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India in the Middle of a Devastating Surge of Coronavirus, Overwhelming the Entire Healthcare System; Facebook is Going to Make a Decision on Whether to Unban Trump from Facebook; Senators in a CIA Briefing Demanding Answers for a Series of Energy Related Attacks on U.S. Intelligence Officials. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 4, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: India is in the middle of a devastating surge of coronavirus. The country is reporting the world's highest number of new cases every day, which is overwhelming their entire healthcare system.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The scenes from the ground are alarming. No one is covering it like CNN, including our Clarissa Ward. She went inside one hospital struggling to cope with a surging number of patients being overwhelmed in the process. We do want to warn you, some of the images are just difficult to see, but it's the reality there.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A man wails in anguish, but no one is listening. His cry just one of many in this hospital in Uttar Pradesh state. Oh my child, he says. Oh my god, my baby.

Inside the entrance, his son Deepak (ph) is fighting for his life; gasping for air, his body convulsing. There are no doctors attending to him. The handful of medical staff working in this ward are stretched thin to breaking point.

This hospital is completely overwhelmed. The doctors say that they have about 55 beds, and currently they're treating more than 100 patients. And you can see, people are literally just lying on the floor, desperately hoping to get some medical attention.

Thirty-two year-old Kavita (ph) says she's been here for four days, begging for oxygen that has not come. I'm getting anxious, she says. No one is listening to me here. Are you struggling to breathe? I'm unable to breathe freely, she tells us. No one is taking care of me.

In the next room, more than 20 patients are packed in tightly. This is what now passes for the intensive care unit. Family members have taken on the role of primary carers, where medical staff are simply unavailable. This man complains no one will change his wife's soiled bedding. Suddenly, there is a commotion.

Will someone please call the doctor, this man shouts. His mother, 55- year-old Razballah (ph) appears to be slipping away. Her sons work furiously to revive her. A doctor comes in and tells them to stop crowding her, but the family is inconsolable.

We've been here for six days and only today we got the ventilator for my mother, he tells us. The oxygen is out. We had to bring in oxygen cylinder. It's a story we hear again and again. One man approaches us pleading, his wife can't get a bed. No one's listening to me. I've tried everything, he says. Please help me or she will die.

I'm not a doctor. I'm so sorry. I can't help you. Another man tells us his wife is struggling to breathe outside. They won't let her in. We spot the hospital administrator and ask him what's going on? This man says his wife is dying outside and needs oxygen.


WARD: He insists that oxygen isn't the problem, but says they are desperately short of staff. Those who do work here risk becoming patients themselves. These men tell us they move a dozen bodies a day.


Have you ever seen anything like this before?

UNKNOWN: (Foreign language)

WARD: Are you not worried to be working here and you're not wearing protective gear? We should be wearing proper PPE, they say, but even the doctors don't have it, so how can we?

We hear screams coming from the ICU; Razballah (ph) has flat-lined again. Her son desperately pumps her chest. A doctor comes in. He takes her pulse, but it's too late. This time there is no point in trying to resuscitate. The agony of her sons is shared by so many in this country, failed by a healthcare system on the brink of collapse and a government accused of mismanaging this crisis.

Just a few hundred yards away in the same hospital complex, it's a very different picture. Orderly lines of people patiently wait to be vaccinated, following the prime minister's announcement that anyone over 18 can be inoculated. A state lawmaker is among 600 people getting their vaccine. The hospital administrator and local journalists eagerly stand by to capture the moment. We were just in the hospital over there.


WARD: It was shocking to see the --

TOMAR: What?

WARD: -- it was shocking -- TOMAR: Why?

WARD: -- because the conditions are so bad here. Why do you think India has been hit so badly?

The hospital administrator interrupts and warns him that we have been asking too many questions.

Sir, you don't need to coach him what to say. He's telling him what to say.

TOMAR: Ma'am, we are trying to best, and some problems are here, but we are trying. Now condition is better.

WARD: Do you accept that the government has failed its people in the handling of this crisis --

TOMAR: No, no, no.

WARD: Because I've been talking to a lot of people and I have to tell you, people are angry. People feel that this didn't need to be so ugly.

The situation is not only bad here, we're trying to find solutions, he says. We're increasing the number of beds, and we're working tirelessly around the clock.

But back in the COVID ward, the impact of those efforts is not yet being felt. Razballah's (ph) is left for nearly an hour before it is finally moved. India's leaders may promise that everything is being done to end this crisis, but for now there is no light at the end of the tunnel.


WARD: You saw in that hospital. It's facing shortages of just about everything; beds, drugs, but most acutely, doctors and nurses. There were five doctors and nurses looking after more than 100 people.

India's government has now announced that it's actually drafting in medical students. People who are in their final year of studying medicine will now be brought in to try to help confront this crisis, but a lot of people, Poppy and Jim, saying it's probably too little too late.

HARLOW: And Clarissa, to your important line of questioning there about the responsibility of the Modi government in all of this, we now know there are scientists that warned him and the government about a surge in cases just last month, those warnings went largely ignored.

The vaccine rollout is paltry for a nation that produces so much vaccine. Really, the majority of people there, have they told you yes, they do feel failed and abandoned by their government?

WARD: I think there is a very wide sense that Modi was someone who had this aura of political invincibility, and that has definitely been tarnished. There are a lot of people here who are angry. There are a lot of people who are critical of the government's handling of this whole crisis.

There are people who can't understand how it's possible, Poppy, that three weeks ago, Prime Minister Modi was standing before a crowd of thousands, none of them wearing masks, and essentially praising them for turning out in such high volumes.


So there are questions to be answered, what the political fallout will be for Prime Minister Modi remains to be seen.

SCIUTTO: Clarissa, a question for you. We sadly have seen crises like this in Italy, in some American cities, perhaps not as severe, what happened in those places to shut it down were widespread shutdowns, right, and then a rush to vaccinations. I just wonder what's happening there now to bring this under control? What immediate steps are being taken to save lives, like this poor woman who lost her life as you were watching?

WARD: So there are lockdowns being implemented across the country. The government has said that the Navy is now getting involved, that the Air Force is getting involved. They've also come up with this thing called Operation Oxygen Express, whereby huge amounts of liquid oxygen are being deployed via India's railways to try to get to the hardest hit cities. But as of today, Jim, we're still seeing people going online saying they can't find oxygen.

SCIUTTO: Clarissa, seeing that young man virtually suffocating to death, struggling for air, it just spoke so much as an image of the country, right, you know, suffocating through this. Clarissa Ward, thanks so much for your reporting.

Well, President Trump could be back on Facebook by this time tomorrow, even as he still continues to lie, to lie loudly about an election we know he lost. He hasn't stopped. We're going to be live next.



SCIUTTO: By this time tomorrow, we should know if former President Trump will be allowed back on Facebook. Facebook's oversight board is set to make the announcement Wednesday morning during our broadcast. We expect after suspending Trump's account indefinitely on January 7th, of course the day after the insurrection at the Capitol.

HARLOW: But even with his social media fate hanging in the balance, Trump continues to spread the big lie, just this week renewing his claim of election fraud that's completely unfounded. Donie O'Sullivan joins us to discuss.

So like less than 24 hours, this independent board is going to make the decision. Critics say look, Facebook shouldn't punt this to an independent board. Facebook says well, we don't think we should have that much power to decide.

Whatever, this is how it's going to be, this board is going to make the decision. Can you explain to us how it plays out, and is the decision final or if the board lets Trump back on and then he does more dangerous things, can Zuckerberg boot him off again?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So the big point here is Mark Zuckerberg really does not want to make this decision. Obviously, his hand was forced back on January 7th, but Facebook has set up this oversight board, it essentially being described as a Supreme Court for Facebook. It's made up of 20 experts in freedom of speech.

The former editor of the Guardian newspaper in London is a member. There are human rights lawyers on that board, and they are the ones who are going to make this decision. It is the first, sort of, big decision for this board, which has only been set up in the past few months.

The decision is supposed to be binding, so if they say Trump can go back on, he should be allowed back on. But obviously, there are questions of how independent this board really is because it is funded by Facebook. Facebook has put money into a trust, and has tried to make the board independent, but there's questions about that too.

SCIUTTO: The president was kicked off for lying. He's still lying, put out a statement yesterday about the election. You speak to a lot of folks inside Facebook, I won't hold you to this, but what's your sense of where the board will go?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, that's the $30 million question. That's about how many followers Trump has on Facebook. I think people inside Facebook are pretty nervous if he's going to come back because they know it's going to cause many, many more issues for them.

The one difference this time, Jim and Poppy, is that Trump is no longer a -- in office or he's no longer an official candidate, which means he would be subject to fact checking on Facebook, so they would put the label -- they would label him false. But, again, you know, the more they label him false, that will also play into fund-raising I guess for Republicans to say tech is censoring Trump.

SCIUTTO: Fundraising is also a big piece of this, Donie. I'm glad you mentioned it. It makes it a lot easier for him to raise money.

HARLOW: Just for --

O'SULLIVAN: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Yes, go ahead.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, this is, -- yes, this is, you know, it's not -- this is not just consequential for a Silicon Valley and for Facebook, this is very consequential for the GOP.

SCIUTTO: Yes. O'SULLIVAN: You know, Trump could come back and weigh in by the minute or by the hour, like he used to with Twitter, and also we know how effective the Trump machine is at fundraising on Facebook.


HARLOW: Come back tomorrow morning, Donie, because we'll know by then. Thank you.

O'SULLIVAN: Will see you then.


HARLOW: We'll be right back.



Senators demanding answers, more answers this morning after a CIA briefing last week on suspected energy attacks on U.S. intelligence officials.

SCIUTTO: Listen, these attacks are alarming. Talking about directed energy aimed at the brains of Americans serving around the world. CNN National Security correspondent Kylie Atwood joins us now.

And Kylie, these have been going on for a number of years in as disparate places of Cuba, Europe, even now suspected on the White House grounds. What more did Senators learn and now learn from this and is it still Russia they believe is behind it?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, definitely no one in the U.S. government has said who is behind these attacks. It's believed that Russia is behind them. They do have the capability to carry out these attacks but they haven't been identified solidly as the perpetrator.

This hearing last week got extremely heated. It was described to me as one of the most contentious hearings in recent history for this committee. And Senators were frustrated that they haven't learned more details from the CIA.

They also were demanding accountability. That's accountability for folks at the agency who were perhaps mishandled early cases and they were also baffled that they were just learning certain details for the first time.


Now one of the things that was discussed during this briefing is the fact that it's believed that these attacks on U.S. intelligence officials are ongoing. And we are learning a previously unreported suspected cases in the last year that occurred in a country in Europe.

Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee who received this briefing didn't provide comment to us on the details we learned but they did put out a statement on the briefing late last week and they referenced that statement. I want to read that to you saying quote, "the pattern of attacking our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing."

Now the CIA referenced us to Director Burns' comments and he has said this a top priority for him. Something he'll focus on so we'll watch this. Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: The effects of the attacks are debilitating. This is a scary phenomenon. Kylie Atwood, thanks so much for staying on top of it.

HARLOW: Thank you, Kylie. And thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour with Kate Bolduan" starts right after a short break.