Italy Total Lockdown?
I'm Bob Schieffer and I'm Andrew Schwartz of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and this is the truth of the matter. This is the podcast where we break down the policy issues the days since the politicians are having their say we will excuse them with respect and bring in the experts many of them from CSIS. Who have been working these issues for years. No Spin No bombast. No finger-pointing just informed discussion. Today's episode of the truth of the matter I'm flying solo as Bob. Shieffer is out of town to get to the truth of the matter about corona virus. Today we brought in my colleagues Conley. And Steve Morrison Steve. I WANT TO I. Italy made this decision to go from quarantining sixteen million in northern Italy to going all the way to sixty million the full country pretty drastic decision. Why do they make it? I think we're still trying to sort that out. But one clear reason is that the sub-national approach. They were proposing of sixteen million in the north in the Milan Lamberti. Nato Venice area simply was not going to work. People were flooding out of the zone. Going south. The health system was overwhelmed and risk of collapse and they came to a decision that they needed national state solution. Not A subnational solution. They had to have the power and resources at that level and to put it in that context that otherwise they were trying to fix a problem in one zone and it was migrating to other parts of the country and contradicting the whole idea that you could carve out just one zone within the country. That's my sense. Keep in mind that what what's driving. The crisis in Italy is the demographics you have this huge proportion of very elderly folks And you have a very fragile health system so that combination of advanced aging and a very fragile health system created this enormous vulnerability and it was at risk of collapse and that prompted this middle of the night decision over the weekend to close off the the north and then the decision less than two days. Later that we're GONNA just go nationwide heather. What do you think yeah see? I think you're absolutely right. And in some ways it goes back to the failure over the weekend when a document was leaked that was announcing the quarantine of the sixteen million in northern Italy. That leak led people to flee northern Italy by plane by train by car and I think they understood even by Monday was the first time that the Carbonaro with being placed on highways. And things like that so it was it. Basically they didn't quarantine the sixteen million There's speak Italian. That's the police military police but you know today. There are planes. Leaving Italy going to Heathrow and so I think it was a recognition that they couldn't contain the red zone so they decided to create an all Italian red zone and to to create a little bit of equality Again tensions political tensions between northern Italy southern Italy they will play out over the course of the pandemic so I think absolutely what Steve was was sane is true but what we're seeing now is neighboring countries taking matters into their own hands so This morning the Australian government announced the closure of the border between Austria and Italy the only way in Tien Cross that border is if they have a medical certificate allowing them to cry of Schengen correct. So now what you're seeing is the neighboring countries beginning to enforce this in a in a very ad hoc way and I think again going back to what Steve. Saint on the bed situation. I think in part of the dramatic decisions. We've seen this government take over the last forty eight to seventy two hours has to deal with a crisis of of hospital beds. I see you. Units the healthcare system now because of the numbers are becoming overwhelm. They're having to select which patients have to are able to be on ventilators needing to slow this down so I think all of these issues have really created this sense of of urgency. You put on top of that yesterday's earlier Sunday some of the prison riots. I mean there's a fragility to this right now as a government that's under enormous pressure a government that is already very fragile A coalition that is trying to manage the best they can but they are stumbling through the It's an interesting that the scale so similar to Wuhan Who Bay province right. I mean we've got now sixty million Italians under this very Italian form of quarantine to compare with what happened in China. Tell us more about like what's the model for this? 'cause this people are going to work planes still flying but people's daily lives are changing profoundly. Exactly so what you've basically say as a as a wholescale cancellation of sporting events religious services. Anything that requires a large gatherings. They've now put in place social distancing where you have to be a meter between individuals but they're allowing people to you know use public transportation to to get to work Basically you cannot be in restaurants or shops past six. Pm Every night and it said they were trying to manage this as best they can but but again people are traveling. Planes are leaving. Things are are moving as normal. They're trying to keep this delicate balance of not panicking. People trying to keep a semblance of economic Motion going forward but You know seeing these scenes of you know a a deserted of Venice It is eerie. I have to say when you see these very crowded tourist spots absolutely hopefully that sort of ice that sort of social isolation or bringing down. The levels of interaction will slow transmission. But they're also trying to ease the pressure on the health system. Which as you said I mean. It was coming unhinged yes the. The demands of those who were in extreme illness and at risk of death had just skyrocketed and the system was overwhelmed and they had to do something to kind of rain. That pull that back in and and dampen the curve the the rate of growth of infections. We don't know if that's GonNa work but it is something that's reliant much more it's a liberal democratic model. It's much more rely on individuals agreeing to comply by these new rules. There are penalties right. They have police giving out. If you have to go from one community to the next for work you gotta carry a certificate with you and you can be fine and three months of jail. Potentially I mean again. This is also a cultural as some cultures You know very much. Follow government rules and regulations the Italian culture. I don't want to over generalize but sort of prides itself on a little bit of you know ignoring some of those Government specified rules. So you're absolutely right. We're seeing some of that tension of of culturally Not always following the rules and I think as this breakout was happening. They were not perhaps following. The government guidances closely. But now these draconian measures. I think have very much sobered people. They're trying to be cognizant of the social distancing norms but again this goes until April third. This is a this. Isn't just a sort of a snowstorm here? Oh we've got twenty four hours. We'll hunker down. This is a long term issue so as we watch this unfold until April third. I have to say I mean I. I hope things progress That normalization can return after April third but for Christians Holy Week and Easter. That is a very important time for all observing countries particularly Italy with the Vatican. This is a very significant religious week and I hope that they would have to extend this quarantine red zone period into the Easter celebrations. Which would again prohibit gatherings to celebrate That important religious holiday? Well I wanted to ask you. There are people in Italy panicking at this point. I mean contracting it. You know people in the United States aren't quite panicking yet. People in the United States certainly concerned and growing more concerned by the day. Or where's the public in Italy right now that you said they're starting to follow the rules more closely? But how are the people feeling? Is the population panicked yet? This is his very anecdotal. I'm communicating with with Italian colleagues. Think tank partners things like that So this is certainly not representative. I think it's everyone is very very sobered. They're very worried about family members and I think some of the decisions when the The northern Italian Corentin went into effect. The decision of do you go to northern Italy if you have family there. Elderly parents grandparents to be with them. Do you try to get out and to to stay away from it. These are very very difficult decisions. Under the best of circumstances this type of measures that this government has taken would be extraordinary on the best of political economic healthcare systems. And you have to understand. This is happening when Italy politically very fragile economically was already going into recession at the end of twenty nineteen has really not seen appreciable amounts of economic growth for twenty years You have a populist. Nationalist Movement that was born in northern. Italy in Lombardy C. You have all of these factors that play into both the government's crisis response as well as the populations understanding of does there do. They have confidence in the institutions and the government Will respect the rules so this is what we need to carefully watch over the next several weeks of how this plays out politically. This government is under enormous stress. How this economically devastating for Italy Which is really not good. News could could set off potentially another European economic crisis with its origins in Italy and underneath this populism xenophobia native. Ism that we have seen play out. There will a role to play in this over the coming weeks so lots of things to watch but right now sobering managing it. Let's watch it on this question. Andrew that you raise about. How does the Italian population look at this grenade to remind ourselves? This whole thing evolved at rocket speed and the intervention is coming late right. There was a slow sluggish complacent response to the early phase of this epidemic the transmissions got way out in front of the Italian government. They then in began the first lockdown. Fifty thousand eleven villages. That didn't work. They didn't get control over it. Then they did this this sudden sixteen million and then sudden sixty million so they're racing in and trying to be very aggressive but they're coming in really late and they're way behind and they're not explaining much to a public about this. They're not exactly going through a long process of consensus building before they get to this point and we know there's been lots of tensions between the provinces the federal government and the municipalities. There's been a lot of criticism. A lot of churning in this and so here we are. This is the first major western democracy to go down this path. And it's very interesting. What what they're experimenting to do. But it's very uncertain Is If this is gonNA work. And if people are going to comply and whether the economy can be stabilized and whether the infection rates can be old moderated to some degree to create some space on an health system that is on the edge of collapse. That's sort of where we are. It's amazing to watch from a distance and it will have lessons for that will inform us if things get out of control in Washington state or anywhere else in this country so this is what I wanted to ask both of you as we watch this unfold Today Spain suspended at Parliament because one of its members is infected with cove nineteen Norway slashed three thousand flights because of the disease here in the United States. Were battling this hour by hour. What can we learn from what's going on in Italy and what we're seeing in Europe? What we're seeing is a many different governments managing this in different ways. And so I think that sort of gives this. There's now becoming very much of an ad hoc mechanism. This is not a huge amount of watching the European Union itself. There's not a lot of there's coordination conversation but really the governments have to take these steps and it's their healthcare system on the line their border protection and control I think what we're seeing is. Because Italy was unaware of how rapidly this was going through the spread. Now it's now out and so every country is managing this differently Some that are I would argue the least affected countries today. Poland the Czech Republic. They're taking incredibly aggressive steps right now Which would not argue for the cases that we are seeing the United Kingdom is taking a much more measured approach although their numbers are much lower. But they know this is going to be Spread but they are managing this. They're sort of their three phases. There's there's really a concern not to get ahead of themselves leaving the experts moving forward. You have Germany. Spain France sort of moving you know suspending universities and large gatherings and managing the border so to say other than that France Spain Germany or at take off as right now so I would argue. Certainly France is an and Spain Germany. I'm still watching carefully and then I put the Netherlands in the UK again. The case are just lower twenty five percent. They are which is why they are. They are anticipating right now. This growing effort. What again Just taking again. The example of the United Kingdom the National Health Service is. This is the seasonal stress period. Where again because of seasonal flu so this is hitting on top of a very stressed healthcare system. They may not have as they may not have doctors to be able to do this. You're absolutely right. I think this is a little under appreciated in the Iran example And of course we have examples here of of Self `isolation. For members of Congress this starts paralyzing the institutions that have to make decisions about whether that's economic stimulus whether that's institutions That are responding to it. So it'll be interesting to watch as parliament's may have to suspend the European Parliament didn't Habits Movement to Strasbourg Because staff have been infected so again watching the the head of the Italian Democratic Party. has been diagnosed with the krona virus. So this starts seeping into the political fabric and decision making you know there are six members of Congress who are self quarantine. Most of them are tied back to the CPAC incident. Right the Republican gathering and serve it in public action. Right group Six members of Congress and Some of whom were proximate to the president in that same period so it raises all these issues around it. You know this gets right up to the edge of the president erases all the issues around campaigning. For Democrats and Republicans But in in the point were making heather about the disruptions of parliaments are you you were making this point also Andrew there's discussions right now actively within within US Congress about Taking the recesses that are on the On the boards coming up and extending them so that you could have congress out for a for much longer period of time in order to try and go about managing it in that fashion but just just to add the. There's a an an election in Poland for the Polish president elect may tent President Duda who's running for reelection has just announced he's not going to know suspending rallies. That's an election for. May Ten the Polish president he's spending not holding rallies For his reelection effort so this is going to start locking Germany The Christian Democratic Union is holding their party convention at the end of April to decide their new leader Big questions about whether that would be held So again this will start impacting the electoral processes at an ass. To and you have to wonder. We're in primary season for the Democrats right now and you have to wonder. Is it GonNa Affect turnout are people are gonNA come and turn out to vote in? Primaries are the two candidates remaining The Democratic primary. Or are they going to be shaking hands or are they going to be going to rallies? Is President Trump? Who you know pretty much. Every day on his schedule has a rally. Is he going to eliminate the rallies from his schedule? And what's the ethics and public health wisdom of continuing to have mass rallies which could totally contradicts the logic of social distancing right right well so far. Our politicians president trump Joe Biden Bernie. Sanders seemed to be following. Cdc Protocols so we'll have to wait and see this carries over into all sorts of things right they The Conference Basketball Tournaments the NC double A. March madness is coming March. Madness is upon us. we've got all of these Moments in time where you're saying tens of thousands of people are going to be convened in closed quarters into confined congregational settings whether it's for pulp political purposes or for sports entertainment or for whatever. And when do we begin to to insist that these events be suspended? And what's the? What are the rules and guidance? Going to be right. I mean you have fifteen thousand fifteen twenty thousand fans every night. Nba Arena Just the other day. Lebron James Sang Fans. No no vans. I'M NOT GONNA. I'm not gonNA show them play and so and and I think president trump thinks the same thing. If there's not going to be anybody the rallies I'm not gonNA show up. I'm GonNa stay home and watch TV so it's interesting watching the Italian case. So how did they begin? They first started with the fan lists sports events And then they stopped them completely to interest areas pollution to stop all soccer. Which you know. That's pretty in the Italian context. That's a pretty profound absolute right. Well in rugby matches just cancelled In the UK Saint Patrick's Day parades and gatherings have been cancelled in Dublin. just saw. We're in Boston. Northern Ireland leaders are now not traveling this week to Washington to participate in in those festivities So yes I mean. We're rethinking everything where we really serious when they cancelled the Saint Patrick's Day parade in New Orleans. You'll know that it's really serious if they in Boston. Yeah I mean it. Just if they cancel it. It's not bigger than Boston. But if they cancel it the you'll know the seriousness getting back to your question around. What are the lessons for us here? Coming out of Italy. Yeah we're going to be. I think cogitate chewing that over. And then in the coming days as we watch things unfolding and of course coming in late is bad right. Coming in early is good coming in very aggressively early getting the public to understand what you're trying to do not repeating the mistakes that the. Italians are not coming in half baked in a sudden crash way in the middle of the weekend in the middle of the night is poor weight at sort of wind public confidence and trust. You could look at the Italian case in. Say the solutions are going to have to be at a very high level making full use of the powers and authority of the state in order to solve this because localities get swamped provinces. Get swamped that. Of course for US begs the question. How's that going to happen in our system because our system so decentralized public health is localities and municipalities and states and at the level of this administration it has. It's it's chaotic. And so when Governor? Inslee is they're facing a crisis in Washington and saying you know this is this could very rapidly get much bigger than I am what I think turning the other thing for me is it's others also get a vote and how they're going to manage this so it's not just the country itself I'm thinking of of the Israeli government's decision to you. Know anybody anyone coming in the euro anyone coming into to Israel's quarantine for fourteen days and so I think this is some way this. Is You know the Austrian Italian case. You may want to continue to do a different type of businesses usual but other countries will also have a say in how they're going to manage it and this is where this this international coordination becomes so vital. So we're not doing this at Hawk and then you know first mover advantage while if someone does something draconian does everyone have to follow that and so that's when it gets very uneven as far as implementation and I wonder you know? Are we taking it seriously enough? In the United States I mean for instance you know here in DC We've had several inflection points. We've had the CPAC conference that you mentioned before APEC APEC conference Here in Washington I think all of us know someone who is a member of the Church and Georgetown whose minister has been Infected so you know. Are we taking this seriously enough or there was a Reuters? Ipsos poll came out the last week which was interesting. It showed four and ten. Democrats believed that this was a threat that it posed a threat to the country. The Corona virus outbreak two in ten Republicans believed posed a threat. Now you can look at those numbers and say twice as many Democrats take this seriously then. Republicans you can also look at those numbers say sixty percent of Democrats still. Don't take it very seriously. And eighty percent of Republicans on taking. This was appalled fairly large pole. A lot of people are taking it seriously as ago released just a few days ago so that tells me that. There's a bipartisan consensus of. Not taking it seriously enough well. We need a bipartisan consensus. That individuals now have to take responsibility. I like the you know the the British. Keep calm and keep washing your hands. Keep following those guidelines. Avoid things that you don't have to do take responsibility but that has to be a bipartisan. Message this is serious but you deal with it calmly confidently but you take it very very seriously. There's one important thing that I think offers hope. Which is you know last week. Members of Congress in both chambers and both parties came together and very rapidly expedited. The eight point three billion dollar emergency supplemental and got it the President's desk and got it signed into law right now. You can look at that and say that is four to six weeks late and why did it take us so long because the that as a as a milestone? That should have happened a month at least a month earlier but it happened nonetheless last week and so in a as a reflection of consciousness and bipartisanship it was an important signal of that reality and last week when we were up on the hill and the week before interacting with members of Congress. We testified at the full committee on Homeland Security. We had breakfast with the Aspen. Group with twenty members of Congress was for your report for the commission strengthen America's health security but we had a mix of Democrats and Republicans in both of those events and they were deadly serious about all of this and they were being civil and cordial with one another so all of this sort of partisanship in toxic politics. That you see in the airwaves was not translating in those contexts. Into that type of behavior you had them asking very very detailed questions of the experts. Who were who were there And engaging in a very serious deliberation at the same time that this legislation was moving forward. The other thing I'd say is this morning. You PICK UP THE WASHINGTON POST. Four of the five stories on the front page are on this topic and then you look at the banner of stories inside and there's another ten stories inside one day in the Washington Post so the flood of stories and you watch last night. I watched news hour and then. Nbc Half of the stories. Half of the airtime was concerning this topic. So it's relentless the coverage has been pretty extraordinary. I mean the topic has become everything everywhere all the time somewhere along the way that the data is going to change from two in ten or four hundred ten to something more in the majority where on both Democrats and Republicans do you think. The media's hyping it up too much I think there's a little bit of drama in the that you should expect in the in the twenty four seven cable ecosphere. I mean you look back at at what happened with a bowl in the fall of fourteen which was also in a political cycle and the key cable networks fueled hysteria and panic accompanied by other things. Trump's tweeting White House fumbling the fact that Ebola was scary as hell. We had cases outbreaks in Dallas. And we had all the other drama was going on. So there's some measure in which the overheated media gets out there. But in my own estimation this is truly dangerous when we don't appreciate it so I don't say the media stoking this and it's less serious than what it may seem. I have the opposite response in Zang. Yeah the media's perhaps stoking allow fear but people need to sit up and take this very seriously much more so than they do have has so many angles to it. So there's the economic angle to IT AND AGAIN YOU'RE STEVE. You're mentioning about the stimulus here. Italy just today had to increase the emergency Stimulus package to ten billion euros there now. Suspending mortgage payments They're I mean they're now trying to grapple with an economic crisis a health crisis which we don't want to translate into a political crisis where government institutions become paralysed or or so polarized That they can't Do their function. So I think that in some ways is the is the media saturation. There's so many different elements of this. It's the international stories that domestic stories economic story. It's a health story It's a it's a personal story of whether that's You know elderly patients in a Seattle nursing home or on a cruise ship. You know I think all of that just feeds into that. Never ending cycle where. It's hard to get balanced and making sure you're well prepared. Well armed But also again managing through this in a confident way not You know you're so physically are upset that you're not going to be able to think calmly and rationally economic shocks from yesterday here and globally were astonishing and it's translated into the president going to the hill this morning to talk to Senate Republicans about what are going to be. The fiscal stimulus options. And what other tax cuts and and they've already did the big monetary. They dropped by two fifty base points last week at the Fed. The biggest drop since the. Oh eight Oh nine crisis so to answer your question of our people beginning to take this seriously i. The accompanying economic crisis is fully in front of US particularly for the transportation industry. The airline industry The Shipping Industry Tourism for Italy. Speak more specific to that absolutely devastating. Of course our northern Italy is the economic engine for northern Italy manufacturing forty percent of Italian exports come from northern Italy so again devastating sort of two different ways on already very weak Italian banking System and so not a lot of room for for error In that setting as well so our airlines canceling flights and hiring freezes and so on so we'll have to watch this very closely. Thank you both for being here today to be continued. Thank you if you enjoy this podcast. Check out our larger suite of CSIS podcasts from into Africa the Chessboard China Power Aids Twenty Twenty the trade guys. Smart Women Smart Power and more you can listen to them all on major streaming platforms like itunes and spotify visit CIS dot. Org SLASH PODCASTS. To See our full catalog.