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Many Countries Imposing Lockdown; Italian Hospitals Strain Under Flood Of Patients; Hospitals Report Critical Shortages Of Supplies; U.K. Mother's Day Warning; France Reports Highest One-Day Death Toll; U.S. Unemployment Claims Soar Amid Layoffs; Virus Wreaks Havoc On World Economy; India Begins World's Largest Public Curfew; Australia Unveils More Support For Economy; Human Impact On Environment May Drive Spread Of Disease. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 22, 2020 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The world has reached a grim milestone. Coronavirus cases now topping 300,000. We look this hour at the measures some countries are taking to try to flatten the curve.

The pandemic setting off waves of layoffs as well. We look at what's being done to try to stop that as people's lives are upended.

Plus, a crackdown in Australia. The country's prime minister not pleased with scenes like this. Today he's taking action to stop it.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. 5:00 am here in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen. And this is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: We want to bring you the latest on the coronavirus, the pandemic is spreading so quickly around the world that health experts are having a tough time keeping track of all the new cases.

We'll give it a try here because right now Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. reporting more than 307,000 infections worldwide. More than 13,000 people have died. As more testing is done in the U.S., the number of confirmed cases is surging. There are now almost 26,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 320 deaths.

The epicenter of the outbreak in Europe is Italy, more than 53,000 cases there. That's double any other country outside of China. And nearly 800 people died there in a single day. The prime minister says it's 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. As we've been saying for many days now, Northern Italy has been one of

the hardest hit places in Europe. Hospitals there struggling to take care of so many patients. For the latest, here's CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The front line of Europe's battle against coronavirus. With its soldiers in a race against time that is so far being lost. Northern Italian hospitals like this one in Cremona already creaking under the strain.

Dr. Angelo Pan shows us around its operating rooms now transformed into makeshift intensive care units, the ICUs overwhelmed by the sheer number of COVID-19 patients.

DR. ANGELO PAN, CREMONA HOSPITAL: There is not enough room in the ICU. If Milan will be badly spiked by the outbreak, it's going to be corona for everybody.

BELL (voice-over): Beyond the shortage of beds and ventilators, the doctors getting sick themselves. Dr. Pan has had one day off in the last six weeks, he said total confinement is the world's only hope.

PAN: We can win the battle. If the people will keep on having contacts with each other outside in the restaurants, in the bars, in the supermarkets and so the infection will spread, will keep on spreading, it's going to be very tough.

BELL (voice-over): And his message to the outside world?

PAN: If you're not involved in the war, in the hospital, if you're not a (INAUDIBLE) worker, stay home and think about life. This is a good opportunity.

BELL (voice-over): Melissa Bell, CNN.


ALLEN: An important plea from that doctor there on the front lines. CNN's Delia Gallagher has been following this story about Italy from Rome.

And it just seems like every day, when people are looking for good news, it just doesn't come, Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Natalie. This has been a difficult weekend here in Italy with these high death tolls. You know, out of the 4,800 total dead, 3,000 of them are in the Lombardy region. It's one of the richest regions in Italy and has the best hospital structures.

So obviously, there is concern that, were these kinds of numbers to spread to other regions in Italy, if Lombardy can't handle it, it would be very difficult for other regions.

[05:05:00] GALLAGHER: One official did say that experts had warned them that, this weekend, which is two weeks on from their lockdown in the north, would show some of the worst numbers. And that their hope is that, by Monday, they will see a reduction in infections and in deaths.

You can imagine that it has created solidarity throughout the country. There was a call for 300 doctors to go to the north from other parts of the country. They got 7,000 responses on that, Natalie.

So certainly Italians stepping up, trying to at least go and help those doctors and nurses, who are exhausted in the northern regions, to help out in this effort, Natalie.

ALLEN: That is just amazing, that people will risk their lives to help this situation. It just goes to speak to the bravery and dedication of these health care workers. It's really tremendous. That's the bright spot. We'll leave it on. Delia Gallagher in Rome, thank you.

COVID-19 cases have spiked dramatically in Spain with nearly 5,000 new cases reported in just one day. That brings the total number to nearly 25,000, making Spain the third hardest hit country in the world behind China and Italy. Al Goodman is live in Madrid right now.

Talk with us more about the inventive ways that Spain is looking to, to try to stem this pandemic as it starts to grow there.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. Well, the medical teams are really scrambling. The government is scrambling to get enough hospital beds in place and enough doctors in place.

And the reason is because the figures you just mentioned, the 25,000, nearly 25,000 cases in Spain, is triple of what it was just at the start of last weekend. The number of deaths, 1,300, is 10 times what it was at the start of last weekend.

That's why the prime minister on Saturday night warned the nation the worst is yet to come. It will test the limits of the nation. All of this, there's a lag time between the stay-at-home order, which also came into effect last weekend, a little more than a week ago, and it's largely been respected.

The streets, as you can see, I'm here in the center of Madrid, are empty. And the few people who try to get around that, there are fines.

Police just stopped us just here before this live shot to say, what are you doing here?

So most people are staying home. But there's a lag time. And that's what this calm before the storm has forced all of these inventive ways for the authorities. So they are using -- there are currently two hotels in Madrid, the hardest hit part of the country, for the cases in the deaths -- that have been converted into hospitals.

And now seven more are going to be converted in the next couple of days. The big convention center out near the airport is now a makeshift hospital, 5,500 beds were assembled there quickly by the military. And the buses, as you say, are transporting the people who can still walk to some of these facilities.

Meantime, the Spanish authorities are competing with other countries around the world. All the countries are scrambling to get masks, the testing kits and the hand sanitizer, to try to have enough for their medical teams and for the population.

The Spanish authorities are going to be producing, they say, the companies in Spain, there's a lot of manufacturing muscle in this country, are able to produce that. The military is helping to produce the hand sanitizer.

So they're working all of these things all at once. And really it's a race against the clock to have enough intensive care beds as this next wave, which is expected here in this coming week, comes on and more and more patients are heading for the hospitals -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Those hospitals spread out everywhere now. At least we see some inventive ways to bring more beds to the country. Al Goodman for us there in Madrid, thanks so much for your reporting.

The U.S. government has approved a COVID-19 test that could speed up the verifications of new infections. That kit promises to deliver test results in just 45 minutes instead of days. But as cases soar in the U.S., past 25,000 now, there are new guidelines on testing. Melisa Raney has that for us.


MELISA RANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The number of coronavirus cases climbing as tens of thousands of people have been tested. And now some doctors are signaling a shift in testing strategy.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Not every single person in the United States needs to get tested.

RANEY (voice-over): Health officials in Los Angeles and New York City are recommending doctors avoid testing patients except in cases where the result would significantly change treatment.

FAUCI: When you go in and get tested you are consuming personal protective equipment, masks and gowns.


RANEY (voice-over): This comes as health care workers are sounding the alarm, saying medical supplies like masks and gloves are starting to run out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We absolutely feel like we are in this alone as doctors, nurses, paramedics and even hospitals.

RANEY (voice-over): The White House coronavirus task force says those much-needed supplies are on the way. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: HHS just placed an

order for hundreds of millions of N-95 masks that will be being made available to health care providers across the country.

RANEY (voice-over): Meanwhile, President Trump urging Americans to heed warnings from federal health officials to slow the spread of the virus.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every American has a role to play in defending our nation from this invisible, horrible enemy.

RANEY (voice-over): On Saturday, more than one-fifth of Americans were under orders to stay home. That's about 75 million people in Connecticut, Illinois, New York and California, where authorities say only essential workers are allowed away from home.

TRUMP: Stay at home and save lives. There's a time of shared national sacrifice.

RANEY (voice-over): I'm Melisa Raney reporting.


ALLEN: The death toll in Iran has topped 1,500 people with more than 20,000 cases reported. 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.

He also accused the United States of creating the virus and said the country would refuse all medical aid from the U.S., fearing any medicine from the U.S. could be used to harm Iranians. That's the message from the supreme leader.

Here to discuss more is Peter Drobac, a global health expert at Oxford Business School.

Thank you for coming on, Peter.

I want to ask you first up, what have we learned from Italy and Iran for that matter, about the spread of this virus and how difficult and the challenge it is of containing it?

DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: I think the big lesson for Italy and Iran is that complacency is lethal and speed is really of the essence. Once you start to get behind this virus, we've seen how quickly it gets out of control because of how quickly it spreads.

And all the successful examples we've seen around the world have really come down to early and aggressive action in places, you know, we're hearing from Italy every day, from doctors and political leaders, don't be like us. Act now. Act quickly. And I think that's such an important message. ALLEN: But we know that countries haven't got ahead of this. And the

United States is perhaps next. You said one week ago that the U.S. is courting catastrophe because of serious problems with testing. Coronavirus has been silently spreading in the U.S. for nearly two months.

What could that spell for the United States?

DROBAC: So according to some of the best epidemiologists out there, the worst case scenario in the U.S. could involve about 2.2 million deaths in the country with the majority of the population being infected. So it's quite a sobering potential scenario that the country is headed for. But it's not too late to act.

ALLEN: Well, and states are acting. California started it, ordering 44 million people to stay home. New York followed, Connecticut, Illinois, I believe New Jersey is doing the same today, on Sunday.

How critical is this action right now by states?

DROBAC: All of these measures are critically important and need to be ramped up as much as possible and not just in the hot spots but probably elsewhere as well. One thing we know about this virus is that, on average, every infected person will infect 2.5 to 3 other people.

And all of these so-called social distancing measures that we're now experiencing are designed to bring that number down to below 1. And so each piece of the puzzle here -- that's closures of mass gatherings, school closures, keeping folks home from work and minimize any social contact, any individual action we can make to do that helps us win this fight.

ALLEN: What countries have been an example, Peter, of getting ahead of it and being proactive?

DROBAC: There are several countries in Asia; notably Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Macau as well, that have been able to contain this virus, at least for now.

South Korea is an interesting example because they also were caught a bit flat-footed and had an initial surge in cases but were able to bring it under control. The lesson from those countries in slightly different ways is involving widespread testing and efforts to isolate and trace contacts when possible.

We may be getting behind that in the U.S., aggressive but targeted social distancing measures.


DROBAC: Most of these countries were able to reach this containment without implementing a full widespread lockdown like China and Italy have done. Singapore, for example, never had to close its schools.

Those things are really important. We're a bit behind the curve and need to do those things and need to prepare our health system for the coming surge.

ALLEN: Right. You know, the United States doesn't even have enough masks and protective gear for the people on the front lines. Let's talk about the conflict between politics and science.

There are people in the U.S. that, they have thought this was a hoax. Misinformation has been the worst thing surrounding this pandemic. And many have even pointed the finger at the White House for contributing to the tragedy.

How do we combat misinformation?

DROBAC: Well, it's very challenging because it can come from all sides and it's difficult to control in places like social media. We know transparency and clear communication is so important and accurate information because we all need to work together and everyone needs to make sacrifices.

And so every person that doesn't do his or her part because they may think this is not serious, it won't affect them, that it's a hoax, really puts the rest of us at risk.

From the standpoint of the U.S. government, we've seen hopeful signs over the last couple of weeks. What's really important is to put the experts in charge, let the experts drive the messaging and to give them the resources that they need to succeed.

ALLEN: Right. Dr. Tony Fauci has been like a household name through this, has he not?

We've really been looking toward him. We appreciate your expertise. You're a global health expert and you've worked in many different countries, helping them with their health systems and hope to talk to you again. Peter Drobac for us, thank you.

DROBAC: Thank you.

ALLEN: A warning for British families from the prime minister Boris Johnson. He says show your love by staying away this Mother's Day holiday. That is today in the U.K.

Also, as the number of cases soar and as the world tightens restrictions, where did the disease come from?

We'll explore what some scientists are thinking about that.





ALLEN: COVID-19 is making this a very different Mother's Day for the United Kingdom. Prime minister Boris Johnson asking the British people to show their love by staying away from family and friends on this day.

He warns that the spread is accelerating and says now is the time to engage in social distancing. Otherwise, the National Health Service, he says, could be overwhelmed.

Confirmed cases of the virus jumped by more than 1,000 Saturday, bringing total cases in the U.K. to just over 5,000; 233 people have died.

And France is now reporting the biggest one-day hike in deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak began, with well over 14,000 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in that country.

The death toll soared on Saturday by 112. So far, more than 560 people in France have died from this disease. Let's bring in our reporters Hadas Gold in London and Melissa Bell in Paris.

Good morning to both of you.

Hadas, we'll start with you. On this Mother's Day it's not the day, says the prime minister, to visit your mother.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an unusual Mother's Day here for the United Kingdom. Prime minister Boris Johnson warning in both an address and a statement to the nation yesterday and in an opinion piece this morning in "The Sun" newspaper, saying, this Mother's Day, the best present we can give to those who gave us life is sparing them the risk of coronavirus.

He's urging people not to go visit their parents or mothers and instead to call them, video chat with them because he's warning, by visiting them, you could be spreading the coronavirus even further.

And he is issuing a stark warning to the country, saying, look at Italy. Look at how overrun Italy's hospitals are. They have a superb health care system that's similar to the national health care system in the United Kingdom and the U.K. is only two to three weeks behind Italy in terms of the number of cases.

He's warning if people do not adhere to the social distancing, despite the fact they've already closed down pubs, restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and schools. If people don't pay close attention to the social distance distancing rule of not gathering in groups, of staying in your homes, then the health care system in the United Kingdom will be overrun.

It's a very stark warning for people. But in some good news in the last few days, there's been a call for retired health care workers to come out of retirement, to come back into the national health care system. Officials say, within the first 48 hours, 4,000 nurses and 500 doctors have signed up to come back into the force -- Natalie.

ALLEN: That is tremendous. Such dedication in these dire times and dangerous times for the front line health care workers. Hadas Gold in London, thank you.

Now to Melissa Bell in Paris.

You're there. Good morning to you on the beautiful background. I'm wondering if you're seeing many people outside on a Sunday morning there, Melissa.

BELL: No, Natalie, the streets are really deserted here in front of the senate here in the center of Paris. It's been tough for authorities to convince people that they had to stay inside.

We saw this in Italy when the first lockdown measures were brought in nationwide. We're seeing it in France now. It just takes a few days for people to understand this is going to affect them and profoundly change their lives for a while.

In fact, what we've seen is French authorities having to up the fines. So if you get caught once, twice, three times, by the fourth time, if you're out without the authorization that you fill out to explain why you have to leave your home, food shopping, helping an elderly relative, for instance, you can actually go to prison.

They've had to tighten things down because every day they were having to give out thousands of fines to people not taking this seriously enough. The figures continuing to rise.


BELL: We now have nearly 15,000 cases here in France. But we had an interesting press conference delivered by the health ministry yesterday, who said, what they think, what they suspect, is that the number of cases could be much higher than that. Anywhere between 30,000 and 90,000 in France, according to the French health minister.

And that is for several reasons. First of all, the asymptomatic nature for some of COVID-19. Some will get through it with symptoms of a mild flu and it's very difficult in this country to get yourself tested. Even having the symptoms of COVID-19 is not enough to get yourself tested necessarily.

You have also to be living with an elderly relative or have trouble breathing. Because of that difficulty, it's hard to have an exact idea of the number of cases. But they could be far higher than the official statistics.

ALLEN: Absolutely. The time has passed for people to comply, has it not. All right. Melissa Bell in Paris, thanks so much.

Germany's capital is tightening its restrictions. Berlin 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 its residents, telling them to stay home. The number of cases in Germany rose by nearly 20 percent Saturday.

Crashing markets and shuttered businesses are taking their toll on the world economy. We'll dive into the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic with an economist. I'll talk with him coming next. (MUSIC PLAYING)




ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. Here are our top stories.


ALLEN: The realities of the coronavirus are causing more and more countries to shut down large parts of their economies. Unemployment numbers are beginning to spike in the U.S.

But just how bad could it get?

Here's our Cristina Alesci.


CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're already seeing signs that the coronavirus is having a negative impact on the U.S. economy. We don't have precise government figures yet.

But what we do have is anecdotal evidence of Americans losing their jobs and projections of just what kind of impact that's going to have. Goldman Sachs is predicting 2.25 million Americans are filing for unemployment insurance this week alone. That is an eightfold increase versus the week before.

Now we know what industries are being hit. It's largely the hospitality and leisure industries with airlines, hotels, restaurants. Airlines and air travel in this country have essentially ground to a halt. United one of the biggest carriers, yesterday saying they'll have to make cutbacks if Congress doesn't intervene and provide that rescue funding.

Marriott, one of the biggest hotel chains here in the U.S., announcing it's going to furlough 10,000 workers. And one of the biggest restaurant companies here in the U.S., actually here in New York, Union Square Hospitality, saying that it's going to lay off 2,000 people.

Now the good news is that Congress is working through the weekend to get a trillion-plus rescue package through Congress. They believe that this will help blunt the economic impact on the average American by getting checks in the hands of average people and loans out to businesses.

But no one really knows how long this crisis is going to last and that's going to determine just how severe the economic impact will be.


ALLEN: Let's talk more about that with Stanley Pignal, a correspondent for "The Economist." He joins me now from near Marseilles.

Thanks so much and good morning to you.


ALLEN: We just heard the numbers, what the government of the United States is looking to do, a trillion-plus rescue. We've got unemployment. We have all industries, including airlines, asking for bailouts.

So I want to ask you, though, central banks worldwide are taking extraordinary actions to try to forestall global recession.

Do you think monetary policy is up to the task?

PIGNAL: Monetary policy is part of the arsenal. Everything is going to have to be used to fight the economic impact of COVID-19.

Part of the reasons why we've seen central banks act first is because they're used to this kind of thing. They are usually the first to react in these kinds of circumstances. They can help but there's only so much they can do.

Lowering interest rates is not really going to encourage consumers to spend a lot of money at the moment if they are worried about their jobs. Maybe they can't even get their hands on goods.

So it's a good help. But actually what you're really going to need to see is fiscal spending. Tax and spend and that's what governments are working on now.

Should they ignore the size of their deficits and spend all it takes to keep economies going until this pandemic is under control?

PIGNAL: Yes. I've never seen such a consensus amongst economists on this question. The question is not whether you spend; the question is how you spend. You spend to keep people in jobs, if that's possible. You spend to keep those without jobs solvent.


PIGNAL: You spend to help companies. Now there's going to be a disagreement on how you spend.

Do you bail out airlines?

Do you provide everyone with a universal basic income?

Those are disagreements that can be had. But everybody agrees that the important thing is to get money out quickly.

ALLEN: Yes, I want to ask you about that. The policies that are being proposed in any major economy. What do you think would be the most effective or least effective?

PIGNAL: So the most effective, I think we've seen so far, is temporary unemployment, partial unemployment. So that's when companies can lay off workers temporarily and their paycheck is essentially paid by the government in the same way that if they were fully unemployed.

This is a measure that existed in Europe before but that's being enormously expanded. And it's good for three reasons. Firstly, it helps people. Secondly, it preserves the current structure of the economy, so when this crisis blows over, as it will, then the companies still have their old workers.

And the third one is you can spend a lot of money this way. What we mean now are policies in which you spend a lot of money.

And in terms of the least effective policy, the worst policy is not spending. I think we have to acknowledge that not every dollar, not every euro is going to be spent effectively. There are going to be companies that get bailouts and it's going to stick in the craw a little bit.

But the key thing is you need to get money out quickly. The main enemy here is dithering.

ALLEN: And, yes, we've seen dithering from the health side, as countries have been slow to prepare as well.

I want to ask you, Stanley, do you think a global depression is possible?

Or are you confident that this crisis can be limited to a deep recession?

PIGNAL: So I think it's too soon to tell, unfortunately. Now remember there are bits of the economy that are still working. So the public sector, which in Europe is a big part of the economy, government is still paying paychecks. There are still some companies that are functioning. So the impact is going to be very large.

What we don't know is how long it's going to be. And we're not going to know that for a little while.

The good news is, insofar as there is good news, is that, in terms of avoiding a depression, we've had a financial crisis quite recently and policymakers are battle hardened. The playbook that we're having to deploy now is actually very similar to the playbook that we saw in the financial crisis or in the Eurozone crisis.

It just needs to be adapted. And in many parts of the world, it just needs to be a lot bigger. But in terms of avoiding a depression, we know what the right thing is to do. It's just going to take a little while to get there.

ALLEN: All right, so we've got a playbook. That is something positive. We'll end on that one. We really appreciate your expertise, Stanley Pignal. Thank you.

PIGNAL: Thank you.

ALLEN: As China sees no new coronavirus cases for a fourth day, there are rising concerns, however, over a resurgence in Hong Kong.


We'll take you there live in a moment.

Plus, Australia's prime minister is not pleased, to say the least, with how some people are handling the crisis. It has to do with going to the beach.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Medical advice is very clear. There is no quick solution. We have to steel ourselves for at least the next six months.






ALLEN: People in India are right now observing the world's largest public curfew exercise. The prime minister called on all of its country's 1.3 billion citizens to stay home Sunday for a 14-hour self- imposed quarantine.

India has taken aggressive steps in fighting the coronavirus from shutting down its borders to canceling visas. Joining me now to talk more about this is CNN's Vedika Sud in New Delhi for us.

It's amazing, the low number of reported cases there.

I want to ask you, are people in India obeying this curfew?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: Well, it has been successful until now. It's a 14-hour curfew. We're eight hours into it. We haven't heard of any untoward incidents taking place.

This was a voluntary curfew proposed by Prime Minister Modi on Thursday. This is about 1.3 million people imposing this curfew on themselves. The capital, Mumbai, they are -- there are very few cars on the road as we speak. The prime minister himself is responding to a lot of questions being put to him.

A lot of people updating the status and social networking sites, talking about how they have implemented this voluntary curfew on themselves. What's interesting, though, is in about two hours from now, the prime

minister has proposed to the people of India to go out to their balconies, stand at the doors and appreciate the efforts made by the medical fraternity of India for their services 24/7 as far as fighting coronavirus is concerned.

There have been more 324 confirmed cases of coronavirus from India. Unfortunately, the fifth death was reported this morning. Also we've just gotten to know passenger trains will be suspended until the 31st of this month.

So officially there's no word on a total lockdown but today, if you look at India, the streets of India, very few people on the roads. This is an unofficial lockdown this Sunday as far as India is concerned.

ALLEN: So very important. Vedika Sud, thank you so much in New Delhi for us. We appreciate it.

Australia is toughening up its coronavirus rules. A 14-day quarantine is required for all inbound travelers in South Australia.

Sydney's famous Bondi Beach is closed after it was packed with crowds defying the safety rules. The state's police minister called Friday's beach parties, and this is a quote, "The most irresponsible behavior of individuals that we've seen so far."

The prime minister had plenty to say about it, too. Here he is.


MORRISON: What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough.


ALLEN: Australia has also announced a second support package. It's worth $38 billion and is supposed to help protect the country's economy. Mr. Morrison there adds that Australia and the world are in this for the long haul.



MORRISON: There is no two-week quick fix. There is no four-week shutdown and it all goes away and we all get to go on about our businesses. I've seen those suggestions. The medical advice is very clear. There is no quick solution. We have to steel ourselves for at least the next six months.


ALLEN: Now news from where it all began, China, where the outbreak was first identified. Government officials there saying there are no new locally transmitted cases in Hubei for the fourth day in a row. China also reporting it's diverting all Beijing-bound international flights amid growing concerns over imported cases of the infection.

Meantime, Hong Kong is increasing the measurements it is taking to contain a new outbreak as well.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong. He's covering these developments.

The good news out of China, with no new locally transmitted cases.

The bad news is, will it come back into the country, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, China does have, according to the official Chinese government figures, has something to celebrate.

And that is that, whereas a couple of weeks ago China was reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases a day, reporting hundreds of deaths a day, now it's reporting a couple dozen new cases a day.

And, as you mentioned, four straight days without any reports of new coronavirus infections in the entire province of Hubei, where the capital is Wuhan. That city of around 11 million people still under lockdown after coronavirus first appeared there in late December. And that city certainly hit the hardest by this terrible epidemic.

China also says that most of the new cases it is identifying are quote-unquote, "imported" cases. And what that means is the authorities allege that these are people that are flying into China, having gotten infections outside of Mainland China.

So one of the measures that the authorities have announced is to divert all flights headed to Beijing. All international flights to 12 other cities, where people would have to get out to then be checked and, only when approved, they could then get back on the original plane and fly on to Beijing.

Just one more remarkable measure that the Chinese authorities are using to try to restrict the spread of this deadly pandemic.

ALLEN: You're there in Hong Kong, Ivan. It's also trying to contain a new outbreak.

What is life like in Hong Kong these days when you step outside?

WATSON: It's busy. It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon. There are many people and their families out walking and enjoying the sunshine. I've got sports fields below this balcony here, where kids are playing.

And that's understandable because people have been cooped up. Their kids have not been going to school since the end of January. And this was a good news story because Hong Kong, right next to Mainland China, had succeeded in keeping the number of infections down.

But there's been a surge of scores of new cases in the last couple of days, the most in a single day on Friday, 48 new cases. The Hong Kong authorities say that most of these new cases that are being detected are also imported cases.

So as of Thursday night, midnight, the Hong Kong authorities say anybody flying in here outside of Mainland China and Macau have to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine. They're even giving electronic bracelets to do that.

And they're getting tighter on restrictions. Come Monday, all civil servants have to stay home. All public facilities will be closed. These are measures that were in place in February that were loosened and now are being reintroduced as the Hong Kong authorities fear that their city is back sliding.

ALLEN: Something to watch. Ivan Watson for us. Thank you.

Well, of course, we were talking about Wuhan. That is where this outbreak started.

But where did the disease actually come from?

Some scientists think they may have an answer and we'll have that story next.






ALLEN: With the coronavirus spreading around the world now, scientists are trying to figure out how it first started. Many think it came from bats. But they say humans are actually to blame for the spread. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more on how our impact on the environment may drive this spillover of diseases.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): We live in extraordinary times. True, well before coronavirus, the Amazon aflame, Australia's skies clogged with forest fire smoke that seemed to swallow a way of life.

But now a pandemic tearing up daily norms, which may also have been caused by human choices and behavior.

Did this coronavirus originate in bats?

Scientists can't yet be sure. But they've seen similar in Chinese horseshoe bats, not these ones being tested in South Africa. Yet even if that's the case, bats have dealt with many viruses for years. They have a high metabolism and temperature when they fly and that often keeps these infections in check. That's until they or where they live comes under stress.

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM, ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF LONDON: We believe the impact of stress on bats would be much the same as it is on other mammals and people. And that is that it would allow infections to be increased and excreted and shed.

You think of people getting stressed and infected with the cold sore virus, they will get cold sores. So that's the virus being expressed. This can happen in bats, too. It's easy to point the finger at the host species.


CUNNINGHAM: But actually it's the way we've entrapped them, due to habitat encroachment, increased hunting.

WALSH (voice-over): Experts point to shipping bats near other animals in so-called wet markets in China, this one in Wuhan believed to be the epicenter, where stressed animals transfer diseases easily to each other and then maybe humans.

WALSH: There's a term for this you're going to have to get familiar with. It's changed our lives. It's called zoonotic transfer or spillover.

CUNNINGHAM: The underlying causes of zoonotic spillover from bats or from other wild species is almost always, I think, it's always shown to be human behaviors, it's human activities causing this.

WALSH (voice-over): In the past, people infected by animals in remote places would die or recover before they could spread it. Today they can get on a plane to a different city that night.

KATE JONES, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Humans say that any kind of spillover that might have happened in the past is magnified by the fact that there's so many of us and we're so well connected.

So it's not OK to transform a forest into agriculture without understanding what that impact has on climate, carbon storage, on disease emergence, on flood risk and flood defenses on climate resilience. You can't do those in isolation without thinking bout all of the things that the ecosystem provides.

WALSH (voice-over): A cost that we are quickly realizing now -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


ALLEN: Thank you so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Stay safe. Next here, it's "NEW DAY."