March 19, 2020

George Osborne, former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, explains the state of affairs in London amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. David Ho tells Walter Isaacson about his work to develop a treatment for the virus. Richard Ratcliffe discusses his wife’s temporary release from an Iranian prison. Actor Brian Cox discusses the impact of the pandemic on theatre and the arts.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company” live from London. Here’s what’s coming up.

As scientists’ race for a coronavirus cure, the impact of the pandemic is felt everywhere. George Osborne, Britain’s former finance minister tells me

how governors can balance public health and financial survival.

Plus, the British Iranian, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is temporarily out of prison, part of a move to slow the vicious spread of coronavirus deaths

inside Iran. I’ll speak to her husband, Richard Radcliffe.

Then, theaters, museums, and cinemas all shut down as social distancing takes hold. Actor, Brian Cox, weighs the intense pressure on the arts and

the artist.

As for that search for a cure, Dr. David Ho invented the cocktail therapy for aids.


DR. DAVID HO, DIRECTOR, AARON DIAMOND AIDS RESEARCH CENTER: Without the tests, basically, the health care system is operating blind.


AMANPOUR: He talks treatment and testing with our Walter Isaacson. And finally, we’ll have something uplifting.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.

As coronavirus spreads, the World Health Organization says Europe, the epicenter, has a critical shortage of vital things, like protective masks,

gloves and gowns. Indeed, the death toll in Italy has now surpassed China’s reported total, more than 3,400 people have died in Italy, and that is more

than the worldwide number of people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

And policy makers are faced with an impossible choice. The very measures taken to keep people safe, staying home from work, stopping all travel,

avoiding shops, restaurants and theaters are in themselves causing the economy to grind to a halt. And that means people, ordinary workers’

livelihoods are at risk. So, employment, unemployment will soar and markets from America to Hong Kong continue to plunge. And here in Britain, there’s

talk of an economic armageddon amid fears of a deep recession.

Meanwhile, rumors and speculation and panic. Will the subway close? Will London be on full lockdown? And even more — and add even more anxiety to

an already-stressful situation. So, in the face of this dual crisis of public health and economic strangulation, how do governments keep workers

and businesses from falling off a cliff?

George Osborne was Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer in the aftermath of the last global financial crisis and he’s now editor of the evening

standard newspaper here.

George Osborne, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Can I just first ask you, as a former government leader, what you make of some of the panic that we alluded to, of questions that are not

clear? Will there be total lockdown? Will the transport system grind to a halt? What do you know from your journalists or even if your friends in the

conservative party government?

OSBORNE: Well, the first thing I know is that every government in the world, including the British government, is wrestling with a situation for

which they had very little forewarning and very few plans. And so, you know, they are learning about the disease, as we are all learning about the

disease, and they are struggling with both and health and the economic impact that it is having.

I think what you need to see, and you’ve seen this, you know, from the British government, but perhaps we need to see more of it, is clarity about

what we know and what we don’t know. You know, be straight with people and set out the steps that might be necessary in the future, even if you’re not

prepared to take them now. Otherwise, you get confused messaging. You say one day, we’re definitely not going to close schools and then a week later,

you do close schools.

So, you know, I think there’s a lot of public understanding that it’s a very difficult situation. And, you know, I think what government needs to

do when it comes to cities like London and indeed other communities around the world is set out the steps that they would take as the disease


AMANPOUR: So, do you think that this city will be on lockdown? I mean, it is one of the financial centers in the world, obviously.

OSBORNE: Yes. And London is, of course, one of the largest cities in the world. Well, I think — the short answer is, I don’t think that London will

be locked down in quite the same way that Paris is or Milan is at the moment. That’s certainly what the governments have themselves here said

today. You know, the subway system remains open, although some of the subway stations are closing. Some businesses remain open, although many

have shut, not least for lack of customers. The schools have now closed. But I don’t think you’ll get the absolutely movement restriction

restrictions, unless the situation here gets very much worse, which it might well do.

And I think that’s a good example of where the government should say, look, we’re not locking down the city, but we would contemplate that, we would do

that were the situation to get very much worse. And then I think you would have more understanding, you would have less of this kind of rumor mill,

which is perfectly understandable. I live here, I have children. And all of us are going through the same thoughts of, what are we going to do in the

future, where do we want our families to be, and so on.

And again, you know, in a clarity and leadership, even in an uncertain situation, is what is the best anecdote to the speculation and panic that

can develop in a population.

AMANPOUR: So, part of these questions is because it clearly hurts people that are employees and employers. I mean, they are really suffering right

now and nobody knows where this stone is going to stop dropping.

So, what do you make of the question that we posed, how would you, how should governments balance the imperative for public health and safety and

saving lives and to stop people’s livelihoods, you know, disappearing, to stop falling off a financial cliff or is it just not possible?

OSBORNE: Well, I think you, in your introduction, explained the dilemma, which is, you know, the — to deal with a health crisis, you want people

not to congregate and economies rely on people congregating, going to shops and restaurants, working together in businesses. And that’s the dilemma.

Now, in previous centuries where there have been plagues and epidemics, frankly, societies weren’t rich enough to allow people not to work. If you

didn’t work, your family starved. And so, people went to work even if they were sick with the plague or sick with cholera or whatever it was. These

days, particularly in the West, societies are rich enough to pay for that social distancing, if you like.

And governments need to step in with their very large balance sheets, with their credibility, and essentially support the business community, support

the banking system, and above all, support employees, so that they feel comfortable staying at home. There’s a kind of paradox here. If you don’t

help people economically, then people will start working when they’re sick because they want to provide for their family and you’ll undermine the very

measures you’re taking to try to curb the virus.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then, are they taking enough measures to do precisely that, to help people stay at home? Let me just read you the

stats. The U.K. government, where we a now, giving businesses 320 billion pounds in loans, 20 billion pounds in other aid. We know the pound sterling

is at a record low, not since the ’80s. The Bank of England has cut rates to nearly zero now.

But we’ve heard your predecessor, for instance, as chancellor and prime minister, Gordon Brown, who was right in the center of the hurricane of the

financial crisis saying, that is still not enough. You have got to stop redundancies. You’ve got to stop companies right now laying workers off.

You’ve got to put money in people’s pockets now. Do these figures guest that that’s going to happen?

OSBORNE: Well, this hasn’t always been the case in my career, not at least when I shadowed Gordon. But I agree with what he is saying at the moment. I

think, you know, the government and the very impressive new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, have set out a lot of measures here to support

businesses, to give tax holidays, above all, to provide credit into the banking system. And there are big questions which he will have to answer

and the government will have to answer about the delivery of those things over the coming weeks.

I think the missing piece of the jigsaw is the employment piece. You know, what are you going to do to ensure that companies continue to retain their

workforces, potentially for several months when there’s no income coming into those businesses? And the government says and Boris Johnson, the prime

minister here, says, we’re going to set that out very shortly. I think they’re planning to set that out tomorrow. So, we are looking in


You know, I would say the government has, you know, at times, had to be nudged into things, but has responded with — you know, to use the

proverbial term, the big bazookas. And I’m expecting a big bazooka, if you like, on unemployment. Of course, other European countries have already

done that. Denmark, for example, has and is a model that many are looking at. I also suspect that in the United States, we’re on the verge of seeing

an absolutely enormous stimulus passage coming in.

Now, all of this is kind of first aid during the crisis. Of course, you know, that’s on everyone’s mind at the moment. The question then is going

to be the recovery. And that will be something we’ll turn to in a few months’ time.

AMANPOUR: OK. I’m going to ask you about the —

OSBORNE: All eyes on the first aid at the moment.

AMANPOUR: Right. And I want to talk to you about the first aid and then about the recovery because both the U.S. and British governments have said

quite optimistic and rosy things about the recovery.

But here is the Resolution Foundation think tank. Around 5 million U.K. workers are vulnerable to being laid off unless the government goes

further. As we’ve just discussed, you say the government needs to go further. The former business secretary, conservative party, warned that the

$330 billion package — pound package, would not prevent firms from firing staff. This is what the president of the Minneapolis fed, Neel Kashkari

told me earlier this week, about this issue.


NEEL KASHKARI, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF MINNEAPOLIS: It took a decade or more for the labor market in the United States of America to

recover from where it was before the financial crisis. A decade or more of job growth, to bring all of these workers back in. The longer somebody is

unemployed, the longer it takes to find them and bring them and reattach them to the labor force.

And so, it is much, much better to keep people employed, if it is at all possible, than to let them go through the unemployment cycle and then try

to bring them back in later. That could take years.


AMANPOUR: And presumably, you agree with that?

OSBORNE: Yes, I very much do so. And actually, the U.K. experience after the financial crash was that we mentioned to maintain high unemployment.

And that is absolutely critical for exactly the reasons that are being explained, not least the human cost, but also the long-term problems and of

people being out of the workforce.

And as I said in a health crisis, where you don’t want people going to work. If they fear they’re going to lose their job, they will stay at work

and potentially infect people. So, I think you are going to see here in the U.K., as you have seen in other countries, direct financial support for

people’s salaries, essentially paying companies to keep people on. That’s not the same as the other support you need to give companies to their

balance sheets, to make sure that the banks keep lending to them. This will be a different form of assistance.

I think the only observation I would make is it will be tempting inside any government to come up with some perfect scheme that, you know, tries to get

the money exactly to the right employees and so on. You don’t have the time in this crisis to develop the perfect scheme, even if one ever could be

devised. And I think you’re going to have to use quite a sort of broad- brush approach and use existing systems. After all, certainly in European economies and in the U.K., we have long-established welfare systems which

exist to step in and provide that support, and indeed, we have tax offices, which are normally collecting money from employers, who are able to handle

money out.

And so, I would — you know, if I was in number 11 Downing Street or — right now, I would be looking for existing mechanisms we have and people

who come to me with clever new plans, clever new bureaucracies to create, I would say, another time, because the crisis is so urgent, you know, if we

were doing this show a month ago, we would not have been having this conversation. And that is how quickly things have developed.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And indeed, number 11, of course, the chancellor’s seat in Downing Street. But let’s just face it, the main unemployment benefits are

no higher in real terms today than they were in the 1970s, equal about 74 pounds a week. So, that’s not very much for people.

But I want to ask you as well because this is where there’s a lot of criticism of you and your government, when you came in in 2010, and enacted

very, very draconian cuts to the public health care system. The public service cuts. They were the largest in post-war history.

And, you know, here we are talking about doctors panicking, the lack of resources, staff, equipment, as we’ve said. How concerned are you? Let me

just read, NHS doctors who we have spoken to, let me put this soundbite from Dr. Adasara in London.


DR. SONIA ADESARA, U.K. NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE PHYSICIAN: Our health care service for the past decade has been underfunded. Prior to this, our health

care service was — we did have quite severe shortages across the health care service, and many of us front line staff have been making a lot of

noise over the past few years that we do not have enough hospital beds compared to countries in Europe. And intensive care beds is one of the

areas where we do have one of the least number of beds per person compared to other European countries.


AMANPOUR: And, George Osborne, again, another NHS doctor quoted in “The New York Times” saying that the NHS is creaking at the seams after years of

underfunding, a decade of cuts by successive conservative governments has stripped the service of resources, staff. Moral is low. Retention is poor,

et cetera, et cetera.

You know, 2020 is hindsight. But going forward, would a chancellor such as you or governments of any stripe or color have to rethink what you do with

public services? Because, you know, these cuts matter when we’re faced with an emergency, as we can see from the United States to here to around the


OSBORNE: Well, you know, I have a very simple answer to that, which is, if after the financial crash, when I became the chancellor in 2010, we had not

repaired the public finances, if we had not tried to fix the roof as the sun began to shine after that crisis, we would be in an absolutely

catastrophic situation today.

You know, if we were going into this crisis with the kind of budget deficit, I faced of 10 to 11 percent of GDP, if we hadn’t been on —

getting on top of public debt, you know, we would now be facing a full- blown fiscal crisis. And unfortunately, some of the countries that did not take the measures that we took find themselves with that additional crisis

as well as the jobs crisis as well as the health crisis.

So, you know, we did put the public finances and the economy into a position where there were a record number of people at work, the money was

coming into the Exchequer and we were able to support our health care precisely because you don’t know what lies ahead, has installed for you.

And so, we did fix the roof when the sun was shining.

And I, you know, would say, and it’s very early to talk about this, but when this whole crisis is over, the governments emerging from it are going

to have very high levels of public debt, very high budget deficits. And the whole world, it wasn’t just the U.K. who, of course, went through this, are

going to have to face a long-term repair job of getting those things back into balance. So, we’re ready for whatever next crisis is. We didn’t

predict the global financial crisis. We didn’t predict this COVID-19 crisis. Who knows what the next crisis is going to be?

All I know is you need to be well prepared to deal with it. That’s what the U.K. did over the past 10 years, which is as — actually why I think the

NHS is probably the public health care system of any large advanced economy that is best placed to cope with the unfolding catastrophe as a result of

this virus.

AMANPOUR: Except the World Bank says that we have, here in the U.K., less beds per capita than, for instance, in Italy.

OSBORNE: Well, I don’t think — you know, and with the greatest respect to, you know, Italy, I’m not sure Italy is being held up at the moment as a

model of how to handle this crisis. You know, I think you would be better to look at places like South Korea and Singapore. You know, these are

democracies. You know, they’re not — their kind of — you know, they’re not the sort of Chinese model of running a society. They’re models of

society we can relate to.

I think they have set the benchmark. I think any western government — we haven’t, by the way, talked about the — you know, the potential disaster

in the developing world, but in the developed government, will look to South Korea, look to Singapore. They will be judged by their own

populations against the performance of those countries. And we will be asking questions in Britain, America and elsewhere, why are death rates

higher than those two countries, if, you know, we don’t handle the crisis well?

And yes, there are, of course, key issues of oxygen, key issues of ventilators. There’s also key issues of technology. And I think smart use

of technology as those two governments have pioneered in contact tracing, in reassuring the people know they may have come in contact with the virus

so they can self-isolate have been really revolutionary. And that to me is the big lesson we need to be absorbing right now here in the U.K. and

indeed around the world.

AMANPOUR: OK. We’ll get back to you for some of those really important questions after the back of this crisis hopefully has broken.

George Osborne, former chancellor, thank you so much for joining us.

And we move now to the United States, where the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge with more than 10,000 Americans currently affected.

President Trump, yet again, today called this a Chinese virus, ignoring criticism of his language. And standing alongside FDA officials, he went on

to say that a drug used to treat malaria has been approved to test as a treatment for coronavirus.

Dr. David Ho is a world-renowned doctor and researcher on the front lines of the crisis. He invented the aids cocktail in the 1990s, a drug strategy

recognized as a turning point in the fight against HIV/aids. And now, he’s racing to battle COVID-19, leading four teams working to find a treatment.

And he speaks to our Walter Isaacson about it via video communication tool, Zoom.

WALTER ISAACSON: Dr. David Ho, it’s good to be with you. And thanks for joining the show.

DR. DAVID HO, DIRECTOR, AARON DIAMOND AIDS RESEARCH CENTER: It’s my real pleasure. Good to see you again.

ISAACSON: How big of a problem was it not to have tests?

HO: It’s huge. Without the tests, basically, the health care system is operating blind. Not knowing the magnitude of the epidemic, and it’s

inexcusable. We watched China struggle for a good six weeks, never realizing — fully realizing that this is going to hit us next. And we’re

playing catch-up.

And although it’s picking up now, our hospital here in New York could now run a thousand samples a day. A few days ago, it was only 50. And that’s —

ISAACSON: What type of tests are those? And should we be having anybody test, not these tests that take overnight to get a result?

HO: Yes, we need also to test. So, the tests that folks are getting now are called PCR tests, and that’s done on swabs from the nose or the mouth.

And we’re looking for the viral RNA. And that’s very useful and that’s what’s been applied.

But traditionally, for fighting infectious diseases, we also get antibody tests. And antibody tests will tell you whether a person has been exposed

to the virus and the body has mounted an immunoresponse. And that’s extremely useful, and particularly for surveying a population and that’s

what we’re rushing to do, in fact, to see if we could get such tests out to huge numbers and truly understand the penetrance of this virus into the


ISAACSON: Why don’t we have an antibody or antigen test out there?

HO: It’s an aspect that’s inexcusable. The tests are available in China, in Korea, in Europe, and we’re just in the process of rolling them out and

the manufacturers are all from abroad. And so, we’re trying to get this out as quickly as we can, this coming week.

ISAACSON: So, when will those tests be out, where I can just go to a drugstore and say, give me a strip or go to a doctor and have it done in

half an hour?

HO: Well, we’re pushing the FDA to see if they would relax their rules, so such useful tests could be applied to a much larger population.

ISAACSON: When you say you’re pushing the FDA, why is the FDA slowing this down?

HO: Well, it — you know, obviously, they’re trying to do their job. They want to make sure the tests are not going to give false results, and that

would lead to mismanagement and poor control of the epidemic. So, they are trying to do their job. But on the other hand, the delay is also causing

significant harm, because we’re largely blind to what’s going on out there in the community.

ISAACSON: Do you have — at Columbia Medical School where your lab is, do you have antibody test that you could be doing?

HO: Yes. So, we have access point of cure diagnostic tests from several sources in China, in Korea and other places, and we are waiting for the go

ahead. And now, we’re just running on a small scale in the laboratory to do what FDA considers validation.

ISAACSON: And you say you’re waiting for the go ahead. Let me press you once again. Do you think the FDA and other authorities to give you that go

ahead now, today?

HO: You know, we push every button that we can. Our connections have taken us all the way to the White House to see if we could relax the rules and

proceed. It’s pretty clear that the attitude is, we’ll let you do it as soon as possible. And so, it’s coming along. It’s quite different from a

week ago. But we still don’t have the final go ahead yet.

ISAACSON: Are there anything holding up the manufacturer of these tests, like a pharmaceutical company who is willing to just turn this out once

they’re available?

HO: I know the numbers from one particular source, and I was told that they have the capacity to crank out a million tests a day.

ISAACSON: Wow. What did you think when Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, a Chinese billionare, Jack Ma, started donating 500,000 tests to the United


HO: My first reaction is how embarrassing for the U.S., for us, to be in this situation. We are a rich nation with a proud history and we pride

ourselves as having the best health care system. And now, we are short of tests and short of masks, we’re short of protective equipment for our

health care workers. What a tragedy. We should not have been in this position. We should have been well prepared. And this is no doubt a failure

in leadership and preparedness.

ISAACSON: And that failure in leadership, was that a lot the CDC and that the Washington, D.C. administration level?

HO: I think I would have to put this on the top of our government. On the other hand, at the local level, I have admired various institutions,

universities, schools, public schools, businesses and other institutions struggle and fight this epidemic in a most proactive way, and I’m really

grateful and impressed.

ISAACSON: Let’s move for a moment from testing to treatment. When I was at “Time” magazine, as I hope you’ll remember, we made you man of the year for

having come up with a combination treatment for HIV/aids. What do you think of the most promising treatment for people already have the disease that

are going to be coming along for the coronavirus and COVID-19?

HO: Well, how can I forget what “Time” magazine did in 1996. But in terms of your question, in the short-term, we have only drugs that are currently

available, that perhaps could be repurposed to treat this coronavirus. And so, we have one in hand, for example, it’s called renvisamir (ph) and it

was initially developed to treat Ebola and it’s now being repurposed, particularly in China, to conduct clinical trials to see if it has any

efficacy against this virus. The results are not out yet, but at least based on animal studies, that drug showed some promise. There are other —

ISAACSON: Do you have any hint of how well it’s working in China?

HO: We don’t at the moment because it’s a blinded study with placebo control and they’re enrolling hundreds and hundreds of patients into that

study. But we don’t have any readout at this point. There is —

ISAACSON: Do you think we could be manufacturing more of that drug and getting it out to hospitals?

HO: Some of it is available on a compassionate basis. For example, the first patient we have here at Columbia, we were able to get it within 48


ISAACSON: So, you’re treating patients at Columbia with this. Are you thinking it might help?

HO: Well, we would only use it in severe cases and hoping that it would help. But we certainly don’t know at this point whether it helps or not.

ISAACSON: What did we learn from SARS that we should be applying now?

HO: We learned that SARS could spread very quickly, as we’re witnessing now for this virus. On the other hand, we also learned from SARS that if

you apply the infection control measures that are now widespread, you could really flatten the curve and bring the epidemic down, and, in fact, in

SARS, you could wipe it out.

But, you know, given the magnitude of the current pandemic, I’m not sure that we could wipe this one out, but we could at least try to control it

following the same measures. I think there is a lesson that we missed from SARS. SARS told us that the coronavirus could jump species into humans and

cause a new outbreak, and we kind of dropped — after SARS went away, we just dropped it and did not pursue research on coronaviruses as much.

And if we had done so, we would be much more prepared today to cope with the current epidemic. So, we should not make that mistake again. I think

even if we are able to wipe out this epidemic, we must persist with our research effort.

ISAACSON: Do you think that China is now over the hump and do you think people are developing immunity to it (INAUDIBLE) in China?

HO: China is not over the hump. China has done an amazingly impressive job of bringing the epidemic under control. It flattened the curve, now in a

country of 1.2 billion, they have around 20 cases a day compared to thousands and thousands elsewhere.

And that’s pretty impressive.

But, now, China still has some segment of its population carrying the virus, shedding the virus, not totally recovered. And also it’s now

surrounded by — quote — “sick neighbors.”

And if it should relax the draconian measures, surely, the virus will reemerge. And so the question is, what could China do to mitigate the

spread of this virus in a sustainable way?

What they have done is impressive, it’s outstanding. However, what’s its next move? And I think we’re all waiting to see that.

WALTER ISAACSON: Do you think there could be new waves of this virus in China and new waves in the United States, if

and when the United States gets it under control?

HO: Yes, I think there will be new waves hitting China. And if we manage to flatten the curve, we need to figure out an effective, a sustainable

strategy to mitigate further spread.

We could flatten it, but if we are applying practices that are not sustainable, we will simply delay the reoccurrence of the virus spreading

in our population.

ISAACSON: What would be a sustainable strategy to keep it from recurring?

HO: I think that’s a question that society as a whole needs to answer.

You know, at some point, schools have to reopen, businesses as well. And various form of sports, travel, live entertainment, all of those things

must come back for us to have some semblance of normalcy.

And so, we as a society would need to make those decisions, while trying to keep the spread of this virus to a minimum.

ISAACSON: Are you worried about coronavirus hitting countries like India and other large countries that don’t have great public health systems, and

will that keep this plague going?

HO: Yes, I’m extremely worried.

What we’re seeing now is the first wave in China coming to a low level, and then the second wave hitting Koreas, Italy, Iran, and then third wave

hitting the rest of Western Europe and U.S. And then U.S., we have initial waves on the coast, but now, in the coming days, another big wave hitting

Middle America.

And this is going to continue to spread across the globe. And at this point, India, South America, Africa are relatively spared, but they should

— they are not immune to this. And those waves will simply hit them days or weeks later.

And given the density of the human population in India, that’s a huge concern. And, as you mentioned, the health care system in some of these

places are not ideal for combating an epidemic of this sort.

So, you know, I don’t know what’s coming up there, but I am very concerned.

ISAACSON: Looking back, does this fight have any comparison to your fight against HIV/AIDS?

HO: Well, there are certainly some similarities and some differences.

We’re looking at an acute disease that’s gone viral. And HIV is a chronic disease. It progresses very, very slowly in an infected person. This one is

just the opposite.

But the striking similarity is, is, by the time we detect the first case of HIV infection in 1981, the virus had already spread extensively throughout

the U.S. and throughout the world, largely at that time in a homosexual male population.
So, the initial cases were just the tip of an iceberg. And now, just thinking back, it was only about two weeks ago we saw the first case in New

York City, and now we are confronted with a huge epidemic.

And, again, that initial case was just the tip of an iceberg. We are now seeing about 25 percent of the swabs in tertiary kits — you know, nasal,

oral swabs being positive for the coronavirus in our community.

And if you go out to the suburban areas, it’s 5 to 10 percent. That’s a huge amount of the infection. So whatever official numbers we see, it’s

only showing us the tip of a massive iceberg.

ISAACSON: And, finally, how do you think this ends, and when do you think it ends, both in the United States and maybe around the world?

HO: Well, I don’t have a firm answer for that question.

Here are my thoughts. I think it’s not likely we’re going to wipe this out by the summertime, as we did for SARS 17 years ago. This virus has already

gained such a strong foothold in the human population, including those that reside in the Southern Hemisphere.

So, we’re already seeing a lot of cases in Australia, in Argentina, in South Africa. So as this weather becomes warmer in the Northern Hemisphere,

it’s going to get cooler in the Southern Hemisphere. And the situation might be just like what we faced with influenza, it’s seasonal, and it

jumps back and forth between Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

And if that is the case, then it could be that coronavirus would become a fact of life, and we would have to confront this until a solution is

delivered through scientific research.

ISAACSON: Dr. David Ho, thank you very much for being with us tonight.

HO: Thank you. And it’s been a pleasure.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Just the tip of the iceberg.

And we turn now to Iran, where this epidemic is ravaging the country. Every 10 minutes, an Iranian dies of the virus, according to the government. And

every hour, at least 50 Iranians are infected. More than 1,000 are dead there already.

Tomorrow is Nowruz, the Persian new year, and in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, at least in prisons, the supreme leader, Ayatollah

Khamenei, will pardon 10,000 prisoners.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen, is now on a temporary two-week release from prison. And her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, is

joining me now.

Richard Ratcliffe, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: I mean, you must be thrilled that, after four years in prison, almost, Nazanin is out for at least two weeks. She has an ankle bracelet,

but, nonetheless, she’s out.

Just tell me, what is her state of mind? Do you think she will be one of those pardoned?

RATCLIFFE: You’re actually right. It’s lovely to be going around doing news and be positive for once.

She came out of prison two days ago and, yes, was euphoric. It’s been lovely speaking to her a number of times on Skype and just seeing that big

smile on her face and seeing her talk to Gabriella again. And Gabriella is our daughter, who is 5.

And just lovely to have her out. And, in truth, I was probably a bit skeptical before it happened, because it had been talked about for a while

and didn’t happen, and a bit skeptical it’s temporary releases. It’s lovely walking out of prison, but it’s horrible to walk back in.

And, certainly, she’s had that once before, and it was an awful experience. But, actually, she was saying that: You don’t understand what a terrible

place it is and I’m just so happy to be out.

So, yes, we’re enjoying the moment. As you said in your intro, it is Iranian new year tonight, tomorrow. So, we will — Gabriella, our daughter,

is busy painting eggs with her mom on Skype to celebrate.

So we’re enjoying the moment in what’s been a tough few years for us.

In terms of what happens next, I think it’s — I mean, goodness knows. What has happened, you’re absolutely right, this coronavirus has devastated Iran

in lots of way, and has run through the prison population.

And, certainly, we think Nazanin has probably had it, since she got very ill a few weeks back, and they wouldn’t test her. And, certainly, I think

the way that the authorities have managed that is, they have released a number of people on temporary release.

There’s been about 85,000 announced. Can’t verify that. I mean, a lot of people have gone from Nazanin’s ward. And more than a third of them were


And the supreme leader did announced that would be pardoning 10,000 of those who have been released. And 10,000 is quite a lot. So, it feels like

we have got a ticket in that lottery, and we’re hoping that something happens.

But part of my job is not to get too hopeful, just in case we have to keep on campaigning.


Richard, did she — just remind me, did she get tested at all, even now that she’s out? Is it possible to test after the fact?


AMANPOUR: You said that — no, she hasn’t done.

But she’s better, right? Her health is better?

RATCLIFFE: So, her health is much better. She was ill for about two weeks. She had all the symptoms, clearly felt terrible, but clearly didn’t have to

go to hospital.

They didn’t test her. I think they didn’t test her because they didn’t have any testing kids. They also clearly were under orders to test no prisoners.

As far as I know, no one has been tested.

And can she be tested now? Well, as you said in her intro, she’s got an ankle tag, which means she can’t go more than 300 meters from her parents’

home. That takes her as far as — it would only take her to the local park or to the local shops.

But, yes, I mean, there are tests that are coming online, where you can test to see if you had it and if you have now…



RATCLIFFE: It would make sense for her do that at some point.

AMANPOUR: So you mentioned there they don’t even have tests. They have said now that there’s at least 18,000 cases in Iran. We told you those

awful statistics from the Health Ministry of, every 10 minutes, an Iranian dying of this.

There is also a big worry that, because of sanctions, their already fragile and, obviously, sort of incapable health system is much, much more

vulnerable and just cannot manage at all.

Are you aware — because we have heard talk that perhaps Britain is trying to get America to release some of the sanctions, at least in the vital area

of humanitarian relief and medical supplies, to help. Obviously, they’re not sanctioned, but no companies will deal with Iran, for fear of the

United States.

Do you think that’s happening?

RATCLIFFE: I certainly think that’s a clear message coming out from the Iranian authorities.

And it’s a message that we have discussed with the British government. And, in reality, we are in the middle of a crisis. And this is a huge crisis for

the Iranian health system, for the Iranian government.

And, of course, they’re a population that has been struggling for different things for a long time, but also has a lot of veterans from the Iran-Iraq

War that have real health problems.

And this is a moment where actually politics gets put on one side, and you do need to look at how you, as a government, you keep your people safe.

So, certainly, a conversation I have been in with the British government is that they need to do what they can to offer humanitarian support. There’s

clearly been signals to that end, and clearly been conversations between the British government and the Iranian government.

There’s clearly been conversations between the British government and the American administration. And, yes, I mean, it would seem to me there’s been

the release of an American prisoner today and that, actually, there is the possibility that things are moving forward.

You know, as a rule, the Foreign Office doesn’t like to tell me exactly what it’s doing, just in case I come on CNN and explain it.


RATCLIFFE: But, yes, I think it’s an obvious thing and an obvious need and an obvious time when people remember if other people have got their back or


AMANPOUR: Richard Ratcliffe, thank you so much. And we wish you, Nazanin, and your daughter all the best.

Now, at a time where we need art, we need food for the mind and the soul, perhaps more than ever, theaters large and small have all gone dark. It is

a devastating time for all of those who make their living in the arts.

Brian Cox is a legendary theater, film, and television actor. He’s the star of “Succession” on HBO and he played LBJ on stage. He was directing a new

play in London as the coronavirus slowdown hit, and he’s joining me now.

Welcome back to our program, Brian Cox.

BRIAN COX, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So, just tell me how this is affecting your business, not just the business, but you all, and obviously, people who go there for

entertainment and escape and information?

COX: Well, you know, it’s a reality that we have to deal with.

And we’re all perfectly prepared to deal with it, particularly from an actor’s point of view. They’re used to resting. So this is just enforced


But without being glib, I think that it’s a good thing that the theaters really did have to close. It’s something that we have to weather, but we’re

all in the same boat, and we have to we have to make the sacrifices we make. So it’s completely understandable.

I just finished a play. As you say, I directed a plane in London, “Sinners,” and we literally got there right up to the wire. I flew back to

— I flew back to New York yesterday, and I was the only person flying in my particular class. There was nobody else. It was eerie.

But these are difficult times, and they are unprecedented times. I mean, during the war, I think in the U.K., the theaters seemed to continue. But

this is not the same situation, because the war is with this virus, and it’s a contagion. And now it’s possible to be passed from one person to


So, I do think we’re in — it’s bad for our profession, but they will need — eventually, they will need product, because there is the old box, and

people will need to know — want to watch something, and we will need to make something.

So we’re going to have to finally step up and make programs to — because I think, also, there is an element where we do need to kind of remember

normalcy and keep a sense of normalcy.

Of course, as I say, it’s tough on the profession, with the theaters being closed. It’s tough for not just the actors they, the staff, the stage

staff, the stage managers, all the people who work in theaters, who run the theaters, the ushers, all of them who depend on so much.

But it’s a reality, and it’s a reality that we have to deal with.


COX: And I think we’re all very happy to deal with it.

AMANPOUR: OK, I see you wearing gloves. I mean, you’re probably trying to take as much precaution as you can, as well as is everybody.

But you mentioned perhaps some of the actors, perhaps some of those who can weather the financial storm, maybe more fortunate than those who obviously

can’t, and you mentioned the stagehands.

One of the main Broadway directors has told us that it’s devastating. A quick example, almost 95 percent of all stagehands have been laid off

across the United States, over 100,000 people.

So, from what you know, not just as an actor but as a director as well, do you think Broadway or the West End can recover?

COX: Oh, I’m sure we can recover.

I know we can recover, because as soon as this virus starts to abate, people will be going back to the theater, and we will want to serve those

people again. It’s a hiatus. It’s — who knows how long the hiatus is going to last? But we have to be real about it. We have to understand the


That’s why I’m in this — I’m about to enter a state of self-isolation with my family. And that’s the necessary thing. It’s the one thing that we can

do. And I — it’s terrible. It’s terrible how much that is being lost by particularly the stagehands.

That’s a shocking statistic, but it’s a real statistic, and there’s very little one can do about it. You either have your health or not. And I think

it’s important that we try and maintain our health.

But, as I say, I’m an optimist, so I know that it will pass, it’ll come. I don’t know when it’ll pass. But the people will want to go back to the

theater, and the theater will be there. And those stagehands will be ready to work again.

It’s just we have to do all that we can to protect these people, to make sure that they don’t get to a point of where they can’t pay their rent or

they’re in starvation point.

AMANPOUR: How do you propose that? Because a lot of the — certainly, in Britain, are very concerned.

I will just read you a little quote, very, very concerned. The artistic director of HighTide, which is a major U.K. theater producer, has tweeted

that theaters across the U.K., “Please make it as clear as possible in your announcements that cancellations and closures are a direct response to the

prime minister’s statement. The government’s evasion of direct enforcement appears to be squarely aimed at reducing odds of insurance.”

COX: I don’t quite understand what that means.

AMANPOUR: Well, I guess it means that, unless you’re ordered to close, which they haven’t been ordered to close, they have been encouraged, that

the theaters don’t get insurance, and the people who put them on are not insured, and the workers are not protected.

COX: Yes.

AMANPOUR: So, I just wonder what you think. You said we must do our best to protect people and the stagehands…


COX: Yes. Well, I think we have to be more emphatic about that, and we have to really make the thing in force, as they have done here in the


They have no — they have had no second thoughts. I mean, of course, they have had second thoughts about the terrible need to close the theaters, but

they have closed the theaters.

In the U.K., they’re always a little bit more hedging their bets in some way or other. And I think the enforced measures are what is important. It’s

important that we look to our health. That’s the key issue at the moment.

I — everything is going to be suspended. Nothing’s going to move. The only thing we can do is look after ourselves.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you whether you think that this might provide a moment of, post this crisis, creative opportunity?

You can read all sorts of research, but a little bit that I have been given is that Shakespeare is thought to have written “King Lear” while he was

under quarantined during a plague.

Is this — you have lived a long life, and you have seen a lot in the odds. Is this a where perhaps there’s some renewed burst of creativity after


COX: Oh, I have no doubt about it.

I think this will give a whole wave of stuff that will be coming out, because of what we have had to — what we have to deal with, where — we

spend a lot of our time, human beings, asleep. And the one thing that this is a huge, huge wakeup call.

And, therefore, from the artistic point of view, it’s a great incentive to actually create extraordinary work. And I think that is what will happen.

I think — I’m actually quite — it’s a terrible thing to say, but I’m actually quite optimistic about the situation. I do believe that out of

this will come great good. It’s a terrible thing that we have to go through. But if we — if we take care of ourselves and we take care of

others and respect others and respect ourselves, we — I think we will come through it and we will come through it well.

AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you about content, so to speak.

Whether it’s war or any other kind of crisis, people take to their radios or they want to go to the movies or the theater or the museum, whatever.

All of these entertainment and artistic venues, opera, et cetera, have been closed down, certainly in the West.

What about the effect on us, on us, the viewers, the people who are thirsty and hungry for this kind of creative and spiritual food?

COX: Well, I think we will have to find a way.

I mean, for instance, the theater is impossible. My son actually recently was — well, just now, he was off to do a play in Los Angeles, and it was

canceled literally after the read-through, because the concern for the audience, who the demographic fell into a certain age range, I think 50


So they decided they were going to close the theater. But the thing about the other media, and particularly television, which just when you think of

Netflix and Amazon and HBO that eats up a hell of a lot of time, I think what will happen, what I what I feel will happen is, we will need to find a

way of sort of focusing our work down in a — really in a very healthy way, in order to create product, because you’re going to need product.

The audiences will need something to stimulate them. Otherwise, they’re going to be sitting at home. And that will last for a while, and there’s a

lot of resources, human resources, stuff that we haven’t called upon ourselves, really.

But I think we could have a situation where there becomes — that the media becomes a very controlled environment, an environment which is very, very

much covered in terms of its sense of virus-free.

And I think that would lead to possibly, possibly creating product for the mass public. So I can see, if they — if people are imaginative, and take

it on — that, for example, my show, “Succession,” which is suspended for the moment, we will probably get back to work in a kind of much more

controlled environment.

And I think that’s possible. I think we could do that.


COX: And I think it may come to that, because I think people will — otherwise, there will be nothing, you know?

AMANPOUR: Brian Cox, thank you very much, indeed.

And just a quick note, as we say goodbye to you.

The BBC, which is obviously well known for its — not just its news, but for its entertainment, has announced a new initiative, Culture In

Quarantine, and it will give guides to shuttered exhibitions and guides to performances from musicians and comedy clubs, new plays created for

broadcast, poetry and book readings, and even repeats of great favorites.

So, as you correctly say, it is also an opportunity.

Brian Cox, thank you very much, indeed.

And, finally, as more and more people are confined to their homes, people are coming up with creative ways of staying positive and healthy.

In Seville, Spain, one man is holding a full-scale workout on his roof, encouraging all his neighbors to get involved in his ingenious way of

staying fit whilst in lockdown. There are also yoga classes and all sorts of inventive virtual workouts.

Another heartwarming moment we love seeing, rounds of applause on balconies for health workers, like this one in France. It happens every evening at

8:00 p.m. sharp.

And saying you’re not alone, and saying thank you to those unbelievable health workers on the front line, and such a brilliant way of staying

connected, whilst also keeping a distance.

That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can follow me and the show on Twitter. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS. Join us tomorrow night.