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Schools Start to Reopen in Montana and Idaho; Trump Administration Rejects CDC Guidance on Reopening; Giving COVID-19 Victims Dignity in Death; U.S. and China Talk Economy, Public Health; One in 5 Americans File Jobless Claims Since Mid-March; Trump's Personal Valet Tests Positive for COVID-19; Russia Sets Record with 11,000+ New Cases in One Day; Hong Kong Reopening as Pro-Democracy Protests Return; Australian National Cabinet Discusses Reopening Country; U.K. Government to Announce Lockdown Plans Sunday; Israeli Arab and Jewish Doctors United in Virus Battle. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 8, 2020 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, coming to you live from Studio Seven at CNN's world headquarters here in Atlanta.


And ahead this hour, the race to reopen. Countries push to get back in business as the bad economic news keeps pouring in.

Also ahead, death with dignity. The frontline workers struggling to take care of those who could have been taken by COVID-19.

And later, in hospitals across Israel, the fight against coronavirus bringing Arabs and Jews together like never before.

A warm welcome, everyone. The coronavirus pandemic has taken, of course, a devastating toll around the world: 270,000 people dead. But we are about to get confirmation of its disastrous economic impact, as well.

The U.S. government set to release its updated unemployment numbers, and even the White House is warning it could be as bad as the Great Depression. Since the middle of March, more than 33 million Americans have filed jobless claims, and that is fueling strong demand for businesses across the country to reopen.

Much of Europe already moving in that direction. The French finance minister says he expects 400,000 businesses to reopen on Monday. Italy, responding to protests from business owners and considering allowing some to reopen sooner than originally planned. The prime minister says he has no intention of dragging out the lockdown.

Now, here in the United States, CNN has learned the Trump administration will not implement guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on reopening the country. A senior official confirming the recommendations were at odds with the president's push to restart the economy more quickly.

More now from CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Three Forks, Montana, this morning, kids walked back into school, with tweaks.

BONNIE LOWER, SUPERINTENDENT, WILLOW CREEK: We have six-foot distant marks on the playground, so that they can play games at recess and stay six feet away from each other.

WATT: Montana hasn't suffered as much as most. Meanwhile, with Lady Liberty looking on, bodies now being stored frozen in trucks in New York City, our epicenter, waiting for overwhelmed funeral directors to catch up.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): If you're going through hell, keep going. And that's what we're doing. We're going through hell. But what we're doing is working, so we're going to keep going.

WATT: Going slow on reopening, even though New York's new case counts are falling.

Daily new case counts continue to climb in 19 states. Still, every one of them among the 44 that will begin to reopen by this weekend.

In Texas, cases climbing, but haircuts and manicures are a go as of tomorrow morning. The state's Supreme Court just ordered the release of a salon owner jailed for operating under lockdown.

In Oregon, the Trail Blazers practice facility will also open tomorrow. That's OK, says the NBA. Up to four players can train solo at any one time, as long as local restrictions are followed.

And there are now different detailed directions in different places.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Restaurants, outside only. You're 90 percent or likely to get infected inside than outside.

WATT: More than 33 million Americans have now lost their jobs during the pandemic. Depression-era numbers.

Others have worked on and paid a price. Teen A (ph), a meatpacking worker in Colorado, couldn't afford to quit. Now she's infected and fighting for her life. Three of the country's biggest pork processing plants partially reopening today after outbreaks. Union and management working on how to keep workers safe.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: I really don't think the economy kicks into any kind of gear until we get a vaccine or some kind of therapy that everyone feels comfortable about, and even then, it's going to take several years to get those jobs back.

WATT: The FDA did just approve another potential vaccine moving into phase two testing, more than 100 now in various stages of development, but you can only rush so much. It needs to be safe; it needs to work.


DR. MARK MULLIGAN, LEAD RESEARCHER, NYU LANGONE VACCINE CENTER: I do really think we're talking about getting through the end of the year and into early next year before we would have a definitive answer.

WATT (on camera): Here in Los Angeles, they are going to follow the California timetable and begin to reopen Friday. But just baby steps. Retail, but only for curbside pickup. Over the weekend, its golf courses and trails will also open, but everybody has to wear a mask. Now, San Francisco has said they need a little bit more time. They probably won't even start for another 10 days.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOLMES: Let's head to Los Angeles now and board-certified internist Dr. Jorge Rodriguez.

Doctor, thanks for your time. You know, you've got the White House pushing back on the CDC guidelines on reopening, scaling back appearances by Dr. Fauci. How damaging is that to the effort to reopen as safely as possible?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD-CERTIFIED INTERNIST: Well, I think it could be very damaging. I think it is going to be very damaging.

The Center for Disease Control is named the Center for Disease Control for a purpose, because it is an unpartisan, scientific body that gives guidance.

But you know what? Let's face it. Medicine is politics, and at the end of the day, it's politics that's going to guide what is going to happen. But that doesn't mean that there cannot be guidelines that need to be followed.

For example, everyone needs to wear a mask. Everyone needs to be six feet away from the other person. Perhaps in restaurants, before people start working, or every three days, they need to be tested, right, for COVID 19.

I think it's ironic that today, the president seems to have been exposed by one of his valets who had the coronavirus. Well, he says he's going to get tested every day for something that used to be a hoax. Well, it ain't so funny now, right?

So why -- why does it -- why do those standards not apply to the American worker that is going back? These are the guidelines that the CDC needs to propose, all right, to the federal government.

HOLMES: What are the risks, though, of a botched reopening? I mean, moves made in haste, and as you point out, more in line with political motives than scientific realities? RODRIGUEZ: Well, we've seen what can happen in large, urban centers

like New York. This is almost like a snowball at the top of a hill. Once it starts rolling, it's going to take a lot of momentum to stop it.

And remember, this virus has what's called an R0 of three. And -- which means that it is much more infective, three times more infectious, actually, than the flu. So once it starts going, it may have already infected 27 times more people.

So I really applaud what's happening here in California. Baby steps is the way to go. And I get it. We're all suffering economically. But at the end of the day, if you have a restaurant that opens and two weeks later, there is a COVID spread in that restaurant, nobody's going to go. That's going to close down. It's going to affect the economy -- the economy adversely. So we need to be smart.

HOLMES: You raise something that's interesting on testing. And we already know that the president has falsely claimed success in testing, when in fact, it's been a failure in the big picture.

And the president, as you point out, everyone around him and the president gets tested daily now. But how concerned are you that, you know, the president says he doesn't think widespread testing is even necessary? Downplaying the need for -- for the rest of us?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, then, walk -- walk the walk, right? Obviously, it is necessary for all of us. We need two types of testing.

We need antibody testing to see who is immune, potentially; where the virus has been; where the virus is going. All right, that's one part of the equation.

And then we need active testing to see who is infectious. Because those people shouldn't be at a certain location or around other people. All right, this is not Big Brother. This is necessary. We do it with any other infectious disease: tuberculosis, syphilis. And then we contact the people that they have been in contact with.

Testing is not just a theory. It is essential for successful opening.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, it's easy to play it down when you're getting tested every day, I suppose.

When it comes to whether this reopening is smart or not, one of the things is, of course, we're not going to immediately know, are we? We're going to be continually looking at lugging data. I mean, we're seeing the results today of, what, mid-April or so.

RODRIGUEZ: Correct, that's absolutely right, which is why, if you just open up with a bang, correct, by the time that you find out what's going on, you could have infected hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

So that's the danger of just opening up the doors and going -- and pardon me, going hog-ass wild, which is just not the same thing to do. We have to balance -- and I know that it's difficult -- science, all right, with the economic factors which also affect people's health. But we need to do it in an intelligent manner.


HOLMES: There is -- there's another aspect to this, and that is concern that -- that reopening will force workers to return to jobs, even if they're worried about the conditions there and worried that not enough is being done to protect them, even if they are in high risk groups. And if they don't return, they'll be fired from those jobs or lose unemployment benefits.

Are you worried about workers in this situation being forced to choose between health and a paycheck?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, absolutely. And I really don't know, you know, the solution to that, except that people need to feel secure in their job.

In my office, two months ago, everybody has to wear a mask. We have to have social distancing. And people need to realize that, if you don't protect your workers, you are basically going to be destroying your job, your company, because eventually, I mean, look at that company that had the pork products. All right? Their workers didn't know what was going on. They had to close down. Who's going to really use that product once the word gets out that it is not safe?

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. Good to have you, Doctor. Thank you for that. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. Appreciate it.

RODRIGUEZ: A pleasure.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, funeral workers are seeing the human costs of the pandemic in ways that few others do, and giving each victims dignity in death is becoming more demanding.

CNN's Phil Black takes a look at the physical and emotional challenges.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We all know this is a time of death, of lost so great it's difficult to comprehend. But Tony Oxley (ph) knows what it really means, the numbers of people dying. Their faces, their families' grief.

TONY OXLEY (PH): I was called out last night. A dear old gentleman, it was his wife of many years who passed away.

BLACK: Tony's job is collecting and moving bodies. He's never been busier.

OXLEY (ph): It can be challenging, but I love it. I haven't had a day off since -- since it started.

BLACK: Tony works a patch of territory along England's southern coast. The job has become a constant race around the clock, chasing COVID- 19's relentless body count.

OXLEY (ph): The day's changed already. We're now going to go to collect some deceased from various places.

BLACK: The phone rings and Tony moves, dashing between hospitals, private homes, care facilities.

OXLEY: I collected an elderly lady from a nursing home there and have just brought her here. I'm now moving on again to another nursing home where somebody else has passed away.

BLACK: So many people are dying in this area there aren't enough places to store them. So Tony's job now includes shuffling bodies between funeral directors with spare capacity.

But it's not only the vast numbers challenging those who are trying to ensure dignity in death. These funeral workers in London follow Muslim tradition. It's an intimate, deeply respectful process, washing and wrapping each person before burial.

But safety is now a key concern. Every body must be treated as a potential COVID-19 risk.

Issa Assam has been a funeral director for 25 years. He says he's needed all his experience to endure this pandemic.

ISSA ASSAM, FUNERAL DIRECTOR: I've watched a few war films. That's the closest we've got to experiencing something like this in our lifetime.

BLACK: This day brings Issa a new professional and emotional challenge.

ASSAM: There's a request of a very small baby passing away. I need some paperwork from him.

BLACK: A small, stillborn baby, and the baby's mother, both victims of COVID-19. Once collected, they lie side by side in the van. The baby, in the adult-sized coffin.

ASSAM: It's very sad. I've never experienced that one, ever in my life.

BLACK: Issa wasn't prepared for this.

ASSAM: It's a tough challenge. It's a tough one. For me, it's very, very tough. Very painful.

BLACK: Later, Issa arranges another special request. His hearse is driving by a London hospital, so the staff can honor one of their own. [00:15:09]

They're clapping for Abdul Hafiz (ph), an ambulance care assistant, another COVID-19 victim.

Only a close few can attend his funeral. They must stand apart to pray, and can only approach his grave one at a time. When the ambulance came for Abdul, his family didn't know it was the last time they'd see him.

(on camera): Tell me what it's like to lose a brother this way.

TARIQ GELLALEDIN HAFIZ, ABDUL'S BROTHER: It's like to lose brother is like to lose half of you. You lose half of you.

BLACK (voice-over): In this time of death, most of us are shielded from its awful reality, what those numbers really mean. While around us, a committed operation strives beyond its usual limits to ensure every person who couldn't be saved from COVID-19 is respectfully mourned and remembered.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Well, Russia is in lockdown, but it reported a record number of new coronavirus cases. We'll take a look at new measures going into effect there, and how long they might last.

Also, when we come back, U.S. unemployment during April likely worst since the Great Depression. The economic toll of coronavirus, coming up.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

The United Kingdom on track for its worst economic crash in more than 300 years. Yes, that's right, 300 years. That's according to a new forecast by the Bank of England.

It has Britain's GDP making a 14 percent decline this year, due to the coronavirus. Based on the bank's own historical data, that weight of contraction has not been seen since 1706. And amazingly, the bank warns the reality is likely to be even worse than they have forecast.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and China are working to put phase one of their trade deal into place. The Chinese vice premier spoke with top U.S. trade officials in just the last few hours.

CNN's Steven Jiang is in Beijing for us.

Steven, it's almost odd to see trade reps talking about, you know, working together to carry out phase one while, on a political level, the two countries are trading accusations on coronavirus. What do you take from what we're hearing?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Michael, the takeaway is, at this stage, both governments are not ready for a complete breakdown in this very important but increasingly complex relationship between the world's two biggest economies.

Now, for all the talk about a new cold war between the two countries, these two economies are so much more intertwined than that of the U.S. and the former Soviet Union ever were. [00:20:03]

So that's why, despite these increasingly vitriolic rhetorics [SIC] we have been hearing on both sides on the coronavirus issue, this implementation process of this phase one trade deal has never really stopped. That's what I have been hearing from both Chinese, as well as U.S. officials.

Now, U.S. diplomats recently told me, actually, even during the peak of the outbreak here in China, back in February, when this virus was ravaging through China, they actually got calls from Chinese officials, unprompted, to reassure them about a Chinese commitment to this trade deal, to these purchasing commitments they have made.

So this is really the kind of behind the scenes, flying under the radar process we are talking about. That's why this phone call between the two countries' trade negotiators is not entirely surprising. Some may have seen this as a result of Mr. Trump's recent threat to slap new tariffs on Chinese imports again, but this is actually not the case, according to officials here.

Now, this kind of commitment by the Chinese government is reflected in these numbers released by the authorities here.

During the first quarter, total trade volume between the two countries was down, not surprisingly. But the decrease in Chinese imports of American goods was much smaller than that of the Chinese exports to the U.S. So as a result, the Chinese surplus over the U.S. actually shrank by more than 20 percent.

Now, the Chinese, of course, have also been highlighting their purchasing of American agricultural products, especially soybeans and pork. These have grew [SIC] significantly during the first quarter, as well.

And Michael, as you know, these agricultural products are very important to Mr. Trump, because many, if not most, American farmers have been his staunch supporters. So he really needs to keep this base as we move closer to the November election -- Michael.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Good to see you, Steven. Thank you. Steven Jian there in Beijing.

Now, in the United States, one in five Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, think about that. That is when coronavirus lockdown measures began.

Now, with a total of 3.2 million jobless claims just last week, April will likely paint the grimmest picture for U.S. employment since the Great Depression.

CNN's emerging markets editor John Defterios joining me now, live from Abu Dhabi, on that. I mean, these economic numbers out Friday, boy, the signs are not good.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Not good at all, Michael. In fact, we'll see numbers today we probably won't see again in our lifetime, post-COVID-19.

There is a question, though. Is this the worst? Because companies are just starting their restructuring.

So let's take a look at what's expected here. An unemployment rate probably around 16 percent. That was 3 and a half percent at a 50-year low back in February. Extraordinary.

Our economy usually creates about a 100, to 150,000 jobs a month during normal times. Incredibly abnormal, we're looking at a drop of nearly 22 million. That's why I said that number, we'll probably never see that level again.

And finally, you talked about the unemployment benefits that were filed for yesterday, 3.2 million. It takes the lost jobs, those asking for benefits, to 33 million in seven weeks.

And that's why many think the month of May report will be worse, because those unemployment benefits that were filed yesterday are current, and active, and the number is, indeed, still extremely high.

Again, for a little bit of context here, Michael, in the two-month starting here from COVID-19, we've wiped out more jobs than the two and a half years of the global financial crisis, 2008, '09 and going into 2010. It is extraordinary.

Flexible labor laws, of course, allow Americans to lay off workers. These are faces behind these numbers here right now. But if you get a snapback, they can get rehired. It's just not clear at this stage whether that's going to happen.

HOLMES: Yes. And meantime, John, you know, you've got both digital, and bricks and mortar, some big names, too, getting absolutely slammed. Bankruptcies going on.

DEFTERIOS: Yes. This is extraordinary, because it's decimating all levels of the economy. The old economy and the new economy. Nieman Marcus, founded in 1907 in Dallas, Texas, filing for bankruptcy, the fabled retailer.

There are 15 other names being floated around that could tumble into bankruptcy at the same time in 2020, Michael. Uber, founded in 2009 in San Francisco, first quarter results, a loss of nearly $3 billion. It's laid off 14 percent of its workforce this week.

But after those results in the first quarter, the company is suggesting they may not be finished with it.

If you're looking for some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, Uber is suggesting that they're starting to see ridership pick up again, so the stock actually rose. That's -- that's kind of crazy, in a world like we're living today, if you can lose nearly $3 billion and your stock rise is coming after hours in market trade.


HOLMES: Three billion-dollar loss, and not real profitable anyway so far.

John, good to see. Thanks for that. John Defterios there in Abu Dhabi.

DEFTERIOS: Thanks, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Well, questions are being raised about coronavirus protocols inside the White House after one of the president's staffers tested positive for the virus.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports to us from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Trump, the pandemic just hit home, as in the White House, as one of his military valets has tested positive for the coronavirus. But the president is insisting it's no big deal that a personal aide was infected.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Know who he is, good person, but I've had very little contact. Mike is -- had very little contact with him. But Mike was tested, and I was tested. We were both tested.

Yes, it's a little bit strange, but it's one of those things.

But the potential for the virus to spread around the White House does exist. White House officials tell CNN few aides to the president actually wear masks around the West Wing, just as the president decided to forego putting on one earlier this week during a factory tour in Arizona.

TRUMP: Well, I just wouldn't wear one myself. I think wearing a face mask as our great presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know. Somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just -- I just don't.

ACOSTA: One White House official said of the president, "He's a unique individual. He can't be seen walking around wearing a mask."

Another close advisor pointing fingers at the press.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I think if anybody should start wearing masks, and showing more respect, it should be the media.

ACOSTA: White House officials have said it's not necessary for the president to wear a mask because he and aides around him are routinely tested for the virus.

But the director of the National Institutes of Health said one of the test often used by the White House has a notable false negative rate.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think the other concern has been that it does have about a 15 percent false negative rate. If you're in a circumstance where you really, really don't want to miss a diagnosis of somebody who's already carrying the virus, you'd like to have something that has a higher sensitivity than that. And I know they're working on how to make that happen.

As for restarting the economy, the White House is rejecting proposed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, offering recommendations on just how to reopen restaurants, schools, and other public spaces.

A coronavirus task force official told CNN, "Issuing overly specific instructions -- that CDC leadership never cleared -- for how various types of businesses open up would be overly perspective and broad. Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn't be the same guidance for urban New York City."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I find it very concerning. You don't want to get into a situation where public health, and public health science, is set up as the enemy of restarting the economy.

ACOSTA: The economy could use a shot in the arm after 3.2 million people filed unemployment claims last week, making for a stunning 33 and a half million since mid-March.

TRUMP: He was an innocent man.

ACOSTA: But the president is welcoming a development away from the pandemic, after the Justice Department dropped charges against former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

After once firing Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the Russia investigation, the president now views Flynn as an innocent man.

Mr. Trump appeared to signal what was coming last week.

TRUMP: I'll tell you, for sure, when I looked at what they did to him, they tormented him, dirty cops, tormented General Flynn. Because he's in the process of being exonerated.

ACOSTA (on camera): As for taking precautions here at the White House, the president said he'll be receiving a coronavirus test on a daily basis. Same goes for the vice president, other aides who work closely with the president.

That is a major change in protocols here at the White House and provides a stark contrast with what many Americans have experienced across the country, that it is sometimes difficult to get tested.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: And former U.S. Vice President Al Gore says the Trump administration has utterly failed in its handling of the pandemic. He told our Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta he's worried about what's to come as states begin to reopen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: He has failed as president, particularly on this challenge.

The warnings were ignored. Then, after the warnings were met, he has failed to mobilize the resources of the federal government to straighten out this testing catastrophe, to get the swabs and the so- called reagents they need to do the tests; and the gowns and masks and all of the other stuff. He has not done that.

And now, I think we're in grave danger. I have to tell you both. I think that we are seeing the start of a botched reopening.


HOLMES: And you can hear more from Mr. Gore, along with White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, filmmaker Spike Lee, and author of "The Coming Plague," Laurie Garrett. That will be coming up next hour on CNN's global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS."


We're going to take a short break again. When we come back, businesses forming plans to bring employees back to work, and ahead, we'll tell you why you shouldn't expect it to be the same place you left. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.

Russia announcing a staggering new record of coronavirus cases in one day: more than 11,000. And that pushes the country's total past 177,000 cases, more than 1,600 deaths.

Russia on mandatory lockdown until at least May 12 and the mayor of Moscow extending that order until the end of the month. Matthew Chance with more now for us from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, the lockdown in the Russian capital is being extended as new figures reveal a dramatic increase in the number of national coronavirus infections. More than 11,000 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to official figures, the highest daily increase reported since the crisis began.

Officials say the rise is partly to do with an increase in testing. There are signs of stabilization, they say. The number of people needing hospital care staying the same.

But the mayor of Moscow, the epicenter of the pandemic in Russia, says face masks and gloves must now be worn at work and on public transport, and in shops. And he again stressed that the actual number of infections are likely to be far higher than official numbers suggest. (on camera): And also on state television, the mayor, Sergey Sobyanin,

said that screening studies suggested between 2 and 2 and a half percent of the population has coronavirus. As many as 300,000 people, more than three times higher than the current figures say.

Back to you.


HOLMES: Matthew Chance there in London for us.

Now, Brazil also seeing a spike in cases, with more than 10,000 new cases in just 24 hours according to Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil has more than 135,000 cases with over 9,000 deaths.

Despite the surge, President Jair Bolsonaro is pushing to relax quarantine measures to save the economy. Bolsonaro said people need to be able to go to work or the economy could collapse. Brazil currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Latin America.

Well, China reporting only one new locally-transmitted case of coronavirus and no deaths in the last 24 hours. China says its last virus-related fatality was April 15 in Hubei province, where it is believed the virus originated.


And now, the government in Beijing is responding.


MI FENG, SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL HEALTH COMMISSION (through translator): Starting today, all counties across the country adjusted the epidemic risk level to low. However, there is still great uncertainty about the COVID-19 epidemic, so we must keep calling for continuous efforts in patient treatment to guard against a virus rebound.


HOLMES: In Hong Kong, meanwhile, life slowly getting back to normal, except for the political situation there. Well, that's heating up.

Kristie Lu Stout explains.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are signs of almost normal life returning here to Hong Kong after the city has recorded more than two weeks of zero local infections.

Government employees have returned to work. Many private-sector employees, as well. Virtually everyone is wearing a mask.

Now, Hong Kong was never under any full lockdown. When the virus hit in January, people knew what to do because of the memory of SARS. People stayed home. Schools were closed. People bought and demanded masks.

(voice-over): But four months on, strict social distancing guidelines are easing, with Hong Kong's top leader, Carrie Lam, announcing this week that social gatherings of up to eight people are allowed. Bars, cinemas, and gyms are reopening. Schools will start to reopen at the end of the month.

But tight border restrictions will remain to isolate any imported cases.

But on the streets, there is still a lot of anger directed at the Hong Kong government, especially after the recent wave of arrests of 15 high-profile democracy activist in a single day.

And after the 2019 Hong Kong protests, police here are not taking any chances. On Labor Day, I saw geared-up riot police patrolling a popular shopping district while masked up shoppers strolled by. It was a surreal scene. As Hong Kong reopens, this is the new reality.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.


HOLMES: Australia's prime minister has just addressed reporters after a much-anticipated national cabinet meeting. On top of the agenda: discussing whether the country can ease coronavirus restrictions earlier than originally planned.

Let's find out what came out of that meeting by bringing in CNN's Simon Cullen. He's in Stanthorpe, Australia.

What did we hear, Simon?


Well, what we heard today is the clearest plan yet from Australia as to how it plans to ease those restrictions, and the timetable for doing so.

Now, Scott Morrison, the prime minister, says he wants the three stages of easing restrictions to take place by July. Although, it will ultimately be up to each state and territory, because conditions may fluctuate and differ from state to state.

But essentially, the three stages are step one, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. Work from home will continue. Schools will be reopened. Small cafes and restaurants will be allowed to trade again, although with social distancing restrictions in place.

By stage two, public gatherings, the number of people you'll be allowed to have will be up to 30 at those. Gyms will be allowed to trade and operate again. And more shops.

By stage three, now this is what is going to take place, hopefully by July, gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed. Pubs and clubs most likely also allowed to trade again. But Michael, Scott Morrison today insisting that each stage and each

step will be assessed carefully, based on how the coronavirus outbreak is progressing. Here's a little bit of what he had to say at today's press conference.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There will be risks. There will be challenges. There will be outbreaks. There will be more cases. There will be setbacks. Not everything will go to plan. There will be in consistencies. States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances.


CULLEN: So Scott Morrison there, saying that, essentially, this plan could all change. Now, even though he has the aspiration of reopening the economy by July, that could be pushed back if there is a second wave of infections.

And crucially, Michael, the overseas travel ban will continue in place. The mandatory 14-day quarantine will remain, as well. Obviously, Australia's borders remain closed, and that will remain the case for some time.

HOLMES: All right. Simon, thanks for that. Simon Cullen there for us.

And we're going to take a short break. Still to come, doctors in Israel putting their differences aside. How a country known for its divisions is uniting amid the pandemic. We'll have that next.



HOLMES: Welcome back. Police in the U.S. state of Georgia have arrested a father and son in the fatal shooting of an unarmed African- American man, in a case getting international attention.

Gregory and Travis McMichael face murder and aggravated assault charges. Video of their confrontation with Ahmaud Arbery surfaced online this week. They claim they were trying to perform a citizen's arrest and that Arbery looked like a suspect in a series of recent robberies.

The video appears to show the 25-year-old Arbery trying to avoid the men as he jogs through the neighborhood.

The French prime minister says his country is on schedule and hundreds of thousands of businesses should be able to reopen on May 11. But he also says Paris and the surrounding areas are going to need what he called extra discipline because of how dense the population is.

Cafes, bars, and restaurants, though, won't be able to reopen just yet.

Now, the number of active cases is going down, but even then, it's higher than what the prime minister says he was hoping for.

Italy, though, trying to see if it can move ahead of schedule. The prime minister says the government is now considering if businesses can reopen early after owners joined in a protest. One major association of Italian companies says reopening is, quote, "a matter of life or death" for many businesses. It's now asking the government for financial aid, tax cuts, and for restaurants to serve tables outside.

Britons could find out this weekend what the government's lockdown will be for them. The final decision still being discussed.

But a source familiar with the negotiations told CNN that the government likely would drop stay-at-home as a core part of its message. CNN's Bianca Nobilo with more.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No changes to the lockdown rules yet, or at least until the prime minister addresses the nation on Sunday.

That was the message from first secretary of state, Dominic Raab, as he addressed the coronavirus press briefing on Thursday. He said any next step would be modest, incremental, and use very cautious language about any kind of lift of the lockdown.

Britain's Office of National Statistics has revealed that the country's reproductive rate of coronavirus has dropped below the critical threshold of one to somewhere between 0.5 in 0.9. So in theory, the virus will continue to slowly decline in the country, until it eventually dies out. In theory.

That's why we expect the prime minister to announce some kind of revision to the lockdown when he speaks to the nation on Sunday, especially as the economic pressure is mounting. The Bank of England saying Thursday that Britain is facing the sharpest recession on record.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN, outside London.


HOLMES: Well, as more companies begin to reopen their doors, they're also trying to figure out ways to make their workplaces safer.

Joining me now to discuss all of this is David Zweig. He's professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto.

I mean, I think everybody out there who is going to be heading back to work is wondering about this issue. What do you think our workplaces will look like once we return? What sort of immediate changes are responsible employers going to be putting in place?

DAVID ZWEIG, PROFESSOR OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: You know the image we have of people standing around a computer screen, a team working together, trying to solve a problem? That's over. We're not going to see that.

So what we're going to see is a really different workplace that we come into. One where people are maybe slowly moving back into being physically located, but still being physically apart.

We're not going to be sitting in small meeting rooms anymore. We're not going to be sharing lunch anymore. So those things are still going to have to be -- we're going to have to be putting distance around that.

HOLMES: Because the thing is -- the thing is, over the years, recently, of course, square footage and office buildings is expensive. And the idea is being to, you know, get everybody together for a collaborative and economic reasons.

ZWEIG: Sure.

HOLMES: It's going to be hard to step back from that. Do you see, like, staggered shifts? Staggered days off, even? Things like Plexiglass people are talking about? What do you think?

ZWEIG: I mean, we're all going to be -- we're all going to follow whatever our public health tells us what we have to follow, but absolutely. I think we're going to see the end, for now, of hot- desking (ph) and hoteling and having people working very closely together. And we're going to have to make adjustments: staggering when people come in, and really, embracing what we've all had to embrace, without a choice in the past few weeks, which is working from home and considering longer term or hybrid options for people to continue working from home.

HOLMES: Yes. Because we -- we are already seeing the impact of closed quarters working, I mean, particularly places here in the U.S. like meat plants, which are real hotspots.

I mean, social distancing, do you think it will change things as basic as office layout and worker density and so on? As you point out, do you think work from home could stick for a lot of people?

ZWEIG: I actually do you think it will. I mean, this whole situation has lifted the lid off of working from home. It's forced us to do it.

But the good thing about it that it's helped us realize that, you know, working from home doesn't mean that people aren't going to stay productive. And what it does mean is that, you know, the employees who were productive before this will stay productive, even if they're working from home. And it's enabled us to develop a little more trust around the possibility of allowing people to continue to work from home, even after we get to some semblance of normal in the future.

HOLMES: You know, friends of mine are doing a lot more of these -- the world is doing a lot more of these virtual meetings, as well.


HOLMES: Do you see that becoming more the norm, rather than traveling to that business meeting? I mean, even things like restaurant seating, airline seating, I mean, the strategy in those industries has always been let's cram as many people in as we can. That's got to change, doesn't it?

ZWEIG: Well, that clearly has to change until we have a vaccine, until, you know, even as we enter slowly back into some sense -- semblance of normal. And we hope that there's not a second wave. That is going to have to be the way forward.

So separating us physically on planes, making sure everyone is safe, and, you know, continuing to use the technology we've all relied on for the past seven weeks as we manage through this situation in order to communicate and continue working.

HOLMES: You run a team. What are you doing with your team to prepare in terms of the physicality of the work space?

ZWEIG: Yes, well, we -- you know, we're in discussions now. Everything, like most universities, everything is online now.

But we're thinking about how we can possibly have some of our classes and some of our programs, potentially, moved back into face-to-face delivery.

It's a very, very difficult process. A lot of things have to be considered. And, you know, we don't know yet if that's something that we can move into.

I mean, Canada is moving relatively more cautiously back into this. And we just have to follow the guidance of our public health system to see how -- how quickly we can move.

HOLMES: You, know there's also this issue of -- and certainly here in the United States, of basically, demanding workers show up, even if they fear for their health or they're not happy with the precautions being taken. If they're, for example, in a high-risk group or whatever. Workers deemed no-shows could have zero protections. That's going to be a problem.

ZWEIG: Of course it's the problem. And I think, you know, it's incumbent upon organizations and workplaces to ensure the safety of their employees.

And, you know, we've been hearing messages for weeks about the need to stay away and stay safe and say apart from people. And now we know when we ask people to go back into work, of course people are nervous. Of course they're concerned. And again, employers have to do everything possible to alleviate those concerns and protect their employees.


HOLMES: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ZWEIG: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: And we'll take a short break. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

The World Health Organization is warning the coronavirus could kill up to 190,000 people in Africa. The group's regional director says the virus won't spread exponentially, like it has in other parts of the world, but rather infections are more likely to smolder in hotspots right across the continent.

The WHO says Africa's rate of nine intensive care beds per million people is obviously woefully inadequate.

A U.S. defense official telling CNN that ISIS has been exploiting the pandemic as it increases attacks in Iraq and Syria.

This coming as U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS suspended parts of his campaign and Iraq security forces have been diverted to enforce lockdown restrictions.

Now, the attacks are also capitalizing on political instability in Iraq. But after months of anti-government protests, the parliament approved a new government on Wednesday.

After three elections in less than a year, and with his corruption trial set to begin this month, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, entering a unity government with his rival, Benny Gantz.

But differences in politics and religion seem to be melting into the background, with Israelis uniting to battle the virus.

CNN's Oren Liebermann reports.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In hospitals across Israel, the coronavirus has shown an indifference to race, religion, or belief. But doctors and nurses on the frontline share the same impartiality.

In the fight against COVID-19, Arab doctors and nurses have stood side by side with their Jewish colleagues. The virus doesn't care about who's who. Why, they ask, should they?

DR. JAMIL HASSAN, HILLEL YAFFE MEDICAL CENTER (through translator): I think that all of us, Jews and Muslims, give what is necessary for every patient, regardless of race, religion, and belief. And that's our duty. We have to do it properly without connection to anything else.

LIEBERMANN: Dr. Jamil Hassan is the head of the coronavirus unit at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, one of many Arab medical professionals in top positions in Israel.

HASSAN (through translator): We're dealing all the time with things we did not know and don't know. This virus, in particular, we have never seen a virus that truly spreads throughout the entire world. And I think we prepared well in this country.

LIEBERMANN: The medical unity has created some made-for-social-media moments. two paramedics, one Jewish, one Muslim, praying side by side during a short break. An Arab doctor bringing a Jewish Torah scroll into the coronavirus unit for Jews to pray.

A new video shows medical staff in masks as heroes, only to reveal that these doctors and nurses are Arabs, calling them an inseparable part of the state of Israel.

Inherently, that message is political. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frequently targeted Israel's Arab politicians, calling them supporters of terror. His nation-state law stripped Arabic of its status as an official language and enshrined into law that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel.


Yet, in early April, when Netanyahu needed Arab politicians to pass a $25 billion coronavirus aid package, there was no show of gratitude, says Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi, himself a doctor.


LIEBERMANN: Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population. They are 20 percent of the country's nurses and nearly half of Israel's pharmacists. According to the Ministry of Health and researcher Nahaia Dahud (ph), in addition, 17 percent of the country's doctors are Arab.

TIBI: We have the best physicians in the Israeli hospitals working together by great stuff. Both Jews and Arab doctors. And they are struggling on the front line against the coronavirus.

LIEBERMANN: Many of those doctors come from here, Kafr Qara, sometimes called the Village of Doctors.

Hassan Agbaria is the principal of the bilingual school here. He says it's the only place in the world where Jewish students come to an Arab village to study.

HASSAN AGBARIA, PRINCIPAL, BRIDGE OVER THE WADI SCHOOL (through translator): The corona, this crisis, what it did was took down the blockages of stereotyping that people would look at someone and see him as if in a box. They would take him out of his box. Hassan is in Arab. Is he Muslim or a Christian? Is he like this? Or like this?

LIEBERMANN: Some of his former students have become doctors. It's a field where he says advancement is based on professionalism and little else.

AGBARIA (through translator): This is obviously a welcome change. This change did not just happen. It came from a change in understanding, both from the Arabs and the Jews. It's a change of both sides. You can't have a real change with only one side. It's a public discourse. It's a real discourse that says everyone here should be equal.

LIEBERMANN: The coronavirus crisis has accelerated that discourse in a time of great medical need. But is the appreciation across Israeli society merely transitory, or can it prove lasting?

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Kafr Qara.


HOLMES: Thanks for your company everyone and watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate it. CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS, FACTS AND FEARS," that's coming up next. Stay tuned.