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President Trump to Halt WHO Funding; IMF Warns Recession in Horizon; Europe Starts to Reopen Economy; Small Business Owner Needs Stimulus Funding; Clashes Over Stimulus Funding Intensifying In Washington; Where Is Nicaragua's President; Coronavirus Pandemic, 2,400 Deaths Reported Tuesday; South Korea Enters Final Hours Of Parliamentary Election; Spike In Cases Overwhelming Japan's Health Care System; Spike In Japan Cases Linked To Postponed Olympics; Masked Heroes, Medical Staff Layer Protective Gear With Photos. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired April 15, 2020 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. And this is CNN Newsroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today, I am instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: While the U.S. fights an uphill battle against COVID-19, President Trump says he will cut funding for the organization itself responsible for combatting the pandemic.
And Europe struggles with how and when to reopen its economies as the spread of the virus they're begins to slow down in some places.
We are live from some of the major hotspots.
Plus, the IMF is warning we are about to hit the greatest recession since these scenes, the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Good to have you with us.
So, with so much talk this week about how and when the U.S. economy will get moving again when people will go back to work, we can't lose sight of the fact that the coronavirus is still infecting and killing thousands of people every single day. The U.S. saw its deadliest day yet on Tuesday, with more than 2,400
fatalities reported. The overall death toll in the U.S. is more than 10 times that number. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert says talk of reopening the country by May 1st like President Trump wants is overly optimistic.
In fact, new research from Harvard University suggests without a vaccine the country could have to keep some forms of social distancing until 2022. With Donald Trump under fire for his handling of the pandemic, he is turning his anger towards the World Health Organization.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Steve Mnuchin, today I'm instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus. Everybody knows what's going on there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The president says the U.S. will withhold its annual contribution between 400 and $500 million.
More now on the president's plans from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump is announcing he is withholding funding from the World Health Organization pending a review that's ongoing. As he voiced his displeasure with how the WHO handled the coronavirus outbreak and particularly its response to China.
The president says they praise China for being transparent and then they took them at their word far too often. And he says that led to a delayed response for the rest of the globe as it dealt with the coronavirus outbreak.
But the president announced they are going to withhold this funding unless there are significant changes made in the WHO, though people do not think that funding is actually going to be restored this time. The president is instead going to redirected to be used elsewhere.
But the president's criticism of the WHO was notable during his press conference in the Rose Garden. Because one thing he criticize them over for him saying that they were too praiseworthy of China for being transparent amid the coronavirus outbreak is something that the president himself has done that.
In January, after he had a call with the Chinese president, Trump tweeted thanking them for their transparency when it came to the outbreak. And when he was faced with that question by me and other reporters in the Rose Garden, he did not answer that question on whether he want to walk that statement back. Instead, he only pointed to his trade deal with China and did not answer any other questions on that. Now, the president's moves for that comes as he other -- also did
another 180 in the Rose Garden, now saying he wants to cooperate with governors on reopening their states, of course just one day after he said he had the total authority to decide when those states were going to reopen.
He now says he will grant states an authorization to start to open their states on an individual basis, and he is going to provide them with guidelines to start doing so.
Of course, that comes as several governors, including Republican ones push back on the idea that the president had the authority to decide when their particular state should reopen.
And it also comes as we've seen several states band together to form their own packs to reopen their states including with California on the west coast and with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and others on the east coast.
So that's already moving ahead. Though the president did say he does expect to issue new guidance in the coming days. Right now, our sources are telling us it is still unclear exactly what that guidance is going to look like.
Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: And with Mr. Trump suspending funding for World Health Organization, the U.N. secretary general says that humanitarian must be supported. Antonio Gutieres says the organization is absolutely critical in the war against COVID-19.
And earlier, I spoke with Georgetown professor Lawrence Gostin about what funding cuts mean for the WHO. He is the director at the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights.
LAWRENCE GOSTIN, DIRECTOR, WHO COLLABORATING CENTER ON PUBLIC HEALTH LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS: I think there will be profound consequences, both globally and here in the United States. This is a time when we need to come together. We are facing a once in a century event.
And what's happened is that this is going to disempowered the World Health Organization. And at this moment in our history when COVID is ravaging the earth and is about to go like an avalanche into sub- Saharan Africa, this will come back to haunt the United States because we may get COVID under control here, but if it is raging in Africa and Latin America and India and our internationally connected world cases flooding into the United States.
And so, even if we get it under control, we'll see a second wave, a third wave, even a fourth wave of COVID-19. You know, we're only as safe as the weakest link, and now we've made the global health leader very weak just at the most critical time in modern human history, frankly.
CHURCH: Well let's listen now to what President Trump said specifically. His criticism of the WHO. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death, very little death, and certainly very little death by comparison.
This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage. Instead, the WHO willingly took China's assurances to face value and they took it just at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so- called transparency. I don't think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: All right. So, it is worth pointing out, CNN has reported extensively about mistakes made by the WHO. Our own network had to call that pandemic before the WHO was willing to do so. But Mr. Trump there says the WHO took assurances from China at face value. Is that true? And did it objectively assess the situation on the ground or did it not?
GOSTIN: Well, you know, there are valid criticisms to the WHO, and even more valid criticisms of China. So, I'm not going to whitewash that. And in fact, I was one of the early voices in saying that the World Health Organization should not be effusively praising China.
Having said that, around the same time that Dr. Tedros was praising China, who is the head of the World Health Organization, President Trump was also praising China in particular, Xi Jinping.
And remember, the WHO is at the mercy of its -- of powerful countries like the United States and China. It had no means to independently verify what China said. In fact, China did not allow the WHO on its soil, it didn't invite WHO in until well later. And even then, a very small contingent.
So, to lay this at the WHO's door when we could see this coming, I think that's inexcusable.
We didn't need the WHO to tell us. We, and in fact, the WHO did. They said very early on that we needed to prepare for something very substantial. But we could see it. I mean, the president and everybody in America could see it like a tsunami going through first China and then East Asia then Europe. We had weeks and probably months to prepare, and we didn't.
So now, to deflect blame on the World Health Organization or China, you know, simply, it's false and it's hurtful and I think it will come back to haunt the United States.
CHURCH: President Trump blames the WHO for supporting China and says it praised the country for its transparency, but as you point out, he did exactly that in a tweet on January 24th. Let's just bring that up.
He says China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciate their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well, in particular on behalf of the American people. I want to thank President Xi.
So yes, President Trump was supporting and he was supporting China and around this time of course, he was trying to get a trade deal with China as well. So, let's talk about this, because at the same time, he did receive critical U.S. intelligence warning him of the threat the coronavirus posed to the nation, possibly the world. But he still ignored that.
Is he being sufficiently held to account on this? Because clearly his effort here is to deflect attention to the WHO, which as we point out, they did make mistakes as well. But what changed his mind do you think? He thought back on January 24th that China was transparent and doing all the right things. He doesn't think that now. What changed his mind?
GOSTIN: Well, you know, what has happened here, I think if you take a step back, it looks like President Trump and also President Xi Jinping of China are putting the WHO in the middle of a geopolitical struggle, a power -- a big power competition. When we really should all be in this all together at a time when if we ever needed a local cooperation, if we ever needed to coordinate our response, now is the time.
And you know, think about what the WHO its role now. It's not just warning the United States. It's not just supporting sub-Saharan Africa and other low-income countries as this is going to rage in those parts of the world, but also WHO is helping to coordinate international scientific work on a vaccine.
They've approved COVID test kits, which the United States has never used. And there are other global health priorities that America cares about. The United States helps fund things like at the WHO, mental health, AIDS, polio eradication, things that Americans care about.
It's really impossible for me to believe that the American public and our values would accept this kind of behavior.
CHURCH: Professor Lawrence Gostin talking to me there a little earlier.
And Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is also speaking out in support of the WHO. He tweeted this. "Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped, no other organization can replace them. The world needs the WHO now more than ever."
Well, the United Kingdom's national medical director says there are signs new cases are stabilizing with fewer hospital admissions. But officials warn it's way too soon to ease social distancing.
The coronavirus has killed more than 12,000 people there, but that figure is only for hospital deaths. So, the true total may be much higher than that.
Meantime, other European countries are beginning to ease their coronavirus restrictions. Italy is allowing some shops and businesses to reopen, including laundries and children's clothing stores.
While in Spain, about 300,000 nonessential workers have returned to work. That's construction workers and factory workers.
The European commission, though, now wants a coordinated approach among its members for ending these lockdowns. It will announce a road map to lifting these restrictions in the coming hours.
And CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is live in Berlin, and our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in London. Good to see you both. Nic, let's start with you. How might the European Commission's coordinated approach to ending the lockdown across the region, how might that look?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's really not clear. And what's interesting in all of this is governments all across the European Union are under pressure. Here in the United Kingdom in particular, the leader of the opposition criticizing the conservative party of Boris Johnson for not laying out their plans about how the end of the lockdown will look.
But what we are seeing from Italy, from Spain right now is an incremental approach. Garden centers, for example. An incremental and controlled approach, social distancing to be maintained. Government to watch for hotspots.
So, I think what we are going to see is one that not a massive flooding of public spaces by people. And in the United Kingdom, for example, there really has been and is a perception that it isn't safe for people to go out. So, you have to overcome that perception to convince people that it is safe to go back out.
The U.K. is not in that position yet, so that also has to be a plan of how this is approached. That there has needs to be a credible message. And I think we're going to see it as well when you try to look at European perspective in the way that the handling of this has happened sort of nation by nation.
I still think at the moment this is going to be quite a nation dread -- a nation-led event that the European Union can have some guidelines. But nations because they are going through this at different phases are going to sort of take their own approach and have concerns about their own national borders, at least for a while.
CHURCH: Yes, understood. And Nic, I'm going to come back to you in a moment. But I just want to go to Fred. And Fred, Germany has been very much on top of this pandemic from the start with the early testing. And it's now preparing to emerge from its lockdown. What's the likely plan?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, it's really interesting. Because the largest newspaper here in Germany, I was just looking at the headlines and they have a giant headline that says, it is decision day.
But I also think like Nic says like a lot of other European countries, a lot of things are going to be a lot more gradual here in Germany than many people think and some others think as well.
One of the things that we always have to keep in mind in Germany is that this country has a very strong federalist system, the states here in Germany are very strong. There is some disagreement among them as to how fast they move forward.
There are some who want to open up very quickly. There are others who are saying look, we need to hit the brakes here not move too fast, and then possibly have to reinstitute some of these lockdowns if we have another spike in COVID-19 cases.
There's three areas that everybody here in this country is talking about. One of them is the social distancing. The other is the possible reopening of businesses. A lot of the businesses, and then schools are also a massive issue here in this country.
One of the things that we think might happen, that seems to be in the works a little bit, if you will, is that maybe smaller shops might be able to open. It was interesting. Because the governor of Germany's largest state, Armin Laschet, he said, look, if we have stores that are open to buy food, where people can go in there, maybe fewer people with social distancing measures, why can't we have the same, for instance, for clothing shops or for other smaller shops that they could do that in a responsible way.
So that's something that could happen. At the same time, the hygiene measures and the social distancing measures will almost certainly stay in place. There's not going to be any big, large gatherings here in this country, and possibly, if some more stores open, people are going to have to wear masks to be able to go in those stores.
The biggest issue here though, is schools and how fast those are going to be reopened. There are some states that want to reopen at least partially by April 20th, but it's really not clear whether or not there's going to be an agreement on that issue. Angela Merkel says she is going to inform about that later today, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Yes. It's going to be interesting as all of us watch various countries emerging from the lockdown and how they do this and how they reemerge into a new normal, which we're all going to have to get used to. Fred, thank so much for that. Nic, I want to go back to you. Because I
know you have been following this story of Donald Trump announcing Tuesday at the briefing that he is halting the funds of the World Health Organization and doing a review right in the middle of a pandemic.
And it's an extraordinary thing and we've seen responses from Bill Gates and so many others. This is madness. What are you hearing?
ROBERTSON: Well, there is a general consensus that yes, the WHO could have been -- could have done better than they have in the past. Done better during SARS epidemic. For example, they stood up to China when China wasn't being forthcoming with data and criticize China, and that did get the desired results.
Now, you know, the WHO is an influential organization and its message at this time it's critical that it doesn't, the message doesn't get diluted.
And it's critical that its -- its efforts to bring countries together in a global forum with a global discussion, because that isn't happening in any meaningful way about the virus, you know, outside of the WHO. Not within an organization that has listened to, that has -- that has credibility.
So, all of, you know, the President Trump's decision impacts the WHO, as we have heard from the U.N. secretary general, at a time when it is least needed. This is absolutely the wrong time to make -- to make changes.
What the concern is of course, that, you know, the WHO does things like, for example, in the middle of January it got the genome from China which would then pass on to all the countries around the world and that was the basis for which countries were able to develop their testing before the virus arrived of, you know, of COVID-19.
Now, some countries didn't really react fast enough. The United States appears to have been one of those. But without that level of global interaction, the WHO's value to the whole world by President Trump removing his support is diminished.
And this is, you know, this is also a negative for the United States, as well. Because it doesn't do their standing as a global leader of a moral compass for the world, it doesn't do it any good whatsoever.
CHURCH: No. And definitely the timing of this has everybody scratching their heads. Nic Robertson, many thanks to you joining us live from London. I appreciate it.
We'll take a short break here. Still to come, a global economy at a near standstill. A dire forecast from the International Monetary Fund, and what it will take to bring business back to life.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Well, a stark message from the International Monetary Fund, the global economy is facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression. The IMF predicts the GDP will contract by 3 percent this year. That's a deeper recession than the 2008 financial crisis. The IMF says countries need to work together to battle the pandemic or the consequences will be even worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GITA GOPINATH, CHIEF ECONOMIST, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: Given the extreme uncertainty around the duration and intensity of the health crises, we also explore alternative, more adverse scenarios.
The pandemic may not recede in the second half of this year. In such cases, global GDP will fall even further by an additional 3 percent in 2020. And if the health crisis rolls over into 2021, it can reduce the level of global GDP by an additional 8 percent compared to the baseline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And John Defterios is live in Abu Dhabi. He joins me now. Good to see, you John. So, it is a grim message from the IMF. How likely is it that countries will coordinate efforts in this battle against the coronavirus pandemic?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, that's another thing that the International Monetary Fund was underlining in this great lockdown report that they are talking about here.
In fairness, in the G20 context, we've had major industrialized countries of the world put up $5 trillion. But it is for domestic support for the banking system, unemployment benefits, for small business benefits, you can understand the reasons why, but the coordination is lacking, vis-a-vis the global financial crisis that we saw and referred to there 10 years ago.
There is also word from the International Monetary Fund about timing and when do you reemerge in the conversations you had with both Nic Robertson and Fred Pleitgen. If you go too early you have this danger of a boomerang which will prolong the recession, Rosemary.
The United States, the second largest economy in the world, numbers I've never heard before, negative 5.9 percent this year. They're saying it could be worse. The engine of Europe, Germany, negative 7 percent because the export markets are indeed drying up.
Now we've been spoiled for the last 20 years strong growth from the emerging markets. Let's take a look at the overall number. Negative 1 percent, China, the worst growth since 1976 at 1.2 percent, but still growing. And this number from India, 1.9 percent. It seems generous because the virus is just starting to set in.
And we heard the IMF say, if you don't time the recovery correctly and get your workforce back out again ad it does boomerang, we're looking at another negative 3 percent this year to negative 6, Rosemary. So, it is a very delicate balance of when to go back to work and by how much.
CHURCH: Yes, most definitely. And John, with this dire IMF outlook, what efforts are being made to provide relief to the developing world during the crisis?
DEFTERIOS: Well, I think we have to divide the two in terms of relief on debt and actual financial support. What we are going to see today from the G20, and there is another finance minister's virtual meeting taking place today, the G7 last night led by France was saying they are ready to halt debt payments.
The International Monetary Fund said this is going to do the same for the 25 poorest countries. But we've had at the same time, Rosemary, and I think this is the differential here and the key factor, 160 past and current leaders saying we need to set up a special fund like we did during the financial crisis to liquidate the developing countries.
They are calling for $8 billion. I haven't seen it yet. And also, we've been talking about the low oil prices. Look at the impact on major economies in the emerging markets like Brazil, Mexico, Russia. They are going to drop from 5.5 to 6.5 percent. Demand from grain are dropped. And this hits particularly countries like Brazil and Ethiopia at the same time.
So, it's complex. The International Monetary Fund saying it could get much worse. Let's rally to the cause. We are starting to see it but not the funding that's needed for the developing world and absolutely direct payments into the pot.
CHURCH: Yes, that's right. So many people hurting throughout all of this. John Defterios bringing us the very latest there. Many thanks.
Well, U.S. President Trump's name will appear on paper checks sent to millions of Americans receiving stimulus payments. That's according to a senior administration official who says the move won't mean a delay for people receiving those checks.
The Washington Post reports this will be the first time a president's name is featured on an IRS disbursement. The first batch of checks are slated to go out next week. Direct deposit payments have already been issued to some Americans.
Well, the stimulus money for U.S. small businesses reeling from the pandemic could soon run out unless Congress moves quickly to reach a deal for more funding.
CNN's Phil Mattingly spoke to some business owners who desperately need the cash to save their companies and employees jobs.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For more than 40 years, Kelly Conklin's architectural woodworking shop was a constant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KELLY CONKLIN, WOODWORKING COMPANY OWNER: This one came with a
swiftness and severity that I don't think anybody could have prepared for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Until coronavirus forced Conklin to close his doors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONKLIN: What I think we need, and what I don't see coming yet, first, my business needs a direct cash infusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Conklin has furloughed his 13 employees. One has come down with the virus. The emergency small business lending program in the $2 trillion dollar stimulus could add weeks to his company's ability to survive. More than a week after applying, he has heard nothing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONKLIN: It is now going on a week, and crickets. Nothing. I have no idea whether the application is correct. I have no idea whether we're going to be approved for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the clock is ticking. CNN spoke to more than two dozen small business owners. Finding varying degrees of frustrations, anger, and outright desperations, but also stories of business saving success, each reflection of a government trying to build a relief program unprecedented in scale. Just last, year the small business administration handled 60,000 loan applications. In the last two weeks they have approved more than one million. The lack of guidance in (inaudible) hampered the experience for lenders and borrowers alike. Andrew and Brianna Volk did successfully receive money through the program, but now say they have more questions than answers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a full-time job having to kind of figure out what is going on and, you know, if we are doing everything correctly.
MATTINGLY: The Maine couple owns Portland Hunting Alpine Club. They've have laid off all but one of their employees and are now grappling with how exactly to use the new money they have received.
ANDREW VOLK, BAR AND RESTAURANT OWNER: We are used to taking on risk. We are used to taking on and dealing with complex situations. But when the government is on the other side of the table and changing the rules on you on a daily basis, it is scary.
MATTINGLY: Still, with more than 240 billion dollars of the 349 billion allocated for the program already committed, more money is now at the heart of the Washington political dispute. The urgent need underscoring that when the program works, it is literally saving businesses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really feel blessed.
MATTINGLY: Tim Miller has four employees at his auto repair shop in Oklahoma. Four employees he paid out of his own pocket as 98 percent of his revenue disappeared.
TIM MILLER, AUTO REPAIR OWNER: You know, I didn't want to see my people suffer.
MATTINGLY: But just 72 hours after he submitted his application, the government funds were in his account. For Miller, amid an economic and public health catastrophe that means there's a little bit of something everyone can use right now.
MILLER: It just relieve a lot of stress. I was able to tell my employees that we would receive money as well and so that really took a lot of stress off of them. And it just meant everything to get that money?
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And many thanks to CNN's Phil Mattingly with that report. Missing an action, as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout Latin America, Nicaragua's president has mysteriously vanished from public view. What the government is saying about his absence. That is next.
CHURCH: Welcome back to our viewers around the world.
You are watching CNN Newsroom, and I am Rosemary Church. Johns Hopkins University is reporting the deadliest day yet in the United States with more than 2400 covid-19 fatalities. Many of the nation's governors are working on preliminary plans to restart their economies. They say they won't take any action before it is safe.
The U.S. has been practicing social distancing measures for about a month now, but a new study suggests some of those restrictions could last another two years. According to scientists from Harvard, intermittent distancing maybe needed through 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased or a vaccine is found. And here is how one of the researchers described their findings to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC LIPSITCH, EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, I mean, it's a little bit like saying if you are on a downhill slope and you push on the break and you start to slow down then that means you don't need the break anymore. And that is just not true. I mean, the nature of infectious disease, which we have seen in other epidemics, other pandemics, other infectious diseases, is that when you have measures to stop transmission like the ones we have now, it's slows transmission. They work.
But the issue is that unfortunately there is no memory in the system. There's no -- they don't work permanently. What they do is to slow the spread from infectious to susceptible people. But until we build up a certain amount of immunity in the population, sometimes called herd immunity, the system can start -- the epidemic can start up again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: All right. So, let's get some perspective now from Derek Gatherer, he is a virologist and professor of biomedical and life sciences at Lancaster University in England. Good to have you with us.
DEREK GATHERER, VIROLOGIST/LECTURER, BIOMEDICAL AND LIFE SCIENCES, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY, ENGLAND: Good morning. I just like to correct you briefly, I am not a professor. I am a lecturer. Just to make sure that my title is given out correctly.
CHURCH: All right. Thank you very much, thanks for that clarification. So, this Harvard study suggests we may have to continue social distancing until 2022. Why would we have to do that if the expectation is that we would have a vaccine by early next year?
GATHERER: We can't rely on getting a vaccine by early next year. With vaccine development. It's never entirely clear whether things are going to go smoothly or not. And you have to be really careful that -- first of all the vaccine really is protective that people receive the vaccine to really do less chance of contracting the disease than those who received a placebo. And you also have to be careful of a variety of safety issues.
So, sometimes vaccine development can take a lot longer than anticipated. One example from recent memory, of course, is the Zika virus vaccine, which had a long and rather (inaudible) progress to the clinical trials. So, we can't rely on the vaccine. And in the absence of a vaccine, eventually we will reach herd immunity, which is a natural state where enough people in the population are immune that the virus will cease spreading.
And we don't know how close we are to herd immunity at the moment, because a lot of the basic statistics about the number of people who have been infected. What fatality rate has been sewn are still under discussion. And some antibody testing has been done on a preliminary basis in some countries, and so we are starting to see levels of positivity and state of having antibodies and presumably immunity. We are starting to see that rising in some populations. But we still have a little distance to go before we can consider ourselves being close to herd immunity.
CHURCH: Right, Of course, most of us are still waiting for those antibody tests and natural fight in the United States, we are still waiting for a more extensive covid-19 tests as is the case in the United Kingdom. So, U.S. President Donald Trump talk Tuesday about opening up the country on May 1st and even suggested some states could open up earlier than that date. He is also eager to get people back into sports stadiums. So, how wise is any of this without the expanded covid-19 testing and contact tracing that the U.S. and indeed the U.K. have failed to provide at this point?
GATHERER: Well, different countries have different -- during regimes. Some countries in Europe have a very strict lockdown, particularly at Spain and Italy, they have some of the strictest regimes. People are barely allowed out of their Houses at all. In the U.K., we have a fairly strict lockdown. But people are allowed to go out shopping for food and are allowed an hour of exercise per day, provided them and maintain a safe two meter distance from everyone else.
But so, exercising and some other European countries, Sweden notably, have much lighter lockdown measures. There isn't really a lockdown in Sweden. Large sections of the economy are still going as normal and people are like to congregate (inaudible) just in (inaudible) of social distancing measures. So, the progress are cutting safe, we will be getting.
CHURCH: Right. So, what would be the smart way then to let people out how would you do it? You would do it in phases, or what's the smartest way to approach this?
GATHERER: One suggestion, yes, is that we could phase this out, perhaps using some kind of critical care bed capacity trigger to know when we have the situation under control and when we need to go back into lockdown. Again, it seems at present in the U.K. that the lockdown has worked. We have had a lockdown since the 23rd of March. And that was tightened up again after week of a rather later lockdown and the number of patients admitted to hospitals is stabilizing.
So, that's quite flat at the moment which indicates the lockdown measure is working. We haven't yet seen a surge in cases that would overwhelm our capacity for the National Health Service. To deal with that, obviously is quite good news. Now, the question then is what -- when we see hospital admissions starting to fall, do we feel that the situation is safe enough to start opening up parts of the economy again by releasing lockdown? And one of the ways that could be done is to allow young people to go back to work, so perhaps people under 30 and to go back to work and then subsequent people under 40 and so on.
There are of course, a lot of logistical difficulties with this. How did we determine the correct people were outside and the correct people are inside this? This is not going to be easy at all, but in the absence of a vaccine and in the absence of any other treatment, we can't stay in lockdown forever and we need to start gradually easing the economy out without producing a surge in cases which would result in many more deaths.
CHURCH: Yes, and of course I supposed different countries are going to do it in different ways, right? Derek Gatherer, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
GATHERER: My pleasure.
CHURCH: Well, for weeks, world leaders have been at the forefront of the global coronavirus battle, but in Latin America, one head of state has been noticeably absent from the fight. Nicaragua's John Daniel Ortega, CNN's Matt Rivers has the details on that.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a truly bizarre situation unfolding in Nicaragua is that country's president, Daniel Ortega essentially is missing in action. He has been in power since 2007, but the last time anyone really saw him out in public was on February 21st at a military parade. The last time anyone got a glimpse or heard from him at all was a little over a month ago when he participated in a video conference call with other Central American heads of state. Since then, its essential has been nothing.
We have reached out multiple times to Nicaraguan officials asking about his whereabouts and have heard nothing. And so as a result, the kind of official who has been most outward facing in terms of coordinating the government's response to this outbreak has been his Daniel Ortega's vice president and his wife, Rosario Murillo. She has said, that he remains behind the scenes directing efforts, but to be honest, there is not that much directing it seems that needs to take place.
Because this government has very conspicuously not taken the kind of preventative measures that you have seen taken in other parts of the world. For example, social distancing guidelines have not been mandated. Schools remain open. Businesses remain open. The borders to other countries remain open. This government has very clearly chosen not to do the kinds of things that we have seen other countries do as a result of this outbreak. And this all comes as the country's president remains absent. I am Matt Rivers in Mexico City.
CHURCH: And we will take a short break here. Still to come, a lack of supplies and perhaps misplaced priorities. Japan is dealing with a surge of new covid-19 cases. We will have a live report from Tokyo.
CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, the first major election to be held amid the pandemic is winding down in South Korea. Voters are casting ballots for their parliamentary election with strict safety measures in place to protect their health. And CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul and joins us now. Good to see, you Paula. So, what sort of safety measures did they have in place to ensure voters were not exposed to the virus? And what was the turnout like?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, turnout has been pretty high. There were concerns from some officials that people simply wouldn't want to come to the polls, because they would be too concerned about the safety issues. But we know as of about 10 minutes ago, it was more than 60 percent turnout. Now that's more than four years ago. So clearly, that worry has not borne out.
Now, what we have been seeing here is people get their temperature taken as they are coming into the polling station. You got marks on the floor to make sure that no one is queuing less than a meter apart. When they go past here, they've got hand sanitizer which they are supposed to use. And then just as you get to the entrance here, they are given disposable gloves to make sure that their hands are covered.
Now everybody in South Korea wears a mask anyway, so most people have their own as they arrive. But they are not allowed inside until all those procedures have been done and then they are allowed to vote. Now this is effectively being seen as a referendum on how President Moon Jae-in and his Party have dealt with this crisis. Now the recent poll numbers in the weeks preceding this election showed that his approval rating was up and that of the Party as well. He has had praise from overseas.
For this election, it is interesting, because it's almost the process of voting and the fact that this election is going ahead in the first place that is more important than the results itself. Now he is expected, President Moon Jae-in and his party, to get the majority of the seats in this parliamentary election. But it's the very fact that it is going ahead that is the most interesting. Rosemary?
CHURCH: All right. Paula Hancocks reporting there. Many thanks. Well, despite some neighboring countries reopening for business, Japan is seeing a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. It was only last week when Japan's health ministry reported a record number five days straight. Now U.S. Forces, Japan have declared a public health emergency for all of the country and the order allows them to enforce health protection measures on U.S. installations.
CNN's Will Ripley is live in Tokyo and joins us now. So, Will, we are seeing this spike in covid-19 cases across Japan. How big a role did the Olympics play in distracting the government from properly preparing for this pandemic?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are a lot of people, Rosemary, who look at the timeline and question why the Japanese government did not embrace a strategy involving widespread testing at a time that other countries were doing so and the evidence was overwhelmingly clear that without widespread testing, you can't shape your public policy.
But it was also convenient for the government, because as they were trying to save the Olympics and keep Tokyo 2020 happening, because they were not testing widespread, the numbers remained low. Now Japan says that it was actually a deliberate strategy to focus on clusters, a strategy that epidemiologists now admit is no longer working.
RIPLEY: In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, as other countries were taking aggressive measures to fight the virus, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fighting to save the Olympics.
How much does the Olympics and his hope that they are going to hold him on time play into his response, or lack thereof?
JEFFREY KINGSTON, DIRECTOR OF ASIAN STUDENTS, TEMPLE UNIVERISTY: I think they were a very big factor. They didn't want to test a lot, because they didn't want to have headline numbers. So once they canceled, suddenly we get lots of cases.
RIPLEY: Japan's government, and epidemiologists speaking to CNN say low numbers before the Olympic postponement had nothing to do with Tokyo 2020, but a deliberate strategy of minimal testing. Japan focused on targeting clusters of infection, aggressive contact tracing, and approach they say kept the number of cases low and bought the nation time. Now, doctors fear the clock has run out.
It is getting harder to keep track of all the clusters, says Dr. Yoshihiro Takayama. I think the battle has only just begun.
As its Asian neighbors are coming out on the other side of the pandemic, Japan's problems are piling up. A sudden spike in cases in Tokyo, a warning from Japan's medical association. The public health system is on the brink of collapse. Our doctors and nurses afraid for their safety?
Yes, we are really anxious says Katsumi Matsuda, with the Medical Workers Union. She says understaffed hospitals are running low on beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.
KOCHI NAKANO, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, SOPHIA UNIVERISTY: The government should have, you know, taken much more proactive measures to boost the medical resources. They didn't do that at all. Public health experts really took a big gamble, because they were not really pushing for testing.
RIPLEY: Japan's health ministry tells CNN, testing people with a low probability of novel coronavirus would be a waste of resources. We asked people with symptoms to stay home. Prime Minister Abe's latest attempt to encourage social distancing sparked public outrage. This viral Twitter video of Abe led to accusations of a tone-deaf government response.
Who do you think you are was a top trend on Twitter. Many accusing Abe of ignoring the struggles of regular Japanese. Others, defending his right to relax. A poll out Monday from public broadcaster NHK shows 75 percent of Japanese think the state of emergency came too late, 50 percent give the government coronavirus response a poor rating.
Analysts say, Abe' desire to save the summer games now has the Prime Minister skating on very thin ice.
RIPLEY: Just within the last few hours, Rosemary, U.S. forces Japan announced that they are expanding their public health emergency beyond the consul plain region which includes Tokyo to include all of Japan. This is to give commanders more authority to enforce health and safety regulations compliance with restrictions on travel outside of U.S. military bases. And this is a further indication of the United States government's previous stance that the lack of widespread for testing here in Japan makes it very difficult to assess exactly how many people actually have the virus here.
And that is certainly also the situation here in Tokyo, where despite the surging number of cases, the testing has still been limited up until about a week ago. When finally they started testing an average of six or 7,000 people a day, that started last week. And yesterday was the highest number yet, Rosemary. They tested 10,000 in one day. But that is still a lot less than a lot of other countries.
CHURCH: Yes. It seems like a very familiar story. We are just hearing it a little later along in this unfortunate situation. Will Ripley bringing us the very latest from Tokyo. Many thanks.
Well, as the saying goes, a smile goes a long way. How a simple gesture from doctors and nurses is putting their patients more at ease. That story, just ahead.
CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, being in a hospital with the coronavirus is scary, of course, but some doctors and nurses are finding a way to make their patients feel a little less afraid. Jeanne Moos has our story.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How would you like to wake up to this at your bedside? Personal protective gear may protect the wearer, but not the psyche of the patient.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looked really menacing.
MOOS: How do you even tell your caregivers apart? Just wearing a simple mask on the street, you realize how weird it is that you are smile no longer translates. Does this look like a smile to you?
So, why not add a little humanity? So the patients eye goes from this to this. He said the patients eyes go from this, to this. Respiratory therapist, Robert Keno Rodriguez added a laminated badge and just like that became --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's hero of the day.
MOOS: He was memorializing in an illustration. Other medical personnel either picked up on the idea or spontaneously had it themselves. Meet chief of medicine, Joseph Varon, at Houston's United Memorial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It make you smile. Make your patience smile. They are going through hell right now.
MOOS: At least, patients know who they are going through hell with, even if it is just a modest Polaroid. Nurse Derek DeVault (ph), vaulted to internet fame. A part-time actors, handsome photo had people wondering, if he was single and joking, Derek all of a sudden I'm weak, help me.
But this didn't start with coronavirus. Five years ago, a California artist was so moved by seeing Ebola patients that she went to Africa and organized photographing medical staff. Mary Beth Heffernan, combined heart and art, and the patients.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They love seeing who was inside the suits.
MOOS: Now, some joke about pretending who is inside the suit. Anyone out there want to buy my idea for a wrong calm about a doctor who tapes a picture of George Clooney on his personal protective equipment, and the covid patient to falls in love with him?
This pediatric emergency physician took a step further, inhabiting George Clooney to get the smile and to give reassurance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will be fine.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CHURCH: They are all our heroes in so many ways. Thank you for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom continues after this short break.