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U.S. Treasury Secretary Warns of Long-Term Economic Damage; Super Cyclone Bears Down on India, Bangladesh; UAE to Become First Regional Producer of N-95 Masks; Russians Angered Over Police Response in Lockdown; WWII Veteran to Receive Knighthood after Raising Millions; Schools Reopen in South Korea; Trump Suggests Travel Ban on Latin America; Blame Game: U.S., China, WHO; Trump Taking Hydroxychloroquine. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world, you are watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Just ahead on the show, back to school as some countries start to reopen, many parents and students have safety concerns we, are live in Seoul South Korea with that.

Plus, blame game. The World Health Organization will begin a review into the global handling of the pandemic but what is China's response?

And --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone is saying that we are at war and in order to win that war against coronavirus, you need to ensure the supplies are available in a timely fashion.

CURNOW (voice-over): The new effort to battle the pandemic in the Gulf region, CNN's exclusive report on a unique partnership to keep people safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: So the world is approaching another troubling milestone in the battle against the coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins University, we are due to hit 5 million cases soon. More than 300,000 people have died. As the pandemic drags on, countries are trying to get back to some kind of normal.

We have talked about a lot of businesses reopening. But for young people and, of course, their parents, normal means opening up schools. Students are trickling back in a number of places around the world with many of them now in masks. And we know temperature checks are also part of the routine for these children in France. But dozens of French schools had to be closed again after suspected

cases of the virus turned up.

In the U.K., most teachers do not think it will be safe to reopen primary schools by the government's date of June 1st, that's according to the teachers' union. Reports say many local councils plan to ignore that post start date.

High school seniors are beginning to return to classrooms in South Korea, the vice education minister says students and faculty will have their temperature checked twice a day. For more on that, let's go to Paula Hancocks, who joins me now with Seoul on all of that.

You are there in Seoul, that's a big step for many people.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Robyn. It is a milestone in South Korea's fight against the coronavirus. Earlier this morning, we saw the high school seniors coming in. They had their temperature checked before they even come into the grounds.

Everyone has to wear a mask, they have hand sanitizer, wet wipes and then they have another thermal camera check as they go into that building itself. We did have that quick look inside, the desks have been rearranged so there's at least a meter between each of these students.

And they have to keep their masks on all day, except for at lunchtime and they have staggered the tables there and they have plastic partitions between people eating to make sure that students really don't mix very much at all.

But we have seen students here delighted to be back at school. We have heard some troubling news elsewhere, just west of Seoul. We understand from officials there that 66 schools have just had to shut. We are only a few hours into the first day of these schools reopening in South Korea.

They say it is related to a confirmed case or cases. We have not gotten that clarified at this point but it is linked to one individual, a private academy tutor who we know went to the Seoul nightclub district earlier this month. And that was where there was an outbreak.

He did not say that he had -- he was a tutor itself and has since infected students, also taxi drivers in that area. So it is believed that these 66 schools are having to shut immediately today, could well be related to that. Just to show how difficult it is to try and contain this. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK. So Paula, is there support for this?

I'm sure lots of young kids want to go back.

But what do parents have to say?

HANCOCKS: We saw earlier, just in the top windows behind me, you can see the students there waving at the media down below and giving victory signs. They are delighted. Most of them, that we saw, to be back.

But it's difficult for parents. They want a sense of normality for their children and certainly for these seniors, they are closer to leaving school and closer to their exams. So they need to have this face to face contact more than any other grades, which is why they started with them. But there's also a concern.

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HANCOCKS: There has been a petition sent to the Blue House from some hundreds of thousands of parents within the country, saying it's too soon. But if the country does want to have some kind of normality, if they do want the economy to be rebooted, to have businesses going back and many people in this country are now going back into the offices, they are not working from home as much as they were, then parents do need children to be back at school as well.

So it is one step in the process of trying to get used to the new normality. No one believes it is the normality that we had before but it is one of those crucial steps. Robyn?

CURNOW: It is a milestone. Paula Hancocks there in Seoul, thank you.

It was a different scene in France where schools were closing after reopening; 40,000 schools are back open across the country but at least 70 schools are shutting their doors once again after suspected cases of the virus were found in the community. The government says nearly all the cases were flagged outside of the schools.

And some university students will have to wait a while before heading back to campus. We know that Britain's Cambridge University says its lectures will be moved online during the entire next university year, ending in the summer of 2021. It says some smaller teaching groups may be held in person, as long as social distancing is observed.

Meanwhile, President Trump is suggesting a travel ban on Latin America, with particular concern on Brazil. Brazil accounts for more than half of Latin America's total virus death tolls. Shasta Darlington has the latest from Sao Paulo.

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SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Brazil, record high deaths and COVID-19 infections setting it on the path to become the world's next hot spot. On Tuesday night, the health ministry reported 1,179 new deaths, a record. The number of new confirmed cases also a record at 17,000.

The U.S. president, Donald Trump, says he is considering a ban on travel from Brazil, while in Sao Paulo, officials have declared a five-day holiday to try and get people to stay home.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is focusing his attention on expanding the use of malaria drugs to treat coronavirus and has yet to name a new health minister, even though his second one resigned last week -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

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CURNOW: Thanks for that report.

The World Health Organization says it will soon begin an independent review of the global response to the pandemic. All member states adopted the measure on Tuesday, it does not a single out any individual country but some, including the U.S., as you well know, have criticized China for its handling of the crisis, saying the WHO did not hold Beijing accountable.

China is defending its actions and slammed a letter from the U.S. president who threatened to permanently freeze funding for the WHO.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The U.S. letter is full of vagueness, it tries to mislead the public to smear China and shift blame away from its own incompetent response. Currently COVID-19 is spreading in the U.S. The most pressing task is solidarity and cooperation to save lives.

We urge a few U.S. politicians to stop the blame game and together defeat the virus.

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CURNOW: Here is the timeline of how things developed between China and the WHO on the coronavirus.

Late December, China informed the WHO about cases of pneumonia in Wuhan. By then, Chinese scientists had already determined this was caused by a new coronavirus. China did not tell the WHO about the coronavirus until the second week of January.

And about a week later they shared the full genome sequence. Days later, the WHO said there was a limited human to human transmission of this virus. Meanwhile the head of the WHO had a closed door meeting with president Xi Jinping in late January. The WHO then praised China's transparency in dealing with the disease.

Then, in early February, a Chinese doctor who was silenced for alerting his colleagues about the disease, died from it.

Shortly after that, China allowed a WHO observer team into the country.

And then on the 11th of March, the WHO finally declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, after initially holding off, despite the spread of the disease.

China endorsed the WHO resolution on Tuesday, even though it initially bristled at the idea of such an investigation. So for more on all of that, let's go to Beijing. Steven Jiang joins me now. Steven? STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: The resolutions passage was never in doubt, once China came on board into the discussion process, of its language and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, mentioned the Chinese support in his address to the forum.

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JIANG: Now the Chinese, of course, have been very much trying to highlight the differences between the language in the resolution, compared to what it was initially proposed by the Australian government and other critics of the Beijing government, with officials here saying, look, this process is not going to launch immediately.

Instead, it's only going to be conducted after the pandemic is brought under control. Also it's not going to be done through some new mechanisms. Instead, it will be led by the WHO. And, also, most importantly, they say this is a review of its experiences and deficiencies of government responses from around the world, not, in their words, a presumption of Chinese guilt.

So all these reasons explain why this is going to probably work in China's favor because China is likely to have a strengthened voice in the WHO with that potential U.S. withdrawal from the organization, not to mention Beijing's new pledge of $2 billion donation to the organization.

And then, of course, you can imagine, in a few years, China's global position may have strengthened again. Its economic recovery could mean a restoration of its economic, by extension, political clout, with other governments, not to mention that public attention and focus on the issue may have shifted or moved away in a few years.

But Robyn, one last thing, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, without a term limit, he can afford to wait it out, unlike many other world leaders, including president Donald Trump.

CURNOW: You make a very good point there. Steven Jiang, great to see you. Thanks for your update from Beijing.

Tune in for a CNN special report, "China's Deadly Secret," hosted by Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, 9 pm Eastern time, Monday 9 am in Hong Kong, right here on CNN.

Thomas Bollyky is the director of the global health program and senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations joins me now, he's also the author of "Plagues and the Paradox of Progress."

Thanks for joining me. It's been a heavy few months for the world.

What do you make of this independent review, this global independent review of the virus?

And do you feel like there was going to be an answer at the end of it?

THOMAS BOLLYKY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: So I think it is overdue, I think at this point there was a view taken by the World Health Organization, the United Nations that this is a moment to focus on the pandemic and that is understandable.

But there is enough of the debate about how this pandemic has been handled, that it really is undermining progress at every global institution, whether it is the G7 or the G20 or the World Health Organization. There's been problems at the International Monetary Fund over these issues.

And at this point, we need that global cooperation to move forward. And if a review is what it takes, I think it's in the WHO's interest that it happens and it be independent and rigorous, rather than individual countries doing it. So I think it's welcome. What is not clear is when it will happen.

CURNOW: When it's going to happen and, again, if we're going to give a clear answer on what we are looking for here. And I think a lot of people are thinking, well, there will be a review and you will have X answer but that may not happen, particularly because it has been politicized with China and the U.S. facing off over this so vehemently.

BOLLYKY: Yes, I think that's right and I think it's clear that there will be questions asked but we can't know what the answer will be unless we know what the question will be. And it is not clear if the question will be around the origin and nearly handling, will it be just around what the World Health Organization has done in its performance?

Or we will also look at individual countries and their response?

And camps really break down on that issue. China is reluctant, to say the least, to see an investigation into the origin and its handling of the early days of this pandemic. The United States, on the other hand, is supposed to do an independent review that looks at how individual countries have responded to this pandemic.

Everybody knows that it will at the very least consider the World Health Organization but how much beyond that is uncertain.

CURNOW: You talk about this how this has strained global institutions on all sorts of levels, is that something that plays to the benefit of this current White House, which is certainly trying to undermine institutions over the past few years?

BOLLYKY: It certainly plays to their instincts. The White House has come in with the view of America first, of course.

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BOLLYKY: The focus should be on sovereignty and U.S. interests.

So again, it plays to their interests, their instincts in that regard. I don't think it plays to the White House's interests -- or the U.S. interests, however, because at this juncture, the United States really needs global cooperation in the response to this pandemic. We need it because this virus, of course, has been painfully

demonstrated, doesn't know borders. So it'll be even -- currently, the United States is the epicenter of this pandemic. That may not always remain the case.

And it will be important for the cooperation from that perspective. But, really, the only feasible way this ends without countries doing repeated social distancing is with a vaccine. And the United States has some candidates. Other countries do as well.

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CURNOW: There are over 100 at the moment underway. But in terms of a vaccine and before we get there, I know your book talks about global health and plagues and how they play out.

How has this affected different communities around the world?

What is the long term or even the short term effects of that?

BOLLYKY: So the book is primarily about how humankind's struggles with infectious disease over history has shaped societies and economies and everyday lives. That is sadly what we have been seeing throughout this pandemic.

And it is, for most of our history, we have not had effective medicines or vaccines, so it is really dependent on governance and infrastructure and investments in order for human beings to overcome the threat of microbes like viruses and bacteria.

So we are seeing those differences between countries and how successful they have been being around those issues like governance. So to some extent, this really brings us back to the history of our struggles. That is where we see the big differences so far.

CURNOW: Tom Bollyky, thank you for joining us. We appreciate you sharing your expertise.

BOLLYKY: My great pleasure.

CURNOW: Still to come, preparing for a natural disaster during a pandemic. Millions of people break lockdown to evacuate India and Bangladesh, with a massive cyclone due to make landfall.

Later, President Trump defends his decision to try and prevent coronavirus with an unproven drug. Then he went on the attack.

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CURNOW: Around the world, countries are wrestling with how to revive their economies without risking a second wave of COVID-19 infections. The virus has already killed more than 323,000 people worldwide and now close to 5 million infections.

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CURNOW: That is according to Johns Hopkins University. Almost a third of those cases and fatalities are here in the United States, where President Trump still won't commit to even wearing a mask, not at the White House and not during a visit to an auto plant earlier this week, where masks are required.

The president is also doubling down on his use of the drug, hydroxychloroquine, which he says won't harm you. But studies show it sometimes causes life-threatening heart problems and doesn't help. Here's Jeremy Diamond with that.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump defiant, defending his decision to try and ward off coronavirus by taking an unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine.

TRUMP: Many, many doxis (sic) -- doctors -- many doctors came out and they said it is great. Now you have to go to a doctor. I have a doctor in the White House. I said what do you think. And it's just a line of defense. I am just talking about it as a line of defense. I am dealing with a lot of people. Look at all the people in the room.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The president ignoring an FDA warning against using hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital setting, which said the drug has not been shown to be safe and effective for treating and preventing COVID-19.

TRUMP: But I think it is worth it as a line of defense and I will stay on it for a little while longer. I am just very curious myself. But it seems to be very safe.

DIAMOND (voice-over): And rejecting a clinical study that found hydroxychloroquine ineffective against coronavirus.

TRUMP: That was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration.

And this study came out, the people were ready to die, everybody was old, that was a phony study and it's very dangerous to do it. The fact is people should want to help people, not to make political points. It is really sad when they do that.

DIAMOND (voice-over): That study, conducted on hundreds of patients at V.A. hospitals, was partially funded by the government's National Institutes of Health. Trump also falsely claimed the drug is risk free.

TRUMP: What has been determined is it doesn't harm you. It is very powerful drug, I guess but it doesn't harm you.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But clinical trials have shown the drug can cause serious heart rhythm problems, a heightened concern for a president who has a common form of heart disease, according to the results of his physical exams.

The physician to the president, Dr. Sean Connolly, revealing in a new memo that he concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risk.

DIAMOND: Vice president Mike Pence on Tuesday saying that he is not taking hydroxychloroquine, even though his press secretary did test positive for the virus. So he is not following the president's lead on this questionable decision to start taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.

President Trump, though, even as he dives in headfirst into this hydroxychloroquine pool, he is not following the advice that public health experts are saying could help prevent the spread of coronavirus and that is the issue of wearing a mask.

The president on Tuesday was noncommittal about whether he will wear a mask when he visits a Ford manufacturing facility in Michigan on Thursday. Ford has said it did inform the White House that anybody who goes into that facility is required to wear a mask.

We will see if the president follows that directive -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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CURNOW: My next guest is Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Doctor, good to see you. You heard our correspondent at the White House there describe what has been happening in the last few days in terms of the president's messaging.

As a doctor, what do you think when you listen to that?

DR. ANISH MAHAJAN, HARBOR-UCLA MEDICAL CENTER: In general, the FDA itself has issued a warning against using hydroxychloroquine unless you are in a hospital setting or part of a clinical trial. So in general, my feeling is that we should follow that very good guidance.

And we have many excellent clinical trials ongoing, funded by the National Institutes of Health and others, to answer the question, does hydroxychloroquine help patients with COVID?

Does it help patients to stay out of the hospital with COVID?

Does it help them survive COVID?

We'll have those answers and we'll have those answers safely once those trials are completed.

CURNOW: You also heard that the president is refusing to wear a mask.

Again, is that the kind of advice you would give to patients or to anybody who is looking for help on how to manage this?

MAHAJAN: I think we have all understood that we have been able to start to see the reduction in transmission and cases across the country and world when people stayed at home.

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MAHAJAN: In the places where people were unable to stay at home, such as in food processing plants, in nursing homes, in jails, these places are places where people could not socially isolate. We saw that in the infection rates.

As we move to reopening across the U.S. and other parts of the world, it is very important that people attempt to use their masks, maintain good social distancing as much as they can.

Businesses and workplaces have to be smart. So wearing a mask is actually essential, while we do not yet have a treatment or a vaccine for coronavirus.

CURNOW: Wearing a mask, social distancing, how much does time spent with someone who is infected impact whether or not you will get it?

That is obviously linked to church services or going to the gym or hanging out in a restaurant. That, also, I suppose impacts doctors who are treating patients.

MAHAJAN: That's a very good question. It is something that scientists are really trying to understand. We don't yet understand how effectively the virus is transmitted from people who may be asymptomatic but carrying the virus versus people who have the virus and are sick from the virus.

We do know that transmission is occurring. While we are still in this period of time as a human race trying to understand how COVID actually transmits between people, we should all be taking the maximum precautions because, as we know, COVID disease is very dangerous, especially for the vulnerable in our society. We don't want them to contract the virus and see those terrible outcomes.

CURNOW: We know that the vulnerable, those with underlying conditions, the elderly, but then we also hear about healthy people having strokes, about COVID toes, a variety of clotting issues and also children.

What is your advice to parents who are concerned about these really high concerns about inflammatory problems with children?

MAHAJAN: The first thing is to say, like an adult, the large majority of children, if they end up getting coronavirus or COVID, they do OK. They have a mild respiratory illness.

But yes, we are now seeing a very small but rare condition among some children who get coronavirus. It is called multisystem inflammatory condition. It is a lot like something called Kawasaki disease, which is an inflammation of the blood vessels. It actually can cause severe disease.

This is something we are all studying and trying to learn more about. My advice to parents would be to take all of the precautions you would normally take to physically distance, mask wearing and follow the guidance from your public health officials to keep your family and your children safe.

CURNOW: Doctor's advice, wisely taken. Thank you very much, Dr. Anish Mahajan. We appreciate it.

A stark warning from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury on what could lie ahead for the U.S. economy. Hear what Jerome Powell had to say. That is ahead here on CNN.

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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back. It is 30 minutes past the hour. Wherever you are in the world, thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

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So the U.S. treasury secretary says the American economy could improve later on this year, but he also warns of long-term damage the longer states remain closed. Steve Mnuchin's warning came as he updated lawmakers on the implementation of a massive stimulus package.

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SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): So, are going to require companies that receive money from this half-a-trillion-dollar slush fund to have to keep people on payroll? It's a simple question, yes or no. Are you going to require that?

STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: First, let me say that our No. 1 objective is keeping people employed. I want to -- I want to be very clear on that.

WARREN: Good. So are you going to require that from people who are getting taxpayer money? That's my question.

MNUCHIN: Again, we negotiated very significant restrictions on employee compensation, on dividends, on buybacks. And in the main street facility, we have put in a provision that we expect people to use their best efforts to support jobs.

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CURNOW: Well, CNN's Richard Quest has more from New York -- Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: At its most simple, this was seen as U.S. senators taking up the debate on whether to protect lives or to protect the economy.

The treasury secretary and the Fed chair both testified before the Senate Banking Committee. Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, said the economy could not afford to stay locked down, even though he was asked firmly about the risks of reopening.

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SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): How many workers will die if we send people back to work without the protections they need, mister secretary?

MNUCHIN: We don't intend to send anybody back to work without the protections.

BROWN: How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow Jones by 1,000 points?

MNUCHIN: No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair.

QUEST: Now, for the chair of the Fed, Jerome Powell, warned lasting damage would take place if Washington -- for that you can read the administration -- failed to do more. In other words, Congress must be ready with a greater policy response.

JEROME POWELL, CHAIR, FEDERAL RESERVE: When you have a situation where people are unemployed for long periods of time, that can be -- that can permanently weigh on both their careers and their ability to go back to work and also weigh on the economy for years. Equally so with small and medium-sized businesses, which are the jobs machine of our great economy.

This is the biggest response by Congress ever and the fastest and the biggest from us, and still, this is the biggest shock we have seen in living memory. And the question looms in the air of is it enough?

QUEST: Wall Street is now starting to give its own verdict of what shape it seems the recovery will be. No longer, perhaps, looking forward to a straight V-shaped recovery, where the upside comes quickly, but now, perhaps, more a "U" shape, where the economy will go along the trough of the bottom for some time to come.

Richard Quest, CNN, New York.

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CURNOW: Thanks, Richard.

Well, kind of sticking with that theme, as businesses and shared spaces across the world reopen, health experts are warning about the potential for COVID-19 to spread inside public bathrooms. So Brian Todd has the details.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As more Americans clamor to get back to their favorite restaurants, movie theaters, and malls, there's one element of the reopening process health experts are keeping a close eye on: the public restroom, a place they say can be a petri dish for diseases like coronavirus. DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: You may have many

people packed in there who are not able to stay six feet apart, and also because, in a bathroom, you have so many high-contact surfaces, things like taps, soap dispensers, door handles, flush handles.

TODD: And experts say some of those features in public restrooms that we previously thought were sanitary are now potential transmitters of coronavirus.

ERIC FEIGL-DING, SENIOR FELLOW, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: The hand drying blower is a wonderful machine to spread germs and aerosols and droplets throughout the room. [00:35:10]

And another key thing is that when you flush a toilet, the act of flushing a toilet is actually an aerosol-generating device of fecal matter. And we know that there is viruses in fetal matter.

TODD: Bathroom safety is on the minds of proprietors and customers alike, as businesses start to reopen. The owner of the Autorama drive- in theater in Ohio told "The Washington Post" bathroom safety "was the No. 1 concern people had on our Facebook page, so I had to take action to make them comfortable."

A restaurant owner in Houston is enforcing bathroom distancing.

MATT BRICE, OWNER-OPERATOR, FEDERAL AMERICAN GRILL: I have a bathroom attendant at this point, where he or she stands outside the restroom and only one person goes in at a time.

TODD: Other potential solutions? Some of them being tried in Europe, touch-free public bathrooms where not only are the flush, the hand dryer and the sink touch free, but when you exit, at least part of the bathroom automatically disinfects after each person.

Marking off sinks and toilets so that every other one is used to maintain distance. Removing doors from bathroom entrances like many airports have done, so people won't have to touch them.

McDonald's has a new rule that bathrooms are going to be cleaned every half hour. Changes that many restaurant and store managers say will cost them a lot of money to make, but which could make the difference in whether their businesses survive.

One change experts say should be installing a simple feature which many public restrooms in America don't have.

YASMIN: Many public bathrooms have toilets that do not have lids, which means you're pulling the flush and generating this mist of droplets without being able to contain that safely.

TODD: Should some establishments shut down bathrooms completely, or should we all simply stop using the bathrooms in restaurants?

FEIGL-DING: The main reason people go to the bathroom in restaurants is actually to wash their hands, and so I think we do not want to discourage people from washing their hands.

TODD (on camera): But public health experts say many establishments could take months or years to overhaul their bathrooms to meet some of the new sanitation standards. So they're recommending that people do things like bring their own toiletry kits to public bathrooms and restaurants, with hand sanitizer, or sanitizing wipes, and they say people should wear masks when they go into public bathrooms.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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CURNOW: That was eye-opening.

So this is a story we're following here at CNN. Millions of people in India and Bangladesh are evacuating their homes amid coronavirus lockdowns, with Super Cyclone Amphan due to make landfall in the next 24 hours.

It's the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal. Both countries are trying to maintain social distancing and evacuation centers. But the bottom line is this will be a disastrous event for two countries already overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

Well, I want to check in with Pedram Javaheri, who's tracking the storm.

Pedram, hi. Just give us a sense of when it might make landfall.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is on a close approach here. You know, I think within the next 8 to 10 hours, we see this storm system move ashore, so generally to the afternoon and evening hours, local time across Calcutta. That's the area we're watching very carefully.

At this hour, the storm system has weakened to a Category 2 equivalent. But the sheer size of it, the symmetry of it, the organization of the storm, even as it weakens, is really impressive. And, of course, you talk about how the storm system was the strongest we'd ever observed across the Bay of Bengal. The sheer size of it is still that impressive.

In fact, from its northern periphery, the cloud field extends nearly 3,000 kilometers from the north to the south, so that's roughly the distance from Lisbon towards Warsaw, if you place the storm across, say, the continent of Europe.

So a massive system, to say the least, here and, again, weakening as it approaches land, quite a bit of interaction with the eastern side of India there. But landfall with a storm of, say, 150 to 175 kilometers per hour, certainly going to cause significant damage on the immediate coast.

Now, when you talk about tropical systems, you've always got to think about the storm surge or the water that is elevated across the ocean the system has been residing on for the last several days. The storm surge within the system is going to be as impressive as we've ever seen it.

In fact, portions of southern Bangladesh, eastern India, saying there in Bangladesh could have a storm surge as high as five meters.

And to put that into perspective, give you a visual here of what it looks like at a normal sea level, and then you bring in an ocean surge, which comes up just above that, generally with systems of, say, Category 1, 2, or 3, you get storm surges between 2 to 3 meters.

This storm system, even though it's a Category 2 at landfall, we believe, will have a storm surge that is equivalent to a Category 4 or Category 5. That will essentially decimate any homes there near the coastline, and many kilometers inland, just because of how low lying of an area this is.

But again, as it makes landfall here into this afternoon and this evening, we do expect significant damage on the coastline there, just because of the shape of this area, how narrow this area is and, of course, the coastal region, very shallow. So that allows the water to really pile up, Robyn.

[00:40:04]

And of course, speaking of water, you notice rainfall highlighted here, with as much as 200 to 400 millimeters within the next couple of days.

So an area that is very vulnerable. As you noted, a lot of people are starting to evacuate and have already evacuated. And that's at least the excellent news from all this.

CURNOW: OK, Pedram, thanks for that update. We'll keep an eye on it and come back to you if there's any news.

So meanwhile, let's go to S.N. Pradhan, India's director general of the National Disaster Response Force. He joins me now live from New Delhi.

Good to see you, sir. You heard our -- the weather report there. Certainly, eye-raising conditions that are about to hit you. How are you managing to evacuate people during COVID restrictions?

S.N. PRADHAN, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, INDIA'S NATIONAL DISASTER RESPONSE FORCE: Well, that -- that's a tough call, but we are -- we are primed for it, because we are already preparing for the monsoons anyway. So monsoon is a -- is the time when -- that is, so to say, the bread and butter of the national disaster response for us in India.

And 60 percent of our engagement is with the floods in the monsoon anyway every year.

So we were preparing for that, and that was for floods in the time of COVID. But before that, we have had this run with the cyclone. And cyclone in the time of COVID. And we are -- I think we take that learning to the cyclone interface, and we -- we are taking all the precautions possible. But I -- I would be the first to admit that it's not easy. It's easier said than done, yes.

CURNOW: And what do -- you know, give us a sense of the kind of preparations you're taking. Eight to 10 hours. How many people need to be moved, and how do you do that while trying to social distance?

PRADHAN: Well, that's very tough. That's very tough, but I think two things are in our favor.

The first thing is that, only last year, we have had two back-to-back cyclones. One of them was an extremely severe cyclone, which is a similar category as the Amphan now, when it lands. The Cyclone Fani I'm talking about.

And then there was another cyclone, Cyclone Bulbul. And in fact, Cyclone Bulbul landed almost in the same area as the Amphan is landing now. So there is some -- some -- you know, some recall value as to what to do in the face of a cyclone.

So people are -- people are cooperative and cooperating with us and they're listening to the authorities. But the other aspect for COVID- 19, the social distancing, sanitation and all of that, that is a tough call. And we are -- we are trying to, you know, somehow compromise on that to the extent it is feasible, but now the safety is of our primary concern.

CURNOW: And with that in mind, I understand that a number of shelters, you talk about being prepared, about people having, perhaps, experiences before. They know what to do, but many of the shelters, I understand, are being used as quarantine centers. How is that impacting you?

PRADHAN: Well, one of the good things that happened earlier because of the continuous monitoring from the last about week, 10 days is the idea that came up from the states themselves, that they may probably, then, shelter for cyclone shelters, because they are -- many of them were converted into COVID-19 quarantine centers, and all that.

So there was some discussion, and that led us to prepare alternative accommodation. And because of the COVID-19, schools and colleges are closed anyway. So they -- they have been temporarily converted into cyclone shelters. They have been sanitized. And there are all the precautions being observed, and they can stand us in good stead.

CURNOW: S.N. Pradhan, thanks so much for joining us here at CNN. Good luck. I know it's going to be a tough few hours and days ahead.

PRADHAN: Thank you.

CURNOW: Thanks, sir.

PRADHAN: Thank you so much.

CURNOW: OK. So to the Middle East now, where Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians are absolved of all agreements with Israel. The implications of the Palestinian Authority president's surprise statement late Tuesday are unclear. Abbas accused the new Israeli government of annulling the Oslo agreement with the possible annexation of parts of the West Bank, beginning July 1.

One western official says it's important to see how the situation plays out in the coming days.

Meanwhile, coming up, the new effort to battle coronavirus in the Gulf region.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISMALI ALI ABDULLA, CEO, STRATA MANUFACTURING: Everyone is saying that we are at war. In order to win that war against coronavirus, you need to ensure that the supplies are available in a timely fashion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: We'll look at a company in the UAE that's pivoting from making airplane parts to medical masks.

And leadership tested. How Russians feel about President Vladimir Putin's pandemic response. That next, as well.

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CURNOW: So air travel in a post-coronavirus world will most likely look and feel a lot, lot different.

The International Air Transport Association is recommending that governments set up online portals to collect preflight information. This will let them assess and identify health risks and allow contact tracing among travelers.

Airlines and airports would have to introduce procedures to minimize health risks. They include temperature screening at airports, a modified boarding process to allow for greater social distancing, self-scanning documents and minimizing carry-on luggage.

Passengers, we also know, will also need to take more control of their journey. They would be required to wear masks for the duration of the travel. No more changing seats once on board, and they may be handed wipes to sanitize their seating area.

With the need for medical masks growing around the world, though, the UAE is hoping to become the first producer of masks in the Gulf region. John Defterios reports on a partnership between an aerospace firm and Honeywell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: In a COVID-19 world, N-95 mask production is viewed as a essential protection against a viral enemy. That's exactly what's happening in Abu Dhabi.

The initial scramble for personal protective equipment prompted a rethink in the United Arab Emirates. Ismali Ali Abdulla is chief executive of aircraft parts maker Strata. In normal times, he says, he delivers orders of over $7 billion for the likes of Airbus and Boeing, who are now facing their own economic turbulence.

ABDULLA: Everyone is seeing that we are at war. In order to win that war against coronavirus, you need to ensure that the supplies are available in a timely fashion.

DEFTERIOS: Now, he's in partnership with U.S. giant Honeywell to become the first producer of N-95 masks in the Gulf. With the continued coronavirus threat, the two partners say they went from a handshake to production in just 30 days.

(on camera): Aside from oil, this region traditionally has been import dependent, especially for critical supplies, but this entire facility is a signal that approach is rapidly changing.

(voice-over): Mubadala, Strata's parent company, launched a "We are dedicated" plan to buffer the country's citizens and economy from coronavirus risk, sitting atop a $320 billion strategic investment fund.

MIROSLAV KAFEDZHIEV, VICE PRESIDENT, HONEYWELL: A lot of the countries have introduced restrictions when it comes to the materials, when it comes to the machines, even when it comes to the actual finished good masks. This is what enables the region to be self-independent.

DEFTERIOS: The plan is to roll out enough masks to meet domestic demand and export to regional neighbors, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, for health security in areas like construction sites to hospitals, and a lot more.

(on camera): This is just a test run to find tune the process, but by this time next week, this machine can pump out 45,000 masks a day over three shifts.

(voice-over): Maryam al-Nyadi joined the first of two production lines as supervisor, after nine years of working on aircraft wings and stabilizers.

[00:50:04]

MARYAM AL-NYADI, PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR, STRATA MANUFACTURING: We are looking to the small details. We are applying the same measures in aircraft parts, the same we're doing with the masks.

ABDULLA: The world will change post-COVID-29, and there will be more importance in investing in medical supplies, especially PPE. This is where we are deploying our expertise to manufacture these products.

DEFTERIOS: Strata's CEO says there's more to come soon, but just on this N-95 mask production, they expect nearly a billion orders over the next five years.

John Defterios, CNN, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: And New Zealand has launched its coronavirus tracking app to make contact tracing easier. It acts as a digital diary of sorts -- sorts. QR codes will be available for users to scan as businesses at public areas in order to keep track of their movements.

But the app isn't completely finished. An updated plan for June will be the most crucial aspect, allowing users to submit their data and be alerted if they've come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus.

And the U.S. is sending a shipment of ventilators to Russia to aid the country's battle there. A U.S. spokesperson says 50 ventilators will be ready to go in the days ahead.

President Trump has promised to send a total of 200. Russia has become one of the epicenters of the virus.

And as Matthew Chance now reports, President Vladimir Putin's response has led to increasingly vocal opposition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Things are getting that in Russia, desperate. This is a country where protests rarely happen, but now amid the coronavirus pandemic, they seem widespread.

These fruit and that vegetable sellers in Moscow hit by rising rents and falling business.

This is how the ambulance workers of Armavir in southern Russia register their grievance, socially distanced, and in unison. "We were promised extra payments," they chant, "but haven't received a single ruble."

And it's their president, many like these doctors in the Russian republic of Dagestan, hit hard by the pandemic, are turning to for action.

"There are very few of us left," she says. "Few of us have got paid, helpless, Vladimir Putin," she begs.

But, these days, Vladimir Putin seems strangely aloof.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The situation in Dagestan is difficult and demands urgent measures.

CHANCE: Appearing only on video conferences, he seemed disengaged and bored, sometimes just fiddling with his pen. Encouraged by Putin's lowest ever approval ratings, Russian opposition figures sense weakness. To them, the strongman at the Kremlin suddenly looks vulnerable.

ALEXEY NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN (through translator): Putin is not just delegating responsibility. He is hiding from it. In this sense, he is not the supreme commander, just a scared old granddad, hiding in his bunker.

CHANCE: And Russians outside that presidential bunker are under pressure. Here, the police in Tatarstan manhandle a commuter. His crime: having no face mask during lockdown.

"Why are you treating him like he killed someone?" other passengers shout. "He's just a boy going to work."

They say he was given a warning and a fine.

But as the Kremlin grapples with Russia's growing pandemic and its fallout, it risks fueling resentment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Matthew Chance, reporting there.

So next here on CNN, he walked into our lives and became a beacon of light in the darkness of the pandemic. The new honor Captain Tom Moore is receiving when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. TOM MOORE, WWII VETERAN: I never ever, for a minute, did anticipate the source of money now that is coming. I mean, maybe I was a trigger of it to begin with, but not now. It's the National Health Service, who are doing such a magnificent job for us all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: God bless him. A month ago, we know him as Captain Tom Moore, the British World War II veteran raising money for health care workers.

Then he became an honorary colonel for its 100th birthday, and now the national hero is receiving one more title. Here's Bianca Nobilo with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Second World War veteran, Colonel Tom Moore, is to be knighted for his extraordinary fundraising efforts.

Colonel Moore has raised over 33 million pounds for the British National Health Service, and he did so by taking 100 laps of his garden at home in Bedfordshire, breaking Guinness world records.

Colonel Moore celebrated his 100th birthday last month, and he said that his status as a national hero and a symbol of hope amidst this global coronavirus pandemic had come as a big surprise to him. He said he didn't understand how it had happened, but he'd always been a hopeful person. And even when fighting in World War II, he'd never despaired. (on camera): The prime minister called Colonel Moore a true national

hero, and said that the government would soon be releasing details about how other unsung and frontline heroes will be honored in Britain.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN, outside London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Thanks for watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. I'll be back with more news after a quick break. So stick around for that.

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END