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CDC Says U.S. Outbreak Could Peak This Week; Gary Cohn, Former Chief Economic Adviser to President Trump, is Interviewed About U.S. Economy; Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders Endorsing Joe Biden; France's War Against an Invisible Enemy; Strategy For Reopening United States?; Interview With Iraqi President Barham Salih. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 14, 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It would be nice to be able to open with a big bang and open up our country or certainly most of our country and I
think we're going to do that soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Millions out of the work. Trillions on the line. How will America reopen its economy? I speak to President Trump's former top
economic adviser, Gary Cohn.
Then, coronavirus hits Iraq where the government is already in crisis and the economy in freefall. President Barham Salih joins me for an exclusive
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RAJIV SHAH, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, USAID: Either we shut our economy down off and on in a rather unpredictable manner over a 12 to 18-month
period or we have widespread access to testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Nobel-prize winning economist, Paul Romer, and the head of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Rajiv Shah, break down the best way to reopen
the economy and keep Americans safe.
And, the war hero honoring our health heroes. How a World War II veteran went above and beyond by going round and round.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour reporting from home in London.
The world approaches 2 million coronavirus confirmed cases now. It is a new milestone that comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
warns that the United States outbreak would peak this week.
Meantime, a worrying economic diagnosis from the International Monetary Fund, which is predicting the world economy could shrink, will shrink, by 3
percent this year. The IMF says the "great lockdown" will cause the biggest downturn since The Great Depression of the 1930s, before a partial rebound
might be possible in 2021.
Well, President Trump is vowing to reopen the world's largest economy, the U.S., potentially by May 1st. A timeline that Nobel prize winning
economist, Paul Krugman, told us on this program last night would be crazy and Dr. Anthony Fauci who, of course, is on the president's own coronavirus
task force says May 1st would be "overly optimistic."
So, let's discuss this. Joining me now is Gary Cohn. He's formerly the chief economic adviser to President Trump, he also was president of the
banking giant, Goldman Sachs.
Gary Cohn, welcome to the program. I hear your phone.
GARY COHN, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
AMANPOUR: It's live television.
COHN: Live television.
AMANPOUR: It is OK. These things happen. We're all in difficult situations. But let me ask you first to react to the president saying that
he wants to reopen the economy, you heard him says with a big bang, hopefully soon. May 1st is their target. You heard what Fauci said and
Krugman said. What do you think about a May 1st target?
COHN: Christiane, first of all, thank you for having me. Look, I don't think there's a big bang here. I think we have to approach this as a very
incremental approach. First of all, we've got to make sure we can test, and testing is the key.
Once we start reopening the economy, we're going to have to make sure that we can test people and test people quite aggressively. Because the minute
we start seeing early signs of infection, we're going to want to make sure we can capture that and capture that early so we don't get a respreads or a
reinfection of the whole economy and have to shut it down again. I think that's imperative.
Next, we're going to have to be very incremental about the way we reopen the economy. A small store in a neighborhood with one or two employees that
has one or two customers in the shop at a time, they are going to take one approach. A large company that has 20,000 people coming in its building
riding elevators up and down, they're going to have to take a completely different approach.
They're going to have to segment their workforces, where certain people come in on a Monday in the morning, certain people Monday in the afternoon
and a different crew comes in Tuesday morning and Tuesday afternoon and then the Monday crowd repeats on Wednesday so they make sure that their
workforce is safe and if some of the workforce gets sick, they're not cross contaminating the rest of their workforce. I think this is going to be very
incremental the way we open up our economy.
AMANPOUR: But that's a pretty, you know, important prescription. You have obviously thought about this. I mean, the idea of relay races, so to speak,
as you have laid out.
AMANPOUR: First of all, that's a lot of workforce, right, or what? Are they going to -- you know, companies are going to have to make all sorts of
decisions about people? What do you think is going to happen to the nearly 17 million who have signed up for unemployment in the last three weeks
COHN: So, look. People have signed up for unemployment because they need basic wages and basic income replacement.
COHN: The CARES Act, which remember, was introduced on March 22nd and only about half the money to small businesses is out today. If we get the CARES
Act money our into the economy, we're going to take people back off unemployment and they're going to rejoin the company that they were working
for, which is really important. We need that attachment back to the companies they were working for so people will know they're attached to
their companies. They will know where they're going back to work.
That is really important that we get people back attached to their companies, we get their wages replaced, we get their health care replaced
so they can buy food, they can buy their necessities, they can pay their rent, they can pay the utilities. That's the first thing to have to happen.
Number two, we get testing in place, which has to happen. And we've got a big backlog worldwide that we have to catch up. We have to catch up that
backlog and we have to get front leaning on testing. Number three, we can then start working on getting people back into the workforce, but it's not
that hard. A company can stagger their work force so people come in on staggered shifts so, A, if they're riding public transportation, we are not
forcing a lot of people into public transportation all at once. So, people come in at 6:00, people come in at 7:00, people come in at 8:00, people
coming at 9:00, people coming at 10:00, people coming in at 11:00 and then people start leaving by 2:00 or 3:00 and then you stagger the workforce
like that. This is not that hard to do.
And by the way, it is much better to have people coming in, even on staggered shifts and even working four days a week or three days a week
than not working at all. That's how we're going to have to get the economy back. We're not going to get everyone coming in at 8:00 or 9:00 in the
morning on the first day and all piling into buses and piling into subways and going into taxis. It is not practical. It just won't work. We will
probably re-infect so many people then we'll have to go shut down the economy again. And that to me is the worst-case outcome.
AMANPOUR: Right. I mean, that could cause an even worse economic crisis than the one that's facing right now. But I want to pick you up and ask you
about one of the things you said just now. This money that's meant to help people, small businesses, et cetera, it's apparently being very slow to
reach the people who need it. And the sort of mechanics of trying to get it, trying to apply for it is very, very slow and people are running out of
money now and small businesses are running out of money now.
What would you say and advise the White House, the government to speed this up, since as you put it, very high up on your list of what has to happen
COHN: Look. The government has to figure out how to get this money out and get it out as quick as possible. I've been saying this for a better part of
a month. Just because we passed legislation doesn't fix the problem. This is an execution problem. It is not a legislation problem anymore. We have
legislated the money. We have appropriated the money. The money is there. Now, we have to get the money into the hands of the hard-working Americans
so they can live their life, they can buy their groceries, they can buy their essentials. There are easier ways to do this.
We have made this more difficult than it needs to be. We are forcing banks into very uncomfortable situations by forcing them into the small business
loan mechanism. Many large banks have never been part of the small business loan mechanism. Remember, the small because loan organization in the United
States historically has given out about $30 billion of loans a year and it's a six to eight-week process. We're now having them give out $350
billion of loans and we want them to do it in an instantaneous process.
On top of that, the large banks have substantial rules and regulations that they're having to abide by whether trying to implement these practices. The
Federal Reserve and all of the other regulators in the United States, although they've done a spectacular job on providing liquidity for the
system, they haven't relinquished the regulation that is stand in the way of banks acting quickly.
COHN: Banks are not meant to act quickly. Banks are meant to be very decisive and very deliberate in the way they act and we've put banks in a
position where they're supposed to act quickly. That's not how banks are designed in this day and age.
AMANPOUR: Right. In the meantime, though, the National Federation of International Businesses, as you well know, this organization found that at
least 70 percent of the small businesses who need it, who have tried to apply for these federal loans have -- are failing thousands and thousands
are failing due to the technical glitches and the like.
So, if you were still -- you know, let's first just address the elephant in the room. You know, I know you're not getting engaged in politics, but
there's been a huge amount of, you know, gee whiz criticism about the way these briefings that the president is holding every night are unfolding. At
first, they were considered very good and very useful.
But now, even "The Wall Street Journal" has got into the issue here basically saying, the briefings began as a good idea to educate the public
about the dangers of the virus. But sometime in the last three weeks Mr. Trump seems to have concluded that the briefings should be a showcase for
him. The president's outbursts against his political critics are notably offkey at this moment. This isn't impeachment and COVID-19 isn't shifty
shift, it's a once in a century threat to American life and livelihood.
So, what's your response to that? But more to the point, given your economic advice, what would you advise that briefing to be used for at a
time like this?
COHN: Look. I think the president does need to talk about how we're going to reopen the economy. And this idea of a date certain and this idea that
we're going to have a big bang, I don't think that's prudent. I think the president needs to talk about how we're going to open the economy and how
we're going to do it methodically and how every citizen is going to have a role to play and how we're all going to have to be a little bit patient.
But the more patience we have and the more methodical we are in doing this the better it is for all of us.
Look, we're going to get certain stores open but we're only going to allow a certain amount of people in. So, yes, you're going to have to wait
outside. We're going to open restaurants but we're going to ask restaurants to run it, I don't know, 50 percent of capacity. So, take half the tables
out. Maybe take two thirds of the tables out and have a third of the tables in so people are spaced in the restaurant and there's lots of space. So,
you won't be able to get a table when you want but at least the restaurant will be open and operating.
The president should be talking about those things and saying, look, we'll run the restaurants at a third of capacity for a month. And after a month,
we'll go to 50 percent of capacity. And after a month, we'll go to another -- in the third month, we'll go to 80 percent of capacity. In month four,
we'll be back at 100 percent of capacity. And those are what the president should be talking about when he gets on his evening speech, when he talks
about the economy.
Look. I think the president has done a very good job working with Congress and getting appropriations done and getting money appropriated for U.S.
citizens. And so, I do give them very good marks on what they have done to stimulate, you know, the spending ability of people to stay home.
Remember, we have asked 97 percent of our population in the United States to stay at home and take themselves out of the United States economy. We
are also going to ask them to reenter the economy at some point, but we're going to ask them to reenter the economy on a slow and methodical basis,
and that's what the president should talk about.
AMANPOUR: Right. So, to my point, I'm still trying to understand what you -- how you analyze the performance up there because part of this is also,
from all the figures we are seeing, is to encourage confidence in people, people who have been under lockdown, yes, they're worried about their own
finances and the general economy, but they're also going to be quite scared about the idea of getting back into the workforce. I know you have talked
about it and other business leaders have.
So, when the president uses, like he did on Monday night, the White House Podium, as a political rally and ran a video that, I mean, people are
comparing to, you know, North Korea and their extreme commentary on it as a propaganda device, is that what is appropriate? Is it seemly? And is it
going to help the people who need the most reassurance from the White House Podium?
COHN: Christiane, I think we are at the point now where the vast majority of Americans understand the COVID virus, the pandemic that we are living
in. And I think they understand their role. I think we understand stay at home. I think we understand social distancing. I think we understand
flattening the curve. These are all new words that we -- none of us heard of beginning of the year and now, we understand them and we have a vivid
understanding of what they are.
I think the president now needs to use his time in the White House briefing room to talk about what's ahead of us and where we're going next. And he
needs to talk about the slow methodical reopening of the economy. That to me is what the Americans have not heard about. We have not talked about how
we're going to methodically open the economy, how we're going to protect people, how we're going to let the baseball season start, but we're going
to let the baseball season start with no fans in the stadium but you're going to have the ability to watch sports again.
We might let the National Basketball Association play again. We might let football or soccer games happen again but you're going to watch them on TV,
you're not going to go to the stadium. But a month from now we may let 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 fans in the stadium. I think his time would be very
wisely used to lay out a blueprint, a high-level blueprint on how we're going to achieve that.
AMANPOUR: So, do you -- I mean, you were his former top economic adviser in the White House. Do you have a phone link to him? Can you tell him this?
Do you tell the secretary of the treasury or other people in the White House who you may know on this issue? Are you able to advise?
COHN: So, I have made myself available to anyone in Washington that wants to talk. I have been talking to people in the White House. And I have been
delivering my thoughts as openly and candidly, even more candidly to them as I am to you. So, my thoughts -- these are not secrets, is what I'm
telling you, I'm telling them.
AMANPOUR: All right. OK. So, I want to know what you think of the -- one of the sort of rationalizations or the descriptions of the president has
made about opening up and who's in charge. He says the president has total power, he's got himself in a big kerfuffle with governors and here's the
soundbite that's relevant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's total? Authority is total?
TRUMP: Total. It is total.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your authority is total?
TRUMP: And the governors know that. The governors know that. Now, you have a couple of bands of -- excuse me. Excuse me. You have a couple --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you rescind that order?
TRUMP: You have a couple of bands of Democrat governors but they will agree to it. They will agree to it. But the authority of the president of
the United States having to do with the subject we're talking about is total.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Gary Cohn, what is your view on that? I mean, if the president is going to get himself into a big fight with the governors
despite the constitution, how does that help, you know, not confuse people about which way is up for reopening the economy?
COHN: So, Christiane, I want to remind people how we got into this economic, basically, slowdown or economic withdrawal. The first people to
react were actually some of the biggest businesses in this country. Some of the biggest businesses in the country said, hey, my people or my clients
are getting sick and, therefore, I'm going to shut my business down.
And I'll take some very vivid examples, whether it was the National Basketball Association or the NCAA, they started canceling their games and
then canceling their basketball tournaments before the White House or the governors or the mayors decided to shut down the economy. So, the first
responders to what was actually going on were some of the businesses in this country, some of the stores really shut down, some of the other
business really shut down. And then you saw the public response sort of follow after what happened in the private world.
Right now, we're in a position where the White House has their position but the mayors and governors are clearly making the decisions in their cities
and states. But ultimately, even if the mayors and governors make the decisions, it ultimately up to the individual employers and the individual
businesses what they think is in the best interest of their people and their clients to ultimately make a decision about what they're going to do.
AMANPOUR: Right. Well, that's the answer. Let me just ask you, I mean, hindsight is 20/20 obviously. I mean, one of the great achievements of the
Trump presidency, as far as they're concerned, is something that you helped shepherd through, which is the 2017 tax cuts. But many are saying -- I
mean, you thought that, you know, growth would pay for all of that but, in fact, it's led to big, big debt and deficits and I wonder whether you think
that in retrospect, given the big hole the U.S. is going to be in after this $2 trillion plus and maybe even more, whether you call it stimulus or
disaster relief, whether that might not have been so painful had there not been these tax cuts which also left such a huge hole in the economy.
COHN: So, I almost look at it the other way. You know, remember how good the economy was, go back to the middle of February, you know, sort of
February 19th was -- we had an all-time record high stock market. We had unemployment down at 3.5 percent. We had wage growth at 3 percent. We had
everything working well and everyone in financially really good shape in the United States.
Could you imagine entering a crisis or this health care issue with an economy that was not in good shape and putting this on top of that? The
fact that we're economically in very sound and very strong position going in to this health care crisis, I actually think will be very helpful to get
us to recover through this. The deficit that was being created prior to this health care crisis was not being created by the tax plan. It was being
created by the fact that Congress just continues to spend money despite what the revenues were.
Revenues under the new tax plan were going up year over year. And when I think the most interesting thing that will come out of this big COVID
crisis or this health care crisis, this pandemic, will be the fact that we now in the United States have to understand that literally on a moment's
notice we may have to spend $2 trillion to $5 trillion to help our fellow citizens through some unforeseen situation in this country. That means that
we have to run our finances in this country in a position that we can be -- in a way that we can be in a position to do that.
That means that the next Congress, the Congress that comes in in 2021, better sit down and look at our budget in the way we spend money and they
better decide really what's important and they should stop wasting money. We are also going to have to look at the revenue side of the equation.
We're going to have to look at how do we collect revenue and we're going to have to look at our taxes and who do we tax and who pays taxes and how do
we put ourselves in a position where our budget makes sense and our revenue side of the equation makes sense, knowing that at any given moment we could
be in a position where we have to put $2 trillion to $5 trillion into the economy.
AMANPOUR: And on that note, I hope I can come back to you and dive down into there because clearly this is going to be an issue, the math, as one
tries to come out of this crisis.
So, Gary Cohn, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight.
COHN: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Now, later in the program, our Hari Sreenivasan takes a targeted look at just more detail how to get people back to work without spreading
the virus further. And calling this a time for leadership in an international crisis, former president, Barack Obama, has now endorsed Joe
Biden. He did in it a video message aimed at uniting Democrats behind the party's presumed nominee. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FMR PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The kind of leadership that's guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility,
empathy and grace, that kind of leadership doesn't just belong in our state capitols and mayors' offices. It belongs in the White House. And that's why
I'm so proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed his erstwhile rival, Joe Biden. Today, Obama also praised Sanders' progressive movement.
Now, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, world leaders have lent heavily on the language of war, rallying citizens to fight the virus which, of
course, is an invisible enemy they said. But few countries have taken this as seriously as France, which was among the first European nation to
mobilize its army, its air force and its national railroad to support the coronavirus effort. France has been hit hard with almost 16,000 deaths
reported and the president says lockdown will continue until may 11th to allow the curve to flatten more.
Melissa Bell takes a look at what an all of government approach to waging this war actually does look like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paris, as you've never seen or heard it before. But don't be fooled. Beneath the quiet, there is no peace here. But
rather, a war that is being waged by one of Europe's largest armed forces deployed on its own soil against an invisible enemy.
From the start, President Macron, declared war on the coronavirus launching Operation Resilience in late March from (INAUDIBLE), the focus of the
French outbreak as he visited a military hospital erected on a parking lot next to the overwhelmed civilian one. The first such facility ever to be
used in peacetime.
To lessen the burden on the hard-hit eastern front, his railway infrastructure has been mobilized with TTV trains transporting the sick
towards available ICUs. The army also evacuating critical coronavirus patients with the help of planes equipped with intensive care facilities so
far only ever used to transport the war wounded in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
On the seas, helicopter carriers are being deployed to the Southern Indian Ocean and to the Caribbean to help France's overseas territories. Warships
also ferrying patients to the mainland. The operation placing France's military in an unprecedented peacetime role.
But even the mightiest are vulnerable. The French navy's flagship, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier forced back the port for disinfection on
Sunday after nearly 50 on board tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Monday night, Emmanuel Macron spoke to that now universally felt sense of fragility.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): This moment reminds us that we are vulnerable, no doubt we had forgotten. Let us, in
this moment, leave the world trojan powers and ideologies and let us all reinvent ourselves as I will first of all.
BELL: Every evening, France applauds the real heroes of these crisis, the medical workers fighting an enemy that has already killed 15,000 people in
this country alone.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Pila, France.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And French troops were among those to pull out of Iraq recently. They were there as part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.
COVID-19 is now testing Iraq in new ways, even as the country struggles with political turmoil and plunges in oil prices. Baghdad has just
appointed its third prime minister designate in about as many months. And that is the former intelligence chief who will work under Iraq's
constitution leading the government.
But our next guest is under the constitution, the president of Iraq, Barham Salih, who is joining us exclusively from Baghdad.
Good evening to you, President Salih. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.
And we really want the know how this coronavirus is beginning to move towards your area. Tell us how you have been hit.
BARHAM SALIH, IRAQI PRESIDENT: Well, undeniably, this coronavirus is a serious challenge for everybody and Iraq is no exception. Perhaps in the
case of Iraq is even more of a challenge. Our health infrastructure is not as developed as it should be.
However, we have mobilized with the help of the united nations and World Health Organization, health authorities have mobilized early on and have
imposed stringent measures including lockdowns, curfews, closing down borders, suspending air travels. These, I hope, have helped delaying the
curve or flattening the curve and we are working hard, we have to be very vigilant, remain vigilant and not be complacent about it. But the impact,
obviously, in terms of the economy, in terms of the social dynamics has been quite huge. And the ramifications of this disease is yet to be fully,
fully understood, especially in countries like Iraq because the challenges are huge.
But so far, I would say I'm very proud of our health sector and health workers. I met a number of them today. Young people who are really battling
this and this is an opportunity to say to them and to health workers across the world a big thank you because they are truly heroes who are trying to
I met one doctor, a young doctor today who was telling me that he has not been to see his family for almost a month now. I mean, it is these stories
of courage that, you know, brings out the best of societies in these difficult challenging times.
AMANPOUR: President Barham Salih, I mean, I remember very, very clearly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 those pictures where we saw everything
being looted after the invasion, including the hospitals. And we understand that, you know, with the years and decades of sanctions before that
invasion, and now with the difficult economy, as you say, you know, you really do have a stressed health care system.
What is your kind of nightmare scenario? Because obviously you have this big outbreak in neighboring Iran. You have an outbreak in neighboring
Turkey. What do you fear might happen to Iraq?
SALIH: Perhaps because of our concerns about the limited capabilities of our health infrastructure, we have gone into higher mobilization to enforce
the curfews and the lockdowns and the closing down of the borders and limiting the movements of people between various cities and provinces.
According to -- not just the Ministry of Health, according to the World Health Organization and others, these have been quite helpful.
Obviously, something also very significant, Christiane. This is the heart of the Islamic world. Religious ceremonies have been suspended. Friday
prayers have been suspended. Ayatollah Sistani, the grand Ayatollah, the in Merja (ph) in Iraq have come out with a very powerful statement that saying
adhering to health regulations and directives is a religious duty.
It is out of situations of crisis -- and I don't want -- again, don't want to underestimate the challenge, and I do not want to be complacent, because
we are still at the early stages of this terrible plague.
But, you know, the best in society, the best in health workers, the best in your security services have come out really to overcome the limitations of
your health infrastructure. And, really, some of the human stories that you have told about, I see, witness, is really just inspiring, truly inspiring.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you, because you mentioned the holy sites and Ayatollah Sistani, the grand ayatollah, who has so much weight within the
Shiite community, not only in your country, but around the world.
You might have heard that Iran's head of pilgrimages and hajj has said that they want -- Iran wants to start allowing visitors, pilgrims, to come to
holy sites Iraq, your country, in Syria.
Given the outbreak there in Iran, are you going to allow that?
SALIH: This is matter that the Health Ministry will be deciding.
I was with the health minister today. I think the indication is that we have to be extremely careful. We are not yet beyond the danger. And we have
to really assess the situation, based on facts and evidence, before making any definitive judgment on this.
There are lots of pressures on this. And I know that the supreme religious authorities in Najaf are keen to making sure that all the health directives
are adhered to, because, again, as stated, this is not only a health issue. They consider it a sacred religious duty. And this is the right thing to
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about numbers? You have praised your health services and the measures you have taken.
And according to Johns Hopkins, which tracks the worldwide figures, you up until this week have 78 reported deaths and just over 1,300 cases. That's
the official figures.
But, as you know, other news organizations have reported, by talking to doctors and other hospitals in your country, that those figures are much
higher. And Iraq has suspended the journalistic license for Reuters and fined them.
I wonder what you think about that and whether you're not a little bit worried that, when you start cracking down on truth-tellers, you could have
a situation like they had in China, and things can just get out of control if there's no transparency?
SALIH: And I cannot disagree with you on the basic premise of the question, because this has to be based on transparency and openness.
The number that is we have from the health authorities, the documented cases, we have 1,400 of confirmed infections. We have had 17 -- 78 deaths,
as you said. And we have had so far 766 recoveries.
Today was quite an interesting case, day. We have had no deaths. We have had 44 recoveries and 22 infections. I want to assert that these are the
documented cases. As WHO has said, unreported numbers or underreported cases is the norm in Iraq, as well as in other countries, because we have
not been in a state of active surveillance early on.
We have started that a while back. But the WHO has also confirmed there has been absolutely no evidence of deliberate falsification of records. You
cannot hide the deaths. You cannot hide the numbers of people who are being treated in hospitals.
As far as the suspension of the Reuters license, it is a regrettable decision. This is a decision by the independent media commission, which is
independent of the government. From my vantage point, you will not get me in a situation where I would defend that.
I'm working together with our legal team in order to revoke that and manage the situation. I agree with you. This is not conducive to what we want to
be, a transparent environment.
People were distressed with the Reuters report because it implied a deliberate falsification of records by the government. WHO and the United
Nations agencies, in their statement, they came out that was absolutely not the case.
AMANPOUR: It's amazing to hear you, as president of the country, say that. And I thank you for looking into that, because we're obviously concerned,
as truth-tellers, to get the truth out. So thank you for that, Mr. President.
SALIH: Yes, sure. Of course. Of course. Of course.
AMANPOUR: The next thing I want to ask you is that you have -- there is going to be a strategic review. Obviously, since the beginning of the year,
there's been a lot of trouble between Iraq and the United States, starting with the assassination of the Iranian Quds leader in -- on your territory.
And then there was other action on your territory. And the whole relationship between the U.S. and Iraq has become very fraught.
What do you think is going to transpire? Will the Iraqi Parliament, will the -- you know, the powers that be decide that the U.S. presence needs to
leave? Or what -- where do you think this situation is going?
SALIH: First and foremost, let me put things in proper context.
This is really uniquely challenging times for a country like Iraq. We have a political crisis. We have had our government resign, for the last three
months, and we are trying to form a new government.
We just appointed what people call the former head of intelligence or the head of intelligence of the country, but this gentleman that has just been
appointed was a former journalist, a human rights activist, and is quite, quite well-known in the human rights circles.
So, usually, in the Middle East, when you talk about a former head of intelligence, it comes down with certain connotations. Mustafa al-Kadhimi
is a different kind, I want to think of him as a journalist, as a thinker, as a human rights activist.
One thing is also very important about this whole process. Iraq is a country in profound transition. And we have many, many problems that we
deal with day in, day out. We have been trying to put this government together. But we have stuck to the constitution and we have stuck to the
I'm hopeful, this time, we are going to have a government very soon, because there is almost national consensus about it, as well as
international and regional support for the appointment of Mr. Kadhimi.
One of the big issues before him will be in June to start the strategic dialogue with the United States. The United States has been involved with
Iraq in a very active manner, definitely since 2003.
This relationship needs to be put in a proper context and in a proper way. We have the strategic framework agreement -- that what we call. We need to
elaborate on this, including the status of American and coalition forces that are present in Iraq.
I am sure, by June, hopefully, with the new government, we will have a very, very good conversation and good dialogue that will be respective of
And let me come to this very important issue, Christiane. If you go back 2003 to today, probably, the most important factor why Iraq has not been
entirely stable, has not been entirely at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors is the lack of a strong sovereign state in Iraq, a state
that is able to affirm rule of law in the country and to conduct balanced relations with its neighbors, as well as with the international community,
including the United States, based on respect of its sovereignty.
I hope this team will be what will be the guiding principle for our dialogue, at the end of the day. Our strategic partnership with the United
States, with Europe, with our neighbors are very important. This country has seen so much conflict over the last 40 years.
You refer to 2003 and the looting. I can tell you, Iraq has been in a state of conflict since 1979.
SALIH: Sanctions, genocide, you name it. This country needs a reprieve.
And I would dare say also, with Iraq stabilizing, my hope is that this will be a catalyst for a much better order in the Middle East.
AMANPOUR: And you would know that better than most.
Barham Salih, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us this evening. Thank you very much.
SALIH: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, lockdowns have hit every economy deeply. But what if there was a way to save lives and limit economic disruption?
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer and president of the Rockefeller Foundation Dr. Rajiv Shah advocate for a data-driven quarantine and
massively scaling up testing, as you heard Gary Cohn say, to allow a gradual return to work. Dr. Shah was head of USAID for President Obama and
led its response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
They both tell our Hari Sreenivasan why a clear policy on testing is crucial to revive the economy, something they wrote about in their joint
"The New York Times" op-ed.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Raj Shah, Paul Romer, thanks so much for joining us.
First, the big picture of the plan that you're trying to lay out, for people who didn't read the op-ed or haven't read the Web site.
Paul, why don't you talk about kind of the economic consequences and, Raj, the sort of medical ones that you're both trying to address?
PAUL ROMER, NOBEL LAUREATE IN ECONOMICS: So, we are all committed to saving lives.
What Raj and I are saying is, there's a way to save lives that's much less costly in terms of disruption and lost economic output.
And the key to that alternative strategy is, instead of trying to put everybody into isolation or a large fraction of the population into
isolation, what we need to do is find the people who are infectious and put them into isolation.
And then we can, with confidence, let everybody else return to daily life. And we have to do this gradually, starting from where we are. There are
people already at work, so start by testing and isolating them, before we start to send new people into work.
But, if we move quickly, we can much quicker get back to more normal economic activity and avoid the just hundreds of billions of dollars we are
losing every single month because of the economic slowdown.
SREENIVASAN: Raj, balance that need for restarting the economy. How do we do this in a safe way?
DR. RAJIV SHAH, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well, the strategy we're putting forth is one
where we massively accelerate access to testing, in particular, basic diagnostic testing, so we can identify who has COVID-19.
And they can manage their quarantine processes, and others can go to work. And the reason that is so important is, we're seeing, from Singapore, South
Korea, Germany, lots of other examples of both widespread testing making a difference in restarting economic activity, and, frankly, the risk of
reemergence of the pandemic over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.
This is not something that's just going to be solved in the next few weeks. And so either we shut our economy down, off and on, in a rather
unpredictable manner over a 12-to-18-month period, or we have widespread access to testing, allow people who are not infectious to be active in the
economy, and protect those who are more vulnerable through very targeted data-driven quarantine, contact tracing and management efforts.
SREENIVASAN: Why are we not testing the way that you have described? I mean, it seems pretty logical now.
Obviously, there's a shortage. We're all aware of some of the shortages. But why is it structurally that we are not testing the way you two are
SHAH: Well, I think there are three major roadblocks right now.
The first is, you need capacity and physical infrastructure and people to be trained in collecting samples and being part of a testing scale-up.
We're seeing that start to evolve in certain cities and in certain states, where they're investing in that as an approach, but it's about building a
real infrastructure to actually make sure anyone can access testing.
We have heard rumors about certain partnerships that don't seem to have materialized fast enough.
But that's now starting to scale up. But it's a major, major infrastructure build-out that has to be done with NGOs, with fire departments, with
schools, with wherever you can offer testing access, with companies in their parking lots, et cetera, in a way that makes it really broadly
I think a second is that the traditional mechanism of acquiring test kits that have been approved, sending the data, the material back for processing
to labs that are part of the reimbursement stream of the particular health center that does the testing, people are doing what they always do, and
doing it in a way where they're going to get reimbursed based on the complex reimbursement system we have in place in the United States.
And we need to rethink that. We need a different approach, so that people can use university labs that might have more capacity right now than lab --
Quest and -- than LabCorp and Quest. But that requires a change.
And I think the third is materials and supplies. Right now, if you're a mayor trying to get access to the Abbott test, you probably need a special
phone call to the CEO of Abbott in order to get in line. And you just can't have hundreds of mayors and 50 governors scrambling like that.
There has to be a procurement strategy, real resources committed to making sure the supply chain is big enough and broad enough to support scaling at
the level we're talking about.
I think all three of those things are all critical elements of a national testing strategy to solve this problem.
SREENIVASAN: Let's talk a little bit about the numbers here. How much money would it cost the U.S. government to try to implement your plan to
try to accelerate testing on this significant scale?
ROMER: Yes, I think $100 billion a year is a good number for us to aim for.
And I think it's a small number compared to what we have been spending as part of these other stimulus and emergency measures. And I think it would
be well large enough to cover the costs of this massively scaled-up scaled up testing program.
I think we should remember, though, that this is an ongoing process. We can't just turn this thing off when, say, it looks like the number of
deaths is going down. So, we need to start planning to just spend this on an ongoing basis.
I think it's kind of like we spend $600, $700 billion a year on military defense. We should be spending $100 billion a year on health defense,
because the biggest threat we have suffered, the biggest hit we have suffered has been on this health side, not on the military side.
SREENIVASAN: Given the state of government today, how likely is it to get that kind of funding approved for this specific task?
Yes, we are writing $2 trillion bills, or we have already. Can this have a bipartisan consensus and can this get through?
ROMER: I think it can.
I have spoken to a few people in the Congress. And their reaction was, my goodness, no one has ever even come to me and said, spend money on this.
If you think about it, there are no lobbyists who are trying to lobby for just the greater good of the public. But if you explain to the legislators
the value of something like this, I -- they're very open to it.
And in terms of the mechanics to do this quickly, if the U.S. Congress said, we're willing to allocate $100 billion a year, and then we give those
funds in block grants, in proportion to the population, to the states of the United States for the governors to spend on testing, the governors
could act on this and get this going, I think, very quickly.
SREENIVASAN: Raj, while you were at USAID, you oversaw the testing system that happened in during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. What did you
SHAH: Well, the most important thing I learned leading the West African Ebola response in 2014 was, testing was absolutely critical to getting both
an effective response and allowing for the confidence to emerge so that people could reengage in the economy.
We saw a 30 percent loss of output in West African countries that were affected. In that context, that moved people back under the extreme poverty
line. It created massive amounts of hunger and human suffering. And it was absolutely tragic.
And the thing that got that turned around was getting testing access from a seven-to-eight-day process of finding a place, getting a blood sample,
getting it sent out, getting the results, and maybe you had access, maybe you didn't, to knowing everyone in the region could get a test and get a
result within four hours.
We had U.S. military personnel flying lab samples on helicopters. We deployed bioterror labs throughout West African countries like Liberia to
make sure there was broad-scale access. We trained thousands of community health workers in wearing protective equipment, so that they could be on
the front lines of collection.
It was a massive effort focused on that number, the number of hours it takes to get a test result. Once we had it under four hours, people
confident again. They say, OK, if I feel anxious about it, I -- and I have some symptomatic reason to feel that way, I can get access to a test and a
result, and I will know.
Without data and without testing being at the core of that data, it's very hard to have the confidence you need to just reengage in your community, to
get out of your house and to do things that are economically productive and are going to put food on the table for your family.
SREENIVASAN: What should the threshold be, how many days? And what is the data point that we're looking for to be able to try to resume some
semblance of normalcy in life, or how does this roll out? Does it happen in different phases?
SHAH: Well, the scale -- a national strategy and a national investment to scale up testing has -- is an immediate priority. It has to be the thing we
do right now together, public and private, industry and science, government at the federal, state and local level, all working together.
And that's what the Rockefeller Foundation's advocating for and building partnerships to execute. The reality is, right now, we know that, at a
minimum, front-line health workers, they should all get testing, regular access.
Both Paul and I have front-line health workers in our family. My sister's a doctor. They still don't have consistent access to testing, despite very
clearly being both at risk and being essential to the actual health response.
We should expand the definition of essential workers to include those who are taking more risks to allow this economy to function, even when there is
a widespread quarantine in place, including gig economy workers that are delivering your food and people who are supporting public transport systems
to stay viable and open.
And then, as we start to hit the bigger numbers of getting millions of tests executed a day, then we believe you need to expand this much more
broadly, so that we can reopen parts of the economy in a more sustained and predictable manner.
And that's very important. That goes beyond really thinking of this as purely a health response. And it goes to recognizing that you can't just
keep the economy operating at $300-$400 billion of GDP loss on a monthly basis, relative to being open, for very long without really crushing the
ability of millions of American families to just get by.
SREENIVASAN: Well, markets hate uncertainty, right? And they also don't like to write checks that might never end.
When right now the scientists don't particularly know whether I could get reinfected with this if I have had it once, if there could be a second wave
and a third wave that might come seasonally, it might come -- between now and when every person in this country could get a vaccine if they wanted
to, there's a lot of uncertainty.
So, economically, are we -- should we be preparing for that kind of a up- and-down cycle, where each piece of new information swings the markets 1,000 points in one way or the other?
ROMER: I think you have just hit the nail on the head.
The biggest cost to the economy comes from uncertainty. We could get by -- we survived with a lower level of output. If we had to give up 10 percent
of output permanently or devote it to something like this, we survived at a time when our GDP was 10 percent lower. We could go back to that.
We could -- but what we can't live with is uncertainty about, if I start paying my workers, I start buying inputs for my restaurant, what if I get
shut down with a lockdown again in a week or a month? Or should I start investing in the factory production line to restart the production of cars
or other goods? Should I continue work on the building that we were building for people to live in?
So, uncertainty is really our greatest problem. It's like what Roosevelt said, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and so that what
we need is a policy which we can stick to that removes all of that uncertainty.
And this policy of test enough so that we can put into quarantine about 70 percent of the people who are infectious, that, with certainty, will get us
below this R0 equals 1 threshold. And it will mean that any new infections that come into the U.S. will quickly damp out, and we can all count on a
return to life as we knew it.
SREENIVASAN: Paul -- I guess this is a question for both of you, but I will start with Paul.
What happens if we do not roll out something like the plan that you are talking about?
ROMER: I think the baseline business as usual will be maintenance of lockdown, until the pressure becomes so strained, and also until the number
of deaths starts to go down, so people feel relieved. But
then, as we release lockdown, we're likely to see reemergence, just like we have seen in Singapore. So the baseline is, unfortunately, on-and-off
lockdown for 18 months, and it could be more. It could be 24 months.
And, as I said, that will kill any possibility of investment that will be so critical for recovery. And I think we need to think carefully about not
just the economic costs of this, but what kind of political and broader social costs might we see?
We're looking at disruption the scale of or worse than the Great Depression. And we know that that had profound and very harmful effects on
democracy, on social life, on geopolitical stability.
So the risks here, I think, are really extraordinarily large. Now, I'm still an optimist. If we just spend some money, we just do the kind of
testing we need to do, I'm totally confident that we can do that.
But the risks, if we do nothing, are, I think, bigger than they have ever been in my lifetime.
And just go back to the optimism. In the United States, we make 300 million soft drinks every day. A country that can make 300 million soft drinks can
do 30 million tests a day, if we just set our minds to it.
AMANPOUR: That is an optimistic note, Hari Sreenivasan's conversation with Paul Romer and Rajiv Shah.
And, finally, what a trooper; 99-year-old British World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore has raised over three million pound sterling for the
National Health Service. He had hoped to raise only 1,000 pounds by doing 100 lengths of his back garden on his walker -- look at him there -- before
his 100th birthday, which is at the end of this month, April 30.
Moore enlisted in the Army at the beginning of the Second World War. And as he served his country then, he continues to serve it today.
The money, he hopes, will help NHS staff continue their lifesaving work. And with the perspective that only serving in a World War can bring,
Captain Moore urges us all to remember that things will get better.
That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Goodbye from London.