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Hala Gorani Tonight
Coronavirus Epicenter Moves to Europe; Interview with Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya; Justin Trudeau Under Quarantine After Wife Tests Positive; Chinese Medical Team Sent To Help In Hard-Hit Italy; Satellite Images Show Iranian Mass Graves; The Global Impact Of The Virus; U.S. Coalition Strikes Iran-Backed Militia Facilities In Iraq; Russian Election-Meddling Operation Found In Ghana. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 13, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL J. RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIAZTION HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAM: Social distancing measures are not going to stop this
epidemic, they're not going to stop this pandemic purely in their own right.
And if countries want to really turn this around, for those countries that are in a position to do that, and it's been clearly demonstrated in places
-- in other places than investing back in a measured, comprehensive strategy as Dr. Tedros has referred to it so many times, of trying to still
do the kind of case-finding, contact-tracing, isolation to push the virus back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HALA GORANI, CNN HOST (voice-over): So as we mentioned, Europe, the new epicenter. New cases are rising in France, Germany, and Italy. Across
Europe, schools and universities are closed, major sports events canceled. In a few minutes, I'll speak to Spain's foreign minister; that country just
declared a state of emergency.
Now, Italy is getting help not from European countries, but from Chinese doctors. And as we speak, Italians are singing on their balconies. It's
6:00 p.m. in Italy, let's listen in to what's going on as they try to keep their spirits up.
Well, so you can hear it there, people on their balconies or people looking out of their windows across Italy today -- it's 6:00 p.m. -- waving, trying
to stay positive as many people are on lockdown. Some of them haven't left their apartments or their homes in quite a while, might be getting some
Melissa Bell is in Italy, and we also have Barbie Nadeau who is in Rome. Melissa, first, set the scene for us. What are we seeing? Italy is the
hardest hit country in Europe, which is the new epicenter. How are Italians reacting as we continue to try -- they try to survive this outbreak?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Hala, that very emotional moment you referred to a moment ago, we were waiting to see here in Rome,
how big that flash mob that had been planned was going to be. And here too, we've heard -- you can't quite hear it from where we are, but you can see
the people up on their balconies in here, what is a very residential district here in the Italian capital, the national anthem's playing a
little further down the road.
And all over the city and the country, the idea is that musicians and singers and ordinary people would do all they could to make some music, in
a sense, stopping this sense of surviving, just surviving, that Italians have had for the last few days, and living again, doing something that
brought them joy and reminded them of what it was not to be on lockdown.
I'll just bring the camera around here to show you as well. This supermarket -- we heard about social distancing a moment ago -- this is
what it actually looks like. This is a supermarket, again in this residential district. You can see the people queueing outside and keeping
that very safe distance between themselves in the queues, people really respecting those orders they've been given to keep apart, as far apart as
they can, even in those queues.
Now, of course, as you know, Hala, as a result of this extraordinary lockdown that the country is under, these are the only shops that are open:
supermarkets, pharmacies. There is this very odd feeling, hence this reaction tonight around this idea of this singing and this music-playing,
of a country going through extraordinary times as it tries to bring this outbreak under control -- Hala.
GORANI: Right. And Barbie Nadeau, you're in deserted Piazza del Popolo. Talk to us about what people are telling you -- I don't know how much
interaction you can have with ordinary Italians at this stage, but what are people telling you about how they're trying to just get through this
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think that as the numbers continue to increase in this country, people are understanding that
the lockdown is really the only option. And there's no plan B, there's no fallback. If the lockdown doesn't work to stem the increasing numbers, then
people are really going to be in a much more desperate situation.
You know, in a couple of minutes here, we'll be able to get the numbers from the last 24 hours and, you know, by all indications, they're not going
to be any better than they've been. The prime minister told us that this lockdown won't take -- really won't see any results from this lockdown for
about two weeks, and we're expecting the numbers to peak in about seven days.
So the numbers, you know, are depressing. People are locked up, and they really hold faith that the lockdown is going to be the one thing that stops
this virus -- Hala.
GORANI: All right. And speaking of this lockdown, Melissa, the Italian foreign minister says that in some instances, it is having a positive
effect. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUIGI DI MAIO, FOREIGN MINISTER OF ITALY (through translator): I just received the data that 14 days after those 10 municipalities were locked
down, in those 10 municipalities, there are no new cases. This is the reason why we've then extended the same measures to the whole of Italy over
the last few days. Because what we saw -- what we did in those 10 municipalities worked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. And so, Melissa, what does that mean in terms of how much longer this lockdown will go on for? Because the government seems to
be saying it's working.
BELL: It does appear to be working, Hala. We've been hearing for a couple of days now from national authorities like you just heard there -- from
Luigi Di Maio, but also from regional authorities up in the two hardest his provinces.
Because if Italy is in a sense at the forefront of a European battle against this outbreak, those national figures that were getting in a moment
only tell part of the picture. Much more interesting is to see how those provinces that are themselves ahead of the rest of Italy, both in terms of
the outbreak and the fight against it.
And of course I'm thinking in particular of Lombardy and Veneto. And within those regions, of the town of Cordogno. Remember that at the end of
February, it's where patient one was identified, one of those first towns to be locked down -- that lockdown, now applied to the country. But this
was a couple of weeks before it was made nationwide.
Now, we've tried to have a look at some of those figures, to check whether what we were hearing was correct, to see if there has really been that
turnaround as we saw in China a few weeks ago, as we've seen in Korea, to see whether Italy was finally getting those numbers under control.
Now, the figures for Cordogno are simply not available publicly. But those for the Lodi area, in which it is, are. We've checked them. The rates --
new infection rates are -- that are published daily -- are slowing compared to last week. And that is really interesting, because it shows that a
crucial moment -- a crucial turning has been made in the fight against the outbreak, and that's really what we were looking to see.
Just a moment ago, the press conference began to announce the nationwide numbers, another big rise in the nationwide numbers. That does not reflect
that, of course, but of course authorities had warned that it would take a couple of weeks for those measures, applied a couple of weeks ago in places
like Cordogno, to be able to show their effect nationwide.
So a turning point locally. Nationally, this nationwide lockdown, of course. Could bear its fruit, but we're still waiting for that to happen --
GORANI: All right. Melissa Bell and Barbie Nadeau, thanks to both of you.
After Italy, Spain is dealing with the second-worst outbreak in Europe. The country has declared a 15-day state of emergency, and the number of cases
is rising at a frightening rate. Officials are reporting more than 1,200 new patients in the last day alone.
I'm joined now by the Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya. Thank you, Minister, for being with us. First of all, you are warning of this
surge in cases. What measures are you taking to try to slow the spread of this coronavirus?
ARANCHA GONZALEZ LAYA, FOREIGN MINISTER OF SPAIN: Well, the first measure we are taking is declaring a state of alert that will allow the state to
better coordinate all the regions in Spain from a sanitary and from an economic point of view, putting all means at the disposal of the
government, whether they're civil means or military means, to ensure the effectiveness of the measures we've been taking in the last days, and
ensure that we slow the curve of growth of the virus.
GORANI: What do you -- I mean, what is the latest in terms of the number of cases? What I saw is that currently, Spain has reported more than 100
deaths. Is that accurate?
GONZALEZ LAYA: That is accurate. But you see, the figures reflect the expectations. These were the figures that the government has been
expecting, according to the progression of the virus in other countries. And according to how the virus has been behaving in other countries nearby.
Whether it's Italy, whether the progressions that we've been seeing in China, in Korea, and so on and so forth.
But the crucial point today is to make sure that we slow down the growth. This is a sanitary, this is a health problem, this is a health crisis. So
the first point of action for us has to be slowdown with a battery of health measures, making medicines affordable and available, making sure
medicines are covering the entirety of the country, making sure the medical services -- the nurses, the doctors -- are available. Making sure we do not
collapse hospitals with problems that can be better treated at home, leaving the hospitals for those most in need.
That's the first action we are taking. We will not see the results before two weeks, that's the estimations we're playing with. In the meantime, we
are also working hard to ensure the economy also doesn't collapse, that we make sure that the economy keeps working. Hence the support we are
providing to small businesses, to self-employed, and to specific sectors like tourism, which is of vital importance to the Spanish economy.
GORANI: Sure. I've got to ask you, so many of our viewers live around the world, some of them might have business in Spain, some of them might have
family in Spain. And they are asking us questions that we don't always have the answers to. Can they travel to Spain? Are you advising people to stay
GONZALEZ LAYA: Well, what we are advising people in general around the world, is not to travel. Because traveling today increases the problem.
GONZALEZ LAYA: And we understand that sometimes this may be tough, and it is certainly tough for students for example. It is tough --
GONZALEZ LAYA: -- for businesspeople. But if it not essential, don't travel. Because all you do is make it more difficult to control the
disease. Whether you're in America, whether you're in London, whether you're in Madrid, whether you're in Morocco. If it is not essential, don't
travel now in the following -- in the next weeks because this will help governments, authorities to better control the disease, to protect you and
protect all your neighbors also.
GORANI: Yes, and what do you make of the Trump administration travel ban? I understand European countries weren't given any notice that he was going to
announce the suspension of travel until the end of March from Schengen countries, the 26 countries in continental Europe. What was your reaction
when you heard this?
GONZALEZ LAYA: Well, for us in Spain, travel bans or restrictions on travel have to be linked to the spread of virus. We don't take those bans and
those limitations with any political ideal, political thinking in mind. We do this for purely health reasons, to make sure that we do control the
spread of the virus. That's our objective, number one. We --
GORANI: So you agree --
GONZALEZ LAYA: -- ourselves have taken measures to limit travel --
GORANI: Sorry to -- the question was about the Trump travel ban, were you given any prior notice that he was going to make this announcement and that
it would affect your citizens in Spain?
GONZALEZ LAYA: No, we were not give prior notice, but again, irrespective of who takes the travel ban, our advice is take this as a measure to
control the spread of the virus. That should be our guiding principle.
And let's make sure that we do this with passengers, but we keep merchandise and cargos for moving around because we still have to make sure
that trade continues to flow between our countries. We need supplies to get to where there is demand.
So measures taken to contain health, that should be our objective. Because we need to make sure that as we stop the growth of the virus, we need to
keep the economies working. So --
GORANI: So do you --
GONZALEZ LAYA: -- the (ph) viruses, we will control them. And as soon as we control them, we need to make sure that the economies can rebound.
GORANI: So do you think, then -- it seems like you're saying that it's a good idea to limit travel. I don't know if you think it's a good idea to
ban travel, but then what about the U.K. approach -- still a European Union member -- where Boris Johnson and his chief medical officer are saying
limiting large events for now, screening at airports for now is not necessary? Do you disagree with them on their approach?
GONZALEZ LAYA: Well, what I will tell you is what we are doing. And what we are doing with other European colleagues, with whom I am consulting day and
night, to make sure that we take measures that are coherent. With our objectives, to keep our economies function while we keep the virus under
We ourselves are reducing and forbidden events -- that means mass gatherings, cultural events, group events -- to make sure that, again,
always in mind, health considerations.
GORANI: All right.
GONZALEZ LAYA: This is not the time for politics, this is the time for keeping the virus under check and make sure that our economies are healthy
and can rebound after we control the disease.
GORANI: I get that, I get that it's not the time for politics. But it was a Chinese plane full of medical supplies that landed in Rome today, not an
E.U. plane full of medical supplies, or from an E.U. member state. Don't you find that a little bit surprising? Italy is going through a major
GONZALEZ LAYA: Well it's -- what is happening is what happened two months ago, when China was in need, Europe was sending lots of medicines and
equipment to China. China is now out of the danger zone, and China is returning the favor by sending medicines and equipment to countries in need
in Europe and in other places around the world.
I do think, though, that in the European Union, with an integrated market that we have, we need to make sure the market remains open, that we do not
put barriers among ourselves. This is a bit the message that the European Commission has sent today, it's a message that Spain strongly supports
because a big part of the answer, we will find in the solidarity that represents the internal E.U. market.
GORANI: All right.
GONZALEZ LAYA: And we need to make sure this market keeps functioning, even during the coronavirus.
GORANI: Got it. Thank you very much, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya. Really appreciate having you on the program, live from
We are just hours out now from that new U.S. travel ban we were discussing with the foreign minister. Nic Robertson breaks it down for us.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Across Europe, passengers scramble to beat Donald Trump's travel ban.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to change our plans completely because of the ban of flights from Europe. So it's been a nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our original flight's tomorrow, but we're trying to go home early.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The U.S. is shutting its borders to many European countries to try to limit the spread of coronavirus. But in Italy, which
has been in a nationwide lockdown for four days, many of its airports are already deserted. It remains the worst affected country outside of China,
and the number of cases is continuing to rise rapidly.
Now, even China, where the outbreak started, is sending medical aid to Rome.
FRANCESCO ROCCA, ITALIAN RED CROSS (through translator): In this moment of great stress, of great difficulty, we are relieved to have this arrival of
supplies. It is true that it will help only temporarily, but it is still important.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Late Thursday, the Vatican's cardinal in charge of Rome took the unprecedented step of announcing all churches in the city
would be closed.
Across the rest of Europe, authorities are imposing ever stricter limits on public gatherings. And many countries like France are closing schools and
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): This epidemic affects all continents and now hits all European countries. It is the worst
health crisis in France in a century.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): As the pandemic worsens, many lawmakers and leaders around the world are working from home. Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau is self-quarantining after his wife tested positive.
Australia's home affairs minister has been infected, as has a junior health minister in the U.K. and France's culture minister. Iran's deputy health
minister tested positive last month while the president of the European Parliament is self-quarantining for two weeks, as a precaution.
The health crisis is also forcing major sporting events to either be postponed or played behind closed doors. Across Asia, there are signs the
number of new cases has slowed in some countries. In South Korea, the government there is continuing to carry out large-scale disinfecting
programs. While in Thailand, this foreign exchange company is taking the same approach to bank notes.
Even Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, is being closed to hikers amid concerns about the virus. Yet another sign of the truly global nature
of the health crisis facing the world. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
GORANI: So this U.S. travel ban doesn't apply to the U.K. And to keep it that way, airlines at London's busiest airport will begin checking the
travel histories of people flying to the United States from right here in London.
Scott McLean is at Heathrow Airport. So this is going to take quite a while, right? To check every single person flying through London to make
sure they haven't been in any Schengen country in the last two weeks?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Hala. The first thought here, when this travel ban came into effect, is that while people could
just use the U.K. or Ireland as a workaround in order to sneak their way into the United States, it turns out the ban covers anyone who's been in
that Schengen zone in the last 14 days.
So Heathrow Airport says this is not a back door for Europeans looking to get to the U.S. As you mentioned, the really -- the burden is on the
airlines to check the travel histories of all travelers before they get on that flight.
Now, the question that we've been trying to answer today, with limited success, is how much access the airlines actually have to the entry and
exit data taken by the home office of the United Kingdom, which is in charge of border controls? Is it possible, if someone really wanted to, to
take a train, say, to the U.K. or even fly here, go through the e-passport gates and then get on a separate flight to the United States?
How much are the airlines relying on passengers to simply be honest on the forms they're filling out? That's a question that's not entirely clear, but
this is a good test for the system, to see whether or not they can keep out travelers that the United States has said they don't want -- Hala.
GORANI: All right. Scott McLean at Heathrow Airport.
A key question during this pandemic, who are the people most at risk for coronavirus? Well, there is a new study that is published in the medical
journal "The Lancet." It analyzed nearly 200 coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China, which is where this all started, and the risk factors for mortality.
Here to break it all down for us is our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who's been working around the clock on this story. Talk to us
about this most recent study of Wuhan patients in "The Lancet." How much more clarity does it give us on who is most at risk from coronavirus?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure thing, Hala. It does give us some more clarity on this, but I would caution a little bit. As
we're all learning about this together, and look, we're going to have lots of scientific papers published about this novel coronavirus in the months
and years to come. Right now, we're still dealing with limited information.
And the caution is that people who show up at the hospital, people who seek medical care are already a particular stratified group of people. So it's
not necessarily reflective of the entire population. There may be many, many more people out there who don't seek medical care.
Having said that, the people who seem to be most at risk -- and we've heard some of this -- are the elderly. And they define elderly, interestingly, as
people 60 and above. But when you really start to look at the data in terms of more likely to have serious or critical illness or die from this, it
really is people in their 70s and 80s. That really seems to be a risk factor.
As far as what we call these other pre-existing conditions, that's a sort of a bit term but they defined it a little bit more precisely as heart
disease, coronary artery disease, lung disease, diabetes, and hypertension. So heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and hypertension, those were the
four that the researchers in this particular "Lancet" study really saw jump out at them in terms of being risk factors for this. Again, with the
appropriate cautions, that's what they're finding.
GORANI: And obviously, these types of diseases affect disproportionately older people, so that would make sense. And these curves that -- and
there's one particular set of curves that you've been discussing on-air over the last day or so, the one that shows, you know, the progression of
the spread of the infection without any containment measures, and the other one, which is much flatter, that shows the progression or the rate of
infection with containment measures. Can you talk us through that?
GUPTA: That's right. Yes, absolutely. Let's put it up if we can, I'm going to talk you through. And this is really important, certainly from a
hospital perspective. If you look at underneath both curves, really, it's the same volume. So you're saying, OK, it's the same number of patients
But you're just taking these patients into the medical system over a greater period of time when you flatten the curve. If you have many, many
patients up front, right at the beginning, you can see how many patients are above that dotted line, which represents the capacity of the health
So you greatly exceed the capacity if you don't slow the spread and slow the rate at which new patients are actually contracting the infection.
So again, it doesn't necessarily mean there will be fewer patients who are contracting the infection. This is a contagious virus, Hala, and it is
spreading around the world. We think -- you know, and you've heard some of the projections, 40 to 60 to 70 percent of the world may be exposed to this
The goal by all health care systems I think, all countries, what we're hearing as part of these national emergencies that are being declared, is
really to flatten that curve and to slow down the pace at which these patients need medical care.
GORANI: Sure. You really don't want to overwhelm the health care system.
By the way, we're going to talk in more detail about this. But Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, came out. He says he's feeling fine,
even though his wife tested positive for coronavirus.
So this is a perfect case study in a way. Because here's someone -- I mean, he's living intimately with his spouse, he doesn't have it, she -- how is
it -- do we know why some people just don't seem to catch this virus?
GUPTA: Well, look, you know, in his case, we don't know -- right? -- if he caught the virus or not, because he has not been tested. We know that
there's a significant percentage of people who may carry the virus and not really have much in the way of symptoms. I know he's talking to his
doctors, and obviously we've had -- the president of the United States have had some of those same discussions with his doctors in terms of whether to
be tested or not.
One thing I will point out, Hala, is that if you looked at the initial sort of criteria for testing, who should be tested for this coronavirus. The
initial criteria were someone who had traveled to an area where the virus was spreading. At that point, it was primarily China. And the second
criteria was someone who was in direct contact with someone who was known to have the virus, which obviously Prime Minister Trudeau has been.
So he would actually meet the criteria for testing. As I said, we -- know, we're learning as we go along. And I think anybody who's dogmatic about
this, you know, needs to be careful because I think some of this may change.
But it is safe to say that one could reasonably make the argument that the prime minister should be tested. Maybe because, in that case, if he is
positive, it may lead to him being more careful about how close he's having contact with other people so as to not spread the virus.
Again, I don't want to question -- second-guess his doctor's recommendations, but it clearly meets the criteria for testing.
GORANI: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.
We will be right back with much more on this pandemic including more on Justin Trudeau. We'll be right back.
GORANI: We were discussing his before the break. The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke out for the first time since his wife
Sophie tested positive for the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: Yesterday, I shared with you that my wife Sophie was being tested for COVID-19, and that test did come back
positive. Sophie's symptoms remain mild, but we're following medical advice and taking every precaution. She will remain in isolation for the time
We are thinking about all the families across the country who've received the same diagnosis, but we're in good hands. We have full confidence in
Canada's health officials and professionals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Paula Newton -- who's normally based in Canada -- joins us now from CNN's center in Atlanta.
So the prime minister is showing no symptoms, but we don't know for sure he doesn't have the virus yet, he's out and about. What's going on?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's not out and about, right? He's in quarantine. And, Hala, you mentioned it earlier, this is a public
service message to the entire world. You know, he came out of their residence, he's got three kids in there that couldn't go to school
yesterday. They're now staying home for several weeks.
His wife is in a separate room in that home. You know, imagine trying to keep the three kids away from their mother for that long, but that's what
they are doing. They are taking all precautions from professionals.
And like I said, she -- really, she was in the U.K., she did what could have happened to any one of us. She was there on official visits, she was
there at a We event. It is an event for young people and youth. She saw many people there.
I still don't have clarity from the prime minister's office as to whether or not she actually had a social visit with any members of the royal
family. Again, much more to think about here. She flew back commercially, they have to do contact tracing on all of that.
You are starting to learn from this one family, Hala, exactly the implications of this virus, and how seriously, you know, public health
professionals in Canada are telling the Trudeau family to take this and they are, they will be in that home for at least two weeks.
GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Paula Newton. Out and about all the way up to the bottom of his front door, which is -- which at least he's
getting some air. Thanks very much.
Paula Newton also announcing some limitations on travel. We'll get into the rest of the big top headlines concerning the coronavirus.
Italy turns to China for help. The epicenter of the European outbreak hopes to learn from Chinese experience about how to get it under control. We'll
bring you that story coming up.
GORANI: Well, while the West grapples with how to curve coronavirus and braces for more cases, the continent where it all began, Asia, is seeing
some improvement. Mainland China continues to report daily drops in cases and a dwindling death toll while coronavirus is also slowing.
In South Korea, there are more cases too every day but the rate of infection is down. A team of Chinese doctors in fact has arrived in Italy.
They are offering their help at the heart of Europe's coronavirus crisis.
CNN's David Culver is live in Shanghai with more. Talk to us about what Chinese doctors, as we heard before they're returning the favor when Europe
helping them when the crisis was at its worst in China. What are -- what are they trying to achieve in Italy?
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hala, what an interesting turnaround just two months after really what was the start of
the extreme portions of this outbreak here in China. We now see that this country is starting to feel like they have it so much under control that
they can help other countries, namely Italy.
We know that one of those teams left about 24 hours ago from Shanghai, actually where we are and they -- there's a big infectious hospital group
here that is really treating a lot of these patients. And so they were sent into Italy, not only to help on the front lines, but also to train into
perhaps share some of the protocol that they've learned here over the past two months, with Italian doctors in treating what are now thousands of
infected patients there.
The numbers here of daily reported cases are now in the single digits over the past couple days. It's an incredible drop that they are reporting, of
course, these coming from government figures. And that's really the only data that we can rely on here. But that's also where the World Health
Organization is getting their information. So we've got to stress that too.
As far as what they're doing there, in addition to assisting with the Italian doctors is they're also bringing in medical supplies. And we're
hearing it's the face mask, it's the testing kits, it's also some of the other protective gear.
And those are things that when you think back where we were reporting two months ago, there was such a dire shortage here within China for those
items, that what they did is essentially turn it into a military like ramping up of production within the factories, they brought in people in
the midst of what was the Lunar New Year holiday when a lot of people were back in their home provinces, they brought them back into the factories,
they ramped up production within those factories, specifically towards those protective items of medical supplies, and they were able to get them
to a certain number to meet the demand, and now they have seemingly enough to share with these other countries.
What's interesting to see going forward is if the U.S. will be among the countries that they either extend aid to or actually deliberate to when it
comes to supplies and/or those testing kits. We've heard about the United States having issues coming up with some of the number of testing kits that
The question is going to be, Hala, is the U.S. can ask for that or is that going to be something that the Chinese government will kind of wait until
they're hearing from the U.S. to plead for -- you know, how's that going to be? It sounds like it's going to be quite political if anything.
GORANI: All right. David Culver, thanks very much. One of our team of reporters working around the clock since the beginning of this outbreak.
Thanks very much. I know it's late for you, once again, on a Friday night.
Still to come tonight. Why experts believe Iran's outbreak is a great deal worse than the government's numbers suggest. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Turning now to the Middle East where tensions are escalating after the U.S. carried out retaliatory airstrikes against an Iranian-backed
militia in Iraq. You remember last time this happened? It was Qassem Soleimani.
Well, the Iraqi military says at least six people were killed in the raids. The Pentagon says it's a response to the rocket attack Wednesday that
killed two American troops and a British soldier. But the Iraqi military condemned the airstrikes denouncing them as a violation of its sovereignty.
Speaking of Iran, back to the virus now, that country is struggling with one of the worst outbreaks in the world, but satellite images suggests they
are dealing with a rising death toll in an unsettling fashion.
Sam Kiley reports on this. And I should warn our viewers that they may find images in the following piece rather disturbing.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Images of tragedy visible from space, mass graves believed to be for coronavirus
victims in the Iranian holy city of Qom revealed by a satellite.
The pit about 100 yards long. A source who has witnessed the process tell CNN that they are dug especially deep and away from other graves. The work
is done at night. Piles of white powder can be seen, most likely quicklime used on victims to sterilize their remains.
The government's official infection rate in Iran is now over 10,000. With more than 450 dead, the figures climb daily, but maybe a catastrophic
ASHLEIGH TUITE, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, TORONTO UNIVERSITY: What we found was that at the time that we did this initial estimate, Iran was reporting less than
50 cases. And based on our best estimates, we were estimating something around 18,000 to 20,000 cases.
So basically, 400 fold more cases than the official estimates would suggest.
KILEY: That was last month. Today, the experts say the real number of Iranian infections is likely in the hundreds of thousands. Iranian
officials have admitted that separate treatment needed for corona victim's bodies was causing backlogs in mortuaries in Qom.
Iran is mobilizing against the virus. The cabinet now meets in masks. Its president sounding hopeful.
HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): Dear and honorable people of our country, we are having a difficult time. But we will leave
these days behind us.
KILEY: Iran has been accused of doing too little too late to disinfect its streets and isolate the population, a warning to other nations as the
pandemic spreads. These images of suspected mass graves in Iran, perhaps a worst case example, or a glimpse into the near future.
Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.
GORANI: Let's talk more about this coronavirus and its global impact. Ian Bremmer joins me now from New York. He's the president of Eurasia Group,
and GZERO Media. Thanks for being with us.
First, a quick word on the U.S. operation inside of Iraq targeting this Iraqi militia. Of course, it was a huge story when it was Qassem Soleimani.
Now, the world is consumed with coronavirus, but this is still going on, this tit for tat between Iran and the United States.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Yes. It's a much smaller tit for tat because we're talking here about Iranian proxies in Iran, both in terms of
the attack against the Americans and the U.K. servicemen, one U.K. serviceman also died in that operation, as well as the American response.
I mean, clearly, the fact that Iraq is increasingly the playground for these attacks, is going to lead the Iraqi government to have more backlash
against the Americans and the true presence there that continues to be an unresolved issue.
But I mean, let's face it, the Iranians just went to the IMF, for emergency financial support that would have to be actually supported by the United
States. They are not in a position to be making any significant escalation directly.
In fact, I'd be surprised if this was a direct order from the Iranians through their proxies. I just think with Soleimani dead, they don't have
the kind of control over their people in the region that they did a few months ago.
GORANI: Yes, interesting point. And speaking of Iran and the death toll there that could be even higher than official government --
GORANI: -- figures suggest. This is an economy that's already on its knees. The healthcare system is suffering from years and years of sanctions. I
mean, this could really deal a devastating blow to the country.
BREMMER: Look, not only do you have a 10 percent contraction in the Iranian economy last year on the back of U.S. and other sanctions, but you also now
have oil prices at 30 bucks. I mean, we have a really contracted demand globally on the back of what will be a global recession and, you know, all
of this supply chain disruption. And now, you have the Saudis and the Russians in an energy war, producing more the Saudis moving towards 13
million barrels a day. They've never produced like that. There's lots of reasons we can get into as to why it's happening.
But the Iranians are completely -- I mean, you say they're on their knees. I think they're on their face at this point. I mean, there's very little
promising in the Iranian economy going forward.
GORANI: And what's interesting is how this coronavirus pandemic, the epicenter of which is now right here in Europe is sort of just completely
turning things around, turning the tables on Europeans, where African countries are now saying, they're going to restrict potentially travel from
Europe into Africa because of the spread of the virus in Europe, which really is a headline I didn't think that I would ever see.
BREMMER: Well, and you're seeing headlines as well of how Jack Ma, the wealthiest man in China, is actually providing aid to the Americans,
offering far more test kits and humanitarian support than the Americans have been able to produce so far.
But let's be clear, there's a big difference between the headlines and public diplomacy and the actual resilience of these economies. And the
ability of the Europeans and the Americans to pour money into their economies to ensure that the health care system are up to speed, get up to
speed, as opposed to many of these emerging markets who are going to take it on the chin.
BREMMER: They're not going to have the same ability to stimulate. And they're not going to see the capital coming in.
GORANI: For sure. But I mean, you have these European and American countries, especially in the United States, over the last several years,
they've reduced taxes, they've cut interest rates, every single tool at their disposal to combat a recession, has been used during an economic
boom. They have very little place left to go.
I mean, if this pandemic stays at this level, fine. But if we start seeing numbers like China, which is not impossible, then you might really have a
crisis on your hands and a long lasting one at that.
BREMMER: Again, no question that this right now looks like it's going to be a much worse recession, in part because as you suggested, we don't have the
ammunition among the central banks. I mean, before the 2008 financial crisis, Fed rate was over five percent. It was -- it was just over one and
a half percent before the emergency cut a week ago. So that is clearly a problem.
But again, if it turns out that it gets that much worse, the countries that will be hurt the most will not be the Americans and the Europeans, it'll be
the emerging markets. And I think we just have to be aware of that.
GORANI: Sure. Ian Bremmer, thanks very much for joining us. Always a pleasure.
Bremmer: My pleasure, Hala.
GORANI: And this just in. We're learning that the London Marathon, the London Marathon, has been postponed because of coronavirus. The race
originally was scheduled for the end of April. It's been delayed until early October. The marathon's event director says that with this
unprecedented situation that public health is a top priority.
Still to come, an exclusive CNN investigation into Russian election interference finds that it's being outsourced to West Africa. The report
and the world reaction is next.
GORANI: U.S. authorities are investigating how Russia is trying to interfere in the 2020 election. A CNN investigation has discovered how the
Russians are, in some cases, outsourcing some trolling operations to target American voters.
CNN worked with Facebook, Twitter, and researchers at Clemson University, finding nearly 300 accounts created not in Russia but all the way in West
Africa. And this collaboration is having a real-world impact already with Facebook removing dozens of these fake accounts and pages.
And some U.S. lawmakers are urging action as well. And that action is based in part on this exclusive report from our chief international
correspondent, Clarissa Ward.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of miles from the frosty streets of St. Petersburg, this is a new
hub for Russia's infamous trolls.
A CNN investigation has found that Accra, Ghana was the launch pad for an online operation to stoke racial tensions and stir up social unrest in the
U.S. ahead of the 2020 election. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, hundreds of accounts churned out posts about issues such as racism and
police brutality in the U.S.
WARD (on camera): For months now, we've been investigating this network of trolls targeting African-Americans, and now, we've actually come here to
Ghana to try to get the full story.
WARD (voice-over): In the run-up to our journey, we had discovered that all of the accounts were connected to an NGO called, Eliminating Barriers for
the Liberation of Africa, known as EBLA, or Ebla.
Looking at the website, it was clear something was off. Parts of it still had dummy text. It was impossible to make an actual donation. And most
mysteriously, one of the photographs had a Russian file name.
Though the group claim to be focused on issues like poverty in Ghana, its employees posted almost exclusively about the U.S. Some used incendiary
language: "America's descent into a fascist police state continues. Someone needs to take that senator out."
Often, they posted on real U.S. groups, an attempt to gain legitimacy and build an audience. Many even implied they were in America. "We all are all
sick and tired of the violence that's taking place in our communities."
In reality, they were here, in a nondescript house on the outskirts of Ghana's capital.
WARD (on camera): This is the compound where the operation has been based. There's no sign for an NGO. We're about an hour outside of the city. And
you can see, this is a very secluded residential area. And people here have been telling us that about three weeks ago, Ghanaian security services
showed up here, raided the building, and no one's been back since.
WARD (VOICE-OVER): Sources in Ghana's national security tell CNN that all of EBLA's funding came from Russia.
After the raid, the accounts went quiet for a few days. Then, on Instagram, the group changed their handle names and started posting again.
WARD (on camera): We're heading out now to meet one of the EBLA employees. They don't actually know that CNN is coming to this meeting, but we're
desperately hoping they might be able to give us some more information about how the NGO works and who might be behind it.
After some discussion about their safety, the employee agrees to talk to us, provided we keep her identity hidden.
We sit down in a secure location. She tells us she was hired in September of 2019 and had no idea she would be working as a Russian troll.
WARD (on camera): Tell me more about your training.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we were trained to use relevant hashtags. So if I'm posting about Black Lives Matter, I should add a hashtag about probably
WARD (voice-over): The 16 employees were each given different areas to focus on; racism, police brutality, feminism.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Initially, your success was measured by the number of people you reach. But most importantly, you have to get followers, all
WARD: The tactics are strikingly similar to those used by Russia's Internet Research Agency, known as the IRA, ahead of the U.S. presidential election
The aim? To pit Americans against each other and create mistrust of the political system. Run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of President
Putin, the IRA was later sanctioned by the U.S.
This time, the Russians appear to be outsourcing some of their Russian troll networks, offering plausible deniability. The employee tells us her
boss was a South African who called himself Mr. Amara.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He certainly was a passionate person about helping people.
WARD (on camera): Did you know if Mr. Amara spoke any languages other than English?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to what I heard, he spoke Russian, too.
WARD: But Mr. Amara is not South African. In fact, he is not Mr. Amara at all.
CNN has learned his real name is Seth Wiredu, and he is Ghanaian. Wiredu has worked and studied in Russia for many years.
Months after starting the Ghana operation, he opened a second branch in Nigeria. In January of this year, EBLA even posted a job on LinkedIn in
Charleston, South Carolina.
The raid by Ghana's security services did not stop Wiredu. On our last day in Accra, we find out that he has organized a secret meeting of employees
on a university campus. He tells them to create more accounts, and promises they will get paid soon.
As the meeting finishes, we approach him wearing a hidden camera, and greet him in Russian.
WARD (on camera): Seth. Hi, my name is Clarissa Ward. I work for CNN.
SETH WIREDU, EBLA: Hey.
WARD: How are you?
WIREDU: I'm fine.
WARD: I just had a couple of questions for you about EBLA.
WARD: And why you posted this job in the U.S., in Charleston, South Carolina?
WIREDU: Well, it's actually so strange for someone to come up and ask me about EBLA right now. So I don't know how much I can be of help to you.
WARD: Are you aware that there's a presidential election in November?
WARD: You're not aware of that?
WIREDU: I know there's one in Ghana.
WARD: How long have you been working for the IRA, for the troll factory?
WIREDU: What troll factory?
WARD: In St. Petersburg, Russia?
WIREDU: I don't know -- I don't know what the IRA is, so I can't tell you that I'm working for the IRA.
WARD: So why do you call yourself Mr. Amara and say that you're South African?
WIREDU: I just think it's my own personal something. Everyone can call themselves anything that they want. Anyone can transform into whatever they
want. I'm protected by God.
WIREDU: I'm doing this for me. I'm doing this for my own people.
WARD: But you're actually doing it for Russia. So you might want to explain to God that there was a mix-up.
WARD (voice-over): He repeatedly denies running a Russian troll factory. And with that, our conversation ends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here he comes.
WARD: Moments later, we see Wiredu drive off in a red Mercedes. Wherever his money comes from, he seems to be doing well.
The room where EBLA's trolls once sat now stands empty, but similar operations out there may be ramping up as efforts to influence the 2020
WARD: CNN did reach out to all 16 of the EBLA employees in Ghana, most of them told us the same thing, Hala, that they simply had no idea what they
were involved with that they didn't know they were working for a Russian troll operation.
In the meantime, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have now taken down some 274 different accounts. Those apparently had a reach of nearly a quarter of
a million people, most of them Americans.
But, Hala, the social media companies really see this as a victory of sorts. They say this is a campaign that was early on in its operational
capacity. And it could have been much worse if they hadn't detected it this early. Hala?
GORANI: All right. Clarissa Ward, thanks very much.
And on a final sad note, the Eiffel Tower, even the Eiffel Tower, is closing starting at 9:00 p.m. tonight. There is a live image coming to us
from the French capital due to coronavirus concerns.
The Eiffel Tower, as I mentioned, will be closed starting 9:00 p.m. local time, that is according to the management of the Eiffel Tower announcing it
on this -- on its website in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak they say. And due to the government health measures announced today, the Eiffel Tower
will be closed for an indefinite period of time.
I'm Hala Gorani, if it's your weekend, have a great one, trying times. Thanks for watching tonight. Stay with CNN. "AMANPOUR" is next.