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Number Of Cases Across U.S. Rise, Peak Feared Weeks Away; U.S. And China Escalate Blame Game Over Outbreak; U.K. Government Asks For Volunteers To Help Fight Virus; Coronavirus Pandemic; Japan Reports Biggest One-Day Spike in Infections; U.S. Senate Approves $2 Trillion Stimulus Deal. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 02:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the global epicenter of the coronavirus may see the crisis peak in the coming days. But what happened in Italy is likely a grim preview of what is yet to come for countries like Spain and the U.S.

In China, signs of normalcy as the Communist government tries to muddy the borders over the origins of the coronavirus.

The cost of partisan politics: 47,000 as Republicans and Democrats argued 5 days over stimulus package, 47,000 new cases of the coronavirus were reported across the United States.


VAUSE: When Republicans and Democrats sat down on Friday to haggle over the biggest stimulus bill in U.S. history, there were 18,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus nationwide. A few hours, ago the bill was unanimously approved by the Senate and the number of cases now stands at more than 65,000.

Wednesday was also the deadliest day the U.S. has seen so far with the virus claiming 233 lives. The stimulus bill will head back to the House for a vote and then to the president, who says he will sign it as soon as he gets it; $2 trillion in economic aid will not slow this pandemic.

And because of the lack of preparation, at a White House, which did not take this seriously for months, the U.S. is on track to repeat the tragic mistakes made by Italy, where more people have died than anywhere else.

But the World Health Organization says in the coming days Italy could see the crisis peak and, after that, the number of new infections should begin to fall. The outlook is not so good for Spain, where the death toll now has

surpassed 3,400, making it the 2nd hardest hit country in the world.

More lives have been lost in this pandemic in Spain than China. Spanish government has now extended a state of emergency until April 12th.

In the U.S., New York state is bracing for a major surge in confirmed cases 2 weeks from now. But already, hospitals have maxed out. Health workers are exhausted. And much-needed medical equipment and supplies are running low.

On the other side of the country, the number of confirmed cases in California is doubling every 3 to 4 days. Nationwide, 938 people are dead. And while New York is the epicenter for now, there are fears that soon cities like Atlanta and New Orleans could see similar rates of infection. For more, we begin our coverage with CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are field hospitals. In Manhattan College, dorms being converted, existing hospitals up in capacity and Navy hospital ship coming soon, but New York is still 20,000 beds shy of what they say they'll need.


CUOMO: Then we're looking at hotels, we're looking at former nursing homes.


WATT (voice over): They have 4,000 ventilators, they bought 7,000 more. F.E.M.A. delivered 4,000, but New York is still 15,000 short.


CUOMO: We're exploring splitting where one ventilator could do two patients.


WATT (voice over): They're now opening some streets to pedestrians to reduce density in city parks and no more basketball and the rate of hospitalizations in New York is now slowing.


CUOMO: The evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working.


WATT (voice over): Meanwhile, the President pushing to reopen at least parts of the country for business.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter -- that beautiful Easter Day.


WATT (voice over): Easter -- that's before New York estimates they will hit peak infection and other states likely later.


DR. LEANA WEN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We need to know that data and if we don't have the data, how are we making these decisions at all? It seems like these dates that are being picked are arbitrary and not based on science and evidence.

We don't have enough testing.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We're seeing a doubling once a day in deaths from Coronavirus. The doubling time is only one day and that is the worst in the world right now.


WATT (voice over): Spain just overtook China. It now has the second highest global death toll, over 3,400. Italy has suffered more than 6,000 deaths. Europe, the current epicenter. The W.H.O. says the U.S. could be next. But --


DR. MARGARET HARRIS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION RESPONSE TEAM: You've still got the means of turning it around. You are an amazing country.


WATT (voice over): She says by testing, tracing contacts, isolating and many of us continuing to quarantine. More than half of Americans are now under orders to do so.


HARRIS: And finally getting the people who are ill to treatment and when you do that, really, really protect your health workers.


WATT (voice over): Many of those health workers still suffering severe shortages of what they need to stay safe.


MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D) NEW ORLEANS: For example, my EMS Department, over 50 percent of my people are now on quarantine.


WATT (voice over): Meanwhile, Amazon, a crutch for so many is now dealing with coronavirus cases among workers, in at least nine facilities nationwide.


WATSON (voice-over): And in stores and facilities nationwide, Walmart, Kroger and others, now adding sneeze guards to checkout lanes.

WATT: Here in California, the governor says they have distributed more than 24 million of those masks, they have ordered another 100 million in that still is insignificant to our needs. He also that more than 1 million Californians have filed for unemployment in the past 12 days or so -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


VAUSE: New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is warning half of the city's population could end up infected by the virus. This evening, he spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Mayor, how is New York City doing tonight in terms of medical supplies and case numbers? Last time we talked, you talked in alarming ways about the shortage.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Anderson, when we last talked, we were just days away from some of our hospitals not having the basics to even be able to treat people. And, you know, I think it was important to tell that truth. And I hope it helped to wake up Washington now finally.

We have gotten, especially those ventilators that we need the most and a lot of other supplies in, but only to get us through this week into next week.

That's the way -- that's the time horizon we're dealing with right now. I can tell you, I'm pretty confident about our hospitals' ability to handle this crisis this week with already now -- it's astounding, 18,000 cases confirmed as of earlier today. But going into next week, we're going to feel more and more stress on our system.

And Anderson, it's not just about equipment. It's also about the people we need, the personnel. And I fear that if the military doesn't get involved quickly, because they have a lot of great medical personnel and they can help personnel get moved from one part of the country to another, if they don't get involved very rapidly, we're going to have a problem up ahead as are other parts of the country if they don't have that kind of command and control the military brings to get people, get resources where they're needed most.

COOPER: Yes, because when people talk about, you know, the ICU beds, needing more ICU beds, it's not the physical bed. It's the care that goes with those beds -- the nurses, the doctors, same with the ventilators. You have to have enough people to operate the ventilators with all those ventilators.

So, is -- you know, are we still seeing large numbers of medical personnel coming down with this virus?

DE BLASIO: Yes Anderson, first of all, you're exactly right. It's actually a package. You know, the bed is the easy part. It's ventilators, it's surgical masks and other supplies and it's a trained professional. You need a whole package to have an ICU bed.

We are concerned about how many people are contracting the disease. I mean, I've been honest with New Yorkers. Probably before this is over, half of all New Yorkers, if not more, will contract this disease. Thank God, 80 percent of them will have a very mild experience.

You know, even a lot of the folks we're talking about, the health care workers, if they're younger, if they're healthy, they'll probably miss work for a week, ten days and come back. But at any given point, a lot of them will be out.

So, that adds stress, which is why we must have some source of additional professional soon coming in from other parts of the country.

Again, there's no -- there's no organization that's going to make that happen short of the military. But as you know Anderson, the military are essentially staying at their bases. I don't think they want to. I think they want to join the fight, but President Trump hasn't given that order.

COOPER: Governor Cuomo said today the projected rate of hospitalizations are slowing down. Quote, the evidence, he said, suggests that the density control measures may be working.

Does that lineup with what you're seeing in the city?

DE BLASIO: Yes, it's a hopeful sign Anderson. And, look, there's more social distancing than we've ever experienced obviously in the history of this city because the schools are closed. Vast majority of workplaces that are nonessential, of course, are closed.

People are only, you know, allowed to go out briefly to the grocery, the pharmacy, a little bit of exercise and basically overwhelmingly New Yorkers are staying indoors. So, that's a whole lot of social distancing.

But the truth is we've only had a few days of seeing that improvement. So, I want to be careful before we assume it's working deeply, but it is certainly a good sign.

And, boy, let me tell you, I've heard from my police commissioner -- I mean, our officers are out all over parks and streets, what they're seeing generally is people have gotten the message and they're generally -- if there's a group congregating, they're told to split up, they split up quickly. People are reminded stay six feet apart. They're taking it seriously.

So, I think most New Yorkers really get it at this point.

COOPER: President Trump said tonight that he spoke to you about the amount of ventilators sent to New York. He said you were, quote, very happy and that it's, quote, hard not to be happy with the job we're doing, end quote.

Do you agree?

DE BLASIO: I would say it differently to say the least Anderson.

Look, I spoke to the president a couple times and I do appreciate those ventilators because for us Anderson, it is literally going to be hand to mouth. We are going to get a ventilator in and it's going to go right to a hospital.


DE BLASIO: And I think you know about ventilators. If a patient needs one, you have only minutes to get it to them, to get them to the ventilator. If a hospital is even missing a few that they need, they're going to lose lives that could have been saved.

So, of course, I'm happy when 400 came in early in the week and 2,000 more are coming. But I also told the president we're going to need a lot more than that and we're going to need the personnel. And we're going to need to go through not just weeks.

I told New Yorkers honestly -- I think April will be worse than March and I fear that May actually will be worse than April. I don't think this is just a few weeks. I don't think we're going to be okay by Easter. I think it's going to go substantially past that just by the numbers we're seeing alone.


VAUSE: Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking earlier with Anderson Cooper.

In just six weeks, the coronavirus has spread like wildfire across Spain. Now recording the world's highest daily death toll, adding an overall total greater than China.

Despite seeing what first happen in China, then Iran, then finally Italy, Spain was woefully unprepared to deal with this health emergency and now they are warning the worst is yet to come. Journalist Al Goodman in Madrid.

Al, just 6 weeks ago the expectation, a handful of cases, it seems the country is now paying a high price for those mistakes which were made in the recent past.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John, that was more than 3,500 deaths in Spain that you just mentioned. A moment ago has more than doubled in just a few short days since the weekend. Another troubling sign of the 47,000 cases confirmed infected across Spain, 10 percent of them are medical doctors and nurses and orderlies at the hospitals.

So as Spain tries to ramp up here so quickly to take care of this, a significant part of its medical force, it is out of action. The government has been scrambling to try and get these kinds of supplies that you just been talking about that are spreading out to the U.S. states.

They are particularly short on ventilators, they signed a deal, announced yesterday, with the Chinese government to get 950 ventilators into this country of 47 million. The central government is reaching out to the Red Cross and some of the 17 regions around Spain to find ventilators and get them to the two places where they are most needed, right here in the capital, which is the hardest hit part of Spain and, now, we are seeing that in a second city and Barcelona, on the Mediterranean coast, that has become another focal point.

In this agreement with China $470 million that Spain is going to spend, that is not coming at once while it is needed, it will be in bits over the next few months. It will be millions of gloves, masks and rapid tests, because that is another thing that Spain has been lacking.

So the narrative of Spanish officials, even just a few days ago were saying that Spain might be reaching the peak within the coming days, that has changed now and a senior official briefing the nation on national television yesterday, saying the peak will be coming probably soon.

The bad news, everywhere, including at this news kiosk, which is just opening up, the bad news, whether it is in print or online, the Spaniards are really becoming aware of the seriousness of the problem. Back to you, John.

VAUSE: Thank, you. Al Goodman live for us in Madrid.

Japan reported 98 new infections on Wednesday, which is the biggest single day spike in coronavirus cases. The health ministry confirmed more than 2000 cases overall, many are passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. But now Tokyo is bracing for a citywide lockdown in response to that surge in numbers.

Live now, Kaori Enjoji.

Those fears of the lockdown simply playing out in real-time not far from you.

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: That's right and I think the governor of Tokyo set off alarm bells last night when she told citizens, don't go out at night, really enforce teleworking, telecommuting and, this weekend, please stay at home.

So it is not a lockdown yet in Tokyo. But the bureaucracy has been set in motion in that they are setting up the so-called headquarters which is centralized government with the prime minister's office. And this is one step before the prime minister can declare a state of emergency.

And he was given these new powers when a new bill was passed a couple of weeks ago to enable him to take a more top-down and centralized approach, should the coronavirus reach more desperate conditions and proportions.

Right now as you pointed out, the number of cases of coronavirus, minus the ones they found on the cruise ship, are just around 1300, so in the grand scheme of things, compared to some of the numbers we are getting elsewhere in the world, it might seem small.

But the increase has been particularly worrying for very densely populated cities like Tokyo with 13 million people living here.


ENJOJI: Over the last 3 days, there have been new records, 16 cases Monday, 17 and then the new 41 number that came out last night.

With these preparations underway, there is a possibility that the prime minister may declare a state of emergency. And this really hasn't happened in recent memory, it makes people very nervous because it reminds them of Japan's military past -- and one of the reasons why people have been a bit reluctant to give the prime minister these new powers.

VAUSE: Kaori, we appreciate the update from Tokyo.

Coming up next a rare show of bipartisan unity in Washington. Senators approved a massive plan to help the U.S. economy weather the coronavirus storm.

But how much can it really help?

Ahead, who decides who lives and who dies?

Where there are more patients than ventilators, who gets to play God?





VAUSE: It's a global crisis of biblical proportions.


VAUSE: But on Wednesday, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate approved a massive economic stimulus. But even the $2 trillion plan, which includes billions of dollars of direct payments to households, expansion of unemployment benefits and loans to small businesses, it is seen only as economic triage. Much more is expected to be needed. The House is set to vote on this

bill on Friday morning, President Trump has said he will sign it immediately.


VAUSE: CNN economic commentator and "The Washington Post" opinion writer Catherine Rampell joins us right now from New York.

Catherine, if there was one big lesson from the financial crisis, whereas the stimulus bill that Congress passed back then just wasn't big enough.

Considering this unprecedented action that we have taken by not just the U.S. but all other major economies around the world, is it possible to know if this will be enough?

Will they have to do more?

Will the Congress have to come back and do stimulus package again and again?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The first thing to be clear about, is that usually talk about stimulus, it is about boosting economic activity. That is not exactly what we are looking for right now at this point.

This is more about disaster aid. It is survival. I think, in that sense, even at that, it won't be enough. It is almost certain that Congress will be called upon once again to provide more relief going out the door. States are in major fiscal trouble in the months and years ahead. They are going to need more money.

And once we get this pandemic under control, assuming we do, and I believe we will at some point, then there will actually be a need to stimulate the United States economy because we are going to have to encourage people to go back outside and start engaging in economic activity again. But this is not the end of the story for sure.

VAUSE: How many times can they do this?

How many times can the government just turn around and print money?

Eventually, that piece of paper becomes meaningless.

RAMPELL: It is easier for the United States than other countries. The United States has the world's reserve currency, interest rates are still very low, despite the fact that we have been running huge deficits for the past four years, even when the economy was good.

There is a lot of demand for dollars which makes it easier, cheap and at the very least for the United States to borrow. There is a rush to save assets at this point.

For other countries, it is much more difficult. They actually have to live within their means, so to speak. So I think we will see other countries run into big trouble in the months or years ahead as they find that their tax revenues have fallen because of this collective economic that everyone has gone into.

While there is an additional need for services, including unemployment benefits, health care, other kinds of things that the governments generally supply and will not have the funds to produce.

VAUSE: Nouriel Roubini, also known as Doctor Doom, is warning of a risk not just of a great depression but of a greater depression. It's part of what he wrote in "The Guardian."

"The contraction that is now underway looks to be neither V nor U nor L shaped; rather, it looks like an I, a vertical line representing financial markets and the real economy plummeting."

That is why governments need to throw everything at this and then some. Beyond, that there is not a whole lot of innovative ideas in the stimulus package. It's like the financial crisis from 2008 but just bigger.

RAMPELL: At least here, in the United States, some of what we are doing is we are trying to get checks out the door, meaning, regardless of who you are, regardless of whether you have actually lost work or had hours cut, we are trying to get money to you as quickly as possible.

And we did some of that here in the United States in the Great Recession and in previous recessions as well. We are also beefing up unemployment insurance. There are also other measures designed to help households.

A lot of what is new here, though, relates to the measures to try and encourage firms to keep people on their payrolls because that is really the challenge. We want to help households, make sure they can pay their rent, pay their mortgages, pay their grocery bills, et cetera.

But if and when the economy sort of reopens, we want to make sure that they have jobs to go back to. So it is a slightly different strategy that is needed for this economic crisis then those we have seen in the past.

We are not trying to encourage people, necessarily, workers, to go out and apply for whatever job they can, which is normally how the unemployment insurance system works in the United States.

We are saying we get the fact that the reason you are not working is that there is this lockdown, essentially, in large swaths of the country. We don't want you knocking on doors and applying for jobs. We are hoping that we can preserve the job that you were hopefully temporary laid off from.


RAMPELL: So there are different kinds of measures that are necessary for those types of concerns. VAUSE: Denmark is taking a different approach. They are paying 75

percent of salaries, the government, for workers and businesses impacted by the virus. Employers are expected to pay the other 25 percent, workers are also going to give up 5 days of paid leave.

Over in France, they delayed the deadline for tax payment. They have suspended rent and utility payments, for smaller businesses. The government says it is necessary, industries will be nationalized and Ireland has extended sickness benefits for those who have to self isolate.

A 14 day period will be covered by the government. There will be a scrapping of the 6-day waiting period for payments and the amount that they are actually paying this people have increased by 50 percent.

But it is really Denmark, which is receiving a lot of shoutouts for the approach instead of unemployment benefits for those have a job and that means that those jobs should still be there. But this costs a lot of money in a 3 month period. That's all they could do it for.

After that, who knows?

This could go on for much longer than that.

RAMPELL: There have been calls for similar types of programs here in the United States, I think it is unlikely that they would happen. There are some incentives that small businesses in particular will face, encouraging them to keep as many people on their payrolls as they can but nothing nearly as generous as what we have seen in Denmark.

And Denmark may have the right attitude here as long as they're able to afford it because what we want is we want people to be able to stay home, to not have to go to work, unless their jobs are essential. But if they stay home, there will be a job waiting for them once this thing is over.

VAUSE: We're out of time but thank you so much. Appreciate you being with us.


VAUSE: Stock markets appear to be cooling to the stimulus package, after it fueled two days of rallies. Stocks in Asia have been mixed on Thursday. The Nikkei just closed down 4.5 percent.

Wall Street finished higher on Wednesday, the Dow is up for the 2nd day in a row, its first back-to-back gains since last month.

After effectively declaring victory in the coronavirus fight, China is once again trying to shake the narrative about the origins of this outbreak. We will tell you why in a moment.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion stimulus package to cushion the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. The House is set to vote Friday morning. President Trump has promised to sign it quickly. It is the largest emergency aid package in U.S. history.

Spain's coronavirus death toll is now surpassed China's. The government they're reporting more than 3,400 deaths, meaning Spain now has the second-highest death toll in the world just behind Italy. Spanish officials warned the peak of the outbreak is still to come Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says coronavirus cases could peak in parts of Italy this week. The country has more than 69,000 confirmed infections.

Now, meantime, the leading American expert on infectious diseases says anyone hoping for a quick answer on when life returns to normal in the U.S. should just settle down. Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to CNN's Chris Cuomo.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You've got to be realistic and you've got to understand that you don't make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline. So you've got to respond in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn't matter what you say one week, two weeks, three weeks, you've got to go with what the situation on the ground is.

So when people say it may take months, I think what people are talking about is how long it takes to go all the way down. But you may see in a relatively shorter period of time when you're seeing the inkling of the flattening and coming down. But you know, you can't make an arbitrary decision until you see what you're dealing with. You need the data.


VAUSE: CNN Medical Analyst and host of the podcast Epidemic Celine Gounder is with us now this hour from New York. So, Celine, thank you for taking the time. Around this country, hospitals like in Atlanta have maxed out their ICU capacity already. New Orleans could be about a week away from that point. And the number of patients in New York is expected to peak in two to three weeks. And the State Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined what they have and what they need. Here he is. Listen to this.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Right now, what we're looking at is about 140,000 cases coming into the hospitals. The hospital capacity is 53,000 beds. That's a problem. We're looking at about 40,000 ICU cases coming into the hospitals. We have about 3,000 ICU beds. That's a challenge. What is an ICU bed for these purposes, basically a bed with a ventilator.


VAUSE: So assuming that shortfall cannot be made up in such a short period of time, at least completely. This thing gets to the point of basically, who gets what, and who makes that decision. And there are guidelines for this. It's called triage with ventilators. But you know, one of the guidelines from New York, for example, say target saving the most lives as defined by the patient's short term likelihood of surviving. So who ultimately makes this choice?

CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Washington State has already had to tackle this question of how do you ration the few ventilators that you have. And so that really does come down to older people are not going to get the ventilator. People with chronic medical conditions, people with obesity, people -- maybe smokers, I don't know.

I mean, it's going to be people who are much higher risk for death, even with the ventilator support. And so if you have very few ventilators to go around, you're going to use them for the people who are most likely to survive.

VAUSE: It is just horrendous to think someone has to make that call. And on the eve of the worst pandemic, this country is putting its faith and its hope at the healthcare system where hospital-acquired infections are already considered the leading cause of death. So if hospitals can't control the spread of disease under normal circumstances, how will they cope in the midst of pandemic?

GOUNDER: Well, and it's especially challenging now because we're running out of all kinds of masks. We are basically out of the N-95 respirator masks which are really what would be the standard of care or standard protection. And in this situation, we're also running low on surgical masks, which are the loose, thin masks.

We're running low on gowns. We're running low on face masks. So all of the things that you would need as a healthcare provider to protect yourself, we're running low on. And then, you know, if a health care provider picks up an infection, then their chances of then transmitting that on to other patients, you know, even if they don't get that sick themselves, that's a concern as well.


VAUSE: And we have seen high rate of infection and death among healthcare workers around the world. Also, if you look at the rate of spread of the virus, in terms of new cases, the U.S. is set to pass Italy and China in a couple of days, and the virus is spreading faster here than any other nation. Why is that? Why did this country and a lot more like Italy and a lot less like South Korea?

GOUNDER: I think there's a few reasons. One, we didn't respond quickly enough. We let this go on for too long. By the point or by the time we started to respond, it was really too late to implement the South Korean approach, which was really more about contact tracing and testing. And you can only really do that when you can actually track the person to person transmission of the virus. When it's so prevalent that it's basically everywhere. You can't do that anymore.

And I think unfortunately, people just didn't take it seriously, didn't believe this was a real problem. And unfortunately, in many parts of the country, that remains the case.

VAUSE: Yes. There's also a concern that once the crisis at least has peaked, that doesn't mean it's over. I want you to listen to Dr. Fauci who was on CNN a little earlier tonight.


FAUCI: After talking to my colleagues on the WHO call, I think it's more likely than not that this is going to turn around and come back in another season. Because right now in the southern hemisphere, in southern Africa, they're starting to get cases as they go into their winter.

And if that happens, this is not going to disappear. I don't think it will. Which makes me more fortified, Chris, when you ask about how I feel about these things, of why we got to get that vaccine tested, we got to get it proven to be effective and we got to get it out. And we've got to develop drugs so that when we come around next year, it is not like this again.


VAUSE: And we are seeing this happen in real time in places like Hong Kong. I guess the concern, obviously, is that, you know, will we be prepared the next time round?

GOUNDER: Well, you know, I think we're going to have to keep a very close eye on things. Even if after this peaks, we could even without reinfection from the southern hemisphere, we could still see waves of infection where we would have to tighten and loosen some of these social distancing measures here.

And then, of course, there's also, as Dr. Fauci mentioned, the risk of even if we completely suppress things here, that other countries including the southern hemisphere could be reservoirs of transmission back to us. So, you know, I do think we're going to have to be very vigilant, we're going to have to be pragmatic that we may have to re- implement social distancing at some point, even after a peak.

And hopefully, you know, a vaccine is here within the next 18 months or so because that will really be the tool that can put a definitive end to this.

VAUSE: Very quickly. It seems like some of the early data out of China, which indicated the virus spared younger people from the worst of this, maybe an anomaly because look at numbers everywhere else, the infection rate among young people is on par with almost every other age group.

GOUNDER: Yes. And I've seen it myself. Young people are getting this disease. And why the patterns may have been different in China versus say Italy in the U.S., I'm not 100% Sure. One thing I am definitely seeing is people who are obese or overweight are at higher risk for complications. And a third of Americans are overweight and another third are obese.

So if that is a major risk factor for more severe disease, that really does set up even our young people for severe disease, critical illness, and death.

VAUSE: OK. Celine, we'll leave with it there, but thanks so much. CNN Medical Analyst and host of the podcast Epidemics, Celine Gouder, thank you for being with us.

GOUDER: Good night.

VAUSE: Well, as the number of cases continues to fall, life in China is returning to a type of normalcy. Now, Beijing is looking to do some rewriting of history or at least muddy the waters about where this pandemic began. CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing.

So Steven, let's start with this. China, you know, they've had an iron fist almost reported inside the country. They control that narrative. But now it seems they've taken a page out of the Russians book, trying to sow confusion over where the virus came from, for the international audience, with government officials, spreading words, you know, blatant disinformation.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, that's why the U.S. and Chinese governments have been engaged in a war of words for some time. Now, from Beijing's perspective, they said the U.S. started a smear campaign against the country and its continued efforts. They were simply responding.

But from Washington's point of view, as President Trump has said, he started calling the virus to Chinese virus because Chinese officials, including a foreign ministry spokesman tweeted about this conspiracy theory that the U.S. Army may have brought this virus to Wuhan last year, and that's why he wanted to push back such claims.

But we are actually started to -- starting to see some signs that both sides are willing to de-escalations -- deescalate tensions at least for now. You see the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. distance himself from the spokesman at a foreign ministry, and also President Trump said he would now stop calling the virus the Chinese virus because he had made the point and he now didn't want to make a big deal out of this.


But still, I think a lot of people on both sides are sending mixed signals. In the U.S., Pompeo, the Secretary of State continue to highlight the disinformation campaign you just refer to say not only the Chinese have sought doubt on the origin, but they also had damaged the U.S. on the global stage in trying portray the Beijing government as a world leader, responsible player in this crisis, even though according to Pompeo, there was plenty of evidence of initial mishandling or even alleged cover of this outbreak.

So I think it's going to be very interesting to see this G-20 virtual summit later on Thursday where both President Trump and President Xi are supposed to attend. It's going to be interesting to see if the two leaders can come up with some sort of agreement or joint statement of this virus because obviously, a lot of people do say this is the time to fight this virus together not to assign blame. John?

VAUSE: And I guess for many countries now, China has gone from villain to hero, first exporting the virus, and now exporting much needed medical supplies. And this is all about sort of soft power for Beijing.

JIANG: That's right. I think that's something a lot of officials here and indeed, many in public are very excited to see. It's the form -- it's a form of vindication for them considering the initial criticism or skepticism in the West. But, you know, one thing I have heard is just not all of China's failings are due to its authoritarian system. Not all of its successes are due to its political system.

So no matter where you stand on China politically or ideologically, what you're seeing in the West right now in terms of the adoption of a lot of similar harsh tactics and extreme policies we have seen here are simply wartime extreme policies and mobilization we have seen in the West in the past as well.

So this one thing I've been hearing lately, which I think is kind of interesting is wartime democracies can be fearsome things as well. John?

VAUSE: Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang live for us in Beijing, I appreciate it. Well, with the National Health Service already stretched thin, the U.K. government put out a call for volunteers hoping 250,000 would sign up. We'll tell you how many did when we come back.



VAUSE: Well, the man accused of murdering 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand last year has changed his plea. Initially pleading not guilty to 92 charges last year, he's now pleading guilty on all counts including one terrorism charge. He's expected back in court in May. It's unclear though when he will be sentenced. New Zealand's Prime Minister welcomed the guilty pleas saying it would provide relief to the loved ones of those killed.

The family of a former FBI agent who disappeared in 2007 believes he's now dead. Robert Levinson was on an unauthorized mission for the CIA. He vanished after traveling to an island under Iranian control. He was last seen in 2010 appearing in a hostage video. His family says information from U.S. official suggests he died in custody in Iran. But Tehran continues to insist Levinson has never been in their custody. The heir to the British throne has tested positive for coronavirus. Prince Charles' office says he has mild symptoms. The Prince was told he was contagious from March 13th, the day after he saw his mother Queen Elizabeth. She is said to be in good health while the 71-year- old Prince and his wife are self-isolating separately. Now, officials are trying to trace anyone who interacted with the Royals during his busy schedule.

Well, health workers across the U.K. already exhausted and the National Health Service stretched thin. The government called for volunteers hoping in this time of national crisis, 250,000 would sign up. So far, more than half a million people have come forward, signing on at a rate of five people every second.

For more, let's bring in CNN's Anna Stewart in London. This is an incredible response. I guess, you know, sometimes you be careful what you wish for because there are in fact, you know, concerns about whether or not these volunteers will have protective clothing, they'll be exposed to the virus. So what's being done on that front?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Yes. It has been hard particularly for the medical staff in terms of PPE or the protection of equipment that they need. But these volunteers, the half a million will actually not be on the frontline. These are healthy people the government wants to help pick up, deliver food, medicine generally for those people who are stuck at home. Those who are being shielded the most vulnerable, the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions. If they can drive and help with that.

Also, people that could just be on the end of the phone being able to talk to some of these vulnerable people. If they cannot leave their home, there's big concern of isolation and general loneliness. So half a million people signing up there. Of course, plenty those people are not able to do their normal day to day job.

Apart from and a big problem has been the self-employed. The government said they would pay up to 80 percent of wages of people on staff jobs, those who cannot do their jobs, but not enough really has been done for self-employed. So plenty of self-employed, people are still traveling into the city. They are still working. And perhaps it is not essential work.

So hopefully the government promises to pay more of their salaries. It's been very complicated to work that out. That is an announcement we expect later today. And it may mean that more people, of course, can volunteer, John.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. Very quickly. Britain is facing the same problem that everybody else has and that's a shortage of ventilators. But there seems to be a hack or a fix from the folks at Dyson, the people who make vacuum cleaners. What's the deal?

STEWART: This is another great government announcement. Please help us make more ventilators. And Dyson have answered that call. They have designed one. You would imagine it would look pretty stylish given it's Dyson. They are going to make at least 10,000. That's what the government ordered. But they say they will also donate an additional 5,000. 1,000 to the U.K. and 4,000 ventilators for the international effort to fight the coronavirus outbreak. John?

VAUSE: Good for them. Shout out to Dyson. Well done. Thank you, Anna. I appreciate it. Well, when the government issues a stay at home order, where do you go if you don't have a home? That's next.



DON RIDDELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Don Riddell with your CNN World Sport headlines. Having taken the decision to postpone the Olympics until next year, the Japanese government is figuring out how they will be able to stage the game sometime in 2021.

Speaking in a conference call on Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee's President Thomas Bach said that the unprecedented action will affect every facet of their organization. He also indicated that the games didn't have to take place in the summer of next year.

Meanwhile, the most lucrative sport in North America is being forced to take action because of the global pandemic. The NFL says it is closing all of its team training facilities. A memo sent by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell detailed league guidelines to ensure that all clubs are able to operate on a level playing field. The new season is due to start in September, the league will reassess its facilities on April 8th.

And finally, a number of top athletes are personally contributing to help out those affected by the health crisis. Roger Federer has donated more than $1 million to support those most vulnerable in his native Switzerland. Football stars Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola reportedly have each donated more than $1 million, while the Irish UFC star Conor McGregor has chipped in a similar amount.

And that is a quick check of your sports headlines. I'm Don Riddell.


VAUSE: From the file of if only, if only the world acted sooner, if only we were more prepared, the head of WHO suggests maybe some of the heartbreak we've seen and is still yet to come could it be prevented. But even at this late point he says, it's not too late.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WHO: This virus is public enemy number one. It's a dangerous virus. And we have been saying to the world that the window of opportunity is narrowing and the time to act was actually more than a month ago or two months ago. That's what we have been saying.

But we still believe that there is opportunity. I think we squandered the first window of opportunity. But we are saying today, my message, I made it clear that this is a second opportunity which we should not squander.


VAUSE: South Africa is just hours away from a nationwide lockdown. But what about the homeless in Cape Town they say they're feeling forgotten, and afraid. Keep in mind, these are often the victims who fled violence. CNN's David McKenzie has that report.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When the lockdown announcement came, Linda Mbombo had one thought.

LINDA MBOMBO, REFUGEE: We don't know if he was thinking about us or only South African people.

MCKENZIE: For months, she and her children have been sleeping on this sidewalk. It started as a protest against xenophobic attacks against them, has morphed into a community of refugees. Hundreds of Central Africans homeless in Cape Town.

MBOMBO: Being a foreigner in South Africa is like a death sentence for you with. You don't have peace.


MCKENZIE: Peace is what she's been searching for ever since fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo years ago.

MBOMBO: So I couldn't stay there because my husband since they took him one night, until today, I never knew where he is. Alive or he's dead, I don't know.

MCKENZIE: Now, with the lockdown just hours away, there is still no peace, just a new enemy, and even more uncertainty.

MBOMOBO: They are also scared to be in this place. Anytime, the sickness can just attack anyone from us here.

MCKENZIE: When crowds of more than 100 were first declared illegal, Papy Sukami says that the authorities told them to disperse. When they didn't, he says the city erected metal fencing.

PAPY SUKAMI, REFUGEE LEADER: The city of Cape Town put as a protection to isolate people. This is a joke. It's really a joke. They're supposed to find shelters for these people where they can wash their hands, they can wash their bodies, and they can eat to be healthy. If coronavirus arrive today, people are going to die.

MBOMBO: They leave us here. We don't know for what. They promised the shelter. We accept the shelter. We said, even now, if they bring bus to take us to shelter, we'll go.

MCKENZIE: President Cyril Ramaphosa said they would look to identify temporary shelters.

J.P. SMITH, POLITICIAN, SOUTH AFRICA: I feel for the people who are in that situation.

MCKENZIE: But at the moment, official J.P. Smith says there are around 172 available shelter beds for the city's close to 5,000 homeless population, not nearly enough for everyone.

SMITH: Many are holding out for something better, either accommodation or relocation to another country. Neither of those are legally possible or viable for a whole range of complicated reasons.

MCKENZIE: So as South Africans prepare to stay at home, the question still remains. What will the government do for those without one? David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching. I'm John Vause. The news continues with Rosemary Church right after this.