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Coronavirus is tearing us apart, together

Coronavirus is tearing us apart, together

Pandemics are great equalizers. The coronavirus doesn't discriminate based on your passport, your tax returns, or your political party. It doesn't care how old you are, where you live, or who you voted for in the last election. It just wants to kill you.

And yet, while we are all one humanity from the perspective of the virus, the pandemic – and the responses to it – are opening deep fissures in our societies that may persist even after the wave of infections subsides. Here are a few to watch out for.


Rich vs Poor: In the US, athletes and celebrities are getting preferential access to scarce tests. In Russia, the "one percent" are hoarding ventilators. Mexico's outbreak has been traced to a luxury ski lodge in Colorado. Locals in the Hamptons are angry as wealthy New Yorkers bring the disease "out East." Across the world, the rich and famous not only have vastly better access to care, they are also more shielded from the economic fallout than ordinary folks and the working poor, who don't have the benefit of "teleworking," or who are – at huge risk to themselves – staffing hospitals, grocery stores, delivery services, drugstores, and public infrastructure. The class antagonism will grow.

Local vs National: In many countries, but particularly ones with federalized political systems, there is tension between national governments that should be leading coordinated responses to the pandemic, and the local officials on the front lines, often coping with scarce resources. This is even more of an issue in countries where the initial national-level response has been slow—Brazil, the United States, Mexico, or the Czech Republic, for example.

Democrats vs Republicans: In the United States, everything is polarized, even a pandemic. The latest polling shows that Democrats – more concentrated in the urban centers that have been hit hardest so far – are far more concerned about the virus' spread than Republicans, though the gap is closing. A month ago nearly half of Republicans said they weren't concerned – now only about a quarter say that. Only 5 percent of Democrats say they aren't worried.

US vs China: The world's two largest economies have their differences, but where the global threat of coronavirus might have been a practical opportunity to work together to save the planet, Beijing and Washington have instead sniped at each other about the origins of the disease, kicked out each other's journalists, and limited their cooperation on searches for a vaccine.

Globalists v Tribalists: Some people see the COVID-19 crisis as an overdue wake-up call for more global coordination and unity. Others see it as a confirmation of their sense that globalization had gone too far, and that a future of higher walls and less economic integration is a safer and healthier one.

When it's all over, whose view will prevail, and where?

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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9.2 trillion: COVID vaccine hoarding by rich countries and uneven global access to the jabs will draw out the global recovery from the pandemic. In fact, it'll cost the world economy as much as $9.2 trillion, according to a new study by the International Chamber of Commerce.

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The United States has never been more divided, and it's safe to say that social media's role in our national discourse is a big part of the problem. But renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher doesn't see any easy fix. "I don't know how you fix the architecture of a building that is just purposely dangerous for everybody." Swisher joins Ian Bremmer to talk about how some of the richest companies on Earth, whose business models benefit from discord and division, can be compelled to see their better angels. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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