Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Dow Plunges Another 1,200 Points on Virus Fears; Japan's PM Asks Schools to Close to Halt Spread; Confirmed Cases in South Korea Soar Over 2,000; Syrian Offensive Terrorizes Children in Idlib; 180 Million Students Being Homeschooled Because of Coronavirus; Scientists Link Destructive Swarm to Climate Change. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, coming to live from Studio Seven here at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.

[00:00:31]

And ahead this hour, coronavirus fears send world markets tumbling, setting up stocks for their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. An already tense situation along the Syrian border threatens to unravel after an airstrike kills more than 30 Turkish soldiers.

And later, invasion of the locusts. Farmers fighting back against this crop-destroying pest, made even worse by climate change.

And a warm welcome to everyone.

The coronavirus outbreak has financial markets around the world in a tailspin. U.S. markets fell again on Thursday, the Dow suffering its biggest one-day point loss in history, down almost 1,200 points. That officially puts Wall Street in correction territory, off more than ten points from its most recent peak.

Europe and Asia haven't been spared either. You're going to have a look there and see the Nikkei is down four and a quarter percentage points. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong more than two and three quarter percent points, and in Seoul, over three percentage points. And Shanghai roughly the same.

Journalists Kaori Enjoji is joining us now from Tokyo this hour. And you know, we've seen what's happened with the Dow. That 10 percent correction was the fastest in the history of the market, by the way. Tell us about your interpretation of what the Asian markets are doing and where they're headed.

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: This is another meltdown for the Asian equity markets, Michael, because as you're seeing it with the Nikkei 225, it is down more than 4 percent. We still have another hour of trading before we go through very close to that 21,000 psychological threshold. It seemed like the Chinese equity markets were relatively stable yesterday, but not so today with big losses again again on the Shanghai exchange and also on the Hong Kong stock market.

We are seeing continued weakness in the equity markets across the board here, because people, investors basically want to cushion themselves from the possibility of a recession globally.

We're also seeing a flight to safety in the form of U.S. treasuries, with prices there spiking and yields on the ten-year treasury sinking to record lows. Also, we're continuing to see weakness in the oil markets, as well. So people are saying that this feels -- and suddenly feels like a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis, and a lot of governments and central banks are discussing emergency measures to try and prop up activity -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Worrying right across the globe. Speak also to the concerns about the impacts on commercial supply chains. I mean, you're talking China, Japan, South Korea. All of them are powerhouses of the region. All are crucial links in that supply chain, and all of them heavily impacted by coronavirus. It must be a big concern there?

ENJOJI: Absolutely. I think the supply chain here is going to linger for quite some time. You have to remember that the factory of the world, China, has basically been in paralysis, the manufacturing sector, for a month now. And you're seeing this play out across the world. You're seeing companies like Nissan have to scale back production in Japan, because they simply don't have the parts.

You're also seeing on the other side, health issues affect factory workers. Today Hyundai saying that they're closing one plant because one of their workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

So this whole economic impact in this spiraled. We're seeing on the supply chain is impacting companies across the globe, and it seems every day we're hearing companies say that guidance for the next couple of months is murky and if -- and some companies are saying the visibility is zero.

So we're going into this, into 2020, on a fairly wobbly footing in some of these countries, so this compounds that. And technically, as you know, two quarters of negative growth is a recession.

Japan is already halfway towards that. So I think people are increasingly worried whether companies will be able to meet their targets for this quarter and beyond. And I think that's the primary reason right now that investors are getting spooked by this -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, exactly. And warnings about corporate profits here in the U.S., as well. Kaori Enjoji, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

[00:05:05]

Now, as we were saying, I mean, this coronavirus does seem to be spreading everywhere. Nigeria now says it has a patient who has tested positive. That is the first case reported in sub-Saharan Africa. It was confirmed in Lagos state. Coronavirus is now on every continent except Antarctica.

And Italy now has 650 cases of coronavirus, 17 deaths. Regions near Milan, where businesses are closed, still under lockdown. Italy the epicenter of the European outbreak. And the French president, Emmanuel Macron, pledging to cooperate with the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I want to express here my solidarity and friendship with Italy, with your government, and with all health authorities in handling of the coronavirus. This virus concerns us all. And the situation that all of us are collectively facing can only be resolved through perfect European and international cooperation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And Japan's prime minister urging a new precaution as the number of confirmed cases in that country tops 900, asking local officials to close schools through the end of March. Shinzo Abe saying keeping children safe is a priority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There are many efforts being taken to stop the spread of infection among children in various regions. And the next one or two weeks is an extremely important period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And nearby in South Korea, the number of cases of the virus has soared past 2,000. We've got Blake Essig in Tokyo for us. Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea.

Blake, let me start with you, because we just mentioned the moves there on schools. It speaks to the urgency and fear and the government's efforts to try to contain this, put a lid on it.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael. Day after day, the Japanese government continues to put forward these recommendations to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus across Japan.

And when you think about what this recommendation regarding the school closures speaks to, roughly 34,000 schools across this country, across 47 prefectures, that could impact nearly 12 million kids in elementary, junior, and high schools. And that speaks to just how serious the Japanese government is taking what's going on with the coronavirus, especially after theirs missteps with what happened on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. And it is worth noting that, when you talk about what this

recommendation by the prime minister does actually do, is it recommends that the schools close, but the decision will be made by local authorities all around the country. And so what those closures might look like will vary city to city.

And at this point, we have heard that at least one city has decided not to close any of the schools because of the fact that it will impact not only the parents but also local businesses, as well.

So we'll just have to see, in the days to come, what ends up happening. But the recommendation is for schools across Japan to close until at least early April.

And this is just, again, one of several measures being taken so far. The Japanese government has come out and asked for all the public not to gather in any small or large groups. They've also closed down, you know, museums here in Tokyo.

And as far as even sporting events, rugby, soccer have been canceled. And as far as baseball is concerned, while they will still play their spring training games for the next three weeks, they will do so in front of no one, empty stadiums.

So again, this is very -- this is a constantly developing situation. We continue to see more and more efforts to prevent the spread of this virus -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Even Disney is shutting down there in Japan. Blake, thank you.

Let's go to Paula Hancocks in Seoul, in South Korea. The numbers there just keep growing, and there are concerns involving the military, as well. Bring us up to date.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's, right Michael.

Yes, the U.S. and South Korean militaries have decided to postpone their joint military drills that they usually hold around this time of year. They announced that on Thursday, just as the U.S. forces here in Korea announced their third related coronavirus case.

And the South Korean military has 25 confirmed cases at this point. And it is of great concern to any militaries. Disease within a military can be completely debilitating.

Now, we spoke to some experts who said battle readiness would -- would be affected, potentially, if they're not having these big large-scale drills. But of course, having a virus sweep through an army would be far more debilitating.

So what we're hearing is that they're trying to contain this as quickly as possible. There are men and women living in very close quarters in barracks and, potentially, it could be very damaging to both of those militaries.

[00:10:05]

We also know that the U.S. State Department has raised its alert level to level three, which effectively means people should reconsider traveling to South Korea at this point.

And one more update to give you. The religious group Shincheonji, which accounts for more than half of the coronavirus cases here in South Korea, has been claiming it has been unfairly criticized and has been giving its members' names to authorities so that they can try and contain the recent spike.

But we have just heard from the mayor of Daegu, the city which is now ground zero of the fight against coronavirus, that he is going to be reporting this group to the police for omitting certain members' names and, certainly, for not helping in trying to -- to combat this virus.

HOLMES: All right. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea. Blake Essig in Tokyo, Japan. Thank you to you both.

Now we're going to turn our attention to northwest Syria, where violence is again taking a deadly turn in Idlib province.

Turkey says at least 33 of its troops were killed in a targeted air strike or air strikes carried out by the -- they call the Syrian regime on Thursday.

More than two dozen other soldiers were evacuated to a Turkish hospital, wounded in these strikes. Turkey vowing to avenge what it calls, quote, "martyred heroic soldiers." The troops were sent to the region to help Syrian rebels hold onto their last piece of territory.

Now, late Thursday, Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held a six-hour-long national security meeting, and its foreign minister spoke with NATO's secretary general, though no further details about that call have been made. Turkey, of course, a NATO member. Syria not commenting on the strikes so far.

Meanwhile, millions of Syrians finding themselves with no place to run from this intensifying violence, caught in the middle, and all too often, it's the children who fall victim.

CNN's Arwa Damon has a look at the growing humanitarian crisis. We do need to warn you: some viewers might find some images in her report disturbing, but it is an important report to bring you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moments earlier, the children were playing in the school yard. It was around 4 p.m. when the strike came in. But they weren't there because classes had just let out, but rather because that school, like many others, had been converted into a shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: Why are you crying? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: Mama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: Where is Mama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: Over there!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: There is nothing wrong with Mama. Mama will be OK.

Hancocks: The man walks around the corner and speaks to a woman who says she has shrapnel in her foot.

Not all survived that strike, or the nine others that hit schools in Idlib province that same day. Many that had been housing those fleeing the violence elsewhere.

Hiba (ph), a media activist, walks through the school, the classrooms converted into living spaces.

"We think we are safe, but then the warplanes come and take everything from us," she says.

Russia has rejected calls for a ceasefire, stating that would be a capitulation to terrorists. And yet, the Russian and Syrian regime bombardment of Idlib has hardly been confined to the front lines or the armed groups, but rather, systematically targeting the civilian population, forcing even more people to flee, and now intensifying attacks on Idlib City itself.

On the edge of a small cluster of tents, not far from Turkey's closed border, one extended family moved underground into a man-made cave originally dug out to shelter cows and goats. They do not have enough money to buy a tent. There are around 45 of them living here like this after spending days shoveling out feces and filth.

"When the kids sleep, we women take turns looking over them to make sure there are no snakes or scorpions," Amibrahim (ph) says. "They're scared. It's miserable, but where else to go?"

Half the children are sick. They are barely able to get medicine. There's no heat inside the cave. Food is cooked outdoors where the children warm themselves. All they yearn for is their home.

Days without fear, a concept that seems so for, a distant dream for the millions trapped in Idlib, in a war that from the onset had no rules, no real front lines, and where safety is a little more than a shattered illusion.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And for more, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon joins me now from Los Angeles. She's an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "Ashley's War."

[00:15:07]

It is just such a horrible situation on so many levels. I mean, for weeks now, we've been talking about the risks of escalation when it comes to Turkey and not just Syria, but Russia.

And now you have these dozens of Turkish soldiers killed, dozens more wounded. Turkey says it's firing back at what it calls the illegitimate Assad regime.

What are your concerns about where this could head?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: This is the truth, Michael. This is an overnight crisis that is years in the making.

And really, Syria is the conflict. It has absolutely extinguished the power of adjectives to describe its hell. Every time those of us who have tracked this conflict for more than half a decade think that it can't get worse, it actually does.

And so right now what you see is Turkey absolutely not going to back down and Russia, which has never, not once, since the civil war began nearly a decade ago, ever backed down from its position, coming into really direct confrontation, which Turkey seemed to have wanted to avoid initially but now cannot, given the horrible loss of life of its forces.

And so it is hard to see how this ends well. You have all these moms and dads caught right in the middle.

HOLMES: Yes, and I'll come back to that in a moment. Let's stick with the military side of it for a second.

I want you to pause and let people listen to the Turkish president, Erdogan, on the Turkish position on this. It's just a short soundbite. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERDOGAN: We are not going to take even a little step back in Idlib. And push the regime forces out of the area that we designated and let the people return back to their houses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: That does not augur well for compromise. I mean, how realistic is the possibility of full-blown conflict between -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- NATO member Turkey and the Assad regime, with the Russians, perhaps, being dragged into support. When we talk about air power in that region, it's the Russians who run

the no-fly zone. You fire at airplanes, you're firing at Russians.

So what are the risks that it's going to be an all-out war?

TZEMACH LEMMON: I mean, nobody two weeks ago who watches this closely thought we would actually reach this point. And yet here we are.

And Turkey cannot move forward, and it cannot move backward. It's sort of stuck.

And Russia has never shown any compunction over the use of force. It has been bombing civilians. It has been bombing schools. It has been bombing hospitals. And it has been all in on the side of the Syrian regime since the start of this conflict and most certainly since 2015.

And so to me, it is hard to imagine how you have anything other than a conflict, given that Erdogan has no room to maneuver and Russia will only advance forward.

HOLMES: Absolutely. I think that's spot-on analysis.

As you point out and as we saw in Arwa's piece there, they are hitting schools. They are hitting hospitals. They are killing civilians, children.

The question -- the question is, who is going to stop the carnage? This seems to be utterly zero accountability for these strikes: schools, hospitals, civilians. No one is standing up and saying, Stop it.

TZEMACH LEMMON: Impunity has become a hallmark of the Syrian civil war. Right? No one has stopped this for years. And so you can forgive Russia and the Syrian regime for thinking that no one will care. And no one will stop the targeting civilians that it has engaged in.

Really, Turkey has an issue, in that it is taken in 3.5 million, at least, Syrian refugees since the start of this conflict. It had had a number of folks that had said it wanted to return to Northern Syria.

And now there was a lot of discussion about whether it was forcibly returning people. But Idlib had been this last stand.

And so now you see Turkey really feeling like it has nowhere to go. And Russia saying, you're right. You don't. And in fact, we're going to keep pressing forward and push you till the end. And the question is, who in the international community will stop them? There is no international community that has done anything of importance to stop the harming of civilians since the start of this conflict.

HOLMES: Yes. Brinksmanship with a million civilian refugees in the middle, 700,000 of them women and children.

There is reporting in the Turkish media that Ankara won't stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, quoting a senior Turkish official. Nothing, you know, official has come out yet, but that's Turkish media.

Basically, Turkey has leverage in that regard, but if that happened and they said, All right, Syrian refugees, off you go to Europe, what would that mean?

TZEMACH LEMMON: This is what has always been the question. I mean, think about this moment, Michael. We're basically weaponizing people who are moms and dads who are trying to flee war. Right? Because no one wants these folks, whose only fault for many of them, is to simply be born into the country and have brought children into the world amid war. These moms and dads have absolutely no place to go and no country that wants to take them in.

[00:20:09]

And so Turkey is saying, OK, don't help us. We'll show you exactly what we can do. Which is they can go onward to Europe unimpeded.

And if you think about this, Turkey has really isolated itself. It had, you know, incurred the wrath of the international community in October of last year when it attacked the partner force of its NATO ally on the ground in northeastern Syria. And so there are very few people who seem willing to come to Turkey's aid now.

And so it is going to try to leave no choice but to do something to help it, or else it will turn on the spigot of moms and dads who are just trying to find something better.

HOLMES: It's just -- it's just horrific to watch unfold.

TZEMACH LEMMON: It is.

HOLMES: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, appreciate your analysis, as always. Thank you.

TZEMACH LEMMON: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. We'll take a short break on that note. When we come back, they might be cheering for the closing bell, but Wall Street no mood to celebrate after a huge loss over the last three days. We'll have more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Welcome back. The global death toll from the novel coronavirus fast approaching 3,000, but the outbreak also taking a major toll on financial markets around the world. As we've been showing you, all of the major industries are down. They are way down.

The Nikkei barely four and a half percent down as they approach the closing. In the Hang Seng in Hong Kong, well over two and three quarter percent, over 3 percent in both Shanghai and Seoul.

Wall Street suffering another huge drop on Thursday. The Dow falling almost 1,200 points. That is the single biggest one-day point drop in history. President Donald Trump downplaying the threat from the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle. It will disappear and from our shores. You know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Just like that it could go away.

Ryan Patel is a senior fellow at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, joining me now from Los Angeles to talk about the economic side of all of this.

The worst week for the Dow since the 2008 financial crisis, fastest 10 percent correction in the history of the market. Goldman Sachs says U.S. companies will generate no earnings growth in 2020. Pandemic could lead to a recession. Wow. What's your read?

[00:25:15]

RYAN PATEL, SENIOR FELLOW, DRUCKER SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, CLAREMONT GRADUATE UNIVERSITY: This is like out of a horror movie. I mean, this is kind of one of the movies that Jordan Peele would produce.

I mean, the best news you just mentioned was that Goldman Sachs came out and said there'd be no revenues. That was the best news coming out.

And I think what that sets up is what does 2020's forecast look like? I think companies had no choice this past week to readjust their earnings for the rest of the year.

And again, it's not like that they wanted to do it by choice. Companies still don't know the actual detriment effect to their earnings until probably the end of April to see what the cause is of the supply chain.

And I think there's two aspects to this. I wish President Trump is right, that in a flash of a snap or something like that, that this would be over, but there's two perspectives.

One is the outbreak in China, how it is kind of slowing down but that -- delay and slow down the supply chain. But what is also concerning is the acceleration of the coronavirus in other parts of the world.

And why that matters -- like in Iran, like in Italy and even here in California in the U.S., why that matters is because businesses are interconnected globally. Multinational companies are buying from overseas producers and providing costs for consumers. And at the end of the day, that has a trickle-down effect that we cannot stop because it's not quarantined yet. HOLMES: Yes. The president yesterday, you know, asked about the

markets. I mean, the thing with this president is it's never his fault. He immediately turned not to the virus, but he turned to Democrats. Just have a quick listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I really think this stock market is something I know a lot about. I think it took a hit, maybe, for two reasons. I think they look at the people that you watched debating last night, and they say if there's even a possibility that that can happen, I think it really takes a hit because of that. And it certainly took a hit because of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: You know when you hear the president who loves to tout the market, when you hear him first blame Democrats for the drop, it's interesting. Dow futures actually literally went down as the president spoke at that news conference.

I mean, what was your take?

PATEL: Listen, no offense to any Democrats or any party, you saw the week of Wall Street. I assure you people who are on Wall Street who are leading companies didn't watch the Democratic debate. That's the least of their worries right now. I'm sorry to say that.

We have -- so the thing with this outbreak what most people don't know is that we haven't ever seen this before, and this really tests global crisis management.

First and foremost, employees matter. How do you deal with your employees, and how do you deal with the company going forward? There's a lot of intricacies behind this.

And I assure you, every minute right now that, if you're a company that is a multinational it's affecting, right, they better have a plan B. They better have a Plan C. And if you do not have that, in the midst of last year of what the trade war of the supply chain and you don't have any backups, I'm sorry. Your board of governors or your leadership team needs to be let go.

Because this is something that needs to be addressed. And needs to be able to have the public -- you know, the safety is important and needs to be implemented with speed.

HOLMES: Yes, there's a fine line, isn't there, between comforting a nervous public or nervous investors and giving incorrect information or painting too much of a rosy picture. And then certainly, the movement of the Dow would seem to indicate that investors aren't buying it. Presidential reassurance, that is.

And if consumer spending gets hit, that's it, really, isn't it for the economy as it has been? PATEL: And that's exactly -- what you just said was really key. And I

want to highlight something. We've been talking about the lack of supply because manufacturing has gone out. Well, that's great with China coming back with their manufacturing, but just because they're 100 percent supply ready to provide the consumer, the demand is actually -- may not be there.

We're seeing in South Korea, we're seeing Japan consumer places to be empty. You're seeing the markets today in Japan down over 4 percent. And then you talk about European markets and their consumer confidence of not wanting -- I mean, all it takes is a one to 2 percent hit. Somebody not wanting to buy any more, go to the movie theaters, take their family back home.

And that is where It does have an overall trickle-down effect. And that is where the longer that this virus goes, then the demand gets into question. And that obviously plays another -- really, another conversation behind this.

And you know, and lastly, it's interesting because, you know, Wall Street is very funny in a way that they don't want companies to overexaggerate numbers and estimates, because they'll penalize you. And they don't want you to underestimate numbers, as well.

So this is a really fine time for companies to get their estimates right. Don't -- don't come back in two months and say, Oh, we were just sandbagging -- you know, sandbagging just a tad, because you've got to really have to be transparent in times like this, because it does have an effect of how we as analysts, also, look at how different interest industries are affected.

[00:30:08]

HOLMES: Yes. Great point. Ryan Patel, always great to have you and your expertise at a time like this. Appreciate it.

PATEL: Thank you for having me, Michael.

All right. Quick break now. When we come back, millions of students being forced into home schooling because of the coronavirus lockdowns. Just ahead, how the students, and teachers, and parents are coping.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:32:53]

HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me, Michael Holmes. And here are the headlines this hour.

Turkey vowing revenge after it says Syria carried out a targeted air strike that killed at least 33 of its soldiers in Syria's Idlib province on Thursday. Thirty-five more were evacuated to Turkish hospitals, wounded. Syria not yet commenting on those reports.

Fears over the novel coronavirus are sending world markets south. Have a look at those numbers from Asia. All down at the moment. The Nikkei down four and a quarter percent. Now, that follows a 1,200-point slide for the Dow in the U.S., the market's single biggest one-day point drop in history.

Well, the coronavirus outbreak has triggered what might be the world's biggest home learning experiment. Around 118 million students across China and Hong Kong are being homeschooled as campuses are staying shut.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong and joins us. That's a lot of homeschooling. A lot of frustrated parents. I follow your social media. You're one of them.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am definitely one of them, and you're going to see why it is so frustrating and so stressful in just a moment.

But just to give you some context, I'm standing in front of one of the thousands of schools here in Hong Kong that are closed down because of the coronavirus outbreak. Schools here in Hong Kong and across China are closed for some two months and that is really testing the wills of many people involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT (voice-over): It's just another day of home learning during the outbreak. To curb the spread of the coronavirus, Hong Kong has closed schools through April, and organizations have rolled out work-at-home policies.

That means teachers Jacqui (ph) and Yami Auyung (ph), along with their children Samuel and Titus, have been cooped up inside their apartment for weeks, conducting and taking classes online.

Wary of the virus, they are not taking any visitors, so I paid them a Skype call outside their apartment.

[00:35:05]

(on camera): Hello, how are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

STOUT: Yes? Can you describe to me what your daily routine is as you do home learning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wake up. I go to my computer. Our school uses Google Meets to, like, get us to see each other and go online to learn, like, every lesson. It's like -- it's not such a big difference.

STOUT: Now, home learning can be a challenge in the cramped environment of Hong Kong where many people live in small apartments like this one. This apartment is about the same size as the Auyungs' (ph) family

home, about 600 square feet. That's roughly the same size as four parking spaces.

(voice-over): In Hong Kong and across China, around 180 million students are holed up at home. It what may be the world's biggest home learning experiment.

China has started broadcasting primary school classes on public television and launched a cloud learning platform for its primary and secondary students based on its national curriculum.

The government enlisted tech giants including Huawei, Baidu and Alibaba to support the platform so 50 million students can use it simultaneously.

But the school closures are testing students and their parents. Many families across China and Hong Kong don't have computers, or enough of them. Some caregivers may not be tech savvy. And cabin fever can set in. And that can strain the patients of parents and the attention of kids, including my own.

ODILE THIANG, MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT: Being cooped up in one space with everybody under quite a lot of pressure. So we have, you know, a stress container. And in these last couple of weeks, our stress container has been really filling up with everything. Because there is also that general fear of contamination that people are feeling. So everything is adding up.

STOUT: Odile Thiang recommends providing a structured environment at home, with set times for learning and opportunities for everyone to relax.

(on camera): Do you miss being outside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I miss school.

STOUT: Do you try to exercise inside, at home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, I exercise.

STOUT (voice-over): For the Auyung (ph) family, this is life in the time of coronavirus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: And let me tell you, Michael, as a parent, it hasn't been easy. I have an 11-year-old daughter who has turned my kitchen table at home into a classroom. She conducts a Google Hangout video conference with her teachers and her fellow classmates every day in Chinese and in English. I have to be on standby to provide tech support, standby as an on-demand tutor in case she has any questions about her homework, which has forced me to relearn fractions recently.

And also to print out documents like her daily assignments in between live shots of the newsroom.

But I'm not the only one. Millions of parents affected in Hong Kong and China. And as Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, announced, requesting schools in Japan starting Monday to be closed until April, parents there will be affected, as well -- Michael.

HOLMES: Wow. Yes, my kids are in college, but I gave up on their homework in grade four, I think. So I feel your pain.

Oh, boy. What a situation. Kristie Lu Stout, I saw your daughter's head flat on the desk, too, in submission in one of your posts.

STOUT: Yes.

HOLMES: You're doing great. You're doing great.

STOUT: Thank you. Thank you.

HOLMES: Kristie Lu Stout. Wow, that's saintly work, isn't it?

OK. We're going to take a break. When we come back, a plague of biblical proportions. Billions of locusts devastating crops wide right across the horn of Africa. Why scientists are pointing the finger at climate change. We'll have that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:55]

HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

The U.N. says locust swarms are threatening the food supply of millions of people, devastating crops as they move across parts of Africa. CNN's Farai Sevenzo takes a look at the problem and finds out why climate change might be playing a role.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For three months now, swarms of desert locusts have been eating their way through East Africa.

Here in Kenya's Laikipia County, people bang utensils to try and ward off an increasing menace to their livelihoods, all to no avail. The locusts keep coming.

A voracious appetite means these locusts eat the equivalent of their own body weight in a single day. And they move with speed on the changing winds, as far as 150 kilometers, almost 100 miles a day. Beans, maize, pasture for animals, nothing stands a chance. Raising fears over food security as the farmlands are decimated. And they keep breeding, laying their eggs in the earth in pastural and

agricultural lands.

(on camera): Across East Africa, locust warms of biblical proportions have been threatening life and grazing land and eating all the people's crops. Here, you can see these hoppers are the new generation that will pose a bigger threat to agriculture in Kenya.

(voice-over): The war against the locusts is now in full swing. If the swarms aren't stopped, the U.N. says they can multiply as much as 500 times by June. So the Kenyan government and U.N. agencies are fighting back with pesticides.

In Isiolo, northeastern Kenya, villagers tell us they're seeing billions of newly-hatched locusts.

How did this happen? After years of drought, two cyclones hit East Africa in as many years. These climate-change-influenced phenomena replenished pastureland and filled the rivers. But the heavy rains made the wet earth ideal breeding ground for locusts.

DANIEL LESAIGOR, REGIONAL LOCUST CONTROL TEAM OFFICER: The situation is really desperate but not hopeless. We intend to control it, maybe in two or three months.

SEVENZO: Despite the challenges, they've killed as many as 17 swarms in a day, a medium-sized swarms being 30 to 40 million insects.

But for those on the front line of the locust invasion, like 47-year- old herder Chris Amerikwa, the future is full of doubt.

CHRIS AMERIKWA, HERDER: A big swarm. Big locusts. You are just covering the whole sky, such that there was a kind of a cloud.

SEVENZO: Having lost all his 25 cows in the devastating drought last year, he is worried about what these locusts and pesticides will do.

AMERIKWA: It will really complicate our livelihood in the future. If they're going to stay and multiply here, or if they make our home their home.

SEVENZO: Caught between the climate crisis and a locust invasion, herders like Chris hope to beat the odds they're facing.

Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Isiolo, Kenya.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And thanks, everyone, for spending part of your day with us and watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. WORLD SPORT starts after the break. I'll be back with more news in about 15 minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:45:53] (WORLD SPORT)

[00:58:02]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END