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Trump Acknowledges Coronavirus Threat, Gives New Guidelines; Italy Reports 3,200+ More Cases in Past 24 Hours; Dow Has Worst Point Drop Ever and Trump Says Economy May Be Headed into Recession; Social Distancing Key to Stem Spread; Asia Markets Look To Rebound From Monday's Sharp Fall; Rise In Cases Tests Italy's Health System; Japan: Plans For 2020 Summer Games Will Go Forward. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I am Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, closing more borders and restricting movement. Europe is making drastic moves to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

Another brutal day in the financial markets, it's affecting more sectors of the global economy and fears of a looming recession.

Also frustration in the United States, problems with access to coronavirus testing kits.


CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

After weeks of downplaying the risk of the coronavirus, U.S. president Donald Trump's tone shifted Monday, local governments also trying to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

In less than an hour, nearly 7 million people in California's San Francisco Bay area, will be under lockdown except to go out for essential needs. President Trump said he is now considering a nationwide lockdown. But the White House is advising people not to gather in groups of more than 10.

After the president admittedly said the outbreak is not under control and the economy could be headed towards recession, the stock market tanked with its worst point drop in history. The European Union is planning to close its borders to nonessential travel, the European Council is expected to sign off on the restriction on Tuesday.

CNN correspondents are covering the latest moves from across the globe, Jim Bittermann is in Paris, Delia Gallagher is in Rome but Al Goodman is in Madrid for us this morning. Good to see you, Al.

What is the situation across Spain right now?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: More than 9,100 cases, now the number of cases have increased more than 25 percent per day, there are 309 deaths, Madrid appears to be the center of this. More than half the deaths are right here.

Among the cases, two members of the prime minister's cabinet, his wife, and the presidents of Madrid and Catalonia, around Barcelona. People are mainly staying home, ridership on the metro is way down, ridership on the long distance trains seems practically nil.

A CNN producer came from the south of Spain to Madrid yesterday, she said she was the only person in her car, did not see anyone else on the train. But there was an incident at the Madrid main train station, with very crowded commuter trains.

But that is not what they do want, for people to be together. People were packed in like sardines. They said they're going to try to fix that.

Across the country there is a solidarity among the Spanish people with the medical personnel who are working hard at hospitals and clinics across the country. And now there is a tradition where, every evening, people come out on their balconies, who can't go out of their houses.

And they clap and they chant in favor of the health care workers. It is an incredible scene, it started at 10 o'clock local time, the first couple of nights, they moved it to 8 o'clock, so the young children can also participate.

I witnessed it from my balcony last night, took part in it, it really is a stirring thing. People from apartment buildings across the city, they are doing this. And at a hospital in northern Spain, there was a response for medical workers, they held up signs that said, in Spanish, "We hear you, thank you very much, we like that."

Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed, medical workers are the heroes in the story, many thanks to Al Goodman joining us from Madrid.

Let's go to Delia Gallagher in Rome.

Delia, Northern Italy was really suffering, it is the worst across Europe.

What is the situation there now, what is going on elsewhere in the country?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: So Rosemary, numbers are increasing; since yesterday we had another increase of some 3,200 cases, that brings Italy to about 28,000 cases of coronavirus. But there are some encouraging signs from the northern town of

Codogno, who had the first coronavirus patient, while they are still registering new cases, they said the trend has slowed there, so that could be a small sign of encouragement, that we are in our second week here.

But in the north they have been in lockdown for about 3-4 weeks now. The focus there now is on the hospitals.


GALLAGHER: The Lombardy region said that they are building a temporary hospital, with some 400 beds, an American NGO called Samaritan's Purse (ph) have come to the town of Pomona (ph), also in the Lombardy area, to build another temporary hospital with 60 beds and they will be paying to staff that with medical staff.

So there is important effort in the north to build new structures for beds and ICU units, there is also a call country wide for blood donations. I should say the rest of the country, Rosemary, similar to what is happening in Spain, the Italians are trying to keep their spirits up with these flash mob events, from their windows and balconies every night at a certain hour, 6 o'clock and at noon, they go out and they sing the national anthem.

And they give a long applause as well here for the health care workers across the country, who obviously are under a great deal of strain.

We should mention Pope Francis ventured out on Sunday, from the Vatican, walking the deserted streets of Rome. He was going to two churches in Rome, one house an important crucifix for Romans.

It was used in 1522 when there was the plague. And the pope went to pray at that crucifix, because some Romans believe that it helped to end the plague back in the 15th century, they say the pope was praying for the city and for the world and for this pandemic to end.

CHURCH: This is an extraordinary time for all of us and everyone across the globe is dealing with this, Delia Gallagher, many thanks.

And now to CNN senior international correspondent in Paris Jim Bittermann.

Jim, the French president doesn't think that the French are taking this seriously.

What's going on?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: You'd think it was saying they were taking it seriously but he's hoping after the speech last night, in which he said nothing less than five different times, we are at war, meaning a war against the coronavirus, he is hoping that they will now take it seriously, because just five hours from now, they have to be where they're going, because they are going to be on lockdown. They are calling this the confinement al Italien. This is going on in

Italy and Spain. People will be locked down in their houses, they can only come out for medicine and essential jobs and food. But they have to download and fill out a form, if they have to take a trip and why they are on the streets.

This applies to pedestrians and car, so you can go out alone if you want, to get some air but you cannot go out in groups. And this will go on now for 15 days at least, so people have to get in place for the next few hours and try to stay there.

This happened an hour after Macron's presentation last night. The interior minister (INAUDIBLE) and he said there is going to be fines, to make sure that people obey this new ruling, anywhere from 38 to 135 euros, if you are out and in some kind of a group. So it's going to be a change in lifestyle for the French.

CHURCH: It certainly is and I think, for the younger generation, they may find this very difficult indeed. Jim Bittermann, joining us from Paris, many thanks.

In Asia, stock markets are trying to recover from Mondays huge losses, indices have been going up and down all day and right now you see there, Japan's Nikkei is up, it is pretty flat and all the rest in the red.

This comes after Wall Street had one of its worst trading days on record. As CNN's Clare Sebastian reports, it happened even though the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In normal times when the Fed cuts rates the market tends to go up but right now things are far from normal.

In the wake of the Fed's unscheduled 1 percent rate cut and its announcement of $700 billion in asset purchases, the S&P 500 opened down more than 8 percent and was immediately halted.

The 15-minute pause didn't stem the losses. The bottom line is the return to financial crisis era monetary policy in one sudden move and the fact that it happened on a Sunday afternoon, just three days before a scheduled meeting, had people wondering if things were worse than what they thought.

There is a sense in the market that this doesn't fix what's at hand. Yes, the Fed can help ensure the smooth operating of critical markets but no amount of cheap loans and mortgages will help people dealing with shutdowns while people who lose their jobs make ends meet.

That is something that really only governments can do. Fiscal support will be critical.

[02:10:00] SEBASTIAN: And right now a coronavirus relief package that would include paid leave for displaced workers and free testing is facing roadblocks in the Senate. Still the fear over the severity and length of the outbreak, that continues to bring real turmoil to these markets, in the last hour of trading, selling accelerated sharply, as President Trump said the outbreak might not subside till July or August and unveiled new guidelines, putting more limits on public activity.

In the end, it was the worst points drop for the Dow in history, for the SNP 500, the worse percentage drop since 1987 -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Ryan Patel is a senior fellow at the Drucker School of Management, he joins us now from Los Angeles.

Good to have you with us as we watch this roller coaster ride on global markets. On Sunday President Trump proudly announced, the Federal Reserve slashing interest rates to near zero, we heard in that report.

And Monday he admitted the outbreak was not under control and the economy could be headed for recession. The result, the Dow posted its worst point drop in history, what are we likely to see Tuesday and in the days ahead?

RYAN PATEL, GLOBAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: If you asked me a couple of hours ago, the Asia markets actually came up 3 percent to 4 percent and then you just said the Asian markets are back flat, so that's telling me that we may be going in the wrong direction, as you can see, that that is not good especially in the last hour or two. They have kind of created some urgency.

Obviously with the Federal Reserve, doing what they did on Sunday, didn't provide confidence. It did the opposite. Obviously what President Trump did, came out and did the opposite.

Because why that happened is because people felt that they were using the best bullets that they had to go at this. And it didn't really kind of change anything, especially with the confidence.

What gets lost here in what you just recovered in Europe, Italy, France, going in straight shutdown, the U.S. has not even talked about doing that. So there is a recession fear, as you mentioned, that could come from Europe, could come from the U.S., should this go further.

And this is how a recession starts, it starts because people lose jobs, employment goes down, consumer confidence goes down, people want to spend less money, people don't want to expand, they don't want to trade globally.

It kind of all comes out together and we are kind of heading toward piece if we have -- you said roller coaster, I feel like right now, even though Friday was a decent, a good day, you need good news, you need good news to provide some confidence and stability and that comes from leadership, from all over the world.

And we are in this together, no matter how you look at it and that includes the markets, they need some resiliency and they are not getting any.

CHURCH: All we're seeing right now is this fear, this panic and so as a financial expert yourself, how surprised were you to hear President Trump acknowledge the U.S. could be headed for a recession, especially after his excitement on Sunday over the Fed's interest rate cut, what do you think changed his views so radically?

PATEL: Reality. Just reality. We -- I was surprised, to be very honest, that he said we "could" go into recession. So to me he's always been saying that wasn't the case. But I think what set in was that, on Sunday, when there was pretty much this decision, this monumental for the Fed to bring it to zero, because they saw how serious this was.

And President Trump has been trying to get the Federal Reserve to loosen up for, what, three years now, almost four?

And all the sudden they choose to do it on this time, that shows the severity and how serious this is. And I think that settled into him, saying the market continues to drop, the market has not been this low, the day we had on Monday, has not seen it for decades, this is not good.

You have to create some stopgap there and if this continues to fall -- and that's what -- he's looking at his options, his toolbox, what else can I do to stop this?

And you're running out of options.

CHURCH: So how bad do you think this will likely get and when might we see some return to normalcy, especially when President Trump said this could potentially go on until July or August?

PATEL: When you look at what happened, even with China, what they've done, they are back in full force but their January and February numbers are down double digit percentage and they are going to feel the effect.

But when you're down 20 percent or even 10 percent you can't make that in GDP numbers for the rest of the year. You're going to feel that for the rest of next year.

And how does that stay flat?

And really the answer to that question is, to me, is this epidemic or is the coronavirus going to stop businesses shut down for two weeks in the United States or is it longer?

My feeling to me, I think it is going to be longer because companies are already making decisions for the summer to the fall.

[02:15:00] PATEL: They are postponing things, they are not spending money, they have already come to that terms. Two weeks ago they did it. Conferences are getting canceled. People are spending much less money on consultants, individuals are already pushing their outlook, towards later in the year.

And what that tells me is that this is just not an April issue, you see where the numbers are, the numbers are also going to be further down because there is not that confidence. And I will tell you one thing, though.

One thing that turns all of this around, is I think the antidote, the vaccine to stop the fear. And that will provide some stability. Now the second piece, the integration, back into society, as a global community, to businesses' trade, do they stay open where people can spend money. That is a whole different issue but they are step-by- step.

CHURCH: We're seeing a move in that direction but we're still going to be looking at 12 more months before we get a vaccine. What is interesting is that I think people will become more inventive and technology will be used.

So restaurants are now doing takeout instead, presumably conferences are going on online.

I have asked you this before, what is your best advice to all of us as we panic about massive losses to our retirement funds?

PATEL: I laugh because last time I told you, don't check your email, forget your password. I'm so sorry. Don't even forget the website, do not even look at the website, I have to say, we are not done yet. This up and down will continue to happen, because there is going to be new news.

Unfortunately there will be some bad news because things are accelerating, what do you think the market is going to react to?

Yes, I think everyone is hopeful, that whatever the bottom is we accelerate our way out of it. But that question really becomes, as you mentioned, companies are working remotely, not all can do that in a fast fashion as well as conferences taking it to digital. They are not there yet and that is unfortunate because that is how the business community is kind of set up, those are going to be forward thinkers will be out there.

But for retirement funds and looking to take your money out over the next few months, I mean, you've got to protect yourself right now because you are not looking to get -- to say you're going to get a 30 percent gain in the next month, highly unlikely.

And this is the long term game that you are hoping. And you see for even the administration, they're saying this time next year will be good and healthy numbers. But if you're retiring this year, you don't have that time horizon. CHURCH: Necessity is the mother of invention, you know we've seen

hard times and incredible things come out of that, we will be watching very carefully. Thank you so much, much appreciated.

We'll take a short break when we return, the advice from the experts, we will ask a doctor what people around the world can do to protect themselves and their loved ones. Back in just a moment.





CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Border restrictions, community quarantines and bans on gatherings are part of the tools being used around the world to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, many are unprecedented. Christiane Amanpour has the report.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): A new week and a new reality, as countries around the world adopt more aggressive measures to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday for the first time, G7 leaders stepped up, holding a video conference shared by the United States to discuss a joint coordinated response. Italy reported nearly 400 deaths in a single day, the largest uptick of any country.

Cases of the virus outside China, which was the epicenter, now outnumber those inside; 13 provinces in the country have no longer have active infections.

Investment and industrial output, slowed drastically in China during the outbreak, central bankers now said there will be an injection of billions of dollars into the financial system.

Elsewhere in Asia, Kazakhstan has announced a state of emergency and the Philippine president has placed its largest island, home to half the population and the capital of Manila, under enhanced community quarantine.

Despite the death of a top cleric in Iran and President Hassan Rouhani saying the numbers appear to be, quote, "promising," cases of coronavirus there have jumped by over 1,000.

There's been a sharp rise of cases in Africa, South Africa announced a ban on travel from the worst affected countries and banned gatherings of more than 100. Kenya has likewise imposed sweeping travel restrictions. CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: Given the scale and the

speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The World Health Organization says Europe is now the epicenter of the virus and is urging governments to act aggressively. Germany, France and Spain have imposed wide ranging travel restrictions, closing borders and limiting large gatherings.

With more than 5,000 cases identified so far, the head of the French health services describes the situation as "deteriorating very fast."

Meanwhile Britain's return to work as normal on Monday, as per government advice. But in Spain some commuters ignored advice to stay home. Airlines continue to slash flights, as demand slumps in the United States.

The Federal Reserve has now cut interest rates to near zero and announced a series of measures to try to tackle the economic impact of coronavirus. Also in the United States the CDC recommends people, quote, "cancel or postpone events with 50 people or more," throughout the United States for the next eight weeks -- Christiane Amanpour CNN, London.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. Carlos del Rio, he teaches medicine and global health at Emory University.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Happy to be with you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: The spread of the pandemic is being described by some as a war and we have to fight it as such. But the U.S. federal government has been slow to respond, sending mixed messages and confusing people, while state and local leaders seem to be taking the lead.

San Francisco mayor ordering residents to shelter in place for more than three weeks.

Is that what all state nations should be doing to contain this virus?

Or is that too extreme?

DEL RIO: I think a couple things, I think the U.S., even though it is a federal government, really in public health states and the local health departments have a lot of power, so the U.S. and the CDC or the federal government can make recommendations.

But at the end of the day it's up to each individual state and local health departments to make final decisions. I think governors, and we have 50 of them, they need to step up to the plate and they need to really make the necessary recommendations.

I would believe that it's up to them to do it. And the evidence is very clear that, if they do that, they will have a good response.

CHURCH: Right.


CHURCH: And how should countries across the globe perhaps be coordinating their containment response, right now do you think?

DEL RIO: I think we are way past containment right now, this virus is all over the world, we are entering the face of mitigation. What we need to do right now is identify those who are infected, isolate them.

We need to provide information -- so the three I's, information, identification and isolation -- then we also need to make sure our health care system is ready to take care of the sick. And we need to establish and enforce social distancing.

If we do those things, we will be fine. The problem is, it requires a lot of effort and a lot of coordination to do those things in every nation. And, quite frankly, it also requires to wake up. A lot of countries, a lot of governments are still not realizing that this problem is really severe.

CHURCH: And a lot of discipline as well on the part of each individual, right, so I do want you to take a look at a couple of graphs, let's start with this one, showing how the number of infections in the United States has increased exponentially since the first case was documented on January 21st.

What do you see when you look at this graph?

And how concerned should people be in the U.S., considering the vulnerabilities associated with this country's health system?

DEL RIO: You know we have a disease that has a transmission rate of 2.5-3, which means that every infected person transmits to 2-3 individuals. That leads to an exponential growth and that's what people need to realize.

You go from one to three, from three to nine, from nine and so on it gets on and on and this exponential growth is rapid.

And I give the analogy of a plane, you have plane running down the runway that doesn't seem like it's going up, then the nose goes up, then it really goes up and that exponential rate of increase is typical of epidemics.

So my recommendation is that countries do not wait till they have 1,000 cases or 2,000 or 3,000, they start acting when they have 10 cases, because when you have 10, you are going to have 1,000 in less than 5-10 days and you need to act right away.

So an exponential growth of an epidemic is really confusing, because, on February 28th, the president of United States said we have 14 cases; we are not worried about this. And then suddenly today we have 3,000 right.

CHURCH: Exactly. I want you to look now at data from China, where this coronavirus

originated and we see perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel, so it makes perfect sense that China is now seeing improvements first, from 16,000 to 369 active cases reported back on February 3rd and peaking at nearly 58,000 active cases on February 17th, now down to nearly 9,900 active cases in mid-March.

How much hope do those numbers give you and would you expect all of the countries to follow a similar path perhaps?

DEL RIO: Yes but remember what China did, China established very, very draconian measures. They shut down the country. Unless you do that, you are not going to control this because exponential growth means that it will continue. We didn't believe it and look at what Italy's has had to do, now Spain and France.

And in the U.S. if we don't shut down the country, we are going to be under a lot of pain.

CHURCH: That is a big wake up call.

And why do you think the United States was so slow to respond to this coronavirus?

And why has it taken so long to get tests made available to all those need them?

DEL RIO: All very good questions, I do not work inside the government so I can't tell you but many of us have been for months and days sounding the alarm, saying we have to get something done. It was hard to get the federal government to wake up but now they've woken up. They're doing things, you heard the president today saying number one priority is this coronavirus outbreak.

But that's not what he was saying at the end of February. So it has been a dramatic change. But number two, I think the test fiasco has been quite unfortunate. I don't know what the reasons are but the reality is today we don't have enough tests in the United States.

The fact that we have failed in the test component puts us in a very difficult situation.

CHURCH: And, of course, there is a lot of misinformation out there right now, particularly circulating in social media.

What is the best advice that you can give people to stay safe and not get confused with all this misinformation that is around?

DEL RIO: Follow a reliable source of information. There is plenty of good sources of information, I would say you guys have done a tremendous job, CNN has done a great job. "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal," many of the respected newspapers have done a good job.

Twitter have some people worth following. I am not going to say just me but I'm one of the people who is tweeting a lot about this. [02:30:00]

And there's many others that are doing a very good job in Twitter. There's some very good reporters, you know, Jon Cohen in Science, Helen Branswell. So I think there's reliable sources but be careful out there because there's a lot of misinformation. You're absolutely -- you're absolutely right.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Absolutely. Some really fabulous advice there. Dr. Carlos del Rio, many thanks to you for joining us. We appreciate it.

DEL RIO: Thank you for having me with you.

CHURCH: And when we come back, we will take you to Italy where coronavirus tests are free and no one has to pay for their time in the hospital, but that's still not slowing the outbreak. And then later we will tell you about new pressure on Japan's Prime Minister to postpone the Tokyo Summer Olympics. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Back in just a moment.


CHURCH: Well as we've been reporting, stock markets around the world is struggling to shake off the impact of the coronavirus. In Asia, indices have been swinging back and forth all day. The Seoul KOSPI has had the biggest losses down more than one percent. In the U.S., futures are up across the board. They're hoping to bounce back from Monday's record for which spot fears of an economic recession.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stock market took another hit today. Is the U.S. economy heading into a recession?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it may be. We're not thinking in terms of recession, we're thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there's a tremendous pent up demand both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy. And once this goes away, once it gets goes through and we're done with it, I think you're going to see a tremendous -- a tremendous surge.


CHURCH: All right, let's get more now from journalists Kaori Enjoji. She joins us live from Tokyo. Kaori, let's look back at those Asian market numbers and try to decipher what this is signaling?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, take a look at Dow futures, they're up 700 points. So this suggests that we could see a bit of a rebound after the massive sell-off overnight. But the range of the declines and the increases that we're seeing on these indices, just underline the fact -- underline that the markets are still extremely jittery, extremely nervous.

And that is because they still don't have any end in sight for the coronavirus. They still don't know if governments are going to roll out more aggressive fiscal measures to try and contempt -- contain, excuse me, the economic fallout from this situation. That's -- so that's why we're seeing some very jumpy trading.


Australia was down 10 percent yesterday. Today, it made up for that by rising five percent, so it made up half of those losses. 1,200 point range on the Japanese equity market today so very wild swing. And at the end of the day, for the first time in five days, it managed to eke out a very small gain of just nine points.

There is a lot of central bank intervention in the short-term money markets. They're basically flooding the money markets with cash to try and prevent a credit crunch. There also have been discussing a buying more exchange-traded funds. So riskier assets. So increasing this asset purchase program that they have been embarking on for the last 10 years and central bankers around the world are thinking of doing the same. So that seems to be offering a little bit of hope.

But at the end of the day, the economic situation remains fairly dire. I mean, Japan is one foot into recession already. And with corporations, many of them now just trying to recover from the breakdown that we've seen in business in China, slowly coming up for that, but then finding they have to close their operations in the terms of the retail sector in the U.S. and also in your key European markets, does not bode well for their guidance in the months ahead. So that is the situation we're in right now.

And the fact that we're seeing a little bit of stability in the oil price, just a sliver above the $30 mark -- per barrel mark is helping things along. But still very, very wide swings. A lot of volatility does not suggest that the market has really found a safe footing to sit on. Rosemary?

CHURCH: We'll continue to watch it, but so wearing for so many people. Kaori Enjoji, many thanks to you for bringing us up to date on the situation. I appreciate it. Well, Italy remains Europe's worst-hit country. It recorded more than 3,200 coronavirus cases in the past day and has nearly 28,000 overall cases. As CNN's Melissa Bell reports, the country's health system is being pushed to the brink.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The pictures become a symbol in Italy of a system in the north of the country that is stretched to its limit. Hospital workers, nurses, doctors, the heroes of the fight against coronavirus themselves near breaking point.

DANIELA CONFALONIERI, NURSE (through translator): We are united and we will fight this forsaken virus.

BELL: At a hospital in Milan, hallways and offices have been turned into makeshift intensive care units. In Prussia, tents are used to treat the sick. Rome too beefing up its capacity. When you lock down the country, the Prime Minister explained -- GIUSEPPE CONTE, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY (through translator): We live

in a system in which we guarantee health and the right of everyone to be cured.

BELL: Italy's healthcare system is facing a challenge like no other. By its nature, this is an epidemic that spikes quickly and in clusters requiring urgent and expensive treatment for some. So far, the system here has delivered free tests, intensive care, emergency treatment, all free of charge. So is Europe's often criticized public health system now showing its true strengths?

ALAN FRIEDMAN, ITALY-BASED AMERICAN WRITER AND ECONOMIST: -- an x-ray, somebody wants to get treatment, they can wait weeks or months for appointment. That's the inefficiency of national health. But the plus side is that at a time of crisis, the test for coronavirus are free for everybody. They take care of all their citizens and there's no worrying about insurance.

BELL: So how does Italy system stack up against America's private profit-driven healthcare system? First, on capacity as the crisis hits. The United States has 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, fewer than Italy's 3.2 beds per 1,000 people according to the OECD. Then, once the outbreak begins, there's the question of the response. And here, the more fragmented American model could make coordination harder.

CARLO PALERMO, HEAD OF ITALY'S PUBLIC SECTORS DOCTORS ASSOCIATION (through translator): To deal with an epidemic which affects the population globally, the response must be centralized. There must be one crisis you need that gets a unanimous response.

BELL: As infections continue to rise here at record daily rates, Italy is a country where everyone fears getting the virus, but no one need to worry about being treated for it. Melissa Bell, CNN, Rome.


CHURCH: We turn to the Middle East now where the virus is adding pressure to an already tense region. On Monday, Iran confirmed more than 1,000 new cases pushing that country beyond the 10,000 mark. The total death count there is near 900. CNN's Sam Kiley has more from Abu Dhabi.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran remains the greatest cause of concern in the Middle East in terms of the numbers of people dying and the levels of infection. There are 15,000 official confirmed cases in that country now, 123 people killed by the disease in the last 24 hours, previous 24 hours were 113 people killed.


Now, President Rouhani has appeal to the international community for about $5 billion worth of aid. That's in the face of very heavy U.S. sanctions that are strangling the Iranian ability to receive money because the financial sanctions mean that the international community cannot effectively use the banking system, even if they wanted to help Iran.

In that context, Emirates have just sent the second wave of aid in the last couple of weeks that they've sent from here and military aircraft here in the Emirates into Iran. 32 tons of medical supplies, really effectively a drop in the ocean, perhaps more a sign of solidarity because in the Middle East it is from Iran that a number of other nations have been infected.

Other nations, of course, moving rapidly to try to contain it with Egypt banning flights now. A number of other countries restricting flights into their territory to their own citizens, newly arrived passengers in Amman airport were pretty shocked to discover that they would face immediate two-week quarantine that is now in place in Amman or across Jordan for newly arrived visitors. That system has already been imposed in neighboring Israel.

And this is a region though that certainly in the Gulf areas, because they're effectively run by monarchies, they are very paramedic in their structures. They got a lot of oil money and very sophisticated medical facilities. So there is confidence certainly in the Gulf that they'll be able to cope. Elsewhere, though, particularly countries in Civil War like Somalia, Yemen, and Syria, the picture remains extremely dire. Sam Kaley, CNN in Abu Dhabi.


CHURCH: We'll take a short break. Just ahead, a CNN investigation into the problems with testing for coronavirus in the United States.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What you're telling me is that not everybody that doctors believe are medical -- medically necessary to have a test can have a test?




CHURCH: Well, scientists are now testing a potential coronavirus vaccine in Seattle, Washington. It's called mRNA-1273 and will be tested on 45 healthy adults over six-week timeframe. Each participant will receive two injections about a month apart in varying doses.

The study is meant to establish that the vaccine is safe and get results from participants' immune systems. Experts stress proving that the vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19 infection will require follow up studies but a little bit of hope there at least.

Well, meantime, U.S. health officials have been scrambling to make coronavirus tests more accessible. They've been setting up more drive- through testing sites to detect the virus. But despite some improvements, CNN has found doctors and patients still face shortages. Drew Griffin has our report.



GRIFFIN: The head of the World Health Organization says it's clear who should be tested.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WHO: We have a simple message for all countries. Test, test, test. Test every suspected case.

GRIFFIN: But in the U.S., while drive-thru testing is rolling out in several states, CNN has found testing overall remains an issue across the country. Critical in Seattle where Dr. Rod Hochman who heads up the 51 Hospital Providence St. Joseph Network says lack of testing is hampering response and putting caregivers in danger.

HOCHMAN: We are frustrated that there hasn't been enough testing.

GRIFFIN: It's not just a lack of a quick test. Hochman says some facilities don't have the swabs they need to collect samples. Even pipettes used to transport liquids are running low. And that is limiting just how many people can be tested, even if they need it.

What you're telling me is that not everybody that doctors believe are medical -- medically necessary to have a test can have a test?

HOCHMAN: Exactly. You got it.

GRIFFIN: The delay in testing is expected to improve over the coming days and weeks with public and private labs ramping up. But even in places where the situation is improving, they're still aren't enough tests for people who don't have symptoms, but had been close to infected patients, a crucial next step.

At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, clinic laboratory's President William Morice says they can do 500 tests a day now, keeping up with the hospital systems internal needs, with the hope that very soon, they will ramp up to 2,500 a day.

WILLIAM MORICE, LABORATORY PRESIDENT, MAYO CLINIC MINNESOTA: Right now, we're using (INAUDIBLE) really understand the problems of the COVID-19 virus.

GRIFFIN: Many medical facilities say they are still following CDC guidelines, which include not just symptoms, but also close contact with a person known or suspected to have COVID-19 or recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. The guidelines also include the warning that older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early even if their illness is mild.

In Texas, we first talk to schoolteacher Courtney Cherry last week. She's still sick, has been trying to get a test for COVID-19 since Wednesday. She just updated us to say she may never know.

COURTNEY CHERRY, TEACHER: Sunday, I contacted another doctor to see about whether there are any improvements in testing. And I was told that there's no way I would probably get a test, that I would probably just have to accept that I am not going to get tested.

GRIFFIN: On Monday, the person put in charge of the federal testing coordination said as many as a million tests will be available this week, two million more by the end of next week, and very soon tens of thousands of Americans per day will be tested. Medical experts say that will help getting a handle on just how big of a problem this really is. Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: And to the impact on U.S. politics now. The governor of the state of Ohio has postponed Tuesday's presidential primaries. Louisiana, Georgia, and Kentucky are also moving their primaries later in the year because of the virus.

Ohio first took the issue to court but on Monday, an Ohio judge rejected the petition to postpone the primary. The governor then went to the state's Department of Health which issued a formal order to shut down Tuesday voting as a health emergency.

Well, CNN's coverage of the March 17 primaries begins Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in New York, 10:00 p.m. in London. We'll take a short break. Just ahead, the Tokyo Olympics are just four months away. Japanese and Olympic officials are resisting calls to delay the game so far. We will get an update from Tokyo.

Plus, debunking myths. We will separate fact from fiction about how coronavirus spreads and how you can stay safe.



CHURCH: Well, planning for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games is moving ahead despite the pandemic, but there will be changes. CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo. He joins us now live. So Blake, what are those possible changes? And in the end, how likely is it that the Olympic Games will be postponed?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, the Olympic flame actually arrives here in Japan from Greece this Friday with a scaled back torch relay scheduled to kick off in about nine days from now. That torch or the flame will travel through all 47 prefectures here in Japan.

And despite efforts to continue moving forward with the Olympic Games as planned, you look around the world and here in Japan sports have been canceled and postponed. And the one thing that the Japanese government Tokyo 2020 has going for them right now is that the games are still about four months away. So a lot can change in that four months regarding the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe right now.

As a result, you have IOC officials, government officials here in Japan, and the Tokyo 202o organizers that are essentially moving forward and saying that they are fully committed to hosting these games as it's currently scheduled. They're saying that in public. You know, what they say behind closed doors, we're not exactly sure.

But last night, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a got a little more support from world leaders as far as the effort to host these games on time. Take a listen.


SHINZO ABE, PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN (through translator): As for the Olympics, I secured the support from the G7 to realize the Tokyo Olympic Games in their complete forms as proof of the victory of mankind over the coronavirus.


ESSIG: And Rosemary, the devils in the detail there. He actually said, in their complete form. He didn't say that they were going to be moving forward as is currently scheduled on July 24th, but in their complete form. And he was asked about that. He basically reiterated that same exact comment that you just heard played.

And so as far as what goes on, as far as when these games will be held, that's a big question. You're starting to see some cracks even from the Japanese government, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Understood. Blake Essig, many thanks to you bring us the latest on that from Tokyo. I appreciate it. Well, social media is once again a hotbed of misinformation about the coronavirus. Absurd theories on how you can catch it, how you can cure it are all out there, and Brian Todd tries to decipher fact from fiction.


BRIAN TODD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Feel free to drink plenty of water. It's always good to stay hydrated, medical experts say. But as for the idea that drinking more water will flush coronavirus from your system --

PETER HOTEZ, FOUNDING DEAN, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We don't know if the oral fecal route is important mode of transmission, but water will not flush virus out of the system. The notion that drinking more water will flush coronavirus from your system is one of several myths about the virus circulating on social media. Myths that experts are eager to dispel.

Another prominent myth that if you hold your breath for more than 10 seconds without coughing or discomfort, you don't have fibrosis, a sign of infection in the lungs.

Is holding your breath for 10 seconds some kind of a barometer? GAVIN MACGREGOR-SKINNER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Fibrosis in your lungs is scarring in your lung tissue. And no, there's no -- there's no barometer like that. Again, if you have any respiratory distress, if you have any shortness of breath, if you have a fever, if you have any other respiratory symptoms, you need to pick up the phone and call a medical provider and tell them what those symptoms are.


TODD: Another myth, that young people and children can't get coronavirus.

HOTEZ: We know that children and adolescence, yes, they can indeed contract this coronavirus. But for reasons that we don't understand, they don't seem to be getting as sick as older individuals or those who are debilitated.

TODD: But experts say children and adolescents are also potential transmitters of coronavirus. There's another popular notion floating around that the warmer weather approaching will either make the virus recede or go away. Experts say there have been previous virus outbreaks that have peaked in the winter then declined, but they say with coronavirus, we haven't gone through a whole year of it yet. So we don't know if the summer weather will help.

SKINNER: Don't rely on temperature or humidity to inactivate or cure this virus. The way that you kill and inactivate this virus is by proper cleaning and disinfection.

TODD: There's another myth out there that coronavirus can be transmitted through the mail. Experts say judging by previous similar viruses, they don't stay alive for long on surfaces or objects.

HOTEZ: The likelihood of risk of getting the virus from the mail is pretty low. Remember, especially a lot of mail is flown by aircraft which is under pretty harsh conditions. But if you have any doubts, there's no harm in first wiping that package down with either Clorox wipes or alcohol wipes, and that will ensure that it's safe to open.

TODD: Another fringe theory is that the coronavirus is manmade. One version of that myth circulated outside China is that a Chinese lab was working on some kind of biological weapon that somehow got leaked. A Chinese official actually circulated a myth that the virus might have been brought by the U.S. military to Wuhan, China. There is of course, no evidence for any of that.

Experts are still trying to figure out the exact source of the virus, but the research so far indicates that it likely originated in bats, then transmitted to an intermediate host before infecting people. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Only get your news from reliable sources like CNN, of course. Thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. I'd love to hear from you. And I'll be back with more news in just a moment. You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.


CHURCH: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. You are watching --