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South Korea Confirms 600 New Cases In One Day; Netanyahu Claims Victory In Third Election; Joe Biden Gets A Big Boost Heading Into Super Tuesday; Countries Taking Extreme Measures to Stop Spread; France Stepping Up Measures to Contain Outbreak; Mask May Not Provide Adequate Protection. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired March 3, 2020 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Studio 7 at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, uncharted territory. New infections of the coronavirus worldwide is spreading nine times faster than new cases in China.
Third time is a charm, Israel's Prime Minister claims a great victory. Exit polls predict continued political deadlock. And Joe Biden is on a roll as moderate Democrats bailing out for the 2020 race, his path to the nomination is looking more likely, but one-time front runner Bernie Sanders accuses party elites of conspiring against him.
Around the world, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus is now exceeding 90,000. And notably, the World Health Organization says in one 24-hour period, they're almost nine times more new cases reported outside of China than there were inside. Beyond Mainland China, South Korea is hardest hit, reporting hundreds of new infections on Tuesday alone.
The E.U. has raised its virus alert level. Italy has the highest number of cases in Europe, more than 2,000. And the U.S. now confirms six deaths and more than 100 people infected, all those who died who are in Washington State. Journalist Kaori Enjoji is live in Tokyo with reaction from the financial markets, but we'll start this out with CNN's Ivan Watson in Seoul in South Korea.
And Ivan, South Korea has a modern, well-equipped healthcare system. How is it responding to this outbreak? I guess the question is why the numbers so high there?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one theory is that they've just doing a phenomenal amount of testing of their own population. So, by latest count, the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tested about 156,000 people since the outbreak began. They're still waiting on the results with about 30,000 of those people. And perhaps that could be part of why so many cases of coronavirus have been detected here in this country. The latest figure is at least 4800 cases. And that's very dramatic when you consider that about little bit -- about two and a half weeks ago, there were only 31 confirmed cases here.
We visited a testing site yesterday and the fact is that this is a service that is offered for free to people here in Korea to resident foreigners as well. And some other healthcare systems. The U.S., for example, don't have that same service for free. You could be out more than $1,000 U.S. out of pocket for trying to get that test which could create a disincentive to go and get that service.
Now, because some of this health care is provided for free, it does put pressure on that public health care system so Korea has just announced that it's going to try to create a two-track treatment system for people who've come down with coronavirus. People with milder cases, they don't want them necessarily all going to hospitals and filling up crucial hospital beds needed for people who are critically ill with coronavirus. So they're trying to set up a second track system where people that are mildly symptomatic could go to community treatment centers instead.
By the way, one of the most recent casualties of the epidemic here in Korea is the Seoul marathon which was supposed to take place later this month. They've just had to announce that they're going to be full refunds for all participants. And add that to the list of other pop music concerts, and sports events, and public gatherings, they're all being king. sold as a result of this public health crisis.
VAUSE: There is a long list of canceled events all around the world. I guess that's just another indication of how serious everyone is treating this outbreak. Ivan, we appreciate the update. Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson live in Seoul.
Wall Street is said to rebound from massive losses caused by the outbreak last week. On Monday, the Dow surged almost 1300 points, the biggest point gain ever in one day. Meantime, markets in Asia mostly high for another day. Investors are betting that central banks will step in to ease the economic impact of the outbreak. Journalist Kaori Enjoji is live in Tokyo.
So Kaori, exactly what are the central bank is expected to do when a lot of the problems with this virus, it's a supply chain problem, people are saying at home, no one's spending money? What can central banks do in that circumstance?
KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, I mean, there's very little that a central bank or a finance minister can do when the problem is not financial. I mean, that is the quandary that institutional investors are faced with. And I think that One of the reasons why the Tokyo equity market is not following Wall Street higher and it's actually ending the day lower by one percent.
I think putting on a united front goes a certain way. And we've already had that rhetoric come out over the last couple of trading days, starting with the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the ECB, and on and on. And I think allowing -- flooding the market with cash as the Bank of Japan has been doing over the last two days, does cushion a little bit of the blow. But at the end of the day, if the factories are not up and running, if corporate profits are going to be under pressure for until business returns to normal, then there isn't really a whole lot of ammunition that central bankers have.
And on top of that, I think the big problem for the European Central Bank and for the Bank of Japan, is the fact that interest rates are already negative territory, so cutting rates further is not really going to be the cure. Having said that, I think you know, putting on a united front like they did during the European debt crisis, like they did after Lehman, I think psychologically it has a certain impact. But perhaps that psychological impact has already been played out in the markets when we saw this monster run-up in equity markets in the U.S.
The problem remains the same. The problem is that this virus is spreading, and people are worried that supply chains will continue to remain disruptive for quite a considerable period of time. And the problem is that the supply chain story is a lot more complex now because China has moved up the food chain. It was -- it's not like 10 years ago, during stores when there were -- there were replaceable parts that were fairly easy to do in other parts of the world.
And manufacturers and the technology sector and the automobile space are saying that it's just harder to replace them because there are specific parts that can't be easily replaced. And I think that is the recurring problem and that is the underlying reason why equity markets and other capital markets have been under pressure for all this time.
And I think this one day rebound that we're seeing on Wall Street is a bit of a relief, but you're still seeing Treasury yields continue to language and oil prices are at a fairly low level. And so that indicates that investors are failing the business confidence may not return to normal for a considerable period of time. So I think that's the headwind that the central bankers are -- and finance ministers are headed into, John.
VAUSE: Yes, many dead cat bounce. We'll see what happens. Kaori, thank you. Kaori Enjoji live in Tokyo. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is celebrating what he calls a victory against all odds. Exit polls give Daniel who's right-wing block 59 seats. That's too short of what would be a governing majority. He needs 61 of the 120 seat Knesset.
Former Army Chief Benny Gantz's center-left block is projected to have won 54 seats. Gantz (INAUDIBLE) of conceding in this third election in less than a year, but he admitted he was disappointed with the outcome. Journalist Elliott Gotkine is live in Jerusalem. So I guess you know, we've been down this road three times now. Is the fourth time now likely?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: I wouldn't go so far as to say it's likely, John. I think we also ought to wait until we get the final results which we should get, hopefully, an indication of those final results by the end of today. But you're right, Netanyahu did claim a great victory. And it may not have been a great victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.
His party holds more seats than it did after the last election. It is now the biggest party. It wasn't after the last election. His right- wing block has more seats than it did in the last election and he won by a bigger margin than perhaps even he was hoping and certainly bigger than the -- than the opinion polls were predicting.
But as you say the numbers still do not add up. So I think Netanyahu's biggest hope is like kind of first hope right now is that when the final results come out, they do push him if not completely over the line to get that definitive victory than at least even closer to it than the exit polls are indicating right now.
VAUSE: I guess we'll find out, Elliott, thank you. I appreciate that. Elliott Gotkine live in Jerusalem. And joining us now, Reuven Hazan, a Political Science Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Reuven, thanks for being with us. This is clearly a good result for Netanyahu but it seems the caretaker Prime Minister may have overstated reality or you know, just a smidge when he address his support at Tel Aviv. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): Our rival said the Netanyahu era is over. We joined forces and turn the tables. We turn lemons into lemonade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: But those exit polls are right. I mean, they told that they are. They're just doing a recount right now. Could Netanyahu be sucking lemons again?
REUVEN HAZAN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, HEBREW UNIVERSITY, JERUSALEM: Well, it might be because his right-wing block as Elliott said before is that 59 and you need 61 for majority of the 120 seats. But he has pulled another victory out of a hat. He was supposed to lose. The polls showed either a dead heat or a win for Blue and White
He was facing three convictions by the Attorney General. His voters turned out in larger numbers than they did last time. And as you said at the beginning, this is a third election and with the same results as in the past, this time, he's going to try and form a government. This will go down to the wire. A government will be presented to the Israeli parliament, and all the other players, the 61 so far by the exit polls, are going to have to decide if they voted down and send us to a fourth election, or this time because he has a clear gap of at least three, four seats for Likud, they're going to let him govern and see what happens.
VAUSE: So, what you say here is the difference between now and the last two elections in the last year is that Netanyahu has emerged with this clear lead over Benny Gantz who's the leader of the left coalition, right, the Blue and White Party. That's the difference here for at least some of these coalition partners?
HAZAN: The differences on two levels. First, what you said that this time Likud is ahead and the last two elections, they were either tied or one seat behind another three to four seats ahead. And the second is that this is the unprecedented situation.
Never in any other democracy have we had three elections in less than one year. If with such a victory, he can't put together a government, then somebody has to explain to this to their voters why were paralyzed for so long and sending them to fourth election.
What he did in April and May, he's not going to do again. He will try to present the government and put the blame squarely on the other side.
VAUSE: Sure. Benny Gantz is not conceding defeat, but it sounds like it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENNY GANTZ, LEADER, BLUE AND WHITE PARTY (through translator): I will tell you honestly, I understand and share the feeling of disappointment and pain because it is not the result we wanted. And though this will be the result, it is not the result that will put Israel back on the right track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, when this all began with that first election back in April, Gantz was this new comment. He did incredibly well the first time. He did even better the second time. What happened this time? Why was it such a bad result?
HAZAN: Well, there's a lot of explanations, and we still don't know the right ones. But if you look at the April elections, which were very, very close, Netanyahu was very close to having a majority. His group of parties had 60 out of 120. He thought that wasn't enough. It was the first election after four years. He was going to try to improve the situation and they call the new election for September.
In September, he lost seats, but Gantz could not form a majority government. In other words, this third election has brought Netanyahu back to April of last year with a very similar number of seats, but this time ahead of Gantz, he really wanted it.
He worked Israel up and down, showed everyone that they needed to come out because they lost votes in September. Gantz didn't seem to be able to do what was necessary. He was the anti-Netanyahu and not for anything. And now his biggest goal, if he is out of government is how does he keep his party together when the one thing that they were meant to do was to remove Netanyahu from power?
VAUSE: I want you to listen to the U.S. Secretary of State who was at the gathering of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs -- I think it's Committee. This is part of what he said to the -- to the lobby group. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: You should know that there's there's no president and no administration that loves Israel more than President Trump and our team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: That could be rephrased to say there's no president who loves Benjamin Netanyahu more than Donald Trump. Because we have the vote. Donald Trump did pretty much everything possible to tip the scales in Bibi's favor. Did that have an impact on the outcome here?
Well, definitely with every election, Donald Trump did more to help Netanyahu. Whether it was a long time ago, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, then recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and now the Trump peace plan that Netanyahu is going to try to implement, which for the first time recognizes the right of Israel to hold settlements that the rest of the world thinks are illegal.
In other words, this is the Christmas present that kept on giving for Netanyahu and helped him overcome domestic issues like his three indictments and tell the people of Israel, I can deliver what nobody else can. Now if he puts together a government, we'll have to see just how good the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington is because the rest of the world really doesn't want this plan to take effect.
VAUSE: You know, this is a pretty rough and tumble election. And you know, for Benjamin Netanyahu, there's also the possibility of the history-making trial as well. You mentioned the three charges that he's facing. I want to read you part of an opinion piece from Haaretz which has simply called out you know, the Likud and others for ignoring the charges and the other parts of this election campaign.
"It's worth mulling over this piece rights for a moment the choice that was made considering the admiration of Netanyahu's cruelly, the worshipping of his dictatorial aggressiveness and the enthusiastic support for his campaign that included unbridled racism, lies, mudslinging, and a descent into a moral abyss."
Do you see this result -- you know, given the fact that you know, Netanyahu was facing charges and the turn of the campaign and everything else, do you see the result as a collapse of the sort of morality among many Israeli voters?
HAZAN: Oh, definitely. We had the most vicious, violent, below the belt election campaign we'd ever seen in Israel. Personal attacks at a scale that we've never seen before. The country is definitely divided. And now the question remains if his right-wing religious block really has 59 seats, and they managed to scrape one more, or they get somebody on the other side to abstain and can put a government in, does that divide Israel down the line, or just the Prime Minister realized that he's got personal issues as well as polarization in the -- in the polity issues, and he has to reach out to Benny Gantz and bring him in in a unity government that will calm Israel down.
In other words, we just finished the regular season and we're going into the playoffs. And Netanyahu has 42 days to put together a government. There's no chance that Benny Gantz can do so. So either we're heading for another election in 60 days, or Israel has a government. And it's a government of 60-60, then this country is going to be as polarized as it's ever been.
VAUSE: Well, thank you so much for being with us for giving your insights. It's very much appreciated. Thanks so much. Reuven Hazan there with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I appreciate it.
Just Alice before Super Tuesday voting begins in the United States, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden gets some pretty big endorsement. Still though facing a few complications. That's next. And to keep the coronavirus from spreading in Europe, France wants people to kiss the customary greeting (INAUDIBLE).
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Happy Tuesday to you. It is Super Tuesday across the Americas and of course across the United States. You take a look at the eastern third of the United States where much of the 14 states that are going to be going to the polls there for folks getting outdoors is going to certainly see some inclement weather. The severe threat still across portions of Texas into the Ark-La-Tex region in general. The highest threat though, San Antonio on into Austin. Winds and hail become the predominant threats.
And notice the showers and thunderstorms kind of gradually increase in intensity here from Wednesday -- Tuesday into Wednesday and eventually even through Thursday as well. Tremendous amount of rainfall. We're talking off the top of the charts in some of these areas 200 to 250 millimeters possible in some areas, Montgomery, Alabama into the central and southern region of Georgia, into the Carolinas. All of them see the potential for some significant flooding here.
Rain in store on Tuesday in Atlanta, same for New York City, same across Vancouver, B.C. Montreal also seeing some wet weather, highs there around three degrees. And notice the colder air is there. It's not frigid. We're transitioning out of that across this region. But you notice the trend in New York City even when it wants to cool off has days get longer here and daylight saving, of course, in effect across the United States over the next few days. You see the trend of temperature is going right back up highs as warm as 16 degrees across New York City and the conditions again for many more.
VAUSE: Just when he needed the most, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden got a very big boost heading into Super Tuesday. On Monday night in Dallas, Texas, Biden's former rivals, Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, as well as Beto O'Rourke all came out in favor of the former Vice President and gave him a rousing endorsement. Klobuchar ended her presidential bid on Monday after posting six place
finishes in Nevada and South Carolina. Buttigieg won the troubled Iowa caucuses but could not pull off -- pull voters of color in key Democratic states. Both expressed a solid belief in Biden's ability to lead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm looking for a president who will draw out what is best in each of us. And I'm encouraging everybody who was part of my campaign to join me because we have found that leader and vice president soon to be President Joe Biden.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): I believe that we can do this together. And that is why today I am ending my campaign and endorsing Joe Biden for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: To Washington now with CNN Political Analyst and Washington Post White House Reporter Toluse Olorunnipa. He is with us. So Toluse, thank you for coming in. Right now, it all seems everything is sort of coming together for Biden and kind of just in time as well, except for maybe two complications. The first thing that early voting is underway in California and Texas. That's long before Joe momentum kicked in, or Joe-mentum. The second and probably more problematic, is that Michael Bloomberg is still on the ballot for Tuesday. And he's not going anywhere it seems. Listen to this interview on 60 Minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't finish in the top three on Super Tuesday, is that it for you?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, of course not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll keep going.
BLOOMBERG: Yes, sure. There's the elections seven or so days later, there's another one 14 days later. There's a number of elections after that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, Bloomberg got into the race, because he was concerned that the democrats would not beat Trump. It seems that Biden is on a roll. And Bloomberg stays in, he could end up helping Sanders in a big way. So it seems like it's a moment of truth for Bloomberg.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Bloomberg is a data guy. He's gonna have to look at the numbers after Tuesday night and get a sense of whether or not it makes sense for him to stick in the race, even if he does not have a path to victory. Biden does seem to be on the upswing right now. And I don't think that Bloomberg wants to be a spoiler for Biden. One of the reasons he got in the race is because he thought that Biden was stumbling and was going to lose to Bernie Sanders.
If it looks like Biden is getting momentum, if he does very well in the Super Tuesday election, then it could make it hard for Bloomberg to make a case for himself for sticking in the race. Obviously, he's spent hundreds of millions of dollars and that in itself is a case for him to stick in the race because he's made a huge investment, and he might want to see it through.
But if you just look at the numbers, if you look at the data, it does seem that if Joe Biden continues to do well, if he continues to have a good series of events culminating in a strong Super Tuesday night, then it will make it very difficult for Michael Bloomberg to make a case for himself to stick in the race who will just end up being a spoiler, and that could make it easier for the candidate that he wanted to defeat in the first place, Bernie Sanders, to make a pay a pathway to the nomination.
VAUSE: And Biden, he may not have the cash, but he's got some big-name endorsements along with Buttigieg and Klobuchar. There's some big names on the list from California in particular. But one name which is not on that list is the name Barack Obama. Biden has said he did not ask Obama to endorse him, he wanted to do it on his own. But at this point, could an Obama endorsement really seal the deal for Biden, especially I guess in southern states where Sanders is especially weak?
OLORUNNIPA: Yes, an endorsement from Obama is the grand prize in all of the Democratic politics. It's something that is rare, and it's unlikely given the fact that President Obama said that he was not going to get involved in the Democratic primary until it was clear that there was a nominee, clear that someone had already won the requisite number of votes to be clear as the -- as the nominee.
So, I don't expect President Obama to announces an endorsement for Joe Biden, even though it based on what he said, sort of reading between the lines, he's much more in line with Biden than he is with Sanders when it comes to policy, when it comes to politics, WHEN it comes to the idea of a revolution versus more moderate change.
It's clear that Obama is much more aligned with Biden, but whether or not that endorsement comes is much more unlikely given the fact that President Obama does not want to be seen as a spoiler. He does not want to be seen that he's putting his thumb on the scales. He said very clearly that he wants to allow the process to play out. And then once there's a nominee, he will be very forceful in supporting that nominee in the fall against President Trump. But until then, he has said he's going to keep his powder dry.
VAUSE: Although from Bernie Sanders, though, he's -- I guess he's having nightmares of 2016 all over again. He's saying, you know, this is another example of the establishment of the party trying to prevent him from winning the nomination. And he seemed to have this warning. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will be extraordinarily divisive for Democrats and I think for the whole country if the candidate who walks in to the convention who has more votes, who has won more states, and if that candidate does not end up with a nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: It's a fair point. But the reality though, is that moderate Democrats by getting out the way, they're doing what anti-Trump Republicans refused to do in 2016, and that is, get out of the race because of the shared concerns that they have over a Sanders nomination, you know, as opposed to the shared concerns they had over a Trump nomination. And also, with Sanders, they had this concern about a down-ballot disaster. So I guess it's a little more strategic than four years ago from the Republicans.
OLORUNNIPA: Yes. These democrats knew that if they stuck in the race, they were going to take votes away from Biden who has presented himself as a top contender to Bernie Sanders, and they got out of the race relatively quickly. It was a domino effect in effect in which you had Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar stepping aside, Tom Steyer, the billionaire, stepping aside, making a pathway for Biden to give his best shot against Bernie Sanders.
Now, Bernie Sanders continues to be the leader. He's the favorite for Super Tuesday. He's expected to do very well in California. He's expected to do well in Texas, the two biggest states on the map. So it could be difficult for Biden to catch up to Sanders, but he made it much easier for him. Once these other moderates started to step aside, and he was sort of anointed as the antidote to Sanders.
VAUSE: Very quickly, one of the big challenges for the Biden team has been fundraising. The good news is that they raised a record $5 million in the 24 hours after that big win in South Carolina. But you know, what's better than $5 million is the $46.5 million the Sanders campaign raised for February. You know, Bernie has a money machine on tap. Bloomberg, well, he's just got all the money in the world. And Biden is promising to do better. He's going to do a lot better.
OLORUNNIPA: That's exactly right. He's going to do much better if he's going to compete with Sanders who has been raking in money hand over fist with his army of support small-dollar donors who are giving him money every month continually. Biden has to be able to compete with that. Bloomberg obviously has a deep well of his personal fortune that he's digging into.
And Biden is just nowhere to be found. He's not running ads in some of these states. He really has to do better if he's going to be able to compete nationwide. Right now, the momentum on the fundraising side is with Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, who are raising far more money and spending far more money than Joe Biden is.
VAUSE: Yes. Bloomberg is $600 million so far and counting, I guess I had to say that, and you know, still early days. Toluse, thanks for -- thanks for coming in. We appreciate it. Good to see you.
OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.
VAUSE: Desperate times call for desperate measures as the coronavirus spreads from country to country. Millions are under lockdown, sporting events, concerts, festivals canceled. After the break, we'll look at the extraordinary measures being taken to contain this virus.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming victory over his main challenger, former army chief Benny Gantz. Exit polls though give Netanyahu's right wing block 59 seats -- two short of a governing majority in the Knesset or parliament.
In the United States, a big boost to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Just hours before Super Tuesday primaries, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke have all endorsed the former vice president. Biden struggled early in the primary season before winning big Saturday in South Carolina.
And China reporting fewer and fewer new coronavirus cases. The World Health Organization said Monday there were almost nine times as many new cases outside of China than inside. The outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are now the organization's greatest concerns.
Well, from quarantines to travel restrictions -- officials around the world have set up strict measures to try and contain the virus, or at the very least try and slow it down.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports now from London.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: As the global death toll from the coronavirus passes 3,000 governments around the world are taking extraordinary measures to try to contain it.
In China where the outbreak began, the usually bustling streets are eerily quiet as strict quarantine and travel measures remain in place. Some factories are open but output is limited.
Nearby South Korea is one of the worst affected countries with thousands of confirmed cases and dozens of death. The situation there has become so serious that military decontamination teams have been dispatched to cleanup public spaces and drive-through testing stations are being set up.
KIM AN-HYUN, GOYANG CITY DEOKYANG-GU PUBLIC HEALTH CENTER (through translator): Citizens are becoming more worried as the number of infected patients and people who have been in contact with them rises. AMANPOUR: From Asia to the Middle East, large public gatherings are being postponed or cancelled. In Iran where the deputy health minister has been quarantined with the virus, authorities took the rare step of canceling Friday prayers in various cities.
The country is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with more confirmed deaths than any other country outside China. But its health system already crippled by sanctions is struggling to cope.
PEJMAN, ARCHITECT (through translator): The disease has disrupted our lives. we are scared. there are no masks and NO alcohol for sterilizations. People need them but cannot find them.
AMANPOUR: In neighboring Iraq, the government has begun making its own face masks because of a shortage of supplies. And across Europe some major monuments and public spaces are closed as the continent's alert level rises to high.
JANEZ LENARCIC, E.U. CRISIS MANAGEMENT COMMISSIONER: The situation is likely to still get worse, so we need to be prepared. Time is of essence here.
AMANPOUR: Italy remains the focus of the European outbreak, and in the north of the country, army checkpoints have been set up around the quarantine red zones to try to stop its spread.
Nearby countries are reporting an increasing number of cases with direct links to Italy. Globally, authorities say containing the virus remains the priority for now.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We are in uncharted territory. we have never seen before a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission but at the same time, which can also be contained with the right measures.
AMANPOUR: Optimistic words from the WHO which is still not labeling this a pandemic.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN -- London.
VAUSE: Now, precisely how the virus is transmitted is still unclear. Even so health officials in France are urging an end to that most French of all greetings.
CNN's Melissa Bell reports from Paris.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The French love to kiss, even those at the very top deliver a peck on each cheek as both a greeting and a goodbye. But that for now is over. After an emergency meeting at the Elysees on Saturday, the Health
Minister announced that it should be avoided, along with handshakes, and other measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
OLIVIER VERAN, FRENCH HEALTH MINISTER: All public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a confined space will be canceled and local authorities will receive advice to cancel in collaboration with local mayors, gatherings, even in the open air where they involve mixing with people who come rom areas where the virus is possibly being transmitted.
BELL: France is becoming the new frontline with authorities trying to encourage caution without spreading fear.
A third cluster of cases was announced this Monday in Brittany after two major hotspots where schools will be closed and gatherings banned were identified over the weekend. A few villages in a department to the north of Paris and the area around the village of La Balme-de- Sillingy in the Alps (ph).
FRANCOIS DAVIET, MAYOR, LA BALME DE SILLINGY (through translator): I did the test this morning. And I got the results this evening. I am positive which means I'm going to the hospital, joining 13 other people from La Balme de Sillingy.
BELL: But not before he had attended the agricultural fair in Paris, visited by thousands every year, an event cut short on Saturday by the nationwide ban on gatherings of more 5,000.
The half marathon due to be held on Sunday in Paris was canceled, and the Louvre was closed.
France this Monday feels a lot like Italy did last Monday -- a country dealing with a medical emergency and already looking ahead to its likely cost. The country's economy minister warned this morning of slowed growth, appealing to the European Union for help.
Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.
VAUSE: Still to come -- as the virus continues to spread, there's been a surge in demand for surgical masks but could lead medical professionals at risk. We'll explain after the break.
VAUSE: Great concerns over the coronavirus has created a huge demand for face masks. But experts warn that in most cases wearing one doesn't actually provide any real protection.
Here's CNN's Brian Todd reporting from Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the concern over coronavirus climbs in America, top U.S. health officials have a stern word of caution. Preparedness is appropriate, panic is not.
DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: There are things that actually can harm you in your community. And going out and hoarding masks is one of those things.
TODD: Since the outbreak began, millions of people around the world have donned surgical masks hoping to fend off the virus.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen wearing one in public. But top health officials and experts say masks often don't provide adequate protections against something like coronavirus.
So the typical mistake is what? I put this on and it may or may not fit and what am I doing wrong here?
REBECCA KATZ, GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: So right now you're wearing a mask that's supposed to be fit tested, that's supposed to be fully sealed. At this point it's not so you'll see that you can actually -- there's space where your nose is that particles could actually potentially get underneath the mask.
TODD: Public health experts say many people who wear masks don't have them properly fitted. That means constant adjustments and more risks.
KATZ: You're not used to wearing it, you don't know what to do, you might be touching your face more often. All of those are opportunities to actually get yourself sick.
TODD: That is because our hands are our biggest transmitters of the virus. The more you touch your face, the greater your odds of getting sick.
Major retailers say there's been a run on masks at stores. And if they're cleared off the shelves, there is a dangerous potential ripple effect.
ADAMS: If we actually utilize masks inappropriately in a community and in the general public, they won't be available for health care workers who actually need them to respond.
TODD: Public health experts say there are myths about masks, one is that one single mask can be used indefinitely.
KATZ: These are supposed to be single use masks but some people might wear them for days, in which case, you actually -- you might get particle, bacteria might grow inside the mask.
TODD: So what should average healthy people be buying? Soap and household cleaning supplies, experts say; and make sure you stock up on whatever medications you're already on.
As far as the best habits to fend off coronavirus health officials say there are some very simple but important steps. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND
INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Wash your hands as frequently as you can. If you cough, cough in your elbow and not on your hands. And try to stay away from crowded places where there are a lot of people who are coughing and sneezing.
TODD: What if you have to travel on a plane or another tight crowded space? Should you wear a surgical mask then? Experts say that's a judgment call but you have to make sure it fits you perfectly, that you know how to use it and just use it one time.
Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.
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