At the risk of sounding like a broken record for the fifth December in a row, 2021 was tough.

Back in January, we had high hopes. The end of the pandemic seemed to be just around the corner, along with a resurgence of tourism when the new vaccinations arrived.

But this was not to be.

Just as the economy started to pick up, the Virgin Islands got slammed with a tragic Covid-19 outbreak that ultimately killed 38 people over the course of a few weeks during the summer.

The community grieved. Meanwhile, tourism hopes were dashed, and the economy was slammed anew as restrictions were quickly reinstated.

At the same time, the United Kingdom Commission of Inquiry into possible corruption — which was announced in January — was under way.

The exercise has shed needed light into the darker corners of governance in the territory, but it has been time-consuming and stressful for all involved.

These two ongoing events dominated 2021, which long will be remembered as a time of great difficulty.

However, this is not to say that the year was all bad. In fact, its troubles also brought positive news.

Residents, for instance, continued to step up to help each other through the pandemic. Dozens of health workers and other front-liners became heroes during the deadly summer outbreak, risking their own lives for others.

Meanwhile, at a time when unemployment and economic struggles were rife, organisations like Family Support Network, churches and others showed what it means to care.

The COI has also brought much good despite the stress that came with it. Throughout its hearings, the exhausting exposure of governance failings was accompanied by many practical ideas for improvement. The exercise also shed light on important topics that too often go unremarked, and it sparked ubiquitous public dialogue about the way forward for this territory. Such discussions can be painful, but they are a good thing.

Other positives of 2021 included successful roadwork, busy legislative sessions, and public holiday reform that has seen a landmark shift to more VI-centric observances.

In many ways, then, the VI has rallied to the challenges of a difficult year.

Thankfully, more recent months have brought optimism once again as tourists began to return in numbers and the inquiry wrapped up its hearings.

Once again, it is possible to look ahead with high hopes for what could be a much brighter New Year.

Nevertheless, the territory must not let down its guard. Though it is tempting to think the pandemic must be nearing an end, the omicron variant of Covid-19 casts substantial doubt on that hope. And it is anybody’s guess what could follow from the COI’s report early next year.

The community, then, must prepare for the worst even as it hopes for the best in 2022.

We wish everyone happy holidays and a blessed New Year.

 


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