Ian Bremmer: Coronavirus Global Developments & Outlook

This week began with a staggering Trump press conference. Doctors Fauci & Birx giving an expectation of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US, presuming nationwide social distancing by the end of this week and hospitals don't get overwhelmed. You will be personally affected, with personal knowledge of people in hospital, killed by this disease.

Does the US end up more like Italy or more like South Korea? Washington State responding quickly with lockdown, improving health care capabilities is like South Korea. Parts of the US not under lockdown. Many states on the "periphery" of the mainline US economy. Some had later breakout of coronavirus. Some did not have political leadership.


Here in New York City, response was late. Had resources to attract federal, global support, buying critical equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to improve infrastructure. I expect 4 to 5X daily cases in NY, the next several weeks. The NY medical system may not have to triage patients away from ICU care. Unlikely for parts of southern FL, New Orleans, Georgia, other states. Some of US will feel like Italy, and other parts like South Korea.

Record levels of inequality not seen since the Gilded Age, before the Great Depression, grow dramatically. 10 million new unemployment claims in just 2 weeks. Reflected in broad expectations of US unemployment by the middle of this year. If we're roughly at 10% now, may get to 13% - 17%. Staggering numbers, priced into markets. Economic relief from the US government is adequate for the next 3 months, more money is likely.

This is where you give the highest marks for the US. Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of Treasury, and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, worked together on an economic package allowing the US to effectively respond to the biggest economic shock of our lifetimes. If Obama and a Republican House, you would not have expected faster or better, on the fiscal side.

Health care response lacking coordination in the US, with governors bidding against each other to get ventilators and masks. What does that mean? Those with money, international connections, better bureaucracies get more. This should be nationally coordinated. It's not.

Europe? Same problem, lack capacity or coordination. It's worse. In some cases, active refusal to engage in social distancing, several countries with vertical separation of at-risk populations. In Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK. It has failed. European countries are not getting necessary medical personnel or equipment to surge. In Spain and France, medical systems are overwhelmed, as in northern Italy. Other countries, Germany, doing well. You're not seeing coordination.

Absence of coordination globally makes optimism harder. Some areas may functionally control outbreaks in the next 8 weeks - end of May, beginning of June, in parts of the US, could release some of the present lockdown. Getting to work, data on who is and is not already gotten the disease, has immunity. Scaled, random testing. Coordination is lacking, requiring more stringent border controls; supply chains will be ineffective.

In the developing world, you lack coordination. In some parts, governance is horrible. Implementation isn't there. Health care systems aren't up to speed. Economic support, if not domestic, will not be there internationally. If they need 10% of GDP in relief, but can only pay 1%-2% percent, where's the rest of the money going to come from? There will be some international relief, but not massive humanitarian support.

China sending lots of medical personnel and equipment. It's nowhere close to what the Americans or Europeans would be capable of. The developing world is going to be really short, late. This will spread like wildfire. Upside for emerging markets: populations are younger, so mortality should be lower. Restarting the global economy will take longer. Supply chain and travel will take a hit.

Think about the global economy. Think about humanity as one common humanity. This global crisis lacks coordinated response. The US won't be the epicenter. The developing world can't do social distancing because people are on top of each other & don't have basic sanitation. We're going to give them less money, they'll have less capacity. The human impact is going to be greater.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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