The "New Normal" After COVID-19

What's the new normal going to look like? Now that numbers are at least plateauing, if not leveling off in hard hit countries in Europe. An effective lockdown may last 4 - 8 weeks. Once you start pulling back on quarantine measures, what's life look like? What's the economy look like? The idea that life is back to normal anytime soon is really, really overstated.

Assuming workplaces get fully functional with suitable personal protective equipment, feel comfortable that we're not going to get significant additional cases. In the workplace, you organize social distancing in offices, you give people more flexibility on work from home, and everybody in contact regularly with people gets masks. You should be able to get to that point within 3 months in the world's developed economies. They're there functionally in China. That allows you to get the economy going again.


It's hard to imagine people going back to bricks and mortar the way they did. People that weren't yet users of digital retail services, over 2-3 months had to get used to that, signing up with accounts, suddenly finding it's convenient. Many are not going to feel comfortable jumping back into a crowded store if they don't absolutely have to. Not when you don't yet have full information on who does and does not have the disease, who is and is not immune. If you don't have a vaccine, how many people are going to be willing to go and watch a live sporting event or go to a crowded bar or restaurant? These things do not get back to real normal until you have a vaccine that is distributed globally with the technology information on individual people to back it up. That's a year and a half out.

The artificially depressed economy - you've changed people's psychology around the economy. Like tourism. Who wants a middle seat and bring their family to Disneyland in this environment?

Emerging markets can't engage in social distancing because people don't have space. Don't have the money to shut down their economies fully and won't have the technology to ensure that everyone is or is not going to be identified as being a carrier, asymptomatic or not. Those economies are going to be depressed for a lot longer. Secondary outbreaks that come seasonally are likely to be much more significant. Shutdowns of travel, from the developed countries and China, last a lot longer. Supply chains and travel chains are going to be broken - like a year or a year and a half.

You will get a "new normal" once you have a working vaccine and the tech. That's more like mid 2021 than later in this year. We'll feel like society functions more effectively, but will have taken a lot of people out of that economy. The working class and the middle class, already saw growing inequality in the United States, it's going to grow much more significantly in the US and Europe. A global middle class in emerging markets that benefited from globalization is going to get hurt by globalization.

CEOs I've talked to over the course of the last week have all made it clear that they will be running more efficiently with fewer people and smaller real estate footprints. This hits commercial real estate. It hits the working and middle class. People that weren't as capable of working from home to begin with. The knowledge economy, no problem streaming on Zoom, no problem continuing to pick up your paycheck in most cases. But an "essential worker" in sanitation or retail or driving, making $10, $12, even $8 an hour - is most endangered by the environment of coronavirus, and most dispensable when suddenly we come back to full functioning of the economy. That's going to require significant redistribution in social safety net benefits.

If that's not done at the government level, we'll see much more political polarization. Remember how we got Trump, Bernie Sanders, Brexit. This is a much greater shock to those people. Disempowerment, economic destruction to come. We in the developed world have enough money to keep people afloat for 6 months of the worst contraction in the economy. They're not going to be doing better when we've run a 20% to GDP deficit. Where's the money for 2021 when they're still hurting? If you don't fix that longer-term (after 2008-2009, we did not), political polarization will grow vastly more toxic.

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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