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"The New York Times": Trump Saw What Was Coming; Curve Of New Cases Continuing To Flatten In New York; U.S. Now Leads In COVID-19 Deaths; There's No Church But Christians Are Still Celebrating Easter; British Prime Minister On The Mend; Iran Eases COVID-19 Restrictions; Hospitals To Launch Trial Of Japanese Drug To Fight COVID-19; U.S. Government Blocked Private Lab Testing; As Zoom's Popularity Grows, So Do Security Concerns. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 12, 2020 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. passes a grim milestone. It now has the most coronavirus virus deaths in the world. This as a "New York Times" report sheds light on how much the Trump administration knew about the disease. We'll tell you about the reports that the warnings were delayed, dismissed and ignored.

And this hour, the pope holds Easter Sunday mass via livestream as Christians around the world celebrate under lockdown.

We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and all around the world. Happy Easter. I'm Natalie Allen and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Easter is supposed to be a day of hope. It will be remembered this year for the COVID-19 pandemic. Johns Hopkins reports more than 1.7 million cases across the world with more than 108,000 people killed.

And the U.S. enters the holiday with the highest number of deaths in the world, more than 20,000, part of 0.5 million cases. New York state alone has more infections than any other country on the planet.

Catholics around the world are waiting to hear from Pope Francis as he livestreams his Easter mass. This is live video. He told people they should not yield to fear. This comes as many Christians mark the day isolated in their homes instead of going to church.

Our top story, you may recall that U.S. president Trump once touted Easter as the perfect time to reopen the country. It's one of many decisions "The New York Times" has chronicled that ran counter to the advice of key members of his administration.

The newspaper also outlined repeated warnings that went unheeded for weeks when time was a luxury the country did not have. White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond has the details.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: According to "The New York Times," it was the third week of February when the government's top public health experts concluded that aggressive social distancing measures would need to be implemented in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But when that decision was made by those public health experts, the president was traveling in India. So the experts decided that they should brief him in person when he returned.

But that flight, from India back to Washington, was a momentous one. During that flight, the president grew furious at watching the stock market crash after Dr. Nancy Meissonier, one of the government's top public health experts, warned that there would be severe disruptions to daily life.

So instead of that briefing that the president was set to receive upon his return from India to implement those social distancing guidelines, the president held a news conference, putting vice president Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus efforts.

From there, we know that the White House response began to shift, focusing especially on public messaging, trying to assure the American people that they had the response under control.

Now we also know that, beyond that briefing and beyond those conclusions by those public health experts, there were warnings inside the Trump administration in January as well as in February.

We reported on the memo by Peter Navarro, the president's trade adviser, in late January, warning of trillions of dollars in economic losses and that millions of Americans could be infected with this virus.

We also know that the deputy national security adviser, Matt Pottinger, he was also sounding the alarm back in January about the potential for a global pandemic.

The president, meanwhile, though we know exactly what he was thinking at that time because he was telling the public. The president, in January and in February, repeatedly downplaying the threat of this coronavirus pandemic, insisting that he had under control -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: I spoke with Natasha Lindstaedt a short time ago for some political analysis, she's a professor of government at Essex University in the U.K.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: A lot of the warnings came in January from the Secretary of Health, from intelligence reports and also from his own trade adviser, Peter Navarro. They made it very clear that this is a very aggressive virus and the U.S. is going to need to respond immediately and in a very forceful way.

He didn't pay attention to this. As the report mentioned, by mid- to late February, everyone in his own administration believed it was going to be pretty dangerous. But it took them another three weeks to convince him to act. As a result there's been complete chaos and confusion and a total lack of coordination.

ALLEN: Right. We want to read an excerpt from "The New York Times" report and this refers to the plane ride home from India, when Mr. Trump visited there a few weeks ago.

Here it is.

"On the 18-hour plane ride home, Mr. Trump fumed as he watched the stock market crash" after a CDC official's comments. This official commenting on the dangers Americans could face. He was furious.

He called the Health and Human Services secretary when he landed February 26th, raging that the official had scared people unnecessarily. It did seem that the president continued to downplay the severity of what this country was about to face and you've got to wonder why.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. And what the reporting was insinuating was this was because he was really eyeing what was going to happen to him in 2020 and everything was banking on having a robust economy with full levels of employment. This was going to really wreak havoc on the economy because nothing is worse than uncertainty.

Of course a pandemic is going to cause great levels of uncertainty. He didn't what to project an image that would cause fear and confusion. He was hoping to calm everybody down.

But by doing so, he downplayed the threat and then refused to act. As mentioned many times in this report, that ended up causing all kinds of coordination delays when they needed to be procuring protective equipment for hospital workers, when they needed to be procuring ventilators, ensuring there were enough hospital beds.

And he decided that he wanted to downplay it because he was worried that this would then affect his chances in 2020.

ALLEN: Right. He reportedly fixated on the stock market, of course, very concerning about the economy.

But "The New York Times" reports that a national security adviser said in the Oval Office meeting, the economy would be destroyed by the pandemic regardless of whether the White House stepped up to take strict measures.

But the indications are the president was focused on the stock market and perhaps that kept him from looking at the health consequences that would lead to what Americans are now facing.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. And, remember, this is a president that hasn't tended to believe in science. He tends to use his gut. That was illustrated throughout "The New York Times" article, that his use of gut decision-making often makes it difficult to respond to a pandemic. We know there's controversies over who disbanded the pandemic office or whether it just disbanded on its own.

But it made it very difficult for this administration to respond quickly and to understand the severity of these types of crises. The economy in all countries are going to face a severe recession. There's no way around it.

But the point is to try to save lives and to ensure that we have fewer deaths than we could have. And he didn't act quickly enough. And that's what the report was indicating.


ALLEN: As the full picture of the steps taken by the White House -- or in this case not -- emerge, the U.S. continues to grapple with the realities of the pandemic every day. Among the latest in a series of grim milestones, the U.S. now has more reported deaths than any other nation.

Still, there is an encouraging sign, even more indications that the curve of hospitalizations is flattening in hardhit New York. Let's discuss this with Muhammad Munir, a virologist at Lancaster University.

Good morning to you. Thanks so much for coming on. We appreciate it.


ALLEN: As we said, New York continues to see horrific death rates. However, the governor is saying the curve continues to flatten, is that reason for encouragement?

MUNIR: Yes, if we look into the data across the globe, the social distancing or the restrictions have been applied, it usually takes three weeks to eight weeks when the impacts start to appear.


MUNIR: Of course the duration will depend on the intensity of these social distancing measures that have been put in place, the timing of it and the way it is being practiced by the residents.

So looking onto the data, it seems like it is really good news from the New York perspective. And it appeared to be coming up relatively earlier compared to other countries, where the social distancing and lockdown were applied. But that is really good news on both ends.

First, the number of cases for hospitalization are decreasing. This is a testament, this is proof that social distancing or the disruption that you're observing is working and will work.

Emphasis would be that carry on with this disruption. Unfortunately, this is a disruption but this is the way forward because we were left with few choices to contain the infection.

ALLEN: Social distancing is working. But you got to keep it going because there's a long way to go here and some U.S. states have not peaked yet.

In the meantime, President Trump has been talking about wanting to open up the economy somewhat. He doesn't exactly make that decision; it's up to the city's mayors and governors.

But what are the important factors in making such a determination?

MUNIR: Well, I would like to emphasize on one of the very important thing, as a virologist I can feel now, at this moment the whole scenario of tackling this contagion, we've seen a great heavy-handed, nationalistic approach. We have to avoid the nationalistic policies and move onto international and global cooperation.

Putting into the perspective that even if the disease is under control in New York, other states might also pose a risk in the near future as well. So until the whole country is seeing a flattening of the curve or seeing the whole, the risk would still hang.

So the efforts should be not only to work onto this state level but also the country level but again helping the national and international stakeholders to really help to control this contagion because that is ultimately will be defining when the economy will be coming back and when we can be coming back to normal.

ALLEN: Right. And the key, of course, we keep hearing about is testing and that is still lagging behind. We hear from Dr. Fauci that an antibody test could be close.

How critical would that be?

MUNIR: Antibody testing is now the future. The reason is, once you have a certain level of infection in the community, then there would be some factors to decide when the lockdown need to be removed and also the social distancing may need to be relaxed.

And that depends on the antibodies in the population. For that one, the testing is absolutely important, not only just the availability of those testing but also to ensure that they are good enough.

For example, the one that is being applied now is around 80 percent to 90 percent effective. There would be some false negatives, meaning they wouldn't have the antibody but they tested positive or the otherwise. Really emphasis should be on the efficacy on the diagnostics.

ALLEN: Antibodies has become a keyword, has it not, and, yes, bring it on. We so appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much. We'll talk with you again. MUNIR: Thank you.

ALLEN: Thank you.

It is Easter for many Christians today, when believers celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead. That victory over death makes this the holiest day on the Christian calendar.

And Pope Francis is leading a lonely Easter mass at St. Peter's Basilica right now as the usual crowds are kept away because of the pandemic. The pope will also give the traditional Easter blessing a bit later. Delia Gallagher joins us now.

Delia, you and I are often here on Easter mornings, talking about the pope's delivery and the throngs of people but this is an Easter in Italy like no other.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. I was thinking, normally, I'm down at St. Peter's Square with all of the beautiful flowers and the thousands of people who start to come to Italy at this time of year.

This is obviously a very different scene. Something somber about it, which is appropriate. Although Easter signifies new life, there are many people today that are having their first Easter without a loved one in their lives who may have died recently from the virus.


GALLAGHER: Plenty of people in hospital as well fighting for their lives. So it's sort of a strange juxtaposition of this celebration of new life at this time.

Pope Francis, of course, has remembered the people in hospital, the people who are working, the doctors and nurses to help save those lives throughout this past week in his services.

He's also talked a lot about prisoners and homeless and the poor. Those are people that he normally talks about. He says they're especially overlooked at this time and he's donated 100,000 euros from his personal fund to Caritas, the Catholic charity organization that helps the poor.

And the Italian bishops have donated a hundred million euros to that same organization. Some of what they're doing with that money is helping families that are obviously out of work and having economic difficulty at this time.

We know that today, Easter, will be a strange day for millions of people around the world just as this past week, those who have been celebrating Passover have had to look towards new technology.

We've seen seder meals on Zoom, drive-in services, we've seen drive- through confessions. So there's a lot of creativity of people, especially thanks to technology, that are able to feel a little bit closer together at this time -- Natalie. ALLEN: Maybe once we're all through this, we'll look back

nostalgically at what they had to do to celebrate Easter in 2020. We'll talk with you again later this hour as the pope continues to lead his services. Thanks so much.

British prime minister Boris Johnson remains in the hospital as he continues to battle coronavirus. We'll have a live update ahead and his message for the workers who cared for him.

Plus, Iran is beginning to ease coronavirus restrictions on some of its businesses despite a climbing death toll there. We'll have the new rules for business and a live report after a short break.





ALLEN: "I owe them my life."

Those words from British prime minister Boris Johnson to the workers at the London hospital where he is recovering from coronavirus. Mr. Johnson is sounding very grateful there in his first public statement since he was taken to St. Thomas's Hospital one week ago.

Right now the U.K. is nearing a tragic milestone, almost 10,000 people there have died from the virus with almost 80,000 total confirmed cases. For more on these grim statistics, let's go to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He's outside the hospital that has been treating Mr. Johnson.

And Mr. Johnson has had a short statement about his recovery, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, Natalie. You can hear behind me there the sirens that have become the ubiquitous part of the Central London landscape. During this public holiday, increasingly busy.

And London is hearing the news of Boris Johnson's increasingly good prognosis. He's released his first statement, in which he thanks the workers who provide free health care to all Britons, including him, the government suggesting he's exactly the same treatment as a normal Briton. I think it's fair to suggest he's gotten some better treatment.

But he's recovered after three night. He got oxygen treatments and was said to be waving when he came out to the normal ward a matter of days ago and now has released this statement in which he says, I can't thank you enough to the NHS workers. I owe you my life.

A sense of gravity of the problem he was facing himself. He's not back at normal work as far as we understand. But this separate drama of one very important man's fate here has conflicted at times with a worsening picture for ordinary Britons here. When I tell you that 917 people were reported to have died in the last

24 hours alone, that is frankly a number we should pause and try and take stock of. Nearly 1,000 dead reported a day, bringing the U.K. close to a 10,000 dead figure toll, which is staggering in itself. And then you have to ask the next question, is that the entirety of the picture?

And some government statistics suggest, no, that actually that is part of the picture, that in fact during one of the early weeks of this particular outbreak, there may well have been twice as many deaths that occurred, half of which weren't reported.

In the U.K., to be part of the daily toll, you have to be tested in hospital and then die. So few Britons are being tested. So there are many cases it seems that aren't just reported. Those figures are uncertain.

Uncertain, too, is a key figure about the exit strategy for the United Kingdom and that's about how many people in the U.K. have already had this infection. Government experts asked in the last 72 hours or so suggest they thought that was in single digits, which would put the U.K. behind Spain. That's about three.

Getting out of these social restrictions will be more complicated because of the possibility of a second wave. Still the U.K. dealing with the awfulness of these startling numbers at this point, which look set to continue in the week ahead -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And still such challenges around testing, which mirror the same things that we're seeing here in the United States. It's hard to fathom. Thank you so much, Nick.

Iran is authorizing what it calls low-risk businesses to reopen around the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran. Iran is opening shops even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.


ALLEN: With nearly 2,000 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, CNN's Sam Kiley is covering this story for us from Abu Dhabi.

Is this semi-opening considered a risky move, Sam?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is considered a risky move, Natalie, but one -- and this is a matter internationally being discussed in the United States and Britain, especially where it would appear the authorities were certainly behind in terms of getting -- dealing with the initial infections of the coronavirus.

Iran after China had been the second worst level of infections in the world. But of course, it's been rapidly overtaken, if the government figures are to be believed, with over 4,300 deaths, over 70,000 people confirmed as having had the virus.

But the Iranians are facing, Natalie, very severe economic sanctions, which had already crippled the economy and arguably crippled their capacity to respond to an epidemic on this scale. They've been asking for weeks for a $5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund which the United States is aggressively trying to block.

It's the U.S. that has imposed these sanctions, which mean that the Iranians can't even take donations from European donors; for example, they have to take donations in kind because they risk in Europe falling foul of the United States' federal banking legislation, which is crippling the financial sector in Iran with the oil, of course, capacity.

Even if there were a decent oil price also crippled by the sanctions but the Iranians are trying to move in that context towards a lightening of the lockdown. All cities apart from Tehran, which will be opened up somewhat in about a week's time, are seeing a limited amount of return to work capacity.

Two-thirds of government workers have been asked to return to their place of work. The social gathering areas will remain closed, the idea being that they could restart the badly crippled economy.

But this is the sort of conundrum that is being faced all over the world as this virus epidemic or pandemic begins to flatten out.

At what point do governments decide to release the population back into economic activity and risk another surge?

And President Rouhani is cautioning against to rapid return to normality there.

ALLEN: Right. Leaders want to help people by getting the economies going back. But as you say, it is a risky thing and must be done so carefully. Sam Kiley, thank you for your report.

Japan's prime minister is touting an unproven medicine as a COVID-19 treatment. Next hear how his advice may differ from President Trump's backing of a malaria drug. We'll have a live report from Tokyo.





ALLEN: Welcome back to those of you watching here in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

President Trump has come under fire for saying without proof that a malaria drug can be used to treat COVID-19. Well, now Japan's prime minister is endorsing a different but also unproven drug. For more about this, CNN's Will Ripley is following this story. He joins me now from Tokyo.

Hello, to you, Will.

What is Mr. Abe touting?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Happy Easter to you, by the way. Look, prime minister Shinzo Abe, he is excited about this drug called Avigan because he says that clinical trials, which are limited in Japan, showed very promising results.

He's in the process of distributing this drug to 20 different countries, giving it away for free, hoping other countries will start their own trials so they can get a body of data together. They're starting clinical trials in the U.S. state of Massachusetts very soon.

Epidemiologists have told me that the best hope at this stage is to find an existing drug that works against the novel coronavirus because it might be quite a while if ever before they find a vaccine.


RIPLEY (voice-over): As the world battles the novel coronavirus pandemic, U.S. president Donald Trump and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe are peddling possible treatments. Trump is touting malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, despite slim evidence it's actually effective against the virus.

TRUMP: What you have to lose?

I will say it again, what you have to lose?

RIPLEY (voice-over): For Abe, it's antiflu drug Avigan, the Japanese brand name for favipiravir, made by Fujifilm.

"We will triple the current stockpile of Avigan and expand the use for 2 million people," he says.

Researchers point out key differences between the pills promoted by President Trump and prime minister Abe.

RIPLEY: Is what Shinzo Abe doing any different from what President Trump is doing?

STERGHIOS MOSCHOS, PROFESSOR, NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY: Marginally different, favipiravir has been around for quite a while and, unlike hydroxychloroquine, it has been used to test its efficacy on other viruses.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Reports in China do show favipiravir has been effective in treating coronavirus. But research is limited. Clinical trials are underway in Japan and set to begin in the U.S.

Japan plans to provide the drug for free to 20 countries. There are potentially dangerous side effects, including birth defects.

RIPLEY: If someone has coronavirus, would you recommend that they take this drug?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This COVID-19 doesn't cure people.

So right, what then? What do you choose?

RIPLEY (voice-over): Hydroxychloroquine can also have serious side effects like heart trouble and eye damage.

Researchers around the world are testing all kinds of drugs. They may be the only hope until a vaccine is developed, if a vaccine is developed. Patients, under quarantine, isolated in their homes, can battle loneliness and desperation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel really depressed.

Chika Miyatake's Tokyo apartment is full of supplies.


RIPLEY (voice-over): She has to wait up to 10 days for her coronavirus test results. Miyatake is frustrated.

CHIKA MIYATAKE, QUARANTINED PATIENT: Japan hasn't set up any kind of a computer system, you know. Even the test results will come in post, in letter. So no emails, that makes me really get anxious. And getting test result as soon as possible is more important than stressing on using Avigan at this stage.

RIPLEY (voice-over): She wonders why her government is focusing on an unproven drug instead of speeding up the testing process for patients in limbo.


RIPLEY: Japan wants to make Avigan available for 2 million people and, based on the numbers that we're seeing, they very well might need it. Every day for the last five days, there's been a record spike in the number of cases; 714 cases nationwide just yesterday, nearly 200 of those right here in Tokyo despite a state of emergency and encouraging people to socially distance.

Japan has more work to do in terms of reducing human-to-human contact if they want to slow what the government says is on the verge of becoming an explosive infection rate.

ALLEN: That's sad to see but it is an indication that Japan made the right call in postponing the Olympics, doesn't it, Will?

There's no way that was going to happen. Appreciate your reporting. We'll wait and see what happens with this drug. Thanks, Will.

Shocking new details on the rollout of coronavirus testing in the United States to share with you. CNN has learned some private labs were eager to develop testing as early as January, anticipating the inevitable outbreak.

But as CNN's Drew Griffin reports, the federal government actively blocked those tests from being produced and made available to the public.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As coronavirus was racing around the world in late January and February, the federal government failed to use the massive arsenal of hundreds of laboratories across the United States for emergency testing, it actually left road blocks in place to prevent non-government labs from assisting.

That is according to documents obtained by CNN and interviews with more than a dozen scientists and physicians involved in coronavirus testing.

DR. AMESH ADALJA, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: At the very beginning of this pandemic, it was the federal government that had the sole ability to do the testing. It made it very difficult for private labs and university labs to make their own tests based on several regulatory hurdles.

GRIFFIN: Several hospital and university-based labs have told CNN they saw the pandemic approaching, were developing their own tests as early as January to detect the virus. But the red tape with the FDA's regulatory process prevented them from moving forward -- meaning labs sat idle.

DR. GLENN MORRIS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Rather than entrants listing the tremendous strength and power of the U.S. laboratory capacity, getting everybody working on this and creating tests and having widespread test availability, we had CDC trying to keep running everything by itself.

GRIFFIN: The federal government was prepared to enforce the rules, sending this memo on February 6th telling state health departments to actively police against labs using their own coronavirus tests. The reasoning behind the tight regulations were good to ensure the safety and efficacy of tests. But Dr. Glenn Morris of the University of Florida says the FDA rules were written for normal situations, not a crisis.

MORRIS: When we suddenly hit the point where we were looking at China and seeing what was going on there, what we needed was extremely aggressive leadership. We got to move fast, because, otherwise, we're going to run into a problem. GRIFFIN: The problem developed as soon as the CDC rolled out its own

tests for verification. It didn't work and weeks were lost as the CDC scrambled to make a new test.

SCOTT BECKER, CEO OF THE ASSOCIATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH LABORATORIES: So we really were in a basically on a pause for a few weeks within the public health system. And meanwhile, the academic laboratories who had developed their own tests also were not able to test because the regulations didn't allow it at that time.

GRIFFIN: What's even worse in 2018, after the Zika outbreak, the CDC came up with a plan to avoid the very testing disaster that's happening. CNN obtained a copy of this memorandum of understanding between the commercial and public labs and the CDC that was supposed to increase national laboratory testing in an emergency by engaging commercial labs early in the response.

It didn't work. Dr. Karen Kaul, who runs the laboratory services for NorthShore Research Institute in Evanston, Illinois, was one of the labs pushing to start its own tests and was stopped by overbearing red tape.

(on camera): It seems like this is a bit of a failure.

DR. KAREN KAUL, NORTHSHORE RESEARCH INSTITUTE: I think there is a definite room for improvement. What's happened is we've had a number of laboratories and a number of manufacturers and groups.


KAUL: That are not all working together in a coordinated fashion.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, the FDA insists there was nothing wrong in its process and instead blames individual lab delays where labs did not understand the FDA process and mistakenly believed there was more work involved.

Despite that, the FDA did publish new guidelines on February 29th allowing labs to begin testing. Experts tell CNN, it was just too late.

GRIFFIN: In a written response to questions, the CDC says it did keep laboratories up to date and informed on what was hang but the CDC did not answer questions on why the agency didn't pursue those laboratories getting involved in this massive testing program sooner -- Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.





ALLEN: Live video here of Pope Francis. He is on this Easter day a pope without a flock, at least, at St. Peter's right now. Pope Francis is leading an extraordinary Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican.

But the basilica is almost empty because of the pandemic. People all over the world have found new ways to celebrate Easter and Delia Gallagher joins me now with more about that.

We're trying to find creative ways to celebrate this year, Delia.

GALLAGHER: That's right, Natalie, a very quiet kind of Easter here in Rome and for the millions of people on lockdown around the world this Easter and Passover. Here's a look at how they're adjusting to the changes.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): It is a strange time to be celebrating. But perhaps now more than ever, the ancient rituals of Easter and Passover bring us together.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the street said to have been walked by Christ before his crucifixion, normally crowded with pilgrims, on Easter Friday, is empty like never before. But a few representing the many carried the memory.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Today, Lord, during holy week, the whole world is ravaged by a pandemic that is wreaking death and immobilizing us.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): In a small sign of rebirth from Notre-Dame Cathedral, itself victim of a devastating fire last year, prayers are raised for the COVID-19 victims and their families.

And the creativity of community: a priest in Ireland offering blessings from an old Popemobile used by John Paul II.

In Germany, drive-in services.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For weeks we have been at a distance. We stay at home, churches are closed. Right now, for Easter, it doesn't need to come together this week.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Passover commemorating the Jewish exodus from ancient Egypt during a time of plagues takes on new meeting today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're celebrating Passover because we hope the coronavirus will pass us over.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Seders are virtual across the world as Jews celebrate love social distancing.

While governments continue to battle the global pandemic, urging all to stay home this Easter...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After all the sacrifices, so many people have made, let's not ruin it now.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): -- it may be song which can unite us. Opera legend Andrea Bocelli will sing alone in Milan's Duomo cathedral on Sunday evening.

ANDREA BOCELLI, OPERA SINGER: It will be a prayer and, as a consequence, it will not be important who is present physically but rather who wants to be with me spiritually in that moment.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): A celebration of human spirit and transcendence, a prayer of harmony in a time of hardship. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: That will be a nice treat to hear him this Easter. You can catch him on his YouTube site at 1:00 pm Eastern time -- Natalie.

ALLEN: It is not to be missed, absolutely. How wonderful that will be. Thank you for that report. I like the Passover comment, the coronavirus will pass over us. Thank you so much, Delia. It's good to see you.

After a break, millions are using the popular app Zoom to communicate. But there's a problem and I'll be joined by an expert to help explain that and how you can keep your privacy safe.





ALLEN: Weeks into a worldwide lockdown, the company Zoom has emerged as a new home staple. Millions of people are using the app to video conference but there are growing concerns about Zoom's security. The CEO and founder of Zoom told CNN the company is working tirelessly to make sure the app is safe. Here's what he had to say.


ERIC YUAN, ZOOM: At Zoom, we take actions quickly and we had some missteps over the past weeks and our intentions are good and now we learn a lesson. We doubled down on privacy and security before we do anything. Think about that.

(INAUDIBLE) we need to take a step back and focus on privacy and we want Zoom to be the privacy company.


ALLEN: Let's talk more about it with Andrew Fitzmaurice. He's chief executive of cybersecurity experts Templar Executives.

Thank you so much for coming on to talk about this. We just heard the founder there of Zoom saying they fixed the missteps.

Do you think so?

ANDREW FITZMAURICE, CEO, TEMPLAR EXECUTIVES: No, not yet. I don't. I think they're doing a lot towards it. Way back in July last year, there were concerns raised around Zoom and I know they've been addressing it.

But I have some sympathy. They've gone from 10 million users in December last year to over 200 million. And as you said, it seems to be the go-to app to use for video conferencing. (CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: Yes, if you're not Zooming, you're uncool. You're totally uncool.


A growing number of companies and countries have banned Zoom. Give us an example of the security threat that it presents.

FITZMAURICE: Zoom claims to have end-to-end encryption, the way that WhatsApp works, which means that devices create a unique connection between the devices so you can talk confidentially.

It using advanced encryption standard 256 and Zoom had claimed to use that. But some reports have suggested in fact it's a lesser encryption that is used and it could be intercepted by third parties. So if you're handling sensitive information, business information, you shouldn't be using Zoom.

ALLEN: Right. And -- but governments are businesses, schools are using the platform.

What advice do you have for folks that have to do this right now and don't have another alternative?

How can they keep their system safe?

Is there any chance they can do that?

FITZMAURICE: Yes, there is. I think so. Certainly around schools and schooling, those leading fitness classes or teaching at home, on the 5th of April, Zoom issued new security measures.

And they have some very good advice. But it needs you to follow the instructions about how to set it up, utilize the waiting room to ensure that those are the people who have been invited. Guard the invite for a Zoom meeting to ensure that only those people are there. And when the meeting starts, you're able to lock the meeting.


FITZMAURICE: So even as somebody else can get hold of the password and username, they can't join. So from that perspective, for schools and those who don't have any choice, there are some good measures they can take to protect themselves.

ALLEN: That's very good advice for people to take those precautions. It seems like hackers must be taking advantage of much of the world on lockdown and using this app.

FITZMAURICE: Yes. Unfortunately hackers are using lots of things. We have seen since the COVID crisis a 30-fold increase in hackers' activities from APTs and cyber crime and just hackers. And sadly, while most of society is joined together to fight COVID-19, there's always that nefarious element that will use it for their own gains. ALLEN: One has to be very, very careful. Thanks for joining us.

Appreciate it.

FITZMAURICE: Thank you very much, Natalie. And happy Easter to you all.

ALLEN: Happy Easter to you. Appreciate that.

Thank you all for watching CNN NEWSROOM. We want to leave you this hour with video of the pope on this Easter Sunday when he is all by himself. No flock but people watching via stream.

I'm Natalie Allen. "NEW DAY" is next on CNN.