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“There is something in the wind that we cannot get into”, said Antipholus of Ephesus, in the Comedy of Errors. “There is something in the wind that I know will just go away”, said Donald Trump in the “Tragedy of Errors”, which is still playing to packed houses in the US even today. To be fair, many countries misjudged.

Given that many people I met in December, felt that the biggest surprise in 2021 will be that there will be no surprise, I wondered what I could predict about the world in 2021. I therefore thought it might be worthwhile to reconnect with Cyrus the Virus, whom I had introduced in my last year’s annual note, Tipping Point. Cyrus, named after the famous Persian Emperor Cyrus, who conquered the world in 2020, had told me in advance about the dire straits that we would find ourselves in 2020. We kept in touch regularly ever since. Here is what he told me, even as I was still nursing my first peg today, on New Year’s Eve: “You humans have made commendable strides in trying to understand me in the last year but there is very much more that you don’t know. It will take you more than a lifetime to understand most of the virus families, but in less than half a decade, you could understand enough to deal with Corona viruses, the family to which I belong. Our fight is not over. We are mutating so rapidly that solutions which might have worked eight months ago will not work as effectively anymore.”

I was nonplussed when Cyrus went on to explain that species evolve over several generations, but what takes humankind 2000 years, takes a mere hour for some types of viruses. “Unless you are able to wipe out an entire population of my variant cousins very quickly, we will produce several more virus serotypes and you may need vaccine modifications. I know that you cannot wipe us out quickly because for every ten humans who get vaccinated early, there are probably five who will either completely avoid or delay vaccination. Prize idiots like Trump help us. Add to that your inability to manufacture enough affordable vaccines quickly enough.”

I took a close look at him, only to realise that he looked a bit different and that I was probably talking to a different Cyrus the Virus, each time I spoke to him over the past year. I asked him about the South African variant. The latest Cyrus avatar told me, “My South African cousins (B.1.351 or 501Y.V2) differ significantly from the UK cousins (B.1.1.7) in ways that may reduce your vaccines’ effectiveness.

“Even if the South African variant spreads fast to become more dominant, the mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) and adenovirus-vectored (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccines can be modified to be more close-fitting and effective against this variant in a few months.”

Oh my God, I realised, he was saying something not just about 2021 but about that year and beyond! There could be future outbreaks and more valiant efforts needed to modify the vaccine. If the virus is going to be around and will spill over to CY2022, what will life and work be in CY 2021? Not the same as it was before the pandemic, although much of the World’s GDP could get back close to the 2019-20 level at the end of 21-22. More on that later. I therefore did more research and connected the visible dots as is my wont.

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