The novel coronavirus uprooted the norms of day-to-day life in almost every country on Earth, many of which are still struggling to contain the virus, even as the year draws to a close.
More than 80 million cases have been reported worldwide, causing nearly 2 million deaths.
By far the worst-hit country, the United States, has confirmed just under 20 million cases of COVID-19, signalling a catastrophic public health failure.
At the start of the year, as the virus silently infiltrated the U.S., President Donald Trump minimised the threat, despite privately reflecting on its deadly and contagious nature.
Later in the year, the president held large re-election rallies and attended ‘superspreader’ events, going on to catch the virus himself.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro followed a similar strategy, calling COVID-19 a “little flu”.
Brazil has the third-highest number of infections.
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially downplayed the danger of the virus, making a point of shaking hands with “everybody” at a hospital.
Mr Johnson then caught it and needed treatment in the intensive care unit.
After his own experience with COVID-19, the prime minister appeared to take a more serious approach, enacting harsher restrictions.
But his government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, designed to boost income for restaurants and other dining venues across the country, was followed by a dramatic rise in new cases.
As well as this, the prime minister steered clear of putting London into the most serious restrictions until December, despite ample evidence of high infection rates. A new, more contagious variant of the virus is now believed to have spread rapidly in the capital.
However, there is cause for hope, as several vaccines have been approved for emergency use in various countries.
Attention now turns to the production, distribution and administration of vaccines, potentially marking the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
Efforts are also underway to ensure that low and middle-income countries are not left without the means to inoculate their populations.