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Emirates Resumes Passenger Flights To Nine Cities; France Scrambles To Save Tourism Industry; Cyclone Amphan Makes Landfall In India; WHO Reports Largest Ever Uptick in COVID Cases; Columbia University: Earlier Lockdowns Would Have Saved Thousands of American Lives; President Trump Puts All the Blame on China; Tropical Cyclone Amphan's Pulverizing Impact; Some Churches Reopening Despite Risks. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 02:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world, I'm Robyn Curnow.

Just ahead on the show, new modeling shows tens of thousands of lives could have been saved in the U.S. If it had shut down just a little bit sooner.

Also, cyclone Amphan has left widespread destruction and death in parts of India and Bangladesh. We'll have the latest on the storm from New Delhi.

And we speak to the children of one man who died from coronavirus as well as the nurses who cared for him, who went above and beyond to bring comfort to his family.


CURNOW: We begin with a wake up call for anyone who thought the coronavirus pandemic was under control. The WHO reports 106,000 new cases of the virus worldwide in the past 24 hours. That's the biggest one-day jump since the outbreak began.

About two thirds of those new infections are in the U.S., Russia, Brazil and India. Three of those countries already lead the world in overall cases.

And the U.K.'s John Boris Johnson -- and they all have a thing in common: leaders who have downplayed or even mocked the virus.

U.S. president Donald Trump famously predicted the virus would magically disappear. And Brazil's president has rallied against social distancing.

In the U.S., the death toll has now risen to above 93,000 people and it looks certain to hit the 100,000 mark by June the 1st. Still, the urge to reemerge has taken over. Nick Watt now reports.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Retail reopens in Miami Beach today, but not the beaches or the hundreds of bars and restaurants, not yet.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: This is to see how we do. We're a crowd-based city, so we want to make sure we don't draw too large a crowd.

WATT: In New York City, they're now installing ultraviolet lamps on buses and trains that flash and kill the virus during overnight cleaning to keep cramped commuters safe.

Starting tomorrow, in certain parts of the state, religious gatherings allowed, but 10 people max.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): As a former altar boy, I get it.

WATT (voice-over): And there's a renewed public education push.

CUOMO: You drive through some of these communities and you can see that social distancing isn't happening. PPE is not being used and, hence, the virus spreads.

WATT (voice-over): As of this morning, when Connecticut got rolling, all 50 states have now started reopening. Yet, in at least 18, including Kentucky, new case counts are going up.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): But the way we're reopening gives us the type of gradual and safe reopening, where we can do it while watching the data at the same time.

WATT (voice-over): Boston now targeting June 1 to start but taking more time than the rest of Massachusetts before opening up, say, office space.

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D-MA), BOSTON: For example, making sure that, when people go into buildings, they get temperature checks, they get asked some questions, some basic questions, making sure there's proper protocol in place, the tracing.

WATT: July 4th, still six-plus weeks away, is now the goal to have most businesses back open for the 10 million who live here in Los Angeles County, maybe even movie production.

DONNA LANGLEY, CHAIR, UNIVERSAL FILMED ENTERTAINMENT GROUP: The longer production remains shut down, the more full-time industry jobs are in jeopardy of being cut.

WATT (voice-over): And tonight, new concerns about the accuracy of the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida and Georgia, two states that were among the first to reopen.

In Florida, an official was removed from the team that publishes the number of cases and deaths online.

And in Georgia's online report, an error and a confusing graph brought criticism. The governor claims the data was accurate, but arranged differently than people expected.

WATT: And even here in cautious California, more than half of the counties have started to reopen. In Los Angeles, car wash, that is now a go again but it looks a little bit different. Every worker is wearing a mask and they are not just washing every car, they are also disinfecting them -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Thanks, Nick, for that.

So earlier, lockdowns and social distancing in the U.S. could have saved tens of thousands of lives, we now know. New modeling from Columbia University suggests that if Americans had started staying home just two weeks earlier, 83 percent of the deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented.

The lead researcher says it's not too late to learn from their findings.



JEFFREY SHAMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: As we loosen these restrictions, it's possible we are going to start to have the growth of the virus in a lot of communities if we are not careful, if social distancing practices lapse, if people aren't wearing face masks as they start to go to businesses and restaurants and theaters.

If we don't monitor this and if we don't recognize it really early and jump on it, it's going to jump out of control again. We are going to have problems again; we are going to have growth that's beyond our expectations and we are going to see surges of people coming into hospitals again.


CURNOW: We should note, though, this research is not been peer reviewed as of yet.

Now the members of the Trump administration have been taking shots at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, blaming it for shortcomings in the U.S. response to the virus. But the president now says the head of the CDC, Robert Redford (sic), is doing a good job. Kaitlan Collins asked Mr. Trump earlier about that earlier criticism.



TRUMP: No, not at all.


COLLINS: Do you think they did a good job with testing in the beginning?

TRUMP: Well, you know, you are asking me a wiseguy question at the beginning and, again, I didn't put CDC. CDC has been there long before the Trump administration came in. But they had a test that was -- was -- something happened to it, it was soiled. It was soiled and/or foiled.

But it was a problem, a short term problem that lasted for about a week.


CURNOW: Meanwhile, near the White House, a small group of protesters gathered on Wednesday to protest the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic. They staged a mock funeral, lining a park with body bags.

And the U.S. vice president not setting any good examples during a visit to a burger restaurant in Florida. Look at these images. You can see Mr. Pence is not wearing a mask, nor is he social distancing.

And in the coming day, we will whether President Trump dons a mask when he visits a Ford plant, where masks are required.

Dr. Darragh O'Carroll is an emergency room physician and joins us now from Honolulu, Hawaii.

Lovely to see you, Doctor, you just heard what the vice president was doing at a burger bar, no mask, no social distancing.

Is that a message you want your patients to see and hear?

DR. DARRAGH O'CARROLL, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: No. It definitely isn't. I think we all need to lead from the top and I encourage all of our leaders and I'm behind all of our leaders to really stand behind the science that our governments, our CDC, our National Institutes of Health are putting forward in that social distancing does work.

Mask wearing does work and I would hope that our leaders are going to abide by that and everything will trickle down from there. So it is a bit disheartening to see that.

CURNOW: I mean, you are working in an emergency room.

What has it been like?

I mean, Hawaii certainly also is dealing with this.

What has it been like as a doctor?

O'CARROLL: I come at a good time. I'm heading out to a shift in about 30 minutes. I work the graveyard shift here in Honolulu. Hawaii's been pretty responsive to the measures that have come down from the CDC, NIH and local leaders here. And I'm very proud of our state in that we've only had 640-something cases, less than 100 active. Only 17 deaths.

It's a testament to the community of Hawaii, the values that we have that have bubbled up from our, you know, just the roots of these islands and that's aloha and love and kokua, responsibility to our communities.

That's what we all should be doing throughout the world, is what's good for yourself and your family and your neighborhood, is good for the community as a whole.

CURNOW: That's certainly a message that can and has been heard by many people but we also know that the latest data coming out, that if the U.S. had started social distancing or lockdown one week earlier, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. If it had started two weeks earlier, over 80 percent of the deaths would not have happened.

It's just startling to think of this missed opportunity, of all those lives that have been lost.

O'CARROLL: Yes, it is -- could be startling, again, that study needs to be peer reviewed. Again, we are always out to emphasize all of these studies are coming out before peer review can happen.

But if it does turn out to be that these are -- this is the case, it's something we need to, like your prior expert alluded to, we need to take a lesson and move forward. That when these secondary and tertiary curves do happen and they are going to happen, once we start lifting our economies and people will start moving around more, it's that we need to listen to the guidance.

That we do need to continue to wear our masks.


O'CARROLL: We do need to continue to socially distance and use every method that we have possible as a quiver in our -- an arrow in our quiver to combat this disease.

What we want to achieve is a controlled brush fire and as soon as we start mixing around without the proper social distancing measures, that brushfire will turn into a large forest fire that no hose can water down.

CURNOW: That's a really good analogy. As a doctor and, I mean, so many doctors and epidemiologists are looking at this virus and asking so many questions. So much about it is still such a mystery.

As a doctor, for you, what is the main question you have about how it works, how it harms the human body?

O'CARROLL: It's been really interesting to -- you know, maybe interesting is the wrong term -- it's perplexing and really throwing us a lot of physiological loops that we never thought that we would be in.

These little oxygen levels that patients are coming in, like why are these happening?

And the pulmonary physiology behind where most adults are affected for, has really, you know, at first we were intubating everyone very early. We have now recognize that that's not the right treatment and that we are letting people ride in oxygen levels where they should be a healthy, normal human 96 percent and above.

We are letting people ride in the 70s, 80s as long as they don't look too bad. And that's unfathomable to me. Prior to this pandemic, anything lower than 80 percent would make me nervous. So it's really changed our thinking.

And so, it's a testament to science and it's a testament to the global community in really standing up, doing the amount of studies that we need to combat this disease. And there's a meme that I saw in a tweet by a renowned climate scientist the other day, where it was 10 words, that said, "Dear epidemiologists, we feel for you. Love, climate scientists."

What I think and one can take out of that, let's listen to the science. Let's listen to the evidence and let's go by that. I think, as long as we do that, we will raise out of this.

CURNOW: With a healthy respect. Dr. Darragh O'Carroll, I really appreciate you joining us there. I know you've got go off on your shift, so thank you for your time.

O'CARROLL: Of course. Thank you.

CURNOW: So President Trump is now ramping up his criticism of China's response to the pandemic. This time, all but blaming President Xi Jinping. Earlier, he tweeted China's incompetence led to, quote, "mass worldwide killing," and he said it all comes from the top, although he stopped short of naming President Xi.

We know in the recent past, he has showered China and his counterpart in Beijing with praise. Take a listen.


TRUMP: And now we're friends to China. In fact, maybe we have never had a better relationship, and we are working with them very closely on the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned that China is covering up the full extent of coronavirus?

TRUMP: No. China is working very hard.

We've been working very much with China. I've spoken as you know with President Xi. They went through hell, and their numbers are starting to look very good.


CURNOW: Anna Coren is not live in Hong Kong for us.

Anna, the U.S. president is accusing China of mass killing.

Have we had a response yet from China?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a pretty big, bold statement. We have been expecting a response from China within the next hour. That's when the ministry of foreign affairs delivers its daily press conference. So we should hear from them then.

But obviously, this is going to anger Beijing. I mean, Trump speaking glowingly of President Xi and the Chinese government back in January, February, even March. But in last couple of months, that rhetoric has changed in the finger-pointing and the blame game. It really has ramped up.

And this series of tweets from President Trump in the last few hours really shows that things are, you know, upping the ante, I should say.

I want to read the specific tweet that I'm referring to, when he doesn't mention Xi Jinping's name but he certainly refers to him.

He says, "A spokesman speaks stupidly on behalf of China, trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that the country spread throughout the world. Its disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe is a disgrace.

"It all comes from the top. They could've easily stopped the plague but they didn't."

Trump's critics are saying this China bashing from the U.S. president is all part of his reelection campaign. This really resonates with his base. You know, many people are receptive to his strong-arm policy when it comes to China and there is so much scrutiny on China at the moment, considering that, of course, is where the virus originated.


COREN: But this war of words between Beijing and Washington is certainly worrying many people in this part of the world.

CURNOW: It certainly is and it's not just about rhetoric and words, is it?

And there are real concerns about this threat, this talk being exacerbated, particularly by recent actions from the U.S. State Department.

COREN: That's right. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo yesterday congratulated the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen at her inauguration ceremony. She's been reelected for a second term and it's the highest U.S. official to congratulate the Taiwanese president. Now we have to remember that Taiwan is an incredibly sensitive issue

for China. It considers it part of the mainland. It talks of a reunification with Taiwan and has threatened to do it with force, if necessary.

Now Taiwan considers itself quite independent, that it has a democratically elected government and we heard from the president yesterday, where she struck a very defiant tone, rejecting that "One Country, Two Systems" policy from China. Take a listen.


PRESIDENT TSAI ING-WEN, TAIWAN (through translator): We will continue these efforts, and we are willing to engage in dialogue with China and make more contributions to regional security.

Here, I want to reiterate the words, "peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue." We will not accept the Beijing authorities' use of "one country, two systems" to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross- strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle.


COREN: A very different tone from President Tsai, compared to her first inauguration four years ago but she has the support of the United States. And Mike Pompeo's statement supporting her, you know, Beijing reacted very angrily, warning the United States of retaliation.

The Chinese defense ministry said that this seriously endangers relations between the 2 countries and the 2 militaries. Also, the peace and stability in the Taiwan strait. We should hear more from China in the next hour.

CURNOW: Thanks for that, Anna Coren live in Hong Kong. Thank you.

So India also recorded its largest single day spike in infections on Wednesday with more than 5,600 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country has surpassed 112,000 cases.

This week, Brazil's battle against coronavirus is also seemingly spinning out of control with record numbers of cases and a death toll now close to 19,000 people. Matt Rivers has the latest on the situation there.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day and another new daily record for the country of Brazil in terms of its newly confirmed cases. The government Wednesday evening reporting nearly 20,000 newly confirmed cases.

That brings Brazil's overall total to over 291,000, that's third highest in the world. Although, if you see the trend line that's been going on in Brazil for the past 2 weeks or so continue, then it's very likely that we will see Brazil soon pass Russia for second place on that list, at which point it would trail only the United States in terms of newly confirmed cases.

The death toll in Brazil is just shy of 90,000 at this point. As a result of all of this, the lower house of Brazil's parliament passed a proposed law that would make it mandatory for everyone to wear a mask when out in public.

Meanwhile, Brazil's health ministry is passing requirements, new regulations, that are a little bit more controversial. It was Wednesday that Brazil's health ministry authorized the use of both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat patients dealing with COVID-19 symptoms, the latter of which is the controversial drug that President Trump has said he has been taking, despite the fact that, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has said that both of those drugs should only be used in hospitals and during clinical trials, because they both pose grave risk of serious side effects and even have the possibility to kill -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: And still to come, cyclone Amphan carves a debate path as it marches ashore. The director of the response force joins me live.





CURNOW: We know at least 12 people are dead, thousands of homes are destroyed after cyclone Amphan made landfall in Eastern India on Wednesday. Flash flooding is expected in both India and Bangladesh.

Authorities have been working to evacuate millions of people. Those efforts have been complicated by the coronavirus. Relief teams are trying to get people out safely, while also keeping themselves healthy.


COREN: Churches across the globe are slowly reopening. But health officials still caution against crowded events in an effort to try and prevent the transmission of COVID-19.


CURNOW: Now those concerns are certainly on display in the U.S. as new cases forced some churches to close again, as Brian Todd now explains.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new indications of the dangers of reopening churches during this pandemic. The Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle Church in Ringgold, Georgia, and the Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston have closed their doors for the second time.

Several parishioners and leaders of those churches reportedly testing positive for coronavirus after they reopened in recent weeks. Officials investigating tonight whether a priest at a Houston church who died recently died of COVID-19.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: You bring a lot of people together, put them in small close quarters, you have a lot of, you know, proximity, people touching, people saying, you know, saying peace.

Bringing people together in religious events where frequently there could be crying, there could be shouting, there could be singing, I think all of those may bring significant risk of infection.

TODD: A church in rural Arkansas was what some call a super spreader. Two people who went to events there in early March initiating a chain reaction which infected at least 30 parishioners and killed at least three of them.

But tonight, experts are warning it's not just the formal services associated with churches which are dangerous but also their ancillary events.

DR. LEANA WEN, PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: There was a case where one infected individual spread to more than 50 just because of choir practice. Birthdays and funerals and other events where people are hugging and touching would also be such types of events, too.

TODD: Tonight, the state of New York is testing religious communities in New York City for antibodies of coronavirus and is starting to allow religious gathering again but only with a maximum of ten people at a time.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The last thing we want to do have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.

TODD: As thousands of churches reopen around the world, our ideas of a typical service are going out the window. This week, Pope Francis celebrated the first public mass in two months in St. Peter's Basilica, but only with a limited number of worshippers. Father Timothy Pelc in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, got creative on

Easter Sunday, using a squirt gun to dispense holy water to parishioners driving by.

Health experts are recommending drive-in services in parking lots, virtual services, temporary suspicions of church daycare. But one expert says it shouldn't be doctors or public officials who mandate those changes.

DEL RIO: I think it is not me as a physician to needs to tell them. I work with leaders of the community who then tell the congregation and the people that go to those churches and those synagogues and those mosques what they need to do.

TODD: So is this the end of large religious gatherings like on Christmas Eve, Easter, the Jewish and Muslim holidays?

The health experts we spoke to say it should be more of a pause. But it could be a long one. One expert says there could be recommendations coming that the next large religious gatherings that we see should not be held until around Christmas of 2021 -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: Thanks to Brian for that.

Coming up, one global airline is resuming some flights across the world.

But how many travelers really are ready to fly amid the pandemic?

And the pandemic is crippling the tourist industry, especially in France. We'll see how the industry there is hoping to survive when so many flights aren't even taking off.



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Live from Atlanta, here at the CNN Center, I'm Robyn Curnow. It is 30 minutes past the hour. So, the coronavirus pandemic has certainly crippled the airline industry across the world but Dubai based Emirates Airlines is hoping to rebound by resuming passenger flights out of the UAE to nine cities beginning on Thursday. Report say these will be the first regular non-repatriation flights out of Dubai since March the 24th.

Well, John Defterios joins me now from Dubai International Airport with more on all of that. So what's it like there?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, I tell you, Robyn, we're getting into an interesting glimpse into what the post COVID-19 travel world will look like. That's for sure. It's not the glitz and glamour we expected at Dubai with all the passengers coming into this very big hub between East and West.

And in fact, if you're a business traveler or frequent flyer, you cannot waltz into this airport 90 minutes to two hours before the flight. The requirement is four hours. And the first thing that you do when you come into this terminal is go through a thermal scan to check your temperature. If it's high, the Health Authority here in the UAE steps in to take a second look. And if it remains high, you cannot travel.

So this is an emphasis on precaution and distance going forward. And it's quite different even for the cabin crews themselves. It's a whole new world. Putting a barrier between them and the passenger onboard. Let's take a listen.


DEFTERIOS: You'll be donning a visor and a robe. But it almost feels like you're working in a hospital, not on an airplane itself.

ELISABETH KRAUS, CABIN CREW MEMBER, EMIRATES: It probably will feel like this, yes. It's got to be it new for me too. So I'm excited to see how it'll feel. But for sure, it'll be a very different than before because yes, you'll have all these measurements too. But just to be safe, so I feel like it's only a good thing and very positive.


DEFTERIOS: How's that for a difference, Robyn? And in the airport here, they have Plexiglas at the check-in counters as you can see behind me. They're loading up a repatriation fly for Bangladesh, so those continue beyond the commercial flights. But as you suggested, they have nine destinations, five going into Europe. We have two going to Australia, one to Canada and one in the United States to Chicago.

And at this stage, they're trying to measure the demand. But the early indications are, and I think this is a surprise to the upside, that the capacity so far has been 30 to 50 percent on the two flights we tracked, one to London and one to Milan, 50 percent in business class. So they'll increase frequency as they see the demand picking up here for the summer months.

CURNOW: Well, that's interesting. And why is Emirates pushing this? Why are they pushing so hard to get back in the air?

DEFTERIOS: Well, as I noted, Robyn, this is a major hub. And Emirates had 157 destinations before the pandemic set in, so they're starting gingerly with nine. But they want to obviously be on the front foot at this. It seems to be setting the pace in the industry here. So they're going through all the safeguards trying to rebuild passenger trust and suggesting, look, if we can do it, we can rebuild our bilateral ties with the different countries, prove that we can do this going forward, and then try to rebuild the GDP of the country.

According to Dubai airport, a third of the GDP and Dubai, this Emirate here, is dependent on air travel, for business exhibitions, for tourism feeding through here, and overall finance and trade in the country. It's slowed down dramatically, and Emirates is considering layoffs right now, like any other carrier around the world, Robyn. That's the reality today. So obviously they want to get out of the starting gate pretty fast.

CURNOW: Yes, that's certainly the reality. John Defterios, good to see you there in Dubai. So normally, France is the most visited country in the world. But these aren't normal times and the pandemic has crippled the tourism industry, as John was laying out clearly there.

So many people in France depend on the summer season, and they're trying to find new ways to survive. Here's Cyril Vanier.



CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Stunning views, majestic castles, centuries of history. The Loire Valley is one of the crown jewels of French tourism, drawing six million visitors a year from all over the world, an industry crippled by the Coronavirus.

After nearly two months of national confinements and with borders mostly shut to outside travel, tourists are now a rare commodity. Chateau Chaumont, once owned by the queen of France is one of the first in the region to reopen.

It's so come and it's so peaceful here. It's tempting to forget that there's a coronavirus epidemic, but of course you can't. In fact, the only reason the Chateau was able to reopen is because here too there are strict social distancing guidelines, mask on, gel on your hands. There's a predetermined route that you must follow through the domain, and the number of visitors has been kept in order to avoid crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's been a while since we haven't been out so it feels good.

VANIER: Just a trickle of visitors today, all of them locals. Travel is still limited to 100-kilometer radius. Martine and Jomari Harrouet had plans to visit Denmark and Uzbekistan this summer. That we'll have to wait.

MARTINE HARROUET, TOURIST (through translator): In a way, this period is very good, we often forget to visit these beautiful sites in France, but it's a magnificent country.

VANIER: The Chateau doesn't expect to see its usual foreign visitors this summer, about a third of its business they say. But the domain manager does see a silver lining.

CHANTA COLLEU-DUMOND, DIRECTOR, CHATEAU CHAUMONT (through translator): I hope that the increase in French visitors who come because they can't travel abroad will make up for the foreign visitors who sadly won't be able to come.

VANIER: Here in Paris, however, there's no silver lining on the horizon. The main attractions remain shut. The Eiffel Tower and the riverboats, not far from here, the Sacre Coeur, Arc De Triomphe, the Louvre Museum all closed, not to mention restaurants and cafes. And with Paris still considered a red zone for the coronavirus, there's no telling when any of them might be allowed to reopen.

With almost 90 million tourists a year, France is the most visited country in the world. Last week, the French Prime Minister said, saving the industry was a national priority. The government's bailout package for the sector includes guaranteeing bank loans to businesses and paying 80 percent of the salaries of furloughed workers.

For Yann, owner and manager of two hotels and a restaurant in the hearts of Paris, it's a lifeline. His last booking was on March 12th. Thanks to a 250,000-euro loan, he hopes to be able to survive the next few months, but desperately needs borders to reopen and travel to pick up.

YANN CHEVANCE, HOTEL OWNER: We need people to fly again. Tourism is airplanes. No airplanes, it really limits the amount of tourists that we're going to have.

VANIER: Until then, Parisians will have the streets of the capital to themselves. Cyril Vanier, CNN Paris.


CURNOW: Now, at least 12 people are dead thousands of homes destroyed after a Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Eastern India on Wednesday. Flash flooding is expected in both India and Bangladesh. And authorities have been working to evacuate millions of people.

In fact, the situation is so bad in parts of West Bengal, the head of the National Disaster Response Force S.N. Pradhan says one area has been quote pulverized. Well, Mr. Pradhan joins me now from New Delhi. Good to see you again, sir. When you say -- you use the word pulverized, I mean, it's very dramatic. Just describe the scenes that you know have played out.

S.N. PRADHAN, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, INDIAN NATIONAL DISASTER RESPONSE FORCE: Well, I think the context of that is there is a delta area which is called the Sundarbans area which is the (INAUDIBLE) delta which is at the mouth of the seat of the Bay of Bengal actually. And that is -- that is from where the cyclone came. So that area, that landmass has the delta area with mangrove forests and the villages, that has been affected most. The concentration of the impact has been more there.

Now of course, there are 66 (INAUDIBLE) in West Bengal which has been affected, and we just had the national crisis management and committee meeting headed by the head of bureaucracy in India, the cabinet secretary. And he talked to the Chief Secretary Bengal and his team of officers and it will be -- it'll take a few days more to exactly assess the actual damage in terms of quantity and value.

But the process has just started, but in the meanwhile, the National Disaster Response forces are making all efforts to restore normalcy in association with the local administration.

CURNOW: At the moment, we're reporting just 12 people dead. Do you expect that to rise and how significantly?

PRADHAN: Well, the 12 have not been officially confirmed. The information is seven today by the Chief Secretary of West Bengal to the cabinet secretary. But he did say that the numbers may rise so we would expect that once the -- once the search and rescue is complete, which is going on now, we would know the exact figure.


CURNOW: How are you managing to communicate? I understand comms are down in many of these areas. What are your teams saying to you on the ground if you can -- if you can speak to them?

PRADHAN: Yes, of course, I'm able to speak to them because we normally add protocols, these are different. We have our own closed-loop communication system and I'm able to video call also my teams on ground. And that is because we have dedicated communication for ourselves. So that is of course a plus for us.

And we are getting the ground report almost by the minute. And the situation is a little tough in a couple of districts, the impacted districts, I would call them, where the landfall actually happened. The South 24 Parganas and the East Midnapore districts of the West Bengal state. And they have been affected comparatively more than the other states because they were in the -- they were in the line of the first impact of the storm and also the water surge.

So, the temporary or what we call an Indian terms, kutcha houses which are made of mud and touched roofs and tin roofs and asbestos roofs, some of them have been damaged to a great extent. There's been damage to telecom lines and power lines in the South 24 Parganas. And so, the powers down the telecom is down and at least one district totally.

So, that restoration also will start very soon because the secretaries of the concerned ministry in the -- in the Government of India are on board. So all in all, I think It we should be starting all our operations in all respects, apart from saving lives and rescue within a few hours.

CURNOW: OK. And certainly, also, I know that rain is also going to play a huge part expecting continuing downfalls as well. Thanks very much for joining us. I know you're a busy man. I'm going to let you go so you can go and coordinate with your teams. Thanks so much, sir. S.N. Pradhan there, the head of the National Disaster Response Force there in India.

So, Boris Johnson says the U.K. will soon have contact tracing operations, but the country's COVID tracking app is already coming under scrutiny. We'll have a live report from London. That's next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Words can't say enough on what these people did for my father. You know, I really consider them really lucky to be able to hold my old man's hand when I really wish I could have held his hand and kissed him. They got to do that. So for me, they're the lucky ones, and they're the heroes in this.


CURNOW: Their father was Rainey Johnson. He wasn't able to be with his family when he died at the age of 65 from COVID. He had five children who would gather every day outside his hospital window in New Hampshire. They made signs telling him they loved him.

Every day, the nurses at the Catholic Medical Center would wave to them from inside. Well, after Rainey passed away, the nurses put up two signs where they had usually waived. And as you can see here, they read he is at peace. We are so sorry. Joining me now from Manchester, New Hampshire, Angela, Kevin, and

Randy. They are the children of Rainey Johnson. Also joining us are nurses, Samantha, Caitlin, and Lynn who cared for their dad. They're coming to us from the nurse's station in the ICU.

To all of you. Thank you so much for joining us. And that image that I think it was Caitlin and Lynn that held up, that one there, has gone viral because it just showed so much compassion. To the Johnson family, what did it mean to see those images?

KEVIN JOHNSON, FATHER DIED OF COVID-19: That just meant everything to us. It just meant that these people were just unbelievable, that they got to do what we couldn't get to do, was -- they got to hold my dad's hand. They got to talk to him, and they got to hug him.

And that's the only thing that I would have wanted in the world. I would have given anything. I'm telling you, anything I would have given just the whole my dad's him, or just to tell him that I love him, or just to give him a hug. I just really appreciate it. And I just -- I can't just get it out of my head that it's just unbelievable that these people can just do that. And they did it for me and they did it for my family and I'm just very grateful.

ANGELA DANEAULT, FATHER DIED OF COVID-19: We're truly grateful that if we couldn't be there, these nurses were the next best thing to us. And we'll forever be grateful for them being by his side through it all.

CURNOW: Kaitlyn, Lynn, you were there. That's the two of you holding up those posters, we are so sorry, he is at piece. What was that moment like?

KAITLYN KERRGAN, NURSE: Heartbreaking. It's hard to be inside and knowing the family couldn't be there with him. But we'd actually prior to that picture, we could put up signs that let them know that we're going to make him comfortable and hold his hand. And that's what we did. Lynn and I both were holding his hand when he passed and we made sure he had had pain meds and he was comfortable. And we just told him how much you guys love them.

LYNN HARKINS, NURSE: I told him what a beautiful family he had, and that he did a great job, and that he tried very hard to make this fight, and that his families out there every single day. And I just told him how much he was loved. And I grabbed his hand and held his hand the entire time of his passing.

CURNOW: Samantha, you will also caring for him throughout a lot of this and you often went to visit the family as they were standing outside in the park. That was also important for you, wasn't it, to make that connection and to thank them?

SAMANTHA JOYCE, NURSE: I really felt that this uncharted territory. You had a family that couldn't get to their loved one in the hospital. And I just felt like a family that was willing -- outside the window for hours and hours or days on end deserve an update by a real nurse with a real face and not over the phone through a respirator. CURNOW: Angela, Kevin, Randy, just talk us through that decision you made. Your dad went into hospital. He was at a care home. He went into hospital and you couldn't obviously come in. So you basically just camped out in the park by the hospital and you started making these signs out of sheets. Tell us what prompted that?

K. JOHNSON: I just -- I just want to make sure that everybody in there knew that my father just meant everything to me. And I was going to make sure that everybody knew that. You know, my father always had to be, you know, the big dog and he -- you know, he was the big dog to me and he was the big dog to everybody. And I just -- you know, I just wanted everybody to know that I wouldn't give up, to just for him to know how much I love him. I got to talk to him on the phone right up until I couldn't talk to him on the phone.

He seen me out in the park. I had binoculars, and he actually called my phone and said, Kevin, I see you all day with those binoculars. What the hell are you doing? And for him to see us, you know what I mean, he knew that I was out there. He knew that I wouldn't give up. I mean, I guess I would have given anything possible to just be able to hold his hand. I mean, unfortunately, you know, we can't. And these people, you know, these people, that's what they do. And I just don't understand how they can do that. It's just unbelievable.


CURNOW: And Angela and Randy, you're still out. You're still out on that park today. We just asked the nurses before we came on air if they had seen you. You really want to still continue this message even though your dad has gone, that you're grateful and thankful.

DANEAULT: Absolutely, that's our mission through the whole thing. That was exactly why I shared that photo. I truly didn't expect it to go viral, let alone global, now international. That was truly just a shout out to the nurses to show them how truly grateful we are through the whole entire ordeal. I mean, posting notes to us back on the windows, you know, holding their hands, touching the glass to us, sending us hearts back.

We'll continue to show how grateful we are not only to them, but you know, we're out there on a daily basis, just showing our love to other COVID patients, other sick patients, maybe that their families aren't out there showing them love.

CURNOW: And to all of your nurse -- all of you nurses there, you're in the ICU unit, you have other patients, you're going to go and care for them now. There are other families who are going to have to say goodbye. How much does this mean and the fact that this family is trying to raise money for you? What more do you need?

KERRGAN: Now honestly, it's -- to have the families that are out there, and that's a great support to us. But we have a great team here. We need -- we need each other, and we need the people outside of here to wear masks to protect their loved ones.

CURNOW: Well, thank you all. This has been a beautiful, beautiful example of compassion in some very difficult times. And our thoughts to you, to your father, Rainey, and to all the other patients, all you're caring for now, thank you, everyone.

KERRGAN: Thank you, Robyn.

K. JOHNSON: Thank you, guys, so much.

DANEAULT: Thank you, ladies.

CURNOW: Well, Rainey Johnson's family is giving back, as I said, to those nurses with the help of a GoFundMe page. It's called frontline as appreciation gift for CMC staff. We're going to take a short break. We'll be back now.


CURNOW: The British Prime Minister is coming under pressure for his reopening timeline as the British cases continue to rise. Many say the country is just reopening too soon. Boris Johnson says he's confident though that the U.K. will have a fully functioning test and trace operation by June 1st. Though there could be a small hitch. Researchers have identified potential security flaws in the country's COVID tracking app.

Our Nina dos Santos joins us now from London with more on all of that. Hi, Nina.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Robyn. Yes, this isn't the first time that we've seen security people raised concerns about the ability of this particular contact tracing app to be hacked, but they've also raised privacy concerns in the past.


Now what happened here essentially is that the NHS has opened this up to computer experts to try and test the security of this particular app before it's rolled out. And Australian researchers found that the data inside it could be accessed by hackers who could then go on to send false alerts about people whether or not they'd had coronavirus to alert some of their contacts.

They also said that they were fearful that law enforcement could use this in the wrong manner if they're trying to get a picture of who somebody had been in contact with. And they also said that when it comes to some of the code that's being used, it could give people a much longer, a timeframe to try and trace somebody's movements over the course of the day.

Other similar apps in places like Germany use randomized code that's updated far more frequently throughout the course of the day, and that involve vault -- voids, I beg your pardon -- that type of problem. This isn't the first time as I said that people have raised concerns about this.

The Henry Jackson society raised concerns earlier on in the month. Amnesty International also said that this particular contact tracing app could be used potentially in the future for keeping data on some of Britain's citizens. They were concerned about that largely because it is going to be going through a government server in a centralized fashion, which is a very different model to the one that other countries in Europe, for instance, have been espousing where they decentralized the data, so it can be more evenly anonymize.

Now, aside from the privacy concerns, and the security concerns, there's also the concern that this is going just going to be coming too little too late, Robyn. On the one hand, the government has been trying to recruit the staff that it needs to try and trace all of the people that they need to roll out these contact tracing capacities, to contact with people who've been in contact with somebody who potentially has coronavirus symptoms.

Boris Johnson in the despatch box just yesterday in the House of Commons said that this would be up and ready. 25,000 people would be ready to go on the first of June next month. But the opposition leader say, well, look, contact tracing was abandoned back in mid-March, and it shouldn't have been so much time has been wasted here. Robyn.

CURONOW: OK. Thanks for that update there. Nina dos Santos live from London. Thanks, Nina. Well, that's the show from us here in Atlanta. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for watching. And wherever you are, stay safe.