COVID-19: Would you shut down your city?

COVID-19: Would you shut down your city?

The city that never sleeps is now being forced into naptime. On Sunday evening, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that, in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the city's public school system will close for at least a month, and that all restaurants and bars are limited to take-out and delivery service. For days, the mayor faced pressure for decisive action, but given the size of the city's economy and the serious problems these restrictions create for low-income New Yorkers, these weren't easy decisions.

Let's say you had to make the choice yourself, here are some arguments for and against draconian restrictions.


Keep calm and carry on: You're responsible for a $1.5 trillion economy, so shutting things down carries a huge economic cost. A lot of that cost will fall on the most vulnerable people: more than 100,000 kids in your public-school system are homeless or depend on school for daytime meals. Many working parents don't have ready options for child-care, and if they stay home to care for their kids, they don't get paid. Some of those people are healthcare workers badly needed on the job. Add that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) doesn't believe short-term school closures help much to contain the viral spread anyway.

Meanwhile, kneecapping the restaurant industry – which employs almost a million workers and generates $50 billion a year – will affect huge numbers of people. Yes, you need to keep the virus in check, but plunging hundreds of thousands of people into economic uncertainty, or even poverty, might have broader ripple effects that you have to account for. These are people who already struggle to pay for medical care for themselves and their families.

Shut it down: Most projections suggest that without serious action to stem the spread of coronavirus, your hospitals will soon be overrun with more serious cases than can be treated. Look at what's happened in Italy, where the surge of patients has forced doctors to choose whom to save and whom to let die. Overloading the health system not only makes it harder to treat coronavirus cases, it also cripples a hospital's ability to treat other people in need of urgent medical care.

You have already prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people, but your (and the CDC's) recommendations on "social distancing" went alarmingly ignored over the weekend. By shutting things down now, you're avoiding a much deadlier situation later. By working with the school system, you can make arrangements for food and care. It's not going to be pretty, but pandemic responses aren't a beauty contest.

So, like Black Sheep says, the choice is yours: what would you do?

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

More Show less

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

More Show less

Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

More Show less

50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

More Show less

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal