Return to Transcripts main page

The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

EU COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates?; Meta: Belarus Stoked Tensions; World AIDS Day. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired December 01, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London.

Tonight, a vaccine mandate is the way forward. European officials are beginning to ask that question.

Then, did Belarus intentionally stoke tensions in the migrant crisis? Meta, the parent company of Facebook, says they have evidence that it did.

And it's World AIDS Day. We look at how COVID has impacted the battle to eradicate HIV by 2030.

Is Europe heading down the path of mandatory coronavirus vaccines? Some countries such as Austria have already taken that step, and today, the

president of the European Commission says it's time to put that discussion on the table.

Right now, the region is dealing with a devastating fourth wave of infections while cases of new Omicron variant pop up around the continent.

Omicron is still raising many questions, which will take some time to answer, but the message from officials is clear, vaccinate, vaccinate,

vaccinate. The E.U. is ramping up its booster campaigns and now, European children are set to start getting their jabs.


USURULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EU COMMISSION: And I spoke to BioNTech Pfizer again about the children's vaccines. And here since yesterday, also

good news: They are able to accelerate. In other words, children's vaccines will be available as of December 13th.


NOBILO: The strong public messaging come as we wait to learn more about Omicron. The WHO says we should have more details about its

transmissibility in just a few days. They're continuing to urge countries to avoid blanket travel bans. And yet, in the last 24 hours, we've seen

some of the harshest border restrictions as of yet. India is halting its plans to resume international flights, keeping the country firmly close off

from the world.

Meanwhile, South Korea is once again requiring a 10-day quarantine for all international arrivals, and Japan has asked airlines to suspend

international flight reservations for all travelers, including Japanese citizens until the end of the month.

South Africa is also continuing to speak out against travel bans. Health experts there gathering as much data as they can with a South African

doctor today revealing that so far, Omicron cases have been mild in younger patients, with unvaccinated people most likely to be hospitalized.

CNN's David McKenzie visited several labs that are studying Omicron, including the one that first detected it.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After tracking COVID for many months at this lab, Jeanine du Plessis is bracing herself.

Have you seen a lot more positive cases in the last few weeks?


MCKENZIE: First, a trickle than a flood at the Wits VIDA Lab. They're studying a disturbing variant of an old foe.

DU PLESSIS: Still too early to actually tell there's so much that is so unknown about the variant, everyone feels a little bit of hopelessness in a

moment like that.

MCKENZIE: This lab is really at the coalface of the COVID response. You know, they're expanding so fast. They're putting their samples in freezers

right here in the hallway, they come in, in shifts, and as this wave develops, they'll be operating 24 hours a day.

They know how bad it gets. This was Delta's awful impact in Johannesburg. In July, patients stacked in hallways, struggling to breathe an exclusive

footage obtained by CNN.

At the Wits VIDA Lab and all across the globe, they're trying to understand whether Omicron is more transmissible, deadlier, whether it breaks through

existing COVID-19 vaccines.

What does it feel like that the entire world is hanging on this discovery that was figured out here initially?

ALLISON GLASS, PATHOLOGIST, LANCET LABORATORIES: I mean, it does feel a bit sort of surreal when you watch the news, and you see the impact it's

having globally and you're thinking, wow, you know, sort of affecting stock markets, and airlines and people's travel plans. You know, you kind of

don't plan on having that sort of ripple effect.

MCKENZIE: A spike in cases first happened in Pretoria with a classic infection at this technical university. But hints of a new variant were

first detected by scientists and pathologists at Lancet Laboratories.

In early November, they spotted a strange anomaly in their positive PCR tests. Then it happened over and over again. It reminded them of tests for

the Alpha variant first detected more than a year ago in the UK.

What was it like to see this anomaly cropping up again?

GLASS: Well, it was disturbing because we made us worry that we were dealing with something new. And because it coincided with an increase in

positivity rates that made us worried that we could be dealing with a new variant.

MCKENZIE: Lancet urgently notified South Africa's genomics team. Within days, they described and made public disturbing details of the highly

mutated virus, much of the world shut off travel from Southern Africa.

And scientists here say they are now struggling to fly in critical reagent for the lab work to understand Omicron.

Why was it so important to alert everybody about this?

GLASS: Especially with the reaction of the world to Southern Africa, on the announcement of the variants? You know a lot of people say, well, why

don't you just keep quiet about what you find? But what's important is we know that a new variant is likely to cause an increase in cases whether

they'd be more severe or not.

MCKENZIE: David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


NOBILO: China is now battling a surging outbreak of COVID in one of the country's most remote regions. It's happening in and around a major city in

Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in China, right on the Russian border. More than 130,000 new cases have been detected there just since Monday.

China has locked down the city of more than 300,000 people, leaving streets empty, transit halted and mass testing is now under way.

It's also stopping all non-container goods, that's the way they think the virus got in. Still, China has not confirmed a single case of Omicron

variant so far.

There's been on overload of coronavirus information during the past few days. CNN is holding a town hall in a few hours to tackle what we know and

what we don't when it comes to Omicron, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will host, with Dr. Anthony Fauci also set to join them. That's

Wednesday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Thursday 10:00 a.m. in Hong Kong.

Humans rights group say the new EU proposal to tackle the migrant crisis along the Belarus border are building up what they call "fortress Europe,"

while weakening the fundamental rights of asylum seekers. But the European Commission says the situation is an emergency, and Poland, Lithuania, and

Latvia, need help to protect their borders. Under its proposal, which needs approval from all E.U. members, migrants entering the E.U. from Belarus

could claim asylum only at designated locations, such as southern border crossings.

Authorities will have a longer period of up to four weeks to register asylum applications and migrants could be held up to four months at border

camps while their cases are decided. The European Commission says the temporary measures do respect international obligations.


YLVA JOHANSSON, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: So I think that we all realize that the situation is unprecedented at the borders and that's

why we have doing -- are doing all of this measure. And it has been difficult, of course, for the member states most concerned at the borders

to deal with this. That's what they've asked us for legal clarifications on what is possible to do and what is not possible to do. And we are coming

with this legal verification with our proposal today and I expect Poland to comply with it.


NOBILO: The parent company of Facebook, Meta, says it has evidence that Belarus intentionally stoked the border crisis. It says security agents

used fake accounts to post content alleging showing Polish border guards violating migrants' rights.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is following the story from New York.

Donie, what details do we have about this, how sophisticated was it and do we know if the attempts were successful in stoking tensions and

destabilizing the border?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Bianca, Facebook here calling out the Belarusian KGB, saying they set up fake accounts designed to look

like activists and journalists, trying to stoke tensions apparently at that border. To make these accounts look realistic, they actually used fake

pictures of people that generated through artificial intelligence, deep fake pictures to make it look like they were real people, when, in fact,

these people didn't really exist at all.

We haven't heard from the Belarusian authorities yet, the KGB there, news just breaking in the past few hours. Also, on the other side of this,

Facebook identified a separate set of accounts they say ran from Poland which was discouraging migrants from coming into the European Union,

pointing out about Nazi and neo-Nazi groups in Poland and telling people to stay away.

Now, interestingly, Facebook is not saying, they said they haven't been able to yet determine who was behind that set of fake accounts telling

these migrants to stay away, but I mean I think what this really shows is just how these platforms can be manipulated and used in this way.


A few years ago, when we learned so much about what the Russian GRU and other Russian intelligence services did on Facebook around the 2016

election here in the United States, we spoke to a former soviet KGB agent who was undercover here in the United States during the cold war and said

the tools Facebook has in terms of when it comes to espionage, to, you know, covertly trying to influence populations or influence groups, it was

a dream piece of technology. If they had it in the back of the Cold War, it would have been a golden ticket for them -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks so much, Donie, and do keep us posted if you learn more about the origin, the providence of those accounts in Poland. Thanks so

much for joining us.

On another Eastern European border, there's growing concern over the possibility of invasion. Russia said it's begun military drills with more

than 10,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. Kiev is urging NATO to prepare additional economic sanctions against Moscow. U.S. Secretary of

State Antony Blinken says Russia is putting in place the capacity to invade Ukraine on short order but would face severe consequences if that were to



ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATTE: Should Russia follow the path of confrontation when it comes to Ukraine? We made clear we will respond

resolutely, including with a range of high impact economic measures that we have refrained from pursuing in the past.


NOBILO: Blinken is set to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Thursday in Stockholm.

Let's take a look at other stories making international impact today.

The presidential candidate from Honduras' ruling party has now conceded Sunday's election to his opposition rival, leftist Xiomara Castro. She's

set to become the country's first female leader.

The Ethiopian government says one week after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed joined the fight against Tigrayan rebels, soldiers have recaptured several

towns including Lalibela, home to UNESCO World Heritage site of an ancient rock-hewn churches. CNN can't independently verify the claims.

New Zealand is sending troops to the Solomon Island after last week's violent protests. Demonstrators on the Guadalcanal took to the streets,

over several domestic issues that almost destroyed the capital city. Australian police sent there last week.

Now the countdown to Christmas has already started and while there are massive concerns over the state of the pandemic right now, the British

prime minister was in the spotlight today about Christmas last year.

A British newspaper "The Mirror" reported that Mr. Johnson and his aids allegedly held Christmas parties at Downing Street, just days before

Christmas in 2020, while millions across the United Kingdom were in lock- down. As you would expect, the prime minister faced a grilling in the House of Commons today over the claims.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell our honorable gentlemen is that -- is that all guidance was followed

completely, and can I -- can I recommend to the right honorable gentleman that he does the same with his own Christmas party advertised for the

December 15th to which he failed to invite the deputy leader, Mr. Speaker.

KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Does the prime minister really expect the country to believe that while people were banned from seeing

their loved ones at Christmas last year, it was fine for him and his friends to throw a boozy party in Downing Street?

JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, I've said what I've said about number 10 and the events of 12 months ago.


NOBILO: Johnson had three opportunities to deny a boozy Christmas party but he did not. Instead, he said no rules were broken. But, didn't stop



IAN BLACKFORD, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY LEADER: At a time when public health measures are so vital, how are people possibly expected to trust a

prime minister when he thinks it's one rule for him and one rule for everybody else?

JOHNSON: They should concern their line of attack more closely. I said before he's talking total nonsense. I think would have been better off

frankly saying something about the victims of storm Arwen in Scotland.


NOBILO: The UK opposition had already been zeroing in on this narrative of one rule for Boris Johnson's government and another for the rest of the


Johnson (INAUDIBLE) admits a role-breaking scandal in height of the pandemic last year, and his healthy secretary quit after being caught on

CCTV breaking social distancing rules with a colleague. And in the last weeks, the prime minister has been criticized for not wearing a mask on a

hospital visit at COP26 and in a recent visit to the theater.

Next, the other pandemic of our time, HIV AIDS, we ask what we can do in our lifetimes so those affected can fully live their lives.



POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Today's Worlds AIDS Day. It is an important occasion to remember the many people affected by this virus for

whom many in areas of the world where there is no access to essential central care. I hope there can be a renewed commitment of solidarity to

guarantee efficient and equitable health care.


NOBILO: A pandemic being forced in the grip of another one. A reminder from Pope Francis there of how much more needs to be done there has to be

done to tackle HIV and AIDS how far relatively speaking things have come.

What began 40 years ago when five otherwise healthy young guy men inexplicably developed symptoms of pneumonia soon went on to devastate

numbers of an entire generation and remains to this day, a life or death matter for people around the world. According to U.N. AIDS more than 37

million people were living with HIV as of last year, more than half of those were women and girls. 2010, infections down more than a third. The

U.S. and U.K. have now launched a strategy to end all new infections by 2030.

But as the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust told me, major barriers remain internationally.


DEBORAH GOLD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NATIONAL AIDS TRUST: We have, still have unfair distribution of drugs around the world. We still have health systems

which find it difficult to deliver the drugs in certain places around the world, and we have low levels of public understanding of HIV, high levels

of stigma around HIV, both of which act to prevent people from testing and accessing treatment and are real barriers to making progress we need to



NOBILO: While people living with HIV have faced prejudice and persecution since the '80s, Princess Diana was among a handful of public figures to

help erode stigma around the virus, shaking hands with HIV patients to prove it couldn't be passed by touch alone

Her youngest son Prince Harry is continuing her work, writing a letter that's drawn parallels between HIV and COVID, calling vaccine inequality a,

quote, spectacular failure. The letter was read at a WHO annual AIDS event today by Meg Doherty, director of the global HIV program at the WHO.

I spoke to her earlier about how COVID is impacting people with HIV.


MEG DOHERTY, DIRECTOR, GLOBAL HIV HEPATITIS & STIs PROGRAMS, W.H.O.: We know right now that there are both indirect effects of people living with

HIV and direct effects from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19. The indirect effects are that services are closed down, and some of the essential health

services people needed couldn't be accessed.

We know that testing for HIV and prevention, going on to pre-exposure, prophylaxis or prep, all of that declined over the last two years.


The one silver lining was that a lot of innovations for developed and many people were able to be maintained on their antiretrovirals but, you know,

there were also downsides that the people who may have needed antiretrovirals have never been tested for that.

The direct effects are also that we know that there's more data coming out that people living with HIV appear to be at a greater risk for severe COVID

and death from COVID.

Why? It may be linked to their immune-suppressed state, if they have a very low CD4 count, which is a measure of how well their immune system is, or if

they have a high viral load, that means that there's a lot of circulating virus in the body. Those people seem to have done poorly, and in a study

that WHO was involved in, we noted a 30 percent increased risk of death for people living with HIV once they were hospitalized with COVID.

So, there's a double-edged sword there for people living with HIV.

NOBILO: And over the last four decades, how has the prevalence of HIV shifted in terms of demographics and communities that it affects? Where

does the help and support need to be directed now?

DOHERTY: Again, an excellent question. I -- currently, the data showed we have 38 million people living with HIV. There are 10 million of those

people who are not on treatments, only 28 million of people are on treatments. We believe it lists at least 6 million people don't know

they're infected with HIV and could be living with HIV silently for many years.

And although we've done really well, and in particular, we've done incredibly well in sub-Saharan Africa and low and middle income countries,

where they have support from PEFPAR, support from the global fund, where we're seeing countries able to control their epidemic with 90 percent of

the population knowing their HIV status, 90 percent on treatment, and 90 percent with suppressed viral load, we see many countries reaching the 95,

95, 95 goals and targets we have.

Yet, what we are seeing, is where there are new infections, it's among people most marginalized, over 60 percent of new HIV infections are

occurring among what we call, key populations, key people who are either sex workers, men having sex with men, people who are transgendered, people

who are injecting drugs, people incarcerated, people who may not be getting the services and care or are stigmatized and not brought into society and

having access to the services they need.

That's where we need to be putting our efforts if we really want to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

NOBILO: And speaking of that goal, to end HIV as a public health threat by 2030. I mean, we heard that in England and the U.S., is that an achievable

goal in your view?

DOHERTY: If we don't do this, the attention will be drifting off from ministries of health, ministries of finance, to governments, to other

priorities. There are many health priorities out there and we've seen this with COVID. We've seen it now the burgeoning epidemics of non-communicable

diseases. If we don't do this now, and if we don't really step up our efforts now, we will pay for it later.

NOBILO: Despite limited progress when it comes to stigma around HIV, there is obviously a lot of information still for inaccurate, outdated idea. Is

there something that you would like to clear up today which you find to be particularly frustrating or an obstacle to getting HIV patients help?

DOHERTY: I definitely think what we hear often now is the stigma and discrimination that people feel when they go into the health care setting,

that there is, at times, an assumption that somebody has put themselves at risk because of the behaviors or that there are concerns that this could

have been avoided.

And we want people everywhere, whether they're living with HIV, at risk of HIV, not living with HIV, when they go into healthcare setting, that

they're treated with respect and they're given the healthcare services they need to keep themselves healthy.


NOBILO: Canada is the latest country working to outlaw conversion therapy, after a bill was reintroduced by the government earlier this week. The

practice, which is widely considered to be futile and degrading, attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Canada's

justice minister says there are no excuses for anyone who still opposes the legislation. The U.K. and New Zealand are also working to ban the practice.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right back after this.



NOBILO: Finally tonight, it takes a rare and puzzling mind to do what 32 finalists are about to try. This. Yes, it is time, once again, the Rubik's

Cube World Cup Finals.

This year, because of COVID, the competition is taking place virtually, with the finalist using an app to record and report their cube-solving



CHRIS MILLS, 2020 RUBIK'S CUBE "RESCRAMBLE" CHAMPION: It's a bit different this year. So we got an image of the cube and an app, but usually, like, I

have a scrambled cube here and just go from there.


NOBILO: He makes it sound so simple. Actually, there are more than 43 quintillion possible combinations, 43 followed by 18 zeros and only one

correct solution, and these wizards solve it in seconds.

The shy Hungarian professor who invented this tantalizing toy was fascinated by its success, but says he's not at all like the cube. The cube

loves attention, he says, but I don't.

Well, obviously, I'm a TV anchor. So clearly, nothing like an attention- seeking cube.

Goodnight, one and all. I'll see you tomorrow.