Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

New U.S. Cases Trending Downward; White House to Labs: Get Test Kits Done; Virus May Not Go Away in Warm Weather; U.K. Prime Minister's Condition Improving; Trump Wants to Reopen with "Big Bang" in May; WTO: Global Trade May Plunge Up to a Third This Year; Spain's Death Toll Rises For Second Day In A Row; Italy's Virus Death Toll Rises, ICU Cases Decreases; Dozens OF Former World Leader Demand Action From G20; Sweden Adopts Alternative Approach To Combat Virus. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 9, 2020 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

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, predictions are not -- for the 2nd day the death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. has been significantly scaled back with officials saying social distancing appears to be more effective than expected.

But the same pandemic model predicts the U.K. will be the worst hit European country with the virus claiming more than 66,000 lives.

And pandemic politics, the U.S. president, again tries to shift blame for his administration failings onto the WHO as almost 100 former world leaders making a desperate plea for a coordinated international response.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE: The latest pandemic model has some encouraging news for the United States, but a grim outlook for the U.K. These numbers are only predictions and not written in stone. By using the current data, Britain is on track to have the highest death toll in Europe, more than 66,000.

It is important to note leading scientists in the U.K. do not believe these numbers are accurate. The same model predicts a death toll in the U.S. will be around 60,000 as well. It appears the rate of new infections has slowed. The White House says that is because Americans have been vigilant in following stay-at-home orders and must continue to do so for the trend to continue.

For there is now clarity on what will happen over the coming months as to whether it gets warmer. The U.S. president has said the virus will disappear but it will not. The Nat Academy of Scientists say high temperatures and humidity may slow transmission slightly but not enough to prevent the virus from spreading exponentially. More on the day's developments from CNN's Nick Watt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A glimmer of hope: a model used by the White House now predicts the nationwide death toll is down about 20,000, largely due to social distancing. But:

ANDREW CUOMO (D), GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: Today is a day in the state of New York with very mixed emotions.

WATT (voice-over): -- because day after day the state is still seeing a rise in reported deaths and --

CUOMO: The number of deaths will continue to rise as those hospitalized for a longer period of time pass away.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is very sobering to see the increase in deaths. It's going to be a bad week for deaths.

WATT (voice-over): -- about 60,000 Americans are still projected to die by early August. Right now, we are not even a quarter of the way to that grim total. And every number is a person, a story. Zenobia Shepherd's daughter, Leilani, just died, aged 27.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZENOBIA SHEPHERD, LEILANI'S MOTHER: My husband and I both were in the room, you know, and I was able to hold my baby's hands for the last time. And it was so hard for me. It was my baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT (voice-over): The new modeling also highlights regional disparities; projected deaths in New Jersey more than doubled to over 5,200; projected deaths in California down from about 6,100 to about 1,600.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We are looking very carefully at California and Washington to really understand how they have been able, as a community of Americans, to mitigate so well.

WATT (voice-over): A CNN poll shows the majority of Americans now think the federal government has done a poor job in preventing coronavirus spread. It's 55 percent, up 8 points in about a week. The administration also still watching hotspots popping up around the country.

BIRX: We are concerned about the metro area of Washington and Baltimore and we're concerned right now about the Philadelphia area.

WATT (voice-over): Some states now stockpiling a malaria drug to treat COVID-19. It's not proven to work; potentially dangerous. Florida expecting a million doses today; Georgia already given 200,000.

TRUMP: I really think it is a great thing to try, just based on what I know, again, I am not a doctor.

WATT (voice-over): Adam Jarrett is.

DR. ADAM JARRETT, HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER: So we are using hydroxychloroquine but we really don't know whether it works.

WATT (voice-over): And still, we are told there is not enough testing going on.

BIRX: All the lab directors could look in their laboratories, if they have an Avid M2000, if they could get that up and running, we could double the number of tests we're doing per day. Right now about 80 percent of them are idle. Over 1 million test kits sitting, ready to be run.

[02:05:00]

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, E.R. PHYSICIAN: Well, I hope that the federal government is doing more than speaking this at the press conference. This is the key to opening us back up again, getting these tests online.

WATT (voice-over): So are antibody tests; the White House says they'll be ready inside two weeks.

CUOMO: That is going to be the bridge from where we are today to the new economy. People who have been exposed and now are better, those people can go back to work.

WATT (voice-over): But for now, still, this must be our normal.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK MAYOR: We have to recognize the progress is because people are doing the right thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're watching from Jersey, please stay home.

WATT: A quick note on those models, they can change, they can go up or down, also the projection of a drop in the deaths in the U.S. is based on social distancing continuing through the end of May, that's another seven weeks or so -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Dr. Ryan McGarry is in emergency medical physician, joining us from Los Angeles.

Doctor, thanks for taking the time to be with us.

There is relatively good news, the death rate in the United States is to be far less than previously thought. It's assuming social distancing measures, including closure of businesses and schools, will remain in place until August. Other measures could replace those measures, including mass screening, contact tracing and selective quarantines.

But overall, does this give you hope?

How do you read them in terms of what we have ultimately seen in the E.R.?

DR. RYAN MCGARRY, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Yes, cautious optimism. If you live in the States you don't have to go much further back to the 2016 election to know that modeling is frequently wrong.

I think, yes, cautiously optimistic. Here on the front lines in Los Angeles, we continue to see a daily rise in both the volume and intensity of illness. Here in L.A. we have a very vulnerable population, our homeless population is high, over 50,000 in the city.

It's a tinderbox that can go either way. Some of us think the story of L.A. will be told via that population, whether or not we can protect them or not.

VAUSE: It's hard to stay at home when you don't have a home.

MCGARRY: Correct.

VAUSE: All this is based on the assumption that restrictions of movement will remain in place through August. At the same time we're hearing from the U.S. president pushing for opening up of the economy. He wants that to happen in weeks.

You can't have both, can you?

MCGARRY: You can't have both, I don't think. Driving down the streets in L.A., you see a lot of pain. There's a lot of dark windows, a lot of closed businesses. I understand that many of us would want a leader to be optimistic and push for an opening when we can do it.

That said, we know that this is a very unpredictable and dangerous threat like we have never seen before in our lifetimes. I think it has been 100 years since the last major pandemic in the world, the flu of 1918.

This requires a whole new level of thinking. It will change how we interact and look at the world forever. To end this early, just as we are seeing good progress, I get it is tempting; I sure hope we don't do that.

VAUSE: It seems to, me if there is one way you could do this and not have the virus come back is through testing. But the testing has to be widespread, everyone has to be tested.

You also have to look at the antibodies, right?

MCGARRY: I think in the end, we know that there will be future waves. Even as we get through the best of those models, there is data that suggests that 97 percent of Americans will not have had any exposure to the virus.

That is a huge wake up call that this is just round one. In the end, I think it will be a mixture of things, antibodies, testing, vaccine and possible hope with some of the medications out there that may reduce symptoms. You need all three to get after. This

VAUSE: A month ago Donald Trump made this prediction, based on no evidence whatsoever, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The virus, they are working hard, it looks like by April, as it gets warmer, it miraculously goes away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The president was wrong. A scientific panel told the White House that there is some evidence that transmission might be lower with the high ambient temperature and humidity.

[02:10:00]

VAUSE: But given the lack of host immunity globally, that reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread.

If we look at Australia, where it's summer, or Iran and India, where the climate is hot, the virus continues to spread.

MCGARRY: Right. You don't have to look further than SARS and MERS, that share properties with this virus, to know those were horrible outbreaks that did not respect seasonal change.

I think again, I understand the wish for optimism. You wonder if, in the middle of World War II, if our leaders said something as fantasy as that, I am not sure that would go over well with the troops at the front line. Those of us on the front line are going, well, OK, no, it won't go away.

VAUSE: Because L.A. and California would be looking at their peak just as the weather starts to get warm, hoping it would be mitigated, that's obviously not the case now. We're bracing for the peak expected in about two months or so from now.

Is that right?

MCGARRY: Yes, some of the models think sooner. Again, it can be one or two weeks. Again these models are uncertain, uncertain times as we go further, process the data, that predictions ideally get better.

But I think when you are on the front line and you know the variance of these things, you are best being prepared. That's certainly how I head to my shift every day, is just being ready for the worst.

VAUSE: Good luck. Stay well. Thank you for everything you are doing. Dr. Ryan McGarry in Los Angeles. We appreciate it.

MCGARRY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: U.K. officials say they are seeing the first signs that new infections have plateaued. The government reported more than 900 deaths on Wednesday and say that social distancing remains critical to prevent a surge in new cases.

In the meantime, after 3 nights in intensive care, the British prime minister is said to be in stable condition responding to treatment for COVID-19. CNN's Max Foster is at St. Thomas Hospital in London, where the prime minister is being treated.

Max, good morning.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It does appear that he is getting better. He is apparently sitting up, engaging with his clinical team and presumably, when is he is out of ICU, if that is the next step, he can start engaging with his government as well.

They have got some questions coming up and the amount of concern about the good weather expected over the Easter weekend. People breaking the lockdown rules. Minister is talking about setting up some sort of stay at home message this weekend, particularly when you get these discussions.

This data coming out, suggesting we may be heading toward the peak or it might be peaking. Therefore, people get a bit more relaxed out of all of this. When there is good, weather it is frustrating. Nina dos Santos for us.

Going into the weekend, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the messaging from Downing Street.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: They know, that Max. We are expecting, according to the meteorological forecasts, good weather up to about 25 degrees Celsius. That is 77 degrees Fahrenheit and people may be tempted to leave their homes when they have been, effectively, under partial lockdown for about 2.5 weeks with this long Easter weekend holiday coming up.

And in anticipation of that, we are expecting the government to hold one of its emergency COBR meetings to try and determine whether or not they're going to have to communicate to people that this lockdown will have to continue in the immediate future, as you, said to try and flatten that curve of infections.

Perhaps, whether or not they will have to start writing people for staying in front of the 3 weeks from here, that is the big moot point. So throughout the course of the morning, we are going to be expecting senior members of the government's medical advisory team, also some of the members of the security and emergency forces, senior government members from the health side and others including, of course, Dominic Raab, who is deputizing for the prime minister while he is in intensive care as and when necessary to arrive and have these meetings that will probably learn more about what the eventual discussions are through the course of the day.

Remember, for the last couple of weeks, the government has continued to keep the press and the British public apprised of the situation via these daily coronavirus press briefings with senior government figures.

It may well be they decide later on to communicate that people have to be prepared to stay in, not just at least for this Easter weekend but for longer than that.

There is also speculation in the British press that actually, when it comes to telling the British people that we will have to stay at home for longer than, perhaps, the next 2 or 3 weeks, is that that could be the decision that will be put off until Boris Johnson is out of hospital, out of intensive care and back through the doors of Downing Street.

[02:15:00]

DOS SANTOS: As you said, at the moment, all indications from the government have consistently been that he is getting better, responding to treatment and that he hasn't needed a ventilator.

Just briefly talking about, as you are saying before, the sort of fact that the government scientists yesterday indicated we could be reaching potentially the peak of this pandemic here in the United Kingdom, if, of course, people heed those messages to stay at home to so-called stay safe.

I should point out there is an interesting survey that came out over the course of the last couple of days from Seattle in the United States, where scientists, epidemiologists, said that up to 60,000 people could die in the U.K. if by the month of August, if these kind of lockdown measures weren't adhered to.

Government scientists here saying those numbers look very much higher than what they were expecting -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nina. In terms of how the government responds to that. Obviously, there is criticism that Boris Johnson's team reacted very late to the virus. If that does turn out at the most deadly epidemic in the country is in the U.K., for Europe, at least, that is going to be something they will have to explain into the long term.

DOS SANTOS: Look, the U.K. government has faced a huge amount of criticism and skepticism for its approach to the coronavirus from outside of these borders not least not from the European Union, countries like Italy have consistently said look at what is happening to us. It may happen to you next.

Some of their scientists and doctors have been saying, at this point, we don't really know but we do know is that the numbers of the members of the government apparatus have been infected with coronavirus themselves. And the British prime minister is the world leader who is in intensive care as a result at this hour.

His senior most adviser Dominic Cummings is also struck down with the illness just earlier this week. The head of secretary of state running the cabinet office, essentially, the government machinery, says he is in self isolation because a family member has tested or he appeared to be showing signs of coronavirus and hasn't been tested yet.

But testing is the key to this. Many people will say that the government will only be able to reduce this lockdown when it gets an idea of how many people had the coronavirus and recovered. When that herd immunity they went into this talking about has actually been achieved.

There's been great embarrassment for this government on that front of testing. They have been accused of being late to the game. They have ordered antibody tests to test whether people have been infected or not. And it has turned out that some of those haven't worked.

And yet again, yesterday, in the press conferences, we heard one of the chief scientific advisers admit that they could learn a lot from countries like Germany, who perceivably have got this right and can test 500,000 people today -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nina, thank you.

John, we are expecting an update on Boris Johnson today. A bit of a pattern forming, we might get the minister coming in the next hour so, giving a general update then we will hear a bit more at lunchtime here in the U.K. So, of course, we will bring you that.

VAUSE: Live coverage as soon as it happens, Max Foster in London now.

A nationwide lockdown in France which began just over 3 weeks ago was set to be extended again. The president will address the country from the palace on Monday night. And while the daily death toll appears to be falling, the president will announce restrictions on movement will remain in place beyond April 15th.

The death toll on Wednesday according to the government was 562 but no data came from elderly care facilities, so that number will be higher.

In China, one lockdown has lifted, another into effect. State media reporting the tiny border city of Sulfenhe, 70,000, is now on lockdown with at least 84 confirmed cases and most of them Chinese business men returning from Russia.

The city which was in the eye of the pandemic storm, Wuhan, is now marching back into the world after being cut off for 76 days.

What will be the economic cost of life coming to a standstill across most of the planet?

When we come back, don't think V-shaped or U-shaped recovery. Some warn think Great Depression, even Greater Depression.

Later, President Trump's new target for blaming the pandemic, the World Health Organization and how the group's chief is firing back with a very stark warning.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:20:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE: President Trump is making clear he wants to end the shutdown soon.

"Once we open up our great country and it will be sooner rather than later, the horror of the invisible enemy except for those that sadly lost a family member or a friend, must be quickly forgotten. Our economy will boom, perhaps like never before."

Sources tell CNN that some White House aides hope to reopen the U.S. economy as soon as May with what Mr. Trump calls "a big bang," setting up another showdown between economic aides at the White House as well as the scientific experts.

A new CNN poll shows only 39 percent believe the U.S. economy is in good shape compared to 69 percent back in March. But now there is optimism, apparently, 67 percent believe the economy will be in good shape a year from now.

So 1 percent believe it will still be poor. E.U. member states continue to bicker over the fine print of a stimulus deal. The bloc's biggest economies are heading fast into recession. France and Germany are seeing almost unprecedented contractions of economic activity.

Germany estimates growth will be down 2 percent in the first quarter, almost 10 percent in the 2nd and France down 6 percent in that first quarter and then losing 1.5 percent every 2 weeks from there.

Meanwhile a meeting of the Eurozone finance ministers has stalled up to 16 hours of negotiations. The sticking point is, will there be conditions attached to credit lines?

They will try again later on Thursday. France's finance minister says failure at this point is not an option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNO LE MAIRE, FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER (through translator): I will say that we had a long and difficult meeting with the Eurozone finance ministers last night, which ended at around 9:00 am this morning. This meeting did not result in an ambitious package of responses to the economic crisis due to the coronavirus health crisis.

I don't want to point the finger at anyone because I think that would not be useful and because I deeply believe, as does the president of the republic, that our collective responsibility is to come to an agreement within 24 hours. A failure is unthinkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: In the meantime, the World Trade Organization, warns global, trade could plunge 32 percent this year the director general says the numbers are ugly and warns of painful consequences for people and businesses, in North America and Asia, especially being the hardest hit. CNN's John Defterios live for us at this hour.

We are looking at this, will there be a bounce back?

Will there be an uptick at the end?

[02:25:00]

VAUSE: Some said it will be more like an I, a straight downfall and it just won't stop.

What are we looking at here?

How bad is this all going to get?

What is the thing here?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Let's start with the trade figures themselves. This is an economic shock like no other. I've been covering this for about three decades now and I have never seen global commerce come to a halt all at the same time. Usually you have one region that starts this process and then there is a contagion.

So look at the chart and illustrate the drop in trade flows. You have one line here within normal in 2020 and then the green drop of about 13 percent. That matches what we saw a decade ago during the global financial crisis.

And then the red is what the director general of the WTO was talking about here. A drop of some 30 percent that we haven't seen since the Great Recession. There is liquidity in the market and that means there is financial liquidity going through the banking system; $5 trillion in the G20 itself, $7 trillion overall. So this is not a banking problem; it is the fact that global commerce is not moving, whether it is trains, trucks or airlines.

Basically, the only demand is for food and supermarkets and the pharmacies, John, you have never seen anything like it. The big challenger going forward is that the developed world will recover first because they got hit by the pandemic on the first round here.

I am worried about the big emerging markets which have been driving growth for the past decade. If they have the pandemic set in in the second half of the year, you could be looking at a global recession not in the first half but the entire part of 2020. And that is why the recovery would be difficult and why Donald Trump for example is pushing to get Congress in may against the advice of his medical advisers.

VAUSE: Absolutely. John Defterios with the latest in Abu Dhabi. Appreciate it.

We will take a short break and when we come back, Spain's death toll has continued to rise for a second day now. We are live in Madrid for more on that.

We also have a live update from Rome, where there is some good news coming out of the ICU.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE: More indications Italy may be turning a corner in the coronavirus crisis. The number of intensive care patients continues to decrease. The government says about 100 patients left the ICU on Wednesday. But the number of virus related deaths was up by 542 in the last 24 hours.

In Spain after a weeklong decline, there has been a rise in the death toll for a 2nd day. According to the government, the virus claimed another 757 lives, that brings the death toll to more than 14,000. CNN's Barbie Latza Nadeau is standing by in Rome for us.

First, to journalist Al Goodman, live in Madrid.

[02:30:00]

And Al, if you look at some of the public record CNN has done, it suggest the death toll in Madrid could be higher than reported.

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: That's right. The CNN team has looked at the records from the Madrid Superior Court which issued 9,000 burial licenses in the second half of March when this virus was really taking a huge toll in Madrid, which is the hardest-hit area of Spain. And that's -- that 9,000 burial license is several thousand numbers higher than the numbers of recorded deaths.

However, the health minister is speaking in parliament on Wednesday, insisted that every death from COVID-19 has been properly accounted for in following the protocols of the European Union and the World Health Organization. Now, in terms of the rise of the 757 deaths in this last period, that was the second straight day of increased death after a week of declining numbers, but the rate, John, the rate of increase is continuing to slow.

And especially for the new cases, there were just 610 new cases of COVID-19 across the entire country on Wednesday in this most recent period. That's under one percent. And that's the kind of numbers that Spain is looking for.

And one other point, Spain is going to conduct a clinical trial at 60 hospitals across the country with 4,000 medical workers to see how they can reduce the contagion in that vital group of workers. Because 15 percent of all of the cases in Spain, more than 22,000 medical workers have been infected with COVID-19. Many of them have had to wait out a lot of this crisis in their homes, and then several have died. John?

VAUSE: Yes. It's taking toll on health care workers. Al, thank you there in Madrid where the death toll is falling, but it's actually those cases. But Barbie, it's a different situation in Italy, right? We've had this fall in the -- in the number of daily deaths tolls, but the new cases seem to be accelerating at the same time.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. You know, the numbers are always a little bit mixed here, and some of that is because of the way that things are reported. We had a little bit of a spike in the number of deaths over the course of the last 24 hours, but it's down by almost 400 from what we were seeing a week ago.

And the officials tell us that the death toll is not really an indication of how things stand right now. These deaths are because of infections that were logged up to two weeks ago or more. But you know, we're seeing a record number of people recovered, more than 2,000 people were listed as recovered yesterday, that is the record. And we're seeing so many fewer people in the ICU wards 99, as you mentioned, fewer people that are in the ICU wards.

And of course, that takes the pressure off the healthcare system. We've seen that in the north of the country, so much pressure up there. And these new numbers indicate that there could be a relief in sight for them. And we're still waiting for the prime minister to give us an idea of what phase two looks like.

You know, the lockdown is supposed to end on Monday and nobody thinks that's going to happen. But we're waiting anxiously to find out what the step forward is. How are we going to coexist with COVID is basically what's next here in Italy.

VAUSE: OK, Barbie, thank you. Barbie Nadeau there for us in Rome, also Al Goodman on duty for us there in Madrid, thank you to you both. Well, tensions are growing between the U.S. president and the head of the World Health Organization. Donald Trump renewed his attacks on Wednesday, claiming the WHO was late in raising the alarm about the Coronavirus and that it is bias towards China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world WHO, World Health got it wrong. I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways they were wrong. They also minimize the threat very strongly and not good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Earlier the director-general of the WHO denied favoritism for any nation. He urged the US president not to play politics in the midst of a pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WHO: The focus of all political parties should be to save their people. Please don't politicize this virus. It exploits the differences you have at the national level. If you want to be exploited, and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Donald Trump has also threatened to suspend us funding for the WHO. Six years ago when the world was threatened by the Ebola virus, the global response was almost a polar opposite of what we've seen over the past few months over the Coronavirus pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe that if we made policy based not on fear, but on sound science, and good judgment, America could lead an effective global response while keeping the American people safe, and we could turn the tide of the epidemic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:35:03]

VAUSE: Back then, the U.S. assumed its traditional role leading an international response sending troops to West Africa to contain the outbreak. By the time it was over, the CDC put the global death toll at just over 11,000. In the U.S., 11 people were treated, most of them recovered. The final economic cost was $53 billion.

And just like the Coronavirus now, back then there was no vaccine for Ebola. And while Coronavirus is much more contagious than Ebola, the Ebola virus is much more deadly with a mortality rate close to 50 percent. Each outbreak is different with its own unique challenges. This time though, the other big difference is the total absence of U.S. leadership on the world stage, which is why more than 90 former world leaders have written an open letter to the G-20 calling for immediate internationally coordinated action within days.

And among those who signed this letter is Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand who joins us now from Auckland. Ms. Clark, it is great to see you. Thank you for being with us.

HELEN CLARK, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, NEW ZEALAND: Thank you.

VAUSE: What is your reaction right now when you look around the world and it seems to be a case of everyone for themselves, country bidding against country, even within, you know, the United States, states competing with other states for dwindling supplies of, you know, vital medical equipment and supplies.

CLARK: It is striking. The difference was 2014, when the Security Council came together to declare Ebola threat to global health and security. The Security Council now has not done that. I understand I have a virtual meeting tomorrow. I hope the issue of the pandemic is on the agenda. But I'm not holding my breath for countries coming together the way they did six years ago. I wish they would.

The letter that's gone facilitated by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and dozens offices, former leaders, goes to the G-20 to say help. We need the kind of rallying that the G-20 leaders did back in the wake of the global financial crisis because we are facing now a combined health and economic crisis that needs action at the highest level. It needs coordination, and it needs money, very big money to fight this.

VAUSE: Why have countries not reacted in the same cooperative way now, as they did back then?

CLARK: I think the geopolitics is very different. At that time, as your report said, the U.S. was taking a global leadership role on Ebola and was much more inclined to be supportive of the multilateral system. But I am of the opinion myself that given that this is now at least the fifth global public health emergency of this century that we need to have countries' support a global pandemic emergency coordination council, which will be a standing council that snaps into action every time we face a threat like this.

And I believe it should be led by the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, the U.N. Secretary-General, and the WHO Director-General, and they should then be able to convene. Unfortunately, Dr. Tedros and WHO have been pretty much left on their own to cope with what began as a health crisis, but has become the most profound economic global crisis.

VAUSE: I would like you to listen to President Obama back in 2015, when the Ebola outbreak was pretty much under control. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Thanks to the hard work of our nearly 3,000 troops who are deployed to West Africa. Logistics have been set up, the Ebola treatment units have been built, over 1,500 African health workers have been trained, and volunteers around the world have gained the confidence to join the fight.

We were a force multiplier. It wasn't just what we put in. It's the fact that when we put it in, people looked around and said, all right, America has got our back, so we'll come too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Was it always this assumption that the U.S. would take a leadership role at a moment like this because no other country realistically could actually do it, and secondly, the other reason is because it's in America's best interest?

CLARK: We do look to the United States to play that role. And President Obama did an incredible job rallying the world around us because up until the point when the U.S. got very involved, the three very poor countries in West Africa were being left to cope with a poll of pretty much under the radar. And President Obama saw the global threat that this was and empowered Samantha Power who was ambassador to the United Nations to drive the resolution up, which brought the Security Council together.

I just hope that tomorrow, when the Security Council meets, that it is very focused on this because we now need everyone to come together, or we all sink together. I live in a country in New Zealand, which is doing quite well batting back this pandemic, but we can't prosper if the rest of the world is struggling with the impact of this extraordinary crisis.

[02:40:01]

VAUSE: And this is the moment when the current U.S. President Donald Trump seems have decided because of his administration slow and I guess lackluster response to this crisis, that maybe he can deflect some of the blame onto the WHO, and of course, with an election at the end of the year, this is very popular with his base. But what are the implications both, I guess, short term and long term, when the U.S. president sort of goes out to undermine the World Health Organization for his own political gain?

CLARK: Well, profound implications because the World Health Organization is the recognized leader of global health. Actually, it should be strengthened, not undermined for the funding that it has, which is, frankly, quite pathetic. It does an incredible job. It needs help right now. It particularly needs help to get support out to the poorest countries.

You know, we sit and watch on our screens the G-7 economies, the most powerful economies in the world struggling with this virus. What about when it hits Liberia, when it hits Somalia, when it hits Afghanistan? This is a catastrophe. And we have an opportunity still to ward off the worst impact of it in the poorest and most fragile place on earth.

VAUSE: What we have seen recently, China, where this began also seems to be trying to make a play, if you like, in this leadership role, but that does not come without problems. For example, they've sold tens of thousands of testing kits to Britain, the U.S., and countries across Europe, and they just don't work.

So if there was a small coordinated response, if there were standards and there was oversight, will those sort of problems be avoided?

CLARK: So, looking at that story, it seems that some countries were buying those kits from a supplier which was not recognized by the government of China. China does supply quality equipment but clearly the source of supply was not one that was government certified. There absolutely have to be global standards that are respected. And I would suspect in China that the manufacturer supplied the faulty kits is probably had their door knocked on right now. They don't need that kind of bad publicity.

VAUSE: You know, the only thing which seems to be certain in all of this is that this will not be the last viral outbreak and not possibly the last pandemic. There will be another one sooner or later. And if we deal with the next one the same way that we've dealt with this one, without any global cooperation or coordination, what will be the outcome? CLARK: We're going to lurch from profound health and economic crisis to another profound health and economic crisis. This isn't tolerable. As I said, at least the first global public health emergency the century in 20 years. So we need that standing capacity that whenever something like this develops, and it will happen again, this transfer of viruses from animals to humans, jumping species, we're exposed to things we've never been exposed to before. So having the standing capacity to respond rapidly to support containing where it is, everybody dusting off the pandemic preparedness plans, this is absolutely critical for future peace and prosperity for people on our planet.

VAUSE: Helen Clark, it's been an honor to speak with you. Thank you so much for being with us.

CLARK: Thank you.

VAUSE: And in Sweden, life goes on. No harsh lockdown, no mandated social distancing. But is this whole approach actually working? After the break, we'll ask the Swedish foreign minister. Also head, why the pandemic is forcing Israel to celebrate Passover like never before?

[02:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: For most countries, the options for dealing with this crisis has been door number one, do almost nothing, allow the virus to take its course, bury the dead when it's done. Door number two, shut everything down including the economy, put everyone indoors and break the chain of transmission, and count your massive economic losses when it's done.

Sweden decided on door number three, no mandated social distancing, no stay at home borders, life for the most part goes on, almost as usual. Domestic travel is discouraged but not shut down. Schools remain open, so do bars and restaurants. Measures were taken to protect the elderly and the most vulnerable while the virus spread among the healthy and developed herd immunity.

And the number show is slow viral spread, a fairly low death toll road 700, but there are warning those numbers of confirmed cases and the number of dead are expected to rise significantly. On Tuesday during the Coronavirus White House briefing, Donald Trump called out Sweden for this more lenient approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now, they talk about Sweden, but Sweden is suffering very gravely, you know that right? Sweden did that. The herd, they call it the herd. Sweden is suffering very, very badly. It's a way of doing it, but the -- you know, everybody has been watching everybody else. And so far, almost every country has done it the way we've done it. We've chosen to do it. If we didn't do it that way, we would have lost hundreds of thousands of more people, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining us now from Stockholm, Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde. Good to see you, Ms. Linde. Thank you for taking the time. Can you clarify it for us right now the situation in Sweden? Would you say you're suffering greatly about the death toll and the infection rate? It seems relatively low compared to many other countries.

ANN LINDE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SWEDEN: Well, thank you, John. Glad to be here. Actually, we are suffering like many other countries. But there is a lot of myths going on about the so-called Swedish strategy. And as you just heard the Donald Trump saying that we have a strategy of herd immunity to respond of COVID-19. And that's absolutely false. That is not the Swedish strategy.

We have a combination of recommendation and legally binding measures that is followed by many of the people. For example, we can now see in Easter that there is a 90 percent decrease from Stockholm to some of the most popular Easter travel places. And we also have more than 90 percent of the people who are more than 70 years old who stay at home and follow their recommendation.

Then we also have legally binding measures like for example, it's forbidden to go and visit any elderly at home We have also, no more than 50 people can stay. Our goal is the same as in most other countries. We want to save lives. We want to hinder the spreading of the virus. And also, we want our health care system to be able to cope with this extraordinary challenge that COVID-19 is.

VAUSE: There seems to be sort of a basis here of trust. Essentially, you're trusting the population to do the right thing without mandating you know, some draconian shutdown. At the same time, the population is trusting the government to provide adequate health care when they become sick.

LINDE: Yes. Actually, the system we have which we have had for three, 400 years is that we have rather small ministries, but draw the big authorities. For example, in the public health agency is such an authority and there is a high level of trust between the people and the authorities, and towards the politicians, but also the other way around. That when there is a recommendation from the public health agency, there is a very, very strong urge to follow it from the population.

[02:50:18]

So that is why in our case -- and I have to say this is our way of doing it -- we do need to have the legally binding measures because we can trust people to follow recommendation to very big degree. We also have made it possible for people to stay at home, we have taken away the qualifying day for sick leave. We have raised the money you get when you are unemployed. We have also seen too that the healthcare system get what they need.

So we try to make it easier for people to stay home and not lose out economically on it, at the same time as the health care system should have the things that they need to fight this disease.

VAUSE: It's a system with more carrots, I guess, than sticks is one way you might put it.

LINDE: Yes, I would say so. Yes.

VAUSE: What is the impact though --

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Yes, but it seems like there's a lot more encouragement for people to do the right thing. What's the impact, though, when you have the President of the United States, you know, from the loudest, you know, bully pulpit on the planet, essentially, spreading misinformation about Sweden? What does that do domestically and internationally?

LINDE: Well, of course, I mean, I'm very sure that the United States is fighting this disease in a way that is appropriate for the United States. But I have to react when there is an actual wrong saying what President Trump is saying. We do not have a herd immunity strategy in Sweden. And we are not -- it's a myth that life goes on as normal in Sweden. And I have to try to get out and tell everybody.

We are also trying to save live to hinder the spread, but not in that (AUDIO GAP). And when President Trump is saying so, that is factually wrong.

VAUSE: Very quickly, do expect restrictions, tougher restrictions to be put in place fairly soon?

LINDE: Actually, we have made it possible to do it and we are saying we want the right measures but also in the right time. So we haven't closed down our schools. We have closed down -- we distance education from secondary school and universities. Would it be necessary we will do it. We are not hiding away as government of taking legally binding measures if we think that it's more effective.

We also think that if we have taken a bigger lockdown, then it would have been more difficult to people to do that on a long-term basis. And we think we still have a long time to go.

VAUSE: Yes, I think you're right. I think there's a very long time for all of us before we get through this. But, Foreign Minister Ann Linde, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

LINDE: Thank you. Thank you.

VAUSE: Good luck. So, could the COVID-19 pandemic be connected to climate change? Pope Francis seems to think so. Find out why he's making that connection next up on CNN.

[02:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Passover in Israel is usually a joyous occasion, but this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is costing up all over the country which is under complete lockdown. As CNN's Oren Liebermann reports, it's forcing many there to celebrate the holiday in a very different way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: On what is supposed to be one of the most festive and joyous holidays of the year, Israel instead resembles a very different holiday. Yom Kippur, the most somber, solemn day in the Jewish calendar. With Coronavirus restrictions in place, the streets are empty, the stores are closed, and the country is locked down under a complete curfew from Wednesday night until Thursday morning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed people to celebrate the holiday only with those living with them. Don't invite anyone to your home, don't go to anyone else's home. Keep the festive meal for the holiday as close and as insular as possible. Instead it'll be the internet bringing many families together this time around through video chats and messaging.

To add a positive note to the evening, Israelis were encouraged to head out to their balconies all at the same time in the evening and sing in unison one of the most well-known popular songs of Passover. Now, this closure will continue until the weekend when Israel will reassess the closures effectiveness and whether it needs to be extended.

After this full closure, Israelis will be required to wear face masks outdoors. As of Wednesday morning, Israel had 9,404 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 71 deaths as a result of the disease according to the Ministry of Health.

Now, it isn't only Passover that's a crucial holiday here. Easter celebrations will also face severe restrictions and limitations this weekend, and then Ramadan begins closer to the end of the month. Those two holidays Easter and Ramadan will also face restrictions much like Passover. Oren Liebermann, CNN Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Pope Francis is connecting the Coronavirus pandemic and climate change. The pundit have said in an interview, the pandemic might be one of nature's responses to humans ignoring a warming planet. He said, who knows speaks of the fires in Australia or remembers that 18 months ago, a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted. Who speaks now of the floods? I don't know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature's responses.

And with that, we'll say goodbye. I'm John Vause. See you next week. In the meantime, Rosemary Church, my colleague, takes over at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:00]