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Trump Freezes World Health Org. Funding; France Surpasses 15,000 Deaths, Lockdown Extended; South Korea Enters Final Hours OF Parliamentary Election; President Trump to Halt WHO Funding; Italy Relaxes Coronavirus Lockdown; IMF Warns Recession on Horizon; Obama Endorses Biden. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 02:00   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 this hour on CNN NEWSROOM: deny, deflect and then blame. President Trump halts funding to the World Health Organization, blaming a slow response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A grim outlook for the world economy, the IMF warns the impact of the Great Lockdown could rival that of the Great Depression.

And holding an election during a pandemic, South Korea is at the polls right now with strict measures in place to protect the health of those who vote.


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: As Kaitlan Collins reports, the president ramped up his attacks on the World Health Organization while at the same time caving to state governors over who has the authority to declare an end to the shelter in place orders across the country.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump is announcing he is withholding funding from the World Health Organization pending a review that's ongoing. As he voiced his displeasure with how the WHO handled the coronavirus outbreak and particularly its response to China.

The president says they praise China for being transparent and then they took them at their word far too often. And he says that led to a delayed response for the rest of the globe as it dealt with the coronavirus outbreak.

But the president announced they are going to withhold this funding unless there are significant changes made in the WHO, though people do not think that funding is actually going to be restored this time. The president is instead going to redirected to be used elsewhere.

But the president's criticism of the WHO was notable during his press conference in the Rose Garden. Because one thing he criticize them over for him saying that they were too praiseworthy of China for being transparent amid the coronavirus outbreak is something that the president himself has done that.

In January, after he had a call with the Chinese president, Trump tweeted thanking them for their transparency when it came to the outbreak.

And when he was faced with that question by me and other reporters in the Rose Garden, he did not answer that question on whether he want to walk that statement back. Instead, he only pointed to his trade deal with China and did not answer any other questions on that.

Now, the president's moves for that comes as he other -- also did another 180 in the Rose Garden, now saying he wants to cooperate with governors on reopening their states, of course just one day after he said he had the total authority to decide when those states were going to reopen. He now says he will grant states an authorization to start to open their states on an individual basis and he is going to provide them with guidelines to start doing so.

Of course, that comes as several governors, including Republican ones, push back on the idea that the president had the authority to decide when their particular state should reopen.

And it also comes as we've seen several states band together to form their own packs to reopen their states including with California on the West Coast and with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and others on the East Coast.

So that's already moving ahead. Though the president did say he does expect to issue new guidance in the coming days. Right now, our sources are telling us it is still unclear exactly what that guidance is going to look like --


COLLINS: -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.



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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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.

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.


VAUSE: Out thanks to Michael there in Sydney, British Columbia.

CNN is covering this global health crisis with our international correspondents reporting from around the world.


VAUSE: From Rome, Madrid, London, France, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, Seoul. But first, Italy. They have been under a nationwide lockdown for more than a month. Slowly and cautiously, they are now easing some restrictions.

A small number of nonessential businesses have been allowed to reopen, including laundry and stationery shops and kids' clothing stores. But there are limits on the number of customers allowed in a shop at any one time and hygiene standards.

Some towns in the north, where the virus was most deadly, there has been no easing up, no business is reopening and strict measures will remain in place for the most part until May 3rd. We go live to Rome where Barbie Nadeau is with us again.

It is a bit betwixt and between at the moment. People want to get out of the house but they have to be careful, there has to be moderation. I imagine, you have been out.

What is it like?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really daunting out there. The police are still around. They don't want people browsing and shopping unnecessarily. If you don't have a little kid, you can't really go to a children's clothing shop. They are conscious that people might be using it as an excuse.

Here in Rome, the bookshops have decided not to open until the 20th of April but the one in my neighborhood is rearranging all these shelves and trying to make space so it will be easy to restrict people's entrance. You think of a bookshop and people lingering around.

They need to make sure that people can get in and get out in a timely fashion so as not to amplify the risk. But people are still concerned. After you have been locked down for so long, you want to make sure that, when this is over, it is really over. You don't want to take additional risks that might cause a second wave of the infection. VAUSE: I guess cautious is the word of the day and let's just hope it

works. Barbie, thank you.

With more than 18,000 dead, the third highest death toll in the world and with confirmed cases heading towards 200,000, the interior minister of Spain has admitted the government made mistakes in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

After a month long nationwide lockdown and the economy in distress, authorities have now eased some restrictions, allowing construction and manufacturing industries to restart, leading many to ask if another huge mistake is in the making.

But the government insists a state of emergency remains active, banning all essential travel; shops, bars, public spaces remain closed until the end of the month. Al Goodman is live from Madrid with us.

There were plenty of mistakes in the beginning, like telling people not to worry about the extent of the virus outbreak. It won't be as bad in Spain as elsewhere.

How do officials know this decision to restart some industries is not just another blunder?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they say they are more cautious now and paying more attention to what science and health experts are telling them. The main criticism of the Socialist government has been that they didn't get the lockdown in place soon enough and a lot more people got infected. And they didn't have enough protective equipment for the medical workers and the general population.

More than 26,000 medical workers have been infected. But in the months that the lockdown has been in place, the numbers are now much more stable and have been for more than a week, so that the number of new deaths went up just 3 percent in the most recent 24 hour period. And there were no new active cases.

There was a decline in cases overall, in active cases. That's the first time we have seen that in any of the European hotspots. So they are making progress and that is why they think letting construction and factory workers back to work in a limited fashion will be OK for the economy and families but also not worsening the health situation.

VAUSE: Assuming this works and let's hope that it does, what comes next?

GOODMAN: They have been woefully inadequate on testing, unlike Germany, which was very aggressive and had a lot of testing equipment. That's what they are trying to do right now; 60,000 people, a representative sample, is supposed to be tested between this week and next week. They will have results of how deep the virus has penetrated.

They will distribute up to 5 million testing kits to the regions to test other people. They really need to find out what is going on with the population, where it is, to make informed decisions about who else gets to come out of lockdown -- John.

VAUSE: Al, good to see you.

We will take a short break. With the global economy grinding to a halt, they are warning of a crisis not seen in generations. That could be too optimistic.






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: That was a blunt warning from the IMF. The U.S. is facing the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Countries must work together to avoid the worst. The global GDP is expected to contract globally by 3 percent this year. The IMF sees a quick rebound next year if the pandemic fades in the second half.

Going now to Abu Dhabi and John Defterios.

When a country has a 3 percent recession, it can be painful but it can be managed. When the global economy has a 3 percent contraction, it's a whole new level of pain and problem.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: And that may not be the worst of it, John, to your point here. I think the IMF was being as subtle as a sledgehammer, saying if you don't time the reentry into the global economy just right, it will come back as a boomerang and drag down growth even further.

We are looking at negative 3 percent for 2020. If this carries on until September and we open up prematurely, it could knock down growth by another 3 percent to a negative 6 percent. That's how bad this could be going forward.

It's amazing to see some of the numbers we are looking at here. The U.S. is the slowest since 1946, negative 5.9 percent before a further downgrade. The emerging markets, you were based in China, you know we were spoiled by their growth of, 5 percent, 6 percent, even 9 percent in China. We are looking at negative 1 percent in 2020. China an anemic 1.2 percent. That is still growing. That is the worst since 1976.

I think this number for India, 1.9 percent, is generous. The coronavirus is just starting to set in there. Then you have the core of Europe, the export economy, the driver of growth in the past.

Germany is going to negative 7 percent. Then you have to think about Brexit in 2021, what they are contending with in the U.K. right now. And the slowdown at this stage is still severe at 6.5 percent.


DEFTERIOS: The IMF was not being shy, saying if we don't get the timing right it could be much worse. Back in January, they were expecting growth of 3.3 percent this year. So we are looking than a swing of over 6 percent in less than three months.

VAUSE: You mentioned 2008. Back then China saves the world. They had this massive stimulus package. It was a much higher percentage of GDP compared to the United States. They continued to export, the economy continued to grow, countries were looking at China as the model.

Who will save us this time?

DEFTERIOS: That is the trillion dollar question, multitrillion dollars. Then it was the global financial crisis focused on the banking sector. So you knew what to do and that is provide liquidity. The G20 has done the same. But they have used all their firepower on the banking system then making sure that growth is sustained in the developed world and emerging markets.

My biggest concern here is that the developing world in African states, for example, Southeast Asia, Latin America are just getting hit by the coronavirus. There was a call by past and current leaders saying we need a fund of $8 billion for health care spending immediately.

I don't see that emerging. What will happen today, at a G20 meeting called by the chair, Saudi Arabia, the IMF announced for 25 countries, the G7 and G20 will back this effort for the poorest countries of the world. But this is a halt on their debt payments.

What we need now is liquidity for the developing world, because this is a global pandemic. It is not the financial crisis. It is hitting every economy. And you have seen the bailout for the U.S. carriers $25 billion. There is just no movement.

The next wave in the developing world can be quite severe, especially, some of these developing countries are dependent on commodities, oil and grains. And oil prices are hovering near an 18-year low. It is severe.

VAUSE: There is time to do something. That's the question that they are working on now but it may be too late. John Defterios in Abu Dhabi, thank you. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: 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.


WOLFERS: 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: Justin Wolfers there, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. Thank you.

True to his word, now the Democrats now have a presumptive nominee for president and Barack Obama has endorsed that candidate, his former vice president, Joe Biden. Obama spoke about Biden's character and said his resilience is needed right now to lead the country during uncertain times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, 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 mayor's offices; it belongs in the White House.


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

After Obama's endorsement, Joe Biden tweeted, "We are going to build on the progress we made together."

Still to come here, Donald Trump's blame game withholding hundreds of millions of funding from the WHO, which could now mean putting lives on the line.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death, very little death, and certainly very little depth by comparison.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The U.S. President Donald Trump there explaining why he has decided to freeze funding from the U.S. for the World Health Organization, putting hundreds of millions of dollars on hold. The head of the U.N. and criticize that move, saying the WHO is critical right now to winning the war against COVID-19.

Let's get live now to London. CNN's Nic Robertson is standing by for us. So Nic, is there any idea yet of how badly impacted the WHO might be by this decision to freeze the funding? Is any way to know how their work on a viral outbreak will be effective?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, number one, the United States is the biggest single financial contributor over $400 million. And perhaps as high as $500 million. There's a certain percentage that's mandated from the U.N. So immediately, it's going to have that shock value. But how long before the money starts to -- starts to wither? What's perhaps going to be most damaging here is calling in the

immediate short term is calling into question the credibility of the WHO. Remembering that nations in Sub Saharan Africa for example, poorer nations, who have very few ventilators, that key piece of medical equipment that is vital to keep people alive or to try to support their life as the virus hits. They -- some of these sub- Saharan African countries have very, very few ventilators. They listen to what the WHO says. They typically act quickly when the WHO speaks.

So, to cast doubt, on the words of the WHO is to -- is to hamper their immediate response. And therefore, as we've seen with the Coronavirus, if you don't respond quickly when the pandemic starts to hit your country, then you're going to have a much greater and more rapid spread of the virus through the countries. So that's one thing before the money hits.

But I think overall, you know, what really worries, you know, global health experts around the world is that the WHO has had success in dealing with China. They, the WHO itself would point to the middle of January, or be at when they were still talking about there was no evidence of human to human transfer, as per exactly what the Chinese were telling them.

The point about the genome was this information provided by China to the WHO, which is part of the way the WHO works, that genome information was what gave the world, because the WHO pass it on to the world, what gave the world all the information it required to begin to produce testing kits. So, you know, undermine the confidence and break the ability of the WHO to do valuable work.

VAUSE: One of the accusations from Donald Trump is that the WHO should have been on the ground in China finding out exactly what was going on. Given the way -- the way the WHO works, is that possible. And if any country should have known what was going on inside China, it was the United States. And it didn't know it had intelligence warnings from, you know, various agencies within the Intelligence Community warning the president of exactly what was coming with this national security threat from the virus.

ROBERTSON: Well, and when the who announced it, you know, announced how bad the situation was on the 30th of January, when eventually its scientific advisors got to that point, immediately President Trump responded on the 31st of January with the travel ban to China. And then by most accounts, perhaps not amongst many Republicans, but by most accounts, failed to use that time to build up the United States of readiness and preparedness and its messages were mixed the best and at worst, misleading.

So there was an effort by the WHO to get into China in January, and it was rebuffed. It wasn't until February where the WHO was actually given access to China. There certainly is a case to say that when the WHO has been robust with China as it was in the past with SARS, then it makes a difference because China does listen and has responded positively to WHO criticism in the past.

But when the WHO doesn't stand up and doesn't speak strongly, as it did with Ebola a few years ago in Africa, then there's a real potential for things to escalate And that's precisely what happened in China. You know, we don't know what would have happened if the who would have taken a more robust position and called out China. But the alarm bells would have already than ringing in the White House independent of the WHO.

In witness right now, President Trump is willing to apparently throw the WHO under the bus here in pursuit of perhaps domestic political gain, when it is ready to do that so easily and quickly. He was clearly not dependent on them hugely and on his own intelligence assets in the United States, which is you say, we're providing enough of an alarm.


VAUSE: Yes. And those alarms and those warnings were coming thick and fast for a good deal before this crisis reached the stage that is now. Nic, thank you. Nic Robertson for us live in London.

To Los Angeles now. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez specializes in internal medicine, has taken a lead role in numerous clinical trials for Hepatitis C as well as HIV. Doctor, good to have you with us.


VAUSE: There seems to be widespread agreement among pretty much everyone out there not called Donald Trump that May 1st deadline lifting lockdown just will not happen. But add to that, we now 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 a little more from the researchers. Listen to this.


YONATAN GRAD, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF IMMUNOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: So keeping in mind that our goal is getting up to population level immunity, in the absence of a vaccine or potentially other types of interventions, what we might see is this kind of on-off, intermittent distancing. And to get up to population immunity, again, that endpoint would take until 2022.


VAUSE: So what was being told as the key to all of this is obviously the vaccine. How closely linked is the timing of the vaccine with the timing of an end to these restrictions and an end to this, you know, the lockdowns and are returned to some kind of normalcy?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, it's very locked into that. First of all, let's just realize, everybody thinks this might be an isolated incident in the United States. This is not a peak of a curve, and then that goes down. This is going to be more of a roller coaster over a finite period of time, whether that's one or two years until one of a few things happen. One is a vaccine could happen. And right now, the vaccine is in early

stages of being investigated. There are three major ones, for example. One is in China by CanSino is the company, 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're still in phase one trials, which means they're making sure that this vaccine is safe to humans. So, we're still optimistically eight months to a year off from actual vaccines being approved by the FDA. So that's one of the things that may slow down this projection of two years.

Another one is in certain medications that are being tried right now are found to be effective. Another thing that may slow things down is we just sort of, 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 sort of symbiosis with the virus short of finding a vaccine that prevents us all from getting it.

VAUSE: So in the next what, you know, 12 to 18 months, two years, how drastically will our lives change?

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

This is such a huge pandemic. And I think we underplay it. For example, the people in Middle America didn't think that this was going to affect them. Well, guess what? Now there are hotspots right in the middle. And these hotspots are going to continue coming up.

We don't want a U-shaped curve, but chances are is going to happen. We have international travel, we have domestic travel. It's 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. So this is --

VAUSE: The President -- well, the President may have backed away from that May 1st deadline of ending the lockdown, but Donald Trump still has his own ideas on how and when this should end. Here he is.


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


VAUSE: Dr. Fauci though telling the A.P. that any easing of restrictions would happen, as he says, on a rolling basis, not all at once. He said, reflecting the ways COVID-19 struck different parts of the country at different times. You know, no one has ever done anything like this before. So you know, which approach makes more sense? You know, do -- which one has the least risk, if you like, moving too slowly moving too quickly? [02:40:01]

RODRIGUEZ: Well, 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're either guided by the claim of the coin, or the beating of the heart. Which one do we think is most important? Hopefully, you know, we can learn from science and say, if we do enough testing on people, for example, if they have antibodies -- we don't even know if the antibodies are going to be protective in the long run.

But if we do, widespread testing, and we're talking hundreds of millions of people, we can say if you have an antibody, you can go back to work safely. So there's 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 May 1st because that seems like a good day. It's completely irresponsible and dangerous.

VAUSE: Our thanks to Dr. Jorge Rodriguez in Los Angeles for that interview. Now, the number of dead in France has passed 15,000. Only three other countries have a higher total. Just a day earlier, President Emmanuel Macron extended a nationwide lockdown for another month, warning the Coronavirus is yet to peek.

Live now normally in France, CNN Cyril Vanier is standing by. And Cyril, what was interesting, this week also, the French President seemed to admit that the country just wasn't prepared for this crisis. There wasn't enough PPE, for example. You know, there are not gloves and masks and gowns. Along with that admission, has there been an explanation why?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, that's been the subject of much debate over the last few weeks, John, as you can imagine. And it's true that in his most recent address to the nation, the President acknowledged that there had been a failing on some level by the state.

Now, he did couch that admission by explaining that many other countries had also had shortages of personal protective equipment, masks, blouses, the kind of equipment that is needed during this crisis. So in the specific case of France, here is what seems to have happened. A number of years ago, in the early 2010s, under a previous president, a decision was made to draw down the strategic reserve of masks and other such types of equipment. The reasoning being they can be ordered quickly from China, right?

Why do you need to keep building or to keep making and keep stocking, for instance, facemasks for years and then maybe even remake them if they go bad, if they're past their sell by date, when you can actually get them from China almost at a moment's notice, right, within a matter of months, potentially. And so the decision was made to let that strategic stock be depleted.

And of course, years later, we see that France is paying the price for that. And so, Emmanuel Macron said, look, none of us would know that there would be or could possibly predict that there would be a global worldwide shortage of the kind -- of the very kind of equipment that we need during this crisis.

So, to answer your question, John, that's the explanation. A couple years ago, they decided we can get these quickly. They didn't realize that that would actually not be the case in the time of this pandemic.

VAUSE: Right. OK, Cyril, thank you. Cyril Vanier live for us there in Normandy, France. We appreciate it. Thank you. Well, Germany has reported its highest number of Coronavirus deaths in a single day, reporting on Wednesday that 285 people died within a 24-hour period. But the country's number of new cases was one of the lowest increases so far. According to Johns Hopkins University, Germany has the fourth- highest number of confirmed cases, over 130,000.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, we will be live in Seoul where South Koreans are voting in a major election under strict safety measures because of the pandemic.



VAUSE: Well, across Asia, some countries have seen the big fall in the spread of the Coronavirus and their daily death toll have fallen as well. So the point now that lockdowns and restrictions are starting to be eased. But that's not the case in Japan, where there have been a spike in the number of confirmed cases. CNN's Will Ripley is live in Tokyo to explain why and the response from the government. Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Japan is not a nation, John, that is afraid to buck the global trend. Offices still regularly use fax machines over e-mail. 80 percent of Japanese companies are not equipped to work from home, that's why a lot of people are still going into the office despite the state of emergency.

And people who are getting tested for Coronavirus are often receiving their results more than a week later in the mail, not e-mail, not a hotline. That's also been true for Japan's strategy on Coronavirus testing. As other countries were ramping up widespread testing, Japan was digging on its heels on a theory of clusters that didn't really -- they didn't really feel they needed to do widespread testing. They said minimal testing would be sufficient.

And now there's evidence that theory, which was also convenient for the government because it kept the number of cases low as they were trying to save the Olympics may no longer be working.


RIPLEY: 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.

How much is the Olympics and his hope that they were going to hold them on time play into his 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: 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.

Are doctors and nurses afraid for their safety?

Yes, we're really 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 taken much more proactive 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 asked 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 response.

"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 to late. 50 percent give 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: The reason epidemiologists say you need widespread testing is because it helps to shape your coronavirus response. If you don't know how many cases are out there, you don't know how to tackle the pandemic. And Japan has only just in the last week, John, actually, you know, increase the number of people. They're testing every day. Yesterday was the highest number yet, around 10,000 people tested in one day.

VAUSE: Very quickly. The commander of U.S. Forces Japan declared a public health emergency for the entire country. How does that work and what does that say?

RIPLEY: This is new just within the last hour or so, John. What this says is that the U.S. Forces Japan now believe that the pandemic situation is a problem not just in the Kanto plane region, which includes Tokyo, but the entire country of Japan. And the reason why they've declared this is to give commanders on the basis more power and authority to enforce their health and safety protocols.

Essentially, they're having people socially isolate and restricting travel off base trying to prevent U.S. service members from getting ill and some of them have.

VAUSE: So the U.S. command is sort of willing to do what the local authorities are not. Interesting. Will, thank you. Will Ripley live in Tokyo. Well, just a few hours left now until polls close in South Korea. For the past week, voters have been electing a new parliament, the first major election to take place in the midst of this pandemic. CNN's Paula Hancocks live again for us this hour in Seoul.

So Paula, walk us through what you know, what could become, I guess, standard procedure for elections the world over, all the safety measures and the precautions they're taking.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. I mean, this is an election during a pandemic, and they do have a number of safety rules. They want to make sure that no one outside here is queuing less than a meter next to each other. You have these two ladies here who are checking the temperature of every single person that comes in. If you do have a temperature, then you are directed elsewhere.

Now here, you have the hand sanitizer, you have the wipes as well. And as you go up to the front door, you're given disposable gloves, which you have to put on before you can go inside. And of course, the mask in South Korea is a given. Everybody wears a mask here anyway.

Now, this election is a parliamentary election. It's really being seen as some kind of a referendum on President Moon Jae-in and his ruling party as to how they have handled the Coronavirus crisis. And certainly, they have had a certain amount of praise from overseas. His approval rating is up as is the party's itself.

But it's interesting to report on this election, John, because it's almost as though the election itself, the voting itself is more interesting and more important than the result. There were fears that people simply wouldn't turn up. They would be too concerned about being next to so many people early voting last Friday and Saturday. It saw a record turnout. More than 26 percent of the electorate actually came early wanting to avoid the crowds.

But what we've seen is 56.5 percent of the electorate has turned out so far. Now, compared to four years ago, the final turnout of the whole day was 58 percent. So that just shows that people want to come and vote despite the risks, and putting their faith in officials and in the government to keep them safe. John?

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks with a preview of what we all may be facing during this pandemic if there is an election in your part of the world. Paula, thank you. We'll take a short break. When we come back, in troubled times, never forget, the Muppets will never let you down.



VAUSE: Well, lockdown and shelter in place orders remain in effect the world over, and that includes Sesame Street. Just like everyone else, Elmo, the Cookie Monster, Bert, and Ernie, the entire street is practicing social distancing, and teaching children a new way to play and learn together but apart. Here's Anna Stewart.


ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Sesame Street Muppets is stuck at home, but they're staying social in a special episode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elmo knows it can be hard to be away from your friends.

STEWART: Elmo set up a virtual playdate complete with songs, games, and some celebrity friends dialing in. staying at home and working from home present the same challenges for the Sesame Street Muppets as the kids and parents will be watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your phone is doing that.

STEWART: Inadvertent use phone filters in a video chat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am even more adorable than ever.

STEWART: Or failed attempts at home cooking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me eat everything.

STEWART: And given we only ever see the Muppets top hubs, it's fair to assume they're wearing pajamas or sweatpants on their bottom halves like much of the world's video conferencing from home.


VAUSE: I love the Muppets. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues with my colleague and friend Rosemary Church after a short break.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us.