Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
With over to 200,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide and counting, we go to the London School of Tropical Medicine and the dire projection report.
Peter Piot who helped discover Ebola joins me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign has had a very good night. We move closer to securing the Democratic party’s nomination for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Joe Biden crushes it again after the latest primary Tuesday. I speak to his senior advisor, Symone Sanders, about how the virus is changing the
campaign as infections reach all 50 states now.
And how the outbreak is affecting the world’s most vulnerable, refugees, the homeless, with the head of the International Rescue Committee, David
And finally, something uplifting. How music is helping us all get through these extraordinary times.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Life as we know it has changed beyond anything in living memory. Governments around the world are taking increasingly drastic measures to
fight the coronavirus pandemic and they’re warning people to take them seriously. The number of confirmed cases worldwide is now around 200,000
and counting and more than 8,000 people are dead.
In Europe, the current coronavirus epicenter, there are critical shortages in medical supplies according to the World Health Organization. The E.U.
and the United States are imposing stiffer border closures. And President Trump is invoking war powers to ramp up production of protective equipment
like gowns and gloves. He’s also deployed two 1,000-bed military hospital ships to the East and West Coast as emergency treatment centers. This is
how he put it at a press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We’re sending upon request the two hospital ships, they’re being prepared right now. They’re massive ships. They’re the
big white ships with the red cross on the sides. One is called “The Mercy” and the other is called “The Comfort.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Meantime, the White House chief medical adviser says they’re learning of new data from Europe, showing that younger people, the
millennial generation, are indeed at more risk of infection than previously thought. So, scientists are calling for stamping out rather than slowing
down the virus to avoid millions of deaths worldwide.
Dr. Peter Piot is director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, spearheading the current science and who co-discovered the Ebola
virus. He joined me as world leaders balance two massive emergencies, the health and economic crises.
Dr. Piot, welcome to the program.
DR. PETER PIOT, DIRECTOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINES: Hello, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, can we first start by admitting that you are there at home joining us by Skype and that’s not accidental? Why are you of all people
working from home?
PIOT: I’m working home, indeed, because I’m here in the U.K. and in London. I’m 71. So, anybody who is at high-risk for developing severe
infection from COVID-19 is asked to work from home. And yes, and to self- isolate. Although, it’s not to — as absolute as in some states in the U.S. or in — let’s say, in Spain or in France. But that’s why I’m here.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that people around the world are taking your warnings, government warnings seriously enough?
PIOT: I think it’s starting. It is starting to sink in that this is unprecedented. I think the only thing I can think of in our recent history
is the Spanish flu, and that happened 100 years ago and — you know, and nobody has gone through that.
And because this is not just a fire drill, this is the real thing. And it’s going to go on for probably quite a while. This wave, because we may have
several waves, but this wave is probably going to take a few months. We have seen it in China, also, that it’s possible to bring down new
infections but thanks to draconian measures.
But then on the other hand, when you take like Singapore, which is probably has the best response to COVID-19 in the world, they have managed to
continue with life, you know, schools are not closed, restaurants and so on. But they have a draconian isolation or cases, contact tracing,
identification tracing and massive testing.
So, there are different approaches. But we can deal with it for a few months’ time. But then, it’s likely that it’s not over until it’s over
AMANPOUR: And what does over look like? I mean, you have suggested and others have suggested that even if this peak, so-called flattens, and it
gets “under control,” it may resurface again. I mean, there’s all these outstanding questions that people want to know when you’re talking about
months of self-isolation and social distancing.
PIOT: Yes. I mean, first of all, this is a completely new virus. So, in other words, nobody in the world has been exposed to it. So, there is no
natural immunity, no memory like when we have every year the flu and all the influenza comes, many of us have some partial immunity, at least, and
we have a vaccine. Here, no.
Even in China, in Wuhan and Hubei, about 98 percent to 99 percent of people are still were not infected. And so, in other words, could get it. And so,
the current thinking is really that it will not be possible to eliminate, to wipe out this virus unless we have an effective vaccine, and that’s a
bit off. But what we can do is to limit the damage and make sure that people are not dying. And therefore, the strategy is to, what we call
flatten the curve, so that not everybody gets infected at the same time. So, that the health system services, the intensive care units are not
overwhelmed all at the same time.
AMANPOUR: Well, clearly, that is the mega, mega worry. Everybody is concerned mostly about if there’s a peak-peak, when there is a peak-peak,
that the health services will be overwhelmed. That’s why we’re hearing all these dire warnings increasingly now after sort of not so much in the first
few days and weeks.
So, you, your school and the Imperial College co-authored a very, very dire projection, that was apparently given to the White House last weekend,
given to the CDC, shared with the British government and around. And you had worst and not worst-case scenarios. But either way, they talked about
hundreds of thousands of deaths in a country the size of the U.K. and perhaps a million or more in a country the size of the United States. Can
you walk us through why that modeling makes sense?
PIOT: Yes. The policies here in the U.K. are firmly ground in scientific evidence. The problem is that there’s so many uncertainties coming to
COVID-19 because we have never been confronted with it. But therefore, modeling, mathematical modeling, is very important element of policy
decisions. And indeed, as you say, at Imperial College and then other (INAUDIBLE), we work very well together, together with some others in the
U.K., and that’s one element.
And what we’re doing is to try to see what’s the likely trajectory. And here, we are basing ourselves on, you know, what’s been going in China and
elsewhere. What’s the trajectory? What may work? What doesn’t work?
And the conclusion of the more recent modeling was that we have to intensify the efforts, otherwise, the virus will spread much faster than we
had anticipated originally. And so, there’s nothing really new in the policies. Some people said it was a U-turn in the — by the U.K.
government, that’s not totally the case. It’s really part of a continuing. You start with isolating people who — you know, who are ill and who have
the infection. You look at all the contacts, you know, and you also isolate them. And then you make sure that people wash their hands and there’s some
Now, we have what we call social distancing, which means really limiting interaction among — between people. I hope it doesn’t mean reducing
solidarity because lots of people are going to be very lonely at home and I’m thinking particularly of elderly and so on. So, we need to take care of
them as well.
But so, once you limit the, you know, intimate or short distance contact between people, the virus will be less chance of jumping from one person to
AMANPOUR: I just wanted to ask you, how does one sort of know how to evaluate all the different government moves, whether it’s shelter in place,
in places like San Francisco, whether it’s, you know, urging to social distance in places like the U.K. with no formal bans or orders to do so?
Obviously, taking care of the elderly is pretty uniform. Whether it’s, you know, trying to figure out yourself when to self-isolate. It just seems for
people to be a lot of advice, some of it not so coherent or at least different for different places.
PIOT: Yes. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are different approaches because, as I’ve said, nobody’s ever done that before. But the
modeling suggests a few things, and that’s, let’s say, the fundamentals of contagion of, you know, communicable diseases.
One, the risk for you to get infected depends on a few things. One is the number of people you are interacting with and who may be infected. And two,
how close is that, you know, contact? Secondly, also, how infectious is this — you know, this disease? And the case of COVID-19 is pretty
infectious because the virus is really concentrated in the upper respiratory tract, in your throat and so on. And so, even with speaking
closely to someone you can infect a person. And then it’s also the duration of infection, but that is much less in this case.
And so, there are, you know, this whole science of the spread of pathogens or viruses of microbes and that’s the basis, that’s very mathematical, but
that’s the basis for evaluating, it doesn’t make sense to, for example, screening for fever at airports. We know that that’s not very effective
because only, you know, 70 percent of people with COVID-19 do have fever and also many people when you’re in the incubation period now.
But on the other hand, if you avoid big crowds and you’re not interacting with people who are, you know, infected, that’s going to reduce your own
risk but therefore, also, the risk in society. And the key parameter there and number is what are the average number of people that you infect when
you have it? And in the case of COVID-19, that’s about two. And we need to make sure that’s less than one because they tend to die out.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that’s one thing we know you’re telling us, it could be two people that you infect and you trying to get that down. What else have
you learned in the last few weeks as it’s peaked and crested in Asia, as it’s hit Italy so bad, and as it’s waving across the U.K. and to the United
States? What have you learned about the mortality rate, the speed of the infection?
PIOT: Well, first of all, we have learned as usual that, you know, no time to lose. You have to act very early. And most countries have, you know,
missed some of the opportunities. But anyway, now more and more are (INAUDIBLE). And we have also learned that whether it’s the draconian
approach in China with a total lockdown or the — you know, the approach in Singapore with the, you know, more public health, without locking society,
both are working.
But also, what we have learned is very important and that is that it’s going to be everywhere. Now, it is Europe that is very heavily infected. I,
you know, bet the next wave would be in the Middle East, with — Iran is already very heavily affected, but also Africa.
And in terms of mortality, we have learned a few things. One is that, yes, elderly people or elderly, meaning over 65, and certainly over 70 and 80,
the mortality rate is much higher. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t die from COVID-19 when you’re 30 or 40, just a risk is smaller. And the
survival depends now in the first place on the quality of services. And does the country have enough intensive care unit beds, respirators, oxygen,
all the? You saw the scenes in Italy where, you know, things are intense and so on. So, that’s not something we have seen outside peacetime —
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, really, this is the central question, isn’t it? That essentially none of the governments, maybe China had it, but nobody
else seems to have, and we’ve got front line health care workers from all over from Italy, France, Spain, across the United States, here in the U.K.
just desperately practically begging for those kinds of services and equipment, and people just don’t have it. How is that going to be ramped up
in time at scale to deal with the peak when it happens?
PIOT: Yes. It’s absolutely true that we need far more protective equipment for staff, for the nurses and the doctors because they’re the front line
and they’re going to be at very high risk, and that’s not always available.
I think a lesson is also that when, you know, we had SARS and that hit very badly Hong Kong and Singapore, Taiwan, and they learned a lesson that to be
ready for the next epidemic, because there will be more like this.
But other countries have — you know, have really not invested in this public health system and, you know, whether it’s the — you know, the U.S.
particularly, there have been a slashing of funds for public health awareness. And then, the U.K. has like half the number of intensive care
unit beds from most European countries. So, that is critical.
So, we need to — in peacetime, to say so, we need to be prepared. It is not that you set up the fire brigade when the house is on fire, no. You
have to make sure there is absolute — you know, you’re prepared for this and hoping that it will never happen.
AMANPOUR: I just want to play something that you probably saw from the director-general of World Health Organization this week using another
metaphor, it wasn’t — it’s a little bit about the fire brigade. Let’s just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we
don’t know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries. Test, test, test.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, maybe they’d love to have tests but they don’t have them. And people are just desperate to know, you know, what happens if
they feel bad? What happens if the rest of — you know, if there’s no way to test and isolate?
PIOT: I totally agree with Dr. Tedros. But also, there’s a shortage. But then you have countries like South Korea, like Singapore where there’s very
liberal testing. So, there the tests are there, but they’re smaller countries.
And it is time, therefore, that — first of all, that we recognize, as a policy, that testing and knowing whether you are infected or not, you know,
is essential as part of the response. Just imagine the recommendation now is that when you cough, when you don’t feel well, you stay at home, you
self-isolate for a week or two. But you — for these two weeks, you know, most cases, most instances, it is not COVID-19. And yet, you have got all
the angst and, you know, the stress. Plus, you’re not productive economically.
If we would know within a day, OK, I don’t have it, you can go back. And if you have it, then you can — you know, take the medical measures. So,
testing is going to be really key also to know how extensive is the spread of this virus.
What I’m optimistic about, though, is that there is growing awareness of it in the U.S., some contract has been passed with big diagnostic
manufacturers and lots of companies now are developing tests that we call point of care. So, basically, ideally, that’s like a pregnancy test you can
go and buy in the pharmacy and we need that, you know, so that people can know themselves, but also, health care workers, anybody at risk, there
should be far more liberal use of testing.
AMANPOUR: We have seen that in Ireland, for instance, where the prime minister earlier on ordered a lockdown. And now, they’re testing 1,000 a
day or so in a special area. So, they’re actually taking these methods that we have seen in South Korea and in China and elsewhere.
Can I just ask you whether — you talked about like a pregnancy test, there are women who are concerned, particularly pregnant women, obviously, about
whether and how it affects them. Are they at particular risk?
PIOT: As far as we know, and it’s been looked at in particular in the Chinese context but also elsewhere, there is no specific risk for women,
for pregnant women. However, you don’t want to take that risk because having viral infection is — when you are pregnant is, in general, not a
good idea. But at the moment, in contrast to, for example, Zika, which was an epidemic a few years ago, that was, you know, in Brazil and then spread
by mosquitos and caused, you know, congenital malformations, that is not something that has been seen up to now. That’s maybe one of the few quite
pieces of good news.
AMANPOUR: Just going back to the differences between house China and Singapore reacted, again, it’s kind of counterintuitive to try to realize
that these two countries did react differently but both had success rates. Can you explain why and how, the fundamentals?
PIOT: Well, first of all, Singapore had — was fortunate to have the warning from the China. In China, you know, it probably started sometime in
December, early December, the spread of this virus. And it’s really only mid-January and then a bit later that the massive effort started.
Let’s not forget, this is totally new. Whereas in Singapore, they watched what was going on in China and they took measures from the first case they
had. And when you do that, then you have a bit of better, you know, chance of controlling it. Plus, Singapore has more resources as a public health
system. It’s a democracy but people have enormous trust in government. And you know, there can be — you can do things that may be more difficult to
do in the U.S. or in Europe.
AMANPOUR: Well, I think that’s really an extraordinarily important observation, because trust in credible government is vital in these kinds
of issues and crises. I just want to ask you, as you know, some governors in the U.S. have called for their National Guard to be deployed, they’ve
called for the Army Corps of Engineers to be deployed to do the basic infrastructure to create space for testing and isolation of the highest
risk and highest infections. France has deployed the military.
Is that a good idea as far as you are concerned? Do you think that’s what we need to do also, get up to scale, fever clinics and isolation units and
intensive care units that don’t exist right now?
PIOT: Yes. This is such a serious crisis that it requires a whole of society. And therefore, also a whole of government response. And the
military, particularly like the engineers and so, they can be very useful to set up facilities that will be needed to meet, you know, the surge in
patients, as we have seen even in Italy.
So — and, you know, it’s something that we also saw with Ebola, which is completely different. But five, six years ago, you interviewed me and I
said this is something where we need, you know, the military to intervene because they’re good in coordination, logistics. However, we will have to
also see, as a society, how long can this go on. You can’t have the — patrolling the streets forever.
So, many of these measures have been put in place. But, you know, I don’t see an exit strategy. We have to see how long is this going to last, what
are the criteria for reopening, you know, businesses, restaurants and so on. Because in the end, we’ll have to live as a society. And that’s maybe a
bit of a philosophical or theoretical conservation at the moment, but we’ll need to start that discussion. What is the — you know, the risk and
certainly, that we accept in society?
But before that, we need to make — do everything we can to bring down the risk of infection and to save all those who get serious illness, and that
means investing in health care, in these intensive care units. And hoping, when it’s all over, that we’re not going to disband that, that we get ready
for the next one.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to ask you because everybody also wants to know this. There was a thought that warmer weather would flatten this curve. But
is that the case? I mean, you are talking about this potentially going to the Middle East, which is warm, going to Africa, which is mostly warm. We
have seen Singapore, which did get a grip on it but it’s also warm. Is warm climate or temperature any barrier against COVID-19?
PIOT: We really don’t know. If we’re lucky, yes, then it could be like the flu or some of the common cold, which, as we all know, occurs more often
when it’s — the weather is a bit colder. But there are now cases, as you mentioned, in Singapore, even if it’s quite limited, there’s transmission.
You know, also in South Africa, it’s summer over there. So, we’ll see.
In Iran, I mean, even if it’s winter over there, it’s not exactly cold, in most places at least. So, we shouldn’t count on it but it could lead to a
bit of a decline but then it will come up again. So, if we’re lucky, that’s what it is, but I wouldn’t count on luck when it comes to this terrible
AMANPOUR: Dr. Peter Piot, thank you so much indeed.
PIOT: Thank you very much. A pleasure to be here.
AMANPOUR: Now in the U.S., President Trump, as we said, has invoked War Powers Act to be able to ramp up production of all sorts of things that are
vitally necessary. And there, the virus reached all 50 states and it’s killed more than 100 people. But right now, the panic threatens to drown
out reason sparking confusion and hoarding. Here’s New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Worse than the virus is the fear that we’re dealing with. And the rumors and how they spread and I’m going to be
quarantined. I’m going to be locked out. They’re not going to allow me to leave my house. I better stock up on groceries. That’s not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Indeed, authorities are saying to shoppers, just buy for a week. The crisis has effectively changed the dynamics of the presidential race
with several states postponed primaries. Joe Biden swept three key states last night. Florida, Illinois and Arizona, putting him firmly on track to
become the Democratic Party’s nominee.
Symone Sanders is a senior adviser to Vice President Biden and she’s joining me now from Washington.
Symone Sanders, welcome to the program.
SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISE, BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, you must be feeling very, very good about your candidate. Clearly, also, compared to where he was in the very first caucuses and
primaries. How do you balance that with essentially the kind of freezing of a campaign as we know it because of coronavirus?
SANDERS: Well, so, one, we are extremely pleased with the results, obviously, of last night’s — yesterday’s contests in Illinois, Arizona and
Florida. And we believe with last night, last night’s results that we have opened up, when all is said and done, we will be able to said, we’ve opened
up a delegate lead of more than 320 delegates. That is three times the lead that then Senator Obama had over then Senator Clinton in 2008. And well
over the lead that took place in 2016.
I think that the threat of COVID-19, the coronavirus, though, is real and the anxiety that folks feel. That’s why when Vice President Biden gave his
remarks last night, he did not spend the bulk of his remarks talking about the elections. Actually, if you look at his remarks, he spent the bulk of
them talking about COVID-19, talking about what it’s going to take for us as Americans to meet this moment, thanking the first responders and the
folks at the grocery stores who are coming in to work, stocking shelves, who are cleaning appliances and shelves and making it so that we can
continue to go to the grocery store, making it so that we can continue to receive our mail. And I think that’s the type of leadership, frankly, that
voters are looking for in this moment.
And so, what we have seen over the last, I would say, week or so, is that Vice President Biden has risen to this challenge. You know, we came out
last week and Vice President Biden gave a speech saying what he would do if he had to address the COVID-19 crisis himself, right, COVID-19 crisis right
now. And I’m happy to see and we are pleased that President Trump seems to be now taking this threat a little more seriously.
But the reality is there are things to do right now and we cannot let this go by the wayside. We have to be vigilant. Our hearts go out to everyone
who has lost a loved one or friend due to COVID-19 and we know we are not out of the woods here yet.
AMANPOUR: So, basically, what you are saying is that you are essentially pocketing the primaries. I mean, you are assuming to win and that you’re
going straight to the general. So, you are basically describing a candidate, the vice president, who is, you know, sort of proving that he is
ready from day one. And of course, he was there during the last administration when there were twin crises, Ebola on health and the
financial crash. Obviously, they weren’t the same at this time.
SANDERS: Yes. Absolutely not the same as this time. But the reality is, Joe Biden knows what it takes to confront a crisis, whether a financial
crisis, whether we’re talking about the crisis at the auto industry saw during the — in advance of and going into the Obama/Biden administration,
whether we’re talking about health care.
And so, now, we have — we are confronted with a global pandemic that is the coronavirus, and this is going to take leadership across party lines to
stand up and truly come together and confront this crisis and move past it. But we cannot gloss over the fact that there are real issues and that there
have been true failures when it comes to presidential leadership from the White House and President Trump.
AMANPOUR: It is said that Bernie Sanders is assessing the situation. You obviously used to work for him and you are very prominent, you have been in
the media about politics. Do you think that Bernie Sanders should pull out now?
SANDERS: Well, look, I think that that is, frankly, a personal choice for Senator Sanders and his — frankly, his campaign leadership to make. And as
you just noted, they are assessing how their campaign goes forward.
But as we have said from the beginning, Christiane, is that, you know, the Democratic nominee has to be someone that can pull together a broad
coalition, that can take a hit and keep on moving. Someone that can increase turnout and enthusiasm. And on every single front, Joe Biden fits
that description. So, while this nominating contest, I know other folks said it is over, it is not over yet, but we do believe that given last
night’s results, again, when it is all said and done, we will be in a position where we will have the plurality of delegates needed to win this
And for folks out there, you know, delegates are how Democrats have picked our nominee. It’s how it’s happened for the last — since I have been
alive. And I’m 30 years old. And it’s how it’s going to happen in the foreseeable future. When it comes to delegates, we are winning that
So Vice President Biden also put out a unity message. He talked for all Democrats to get together, including Senator Sanders’ most fervent
supporters, especially amongst the young.
Let’s just play what he just said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of the
issues. And, together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.
So let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders, I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Symone, and you know this very well, again, because you worked with Senator Sanders last time around. He does inspire.
All that stuff you’re talking about, enthusiasm, inspiration, he has the youth vote right now locked up, even after these crushing wins by Vice
We’re going to put up CNN numbers showing the big spread of youth voters in Illinois, for instance, amongst 18-to-44-year-olds, Biden 18 — sorry —
Biden 29, Sanders 66. That’s a big gap. Arizona, Biden 19, Sanders 71.
What does Vice President Biden have to do to get these important voters? And you’re only 30 years old. You’re young. What are you telling him?
SANDERS: Well, look, I think the reality is, there is — Senator Sanders, yes, during the duration of this contest, has won the youngest voters.
But I do think that there is a misconception out here that Vice President Biden wins zero young people. And it’s just not true. In the numbers that
you cited in Illinois, for example, we won every county in Illinois except for one.
So, in those counties, we won the college counties. We won University of Chicago. We won Northwestern. And I think that means that there is an
opening, that there is a want for young people, and there’s a — that there is a connection that young people do have to Vice President Biden.
Look, what we have said and what we believe and, frankly, what I believe is that young people are — have a right to be angry in this moment. They’re
upset, and they, better than anyone, know that what they truly want and what they’re truly looking for are, frankly, results.
And so it is on our campaign to actively articulate and reach out to those young supporters of Senator Sanders and other candidates who were
previously in this race, and talk to them about the results that Vice President Biden’s candidacy would provide.
We hear a lot about Donald Trump in this election. And while none of the progress that Vice President Biden has talked about can take place without
defeating Donald Trump, we have to have a bold vision and articulate that.
And we think we have done a good job of putting that bold vision together. And now it’s on us to reach out, give the olive branch that you saw Vice
President Biden give last night, and that he’s been giving repeatedly over the last couple of weeks, and let young folks know especially our campaign
is a campaign for everyone.
We cannot do this without young voters. We can’t win a general election without young people showing up to the polls. Their power is important in
this election. And we hope they see it.
But we’re going to actively go out there and talk to them and work to earn their votes.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just talk, because one of the major issues for young people and for the progressive part of the Democratic Party is health care.
Medicare for all is what Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders has been saying, the AOC wing of the party. And, my goodness, if this crisis doesn’t show
the desperate need for health care for all Americans — you just heard Professor Piot say they hope this ramping up doesn’t sort of tail off after
That’s a Bernie Sanders issue, right?
SANDERS: Well, I think health care is an issue for Democrats in this race across the board, but also, I would argue, Republicans or independents
Health care is the most important issue for Americans, period, in every single poll, in every state across this country. And so the question
becomes how we get to universal health care.
Senator Sanders and Vice President Biden agree that there should be universal health care, that everyone should have access to good health
care. The question is, how do we get there?
Now, Vice President Biden has put forth a plan that builds on the success of the Obamacare, as folks call it, the Affordable Care Act, but that adds
to it with a public option, that allows folks to be automatically enrolled if they currently qualify for something called Medicaid in this country.
But the reality is that, when you look at the current crisis that befalls us, they’re all — we can have a conversation about the health care system
down the line and what — and preventative measures that could be taken and how our system can evolve going forward.
But the reality is, we have to address what’s happening right now. And right now, it’s not a question of Medicare for all vs. a public option.
Right now, it’s a question of tests. Right now, it’s a question of, is the government meeting the needs of the American people? Is the government
being proactive enough and doing what needs to be done to stem the spread of this virus to truly mitigate it?
And on those fronts, Vice President Biden has put forth a plan.
Now, the last thing I will say about Medicare for all is, Italy has Medicare for all — well, a universal health care system, if you will, that
is similar to the system that Senator Sanders often talks about. As we all know, Italy is currently — is currently ground zero for a lot of what’s
happening as it relates to COVID-19.
They have had some of the same challenges as folks around the world. So, it’s not necessarily what kinds of health care system you have. It’s what
your government has done and what proactive measures have been put in place to address and stem the spread of the virus.
AMANPOUR: So, obviously, again you’re all in for electability. You think Biden will do better against President Trump.
But what about the idea — OK, you have had this primary under virtual lockdown. You had the first debate between the two remaining candidates
with no audience. But can this sustain itself? How do you get your message out if you can’t have rallies, if you can’t do the usual things that one
And what about even if primaries are delayed? Or do you even imagine the convention might be either canceled or delayed?
SANDERS: I mean, there are changes that are going to have to take place, as many people around the world are currently experiencing.
The threat of the coronavirus, COVID-19, has made us truly — we’re social distancing. We’re staying home. People are sheltering in place, all to do
what we need to do to protect one another.
And so we have taken precautions in our own campaign. All of us are teleworking. I have been at home for the last week or so, hopping on
conference calls. Vice President Biden is participating in virtual town halls, telephone town halls. We’re doing virtual fund-raisers for the
I know the Democratic National Committee has put out guidance to the states that have upcoming nominating contests about how they think they could best
administer their elections.
This will be an adjustment for all of us. But the reality is that, even in times of war, in times of strife, Americans have soldiered on. We have
voted in very tough times before. During the Spanish Flu, we voted. It is extremely important.
Our democracy, free and fair elections, open and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. And so we have to find a way to soldier
forward, to continue to carry this out, so democracy can roll on.
And we’re confident that we can get through this. We have the capacity to do this, as Vice President Biden always says, and we can do this. But we
have to come together in order to get it done.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to play a nice piece of video that’s really, really interesting and went viral on Super Tuesday, when the vice president was
giving his victory speech in Los Angeles, and there were some protesters who stormed the podium.
And you and Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, essentially put your bodies between the protesters and him. That was the call of duty there.
But what made, Symone Sanders, progressive Symone Sanders — as you have described yourself, as you have described yourself: “I’m a bald 29-year-old
black girl from the Midwest who does politics.”
What made you switch from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden?
SANDERS: Well, I have great respect for the movement that Senator Sanders has built, and I greatly enjoyed my time on the Sanders campaign.
If I could do it all over again, I would do it the same way I did in 2016. But the reality is that I went to work for Vice President Biden because I
believe in what he’s saying. I believe that we are, in fact, a battle — in a battle for the soul of this nation, that we’re at an inflection point,
not just in America, but in the world.
And what we do right now, the decisions that we make over the next couple months will determine life for folks 50 to 60 years from now. And I believe
that Vice President Biden is right for this moment.
I asked him when I first sat down with him, why is he running for president? And he told me that he wouldn’t be in this race if not for
Donald Trump, because Charlottesville, for many people in America, was an inflection point, and Vice President Biden as well.
He said his parents always instilled in him that the abuse of power is the most grotesque abuse, the most grotesque thing anyone can participate in.
And when you see an abuse of power, you have to stand up and address it and fight it.
And what he sees from the Trump administration, Donald Trump’s campaign, the — his Cabinet secretaries on down, is a grotesque abuse of power. And
so I am proud to be in this fight in a battle for the soul of the nation.
I’m proud to work for a candidate whose campaign is about rebuilding the middle class, and, this time, everyone comes along, but also someone who
has foreign policy experience and who, as we mentioned earlier, I think is ready on day one.
The next president of the United States will confront issues that no other president in our recent history will have to confront. And that person is
also going to have to have the foreign policy gravitas.
I think Vice President Biden is there. And I would think — and I also think that a number of voters in America think he’s there, hence why we
have garnered such a huge delegate lead.
So, this — again, this race isn’t over, but I’m proud of the decisions I have made. And we look forward to seeing Donald Trump at the ballot box in
AMANPOUR: Symone Sanders, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
Now back to Europe, where, across this continent, tens of millions of people are living under various levels of lockdown. Italy, France and Spain
are the worst affected.
In Spain, borders are now all but closed, and citizens are being told to stay inside or face a fine.
Scott McLean gained access to one of the country’s military production facilities where normal operations have been halted in order to produce the
medicines and gels needed to combat the virus.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this nondescript military base just outside Madrid, they are preparing for war.
(on camera): We have been allowed inside part of this sterile military production facility that normally makes pharmaceuticals for Spanish troops
posted abroad. But because of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s been asked, for now, to produce only two things, paracetamol, what Americans know as
Tylenol, and hand sanitizer.
(voice-over): In this area, loose capsules are put into blister packs, boxed, packaged and sent to hospitals across the country.
Colonel Antonio Juberia Sanchez (ph) is the director of the facility.
(on camera): Do you feel like you’re at war?
(voice-over): “In a war against the virus, yes. It’s everyone’s war.” He says.
Machines that once made topical creams or gels have been reformatted to produce hand sanitizer, something in the Spanish military doesn’t normally
make, but has been in short supply around the world.
“We have seen that the virus can be fought, and there are very clear recommendations that we have to follow. If we don’t follow them, the future
is uncertain,” he says.
The military does not have the capacity to produce masks or gloves. So Spain just took a shipment of half-a-million from China. It’s also told
companies with the ability to produce them that they must inform the government, and companies that have masks in stock must turn them over to
hospitals. Truckloads totaling hundreds of thousands of masks have already been seized.
The Spanish military has been posted across the country to help control the pandemic, an unusual assignment for thousands of trained soldiers used to
preparing for a more conventional war. They’re patrolling the streets, delivering beds to a homeless quarantine shelter, and doing some of the
most dangerous work, cleaning the train and bus stations still carrying thousands of Spaniards to and from their jobs.
The Spanish prime minister told an almost empty Parliament that, until there is a vaccine, “We are the vaccine,” he said, meaning everyone must do
their part to fight the virus.
It’s not the war the troops are trained to fight, but it’s one they will need to win.
Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.
AMANPOUR: So, if this virus is affecting so many people in their homes, in their businesses, in their schools and the like, imagine how it’s affecting
people with no shelter, the world’s most vulnerable, the homeless and the millions of refugees.
Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was — has criticized the lack of international coordination to tackle the coronavirus. He’s the
head, of course, at the International Rescue Committee, and he’s appealing for $30 million at least to help protect displaced families.
And he’s joining me now via Skype.
David Miliband, welcome to the program via Skype.
DAVID MILIBAND, FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Thank you very much, Christiane. Very good to be with you.
AMANPOUR: And you’re there, presumably, because you’re also self- isolating, taking all these government precautions seriously?
MILIBAND: Well, we in our family have no medical need so far.
But, as an organization, the International Rescue Committee has a very careful categorization system for our different offices. And the New York
office is now effectively shut. So, I am working away from the office.
And, obviously, this is affecting all of us in advanced industrialized countries very significantly. One’s heart goes out to those who are
afflicted by the disease, especially those at an advanced age.
However, my professional thoughts have to be with the 13,000 staff members and 25,000 auxiliary workers that the International Rescue Committee has
all around the world in about 35 to 40 war-torn countries or countries hosting refugees.
And, there, the message is simple. Yes, I’m sure it’s bad in those countries with a health system, but imagine what it’s like when there isn’t
a health system for the people that we’re trying to help.
And so we are trying to mobilize our own resources and other resources to do the basic things that are so important to keep people safe.
Fortunately, infection prevention and control is an area in which the International Rescue Committee has a lot of expertise, partly born out of
the Ebola experience. And so we’re putting that to good effect all around the world.
AMANPOUR: We’re just going to put up a map to show where the biggest concentrations of refugees are right now, the most vulnerable.
And, essentially, we have got Syria, where there’s some 6.7 million refugees, Afghanistan 2.7 million, South Sudan 2.3 million, Myanmar 1.1
million, and Somalia 0.9 million refugees. This is a lot. That’s a total of about 14, people in camps, essentially.
Have you any evidence, any data suggesting that any of these people have been affected? I mean, can you even measure what’s going on there?
MILIBAND: Well, yes, we can measure, and we can follow. The great gift for those countries you mentioned is time. They haven’t yet been stricken by
the virus in the kind of way that you have been describing in some European countries and is happening in American cities.
And our message is very simple. We have got to use that gift of time to good effect. We have got to use it to take the preemptive measures that are
necessary, the handwashing that we’re doing in all of our sites in Afghanistan, the work in Northeast Syria that we are doing with medical
staff to protect medical staff, the work in Colombia that we’re doing to tackle disinformation, the work in Thailand as well to triage potential
patients and make sure that temperatures are taken and that people are put somewhere safe if they are showing fever or other signs of the disease.
What we know is, the numbers are still very small in the places that you mentioned. But it’s a matter of when, not if, it reaches those places. We
saw yesterday that Lebanon recorded 99 cases, for example. The Democratic Republic of Congo had its first cases last week.
And I was on the phone today to a staff member in one of the countries that you mentioned, South Sudan. And there, preventative measures are being
started. And that’s all to the good, because, when this disease hits these countries, it’s going to hit them very hard, indeed.
AMANPOUR: So, earlier in the show, Dr. Piot, who’s the co-discoverer of Ebola and is on the front lines of this current crisis, said indeed what
you’re saying. He basically said it will hit the Middle East, it will hit Africa, and they’re waiting with bated breath for that.
But, also, there’s the leadership question. Today, finally, Boris Johnson talked about — well, he said, the prime minister here, that schools would
be closed by the end of the week.
Angela Merkel, who they have also taken very strong precautions there, this is what she has said about what it’s going to take to combat this. We will
just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): This is serious. Take it seriously, too.
Since German unification — no, since the Second World War, there has not been a challenge to our country that has relied so much on our joint action
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, this is what more and more leaders are saying, that we have to work together.
Have you noticed a shift over the last week? I mean, you were a former foreign secretary. You have been involved in major crises that require
global coordinated leadership. How do you assess world leaders’ response right now?
MILIBAND: Well, I’m sorry to report that the contrast with the last major crisis, the 2008-’09 financial crisis, is rather stark.
At the moment, we are seeing leaders, some of them belatedly, coming to terms with the fact that this is serious. I think that the clip you played
from Mrs. Merkel, Chancellor Merkel, was from two weeks ago. And to be fair to her, she was on this before some others.
But I think that, although national action is now being taken, we’re not seeing much international action. To the extent that there is international
action, it’s about closing borders.
And I think that is worrying, because, both on the health side in terms of the kind of coordination that’s necessary for the production of the
requisite materials, but also on the economic and social side, international rallying and coordination is necessary, if not essential.
And I would say that the current scorecard for international cooperation is not a very encouraging one. Remember, the G20, the group of 20 leading
industrialized countries, which includes China, as well as the U.S., includes countries in the Middle East, as well as France and Germany, it
includes countries in South America — it’s representation from every continent — it has — is due to meet in November.
But it was created in 2008-’09 out of the financial crisis. We’re not seeing that degree of coordination. And that’s obviously worrying, because
this is evidently a disease that is no respecter of borders.
I think there’s one other thing to say, which is that, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst is an important maxim if you’re leading any
organization. And, obviously, in the future, there will be hard questions asked about what happened in January, February, early March, before
countries really woke up to the severity of what had happened in Asia and elsewhere.
MILIBAND: But, for now, I think there are very important questions about how politicians use the science that should be available to them in much
greater quantities than to anyone else.
AMANPOUR: Just to be fair, that was Angela Merkel today.
But you’re right, she has been out on front…
MILIBAND: Oh, I beg your pardon.
AMANPOUR: No, it’s OK.
She’s been ahead of this for weeks. That was a new address to the nation.
But you — we have seen, extraordinarily, the West lacking in supplies, while China is busy helping countries like Italy and others and even
private individuals, not just the government, with millions of masks and respirators, ventilators.
What does that say about China’s role as a world leader, when it’s usually a role that the United States used to inhabit?
MILIBAND: Well, I think it says more about the West than it does about the Chinese, but it does speak to the confidence of China’s leaders.
Obviously, there are very significant questions to be asked at the end of this about what happened in Wuhan at the beginning of the outbreak and
about the denialism that was undoubtedly reported and seems to have been a very significant factor in the spread of the disease.
But that should have been a warning to everyone else. Open societies need to use their openness to the benefit of effective decision-making. And
you’re right to point a shift in the global balance of power. The U.S. is in no position to be giving out masks or respirators or ventilators to
anyone else at the moment, because it hasn’t got enough for its own population.
Now, I think that shift in the balance of power is now baked in. But that doesn’t mean that nativism and nationalism need to be the order of the day.
In fact, the lesson of this crisis is that you need more global cooperation, not less.
So, I don’t think the right reaction is to (AUDIO GAP) what the Chinese are doing. I think it’s to engage, in the most effective way possible, at a
And I would say that with a special regard to the most vulnerable parts of the world that aren’t going to be able to summon their own resources. If
you think about the South Sudans of this world, consumed by civil war, if you think about Northeast Nigeria, if you think about the Syrian refugees
or the Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh, there isn’t going to be sufficient within those countries to support them.
And they’re going to need international help. And so the international coordination needs to be from the strong to the weak, not just between the
AMANPOUR: And in our final one minute, do you think, given what you have just said, that this crisis, which is a mega, unprecedented, altogether
crisis of health and the economy, et cetera, will actually provide a platform for that kind of coordinated joint leadership, to get back to that
kind of thing that we need?
MILIBAND: Well, I don’t think there’s any going back.
But I think that this should be a wakeup call that a world of what the author Yuval Harari calls a “network of fortresses” — quote, unquote —
that is no future at all. And so this wakeup call should be a call for more international coordination.
Of course, the forces of zero sum nationalism will be on the march, but they need to be countered with the facts and the evidence that that zero
sum game is actually a lose-lose, and we have all got to do better.
AMANPOUR: David Miliband, former foreign secretary and the head of the International Rescue Committee, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
And, finally, these terrible crises do seem to bring out the best in most people, with many self-isolating. Our favorite pop stars who are also stuck
at home have taken to social media to serenade us. From Chris Martin to John Legend, they’re all joining in the hashtag #togetherathome, calling on
people to stop panicking and request their favorite hits instead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Free at-home concerts.
And the celebrated American cellist Yo-Yo Ma dedicated Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 to health workers on the front line all over the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Something uplifting ends our program tonight. You can follow me and the show on Twitter. Thank you for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS.