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Italian Hospitals Strain Under Flood of Patients; Spain Now Among Hardest Hit By COVID-19; Misinformation Finds Fertile Ground In Social Media; Trump On China: "I Wish They'd Told Us Earlier" About Coronavirus; Virus Wreaks Havoc On World Economy; U.K. Mother's Day Warning; Many Countries Imposing Lockdown; Hong Kong Increases Measures To Contain New Outbreak; Nigeria Prepares For Possible Surge Of Infections. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 22, 2020 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Grim milestone: global coronavirus cases top 300,000. We look at where the surges are the greatest this hour.

Also the pandemic setting off waves of layoffs. What's being done to try to prevent that.

And Boris Johnson's Mother's Day message to folks in the U.K. In short, you just shouldn't visit your mother.

And that's never a good thing but that just shows you what's going on with this virus and the spread.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm live in Atlanta at CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: The coronavirus pandemic is spreading so quickly around the world that health experts are having a tough time keeping track of all the new cases. Here's what we know.

Right now, Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. reporting more than 307,000 COVID-19 infections worldwide. More than 13,000 people have died. As more testing is done in the United States, the number of confirmed cases is surging. There are now almost 26,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 320 deaths.

Just a few hours ago that was 300 deaths, to show you how quickly it's moving up. The epicenter of the outbreak in Europe is still Italy. More than 53,000 cases. That is double any other country outside of China. Nearly 800 people died there in a single day. The prime minister says it is the greatest crisis facing the country since World War II. And the contagion is spreading rapidly across Spain. It reported a

huge spike of 5,000 new infections in a single day. Madrid's hotels are now being used as hospitals and city buses as ambulances. The government warns the worst is yet to come.

Our correspondents are fanned out across four continents this hour. We'll have President Trump's response to a critical shortage in the U.S. And we're live in Hong Kong amid fears of a new outbreak. We're tracking the spread of the virus in Africa. And hear what Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei has to say about what is happening there.

We begin in Europe. Al Goodman is standing by in Madrid, Spain, and Delia Gallagher is in Rome.

Delia, the toll there continues to rise sharply. Every day that you and I do this and you give us a report, there's always hope that it's changing for the better. But it's just not.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're in the second week today of the lockdown in the north and we're just two days shy of the lockdown countrywide, Natalie. But the numbers are still climbing.

In particular, the death toll you were speaking about, Boris Johnson saying don't go visit your mother for Mother's Day. Imagine here that you can't be with your mother in her final hours because they're in isolation. These patients who have died.

And you cannot have a funeral afterwards for the patients who have died. In some cases like in Bergamo in the north, you can't even bury your loved ones in the same town. They are taking coffins out of that city because their cemeteries are full, to bury them in neighboring towns.

It's a very dramatic situation. Especially for the loved ones of people that are dying. The health ministry continues to say that age is an important factor in this high death toll. They are an average age of 80 years old with underlying conditions.

So they are saying that the virus contributed to their death because they already had severe underlying conditions. The prime minister late last night at 11:30 on Facebook came out, which gives you an idea of the kind of scramble to continually confront the issue here, stricter measures, he said.

Now he's closing down all nonessential factories and businesses -- Natalie.

ALLEN: So tragic and so disheartening. And we continue to think of the doctors and nurses on the front lines there. Thank you so much, Delia. Now to Al Goodman in Madrid.


ALLEN: We talk about the inventive steps that countries are having to take to try to handle the case loads they're getting.

What is the medical staff doing there?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Natalie. Well, you've mentioned the Madrid convention center which has been turned into a 5,500-bed hospital for coronavirus patients.

A couple of days ago, two hotels in the capital that were closed because of no clients were turned into hospital hotels to take some of the early and late stage coronavirus patients, staffed by young doctors. Now seven more hotels are being added onto that.

Really, it's a scramble; as the prime minister warned on Saturday night, the worst is yet to come. The next wave is going to test the limits of the medical system. So they've been beefing up as we've talked here this weekend, you and I, that they've mobilized 50,000 doctors and nurses.

A small number of them are retired but most of them are young doctors at the end of their medical school training or just out of medical school, a couple years in hospitals. They're being brought in.

And officials also announcing they are really competing ferociously with all the countries in the world to buy the masks and the testing kits and all of that material. They said it's an aggressive, very competitive market. All the countries are trying to get their hands on the same products and it's a very difficult road.

Spain, like some other countries, announcing they're going to be manufacturing more of these masks, more of the hand lotion and more of the testing kits -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Al Goodman there in Madrid, Spain, thank you.

We want to bring you the perspective of the World Health Organization. For that, we're joined on the line from Geneva by Tarik Jasarevic, the spokesman for the World Health Organization.

We appreciate you talking with us. I want to ask you first, this virus has ravaged Italy and is bearing down on other countries like Spain.

What have you learned from the Italy story about prevention and preparation?

TARIK JASAREVIC, SPOKESMAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Good morning, Natalie. I think we are all learning as we go. We've known this virus for less than three months. But one of the lessons we've seen in some other countries is that this virus can be controlled.

And that strong public health measures, such as a quick detection of people who are sick or isolation of those people and provision of health care to them as well as looking for people who have been in close contact with infected persons, can give a result.

So this work of trying to contain the outbreak by looking for the virus itself can give results.

Obviously, what we've seen in some countries is that the number of infected people is increasing. And we need additional measures to try to slow down the progression of the virus and in that way try to get sometimes with the health system.

Because what we're seeing around the world is that health systems are really under huge burden right now.

ALLEN: Yes, and why were European countries seemingly kind of caught off guard?

Why didn't they get ahead of it?

There seems to be an abundance of complacency and conflicts between science and politicians in countries that could have been better prepared.

JASAREVIC: Well, WHO has been saying from the day one of this outbreak, it's a new virus. We didn't know what way it could go. But everyone should have been trying to get ready as much as possible. I think this work has been done in many countries and I think it's work that has been done in January.

However, we see that the increase in the numbers is such that many countries with a strong health system are really having difficulties to cope. What is really needed now, instead of pointing fingers or blaming or trying to see all the politics, is to get everyone to work together.

This is something that needs all of the government approach in every country, where population should be following the advice of national health authorities, where countries should do everything they can to try to turn the tide. And we have seen that in some countries like South Korea, Singapore, China, the tide can be turned.

ALLEN: Right. And, of course, there's also been misinformation in this age of social media.

How is your organization, how has it been working to combat that?

JASAREVIC: We have seen unfortunately that this outbreak has been accompanied by massive abundance of information. Some of it true. Some of it not.


JASAREVIC: And we've been working with a number of digital platforms throughout the world trying to limit misinformation and try to push forward and promote the accurate information.

For example, if you go on Google and you put coronavirus, you'll be directed immediately to WHO or other national health authorities, depending on the country. Same goes with platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram.

We worked across the board trying to get the right information. And we just launched a WhatsApp platform WHO that will provide to people updates on where we are. ALLEN: Yes, that's very important. I want to ask you one more


Are you any closer to learning how long this virus is going to be with us?

Right now, you know, the United States, New Jersey is about to lock down today, Sunday. Other states are doing that. It seems people are getting the message. But everyone is, you know, understandably stressed about how long this could take.

JASAREVIC: Natalie, you can hear, you know, from different people, different modeling and different predictions. We at WHO are not going into predictions simply because we don't know.

But one thing we know is the course of this epidemic depends on how it is being addressed by all of us. So the better we do now in trying to contain and slow down the spread of the virus, the sooner we will be over.

ALLEN: Right. We all have to take action right now and just stay home. Thank you so much. We appreciate your time and expertise and everything that the World Health Organization is doing, Tarik Jasarevic. Thank you so much, sir.

JASAREVIC: Thank you.

ALLEN: In the United States, state and local governments are increasingly implementing new restrictions. New Jersey, as I just said, the latest state to tell its residents stay home. Hospitals are reporting a dire shortage of medical supplies.

Yet through it all, president Donald Trump is giving himself high marks on his handling of what's gone on. Our Jeremy Diamond has more about that from the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: While President Trump on Saturday was touting the increased production of those masks and respirators, that he said will begin shipping out millions of those additional supplies over the coming weeks.

But we're already seeing across the United States, doctors, nurses, hospitals already beginning to face shortages of that personal protective equipment that is so crucial in this fight against coronavirus.

That's why I asked the president today specifically about some of those concerns from doctors and perhaps what may have been done in the weeks prior.


DIAMOND: I know you're talking now about increasing production at so many of these facilities to get the masks out, but given that this is one of the wealthiest, most powerful countries in the world, should this even be happening? Shouldn't this have been resolved weeks ago?

TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you the way I look at it. So, many administrations preceded me. For the most part, they did very little in terms of what you're talking about.

This is unprecedented. You can speak to Tony. You can speak to anybody. This is unprecedented or just about unprecedented.

As time goes by, we're seeing it's really at a level that nobody would have believed, nobody would have thought possible.

The fact is that we are doing a tremendous amount. We have some but nothing for an event like this. And now we're making tens of millions of masks and other things and I think it's unprecedented, what we've done and what we're doing and many doctors and I have read many, many doctors, they can't believe the great job that we've done.


DIAMOND: The president touting what his administration is doing right now but the crucial question really is what could have been done perhaps in weeks and months prior.

Again, the United States began to learn about this coronavirus in early January. And so we are now nearly three months later and the administration is now facing a crisis of much larger proportions.

The president was also pressed specifically on his remarks about China. We saw the president today get a lot more critical of China for the fact that it was secretive in many respects as far as providing information about this coronavirus epidemic that it was dealing with.

That's a concern that I've heard from several advisers close to the president for weeks, even months in some cases. But for the president, this was really a new tone. And that's why I asked the president what has changed.


TRUMP: I have great respect for China. I like China. I think the people of China are incredible. I have a tremendous relationship with President Xi. I wish they could have told us earlier about what was going on inside. We didn't know about it until it started coming out publicly but I wish they could have told us earlier about it because we could have come up with a solution.



DIAMOND: You can hear the president saying he wished China had been transparent earlier. The president's tweets about that, praising China's transparency at the time, came in late January, about a month after China notified the World Health Organization about this coronavirus -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: Also in Washington, vice president Mike Pence and his wife were tested for the virus after one of his aides became infected. The tests on the Pences both came back negative.

The death toll in Iran has topped 1,500 people. A mall in Tehran is now being turned into a makeshift hospital. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei addressed the nation last hour, urging followers to follow health officials' recommendations and have patience. Sam Kiley is following this story for us live in Abu Dhabi.

Sam, what more did Khamenei have to say?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, somewhat disappointingly, I think, for many people around the world, the supreme leader in Iran began his speech with a long peroration on the ethics of Islam but then descended into conspiracy theories.

Suggesting but adding a degree of doubt, saying if it is true that it is the case the American military created this virus, then it would be dangerous if American medics were to come to Iran and study the effects on Iranians, suggesting even that there have been studies made by the United States on the Iranian genome and that perhaps this was a virus tailored to attack Iran.

Of course, flying in the face of the evidence coming out of Italy, where the numbers of dead have risen well in excess of those dying in Iran, 123 in the last 24 hours. That's a little bit down on some of the previous figures. But broadly speaking, the trend is up.

They're now converting Tehran's largest shopping mall into a 3,000-bed hospital to try to cope with the spread of this virus, which, until very recently, Iran was the second worst affected in the world. Now it is, of course, the third after being very significantly overtaken by Italy.

Around the Middle East, the issues of this virus being addressed with some vigor, I have to say. Jordan has declared an open-ended curfew. People are being arrested on the street if they're found out without very good reason.

Elsewhere in the region, there were a lot of suspension of flights to Iran because Iran was originally identified as, for this region, one of the principal sources of infection, although, Natalie, as we know, not the original source of infection.

ALLEN: All right. We appreciate it. Sam Kiley checking in from Abu Dhabi for us. Thank you, Sam.

California's governor has a stern message for those refusing to stay home. How he is sticking to his orders despite a big hit to the economy. We'll share that with you when we come back.

Also, some good news perhaps out of the country where the pandemic started at a time when the world is desperate for hope. We'll go live to Asia just a little later this hour. (MUSIC PLAYING)






GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen. Those young people still out there on the beaches, thinking this is a party. Time to grow up. Time to wake up. Time to recognize it's not just about the old folks. It's about your impact on their lives. Don't be selfish.


ALLEN: Right. That's important right now. The Governor there of California, Gavin Newsom, giving his state and the rest of the U.S. a bit of scolding amid this crisis.

California, one of a handful of states under stay-at-home orders. He was the first to institute that. And that is proving to be a major blow to the economic powerhouse that is California.

Unemployment claims there have soared over the past few days. And that's a trend being felt around the country. Goldman Sachs predicts that more than 2 million Americans filed unemployment claims this week. A massive stimulus package said to top $2 trillion is being hashed out by U.S. lawmakers.

Similar moves are being taken around the world as economies come to a virtual standstill. Let's look at the impact all of this is having on the global economy. We're joined by our emerging markets editor John Defterios, with us from Abu Dhabi live.

We've had the news of cases spiking in Italy. That's been our top story for days now.

What is this forcing the government to do there?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, we have another trend that's emerging, Natalie, in what you were suggesting in your lead-in there. That's radical change, day by day, week by week.

And the latest from Italy is the prime minister Giuseppe Conte is saying all manufacturing, unless it's mission critical, life critical, needs to get shuttered entirely.

This means a country with an unemployment rate around 10 percent, some of the highest in Europe, will get much deeper.

And the prime minister was suggesting we appreciate the European Union bailout package. But it's targeted at the banks. It will not help the average Italian, for example, because of this shutdown that we see throughout the country.

Commerce has basically grinded to a halt and this is a country with 135 percent of debt to GDP. It doesn't have any funding to put into the system at this stage. But we see that worldwide.

Australia had a bailout package a week ago and they came back to the table to add nearly another $40 billion, $100 billion for a country of just 25 million people. And the benchmark globally now is to set aside 10 percent of GDP.

That's what the United States is doing. That's what Europe is doing. And we see economies that are very advanced like Australia doing the same.

I thought it was extremely telling what the finance minister of Australia was saying, with the second bailout package in less than a week, that we're expecting deeper, wider, longer.


DEFTERIOS: Does that mean we go to the second quarter which starts in April?

Very deep, all the way through the third quarter, which finishes up in September. We don't know. This is the great unknown and why we see governments having to go back to the drawing board on a weekly basis.

ALLEN: John, is there a danger, the structure of these bailouts are being handled all wrong?

DEFTERIOS: Yes, it's a vital question, Natalie. Almost the past is prologue. Everybody goes back 10 years. During the global financial crisis, we set aside 10 percent of GDP and had 100 percent concentration to the financial sector itself.

So it was easy, even though I covered it and remembered how complicated it was to provide the oil to lubricate the global economy at this time.

But this is much more pervasive in a sense you're going from airlines to all the way to the average road transportation. The wheels of commerce have ground to a halt.

What is the right approach?

We see the debate taking place in Congress today. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is going to Capitol Hill to meet with the four leading congressional players there. Debating whether it should be tax breaks or paychecks going to Americans. I think it's going to be a combination of both.

The U.K. set aside $400 billion for unemployment benefits.

Are they planning for six months or more? And where do you draw the line?

Now in the U.K. they're talking about taking stakes in airlines to keep them afloat. So these are huge questions coming forward.

What is the limit for government and how much responsibility do they take on to their own shoulders going forward as a result of this very, very deep crisis, not knowing what the end point is?

ALLEN: Absolutely. All right, John Defterios, always appreciate you sorting things out there.

DEFTERIOS: Thanks, Natalie.

ALLEN: It is Mother's Day in the United Kingdom but the prime minister has a message for people, don't visit your mom. We'll talk about that in a moment.

Plus, how France is deploying high-tech gadgets to combat the coronavirus.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen with our headlines.


ALLEN: A stark warning for Mother's Day from British prime minister Boris Johnson. He says people should not visit their loved ones this holiday, which is today. The number of confirmed cases across the U.K. spiked Saturday by more than 1,000. More than 5,000 people now have it, 233 have died.

The prime minister says the spread of the virus is accelerating across the country. He warns the National Health Service could be overwhelmed without widespread social distancing to mitigate the risk. Hadas Gold joins us now from London.

It sounds like this same message we're hearing from leaders in countries all across Europe. Boris Johnson just now making specific moves to get people in England, in the U.K. to stay home.

How is that going?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, that's right. Today is technically Mother's Day here in the United Kingdom. Instead of having cafes and brunch places filled up with people celebrating with their mothers, the prime minister is telling them the best gift they could give their mother right now is to stay away from them.

He's warning, if people don't start listening to the social distancing rules we're starting to put into place in the last few days -- on Friday, restaurants, cafes, gyms, schools have all closed down.

If people don't start adhering to this, then the national health care service here in the United Kingdom will be overwhelmed. He is pointing to Italy, saying they have a superb health system and they have been overwhelmed.

And the U.K. is only a week or two behind Italy in terms of the number of cases. He is issuing this stark warning, telling people to start taking this seriously. He's also issued a call for retired health care workers to come out of retirement.

In the first 48 hours, they've already gotten more than 4,000 nurses; 500 doctors have signed up to come out of retirement and come back into the health care service. They've also started to deal with private hospitals in the United Kingdom to give them some beds and doctors.

This is all part of the collective effort in the United Kingdom to get everyone on board to fight this together. There's also been, though, stark warnings and, really, officials are trying to shame people to stop them into panic buying.

They said in a press conference in the last couple of days that people in the United Kingdom have stored up about 1 billion pounds worth of food in their homes they normally would not have.

They are warning that though there is enough supply in the supply chain, people need to just buy what they need to make sure the essential workers like the health care workers can get the food they need after the very long shifts they're pulling at the hospitals now.

ALLEN: You were saying earlier that they are making special hours, special moves to get the people that need it the most into the stores.

What can you tell us about that?

GOLD: So already some of the grocery stores have -- you can call them golden hours. Usually the first hour of the day at the grocery store. This is after, you can think about it, the grocery stores have been scrubbed down. They've been disinfected.

There haven't been other people in there, where older people or vulnerable people with underlying medical conditions or pregnant women can go get their shopping done.


GOLD: Also when there would theoretically be more stock. Other grocery stores are setting aside special hours for those who work in the health industry. If you have a National Health Services badge, you'll get let into the store for a special hour just for you. We've seen heartbreaking testimony from nurses who, after a long shift

have gone to a store and have seen empty shelves because of people panic buying. They are saying there's enough supply in the supply chain. People just need to be calm and buy only what they need to make sure people can get the supplies they need at home.

ALLEN: Hadas Gold in London, thank you so much.

Germany's capital is tightening its restrictions. Berlin is limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people and restaurants are restricted to pick up or delivery only.

This comes one day after the southern state of Bavaria restricted the movement of residents, telling them to stay home. The number of cases in Germany rose by nearly 20 percent on Saturday.

The French health minister says it's probable that between 30,000 and 90,000 people have been infected with the virus. The virus has killed 562 people there as of Saturday. At least 14,000 people in the country have tested positive.

France has begun using helicopters and drones like these to monitor citizens and to enforce stay-at-home orders. One helicopter was spotted Saturday hovering above parks in Paris. So the French are serious about this.

Our next guest is living her life under lockdown right now. Janine di Giovanni is a foreign policy analyst and a professor at Yale. Also a front line war reporter and has written about her experiences in her book, "The Morning They Came For Us -- Dispatches from Syria." Janine joins us from Grenoble in the southeast of France.

Thanks for being with us. You've been on the front lines of war. You've been covering all kinds of manmade disasters. You are now on lockdown.

Where are you?

How are you doing this?

And what's it been like for you so far?

JANINE DI GIOVANNI, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Good morning. I came to Paris to drop my son off for spring break. It seems unreal now. When I dropped him off, it was a little more than a week ago. I was planning on seeing friends, going shopping, going to the theater.

And then very quickly, even though Italy next door was raging with the virus, it finally hit the French people this was very, very serious.

Last Sunday was municipal voting day and people actually went out to vote. Markets were full. The parks were full. It was a beautiful day. People went out for picnics on the River Seine and then the ministry of health realized they had to crack down. People had to stay at home and take this deadly virus very seriously. So literally within days, President Macron went on the air in a very

somber and grave but yet very, very presidential message to all of us, saying this was an invisible enemy. This is a war. He said that more than four times. This is a war.

Now as someone who has lived through wars, I began to prepare. Every time we went outside, the only time we could go outside, we needed to carry a paper, which said we were either going to the doctor, to a pharmacy, to somehow look for food or to try to find a relative who was sick and needed help.

But you couldn't go out in groups. And when I would go out on the streets of Paris, it was eerie. There was no one out. People were dressed in rubber gloves, masks, trying to find supplies. Finally last week, I decided to join my son, who is in a remote village. We're in a very remote village in the south of France, where there's hardly any people.

The train ride was something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. I've taken that train so many times. It's always packed with people going on vacation, children, families. It was empty. There were about two people in my carriage.

There were announcements that we had to stick -- we had to stay away from each other, keep our distance, respect our distance. Everyone was wearing rubber gloves and masks.

But one thing that I noticed -- and this also comes from my many, many years in war zones, 30 years, I've reported 18 wars -- people are helping each other. They are really coming together in a way that I've never seen before in France, in communities. For instance, on the train a man helped me with my bag.


DI GIOVANNI: He put on latex gloves and helped me carry it upstairs. I've never had that happen before.

I offered a young girl who was traveling by herself to meet her family in Lyon an antiseptic wipe to wipe down the table. She nearly burst into tears.

On the streets, if you see elderly people, we've all been trying to help them. We've all been trying to go into buildings where we know we have elderly neighbors and trying to shop for them or help them. We've all set up WhatsApp groups so we're not isolated.

One of our biggest enemies right now is that we have to try to maintain some kind of normal life. And I know that, even during the siege of Sarajevo, which went on for more than 3.5 years, people stayed sane by trying to maintain a routine. So that's what we're trying to do right now.

We're trying to have our hour of exercise, our hour of reading, our hour of home schooling our kids or more, our hour of checking in with friends by WhatsApp or FaceTime, whatever way we can. For me personally, although I'm monitoring the news, I'm trying to

stay away from the figures and the data because it's changing so rapidly.

ALLEN: Right. You don't want to be listening to me then on the news because, unfortunately, that's what I've been doing a lot of, yes. I totally get that.

I think what you're saying is important. I think that people now in other countries, especially the United States, are getting a glimpse of the type of thing that you're going through and really realizing that they have to reach out to one another the best they can as we socially isolate.

DI GIOVANNI: This is the time, more than ever, that we need each other. And I think we can do it. And the last thing I'll say, I am monitoring data, of course but trying to look at more positive advancements at what really encourages me is that people are working together in a way they never have before.

Chinese and Japanese scientists, for example; Erasmus University in Holland is working on something. In Britain, their biggest science center is working on vaccines. Things are happening. The Italians who have been at the forefront longer than the French are sharing a huge amount of information.

Now is not the time for political enemies. I see it as a time we can come together as a global community. And so that's really what I am looking at, as someone that really -- my work has always been to examine how war and humanitarian catastrophes affect society and how we live under it and how we stay alive but how we keep our society intact without crashing under it.

And this is a time as I said earlier. It's an invisible enemy so it's much harder to navigate.

ALLEN: Yes, we appreciate your insights and, thank you, Janine, for sharing your story and we want to let people know, if they want to follow your account of life under lockdown in Grenoble and your uplifting tweets, they can follow you @janinedigi.

As China sees no new coronavirus cases for a fourth day, some more positive news we're happy to say, there are rising concerns over a resurgence in Hong Kong. We'll go live to Hong Kong with that story for you. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.





ALLEN: We want to bring you the latest from China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated. Government officials there saying there are no new locally transmitted cases in Hubei for the fourth day in a row. China also reporting it is diverting all Beijing-bound international flights amid growing concerns over imported cases of the infection now.

Meantime, Hong Kong is increasing the measures it is taking to contain a new outbreak. CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Ivan Watson joins me from Hong Kong.

What is the latest about that concern, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hong Kong had done relatively well, Natalie. Here this semiautonomous city is right next to Mainland China and it took the outbreak seriously in the beginning. There were real concerns the city would get clobbered because it's one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Yet the city had managed to keep the number of confirmed cases down to around 200. That's until up until a week ago, when, suddenly, scores of new cases were discovered, including on Friday. The most in a single day, 48 new cases.

Now at the end of January, Hong Kong closed schools. It sent all of its public servants home. It closed all the public recreational facilities, public facilities and, on March 2nd, as this had worked, it reopened these things.

And now you see actually more people on the streets in the last couple of weeks than ever since this crisis began. But the city authorities are clearly very concerned about this latest spike because more than the majority of the new cases in recent days have been quote-unquote, "imported" cases.

And what that is suggesting is that these are people that are flying in from other Asian countries, from Europe, from North America, who have picked up coronavirus there and are bringing it into a city that had succeeded in the short term in holding the outbreak at bay.

That's one of the concerns now. And that's why the city officials have announced that, come Monday, public servants are not to show up for work. Public facilities are going to be closed once again and, why, as of midnight on Thursday night, they announced, any new person flying into this city from anywhere outside of Mainland China and Macau, they have to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine, cannot even set foot outside of their homes -- Natalie.

ALLEN: That certainly makes sense, since they stayed ahead of this and wouldn't want any kind of resurgence now. Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, developing story that you know you'll continue to watch for us. Thanks, Ivan.

Next here, getting ready to confront an epidemic. How Africa's most populous country is gearing up for the virus.





ALLEN: Three countries in Africa are reporting their first infections of the coronavirus; Uganda, Eritrea and Angola confirmed the cases over the weekend.

In Nigeria, an Italian man who became the country's first case of coronavirus has been released now from isolation. Nigeria is now restricting travel from 13 countries over fears of the infection spreading. But this, of course, not the first time the country has dealt with an outbreak. Stephanie Busari is in Lagos for us.


STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN PRODUCER: Nigeria has been here before. In 2014, during the West Africa Ebola epidemic, the world feared the worst when a virus arrived in Lagos. But the country's health care system was quick to act in tracing and contain its spread.

AKIN ABAYOMI, LAGOS STATE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: This is ward two. It's empty at the moment.

BUSARI: Then as he is now, Lagos' state commissioner of health Akin Abayomi was at the front line of Nigeria's public health response.

ABAYOMI: We were very accustomed to dealing with pathogens of high consequence. It's a skill. And it's something that we've started to refine ever since the Ebola outbreak. We knew what happened during Ebola. We didn't want to see another situation like that in Lagos.

So we've been building capacity since 2014.

BUSARI: Abayomi shows us a hospital where there are isolation wards, field hospitals and makeshift tents.


ABAYOMI: We're preparing for a surge. If it doesn't happen, it's fine. But if it happens, we'll be -- we'll be ready.

BUSARI: There was construction everywhere here, as the city prepares for potentially large numbers of patients with COVID-19. He says he lost colleagues during the Ebola epidemic and is working to make sure that doesn't happen again.

ABAYOMI: We've been training and we've been expecting this situation. It wasn't a matter of if. It was a matter of when, you know. We've had minor threats before this but this is a big one.

You know and so we were prepared for it. We had the facility, where we can actually receive samples and make diagnosis without threatening the welfare and lives of our staff, you know. We didn't have that before.

BUSARI: Nigeria has managed to contain one outbreak before. But with a weak overall health care system and poorer, densely populated neighborhoods across the country, it very quickly could become overwhelmed if cases of coronavirus rise sharply.

And these are among the worst fears of everyone here. Surveillance and prevention are key, the health commissioner says. Nigeria has announced restrictions on travel from 13 countries, including the U.K. and U.S., as lawmakers debate the viability of shutting down one of the world's largest megacities. The situation here is far from over -- Stephanie Busari, CNN, Lagos.


ALLEN: We'll continue to take you around the world in our next hour for the very latest on the pandemic. I'm Natalie Allen. Stay with CNN. Be back in just a moment.