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Hala Gorani Tonight
Italy's Borders to Remain Open with Towns in Coronavirus Lockdown; Interview with Mohamed El-Erian; Interview with Celine Gounder; U.S., South Korea Postpone Military Drills Over Virus Fears; Virus Disrupts International Business And Travel; Syrian Regime Offensive Terrorizing Children In Idlib; East Africa Battles Worst Invasion In 25 Years. Aired 2- 3p ET
Aired February 27, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: A very warm welcome, everyone. I'm Isa Soares in London.
There is fear, and there is uncertainty over the coronavirus epidemic, spreading right around the world, especially as new cases multiply in Asia,
Europe as well as the Middle East.
Even though China is still in the epicenter, really the center of the outbreak -- as you can see there on your map -- the World Health
Organization said it's the rest of the world that's their, quote, "greatest concern." But they warned global panic is not the best response. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Our message continues to be that this virus has pandemic potential, and WHO
is providing the tools to help every country to prepare accordingly. This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action now, to prevent
infections and save lives now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: There are now nearly 83,000 coronavirus cases right around the world, more than 2,800 people have died. With regional epicenters in Italy
and Iran, neighboring countries are weighing whether to close the borders.
Several countries in the Middle East are imposing travel restriction and closing borders with Iran. Saudi Arabia is taking the extraordinary step of
suspending pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina, two of the holiest sites in Islam. The Kingdom hasn't reported any coronavirus cases yet. They're
trying to keep it that way, of course.
CNN's reporters, really covering coronavirus all around the world. Our Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea, where the number of cases has
spiked. Blake Essig is following the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. Fred Pleitgen, who has extensively covered Iran, will join
us later this hour in Berlin. John Harwood is in Washington, covering the Trump administration's handling of the virus; and CNN's Ben Wedeman is
following the outbreak in Italy, and that's where we begin this hour.
Italy's outbreak is growing exponentially. They're reporting 650 cases. The country's deputy health minister says they're not going to close Italy's
borders even though connected cases are popping up in other European nations. His argument? Since the most affected towns are in lockdown, that
should stop the virus from spreading.
Meanwhile, officials are still trying to locate patient zero. That is, the person who first transmitted a virus, hoping that can help them really
further contain the threat.
Ben Wedeman is with us this hour from Milan. And, Ben, authorities really trying to keep everyone calm. But what's the mood where you are? And are
authorities -- do Italians feel authorities have a handle on this?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there does seem to be an understanding that the authorities are challenged when it comes to
this crisis, but Italy does have a very good public health system. And, yes, the setting up of these red zones has been criticized in some quarters
as being a bit harsh.
Now, the latest numbers out of the government, as you said, 650 new cases. That's up 250 from the day before, so it's not altogether clear if they're
making great headway in stopping the spread of coronavirus. But we were out in the area, just outside the red zone nearby here, and people were
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Beyond this point, the red zone. Without special permission, you can neither enter nor exit. The Italian authorities
cordoned off the zones, home to more than 50,000 people, after the appearance and rapid spread of coronavirus within the last week.
But just five minutes down the road, in the village of Segonzano (ph), Daniele (ph) de (ph) Singrini (ph) and his family are out for a morning
He works at a company that installs home alarms, but the company is inside the red zone.
The coronavirus, he worries, is more than just a health hazard. We're already paying a high price, Daniele (ph) says. Stores are closed,
businesses are closed. There will be more suffering from the economic impact than from the virus itself.
His wife, Francesca (ph), just wants him out of the house. Living tightly together is bad for you, she says. He's used to moving around, going to
work, not spending much time at home.
Half the stores in Segonzano (ph) are closed because they're either owned or staffed by people now stuck in the red zone. Guadencio (ph) Sozzi (ph)
was the town's mayor for 15 years, now retired. Like many on the fringes of the red zone, he's keeping a cool head.
We need to confront the problem in a rational manner, he says. There's no point in getting overheated or going crazy.
Many of the coronavirus patients are being treated here, at Milan's Luigi Sacco Hospital, set up decades ago to treat an earlier scourge,
Dr. Giuliano (ph) Rizzardini (ph) runs the Department of Infectious Diseases and worked before in Africa during an outbreak of Ebola.
Are the red zones effective, I ask him.
It's still too early to say. We still haven't found patient zero, he says, referring to the person who brought coronavirus to Italy. It's the first
time something like this happens in Europe. It's a virus that spreads easily, made more complicated because it comes in the same season as the
This emergency is only just beginning.
WEDEMAN: Or emergency funding, given this current disaster -- Isa.
SOARES: Thanks very much, Ben Wedeman there for us in Milan.
Now, in the Middle East, the worst outbreak of coronavirus is in Iran. Among those infected, Iran's vice president of Women and Family Affairs,
Masoumeh Ebtekar. Before her diagnosis, she was at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, sitting near Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as you
can see there. Everyone at that meeting is now being tested.
At least 26 people have died from coronavirus in Iran, and the number of confirmed cases has reached 245. It is feared the country is fast becoming
a focal point for the spread of coronavirus across that region, as you can see on your map, with a number of Iran's neighbors at least partly sealing
To truly try to curb the virus, there'll be no Friday press in Iran for the first time in 40 years. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has covered Iran extensively
and joins me now from Berlin. And, Fred, what we have seen is a huge jump in the number of cases out of Iran.
Mortality rate, the last time I was looking, it was 10 percent. That is significantly higher than the global average. How worried -- from those
you've been in touch with -- how worried are Iranians?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, I think a lot of people in Iran are certainly very concerned about how this
coronavirus seems to be spreading in Iran and also, as you mentioned, the number of fatalities as well.
Of course, with all of that, you always have to question how many people in Iran have actually been tested, how many people might have the virus who
have not been tested yet. But certainly, 26 people having died from that virus is something that is a great deal of concern to a lot of people.
And so far, the Iranians, of course, the authorities have been focusing on the province Qom to try and get things under control there. One of the
things that they haven't done is actually quarantine that entire city or that entire province. That, they believe, is where the coronavirus started
in Iran, and we're just hearing that tonight. A female indoor soccer player in Qom, from a team there, has died of the virus. And that really seems to
be where the bulk of the infections are from.
But then if you look at the country as a total, the virus does seem to be spreading to a great deal of places there. I was looking at the numbers a
little more closely in Iran, and they're now saying that the coronavirus has spread to 22 provinces in Iran; the country has 31 provinces, so it
certainly does seem as though there are folks from a lot of places who have now come down with that virus.
At the same time, obviously, people are trying to do things to not get the virus. And one of the things is the Iranians, for the first time, as you
mentioned, in 41 years, having called off Friday prayers tomorrow, in most places in Iran, trying to make sure that the virus doesn't spread any
Whether or not that is going to have the effect that they want it to have, whether or not the new infections are going to slow down is really
something that they are going to have to try and see. It's really a flurry of measures that the Iranians are trying to take. Not just the Friday
prayers, they've also closed down a lot of schools, closed down a lot of universities to try and somehow get all of this under control.
But of course, one of the things that is quite worrying for a lot of people to see there is the fact that it's also top clergy members, top politicians
who seem to be coming down with the virus --
PLEITGEN: -- not just Masoumeh Ebtekar, the vice president of the country, but of course the deputy health minister as well -- Isa.
SOARES: Fred, you often are in Iran for us, you cover the country extensively. If this escalates and continues to escalate, does the
government have the money -- do the hospitals have the capacity, the infrastructure to oversee and really keep a lid on this virus, given the
PLEITGEN: Yes. The economic sanctions certainly are a problem for Iran's medical sector. One of the things that the Iranians have been saying -- and
it really is a key point -- is that they are keeping their medical sector upright. They say they're trying to produce all the things that they can't
get because of the sanctions, trying to produce those themselves.
But of course, one of the difficult things is actually diagnosing the coronavirus, and that certainly is something where the Iranians have now
been getting some help from the World Health Organization, who has given them kits to try and do more testing for the virus. But of course, we know
that finding out who actually has the virus is a challenge in countries that are not under sanction, certainly a challenge in Iran as well.
One of the things that we have to keep in mind is, it's not the medical sector itself in Iran that's actually sanctioned, but the big problem for a
lot of hospitals -- and I've seen this up close, not just with coronavirus but also with cancer treatment, other diseases as well -- is that they
simply can't get companies to sell them any of the medical equipment that they need because those companies are afraid of getting sanctioned by the
United States -- Isa.
SOARES: Such important context there. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. Really good to see you.
Now, it has been a pretty bruising day thus far in the stock markets. Stocks really (ph) selling off, right around the world, as investors worry
about the spreading coronavirus.
In the U.K. here, the FTSE fell into correction territory on Thursday. U.S. stocks are on track for their worst week since 2008, that was during the
financial crisis. Have a look at the Dow Jones, down 2.5 percent, down 701 points also.
All three major U.S. indices have -- fell into correction territory early, you're (ph) seeing (ph) the numbers dropping more than 10 percent below
their most recent peek as a weeklong sell-off continues. Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, is warning earnings may not grow this year as U.S. companies --
U.S. companies because of the coronavirus.
What does all this mean? Let's discuss this with Mohamed El-Erian, he's a chief economic advisor for Allianz Financial Services. Mohamed, so good to
have you on the show. Really important to put some context on what we are seeing.
The Dow Jones, we looked at it just now, if we can bring it back up for our viewers to see (ph). We've seen markets fall for various reasons. So this
market, what we're seeing right now, 2.5 percent. It has been a bruising week. Is this -- is this the markets now factoring in the possibility of a
pandemic or are there other reasons behind this, Mohamed?
MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR, ALLIANZ: Both. I think markets are starting to be more realistic about the economic damage and the damage
to corporate balance sheets and business of this coronavirus, so that is certainly one element.
But the other element is, we're coming from a period where, encouraged by ample injections of liquidity by central banks, too many people took too
many risks. So you also have a technical component that makes the market drop seem very disorderly.
SOARES: You're talking a moment for -- ripe for picking in many ways. What do you make, Mohamed, of Goldman Sachs, what it warned today, that it now
thinks U.S. companies -- I think mostly S&P 500 companies -- will generate no earnings growth in 2020? I mean, how troubling is this?
EL-ERIAN: It is troubling. And if you're a corporation, you're seeing the effects in many places, especially if you're a multinational. You're seeing
it in terms of lower demand, which means lower revenues; you're seeing it in terms of disruptions to supply chain; you're seeing it in terms of you
having to factor in even higher costs of transport once the supply chains come back in.
And you're also seeing it, if you are a financially dependent firm, in access to credit becoming more difficult. So this is a major shock to
corporations. Now, some will benefit, but the vast majority will find this hard sledding (ph), going forward.
SOARES: So with those challenges in mind, what are you advising your clients, then, Mohamed?
EL-ERIAN: So, you know, I've been saying for the last month, do not buy the dip. This is different. It is not often that you get a supply-and-
demand shock at the same time, it is not often that manufacturing and services are hit at the same time, and it's not often that it's both
internal and external.
So wait for it to play out. We haven't yet unfortunately seen the worst in terms of market movements. I think there's another leg down that is going
to come, so be careful, don't get enticed back into the market. And this is going to be very volatile. So be careful out there.
SOARES: We're at 26,000, what do you think you'll get to? As you were saying, you don't think we've seen the worst?
EL-ERIAN: So it's hard to tell. The one thing we know historically is, when you start from valuations up here, and fundamentals down here, and
then fundamentals move down, the valuations will overshoot on the way down, and could even pull the fundamentals.
So I'm telling people, just be very cautious. The major, major question to ask yourself in these sorts of markets is not what's going to go well, but
rather what mistake can I not afford to make because the chance of making a mistake in this volatility is unfortunately high.
SOARES: We know that investors don't like uncertainty. How much is fear driving this?
EL-ERIAN: A lot, but fear is driving mainly economic interactions. I was on a plane yesterday, a domestic flight yesterday. It was more than half
empty in the U.S. People are canceling flights, people are more hesitant about going out, here in California. So what fear is doing is aggravating
the economic shock.
EL-ERIAN: And I think that's understandable human behavior. But in the short term, it tends to make the impact of the coronavirus economically
even worse, in addition to the tragic human aside that is really worrisome.
SOARES: Very briefly, Mohamed, if this continues the way it has been going, what can the Fed do?
EL-ERIAN: Very little when it comes to economic effects. The Fed is going to be forced to cut interest rates. It has tremendous pressure on it from
the marketplace from President Trump, from others. It will cut interest rates, that may help some financial balance sheets. But it doesn't restore
confidence in people to travel again. It's not a --
EL-ERIAN: -- financing problem, this is an economic shock. So yes, the Fed will cut. But unfortunately, it's going to be like pushing on a string.
SOARES: Yes. It's a medical, geopolitical, financial -- it's all interlinked. Mohamed El-Erian, always great to have you on the show.
EL-ERIAN: Thank you.
SOARES: Still ahead, right here on the show, U.S. health experts say it's not a question of if, but when. But President Donald Trump is taking a more
optimistic approach to the possible spread of coronavirus in the United States, even as a mysterious new case emerges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it's inevitable. I think that there's a chance that it could get worse, there's
a chance it could get fairly substantially worse. But nothing's inevitable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're ready for it. It is what it is, we're ready for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have (ph) --
TRUMP: We're really prepared. We have -- as I said, we've had -- we have the greatest people in the world, we're very ready for it. We hope it
doesn't spread. There's a chance that it won't spread, too. And there's a chance that it will. Then, it's a question of at what level. So far, we've
done a great job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: A lot of confidence as well as optimism there. But is it too early for U.S. President Donald Trump to take a victory lap on his
administration's handling of coronavirus? Just after that news conference, we learned details about a new mysterious case in the United States.
Health experts don't know where or indeed how a California resident contracted the virus, and say it could be an example of community spread.
Mr. Trump tried to tamp down fears, saying nothing is inevitable. He tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration's response.
Let's get more now from John Harwood, live at the White House. And, John, we did hear a lot of happy talk from the president, very optimistic. His
message basically is our administration is on top of it, although he was not very accepting that it could be -- could become a pandemic. Behind the
scenes, though, John, what is being said?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the administration's very worried behind the scenes because they've seen market reaction,
they've seen anxiety among the American public. And so when the president came back from India, he obviously felt a need to recalibrate his message.
That's what that news conference last night was about.
But the president has difficulty accepting responsibility for bad news. And so he was equivocating throughout that press conference, in plain view of
everyone watching. He said, as in the clip you just played, maybe it'll spread, maybe it won't. Said maybe we'll take another $2.5 billion that
we've asked for from Congress, maybe we'll take more. Maybe it's about like the flu, maybe it's more serious. And he had a back-and-forth with our
colleague Sanjay Gupta about the mortality levels for flu versus coronavirus.
He has not had a firm steady message himself. His team has not had a firm steady message himself (ph) so (ph) we saw the verdict as he was talking
last night, the Dow futures went from positive to negative during that news conference.
SOARES: And we'll play that exchange between the president and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in just a moment. One thing, John, we know for certain is that --
we're looking, the stock market's down, it's down 714 -- is that the president will (ph) be looking at the stock markets.
And Goldman Sachs said today, if coronavirus epidemic materially affects U.S. economic growth, it may increase the likelihood of a Democratic
victory in the 2020 election. How much is this a worry for this administration?
HARWOOD: It's a big worry for the administration. The economy has been slowing down with each successive year of his presidency. We just have the
government affirm 2.1 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2019; they're projecting about that for 2020.
But if this thing escalates into a global pandemic, Mark Zandi, the independent economist from Moody's Analytics, told me that that would make
a recession in 2020 probable. The last U.S. president to run for re- election during a recession was Jimmy Carter in 1980; he got hammered by Ronald Reagan.
I asked an administration official whether or not the president's team had warned him of that possibility. The president's team -- people like Larry
Kudlow, as you know -- are always optimistic on the sunny side of things. And this senior officials said, well, whether or not the team has focused
him on this -- on this threat, outside voices on television are saying it so we imagine that he's picked that up. That is not -- does not suggest
that the president has fully gotten his mind around this situation.
SOARES: Well, perhaps looking at the stock markets, as we know he does, he will get the message. John Harwood there, thanks very much.
Let's get more on this Dr. Celine Gounder specializes in infectious diseases at New York University, and the first episode of her new podcast,
"Epidemic," with former Ebola czar Ron Klain debuts on Friday. She joins us now.
Doctor, thank you very much for being with us. Before we talk about the administration's handling of coronavirus -- as John and I were just
discussing -- I want to first get your thoughts on the first patient in California, who has contracted the virus with no clue as to where it came
from. What is the significance of this? Explain it to us.
CELINE GOUNDER, CLINICAL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, what that means is likely we've been
having transmission of coronavirus here in the United States. This is a case that dates back to over a week ago.
And I think this really points to the fact that we need to change our screening and diagnostic approach to this. You know, right now, the CDC
still hasn't gotten diagnostic test kits to local health departments across the country.
And right now, screening is still very much focused on, have you been to China or been in contact with somebody who's known to have the coronavirus.
And I think we need to expand those definitions.
SOARES: I think that is a very good transition to what we really want to talk about, which is the way that President Trump has been handling -- what
he said yesterday.
TEXT: Coronavirus in the United States, 60 total patients with coronavirus: 42 former Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers; 3 people
repatriated from China; 14 people who recently returned from China and spouse of someone recently back; 1 potential "community spread" case
SOARES: Take a look, Doctor, at this exchange between our Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the president. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Flu has a fatality ratio of about 0.1 percent --
GUPTA: -- this has a fatality ratio of somewhere between two and three percent. Given that --
TRUMP: We think. We don't exactly --
GUPTA: -- we think, based on the numbers so far --
TRUMP: And the flu is higher than that, the flu is much higher than that.
GUPTA: There's more people who get the flu, but this is spreading, it's going to spread maybe within communities. That's --
TRUMP: It may.
GUPTA: -- expectation (ph). Does that -- does that worry you?
GUPTA: Because that seems to be what worries the American people --
TRUMP: No, because we're ready for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: So is the president's answer -- or indeed his understanding of the question -- inspire much confidence in you, Doctor?
GOUNDER: Well, he doesn't even understand the basic facts, is what it sounds like. I agree completely with the statistics Dr. Gupta was citing,
and this is -- this is worse than the seasonal flu in terms of mortality risk.
I mean, to keep it in perspective, it's still probably on the order of two to three percent maybe, who would be dying from coronavirus infection. And
most of that's going to be concentrated among people over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions.
But if you don't even understand the most basic facts about this, this certainly does not inspire confidence in me.
SOARES: And so if you're a medical official and you're hearing these comments by the president, what are your thoughts?
GOUNDER: Well, you know, I'd have to really congratulate the other folks that were on the stage, listening to that, that they were able, frankly, to
bite their tongues and not roll their eyes as he was saying that.
You know, I would be extremely frustrated in that situation, and I'm very concerned that what we're hearing now is that public health officials,
scientists will likely be censored by the White House in terms of what they're allowed to say to the public, and that's very concerning.
SOARES: Now, he downplayed it, of course, and then appointed a czar to oversee the administration's response. At this stage, what needs to be
done? WHO has said this week, I believe, that countries need to shift mindset to preparedness for a virus outbreak. What does that involve,
GOUNDER: Well, I think, number one, we need to get diagnostic tests out there. And you know, it's hard to know exactly why the CDC hasn't still
been able to do that. South Korea, for example, is lightyears ahead of us on that.
You know, are they actually -- you know, one theory I've heard is that they're trying to have the perfect test, and that they actually see issues
with the test being able -- that are being used elsewhere, which is concerning on multiple levels. Because we really do need a test here now,
but then is there a problem with what's being used elsewhere? And so are we undercounting cases elsewhere?
So, you know, the FDA also has a role in this. You know, they could be encouraging private labs to develop tests, and that really hasn't happened
SOARES: Dr. Celina Gounder, always great to get your perspective. Thanks very much.
GOUNDER: My pleasure.
SOARES: And still to come tonight, the world's 12th largest economy is now second only to China when it comes to the biggest number of coronavirus
Plus, travelers around the world are facing new flight restrictions and possible quarantines as the coronavirus spreads: what that means for you,
SOARES: A very warm welcome back. I'm Isa Soares.
Now, South Korea is reporting a staggering rise in coronavirus infections, announcing 505 new cases today alone. It's now second only to China in the
overall number of infections. The virus has spread to 25 members of the South Korean military, as well as two U.S. service personnel leading the
two countries to postpone joint training exercises.
CNN's Paula Hancocks has more now from Seoul.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a few years since U.S.-South Korean military drills looked like this, once a
dramatic show of force before diplomacy and now a virus changed the scope.
KIM JOON RAK, SOUTH KOREAN JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF (through translator): The U.S. and South Korea have decided to postpone the joint combined command
post training plan for the first half of this year until further notice, as the South Korean government has raised the alert level to the highest level
due to the coronavirus.
HANCOCKS: A decision made one day after U.S. forces in Korea confirmed its first case of a serving soldier. South Korean military well into double
figures with cases in the Army, Navy, Armed Forces, and Marine Corps.
With soldiers living and working in close quarters, the U.S. commander in charge of Daegu at the heart of South Korea's coronavirus crisis, says
containment is vital.
COL. LEE PETERS, COMBINED FORCES COMMAND, U.S. FORCES KOREA: Disease in the history of armies has been a major problem. I mean until 100 years ago,
more people were killed by disease.
HANCOCKS: U.S. officials tell CNN when drills is scaled back or cancelled, as they were in 2018, capabilities are particularly impacted due to the
high rate of changes and assignments for both nation's forces. Many U.S. troops are in Korea for just one or two years.
DANIEL PINKSTON, PROFESSOR, TROY UNIVERSITY: Any time exercises are cancelled or postponed or the reduced in size and, of course, it reduces
the readiness and the capabilities of those forces. You have to train you have to practice.
HANCOCKS (on-camera): But everyone agrees to have a virus sweep through an army, which certainly diminished battle readiness far more than anything
And with North Korea, shutting its borders and focusing heavily on the virus, according to state-run media, it would suggest that it's being just
as cautious with its military.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
SOARES: Well, Japan is closing all of its schools to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak within its borders. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says
schools will close starting Monday March the 2nd and will remain short until the end of the month. This comes amid reports a woman who had
recovered from the virus was re-infected, the first such instance of that happening in Japan.
There have been at least 907 cases of coronavirus and eight deaths from the disease in the country. Prime Minister Abe says the next few weeks are
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHINZO ABE, PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN (through translator): There are many efforts being taken to stop the spread of infection among children in
various regions and the next one or two weeks is an extremely important period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Japan's Health Ministry says at least 705 people became infected with coronavirus while aboard the Diamond Princess. A top Japanese
government advisor is now acknowledging that the quarantine on the cruise ship was flawed. He says it may have allowed infections to spread, as our
Blake Essig now reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we just got a knock on the door for food.
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a cruise ship infected by an invisible enemy, protective isolation was extended only to
Diamond Princess passengers, its crew, continued going door to door.
NEVILLE SALDANA, MANAGER, FOOD AND BEVERAGE: With beverages and everything included, even including wine and spirits and everything that was delivered
to the state room.
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Head maitre d' Neville Saldana says, even through the end days of the quarantine, no
detail was ever too small in making sure guests were well-cared-for.
SALDANA: Make sure that all our guests had a fulfilling experience.
ESSIG: A consideration for the passengers, which the government's own advisers admit wasn't extended to the crew.
DR. NORIO OHMAGARI, HEAD OF JAPAN'S DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION CENTER: We suspected that some of the crew staff may have been already infected,
but because they had to handle the -- and operate the cruise ship, they have the passengers, they have to deliver the meals, something like that.
So that may have caused some sort of close, you know, contact with cruise ship workers and also the passengers. That may have caused some secondary
or tertiary cases.
ESSIG (on-camera): Should the crew members have continued to work, is it fair to have continued to expose them to potentially contract this virus?
OHMAGARI: Strictly scientifically speaking, you know, what needed was strict isolation for the crew members, all the members.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
ESSIG (voice-over): From the start, Dr. Norio Ohmagari admits it was a flawed quarantine, but the ship needed to run, so the crew continued to
work until the last of the passengers disembarked.
Diamond Princess crew members say they were just following Japanese government orders.
By the time the crew were the ones receiving the meals from the shore, around 15 percent, more than 150, ended up testing positive for the novel
OHMAGARI: I'm very sorry what happened here, because there was a limitation, in terms of facility, in terms of the structure of the cruise
ESSIG (on-camera): Was there ever the option to your team, says, listen, if you don't want to go door to door, if you don't -- you're not comfortable,
you don't have to do it? Was that ever a conversation that was had?
SALDANA: It never came up, because every team member was willing to serve, I guess.
ESSIG (voice-over): A willingness for many, but fear for others, expressed only a few days into the quarantine.
"We are extremely scared," says Binet Sarkar (ph) in this post on February 10th, a request, he says, is to segregate the crew from the infected.
Finally, after weeks of uncertainty on board the ill-fated ship, for the crew members on board who tested negative, it's down the gangplank and onto
dry land toward a line of buses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodbye, Diamond.
ESSIG: Where the only journey left is the one home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ESSIG: Blake Essig, CNN, Yokohama, Japan.
SOARES: There is an international effort to contain the spreading coronavirus. Russia the latest country to hold most flights to and from
Iran beginning on Friday over the increasing number of cases their Chinese authorities are putting all international travelers arriving to Beijing
into a two week quarantine.
LAX airport in Los Angeles is disinfecting and cleaning all public areas and facilities at least once an hour and major European companies like
Nestle, as well as L'Oreal, are banning or restricting employees from traveling internationally for business.
Let's discuss this with Simon Calder, travel editor for the Independent. Simon, so good to have you on the show. So many questions, I'm sure,
viewers will want to ask as well.
Now, what we have seen is the virus really affecting airlines travel companies, no doubt that many already seeing some sort of decline in travel
demand. Talk to us how airlines are dealing with coronavirus. How is it impacting them?
SIMON CALDER, TRAVEL EDITOR, THE INDEPENDENT: It is absolutely the most profound shock they have seen certainly since the financial crisis,
arguably, since 911, and those terrible days in 2001.
Just in the past hour, British Airways has told me that it is reducing its service between London Heathrow and Singapore. It's also taking a loss of
flights between London and Northern Italy out. And this is simply a reflection of the fact.
Well, I've just been talking to somebody who says that they were aware of a flight which went out with them. I think three passengers from the U.K. to
Northern Italy, and actually came back almost completely full with pretty much everybody wearing a mask.
And that's just a tiny, tiny picture of the damage which has being done. Lufthansa has grounded 13 of its aircraft. It's not taking on any new
hires. This has propelled the airline industry and way beyond that. The hospitality industry because, of course, if executives aren't traveling as
you were just mentioning, then they're not staying in luxury four or five star hotels.
CALDER: And the basic question being asked is, how long is this going to go on and how much worse is it going to get?
SOARES: Simon, let me just clarify the British Airways flights to Italy, they're being -- they're reducing those flights? Is that what you're
CALDER: Yes. Effectively, there is such limited demand going out from the - -
CALDER: -- U.K. that they are trimming back the number of flights. They're not canceling any routes yet. But, of course, this is just one aspect of
it. And British Airways doing it, many other airlines are doing it.
The -- interestingly, the European low-cost giants who are Ryanair of Ireland and EasyJet of the United Kingdom, haven't started doing that yet.
But certainly, while I'm flying with Ryanair, on Friday evening, it will be interesting to see how many people actually turn up.
I'm hearing so many stories of planes where people have just accepting they're going to lose their airfare but they just don't want to work --
make those trips, business travelers, commercial travelers, family travelers.
SOARES: That's exactly what I wanted to ask you, Simon, because people preparing -- you know, our flyers already so worried and I don't want to
sound alarmist here, but for anyone watching who, for example has a flight booked over East and wants to travel, can they cancel if they cancel and
postpone it? Will it be covered by insurance? What's your advice? What sort of insurance should we get?
CALDER: Yes. Well, unfortunately, most people who are committed to flights already are not covered by insurance if they have what's called
disinclination to travel. There are some a very few specialist policies that make might cover people, but I'm afraid the basic assumption has to be
if you booked a trip and you don't want to go, then you will lose some or all of your money.
The airlines are playing mostly very hardnosed JetBlue, New York based airline, actually came out with quite a radical proposal earlier today.
They say anybody buying a ticket in the next two weeks, even if it's a restricted basic fare, they will be able to change or cancel that for
travel up to June 2020.
They've done that at JetBlue because they want to stimulate the market and also distance themselves from the other airlines who are saying normal
terms and conditions apply.
SOARES: Simon Calder, thank you very much. I'm sure our viewers would be grateful for that information you have provided. Thanks, Simon.
And if you'd like more information on how to prepare or want to know the latest on the coronavirus, go to our website cnn.com.
Still to come tonight, an unsparing war exacts the heavy toll on those most vulnerable. How surging offensive in Syria is impacting children? We'll
bring you that story, next.
SOARES: The Syrian regime is pressing forward with a brutal offensive to capture -- to capture the Russ rebel-held territory in the country. Turkey
has reengaged with a conflict there, but their border remains closed.
Nearly three million civilians are left with increasingly little space to flee the carnage and children are all too often the victims.
Our Arwa Damon reports on the humanitarian crisis that one U.N. official says has reached a horrifying new level. But first, warning, some viewers
may find parts of the following piece disturbing.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moments earlier, the children were playing in the schoolyard, it was around 4:00
p.m. when the strike came in, but they weren't there because classes had just let out, but rather, because that school, like many others, had been
converted into a shelter.
TEXT: Why are you crying? Mama. Where is Mama? There is nothing wrong with mama. Mama will be OK.
DAMON: The man walks around the corner and speaks to a woman who says she has shrapnel in her foot. Not all survived that strike or the nine others
that hit schools in Idlib Province that same day, many that had been housing those fleeing the violence elsewhere.
Hiba (ph), a media activist walks through the school, the classrooms converted into living spaces.
We think we are safe, but then the warplanes come and take everything from us, she says.
Russia has projected calls for a ceasefire, stating that would be a capitulation to terrorists. And yet, the Russian and Syrian regime
bombardment of Idlib has hardly been confined to the front lines or the armed groups, but rather, systematically targeting the civilian population,
forcing even more people to flee, and now, intensifying attacks on Idlib City itself.
On the edge of a small cluster of tents, not far from Turkey's closed border, one extended family moved underground into a manmade cave
originally dug out to shelter cows and goats.
They did not have enough money to buy a tent. There are around 45 of them living here like this. After spending days shoveling out feces and filth.
When the kids sleep, we women take turns looking over them to make sure there are no snakes or scorpions, Ibrahim (ph) says, they're scared, it's
miserable. But where else to go?
Half the children are sick, they are barely able to get medicine. There's no heat inside the cave. Food is cooked outdoors where the children warm
themselves. All they yearn for is their home, days without fear. A concept that seems so foreign, a distant dream for the millions trapped in Idlib
and a war that from the onset, had no rules, no real front lines, and where safety is little more than a shattered illusion.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.
SOARES: Now, it's an invasion of biblical proportions. Billions of desert locusts are swarming parts of East Africa. Farmlands are now decimated,
livelihoods are ruined. And now, the United Nations warns this could become a humanitarian catastrophe if it's not controlled soon.
CNN's Farai Sevenzo traveled to central Kenya to see the devastating swarms in person joins me now.
And, Farai, whatever is done now, is it already too late?
FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not quite too late. And this is a part of the United Nations appeal, Isa. I mean, they're saying
that last month, they needed 76 million, that's the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. But to combat this new outcrop, this
new generation of locusts, they would need at least 136.
So it's not quite too late, but it is a huge problem, Isa. We went up to Isiolo up in the northeast, and everywhere we walked a tiny little
wingless, grasshoppers getting ready to take flight. And of course, they're eating everything in their way. Take a look.
SEVENZO (voice-over): For three months now, swarms of desert locusts have been eating their way through East Africa. Here in Kenya is like Kitui (ph)
County, people banging utensils to try and ward off an increasing menace to their livelihoods, all to no avail.
The locusts keep coming. A voracious appetite means these locusts eat the equivalent of their own body weight in a single day. And they move with
speed on the changing winds as far as 150 kilometers, almost 100 miles a day, beans, maize pasture for animals, nothing stands a chance, raising
fears over food security as the farmlands are decimated.
And they keep breeding, laying their eggs in the earth in pastoral and agricultural lands.
SEVENZO (on-camera): Across East Africa, locust swarms of biblical proportions have been threatening life and grazing land and eating all the
people's crops. Here, you can see these hoppers are the new generation that will pose a bigger threat to agriculture in Kenya.
SEVENZO (voice-over): The war against the locusts is now in full swing. If the swarms unstopped, the U.N. says they can multiply as much as 500 times
by June. So the Kenyan government and U.N. agencies are fighting back with pesticides.
In Isiolo, Northeastern Kenya, villagers tell us they are seeing billions of newly hatched locusts.
How did this happen? After years of drought, two cyclones hit East Africa in as many years. These climate change influence phenomena, replenish
pasture land and filled the rivers.
But the heavy rains made the wet Earth ideal breeding ground for locusts.
DANIEL LESAIGOR, REGIONAL LOCUST CONTROL TEAM OFFICER: The situation is really -- is disparate but not hopeless. We intend to control it. Maybe in
two, three months.
SEVENZO: Despite the challenges, they've killed as many as 17 swarms in a day, a medium sized home being 30 to 40 million insects.
But for those on the front line of the locust invasion, like 47-year-old herder, Chris Amerikwa, the future is full of doubt.
CHRIS AMERIKWA, HERDER: A big swarm, big locusts.
They were just covering the whole sky, such that there was a kind of a cloud.
SEVENZO: Having lost all his 25,000 from devastating drought last year, he is worried about what these locusts and pesticides will do.
AMERIKWA: It will even complicate our livelihood in the future. If they're going to stay and multiply here or they make here home, their home.
SEVENZO: Code between the climate crisis and the locust invasion, herders like Chris hope to beat the odds they're facing.
SEVENZO: And they're massive odds, Isa, because really, I mean, imagine, just even last night as we waited in that piece, it rained for up to three
hours. So those are the very kind of conditions that are conducive to producing yet more locust. But the fight is on to try and combat them.
SOARES: So what we're talking about in terms of how much is needed, how much money is needed, and where is the U.N. hoping that money to come from?
SEVENZO: Isa, it's a massive appeal. I mean, they're making these statements that by June, it would be impossible to contain. And remember,
it's not just Kenya, it's also -- it's European, Uganda. Today, we find out they've gone as far as the DRC.
Now, it's a delicate situation because they need aircraft to spray, they need pesticides. But when we went up to the northeast, there was no
pesticides. And if all of those things don't balance, and also they need sightings of the locusts, then it's going to take longer to get rid of
SOARES: Farai Sevenzo there, thank you very much. Fascinating report.
Well, East Africa isn't the only region affected by the swarms of locusts. In Abu Dhabi, officials are making sure they're prepared should an invasion
across its board crosses borders. Authorities say they have already received complaints of small locusts near the Island of Dalma.
Meteorologist Tom Sater is here with us to explain.
Tom, explain, is there any correlation between climate change and these locusts?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, definitely. And with that said more to come in the years and decades ahead, let me explain. But let's start with
understanding, first, the life cycle of the desert locusts. These locusts live for three months. Before they die, they lay their eggs, the size of
the swarm, and the new generation is 20 times larger than the previous generation. So every three months, they're growing in size, but they need
the right conditions where the driest places in the earth, right? Arabian Peninsula down in the Horn of Africa, this is what we're concentrating.
But let's break this down. This was a forecast that came out last month, and the severity in orange and red, now, over towards South Sudan, down in
Tanzania. But again, this is just an Africa, it's spreading northward, and it's all the way into Indian Pakistan as well.
But let's explain what's happening here and you'll get a better understanding. One of the patterns we watch across the globe is in the
southern hemisphere is called the Indian Ocean Dipole. This is a neutral phase, when you have a neutral phase, everything seems to be normal, right?
This is warm temperatures, Indonesia. Everything's coming away from the Arabian Peninsula.
But we jumped into the last two years, a severe positive phase. The dryness, which was a one-year drought in Australia became a three-year
drought. We know what happened with the water -- the bush fires there. Cooler air replaces the warm air in Indonesia. But look what happens. The
warmer air, the warmer waters slide toward the Horn of Africa that feeds cyclones.
So again, with our climate change, human induced, we can expect more positive phases, in fact, possibly an increase of two to three times by the
end of the century, more cyclones, more swarms and plagues of locusts.
Let's go back. This all started 18 months ago. We had, of course, one of our cyclones in May coming into the Horn of Africa, wet conditions, now,
that's, of course, conducive to these swarms developing. And then five months later, we had another one into Yemen.
I want to take you to this area right here, Saudi Arabia right near the border of Oman. To put this into scale, this is 2,500 kilometers of sand
dunes, 2,500 kilometers. You look at all this rainfall to back this up again, I know it's hard to put that in the scale, you wouldn't be able to
see yourself standing there. That's how much water dropped.
To give you an idea, in one day, 278 millimeters fell with a cyclone in Oman, that's twice the average rainfall for the entire year, twice.
Typically, they only get 30 millimeters of the year. This hasn't happened in 20 years.
So our swarm in some cases, the largest in 20, 25 years and other areas, it's the worst I've seen in 70, 75 years. Now, we've got a problem here
with the wet weather, no wet weather down here as well. Winds are important.
But let me just tell you, all the way in India now authorities are using drones to track the swarms, to combat the problem. Pakistan is waiting on
an order of 100,000 ducks from China, a single can eat 200 locusts in a day probably just put a dent in the situation. Saudi Arabia, tackling it very
hard with a real toxic pesticide, unfortunately, has killed scores of camels right now. So this is kind of getting out of control.
Here's our next problem. We are now entering a phase of our climate -- and this is normal, where the winds pick up different countries have different
terminologies -- terminology for this, Isa, one is (INAUDIBLE) in Arabic, it means 50, 50 days of blowing wind, blowing sand, and sand storms. You
can see some of it now.
There is no doubt these swarms are going to be riding on these winds, and then again, for 50 days. So each three months, the next swarm 20 times
larger than the previous generation. And with these wet conditions, not just the two cyclones in 2018, but we also had one last year and 2019. So
they just continued -- continue to develop and generate further. It's just massive problem.
SORES: Thank you so much. Tom Sater, always learn so much from your reports. Appreciate it.
SOARES: And Tom was mentioned there locusts and ducks. Let me explain as these locusts spreads, swarms re-spread all over. A lot of people got their
hopes up for bold new weapon to defend the world's crops, an army of ducks, as Tom was saying, 100,000 strong.
Earlier, a China news reports that China would send just that to Pakistan. They're hoping that they would get rid of the locusts the old fashioned
way, well, just by eating them.
But Chinese officials now say that is not the plan. They explained that duck send to the desert climate and probably aren't interested in a suicide
mission. So they'll likely be sending pesticides instead.
A British appeals court has blocked the government's controversial plans to build a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport is a major victory for
climate campaigners. The court ruled the government failed to take into account the country's commitments to fighting climate change under the
Thursday's ruling could sync any plans to expand one of the world's busiest airports. Heathrow officials say they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court,
but for now, climate activists are celebrating. One group says this is both an absolutely groundbreaking result for climate justice.
And that does it for me for this hour, thanks very much for watching. I'm Isa Soares. Do stay right here with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" with
Richard Quest is next.