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Venezuela's COVID Crisis; Interview With Uganda Presidential Candidate Bobi Wine; Interview With Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D-CA). Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 7, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We are in a very critical time in this country right now. We have got to not walk away from the facts and the
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Christmas is coming, and COVID is surging. California orders new stay-at-home rules.
We talk to the state's lieutenant governor, Eleni Kounalakis.
BOBI WINE, UGANDAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our car was shot through all the tires and through the windscreen.
AMANPOUR: Ugandan pop star turned politician. Bobi Wine tells us why he's risking his life to unseat the president running for another term after 35
years in power.
Plus, flash back to this year's COVID epicenter. Watch the panic and fear inside a Wuhan hospital. Co-director of the new documentary "76 days" Hao
Wu talks to our Hari Sreenivasan about chronicling the lockdown.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
And this is what hope looks like, one of the first batches of the COVID vaccine being off-loaded at a hospital near London. British authorities
approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last week.
And the FDA in the United States is set to do the same this week. But, still, Dr. Fauci is worried. Until enough doses eventually reach enough
people, he's worried about Christmas and new year, holidays which he says could bring about an even bigger COVID spike than the one after
From coast to coast, COVID is still spreading out of control. Tens of millions of people in California woke up this morning to strict new stay-
at-home orders, after the state reported its highest daily caseload yet.
ICU beds are quickly filling up there, and doctors and nurses are yet again feeling the crushing pressure of trying to keep patients alive.
Here's California's Governor Gavin Newsom issuing the latest orders:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The bottom line is, if we don't act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed. If we don't act now, we will continue
to see a death rate climb, more lives lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Eleni Kounalakis is the state's lieutenant governor. She's the first female ever to hold that role. And one of her earliest
endorsements came from her friend Kamala Harris. And her name has even been floated to fill Harris' Senate seat now that she will be vice president.
Kounalakis joined me from Sacramento to speak about the health emergency.
AMANPOUR: Lieutenant Governor, welcome back to the program.
LT. GOV. ELENI KOUNALAKIS (D-CA): Great to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, it is a terrible situation that is engulfing so much of the United States. Awful records are being set, including in your own state.
Tell me how severe and how strict this latest lockdown order is.
KOUNALAKIS: Well, first of all, you're right. There is a surge nationally, and there is a surge in California as well.
But we anticipated that the numbers would go up in the winter. The nature of the virus is such that, when people are in close quarters, it is far
more likely to spread. So, we knew this was coming. And, of course, we have been concerned all along that it would be a very steep increase. And it has
So, if you look at, just a month ago, our positivity rate of our testing was just over 3 percent. We're now over 10 percent. The number of patients
in our hospitals about a month ago was around 3,000. We're now at 10,000.
So this is a very steep increase. And, in fact, we're not sure, but we think that, if there is a spike associated with Thanksgiving, those numbers
are already likely to grow. So, what we have done is divide the state into five zones based on hospital capacity.
We want to make sure that anybody who ends in the hospital and ends up in ICU is able to get the nursing care, able to get ventilators if they need
them, able to get what they need. And so looking at those ICU numbers is now what's driving turning the dimmer switch back and closing down some
operations that had been open.
And, again, what we're looking at is getting through this, minimizing the fatalities, protecting our people, and, of course, looking forward to the
spring, when we hope that vaccines are going to be widely available.
AMANPOUR: Well, just a quick one on the ICU beds.
I understand there's quite a low capacity right now, right, 12.5 percent? That's not a huge number of beds available for COVID emergencies.
KOUNALAKIS: So, again, we have divided it up into five regions. We're 40 million people in the state of California, so San Francisco Bay Area,
Sacramento, San Joaquin County, Northern California, north of those places, and then Southern California.
Depending on which of the five zones you're in, hospital capacity varies. In two of those zones, in the San Joaquin Valley and in Southern
California, there are fewer than 15 percent of hospital beds left. That's why those two regions have been mandated to have the closures.
The Bay Area has taken it upon themselves in several of the counties there to get in early. But that's the threshold. And, again, because we haven't
figured in yet the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings, it may very well be that the other three remaining zones also need to go on lockdown.
AMANPOUR: So, you're talking about Thanksgiving, which, obviously, you all advised people to take it easy, don't travel so much, don't gather. Now
you're coming up with Christmas. We will discuss that in a moment.
But this is what Dr. Fauci has said about the measures you're taking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: I have been in discussion with the health authorities from the state of California, who called me and asked -- they said, we feel we need
to do this. What do you think? And I said, you really don't have any choice.
When you have the challenge to the health care system, you have got to do something like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Lieutenant Governor, Dr. Fauci looks like he's not only agreeing, but supporting what you're doing, advising you to take those
But let's just -- let's just talk about Californians and, frankly, the rest of the country, who've been under these waves of restrictions and orders
and advisements for the last nine months. And now you have got Christmas coming up.
What frightens you about what's coming up?
KOUNALAKIS: Well, I think part of what's difficult is that people are getting exhausted, they're getting lonely, and they just want it to be
And so what we're trying to do is really call upon Californians to recognize that this is the most dangerous part of the entire pandemic. But
there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If we can get through this last period safely, we're going to be very quickly in a situation where we are going to be able to begin to minimize
the presence of this virus in our communities through vaccinations.
So, we're asking people hold tight, hunker down. Now is not the time to get tired of the precautions. Now is the time to really double down, make sure
that you and your family stay safe.
And, most importantly, Christiane, most of the infections are among people among the ages of 18 to 35. But the fatalities are primarily people over
65. And we all have people over 65 in our lives who we love and we care about.
And so a lot of this, frankly, is to minimize the spread, so that our seniors don't catch this, because they're the ones who are most likely to
be fatalities. And, as a community, as a society, it is incumbent upon us to protect everyone.
AMANPOUR: Let me talk to you now about the vaccines, because you mentioned it several times. And, frankly, I think everybody, individuals, leaders
such as yourself, the public health environment, they are really quite desperate for this to happen, because you are demanding people to adjust
their social behavior until these vaccines come on board.
Now, we have had a lot of promises, we have had a lot of optimism. And now, all of a sudden, we're hearing people in charge saying, hang on a second,
we promised, I don't know, 300 million by the end of this year doses, but, actually, it may only be you know a fraction of that because of manufacture
Do you know at all when you, as a state of California, for instance, will start getting doses of vaccines that you can roll out?
KOUNALAKIS: So, we are expecting delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been approved, we are expecting delivery of over 300,000 doses in
the coming days, maybe weeks, and we have a plan to distribute that first and foremost to our health care workers.
Secondly, the second priority is going to be to get the vaccine to people in congregate living senior centers, skilled nursing facilities. But, first
and foremost, to get our health care workers vaccinated is our priority.
Obviously, we need a lot more than 300,000 doses. So, the second vaccine that we are waiting to hear whether it's going to be approved is the
Moderna vaccine. Once that happens, we do anticipate that we may have as many as two million doses before the end of the year.
We are working, the governor and his team are working very diligently for a plan to make sure that those vaccines end up with the right people, again,
health care workers, number one, people in congregate living second.
So, beyond that, when we look into the new year, that's when we hope that we will be able to get all of our -- all of our health care workers
vaccinated and start getting into more of the vulnerable populations. It's going to be a rollout.
As you say, a lot can happen in terms of how many millions of doses are going to be ready and when, but we're very encouraged. We're also very
encouraged, frankly, about what appears on the -- through the trials, the effectiveness of these vaccines, over 90 percent effective. That is very
good news for Californians and for the country.
AMANPOUR: Now, President Trump had promised 100 million doses by the end of the year. As you say, we will see -- we will see whether that happens.
Can I ask you -- I don't want to sound churlish. But, look, you know the president has been really on the attack against what he calls blue state
governors, blue state authorities, blue states, basically saying that you're not doing it right, and all the rest of it.
And we're seeing that there's a lot of surge all over the place. And there have been some Democratic leaders who have violated their own rules. I
mean, Governor Newsom, for instance, had a 12-person birthday party for a friend. We have got mayors in -- like the San Francisco mayor, the mayor of
San Jose, Senator Feinstein.
I mean, basically, some of these elected officials who are saying, you have to do this, have, to an extent, flouted various social distancing rules.
How serious is that?
KOUNALAKIS: Well, I think that the general public really is right to demand that elected officials and leaders practice what they preach and set
the best possible example.
People make mistakes. People have failings. We just have to continue to, in my opinion, make it clear that everybody knows how you catch the virus, how
you keep safe from catching the virus. Nobody should want to catch this. And we know so much more about it today than we knew nine months ago.
And, as I said, we're so close, that, if people can continue to follow these safety precautions, where masks, social distance, stay away from
other people as much as possible, then we will be able to get through what is and your history, Christiane.
This is a historic global pandemic, nothing like this in 100 years since the 1918 flu that, by some accounts, was responsible for the death of 50
million people globally. We are doing the best that we can, but it is -- it's incumbent upon everyone to know how to keep safe and to do their best
to stop the spread.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, because you used to be ambassador of the United States in Hungary, a country that's, I guess, euphemistically known
as an illiberal democracy. In fact, they call themselves an illiberal democracy, with some quite authoritarian, autocratic tendencies.
When you see what your president of the United States has done in the aftermath of the election, wanting to stop the count, refusing to concede,
all the other things he's done, including right now apparently not even engaging -- he's still president for at least two more months -- on this
pandemic, I'm just interested in how you compare him with some of these other leaders who you have encountered, particularly during your time in
KOUNALAKIS: Well, that's an interesting question.
I think that I -- from my perspective, this is how I see it. I think that people in democracies should demand leaders who care more about their
country than they do about their own political skin or their own family's financial interest.
That, to me, is the most important test. And that is the test that Donald Trump failed again and again. He lost this election, and that -- he insists
on going out and telling his supporters, no, no, it was taken from him. There's no evidence of this, and yet he's willing to do it, not because he
cares about this country, but because he cares about his own skin.
And it's real. Here in Sacramento, right, not immediately now, but over the weekend, and probably there will be more, there are people coming to
demonstrate saying the election was stolen from Donald Trump, counterprotesters. We have to mobilize our police forces to make sure that
people don't get into these violent situations, at a time when we all should be focused on this global pandemic and stopping the spread.
It is incredibly unfortunate. But I'm very hopeful now. Our daughter of California, Kamala Harris, is about step in to the role of vice president
of the United States, the first woman ever in the top two positions in our country. We're incredibly proud of her.
But she and, of course, president-elect Biden have a lot of work to do, hopefully, reminding Americans as to why government first and foremost
should be there to look after their interests, the interests of the people.
AMANPOUR: And just finally, because you mentioned it, she, Kamala Harris, is the first female vice president. You are the first female lieutenant
governor of your state.
Do you think you will be selected by the governor to step into her position as senator? Is that something you would like?
KOUNALAKIS: Oh, my goodness. Everyone is asking the governor. I don't -- I don't know what direction he's going to go.
But we're very proud to have so many Californians now in this administration. It was just announced that our attorney general is going to
-- has been tapped by vice -- president-elect Biden to be the new secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra.
So, the way that we see it, California is science-based. We listen to our people. We work together here in Sacramento. And if we are able to send
leaders to Washington to show that, in fact, the California model of problem-solving and serving the people is one that should be emulated in
the country, that makes us all proud.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, good luck, because you're in for a rough ride at the moment with this COVID surge.
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor. Thank you so much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And there are many countries, including in, Latin America that are in for a very, very rough ride with this COVID surge, particularly
other countries such as Brazil, which have populist leaders, and including Venezuela.
It is one of those dealing very, very difficult with this COVID. It's on its knees economically, even before the current pandemic, and the health
crisis is testing the system to breaking point.
Meantime, President Nicolas Maduro has just claimed victory in the country's legislative elections, which the opposition and the U.S.
secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has called a fraud and a sham. Maduro claims that COVID is under control.
But correspondent Isa Soares found a very different story on the ground in the capital, Caracas.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Los Magallanes public hospital in Caracas, remnants of this once wealthy nation lie strewn on the
dirt floor, its shackled wards hiding what the Venezuelan government doesn't want us to see.
Here, COVID-19 has unmasked Venezuela's open wounds, and practically every floor this hospital is empty, tells me this hospital worker who prefers to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's empty because there's nothing here. There are no supplies. There's no way to treat patients, no lights,
no working pipes. If patients don't die of their disease, they die of contamination.
SOARES: It's a risk only a few dare to take. This is the COVID-19 ward. Only this part of it is functional. The rest is completely run-down, after
years of mismanagement.
So it's no surprise many would rather face the pandemic outside these walls, choosing instead their homes over these decrepit rooms, where
darkness has literally taken over.
(on camera): This is intensive neonatal ward. And the reason I'm holding up this light right here is because there is no electricity in this
hospital. Have a look around, bare-bones. And what I have been told by doctors around Caracas and outside of Caracas is that this is the situation
day in, day out.
(voice-over): Even in the morgue, death comes with shortages. There's no pathologist here. And with intermittent electricity, the stench is
Now imagine having to face a pandemic in these conditions. It's why doctors like Gustavo Vijasmil (ph) are no longer free to speak out.
"I have friends of mine who have been criminally charged," he says. "Why? For protesting the conditions in which they have been forced to practice."
So, he doesn't hold back in Venezuela.
"In Venezuela," he tells me, "there are only as many recognized COVID cases as the regime wants."
With testing limited to three government-controlled labs. Vijasmil says it's impossible to paint an accurate picture. "With regards to COVID," he
says, "we don't know where we are."
The government however, claims, the pandemic is under control, saying its strategy has worked. A government minder shows us inside a hotel where
suspected infected patients are kept in quarantine for up to 21 days.
It's a lockdown strategy employed by China, which the government of Nicolas Maduro has been keen to extol. Dr. Rodriguez (ph) shares a similar pride.
"Venezuelans have shown an immunity to the virus," he says. The families of those who have died on the front lines may see it differently; 272 health
care workers have lost their lives in Venezuela as of November the 30th.
At Hospital Vargas in Caracas, you can see why. They are overworked and unprotected.
(on camera): So, it's one nurse for this whole area here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We don't have masks. We don't have gloves. They turn on the water one hour in the morning, one in the
afternoon and one at night. There's nothing. There's no broom, no mop, no cloth.
SOARES (voice-over): This is evident all around. And as I walk this ward, I stop to speak to a patient's daughter.
She tells me her frail 69-year-old father is here because of malnourishment, the same state-imposed malady that we have seen across
Venezuela. His immune system is compromised, yet he shares this ward with a COVID patient.
His daughter tells me he needs iron supplements that the hospital simply doesn't have.
(on camera): And look at this. I mean, this is what -- this is what they have to work with here, nurses and doctors, syringes. It's astounding. They
have got nothing.
(voice-over): There's a vast emptiness all around and a sense of disillusionment and surrender, painful, no doubt, for those who saw this
once oil-rich country is one of the wealthiest in Latin America, now teetering on the brink of survival.
AMANPOUR: And we reached out to the Venezuelan government on the issues raised in this report. We have yet to receive a response.
So, now to another country, another continent where democracy is under attack. And that's in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni has been in power
there longer than many Ugandans have been alive, nearly 35 years.
In the beginning, Yoweri won praise from the international community for bringing stability to that East African nation. But, over time, he has
tightened his grip on power, squashed the opposition, and cracked down on dissent.
With elections due in January, Museveni is now facing an unlikely challenger, pop star turned politician of the people Bobi Wine. So, that's
a little taste of his music. He was elected to Parliament in 2017. And he says he's been tortured for his outspoken criticism of Museveni and he's
now dodging death for daring to run for president.
He was arrested last month. His car's been shot at. And he now wears a bulletproof vest to campaign.
And Bobi Wine is joining us from the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
Welcome to the program.
How difficult is it for you? I have just read a list, a litany of the pressure you're under and the very real bullets that have been fired your
way. Tell me why you're taking this risk.
WINE: Thank you very much for having me, Christiane.
And pardon me if I looked too spaced. I have just been forced out of three districts tonight, where the police officers are not allowing me to sleep
in those districts.
Right now, I'm in Arua, and the only hotel that was willing to take me for a night in a hotel where my driver was shot dead, and I also survived death
on the 13th of August in 2018. But I'm happy to be here.
I am taking this risk because it is worth it, and because nobody else is going to do it other than we ourselves. And in any case, not taking the
risk is even taking a bigger risk, because nobody is safe, those that stay at home and keep silent about the enslavement and we who speak out.
That is why I dare represent my people in this trouble.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, I said many people are -- weren't even born when the president first came to power.
In fact, 80 percent of the Ugandan people are under the age of 35, which is how long he, Museveni, has been in power. But what is it that makes you
believe that somebody who's held onto power for this number of years is ripe for a challenge and potentially could be defeated by somebody such as
WINE: Well, I was also 4 years when President Museveni took charge of our country.
But, like you mentioned, the biggest part of our population is under the age of 35. Precisely over 80 percent of our population is my age and below.
These are the disconnected young people, the unemployed, the excluded.
They have no -- our country has been divided into the haves and have-nots. So, these are the masses looking and searching for a different -- searching
for better, searching for change, but, most importantly, wanting to be free in their country, wanting their voice to be heard. That is the constituency
that I am representing.
What gives me confidence that we can overwhelm the dictatorship is the history, the recent history in Africa. The young people did it in the
Gambia. The young people did it in the Sudan. The young people have done it all through history.
That is why I believe that, if we stick by the law, if we come out massively and vote, we can be able to overwhelm the dictatorship of
President Museveni, and, for the first time in our life, also have a taste of true freedom.
AMANPOUR: So, look, I have interviewed the president several times. The last time was a few years ago, admittedly, but he insisted to be that the
opposition is free to operate in his country.
This is a little bit of what he said:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOWERI MUSEVENI, PRESIDENT OF UGANDA: The opposition in Uganda competes on a level playing field. There is no opposition which we stifle.
Otherwise, we never restrain the opposition at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, level playing field, no restraint.
Bobi Wine, tell me, apart from the very real danger, which is obviously, I guess, your overriding concern, are you able to campaign? Do you have
access to the media? What are the issues that you're facing trying to mount a credible campaign?
WINE: Well, it is funny for President Museveni to say there's a playing -- a level playing field for the opposition.
First of all, I was arrested on the day of nomination, on the nomination ground. I was beaten, pepper-sprayed, and driven straight to my home. I
have been blocked from using the main roads by the police and the military.
Just tonight, I was denied accommodation from three districts. And, like I say, the only hotel that was willing to take me in is this hotel owned by
my friend, the same hotel where my driver was murdered two years ago.
I am not allowed to speak on radio station. The military has literally taken over the campaign -- the campaign process. I am not allowed to access
any town. And whenever I try to campaign, I am driven in very, very remote areas, where there are no people.
Thanks to the dynamics the way they are, because the people, especially young people, have had to walk miles and miles to access us. The only media
that I can be allowed on is social media. That is the only media that we have that we can use to communicate to our people.
I -- as you mentioned, I have to put on a bulletproof for me to be able to campaign. I have survived two assassination attempts in the last two weeks,
where bullets have been shot in my car and on the tires and in the windscreen.
Tear gas canisters are thrown at us every time. We are tear-gassed brutalized and even shot with live bullets by the police and the military.
That is the ground that President Museveni calls level.
AMANPOUR: Bobi, let me ask you this, because I just wonder whether you think the January election is going to be free and fair. And, if not, what
do you think the recourse is?
We have seen what happened in Belarus a few months ago. We saw the international community, the E.U. make some noises, but not a massive
amount has happened there. We have got a new president and a new administration coming into the United States. They say they're going to put
human rights back certainly somewhere centrally in their foreign policy.
What do you think the U.S. -- what are you calling on the United States to do? Because let's not forget, the president is a very close ally, has even
visited the White House.
WINE: First of all, I know that already the election is not free and fair.
We are only going into this election as a protest vote, because we know that the people of Uganda, even amid this intimidation, even amid this
harassment, they will come out and massively vote. And, yes, I am sure they're going to vote out President Museveni, because 35 years is just
My only plea to the United States and the entire development community, the entire international community, all the development partners, we have
always been calling upon them to put the observation of human rights and the human as a precondition for cooperation here in Uganda.
We know that the United States, it has very strong partnership in Uganda. We receive over $100 million a year to work with security.
But again, this is the same money that is being used to murder people, to oppress Ugandans and to abuse human rights. Just less than -- just over two
weeks ago, more than 100 Ugandans were shot and killed for showing support for me, for coming out to protest. And yet, because it's within the law to
protest this fully.
We do not have any guns. We do not have any stones but we are being attacked brutally by the police and the military that are (INAUDIBLE).
People are being slaughtered every day by a president that takes pride in murdering people. Just the other week President Museveni came out and
confirmed that he indeed had ordered for the mass murder of the people of Uganda.
So, we call upon the United States to put the rule of law and observation of human rights as a pre-condition to cooperation and also call to order
President Museveni who seems not to listen to any other voice apart from the international community and precisely the United States of America.
AMANPOUR: Just -- I'm just going to put their position before I head to another question. The government says that you were arrested and you've
been, you know -- well, I mean, I can say harassed, they'd say stopped because you were "breaking COVID rules by campaigning."
But I want to ask you this. You call yourself or you are known as the Ghetto President. What is it that young Ugandans, the majority of the
country, as we said, 80 percent of the country is under 35 years old, what are they yearning for there, beyond the obvious freedom? What do they want
for their -- for Uganda?
WINE: Young Ugandans are yearning of freedom of speech, for freedom of expression. They are yearning for the basic human rights. They are yearning
for right to live. Young Ugandans are yearning for the opportunity to determine their destiny. It has been 35 years of stagnation. Young Ugandans
feel like they are fast forward brains stuck in a third world country. I mean, they believe that they don't live in a third world country. We only
have third world leaders.
We -- young Ugandans are yearning for democracy, they are yearning for their voice to be heard. They want to speak and be heard. They want the
right to determine their destiny. That is what young Ugandans are calling for. They want to live their whole potential. They feel like they are not
living their lives. They feel like they are being owned. They feel like they are being enslaved in the 21st century in their own land. They want
democracy in the real sense of the world.
AMANPOUR: It is, of course, extraordinary, that 35 years ago, Museveni took part in the rebellion that brought down the dictator, Idi Amin, and
here we are 35 years later. Let me just ask you very quickly and finally, are you afraid for talking to us, for making this international interview
WINE: Well, yes, and no. First of all, I am afraid because the majority of people that I've spoken out in Uganda have ended up dead or ended up in
exile or in prison. So, I expect the worst anytime. But again, I'm not feeling afraid because I know that the international media has -- is one of
the factors that have kept me alive.
I know no matter how ferocious the dictator, President Museveni, is, he is afraid of the international community. He knows how all the dictators have
ended up in the past. He has been close friends with Mugabe, he has been close friends with Omar al-Bashir, he has been close friends with Muammar
al-Gaddafi. And he knows how all dictators have ended and what --
WINE: -- that what is happening in Uganda is actually being projected on the world screen. So, it is --
AMANPOUR: All right.
WINE: -- scary to talk to you, but, again, it is safe to talk to you at the same time.
AMANPOUR: Well, you're being very brave, Bobi Wine, and we hope to invite the president on to put some of these issues to him. Thank you very much
for joining us.
And now, we head had a little further north to a crisis unfolding largely away from cameras. Refugees are fleeing Ethiopia into neighboring Sudan
saying that they were targeted for their Tigray ethnicity. The United Nations is demanding access to the refugees and the African Union has been
trying to broker a cease-fire. In this war between the Ethiopia government and the regional Tigray's, People Liberation Front, fighters from
neighboring Eritrean are also involved in what is a complex web of fighting.
Our Nima Elbagir has spent days gathering testimony from those who fled, and here is her report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Sudan- Ethiopia border, the last leg in the journey to safety.
In the first weeks of the conflict, thousands of refugees from Ethiopia's Tigray region crossed daily. Now, the figures are dwindling day by day.
Those that do make it here come bearing scars and testimony. This is Zeray Grabijijis (ph), he says he fled the City of Sheraro near the Ethiopia-
Eritrea border. He says, the Eritrean soldiers beat them with machine guns, lay them on the ground and put weapons in their mouths. He says, if you
showed fear, they would kill you. But if you were brave, you escape with your life and the scars on the back.
This young man is also Sheraro and he described the same scene. But asked that we not share his name. Like many here, he is still afraid. It's very
hard to know what is happening in Ethiopia's Tigray region because the government hasn't forced a communications blackout. A CNN team at the
Sudan-Ethiopia border has spent days gathering testimony from refugees who say they were targeted because of their Tigray ethnicity. They are taking
dangerous risks to find safety.
Feori (ph) arrived in the Sudan with a newborn. Heavily pregnant when Humero (ph) was attacked by the Ethiopian army. Feori (ph) fled through
back routes giving birth in a field. She tells us only she and her mother- in-law made it to safety.
We can't independently verify their accounts, but they all tell a similar story. The Ethiopian army enters the town, they say, tell civilians they
are safe, Ethiopian soldiers leave and then other armed groups arrive. A spokesman for the Ethiopian prime minister denies these claims and told
CNN, these refugees' testimonies are a result of the fear of the other propaganda the Tigray leadership had fed its people over the past three
The spokesman denied the existence of the Fanu (ph) Amhara militia. But simultaneously, confusingly acknowledges the militia of the Amhara region
were engaged to the extent of securing border towns between the two regions. Sudan is struggling economically post the (INAUDIBLE) or former
dictator, Omar al-Bashir. And this influx of refugees has found little comfort on this side of the border, but at least it's somewhere safe.
Nima Elbagir, CNN London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Correspondent Nima Elbagir there. And we are hoping to have the Ethiopian prime minister on our program very soon.
From this country in the midst of ethnic warfare to a city that was the world's first COVID epicenter, when the virus overran Wuhan, the Chinese
government imposed a 76-day lockdown. Now, in his harrowing new documentary "76 Days," filmmaker Hao Wu takes us inside four of the city's hospitals to
share the gripping stories of patients and frontline workers. And here he is talking with our Hari Sreenivasan about those desperate efforts to
combat what was then a mysterious illness sweeping through with Wuhan.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Hao Wu, thanks for joining us.
There's a scene in the beginning of the film that we want to play of people waiting outside of a door, banging the doors to get into the hospitals.
Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I admitted 27 patients. There are still 36 outside. That's more than 50 already. What if a fight breaks
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People are dying. Open it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Don't knock on the door. We are opening it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't know, otherwise we won't open.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Don't lean on the door. People can get trapped.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't strike at the door. Stop it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Three males. One by one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One by one. Don't pull at the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can't get in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Otherwise, nobody gets in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We will admit everyone. Do you all still want to get in? Please cooperate. We will get everyone in
SREENIVASAN: It's almost impossible to think of nurses also having to work as crowd control to prevent fights. I mean, people forgot, this is almost a
year ago. It is cold. People have been standing outside. How frustrated were the citizens of Wuhan with the response?
HAO WU, CO-DIRECTOR, "76 DAYS": In the beginning of the lockdown, the lockdown order came down very suddenly. I think not just people in Wuhan,
the rest of the country was also really confused because there was very little information going on. And also, it was really early in the outbreak
and even scientists have very little data about how transmissible, how dangerous this virus was.
So, there was just widespread panic in the city. Anybody who had any like flu symptoms, they just wanted to rush to the hospital to be checked out,
to be admitted because they were fearful they're going to transmit it to their own family as well. So, yes. I mean, just watching that scene sent
chills down my spine as well, you know, after so many times just because just the fear, the panic in their voices.
SREENIVASAN: Was there a distrust of the government at that time? Because now we know in hindsight and through investigations that there was a
discrepancy between the number of people that were getting infected and what the Chinese government was sharing with the outside world but also in
China itself, where people are saying, wait, this could be worse than what I'm hearing?
WU: I think at the very beginning, because (INAUDIBLE) some more commercial publications in China, like Taichung (ph) and Sunday and this
kind of big commercial publication, they did send reporters down to Wuhan to do some investigation. But overall, there haven't been widespread
coverage, especially among the state-owned media. So, people were not getting enough information to make a sound judgement about how bad the
situation truly was.
So, there was just a lot of distrust. They didn't know what information was real at that time. At that time, a lot of people rely on social media. But
as we all know, there's a lot of misinformation on social media as well.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. Just so I'm clear, the two journalists that you were working with were in China, filming all these things, and you were in New
York. You had just come back from China. One of the co-directors that you worked on this project with is listed as anonymous. How come?
WU: He's a local photojournalist for a state-owned newspaper, and he -- obviously, because he's a reporter, he could get access to a lot of
different hospitals and film there. He filmed the footage primarily just to keep records of what truly happened in history in the making.
When we started talking about working together on this film, initially, he showed great reluctance. But in the end, I just told him, what I wanted to
do really was to show the humanities that, you know, suffering through this pandemic, try to help each other to live through this pandemic. So, in the
end, I convinced him to collaborate. But still, he was worried about what if what we portray -- the way we portray the lockdown or the pandemic
response, you know, was not well-liked, let's say, by the government.
Also, I think that nowadays, more importantly, he worries about any potential backlash on China's internet because there are very strong
nationalistic patriotic sentiment online that if there's any negative portrayal of China's response as unpatriotic.
SREENIVASAN: You chose to steer clear of politics in this document. Is that for fear of what the government would say?
WU: No, it's definitely not out of fear because we actually have filmed whistleblower doctors and also, we filmed some dissidents who were trying
to sue the government for COVID-19. But I think in the end, it's also a reflection of our own transformation in the way how we think about this
I remember in early April I was editing in New York when New York was going through its worst in the initial wave of COVID-19. I'm hearing sirens
everywhere. I literally felt like the same Wuhan story in "76 Days" were being replayed in New York City. So, at that time, I just feel like it was
too early to draw any conclusion about any particular government's response, whether it's right or wrong, too draconian or too lenient. So,
that's part of the reason I decided to shy away from political commentary. That's for another film, maybe two years down the road and looking back and
give us the assessment.
And secondly, because my two co-directors have gathered such powerful raw emotional footage on the frontline. I feel like any discussion about
politics will actually distract the viewer's attention from, you know, immersing themselves in these human stories of little kindness towards each
SREENIVASAN: One of the things I found interesting is that behind these masks, if you just changed the ethnicity of the patients and the doctors,
this could have been doctors at the Elmhurst Hospital, in my neighborhood, it could have been doctors in Houston or in Phoenix or in Italy. I mean,
the -- it's so sad how similar the plight of those workers have been over and over and over again.
WU: Absolutely. I was in touch with film-makers in Madrid who are filming hospitals in Madrid and also filming in Milan. And I was here. I started
filming in late March here in New York City. I have many friends who are doctors in New York hospitals. Yes, the same stories were being replayed.
And I think, you know, a lot of times, when we talk about COVID-19, about this pandemic, we're talking statistics and political terms, we keep on
forgetting behind the statistics and political arguments, there are real human beings, and it's the same human stories all over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Come on. You have no idea. I'd rather die immediately when I am in Pain. This disease cannot be cured in a
short period of time. Who can stand this? Who wants to take this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Why don't you talk to your son some more?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He's been a party member for decades. Remind him of that. Plus, his condition is not life threatening.
SREENIVASAN: You also chose not to show a lot of death. I mean, there was certainly hints at it and there were certainly images that we saw in the
beginning, but you didn't choose to give us a laundry list of everyone in those hospital wards that have passed.
WU: That's right. I think primarily because most of the characters, my two collaborators were following, I think their own grandma passed away, but
the rest them, I think, they all recovered. There are some side characters they filmed that passed away. But in the end, because their story didn't
make it into the film, so we didn't highlight those deaths.
In general, I feel like, with this film, it's hard to because we were struggling with some ethical considerations as well during editing. We
didn't want to just show death gratuitously. You know, if we want to show death on screen, it has to serve a purpose.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Oh, dear, he was only 60. What a pity. Rich or poor, revered or despised, fate befalls all. What a tragedy.
Nobody can escape.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, do you find that -- you know, this is kind of a sensitive decision that a director has to make, but it's -- the argument
also exists that, listen, shielding people from the reality of it gives them more license to ignore that reality. I mean, it's something that the
United States is still in.
WU: Yes. I think in China, there are many reasons why Chinese people in the end, right, just listen to the government's directives and followed
orders, but I think one thing that really contributed to them taking them this seriously is the availability of a lot of video evidence of how
horrible this disease, COVID-19, is, not only on social media but also on TV broadcasters.
Here in the U.S., I think even now for different reasons, we still don't have enough. We're still now showing the horrors of COVID-19 to our public
to some degrees and we have read a lot of reporting, but just in terms of just being really up close and personal given bare visual evidence, I don't
think we have done enough.
SREENIVASAN: Your film finds these incredible small moments of kindness between the patients and the health care workers and you see it over and
over again, whether it's taking a video of a partner from one room to another so that they can kind of virtually see each other or it's just
holding the hand of a patient what doesn't want to be alone. I mean, that gratitude that you capture, I'm sure it exists here in the United States as
well for anybody who's walked out of a hospital.
But what's also strange here is that we hear about patients who are with their dying breathe questioning whether COVID is real and pushing back
against their doctors and nurses.
WU: Yes, that's something that's still very bizarre to me. It's after hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country. We -- a big portion of the
population still refuse to accept that COVID-19 is real. That truly baffles me. I feel like this country has been so divided, and the message from the
top leadership, the administration, the White House administration, has been so weak. I think that's maybe partly why we see this kind of
resistance to scientific fact about this pandemic.
SREENIVASAN: Was there resistance to the lockdown in China? Because what - - from your film and other places, what we see from the empty streets is that people complied. I mean, what is it -- kind of two questions here,
what is it about the culture that creates this almost paternalistic relationship with the state and this trust in state? And two, what about
people who wanted to work again and wanted to feed themselves, weren't they upset?
WU: I think in the beginning of the lockdown, because the -- as soon as Wuhan was put under official lockdown and the rest of China, you know,
basically went into voluntary lockdown. And fortunately, China was -- there was the golden, you know, Chinese New Year holiday. So, people were staying
But in the very beginning, yes, there was a lot of grumbling in China about kind of the damage to the economy, about the measure being too draconian,
and -- but I think there have been reports as well, obviously, in -- not just in western media but also Chinese media about how some local residents
were resistant to the tight control that forced them to stay in their apartments and only allowed to go out to go get groceries once or twice a
week. That was pretty drastic measures that the government imposed on Wuhan.
So, there was initially some resistance. But, by and large, as you said, most people followed the orders. I think it's not just China though. If you
look at rest of East Asia, right, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, most of the population, they followed the government's orders,
maybe -- I don't know. I'm not a historian, but I think as an individual filmmaker, the way I look at it perhaps it's because of the confusion
culture because the people and the state, the religion is a bit different. You know, the state can be paternalistic and you -- sometimes you listen to
what the state has to say.
And secondly, I think, maybe more importantly is in the rest of Asia there have been so many past outbreaks of viruses, right, like SARS. Most --
people in East Asia remembered the fear of SARS. So -- and since the governments tell me, you need to do this in order to stay safe, people
immediately put their masks on, people immediately following the orders of shelter in place.
SREENIVASAN: You were in China right before all this happened to visit your grandfather who was ill, he passed away. When do you think you'll be
able to go back and find some closure to that?
WU: Yes, I was in -- I arrived in Shanghai for Chinese New Year the day Wuhan was put under lockdown. I stayed there for about 10 days and came
back. Right -- as soon as I came back, I found out my grandpa was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer and he passed away a month later. I wasn't
able to go back to say good-bye to him because, first of all, it happened really fast. Secondly, there was inbound travel restrictions in China by
So, I think this kind of guilt sort of guided me during the editing process, that's why I decided to make -- part of the reason why the film
turned out to be what it is, which is when I was editing, I was always looking for the human connection, those little details because I needed
that. I feel like I didn't get to say goodbye to my grandpa. And then I was watching all of these patients being so scared and alone in their hospital
bed, that was just unfathomable to me.
So, yes. So, I guess in some ways "76 Days" is a tribute to my grandpa. And I hope, I really, really hope that coming springtime as vaccine becomes
available, I will be able to go back to visit him at his grave and also to see my parents.
SREENIVASAN: The film is called "76 Days." Hao Wu, thanks so much for joining us.
WU: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching and good bye from London.