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Trump Suspends Travel from Europe to U.S. for 30 Days; Italy's Health Care System Collapsing; Luigi Di Maio, Italian Foreign Minister, is Interviewed About Trump's Travel Ban and Italy; State of Emergency in Rhode Island; Governor Gina Raimondo (D-RI), is Interviewed About Rhode Island's State of Emergency; Coronavirus Pandemic Escalating; Interview With London Mayoral Candidate Rory Stewart; Interview With Author E.J. Dionne. Aired 2- 3p ET
Aired March 12, 2020 - 14: 00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
The coronavirus stress test, leadership, health care and the global economy. First, Italy under lockdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUIGI DI MAIO, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): There's no country in the world has ever foreseen such a large-scale emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A report from Europe's ground zero with the Italian foreign minister.
Then to the United States, the governor of Rhode Island declares a state of emergency. She joins me as the virus spreads there.
Britain exempt from President Trump's travel ban tries to delay the spread. We rate the government's crisis management with the former cabinet minister
and London mayor or candidate.
And a veteran political commentator on the growing anxiety in America as coronavirus headlines dominate the economy, culture and sports.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London where here and around the world leaders are grappling with the rapid spread of
the coronavirus crisis. President Trump's travel ban announced from the Oval office did little to reduce tension and blindsided leaders across the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the
next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, global markets plunged after the president's remarks. On Wall Street, trading was halted for the second time this week when stock
prices fell 7 percent at the opening bell.
In a moment, we'll speak to a U.S. governor about the situation there and we'll look to the response of the British government and also, to the
frontlines of health care.
But first to Italy where bars, restaurants and most shops are closed as the massive growth of the coronavirus cases threaten to overwhelm the health
care system. Luigi Di Maio is Italy's minister of Foreign Affairs. And I asked him about President Trump's travel ban and about the extraordinary
challenges facing Italy right now.
Foreign minister, welcome to the program.
LUIGI DI MAIO, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Foreign, I wonder, you must have woken up this morning like the rest of Europe to hear what President Trump had said. What is your
reaction to the banning of all travelers from Europe for the next 30 days to the U.S.?
DI MAIO (through translator): I am sure that many Italians saw this, many contacted us this morning, this is because some will have to go back to
Italy. And now, they will have to go via the U.K. and only later to Rome.
The real issue however, is that at the moment, the whole of the West is closely interconnected. On the one hand, Trump's words underline the U.S.
not wanting to underplay the problem. At the same time however, I hope that we can sort this issue related to flights. I don't think at the moment we
cannot think as single countries.
As we can see, this is an issue affecting all countries in the West. And now, we need to tackle this emergency by sharing all of the information and
the experience we have. Italy was the first one to act on it. We have good practices. The lockdown that we implemented in the 10 neighborhoods -- in
the 10 provinces in the north works because we -- in about 15 days, we're now down to zero cases. The same rules will now be applied to the whole of
Italy. So, we can definitely survive this, we can do it.
AMANPOUR: We hear that actually in Italy there has been a bit of an explosion of new infections. Are you saying that in northern Italy there
has been zero new infections in the last how many days?
DI MAIO (through translator): I will say that 15 days ago, the areas that had the first issues with the epidemic were 10 neighborhoods, 10
municipalities. Those places were put on lockdown. People were asked to stay home and majority of shops were closed. There were then controls to
avoid people going in or out of those municipalities.
I have 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 extended the same measures to the whole of Italy over the last few days because what we saw -- what we did in those 10
The results of the stricter rules that were just implemented in Europe we'll be able to see in a couple weeks' time. Both in terms of the number
of new cases and casualties, once new rules are implemented to stop the spread, we need to obviously wait some days to see whether these have
provided new results.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about your health care system. On the one hand, the W.H.O. ranks it very, very high in the world. On the other hand,
we hear that it is under enormous pressure. We hear from the doctors and officials are now saying that there might be a collapse of Italy's health
care system. You can tell us where it stands?
DI MAIO (through translator): Currently, the situation we're facing is the one that all countries in the world should be worried about. The more cases
we have in terms of absolute values, the more people will have to go into intensive care and they will have to be intubated because they cannot
No country in the world has ever foreseen such a large-scale emergency. I wouldn't say that our national health system is collapsing, I don't think
this is true at all. Our doctors, our nurses, our health care professionals and this is especially the case in the most hard-hit regions, are
overburdened, they are under a lot of stress purely in terms of the numbers of people that are going to hospital. That is why the new rules are there
to prevent new cases from coming up.
As a reminder, no one has the antibodies to fight this virus because this is the first time that this virus has colonized human -- the human body.
Stay at home, limiting personal contact, limiting gatherings, this is extremely important now in Italy. This allows to slow down the virus.
So, the 10 percent of people that will then have to be admitted into ICU will not increase so drastically as to put the national health system into
a precarious situation. We are also getting new lung ventilators so as to support ICUs all throughout Italy.
As you know, the health care system varies from region to region depending on the structures and models that had been implemented in the past. And
this is because the health care system ultimately depends on the region itself.
AMANPOUR: I want to go back to the U.S. travel ban. I just am trying to figure out what it is. Here is what the vice president has said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The truth is we learned yesterday 70 percent of all the new cases for coronavirus in the world happened in
Europe. And is probably most concerning to the president was as of yesterday when we looked at 35 states on the map where we had coronavirus
cases, fully 30 of those cases could be traced to contacts in Europe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Do you accept that there is a necessity for the United States to put that travel ban, Mr. Foreign Minister, on Europe?
DI MAIO (through translator): I think that, unfortunately, it will not help. A country obviously is entitled to say all decisions that they want.
But I don't think that it will help. We did this with China. Italy did this with China.
In one way or another, in this current day and age, our markets and our people especially in the West are so interconnected that we need to work
together. We've told our fellow Italians that new strict rules were implemented, they must not leave the country, they must not move within the
national boundaries unless there are serious health emergencies. So, we already limited the movement inside Italy.
As to what is happening now, as Italy, we were the first in Europe to deal with this, except numbers are rising in other European countries. And I do
not wish on to anyone, other country, to dead -- to have to deal with what we're dealing with in Italy.
We need to deal with it however because our people and our markets are interacting all the time. Italy was the first country in the West to deal
with this sanitary emergency and that is why we also want to help other countries out with all the information that we've gathered so far.
AMANPOUR: With respect, Mr. Foreign Minister, as you know, Italy did lose valuable time at the beginning, your former prime minister has criticized
but also has said that Italy now is doing everything it can to make up for that initial lack of taking action at the beginning.
But what I want to ask you is this, you are from the Five Star Movement and your movement, at one time, embraced the Anti-Vaccination Movement. Do you
think that is a mistake in retrospect? Can you just tell people that they should believe in vaccinations when they're available and, obviously,
everyone is waiting for a vaccination for the coronavirus is?
DI MAIO (through translator): As far as this topic is concerned, we've always said this and I'll say it again, we need to rely on science, we need
to rely on doctors. I've said this back then when I wasn't even the leader of the Five Star Movement. At the same time, I can tell you that the
government did not waste precious time. The government implemented the strictest measures in the whole of Europe and it did this straight away.
When we put the very first few municipalities on lockdown, we were the first ones to do so and that is why we don't have any more cases in those
municipalities. We created a model that can be used in the West. We're now trying to use the same model and apply it nationwide is.
As we speak, other European countries are closing shops, they are stopping the daily routine, as we know it. This shows us that in this day and age,
it is important is to learn is from everything that we've learned so far from this emergency and from how we've dealt with it in Italy. Because
everyone may be required to deal with it. I also don't think it is time to be argumentative as some people are trying to do in Italy.
AMANPOUR: Are you confident now that all the world's leaders realize that this is a major emergency and are acting together and learning from each
other or do you think that different world leaders are acting in different ways according to their own priorities at home?
DI MAIO (through translator): I trust that all over the world everyone will realize that we're facing an emergency. I believe that yesterday when
the W.H.O. used pandemic, this should be quite -- this should tell the rest of the world what the current situation is. If we work together, we will be
able to come out at the other end quicker.
We've already allocated is 25 billion euros is. Now, for us, for Italy, this is basically a new financial law and we will use this money to help is
shops, to help families, these people that work. This is a crisis that is - - this is an emergency that our citizens should not pay for.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, thank you for joining us.
DI MAIO (through translator): Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So now, we're going to cross the travel ban zone, all the way from Italy to the United States where Governor Gina Raimondo has declared a
state of emergency in Rhode Island as she takes what she calls aggressive but necessary steps to protect more than a million residents. As governor,
the buck stops at Raimondo's desk despite mix messages and missed opportunities at the federal level. And she's joining me now.
Welcome to the program, Governor.
Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI): Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, Governor, you heard -- I sort of put into context that you are in the U.S. and the travel zone ban stretches all the way to the
Continental Europe. As a proud Italian-American, just your personal observation on perhaps what the foreign minister said and what you think of
the travel ban.
RAIMONDO: So, let me say, I certainly agree with the foreign minister that everything that we do has to be based in facts and evidence and science.
There is a place for the travel ban. There is no doubt about it. And I was certainly, in some ways, relieved to hear that the president made that
announcement last night.
However, it is very late in coming. It would have been better had he done this a week or two ago when, frankly, the president was still calling this
a hoax. The other thing I would say is a travel ban, although, I think necessary and very important. And by the way here in Rhode Island, most of
the confirmed cases were associated with a school trip to Italy, which is why I think that the travel ban is necessary.
It isn't enough is, right. It is one piece of the puzzle. And I can tell you the approach that we are taking here in Rhode Island is to do
everything possible to use every tool in our tool box to have the most robust aggressive response possible to get out in front of it. Because that
is really the name of the game here, right. We have an opportunity still in our state to contain it and it means -- you have to do everything. You
can't just do one thing.
AMANPOUR: Well, that is interesting because in Europe, in many of the worst hit cases, they have gone beyond contained and they are trying to
control or delay and all the other steps. You declared a state of emergency at the beginning of this week. There are about a dozen U.S. states that
have done that. What exactly prompted you to do that? How bad is the situation?
RAIMONDO: I was one of the first states to declare the state of emergency. I was also the first governor to put forth emergency proposals to make it
so that our unemployed workers or folks out on quarantine could receive unemployment insurance type benefits and temporary disability benefits. I
did that because from everything I read, from the scientists I'm listening to, we have to try to stay ahead of it.
You know, what we're doing is planning for the worst but working for the best. And I decided to do that because with the state of emergency, I just
have more flexibility. I can tap the resources of our National Guard, which we are doing, and they have been enormously helpful to help us set up
drive-thru testing center for testing, it allows me to have sone freedom with these emergency regulations as it relates to, as I said, temporary
disability insurance, to encourage folks to stay home if they're sick, just waive other regulations. I need maximum flexibility so that I can take
action every day in any way that I think is necessary in the moment to protect Rhode Islanders.
AMANPOUR: So, you have also taken, I guess, what they are calling social distancing precautions in terms of big gatherings. You urge and it has
happened the St. Patrick's Day parade, which is an annual festival, really, across many parts of the United States, that is canceled for this weekend
and other big gatherings as well.
I'm really fascinated by your drive-thru testing and other such things. You saw that it worked in South Korea. They had a very aggressive testing
process. You still have very few cases. Are you getting what you need in terms of medical equipment, testing equipment, all of that from a federal
RAIMONDO: No, we are not. So, again, I should say that we -- my approach to this was to be way out in front early, aggressively as soon as possible.
Our entire focus is to try to stay ahead of it because we don't want to be overwhelmed. We want -- every day that we can buy is critical. And you see
what happened in Italy. And frankly, we're trying to avoid that certainly in our state.
We had the drive-thru clinics a week ago. That was one of the first things that we did. We are very much in need of more personal protective equipment
for our frontline health workers. And this is something where I am imploring the vice president, I am imploring the CDC to let us access our
We are -- I am in daily contact with health care providers who are literally on the frontlines of this. And by the way, I want to say thank
you to them, doctors, nurses, folks in the emergency room. We need to protect them. I need to protect our hospitals so that they don't become
You know, the last thing that we can afford here is quarantining a large number of our physicians and sidelining too many of our health care
professionals. So, at this point, I am asking the federal government to, number one, release the stockpile at a more aggressive rate and to, number
two, I'm asking the president and the vice president to go to these manufacturers and increase the production of masks and goggles and
ventilators and to do it now.
Don't let us get further overwhelmed. And I think that I probably speak for almost every governor, this is a need that we're all seeing on the front
AMANPOUR: Yes, there is a very, very worrying lack of testing kids and certainly, that many governors and many local officials are saying that. I
just want to play what President Trump has said in answer to some of the resource questions you've just put. This is what he said in his speech from
the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Earlier this week I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus is
treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments and to prevent surprise medical billing. No nation is more prepared or more resilient than
the United States. We have the best economy, the most advanced health care and the most talented doctors, scientists and researchers anywhere in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Since then, a White House official sort back pedaled and said the president meant to say what the vice president said, which is that
insurers have only agreed to waive copays on testing, not treatments.
Now, we've been talking about testing and kits. Even some senators are saying that even if it's in -- you know, in Congress or wherever, there
just isn't an aggressive enough testing regime and protocol.
RAIMONDO: First, I would agree with that. They have been slow. The issue here is that the federal government has been too slow. And when you're
fighting a pandemic of this kind, time is our enemy. Time is our enemy. And so, every day that goes by without clear direction and action is a day lost
that we won't get back.
And so, that is why I am urging the federal government to pick up the pace and to be clearer about guidance. You know, here in Rhode Island, I'm
addressing the public on a daily basis and we are trying to be crystal clear about giving that guidance. That is, in some ways, the opposite of
what we're getting from the federal government at the moment and we need greater clarity.
I would agree with the president that we are blessed in this country with the very best physicians, the very best health care workers and the very
best scientists. However, they need our support right now. And they also need the -- as I said, the protective equipment, the ventilators, the
masks, goggles, gloves, so that they can continue to do their job. And that is our duty as public servants to make sure that they have the support they
need and to do it safely.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you one last question because it goes to the heart of the leadership question. We've seen several U.S. senators and others, we've
seen now the prime minister of Canada, north of the border, self-isolate, some have admitted that they have been -- they have tested positive for the
virus. Have you been tested and would you test yourself, first and foremost?
RAIMONDO: I have not been tested because I thankfully feel great. I don't feel sick. But certainly, if I were to feel sick, I would do what I'm
telling my constituents to do, which is call my primary care provider, place myself in quarantine, if that were necessary, and absolutely get
You know, it's -- I have to lead by example. By the way, which is what I am doing. You know, I've shut down events, I am -- I took a lead in shutting
down yesterday's parade, we are shutting down state events of greater than a couple hundred people. So, absolutely.
This is a time for real leadership, which this is transparency, honesty, leveling with people and telling them where we are and where we could go
and exactly what we're doing and what we need them to do in order to keep everybody safe. Every single person is the frontline in fighting this
fight. And so, every single one of us has to do the right thing including those of us who are leaders.
AMANPOUR: Governor Raimondo, thank you so much for joining us from Rhode Island.
Now, even though Britain is excluded from President Trump's travel ban, there are about 600 confirmed cases of coronavirus here with more than 100
in London alone. Prime minister Boris Johnson was deliberately measured at his government's attempts to delay the peak of the crisis, but he did have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is the worst public health crisis for a generation. Some people compare it to seasonal flu. Alas, that
is not right. Owing to the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous and it's going to spread further. And I must level with you, level with the
British public, more families, many more families, are going to lose loved ones before their time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Rory Stewart is running for mayor of London as an independent candidate. He says today's moves come too late. And as a
result, the virus is spreading even faster than it might have done with more expeditious action. And he is joining me now.
Welcome to the program.
RORY STEWART, INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE FOR LONDON MAYOR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, we know that you are a former minister in the Tory government and, you know, you were, I think, minister during the Ebola
AMANPOUR: You are also running for mayor. Let me ask you, I know that you've been publicly critical because we introduced you of this, of the
reaction to this. Just sum up what exactly is your perspective.
STEWART: So, it seems as though what the government is trying to do is to allow the disease to grow with the idea that people predominantly get sick
during these summer months because they believe that if they try to suppress it too hard now it will push the disease into the winter,
potentially through a second spike and the health system will be less able to cope during the winter months.
So, in other words, they seem to be pushing for a policy that has been referred to as herd immunity. This is a very eccentric policy and I'm
troubled by it on a number of different levels. One of them is if the U.K., with all of its resources, as a major economy is one of the only countries
to actually allow this virus to spread quickly, that will pose huge strains for the rest of the global system.
Second problem is that this theory is based on very, very complex modeling. They are putting a lot of faith in mathematical modeling to be able to land
their peak in the summer. And thirdly, I think that they are under estimating the impact that's going to hit our health system if they allow
it to go on a stretch.
AMANPOUR: So, what you just said, you know, twice you said they are allowing to spread. That's not what they're saying. They are trying to
delay the spread and try to push it, as you correctly say, because they say the same thing, into a space where the weather is warmer, we understand
that warm weather is maybe better to contain this virus, and where particularly importantly, the already overstretched national health system
like every health care in the world these days might be less stretched in the summer.
STEWART: So, the big decision they have made is they have decided not to try to do what China and South Korea has done, which is put huge resources
into trying to actually reduce the caseload. So, South Korea, very dramatically over 10 days has radically reduced the number of new cases.
The U.K. government is worried that if they go radical, if they shut schools, stop gatherings, radically reduce the case load they may be able
to suppress it temporarily, but the people won't put up with the restrictions for long and then it's going to pop up again next winter.
So, what they are really doing is that trying to ensure that they don't suppress too hard. I think this is a mistake. I think it's a mistake, I'm
afraid, in terms of our international obligations. I think we should be suppressing hard. I think China and South Korea has shown that it can be
done, this is what we should be trying to do. And it's what pretty much what every other country is trying to do.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you say then? I mean, look, experts in the field, I mean, everybody, you included, say, listen to the evidence, listen to the
experts. Well, the former head here, we call her chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, have said, about you, it's irresponsible to be
second guessing expert advice because you, you know, called for schools to be closed. Today, they say they're not going to close schools because,
again, children are least affected and you cannot keep children indefinitely out of school.
STEWART: OK. So, Expert advice is incredibly important, but it is important to understand that there is a very, very profound disagreement
within the scientific community about how to address this. At the moment, everybody in Britain is pretending that there is only one scientific
opinion on this. What is being done in China, what is being done in South Korea, what is being done in Denmark, where they've just closed the schools
is completely different to what is being done in Britain.
Other countries are trying to suppress this and reduce the caseload. Britain is trying to follow the theory of herd immunity. In other words,
they believe he it's impossible to get on top of this disease and that therefore, you have to, ultimately, let it run through the population. That
is a very, very big choice, it's not a scientific choice, it is fundamentally a political choice. These are judgments about what the
population are prepared to put up with, these are judgments about of how long people could have schools closed, these are judgments, fundamentally,
Personally, I actually think it is very irresponsible of politicians to keep suggesting that this is a question simply of science. It gives them a
bit of cover, puts the blame on the scientists, but the judgment, ultimately, is a political judgment. And I think the government has made
the wrong judgment because -- partly because I don't think that they are being transparent with the public.
When the public understands that implicit in this argument is that they would rather people died earlier to prevent more people dying later, the
public will be very troubled.
AMANPOUR: Rory Stewart, these are very dramatic characterizations and allegations.
STEWART: Yes, sure.
AMANPOUR: You just heard the governor Rhode Island tell us that their minimal cases stemmed from a school trip to Italy.
The prime minister today announced that all international school trips will be canceled.
STEWART: How is that consistent with saying there is no problem in schools?
AMANPOUR: Let us now play what he said about gatherings, because this is very relevant to your beliefs as well?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We are considering the question of banning major public events, such as sporting fixtures.
And the scientific advice, as we have said over the last couple of weeks, is that this -- banning such events will have little effect on the spread.
But there is also the issue of the burden that such events can place on public services. At all stages, we have been guided by the science. And we
will do the right thing at the right time.
We are not -- repeat, not -- closing schools now. The scientific advice is that this could do more harm than good at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you discussed exactly what your reaction to all of that is.
In Scotland, they have banned gatherings of more than 500 people. In Ireland, you saw what the prime minister today. He has pretty much put
Ireland into a state of lockdown.
I guess, where do you think it's going to go? And, also, by the way, the Electoral College, his -- I think it's called -- is recommending an end to
local elections, including the one that you're contesting for mayor of London.
STEWART: Sure. Sure. Sure.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that should happen?
STEWART: I think that's perfectly sensible.
Look, I think we should be stopping these gatherings. There's very good evidence actually from the 1918 epidemic that mayor of Saint Louis, who
moved to close down gatherings and schools two weeks earlier than the mayor of Philadelphia, one-eighth was the number of peak casualties in Saint
Louis compared to Philadelphia.
It's exponential curves. So if your objective is to try to minimize the number of peak deaths day by day, you should be following the approach of
China and South Korea.
The government, however, my understanding, reading between the lines of what they're saying, are saying they don't want to do that, because they're
worried that, if they were to do that, they would be in danger of delaying this disease through the winter where they think the services are more
In other words, they seem to be suggesting that, actually, the reason they're not closing down schools and the reason they're not closing down
assemblies isn't simply about the scientific evidence of spread. It's that they're not particularly interested at the moment in taking radical
measures to spread -- the spread.
They're going to allow it to move for another week or two before they take these measures.
AMANPOUR: The prime minister was very clear in this press conference that elderly people and those with any underlying health issues should be
protected, and that anybody now -- now, anybody with any sniffle or any coldy symptom should self-isolate for a week at least before they look to
STEWART: So, just to follow these things through, these are very, very difficult issues.
But children, it is true, as far as we can see, are not major victims of this virus. But there is absolutely no evidence that they don't transmit
this virus just as well as anyone else, in fact, potentially more dangerously, because they can transmit showing much, much milder symptoms.
The longer you leave open the schools, the more children are likely to pick this up. And then, when you close the schools, the more likely they are to
take that disease back to the elderly relatives who often have to look after them while their parents are at work.
That's why you should be closing schools now, not later. But these aren't - - this is why it's irresponsible to say these are somehow scientific decisions. These are not. These are judgments about society.
AMANPOUR: And, yes, social judgments.
AMANPOUR: In fact, as the health minister said as well, and the chief scientific adviser, that we know how, socially, people operate.
STEWART: But we don't.
You see, his expertise, I'm afraid -- a lot of respect for Chris Whitty. I worked with him on Ebola. But, really, his scientific expertise is on the
movement of the virus, the modeling of the virus.
He should not be forced into a position of making a judgment of how long the British public are prepared to do something.
AMANPOUR: Is there any connection at all that you see in how Ebola during your time as head of the international development department, and
coronavirus -- I mean they're not the same viruses, but is there anything to be learned from how the world dealt with Ebola?
STEWART: I think there are two things.
The first is that governments always find excuses not to act. They're always slower, rather than faster. There are very few governments in the
world that have ever been accused of acting too quickly.
You sit around a table. You have a committee. It's very costly to act. It's very disruptive. People can always bring up reasons why closing this
school, doing something at an airport is going to cause economic disruption.
And so long as you can keep saying there's uncertainty, you will keep delaying the decision. So that's the first. Move more quickly, not more
slowly, is usually the correct response to this.
But the second, bigger thing here is that we are dealing with something absolutely unprecedented, and our government appears to be saying that it
is inevitable that 70, 80 percent of the British population are going to get this.
AMANPOUR: Which, by the way, Angela Merkel said about Germany too, 60 to 70 percent.
STEWART: So, if this is inevitable, and they think that it is inevitable that this is going to happen before we have any form of proper vaccine in
place, and that they want that to happen, I don't -- want is the wrong word.
It is preferable, in their modeling terms, for that to happen over the summer, rather than the winter, we are going to be faced with an
extraordinary situation. That will be a situation in which let's say 50 million people affected. Five million will be seriously ill, have to go to
Of those, maybe 500,000 will die. This is something which we have never dealt with in this country. And to not do what I believe we should be
doing, which is clamping down on it, trying to suppress it as hard as we can now, in the hope that we can hang on long enough to understand more
about this disease, have a bigger chance of managing to make it to the vaccine, or at least understanding more about how we respond, seems to me
AMANPOUR: And, weirdly, they say they're trying to delay it precisely to give more time to get to a vaccine.
STEWART: They're trying to time it. They're not -- they don't believe they can get to a vaccine.
What they seem to be saying is that they're going to delay it, but not delay it too much. They don't want to delay it into the winter.
AMANPOUR: And, to be fair, we have asked the government, scientific and ministers, to come onto this program and talk to us. And as yet, we have
not been successful.
But we will put, as soon as we can, these pretty serious differences to them.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you a very last quick question. The travel ban.
The Italian foreign minister told us that people will just use the U.K. as a gateway to and from the United States. Do you think that's going to
STEWART: I think it's perfectly possible.
And I think there's a bigger issue, which is that you cannot have Denmark taking one policy, Italy taking one policy, Scotland taking one policy,
Ireland taking one policy, huge social disruption, closing their schools, closing their businesses, closing their meetings, and somehow England
behaving as though it operates by different rules, because we're part of a global system.
We're very connected to those countries. If we start letting the infection get away more quickly here, that will have consequences on everybody else
we deal with.
AMANPOUR: And you canceled your mayoral launch for tonight.
AMANPOUR: And you have also stopped, a pretty quirky campaign thing, but you were sleeping and staying and sort of being with people to try to
AMANPOUR: And you have stopped that.
STEWART: Everything stopped. All meetings stopped. All campaigning stopped. All gathering stopped.
This is about the maximum number of people I'm sitting in a room with at the moment. I think it is a big mistake to allow gatherings to continue.
AMANPOUR: Rory Stewart, thank you very much for joining us.
STEWART: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, at a news conference today, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, spoke of the urgency of U.S. government action the coronavirus.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Because the fact is, it's like the house is on fire. People are concerned about their -- of course, their health and the
health of their children.
If they are losing their jobs because nobody's coming to the restaurant or whatever it is, then we have to be there with some help for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Meanwhile, if you would hope to find relief from coronavirus coverage on the sports or in the entertainment pages, well, you are out of
As the virus impacts everything from the NBA to the actors Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, it has become the elephant in every room.
E.J. Dionne is a longtime columnist for "The Washington Post" and an astute observer of America's cultural and political life.
In his new book, "Code Red," Dionne seeks unity in these fractious times, at least among Democrats.
Welcome back to the program, E.J.
E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's a joy to be with you, even in this very difficult time.
AMANPOUR: It is.
And let me just broaden it out from politics, although we have been talking politics for most of this hour and how leaders deal with this.
We said that it's affecting every aspect and dominating every aspect of life, not just in the U.S., but elsewhere, cultural, social, sporting, all
Just give us a sense personally of how it fields across the ocean there.
DIONNE: Well, just for an example, our youngest daughter discovers that she has to leave her college. Lots and lots of kids will have to do that.
But that's a kind of privileged thing to be able to be in college. There are people who are in the food service industry, as was just mentioned
earlier by Speaker Pelosi, who are going to be laid off because restaurants are emptying.
You have people who don't know if where they work is going to be open tomorrow. How many people are going to have to telework? On a huge scale,
people are being shifted to teleworking.
And I think Ezra Klein in Vox had a really powerful piece, because -- on the idea that we are going into what looks like an economic recession, but
the very social distancing -- I hate that term, but it's important -- the very social distancing that's going on is also going to create a kind of
Imagine all of the older people in nursing homes whose kids won't visit them in order to protect people in nursing homes. But these are some of the
loneliest people in the country. This is a very, very difficult time for the country.
And it's a time when leaders have to inspire confidence and a bit of comfort that we are pursuing policies that will eventually get us out of
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about your book, "Code Red."
I mean, you have you have written a lot about the internal dynamics of the United States. And it all comes to play at a crisis like this, right? We
want leadership. We want coherent messages. We want transparency. We want the idea, at least, that the adults in the room know how to handle this.
You have written in "Code Red": "We're at a point in our country's history when it seems that the biggest lie a politician can tell us is, I will
bring Americans together."
How do you get to that point? And what does the inability to bring Americans together -- or if you call that a lie, what impact does that have
in a crisis like this?
DIONNE: Well, you saw it just today.
I mean, last night, President Trump gave a speech that was not reassuring to people. In fact, the markets tanked this morning. And many people,
including people who support the president, think that speech helped do it.
And he said we should put partisanship aside. And then this morning, he was tweeting against Speaker Pelosi for not embracing his idea of a payroll tax
In a more functioning democracy, i think people would sit down and say, what are the actual problems we confront? And we are way behind where we
need to be as a nation on testing people, as Governor Raimondo said earlier in your show, and as virtually everyone agrees.
We would be moving aggressively on that. We'd be moving aggressively to help the people who are going to become unemployed. We would be moving
aggressively to help people who have to stay home from work to have some kind of paid leave time, because, by staying home, they are doing something
They should not be punished for staying home from work, if that's what they have to do. But we have a politics that is now so divided. And I'm sorry to
say, I wish I could be sitting here and saying that President Trump rose to the occasion.
But, in fact, we seem to have a president whose political interests are in dividing us as a country. And when he referred to a foreign virus, that
sent a signal to people that politics just hasn't stopped, even in the face of this enormous catastrophe.
AMANPOUR: So then I want to ask you, again, in your role as observer, I want to ask you about really what Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson did.
They are much beloved, as you know. They are -- certainly, Tom Hanks -- known all over the world. And he's often looked to as a surrogate leader.
And what does he do today? He tweets and he posts that, actually, they felt a bit bad, and they were tested, and they're positive, and they are in
I just want to read his tweet.
"Hello, folks. Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds and some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and
went, slight fevers. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus and found to be positive. Well,
now, what to do next?
"The medical officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hankses will be tested, observed and isolated for as long as public and health
safety requires. Not much more to it than one day at a time approach. No, we will keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves. Hanks."
I mean, I think a lot of people were kind of reassured that that was a rational, calm, sort of don't panic, this is what has to happen approach.
DIONNE: Well, first of all, God bless them for doing that.
And maybe God bless Australia for having enough testing available so that they could be tested.
Absolutely. People at this moment want a combination of urgency and reassurance. They want a sense that their leaders are actually taking
practical steps that make sense and can be explained clearly.
And they also want a sense that, if we take those steps, we will still go through a difficult time, but we will be able to live through this time and
minimize, rather than maximize, the chances that people will get sick, that some people will die.
We will be pursuing policies to contain a problem, rather than enhance it. And it feels to a lot of Americans now that, because so much of the
responses ability has had to be taken by local officials, who are pursuing their own policies, often on their own good policies, but we don't appear
to have the kind of urgency at the national level that we need for something like this, maybe there will be a Tom-Hanks-for-president movement
after he comes back from Australia.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, of course, that leads me right into the election. This is all happening in the context of an election.
And everybody, whether we like it or not, all sides are playing politics with this health crisis. I would to -- we have heard what President Trump
has said. Health care will be a big issue in this election.
It was in the 2018 midterms, and it will be all around the world. I just want to play what both Vice President Biden and Bernie Sanders, the two
remaining Democratic candidates, have said on this issue, on the health care issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you support the House bill, the House Democrat bill?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, because there are things in there that have nothing to do with what we're talking about.
So, it's not a way for them to get some of the goodies that they haven't been able to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, that wasn't it, E.J., but we did have Vice President Biden talking about how you can't really stabilize an economic situation, an
economic crisis until you stabilize and build up a health care situation and stem that crisis.
You had Bernie Sanders talking about how the majority of Americans are not insured and how health care is in such a terrible state.
Just talk about that and whether there's a chance, finally, potentially out of this terrible health crisis, to get a better federal health care system
in place for the people who need it.
DIONNE: Well, in a way, there's nothing like a pandemic to make every just a little bit more socialist, because what you need in a time like this are
public institutions that can actually help people.
For example, it is absurd that we want people to get tested, so they can quarantine themselves if they do have the virus, and yet there were reports
of people having to pay enormous sums of money in order to do the thing that would be socially beneficial.
Congresswoman Katie Porter got up in Congress today and pointed out that testing could cost someone $1,000. That's very expensive for an awful lot
of people in the country, especially if they have bad health insurance.
And so, yes, I think this crisis reminds people that things like universal health coverage, whether you do it Bernie Sanders' way or Joe Biden's way,
access to paid family leave, that these are not simply good things for individual people. They are actually socially beneficial.
And, in a crisis like this, they are not only socially beneficial. They're actually essential.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And, certainly, this has shown that to be the case for the health of the nation as well.
E.J. Dionne, author of "Code Red," thank you so much for joining us.
DIONNE: A real pleasure to be with you. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And now talking about health care, on the front lines, it is nurses and doctors who are bearing the brunt of this public health system,
which, at the moment, appears unprepared to deal with a pandemic.
And they may be forced to make heartbreaking decisions as the disease spreads. It's not just in America. It is around the world, choosing whom to
treat or not to treat, as resources and time grows strained.
Zenei Cortez is a registered nurse and co-president of the National Nurses United. It the largest union for R.N.s in the United States. And she's
joining me right now.
Welcome to the program, Zenei. And I see you have your medical scrubs on. And you are in the hospitals and taking care of your workers. Just give me
a sense of how they're doing. Do they have what they need?
Are they under -- can they bear this strain at this moment?
ZENEI CORTEZ, CO-PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: As a front-line nurse, bedside nurse, direct care nurse, we find it very hard that our employers
and other health care facilities are not prepared to handle the crisis.
We need the proper equipment, the proper protection, the training, and the proper amount of staff to safely take care of our patients.
That's where our anxiety lies. It's not about taking care of the coronavirus-infected patients. It's about making sure that we have
everything that we need to safely take care of them.
AMANPOUR: So, like, what exactly -- and because, today, Vice President Mike Pence says millions of testing kits will be made available and they're
trying to rush all these things out.
But you say it's not just the coronavirus. It's to take care of your members and professionals. What exactly is lacking?
CORTEZ: OK, right now, we have asked the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to step up their guidance on this issue.
But what they're trying to do now is, they're trying to relax and downgrade the guidance principles of, you know, preventing the disease. And that's
not what we need. We need stronger guidance.
And now I just heard that, here in California, the California Department of Public Health is looking to see if they could relax some of the guidance of
prevention. And that's not what we need.
We need proper, stronger guidance, so that our employers will be able to adhere to it, And the front-line nurses and other health care workers will
be protected, because if we are put in quarantine, or if we are out sick, there will be no one there to take care of our patients.
AMANPOUR: So, how are the hospitals right now? I mean, are they overwhelmed?
Or is -- are the cases manageable, given the number of hospitals and health care facilities around the U.S., compared with developing nations that have
CORTEZ: I think, right now, the number of cases that we have, the hospitals are able to manage it.
But we want to make sure that, if there is a surge of more patients as the tests becomes available to most of our patients, then we need to make sure
that we are prepared to handle the crises.
We do not want to wait and not be prepared when the uptick of patients come. We want to make sure that we are ready and we are prepared to take
care of all these patients.
Our patients need us. And the only way we could do it is for us to be able to have the proper equipment, the proper training, and the right amount of
staff to safely take care of them, because, if we are not safe, our patients are not safe.
AMANPOUR: And you have been in the hospitals, right?
AMANPOUR: What do you see in the ones you have visited in these last weeks, where, clearly, this sense of crisis has built?
CORTEZ: Right now, the equipment, the masks, the personal protective equipment that we would need in order to take care our patients are locked
up in supervisors' closets, in their offices, so that if we need to take care of a patient, we have to go looking for the manager or the supervisor.
And that takes time. What we need is to have those equipment ready and able for us to use, so that if a patient comes in, let's say, through the
emergency room, we will be able to take care of that patient safely, and that the exposure, the amount of exposure, to us and other front-line staff
And so that's where the anxiety lies. That's where all the -- I would say the nervousness and the apprehension of the front-line staff are. It's --
we're not ready. The hospitals are not ready.
So, we need to make sure that we are protected, so that our patients will be safely cared for.
AMANPOUR: Well, I certainly hope everyone's listening, because not ready is not good enough.
And we really wish you all a whole load of luck. Thank you very much, nurse Cortez, for joining us.
CORTEZ: Thank you having me for.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
CORTEZ: Thank you having me for.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, in an era that feels defined by division and casting blame, a call for self-reflection from an actor and a famous
British big thinker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN FRY, ACTOR: I felt that we're doing a lot of looking out and finger-pointing at what's wrong with the world outside, about how those
people are letting us down and those people are the fault, their weakness, their cruelty, their bullying, their inadequacy, their rapacity, very
little looking in and saying, well, actually, the fault of the world is me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, we will have more of that, because, on Friday's show, we will hear from Stephen Fry about what the modern world can learn from
ancient Greece. Plus, he tells us about the request from "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling that he almost couldn't fulfill.
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.