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Johns Hopkins: Over 582,500 Cases, 23,600 Deaths in U.S.; U.S. States Form Pacts to Coordinate How to Reopen; President Trump Says He's Got Total Power; Potential for Second Coronavirus Surge; Italy Gradually Allows Workers Back to Work; Indian P.M. Modi Addresses the Nation; South Korea Holds Early Voting for Parliamentary Election; Criticism of the World Health Organization's Response; China Accused of Discrimination Against African Nationals; Chef Feeds Homeless in Denmark. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired April 14, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.
Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the urge to reemerge: an end run from state governors in the U.S. takes the White House out of the equation of when to restart the economy, while President Trump continues to insist that he and only he has total authority over that decision.
It was seen as a miracle drug for curing COVID-19 with a hard sell from the White House Briefing Room and a president who asked what harm could it do. We are learning now a lot.
And no lockdown, no problem. Sweden has an unusual approach to the pandemic but health officials worry that it might backfire.
VAUSE: With the number of coronavirus infections around the world starting to plateau, more countries are looking to that moment of when to restart their economies, when most should return to work, when normalcy returns to our lives.
In France, schools will open next month but the president is extending emergency measures, borders will remain closed until May 11th. Britain is emerging as potentially Europe's hardest-hit country. The virus has yet to peak. The number of deaths continue to increase each day until the government says no plans to ease up on stay-at-home orders.
In Spain, where the death rate is slowing, around 300,000 people returned to work on Monday, mostly construction or factory workers, those who could not work from home. For the most part, one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe will remain until the end of the month.
Across the United States, state governors have made a pact to work together in deciding when to restart their economies and lift shelter in place orders. The move is essentially an end run around the White House and a president who continues to claim he is the only one with the absolute authority to make that decision. Jason Carroll reports.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time in history, every state is under a disaster declaration at the same time.
The national death toll numbers are staggering. And yet, in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, there are indications the number of infected is leveling off.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Here's the good news. The curve continues to flatten.
CARROLL: Across the country, the number of hospitalizations is down. The U.S. surgeon general says it appears the nation's hot spots, places such as New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans, are all showing some signs of improvement.
Dr. Jerome Adams tweeting this morning, "In the midst of tragedy, there is hope. Social distancing and mitigation is working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel."
And, today, governors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania announced they're forming one working group between them to come up with a coordinated plan to reopen.
CUOMO: We should start looking forward to "reopening," quote-unquote, but reopening with a plan and a smart plan, because, if you do it wrong, it can backfire. And we have seen that in other places on the globe. So everyone is very anxious to get out of the house, get back to work, get the economy moving. Everyone agrees with that.
CARROLL: Even as President Trump says he will be the one to decide when the country reopens, despite never issuing a nationwide lockdown and leaving that up to the states.
Health officials say that reopening the country will likely have to happen section by section.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: This pandemic has affected different parts of the country differently. We're looking at the data very carefully, county by county by county and we will be assessing that.
CARROLL: Still, this morning, Los Angeles County health officials reported seeing its highest number of COVID deaths in a 48-hour period; 31 people died.
The U.S. military says a sailor on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt has died from COVID-19. To date, more than 2,900 service members have tested positive for the virus. And the economic impact continues to take a toll. Disney announced it will furlough 43,000 Walt Disney World employees starting April 19.
And part of the nation's food supply in jeopardy, as one of the nation's largest pork processing plants now closed until further notice after 238 employees at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tested positive for coronavirus. That number of infected accounts for more than half of the state's total -- Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: Pinar Keskinocak is a professor with the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, she's with us from Atlanta.
Professor, thank you for being with us.
PINAR KESKINOCAK, STEWART SCHOOL OF INDUSTRIAL AND SYSTEMS ENGINEERING: Thank you for having me.
VAUSE: We heard the U.S. president on Monday, he's adamant he has the authority to force the country to reopen. Listen to part of what he said during a regular White House briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've been having many discussions with my team and top experts and were close to completing the plan to open our country, hopefully even ahead of schedule. And that is so important.
We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: I know you are not a legal scholar but state governors are the ones who implemented the shutdown; the president avoided having any direct involvement, arguing states' rights. Surely lifting those orders are an issue for each of those states for the same reason, right?
KESKINOCAK: So I cannot comment on the legal aspects. But the fact that the majority of states ordered their residents to shelter in place, asking them to stay home, unless they need to perform essential tasks like getting food or medical supplies, this is an example of what we call social distancing or physical distancing, very significant to reduce our interactions with others in the community and this helps lower the chance of (INAUDIBLE) spreading the infection.
And we have already seen some positive impact of this and hopefully we will continue to see increased impact as we move forward.
VAUSE: And there's Dr. Fauci, saying that the virus decides the timeline here, not us. The governors right now -- and most importantly, the public -- overwhelming in favor of continuing the shutdowns, so are much of the health experts.
Why not make the most of the public support while it's there?
In Spain and Italy, where the economic pain has been so acute, the goodwill has evaporated along with the lockdown laughs.
KESKINOCAK: I think following shelter in place orders impacts families financially, socially, emotionally. We all are experiencing this right now. But in the absence of a vaccine or a treatment, social distancing is the most effective non-medical intervention available to us at the moment.
On the bright side, we already see the positive impact of this, with new infections and hospitalization numbers slowly going down in some. Areas but unfortunately these positive results may not be sustainable if we go back to normal too quickly.
The current estimates suggest that an infected person could pass infection onto two to three people average. This is a very large number, which means that the disease could spread very fast and wide if we all continue or go back to our normal patterns of life.
So we need to remember that this is a pandemic, so none of us are immune, at the beginning none of us were immune. And the entire population is susceptible to the disease. And we still have a lot of people out there that could be infected.
VAUSE: The World Health Organization on Monday said the coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than H1N1, the swine flu from a decade ago, and issued a warning about easing up on any of those restrictions. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We know that, in some countries, cases are doubling every three to four days. However, while COVID-19 accelerates very fast, it decelerates much more slowly. In other words, the way down is much slower than the way up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So given that, what concerns do you have for Italy and Spain as they emerge from their shutdowns?
KESKINOCAK: As I mentioned before, the infectivity of this disease is quite high. A person who could pass the infection to two to three people on average. This is a lot higher than what we experienced, for example, with H1N1, while this number was around 1.3 to 1.5. So there is a significant difference in terms of how quickly the
disease can spread. So far, the confirmed cases in the U.S. are likely to be a very small percentage of the population, compared to what we might see during the entire course of the disease.
So there are still many people out there who get sick and our numbers might also be underestimated because of the lack of testing. So I think that we need to be very careful before we ease any kind of social distancing practices that we have in place.
VAUSE: When it comes to restarting the economy, the White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has some harsh words for medical experts and others, accusing them of having tunnel vision.
He told "The New York Times," they were "tone-deaf to the very significant losses of life and blows to American families."
He said, "They piously preen on their soapboxes, speaking only half of the medical truth without reference or regard for the other half of the equation, which is the very real mortal dangers associated with the closure of the economy for an extended period."
So when medical experts and people like yourself sit down and make this decision about the right time to end this lockdown, do you do a cost-benefit analysis, the pros and cons?
KESKINOCAK: It's hard to put a price on human life but I think that we need to keep in mind that, for a long time, the way that we've been dealing with COVID-19, has been like fighting a fire blindly without seeing where the fire is, where it's spreading or how fast it's spreading, because we did not have widespread testing.
So the diagnostic testing helps us identify infected individuals, it has been extremely limited, that was a big limitation for us to understand where we are. And psychological testing is another one that could help us understand if somebody actually was sick and then recovered and could be partially immune.
So I think in terms of beating these things, we first need to understand where we are and then continuing forward, if we continue our social interactions at the usual levels, especially in large groups, this is like strong winds fueling the spread of the fire, maybe not pouring gasoline but strong winds.
And when we reduce these interactions by social distancing, the spread slows down significantly and so do the number of hospitalizations and deaths. So our ability to cope, especially with limited resources, goes up significantly. So going back to normal too quickly, I understand the economic impact of this. But it would almost be like throwing away our weeks of patience with shelter in place and inviting these strong winds back again to come back in all directions in hot and dry areas.
So we need to be careful as we ease up on these.
VAUSE: Life is all about the timing. Professor, thank you for being with us, we appreciate it.
KESKINOCAK: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
VAUSE: For weeks, the U.S. president has been making the hard sell for hydroxychloroquine, an anti malaria drug, with anecdotal evidence showing some positive results in treating COVID-19.
The drug has been used on an emergency basis in the U.S. and now the ongoing sales pitch from the White House, clinical studies have started around the world. But the results are not promising. And the World Health Organization says there absolutely is no conclusive finding which proves hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The medical and research community are really taking the potential of hydroxychloroquine seriously and it's currently in a number of different trials. There's no evidence from randomized clinical trials that it works and clinicians have also been cautioned to look out for side effects of the drug.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Side effects like heart problems and cardiology groups in the U.S. urging doctors to be careful about prescribing the drugs for COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular disease.
Joining us now from Los Angeles, Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at the University of Southern California (INAUDIBLE) Hospital.
Dr. Dorian, thank you for being with us.
DR. ARMAND DORIAN, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOSPITAL: Thanks for having me, John.
VAUSE: The WHO saying this anti-malaria drug shows some promise but nothing more than that, because we know that, in Brazil, recently, preliminary studies were stopped after 11 patients died. Researchers found that high dosages were actually linked to irregular heartbeats.
Also because of cardiac concerns, a Swedish government agency warned that chloroquine should not be used outside of clinical trials for COVID-19. And a similar finding and a warning from a study in France.
VAUSE: They say, "This initial assessment shows that the risks, in particular cardiovascular, associated with these treatments are very present and potentially increased in COVID-19 patients. These drugs should only be used in hospitals under close medical supervision."
So yes, there's anecdotal evidence it maybe did some good. But it's also showing us that could actually be doing more harm than good in patients with COVID-19. DORIAN: So John, look, "anecdotal" and "maybe," that is why we need
to do studies. We need to see if it's going to be beneficial.
Is there some hope?
Yes. But what we really do know, we've known about hydroxychloroquine for years, we have been treating malaria patients with it. We know it causes cardiac arrhythmias. We know it has serious side effects. So for us to blanketly say let's spray the world with hydroxychloroquine is a big mistake.
You're going to actually hurt a lot more people than help them. So we really have to be careful. Then (INAUDIBLE) patients, we've found it actually causes heart problems. It's not just a lung issue, predominantly, lung.
But when you get the COVID-19 virus, it affects your heart. So if your heart is irritated and we're adding a medication that can increase the chance for an irregular heartbeat, that might be a recipe for disaster. So we have to be very careful. We've got to do the studies.
VAUSE: The president has been pushing this as some kind of miracle cure and that's some kind of marketing campaign, extends to his most dedicated supporters over at FOX News, like Sean Hannity. Here he was on Friday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: This is not anecdotal anymore. We're now beyond that point in spite of what the mob in the media is telling you, countries all over the world are seeing positive signs, including in France and China and Turkey and India and Israel and many other countries in between.
We don't have time in the middle of a pandemic to have a two year clinical trial. Hold on, virus, we need a clinical trial. That doesn't work that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know he could not be more wrong on so many levels. Firstly, that's the only message a lot of people are getting about this medication, so that's a big concern.
But can you explain to Mr. Hannity why clinical trials are so important, why we just have to wait?
DORIAN: Clinical trials are so important because, yes, we all want to hope for it to work but if you start doing things like hoping and looking into the data and basically you end up pushing the data the wrong way, it becomes bias.
It's so important for us to make sure we do clinical trials to understand that the medication is actually beneficial, not harmful. This is why people like Sean Hannity should not be speaking about medications. It's why we need physicians and researchers to talk about this.
While we all have the same desire for it to work, we have to be extremely careful. There is no concrete evidence, there is case studies. That is not enough for us just to buy into that one medication as a cure, because we know it's not the cure.
VAUSE: He did go on to say he's not a doctor, which is about the only thing I think he got right. Let's look at the positive side, because the number of new cases in the United States seem to be leveling, off but that good news does come with a warning. Here's Dr. Fauci.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think the more that we go by each day, I think we're going to see -- again I don't want to get ahead of myself or of Dr. Birx -- but it looks like, even though we have had a really bad week last week, remember when I was speaking to you before I was saying that this was a really bad week, there are still going to be a lot of deaths but we are starting to see in some areas now, that kind of flattening, particularly in a place that was a hot spot like New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: How do you see this right now in terms of where we are in this pandemic?
And I guess if anyone thinks the worst is in the rearview mirror, what would you say to them?
DORIAN: They are completely wrong. Look, New York is the first unfortunate major city that is going through this. Yes, they are seeing a slight plateauing of that rise, of that surge.
But what about all the other cities out there in the United States?
We haven't even hit the iceberg yet. We are not even touching the iceberg. We are still climbing in regard to the surge. We have to be extremely careful, hopeful but careful. The biggest mistake we make is when we see a plateau. Everybody wants to get up, everybody wants to go back into society.
But what are you going back into?
You are still vulnerable, still susceptible. You are not vaccinated, you have no immunity, there isn't people around you that are all cured. So if you go back out, we go backwards. So the potential second surge is sitting there, waiting to happen.
VAUSE: The longer this goes on the more we learn to treat this thing and there is questions now among some doctors, about the overuse of ventilators. They're saying what is driving this reassessment, is the observation about COVID-19.
Some people have blood oxygen levels so low they should be dead. But they're not gasping for air, their hearts are not racing and their brain shows no signs of blinking off from lack of oxygen," which is mind-blowing.
But is there any reassessment, there among doctors, at your hospital or other hospitals, about using less intrusive methods before going on ventilators?
DORIAN: Yes, we are daily learning more and more about how to treat the critical patients. They are exactly right. People are coming in with blood oxygen levels really low that normally we put them on the ventilator because we think they're about to die.
But here's the problem. We are learning now after putting so many people on ventilators, that the trauma the air, the pressure, that causes to the lungs, from the ventilator, is a double whammy.
So what do we want to do?
We are actually considering going backwards and thinking about putting people on high flow oxygen bypass, which is that mask that pushes air in and out. And that buys you time, a few days of not being on a ventilator.
The problem though with that is, those mist the potential virus in the air. So we have to make sure that health care workers have full PPE to care for them. So it's a catch-22. While we should be waiting a little longer (INAUDIBLE) we have to make a decision on a case by case basis.
VAUSE: Dr. Dorian, thank you very much. We appreciate you being with us. Good luck.
DORIAN: Thanks, John.
VAUSE: Still to come, stay home longer, that is the message for people in Italy but as these weeks drag on, that message is getting harder to listen to.
Plus can you curb the coronavirus without a lockdown?
That is the plan in Sweden.
Is it working?
More on that we get back.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. The coronavirus death toll in Italy has passed 20,000, second only to the U.S. But on Tuesday some non essential businesses will be ready to open on a trial basis. Despite that a month-long nationwide lockdown is set to be extended. As Ben Wedeman reports in Rome, many are fighting the urge to reemerge.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rush hour in Rome, yet more than a month into lockdown, no one is rushing anywhere. Landmarks normally teeming with tourists are empty. It's been a while since anyone through a coin in this fountain.
Wild grass grows thick between the once well-tread cobblestones in Piazza Navona. Spring is in the air but the road to the sea side is deserted. The beach, off limits.
It's getting to the point where cabin fever is colliding with spring fever. People are getting restless. Over the Easter weekend, the police issued more than 26,000 fines to those accused of violating the emergency regulations. The government has extended the lockdown until May 3rd, a move some support.
"I wish it weren't like this but I agree," says Martha. "It's inevitable given how many people have been infected."
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Her friend, Linda, insists it's already too much.
"We are living in a dictatorship," she says. "I don't agree. We are just numbers, we don't count."
"I don't think we're well organized," Francesca tells me. "It's easier just to close everyone up at home, instead of managing it in a more rational way according to age groups that kind of work."
People may be restless but the dogs are fine. They are free to go outside, taking their humans for frequent walks. We're gradually becoming accustomed to house arrests -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.
VAUSE: Well, much of Europe is still on lockdown. Sweden has done the opposite. The streets are bustling, restaurants are opening, trains, buses still running. (INAUDIBLE) decision to buck the status quo might just backfire. Phil Black has the story.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In these strange times, this is a strange sight, people just hanging out in bars and cafes, enjoying the sunny Easter weekend with friends and family. The coronavirus hasn't skipped Sweden. They're just dealing with it very differently, no forced closures, no lockdown. Some, including President Trump, think the country is betting
everything on that controversial theory, herd immunity, deliberately allowing the disease to move through the population, so younger people with antibodies surround and protect the elderly and more vulnerable.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sweden did that, the herd. They call it the herd. Sweden suffering very, very badly.
BLACK: Absolutely not true, says the Swedish government.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our goal is the same as in most other countries. We want to save lives. We want to hinder the spreading of the virus.
BLACK: Swedish health officials say their approach is designed to slow the virus where it spreads most. And they don't think that's in bars and restaurants.
ANDERS TEGNELL, CHIEF STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST, SWEDEN: Not convinced that lockdowns and these kind of things work very well.
BLACK: Anders Tegnell, Sweden's state epidemiologist, says their strategy's focus is asking everyone to avoid travel, work from home where possible and isolate if you feel unwell.
And he says it's worked, flattening the curve, keeping critical cases within the capacity of the health system.
TEGNELL: I think one of the strong reasons for why we have been doing what we're doing in Sweden is that we feel that this is very sustainable. We can keep on doing this for long -- for months then, without any real harm to society.
BLACK: But the numbers tell a different story. For a small country, Sweden has suffered a relatively high number of deaths, now at 919.
The deaths per 100,000 people stands at 8.83, higher than that of the United States at 6.73, but still far less than Italy at nearly 33. And there's one especially disturbing trend in Sweden's experience so far.
Health officials say around half the total figure killed lived in homes for the elderly. The World Health Organization says it's imperative Sweden must do more. And 2,000 Swedish scientists have signed a petition, because they fear current policies will mean many more deaths.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our authorities think they are in control. But what we are saying is that the catastrophe is looming around the corner, so you're not in control in two, three weeks' time.
BLACK: Critics say Sweden is now trapped in a high-risk experiment.
Swedish officials believe they have found the right balance. Either way, in the coming months, Sweden will have much to teach the world about how to best manage COVID-19 -- Phil Black, CNN, London.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Well, confirmed cases continue to spike as India, enters day
21 of a three week long lockdown.
Will the prime minister extend those restrictions?
He's due to address the nation shortly. Thank you for watching CNN.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.
A combatant Donald Trump insists he will decide how and when to restart the U.S. economy. Two groups of regional governors have banded together to come up with their own step-by-step plans, but the president continues to insist he has total authority in the matter.
France is extending its emergency measure, including keeping its borders closed until May 11. Nearly 15,000 coronavirus deaths are confirmed there. The health ministry says cases may be plateauing.
About 300,000 workers in Spain returned to their jobs on Monday as the country begins to lift its coronavirus restrictions. Those working in construction and manufacturing were allowed back on the job, but shops, bars, restaurants still remain closed now. Some working groups and politicians are concerned the lockdown is being lifted too quickly.
In India, more than a billion people have been under lockdown for three weeks now. And today, the prime minister will address the nation, and he will tell them what comes next.
Well, there is pressure to restart the economy. Several states have extended the tight restrictions on their own as the infections continue to spike. CNN's Sam Kiley tracking developments out of all this. He joins us now live from New Delhi.
So, Sam, it would seem that the prime minister is looking for a compromise here, maybe to restart some industries but keep the lockdown in place, for the most part? What are they looking at?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Indian prime minister, like so many leaders around the world, John, facing this conundrum of economic ruin as the economy has been in suspended animation now for several weeks, versus lifting the restrictions too soon, and risking a further spread of the virus.
And this is critical in an economic and humanitarian sense for India, because Narendra Modi, who the -- the Indian prime minister who is just beginning to speak to the nation now knows, that there are so many millions in his country that live on a day-to-day income, and they've had no income, no ability to survive at all, surviving entirely on charity and government handouts for pretty much the last month. So that is the humanitarian situation in terms of the lockdown. The
problem is that, if he releases the economy at this stage, particularly allows the movement of transport, trains and so on, the relatively low infection rates that have been reported. And of course, reported infection rates don't necessarily always reflect the actual infection rates, over 10,000 now in India with nearly 340 deaths.
If those infection rates are maintained at that low level, John, then obviously, he would be likely to have to face a continued lockdown. That's certainly a position that has already been adopted by at least three states across India.
But this comes at a particularly tense time again in India, because there's been a lot of criticism of the Modi government for exacerbating communal tensions through this period, blaming a lot of the initial infections on a gathering of Muslims that refused to break up in the early stages of the -- of the lockdown, John.
VAUSE: OK, Sam. Thank you for the update. Sam Kiley there, live in New Delhi with that decision pending. Still a lot to come from the Indian prime minister. Thanks, Sam.
So, how do you hold an election in the middle of a pandemic? More than 40 countries have already postponed or canceled elections because of the coronavirus, but South Korea might just be the how-to blueprint. Early voting for Wednesday's parliamentary election is already underway, and strict measures are in place to monitor voters' health at the polling stations.
CNN's Paula Hancocks live this hour from Seoul with more.
This is the first major election to take place during this pandemic, and what we're seeing there, what, turnout is high? But these measures to protect voters and election workers are fairly strict, as well.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, John, yes. The early voting was Friday, Saturday, and last week. And more than a quarter of the electorate actually turned up then to try and avoid Wednesday.
But we are seeing more officials are going to be involved. They've got 20,000 more officials that will be at these polling stations for the basic health necessities, to make sure that people are safe.
Let's take a look at exactly what they'll be doing.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): Queue at least one meter apart, have your temperature checked, sanitize your hands, put on disposable gloves, and then vote.
This is a South Korean parliamentary election during a pandemic.
More than a quarter of the electorate came for early voting last Friday and Saturday, a record, to avoid the crowds on election day, Wednesday.
President Moon Jae-in was one of them, this election seen as a midterm referendum for him and his party.
More than 14,000 polling stations will be disinfected regularly. For those who tested positive for coronavirus, they were encouraged to vote by mail before the end of March. If you tested positive after that date, you then vote at eight special polling stations, so long as your symptoms are mild. If you're in quarantine, you can vote in the hour after polls close, but only if you're symptom-free.
When it comes to campaigning, some of it was a virtual. But most of it was not.
(on camera): It feels like it has been a long time since I saw a crowd like this in central Seoul. It is packed with media supporters and candidates. Nothing about that crowd really says social distancing to me at this point.
But what we're seeing from candidates is they still have to campaign, and they still have to try to get as many votes as possible.
Following one ruling party candidate, the mask goes on and off. As where the gloves, and physical contact was frequent.
LEE NAK-YEON, DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF KOREA CANDIDATE (through translator): So-called nonverbal language can have more of an impact than spoken words. This election has a certain limitation for us to use nonverbal language.
HANCOCKS: But as a candidate, when a supporter wants to hug you, it's very hard to say no. Officials don't believe turnout will be affected too much, borne out by those we spoke to on the streets of Seoul.
This construction worker says, "Korea has had elections even during wartime, so I think the election should go ahead as planned."
This mother says, "I have no choice but to come out today to get schoolbooks for my daughter, but I'm keeping social distance from others, so I think I should be OK on the election date."
With close to 44 million registered voters, this election is a big test for South Korea and its efforts to fight the virus. As countries around the world head for their own elections this year, we'll be watching very closely.
HANCOCKS: So, John, the numbers of new cases in South Korea have been hovering around or below the 50 level for about a week now. So, certainly, we are seeing lower numbers, but they will be watched very closely to see if their impacted at all by the sort of campaigning that we saw on the streets -- John.
VAUSE: Yes, Paula, thank you. Impressive in so many ways, what they'll be doing in South Korea. Thank you. When we come back, a closer look at why the U.S. president is threatening to cut funding for the organization which oversees world health in the middle of a pandemic.
VAUSE: It was bound to come sooner or later, only this time it was later. On Monday, former U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders endorsed his main Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-MA), FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm asking all Americans, I'm asking every Democrat, I'm asking every independent, I'm asking a lot of Republicans to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse, to make certain that we defeat somebody who I believe -- and I'm speaking just for myself now -- is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Sanders says he will do everything he can to put Biden in the White House. It took five days from the suspension of his campaign to making this endorsement.
For many in the U.S., he's seen as the voice of reason, a voice of calm in a White House struggling in responding to this pandemic, but the future of Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared to be uncertain after one of President Trump's retweets over the weekend, which included the hashtag #FireFauci.
It followed a CNN interview where Dr. Fauci said more lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner, but there was pushed back on that shutdown. On Monday, the president called Fauci a wonderful guy, said he won't fire him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I re-tweeted somebody. I don't know. They say fire, doesn't matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you notice that when you retweeted it?
TRUMP: I notice everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you retweeted it, even it said time to fire Fauci?
TRUMP: It's somebody's opinion. All that is, is an opinion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you elevated it.
TRUMP: No. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes. Fauci to try to clarify his comments from the CNN interview, saying he was responding to a hypothetical question and that "pushback" was the wrong choice of words.
Where President Trump does find fault in handling this pandemic is with the World Health Organization, and he is threatening to cut U.S. funding because of it. The criticism is connected to China's early reporting on the disease and the WHO's resistance to challenge that.
CNN's Nic Robertson has more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: When the World Health Organization, the WHO Speaks, we listen, right? The question is, should we?
TRUMP: They seem to be very China-centric.
ROBERTSON: President Trump thinks not. He is considering defunding them.
TRUMP: They give them a majority of the money that they get.
ROBERTSON: January 22, Wuhan one day from any form of lockdown, China is in crisis mode. The WHO praises China. Yet as we now know, for the previous two months, China has been silencing its doctors, stonewalling its people, and lying by omission about the disease.
In January, at least, the WHO, seems unwilling to question China's truthfulness, raising concerns it could have done more to stop the pandemic before it got going.
Dr. Peter Drobac is a U.K.-based global health expert.
DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, OXFORD SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL: If there was evidence early on that China was not sharing or was covering up information about a new virus and about this outbreak and trying not to share that with the world, then certainly, it would've been appropriate for WHO to call them out on that.
ROBERTSON: The WHO's senior official, Margaret Harris, says the WHO was doing all could.
MARGARET HARRIS, WHO SENIOR OFFICIAL: On the fourth of January, we notified the world via social media, and by the fifth we put out a formal notification in what's called our disease break news.
ROBERTSON: But that was a long way short of the level of alarm public health officials say the world needed to hear. It would take another month to get that point. On January 14, China is still telling the WHO they have not seen
human-to-human transmission. That day the WHO echoes China's message. Also that day, the WHO reports Thailand gets its first imported case of COVID-19.
Two days later, January 16, the WHO reports that Japan has its first imported case. The same day, the WHO reports a third country affected, too. And tweets, "Considering global travel patterns, additional cases in other countries are likely."
But it isn't until January 19 the WHO actually acknowledges what had become obvious to many experts: human-to-human transfer was happening.
DROBAC: It's clear that, early on, China repressed some information and really didn't share information in ways that might have allowed this outbreak to take hold in ways that became very dangerous.
ROBERTSON: China's epidemic has got traction and is on the way to becoming a pandemic. Still, January 22 WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is still praising China. The next day, WHO experts fail to flag the looming threat.
HARRIS: Independent scientists with expertise are brought together. They came to Dr. Tedros, and they said, We don't have a consensus. At that point on the 23rd.
ROBERTSON: It would be a week later, the end of January, before they announced what the world seemed obvious in the broader health community.
GHEBREYESUS: I'm declaring a public health emergency of international concern.
ROBERTSON: The next day, President Trump calls for a travel ban on China. The WHO director-general criticizes Trump. Tensions begin building.
DROBAC: The more that we go on casting blame back and forth, instead of working together, you know, this is really at our -- at our peril. China has the greatest collection of clinical expertise in fighting COVID-19, as anyone in the world. We should be learning from them right now.
ROBERTSON: A point the WHO is keen to flag, that even while denying human-to-human transfer in January, China was providing vital genome data the WHO passes to the world to help make test kits.
Two months later, the WHO would declare the pandemic.
The WHO's track record in previous crises is checkered. Widespread criticism for their handing of Ebola. Better on SARS, when it stood up to China.
DROBAC: If you go back to the SARS epidemic of 2003 to 2005, WHO had quite at least a more muscular posture, including in calling out China early and pushing them to provide more transparency and more information. They didn't have any more power at the time, but they simply used the kind of bully pulpit that they had.
TRUMP: I closed the borders despite him, and that was a hard decision to make at the time.
ROBERTSON: By late March, Trump's China travel ban has become a central plank of his defense of his own heavily criticized handling of the pandemic. The WHO becomes a scapegoat.
TRUMP: They've got to do better than that.
ROBERTSON: Most countries, including Trump's friend, Boris Johnson's government, are standing by the WHO. And so, too, most experts.
DROBAC: If this breaks out in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, and countries that have, you know, fewer ventilators in an entire country than one New York City hospital does, then we need WHO and international support there to help them get prepared. And if so, WHO is weakened or paralyzed now, fighting these political fights between the U.S. and China, that could really hurt us in the months to come.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Most experts agree, the World Health Organization does need reforming, given extra powers, not replaced by another body. David Navarro is correct when he says the battle against COVID-19 is far from done. The global consensus is that the WHO needs to be part of that fight.
Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
VAUSE: Well, his Michelin-starred restaurant is closed, so a gourmet chef is serving up a little kindness instead. Helping those in need during this pandemic. That's next up on CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: African expats living in the Chinese city of Guangzhou were reportedly forced into quarantine and to take coronavirus tests, regardless of their travel history.
This comes amid fears in China of a so-called second wave brought into the country by overseas travelers.
CNN's Jenni Marsh joins us now, live from Hong Kong.
Jenni, so any official reason why African expats were singled out, where other national -- nationalities, I should say, were they forced to take similar measures?
JENNI MARSH, CNN SENIOR DIGITAL PRODUCER: Hi, John. So there's a general China wide fear at the moment of imported cases from foreigners, but in Guangzhou, we really did see sort of a targeted -- targeted focus on Africans.
And earlier this month, five Nigerians did test positive for COVID-19, but Guangzhou has a really big African population. It's the biggest in China and perhaps in Asia.
And what happened last week was every single African in Guangzhou was tested and asked to go into a 14-day quarantine, regardless if they'd any contact with these five Nigerian cases. Or indeed, if they were even in the same community.
So it was a completely sort of blanket approach to every African in the city, regardless of their travel history, whether they had a certificate that said they'd recently tested negative for COVID, or any contact they'd had. So it was -- it was quite unprecedented. Other foreigners didn't face the same kind of regulations.
VAUSE: To be clear about this, this is potentially the work of just one or two government officials in the city of Guangzhou. This is not a national policy, right? This is just the city and maybe, you know, an outlier, if you like?
MARSH: Yes, absolutely, John. So this is Guangzhou's specific problem. I suspect other Africans living in Beijing, for example, haven't experienced this kind of treatment.
And there's kind of a history to this, which is Guangzhou does have this long African population, which has been there for about 20 years now. And it's the most visible African population in China. And so it's always attracted a lot of attention and a lot of hostility with the local authorities there with visas. And there are suspicions that large numbers of Africans overstay their visas there, as well.
So this comes off the back of a lot of tension with authorities. And -- and this group has also sort of reported racism for a long time in Guangzhou and finding it sort of a challenging place to live.
VAUSE: Yes. It is an ongoing story. I remember it well from a decade ago, so I think things haven't changed that much.
Jenni, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.
MARSH: Thank you.
VAUSE: A forest fire has been burning in the exclusion zone around the shuttered Chernobyl nuclear power plant for more than 10 days. Activists claim, though, the fire is actually 1,000 times bigger than official reports, and it's only a kilometer from the Chernobyl plant.
Ukraine says radiation levels have not changed. Police have identified one person believed responsible for starting that fire.
What happens if you're a gourmet chef, the coronavirus forces your restaurant to close? If you're Rasmus Munk, you put your culinary skills feeding those who need it the most.
Susanne Gargiulo has the story.
SUSANNE GARGIULO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the Alchemist. This two-star Michelin restaurant is the latest shining star in a city famed for world-class restaurants. But these days, in a place where the average meal costs around $700, the menu is changing.
RASMUS MUNK, CHEF AND CO-OWNER, ALCHEMIST: So, today, we will be making rice salads, tomato parsley.
GARGIULO: In the weeks since the coronavirus shut down restaurants across Denmark, Munk and his team of volunteers say they've been cooking around 500 meals a day for the homeless.
MUNK: It's a little bit more calm now, back to basics, and make some just good, decent food, some good food for the homeless and the people who really need it most.
GARGIULO: his drive to make a difference IS not new. His 50-course menu addresses everything from animal welfare to climate change. Like this one, an edible dish calling attention to plastic pollution in the world's oceans.
MUNK: We've been trying the different dishes to create awareness about subjects. And then when we can't do that, it makes sense change the concept.
GARGIULO: It's a much-needed change. Government restrictions and efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus have forced a number of homeless facilities to limit service and staff, making it harder to find a bed and a meal.
Lut Messin (ph), who runs a nonprofit helping the homeless, has been delivering meals to Frank, while he's been quarantined with a suspected case of COVID-19.
LUT MESSIN (PH), RUNS NONPROFIT FOR THE HOMELESS: He wasn't going to get any food if I didn't bring him anything.
FRANK, QUARANTINED FOR COVID-19: It's difficult, so we have to find some other stuff to do.
MESSIN (PH): Having this meal every day, and his rhythms, his energy is up. His mood is up. And you never know what's coming, but you know it's going to be really good, because it's from here.
GARGIULO: Frank agrees, except on portion size.
FRANK: It's not a lot, but it's OK, you know?
GARGIULO: But there is more coming. Munk says for now, he's secured funds for at least another six months.
Susanne Gargiulo for CNN in Copenhagen.
VAUSE: On Easter Sunday, Brazil's famous Christ the Redeemer statue was transformed.
More technological wonder than miracle, the iconic statue was lit up in scrubs, to look like a doctor at one point, a tribute to frontline healthcare workers battling the coronavirus around the world. Also projected onto the statue, various flags of countries and video of healthcare workers as well as messages of gratitude.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. AMANPOUR starts after the break.