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The pandemic was declared 6 months ago. How is the world doing?

The pandemic was declared 6 months ago. How is the world doing?

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death," World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on March 11, when the WHO declared the new coronavirus a global pandemic. Six months later most of the world is still struggling to contain COVID-19, which has already infected more than 27.4 million people and killed over 894,000.

So, what's the state of play half a year after the coronavirus upended the world as we know it?


New hotspots. Different countries are emerging each week as new coronavirus hotspots. Although the center of gravity has shifted from developed to developing countries, the US still has by far the most cases and deaths worldwide, and some developed countries are seeing a surge in rapidly rising cases.

India, where social distancing is virtually impossible for most and the government has made the calculated risk of opening up despite the health risk so its battered economy can recover, has just overtaken Brazil as the second country with most infections. Spain, on the other hand, an early COVID-19 hotspot which largely succeeded in bringing down its death toll, has seen its caseload surged over the past few weeks as Spaniards resumed their social gatherings once the strict lockdown ended in May.

This might explain why developing countries simply cannot afford to remain as vigilant on the coronavirus if they must choose between sickness or survival, and why developed countries risk a deluge of cases when they lack a coordinated reopening strategy (and have short memories of fearing the virus).

Pandemic politics. In many countries, far-right movements and conspiracy theorists have taken to the streets to protest pandemic-related restrictions and express — like for instance in Germany — their own anti-government views on issues from mandatory mask-wearing to immigration.

Some world leaders, meanwhile, have approached the global vaccine race as an opportunity to exploit the pandemic for political gain. The Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte and Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro have both volunteered their populations to be guinea pigs for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine (the former because he wants to get Vladimir Putin's miracle cure for free, the latter because he has almost no friends left). In the US, President Donald Trump aims to start vaccinating Americans right before the November election to improve his reelection odds.

But having a proven vaccine is no guarantee that people will actually take it. In a recent global poll, 26 percent of people surveyed said they will not.

Back to school. As summer ends in the Northern Hemisphere and winter holidays come to a close elsewhere, there is enormous uncertainty over students going back to schools and universities.

Fear of adults catching the virus from kids and young people means the new normal will probably be a mix of virtual and in-person classes involving regular testing for all. A high school in the US state of Georgia tried to return business-as-usual but soon had to close after an outbreak, while many Israelis blame a resurgence of the virus on reopening classrooms too quickly once the lockdown ended in May.

The economy. It's clear that the world will take a long time to recover from the economic crisis the pandemic has unleashed worldwide. After a somewhat rosy forecast in April, the International Monetary Fund now anticipates that the recovery will be more gradual.

East Asian economies — where mask-wearing and other prevention measures are seldom questioned by citizens — have weathered the storm better than the rest (China and Vietnam are actually growing), while the European Union has approved an ambitious rescue package to pull its hardest-hit economies out of the hole. The immediate future of the US economy is still unclear, and a swift recovery will largely depend on the country avoiding a second wave in the fall.

Finally, a growing concern among economists is that a pandemic-fueled depression will result in societies that are even more unequal, where the haves still prosper as the have-nots bear the brunt of lost jobs, lower salaries and shuttered businesses. That's the prediction for Latin America and the Caribbean, where COVID-19 is expected to push an additional 231 million people into poverty and wipe out decades of economic progress.

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Not everyone celebrates the US holiday of Thanksgiving, but we've all got something to be grateful for in this awful year, right? So as Americans gather around the table — or the Zoom — to give thanks on Thursday, here's what a few world leaders are grateful for at the moment.

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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:

With the transition of power formally beginning now, what can we expect between now and inauguration day?

Well, there's a couple of important deadlines between now and Inauguration Day. The first is the December 14th meeting of the Electoral College, which will make the state certifications official and will make Joe Biden officially president-elect in the eyes of the US government. Another really important date is going to be January 5th, which is when Georgia has its runoff for the two Senate seats that will determine majority control in the Senate. If the Republicans win one of those seats, they'll maintain their majority, although very slim. If the Democrats win both of the seats, they'll have a 50/50 Senate with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote and slightly more ability to enact Joe Biden's agenda next year. Also, between now and Inauguration Day, we're going to see Joe Biden announce his cabinet and senior staff. Most of whom will probably get confirmed fairly easily early, earlier ... Excuse me, later in January or early in February. And of course, we're going to see what President Trump is going to do next. I think that it's still a little bit up in the air what his post-presidency plans are. He has yet to concede the election. So, anything is possible from him, including a lot of new executive orders that could try to box Biden in and limit his options when it comes to economic policy, foreign policy, and social policy.

What can we expect out of the Biden administration's first 100 days?

Well, the biggest priority of the Biden administration first is going to be to confirm all of their cabinet appointees, and that should be pretty easy at the cabinet head level for the most part, even with a Republican controlled Senate. It's going to be a little more difficult once you get below the cabinet head, because then you're going to start to see some more ideological tests and some more policy concerns be flushed out by Republicans in the Senate. The second thing you're going to see is Biden start to undo as much of the Trump legacy as he can, and his primary vehicle for doing this is going to be executive orders, which is a lot of what president Trump used in order to enact policy. Expect Biden to reenter the Paris Climate Accord on day one and expect him to start undoing things like Trump's immigration orders and perhaps reversing some of his decisions on trade. Yet to be determined is if Congress is going to have fully funded the government for the entire year in December in the lame-duck session, and if they haven't, Biden's going to have to work out a deal probably in March or so to do that.

Joe Biden is well known as the kind of guy who will talk your ear off, whether you're a head of state or an Average Joe on the campaign trail. But Evan Osnos, New Yorker staff writer and author of "Joe Biden: The Life, The Run and What Matters Now," thinks that reputation may be outdated. "Here he is in his eighth decade when a lot of people are, frankly, in more of a broadcasting mode than a listening mode, he's actually become a more attentive listener." Despite one of the longest political careers in modern American history, there remains more to Joe Biden than may meet the eye. Osnos spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe

Joe Biden has had one of the longest political careers in American history, but his most important act is yet to come. Can decades of experience in Washington prepare him to lead the most divided America since the end of the Civil War?

Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe


The 2020 US Election

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