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White House Officials Discuss Plans to Replace Health Secretary; Health Experts Emphasize Need for Antibody Testing; Boris Johnson to Return to Work Monday; Spain Allowing Children under 14 to Exercise Outside; Italy Deaths, New Cases Continue Downward Trend; Satellite Photos Raise Questions about Kim Jong-un; Japan's Health Care System Overwhelmed; Vietnam Reports Low COVID-19 Infections, No Deaths; Wildlife Thriving as Humans Remain on Lockdown. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 26, 2020 - 05:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour, COVID cases in the U.S. are edging toward a harrowing milestone as some European countries show signs of improvement.

Also, questions are swirling around Kim Jong-un's health. What we're learning from new images captured near the ruler's compound about his mysterious disappearance.

And Anthony Fauci once said if anyone were to play him on "Saturday Night Live," it should be Brad Pitt.

Guess what? He got his wish. A much needed laugh coming right up.

We're live from Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: 5:00 am here in Atlanta, Georgia, thanks, again, for joining us.

The original epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Wuhan, China, has reached another critical milestone. China's national health commission says the last of its COVID-19 patients have been charged -- discharged from the hospital -- excuse me. More than 46,000 people were treated since the first cases were reported last December.

In the United States, however, it is a different story. Johns Hopkins reports the U.S. is rapidly approaching 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus. The White House wants Americans to stay home through the end of this month.

But a handful of states are already relaxing rules and allowing some businesses to reopen. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force warns the U.S. needs to double its testing capacity for everyone to be safe. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We do not want to get fixated. Right now we are doing about 1.5 million to 2 million per week. We should probably get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks and I think we will. Testing is an important part of what we are doing but it is not the only part.

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ALLEN: While there are some encouraging signs around the United States, many disease experts warn it is too soon for Americans to let down their guard. We get more from Karen Kaifa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREN KAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Jersey governor Phil Murphy says his state's curve is flattening but they cannot let up.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): We need to see more progress and more slowing before we can begin implementing any effort to get ourselves on the road to the new normal.

KAIFA (voice-over): The state's death toll, second only to neighboring New York, added 250 people, topping 5,800 on Saturday as a handful of states like Georgia reopen businesses this weekend, others are at crucial points in their fights, like Massachusetts.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): We are in what we've referred to as the surge here in Massachusetts.

KAIFA (voice-over): The state of Illinois says at least 2,600 of their healthcare workers have tested positive for coronavirus so far. Kentucky governor Andy Beshear will allow a gradual reopening in the healthcare sector Monday, things like dentists, physical therapy and lab services. As for the rest...

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): If we don't do this right and we have a second spike, we end up with more economic damage.

KAIFA (voice-over): New York's current restrictions run until May 15th. Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledges the seven weeks of limitations so far have been difficult but said they are worth it.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Maybe the life you saved is not your own. OK. You still saved a life and that's not a bad way to spend one day or 56 days.

KAIFA (voice-over): The White House Coronavirus Task Force, meanwhile, met on Saturday but did not hold a public briefing -- in Washington, I'm Karen Kaifa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Another cabinet shakeup might be in the works at the Trump White House. This time it appears the U.S. Health Secretary, Alex Azar could be the next to go. CNN's Jeremy Diamond explains why.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are discussions underway at the White House about potentially replacing Alex Azar. He's the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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DIAMOND: A senior administration official tells me that at this point nothing is imminent but there are discussions among White House officials about replacing Azar. These discussions are coming following a spate of new stories that are quite critical of Alex Azar's role in managing this coronavirus response of the Trump administration, particularly in the early days of the response.

You will recall that Alex Azar was actually in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the early days. It was him and his department who really handled the response in January and in February to coronavirus.

Even as the president was publicly downplaying the seriousness of this threat, Alex Azar was working with other officials in the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, to really manage this response.

The White House's deputy White House secretary press secretary has a response.

"The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the president's priorities. Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole of government response to COVID-19."

Again, just to stress, this is not something that is happening imminently. But the fact there are these discussions within the White House certainly is notable, particularly because we know the president has really been trying to blame others for the slow response.

He has looked towards the World Health Organization, he's looked towards China, so it is possible that Alex Azar could become the next scapegoat as the president moves forward -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Washington.

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ALLEN: Let's talk about the latest pandemic news with my guest now, Dr. Nisreen Alwan. She's an associate professor in public health at the University of Southampton in England.

Thank you for being with us.

DR. NISREEN ALWAN, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: Good morning to you. I want to first start with the World Health Organization now saying that there's currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies and are protected from a second infection.

How does that complicate trying to move forward from this, from where we are right now?

ALWAN: I think they're right to call this out because we still don't know how much immunity this virus will induce in people. We know it's likely. We don't know how long it is, how much it is.

So I think it's right because the idea of having immunity certificates, for example, is potentially dangerous. And that may mean exposing people to high doses of the virus if they're front line health care workers without adequate protection.

So it has implications. I think it's right that the WHO to announce that. It does complicate matters. But we don't know and time will tell.

ALLEN: Countries in Europe are starting to ease lockdowns. In the U.S., the White House wants people to stay home through the end of April. But some states, as we just reported, are already opening businesses at a time when infections are still rising daily.

Do you have concerns it's too risky to do that right now?

ALWAN: The concerns are really that any easedown of the lockdown should be accompanied by a detailed plan of how you find cases and isolate them. If this is accompanied by such plans, then the lockdown has so many adverse consequences that you would like to ease as much as possible.

If there's no plan, then we are facing second waves. So there needs to be a detailed plan of how you find cases, how you isolate them, how you screen them, particularly to find the asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases.

ALLEN: As far as screening goes. Dr. Fauci is saying that the U.S. should double testing in the next two weeks. Of course the U.K. has lagged in testing as well.

Should it be feasible, doable, to do at this point and how important would it be to reach that goal?

ALWAN: I believe it is feasible because if you really weigh the -- it's complex, a lot of logistics and resources involved in ramping up testing. If you weigh this against all the economic consequences of lockdowns, you know, extensive testing, screening will win in that equation. I'm not an economist but people have done calculations to suggest that it would make it that.

You know, the savings would be huge. So I think it is feasible. And, you know, that's what we should do. There's new modeling showing that if you screen all health care workers, even if they're asymptomatic, you can reduce transmission by about a third. ALLEN: I want to speak with you -- to another area regarding your

expertise. This pandemic also brings up the issue of public health and adverse consequences of the lockdown when it comes to poverty, domestic abuse, mental health.

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ALLEN: It's not a simple public health versus pick up the economy equation.

Can you explain that?

ALWAN: Yes, of course. The dichotomy between public health and economy is not helpful. Public health has been always a consequence of the economy and we got the socioeconomic determining it and now it's similar. The disadvantaged groups of society are massively impacted by COVID and what's happening more than others.

And also the economy now, really, at the mercy of public health, I hope this would make us realize that the economy can only be as healthy as the most vulnerable member of society. So any exit strategy needs to be equitable in terms of who can access the benefits of it.

ALLEN: Very well said. That's an important part of this whole story. We really appreciate your expertise, your insights, Doctor, thank you so much for joining us.

ALWAN: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: The United States is increasing its push to find out who may have previously been infected with COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of three additional antibodies tests. That brings the total of cleared tests to seven.

And while it is still unclear at a level of immunity antibodies might provide, knowing who has them is still an important metric. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta underwent the process to learn more about it.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to put a tight squeeze on you over here, OK?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There are two different tests that we are all becoming familiar with a diagnostic test that searches for the genetic markers of the coronavirus and this one, that test for antibodies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to give you a cold wipe.

GUPTA (voice over): First thing you'll notice is that the antibody test requires blood. For me, it was just a poke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's just like that, we're all done.

GUPTA (voice over): But then look at all of the steps that take place after that. My blood is taken down to the lab and then spun down in a centrifuge. You're looking at my serum. That's the clear part that might contain antibodies, if I have been previously exposed.

The way to find that out is fascinating. Just take some of my serum and put it in the same test tube as the virus and see what happens.

DR. JOHN ROBACK, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL BLOOD BANK: If you have antibodies against that, they're going to bind and we're going to be able to detect that.

GUPTA (voice over): Dr. John Roback is the Medical Director of the Blood Bank at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where I practice as a neurosurgeon. I was able to get this test because I'm still working as a doctor at Emory and healthcare workers are considered to be at high risk for COVID-19.

Now, this particular test approved under FDA emergency authorization at Emory was developed by Roback and his colleagues. Right now they test up to 300 people a day. By mid June, they expect to be processing thousands a day. It's far more sophisticated than the tests you may have heard of recently.

GUPTA: What do you make of these at home tests for antibodies?

ROBACK: I don't think that they can achieve the sorts of performance characteristics we can with these tests that we have in our clinical laboratory. We have a lot better control over the testing conditions over the sample that was collected.

GUPTA (voice over): Here's what happens in your body when you're infected. The blue line, that's how long the virus typically lives inside of you. Take a look at the green line. Early on, IgM antibodies appear, but they disappear shortly after and then the red line. That's the IgG antibody. That's the one that appears after the infection is cleared and might provide immunity for just how long, how strong that we don't know yet.

We do know that for other coronaviruses like SARS, antibodies lasted two to three years and MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome had antibody presence of about three years. But with this new coronavirus, it's still too early to tell. And in order to answer the question, researchers are going to focus on this term, neutralizing activity.

You see, it doesn't necessarily matter how many antibodies you have. It only matters how well they work at keeping the virus from entering a human cell. And that can vary from person to person.

ROBACK: It's fascinating that not everybody that has high levels of antibodies on the test we're doing now actually have very much neutralizing activity that those antibodies might still be helping. It causes us to pause a little bit before we just categorically say if you have high antibodies, you're immune.

GUPTA: What is the real value of having the test?

ROBACK: I think if you're positive on this test, it indicates you've been exposed. That can give you a little bit of peace of mind, I think, that the cough I had two weeks ago that was really COVID-19. It could indicate that some of your close contacts should be tested.

GUPTA (voice over): But perhaps most importantly, Dr. ROBACK told me something I hadn't really considered before, that if you test positive for the antibodies, that means you've dealt with this infection and you beat it. And chances are that if you're exposed to it again, you'll beat it again.

As for me, that part is still an open question mark. I tested negative.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, doing such good reporting for us.

Here's a programming note, Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the Coronavirus Task Force, will be Jake Tapper's guest on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." It airs at 9:00 am in Washington and 2:00 in the afternoon in London. We hope you'll watch.

Speaking of London, British prime minister Boris Johnson has been fighting coronavirus for nearly a month. Now Downing Street says he's ready to get back to work. We'll have a report about what is on his agenda now that he is recovered.

Plus playing outside for children is once again allowed in Spain. How the country is taking more steps towards getting back to normal.

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ALLEN: You won't believe how long these kids have been cooped up. Stay tuned.

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ALLEN: The U.K. is expanding access to COVID-19 testing. The department of health says mobile testing units operated by the military will be deployed across the country. Personnel from the armed forces will be collecting swabs.

Officials say care homes, police stations and prisons will be top priorities. This as the U.K.'s death toll passed 20,000 and the number of confirmed cases approaches 150,000.

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PRITI PATEL, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: As the deaths caused by this terrible virus pass another tragic and terrible milestone, the entire nation is grieving. My deepest sympathies and condolences go to those who have lost loved ones. And I would like to pay tribute to the selfless frontline workers who have been struck down by this virus. Their exceptional public service and sacrifice will not be forgotten.

[05:20:00]

ALLEN: British prime minister Boris Johnson returns to work Monday, that according to a Downing Street spokesperson. Mr. Johnson has been recovering from coronavirus since he left hospital Easter Sunday, two weeks ago. Let's check in now with Isa Soares.

It will be interesting now to see that he has had coronavirus and come out of it, how perhaps this affects his leadership for the country through this.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so. Good morning to you.

Given that he was released two weeks ago or so, Natalie, from St. Thomas's Hospital and his own brush with death, it will be interesting to see how the prime minister weighs up this huge decision that he will have to make about whether to ease or lift the lockdown restrictions now.

His inbox as he goes to work on Monday will be rather full. He has tensions and pressures from pretty much every side you can imagine from within his own party, some Conservative donors putting pressure on the prime minister to ease or lift the lockdown, worried about the impact that may have on the U.K. economy.

One donor being quoted here today, saying we're in danger that the medicine is that the lockdown is more harmful than the cure.

Then the prime minister also has pressure, Natalie, from the leader of the opposition, who is not calling for the measures to be eased or lifted but is calling for a clear lockdown strategy, what is the plan from the government of when to actually ease these restrictions, that from the opposition.

And then from civilians who have been at home under lockdown for five weeks. Some people are getting restless. They want to know when they can go out, what measures should be taken.

A lot of pressure from the government. As you just played there before coming to me, the home secretary, Priti Patel making it quite clear yesterday, as she announced more than 800 people had died in the last 24 hours, 20,000 people have lost their lives here in the U.K., making the U.K. one of five countries to hit that grim milestone.

She made it clear that the U.K. is not out of the woods yet. People should stay put. That was imperative. So it will be interesting to see how the prime minister guides the U.K. as he comes back to work and what decision he will make in a fortnight, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Isa Soares, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

People in France should find out early this week just how much longer they will have to abide by strict confinement measures. The nationwide lockdown has all been emptied the bustling boulevards of the French capital.

A spokesperson for the French prime minister says that, on Tuesday, the government leader will present the national assembly with a plan for easing the restrictions.

It comes even as France's health agency says critically ill coronavirus patients are still overwhelming the country's intensive care units, although their numbers are decreasing.

A taste of normalcy in Spain after six weeks in lockdown. Children under the age of 14 are now allowed to go outside for the first time since virus restrictions began. They could play outside for an hour each day as long as they don't stray too far from home and, of course, are accompanied by an adult.

More restrictions are expected to be eased in the coming days. Spain's prime minister says he'll present a de-escalation plan on Tuesday.

Italy has been under national quarantine since March 9th. But lately, its numbers of new cases and deaths have been shrinking and, despite the restrictions, Italians say they understand their sacrifices are for the greater good. Ben Wedeman has this from Rome.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than six weeks, lockdown has been a way of life for Italians. And while, elsewhere, there have been protests calling for a return to normal life...

BEPPE SEVERGNINI, COLUMNIST AND AUTHOR: It's all quiet on the Italian front.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- columnist and author Beppe Severgnini spoke to me from the hardhit northern province of Cremona.

SEVERGNINI: You hear the sound of ambulances every day, as we have for the last six weeks. You don't really -- like New Yorkers now, probably. You don't really need much to be convinced. And that's why I said, OK, I think it makes sense to stay home.

[05:25:00]

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Italy was the first country to impose a nationwide shutdown, during which a usually unruly people has been largely willing to obey the rules.

"I never expected Italians to be so disciplined," says Vladimiro. "Instead, we took seriously what the government told us."

In part, it's because the death toll from coronavirus has been so high, more than 25,000, and, in part, because of who is dying. The average age of death from the virus is 79. And, here, the grandparents are a national institution. FEDERICA DE VIERNO, ROME RESIDENT: Old people are considered very

important because they're pieces of history. You learn from them.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): In a country that has seen empires rise and fall, family is the one constant.

ANDREA CALORO, ROME RESIDENT: I think it's just a matter of respect. I mean, we've been asked, basically, to do nothing, to do something. So we stay home and we take it easy. And it's our way to protect our -- yes -- our maybe oldest people.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Yet, the longer the lockdown goes on, the gloomier the prospects for Italy's economy.

WEDEMAN: For now, the government says the country can start to reopen May 4th. The reopening will be cautious. It will be gradual. Italy can ill afford a second wave of this virus.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): An entire generation, a nation's history, is at stake -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Thank you, Ben.

New satellite images raise new questions about the whereabouts and health of North Korea's leader. What we know right now about Kim Jong- un's disappearance from public view.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We appreciate it.

New satellite images are offering tantalizing clues about the whereabouts and health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. These photographs show what is likely Mr. Kim's personal train near his compound. But it's not clear he's there. He hasn't been seen in public for more than two weeks.

North Korean media say he sent a thank you message to some workers but CNN has not confirmed that report, that it came from him. CNN also reported on Tuesday that the U.S. is following intelligence that Kim was in grave danger after surgery.

So what do we make of it?

Will Ripley has covered North Korea on 19 separate trips there and he joins us now from Tokyo. Has Kim Jong-un ever disappeared for this long, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did vanish from sight for 40 days back in 2014. However, it was not like this.

In terms of the speculation and the conflicting reports from one end of the spectrum that he's perfectly fine to the complete other end of the spectrum that the situation is beyond horrible for Kim Jong-un.

I think a lot of these reports are based on second-hand information because well-placed sources I have been speaking with since Tuesday and Jim Sciutto's reporting that the U.S. is monitoring intelligence that Kim Jong-un is in grave danger after surgery, these are people who are usually in the know and they have no idea.

Because nothing is more secretive in this -- one of the world's most secretive countries than the health of their leader. They're not going to really tell anyone anything until they're nice and ready.

So on state media, you have these routine reports that Kim Jong-un sent a greeting to someone or sent, you know, regards to someone else. These are, you know, electronic messages that somebody else signs off on. They're not confirming or denying the rumors that are spreading around the world.

And the silence speaks volumes that something is going on. And then, of course, the presence of his train. It doesn't prove or disprove anything about his health, it adds credibility to the fact that he's probably there.

If he's traveling by train and not his preferred method, by plane, that could say a lot of things. Maybe he did have surgery and he can't fly. Maybe there's a serious procession that's about to leave from his compound. It's all speculative until we get the facts from the North Koreans if and when they're ready.

ALLEN: It's not like he's an old or aging leader, either.

Why would he be in grave danger?

We know that you're also following another major story for us there in Tokyo and that is the crisis of the pandemic and it seems it's gotten so bad there that the health care system is near the point of collapse.

What can you tell us?

RIPLEY: We have seen in just one month a more than tenfold increase in the number of coronavirus cases here in Japan. This is a nation that still has an observable sense of complacency among the general population. People are still out. Yet case numbers are rising quickly and people seem to be hearing the warnings but not taking them seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RIPLEY (voice-over): Loudspeakers are blaring amongst Tokyo warning people to stay home. Some are listening. Many are not, packing supermarkets, parks, playgrounds, even a gambling park.

Japanese health experts warn that without social distancing, hundreds of thousands could die of coronavirus. Getting tested remains incredibly difficult. This man's daughter had a 104-degree fever, 40 degrees Celsius for 4 days.

"My wife and I were very nervous. Desperately asking for a test but they kept saying no. They even hung up on me."

Within days, his entire family was sick.

RIPLEY (voice-over): They tried to get tested for two agonizing weeks.

[05:35:00]

"It was scary. Our first daughter also had a fever, then a seizure. We took her to the hospital but it was too late."

She was just 16 months old when she died of flu-related meningitis five years ago. His wife and children were never tested for the coronavirus. A doctor says the same thing is happening to a lot of his patients.

"Only 10 percent of my requests are accepted."

RIPLEY: 90 percent denied?

RIPLEY (voice-over): On average this month, Tokyo is testing less than 300 people a day. Japan's health ministry has repeatedly told CNN widespread testing would be a waste of resources.

Just this week, some areas did begin offering drive-through and walk- through testing. But it is not widely available. Undertesting is not the only problem. Hospitals are turning away ambulances at a rate four times higher than last April.

RIPLEY: Your patient is laying there for up to nine hours, getting no treatment whatsoever and hospitals kept turning him away?

"I have never experienced being turned away by so many hospitals before the coronavirus outbreak."

Japan's medical association warns the public health system is on the brink of collapsing. Running low on ICU beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

"We only get one mask per week."

CNN agreed not to use her full name, identify her hospital.

RIPLEY: How is one mask a week possible to keep you safe from the virus?

"It is scary," she says, showing me the cloth mask that she uses.

Experts warn that cloth masks don't protect nurses from coronavirus. Several Japanese hospitals have already become clusters of an infection.

"I am worried about how long this will continue. I am afraid that there is no end in sight."

With case numbers skyrocketing in Japan, this may be just the beginning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: How do you shape public policy if you don't have an idea how many have the virus?

Widespread testing is what experts say is necessary to find out how many people are walking around sick. Yet here in Tokyo, their testing for the month of April an average of less than 300 people per day.

In New York they're testing an average of 20,000 people per day. Supporters of Japan's approach will say, but look at the low number of deaths right now, over 300 but less than a lot of countries. But seven weeks ago, all of the United States had less than 200 deaths. Things can change quickly if the virus spreads quickly.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

Quickly, Will, I'm curious, why are people in Japan not practicing social distancing?

Why does this seem to be a laid-back reaction to what's going on?

RIPLEY: One, the government's messaging before the postponement of the Olympics was very relaxed, saying that Japan had a low number of cases. Now there is a nationwide state of emergency.

But the problem is, a lot of people have had no choice but to go to work because 80 percent of Japanese companies are not set up for telework. And so people have no choice but to show up at their jobs if their bosses tell them to do so.

Only some of the big corporations like Toyota, Nissan and Honda have had employees working from home. A lot of companies haven't done that. It will be the beginning of the golden week holiday. People will be off work. They won't be packing their offices and the subways.

The question is, will they stay home as the government is suggesting and warning them to do so?

Or will they be out enjoying the time off, gathering in groups at restaurants that are still open?

That is what we need to watch and it could be a turning point one way or the other for Japan as the number of cases continue to accelerate here. ALLEN: All right. Great reporting as always, Will. Thank you so much.

Will Ripley, stay safe there in Tokyo.

Staying in the region now, as places like Japan are overwhelmed, Vietnam is drawing attention for its apparent success in containing the epidemic. Michael Holmes has that.

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Vietnam, a country of 97 million people and less than 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19. And no deaths. That's the official figure from the government and that has caught the attention of experts and the international media.

The World Health Organization attributes Vietnam's apparent success in beating back the virus to the Communist state's ability to get the public to cooperate, including mass quarantines, lockdowns, mandatory social distancing and aggressive contact tracing and testing.

NGUYEN MANH VIEW, COFFEE SHOP WORKER (through translator): Vietnam's strategy in the fight against COVID-19 was remote and early prevention even before the pandemic got complicated.

HOLMES (voice-over): The first two cases of the virus were detected in January.

[05:40:00]

HOLMES (voice-over): Authorities immediately suspended flights to Wuhan, then the ground zero of the pandemic, and closed the border with China to all but essential trade and travel.

In addition, aggressive contact tracing began, relying on grassroots Communist Party networks in neighborhoods. Here's how one Hanoi resident put it.

"We go to each and every alley, knocking on each and every door. We follow the guidance from our government that fighting the pandemic is like fighting our enemy."

Easing the restrictions came after no new confirmed case was reported in about a week. But the authorities here insist the crisis is not over. In fact, a town in a province close to the Chinese border was locked down early this month after one case of the virus was detected.

Restrictions also remain on two villages during the capital, Hanoi, according to state media. Hanoi residents welcome the easing of restrictions but this man, reminding people not to let down their guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The social distancing has been eased. But this outbreak is unpredictable. Therefore, we cannot anticipate anything.

HOLMES (voice-over): In the meantime, many here, just happy that a semblance of normality is back. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: People are cooped up but that means wild animals are out to play. Next, the effect this pandemic is having on wildlife but the risk that is also evident of a pandemic of saving some endangered species. That's coming up.

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ALLEN: With all the humans in lockdown, many animals are free to roam wherever they please. And look at these jellyfish in Venice.

[05:45:00]

ALLEN: More jellyfish are being spotted closer to the surface. That's pretty cool.

In South Australia, this kangaroo hopped around undisturbed. And in the U.K., these sheep decided to check out McDonalds. And from the looks of it, they were waiting on their Happy Meal. That's a wild picture right there.

Wildlife appears to be thriving during the pandemic but conservation areas are not. Let's discuss this with our guest, Jo Shaw. She's a senior manager for the wildlife program at the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa and an African rhino leader at WWF International.

Thanks so much for coming on.

JO SHAW, SENIOR MANAGER FOR WILDLIFE PROGRAM; WORLD WILDLIFE FUND SOUTH AFRICA: Good morning, Natalie. Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: Sure thing. With fewer people out and about, the world is seeing a resurgence of animals. That is very cool. But on the flip side, the coronavirus crisis brings with it some very serious threats to protected areas and wildlife. Tell us about that.

SHAW: Well, you're right; it does appear that initially there's been a bit of a short-term resurgence of wildlife around the globe. We've seen a whole range of different species taking over areas usually filled with people and traffic. In a way, they're almost having a bit of a respite.

But as well as the devastating toll which we know COVID-19 has taken on people's lives globally, there are also very concerning negative impacts of the pandemic for the environment and wildlife.

It brings very serious threats to our protected areas as well as people working in the conservation sector. So we're concerned what some of these longer term implications will be for the natural world and ultimately for all of us. ALLEN: Yes, the loss of income from entry to parks and activities will

be particularly severe in countries such as South Africa, where income generated by tourism is the main revenue source. Talk about that threat.

SHAW: Yes. We're extremely concerned that the impacts of the loss of tourism revenue for our protected areas and for wildlife conservation is going to be devastating.

We already know that the closure of borders and the parks in many countries to tourism activities is posing a serious threat to the financial sustainability of our protected and conserved areas, as well as broader nature-based tourism industries.

In places like South Africa where the income generated by tourism is the main revenue source of park management, we're going to see greatly reduced operating budgets and a reduction in the ability to protect, monitor and manage these areas.

There will be risks of job losses as well as a reduction in opportunities to support the local communities living around the parks. And then of additional concern are regions where community- based tourism is an important tool for poverty alleviation and for reducing human-wildlife conflicts and pressure on natural resources.

Beyond this in the longer term, we're concerned that economic recession and changes in people's behavior may prevent a full recovery of the tourism, cultural and recreational activities that usually happen inside parks.

And in parallel, they're understandably be competition for revenue in health and economic reasons. So there's a need to identify long-term solutions for financing if we want to ensure that these areas and animals are conserved for the future.

ALLEN: Absolutely. This time could wipe out years of conservation work that so many organizations like yours have done to protect endangered species and it also gives jobs to people as well and hence fights poverty there.

Longer term, is there concern that, with prolonged economic recession, that people's behavior may prevent a full recovery?

And also what about the threat of poaching?

SHAW: Well, we are concerned about long-term tourism responses and the need to look at globally alternate ways to ensure our protected areas remain in place. With regard to poaching, we don't have scientific evidence to determine whether the coronavirus crisis has resulted in an increase or decrease in poaching.

It's probably likely we'll see different patterns in different places because there are different drivers for different products and different species. And it will change over time and at different national and local scales. But these trends are something that we at WWF are working hard in

trying to understand with our partners and develop solutions to address.

[05:50:00]

SHAW: It doesn't seem in the short term as though COVID-19 has had much of an impact on field patrols in the majority of countries where illegal wildlife trade is prevalent.

Conservation seems to be recognized as an essential service and people are still in the field. But there are real concerns about how this can be sustained long term without tourism revenue.

ALLEN: Well, I was coming there in two weeks to South Africa for my honeymoon but I had to postpone the wedding and the honeymoon. But I will come as soon as it's clear. I'll be there to bring tourism dollars. I can't wait. My first trip. Thank you so much for what you're doing and for the time you gave us. Jo Shaw with WWF, thank you. Wish you the best.

SHAW: Thank you. You're welcome. And postpone, don't cancel. Please still come.

ALLEN: Don't worry. Trip of a lifetime. Can't wait.

Coming up here, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., he's also the guy tasked with straightening out the coronavirus curve balls thrown by President Trump. Tonight "Saturday Night Live" took a swing at that awkward dynamic. Wait until you see who played Dr. Fauci.

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ALLEN: Dr. Anthony Fauci is the leading infectious disease expert in the U.S. and a key member of the Coronavirus Task Force. He's known for his measured, science-first analysis during President Trump's briefings.

So he seemed like a shoo-in during the new season of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" to make some sort of appearance. A couple of weeks ago, CNN's Alisyn Camerota asked Fauci which actor he would like to play him on "SNL." Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Which actor would you want to play you. Here are some suggestions, Ben Stiller, Brad Pitt?

Which one? FAUCI: Oh, Brad Pitt, of course.

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ALLEN: He's so cute.

Well, in a surprise appearance, a few hours ago, Dr. Fauci got his wish.

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BRAD PITT, ACTOR, "DR. ANTHONY FAUCI": I'm getting fired. But until then, I'm going to be there, putting out the facts for whoever is listening and when I hear things like the virus can be cured if everyone takes the Tide pod challenge, I will be there to say, please don't.

PITT: To the real Dr. Fauci, thank you for your calm and clarity in this unnerving time.

Thank you to the medical workers, first responders and their families for being on the front line.

And now, live, kind of, from all across America, it's Saturday night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Brad Pitt from his home there.

Nice job, Brad.

That's CNN NEWSROOM for this hour. Appreciate you for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. "NEW DAY" is just ahead. Take good care.