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The Myth of Feeling Safe From the Pandemic | Former CDC Chief Tom Frieden | GZERO World

The myth of feeling safe from the pandemic: former CDC chief Tom Frieden

Although COVID will likely become endemic sometime this year in some parts of the world, the virus will still rage on everywhere else.

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer catches out on the pandemic's state of play with former CDC chief Tom Frieden, who has a message for everyone who hasn't gotten vaxxed yet: do it, since new variants could emerge and make the virus more deadly.

Frieden says he's stunned by how infectious COVID is compared to other diseases — and that's why those who claim they can predict what's going to happen in a few weeks don't know what they're talking about.

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An elderly woman walks past a poster encouraging seniors to get vaccinated against COVID in Beijing.

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

What We’re Watching: Beijing vax mandate, DRC-Rwanda tensions

Beijing gets China's first COVID vax mandate

Somewhat late to the party compared to many parts of the world, China introduced on Wednesday its first COVID vaccine mandate in Beijing. Starting next week, residents of the capital will need to show proof of vax to enter most public spaces as authorities scramble to contain a new outbreak of a more infectious omicron subvariant. Oddly enough for an authoritarian state, China shunned mandates early in the pandemic because most people agreed to get vaxxed on their own, which helped keep the virus under control until late 2021. While nearly 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, inoculation rates among the elderly — those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID — are lower because many older Chinese adults are wary of getting jabs. What's more, China's vaccines are not as effective as Western mRNA jabs against new variants, so perhaps the goal of Beijing's mandate is to keep the unvaccinated elderly at home without implementing a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai. How will this affect Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy? If major outbreaks are reported, expect other big Chinese cities to follow Beijing's lead.

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How Long Can China's Zero-COVID Policy Last? | GZERO World

How long can China's zero-COVID policy last?

China's tough pandemic response likely saved a million deaths, but former CDC chief Tom Frieden believes the Chinese have two big problems now.

First, their vaccines don't work, he tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. And second, hesitancy rates — especially among the elderly — remain high.

So, what should China do now? Get better vaccines to the most vulnerable, and accept "almost" zero-COVID, like Singapore.

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Chair Jerome Powell faces reporters after the Fed's meeting in Washington, DC.

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

What We’re Watching: Fed ups rates, zero-COVID shenanigans in China, Pakistan’s energy crunch, Russian Davos

Central banks unite vs. inflation

On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 75 basis points — the biggest hike since 1994 — as it scrambled to contain runaway inflation. What's more, new projections show that the Fed plans to hike rates by an additional 1.75 percentage points until the end of the year — the most aggressive pace since Paul Volcker engineered a recession with double-digit interest rates to tame sky-high inflation in the early 1980s. Just hours before the Fed concluded its meeting, the European Central Bank unveiled a new bond-buying tool to protect the Eurozone's weakest economies from higher borrowing costs, as the ECB gets ready to fight inflation by jacking up interest rates next month for the first time in 11 years. In recent days, rising premiums on Italian and Spanish bonds compared to German ones had rung alarm bells throughout the Eurozone, with painful memories of its debt crisis in the early 2010s. The twin announcements sent shockwaves through global financial markets, with investors already panicking that a recession might be unavoidable to ease out-of-control prices due to a combination of the war in Ukraine, pandemic-related supply chain snarls, and massive stimulus spending on both sides of the Atlantic.

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A screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping during the CCP's 100th anniversary in Beijing.

REUTERS/Thomas Pete

No, Xi Jinping is not on the ropes. But …

Seven months ago, Xi Jinping was at the pinnacle of his power, appearing untouchable as China's president and general secretary of the ruling Communist Party. He’d gotten the CCP to rewrite its own history, putting him on par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping; brought the country's tech titans to heel to make China a more egalitarian society; and made Chinese kids study how he thinks.

At the time, though, we also warned that Xi would be on the hook if something went south, like failing on his zero-COVID strategy.

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British PM Boris Johnson looking puzzled.

Leon Neal via Reuters

What We're Watching: Confidence in Boris, Shanghai reopens, chicken inflation

The Boris vote is coming

Following last week’s Gray report, findings from an investigation into allegations that Boris Johnson attended lockdown-violating social events during the pandemic, it seemed that the UK prime minister might avoid a vote of no-confidence in his leadership of the Conservative Party. But a clumsy response — Johnson claims the report “vindicated” him — and resulting criticism this week from members of his party suggest the vote is coming, perhaps as soon as next week. Here are the basics: It would take a formal request from 54 Tory MPs to force a vote and a simple majority of 180 Tories to oust him. For now, it appears the vote would be close. A narrow victory would leave him a diminished figure, but he could survive in power until a national election in 2024. A loss would create a wide-open, two-month contest to lead the party forward. The vote may wait until after a pair of crucial parliamentary by-elections on June 23. A loss for Conservatives in both those votes might seal Johnson’s fate.

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More Russia-NATO Confrontation Ahead in Ukraine War | World In :60 | GZERO Media

More Russia-NATO confrontation ahead in Ukraine war

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

With the US speeding up military aid to Ukraine, can the West coax an end to the war soon?

I don't think so and I'm not sure that's related to how much military aid the West is providing Ukraine. I do think we're getting closer to a frozen conflict because the Russians aren't doing a general mobilization. It'd be very unpopular in Russia for Putin to manage that, which means that their forces are nearly spent. They can't take more territory than the Donbas max with what they have right now. So beyond that and the Ukrainians with some counter offensives, which also will be pretty limited as we're starting to see happening in Kherson in the south, that's probably where we are for the coming months, but that's freezing the conflict near term. That's not an end to the war. That's not, the Russians and Ukrainians are happy with where they are, that you get ceasefire negotiations that could create peace, especially with the Russians likely annexing part of Ukraine. This is I think a war for the duration for a much longer period of time. It's also confrontation between Russia and NATO that so far hasn't been very sharp, but is likely to play out more sharply over time with disinformation attacks and espionage and cyber and all the rest.

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Shen goes down to the courtyard of her residential complex at dawn to swipe cherries from the trees in the garden to make bread and jams.

Yang Shen

Birdsong and stolen cherries: Lockdown life in Shanghai

Yang Shen has lived in Shanghai for more than 10 years, but it wasn’t until recently that the 36-year-old writer noticed something very particular about the city: the birds.

While they sing freely outside Shen’s window, Shanghai’s 26 million human residents are still cooped up in their homes, part of the world’s largest COVID lockdown.

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