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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.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Listen: The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he talks about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offers some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).

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.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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