The pandemic has had a sharply divisive impact in Northern Ireland. The living standards of some households have been hit hard and others have been protected to enjoy an improved standard of living.
Despite a well-intentioned series of policies by Government, the effect has been to widen the inequalities in living standards.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is now considering the UK Budget for 2021-22. The annual budget comes at the end of the most unusual financial year.
The Chancellor has taken decisions that lie well outside the scale and impact of any other recent year.
This is well illustrated by the addition, in instalments, of over £3bn on top of what would have been the normal Stormont budget.
Events in early 2020 propelled the Chancellor into making decisions for which there were few if any precedents.
Remarkably, he has been able to go beyond what would have been conventional fiscal limits without attracting serious direct criticism.
At this stage his actions have been generally quietly welcomed or passively accepted.
The next few years may be less tolerant as the scale of the financial tsunami filters into the domestic monetary system.
One feature of the last financial year stands out. Despite the preparedness of the Chancellor and the Treasury to commit funds to maintaining the whole economy, the Chancellor has not been able to protect each and every citizen in equal degree.
Even with the flexibility of a large number of support schemes, the impact has been uneven.
Now, one full year into the pandemic, there are many people who have enjoyed stable earnings levels whether as full-time employees in the public or private sector.
In parallel with those whose earnings have been largely unaffected, many other employees (particularly in the private sector) have been heavily protected by the furlough scheme where the taxpayer has maintained a high proportion of normal earnings (usually at about 80% of normal).
Outside the groups whose earnings have been maintained or supported there are large numbers of others, mainly but not only self-employed, for whom the pandemic has had dramatic consequences.
The Chancellor has reasonably argued that, given the uneven impact of the pandemic, special support schemes could not be devised which could be demonstrated to deliver a better degree of fairness across the whole range of sectors and types of business affected. As the economy begins to adjust to a slow end to the pandemic, the real economy contains strident voices from those who have been impacted most severely.
The contrasts are stark.
There are many people who have become unemployed, wholly or partially.
They will have learnt whether, and how, the rules on Universal Credit entitled them to official benefits and the inadequacy of such benefits.
The inequities caused by the pandemic can be further illustrated by comparing the income effects for people whose employment was less disrupted.
In the financial year to December 2020 the banks recorded the largest ever increase in their holdings of personal deposits.
Danske Bank here has shown an increase of over £2bn or 27%.
This is a reflection of the actions of people whose earnings were maintained but who also, by choice or otherwise, reduced their spending and increased their savings.
Whilst the pandemic and its effects have reduced the income of many people, there is another large group who have accumulated savings which can later provide a base for increased spending.
The recession caused by the pandemic has been very divisive and will leave many casualties alongside a smaller number of beneficiaries.
The recovery process, following gradual containment of Covid-19, will be difficult to anticipate and manage.
For much of 2021 the economy will be adapting to a complex series of events as the Covid-19 restrictions are gradually eased.
This will, however, be further complicated by the continuing adjustment to Brexit.
Northern Ireland's adjustment processes will be a combination of the acclimatisation by UK business to the departure from the EU as well as the readjustment by businesses in Northern Ireland to the redefinition of the relationships between Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
The EU Protocol has attracted a range of critical comments. What has not yet been fully demonstrated are the trading advantages for many businesses here which now have the benefit of open market access to both the UK and EU markets.
This change to the trading relationships is recognised by many in the business community, although it has attracted unionist political criticism.
The economy in 2021 will be troubled.