, four-day Jubilee weekend, when we will put on a spectacular, once-in-a-generation show that mixes the best of British ceremonial splendour with cutting edge art and technology. It will bring the entire nation and the Commonwealth together in a fitting tribute to Her Majesty’s reign.”
The Democrats are preparing for an electoral battering at the approaching US midterm elections, as the latest polling shows the Republicans have the largest lead at this stage in 40 years.
According to one generic poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, 51% of registered voters said they would back a Republican candidate for Congress compared to just 41% who said they would support a Democratic candidate.
ABC News noted that it was “the biggest lead for Republicans in the 110 polls that have asked this question since November 1981”, and could herald large losses for the Democrats in the House, where they maintain only a narrow majority.
French presidential election
Although he is yet to even declare his candidacy, Emmanuel Macron will almost certainly seek a second presidential term. So far, the polling suggests he’ll win, although analysts have warned the election remains “highly unpredictable”, according to France 24.
Polling shows that the French president is leading the first round and will likely beat off opposing candidates should the elections come to a second-round run-off. He is currently polling at 25% in the first round, Politico reported, followed by Valerie Pecresse, who has won the nomination for the right-wing Les Republicains party, at 17% and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on 16%.
But, as Reuters noted, “early favourites lost the 2017 election”, which was won by the “then-outsider” Macron. And while pollsters may have correctly called the 2012 election, they have “spectacularly failed on other occasions”. Meanwhile, voter abstention rates are “nearly impossible to predict so far off” leaving the race still shrouded in “much uncertainty”, the news agency added.
Many predict that 2022 is likely to be the year we transition from working remotely to what has become known as “hybrid” working – spending part of the week in the office, and the rest at home.
The pandemic forced employers to undergo “a change in their relationship with the idea of a centralized workplace”, said Forbes, and at the height of the pandemic in 2020, almost 69% of large companies in the US expected an overall decrease in the amount of office space they would be using, according to research by KPMG.
And a more recent survey from April 2021, conducted by consulting company Gartner, showed that “99% of human resources leaders expect employees to work in some kind of hybrid arrangement moving forward”, reported the Fast Company.
The work from home experiment has been welcomed by employees, too. According to The Economist, surveys have shown that office workers would like to work from home nearly 50% of the time – up from 5% before the pandemic – with employees wishing to spend the remainder of the time in the office. As we move into 2022, it looks like hybrid working will become commonplace.
This could also be the year that space tourism starts to gain real lift-off, after commercial projects Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic both successfully made their maiden suborbital flights.
Both hope to pick up the pace with “regular, predictable, reliable” flights in 2022, Tom Shelley of Space Adventures, a space-tour operator based in Virginia, told The Economist.
Around 700 people have already bought tickets to ride into suborbital space with Virgin Galactic, reported Space.com, with the company hoping to “boost that number to 1,000 by the time it begins commercial operations” in late 2022.
But getting commercial customers into space is hardly plain sailing – and Virgin Galactic has postponed its first commercial flight as the company conducts “repairs and upgrades” to its next test flight, Unity 23, reported the BBC. Commercial flights had been due to begin in the third quarter of 2022, but are now expected to go ahead in the fourth quarter instead.
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