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Car Rental Firm Hertz Files For Bankruptcy; Precautions Taken As India Resumes Domestic Flights; Israeli P.M. Denounces Charges, Says It's A Coup; Americans Ignore Social Distancing Rules and Celebrate Memorial Day; President Trump Plays Golf Amid Pandemic; U.S. Suspends Travel from Brazil Due to Coronavirus; Prime Minister Boris Johnson Defends Top Adviser; Spain Eases Restrictions on Two Major Areas. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi. Welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN of course, and I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, just ahead, crowds in the U.S. are packing the beaches this holiday weekend as fears grow that it could result in an early second wave. And then Boris Johnson is standing by his top advisor amid a scandal that is rocking the U.K. We're live in London with that.

Plus, Dr. Deborah Birx issues a public plea about coronavirus, the steps she wants everyone to take.

It is Memorial Day here in the U.S. and as Americans prepare to honor their fallen service members, they are also mourning the people they have lost to the coronavirus.

The death toll from the epidemic is quickly approaching 100,000 people. That is higher than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and 9/11 combined. And even though a country still hasn't emerged from the pandemic, more Americans are heading outdoors.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

One of these images in Missouri, dozens of people attended this crowded pool party over the holiday weekend. And as you can see, everyone crammed in together in violation of safety guidelines.

And they weren't the only ones. All across the U.S., people flock to beaches, restaurants, and public parks. The large crowds are now raising concerns of another wave of infections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: We are trying to understand, during this period of coming out of closure, how do we maintain openness and safety? And I think that's what we're going to be learning through May, June, and July.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: But you don't see the country closing down again?

BIRX: It's difficult to tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Well our correspondents across the globe are working their sources to bring you the information you need. Natasha Chen and Rosa Flores have the latest on the America's beaches. Well, let's start with them.

Well, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, one of the many places in the U.S. where crowds gathered for the holiday weekend, even as state health authorities announced coronavirus numbers hit 10,000 for the first time. The pandemic did not seem to be on people's mind, as Natasha Chen now explains.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: People here on Myrtle Beach are for the most part practicing social distancing by keeping apart from the next party.

And the city manager tells me that, for the most part, this weekend has been extremely peaceful, with the exception of a shooting incident overnight Saturday into Sunday in about the same spot where another shooting happened the previous weekend.

So, some of that behavior prompted the city to form a resolution and an executive order giving police a bit more authority to do things such as shutting down businesses from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. if they need to.

Now, in general, masks are recommended by the governor, by the city, I keep mine on when I'm not on camera especially when I'm interviewing people, but otherwise, we do not see anyone wearing them. Here is what beachgoers said to me about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wouldn't know a pandemic was going on by looking at the beach today. You just wouldn't. Because even during other summer's, people are about to spread out about that they are today. It's about the same. People usually don't sit that close to each other. They give each other a little bit of space.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes there is some people wearing masks, but I'm not wearing one. So, I should have a mask, but I don't have a mask on right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So like, since I've been here, honestly, no. I mean, you're the first mask honestly I've seen, if I've being honest. Everybody here is just kind of letting it fly.

CHEN: Another indicator that things feel pretty normal here, a lot of people are heading to the restaurants that so desperately need those tourism dollars right now.

But there are so many people that the city manager, in fact, told me that when city staff went out to regulate that 50 percent capacity, they had to tell a couple of restaurants to show some patrons out the door for exceeding that limit. Natasha Chen, CNN, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Pensacola Beach, Florida and I want to show you around because here is what people are doing to make sure that they social distance.

If you look behind me, you'll see that the umbrellas are separated more than 6 feet apart. Now, this allows families to have a good time, intermingle, but also social distance in that way they don't have to be intermingling with other families.

[02:05:04]

Now, this is definitely a downward scale from what Memorial Day weekend normally is here in Pensacola. I talked to the county commissioner that represents this area and he says normally this beach would be shoulder to shoulder. There would be concerts going on.

At the other end of the island, Pride Week would also be going on, which brings in about 50,000 people. So, this is definitely a downgrade in the number of people but take a look at the numbers because he was able to help us out with some figures.

If you compare Memorial Day weekend 2019 to 2020, it almost looks the same. Take a look at these numbers. From Thursday to Monday, according to this commissioner, there were about 85,000 cars that drove into Pensacola last year.

This year, he was able to get the numbers for us from Friday to Sunday at about 1:50 p.m. and that's about 50,000 cars. But if you just compare Saturday, it's about 20,000 cars coming into Pensacola.

Now, this is a very drivable beach because people from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, drive to this beach for a Memorial Day weekend. Now, I asked this commissioner the obvious question, is he concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, and here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BLENDER, ESCAMBIA BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: Certainly we are concerned about, that's why we closed the beaches to begin with in March. But of course, as we learn more about it, as people know more about the symptoms and what to do we have been very fortunate that we've had a lot of testing available here. And so if people are experiencing any type of symptoms or anything like that, then they need to get tested if they come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: According to the county commissioner, 34 lifeguards have been on duty throughout Memorial Day weekend, and if you look around me, you'll see that a lot of social distancing is going on, but not very many people are wearing masks. And that is because while social distancing is required, masks are not. Rosa Flores, CNN, Pensacola Beach, Florida.

CURNOW: Meanwhile, in Virginia, President Trump was also spotted to join the holiday weekend without a face mask. CNN's Kristen Holmes has the details on that.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump spending his Memorial Day weekend similar to hundreds of other Americans across the country, outside and without a mask.

President Trump, golfing for the first time since early March and he was seen not really social distancing and not wearing a mask. But one of his closest advisers and the coordinator of the Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx, expressed a lot more caution.

She said that people should be social distancing, and she explained that there is science behind wearing a mask. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIRX: We have said to people is there is clear scientific evidence now, by all of the droplet experiments that happen, and that others have done, to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others. And out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing mask in public when we cannot social distance. It's really critically important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And Dr. Birx also raise questions as to whether or not the U.S. was doing enough to test and trace asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus. But I do want to note one thing here. You know, we heard President Trump saying that we're back.

He also said that they weren't going to close down the country again, no matter what happen. And it's important to note this especially after a weekend like this one where we saw hundreds of people out on beaches, outside, not social distancing, and not wearing masks.

That the decision to close or open the states depending on cases, is done by the governor. So, those governors, who some of whom have already really pled with the citizens, the residents of their states, to wear a mask to be safe, those are going to be the ones who are going to try to do what's best for their community as we move forward. Kristen Holmes, CNN, the White House.

CURNOW: Thanks Kristen for that. Well, let's go to Dr. Darragh O'Carroll. He works in one of Hawaii's busiest emergency rooms and he joins me now live from Honolulu. Great to see you doctor. What are your feelings and thoughts as you watch and listen to all of those folks on the beaches, in bars, even the president playing golf, not heeding to any of the social distancing or mask advice? Oh, and I don't think the doctor can hear me. Dr. O'Carroll, can you

hear me? Nope, I don't think we have him. I think we're going to move on. You're watching CNN. So, still to come -- let's just hear. My producer telling me he might be back. Let's just see. Doctor, are you there? Can you hear me? It's Robyn here in Atlanta.

DARRAGH O'CARROLL, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Yes, hi.

CURNOW: Oh, yes, we've got you. I wanted know, well, I don't know if you managed to hear what we were saying a little bit earlier on.

[02:09:58]

But you know, I wanted to know, you said as a doctor, you work in one of the busiest emergency rooms in Hawaii. What are your concerns and fears when you hear that people aren't social distancing?

O'CARROLL: Yes, it is worrisome and that, you know, if you just take history in general from past pandemics, like the Spanish influenza in Philadelphia when people started ignoring social distancing rules, (inaudible) one of the worst outbreaks if not the numerous outbreaks in the history of the U.S. when it comes to Spanish influenza.

And even, you know, just in a relatively short period in history of this outbreak, when people started ignoring the social distancing rules having -- there was a large outbreak in California when there was a Mother's Day service with churches. It does make me nervous and the virus is out there in many places, in more prevalence than Hawaii.

Hawaii, we're still pretty low, and it still makes my population - concerns for our population and community pretty high, when people are ignoring the social distancing rules.

I've been working throughout this Memorial Day weekend, so I haven't been outside or to the beach to see personally, but I do know and have seen via some friend's social media outlets that people are out and not wearing masks, not abiding by the 6 foot social distancing rules, so it is concerning.

CURNOW: And when you see, you know, these images, and a lot of them are on social media, whether that pool party in Ozarks, whether it's you know, folks who are on the beach and look at this, I mean, this is -- it's kind of crazy considering we're in a middle of a global pandemic.

I mean, as one person quipped, you know, that's curving the curve. That's not flattening it. What comes out of this? I mean, infections and possibly deaths. And then why do you think people aren't listening to scientific advice here?

O'CARROLL: You know, I cannot answer that specifically for everyone, but I think there is a large proportion of people who are, one, disregarding the scientific advice that's coming from the top minds in our country.

And also when President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence aren't wearing masks outside, I think it gives a little bit more power to that movement. And I'm voting for - excuse me, not voting, but rooting for all of our leaders at this time to show the right guidance and demonstrate to the people of America that this is what we need to be doing to keep our numbers down.

And scientifically, to explain it, you know, I think all familiar with the term R naught or R0, and that there are four big variables to determine that, and you can remember them by the acronym DOTS, D-O-T- S, and O stands for opportunity.

And the more that we're mixing together, the more that we're coming closer by all of these gatherings in the Ozarks, in Arizona and Florida, all over the country, we are increasing the R naught because it's a fluid number.

And so when this R naught is already really high, 2.5 to 3, when you compare that seasonal influenzas, R naught of 1.3, it can have disastrous consequences and we won't know that for another two to three weeks. And so that's what's worrisome about it to me.

CURNOW: And you are about to go on shift to do the overnight shift in the E.R. You're about an hour before you leave your house. When you look at these images and you talk about how this is opportunity for the virus to spread, I know in the early days there was conversations about herd immunity that actually it's okay if you will get it, people will, you know, build up immunity and antibodies? What do we know now about that and can that be relied on?

O'CARROLL: Well, I think we can really just siphon off exactly what the World Health Organization, and even the American Medical Association says, that we do not know in any conclusivity do antibodies convey protection.

There's just hasn't been enough time, hasn't been enough studies. And if you look at the benign human coronaviruses, we know that we can get re-infected with those, you know, those are the viruses that cause about a third of the common cold viruses symptoms that, you know, ripped our world and our country every cold season.

And even in MERS and SARS, SARS virus kind of died out pretty quickly because there were no asymptomatic carriers. But with MERS, we were able to study those and we see that antibodies aren't lasting forever. And so it's, you know, the Sweden approach of reaching herd immunity quickly.

Sweden is having, you know, a lot more deaths than their neighboring countries and their ICUs are full and outcomes are going to be poorer than the rest of Scandinavian countries. So I think herd immunity is kind of dehumanizes the plight that we're in.

It's borrowed from animal husbandry and the veterinary world. It is a concept that I think every life, you know, is one that we should value and the quicker this virus spreads, the more lives are going to be taken.

[02:15:01] CURNOW: And that's expertise from you, doctor. Thank you for joining

us. Thank you for all the work that you're doing. I'm going to let you go and get ready for another shift this Memorial Day. Thank you.

O'CARROLL: Thank you Robyn.

CURNOW: Have a lovely day. So you're watching "CNN Newsroom." Still to come, the British prime minister defending his top advisor, the latest fallout over his alleged breach of lockdown rules.

Plus, the grim new warning on U.S. unemployment, way a key White House adviser says the numbers will only get worse as you just heard.

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CURNOW: That's Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday. He was greeting, shaking hands with and embracing supporters at a rally, all while not wearing a mask. A

s you can see, this has been Mr. Bolsonaro's typical behavior during the worsening health crisis in Brazil. On Sunday, officials said nearly 16,000 cases were reported within 24 hours. The U.S. announced it is suspending all travel from Brazil.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still defending his senior adviser Dominic Cummings, this as Cummings faces allegation he twice broke the country's lockdown rules by traveling. Cummings denies the allegations and says he isn't stepping down. This is what the prime minister had to say.

[02:20:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I've had extensive face to face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I've concluded that in traveling to find the right kind of childcare, at the moment when both he and his wife were both about to be incapacitated by coronavirus, and when he had no alternative, I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: That is not enough for many people who have been facing weeks of lockdown that Cummings helped to design. Here, he was being heckled in London. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom is terrified. My dad has had three shoulder operations (inaudible) left without his shoulder and she won't even let him walk in the garden, won't let him go to the pub, and won't let him sit on the bench. She won't even entertain me in her garden with a tent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you recommend Barnard Castle for a day out? (END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Well, Hadas Gold joins me now from London. You know, nothing lets the Brits get passed - pass the Brits by when it comes to a good hackle. But really, this is riled a lot of people in the country, hasn't it?

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: It definitely has, Robyn, just because of the impression that it's giving to people that while the government advice was pretty clear for most people, they were interpreting it as do not leave your house.

Don't travel anywhere if you are feeling fine, and especially if you have symptoms of coronavirus, do not leave your house for at least seven days until after the symptoms have subsided.

But what they are hearing over this past weekend was that this top most adviser to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, traveled more than 250 miles to a family property in order to be closer to family that they could help take care of their son, when both of the parents were ill.

But many people in the U.K. were saying, hey, I was in the same situation, but I understood the advice saying don't go anywhere, maybe have people come to you to take your child, but do not travel, especially not more than 250 miles.

I mean, people were being told don't even travel, you know, 10 miles out of the city in order to go on a walk or anything like that. That was the advice at the time. And the criticism has just been pouring in over the weekend.

Members of Boris Johnson's own party have been tweeting that Dominic Cummings needs to go, that it's spending precious political capital that this government needs in order to try to get people to adhere to the social distancing rules.

But as you heard at that Sunday press conference, Boris Johnson was quite defiant, standing by Dominic Cummings. The labour opposition party has called for an investigation, calling Prime Minister Johnson's press conference treating the British public with contempt.

And what's even more interesting is actually this tweet that came out from the U.K. Civil Service. This is the organization -- this represents all of the permanent staff of the U.K. government. A tweet went out that was deleted after about 12 minutes shortly after that press conference said, arrogant in offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?

Thought the tweet was quickly deleted, not before it was re-tweeted and liked tens of thousands of times. And even perhaps more surprising, is the conservative leaning "Daily Mail" newspaper with a cover this morning, calling on Cummings to resign immediately, Robyn?

CURNOW: Okay, keep us updated. I think this is going to be moving throughout the week. Thanks so much, Hadas Gold, appreciate it. Good to see you.

Now, after a two-month lockdown, Spain's top two cities are opening up this week. Barcelona and Madrid, are included in areas moving into phase one of reopening. Meetings of up to 10 people will be allowed, restaurants can serve patrons outside at 50 percent capacity.

On Sunday, health officials say that there was a small increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths, but numbers were stable in intensive care units. So for more on all of this, I'm joined by Al Goodman in Madrid. Al, what can you tell us?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi Robyn. The two biggest cities in Spain as you say, finally getting off of the most restrictive and fine (ph) measures, took 10 weeks for them, and those meetings of up to 10 people that are now allowed in this phase one, that's 10 people you don't live with.

Because the whole point of the confinement order and the stay-at-home order was to keep the people separated and it did bring the infection rate down. The death rate has been declining, the people in the ICU are declining.

So, under this new phase one for Madrid, and Barcelona, outdoor cafes, this one is still locked up and others near my home here in central Madrid are still locked up. Spaniards often take their coffee inside their house or something, but they will surely be opening up later this day.

This is right across the street from one of the major hospitals in the capital, which treated so many COVID patients. It even had a field hospital set up. So there is a real sense of relief here. That's about half the country on phase one.

The other half, just about the other half is on a more advanced opening. Phase two, there'll be meetings, you can have 15 people meet.

[02:25:01]

Restaurants outdoors and indoors with some limitations. Shopping centers open in phase two. This includes the Balearic and the Canary Islands, Spain's islands in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Much of this coast of Andalucia, the south coast along the Mediterranean, all eyes looking towards tourism.

The prime minister announcing on the weekend that the nation will open up to international tourism in July, and that international visitors, and Spaniards, can start make their plans for the beaches, which will also be limited in terms of the number of people.

You might need an appointment. They'll be spaced. Everybody trying to keep the two distance, the authorities trying to keep people two meters or six feet apart so that there is not a second wave here in Spain, which has been so hard hit by the coronavirus, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, it certainly has been. Al Goodman there, thank you so much for tat live update. Thanks, Al. So after being grounded for two months, domestic flights in India are

taking off once again, but it comes right as the country sees a surge in new coronavirus cases. We speak to India's civil of aviation minister, that is just ahead.

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CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers joining us here in the U.S. and all around the world. It is 30 minutes past the hour wherever you are. I'm Robyn Curnow, and of course, you're watching CNN. Thanks for joining us.

Now, the United States' bleak unemployment picture is only going to get worse -- that message from a senior White House economic adviser. On Sunday, he told CNN that he believes May's unemployment rate could be "north of 20 percent."

[02:29:56]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISET: My expectation is that since there are still initial claims for unemployment insurance in May, that the unemployment rate will be higher in June than in May, but then after that, it should start to trend down.

So, I think we're very, very close to an inflection point in terms of business activity, and probably about a month away in terms of employment.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think unemployment is going to be even higher?

HASSETT: Yes, it's going to be quite a bit higher. And you know, there are still some technical things that kind of messed up, and an economics lecture we go into them, but it could be if they fix the numbers, and fix the thing that they mischaracterized last time, they'll end up with a number north of 20 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, he also said, we could still see double- digit unemployment in October and November, as voters prepare to go to the polls.

Now, some of America's best-known companies have been declaring bankruptcy amid the sudden and massive economic downturn. Just before the weekend, car rental firm, Hertz, became arguably the highest- profile bankruptcy of the COVID-19 crisis. It's among the latest in a string of well-known American brands, like J.C. Penney, and Neiman Marcus, to file for bankruptcy just this month.

Well, let's go to Anna Stewart. Anna, joins us now from London, with more on all of these pretty dire numbers.

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, shocking news from Hertz. And this is a company that already let 12,000 people go, they announce their cuts in March, and they have 4,000 people -- sorry, 4,000 people already on furlough. And they added to another lengthy list really of companies that have filed for bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic. So, we have J. Crew, we have J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and of course, many companies in Europe as well, Flybe, a British airline.

Now, Hertz called the impact on demand sudden, and dramatic. No surprises, there, Robyn, two-thirds of their revenue come from airports, and people padding to an airport, and renting a car. Of course, that has all came to a standstill, and as well as a company, I have to say like many of the ones that we are seeing filing for bankruptcy that possibly were in the best position anyway heading into this crisis.

Now, it doesn't plan to throwing the towel, the idea filing for bankruptcy means their hopes to restructure those debts it hopes to return post-pandemic much stronger. But, the uncertainty it says, the concern that it has is that revenue may not return for some time.

When you look at airlines particularly, I speak to analysts a lot about when can we expect to see normal travel again? We're looking at 2023 to 2026. So, a big, big dip in revenues for some times.

If a companies like this, they really need a big restructure and a big rethink how they're going to approach post-pandemic, how they can go back to normal. And when you look at each business, and you got to see it's sort of a jigsaw puzzle, so, the rental car business in terms of the whole of the U.S. economy is such an integral one. Not only does it hire tens of thousands of people in and on -- in and of itself, but it also contributes, of course, to the wider employment picture.

Rental car companies purchase around ten percent of new cars in the United States. So, really important to see how these businesses can be saved. But also having can be sustainable for the future, because frankly, it doesn't look good, it doesn't look like they'll need as many people working for them as it did pre-pandemic. Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks so much. Anna Stewart, there. Thanks to that live report and for your kitty cat joining us as well. Thank you for that.

So, South Africa will reopen most of its economy beginning June the 1st that could lead to some much-needed relief for those impacted by the lockdown. Many thousands of people have had to wait in lines that can go on for miles and miles for food aid. As you can see from these drone footage -- from these drone footage.

Now, under the new regulation, flights remain grounded except for cargo. Schools though will begin to reopen in phases. The alcohol ban will be lifted for home consumption only, but the ban on cigarettes remains in place.

Meanwhile, India is also making a push to restart its economy. Domestic flights are resuming today across the country. Air travel has been grounded there since late March and it comes as India, though, reports a record spike in daily coronavirus cases for the second day in a row. Vedika Sud, reports now on the precautions being taken as airports begin to reopen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VEDIKA SUD, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: Most airports in India have reopened after two months in lockdown. While domestic air services resumed one- third of its operations, new standard operating procedures are being strictly implemented to encourage contactless travel.

On arrival at the Delhi Airport terminal, self-service kiosks will have print boarding passes and bag tags. Passengers will undergo a quick temperature check while their luggage goes through ultraviolet disinfection tunnels. These measures have been infused to prevent COVID-19 infections.

VIDEH JAIPURIAR, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, DELHI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Overall, about 45,000-50,000 passengers in terms of departure and arrival is the level that we're looking at.

[02:34:55]

SUD: Only security personnel would check documents handed over by passengers. Now, they stand behind glass shields to verify identification papers. Thermal scanners have been placed at the entrance of the Delhi Airport to detect any active cases of coronavirus.

Efforts are also on to avoid any contact with airline staff behind counters, check-in bags are to be dropped off at designated areas.

After clearing security where self-distancing will be given priority, travelers will be guided to the waiting lounge, where a distance between seats will be maintained. Strict guidelines have also been issued over ticket pricing and cabin crew.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI, MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION, INDIA: The cabin crew will be required to be in full protective gear, full protective suit.

SUD: While also safety precautions have been announced, keeping the middle seats of flights are vacant isn't one of them. Full flights are still allowed to operate.

DR. NARESH TREHAN, CHAIRMAN AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, MEDANTA HOSPITAL: Wherever possible and that's my preference. Middle seats should be kept vacant, it only helps to distance, it doesn't harm.

SUD: At a time when India is witnessing a consistent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the government of India has taken a bold step with its decision to reopen the skies for domestic travel. Is this a risk worth taking? We'll be watching. Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: OK. So, let's speak to the man in charge of reopening India's skies to travel, Hardeep Singh Puri is India's civil aviation minister, and he joins me now from New Delhi.

Sir, good to see you. Thanks very much for joining us here at CNN. Why have you taken this decision now? And as you heard our correspondent say there from the airport, is it worth the risk now?

We appear to have lost him. We will try and get him back. In the meantime, you are watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. And of course, we'll continue to cover all the news after the break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:40:12]

CURNOW: Day one of the Israeli prime minister's corruption trial is in the works, and Benjamin Netanyahu, says it's all part of a political coup against him. He's facing charges of corruption, bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three criminal cases. Well, Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, entered room 317 in Jerusalem District Court, marking the start of his criminal trial. He stood, defiantly, refusing to sit in the defendant's chair, until the camera was removed from the courtroom.

Inside, he told the three-judge panel, he understands the charges against him: bribery, and fraud, and breach of trust, but said little else during the hearing.

In the State of Israel versus Benjamin Netanyahu, the president fired his first shot before the hearing began.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Elements in the police and prosecution have aligned with a left-wing press in order to stitch up hallucinatory and false cases against me, with the aim of toppling a strong prime minister from the right.

LIEBERMANN: The criminal trial is just beginning, expected to take years. But the court of public opinion, or at least, its rival hubs, decided long ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not alone and we are grateful about everything that he's doing.

LIEBERMANN: Dueling protests faced off outside. Those demonstrating in support of Netanyahu, those demonstrating against. No matter the outcome, half the country will feel their side lost.

Senior members of Netanyahu's Likud Party came to the courthouse to support the 70-year-old head of state. They stood behind their leader as he attacked the media and the judicial system.

NETANYAHU: I hear it from so many citizens, telling me, be strong. We don't by that nonsense. We all understand they stitched up a case against you. Elements in the police, the prosecution, the media, are trying to commit a government coup against the will of the people.

LIEBERMANN: Right before the hearing, Netanyahu held his new government's first Cabinet meeting, where he spoke about coronavirus, and the budget, showing its business as usual.

His coalition partner, and former rival, who sworn never to serve under an indicted politician didn't mention the court proceedings either. This is the country's new normal, a prime minister on trial.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Oren Liebermann, joins me now live from Jerusalem. Oren, good to see you. Certainly, a dramatic day in Israeli history. But, has it done any damage to the country's longest-serving P.M.?

LIEBERMANN: At this point, it certainly doesn't seem like it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been fighting this day for more than three years. He's attacked not only the entire investigation process, but that has built into attacks from his allies, and his closest colleagues, against the attorney general, and the -- and the investigative process, and that culminating in what we heard now.

In terms of how's anybody's opinion change just because we saw the opening of a trial, does not seem like get it out all. Netanyahu knew this was coming, and as you saw from his speech -- it was quite a lengthy speech actually, he was very much ready for it.

And then it was his former rival turn partner, Benny Gantz, he put out a short statement on Twitter, saying, Netanyahu has the presumption of innocence, and he trusts the court system.

So, he wasn't exactly firing back in Netanyahu's attack and the investigative process to this point. Meaning, Netanyahu knows he's in good shape right now, politically, and legally, he at least a few years. Because this entire trial is not expecting to go quickly at all.

CURNOW: OK. So, it's day one. And you mentioned it in your piece that the position of these former rivals who are now ministers -- I mean, how do they fit into all of this? And how do you see playing out?

LIEBERMANN: Well, it was the number one promise of Blue and White-led by his now partner, Benny Gantz that they refused to serve under -- a prime minister under indictment, except that, was the promise they broke to form this government even fracturing his own party.

In terms of defense of the judicious system, well, the new justice minister is from the Blue and White Party, he said he will defend the justice system. And again, Gantz put out that short tweet, saying he trusts the judicial system. But it hardly seems to match the attacks on the system we've just heard from Netanyahu and his closest allies.

Are they on in -- on in uncomfortable position? From the interviews, we have seen from Gantz, and there was one about a week ago, yes, it certainly seems like they're in an uncomfortable position, knowing they broke their key campaign promise. But, at this point, there is little they can do. When Gantz was asked what he feels about this position, and that he is now supporting Netanyahu, he says, what he's really supporting is the State of Israel, and if someone benefits from this, then so be it.

CURNOW: OK. Oren Liebermann, there. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

So, an earthquake hit New Zealand while the prime minister was live on television, but, Jacinda Ardern, as usual, kept her cool.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[02:45:03]

JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: The last thing we need is another shed for Clarke, he has two. We're just having a bit of an earthquake here, Ryan. Quite a -- quite a decent shake here. But if you see things moving behind me, the Beehive moves a little more than most.

Yes, no, it's just stopped. No, we're fine, Ryan. I'm not under any hanging lights. I look like I'm in a structurally sound place

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: So, you want leading you, isn't it? The Beehive is New Zealand's parliament building, the capital Wellington was shaken by 5.8 magnitude quake, but no reports of damage or injuries.

We'll be right back with more news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CURNOW: So, the U.S. President Donald Trump, will participate in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, but the ceremony will be close to the public.

It's only one of the ways that the virus has changed Memorial Day plans here in the U.S. as Boris Sanchez now reports.

[02:49:57]

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Even at a time of great uncertainty, there is still efforts underway this Memorial Day weekend to honor those Americans who lost their lives serving their country.

Though this Memorial Day weekend will be very different than in years past. With officials weary of having large crowds of memorials because of coronavirus, many ceremonies including wreath layings are going online.

The annual observance at the Arlington National Cemetery will be live- streamed and close to the public. Though on Thursday, about 1,000 old guard soldiers were allowed to continue the annual tradition of placing small American flags near each headstone, more than 240,000 in all. The cemetery only allowing family members visiting their loved one's gravesites this weekend and everyone will be required to wear face masks. Hoping to avoid big gatherings at monuments across the nation's capital, the National Park Service also planning to broadcast wreaths layings online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL LITTERST, SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: It wasn't a question of, are we going to do something or aren't we going to do something? It was a matter of, how can we still honor these fallen men and women while, at the same time, protecting our visitors and folks that might want to come out.

SANCHEZ: Meantime, the National Memorial Day concert will not have an audience on hand this year, it'll just be a virtual one. Well, Americans may not be paying their respects in person, this Memorial Day weekend will not go by without Americans in various ways, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Thanks, Boris, for that.

Now, we know that golf great Tiger Woods and football star Peyton Manning took the win raising more than $20 million for COVID-19 relief, as Patrick Snell now report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: It may have been wet and rainy, no caddies, no spectators, golf as we know it now. Instead, though, four global superstars who simply refused to have their spirits dampened.

There were cart camps, old rivals reacquainted, all mic up and most definitely not holding back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a coffee, I got (INAUDIBLE), and I got to step on one there. Come on baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man does have some calves.

TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR GOLF CHAMPION: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is what I have to listen to every time we play.

SNELL: There were also enticing challenges from the commentary booth at the event, presented by Turner Sports, a division of CNN's parent company Warner Media. The Match Champions for Charity, an all in support of COVID-19 relief. NBA legend Charles Barkley.

CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: You know what, Tom, because you're my man, $50,000 if you hit the green.

TOM BRADY, AMERICAN FOOTBALL QUARTERBACK: Nice. Chucky, save yourself $50,000.

BARKLEY: That -- you know, Tom, that was -- I shouldn't just say if you can just keep it on the planet.

SNELL: On that occasion, Brady, playing with Phil Mickelson was well off the green. Meantime, his longtime NFL rival, the narrow-tied Peyton Manning was partnering with Tiger Woods.

Manning gleefully draining a 25-footer much to the Master's Champions delight. As Woods also shared some personal insights after further back issues earlier in the year.

WOODS: It's been the nice bit home and they'll train each and every day and get some treatment on it, get into a routine basically. You know, I didn't have to play for a while, it's trying to peak for Augusta, and trying to get ready for that, and you know, all of this with this pandemic and anything has happened.

We've all been, you know, very careful, I've had to just stay at home and it's been good in that regard, and I've been all spend a lot of time with my kids which has been awesome.

SNELL: What followed at 7:00 though was quite extraordinary. Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion, he and Mickelson, three down at this point. But the legendary quarterback with the perfect response holding out from the fairway after some apparent ribbing from that man, Barkley.

BRADY: Just look at that Chuck. Wow.

BARKLEY: Hey, hey, hey, man.

BRADY: Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, check your mouth, Chuck.

SNELL: That shot alone earning an extra $100,000 courtesy of a donation from four-time major champion Brooks Koepka -- a majestic birdie. But then, came a somewhat humbling fall from grace for the Buccaneer's superstar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the way, did you just add some rain pants or change pants or --

BRADY: I split my pants. Well, there's so much torque in that swing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I got you.

BRADY: Yes.

SNELL: In the end, this would be a closed fort one-up victory for Woods and Manning. Live sports back albeit a brief temporary distraction from the devastating global pandemic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNELL: Well, there's plenty of fun and frivolity out there on the course at times. But there's also real power and purpose to Sunday in South Florida. And now, four global sporting icons who can say they played their part in helping to raise $20 million for COVID-19 relief efforts.

Patrick Snell, CNN, Atlanta.

[02:55:16]

CURNOW: And another man playing his part, actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila are hitting the road to deliver masks to hospitals in rural Texas. McConaughey is the spokesperson for the Lincoln car manufacturer, which donated 110,000 masks to the road trip.

He was born in Texas and posted this photo of his truck loaded up with boxes before the couple set off on their journey.

So, I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for your company. I'll be back same time, same place tomorrow. Rosemary Church is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Partying like there's no pandemic, a holiday weekend in the U.S. sees some Americans heading to the beach many making no attempt to social distance or wear a mask.

Also, the end of the beginning of the years of allegations and counterclaims, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is back in court for day two of his corruption trial.

And go for a good cause, sports fans finally get something to cheer about.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Good to have you with us.

END