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U.S. Senate Approves Rescue Package for Workers and Businesses; Spain Coronavirus Death Toll More Than 3,400; Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Spanish Foreign Minister, is Interviewed About Coronavirus in Spain; World Leaders Shortening Timelines to Open Countries; Veterans Affairs Designated Backup in Times of Coronavirus Crisis; Dr. David Shulkin, Former U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs, is Interviewed About Veterans Affairs; Prisons and Coronavirus; Interview With Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour" from London. Here's what's coming up.

The coronavirus is hitting Spain hard now. The death toll overtakes China's. And the Spanish foreign minister joins me to explain desperate

measures taken.

Then, as U.S. cases climb, hospitals need backup. Can the Veterans Administration fill this gap? I ask the former VA secretary, Dr. David


And --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm anxious. Because the lockdown is working, right. So, there is no more people getting infected. But when they open, now what



AMANPOUR: Hopes and fears as China's Hubei province relaxes its lockdown.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Social distancing doesn't work the people in (INAUDIBLE). There is no place for them to go.


AMANPOUR: In overcrowded, unsanitary cell blocks, the virus forces prisons around the world to release some inmates.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

It is only the end of the begin beginning of the coronavirus response and already, some leaders are getting testy about the lockdown medicine and its

side effects, which is a global economic deep freeze. Populous leaders from places like Poland, Brazil, Mexico and the United States starting to set

short timelines for opening back their countries again.

The U.S. Senate has finally agreed on to a rescue package with the White House for workers and businesses, an unprecedented stimulus of $2 trillion.

In Russia, where the virus was played down for a while, President Putin has now donned a hazmat suit and visited a hospital and pressing home a new

warning. And in Europe, the current epicenter, the peak has yet to hit, as confirmed cases rise. In the United Kingdom, the home of keep calm and

carry on, the crisis hit home with heir to the throne Prince Charles testing positive.

Meantime, Spain has now overtaken the Chinese death toll with more than 3,400 coronavirus deaths. The situation is so dire in the Capital Madrid

that an Olympic sized ice rink has been converted into a morgue, and that was earlier this week. Now, I'm joined by the Spanish foreign minister,

Arancha Gonzalez Laya.

Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, tell me, you know, you see your cases climbing. I mean, almost overnight there has been a reported increase of 10,000 new cases.

What is the situation there and how are you planning to try to get a grip on it, as they say, try to flatten the curve?

LAYA: Well, we haven't yet reached the peak, which we hope will happen somehow by the end of this week, beginning after next one. But we are

confident that the measures we have taken on the health side, on the social side, will help us in flattening the curve.

47 million Spaniards have been asked to remain at home. Students are at home. Hospitals are taking care of the affected -- the intensive care units

working at full speed. We have a concentration of the problem in Madrid, in the region of Madrid. But with we are confident, again, with the serious

measures we have taken. We could see the curve flatten in the coming days. That's what we hope, that's what then the entire nation is working for at

the moment.

AMANPOUR: But that already is a forward projection because your senior health official predicted that the peak might happen today. And instead, as

you say, it is being pushed forward. And you're talking about desperate measures. It is -- I mean, it's awful to say, but you have now overtaken

Wuhan, the Chinese epicenter, in terms of number of Spaniards dead.

What are you doing to try to deal with that? We've talked about an ice rink being converted as a morgue. What about your hospitals, your health care

workers? Do they have the right equipment?

LAYA: Well, what we have done is take very severe health measures. First, we have a solid health care system, which is obviously been put to the

test. Which in certain -- especially in certain parts of the country where the coronavirus is hitting hardest, there's, as I said, like in Madrid,

like in the bus country, are and now a little bit -- in Catalonia.

What we have done is the most serious cases are treated in the hospitals, in the -- and the most serious of the most serious in the intensive care

units. Those that are not severely affected remain at home and doctors treat them, they are providing the medicines and the care they need in

their homes. At the same time, we are taking very serious measures to ensure there is no physical contact. And through that, we contain the

contagion of the virus among the population.

But, again, it's every country will see a new record broken, Italy broke, China. We are coming after Italy. The U.S. is coming after us. Germany is

coming after the U.S. It is a pandemic, and every country is having to cope with it. I only hope that what we are doing can serve, can help other

countries that are coming after us in learning the good lessons of how to treat it.

And for us the good lesson is a solid health care system, very severe measures of isolation of civilians and obviously, full equipment for the

hospitals and the medical staff that are working flat out at the moment to help all our citizens in Spain.


AMANPOUR: So, you obviously are playing up your health care system. But let's just repeat, that overnight, you had a 27 percent increase in the

death toll from Tuesday's figures. And as I said, you now stand at 50,000 infections, which is 10,000 more than what you reported yesterday.

And talking about severe measures and lockdown, your parliament is debating whether you should continue it. Because the first lockdown took place on

March 14th, is due to expire this Saturday. Will it continue? Do you expect the quarantine and lockdown to continue?

LAYA: Yes. There is a consensus in the country for the lockdown to continue for two more weeks. And we are doing this in full consensus of the

political spectrum, talking with all our regions, talking with all the political parties in the country. The consensus is that we need to keep the

lockdown because this is what is going to help us flatten the curve.

But, again, what is happening in Spain is not extraordinary. It is happening in every country. We have to see a peak before we see the curve

flatten. For us, what is important now is to put all the energy of our 47 million citizens in an effort of citizenship with very heavy health care

facilities working at full speed to the objective of flattening the curve. It is a national struggle what we are doing. And I'm confident that all of

us rowing in the same direction will get there.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then because you do tend to paint it as one big sort of global story. And yet, different countries have taken different

measures, with different results. We have seen success in terms of draconian lockdown in China. We have seen it in terms of very heavy

surveillance, testing and quarantining in Singapore. And we have seen Germany in Europe, also have a very, very intense testing program, unlike

other places.

So, while they have infections, they have relatively fewer deaths than, unfortunately, many other European countries including your own. You say

your health workers are protected, but here is what one of them has told our correspondent in Madrid, Scott McLean. Just listen, please.


EDUARDO FERNANDEZ, ICU NURSE (through translator): I'm not surprised at all, he says. In fact, I'm sure the numbers are higher because they don't

test us. The protection measures are decreasing as we are running out of material. And now, well, we're using garbage bags.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You have to be pretty desperate to use a garbage bag as a medical gown. He says it is a desperate measure, but it is

better than nothing.


AMANPOUR: And, Foreign Minister, one out of 10 confirmed cases of the virus are among medical workers in your country. That's the highest in

Spain. I mean, what more do you have to do to protect these front-line warriors?

LAYA: So, we are protecting the front-line warriors, we are protecting them with equipment, we are protecting them with protocols. But it is in a

way inevitable that a number of them get infected from treating the patient. Let's not forget we're treating massive numbers, especially in one

region. More than 50 percent of the cases in Spain are in Madrid. More than 75 percent of those deceased are over 80 years of age.

We have got a concentration. It is terrible to see. It is human suffering. But we think, again, that with the measures we have taken, we are on course

to beat the coronavirus and to flatten the curve. It is a huge effort. Every country, in a way, is learning about how to beat the virus by doing

it. There is no magic recipe. Every country is having to, in a way, build on what the predecessors have done and struggled to find the right way to

confront it.

Some took it lightly, in a way, and said, OK, let's ensure there is global -- some sort of herd immunity, but --- by making sure people get a lot of

contact. They also have had to change track. Some started with lighter confinement measures, they are having to take stronger measures. We are all

in a trial -- in a test and trial effort to beat the virus.

The most important thing, in my view, is to be determined and to follow very carefully all the recommendations that we are getting from the

scientists, whether they are from the World Health Organization, the European scientists or our own ones in Spain, making sure that the

decisions we take for Spain are grounded in the science that we get from them.

AMANPOUR: And yet, that health worker told us that they have to wear garbage bags, Foreign Minister, to protect themselves while trying to

protect and treat people. And this is important because you have this week, in fact yesterday, reached out to NATO and asked for help. NATO, NATO, the

military alliance, you've asked for help, requesting 1.5 million surgical masks, half a million rapid tests, nearly half a million respirators, and

more than 500 mechanic ventilators.


Can -- I mean, what is NATO? NATO is all your neighbors dealing with the same issues. What do you expect to get from them?

LAYA: Well, what we are doing is purchasing material, and we have purchased $500 million just in the last couple of days' worth of masks,

worth of glasses, worth of testing, rapid testing kits, with lotions to make sure that our doctors are safe. All of this is what we have already

purchased and more. And all this is getting to the health care system.

But I cannot exclude that on these or that hospital or in this or that doctor at times where the situation is very tight, they may have to make

ends meet. But this is something that we are constantly looking at. We've got planes landing in Spain constantly with material coming from the four

corners of this world, from China, from Turkey, from Sweden. And obviously, we have asked NATO as it is our right to do to see if they have a material

that they could share with us. That is what allies do. There is nothing extraordinary in asking for it, although we know that some of our allies

are fighting with exactly the same difficulties we are facing.

So, for us what is important is irrespective of where these materials come from, whether it is purchases that we have made, with these donations that

we have gotten from our friends and allies, that we get the material to our doctors and nurses so that they can treat the patients.

AMANPOUR: So, do you think then, because you're very -- you know, very, very sharp about what allies do for each other, have the alliance, has this

alliance, the Western alliance, European, NATO, the alliance, actually stepped up for each other? Do you feel that there has been enough --

because I know that you've signed a letter along with several other countries to get a much more, you know, pan European response, a

coordinated importance as allies?

LAYA: So, we have, in my view, on the European side, we have gotten quite a good solidarity on the health side. There has been a very clear protocols

put in place by the European Commission to purchase for the entire European Union, rules to make sure that countries would not keep the products that

they manufacture for themselves. So there has been quite a good sharing of the health material.

We have also gotten the solidarity from outside the E.U. We have gotten solidarity from China, just like China got solidarity from Spain when they

needed it at the beginning of the coronavirus. But we think more can be done at the European level, not so much on the health side, but rather on

the fiscal side to make sure that we -- as we fight the health battle, we put -- we lay the foundations for economic stability for when we have won

the battle against coronavirus.

Let's not forget that as we are fighting a health battle, we are also fighting an economic one. The economies of our world, not just Spain, not

just Europe, but across the world are coming close to standstill simply because most citizens around the world are being asked to stay at home.

This requires a more coordinated approach. That's what my prime minister, together with other European prime ministers, have asked the European

leaders to undertake.

More robust, more coordinated measures on the economic and fiscal side. And this is also the message that Prime Minister Sanchez will give at the

meeting of G20 leaders, which he asked Saudi Arabia to convene, to make sure that robustness and cooperation, not just European, it has to be

global because our economy is a global one.

AMANPOUR: Just let me ask you about this letter because it's obviously to try to get a more sort of common debt instrument to help, you know, in the

future. And you've said alongside France, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, you all signed it and you're asking about this thing,

which has been a longtime disagreement between you and other European countries about setting up a common debt mechanism.

Now, Germany did not sign this letter. Are you speaking directly to Germany and to the other powerful economies that may not have signed this?

LAYA: Yes, we are. And we think that unlike in the past, when we have been toying with this idea, this time is different. This time is not about

virtuous countries and those that are very spend thrift.


It is not like the 2008 crisis. This is a systemic crisis. It's caused by a global pandemic. So, what we need is a mechanism of solidarity, some sort

of mutualization of our debt, not the overall debt, but the debt that we are incurring today to face coronavirus. So, what we are saying is, the

circumstances today would require the European response to be more robust in terms of mutualizing our debt. But not the debt in the abstract. Is the

debt we are incurring to face this pandemic called coronavirus, that is affecting all our economies.

So, this is not 2008. This is 2020. And we are all in it. It is a systemic shock we are going through.

AMANPOUR: I just want to read from the op-ed that you put into the Washington Post today, speaking of a crisis of governance. Globalization

has deepened our economic links. But our tools to govern them have not. We live in a world of dazzling new technologies and yet, our global governors'

mechanisms are blatantly outdated. What are you trying to fix there?

LAYA: What we are trying to fix is we've got a global economy, we've got a global issue like climate change, we've global inequality, we've global

technology. We now have a global pandemic, maybe this is the wake-up call. But the tools that we have to fight these global issues are not global in

reality. A lot of it is still national. And a lot of it is cooperation at the international level that lies on the goodwill of countries.

So, what we are saying is, why don't we use the fact that this year, 2020, as the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, this amazing instrument of

global cooperation that we built 75 years ago when we had a huge systemic shock called Second World War, why don't we use this moment to re-create

this tighter system of global cooperation? Why don't we use this moment to reform our system of global governance, our system of international

cooperation? Why don't we look at -- how can we (INAUDIBLE) the United Nations for the benefit of addressing these global challenges that we have?

This pandemic is a huge wake-up call for all of us in terms of getting ourselves the means globally in a cooperated manner to fight a global

challenge that knows no border, that knows no passport, called coronavirus.

AMANPOUR: Let me just finally ask you to get back to the victims, you know, because we don't see so much the victims in this invisible invader.

We see the economy, we talk about the health care workers, a lot of briefings, a lot of leaders. But those who are suffering and dying are not

really as visible as they might be in a war or an earthquake or something like that.

And we were quite shocked and touched that in Spain there was a story of an elderly care home or nursing home in which the care workers had fled. They

had fled and left the elderly people and sick people there and it took, I believe, the military searching for what was going on to find these bodies

left there. I mean, what does that say?

LAYA: Exactly. One of the lessons we need to draw when we finish with coronavirus is we have to have a relook at what we're doing to care for our

elderly. This virus is affecting our elderly in a vicious manner. More than 90 percent of those that have lost their lives in Spain are over 70 of age.

What system do we have to help them? This is not a question that is only limited to Spain. I see this in Italy. I see this in France. I see this in

the U.K. And I see this in the U.S. So, we're going to have to have a look at what society are we that, in a way, is not paying enough attention to

our elderly people. They are the casualties of this war. We don't see them.

But all I can tell you, Christiane, is that here in Spain, we feel very strongly about them and we are discovering that maybe we are not -- we have

not been paying enough attention to their needs and to their care. That is one of lessons, one of the many lessons together with the need to invest in

public health that we will have to draw once we have one won the war against coronavirus.

AMANPOUR: Let us hope that does come out of this tunnel. Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya, thank you for joining me from Spain tonight.


LAYA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. Now, to the U.S., where hospitals are struggling in light of massive demand. But in New York, the country's epicenter, Governor

Andrew Cuomo, said evidence suggests social distancing does reduce that pressure. Take a listen.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This past Sunday, the projection was that hospitalizations were doubling every two days, OK. On Monday, the number

suggested that the hospitalizations were doubling every 3.4 days. On Tuesday, the projection suggested that the hospitalizations were doubling

every 4.7 days.

Now, that is almost too good to be true. But the theory is given the density that we're dealing with, it spreads very quickly, but if you reduce

the density you can reduce the spread very quickly.


AMANPOUR: So, social distancing works, but right now, it is still not working fast enough for the overstretched facilities and resources. The

Veterans Administration is the designated backup in times of crisis, as the single largest health care provider in the United States. But is it even

ready for this influx?

Joining me from Philadelphia with answers is Dr. David Shulkin. He is the former secretary of Veteran Affairs.

Welcome to the program, Dr. Shulkin.


AMANPOUR: So, there are lots of questions to answer from what Governor Cuomo said about social distancing and hospitalization from what the

Spanish foreign minister said about the elderly and the need to take care of them and put them front and center.

What about the Veterans Administration's ability to step in? It is the first line of defense when it is necessary. Do you think that is going to

happen and does it need to happen now in the U.S.?

SHULKIN: I think that the Department of Veteran Affairs trains for this mission. Its primary mission, of course, is to care for the veterans in

this country, but it also has the mission to be there in times of national emergency, which, of course, the president has declared this a national


It has more than a thousand facilities throughout the country. In many parts of the country where veterans live in rural areas, it is one of the

only health care providers. And it has more than 350,000 employees who work in the health care system.

Even in today's stimulus package that was passed by the Senate, the VA gets $19.6 billion in additional funding. So, this is a very, very large

organization that is national in scope and it really needs to be part of a solution to make sure that all citizens in the country get the necessary

and available resources that are available.

AMANPOUR: So, do you think, A, that nearly $20 billion is sufficient to cover veterans and their health issues, because obviously they're mostly

elderly and many of them have underlying, of course, medical conditions? But also, the draft suggests that the government would repay the VA for

whatever it lays out. In order words, it seems to be like a first step before reaching out and asking you to join the fight or asking the VA to

join the fight.

SHULKIN: The American people have always been extremely generous to supporting the VA because of its mission to take care of our veterans. I do

not believe that any of the issues with VA reaching in and coordinating and helping at a community by community level are going to be financial.

They're going to be a shortage of staff that the VA has itself and the ability to make sure that it can take care of veterans as a primary


But hospitals are losing lots of money, at this point, across the country. The stimulus package also provided some support, about $100 billion for the

rest of the U.S. health care system. I think the VA is in a strong position with the supplies that they have and the capabilities that they have to be

able to be part of the solution for all Americans.

AMANPOUR: So, let's just recall, and maybe you can help Americans realize what you actually do. I mean, you've played significant and often vital

roles in recent years. You know, Puerto Rico, after the hurricane, all sorts of other situations, including providing mobile units, not many years

ago, when there was a mass shooting in the United States. Just tell people what extra services you could provide.

SHULKIN: Well, I think the VA trains for this mission of emergency preparedness. And most often it is natural disasters like hurricanes,

snowstorms and other types of weather events that VA steps in and deploys its staff and opens up extra facilities to help out.


But when I was running the VA health care system, the nightclub shooting that happened in Orlando, Florida occurred and that looked like it was a

terrible situation. So, I deployed to the civilian population our mobile units, VA runs special mobile units that can bring medical personnel to a

site where a disaster has occurred and we helped more than 5,500 potential patients and their families over the next couple of days in Orlando,


So, there is precedent where VA stepped in. We have never seen a situation like this. And I think VA is really capable of doing a lot more than people

realize to be part of the solution.

AMANPOUR: So, you're not just a former administrator of this VA, but you're also a doctor. Dr. David Shulkin. So, I want to ask your medical

advice because this is now getting very confusing. You have the president and some other world leaders who just are very, very, very antsy right now

about the economic impact.

The president saying, we don't want the cure to be worse than the problem. And saying, perhaps, we might be open and churches and services and this

and that by Easter. And you've had similar statements coming from Brazil and from Mexico and et cetera. What is your view on that? Because they're

saying that you could protect the most vulnerable, i.e., the elderly and the sick and allow the rest of the country to go back to its business. Is

that possible medically?

SHULKIN: Unfortunately, I don't think so. I think that is very hopeful position that President Trump and others have taken, but I think it is very

unrealistic. When you take a look at the trajectory of the growth of infections in Europe and now in the United States, we are still quite a

while away before this peaks in the United States, probably 10 to 12 days behind Europe. And there are going to be a lot of people infected. And

unfortunately, a number that will die and certainly be hospitalized because of that.

So, I think that the primary goal here is to fight the virus, to fight the infection. This is going to be solved through addressing the public health

needs. I think the economic consequences with the impact on people, with social isolation and stopping their normal daily activities should not be

overlooked. Those are going to be quite significant consequences, but the only way to deal with this and for us to get through this is to deal with

the health issues first, and that's going to require some additional sacrifice with continued social distancing, quarantining.

There may be some pockets of the country where if we do extensive testing and there is not community spread, they may have some exceptions. But I

think that it is highly unlikely this pandemic is going to spare many parts of the United States.

AMANPOUR: So, can you also explain to me what is the problem with releasing federal stockpiles of vitally needed things like ventilators?

You've heard the New York governor who sits right at the -- you know, the epicenter of where it is in New York, in the U.S. now, and expecting a peak

in a couple of weeks, and is calling on the federal government to release its stockpiles because they just don't have enough. What would be the

problem with doing it? Why not do that?

SHULKIN: It should be done. There is absolutely no reason why it should be done. I think that Governor Cuomo is a very articulate spokesperson on this

right now. The country should be sending its resources to where it is needed now. And when we can deal with those issues, then we should move

those resources to where it will be needed next.

These supplies, ventilators and other equipment, have no purpose sitting in warehouses. They need to be distributed. I do believe that that message has

been heard, that we are beginning to move those supplies and equipment to places that are needed. But there is no question that they're going to be

needed most in areas like New York, California, Washington State. And then, once those are addressed, those equipment and supplies can be moved around

to other places in the country.

AMANPOUR: Now, I want to ask you another thing because, you know, we have had, now, the last four years around the world, of essentially discrediting

and discarding expert advice, various leaders for whatever political reason, I can't imagine, seem to throw away expert medical, scientific,

fact-based advice from trusted sources.


And there is a small element in the United States which is now ganging up on Dr. Fauci, Anthony Fauci, who, by the way, only discovered, you know,

the AIDS virus.

So he has a major role to play, clearly, in this. And they're sort of ganging up on him, as if he's being some kind of a scare-monger.

How dangerous is that if he's silence silenced?

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: I think that this has been a wakeup call for people around the world and certainly for

Americans that have discarded the importance and the role of government.

With all of the political games and the partisanship that we have seen in Washington in recent years, people have gotten disgusted with government.

But it is a time of crisis like this that they are seeing and they recognize the very unique and essential role that government can play.

And, in a time of crisis, what you need to rely lie upon are people with competence, experience, who can help really provide answers and lead us

through this. And in recent years, there has been a tendency to discard the career people who have been expert and working on issues, to not understand

the importance of the work of government.

But this is the role of government, to respond for the safety of its citizens. And we usually think about that in terms of defense, such as

defending in a military situation, but in this situation, you can see the importance of having competent people who understand how to deal with


I, myself, I left the private sector after running hospitals throughout my career, being a physician, to go to government to help straighten out the

situation in the Department of Veterans Affairs. And I experienced how tough it is to focus on the job, to get the work done, to focus on what you

know works.

I ended up writing a book about this called "It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Serve Your Country" for exactly what I think Dr. Fauci is experiencing now,

which is you -- it is a tough place to operate. But you have to stand for your principles, you have to continue to advocate what you believe in, you

do not yield to the political pressures, because people's lives are at stake.

And people like Dr. Fauci and other very serious health professionals understand that very well.

AMANPOUR: And I can see the book behind you. Thank you for mentioning it, because I was going to in this regard, because Politico is also reporting -

- and this is kind of worrying -- that, under the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security stopped its annual practice of running

detailed pandemic simulations which would inform a public and government response, like war and all the other games that people do.

We also know the White House fired the government's entire pandemic response chain of command at CDC, at the National Security Council.

Why would they do that? And what are the ramifications?

SHULKIN: I don't think, until you go through something like this, that people appreciate that planning and being prepared is an important role in


If you look at our military, they do a lot of war exercises. They don't do that because they're bored. They do that because they know, they understand

that, should they be called upon, they better know what they're doing and they better be coordinated.

And that is the case in every other part of government, where you have to take seriously what you do in the situation like this. And so while it is

not sexy, and while it seems like you can move money around or people around, and not do things that are not needed, it is an essential role of

government to be prepared.

And so, fortunately, there are people who are in our government who have been through situations, who are experienced, and now more than ever we

have to rely upon them to step up and to show us the way, so that we can work our way through this crisis.

AMANPOUR: All right, Dr. Shulkin, thank you so much.

And, of course, Dr. Fauci, as brilliant as he is, pioneered the treatments for AIDS, rather than having discovered the virus. But, nonetheless, that's


Thank you so much, indeed.

Now, what we do know is the pattern of this virus across the globe ever since it broke out in China, and there, perhaps, some light at the end of

the tunnel. Today, for the first time since locking down two months ago, Hubei province is relaxing the draconian restrictions, hoping to extend

that to the city of Wuhan itself by early April.

But anxiety does linger among some residents, as David Culver now reports.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, there is now a countdown to freedom

for those living under lockdown, with Hubei province relaxing restrictions starting Wednesday, and its capital, Wuhan, set to relax its rules on April


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's really amazing, finally. I have been at home for two months.


CULVER: Ph.D. student Delef Afania (ph) video-chatted with us from her cramped dormitory. It's been two months under Wuhan city locked down, her

life, like an increase the number of us, requiring a creative balance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if you try to see it in the positive way, that you get to relax, you get to try to cook. Maybe can learn how to cook more,

or you can exercise at home.

CULVER: She's been doing all of that, working out, indoors, lots of cooking, plenty of eating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't stop eating.

CULVER: Watching movies and keeping connected with her family back in Indonesia. While excited to see signs of progress, she's also hesitant

about stepping back out into the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm anxious, because the lockdown is working, right? So there is no more people getting infected. But when they open, what


CULVER: Chinese state media shows images of Wuhan preparing for that moment, intercity traffic checkpoints coming down, buses disinfected

gearing up for the return to rush hour, sanitation crews working to clean mass transit centers like the Wuhan railway station, and medical teams,

like this Shanghai-based crew, packing up the head home, leaving the front lines.

It's reassuring for residents like Iris Yoo (ph).

"I was not always positive," she told us. "I could also get bored and scared. But I'm particularly thankful to my friends in other cities where

the epidemic situation was not as serious. They often called me and chatted with me, which could help ease my emotions."

When we first touch base with Bo Hanlon (ph) a few weeks ago, both his wife and mother were undergoing treatment for the virus. And Bo was critical of

the local government's handling of the crisis. But now

"Because the condition is under control, the supplies have kept up," he says. "Life is fine now. I can't go out, but, overall, it's getting better

and better." And so too are his wife and mother. He says both have since fully recovered.

These residents have been living under some of the most extreme lockdown measures, and they now offer some advice to others around the world

enduring self-isolation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, maybe it's God saying like, OK, I clear up everything, your schedule, your classes, your work. You cannot do anything.

You stay inside, so maybe you can talk to God.

CULVER: She and others left with a lot of time for talking and listening.


AMANPOUR: And I guess we're all sitting on the edge of our seats hoping that, when Hubei does relax, this virus will not return.

Now, some governments have been forced to release thousands of prisoners. Last week, Iran released 85,000. And it's also happening across the United

States. And the U.K. is also considering doing the same. New Jersey has already announced it's releasing up to 1,000 low-risk inmates to curb the

coronavirus spread in overcrowded and often unsanitary prisons.

Lawrence Bartley is director of The Marshall Project's "News Inside." It's a newspaper written for inmates.

And he tells our Hari Sreenivasan, on Zoom, what this crisis means for the world's invisible population.



First, I want to ask, what are you hearing from prisoners inside about coronavirus, the stories that they have, or how they're living with this?


They are suffering from a lack of information. They are -- fear. They are panic-stricken. They're worried about their family members because they

have communication, but communication is limited in some places. The rules are different.

But a lot of them are concerned with the fact that they don't have the adequate cleaning supplies, in comparison to us on the outside, to prepare

themselves or protect themselves against this virus.

SREENIVASAN: And what happens when they hear that there are either jail guards that have fallen sick or other prisoners that might be?

BARTLEY: Well, one person in particular, he reached out to me, and he said that he wished that the facility would have these thermal guns in which

they can check the temperatures of guards coming in, because they don't have it.

Only the staff members have it. And staff members are coming in. And they are hearing -- seeing reports on a news that -- on people in different

facilities, staff members, who have contracted this disease, and they're afraid that they will get it.

SREENIVASAN: When people think of prisoners, they can't practice social distancing. There is no freedom of movement. There is no opportunity to

stay six feet away.


Let me paint a picture for you. Many prisoners live in dorms. And their bunks are right next to each other, and they have people on top of them

like a bunk bed. So there isn't any social distancing.

Some facilities have closed jobs and programs. Now, they have regular jobs going around, cleaning-up jobs or maintenance jobs in facilities, that are

canceled. So people are staying in their dorm areas.

Even those who are in a cell, there's a metal wall separating them, but it's close, and the front of the gates open. So people can talk and they

can sneeze and they even cough out.


And you know that cough and sneeze and particles stay in the air for quite a long period of time. And this virus can survive on surfaces for quite a

long period of time. And so social distancing doesn't work for people incarcerated. There is no place for them to go.

So this virus can pass on very easily, if we are not super careful.

SREENIVASAN: You said have had prisoners reach out to you. What kind of stories are they telling?

BARTLEY: Oh, they are telling me stories about not knowing. Like -- having been, like, to for Mississippi, for instance, there are -- some states are

severely understaffed. They're underpopulated.

When the economy is doing well, people don't want to take prison guard jobs. So they have less people to even -- even working in prisons, so less

people to write memos, to let the incarcerated population know, all right, visits are going to be shut down, whereas they had to just hear it from

word to mouth, saying, visits are going to be shut down today because of coronavirus.

Many of them only get their information through watching TV or listening to the radio. And then the information they get might be geared towards the

public at large or a different state, but not personalized to their individual state. So they simply don't know.

And they can't get the adequate cleaning supplies, like Purell or other hand sanitizers that we're used to having. So -- and a lot of facilities

and states have outlawed or outruled bleach, because they think that people will use bleach as a weapon.

But I'm hearing now that they're allowing some semblance of water-downed bleach to come into the units to clean the showers and bathrooms. But many

of the people have to share little chips of soap, in which they use to wash their hands.

In one facility, a man told me there's five sinks that 60 people use. And they have five sections next to the sink with chips of soap, and all of

them have to share using those chips of soap, 60 people. And they worry about what that is healthy enough.

SREENIVASAN: And you also had a story about a New York corrections officer getting sick?

BARTLEY: Yes, a New York correction officer in Sing Sing unfortunately came down with the coronavirus.

And what everyone should know that the walls are not only meant to keep people in. They're meant to keep information from getting out and from

information getting in.

So we have reports of someone who was a correction officer that contracted it, but we don't know where that person worked within the facility, whether

that person was in close contact with incarcerated population. And so we don't know.

We even heard that there's someone in an ICE detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, who has a reputation to be one of the most dirtiest

facilities in the country, that there's a guard that tests positive for it as well.

So, the problem just increases.

SREENIVASAN: The Marshall Project, for people who don't know, is a nonprofit newsroom focused on criminal justice stories, criminal justice

reform stories.

You also recently had a map that you published that showed how different states were dealing with, say, visitation rights. What are the different

methods that states are using?

BARTLEY: Well, a lot of states are closing visits from family members and friends. Some of them are even not allowing attorney visits.

But they are letting staff come in. But people who are incarcerated, people on the outside are their lifelines. The phones is like one step. The visits

are the second step. And the greatest step is the extended family visits, where people can spend the night with their family members for about 48


And not to have that, that's traumatizing for someone who's incarcerated. But anyone incarcerated, but speaking for those who have -- did a 180 from

their criminal ways and want to make a change and want to be loving fathers, brothers and sons, and this kind of cripples their ability to stay

in contact, with the same fear of not knowing what family members are going through.

But prison administrators have to protect them. They have to protect everyone else from catching the virus. So many people are incarcerated who

have reached out to me via e-mail, via call, via letters, they all understand.

SREENIVASAN: Do you think that there is a different level of care or attention paid to members of the prisons staff vs. the prisoners


BARTLEY: Absolutely.

Prisoners who have symptoms of the flu are quarantined in some states, but none of them are telling me that they are tested for corona. And I'm

hearing in the news that there are reports just coming out that they finally got the testing kits for people on the outside.


So, you know civilians are going to be tested first. But people who are inside largely believe they are an invisible population, that no one really

cares about them. They are exiled, because they did something bad.

But for those who -- like, for instance, like me, I was incarcerated at the age of 17. I did 27 years and two months. And I was, for decades -- for to

over two decades, I haven't been the person I was who committed a crime in the first place.

So I didn't see myself as someone who was the lowest of the low, I always wanted to be included. I always want to be seen as equal, as a person.

So, when -- time like this, when testing kits are going around, and those testing kits are not being provided to the people who are incarcerated,

they feel even more less than, and they worry about if they will be -- potentially be forgotten enough to be sacrificed.

So all these kind of fearful thoughts will swirl around in their head.

SREENIVASAN: So, Lawrence, what sent you inside?

BARTLEY: Well, unfortunately, at the age of 16, I was shot four times in a drive-by shooting. Before that, my parents had gotten divorced. I had moved

from a middle-class neighborhood to more of an urban one, one where crime was the order of the day.

It was a time of where crack had influenced my neighborhood greatly. And there was no trust for police officers back then. And, after being shot, I

don't know, I couldn't go to police officers, because they were preying on my community.

So, in order to keep myself safe, I did something stupid, and I end up getting a gun. And the gun was my sort of security. I had no intention of

using it.

But New York City in 1998, in the time I got arrested, New York had 2,242 murders by gun violence. So, that's the time I was living in. So, I figured

this gun would be my security.

And a few friends and myself went to a movie theater, and I had the gun on me at night. And another group of teens came in making a lot of noise. They

were arguing with a couple of the other patrons. And one of my friends told him to be quiet. And then they started yelling back and forth at us.

And one of those individuals pulled out a gun and fired at us. And people in my section, my group of friends included, pull out guns started firing

back. I fired one time. And I didn't see anyone in front of me. I didn't think anyone was there. I just want to fire in order to retreat. And I

wanted to fire in order to be accepted, and I wanted to fire in order to be safe.

And all that was going through the mind of a 17-year-old at the time. And I made the wrong choice. And, at the end, four people were injured, and one

person was killed. And I was sentenced to 27 and 30 years to life.

SREENIVASAN: So, after you finished your 27 years, you built a newspaper paper that is delivered into prisons. Tell me about "News Inside."

BARTLEY: Well, "News Inside" is an idea I had when I first got -- when I was incarcerated, I went to parole board five times in seven months.

I had a series of appeals that got me before the parole board. And I finally won my release. And I wrote an article about all the psychological

trauma I went through, and balancing that with the way I felt compassion from the victim's family, and how it played on the incarcerated individuals

and myself.

And that led me to earn a job at The Marshall Project. And when I got to Marshall Project, I looked at this treasure of stories that we had in our

data -- on our Web site that's about criminal justice, because that's what we do. We report on criminal justice news.

And I thought that, wow, if people incarcerated had an opportunity to view these stories, it could not only be of a benefit to them mentally, it can

change their lives, because I call these news you can use. People can use this.

And so I pitched an idea to put our work in print and distribute it all over the country, because people incarcerated, they don't have access to

the Internet like you and I. And, luckily, it worked.

And I promised The Marshall Project, if they allowed me to do this, in one year, I will guarantee that I will have them into 10 states and 20

facilities. But within one year's time, we are in 38 states and 502 facilities.

And I'm really proud of it.

SREENIVASAN: So, using "News Inside," you launch a survey between The Marshall Project and Slate.

Why was it important to find the political opinions of prisoners?

BARTLEY: Well, because, for one, when I was incarcerated -- I told you I did 27 years -- I began to think about my situation over and over.


And I knew there was limited powers that a judge had to release me, after though my appeals were exhausted. And I knew that the only way I could get

out early is if -- with some form of legislative action.

So, I began to pay attention. And so I knew that people who were in a situation that I was would pay attention to what's going on legislatively

in their states, and maybe what's going on, on a national election state. And they were left out of it.

Many states, people incarcerated can't vote. Only states where everyone incarcerated can vote is Maine and Vermont. And there's states like

Florida, who just passed Amendment 4, allowing people who were formerly incarcerated to vote for the first time, even though they're trying to

repeal that through saying you can't vote unless you -- if you -- unless you pay fines and fees.

But I knew that people incarcerated had something to say, and they had an opinion. And I just wondered, just what if they were allowed to vote? I

mean, what would this country look like?

So, I put a survey inside "News Inside" with Slate. And my colleagues Nicole Lewis and Anna Flagg helped me out with it tremendously. And we got

back over 8,000 responses and counting. And, usually, national polls have about 400 to 1,000 responses.

So, I feel really proud that what we have is something that's very unique.

SREENIVASAN: I want to ask you about The Zo. This is something that The Marshall Project partner with Topic on.

What is it?

BARTLEY: The Zo is a phrase that was coined by someone who was incarcerated, and he called it The Twilight Zone, and he calls it The Zo

for sure to represent the psychological imbalance that a person who is incarcerated faces on a day-to-day basis.

It might -- it's not always linked to violence. It could be linked to not having -- to not going to the school building at the same time every day,

not getting the adequate amount of sheets, not -- one rule -- a rule could be one thing one day, this is approved one day, but the next day, it can be

illegal, and a person can subject him or herself to solitary confinement as a result of it.

So that's basically The Zo.

SREENIVASAN: We have got different stories in there. One of them was called the drive-by. We might play a quick clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inmates are supposed to be awake to catch the list by telling the officer where he or she intends to go during the day.

In most facilities, the officer taking the list speeds by in the dark while people are their cells routinely state,, mess hall, yard, school,

vocational, hospital, as the officer look straight ahead and robotically record each person's request.

If you are still asleep or hesitate and, therefore, miss the zoom-by by a nanosecond, you are out of luck.


SREENIVASAN: It's something that we just take for granted, just having some semblance of, well, control over our schedules, certainly, but just

what is and what isn't true from day to day.

What does that do to you psychologically?

BARTLEY: Oh, like you just mentioned, the drive-by, when a person has to - - there's five counts a day. One of them happens at 5:30 in the morning, and a person is asleep.

Like, everyone -- a lot of people are asleep at 5:30. And a person has to be up when the officer robotically walk by, taking a list, asking a person

where he's going to go today. A person slips one time, that person can be subject to a misbehavior report that will follow him or her all the way to

the parole board maybe five, 10, 20 years later.

And that can be torture, you know?

SREENIVASAN: Lawrence Bartley, director of "News Inside," thanks so much for joining us.

BARTLEY: Thank you for having me, Ari.


AMANPOUR: So interesting.

And, of course, The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to covering the U.S. criminal justice system.

And, finally, as cases of coronavirus continue to surge, so too does a troubling habit amongst some world leaders, reverting to the old tropes of

denial, conspiracy theories and media bashing.

Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is calling coronavirus a little flu overhyped by the media that's tricking the people.

Mexico's left-wing President Manuel Obrador actually encouraging his people to hug and to eat out, while political rallies continue in Nicaragua.

And President Donald Trump says that he wants to open up America again for Easter, despite health expert warnings.

Let us just remember that, so far, the evidence shows that two things have worked to flatten this curve, strict isolation, social distancing, and

lockdown, as in China, and properly identifying, testing and quarantining of the infected, as in Singapore.

So we here will continue to follow and report the facts and the best practices. We will continue to rely on time-tested, true situations and

institutions and those that are credible.


So, look out for the innovative and effective view from Denmark. We will bring you that later this week.

That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.

Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.