Hard Numbers: French oil refinery blockades, China’s mRNA milestone, Moscow comes to Bali, IMF tweaks rules for Ukraine, TikTok hearing

Car drivers queue to fill their fuel tank at a TotalEnergies gas station in Nice as petrol supplies are disrupted by a strike of French refineries and depots, France, March 20, 2023.

Car drivers queue to fill their fuel tank at a TotalEnergies gas station in Nice as petrol supplies are disrupted by a strike of French refineries and depots, France, March 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

13: As French protesters continue to strike and block oil refineries in response to the government’s recently passed pension reform, 13% of petrol stations around the country are running short on gas. What’s more, a lack of shipments from LNG terminals is raising fears of shortages – and elevated prices – across Europe.


1: China has finally approved its first mRNA COVID vaccine for emergency use. Beijing says that the drug shows high rates of protection when administered as a booster, though it provided few other details.

22,000: Most Russians fleeing conscription and oppression have gone to Georgia, Armenia, and even Turkey. But many have also fled to faraway … Bali. Now, Bali’s governor has asked Indonesia’s central government to rescind a rule allowing Russians and Ukrainians to apply for visas upon arrival, pointing to the fact that 22,000 Russians arrived on the island in January alone. Jakarta introduced the measure to get a post-COVID tourism bump, but some say the newcomers are ruining the island’s zen.

15.6 billion: The IMF has agreed to a preliminary loan for Ukraine worth a whopping $15.6 billion, the biggest package for Kyiv since Russia’s invasion began in Feb. 2022 – though it still needs to be approved by the board. In order to get this deal across the line, the IMF, whose main shareholder is the US, recently changed a rule to allow loans to go to countries facing “exceptionally high uncertainty.”

5: The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by a quarter point, bringing its key short-term interest rate up to 5%. The decision signals that the Fed is continuing its campaign to temper inflation and consumer price increases, even after the recent banking turmoil.

150 million: That’s how many of its users TikTok claims are US-based, according to its CEO, Shou Zi Chew. On Thursday, Sou will testify before a US House committee hearing to answer questions about the suspected ties of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to China’s ruling Communist Party amid growing calls for a US ban.

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