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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Intensive Care; More than 97 Percent of U.S. Under Stay-At-Home Orders; New York Still in Crisis but Seeing Possible Plateau; Health Experts Say Peak Death Rate Still to Come; India to Relax Export Ban on Anti-Malaria Drug; China Reports No New Deaths for First Time in Months; Investigating the Origins of COVID-19. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and around the globe. I'm Rosemary Church at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. The U.S. braces for a difficult week ahead as it battles to contain the coronavirus.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm Max Foster in London where the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in intensive care a week and a half after testing positive for COVID-19.

Now cabinet minister Michael Gove very close to Boris Johnson has been speaking to the BBC. He said that the Prime Minister has received oxygen support in the hospital behind me but he's not on a ventilator. That suggests that his condition hasn't worsened significantly. Mr. Johnson was moved into intensive care on Monday when his condition started to get worse. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has now been asked to deputize to the Prime Minister where necessary. CNN's anything Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in 10 Downing Street. Because, Nick, that's where we're getting the updates on the condition of the Prime Minister but also who's in charge.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have seen Dominic Raab just enter the building behind me shortly ahead of the COVID-19 meeting he'll be chairing about 14 minutes from now. We also heard from Michael Gove, as you say, a cabinet minister, very close to Boris Johnson. A little more updates about his physical condition. We have to point out that it isn't clear when Mr. Gove was last briefed.

But he not only said that points out yourself that Boris Johnson has received oxygen support. And we have to past that term that are being very carefully used by the government here to suggest what level of intervention that has involved, although he was clear Mr. Johnson is not on a ventilator. That would be an exceptionally drastic step that would portray possibly a deadly situation. But at the same time, too, we are also waiting to hear further updates later on today from the normal lobby briefing that occurs here inside Downing Street to try and piece together a little more as to what's happening inside that intensive care ward. It's been a mixed series of messages over the last 36 hours. Also

initially, the government said that Boris Johnson was admitted to the hospital for what were tests as a precautionary measure, then his situation radically worsened during yesterday afternoon. And on doctor's advice he moved into the intensive care ward.

Downing Street still in their statements yesterday evening about 7 o'clock suggesting that the move into the ICU was somehow precautionary but also accepting that he was near equipment, quote, should he need to get equipment from a ventilator. He hasn't needed that until this point but there is obviously a bit of a lag in terms of what the doctors know, what the cabinet knows and then what the public knows as well.

Dominic Raab, for example, addressed the British public yesterday afternoon probably around about the time Boris Johnson was being moved into an ICU. And said that Boris Johnson had, quote, had a comfortable night.

So we are learning a little bit more about how the government will continue to function. Michael Gove very clear suggesting they'll be unified. And of course, Dominic Raab does have the capacity to make decisions, quote, when necessary. That's always been the government's terminology. But certainly a complicated few hours ahead as the government tries to not unduly alarm the public but also make it feel informed. But at the same time to balance the medical privacy needs of a man who's deeply sick, clearly, in intensive care unit and also national security concerns as well.

Unprecedented, frankly, for this government to deal with a crisis like this and no government, frankly, wants to ever admit that their leader requires this level of medical intervention. But certainly outpourings of support and admiration for Boris Johnson from unexpected quarters across the United Kingdom as well as with concern as to perhaps how hard he was working, how seriously he had taken his initial symptoms in the early stages but above all a wish for his swift recovery -- Max.

FOSTER: Absolutely, Nick. Thank you. Let's try to get some inside track then from Crispin Blunt and he joins us from Reigate. Crispin, obviously, a problem back here with Boris Johnson. You know him very well. Are you hearing anything from within the party that we are not? Can you give us any guidance?

CRISPIN BLUNT, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP (via Skype): No, there's just an outpouring for love and support for him. Frankly, that's the feedback all members of Parliament appear to be getting and unsurprisingly. He was a huge favorite of the party and he has support in all sections of the party whether it's Parliamentary membership or our voters.


And that's now reflected in the concern about his condition.

FOSTER: We're told he's conscious. He's not on a ventilator. He has had some oxygen treatment. Tell us about the man, the sort of person that will be in there and his resilience. Lots of people have been talking about that overnight.

BLUNT: Well, and they would. Boris is a real-life force and a great optimist, and he will be absolutely convinced that he can beat this personal battle as well as lead the country to defeat the coronavirus overall.

FOSTER: There is some question about the murkiness of leadership now. We were speaking to John Rantoul potentially expressing some concerns -- he's a political commentator, of course, in this country -- about the division of leadership currently. Because obviously, Boris Johnson has clarified that he's still in charge but Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary, will be stepping up when necessary. I mean, what does that mean? Who's in charge when?

BLUNT: Well, I you said Dominic is chairing the cabinet and will be chairing the cabinet committees that fall to him as well as obviously whilst he's continuing his duties as foreign secretary and the international engagements to get the world to coordinate better its battle against the coronavirus.

Within the United Kingdom we're now very much in an operational phase of stepping up the capacity of the United Kingdom to fight this. We've got three quarters of a million people now joining the NHS but he's all generous today to assist them in this fight. And it's the management of all of those efforts around the equipment and the rest and scaling up the National Health Service resources will now be the focus of attention. The strategy is set for the time being and so it's really about driving the administration and that plays very much to Dominic Raab's strengths.

FOSTER: Do you have any concerns about cabinet unity if the Prime Minister's further incapacitated and Governor Raab effectively takes over as Prime Minister and there are divisions within the cabinet second guessing potentially what Boris Johnson might be doing in the situation?

BLUNT: No I don't. Because it's pretty clear right now you don't want rally together. They will have support Dominic Raab when he's stepping up for Boris Johnson. And anyone is going to be looking with too much pleasure at people who are running any kind of different line. It's absolutely not the moment for it now and I'm certain we won't see it.

OK, Crispin Blunt, appreciate your time and thank you for joining us on CNN today.

Rosemary, updates expected around lunchtime here in the U.K., a few hours from now. But of course, if they feel there are any urgent updates that should be issued before then, they will come out and we will bring them to you here live.

CHURCH: Absolutely, and we will come back to you very soon anyway. Max, thank you so much for monitoring the condition of Britain's Prime Minister. We appreciate that. Well, the United States remains the epicenter of the coronavirus

pandemic. The U.S. death toll has soared past 10,000 and health experts are warning that number is likely to rise much higher. Right now 97 percent of the country is under stay at home orders and one of the nation's top immunologists is asking people to maintain social distancing as the U.S. heads into one of its toughest weeks yet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Saturday it sounded like you said that for the next week people in high risk areas should not even go to the market or the drugstore. Is that what you meant to say or is that accurate?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: You know, out of respect for every single healthcare worker that's on the front line, whether they're a nurse, a doctor, a respiratory therapist, a phlebotomist, the persons who come in the rooms to clean, you know, out of respect for them, we as Americans should be doing everything possible. And what I meant was if you can consolidate, if you can send one person, the entire family doesn't need to go out on these occasions.

We really need -- this is a highly transmittable virus. We've been saying that. We want every American to know that what they're doing is making a difference. But we need to have solidarity of commitment from everyone to really -- so, you know, maybe once every two weeks we can do a grocery store and pharmacy shop for the entire family.


CHURCH: And the disease is ramping up the strain on medical resources across the country, but in some states, there are signs the virus might be slowing down. Nick Watt has the latest.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what we train to do and this is what we signed up for, just not in this volume.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In New York state the rate of new infections is finally falling.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: It is hopeful but it's also inconclusive and it still depends on what we do.

WATT: So despite good news, the governor just extended their stay at home order through the end of the month and doubled the fine for noncompliance.

CUOMO: This is an enemy that we have underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly.

While the numbers look like they may be turning. Yay, it's over. No, it's not. In other places have made that mistake. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have any pain anywhere?



WATT: Even if peak infection has passed, health officials say peak death rate still likely to come.

DR. BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HELP, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: For New York and New Jersey and Detroit this week is going to be the peak week.

WATT: In New Jersey Sheryl Pabatao just lost both her parents, both healthcare workers.

SHERYL PABATAO, PARENTS DIED OF COVID-19: This was the year that they were supposed to retire. You know, this is their retirement.

VICE ADMIRAL JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.

WATT: Around our nation's capital DC, Virginia, Maryland, confirmed cases have near tripled in just a week. More than 10,000 Americans dead already according to Johns Hopkins University and one model the White House task force is using suggests we're still ten days from the peak when we could lose 3,000 or more in one day. In Michigan more than 600 dead and counting.

GRETCHEN WHITMER, MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: We are running dangerously low on PPE. At Beaumont hospital we have less than three days until N95 masks run out.

DEANNE CRISWELL, COMMISSIONER, NYC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT: This is a nationwide impact and it's hard to adjudicate those resources across the nation knowing you're not going to have enough for everybody.

WATT: Peak infection in California now not projected until mid-May.

ELENI KOUNALAKIS, CALIFORNIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: I think it's pretty clear at this point that this is what April's going to look like.

WATT: Most of us still told to stay home at least another three weeks, likely longer.

In Louisiana the same model suggests they've actually passed their peak need for beds and ventilators. It was grim, still is.

LATOYA CANTRELL, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA MAYOR: Our coroner's office is at capacity as we're laying the dead bodies of our loved ones.

WATT (on camera): Here in the U.S., of course, the coronavirus is hitting different places at different times. California yet to see a surge so the governor has given 500 ventilators to the national stockpile, but we are being told here in L.A. County to brace ourselves. We were told that if we've got enough supplies, this week might be a good week not even to go to the grocery store.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHURCH: And "The New York Times" is reporting that Peter Navarro, U.S. President Donald Trump's trade advisor issued a high-level alert about the coronavirus in late January. Navarro warned an outbreak could cost the U.S. trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk. My colleague Don Lemon spoke to "The New York Times's" Maggie Haberman about why the memo wasn't acted on.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: There's not a typical process at this White House. There hasn't been for frankly the almost the entirety of the administration. So it is certainly believable that he didn't see it. The question is how many other people saw it and how widely it was talked about.

Navarro is viewed with skepticism by his colleagues because of some of his trade positions. Because he is so singularly focused on China and has been for a long time. That is how people assumed he was seeing this, as another threat from China as opposed to him sort of looking at and evaluating the various possibilities here about what could happen in the U.S. if this spread. And again, he was not the only person who was warning of this. Matt Pottinger, chief deputy of the national security council, was also concerned. They were in the minority.


CHURCH: Maggie Haberman there.

And meanwhile, President Trump is questioning the findings of a new report from the inspector general of the health and human services. The report found hospitals continue to have severe and widespread shortages of medical supplies.

We will take a short break here. Still to come, China is easing its stay at home restrictions as it slowly recovers from the coronavirus. But as residents return to the streets in large numbers, fears are growing about a potential second outbreak. We're back with that in a moment.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

India is relaxing its ban on the export of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. U.S. President Trump has promoted this drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19 even though there is no definitive evidence to back that up. He said on Sunday there could be retaliation if India didn't release the U.S.'s supply of the drug. And for more I'm joined now by CNN producer, Vedika Sud. She is in New Delhi. Good to see you again, Vedika. So what more are you learning about India's decision to lift this ban?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER: Well, this ban was in place on Saturday along with 14 other drugs. The focus has been on hydroxychloroquine as well as Paracetamol. But we're hearing now from the foreign ministry that issued a statement that after considerations of internal usage uses of the drug, they can go ahead and export. So pharmaceutical companies can go ahead do that. But this will essentially be for neighboring countries as well as countries who have been badly affected by HCQ.

Just a word -- I've just spoken to a few doctors on the significance and the reason why HCQ is important.


It is, like you said, Rosemary, an anti-malarial drug. It is also used for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and also has anti-viral agents. In some cases in India as some doctors have told me this is used by front line health workers as I speak to you, and that's why it is something that the U.S. is also looking for. Also this was very easily available in India until a month ago over the counter and it was pretty reasonable to buy. But now the foreign ministry has made it very clear that immediately they will be monitoring the supply of this drug to other countries as well -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to Vedika Sud bring us up-to-date on that lifting of the ban. Appreciate that.

Well, China appears to have reached a turning point in its fight against the coronavirus. On Tuesday health officials reported no new deaths from the virus for the first time since January and now with the outbreak seemingly under control, China has been slowly allowing people back on the streets. But as David Culver reports, experts are warning that the country still faces serious risks.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Photos taken over the weekend at this popular mountain hiking trail in eastern China show crowds of tourists standing barely six inches apart, forget six feet. Most wearing facemasks as they venture out of lockdowns and into nature enjoying a three-day Qingming holiday weekend. Seemingly comforted that the government has gotten the novel coronavirus outbreak under control despite warnings from health officials that the risks still linger.

When we arrived in shanghai mid-February, popular this is what the popular Bund looked like. Only a few locals strolling the Riverwalk. Today we walked that same stretch and we were not alone. Standing in the same spots you'd struggle to think of this metropolis as 24 plus million was essentially shut down at the beginning of the year and now it is bustling once again. A couple of months ago we walked Nanjing Road in the midst of an

outbreak. Stores open but empty. Here was my observation at the time. Notice the lack of crowds behind me.

Sure, you've got a few folks that are out and about, but the vast majority of people still don't feel like as though they're coming onto the streets.

(on camera): But that was two months ago. Look at the difference now. You can see the crowds building up behind me. People less and less fearful of venturing out and resuming life in this new normal.

(voice-over): We went back to the same shops. The employees no longer desperate for customers. Local shanghai residents even hopping on board a tour bus. Ana Xu taking her 11-year-old daughter around the city. Schools still closed, consider this a field trip. They've adapted to the new mode of at-home learning. But Ana and her daughter ready for this long break from school to end.

(on camera): Almost four months?


CULVER: That's unbelievable. Is it hard to have everybody at home at the same time?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

CULVER: That's unbelievable. Is it hard to have everybody at home at the same time?

XU: Yes, yes, yes.

CULVER (voice-over): And while there is comfort to see restaurants filling up again or families having a picnic at local parks or kids being kids playing with friends, you've got to wonder, is it all happening too fast? Will this continue? Or might another wave of the outbreak send life here back inside?

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


CHURCH: David Culver with that report.

Now based on what we know so far, it appears the virus originated around the Chinese city of Wuhan, but we don't know much else. Conspiracy theories abound of course and experts are divided about what science can tell us at this point. CNN's Drew Griffin reports on the race to find an answer.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Because we don't know where the novel coronavirus came from yet, the conspiracy theories fill the void. RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm telling you, the Chicoms are trying to weaponize this thing.

GRIFFIN: Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, with zero proof, suggesting a Chinese bioweapon lab is to blame.

A Chinese official tweeting -- it might be U.S. Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.

But to find the real source of this pandemic, it's best to leave it to science. CNN has spoken to a half-dozen virus hunters, who right now say anyone who claims they know the exact source of the novel coronavirus is guessing.

Did it come from bats? Most likely. Chinese researchers have already determined the coronavirus is 96 percent identical at the whole genome level to a bat coronavirus. 27 public health scientists from across the U.S. and the world wrote this letter in the journal "Lancet" condemning conspiracy theories and citing scientific evidence, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, that supports the theory that overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.

PETER DASZAK, PRESIDENT, ECOHEALTH, ALLIANCE: The common thread is wildlife. These pathogens emerged from wildlife.


GRIFFIN: One of those scientists is one of the most preeminent virus hunters in the world, Peter Daszak.

DASZAK: Because we'd been doing this work in China for 10 years, we had a whole series of genetic sequences of viruses we have found with our colleagues. So, when they got a new virus in people because of COVID-19, they could compare it to what they'd seen in bats. So they knew straight away this is likely a bat origin virus.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And because it has that 96 percent comparison rate to what was actually in a bat, that's why you're saying it's very, very likely this did come from a bat, although we don't know what this -- where this strain actually came from?

DASZAK: We're very confident that the origin of COVID-19 is in bats. We just don't know where exactly it originates. And that's what we need to do now.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It is a genetic detective story. Researchers will trace the virus that is killing thousands to a yet-to-be-captured bat in the wild, to a potential animal that became the crossover vehicle for COVID-19.

Yes, the virus could have transferred directly from bat to human, but most likely, says Daszak, it was bats infecting farmed animals, the animals brought to market alive, and kept with people in one of the most perfect incubators for viral infection, the Chinese wet market. DASZAK: This huge diversity of animals lie in cages on top of each other, with you know a pile of guts that have been pulled out of an animal and thrown on the floor.

And as you walk toward the stalls, you slip on feces and blood. These are perfect places for viruses to spread. But not only that, people are working there. People are coming in and buying animals. They're chopping them up in front of you. And kids are playing there. You know, families almost live there.

GRIFFIN: It's called zoonotic spillover. Professor Andrew Cunningham, with the Zoological Society of London, has studied them for decades.

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM, ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF LONDON: Wet markets, these live animal markets, are certainly a very good way of, if you like, trying to get a virus to spill over into people from wildlife. They're susceptible to getting viruses or other pathogens from the environment or from other animals that they wouldn't naturally come into close contact with, again, because they're stressed.

And then they can become virus factories. And they're in close contact with human beings in the markets, and they're butchered in the markets, and by people in relatively unhygienic conditions.

GRIFFIN: Other researchers point to reports from China that some of the earliest cases were not associated with the wet market.

And then there's this theory, widely debunked, this paper from two Chinese researchers that says it is plausible that the virus leaked accidentally from one of two labs near the Wuhan seafood market. After an uproar and heated denials by the Chinese government, one of the authors told "The Wall Street Journal" the paper had been withdrawn because it was not supported by direct proofs.

Experienced virus hunter Daszak and Cunningham say the theory is bunk.

DASZAK: People don't keep bats in captivity. Complete baloney.

CUNNINGHAM: We don't need to invoke conspiracy theories. It's just basic biology.

GRIFFIN: Tensions between the U.S. and China over the origins of the virus and accusations of misinformation from both sides are slowing the work of the virus hunters, who are grounded by the same travel restrictions that have crippled the world.

That is concerning, because without knowing where it came from, there is still a chance that original host species is spreading it.

DASZAK: If there was a so-called intermediate host, an animal that the bat virus got into, and then allowed it to get into people, the virus might still be in that host. Now, there are hundreds, thousands of these animals and farms, and maybe the virus is still there. So, even if we get rid of the outbreak, there's still a chance that that virus could then reemerge. And we need to find that quickly.


CHURCH: Drew Griffin with that sobering report. Still to come on CNN. Crisis on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what we train to do and this is what we signed up for, just not in this volume.


CHURCH: We will have an exclusive look inside one New York City emergency room battling the virus. That's just ahead.

Plus, the most senior Vatican official ever convicted of child sex abuse is now a freeman. Details on the ruling from Australia's high court. That's coming up as well.