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.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens before the rest of the world, has been effective for rich nations like the United States and Israel. But leaving behind so much of the global population isn't just a humanitarian issue. It could prolong the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization's Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who argues that what the global vaccination effort most urgently lacks are doses, not dollars. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, she calls for a large increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and suggests we may be seeing alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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