Return to Transcripts main page


Battling Ebola in Liberia; Will an Ebola Vaccine Work?; Hong Kong Leader Questions Democracy; Imagine a World

Aired October 7, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: a troubling first in the Ebola outbreak, a Spanish nurse contracts the deadly disease outside

Africa. I speak to Liberia's ambassador to the United Kingdom about getting the worst-hit country under control.


RUDOLF VON BALLMOOS, LIBERIA'S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: This is the first time we've seen an epidemic of this nature being -- taking place in an

urban area. So we're having major, major challenges.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Plus breakthrough in Hong Kong as protesters and the government agree to talk.

But who will give first? I ask pro-Chinese Hong Kong legislator Regina Ip.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Governments and health ministries in Europe are now on high alert as the first case of Ebola contracted outside Africa is confirmed.

The Spanish nursing assistant has been transported now to a specialized ward in a Madrid hospital. The woman had treated a Spanish priest and a

missionary worker last month, both of whom had fallen ill in West Africa.

The nurse's husband and her coworker at the hospital are among three more potential Ebola cases that are currently being monitored.

Alarmingly, the Centers for Disease Control says that if the virus is not stopped quickly Africa could see over 1 million cases by January. Now

Ebola has already killed more than 3,400 people and infected 7,500 more, mostly in these three West African nations. The majority are in Liberia,

where the United States is now sending 3,000 troops to train and equip staff and also to build field hospitals to treat the epidemic. The

Pentagon today admitted that it faces huge challenges there.


DAVID M. RODRIGUEZ, COMMANDER, U.S. AFRICOM: As you can imagine, their whole nation is overwhelmed. Their health facilities are overwhelmed.

They're -- that's all broken down. So we have to bring in everything at the same time.


AMANPOUR: Not to mention taking a massive toll on the fragile nation's struggling economy.

Earlier I spoke to Liberia's ambassador to Britain, who tells me that what his country really needs most is a well-coordinated plan of attack.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, welcome to the program.

BALLMOOS: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Liberia is obviously the hardest hit country, according to all the international health officials; more than 2,000 Liberians have been

killed because of this.

It's because of the breakdown in your health care system. You only had 200 doctors for 4 million people to try to deal with this.

And now only 50 doctors left.

How can you even begin to get a grip on this?

BALLMOOS: We have no choice. That's even better than what we met in when President Sirleaf got in. When President Sirleaf got in, we had seven

doctors, practicing Liberian doctors.


BALLMOOS: Seven practicing Liberian doctors. By the time the Ebola situation got on, we were about almost 200 doctors. So we were climbing

slowly but surely. Yes, it's that bad.

AMANPOUR: It is that bad?

BALLMOOS: It is. It is.

AMANPOUR: And now we understand there are even fewer doctors; some have died, apparently, some because of the fear and have left.

But here's the question.

Has the U.S. intervention, the fact that part of the help cell is based in Monrovia?

Has it made a difference?

BALLMOOS: Well, the fact -- the fact that the Americans are coming, it's a sign of relief. Well, however, we cannot rest on our laurels on that. We

cannot just sit and fold our arms and say, aha, the Americans are here. We can't do that.

So what we're doing, we are being innovative the best way we can until the Americans actually get on the ground.

AMANPOUR: So you say you're being innovative even before they get on the ground.

What do you mean?

BALLMOOS: I'll give you an example.

We just found a student nurse, who is a senior student at one of our universities. She on her own decided that she would take on this Ebola to

save her family, for example. She used simple methods by simply using plastic, not gloves. She didn't have the gloves. She didn't have access

to the gloves.

So she put plastic around her arms, plastic her mouth -- around her -- and put on as a protective gear. Ended up actually saving her mother, saving

her father and saving her brother.

AMANPOUR: Does it sort of break your heart that Nigeria, which is obviously the most populous country in Africa, the richest country in

Africa, managed to get a grip on their relatively small Ebola cases and prevent it from spreading because of their health service, because of the

help they've had from outside, the ability to send Ebola investigators out to, I don't know, as many as 900 people who may have been in contact with

the several who were infected?

BALLMOOS: Well, Nigeria was able do that. The one thing you must realize, the Ebola situation is very capital intensive. It's a lot of money and, I

mean, Nigeria, we all know, Nigeria has the finances to do it on her own. We don't. We are coming out of a disastrous situation of 14 years. The

world knows that.

We were trying to climb out of the situation bit by bit, then Ebola comes on.

What do we do?

AMANPOUR: So what lesson have you learned for the future? Is there any way that you can put into practice better practices for the future?

BALLMOOS: First of all, we have to continue with the awareness campaign. That is in our various communities.

And it's going, that message, it's now being sold throughout Liberia. The communities, at a community level, they're all getting the message slowly

but surely. We've trickled it down to kids, to everyone, to -- because we had a major problem of, first of all, not accepting that Ebola exists.

Now they are accepting it. Now they're trying to be careful in self- hygiene, washing your hands properly. These are simple methods.

AMANPOUR: Obviously the economy is massively important for any country. The finance minister of Nigeria has said that it's sort of having a

contagion of fear and potentially could cause economies to slow down if people are very afraid of doing business in Africa or coming to Africa, et


BALLMOOS: I wouldn't -- they shouldn't be afraid. Look, we have a situation where the Ebola is there. Follow the simple rules. Do not get

contaminated with your fellow person as much as possible.

Three months of human contact is a no-go area, first of all. You must understand that.

But if you go into Liberia, the -- right now we have hotels closing down, offices closing down. The schools are closed down. And if we continue

that way, the economy is going to go down -- also downhill.

How do we resurrect that? That is the problem we're having, a major problem. We need all hands on board at this time.

AMANPOUR: What do you need right now?

BALLMOOS: We're having help from all over the world, I must say, and for this we are extremely grateful, headed by the United States.

We have the U.N. coming in there. We have Germany, the -- China, Norway and whatnot. But what we will need, proper coordination. We have the U.N.

You have UNMIL. That's another branch. You have the WHO. Then you have the ministry of health. Then you have the U.S. military.

Who's taking instructions from whom? That's something we have to sit and coordinate it properly. That's what Liberia is looking for.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Ambassador Von Ballmoos, thank you very much indeed for being here.

BALLMOOS: Thank you, ma'am.


AMANPOUR: And as more results are sought, also today a Norwegian aid worker was transported back home after she contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone

while treating victims there. This as government officials scrambled to control the outbreak in West Africa and scientists here in Britain and in

the United States are fast tracking an Ebola vaccine that they hope will save lives.

But there are still many unanswered questions, like will it actually work and is it actually ethical? The lead trial researcher is Professor Adrian

Hill from the Jenna Institute at Oxford University. And he joins me now from Seattle where he's attending a conference on global health.


Professor Hill, welcome.

And let's get straight to it.

What kind of a success have you had in initial trials with this vaccine?

ADRIAN HILL, LEAD RESEARCHER, EBOLA VACCINE TRIAL: Thank you. Well, we've only been testing this vaccine since the middle of September. So we've

immunized a relatively small number of individuals at the University Vaccine Center in Oxford.

And we really have two major objectives with this clinical trial, firstly to figure out if this vaccine is safe and therefore could be used to help

control this outbreak. And secondly to look at the type of immune responses that it produces in human beings for the first time to try and

estimate whether it's actually likely to work.

AMANPOUR: Well, there's a picture that's been --


HILL: So what we've --

AMANPOUR: -- sorry; don't mean to interrupt you.

There's a picture that's been released --


HILL: -- I was --

AMANPOUR: -- Atkins who is the first healthy woman here in Britain to have been vaccinated and we have that picture.

And I'm wondering whether a lot of people might be quite worried when they see that picture hoping that it'll work in humans, because you've only

really tested it in monkeys.

HILL: So before this clinical trial, the vaccine, as you say, had been tested in monkeys and was shown to be really quite remarkably protective in

studies done at the National Institutes of Health here in the United States. That was with a single dose of vaccine and that's what we're

giving to our healthy volunteers. And so far, safety has looked fine in a limited number of individuals.

But those safety data are enough for trials now to begin probably this week in West Africa. And of course it's in the West African population that we

really want to see good safety and good immune responses.

But the difficult bit will be judging from that immune response that we've produced by vaccination whether the vaccine is likely to work because some

people have called for this vaccine to be deployed without really any other evidence that it does work in people.

AMANPOUR: So there's that question obviously. And then there's the other question that normally in the normal process of developing a vaccine, don't

you do endless trials and spend a lot of time evaluating precisely what you're telling me now you need to figure out, whereas now you're evaluating

and delivering at the same time?

HILL: Yes. This is frankly extraordinary. We are trying to do in a few months which something that might typically take 10 years. We've had

accelerated reviews of all our applications, regulatory and ethical approvals and so on. We got it going in a few weeks. And we're now trying

to proceed so quickly that if things go well, by the end of this year, this vaccine might actually be being used in the three affected countries in

West Africa.

And if that happens, that would be truly extraordinary. But by the end of the year, even if we have enough vaccine manufactured to start using it, we

have enough data showing that it's safe and we have measured lots of immune responses, that still doesn't tell us that it actually works.

So we're going to have to figure out a way of using the vaccine and at the same time evaluating it. And there's a great deal of discussion about how

you might do that now.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. And then there's an awful lot of discussion as well as to whether precisely because of these issues you've raised. This is

actually ethical.

Do you have any trouble with that? Are you discussing that, that your conferences and as you propose to distribute this?

HILL: So I don't think there's any discussion about whether it's ethical to use a vaccine in a phase I such as the one we're doing at the moment in

very well informed individuals who have 15 or 20 pages of information that they have read about the trial and the possible risks. That's not the


The issue is, once you've shown safety in those individuals, do you go on to deploy the vaccine in a very large population, ideally of health care

workers who are at greatest risk without knowing that the vaccine actually works? Or instead do you wait several months, maybe six months, maybe a

year, to prove absolutely that the vaccine has a certain efficacy and then start thinking about deploying it widely?

And if you wait that long the epidemic might either be over or the whole thing might be completely out of control.

So that's the challenge to figure out what the best thing to do given those conflicting parties as I've described them.

AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you to weigh in? The CDC said there's potentially up to a million cases could develop if it's not brought under

control in Africa by January. And with a so-called death rate of 70 percent, that would be -- I mean, unbelievable, unbelievable.

Can you walk us through those figures?

Is it possible?

HILL: Well, I think the keyword there is "could." And the problem is that this is an Ebola outbreak like none ever before. It's in a different

place; it's in West Africa, not Central Africa. It's lasted for months and months, most are brought under control quickly. It's now in major cities

in West Africa. Normally it's a rural infection affecting a handful, maybe 100 people at most.

And relatively easily controlled in those low-density populations in Central Africa. So we have no real way of gauging whether this is going to

be a million people. I doubt that. I hope it's not. Or whether it could be gone by the end of the year.

So all of those possibilities are possible. But I think those are extreme cases. You know, there's some indication that things may be flattening out

a little bit in Guinea but not in Liberia. But we just don't know and we have to use every intervention that might be useful and accelerate its

progress towards deployment that we have today.

AMANPOUR: Professor Hill, thank you very much. And obviously everybody's wishing the best for a vaccine that could save so many lives. Thank you

very much indeed for joining us.


AMANPOUR: And it is not just viruses that go viral. So, too, can the spread of democratic yearnings, as we've seen lately in Hong Kong.

But has the Chinese government found a way to inoculate itself against the so-called Umbrella Revolution? We'll get a diagnosis from a friend of

Beijing in Hong Kong, seeking to lower the temperature. That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution, the pro-democracy protest that gridlocked the city for two weeks are fading as numbers in the streets dwindle from

hundreds of thousands to hundreds.

Now, though, action shifts off the streets and into government offices as the officials agree to meet with protest leaders for negotiations on their

demands. But what will there be to talk about? As protesters demand elections that are free of Beijing's control? And Beijing and Hong Kong's

leaders rule out any such changes, at least for now.

Still protesters say they have moved the ball of democracy further down the field and it seems clear that the authorities want to avoid a violent


Regina Ip joined me earlier from Hong Kong. She's a pro-Beijing legislator who herself stepped down as Hong Kong's security chief back in 2003 when

tens of thousands of protesters called for her resignation.

I asked her whether the two sides could actually find some middle ground.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, Ms. Ip.

REGINA IP, LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF HONG KONG: Thank you. Good afternoon to you.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first and foremost, where do you think the situation stands in terms of talks with the chief executive's office and

what the demonstrators can expect?

IP: I think the government is trying very hard to start a dialogue with the students and separate the well-intentioned students from the other,

more disorganized splinter groups in the movement.

And they've had three preparatory meetings. I think an open dialogue should take place between the chief security (ph) team and the student

leaders pretty soon. And I think the government is trying very hard to resolve the disputes as peacefully as possible.

AMANPOUR: Let me then play to you something that one of your rivals, Anson Chan, told me when I interviewed her last week.

I asked her about the basic law and does that guarantee universal suffrage to the extent that the protesters want? This is what she said.


ANSON CHAN, FORMER CHIEF SECRETARY OF HONG KONG: The basic law in black- and-white says universal suffrage means the right not only to vote but the right of every permanent Hong Kong resident to vote. It says that the

nominating committee for the election of the chief executive have to be broadly representative and the nomination process has to be democratic.


AMANPOUR: So do you agree with that?

IP: What she quoted is largely correct. But the nominating committee, which she should be discussing in the next few months, is broadly

representative. It comprises four sectors: commerce, business, finance, the professionals or elected by Hong Kong professionals, social workers,

religious leaders, culture, agricultural fisheries and political sector, people like me, elected legislators.

So there are a fair proportion of the committee which are elected by Hong Kong people. And we could broaden it in stage two of the consultation to

discuss the details to be set out in local legislation if that could get underway.

But we can't do that until the demonstrations have come to an end.

AMANPOUR: You know, you've told me you fully support democracy.

But you've been quoted as saying, "The big question in my mind is what way more democracy could add value or has added value."

Why do you say that?

Surely more democracy adds more value.

IP: Yes, because in terms of guarantee of personal freedoms and rights, we were free before we became democratic. The democratic process only started

getting underway in the 1980s, very late in the colonial era. And we've made a lot more progress since 1997.

And we are within reaching distance of voting for our chief executive by universal suffrage.

But efficiency and effectiveness have suffered. We are stagnating because of too much bickering between political parties and filibustering without

cloture in our legislature. Our legislature can be described as dysfunctional. The pro-democratic camp is practically declaring warfare on

the government.

So nothing is getting done. We're sliding back in terms of improving the economy and the livelihood of the people.

So that's what I meant.

AMANPOUR: You look out of your office and you've seen all these protests and demonstrations for many days; obviously they've backed off right now.

But are you impressed like the rest of the world has been impressed at the politeness, at the good humor, at the resilience, in a very civil way, of

the demonstrators, particularly after being pepper sprayed and tear gassed more than a week ago?

IP: I'm very impressed by the passion of the students. The demonstrations are largely peaceful. But it is also a fact that they are unlawful and

they have obstructed traffic to a large extent, disrupting the life of many, causing many to lose business and even to lose jobs and as some

members of public have said, they can exercise their freedom. But they cannot interfere with other people's freedom to get to work in a convenient


So I think they should also bear that in mind.

AMANPOUR: Well, Regina Ip, pro-Beijing legislator in Hong Kong, thank you very much indeed for joining me with your perspective.

IP: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And of course we'll keep watching the boundaries of that freedom.

And after a break, what do you get the man who has everything? When the man is the president of Russia with 62 candles on his birthday cake?

Imagine turning him into a Greek god. The 12 labors of Putin when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as the world watches to see what might come of the talks between the government and democracy activists in Hong Kong,

some are asking whether Beijing might be trying to take a page out of Russia's playbook, using a slow-motion crackdown to bring pro-reform

protesters to their knees, just as a similar movement died a slow death in Russia back in 2012.

Now imagine a world where the architect of that strategy is celebrating his birthday in herculean fashion. President Vladimir Putin turned 62 today,

hard to believe when you think of those now famous images of the bare- chested outdoorsman, part centaur, part centurion, riding and fishing, bonding with animals that often made him a figure of fun in the West. But

no one is laughing in his native land.

An art exhibit has opened for one night only to honor the man who brought the Olympics to Russia as an Olympian hero of mythic proportions. It is

called "The 12 Labours of Putin," and it compares his achievements to the mythological labors of Hercules, whether it's strangling terrorism in the

form of a bearded suicide bomber, as seen on the left, or taking on Western sanctions in the form of a multi-headed serpent, seen here on the right.

Even giving Atlas a rest while he holds the world on his shoulders. The exhibit is a labor of love by Putin's legions of fans. But surely even the

most ardent admirers might admit that this deification takes the cake.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always watch the show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank

you for watching and goodbye from London.