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Turkey Seeks Revenge For 33 Soldiers Killed In Idlib; Virus Spread Prompts School Closures In Japan, China; Scientist Link Destructive Swarm To Climate Change; NATO to Meet Friday as Deadly attack on Turkish Soldiers Threatens to Further Inflame Tensions with Syria Amid a Worsening Humanitarian Crisis; Coronavirus is Spreading Fast Around the World and Taking a Costly Toll on Financial Markets; The United States Steps Up Virus Testing. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 02:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN world headquarter in Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen. Welcome to our viewers around the world.

Next here on "CNN Newsroom," a deadly attack on Turkish soldiers threatens to further inflame tensions with Syria amid a worsening humanitarian crisis. We will have a live report.

The coronavirus outbreak is attacking people in more countries and sending world markets plunging. Meantime, precautions in Japan and Hong Kong include forcing millions of children to stay home from school. We look at how they are coping.

Thank you again for joining us. Our top story, just moments ago, NATO announced it will meet later today at Turkey's request as tensions quickly escalate between Turkey and Syria. Turkey says at least 33 of its troops were killed in a targeted airstrike carried out by the Syrian government in Idlib province on Thursday. More than two dozen other soldiers were evacuated to a Turkish hospital. Turkey now vows revenge. All of this as the humanitarian crisis in the region worsens.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins me from Istanbul, Turkey. She has been covering all aspects of the story. Arwa, more tragic news on yet another front, what more do you know about this attack?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Turkey has not suffered these kinds of losses in a single strike since the 1990s and this is really causing a significant ripple of fear and concern, not just for the population inside Syria, but also across the region. Turkey and Syria, the Syrian regime, are at war.

Russia, for its part, its negotiations with Turkey at this stage towards the ceasefire, towards some sort of out from this ongoing escalating crisis don't seem to be leaning anywhere. In fact, the Russians have put out a statement saying that the area where that strike took place against the Turkish troops, they say, first of all, that they were not the ones who were responsible for it, but also that Turkey was not supposed to be there.

They are constantly trying to -- as they put it -- protect the security of Turkish forces inside Syria. Following all of this, Turkey did ask for consultations under NATO's Article Four, basically bringing together all NATO members for discussion, something that any country can do if it feels as if its security, its integrity, its independence is being threatened.

It is not the first time that Turkey has asked for consultations under Article Four over the last nine years specific to Syria. On one hand, this is for Turkey a security issue. They do not want to see yet another refugee buildup along their border.

But it is also a humanitarian issue. The director of Turkey's communications is putting out a statement, saying that Turkey is not going to allow Idlib to become another Bosnia or Rwanda. Here's a look at why that is a very real possibility.


DAMON (voice-over): Moments earlier, the children were playing in the schoolyard. It was around 4:00 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 (through translator): Why are you crying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Where is mama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is nothing wrong with mama. Mama will be OK.

DAMON (voice-over): 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 had been housing those fleeing the violence elsewhere.

The media activist walks through the school. The classroom is 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.


DAMON (voice-over): And yet the Russia and Syrian regime bombardment of Idlib has hardly been confined to the frontlines 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 goods. They do not have enough money to buy a tent. There are around 45 of them living here like this after spending days shovelling out feces and filth.

"When the kids sleep, we women take turns looking over them to make sure there are no snakes or scorpions," Uma Ibrahim (ph) says. "They are scared, it is miserable, but where else to go?" Half the children are sick. They are barely able to get medicine. There is no heat inside the cave. Food is cooked outdoors where the children warm themselves.

All they are yearning for is their home, days without fear, a concept that seem so foreign, 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.


DAMON: And this escalation most certainly shatters that illusion of safety even further. Prior to this strike on those Turkish soldiers, the rebels that Turkey is backing inside Turkey, the moderate rebel forces, have managed to make some gains. But at the same time, none of that had stopped the ongoing intense bombardment of the civilian population.

Among the civilian population, there is the knowledge, they have learned this lesson very, very harshly, that when Turkey and Russia relationship deteriorates, the bombings against them do tend to intensify even further.

ALLEN: Just such a terrible tragedy. What a gripping story. Arwa, thank you so much.

Our other top story is the novel coronavirus, which is spreading fast around the world and taking a costly toll on financial markets from New York to Tokyo. Let's start with the Asia Pacific markets for you. As you can see here, the numbers are down. The Nikkei is down 3.67 percent, the Hong Kong Hang Seng is just under three percent, the Shanghai Composite is 3.74 percent, and then the Kospi is down about 3.30 percent.

In New York, the Dow plunged another 1,200 points on Thursday. That is the biggest one-day point drop in history. And all three U.S. markets are now off more than 10 percent from recent highs officially in correction territory.

Now, 83,000 people worldwide have now been infected with the virus, including the first case in sub-Saharan Africa in Nigeria. The outbreak has killed nearly 3,000 people.

CNN has correspondents covering this major story all over the world. Journalist Kaori Enjoji is in Tokyo with market reaction. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea where the number of new cases continues to rise. Ramin Mostaghim is in Tehran, the epicenter of the outbreak in the Middle East. And our Melissa Bell is in Florence, Italy where the vital tourism industry is suffering.

We will talk with all of you, but let's start with Kaori Enjoji. Are there any bright spots, Kaori, in the financial markets?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST, CNBC TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF: Possibly gold, but with the exception of that, very few today here on Friday with meltdown continuing in the Asian equity markets. The benchmark Nikkei 225, the Tokyo equity market down over 800 points at the close, closing at 21, 142. That's a loss of 3.6 percent. We haven't seen this kind of continued loss in the equity markets globally since the 2008 financial crisis.

The markets in China, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen resume their sell-off today so it is pretty much a sea of red in the equity markets here. People are starting to talk about the R-word. That is the possibility of recession globally.


ENJOJI: Many economies around the world were looking weak (ph) starting 2020, but the coronavirus and the supply chain jam (ph) and the prospects that companies will be missing their targets in the first quarter and possibly beyond if this virus outbreak continues is what is causing this nervousness in the equity markets. Investors are trying to insulate themselves from that.

We are seeing a continued run on -- excuse me, a decline in U.S. Treasury Yields, the 10-year bond deal, sinking to a record low. We are also seeing the oil price continues to sink lower because you have to remember the fact of the world, China has been shut in this manufacturing paralysis. That country is having a ripple effect all around the globe.

You're seeing supply chains being disrupted, particularly in key industries like automobiles and technology because China has been moving up the food chain and they supply critical parts, they are difficult to replace once their factories are down.

You have to think of the other side of the economic equation as well, which is demand. You have millions of people in lockdown not only at the epicenter but in other countries where people and events are getting cancelled. You have to think about the consumption picture as well. So, another fairly bleak picture for the economic markets here in Asia. Natalie?

ALLEN: Absolutely. Kaori Enjoji for us there. Thank you. Now, let's go to our Paula Hancocks. She joins me now live from Seoul, South Korea. Paula, that country has seen the most cases outside of mainland China.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. There was a very sobering milestone that was hit on Thursday as well when South Korea reported more new cases than China for that particular day. So, South Koreans are getting used to their new normal, really, as these cases are continuing to spike.

More than half of the cases that had been confirmed are still linked to this one particular religious group, Shincheonji. We have heard just today from the Daegu mayor. This is the mayor of the city that is at the heart of the fight against coronavirus in the southeast of the country.

He has said that he is going to report this particular group to the police, saying that they were omitting members' names as they were trying to do contract tap (ph) tracing and find out if they could contain the outbreak within that particular group.

Also, he is saying that they have been hampering and treating the virus. Certainly that group is still in focus when it comes to South Korea's ability to try and contain the spikes that we are seeing.

We also note that the militaries are feeling the effect of this rise as well. Three USFK, U.S. Forces in Korea, related cases have been confirmed, 25 when it comes to South Korean military.

Those militaries on Thursday announced that they were going to postpone their joint military drills as they understood that they just could not carry those out with large numbers of people and personnel on both sides without any risk of the virus spreading further.

Of course, military disease is one of the things that they are most concerned with. A virus like this could sweep through an army and cause complete havoc. What we have seen is that both sides are trying to make sure that they can contain this. They are restricting soldier activities. We know that down in Daegu, this area, the U.S. Military has said it is mission essential personnel only. Natalie?

ALLEN: Paula Hancocks, threats on many fronts there in South Korea. Thank you, Paula.

It is an extraordinary day in Iran. For the first time in 40 years, there are no Friday prayers. Officials hope the unusual move will help contain the coronavirus outbreak there. CNN journalist Ramin Mostaghim joins us now from Tehran. Ramin, this shows the commitment to curb these cases in Iran.

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, CNN JOURNALIST: Yes, indeed, Natalie. Bear in mind that even the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq never ever tried to -- I mean cancel the prayers in the country or even the threat of American attacks has never been able to cancel the prayers. So it is unprecedented. It shows their official commitment to contain.

But the problem is the number of undiagnosed, undetected, positive cases of coronavirus is unknown to us. Everybody is saying we may have another outbreak and we are waiting for the updates by the officials and the health ministry. They are trying around the clock to contain it, but the problem is that the equipments are not enough. I mean, the kit to test the coronavirus everywhere is not available.

Apart from that, the coronavirus had overshadowed everything including the business. [02:14:59]

MOSTAGHIM: You know, Natalie, this time of the year, 24 or 23 days before the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, people are supposed to go to the shopping spree like Christmas market. And consumer markets should be boosted by buying and shopping more.

Now, there is no hustle and bustle in the grand bizarre. There is no hustle and bustle in the downtowns. People don't go or are reluctant to do shopping. This foreshadows the bad days to come, Natalie.

ALLEN: Certainly sounds like it. Thank you. Ramin Mostaghim there for us in Iran. Thanks.

Now, we turn to Italy, the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe. Our Melissa Bell joins me now from Florence. What is latest there, Melissa?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: We've been in Florence, we've been in Venice for the last few days, Natalie, and already the impact of what has been happening here, Italy is the first major outbreak of this virus in the western world, never mind Europe. It has really taken its toll.

The hotel we are in is virtually empty. The same is true with Venice. Bookings are already down. Reservations have been cancelled. We don't have specific figures yet because it is too soon. You have to bear in mind that there is the speed with which outbreak took place. Just over a week ago, last Thursday, there had been the first case diagnosed here in Italy. We are now on 650.

That has seen a spread despite this containment -- measures taken by the Italian government: The lockdown of some towns, the careful screening of people in both Lombardy region and Veneto. Yet, the spread has continued, not just to the other regions heading down towards the south, but beyond the borders with a number of the cases being declared in countries like Austria, Switzerland, Spain and France, linked directly to people who would come from Italy.

It has proved both the spot of the major outbreak and the source of the spread to other countries. You have this difficulty for the authorities of having on one hand to keep the information going, keep the population up to date, keep measures in place, keep a close eye on what more needs to be done to ensure public health safety, but on the other trying to tell people that they can carry on going about their business.

You have several layers of that economic impact. Of course, you're going to have the immediate lockdowns in Northern Italy, the closures of factories when one person becomes infected and everyone has to go home and self-quarantine. And then you can have the second and third impacts, people who are not traveling to Italy, people who are cancelling their plans.

Here in Florence, spring and summer are peak season for tourism. This is an industry that represents 13 percent nearly of the country's GDP in a country where already the economy was on the brink of what would be a forced recession since 2008. So things are looking pretty grim economically.

And for the authorities, they are in this very difficult position, on one hand of having to prevent the spread of virus, and on the other of not wanting to go too far in the sense of having people worry and essentially shutting down the economy, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. It is so complex in that balancing line to take safety precautions but not to cause panic. All right, we thank you. Melissa Bell for us there in lovely Florence. Thank you.

The California case of coronavirus has U.S. health officials changing their strategy on testing. Next here, we ask an expert what difference that could make.




ALLEN: A California woman infected with the coronavirus is hospitalized in serious condition, according to her congressman. Health officials say she may be the first person in the U.S. to catch the virus without coming into direct contact with another patient. Our Nick Watt has her story.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This new California case could be a turning point. We are told this woman has not travelled overseas recently or been in contact with anyone who is known to have the virus.

DEAN BLUMBERG, DOCTOR, UC DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER: That suggests that the virus is out there in the community. That means pretty much that everybody is at risk.

WATT (voice-over): It is possible this could be an instance of community spread, the CDC says, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Absolutely people that have been in contact with this individual have the right to know and in real time they are being interviewed. Points of contact, family members are being interviewed.

WATT (voice-over): Eight thousand four hundred people in the state who have returned from overseas are right now being monitored. Facebook just cancelled its large F8 conference scheduled to take place in San Jose in early May out of concern over the virus.

Orange County just joined San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Diego declaring a state of emergency, freeing up funds just in case. Even states with no confirmed cases are getting ready.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We are very active ourselves in what we are doing.

WATT (voice-over): New York's governor approved $40 million for staff and equipment if needed. Florida has assembled an emergency management team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation.

WATT (voice-over): Hawaiian Airlines has cancelled all flights to and from South Korea. This virus could pose some major challenges. It appears to be easily transmissible. Of the 3,711 people aboard the Diamond Princess, at least 705 caught it.

It is novel. It is new. So very few of us have immunity from past exposure. It can be mild, even asymptomatic, so infected people can be walking around unknowingly spreading it. The FDA has now simplified the test and more labs should now be able to test for this virus.

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: The next step is working with the private sector and also CDC to develop basically a bedside diagnostic.


ALLEN: Dr. Carlos del Rio is with me now. He teaches medicine and global health at Emory University. Doctor, thanks for coming in.


ALLEN: All right. So, clearly the United States is now really ramping up testing after a reported sluggish start to prepare for this. The woman in California was not tested because she did meet CDC requirements. How did that happen, first of all, and are you confident that the U.S. is ahead of this now? Are we fully prepared?

You know, I think that testing is not simple and developing the test was done very quickly and very rapidly by the CDC. I think there were some issues related to having some false positives, some false negatives with the testing that took them a while to sort out. That kind of slowed the process. But now, tests are out. There are public health laboratories and they are going to hopefully be at other places that we can access them.

I think that the challenge is that when you have criteria of who are we going to test, the criteria are increasingly becoming irrelevant, the criteria was you had to travel to China. But now, all of a sudden you have Korea, you have Italy, you have other things, and then you people like the one in California who had no history of travel.

ALLEN: Exactly.

[02:24:57] DEL RIO: So I think sometimes you have criteria but who are you going to test? I think sometimes clinicians have a hunch. When I'm a clinician, I am seeing a patient, frequently I order tests and not because I think that is what the patient has, but I sometimes order tests because I want to be sure the patient doesn't have that. We call that ruling out a disease. So I think as we are learning more, the criteria for testing are being expanded, and therefore we will be able to detect more cases.

ALLEN: All right. What about the fact that it is easily transferable, the coronavirus? It can be mild, even asymptomatic. So people could be walking around and unknowingly spreading it.

DEL RIO: Well, again, you know, this is a virus that doesn't infect you and kill you right away.

ALLEN: Right.

DEL RIO: You could have the spectrum of disease. About 80 percent of people that get this are pretty mildly, even asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and then you have all the way to spectrum, people end up in the ICU, incubator with oxygen, et cetera.

They are beginning to learn that the older you are, the more associated diseases you have, you have lung disease, if you are a smoker, you have heart disease, you are more like to get more severe disease. Younger people tend to do better. But yes, you could potentially have, you know, this happens with influenza.

I could be sitting here with influenza. We know you become infectious with influenza 24 hours before you develop symptoms. So I could be talking to you --

ALLEN: Right.

DEL RIO: I could be giving you the flu and tomorrow I would be really sick at home with influenza. I will stay home. But today, I already infected people. This is not new. A lot of viruses do this. The transmission period, in some virus, for example, Ebola, we know it starts when you get the disease, so it is pretty easy that in fever screening, you got fever.

But with diseases like this one, no, there may be transmissions during asymptomatic phases. So I think we need to be aware of that. I think it is something that we as clinicians are taking this into consideration all the time.

ALLEN: What about reasonable precautions? Since it broke out, we see people in China wearing masks. There are two different kinds of masks, surgical --

DEL RIO: Let me tell you about -- let is talk about masks first.

ALLEN: And washing hands as well.

DEL RIO: There is a surgical mask and there is other mask like the respirator mask, the N95.


DEL RIO: If I came to you today and I had a cold, influenza or coronavirus or any cold, but I wanted to be here with you, I would put a surgical mask on me. There is a surgical mask that prevents me from spreading my new germs. But if I put a surgical mask on you, it would not help you. So, you put the surgical mask on the infected individual to prevent transmission. If you want to protect yourself, you put an N95 mask.

So when I am in the hospital and somebody comes in with a cough, the first thing I do is I put a surgical mask on them, and I put a respirator, a N95 mask on me.

ALLEN: Finally, the risk assessment. We were talking about do get on the cruise, do you go live your life, where do you travel. Help us not freak out.

DEL RIO: The first thing is we don't freak out. The second thing is we inform ourselves. I want to applaud CNN and all the news organizations and reporters that are doing great job covering this. We have to get information to people. People need to hear the real information. And then you need to use the information internally and process, and really do a risk assessment.

I was telling you, every day, I get on the car, I drive the freeway, I cross the street, we all take risks on a daily basis, and yet we do it without much concern. But all of sudden, there's a case in California of coronavirus, nothing here in Atlanta, and I'm freaking out. I think we need to be a little careful about how we evaluate risk and how we consider risk.

I think we also need to be cautious but don't be overly cautious to the point of paralysis because that's bad. The last thing I want to say is honestly is what we do. So we do what we do with any influenza. CDC tells us what to do. Wash your hands.

ALLEN: Don't touch your face.

DEL RIO: Don't touch your face.

ALLEN: Yeah.

DEL RIO: Let's suppose I sneeze right now, put my hand here, and then touch you, it is bad. Don't do that. Let's do an elbow touch instead of, you know, this is how we say "hi." If I have a cough, don't do this, but go like this. You know, use your elbow or turn around. Again, if you're sick, stay home. Don't send your kids to school. Don't give them a little aspirin or Tylenol and send them to school.

It is better to -- and that is what the CDC and the government is telling us right now. Schools, government, industry, businesses need to start making plans about -- OK, it this hits hard, if Japan closes schools, if the U.S. closes schools, if other countries close schools, what do we do with the kids? How do we take care of the kids? How do we let people, mothers and fathers still go to work?

ALLEN: Go to work, yeah, exactly.

DEL RIO: A lot of things to think about. But I think we have time. This is like a hurricane that is coming but it is not here yet. Let us use common sense and apply it but don't freak out.

ALLEN: All right. We got it. Dr. Carlos del Rio, thanks so much.

DEL RIO: Delighted to be with you.

ALLEN: We will be right back.



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Let's take a look at our top stories. Fears over the novel coronavirus are sending world financial markets plummeting. As you can see right there, Tokyo's Nikkei finished the day down more than 3.5 percent. Other markets down sharply as well. Of course, that follows a 1,200 point slide for the Dow in the U.S. It's the market single biggest one day point drop in history.

More than 83,000 people around the world or infected. The Netherlands, Nigeria, and New Zealand are all reporting their first cases. Mainland China has the most patients still. The coronavirus claimed almost 3,000 lives.

NATO will meet in the coming hours at Turkey's request as violence is once again escalating in northwest Syria. Turkey is saying Syrian airstrikes killed at least 33 of its soldiers on Thursday in the Idlib province. 35 more troops were evacuated to Turkish hospitals. Syria has not yet commented on these claims.

Meantime, Turkey vows revenge, saying it will fire back at all known Syrian government targets. This comes as President Erdogan's previously imposed an end month deadline for Syrian forces to withdraw from parts of Idlib province. CNN's Becky Anderson asked the Turkish president's spokesman earlier this week about the country's options moving forward.


IBRAHIM KALIN, SPOKESMAN, TURKISH PRESIDENCY: The deadline is set by our president giving all the military and humanitarian considerations on the ground, while on the ground, we are increasing our military presence to make sure that you know, our soldiers and the civilians are protected. But also, we are talking to the Russians on the diplomacy end of things.

We've had the exchange of number of delegations and the Russian delegation will be coming to Ankara this week. Again, we are hoping to reach an agreement there. And the deadline remains valid. And this is something that we are made very clear to the Russians as well as to the Iranians, and through them to the regime that if they continue these attacks, there will be a military response from our side as we have done. And if they attempt to attack our soldiers again, there will be very severe response and retaliation from our side.

So the deadline is firm, and we are hoping by before that deadline, we will reach an agreement with the Russians to keep things under control in the Idlib de-escalation zone.


ALLEN: Amid the spread of the coronavirus, Japan's Prime Minister is calling on local schools to shut schools for one month. Similar closures are already in effect across much of Hong Kong and Mainland China. Let's talk about it with our correspondents. Blake Essig joins me now live from Tokyo while Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong for us. First to you, Blake, what's behind Japan taking this big step?


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Natalie, they're trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus across the country. It goes without really needing to be said but, you know, in the back of their mind, it has to be the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled here to start in less than five months.

And so they are taking, you know, every measure possible to try to contain the spread of the virus and have really focused on the next one to two weeks as a good timeframe to do that. And when you look at what that announcement by the Prime Minister is saying, 34,000 public schools, elementary, junior high schools, and high schools across the country, nearly 12 million kids to stay home through early April. I mean, that is a -- that request speaks volumes. And it is important to note that it is just a request. At this point, it will fall to local governments, local authorities to decide how or if they want to implement any closure to the schools in their location.

Now, when you talk about again, everything else that's going on, it's not just schools, but it's also sporting events across the country, rugby, soccer canceled for the next several weeks. Baseball, they will play the games but they'll be playing them in stadiums with no fans. And even amusement parks across the -- across the country, Disneyland Tokyo and Universal Studios in Osaka will not be open for at least the next two weeks.

So again, the emphasis right now is to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. And the Japanese government is doing everything they possibly can to make sure that happens, Natalie.

ALLEN: Absolutely understood. All right, Blake, thank you. Let's go to Kristie Lu Stout, kind of the same story there, Kristie.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, I'm standing in front of one of thousands of schools here in Hong Kong that are closed down because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Schools here in the city and across China are closed for two months and it is testing the wills of everyone involved. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: It's just another day of home learning during the outbreak. To curb the spread of the coronavirus, Hong Kong is closed schools through April, and organizations have rolled out work at home policies. That means teachers Jackie and Yami Alium, 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. Hello, how are you doing?


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 or school uses Google Meet 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 Alium's family home, about 600 square feet as roughly the same size as four parking spaces.

In Hong Kong and across China, around 180 million students are holed up at home in 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 constrain the patience 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, stress container. And in these last couple of weeks, our stress container has been really filling up with everything because there's 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, reset times for learning and opportunities for everyone to relax.

Do you miss being outside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I miss school. STOUT: Do you try to exercise inside at home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yes. I exercise.

STOUT: For the Alium family, this is life in the time of coronavirus.


STOUT: And Natalie, let me tell you as a parent, it has been tough. I have an 11-year-old daughter who has turned my kitchen table into a virtual classroom. Every day she engages in a Google Hangout chat in English and Chinese with their teachers and her fellow students. I have to be on standby for tech support. I have to be on standby to be a tutor which has forced me to brush up on my math and my fractions and decimals, and math is not my strong suit.

ALLEN: Good luck with that.

STOUT: I also have regular assignment sheets for her. Exactly. It's been tough. And not just for me but millions of parents affected in Hong Kong, China, and perhaps starting Monday Japan as well. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right, it's really incredible. That family you interviewed though, they had very good attitude. We wish everyone well because this is going to be so challenging. All right, Kristie, thanks so much. Next year, it is a plague of biblical proportions. Billions of locusts are devastating crops across the Horn of Africa. We tell you why scientists are pointing a finger at climate change.


ALLEN: The United Nations says locusts swarms are threatening the food supply of millions. They devastated thousands of 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 play a role.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For three months now, swarms of desert locust have been eating their way through East Africa. Here in Kenya's Laikipia County, people banging utensils to try and ward off an increasing the menace to their livelihoods, all to no avail. The locust 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.


Across East Africa, locust swarms 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 bigger threat to agriculture in Kenya.

The war against locust 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, North Eastern Kenya, villages 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 influence phenomena replenished pasture land 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 -- it's desperate but not hopeless. We intend to control it, maybe in two-three months.

SEVENZO: Despite the challenges, they've killed as many as 17 swarms in a day. A medium-sized home 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, CATTLE HERDER: A big swarm, big locust, they were 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's worried about what these locusts and pesticides will do.

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

SEVENZO: Caught between the climate crisis and the locust invasion, herders like Chris hope to beat the odds they're facing. Farai Sevenzo CNN is Isiolo, Kenya.


ALLEN: Derek Van Dam is joining me now live to talk more about it. It's so sad how this locust epidemic is hurting people and can have a real threat as we've said to millions.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Without a doubt, Natalie. And the link to climate change is clear. If I can, maybe I can just say what is at least on my mind. This is terrifying. This is one of the most horrific things that I can imagine to see. But I can only imagine what it's like to be on the ground to see your crops and your agriculture just decimated by these swarms, these infestations of flying locusts.

I mean, how do we get to this point, right? Well, think about what climate change does. We have an increasing global temperatures that supercharges storms and like cyclones that occurred in 2018 off the Arabian Peninsula. And then you take climate change that tips, the scales, that allows for these large-scale planetary circulations to favor these swarms of locusts. And unfortunately, we might want to get used to these flying pests

because if the science holds, it looks as if they'll become greater in numbers and become more frequent as well. Here's why. There's the two cyclones that impacted the Arabian Peninsula in the middle and late parts of 2018. This produced an unprecedented amount of rainfall across in a usually dry part of that area.

What you're looking at is about 2,500 square kilometers of desert landscape across the Arabian Peninsula that was filled with water. They saw two times their yearly average of rainfall from the cyclones just in 24 hours alone. Also, meteorologists look towards water temperatures for these large-scale circulation patterns I talked about a moment ago. And these are starting to accumulate on the east coast of Africa.

Warmer ocean temperatures means more convection, more thunderstorms, the potential for more water that produces vegetation on the ground, and that allows for these infestations to flourish. Check this out, Natalie. You got to see the lifespan of these things. As they continue to mature, they lay their eggs, they produce 20 times larger, each generation of new locusts swarms. That is an exponential growth. So the potential for larger swarm exist. Back to you.

ALLEN: Yep, we can see that on your map right there. All right, a story to watch for sure. Derek, thank you.

VAN DAM: All right.

ALLEN: An ultra-right group is surging in the polls ahead of Slovakia's election on Saturday. Next, we find out what fueled their rides and how they can play kingmaker.



ALLEN: An ultra-right party could play a critical role in Slovakia's parliamentary elections Saturday. If polls are correct, and they do as well as predicted, it would be the first time since World War Two that a group with neo-Nazi roots has a say in the government. CNN Milena Veselinovic takes a look at the group and why their populist message is resonating.


MILENA VESELINOVIC, CNN PRODUCER: He used to march in a uniform designed to resemble a feared Nazi militia. But Marian Kotleba might be the kingmaker of Slovakia's next government. His extreme right party is surging ahead of Saturday's parliamentary elections where no one is expected to win a majority.

MARIAN KOTLEBA, LEADER, PEOPLE'S PARTY OUR SLOVAKIA (through translator): Isn't it time for us to straighten our crouch backs and say enough, to say that the government should first care for the needs of its citizens before Brussels, Washington, or the non-government organizations want. VESELINOVIC: Kotleba is a 42-year-old former school teacher whose party grew out of a far-right movement. He has in the past voiced respect for Slovakia's World War Two Nazi puppet regime. And though his party has tried to polish its image since entering parliament in 2016, he's facing trial for using neo-Nazi symbols.

MICHAL VASECKA, PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, BRATISLAVA POLICY INSTITUTE: It's definitely fair to describe them as a neo-Nazi. I would compare them with the Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary. Definitely, I wouldn't compare them with otherwise far-right groups, such as Le Pen in France.

VESELINOVIC: The party says NATO is a terrorist pact and calls the room of minority parasites. There against gay marriage and want to introduce compulsory drug testing in schools. But it's their promise to clean up corruption in politics that has fueled their rise. After a brutal murder of an investigative journalist and his fiance in 2018, unveiled links between officials and slivered businessman Marian Kocner, who is on trial for that killing.

TOMAS NOCIAR, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: The main driving force behind the rise of the party is the feeling of dissatisfaction, anger, injustice coming from the feeling of widespread corruption at the top of the political either.

VESELINOVIC: Mainstream politicians say they will not form a coalition with Kotleba, but experts warn they could enter into informal agreements, and their effect could reverberate far beyond Slovakia's borders.

NOCIA1R: That would be an unprecedented moment in Europe's post-war history. And also it would be a challenge for the democratic system not only in Slovakia, but in the whole European Union. It wouldn't be for the first time since the end of the World War that a party with the clear neo-Nazi roots would be part of the government or supporting the government.

VESELINOVIC: As Slovaks head to the polls, Europe will be watching with bated breath. Milena Veselinovic, CNN.


ALLEN: And the United States voters in South Carolina will be casting their ballots Saturday. And a new poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden holding a wide lead heading into the Democratic primary there. The Monmouth University poll released Thursday shows Biden at 36 percent, Senator Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer battling it out for second, leaving Senator Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Amy Klobuchar trailing far behind in single digits.

Israel's third election in less than a year it's just days away. Despite an upcoming trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, Benjamin Netanyahu hopes for a fifth term as prime minister. Our Oren Liebermann has more about it from Jerusalem.

[02:55:07] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: He's a magician they shout, and this is his stage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is putting on a show entrancing the crowd with another round of election wizardry, keeping the focus on his accomplishments and away from his corruption cases.

For Netanyahu, this election is all about voter turnout. He's trying to bring 300,000 more votes that he says he needs to win this election. It seems it's no longer about trying to pull votes from other parties, instead it's trying to reach out to his voter base, getting them to come out and try and get them to bring their friends and family out. That's the trick he'll us to try to win this election.

There are 6.5 million eligible voters in Israel but some 2 million didn't cast a ballot in each of the last two elections, more than enough to swing an election in either direction. And that's where Netanyahu is looking.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): You need to go to your friends who are not going to vote, who think that it doesn't make a difference. It does make a difference. We are in a range of two to three mandates from forming a government.

LIEBERMANN: His campaign signs say go out and vote. Victory depends only on you. At nightly campaign rallies, Netanyahu pulls people on stage and has them call their friends who stayed home in the last election, telling them to vote on March 2nd. He tells the White House's deal of the century as his accomplishment, vowing annexation if he wins. But the campaign promise barely seems to move the needle.

The longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel's history, Netanyahu is also the first sitting Prime Minister to be indicted. He faces charges of bribery and fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption probes. He has maintained his innocence and the upcoming trial has done little to shake his voter base.

At campaign rallies, his voters chant, We love you. We love you. But in two straight elections in April and September, it hasn't been enough. And victory has been an illusion. But the longtime magician of Israeli politics, so far at least, cannot make real. But then again, his opponents have also failed to clear him from the stage. Oren Liebermann, CNN.


ALLEN: That is our first hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Be sure to follow me at @AllenCNN on Twitter. I'm Natalie Allen. I have another hour for you right after this.