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Majority of Known Coronavirus Cases Now is Outside of Mainland China; The Coronavirus Infection is Now Driving Fears of Global Recession; More Countries Impose Lockdown in Effort to Contain the Coronavirus Outbreak; Presidential Candidates Spar Over Coronavirus; With the Coronavirus Pandemic, More Countries in Europe are on Lockdown; U.S. States Implementing Measures to Limit Spread of the Coronavirus; WHO Applauds Egypt's Efforts to Curb Coronavirus from Spreading; South Africa Declares National State of Disaster; Churches and Holy Sites Closed Due to Fear from Coronavirus. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired March 16, 2020 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all around the world. I am Natalie Allen. Next here on "CNN Newsroom," conflicting messages out of the White House over the coronavirus as states and cities impose new measures to stem its spread. We will have the very latest for you.
Police in Spain are helping to enforce a nationwide lockdown there. We are live in Madrid with details.
Through it all, investors are showing it is going to take a lot more than a Federal Reserve rate cut to calm market turmoil. We will have live reports.
Thank you again for joining us. We begin with the novel coronavirus entering a dangerous new stage. According to numbers from the World Health Organization, more than half of all cases are now outside of mainland China. At this hour, the World Health Organization is reporting more than 153,000 infections worldwide and more than 5,700 deaths.
Italy remains Europe's worst hit country, but cases are climbing in places like Spain and France. Germany has reported more than 4,800 cases and is imposing border controls with several countries to try and halt the spread. We will have more in reports from Rome and Berlin shortly.
Here in the United States, Vice President Mike Pence says more than 2,000 labs are coming online to conduct high-speed testing for the virus. Mike Pence also says the U.S. will soon have new guidelines to cover the pandemic. One possibility, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. More than 30 states, meantime, have announced statewide school closures. Some, including California, New York, and Washington are already banning large gatherings.
The infection is driving fears of a global recession. The U.S. Federal Reserve took emergency action Sunday, cutting its target interest rate to nearly zero. Here was President Donald Trump's reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It just happened two minutes ago. But to me, it makes me very happy. I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve. For starters, they have lowered the Fed rate from what it was, which was one to 1.25. It has been lowered down to 0 to 0.25 or 0.25. So, it's zero to 0.25.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The president is pleased about that, but investors apparently are not happy. U.S. futures plummeted despite the Fed's announcement. You can see the numbers on your screen. The Dow is down 4.53 percent. That is significant. The Nasdaq is 4.54. S&P 500 is 4.77.
We will go live to Japan in Abu Dhabi for more analysis on the financial markets in a moment. Right now, CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on what the United States is doing to tackle the outbreak.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The effects of the coronavirus pandemic were pretty clear across the United States over this weekend. We saw long lines at the airports, schools and public places shutting down in different parts of the country.
But there was very little from the president of the United States on Sunday when you took to the White House to address the country about exactly what Americans should be doing to try and reduce the spread of this pandemic.
Instead, the president is very much focusing on trying to ease Americans' concerns and ensure that the economy continues to go on. That was a very different message from what we heard from one of the government's top public health officials, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Just listen to the discrepancy here.
D. TRUMP: Relax. We're doing great. It all will pass. It is a very contagious virus. It is incredible. But it is something that we have tremendous control of.
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Because as I've said many times and I will repeat it, the worst is just ahead for us. It is how we respond to the challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be. We have a very, very critical point now.
[03:04:53] DIAMOND: Dr. Fauci is making clear on Sunday that he wants the federal government to do whatever it takes to stop the spread of this coronavirus, making clear that he even would potentially support a national lockdown of sort, something that we have seen several European countries that were hard hit by this coronavirus pandemic such as Italy, France, and Spain, all of those countries taking measures to stop all nonessential businesses from functioning and to reduce the number of people who are outside.
Now, I did ask the vice president specifically about the president's rhetoric and the difference in the rhetoric that we're seeing from the president and from these public health experts. I asked him why we are hearing the president saying that Americans should simply relax and whether he would offer a different message.
The vice president dodged that question. Instead, simply saying that all the work that the coronavirus task force and the federal government is doing is at the president's direction.
Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.
ALLEN: As we show you a moment ago, if President Trump was hoping a rate cut would lift markets, it looks like he's in for a disappointment. For more on how investors around the world are reacting, we have Kaori Enjoji in Tokyo and John Defterios is standing by in Abu Dhabi with a look at what other central banks might do now.
Let us begin with you, Kaori. U.S. Futures down significantly. How did it look for Asian markets?
KAORI ENJOJI, CNBC TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF: It looks a very, very weak, Natalie. U.S. futures went limit down early in the Asian trading session and there was a bit of relief by -- from the U.S. Federal Reserve's move on Tokyo equity market, but that was very, very short lived.
Instead, the Federal Reserve has triggered a chorus of comments from other central banks around the world and the Bank of Japan responded today by announcing its own new measures, including the purchase or increased purchase of rescuer assets. This is effectively expanding quantitative easing.
This, however, is nothing new for the Bank of Japan. It has been doing this for 10 years. But it can now give itself more leeway. Instead of buying 6 trillion yen a year, it can expand that to 12 trillion yen. But the messaging was a little bit unclear. So as a result, the equity market here in Tokyo ended down, down for the fourth trade session, down by 2.5 percent.
We saw other markets in the region, particularly Australia, get hit very, very hard as comments and speculation emerges that the reserve bank there may also announce fresh measures later on this week. The dollar also started to move lower as well. Oil was under pressure as well. There is a saying in the market, to buy the rumor and sell the fact, but it seems to be that is the initial reaction we are getting in the Asian markets. This is a critical time, particularly for companies here in Japan, because this is the time at the end of the month when they close their books.
So if you are a smaller company, you are suffering paper losses on your investments, particularly if you are heavily skewed towards the equity markets, so you're trying to make it easier for them to get loans, and those are some of the measures the Bank of Japan announced today.
But at the end of the day, people do not know when they can contain this coronavirus as a result when the economic fallout can be contained as well and you got a very, very grim picture out of the data from China today.
For January and February, the three key indicators out of China, including industrial output are down very, very sharply. These are record low figures, Natalie. So --
ENJOJI: -- amidst that environment, I think initially, there might have been a little bit of relief, but it did not last long.
ALLEN: Right. China is showing the economy has been hit much harder than expected. Kaori Enjoji, we always appreciate you. Thank you so much. Let's get the view from central banks around the world. For that, we turn to our emerging markets editor John Defterios. John, can zero percent rates make a difference without a wide stimulus package? Where are we at here?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN ANCHOR AND EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Natalie, it is hard to strike the right balance. The U.S. Federal Reserve rolled out the big guns and fired along with, as Kaori was saying, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Canada, we will hear from the bank of New Zealand and others like the Bank of Switzerland throughout the day.
In fact, the G7 is going to hold a video conference and then outline what it plans to do going forward. But this alone is sending out the alarm that there is panic behind the banking system. But real challenge here, this is not a financial crisis that we saw back in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but it is a health crisis.
What are the financial markets trying to tell us? They don't think it will be brought under control anytime soon. This is an ongoing challenge because consumer confidence is being dragged down at this stage. Over the weekend, we saw moves by France and Spain to do what Italy did and that is to restrain movement. This is going to hit world going forward. No doubt about it.
By the way, this started in Asia as a crisis. It has moved to Europe. We saw the actions over the weekend. Those lacks of movements that we see in Europe right now are going to be moved to the United States.
DEFTERIOS: So clearly, the U.S. economy is going to grind to a halt over the next quarter or so. So you can pull out all essential bank tools, but is it enough to rectify what we are going to see on the health front and as a result the economic front as well?
ALLEN: Right. And movements are being restricted right now in the United States, John. Cities are hunkering down. The CDC saying don't have any gatherings of 50 people or more, so we are about to see that here in the U.S. Back to though the financial question. Can any of these ideas with all of this locking down of whole countries help prevent a global recession?
DEFTERIOS: I don't think so, Natalie, and that is the bottom. But we are getting mixed messages here the central banks around the world are firing on all cylinders and trying to prevent a banking crisis. We saw U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin say, look, we are going to need to stimulate the economy, but not go overboard.
His former employer, Goldman Sachs, after it saw this coordinated action decided to lower its growth forecast, zero in the current corridor. Get his, a negative five percent the second quarter. That would be April through June. Again, we have a job administration trying to put a glossy tone on this and the central banks are suggesting something very, very different.
I think what the other problem is going to be here, you know, four weeks ago, when I sat down with the International Monetary Fund managing director, she said, we are hoping for a V-shaped recovery, a slight U-shaped recovery perhaps.
Nobody is speaking that language right now, Natalie. This is something far more severe because we don't know if whether the health system will hold up fast enough to get people back into the economy going forward. It is a huge challenge.
ALLEN: Absolutely. John Defterios, we appreciate it. John, we will speak again about all of this for sure. Thank you.
ALLEN: All right, John mentioned the countries that are in lockdown. Italy, of course, is one of them. The death toll from the coronavirus there is jumping now dramatically. But in one region, the number of new cases does appear to be stabilizing. We will have details on whether the nationwide lockdown is making a difference, coming next, and we will look at other countries as well.
ALLEN: Welcome back. Countries across Europe are restricting movement in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Germany now is closing its borders with some of its neighbors on Monday. Italy is reporting at least 360 people died over a 24-hour period. That is despite a nationwide lockdown by the government. Spain has now joined Italy in imposing a lockdown and the Spanish military is monitoring the streets to ensure that people comply with the new rules.
CNN is covering the pandemic from throughout these regions. Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin for us, our Melissa Bell is in Rome, Italy, and journalist Al Goodman is in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
ALLEN: Let's go first to you, Fred, in Germany, with the latest.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Germany is now taking some fairly drastic measures in its efforts to try and slow down the spread of the coronavirus. It is placing some restrictions on some of the main borders between Germany and some of its neighboring states. Those include France, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and Luxembourg as well.
The German government came out and announced these measures on Sunday night. They did qualify them to a certain degree. They said that on the one hand, of course, they want to make sure that people who don't necessarily have to close the border don't do that. But they also said that they don't want to put too much of a burden on public life either.
Therefore, people who, for instance, work in another country or live in another country and commute to Germany, they are still going to be able to do that. One of the things that we have to mention is that the border between Germany and many of its neighbors, right now, that is almost like crossing state lines in the United States. There really is not very much of a border to speak of. That is going to change.
The Germans want to make sure that people who do have to cross the border every day can still do so, for instance, to get to work. They also said that cargo traffic is still going to be able to get across the border. But they also say that come 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, there is going to be German federal police in place who are going to be conducting border checks and not letting people through who don't have urgent reason to get into Germany.
All of this comes as Germans have really ramped up their effort to in general try to slow down public life in this country to make sure the coronavirus spreads more slowly. For instance, schools in many places are being shut down for the time being, also a lot of public events being cancelled, as well. This comes on Sunday alone.
The Germans announced that they have more than a thousand new confirmed cases of the coronavirus as Germany remains one of the hotbeds around the world.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: It was another day of tragic records here in Italy, both in terms of the number of new cases, more than 3,500 new cases of coronavirus announced over the course of the last 24 hours, and in terms of deaths, more than 350 new deaths recorded over the course of the last 24 hours here nationwide.
That suggests that the outbreak has yet to be under control. It suggests that these extraordinary measures that have taken nationwide, a country under lockdown, people confined to their homes, the economy at a standstill, those extraordinary measures taking time to bear effect in terms of the number of cases rising and the number of new deaths.
Now, the prime minister, when he announced this lockdown last week, had said that it would take some time to bear its fruit. That is being borne out by these latest numbers.
One glimmer of hope from the very north of the country, in those very small localities where the lockdown was announced three weeks ago, where these things were put in place around the 10 villages and town where the outbreak had first been declared, there we are seeing a stabilization in the number of new cases. That is good news. It suggests that if people are patient, if they can stand by these new measures, things might change nationwide. That is what authorities are looking for.
In the meantime, another day of people being confined to their homes, singing at their balconies at about 6:00 p.m. It has become something of a tradition. Every day, they come out to their balconies to make some noise, to play an instrument if they can, to sing a song if they can, just to make clear that they are still there and that they are seeking some kind of connection with each other.
There is a psychological tool that is being borne by people in Italy here at the moment, and yet a sense of understanding that these measures, these sacrifices are necessary. It could be another couple of weeks before we see the real changes that we are looking for and this is something that so many countries are looking at, not only European countries, but also the United States to see how long it takes for these extraordinary measures to bear their fruit.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Rome.
ALLEN: So there you have it from Italy and from Germany. Now, we turn to Spain, which is also on lockdown. People are banned from leaving their homes except for essential reasons. Al Goodman is now joining us live from Madrid. Al, what's the latest on how people are reacting to this?
AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Natalie. The government is taking steps to centralize the fight against coronavirus. For instance, late Sunday night, the government is announcing it is taking control of all of the health facilities in the country, the public hospitals and the private hospitals, so that they can get the doctors to the facilities where they are needed most, get the supplies, the masks and the gloves, to the facilities where they are needed most. The state of emergency announced at the beginning of the weekend. [03:20:00]
GOODMAN: More details came out during the weekend. So the Spanish people have been trying to figure out what are the dos and the don'ts, what they can do and what not. This is what we found when we were in the streets.
GOODMAN (voice-over): This is what Spain's coronavirus state of emergency looks like in Madrid. A city of 6.6 million people told to stay home, like the whole nation.
(On camera): With the restrictions, the capital is like a ghost town. This gourmet food market which would normally be packed is closed like all the other bars and restaurants in town. But it does make it easy to get one of these tourist top tucks.
(Voice-over): Spain suddenly has the second highest number infections in Europe after Italy. Madrid is the hardest hit with more than half of Spain's cases and fatalities.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wants to slow down the pace of new infections that officials say could overwhelm hospitals. Under the state of emergency starting late Saturday, the government banned people from leaving their homes, except for a few essential activities. They can still go to food stores and pharmacies, but they have to go alone. People can go to work but driving must be only for essential activities, not for leisure.
This man out shopping for food is a medical doctor and a cancer specialist. I am reasonably concerned, he says, but also reasonably optimistic that this situation could be controlled more quickly than what is being predicted.
This butcher says clients are buying extra meat just in case and there are still supplies for now. As quickly as we opened, we might have to close, he says. The government says it will get worse. Many people don't know how this will play out.
This couple just arrived from Britain for a birthday celebration weekend. Now, they're out searching for food.
KEVIN MEEHAN, BRITISH TOURIST: I think the virus is spreading to all cities, going to be getting worse, maybe on lockdown sooner than we think.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it will be the same all over Europe very quickly.
GOODMAN (voice-over): But the Spanish prime minister says not so fast. It will take weeks, he says, but Spaniards working together will stop the virus.
(END VIDEOTAPE) GOODMAN: Natalie, I'm in Puerta del Sol, the very center of the city and you can see that it is very empty now. The number of cases in Spain, the last official number is more than 7,700. The prime minister warned that it can get to 10,000. It looks like they are getting close. The number of deaths is also going up to nearly 300.
So, the urgency is what the government is trying to convince the people, stay home, do some things so that this virus won't spread, that is what we are seeing how this will work out. Natalie?
ALLEN: We certainly hope it does. It is a step the must be taken out. Thank you for your reporting. Stay safe for us, Al Goodman, in Madrid.
The pandemic is having its impact on the U.S. presidential election. Ahead here, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders honor the social restrictions for not shaking hands. They go on the attack in their first one-on-one debate. How would they handle coronavirus as president? We will get into that, next.
ALLEN: The coronavirus cast a long shadow over Sunday's democratic presidential debate here on CNN. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders bumped elbows, of course, instead of shaking hands, stood far apart and without an audience.
ALLEN: They both said that the government should be doing more to mitigate the pandemic. But they disagreed over what should be done. Sanders emphasized the need for health care reform while Biden said Americans wanted results, not a revolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to take care of those who are in fact are exposed or likely to be exposed to the virus. And that means we have to do testing, we have to get the testing kits up and ready. I would have the World Health Organization not take advantage of the test kits they have available to us. Even though the president says a million or more coming, let's just get all the tests we can done as quickly as we can.
Secondly, I would make sure that every state in the union had at least 10 places where they had drive-through testing arrangements. I would also, at this point, deal with the need to begin the plan for the need for additional hospital beds. We have that capacity in the Department of Defense as well as with the FEMA.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to move aggressively to make sure that every person in this country who has the virus, who thinks they have the virus, understands they got all the health care that they need because they are Americans, that we move aggressively to make sure that the test kits are out there, that the ventilators are out there, that the ICU units are out there, that the medical personnel are out there. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Let's discuss these two candidates and their performances at the debate with Natasha Lindstaedt, a professor of government at the University of Essex. Good morning to you, Natasha. First up here, of course, topic A was the coronavirus. Bernie Sanders used it to tout his health plan, "Medicare for All." Joe Biden said it is time to call in the military. Did either truly resonate on how they would lead in this very critical time?
NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Both were pretty clear that they criticize Trump's response. Biden made it clear that we need to build off of the existing system, build off of Obamacare, then put together a multibillion dollar plan of disease containment and economic rescue. He had a clear point of response to Sanders in this whole idea.
The issue is that we need to a national health care system. He said that we really don't have time. We need quick action and we don't have time to wait for the entire system to be reinvented. He also said that Italy has a national health care system and that didn't work. Between the two, Biden was saying it is about leadership and Sanders was saying it is about ideology.
ALLEN: Right. Meantime, Joe Biden announced that he would name a female as his vice president running mate. Was that an important move and was this the forum to do that?
LINDSTAEDT: It was an important move, although there were rumors that this would happen anytime now. Also, Sanders conceded that that was a likely possibility. It was important because a lot of people, Democrats in particular, were dismayed that there weren't any women candidates, in particular, Elizabeth Warren, dropping out.
I think it was also to appeal to her supporters. It was a critical move to make at this juncture so that people knew where the candidates sit on this issue.
ALLEN: Right. Both candidates spent two hours attacking each other's voting records. That might have been a little dry moment. Important, but dry, maybe not going to move the dial when they get into the weeds of that, but were there winning and losing moments in your opinion for either candidate?
LINDSTAEDT: Both candidates did pretty well, but Sanders had a really good debate. He did have some punches that connected on Biden's record, particularly on what he said about social security. Biden did have trouble answering some of those questions.
But I think the big issue is I don't know how much Americans are really carrying about these old scorecards. I think Americans are really looking to see who is going to be the best leader in dealing with the crisis that we have at hand. So that is where I think most Americans were looking to when they were watching the debate.
ALLEN: Right. Both the candidates reiterated that the most important thing in election 2020 is beating Donald Trump. They both pledge to support the other if the other is the nominee. However, President Trump's name did not come up very much in this debate. Was that surprising?
LINDSTAEDT: That was surprising. I think both candidates, particularly at the start, were not really vicious with one another. It was a feisty debate, but they did not really get too personal with one another, and I think that was because there are a lot of calls from the democratic leadership that the Democrats need to unite.
Biden did even mention that. A couple other important moments where both candidates did say that, I will support you if I don't win, and those are important messages to convey to all voters.
ALLEN: Right. The bottom line is the country is facing a pandemic.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It was hard to push beyond and talk about other -- all the other issues right now while the United States is just now really coming face to face with this.
We appreciate your insights as always in the Natasha Lindstaedt. Thank you, Natasha.
NATASHA LINDSTEADT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.
ALLEN: Sure thing. Egypt is being praised for how it is handling the virus pandemic. Next year, the measures the country is taking to keep locals and tourists safe.
ALLEN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen with the look at our top stories. Countries across Europe are closing their borders and restricting movement in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Germany has closed its borders with several of its neighbors, and Spain's military has been patrolling the streets to enforce a lockdown in that country that began over the weekend.
U.S. Futures are down sharply right now, even after the federal reserve slashed interest rates to help soften the economic impact of the coronavirus.
In Asia, measures from central banks have also failed to calm investors. The major markets were down on Monday with several falling more than 3 percent.
The U.S. vice president says that more than 2,000 labs will soon be online for coronavirus testing. The White House has faced harsh criticism for a shortage of testing options. On Sunday, Mike Pence said the U.S. will also release new virus guidelines. They could include curfews and closures in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.
Joining me now is Laurie Garrett. She is a former senior fellow for global health for the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of the book, "The Coming Plague."
Laurie, we know you are very busy right now. Thanks for coming on and giving us or time.
LAURIE GARRETT, AUTHOR, THE COMING PLAGUE: Thank you.
ALLEN: Well, we are starting to see countries now imposing increasingly harsh, severe lockdown measures. Spain, Italy, others are following what China did weeks ago. Meanwhile, though here in the U.S., these are still for the most part being made at the local level, whether it is closing schools or a sporting event, or as we are seeing now, banning's of gatherings over a certain number.
Should we be handling at this way, this patchwork way?
GARRETT: Well, no, we shouldn't. We should have a uniform policy across the country.
But we have a unique system in the United States unlike the countries that you named, in fact, most countries in the world. We don't have a top down public health apparatus. Public health in America grew from the bottom up. And so, most of the laws, most of the regulations, most of the authorities, are at the level of cities and counties, not at the level of the national at all.
And so, in fact, things you hear from our Centers of Disease Control, which is federal, of course, tend to be guidances or recommendations. It doesn't really have the authority to order the states to do anything.
ALLEN: And do you see that as a problem moving forward as this gets worse before it gets better?
GARRETT: Well, I think everybody who has ever been involved in modeling and understanding what was going to happen to America in a serious epidemic saw this as a special weakness in the American capacity to respond.
In fact, in almost every single tabletop exercise I was ever in were various key players roll played what they would do in a crisis like this, things broke down between the states. States close borders against other states, and we haven't hit that point yet. But without really coherent clear powerful guidance from the federal leadership, the states are left to just scramble and make up their own policies as they go and you drive across the state line and it is a whole set of different ask epidemic policies.
ALLEN: Yeah. Absolutely. I wasn't sure whether to cancel my destination wedding that's coming up in 2 weeks, just did, thanks to the CDC saying don't do that for any gatherings of 50 or more. Of course, that came from the CDC as a suggestion.
You talked about the need for coherent and clear leadership. We've been hearing from the Trump administration about these tests that would be available, which are not yet available. Do you think they've come from behind -- the Trump administration will be able to give that coherent and clear message, the structure that this country has been needing and been asking for?
GARRETT: I don't know. We've seen things change almost from press conference to press conference, sometimes two or three times in the same day policy has changed from the federal level, from the White House level. It is a time of tremendous confusion across the country.
And the messaging isn't clear. One moment, the president will say, as he did today, America, relax. And the next moment, we'll hear, it's the time for urgent action, we're in a desperate situation. Well, if you're the average American, what are you supposed to believe? What is the message? How bad is it?
And I mean for many of our international partners, this all looks rather strange. What is going on in America? Especially when you look around the rest of the world and see how severe the policies have to be, how urgent it is that you act swiftly in the early stages of your epidemic, and how dangerous it is to delay, even a day, much less weeks in your response.
ALLEN: Right now, we are relying on the state and local situations taking into their own hands. With that being said, Laurie, what do you expect as far as our ability to contain?
GARRETT: I'm not optimistic. I think that we are looking at a very tough three, maybe five months here in America. I think that we're going to see tremendous differences in how localities respond. It's going to continue to be quite frightening in confusing for most Americans.
I am speaking to you from New York City. Our mayor today decided to close all of our schools, order that no restaurants can have more than 50 percent capacity and must-have customer seated far apart from one another, and almost all forms of entertainment have closed down.
I just came in from checking out what looks like outside, and the streets are deserted, utterly desert, almost looks like Wuhan, except we have more cars moving about. But I tell you, you can go 20 yards in another direction or 4 or 5 miles that way and the picture would be completely different.
One town across the river, the Hudson River in New Jersey, Tarrytown, has completely locked down, but towns nearby are completely wide open. This patchwork approach is not going to work.
And what you will see is slowly over the next 7 to 10 days, airports will close, train stations will close. We will see almost no interstate transport except by highway and that will be limited. You will see more and more cities locking down, perhaps not to the level that we saw in Wuhan, China, but locking down perhaps at the level of some parts of southern Italy. And it's going to escalate dramatically, and it is going to start very rapidly.
ALLEN: Such a sobering message, Laurie, but quite crystal clear on what we face right now. Laurie Garrett for us. I hope everyone is following you on Twitter and keeping up with your reports. Thank you so much. We appreciate you.
GARRETT: Thank you.
ALLEN: Yes, @Laurie_Garrett for her Twitter account to follow her. Next year, South Africa might be at risk of a widespread coronavirus outbreak. We will tell you how the country is preparing for that emergency in a live report, coming next.
ALLEN: We continue to cover the coronavirus and how it is impacting countries around the world. Egypt has the most reported cases of any nation and Africa by far. Still, the World Health Organization is giving the country top marks for its work to limit the spread.
A WHO Representative says that Egypt has followed best practices. CNN's Sam Kiley has more about it.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The local head of the WHO, Jean Jabbour, said that Egypt was doing pretty well, and that's on the back another social media criticism within Egypt of the Egyptian authorities because there is deep distrust of the authoritarian regime that rules that country to deal with this sort of event. But as far as the WHO is concerned, that 110 figure for the number of infections sounds credible. This is what he told me.
JEAN JABBOUR, WHO REPRESENTATIVE IN EGYPT: We can say and very well guided by the World Health Organization. They have -- they practiced well in order to contain the clusters from the beginning of occurrence of or the infection of -- or the occurrence of symptoms in tourists and then tracing the contacts, and controlling within the community in order not to spread on a wider scale in the community.
KILEY: Now, the spread on the wider scale is the key issue. And that, of course, is something that's been highly problematic in terms of Iran, because Iran has been traced not as the source, that was China of course, but an onward exporting (ph) nation through the early stages of this virus.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
ALLEN: And that is Egypt. Now, we want to talk about South Africa. It is taking drastic measures to combat coronavirus. The country's president declaring a national state of disaster and is temporarily prohibiting travel from high-risk countries starting Wednesday. Land and sea ports, and schools will be closed and gatherings of more than 100 people are banned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus. This situation calls for an extraordinary response that can we now have measures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: For more about this, CNN's David McKenzie joins me live now from our bureau there in Johannesburg. David, the head of South Africa acting very serious about what's before the country, what's the latest?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is these very sweeping measures brought in by President Cyril Ramaphosa, coming in a late evening or evening statement to the nation in South Africa on Sunday.
Now, as he said there, it includes very strict travel bans as it were for people coming in for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, U.S., U.K. and China, they will keep assessing that. People with existing visas will have them canceled.
Now, this is a country already facing recession. This will have a massive impact on the economy and Ramaphosa warned people of that. He said that it is better to get in on this early. South Africa and other countries in Africa have been affected later than some other countries. And he believes that these measures will be enough, hopefully, to help slow the disease.
They are also closing schools and universities, and many of them will close in the coming days. They have a massive social impact, much like we have seen in the rest of the world. Other countries in in Africa over the weekend also took sweeping steps including Kenya also stopping people from those countries coming, closing schools.
Rwanda has had similar impact to its incoming travel. It seems like countries in Africa, in some cases, have been better prepared for the incoming virus. Though most experts believe they weren't be able to stop it outright. Natalie?
ALLEN: Right. Because there are resources in South Africa, where you are, that the other country, poorer countries in Africa, may not have and that's been a particular concern. The United States, David, is talking about the lack of hospital beds once we see more cases, but there's been particular concern for some pockets of Africa.
MCKENZIE: That's right, Natalie, and public health officials have warned the public health systems in many parts of this continent would not be able to cope with a large influx of cases. I mean you have seen Italy, which has one of the most advanced medical systems in the world comparably struggling under the strain of COVID-19.
Here in Africa though there are -- there is a sense of preparedness for past crises though people are certainly holding their breath for the worst.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Scientists consider this a worst-case scenario, humanity, tightly packed, and under threat from pandemics spread. They could have in some circumstances hundreds of people just in one tap (ph).
MCKENZIE: In the informal settlements of Tembisa, health advocate, Mpho Mofokeng, says that even basic protection from the virus like washing your hands, is unrealistic.
People talk about simple solutions to prevent this, but they are not that simple here.
MPHO MOFOKENG, LIFE 4 U FOUNDATION: They are not that simple for us. They can be simple there, but not here I don't see it working.
MCKENZIE: So, they're going out to stop it before it spreads?
MCKENZIE: Public health experts predict that Africa could be hardest hit by COVID-19. They say health systems won't cope. But in the early months of the outbreak, there were few confirmed cases. Some outbreak models predicted that lag because the continent paints relatively less connected to the most affected regions.
CHERYL COHEN, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF COMMUNICABLE DISEASE SOUTH AFRICA: Africa would be affected after the rest of the world.
MCKENZIE: And health officials knew the virus would come.
COHEN: Any part of the world can be a risk to other parts of the world in this global connectedness.
MCKENZIE: The delays giving leading African scientists a window to prepare. In January, South Africa and Senegal had the only two labs capable of diagnosing the virus. Now, more than 40 countries can test.
And recent Ebola outbreaks in west and central Africa have told bridal lifesaving lessons in quarantine and contact tracing.
In many ways, Ebola, a frightening and deadly disease is not as challenging though as COVID-19.
COHEN: Well, if you're all in a meeting room and you're close together, all those people will be exposed. With Ebola, none of them would be exposed. So the numbers get very high. No matter what South Africa does to contain, if everywhere else in the world to something else there are infectious cases, there is no way you can really completely stop movement of virus virtually (ph) on the sectors.
MCKENZIE: That force of infection is powerful. And perhaps all they can do is slow the spread.
MUJALI FUTATU, TEMBISA RESIDENT: So we are clueless, all of us. We don't know what is coming. We just hear from the radio COVID-19. COVID has arrived, do you know?
MCKENZIE: Are you worried?
FUTATU: I am. (Inaudible), I am.
MCKENZIE: In Tembisa and across the continent, people are still anticipating the worst.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Well, Natalie, just walking through those parts of Tembisa, and in my experience covering across this continent, I cannot imagine the difficulty we will be facing should those informal settlements get affected in a large way by this virus.
I mean you can't wash your hands. You maybe can't afford soap. There's no sense of self isolating if you maybe are in contact of someone. They managed to stop Ebola in West Africa, but that's a much harder disease to contract through direct bodily fluid contact. This is a respiratory illness.
As the experts said, ultimately, respiratory illnesses will go everywhere. It seems now that the clear strategy by South Africans and others is to take these drastic steps very early in the process. And because Africa was affected later, perhaps that will give time here to prepare and to maybe stave off the worst. But certainly, it is going to be a tough few months ahead for South Africa and elsewhere. Natalie?
ALLEN: Absolutely. Yes. David, we appreciate your reporting on this. Thank you so much. David McKenzie in Johannesburg for us.
Cuba has agreed to allow a British cruise ship to dock at one of its ports. Yes, we're talking about another cruise ship in trouble. This, after five passengers tested positive for coronavirus. The MS Braemar is one of at least three cruise ships around the world with coronavirus on board. It had been refused entry at several ports in the Caribbean. A few cruise ships had been stranded at sea waiting for places to dock, even some with no reported cases.
Meantime, more than 50 cruise companies have now suspended operations to and from U.S. ports for 30 days.
Next here, the coronavirus is changing the way that people play. We will show you the drastic steps religious leaders are taking to stop it spread.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ALLEN: Pope Francis rights here, he left the Walls of the Vatican to walk through the empty streets of Rome on Sunday. He prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic as he visited two pilgrimage sites. Italy is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, and the country is now on total lockdown. The Vatican announced earlier that Easter mass will be close to the public this year.
And closures like that are becoming the new normal as religious leaders around the world take action to keep members of the congregation safe. Holy sites and religious schools are being shuttered, and many are canceling worship services until the threat of the virus subsides. CNN's Robyn Curnow has more about that.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Church bells ring out in a village in Poland as a call for Sunday service begins. But in this parish, there are no worshippers to be found.
This Sunday, thousands of Christians across Europe and the globe state at home to pray in an effort to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. But the pandemic is now affecting the weekly worship of people from nearly all faiths.
On Sunday, Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque announced that it too is closing. This is the usual scene on Fridays at Islam's third holiest site, the faithful gathering side by side for prayers. But this Friday, there were almost no worshippers, and it is now shuttered until further notice.
OMAR GHARABLEH, SCHOOL PRINCIPAL EAST JERUSALEM (through translator): This is a very sad day that you see the Aqsa mosque closed. But the health of humans is important. I hope that God will relieve this of all people, and all Muslims together.
CURNOW: In India, a famed Buddhist monastery is also shutting its doors. Any visitors are turned away as its activities are suspended until at least April.
Holy places that are remaining open are seeing historically low numbers. Images out of Mecca show far fewer pilgrims than in the past. And the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem was nearly without worshippers as well, as Israel's chief rabbi is reportedly called on Jews to avoid the holy site.
In Rome, some churches reopened as the country grapples with a lockdown, but attendance was sparse as the faithful remain divided.
ANTONIETTA RICCERI, ROME RESIDENT (through translator): I am convinced that closing churches was the right decision because contact is inevitable in a church. So, it is good to take all possible precautions. LAURA FORMICA, ROME RESIDENT (through translator): It is an important comfort for believers. So perhaps with some caution and distances, it would be good to keep churches open.
CURNOW: The Vatican, however, is taking no risks. It nearly deserted in St. Peters Square. The Catholic Church has also announced that services at the Vatican will be held without worshippers through Easter week. The faithful in Rome and around the world are now left without a place of worship as the coronavirus could change the way people pray together for the foreseeable future. Robyn Curnow, CNN, Atlanta.
ALLEN: Thank you for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen. Find me on twitter, @allencnn. I'm also on Instagram @natalieallencnn. Early Start is coming next.