News Timeline: January 2021

January 5 – North America: United States

Politics: Senate Runoffs

In two Senate runoff races in the U.S. state of Georgia, both Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff narrowly defeat Republican incumbents. Ossoff becomes the first Jewish senator from Georgia, while Raphael Warnock, a pastor from Atlanta, is the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from Georgia. The election outcome gives Democrats control in the U.S. Senate for the next two years, although by narrowest of margins – a 50-50 tie broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.[1] Democrat Chuck Schumer will replace Republican Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader.

What does winning the Senate mean for the Biden agenda?

January 5 – Middle East: Qatar / Saudi Arabia

Regional relations: Qatar and its neighbors

Qatar and Saudi Arabia agree to a Kuwait–U.S.–brokered deal that restores full diplomatic relations between the two countries three years after four Arab states cut ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting terrorism and imposing an embargo. Both countries will reopen their land, air, and sea borders and restore trade. The blockade has been very damaging to both Qatar’s economy and to the notion of Gulf unity.

Background: In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Islamist organizations and having close ties with Iran. They presented Qatar with conditions for ending the embargo, but Qatar refused to comply, insisting the embargo violated international law and established new trade deals with Iran and Turkey.[2]

January 6 – World

Global Health: Coronavirus, or Covid-19

With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for 22 percent of coronavirus deaths. In the meantime fewer than 300 Australians have died of complications from Covid-19. That’s 50 times lower per capita deaths than in the United States. Australia unlike the United States, put travel restrictions at the center of its virus response. In March, the country mandated and strictly enforced the rule that everyone arriving from overseas, including Australian citizens, spend two weeks quarantined in a hotel. Other countries, such as China, some other Asian countries, and eastern Canada, successfully followed Australia’s lead.[3]  

More on the different approaches to the coronavirus and their results

(Jan 8): A reported number of Covid-19 cases in Africa amounts to 3.8 million with over 98,000 deaths (40 percent of those are in South Africa).[4] This number for all 54 African countries is only slightly higher than the number of deaths in France. The number of Covid cases and deaths are considered underreported because the governments in African countries don’t formally register deaths. In 2017, only 10 percent of deaths were registered in Nigeria, and in other countries the percentage is even lower. There are several reasons for this, such as stigma, unavailable testing, as well as the fact that deaths from Covid-19 are being misdiagnosed.[5]

More on Covid-19 situation in Africa

(Jan 15): Last spring the U.S. state of California was praised for acting swiftly to contain the coronavirus, but since November deaths went up by more than 1,000 percent. More than 31,000 people have died of the virus in the state.

What went wrong?

(Jan 16); India launches a coronavirus vaccination program, planning to inoculate more than 1.3 billion of its citizens.  The country will use its election system to deliver and track doses to recipients, as well as digital platforms and apps to allow people to register for the doses of one of the two approved vaccines, Oxford-AstraZeneca developed in the UK and Covaxin developed locally. With more than 10 million cases, India has the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world, after the United States. India plans to vaccinate 300 million people by August.[6]

(Jan 21): Newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden signs a full-scale coronavirus strategy, a national plan to combat the public health crisis caused by Covid-19. It is a federal centralized response that previous President Donald Trump refused to implement. The strategy includes new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States. President Biden pledges to provide 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office. His Administration is asking Congress for $1.9 trillion for pandemic relief.[7]

Details of The National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response

(Jan 21): Hungary is the first country in the European Union to approve the Russian-developed coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V. According to a peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet, the Russian vaccine is 91.6 percent effective in protecting against symptomatic COVID-19 — on par with the currently approved Western vaccines.[8] Despite this, only seven percent of Hungarians say they would accept the Russian vaccine. This suspicion among Hungarians relates to the domination of the country by Communist Russia from 1948 to 1989.[9]

(Jan 21): The coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 Brazilians, the second highest number in the world after the United States, but the country secured only six million doses of vaccine (Brazil has 213 million people). President Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly accused scientists of exaggerating the seriousness of the virus. Despite rising Covid-19 cases, bars and restaurants stayed open at full capacity. In recent weeks, Brazil has often reported more than 1,000 deaths a day.[10]

(Jan 26): The number of deaths from Covid-19 in the United States reaches 420,000, the worst outbreak in the world with about 3,000 a day. However, the number of daily new cases has been declining in recent weeks.[11]

(Jan 26): The world surpasses 100 million known coronavirus cases, with more than 500,000 new cases each day on average. Given the lack of adequate testing and contact tracing in many countries, this number is thought to be much higher. Similarly, the number of deaths — more than two million people worldwide is thought to be higher than officially reported. The global supply of the new vaccines has thus far been insufficient to meet the demands.[12]

Covid map: cases, deaths, and vaccinations around the world

(Jan 28): Mexico’s records 155,145 deaths from coronavirus making it the world’s third highest. The country’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been downplaying the virus; now the government is struggling to control it with hospitals at capacity.[13]

January 6 – North America: United States

Election certification and the Capitol insurrection

U.S. Congress is meeting to count the Electoral College votes and certify the presidential election. In the meantime, President Donald Trump meets his supporters at a rally where he calls for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the elections results, which is outside his constitutional powers. He incites the rally attendees to march to the Capitol, claiming, with no evidence, that the election was stolen from him.[14] After his speech, hundreds of his armed supporters push through the security barriers and storm the Capitol, eventually breaking inside. The Capitol is put on lockdown, certification vote is paused, and the legislators are escorted to safe locations. Later that day the Congress resumes the joint session and certifies Joe Biden’ s win. Five people die in this attempted insurrection, including a Capitol police officer. About 140 people are injured.[15]

In pictures: Pro-Trump rioters breach the US Capitol

How an election is supposed to be certified

Who are the people who stormed the Capitol

The mob that stormed the Capitol

January 13 – North America: United States

Second Impeachment of President Donald Trump

The U.S. House of Representatives impeaches President Donald Trump for a second time only a few days before the end of his term as president and a week after he incited a violent mob of his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol and stop the certification of the Electoral College vote of President-elect Joe Biden. “Incitement of Insurrection ” was the only article of impeachment against Trump.  This time ten Congressional Republicans voted along with the House Democrats for the impeachment. As a result, Donald Trump is the only American President in history to be impeached more than once.[16] He faces now the second impeachment trial in the Senate to be held in February.

More on the second impeachment of Donald Trump

What happens to impeached presidents?

Article of Impeachment document

January 20 – North America: United States

Politics: Transition of power

Joe Biden was sworn in as the United States’ 46th president and Kamala Harris as Vice President in a ceremony on the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The celebrations are significantly curtailed as the event takes place in the middle of the pandemic, but also because of the potential for violence near the Capitol. The National Mall is closed to the general public because of security concerns related to the January 6 storming of the US Capitol. President Donald Trump is the first president in 150 years to boycott the inauguration of his successor.

Transition of power in pictures

In his inaugural address, President Biden names six crises facing the U.S.: the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, growing inequality, racism, America’s global standing, and an attack on truth and democracy.  He also promises to implement a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Hours after the swearing ceremony, Biden signs 17 executive orders and directives that dismantle Trump administration policies that he saw harmful to the country. They include strengthening protections for young immigrants, ending construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall, an end to a travel ban, and prioritizing racial equity.[17]

More on Biden’s executive orders on his first day as President

January 23 – Europe: Russia

Anti-government protests

More than 3,000 people are arrested during widespread demonstrations by tens of thousands in over 100 cities across Russia protesting jailing of the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Navalny was arrested a few days ago when he flew home from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent in an assassination attempt by the Russian state. After returning to Russia, Navalny posted a YouTube video report about President Vladimir Putin’s alleged secret palace. The video has been viewed more than 70 million times.[18]

More on protests in Russia


[1] “Georgia Senate Runoff Live Results.” Updated January 11, 2021. Accessed February 3, 21 from and Deirdre Walsh and Kelsey Snell. “Democrats Take Control Of Senate With Twin Georgia Victories.” NPR. January 6, 2021. Accessed February 3, 21.

[2] “Qatar crisis: Saudi Arabia and allies restore diplomatic ties with emirate.” BBC News. January 5, 2021 and “UAE to restore Qatar trade and travel links ‘within a week’ after row ends.” BBC News. January 7, 2021.

[3] David LeonhardtGraphics by Lauren Leatherby. “The Unique U.S. Failure to Control the Virus.” August 6, 2020. Updated August 8, 2020. Accessed February 17, 21.

[4] “COVID-19 situation update worldwide, as of week 6, updated 18 February 2021.” European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. February 18, 2021. Accessed February 22, 21 from

[5] Ruth Maclean. “A Continent Where the Dead Are Not Counted.” The New York Times. January 2, 2021. Updated Jan. 4, 2021. Accessed February 22, 21.

[6] “Coronavirus vaccine: India begins world’s biggest drive.” BBC News. January 16, 2021. Accessed February 25, 21.

[7] Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “Biden rolls out ‘full-scale, wartime’ coronavirus strategy, including requiring masks on some planes, trains and buses.” The New York Times. January 21, 2021. Accessed March 2, 21.

[8] Carlo Martuscelli. “Russian coronavirus vaccine achieves over 90 percent efficacy: Lancet.” February 2, 2021. Accessed February 25, 21.

[9] Nick Thorpe. “Coronavirus: Hungary first in EU to approve Russian vaccine.”

BBC News. January 21, 2021. Accessed February 25, 21.

[10] Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni and Letícia Casado. “Bolsonaro Talked Vaccines Down. Now Brazil has Too Few Doses.” The New York Times. January 18, 2021. Updated March 3, 2021. Accessed March 2, 21.

[11] Richard Fausset. “The world reaches a staggering milestone of more than 100 million known virus cases.” The New York Times. Updated February 11, 2021. Accessed February 15, 21 from

[12] Richard Fausset. “The world reaches a staggering milestone of more than 100 million known virus cases.” The New York Times. Updated February 11, 2021. Accessed February 15, 21 from

[13] “Mexico’s death toll becomes the world’s third highest, surpassing India’s.” The Coronavirus Outbreak. The New York Times.

[14] Julia Jacobo. “This is what Trump told supporters before many stormed Capitol Hill.” ABCNews. January 7, 2021. Accessed Feb 1, 2021 from

[15] Kenya Evelyn. “Capitol attack: the five people who died.” The Guardian. January 8, 2021. Accessed February 9, 21 from

[16] Tessa Berenson. “Donald Trump Impeached a Second Time in Historic House Vote.” Time. January 13, 2021. Accessed February 10, 2021.

[17] Aishvarya Kavi. “Biden’s 17 Executive Orders and Other Directives in Detail.”  The New York Time. January 20, 2021. Updated February 2, 2021. Accessed February 17, 21 from

[18] Anton Troianovski and Andrew Higgins. “Pro-Navalny Protests Sweep Russia in Challenge to Putin.” The New York Times. January 23, 2021. Updated February 3, 2021. Accessed February 26, 21.