Return to Transcripts main page

FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

When To Reopen Or Not To Reopen The Country; President Donald Trump Threatens To Defund World Health Organization; President Donald Trump: World Health Organization Called It Wrong; Former World Leaders Push For COVID-19 Cooperation. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 12, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:19]

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.

Today on the show, to open or not to open the economy. That is the question. Top health experts and a Nobel Prize-winning economist will offer their opinions.

And President Trump says the World Health Organization is too soft on China and missed the call on COVID-19. I'll ask a senior official at the organization about these criticisms.

Also, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the world needs to come together in an unprecedented fashion to fight the pandemic. He'll explain why that's crucial.

But first, here's "My Take." Something important has happened over the course of this crisis. Estimates of expected deaths have gone down by a lot. On March 31st, the White House estimated that even with social distancing policies in place, between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die of COVID-19.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator said that that was, quote, "our real number." Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, recently indicated he now believes it will be more like 60,000.

The University of Washington model, which has been cited by the White House, predicted on March 26th that assuming social distancing policies that stay in place until June 1st, U.S. deaths by August would most likely be around 81,000. By April 10th, they had made many revisions to get to their current number, 61,500.

Predictions for hospitalization rates have also proven to be way too high. On March 30th, the University of Washington projected that California would need 4,800 beds on April 3rd. In fact, the state needed 2,200. The same model predicted that New York would need 58,000 beds on April 3rd. It used only 15,000.

It made sense to take precautions, but that may have come at a cost, as there are concerns that patients with other conditions haven't gotten the care they need.

So, what is going on? Well, many experts believe that social distancing has worked even better than was predicted. But here's a theory, acknowledging we still don't know a lot about the virus. A group of Stanford scholars believe that the basic reason estimates of deaths have had to be revised downwards is because without an understanding of how the virus spreads and without widespread testing from the start, we didn't realize how many mild or asymptomatic cases likely there would be.

That means the denominator, those who have been infected, could be much larger than initial estimates, and therefore, the fatality rate for COVID-19 is much lower. In March, the WHO announced that 3.4 percent of people with the virus had died from it. That would be an astonishingly high fatality rate. Fauci suggested a week later that the actual rate was probably 1 percent, which would still be 10 times as high as the flu.

Since then, we have learned that many people, in some studies, 50 percent, in some studies as much as 75 percent to 80 percent, don't have any symptoms. That means it's possible most people infected with the virus are not getting counted. Stanford's John Ioannidis believes that we have massively overestimated the fatality of COVID-19. He told me, "When you have a model involving exponential growth, if you make a small mistake in the base numbers, you end up with a final number that could be off tenfold, 30-fold, even 50-fold."

He points out that in some of the places with the best testing, the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the Italian town of Vo Euganeo, Iceland, Denmark, the numbers who are actually infected when adjusted for the U.S. population as a whole suggest a fatality rate that is actually similar to the seasonal flu. Based on limited testing data, he estimates that fewer than 40,000 U.S. deaths will occur from COVID- 19 this season.

Now, that is still a tragedy and we should be glad that the work that we've done to abide by social distancing has done some good, though it has come at a price, of course. That said, no one knows the right answers.

[10:05:01]

That is why we need the best data, and that's why we need to hear both from the mainstream voices and from dissenting voices.

We have shut down the economy based on models, which is understandable because we worry about worst-case scenarios. But in science, models evolve with new and better data. President Trump says we don't need mass testing, but reopening the economy will depend crucially on mass testing, or else, once controls are relaxed, we might see the infections soar again. South Korea has been able to tackle the virus without major lockdowns in large part because it has handled testing superbly.

The most urgent task for the federal government is to get widespread randomized testing in place, gather the best data in the world, and make policy based on that. Otherwise, we will continue to fly blind through this crisis.

For more, go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

So, given what we know now, when should President Trump call for the American economy to reopen? And crucially, should mayors and governors heed his call? Remember, it is really up to the mayors and governors to restart the economy.

I have three great guests to discuss all this. Paul Romer is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and a professor at NYU. Jeffery Nuzzo is an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins and Mark McClellan is a physician and economist who ran the Food and Drug Administration, he's now a professor at Duke.

Dr. Nuzzo, can I start with you by just asking, what do you think we have learned so far about this virus that, you know, is interesting or different? I'm struck by the fact that, for example, as I said, it does seem that the fatality rates are lower, though I understand that's still, you know, something we have to test for. It does seem to affect old people disproportionately.

If you look at the number of hospitalizations, I think 90 percent of the people hospitalized are over 65. The median age for death is very high. Women seem to get it less than men. Women having that spare X chromosome seems to help. What are you learning?

JENNIFER NUZZO, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, I think one of the things that we learned about this virus, first of all, is that it is very quickly spreading and also that it causes more severe illness, we think, than influenza. There is still, I think, a fair debate about how many people who are ultimately infected, as you said in your opening, we don't have great systems for identifying all of those people. Testing is still severely limited.

And so, if you can't count everybody who has it, it's really hard to calculate how many of these people ultimately become severely ill and die. That said, I think we're increasingly seeing studies that suggest, well, it may not be as silly as we may be feared back at the beginning of January, it's still likely more severe than seasonal influenza.

ZAKARIA: And what do you make of the -- of these, for example, twice as many men die as women? Does that -- is that an important finding?

NUZZO: It's an interesting finding, but it's one that I think we have to look at more closely and try to understand why. It may not be about biology. It could be about behaviors and who works in what professions and who's more likely to be exposed. So, there may be some biological reasons for that, but at this point, we really don't know, and I don't think anybody should rest assured that perhaps they are at lower risk because of those findings.

ZAKARIA: Dr. McClellan, I wonder what your reaction in general is, and I also want to ask you one specific part, which is the regional variation, which again, look, I'm just looking at this as a layperson. And Texas, Florida, and New York have about the same population, roughly speaking.

And yet, New York has 30 times as many deaths and cases as Texas does. Florida I think is about 400 deaths. New York is about 8,500, and Florida didn't even adhere to the lockdown until very recently and was famously lax about it. Do you make anything of that?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER COMMISSIONER, U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATOR: I do. And Fareed, I'd like to start with the importance of this decline in cases compared to the models. That's what flattening the curve should look like. And so, the steps that we're taking are having a big effect. And as you said, maybe even larger than people had originally suggested.

Remember, these models were based off not only limited data, as you've talked about, on cases and exposures and so forth, but also based on experiences in settings that are different than ours. This is a very heterogenous country with some densely populated urban areas that rely a lot on mass transit, other areas that are not only less concentrated, but also had exposure to more cases of the virus later.

[10:10:15]

The virus clearly spread sooner in places like Seattle and New York, compared to Florida. And so, we're seeing peaks happen at different times, and I wouldn't say Florida is out of the woods yet. They're kind of at an earlier stage than other places are. So, there is still a lot we need to know to get on with reopening the country in a way that can give us confidence we're not going to see these big kinds of outbreaks again that we do need that intensive testing.

And on top of that, we need to better understand the virus, and that's going to come with more widespread testing. You know, the flip side of the virus, perhaps not having as high of a case fatality rate, and I'd agree with Dr. Nuzzo that this still causes very serious illness in a number of people, different than the flu. The flip side of that is, it's much more contagious. There are a lot -- there are significantly more cases out there than we counted.

We're over 500,000 on the official count. If it's 10 times that, that's still a big number, but it's also just a small part of the U.S. population. So, only -- there are a lot of people out there who are still not immune, haven't been exposed to the virus, and we need to be sure we are protecting them to have a confident and effective reopening.

ZAKARIA: Professor Romer, let me ask you, what do you think about the economic measures taken so far. This $2.2 trillion, $2.3 trillion stimulus package, relief package, call it what you will. Can that not restart the American economy, but fill the gap while the economy is at a paralysis?

PAUL ROMER, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: This is -- Fareed, this is the classic example of getting the cart before the horse. These kinds of stimulus measures are designed to encourage spending that will put people back to work. But we've got lockdown that says people can't go back to work. So, it's really the wrong thing to be focusing on right now.

What we need to focus on is making it safe for people to go back to work. And this is where the right kind of information would be critical for making decisions. To keep this pandemic on a declining path, we have to keep a reasonable fraction of the people who are infected in isolation so they don't infect others. So, say 70 percent of those people infected in isolation. If we don't know who's infected, we have to put everybody into isolation. And that's why we've got this economic disaster on our hands.

If you just did the tests, found out who's infected, you put 70 percent of the people who are infected in isolation, and there you go. You're on a declining path. We won't see any more return of this virus. We don't need to maintain the lockdown. So we've just got to ramp up the testing, and then phase in this rule of test and isolate, and get rid of this rule where we isolate everybody.

ZAKARIA: And Paul Romer, you have a paper explaining this in much greater detail. I want to discuss exactly just this when we come back. Is there a way to do a graduated opening, a phased opening, or is there a danger of health backlash? When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:18:09]

ZAKARIA: And we are back with Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer, epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan.

Paul, I want you to just explain your plan, is that we reopen the economy now, that the lockdown end right away, and we ramp up testing so that you can start letting people who appear to be either immune or, you know -- explain the plan.

ROMER: Yes. So, first, we're not talking about Raj Shani (PH). We're not talking about ending lockdown right now. The goal here is to make it safe for people to work. The very first place to start is with the people who are already working under lockdown. We've got health care workers, police officers, transit workers. They're all working now and they're all exposed to risks that we could protect them from.

If one of these workers is an asymptomatic carrier, that worker can infect a bunch of colleagues. And if we just tested those workers before they went on shift, we could make sure that if you're a police officer, you're not riding around for a day in a car with somebody who's spewing out droplets with virus in it.

So, the first thing to do is test and quarantine amongst the workers who are already on the job, these essential workers we're relying on. Then as we get experience with that, we can start to ask, can we bring in more workers, get them back on the job safely?

ZAKARIA: The core of Paul Romer's proposal, it seems to me, Mark McClellan, is testing. And I have to confess, I mean, I've read his paper, I think it imagines 30 million tests. I mean, you're doing a lot of testing. It sounds like a lot --

ROMER: It's less than it sounds. It's 30 million a day.

ZAKARIA: Sorry, 30 million a day, exactly.

ROMER: That's a lot.

[10:20:01]

ZAKARIA: Now, it sounds like a lot, but we just spent $2.3 trillion. You know, why is it beyond the richest country in the world with the greatest scientific establishment in the world, if this is a true, you know, once-in-a-century emergency, why can't we mobilize resources and ramp up testing so we can get people back to work?

MCCLELLAN: I completely agree with Paul about ramping up testing. He's exactly right that -- you know, the last stimulus bill provided some needed relief for families, for hospitals or frontline health care workers, but in terms of getting the economy growing again, it's like pushing on a string. Unless there is a clear reason why people feel like it's safe to get back out and start doing more of their normal life, it's not going to be all of their normal lives.

It's going to be a different economy. But unless there is confidence that people can go back out and not risk infection as much, and unless businesses can be confident that they can make investments, we're not going to see that kind of recovery. So, this next stimulus legislation really needs to focus on providing the support necessary to create the conditions for much more open, much more of a reopening of the whole economy.

Testing is a key part of that, but I would encourage not just to focus on getting the number of tests up. That's coming. We've got better lab tests. We've got point-of-care tests coming, hopefully home- administrable tests. FDA has been doing a great job of working with the industry on getting that up. But along with that is the need to make sure these tests go first to where they're most needed.

That includes having rapid testing in every locality for people who may have symptoms to support them, figuring out whether they've got COVID-19 or not, and so they can go back to work or stay home as needed. It means working closely with businesses, as Paul just described. It also means working closely with health care providers who are a mainstay in this country for connecting on the front lines with patients who have symptoms.

All of this needs to be supported by state and local governments, just as states and localities have built up capacity now for this first phase of the pandemic, the next big phase is a whole infrastructure to support this kind of testing. So, that includes not just the tests themselves, but also the capacity to trace cases that are positive. This is what other countries are doing now.

For the U.S., such a big heterogenous country. It's going to be a different approach, perhaps, in Los Angeles where they've already set up a cares corps to start helping with this, from Massachusetts, from more rural parts of the country. All of these features need to be included in the next round of legislation along with the testing to make it work. And I'd just add one final thing for the federal government.

Getting out ahead of what will be a potential shortage in supplies, not just of the tests, but of the swabs, of the other materials that are needed to go along with the test, too. That's an area where the federal government can also provide a lot of support. Not just in backing up all of the capabilities that I just described.

ZAKARIA: Jennifer, let me ask you. You've talked about how it's not just the ramping up of the testing. You need to ramp up the health care system, because I think one of the things people forget is that the whole point of flattening the curve is you're actually not reducing the number of people who will eventually get infected and sick until we get a cure or a vaccine. You're spreading it out over a longer period of time so the health care system can handle it. And you worry that the health care system is pretty fragile right now.

NUZZO: Yes, I mean, that's the whole reason why we're sitting at home is that we are living with a very fragile health system, and it doesn't take much to tip it over the edge. So, I agree that we absolutely have to ramp up testing, for sure, because finding where all the cases are so that we know who needs to be isolated so that they don't transmit to others is utterly important. But the tests themselves are to inform that action. They're not an end in and of itself.

But we also have to ask, where is the health care capacity? Are the number of cases that we are seeing going to be able to be handled by health care? And right now we do not have good information about numbers of beds available, numbers of ventilators, health care workers and whether or not they're getting sick or if they're able to still show up and do the life-saving work that they do.

One of the limitations that we are dealing with in terms of ramping up testing right now is not so much a lack of faces that can do the tests, but a lack of the little swabs that they take to obtain a specimen for testing and also personal protective equipment to protect the people who would have to obtain the specimen, and crucially, protect the health care workers who have to do the work. So we need to look both at the numbers of people who are sick, make sure we are able to isolate those people so they don't transmit their infection.

[10:25:01]

I agree, we absolutely have to be able to ramp up contact tracing, find all the people who may have been exposed so that we can monitor them and make sure that if they become a case, they don't pass it on to somebody else. But we also need to be able to monitor the health of the health system to know what it is capable of dealing with and when it is potentially at the brink, and make sure we keep all of those numbers in balance.

And unfortunately, we don't have systems right now to handle this. We're focused on the tests, which is great. I fully agree. But we also need to focus on all the other supplies that we need. There's just a lot more that we need to do. And so, these conversations about when and how to open, they absolutely have to be informed about this.

And just to the point about the stimulus, I just want to say that when we're looking at a $2 trillion stimulus that has already been passed, and when we're thinking that there's likely going to be another one, you know, at the height of preparedness spending by the government, it was about $7 billion in one year. At the time, that seemed like a lot of money, but now it seems like an incredible bargain. So, I really hope when we're thinking about how we make investments in our future, we think about prevention and making sure this doesn't happen again.

ROMER: Fareed --

ZAKARIA: What a great point. I learned so much. I'm sorry, I --

ROMER: Can I just talk a little bit?

ZAKARIA: OK, very quickly. Very quickly.

ROMER: You know, it's true there are a lot of things to do. I want to argue, though, that testing is by far the most important thing to expand right now.

NUZZO: I agree. I don't disagree.

ROMER: Think about --

ZAKARIA: All right, on that --

ROMER: Think about contact tracing.

ZAKARIA: On that -- on that note of agreement.

NUZZO: We're in final agreement.

ZAKARIA: I'm going to -- I really learned a lot. Thank you so much.

ROMER: OK.

MCCLELLAN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Later on the show, we have the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, who led the world out of the last crisis. But coming up now, the WHO.

[10:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA, GPS: President Trump this week declared that he would defund the World Health Organization in the middle of a global pandemic. Later he back-tracked, but he still said he was going to consider it. The WHO, the U.N. Agency which has overseen global efforts and helped to fight diseases over its seven decades of existence, has become the latest foil for Donald Trump and his allies in the fight against Coronavirus.

But there have been some legitimate concerns raised about the agency's performance. With me now is the World Health Organization's Senior Official, Dr. Margaret Harris. Dr. Harris, let me ask you, Dr. Tedros, the Head of the WHO, has - you know, went back at President Trump and said, let's not politicize the virus.

But I guess, here's the question - in late January, this was a point at which most of Hubei was under lockdown. The Chinese had essentially locked it down. The virus had spread to six other countries. The WHO did not declare that this was a pandemic, did not even declare it was a global health emergency until late.

Dr. Tedros went to China met with Xi Jinping praised China for setting a new standard in handling it praised it for its transparency. This is at a point at which many people were pointing out that China was punishing dissenters and whistle-blowers who were pointing out that there was an epidemic.

Isn't it fair to say that it's Dr. Tedros who introduced politics into this by essentially joining in the Chinese cover-up because China has been a very large and growing funder of the World Health Organization?

DR. MARGARET HARRIS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SPOKESPERSON: Good morning, Fareed, and thank you very much for having me on your program. I think we need to go back, actually, to the real timeline, and that is that we were notified on the 31st of December about 44 cases of a mysterious pneumonia going on and we were notified by various sources, including an official notification by China.

Now, that came late in the night, 31st of December. By first of January - and remember, most people on the first of January are recovering from a pretty big night on 31st of December. We were all back at work and incident management team had been stood up.

And because the alarm bells were already ringing through the halls of the WHO now we get notified about mysterious or concerning diseases, outbreaks around the world probably every day, but this one, no, we were aware was a very serious matter.

And then very early in those days, we went and sent in people from our country office to look at what was going on? And by the 5th of January - by the 4th of January, we notified the world via social media. And by the 5th, we put out a formal notification in what's called our "Disease Outbreak News."

Now, by the middle of January, there was not a lockdown in Wuhan at that stage at all. At that stage, there were an increasing number of cases, but in fact, the first death from this virus only occurred in the middle of January.

And it wasn't even clear that there was human-to-human transmission at that time, even though because we were so concerned about this outbreak, we put out guidance on the 10th of January saying, this must be - we put out a big package of guidance, saying this must be treated as a very serious disease. We must take the precautions that we're all taking now, the precautions against droplet spread, the social distancing. We said that at that time because it looked like SARS it looked like MERS. And the other important thing that happened was the genome was described by, again, the 12th of January.

And that was put out, that was provided to us by China, and it was publicized to the world. So, the tests that we now talk so much about could actually be done. And from that testing, we could understand the size of the virus.

[10:35:00]

HARRIS: But again, Wuhan had not gone into lockdown at that point--

ZAKARIA: But on January 23rd, Mrs. Harris, there was a meeting of the Executive Committee, and John McKenzie, one of the members of that committee, says the committee deadlocked. Tedros decided, since it was in his hands, not to call a public health emergency. And McKenzie says that was largely because of the reprehensible Chinese cover-up.

HARRIS: So, you know, those meetings are held confidentially. And half of the scientists at that meeting - and that meeting were the very first time - I was going to get to that point. Sorry, I was laboring the discussion.

Yes, by the 23rd of January, we called what was called an Emergency Committee, and that's what we call when we think the issue is getting so serious, we need to determine whether to alert the world that it's a public health emergency of international concern.

And under that international health regulation independent scientists with expertise are brought together, usually virtually by phone, and they look at the evidence. They deliberate on the evidence. And they have a very free and frank discussion, a very energetic discussion. But they agree by consensus what their recommendation is.

And by consensus, they came - well, they came to Dr. Tedros and they said, we don't have a consensus, at that point on the 23rd. He said, well, go back and look at it again, because I want a clear recommendation. They went back. They still couldn't come up with that.

And then - so, at in point, WHO did not make a declaration. But a few days later, as more evidence came in, Dr. Tedros asked them to go back, consider. They all agreed, and we declared a public health emergency of international concern on the 30th of January.

I should not say we. Dr. Tedros did, on the advice of that scientific committee. And that's when the public health emergency of international concern was declared.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the travel issue. So, on January 31st, President Trump issues a travel ban. The WHO actually criticizes it, saying it's inappropriate. Now, I want to contrast this behavior.

This seems at this point bizarre, because everybody has put a travel ban in place, you know, from South Korea to Singapore, and of course, China itself put one. And yet, the WHO criticized it. If I look at the SARS outbreak in 2003, the then WHO Director G. Brock Chisholm put in a travel ban on Southern China and actually criticized the Chinese government for their lack of information and for covering up and for punishing whistle-blowers.

Why was the WHO in this case not willing to do what it was willing to do in 2003 under that WHO leader?

HARRIS: Well, so, this is a very interesting part of history. After - because of the massive economic damage that was done to Hong Kong, China, and Singapore, to East Asia by the SARS outbreak, there was a big investigation, a big discussion about how can we as a world do better about managing these declarations, you know?

Did the WHO at that time cause that harm? That was some of the question, some of the issues that were discussed, and that led to the International Health Regulations 2005. And that's a very instrument under which this Emergency Committee we've just been talking about - and when's why it seems to be quite complex, because it's based on this international agreement.

And one of the sort of fundamentals of the International Health Regulations 2005 was that we should try to keep our travel and trade as normal as possible because the effect on economies, the drastic effect on economies, the drastic effect on the ability to get supplies to where they needed, to get this expertise to where they needed, it can be affected.

And so, that was really why the Emergency Committee in January advised against imposing travel bans. But we do say, and it's very clearly stated that in the early days of an outbreak, especially when you're dealing with something that's very clearly in one place, that it is not inappropriate to limit travel from that place.

ZAKARIA: Dr. Harris, I want to thank you. I'm sorry we have to go. I want to thank you for being very patient and answering the questions. We really appreciate it thank you, ma'am.

HARRIS: Appreciate the time. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," the Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown explaining what the world needs to do?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:40:00]

ZAKARIA: Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is raising the alarm, saying we need an unprecedented amount of global cooperation to fight this virus. Gordon Brown was Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010. During that time, he helped Britain emerge from the last great economic crisis.

Now he leads a group of more than 100 Former Presidents and Prime Ministers who have outlined a plan to speed up process on a vaccine while simultaneously staving off global economic disaster. Gordon Brown joins me now. Gordon, let me ask you - let's get to the heart of this problem, which is what your plan is, eminently sensible but here's your problem.

You have a United States who is led by a leader, who does not particularly care for international cooperation and international joint action, but you - and I've criticized that plan, too - but you also have a Chinese leadership that is more nationalistic, more closed and repressive in certain ways, you know, in terms of the cover-up even of this disease.

And even in terms of the response seems more interested in scoring points, public relations, rather than actual joint action.

[10:45:00]

ZAKARIA: How do you make this work when the United States and China are in almost a kind of new cold war?

GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: So, we need a global effort to finance the vaccine, the cure, the diagnostics, the therapeutics. It can't just be a national effort to build up capacity around the world for testing equipment, for ventilators and everything else.

It's got to be a global effort if we're going to prevent a second and third round of this coming from the developing countries which have inadequate health care systems, inadequate social protection. We need to act globally to do so as well. And if we're going to get the global economy back to life, there will have to be, as in 2009, coordinated action.

Now, yes, America used in an - age after the cold war act multilaterally. Now in a multi-polar age it seems to be acting unilaterally. China of course is doing bilateral aid at the moment, but at the same time, we haven't seen the G-20 or G7, the United Nations Security Council - while they have meth met, they have not taken decisive action.

And you have to be in a position in a crisis, as I found in 2009, not to be able to say I'm doing whatever I can do or the best I can do. You've got to be able to say we'll do whatever it takes and that demands they come together.

Now, I do believe that if we were to organize a pledging conference to meet the global health needs, I think the European Union, Japan, Canada, Norway, United Kingdom, the rest of Asia, Africa pushing, Latin America, I think China and America would definitely come on board.

G-20 Executive Task Force Chaired by Saudi Arabia, more difficult because it has to communicate, but it hasn't got the detail in it. That means you get the decisive action. We're in the employment protection phase, but soon we will have to restoring demand in the world economy. Again, I think the rest of the world coming together persuading China and America to take action will be effective. After all, American scientists, virologists, immunologists, epidemiologists, researchers, statisticians, are all involved in this global effort.

I think it's a right that the government should now be persuaded to be involved in recognizing the importance of global cooperation. This is our moment of truth.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the politics of this, Gordon, because if you look at Europe, what this crisis has done, unlike '08-'09 and you tell me, you were there. It's made everybody pull inwards. So, I look at the European Union, which has re-imposed borders, even in the Schengen Zone.

I look at the Italians desperately pleading with other 26 EU members for help and they have got not one country responding, which has resulted in very high levels of Anti-European Union sentiment in Italy. Some polls show 75 percent of Italians now want to leave the European Union or think the European Union is hurting them. How do you get past that?

BROWN: Well Fareed, I think you've got to look at the areas where cooperation can work and is necessary and essential to work. As I say, we will look back at this and we will suffer the condescension of posterity if at this moment of destiny the world cannot come together.

But the areas that I've highlighted and the 200 who signed the letter to the G-20, brilliant economists, brilliant health experts, former leaders, they wanted to highlight, coordination to finance the cure and the vaccine.

Now, that's in everybody's interests, and I believe that America could be brought on board and China, too. Coordination to build up capacity so instead of outbidding each other, instead of outbidding for a limited capacity, we build up the capacity for ventilators, test equipment.

I think we could get agreement on that. Instead of allowing the disease to go right through the developing countries, help them build up their resistance, their resilience, but help them now so it doesn't come back in a second and third wave.

Again, a common interest and of course, the global economy being restored to growth, getting the global supply chains moving again, that is going to require collective, coordinated fiscal monetary Central Bank coordination.

So, yes, there have been setbacks, and yes, people are doing their own thing in certain areas. But when it comes to the things that are needed for cooperation and coordination, I do believe we can get the different countries working together. It demands a relentless focus on these issues, where global coordination is essential otherwise, don't get the answers we want.

ZAKARIA: Do you wish you had somebody like Barack Obama in the White House?

BROWN: I worked well with Barack Obama in 2009 during the financial crisis. But you know this is not the time to look back. It's a time to look forward. And I am not interested in criticism. I'm interested in being constructive.

And I can see America actually has put $500 million into developing countries, into their health budgets, into other support in the last few weeks. Britain is doing the same. Other countries are doing the same but it's not coordinated.

[10:50:00]

BROWN: If you cannot say we will do whatever it takes, because you're not coordinated, you're not in a position to concert your action--

ZAKARIA: Gordon, I --

BROWN: -- doing whatever we can.

BROWN: I understand, and I'm so sorry, but we are out of time. Gordon brown thank you so much for your perspective and we will be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: And now for "The Last Look" Today is Easter Sunday, but you wouldn't know it from the deserted churches around the world. Even the very seat of the Catholic Church, St. Peter's Basilica stands empty, and for good reason.

In Eastern France, a five-day evangelical prayer meeting sparked one of Europe's largest regional COVID clusters. And in India, the virus has been linked to a Muslim missionary group's annual gathering in New Delhi. But for many religious observers, the kind of social distancing seen at St. Peter's is sacrilege.

[10:55:00]

ZAKARIA: Some Pakistani worshipers disregarded curfew to attend Friday prayers last week, clashing violently with police who came to broke them up. Even in the U.S., law enforcement has had to shut down religious events from evangelical churches in Louisiana, to as "The New York Times" reported Jewish weddings in Brooklyn.

Now, I don't have any religious standing, but I would point out that most religions have at their core the affirmation of life, the protection of the vulnerable, and the healing of the sick. All of that suggests doing what you can to keep yourself and your community safe and healthy.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)