It’s here. Can you feel it?
It was imperceptible at first, I grant you, the mere corners of a Mona Lisa smile. And then yesterday, with the news a vaccine could be on the horizon, it was undeniable any longer. Hope is here. The glimmer of something better. An inkling that, after 2020’s damp squib, 2021 could be a better year.
We’re very much aware that the business of news rarely brings joy. Every weekend, as we try to find a positive story to end our weekly news update on, we relent the absence of genuine cheer.
But behind the wall-to-wall election coverage over the last week, a lot was happening – and much of it has been genuinely smile-inducing. So, in a break from our usual programming, here are all our reasons to be cheerful this week.
COVID vaccine trial branded “a great day for science”
The first effective vaccine to be developed in the fight against coronavirus could protect 90 per cent of people from the illness, researchers say.
Pfizer and BioNTech, who yesterday published preliminary trials, have described their results as a “great day for science and humanity”.
The company says no ill effects have been reported following testing on 43,500 people in six countries, and it now plans to apply for emergency approval for use.
If licensed, the first doses of the vaccine could be distributed before the end of the year, with the UK giving priority to frontline NHS workers.
Around a dozen further vaccines are thought to be in late stage testing.
Racial equity and climate protection among Biden Harris priorities
While Donald Trump is yet to concede defeat, the USA’s incoming leadership has already outlined its progressive priorities in office, proclaiming an aim to be “ready on day one”.
On a new transition website, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have outlined plans to address four key issues: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.
On each, the Democratic victors have outlined a series of targets, from police and prison reform to clean energy investment.
Unveiling the proposals, President-elect Biden pledged to “marshal the ingenuity and goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together.”
The UK government relented on free school meals
The government has pledged more than £400 million to support poor children and their families in England, following a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford.
A new winter grant scheme will provide assistance with covering the costs of food and bills, as well as ensuring holiday food and activity programmes can be expanded.
Rashford, who organised a grass roots campaign to support families during the October half-term break, said the turnaround would help almost 1.7 million youngsters.
The government funds, which will be released in a series of different payments, will provide support until Christmas 2021, as well as further funding for food banks.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already had holiday support programmes in place.
US election boosted diversity across the board
While Kamala Harris will shortly make history as the first Black, first south Asian, and first female Vice President, the full scale of the diversity gains made in the US election are now becoming clear.
In Delaware, Sarah McBride will become the country’s first transgender state senator while in New York, Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres become the first gay black members of Congress.
Mauree Turner from Oklahoma will be the country’s first non-binary state legislator and Oklahoma’s first Muslim legislator, while all four members of AOC’s ‘squad’ were comfortably re-elected.
In Missouri, Cori Bush became the first Black woman to win a House seat, while Jenifer Rajkumar and Zohran Mamdani will be the first Indian-Americans in New York’s state legislature.
Meanwhile, New Mexico became the first state ever to elect all women of colour to the House, and a record three Native American women were elected to Congress.
Oxford Dictionary to remove sexist stereotypes following campaign
Equalities campaigners this week welcomed the news that the updated Oxford English Dictionary will remove a host of outdated and sexist definitions from its pages.
Among the changes are increased use of gender-neutral language, and the removal of terminology connoting the male ownership of women.
Terms such as ‘bitch’, ‘bint’ and ‘wench’ are to be updated as offensive, rather than merely being labelled ‘synonyms for woman’, while a host of terms relating to sexual attractiveness have been revised.
It follows a petition last year, created by campaigner Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, which highlighted the way existing definitions contributed to a climate of everyday sexism.