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President Trump to Halt WHO Funding; California Governor Outlines Economy Reopening Plan; Coronavirus Pandemic, 2,400 Deaths Reported Tuesday; IMF Warns Recession on Horizon; IMF: Economy Facing Deepest Downturn Since Depression; South Korea Enters Final Hours of Parliamentary Election; Analyst: Spike in Japan Cases Linked to Postponed Olympics; Growing Concerns as Restrictions Ease in Spain; U.S. President's Pandemic Response Under Fire. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 00:00   ET




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 this hour, don't do as I do. The U.S. president holds funding for the WHO because he says that it was slow to respond to the pandemic and unwilling to confront China and too untrusting of the information coming from Beijing.

Our new novel may be around for a lot longer than many of us would like. Researchers suggest social distancing could be needed for the next few years.

And the economic impact of the Great Lockdown could be close to the Great Depression. The IMF warns the global economy is facing a crisis not seen in generations.


VAUSE: On the same day the IMF warned the world is facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, health experts in the U.S. said a nationwide lockdown is unlikely to be lifted by the end of the month and scientists warn a one-time mass shutdown would not be enough to contain the virus and physical distancing could be needed until 2022.

And, on the same, day when on average one American was dying every 37 seconds from COVID-19, the U.S. president decided that this was the right time to announce he was withholding funding for the World Health Organization because he says of its failure to prevent the coronavirus pandemic.

The president has been building to this moment for more than a week as is often the case, he tested the idea of blaming the WHO for the pandemic in a tweet followed by a threat last Tuesday, which he quickly walked back. But now it is official. U.S. funding of millions of dollars, by far the biggest contribution from a single donor, now on hold because the president argues that the WHO was too trusting of information from Beijing and it even praised how China respond to the crisis.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our countries are now experiencing -- you look all over the world. Tremendous death and economic devastation because those tasked with protecting us by being truthful and transparent failed to do so. It would've been so easy to be truthful.


VAUSE: Michael Bociurkiw is the former spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and he joins me from Sidney in British Columbia in Canada.

Michael, thank you for the time. We just heard that sound bite, the president laying out his case against the WHO and China.

Would it be more accurate if he was talking about his own administration's response to this pandemic?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Absolutely. This is purely throwing red meat to his base, which I find disgusting and dangerous. He is the one that did delay a lot of the efforts that could've saved lives in the United States.

And the WHO did a delay a few things, declaring the global public health emergency, also declaring it a pandemic. But they were pretty early on the mark in terms of giving clear recommendations, especially the recommendations about travel and trade restrictions that they don't necessarily think were effective.

But it has to be said, it has to be said that a lot of countries, including the United States, did ignore a lot of WHO advice and it does put the question, what is their moral authority at the end of the day?

VAUSE: Here's more from the president on why he made this is the decision, here he is.


TRUMP: They took it just at face value and defended the action of the Chinese government, even praising China, the WHO's reliance on China's disclosures will likely cost a 20 fold increase in cases and it may be much more than that.


VAUSE: As is often the case, he offered no evidence on that number. But here is the tweet from the president in January. "China has been very working hard to contain the coronavirus. The

United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi."

Can you see any difference with how the U.S. president was dealing with China, a countries very sensitive to criticism from outsiders, often very secretive and how the WHO was dealing with Beijing, treating them very carefully?

BOCIURKIW: There's only one word for Trump's tweets about China and that's hypocrisy. I think what is happening, John, is a couple of things. Number one, the Trump administration, the Republican Party are using the WHO as a whipping board to get back at China.


BOCIURKIW: Secondly, it's becoming more clear that there was more to this than meets the eye, which usually is the case with the Trump administration, and that is that it appears that the Trump administration is also trying to force the U.N. and agencies like the WHO to hire more Americans so that they have better representation.

But look. The timing of this could not be worse because I think at the end of the day we only have one coordinating public health body, the WHO. And to attack it, decapitate it in the middle of a pandemic, is not only bad timing but could cost lives. So it's absolutely mind- boggling.

VAUSE: The amount of money is considerable because through a combination of dues as well as voluntary contributions, the U.S. bankrolls about 15 percent of the annual budget of $900 million.

So you think this could cost lives.

But do you have an understanding of the immediate impact of how the WHO will be impacted by this in the midst of a global health emergency?

BOCIURKIW: Yes, I did ask them the other day in the press conference how this -- what kind of gut punch financially this would be to the organization and they totally avoided the answer.

But look. The WHO, their budget is not that big. It's smaller than most university hospitals in the United States. Secondly, their headquarters for the Americas is in Washington, D.C. So it does contribute a lot of money to the United States. It does hire a lot of Americans.

And to go back to your question about how WHO handled China, it's true they tend to pander to China. They are a major member of the U.N. and of the Security Council and we all remember those photos of Dr. Travers (ph), the head of WHO, going to sit with President Xi.

And I remember that, in our first press conferences with the WHO, we encouraged them to come out and give some kind of criticism of China's handling, underreporting of cases, late reporting of the coronavirus. But we could not get them to do that.

I think that, in this type of situation, if mistakes were made by member states, especially when it's China, you have to call them out for it.

VAUSE: The WHO is not above criticism, that's the point. But there is the timing here in the president's own issues as well. But bigger picture, last year the WHO announced they had three major parties for the next five years. There were a billion more people to benefit from universal health coverage, one billion more people protected from health emergencies, one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

These are very big aspirations.

But if funding is cut in a permanent way, where will the pain be felt the most?

BOCIURKIW: Clearly in African countries, for example, the 40-plus countries of the world that are described as having fragile health systems. Because they don't have strong ministries of health, they don't have strong capacity, especially when crises like these happen.

So from Ukraine all the way down to Nigeria and South Africa, these countries, they would really suffer without a strong WHO. But it's not only about dollars and cents, it's also about moral authority.

When you could kick in the gut like Trump has done, just today and the past couple of days, you diminished its moral authority. At the end of the day, that is what the WHO has, is moral authority to push countries and to take proper action, giving vaccines, preventing diseases from spreading, that sort of thing.

VAUSE: Yes. And it came on a day when the news was very bad on all fronts for the president. This does seem to be, what some say, a distraction. But thank you for being with us.

BOCIURKIW: My pleasure.

VAUSE: On Monday, the U.S. president was insisting he was the only one that had total authority to end the country's lockdown. That decision he said would be his, not state governors; 24 hours later, he announced he was authorizing governors to do whatever they wanted to do.

It was a stunning turnaround, even for this president. But Trump made no mention of the latest daily death toll in the U.S., which has topped more than 2,300, the highest one-day total so far. Given all that, it hardly comes as a surprise that most states are now working on their own plans for life after the lockdown. CNN's Erica Hill has the details.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We can't get ahead of ourselves and dream of regretting. I don't want to make a political decision that puts people's lives at risk.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California governor Gavin Newsom making it clear: what's ahead will be different.

NEWSOM: You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, a dinner where the menu is disposable.


HILL: As states prepare to gradually reopen, California setting expectations for this new normal, which could include regular temperature checks, staggered school days and a continued ban on large gatherings, like concerts and sporting events all aimed at one goal: stopping this virus.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We think we are at the apex on the plateau.

HILL: On the opposite coast, encouraging but cautious updates from New York, as Governor Andrew Cuomo tells President Trump he won't be pushed into reopening too soon.

CUOMO: If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn't do it.

HILL: Both governors working with their neighbors for a coordinated, science-based response as researchers warn some form of stay-at-home orders may need to continue into 2022 unless a vaccine becomes available.

Meantime in South Dakota, hundreds of confirmed cases at this pork processing plant, which is now closed indefinitely while the state remains open.

MAYOR STEVE ALLENDER, RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA: We really don't know what the holdup is. We've been identified as a nation hot spot in Sioux Falls. So it's a question of when does it infiltrate the rest of our rural communities.

HILL: In Louisiana, schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Florida's surgeon general telling his state to buckle down.

SCOTT RIVKEES, FLORIDA SURGEON GENERAL: I cannot emphasize enough that we cannot let our guard down at this present time. Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal. We need to adapt and protect ourselves.

HILL: As Tennessee's governor announces plans for a phased reboot beginning May 1st and those watching the virus each day urge caution.

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, PHYSICIAN, ASSOCIATION PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: If we are planning to do this appropriately in a way that prevents continued spread of the virus and more deaths, May 1st is a pipe dream. HILL: Dr. Anthony Fauci telling the Associated Press as well that May 1st was, in his words, "a bit overly optimistic" for many areas in terms of a reopening date. The governors of these coalitions that have formed, clearly focusing on the data, not the dates -- back to you.


VAUSE: To Los Angeles now. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez specializes in internal medicine and has taken a lead role in numerous clinical trials for hepatitis C as well as HIV.

Doctor, good to have you with us.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNIST: Thank you. Good to be here.

VAUSE: There seems to be widespread agreement among pretty much everyone out there not called Donald Trump that May 1st deadline just will not happen. But add that, we have this word from researchers from Harvard that this lockdown, even when it is lifted, chances are it won't be the last lockdown and social distancing could be needed for a lot longer than most people think. Here's more from the researchers.


YONATAN GRAD, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, IMMUNOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So keep in mind that our goal is to getting up to population level immunity, in the absence of a vaccine or other types of interventions what we might see is kind of on/off intermittent distancing and get up to population immunity, again, that end point, would take until 2022


VAUSE: What we're being told is the key to all this is the vaccine.

How closely linked is the timing of the vaccine with the timing of an end to these restrictions and an end to the lockdowns and a return to some kind of normalcy?

RODRIGUEZ: It's very locked into that. First of all, let's realize that everybody thinks this may be an isolated incident in the United States. This is not a peak of a curve that goes down. This is going to be more of a rollercoaster over a finite period of time, whether that is one or two years, until one of a few things happen.

One is a vaccine. Could happen. Right now, the vaccine is in an early stage of being investigated. There are three major ones, for example. One is in China and it is the most advanced. But it is only now going to be tested in a large group of people, approximately 500.

In the United States, they are still in phase I trials, which means they are making sure that this vaccine is safe to humans. So we are still optimistically eight months to a year off from actual vaccines being approved by the FDA. So that is one of the things that may slow down this projection of two years. Another one is if certain medications that are being tried right now

are found to be effective, another thing that may slow things down is we, in a way, give up on treatment and realize that we need more capacity to treat those that are ill.

So the new normal is going to be finding some kind of symbiosis with the virus, short of finding a vaccine that prevents us all from getting it.

VAUSE: In the next 12 to 18 months, two years, how drastically will our lives change?


RODRIGUEZ: I think our lives have already changed drastically and I think that may continue to be this way. For example, the not shaking hands, the wearing masks when we go outside, being protective and having social distancing, that will probably be the new norm.

This is such a huge pandemic and I think we underplay it. For example, the people in middle America did not think that this was going to affect them.

Guess what?

Now there are hotspots right in the middle. These hotspots are going to continue coming up. We don't want a U-shaped curve. But chances are, this is going to happen.

We have international travel, domestic travel. It is only a matter of time before these little virus hotspots keep going from place to place until we find, hopefully, an ultimate treatment for this.


VAUSE: The president may have backed away from the May 1st deadline but Donald Trump still has his own ideas on how and when this should end. Here he is.


TRUMP: It is going to be very close, maybe even before the date of May 1st.


VAUSE: Dr. Fauci though telling the AP that any easing of restrictions would happen, as he said, on a rolling basis, not all at once. That reflects the way COVID-19 struck different parts of the country at different times. No one has ever done anything like this before.

Which approach makes more sense?

Which one has the least risk, if you like, moving too slowly or moving too quickly? RODRIGUEZ: The least risk is moving slowly as far as human lives. But there is a political decision, apparently, and there is a medical and scientific decision. We are either guided by the clang of the coin or the beating of the heart.

Which one do we think is more important?

Hopefully, we can learn from science and say, if we do enough testing on people, for example, if they have antibodies, we will even know if the antibodies will be protective in the long run.

But if we do widespread testing, we are talking hundreds of millions of people, we could say, if you have an antibody, you can go back to work safely. So there are so many variables that need to fall into place that it is irresponsible, in my opinion, to say, hey, let's just open things up on May 1st because that seems like a good day. Completely irresponsible and dangerous.

VAUSE: You mentioned testing and there is some good news on that in the sense that there is now a test that uses saliva as opposed to a nasal swab, which makes it safer for health care workers and quicker and easier.

But at the end of the day, only 1 percent of the American population is being tested.

What level of testing do you think is needed before there is a good understanding of where the community is and those restrictions can be eased?

RODRIGUEZ: Ideally, 100 percent but that is never really what happened. So if you have anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of the population that has been tested in diverse areas, you could already get a lot of information. You could find out who is more susceptible.

You can find out how long people have been walking around asymptomatically. So you have to test at least, in my opinion, 20 percent to 50 percent of the population to get some real data, in diverse groups, diverse ethnicities and different locations.

VAUSE: We are out of time but I want to ask you about immunity. Once you have had COVID-19, you recover, the question of whether you have immunity and cases have reactivated in South Korea.

Very quickly, what is the situation there, as we know it right now?

RODRIGUEZ: We really don't know. Everyone is assuming that once you get antibodies, you will have protection. Antibodies mean one thing and one thing only, that you have been exposed to a virus.

Usually, those antibodies provide protection but, as you well know, you may have antibodies from the flu vaccine this year and it doesn't carry over to the next year. That is why we need all this information.

Where are we with antibodies and immunity?

Right here. We really don't know.

VAUSE: Dr. Rodriguez, it has been great to have you with us. Thank you for your insight. We appreciate it.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

VAUSE: A grim outlook from the International Monetary Fund. Predictions for a global economy that is at a near standstill. That's next.

And we are live in Seoul, where South Koreans are voting in a major election, with strict safety measures because of the pandemic.





VAUSE: A warning from the International Monetary Fund that the economic impact of the Great Lockdown could rival the Great Depression. The IMF expects the global GDP to shrink by 3 percent this year and it could be worse.


GITA GOPINATH, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: The pandemic may not recede in the second half of this year, leading to longer containment periods, worsening financial conditions and further breakdowns in global supply chains.

In such cases, global GDP will fall even further, by an additional 3 percent in 2020. And if the health crisis rolls over into 2021, it can reduce level of global GDP by an additional 8 percent, compared to the baseline.


VAUSE: CNN's John Defterios is live in Abu Dhabi.

If you thought the financial crisis a decade ago was bad, back then the global economy saw a contraction of 0.1 percent?

This time, it will be a lot worse.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: A lot worse, John. This dire reading across the world, there are no bright spots. During the global financial crisis, you make a good point. It was just about the banking system. It was something that needed attention.

But the emerging markets were resilient and that is not the case this time around. There is a discussion with the Great Lockdown about scarring. If you take this recession into the end of the third quarter, that is September, it adds another negative 3 percent to the number, so negative 6 percent this year.

As the chief economist of the IMF was suggesting, it goes into 2021. So this is a very critical window. Also if you look at the emerging markets this year and bring up the screen, a negative 1 percent growth. We got so spoiled. They were driving global growth.

You are based in China for years, 1.2 percent is the worst since 1976 for China. I think the number for India, 1.9 percent, is too generous. How about the G7 countries?

The United States, the worst since 1946, negative 5.9 percent. The core of Europe is looking weak, with Germany negative 7 percent. They are big exporters and there is no place to export goods during the Great Lockdown.

VAUSE: Looking at the G20 finance ministers, they are meeting to get some coordinated effort for relief for the developing world, because they are the ones who will really pay a high price.

DEFTERIOS: That is my biggest worry in the overall context of this, John. The firepower has been spent by the G20 countries, $500 trillion but primarily on domestic challenges and putting liquidity into their own systems.

What do you do about the developing world just getting hit now?

A country like India, for example, it does not have its own economic firepower or the gunpowder to fight this battle. So right now, the G7, the G20, even the International Monetary Fund have called for debt relief or a debt holiday. It will help the developing world.

But where is the cash for them to boost up the health systems as the IMF was suggesting yesterday?

The Saudi Arabian government is convening the G20. We'll hear more on debt relief. I'm looking to see what they will plan to do for the developing countries.


VAUSE: John Defterios, live in Abu Dhabi, appreciate it.

Justin Wolfers is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. He is with us this hour from Ann Arbor.

Justin, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

JUSTIN WOLFERS, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Happy to talk economics, mate.

VAUSE: What is stunning is how quickly the IMF forecast changed from an expectation two months ago of 3 percent world growth, now a 3 percent contraction. And stunning in a practical sense because in the United States, for example, all the jobs that were recovered over the last 10 years after the Great Recession may be wiped out in four weeks. WOLFER: I don't think it is so stunning that the forecast changed.

What is stunning is that the world changed. I did a calculation about a week ago. The U.S. unemployment rate within just a couple weeks had gone from 4 percent up to about 13 percent, as high as 16 or 17 percent now. So 10 years of economic progress reversed in just a mere four weeks.

VAUSE: And this is not the worst-case scenario. The IMF spokesperson says if the virus continues into next year, the cost of the world economy could be about $9 trillion and the global economy could shrink by 8 percent. These are staggering numbers.

But still, there is a suggestion that they are still looking at a V- shaped recovery as opposed to a U-shaped or an L?

WOLFERS: If you look at the IMF forecast, it is like what we see here. The next year will be rough in many countries. Output growth or average income falling by 7 percent in some cases.

Then the next year, the IMF reckons they are coming back up 7 percent the year after. So it's a rough year ahead. They say a very strong recovery after that. We economists are always worried about what might happen.

And there is the concern that we hit the bottom of that and we don't see the turnaround. If that's the case, that's when we move from a slowdown in order to beat the virus to worrying about a long-term recession.

In the coming hours, The European Council will reveal the details of their financial package, expected to have hundreds of billions of dollars to help countries deal with this crisis.

Stimulus packages are going out the world over. There is so much liquidity out there right now, interest rates are cut to zero or even lower.

What are the dangers here is that none of that actually works and it just doesn't bounce back?

WOLFERS: The real fear is that you can fast forward six months and a lot of businesses have gone bankrupt while waiting to beat the bug. If a lot of households are seeing their wealth basically wiped out, you know, six months from now, if you spend every dime you have got putting food on your family's table, the first thing you are going to do is put away a rainy day fund in case there is a second or third wave.

If you are doing that, then you aren't out there spending. If you aren't spending, people aren't employing.

There is another problem. If at the end of this, if people don't feel they can trust their governments to tell them the truth that it is safe to go out, they won't go out again.

So it is very easy for the government to shut down the economy but the question about whether we can restart it really depends on will you believe the referee when he blows the whistle and tells you to get back out there on the pitch?

That depends on credibility.

VAUSE: Is that the biggest concern you have out there when it comes to trying to get these economies restarted?

WOLFERS: I think it really depends on the country you are talking about. Some countries, the political leadership is maintaining credibility in an important way. They are being honest, transparent with the population.

So when the government says look, we think it is safe, people will believe them. I am coming to you from the United States right now. The president flip-flops day today whether he thinks it is safe or not. One wonders whether his health pronouncements have got more to do with his electoral fears than genuine concern about me and my family.

If that's the case, that next year he says I'm ready to reopen the economy and the rest of us are saying, I won't take a risk because I am not sure that you are telling me something about public health rather than something about your own political fears.

VAUSE: We also heard from the IMF on lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that when they should be kept in place and lifted. Listen to this.


GOPINATH: Flattening the spread of COVID-19 using lockdowns allows health systems to cope with this crisis, which then permits a resumption of economic activity. In this sense, there is no trade-off between saving lives and saving livelihoods.


VAUSE: In other words, I think what they're saying is that these two issues are linked sequentially. The pandemic has to be dealt with and then the economy. The economy has to be dealt with after the pandemic.


I'm wondering if you get a sense from the White House they still see these two problems as being separate, and they can restart the economy and then worry about the pandemic, maybe, at the same time or later.

JUSTIN WOLFERS, ECONOMICS & PUBLIC POLICY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: What I want to emphasize is that if you talk to any economist, any economists around the world -- and there are surveys of economists that show this -- it's unanimously the case that we understand that you can't have an economy, you can't have economic activity without public health and trust from people they'll be healthy and they'll be safe.

That's the sense in which it's absolutely sequential. You've got to solve the public health program before you can even think about getting people out there into the economy.

Look, I'm a little puzzled what's coming out of the White House. In one sense, I think they say these are separate issues. In another, it's that they're not getting their advice from economists; they're not getting their advice from public health people.

If the person calls a banker, a billionaire a libertarian or some other mate who says, Look, I just want to get my factory open again, and that's been a lot of the advice they've been relying on.

What they're not hearing is people such jobs it is to think about the broader public -- the broader public's reaction and the broader public's health and -- and that's the sense in which, I think, we economists are absolutely united, in fact, with public health people and epidemiologists in saying you've got to have public health before you can have a public economy.

VAUSE: Yes. Justin, it's been a good speaking with you. Thank you for taking the time.

WOLFERS: It's a pleasure, John.

VAUSE: Still to come here, as Japan sees a surge of new cases, some have accused the prime minister of focusing on saving the Olympics instead of lives.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause in Atlanta.

Just a few hours left until polls close in South Korea. For the past week, voters have turned out to elect a new parliament, the first major election to take place in the midst of this pandemic.

CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul. Paula, walk us through what could become, I guess, what, standard procedure for elections the world over.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, this is going to be an election that's very closely watched around the world, just to see exactly how it turns out.

Now, this -- this is just outside one of the elementary schools in central Seoul, and you can see here you have your temperature checked before you get inside the premises itself.

Now, this queue goes all the way around the outside. So what they've done here is they've made sure that they have marked the ground so that you're never more than, or less than one meter away from the person in front of you. They're trying to keep the distance.

And once you get up to here, you've got the hand sanitizer. You have to sanitize your hands. It goes without saying, you know, in Korea, you have to be wearing a mask. That's just a given here. [00:35:04]

And then up here, you're given the disposable gloves that you have to wear, as well, before you're allowed even inside the building.

Now there are other polling stations that have been set up, if you do believe that you have symptoms and if, of course, you have been tested positive, as well, but have no symptoms. At this point, that's a separate area.

They're really trying to make sure that they can protect their citizens as much as they can. Because you have close to 44 million people in the electorate who are hoping to vote today, at least many of them.

We've just had the turnout figures from one P.M., just about one half an hour ago, 49 percent plus have voted already. Now, that's including more than 26 percent that voted in early voting Friday and Saturday to try and avoid the crowd. That was a record turnout, so clearly, they didn't want to be part of these crowds.

But at this point, John, what they're trying to do is just trying to make sure that democracy can go ahead, but make sure that it is -- they are able to protect everybody.

Now, if this works, of course, if there isn't a spike in numbers over the coming days and weeks, then this could well be a blueprint for how to hold an election during a pandemic for other countries -- John.

VAUSE: New reality. Paula, thank you. Appreciate it. Hancocks live in Seoul. Across Asia, many countries have seen the big fall in the spread of this virus and also the daily death toll to the point that lockdowns and restrictions have been eased. But not Japan, where there's been a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

CNN's Will Ripley live in Tokyo.

So, Will, I guess many people believe that at least one of the reasons for this is, firstly, a slow response from a government which is preoccupied with trying to save the Olympics.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Japan as a nation is unafraid to buck the global trend. They still use fax machines at the office. The weatherman points at the weather screen with a wand, like they did decades ago in other countries.

And people who get tested for coronavirus, a lot of them are getting their test results in the mail. This is also true for the country's strategy about widespread testing. As other countries were ramping up their efforts, Japan hunkered down, saying that they didn't need to test a lot of people.

Was that convenient for the government that was trying to save the Olympics, because it kept the case numbers low? Or did Japan believe that that was the right approach, even though evidence is now growing that the approach is no longer working.


RIPLEY (voice-over): In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, as other countries were taking aggressive measures to fight the virus, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fighting to save the Olympics.

(on camera): How much does the Olympics and his hope that they were going to hold them on time play into their response or lack thereof?

JEFFREY KINGSTON, DIRECTOR OF ASIAN STUDIES, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: I think they are a very big factor. They didn't want to test a lot, because they didn't want to have headline numbers. So once they canceled, suddenly we get lots of cases.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Japan's government, and epidemiologists speaking to CNN say low numbers before the Olympic postponement had nothing to do with Tokyo 2020, but a deliberate strategy of minimal testing.

Japan focused on targeting clusters of infection, aggressive contact tracing, an approach they say kept the number of cases low and bought the nation time.

Now, doctors fear the clock has run out.

"It's getting harder to keep track of all the clusters," says Dr. Yoshihiro Takayama. "I think the battle has only just begun."

As its Asian neighbors are coming out on the other side of the pandemic, Japan's problems are piling up. A sudden spike in cases in Tokyo, a warning from Japan's medical association. The public health system is on the brink of collapse.

(on camera): Are doctors and nurses afraid for their safety?

(voice-over): "Yes, we're very anxious," says Katsumi Matsuda with the medical workers union. She says understaffed hospitals are running low on beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.

KOCHI NAKANO, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, SOPHIA UNIVERSITY: The government should have, you know, taken much more productive measures to boost the medical resources. They didn't do that at all. Public health experts really took a big gamble, because they were not really pushing for testing.

RIPLEY Japan's health ministry tells CNN, "Testing people with a low probability of novel coronavirus would be a waste of resources. We ask people with symptoms to stay home."

Prime Minister Abe's latest attempt to encourage social distancing sparked public outrage. This viral Twitter video of Abe led to accusations of a tone-deaf government responses.

"Who do you think you are?" was a top trend on Twitter, many accusing Abe of ignoring the struggles of regular Japanese. Others defending his right to relax. A poll out Monday from public broadcaster NHK shows 75 percent of

Japanese think the state of emergency came too late. Fifty percent gave the government's coronavirus response a poor rating. Analysts say Abe's desire to save the summer games now has the prime minister skating on very thin ice.



RIPLEY: Some of the newer polls are even worse for Abe than that NHK poll, John. Now Japan has taken steps to increase the number of people that they're testing. A couple of weeks ago, it was averaging 1,200 a day for the whole country.

This past week, it was averaging closer to 7 or even 8,000 per day. That is certainly progress, because what epidemiologists are telling us is that in order to shape public policy, questions need to have a grasp of how many people in the country actually have the virus.

The question is, is Japan now making these kinds of changes too late, because we've seen a steady spike in cases here? If there is an explosion and it hits that already overwhelmed public health system, it could be very bad for Japan in the weeks to come.

Of course, nobody wants that to happen. And hopefully, this is not going to be the situation in Tokyo. It's not looking great, though.

HOLMES: But if history is prologue, then, yes, they're in for a hard time by the looks of things. Will, thank you. Will Ripley, live for us in Tokyo.

Still to come here, a war on an invisible enemy turns real. The French president deploys the military in Operation Resilience, an all-out offensive on the coronavirus.


VAUSE: Some European countries have started to ease up on restrictions, but the European Commission is now calling for a coordinated approach, saying more testing and contact tracing is needed if these lockdowns are to end successfully.

Ultimately, each country will decide when and how to lift these restrictions, but the commission will announce complete guidelines in the coming hours.

Spain, just over a month into a state of emergency, and the interior administer admits mistakes were made in the response to the pandemic. Now, some politicians, as well as workers' groups, fear another mistake is being made, a big one, with hundreds of thousands of nonessential workers going back to -- going back to work.

CNN's Scott McLean reports now from Madrid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With streets still remarkably empty, you can't always see part of Spain's economy restarting, but you can hear it. And for 300,000 workers, that couldn't come soon enough.

But you can also hear the critics who say this week is too soon to send nonessential workers in sectors like manufacturing and construction back to their jobs. Public health expert Peter Drobac says Spain isn't doing nearly enough testing to relax its lockdown.

DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, OXFORD SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL: Anybody who is going to be trying to end a lockdown substantially shorter than a couple of months is potentially going to be taking a risk.

MCLEAN: Spain has struggled to ramp up testing. It bought four robots, in hopes of doing 80,000 tests a day, but only one is working so far and for a population of more than 50 million, they barely make a dent.

Drobac says you don't have to test everyone, but you do have to test everyone with symptoms, plus all their contacts. That's a lot of people.

(on camera): Doing 20,000 tests a day, is that enough?

DROBAC: Not enough. Spain on a per capita basis is testing about half the level that Germany, for example, has been testing and even less than South Korea.


MCLEAN (voice-over): Spain is still seeing three or four thousand new cases confirmed every day, and it's using hotels and a convention center as hospital wards.

DROBAC: It's a sign that the healthcare system is still incredibly fragile and under tremendous pressure. Upticks could be really dangerous.

MCLEAN: To avoid another spike, the government is advising workers to walk or drive to work. But for many, public transport is their only option.

"Before, I wouldn't even leave my house to buy bread," this woman tells us. "Going back to work is worrying."

This construction worker says it's scary, but it's scarier not to have enough to eat. The president of the Catalan region called the return to work reckless and irresponsible, and the government's own committee of scientific experts wasn't consulted at all.

The government says it's confident it's carefully calculated the risk, but it can't afford to be wrong.

Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.


VAUSE: Lockdowns in Italy are being eased, cautiously. Some businesses, like laundries, stationery shops and clothing stores for kids, are now open, but they must follow strict rules on the number of customers allowed inside at any one time, as well as hygiene.

Some of the worst-hit regions in the north are holding off on reopening businesses. Most other restrictions will stay in place until May 3.

France is now the fourth country to surpass 15,000 deaths from this virus, after it claimed another 762 lives on Tuesday.

Now, the French military is using its arsenal to fight this invisible enemy. We get details from CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Paris, as you've never seen or heard it before. But don't be fooled. Beneath the quiet, there is no peace here. But rather, a war that is being waged by one of Europe's largest armed forces, deployed on its own soil against an invisible enemy.

From the start, President Macron declared war on the coronavirus, launching Operation Resilience in late March from Mulhouse, the focus of the French outbreak, as he visited a military hospital erected on a parking lot next to the overwhelmed civilian one. The first such facility ever to be used in peacetime.

To lessen the burden on the hard-hit east, France's rail infrastructure has been mobilized, with TGV trains transporting the sick towards available ICUs. The army also evacuating critical coronavirus patients with the help of planes equipped with intensive- care facilities, so far only ever used to transport the war-wounded in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

On the seas, helicopter carriers are being deployed to the southern Indian Ocean and to the Caribbean to help France's overseas territories. Warships also ferrying patients to the mainland, the operation placing France's military in an unprecedented peacetime roll.

But even the mightiest are vulnerable. The French Navy's flagship, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, forced back to port for disinfection on Sunday after nearly 50 on board tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Monday night, Emmanuel Macron spoke to that now universally-felt sense of fragility.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): This moment reminds us that we're vulnerable. No doubt, we had forgotten. Let us, in this moment, leave the well-trodden paths and the ideologies. Let us all reinvent ourselves, as I will, first of all. BELL: Every evening, France continues to applaud the real heroes of

this crisis: the medical workers fighting an enemy that has already killed 15,000 people in this country alone.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Pila (ph), France.


VAUSE: Well, he takes no responsibility, claims ultimate authority, and while the U.S. president boasts he's done everything right, he has not. And, when we come back, how those bad decisions may have turned a crisis into a disaster.



VAUSE: In many ways, President Trump's response to this pandemic are failings which have defined his presidency from the beginning: lies, boasts and bullying. His mistakes leading up to the pandemic and beyond may had made this bad decision so much worse.

CNN's Sara Murray explains.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think we have it very well under control.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the months since President Trump assured workers at a Detroit area factory that his administration had a handle on the coronavirus --

TRUMP: We think it's going to have a very good ending for us.

MURRAY: -- a handful of the factory workers have fallen ill with COVID-19. The plant ceased production, laying off workers like Don McMurray.

DON MCMURRAY, EMPLOYEE LAID OFF FROM DANA INC.: I don't think our country or this world prepared us for what we're going through now. So I think that, on all fronts, leadership has failed.

MURRAY: The company's stock prices plunged by nearly half, and southeast Michigan became a coronavirus hot spot.

The devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is the kind of thing experts have spent years worrying about and planning for. But no simulation, no table-top exercise accounted for a crisis like this with a president like Trump.

TRUMP: Everything we did was right.

MURRAY: A president who would use false statements, self- aggrandizement and bullying to understate the threat posed by the coronavirus. DR. LAURA KAHN, RESEARCH HEALTH POLICY SCHOLAR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY:

He downplayed the severity of the crisis. He minimized it. He ignored his experts.

MURRAY: As the death toll climbs past 25,000, Laura Kahn, an expert in leadership during epidemics, says Trump made pretty much every mistake a president can in the situation.

KAHN: This response would have been different if we had a president who listened to scientific advisers. It would have been a very different outcome.

MURRAY: From the beginning, aides struggled to get Trump to pay attention to the emerging pandemic, though the administration's top healthcare experts began meeting daily back in January.


MURRAY: Sources say Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar tried to bring the coronavirus up with Trump on a call in January, but the president wanted to talk about vaping instead.

At the National Security Council, officials primarily saw the virus as a problem to wall off from the U.S.

TRUMP: I did a ban on China. You think that was easy?

MURRAY: The president's January 31st move to block foreigners who visited China from the U.S. bought the administration time. But it was the only significant step Trump would take for at least a month.

TRUMP: It looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer? It miraculously goes away.

MURRAY: Days after Trump's travel ban, Americans evacuated from China and potentially exposed to the virus were greeted in the U.S. by emergency response teams with insufficient protective gear, like baby wipes, and construction-style dusk masks, according to sources.

And while other countries like South Korea had success suppressing the virus with widespread testing, some of the CDC's tests were flawed, leaving the U.S. With limited testing in February as the coronavirus spread.

TRUMP: They have the tests.

MURRAY: While Trump promised testing for all --

TRUMP: Anybody that needs a test gets a test.

MURRAY: -- it came as news to those directly involved in the process at the CDC.

Even now, everyone who wants a test cannot get one.

A looming shortage was also coming in hospital masks, gowns, and other supplies, called PPE, to protect doctors and nurses from coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like we're going into a war with no protection.

MURRAY: In early February, the State Department sent almost 18 tons of personal protective equipment from private donors to China.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In America, we provide aid because we're generous and noble people.

MURRAY: These emails, obtained by CNN, show the same month supplies were shipped to China, the CDC was warning health departments across the country about supply-chain concerns, urging them to maintain any stockpiles of expired PPE until further guidance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am down to my last N95 mask, and I'm reusing it.

MURRAY: Early on, there were officials trying to warn the public about the seriousness of the virus. They were quickly sidelined.


MURRAY: For weeks, the CDC's top respiratory disease doctor, Nancy Messonnier, said the coronavirus could become a pandemic.

On February 25, she caught Trump's attention.

MESSONNIER: We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad.

MURRAY: Trump and some of his aides were furious, believing she overstated the threat, sources said. A day later, Trump appeared, offering reassurances rather than warnings.


TRUMP: And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.

We're ready for it. We're really prepared.

MURRAY: Americans didn't buy it. Trump was pummeled in the press. Schools were closing down. Americans started working from home. Investors were panicking.

An Oval Office address --

TRUMP: My fellow Americans --

MURRAY: -- failed to fix any of it.

There was a turning point when advisors privately pressed Trump to view himself as a wartime president. This is a war, they told him. And experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are your generals.

The economy, they assured him, would back bounce back once the virus was vanquished.

The president began doing regular televised briefings after noticing that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was getting good press for his daily appearances.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That's what we're doing here.

MURRAY: When Trump appeared at the podium March 16, he outlined more stringent social distancing guidelines for the nation and appeared to finally be taking the deadly virus seriously.

TRUMP: Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus.

MURRAY: And then on Monday, Trump defended his response to the crisis, using a propaganda-style video of people complimenting him.

TRUMP: We did the right thing. And our timing was a very good.

MURRAY: Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Well, former President Barack Obama has finally endorsed his vice president, Joe Biden, in his campaign for the White House. Obama spoke about Biden's character and resilience, and that was needed right now, he said, to lead this country in uncertain times.


BARACK OBAMA (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there's one thing we've learned as a country from moments of great crisis, it's that the spirit of looking out for one another can't be restricted to our homes or our workplaces or our neighborhoods or our houses of worship. It also has to be reflected in our national government.

The kind of leadership that's guided by knowledge and experience. Honesty and humility, empathy and grace. That kind of leadership doesn't just belong in our state capitals and mayors' offices. It belongs in the White House. And that's why I'm so proud to endorse joe Biden for president of the United States.


VAUSE: Mr. Obama never mentioned Donald Trump by name, but he accused Republicans of being interested in power, not progress.

And after that endorsement, Biden tweeted this: "We're going to build on the progress we made together."

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. "AMANPOUR" is up next.