With new COVID-19 cases dwindling to the single digits in Nova Scotia, and two vaccines being distributed across the country, there are reasons to believe this new year can be better.

After approving the use of Pfizer vaccine, just before the holidays, Health Canada allowed Moderna’s version to be employed in the fight against the novel coronavirus. And there is a strong possibility that more vaccines from more companies will be arriving in Canada this year.

This comes as daily new COVID-19 cases remain in the single digits, with provincial officials asserting that things are under control in Nova Scotia, as far as transmission and spread are concerned.

Schools are poised to open for students on Jan. 11, and this week, are hosting teachers for professional development. Most businesses in the province remain open, in some form or another, and hockey is bracing for a return to the ice this month.

There are also convincing reasons to be cautious about this optimism.

The most glaring is the new variant of the novel coronavirus which has been found to be more easily transmissible, and could pose headaches for any re-opening plans this year.

And it can’t be forgotten that the vaccine will not be delivered to the majority of the population until the summer, meaning the first six months of 2021 will not be much different than the past 12 months.

Nova Scotians will still be expected to wear masks in indoor public areas, remain two meters apart, and wash their hands appropriately. There will still be limits on large gatherings and there are still restrictions on some businesses and organizations.

But while doing so, this will also be a time of preparation for the loosening of public health restrictions, the possibility of more travel, and an expected increase in economic activity.

Likely this boost will not offset the losses of 2020-2021 in the immediate future, but it’s an encouraging step in the right direction, and could spell a change in economic fortunes for the Strait area.

Although they had to change operations like everyone else, the region’s main employers kept going during the pandemic, and most, seemed to have braved the ensuing economic slump.

While some small businesses in the four counties have taken hits and others closed, some have kept going, and also seemed poised to come out of this abyss, hopefully intact.

Then there are the benefits from government funding for infrastructure, especially internet and cellular services in parts of the region which have little or none. This also involves the construction of sidewalks and water and sewer improvements which can help attract and retain even more people from other parts of the country, especially provinces which have struggled to contain COVID-19.

The bright spot and true source of optimism comes in the form of the many people, from many demographics, who have moved or returned to the Strait area over the past year. These residents add to the tax base and provide new consumers for local businesses, students for local schools, and volunteers in community groups.

When this momentum is extrapolated against the consistently low COVID-19 numbers in the Eastern Zone, right from the very start of this global pandemic, there are good reasons to have hope, even if it will take time to get there.