Return to Transcripts main page

Hala Gorani Tonight

Japan, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland Cancelling Some Public Gatherings; Characteristics of Coronavirus Make Wide Spread Likely; First Sub-Saharan African Coronavirus Diagnosis; WHO Urges Countries To Aggressively Contain Virus Threat; Iran Suspends Parliament Until Further Notice; U.S. Faces First Possible "Community Spread" Case; Escalating Crisis In Syria. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: A very good evening, everyone. I'm Isa Soares in London. As coronavirus cases appear in more new countries, the World Health

Organization says the global threat level is now, quote, "very high."

There are more than 83,000 infections and more than 2,800 people have died, as you can see just the rate of the infection, the cases right around the

world. But the WHO says aggressive containment strategies are able to keep the virus from spreading out of control.

Still, there's a lot of fears you can imagine, as well as uncertainty right around the epidemic, including in the markets, which are taking huge


We'll get to the markets in just a moment. Clarissa Ward first shows us where the virus is hitting hardest.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governments around the world are in crisis mode as they struggle to contain

the coronavirus. In South Korea, the most affected country outside of China, authorities are scrambling to track down and investigate almost

3,000 members of a religious group at the heart of the country's biggest outbreak. South Korean authorities believe a large number of people

infected with the virus attended a service of the religious group.

In Japan, all primary schools were asked to close starting Monday. The request comes amid fears that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics may be postponed if

authorities fail to contain the virus.

In the Middle East, Iran's death toll continues to climb, with 34 dead. Three hundred and eighty-eight have been declared infected, but health

experts warn the actual number may be much higher. Parts of the country even cancelled Friday prayers, a rare decision. And in a historic move,

Saudi Arabia suspended tourist travel for pilgrims to Islam's holiest sites of Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Geneva Motor Show, one of the world's biggest car shows, has been cancelled. It's the latest in a string of international

events scrapped because of the virus.

Experts say the coronavirus is also fast becoming an economic pandemic, with global markets on track for their worst week since the 2008 financial


As the virus spreads, it is fueling a sense of panic over the fallout if it cannot be contained. Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.


SOARES: Well, fears of the coronavirus and its impact on the economy have wiped out roughly $6 trillion in value from the global markets this week.

Stocks are heading for their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

Take a look at the markets right now, if we can bring them up. S&P 500, down almost 3 percent. Nasdaq, 2.5 percent; the Dow Jones there, down

almost 3.5 percent. The Dow fell more than a thousand points a session (ph) earlier, S&P, in broadest measure off the stock market, have fallen 10

percent from its most recent high, what's known really as a correction, at its fastest pace since the Great Depression of the 20th century.

If we show you the European markets, because they closed sharply lower today. It's been, really, a bruising week for markets right around the

world. Shares in Germany off the most, as you can see there. Asia markets, as you can see, also getting quite a battering today, the Nikkei there,

down over 3.5 percent.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now from New York to put some perspective on this. And, Clare, it has been indeed a pretty bruising week for stocks. But

put it into context for us. From bond yields to safe havens, how bleak is it and are we heading at this rate, as we're looking now at the Dow Jones

down 909 points, towards a bear market?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, to put it in context, the points falls have certainly been dramatic. In terms of percentage falls,

these are not the biggest by historical standards by any means. But this has been a very dramatic week. The Dow has erased, basically, a year of

gains in the space of seven sessions, so that is pretty stark.

In terms of a bear market, we're a little way off that, with just over a thousand points away on the Dow. But if you look at some of the sessions

that we've had, it may not take very long to get there if the market continues, as it is.

Now, will the market do that? I think that is the big question, going into the weekend. And what's going to happen at the end of today, of course?

Don't forget, the session isn't over and yesterday we saw --


SEBASTIAN: -- about just over 400 points wiped off, in the space of the last hour. So it's not over yet. I think a lot of people are watching to

see if the Fed will act. That is the big unknown at the moment, will they act and try and get ahead of this showing up in U.S. data.

And will -- if they act, will it work? Don't forget, if a quarter point rate comes off interest rates, that doesn't necessarily make people want to

attend big events or buy a new car or get out there and go on a trip, for example. So that is the big debate going on at the moment. It would, of

course, potentially calm the financial markets though.


SOARES: On the Fed, I mean, interest rates are already so low. How much room, really, is there for maneuver? And what are economists saying, what

do they think that the Fed can achieve here, realistically, Clare?

SEBASTIAN: Well, the Fed has a little more room to maneuver, don't forget, than some other countries out there -- German, Japan, what (ph) the

Eurozone and Japan in negative rates -- the Fed has a little room. We're at 1.5 to 1.75 percent at the moment, so they could cut.

In actual fact, Isa, markets are now pricing in a 100 percent chance of at least a 25 basis point cut at the next meeting in March. A week ago, that

was a 10 percent chance, so everything has shifted in the last week.

And Jerome Powell has sort of a history, the Fed chair, of watching what's happening in the markets and really taking that into consideration. It's

not a core part of his mandate, but we know if we see precipitous falls in the markets, that can dent confidence, it can tighten financial conditions.

So, clearly, they're watching this. Some Fed governors have been out this week, and most of them are saying, look, it's too early to act, we don't --

we need to see, you know, how this will impact the U.S. consumer in particular, that's the driving force of the economy. But one former Fed

governor, Kevin Warsh, did say this week that if the Fed waits too long, it could be too late.

SOARES: Do you know what's fascinating, Clare -- you and I have covered the financial markets, the financial crisis -- is that when the Fed was

brought in, it was there to actually make good, you (ph) knew what it was doing, right? Because the crisis was in front of them. But with this, it's

unfolding, it's perhaps not even fully unfolded, so it's quite hard for them to actually get a handle on this.

We have heard, in the last 24 hours, from Peter Navarro -- that's the White House trade advisor. And he had this to say today, following on from

Apple's revenue (ph) guidance (ph). Take a listen, Clare.


PETER NAVARRO, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The good news about Apple is that it's kind of sui generis. It's one of the most heavily dependent

companies on China, both for its production and some of its growth. So we don't see Apple as -- as the norm.


SOARES: The reality is that, you know, Apple wasn't the only one warning, right, Clare?

SEBASTIAN: Apple very much, not unusual in this. Look, he's right in that Apple faces a double whammy, a supply issue --


SEBASTIAN: -- as they manufacture a lot of their products in China, and also a demand issue because they sell a lot of products in China. That's of

course the biggest global market for smartphones.

But there are others like it, the automakers, for example. And Apple is not the only trillion-dollar company to issue a warning, Isa. We heard this

week from Microsoft, that said that this could hit -- they could hit supply issues for their -- for their laptops, which are manufactured in China.

But I think, you know, if we look at -- if -- your comparison to the -- the financial crisis was interesting because this is uncertain in two ways: the

spread of the virus, and how countries and corporations are reacting to this.

We heard today from IAG, the parent company of British Airways. They say that they are being hurt not only by the drop-off in demand in Europe and

Asia, but things like cancelling corporate travel, events being cancelled, which we're seeing. So all of the reactions to this are as damaging to

companies as the potential spread of the virus itself. I think that is something that we're going to continue to see.

SOARES: Clare Sebastian there with us out of New York. She'll keep an eye on those numbers out of New York, Dow Jones down 956 points, just over 3.5

percent. Thanks very much, Clare.

Now, the WHO says more than 20 coronavirus vaccines are in development worldwide. But regardless of any vaccine, our next guest says in a piece in

"The Atlantic Monthly," you're likely to get the coronavirus. They're not my words. This is the title, in fact, of his piece. I've got it here, you

can see if you can bring it up. There you go.

Dr. James Hamblin is a staff writer at "The Atlantic," a lecturer at Yale School of Public Health. He joins me now. Thank you very much for joining

us, Doctor. Explain to our viewers around the world why you think we're likely to get coronavirus. Because according to this article, the

prediction's roughly what, 40, 70 percent of people around the world will get it?

JAMES HAMBLIN, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. And that -- well, that's according to a few epidemiologists I spoke with, and that was a few days

ago. I think the estimates are still high. And when -- we should importantly say that when we talk about that many people getting the virus,

that does not mean getting severe disease, certainly doesn't mean dying.

Right now, some people seem to be asymptomatic, have mild disease. And other people have severe disease, so it's kind of like the flu in that way,

in that some people have a fine case and don't even miss work, some people are asymptomatic with the flu. And yet it also kills hundreds of thousands

of people every year, and that's also what makes it difficult to -- to identify and contain.

SOARES: So you're -- in many ways, you're not saying that the containment measures are not working or the speed in which it's spreading is impossible

to keep a lid on this? This is not what you're saying?

HAMBLIN: No -- well, containment measures have so far slowed the virus and probably prevented cases. So it's not this binary, which we're sometimes

hearing about, where you either keep it in one country or you do no containment.


We still will do containment. We will shut down certain facilities and cancel certain events and close schools. But the questions before us will

be, how long does that need to last, how severe is that, what's our threshold for having more cases versus shutting down society.

SOARES: What intrigues you about coronavirus? Because I know you've written extensively here about H1N1, but what intrigues you -- H5N1 -- what

intrigues you about this case in particular, about this virus in particular?

HAMBLIN: What I -- I started to hear alarm bells when people noticed this pattern in this virus, that it's able to cause a very severe disease that

kills people, but that it also often -- it doesn't always. Some of the diseases like SARS and MERS were extremely fatal, and we could identify

people and isolate them and treat them and it was easier to keep track of the cases.

And we started following this new coronavirus in a similar way, as if everyone must be these extremely sick cases. And it's still at a global

level, who mostly we are identifying. And when -- when it turns out that there is less severity to the disease, that it sometimes look more like a

common cold, it becomes really hard to isolate that and really track everything.

And so then it became clear it was not going to be contained in China, and it would affect every country.

SOARES: We heard from the WHO today, who basically said that the more than 20 coronavirus vaccines are in development right around the world. How long

do you think these will take the develop? And how optimistic are you that there will be a vaccine, as this intensifies?

HAMBLIN: I am hearing a lot of optimism from people who are working on this. And yet even they give the most optimistic timeframes of 12 to 18

months. Because we have great DNA sequencing technology that allows for early development processes to be happening faster than they ever could,

but they still need to go through human trials and prove, in smaller groups, that they're safe and effective before we distribute them to

everyone in the world.

And if there were side effects or if it didn't work, you know, no drug goes out more quickly than that unless -- yes, well, no vaccine goes out more

quickly than that.

SOARES: Dr. James Hamblin, I appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.

HAMBLIN: Thank you so much for having me.

SOARES: Still to come tonight, this is not what a football match really is supposed to look like. Up next, we'll go to Italy where even their beloved

national sport is falling victim to the coronavirus outbreak.



SOARES: Now, the place where the coronavirus may be spreading the fastest right now is in Europe and Italy. The number of cases there have exploded

in recent days. Just a short time ago, we learned that 821 people have been infected with the virus in Italy, and 21 people have died. The outbreak has

led some smaller European airlines to cancel all flights to Italy.

Football power (ph) Inter Milan (ph) played a Europa League match on Thursday in front of an empty stadium, as you can see there, because of

concerns about the spread of the disease among the crowd. Let's get more on this. Our Ben Wedeman's with us from Milan in Italy with more.

And, Ben, what we have seen is, you know, these dramatic rising cases out of Italy. Italian medical officials I spoke to this week -- early this

week, I might add, on the show -- told me they had a handle on this, they're prepared and they're confident. Are Italians confident in their


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, people in general in Italy are confident in their public health system, which is one

of Europe's best, but it's definitely under strain at the moment. I mean, these numbers we're getting, 821 people with coronavirus.

Just to put that in perspective, I arrived in Italy on Tuesday, and the number was only 322. So it has been rising dramatically here in Lombardy,

where Milan is the capital of, there's 531 cases.

And we heard from doctors today at the daily press conference at the regional headquarters, that if the numbers continue to grow, they will have

a crisis. They don't have enough beds to deal with this number of people.

We also heard that the so-called red zones that have been set up also in this area, about an hour's drive away from here, where about 50,000 people

are being told to stay in their homes, not to move out of their towns and villages, that those red zones are going to be extended by another week.

Now, we've spent a lot of time speaking with people via the internet, of course, who are inside those red zones. And they do continue to express

confidence in the public health system, but concern is clearly growing among those who are running this effort to stop -- halt the kind of -- the

growing number of coronavirus cases that they are really going from crisis to mega-crisis in terms of handling this outbreak -- Isa.

SOARES: And as you just play (ph) it out there, just put it all in front of us, you know, what this does, all these measures really do also

paralyze, Ben, the economic life. I mean, I was looking at some numbers. Northern Italy accounts for 40 percent of exports. You look at Venice, 13

percent of GDP in terms of tourism.

What impact is that having on Italy's economy, just from what you have seen on the ground?

WEDEMAN: Well, what we're seeing for instance is that Milan, which normally has a lot of tourists, you go to the duomo, the main cathedral,

and the piazza in front of it has very few tourists any more. What we're seeing is that, for instance, there is no more a rush hour in Milan, many

people are working from home.

Apparently, the factories are still functioning, but we got statistics yesterday from the Federation of Tourism, and they expect to take losses of

more than $5 billion as a result of this crisis. Hotel cancellations in all of Italy are down by 40 percent -- or rather up by 40 percent. In Milan

itself, by 70 percent.

And don't forget, the industries in this part of Italy are export-driven. And of course, all of their markets -- many of them -- for instance, many

of the fashion exports of this area go to China, and they expect the demand from China to drop dramatically as a result of this crisis.

So really, we're just at the beginning of what could be a prolonged economic downturn as a result of this crisis -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, and that's why we've got -- seeing European stock markets falling, why we're seeing the Dow Jones currently down 868 points. Ben

Wedeman there, such important context. Thanks very much, Ben. Good to see you.

Now, the spread of the virus in Italy is taking a toll on one of the country's most important industries, as Ben was saying. That's tourism.

CNN's Melissa Bell has that story for you.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cradle of the Renaissance, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Every

year, Florence attracts 15 million tourists from all over the world. But it is far quieter than usual, as coronavirus takes an early toll on the

Italian economy as well.


Venice too, visited by more than 35 million tourists every year, is unusually calm, St. Mark's Square, practically deserted.

As the numbers of coronavirus cases have grown into the hundreds, the fear seems to have spread even faster than the virus itself, with one of the

first effects being felt in tourism, an industry that represents 13 percent of Italy's GDP.

Hotel cancellations have varied from 30 to 70 percent, depending on the city, according to "The New York Times."

CECILIE HOLLBERG, DIRECTOR, ACCADEMIA GALLERY: There is such a panic all around, and that makes people be very insecure and they do not -- they are

not sure if they can come and visit places where other people are. There are not so many visitors as normally.

BELL (voice-over): Italy's luxury sector, also feeling the effects with coronavirus hitting both its Asian markets and its Italian suppliers.

According to one economist, a number of Italian luxury and fashion goods- makers are reporting cancellations of up to 50 percent on their orders from China.

One of the problems for authorities is how to strike the right balance between informing the public about the dangers and not sending them into a


CRISTINA GIACHI, VICE MAYOR OF FLORENCE: We are trying to communicate with a balance about all the measures we are taking to avoid the spread of

infection, but also to give instructions on how to behave in this case.

We have already seen an impact, directly in the museums, our museums. For example, we had 7,000 visitors less than last year in the same days.

BELL (voice-over): To add to the difficulty of communicating when it comes to coronavirus, Italy hardly speaks with one voice, even in times of

crisis. The two most affected regions, Lombardy and Veneto, are in the hands of the far-right League party, led by Matteo Salvini.

With a war of words this last week between his party and the central government over the handling of the outbreak.

MATTEO SALVINI, LEADER, LEAGUE PARTY (through translator): Now, we are trying to work together to contain the spread, but it seems to me that

someone underestimated the health emergency. Now, the emergency becomes the economy. Let me remind you that in Italy, there are at least 30,000 hotels

and 300,000 bars and restaurants that are suffering.

BELL: Normally, museums like this one are packed with tourists and already, you can really feel the difference. The fear for authorities here

is that as we head into the high season for tourism in Italy, that even masterpieces of Renaissance art like this -- Michelangelo's David -- will

not be enough to bring the tourists back. Melissa Bell, CNN, Florence.


SOARES: So we took you to Europe, let's take you now to Africa. Nigerian officials are trying to reassure the public after the first case of

coronavirus has been confirmed in sub-Saharan Africa. It involves an Italian man who flew from Milan to Lagos this week. He is currently stable

and expected to recover. That is good news.

One of Nigeria's top health officials says his nation has successfully managed Ebola, and managed other outbreaks in the past and is more than

capable of dealing with coronavirus.

Health officials are especially concerned about potential outbreak in Africa, as you can imagine. The World Health Organization says if it

happens, it will be far worse than what we saw in China.

We're now joined by Dr. Michel Yao, an emergency response manager at the WHO. He's specializing (ph) from Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us. As we see the first case of coronavirus in Lagos, what is your biggest concern?

MICHEL YAO, EMERGENCY RESPONSE MANAGER, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The biggest concern is that it spread within the community, because this

happened in one of the high-density population cities, and this could be a concern if we miss some of the contacts that -- some of the people that

could have been in contact with the person that came out positive.

SOARES: Yes, and they (ph) suspect that they will be testing everyone that was on that airplane with this individual?

YAO: What needs to be done is to ensure -- to have a clear mapping of where the person traveled to or people that the person visited since they

became positive or symptomatic. And all (ph) these persons need really to be followed for at least 14 days so that if they become sick, they can be

isolated quickly and we avoid further contamination because they fear being a huge community contamination that will challenge, actually, the response



SOARES: The head of Nigeria's National Center for Disease Control, the NCDC, basically said we successfully managed Ebola, we manage outbreaks all

the time and are currently managing also Lassa fever. Does managing these outbreaks give them an upper hand, do you think?

YAO: It is. They have some experience. And in this kind of emergency, it's also having people that are used to perform the right interventions.

And -- but in this case, they things (ph) they should be cautious with is to ensure that they think of the symptoms, to the worst-case scenario.

Should there be a huge contamination, what will be the capacity to manage the number of cases?

I think this should be the question for all of us, including WHO, supporting them, to think ahead to think through the worst-case scenario

while expecting to control quickly, as they did in the case of Ebola, by mobilizing all the stakeholders by sensitizing also the communities to be

fully on guard.

SOARES: Do you feel that you have enough support, should this escalate, should the virus spread throughout Africa?

YAO: We are mobilizing the support. And it's what our director-general was really appealing, for more solidarity. We need more support to ensure that

we have this laboratory capacity, that we can requisition (ph) items for treatment centers, that we have also means to sensitize the community and

put in place a screening system at most of the entry points, as well as a strong stable (ph) system in the health facilities, as well as protecting

health workers with appropriate protective equipment.

SOARES: Yes. The WHO said today that the outbreak had reached what they call the highest level of risk for the world. Does this risk assessment, in

your opinion, make any kind of legal difference in how countries ought to be preparing? Does it change anything?

YAO: I think it's changing the fact that maybe (ph) most of the countries will have the highest level of support, mainly from national (ph)

authorities. This needs to be taken seriously, and they have really to be involved and all the internal resources, some of the internal resources

should be invested in preparedness, while, from our part, we are trying to mobilize international support.

SOARES: Are you -- on a personal note, are you confident that you can control this, you can contain this if it does happen to -- to rise, cases

rise out of sub-Saharan Africa or Africa indeed?

YAO: The critical element in the control will be the early detection, so how fast the first case is detected. But if entire communities and we only

notice when we have a huge number of cases or people dying, this could be then a major challenge. And it's what we are emphasizing on, ensuring that

countries have at least early detecting system from the entry point through the health services, as well as within the community.

So we need, really, to emphasize on the early detection and also appropriate preparedness. Because to do so, you need also to educate the

population to recognize the symptoms as well as health workers, and for countries and partners to, at the same time, think through the worst-case

scenario, setting up maybe big bed capacity, intensive care to deal with some of the complications for this disease, learning from China what we are

experiencing now.

SOARES: So really being ahead of it is critical, preparedness, also critical. Dr. Michel Yao, thank you very much for taking the time to speak

to us here.

YAO: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

SOARES: Still to come tonight, South Korean officials, really struggling to track down members of a religious group linked to the country's

coronavirus outbreak. And more cases are being reported every day. We'll bring you the very latest on that story.


And Iran is shutting down its Parliament, disinfecting public spaces and it has canceled Friday prayers. But will this be enough to contain the

coronavirus? We'll bring you the latest out of Iran, next?


SOARES: The World Health Organization is trying to calm public fears over the coronavirus outbreak. Since December, more than 83,000 infections have

been confirmed. And more than 2,800 people have died.

The WHO says more than 20 vaccines are in development right now, and they say containment efforts are effective. They're slowing the virus in China,

in Singapore, as well as Vietnam.

Let's take a look at the big board at Dow Jones and see how markets are doing now. Slightly better than we saw at the top of the hour, in fact,

down two and a half percent, 675 points. It has been a pretty bruising week, the stock market's incredible -- incredibly volatile.

Of course, trading day isn't over yet. Markets, investors, traders, they don't know which way, how bad this is going to get. Hence, why we are

seeing these sharp drops. We'll keep an eye on the markets for you throughout the rest of this hour.

Now, South Korea is reporting 571 more coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the grand total to more than 2,300. It is the biggest outbreak in

Asia outside of China.

Officials are expecting to see even higher numbers soon as more than 1,200 tests results are due to come this weekend. The focus is on one religious

group which is the crucial link in the chain of outbreaks in the country. As our Ivan Watson now explains.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coronavirus is hitting South Korea hard. It has the most confirmed

infections outside of mainland China. But unlike the Chinese city of Wuhan, which the Chinese government quarantine from the rest of the world,

transport to Korea's coronavirus hotspot is still open.

WATSON (on-camera): A number of airlines have canceled their flights to the Korean city of Daegu. But as you can see, the high-speed train, it is still

stopping in this city, which is at the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak.

WATSON (voce-over): More than half of South Korea's coronavirus cases are in Daegu, lines form here where the government sells low-cost masks at post


People can't go to work, you can't go out, this woman says, it's very inconvenient for people who need to go out to earn money. The crisis is

putting a strain on the city's health care system. Daegu established 11 coronavirus treatment centers and it has drive-through testing sites like

this to expedite coronavirus screening.


But that's not enough, says Dr. Lee Sang-ho, Deputy Head of the city's coronavirus Crisis Center.

WATSON (on-camera): Do you have enough medicine and supplies?

DR. LEE SANG-HO, DEPUTY DAEGU MEDICAL ASSOCIATION CORONAVIRUS CENTER (Through translator): Now the biggest shortage is protective suits to

protect the medical stuff. We have to conserve them. I wish most supplies would come down. There's a shortage of protective suits. And then there's a

shortage of medical staff.

WATSON (voice-over): Dr. Lee says around 250 doctors from other parts of the country have volunteered to help, but he predicts the worst is yet to


SANG-HO: There are many little things that we don't know about the coronavirus. In my opinion, I don't think we have reached the worst point


WATSON: Hundreds of coronavirus cases in Daegu include members of a secretive South Korean religious group called, Shincheonji.

On Friday, Daegu's mayor reported the group to the police after accusing Shincheonji of obstructing efforts to contain the virus by not sharing a

list of all its members.

In a video statement, the spokesman defended Shincheonji, saying the group is cooperating with the authorities. The Korean Health Ministry expects

many more Shincheonji members to test positive for coronavirus. It's urging people all across Korea to avoid large gatherings of any kind.

Meanwhile, in Daegu, residents like American kindergarten teacher, Rachael Downey, say there is concern, but no sign of panic.

WATSON (on-camera): Are you, at all, considering leaving Daegu --


WATSON: -- for your own health?


WATSON: And why is that?

DOWNEY: Because I'm personal -- I'm personally very healthy and also this is a very -- it will blow over, it would likely will go back to normal

sooner or later. It's just I would prefer sooner rather than later. Everyone is taking the advisory seriously. Everyone is staying indoors.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Seoul.


SOARES: Now, in Japan as authority scrambled to contain the coronavirus, they've called for two-week hiatus on public events right across the

country. This extensive the sporting events. And with the 2020 Olympic Games right around the corner, some people are questioning Japan's handling

of the outbreaks.

CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo. Blake?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Isa, I'm standing just a few hundred yards away from Japan's new national stadium, the site of the

opening ceremonies in just under five months. But recently, Japan's response to the coronavirus has come under scrutiny. And with it, the

question of whether or not these Olympic Games will even take place.


ESSIG (voice-over): In Japan's very first attempt at taking on the novel coronavirus, government advisors admit, they got it wrong. The quarantine

onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship was flawed from the very beginning.

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?

DR. NORIO OHMAGARI, GOVERNMENT ADVISER: Strictly, scientifically speaking, you know, what needed was stricter isolation for the crew members, all the


ESSIG: But the crew continued to work and the infections kept climbing. Now as they disembark, the attention turns to prevention on dry land.

Sunday's Tokyo marathon will only allow elite runners. Normally crowded baseball games will be played in empty stadiums. Rugby, soccer matches all

postponed. Schools nationwide asked to close on Monday to contain the spread.

But Japan seeks to reassure the world their Olympic teams continue to practice.

GAKU HASHIMOTO, JAPANESE VICE HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): It's important for us to have visitors feel safe and enjoy Japan while here, the

Vice Minister of Health says, so this is a top priority for us.

ESSIG: Well, Japanese officials say the idea of canceling or delaying the games is just speculation. IOC member, Dick Pound, says all options are

being considered.

DICK POUND, IOC MEMBER: If the games are canceled and then that's a big gift at this point, it's got to be a complicated decision. My guess is it

would take more than simply a decision by the IOC and the Tokyo authorities, who would be governments and international agencies saying it

is not safe to hold the games. And we're a long way from that.

ESSIG: Amid fears, the outbreak will turn into a global pandemic. There's only so much Japan can control.


ESSIG: In addition to potentially canceling these Olympic Games, earlier this week, Pound also said that the IOC is considering the option of

postponing the games until 2021.

And, Isa, we've also recently learned that the governor of Hokkaido has declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus.

SOARES: Thanks very much Blake Essig there.

Well, Iran, one of the regional epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak is taking drastic measures to stop the virus from spreading. The parliament

has closed until further notice and Friday prayers, what cancelled for the first time ever under the Islamic Republic.


But the outbreak has not slowed, 34 people are dead and almost 400 people have been infected in cases originating in Iran that's still showing up

really all over the world.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more now.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And all too common sight in Iran cities these days, citizens wearing face masks

hoping to dodge the novel coronavirus. The mood in Tehran between concern and defiance.

We're not afraid of the news about the arrival of coronavirus in Iran, this man says, we request our government to provide people with the necessary


And this woman adds, as the coronavirus entered the country it is clear that there is a fear for everyone, and we ask the government to prevent it.

And the government is escalating its measures to combat the outbreak, canceling Friday prayers in many cities, one of the first times in the

history of the Islamic Republic. And disinfecting public spaces like the Tehran Metro at least once per day.

But while streets and public transport are emptier, pharmacies in Iran are packed. While the country is suffering from medical shortages due to

international sanctions, customers at this pharmacy in Tehran are stocking up on supplies.

Regarding coronavirus, which has become serious these days and state TV officially announced it, this pharmacist says, people massively come to buy

antibacterial materials and different masks.

Tehran has become a hotbed for the novel coronavirus in the Middle East. Almost all neighboring countries have closed their borders with the Islamic

Republic. And top level politicians are also infected.

The most recent case Iran's internationally prominent Vice President, Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iranian authority saying she's currently being treated

after testing positive.

Iran's deputy health minister recently confirmed he contracted the virus after being seen clearly unwell during a press conference.

Iran now says the coronavirus has spread to more than 20 provinces in the country. The epicenter still being Qom, about 90 miles south of Tehran.

The least expectation is to provide people and especially students and in universities with masks, with filters, gloves, antibacterial gel, and tell

people this is very serious and close to us in Qom City, this woman says.

So far, the Iranian government says it will not quarantine Qom or other cities affected by the coronavirus, hoping the measures currently in place

will be effective and help curb the outbreak.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


SOARES: Still to come tonight, a big puzzle for U.S. health officials. How did a woman get coronavirus if she did not travel or have contact with

anyone else known to be infected? We'll bring you that story, next.



SOARES: We are getting some breaking news. The U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman is trying to reassure investors, as the coronavirus continues to

hammer markets all week. In fact, seven-day of drops we've seen.

In a statement, Jerome H. Powell says -- I'm going to read it out to you. "The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remains strong. However, the

coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic

outlook. We'll use our tools and act as appropriate -- as appropriate to support the economy."

That last line is key and probably why we have seen markets actually ease somewhat from the earlier drops. We saw -- we saw the Dow falling up to

1,000 points or so, down roughly four percent at the beginning of trade.

Look at what a difference these words make. The last line is critical. We'll use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy saying,

if things -- if it is needed, then the Fed will act. Markets liked what the Fed chairman said. Hence, we are seeing somewhat of a reprieve.

Nevertheless, it has been a really brutal week with stocks -- with really stocks being the red seven days in a row compared to others for you.

Now, as I said over coronavirus are growing in United States, officials briefed House lawmakers behind closed doors today Democrats emerged saying

the government is not prepared. Excuse me. For the Fed. Republicans were less critical, but acknowledged more needs to be done.

President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is downplaying the criticism. He spoke before a conservative political conference shrugging

off fears of a pandemic and worries about the stock market plunge. Take a listen.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I got a note today from a -- from a -- from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today

to calm the markets? I'm like, really, what I might do today calm the markets is tell people turn their televisions off for 24 hours.


SOARES: Now, CNN's John Harwood joins us now from Washington with more.

And, John, no one wants to sound alarmist, of course, but there has to be a balance between spreading panic as well as providing information. And some

may argue, there has been somewhat of a lack of information from the White House. What else did Mick Mulvaney have to say today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question there's been a lack of solid information from the White House. And what we

saw from Mick Mulvaney is an attempt that we often see from presidents when things go wrong, but especially from this White House, to cast blame on

others. So he's blaming the media.

But just think about it, Isa, the panic, if you will, the nervousness, the skittishness, is from investors on Wall Street, not the media or not

Democrats trying to bring the president down. These are people who liked the president's policies of low taxes and low regulation.

So the administration has not handled this well this week. The press conference the president had on Wednesday evening did not call markets. I

think what's going to call markets or potentially could call markets is if there is solid execution on the public health aspect of this consistent

reliable information not from the president or Mike Pence, but from public health experts like Tony Fauci, or the Centers for Disease Control.

And if those public health steps the administration is assisting and taking in conjunction with states actually produces the results that everyone

seeks, as the administration has said, this is not an actual public health crisis at the moment in the United States, it's a relatively small number

of cases.

But the administration does have to convey that it knows what it's doing, and that it's executing in a solid way on Capitol Hill. You've had

Republicans, Democrats both saying that the administration had not sought enough resources for this job. I do expect that you'll get a consensus

among the two parties and pass a bill relatively quickly.

SOARES: Yes. Well, the White House hasn't been able to calm markets, John. But what we have seen is Jerome Powell of the Fed calming markets hence for

the Dow is very somewhat better compared to how it was early in the day down four percent. Thanks very much, John Harwood, as our White House


Now the patient with the mysterious coronavirus case in Northern California is in serious condition, is now being incubated. The woman became infected

without traveling to any place with a known outbreak and has not been in contact with another known patient.

Experts say that could mean the virus is out there in the community, which really puts everybody at risk. So you can imagine California is currently

monitoring at least 8,400 people for the coronavirus.

Dan Simon joins me now from outside the Medical Center in Sacramento with a woman's in serious condition.

And, Dan, you know, I suspect there is an urgent race to find out how this patient was infected. What are you learning? What more do we know?


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Isa. It certainly does appear that California officials are treating this with the level of urgency that it


But as you said, the woman remains here in serious condition at the UC Davis Medical Center behind me and we also still do not know how she may

have obtained this coronavirus, and we may never know that.

The bottom line is though they are trying to retrace her steps to try to prevent future, you know, infection among other people. Just to reiterate,

people who have gotten the coronavirus in the United States either traveled to foreign countries where the virus has been spreading or they obtained it

directly from somebody who has the virus.

In this particular case, the source of infection is unknown and that is why it is so alarming. And we do know that dozens of healthcare workers with

whom the patient came into contact over the last several days, those people are under isolation or currently under quarantine. Isa?

SOARES: Yes, because correct me if I'm wrong, Dan, but because the patient own -- they only found that she had coronavirus that she was only tested

once she got to the hospital, right?

SIMON: That's right. So she'd actually been in the hospital for a few days. Because, again, she did not travel to one of those countries or wasn't

around anybody known to have the virus. The test did not take place. Once the test did take place and was confirmed, then obviously you have these

plans come into shape. Isa?

SOARES: Dan Simon there for us in Sacramento, California. Thanks very much, Dan.

Still to come tonight, the United Nations calls it one of the most alarming moments of the entire Syrian war. We'll look at the aftermath of a Syrian

airstrike that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers. Our Jomana Karadsheh is next.


SOARES: An update on the developing story out of Paris. Police say on Twitter that a major fire at the Gare de Lyon train station is now under

control. Earlier, the station was evacuated after the fires sent massive plumes of smoke, there you can see, into the skies.

Emergency operations are still underway and police are asking the public to stay away from the area for now.

The U.N. is calling for immediate ceasefire in Syria, warning the situation could spiral entirely. These are their words, entirely out of control.

Crisis talks are taking place in several fronts today after an airstrike by Russian-backed Syrian forces killed 33 Turkish soldiers in Idlib. It was

Turkey's biggest loss of life in Syria, by far, since it first intervene in that war.

Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump today, while NATO

held emergency talks.

Our Jomana Karadsheh is falling developments from Istanbul for us.

And, you know, Jomana, in the last 24 hours, we have seen quite a dramatic escalation. What do we know exactly unfolded? Tell us what each sides is

saying unfolded.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Isa, they are trading blame for what happened on Thursday evening. But, you

know, we have to mention here that this is not an isolated incident. This is the latest in a series of attacks inside Syria in Idlib Province

targeting Turkish forces. This month alone, we're talking about at least 50 soldiers who have been killed, of course, Thursday's incident was the



You've got the Turkish Defense Minister basically blaming the Syrian regime, as we have heard from officials here saying that they were

responsible for this attack. But they're also saying that they communicate to their locations. They notified the Russians, the Syrian regimes backers,

of where their troops were positioned.

And as this attack was unfolding, after the first strike, the defense minister says, they warned, the Russians, they communicated warnings, the

attack continued more airstrikes, even as ambulances were arriving on the scene.

You've got the Russians, on the other hand, denying that they knew about the location. And they say that, you know, they do all that they can to

protect Turkish forces when they are in their observation points inside Idlib, and that Turkish forces should not be out of these observation

posts. They should not be near what they described as terrorist groups. That's the term they used to describe opposition fighters. And Turkey

denies that it was anywhere near armed groups.

So, you know, Isa, this was a serious, traumatic escalation that we saw taking place. You also had the Russians moving two warships armed with

cruise missiles into the region on Friday.

But if you look at what's been going on in the past few hours, we've heard from the Kremlin and the Turkish presidency saying that Presidents Erdogan

and Putin spoke over the phone and that they have agreed to meet face to face according to the Kremlin, that meeting should be taking place in

Moscow on the 5th or the 6th of March.

You have a Russian delegation in the capital Ankara, that has been meeting with Turkish officials. So signs that maybe perhaps, you know, with these

diplomatic channels still open, that this current situation may be headed towards de-escalation, but this does not resolve the overall issue.

The key issue here of what happens in Idlib province, clearly, both sides here want very different outcomes for what happens in that last rebel-held

stronghold, Isa.

SOARES: Jomana Karadsheh there for us in Istanbul. Thanks very much, Jomana. Good to see you.

We have some breaking news -- breaking news just coming in. U.S. President Donald Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to witness the

signing of an agreement with the Taliban. He also says Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, will issue a joint declaration with the Afghan government.

Now, in a statement, Mr. Trump says if the Taliban and Afghan government live up to their commitments, they will be, quote, a powerful path forward

to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home. That statement in the last few minutes. We'll have much more in the next hour.

Thank you very much for watching. I'm Isa Soares. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" with Richard Quest is next.