The economic impact of coronavirus

Differences in strong unified national response, vs not: In Japan, everyone listened to the government. If they say wear a mask, everyone wears a mask. If they say engage in social distancing, everyone engages in social distancing. In South Korea, too - enables effective response.

In the US or Italy, there's much more individualism, irrespective of liking government. In Italy, mayors are pleading and shouting obscenities at citizens because they're not listening. Authority doesn't matter. In France, too. Contrast in Germany, strong support for the German government; in Western countries, one of the best response functions we've seen.


A reason you need consistent shutdown early: avoid overwhelming the health care system. If people can't get needed intensive care, fatality rates around coronavirus go up 5 - 10 times. There are knock on implications of a health care system not functioning: cross infection. People with chronic and severe conditions unrelated to coronavirus unable access critical medical care. That has knock on effects on the economy. You need to surge on available tests and ability to test, before discussing when to open up the economy.

Good news, this is a top priority in the developed world; surging on test capabilities, masks, ventilators is moving fast. US companies like Roche making hundreds of thousands of test kits per week, will get us to a place that medical systems will not. We'll be in a position not to be overwhelmed, probably within a month in many localities. There's danger that systems get overwhelmed before then - possibility in New York and other municipalities in the next 2 - 4 weeks. That's the biggest danger zone for the US. Parts of Europe, e.g., Spain. Possibly Paris.

In emerging markets, bigger problems: bad, late governance. In Mexico, in Brazil, leaders refuse to accept reality, providing fake news to their people. Not like Trump exaggerating when a cure might come or suggesting medicines could help to respond, that lead to a run on those medicines. Even with Trump's press conferences, which have replaced his rallies, you're getting real news from Pence, the surgeon general, the NIH, Tony Fauci. In the US, general information around the crisis is not great, but it's not godawful. In Mexico, in Brazil, in certain emerging markets, people are getting fake news. That it's not really a danger. It's not really a crisis. You can't get it. Don't worry. Act normally. Disaster for countries that can least afford a failed response.

Lack of coordination globally makes it harder to address crisis. If you can shut down borders effectively, doesn't matter as much. The economic hit is much greater. Restarting supply chain in China. In Malaysia, supply chain is shut down for a minimum of two weeks - going to be longer. Malaysia has a lot of components of electronic goods. Supply chain across Asia, rolling hits. True in Latin America. No global response, nor an equal global rollout of this crisis.

It takes time to restart the economy. Laid off workers won't be immediately available. Restaurants needs to hire, integrate. That's the case with many different components of our interconnected economy. Supply chain & labor disruptions, people that are ill, all make it harder to get the economy going.

Second quarter will be the worst quarter we will have experienced in our lifetimes. Third quarter will be bad. That implies that we're in a heavy recession right now. Potential for further outbreaks forcing a 2nd round of economic closures is significant. That would be the worst economic and market outcome for this crisis. Despite the political pressure to get markets open and get the economy open again - if you have to shut down the economy again and reestablish quarantine, confidence will be shot.

People aren't suddenly going to feel comfortable going to restaurants, malls. It's going to take time to get back up to speed. Even with strong stimulus, 2 trillion dollars in the US (could be bigger than that). Congress goes away, a lot of them already have tested positive for coronavirus or are under self-quarantine. Getting them back together to negotiate a new bill is probably a minimum of 4 weeks away. If we get major market crashes in the interim, don't look to Congress for help. That is an issue.

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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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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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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