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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Record COVID Cases & New Rules; 10 Years Of Kim Jong Un; Good News Weekly Wrap. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired December 17, 2021 - 17:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Lynda Kinkade, in for Bianca Nobilo.

In today's daily briefing: record infections and reintroduced restrictions. How the world is dealing with the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

And then, it's been ten years since the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. We'll look at the last decade in North Korea under the rule of his


And what do drones, Santa and 100 world records have in common? Well, they are all part of your much-needed good news weekly wrap at the end of the


So what does living with COVID rook like with the latest highly contagious variant? Well, that is the question governments around the globe are now

facing as the omicron variant once again triggers a new COVID reality. There are a lot of headlines to unpack this hour.

First, to the united kingdom which is reporting a record number of daily infections for a third consecutive day. Just over 93,000 cases. The British

prime minister is continuing to push for boosters as the answer for the path ahead.

Australia is also reporting it highest number of daily infections for a second day running. The country, which for the majority of the pandemic

aimed for a zero COVID approach, recorded over 3,800 cases on Friday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is now pushing for the country to live with

COVID has ruled out lockdowns as a way to contain the spread.

South Korea like Australia was also moving away from its zero COVID approach. However, after just six weeks of living with COVID, the country

is now reinstating stricter social distancing rules as cases spiral. Beginning on Saturday, gatherings will be limited and curfews are again

being implemented.

Europe is also seeing new restrictions. Ireland will be bringing back an 8:00 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants, and Denmark is shutting down

cinemas, museums and theaters. Holiday celebrations are also under the microscope around the world. Rome, Venice and numerous Italian cities have

cancelled their new year's public festivities, and France has also banning big gatherings for 391st.

Well, meanwhile in New York, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID has doubled in the past three days, prompting concerns about New

Year's celebrations there.

Well, the rate at which omicron is spreading is very alarming. Germany's health minister is warning, quote, we must not lull ourselves into a false

sense of security -- arguing that the omicron variant cannot be brought under control with a double vaccination alone. He says the country is

preparing for a massive challenge to its health care system, and researchers say it's too early to assess the severity of the omicron,

stressing that herd immunity through both prior infection and vaccination could be playing a significant role in the lack of severe illness.

South Africa's health minister says hospitalizations there are still much lower, and the early research by the National Institute of Communicable

Diseases shows that a lower proportion of admitted patients are on oxygen and ventilator, and they are staying in hospital for less time on average.

So, some good news there.

Well, there is still a lot we don't know, and as we wait for more data on the new variant, in Scotland, cases have risen by 40 percent this week

alone with the omicron there now the dominant strain.

CNN's Scott McLean went and spoke to scientists in a high-containment lab in Scotland who are racing against time to find answers.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the omicron variant surging across the UK, scientists at the University of Glasgow are racing

to confirm in the lab what real world data is already suggesting.

MASSIM,O PALMARINI, DIRECTOR OF CENTRE FOR VIRUS RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF GLASOW: Omicron is able to escape far better immunity by vaccination than

any other variant.

MCLEAN: It also appears to spread much more easily but some indications are that it causes less severe symptoms.

TONI HO, CLINICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW: We will possibly have a million people a day who are being infected in the UK, and even if it's a tiny

proportion of that large number, that will still result in quite a large number of hospitalizations.

MCLEAN: Because the lab we're about to enter contains live samples of the omicron variant, we have to be decked out head to toe in protective

equipment and also sealed off with this respirator from any potential danger.

When the virus sample first arrived here two weeks ago, it came in a very small vial. It's been left to grow and multiply in this incubator since



Now, they finally have enough to experiment with.

They have already noticed, omicron does not multiply as quickly as delta. Under the microscope, the dark spots are cells delta infected in 24 hours.

But even after 48 hours, the omicron variant has not spread nearly as far, a potentially encouraging sign.

AGNIESZKA SZEMIEL, VIROLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW: It is slower in the lab, so -- and it doesn't seem to be killing the cells as the other

variants, but this is also sort of in the lab. So the question is how does that translate into the actual patients?

MCLEAN: And sometimes things behave differently in a lab than they would in real life.


MCLEAN: In the real world, new infections of omicron are doubling in as little as two days in some parts of the UK.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There is a tidal wave of omicron coming.

MCLEAN: The government thinks that every infected person infects three to five others. One not yet peer-reviewed model suggests in the worst case

scenario, more than half of the English could be infected with the omicron variant over the winter months.

JENNY HARRIES, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, UK HEALTH SECURITY AGENCY: It's probably the most significant threat that we've had since the start of the pandemic.

MCLEAN: In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is resorting to plan B, reviving the indoor mask mandate and introducing a COVID passport for night

clubs and large events.

But a vote this week to confirm the measure provoked a mutiny from within Johnson's own conservative party, passing only thanks to votes from the

opposition party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the ayes have it, the ayes have it.

MARCUS FYSH, UK'S CONSERVATIVE PARTY MP: You are segregating society based on an unacceptable thing. We are not a "papers, please" society.

MCLEAN: But they are in mainland Europe. COVID passports are making life difficult for the un-jabbed in places like Italy, France, Germany and

Austria, that are now required for everyday things like restaurants, public transit, going to work or even leaving your house.

Austria is making adult vaccinations mandatory. The new German chancellor is pushing for the same, but when Johnson suggested even a conversation

about that in the future, it was publicly shot down by his own health secretary.

SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Although we've seen plans for universal mandatory vaccination in some countries in Europe, I will never

support them in this country.

MCLEAN: Instead, the government is resorting to a familiar approach, personal responsibility.

CHRIS WHITTY, ENGLAND'S CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: I think people's approach is really what matters with them and then cut down on the things that


MCLEAN: But with another record high of new infections Friday and the threat of rising hospitalizations, Johnson may new soon convince a we are

public to go along with even more restrictions, unless some good news is discovered inside labs like this one.

Scott McLean, CNN, Glasgow, Scotland.


KINKADE: And Boris Johnson is already having a hard time. The British prime minister is enduring a crushing political fallout after the

Conservative Party lost a seat in England that, it's held for almost 200 years.

The new liberal Democrat lawmaker literally popping Boris Johnson's bubble. This is yet another blow to Mr. Johnson's authority. He says he needs to

fix issues at Downing Street as Downing Street continues to under fire for the government lockdown parties last Christmas.


JOHNSON: Clearly, the voting in North Shropshire is a very disappointing result, and I totally understand people's frustrations. I hear what are the

voters are saying in North Shropshire, and in all humility, I've got to accept that -- that verdict.

I'm responsible for everything that government does, and, of course, I take personal responsibility.

REPORTER: So, which --


KINKADE: Well, even before Thursday's shock loss to the liberal Democrats, CNN analysis found that UK's governing party was already trailing the

opposition Labour Party in various polls.

Well, Russia has laid down its demands for an end to the standoff over Ukraine, but they are not getting -- likely to get much of a reception in

the west. Now just a day after the Kremlin gave the U.S. a proposed treaty to end the intense classes, the U.S. says Russia is mapping even more

forces at the Ukrainian border.

Now, Russia is calling for immediate talks over its proposed treaty. It calls the NATO to stop expanding any further into Eastern Europe and Russia

wants a ban on U.S. military bases and military cooperation with any former Soviet states, and that, of course, will include Ukraine.

The U.S. says it's consulting with European allies about possible talks with Russia. The Washington and NATO are also telling Moscow it will pay a

heavy price if it chooses military aggression.

The U.N. Middle East peace envoy is warning of escalating violence in the West Bank that began with a deadly ambush on an Israeli car near Nablus.


Israel blames a Palestinian settler and they won't rest until, quote, the terrorists are found.

Journalist Elliott Gotkine has more.


ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: It was shortly after 7:00 p.m. on Thursday evening that a car carrying three Jewish religious students came under fire

from the side of the road. The Israeli army says more than ten bullets were fired towards the vehicle killing 25-year-old married father of one,

Yehudah Dimentman, and moderately wounding two of his fellow students. Mr. Dimentman was buried on Friday.

In response, the Israeli army together with the security services launched a manhunt, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowing in his words that

they would catch the terrorists and that justice would be served.

The Palestinian Authority says that three Palestinians were arrested in a dawn raid on Friday morning and in the village of Barkha (ph). Now, this is

not far from Homesh, which is where the shooting happened. Homesh is described as an Israeli outpost seen as illegal by Israeli authorities

because it wasn't established with government approval .

The shooting on Thursday evening is just the latest in a series of violent incidents that have taken place in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Since

September, there's been five attempted stabbings on Israelis and one fatal shooting of an Israeli tour guide by Hamas gunman. Five Palestinians have

been killed in those incidents prompting some people to criticize the Israeli authority and police for being too quick to use legal force against


In the latest incident, a Palestinian schoolgirl was arrested on suspicion of stabbing an Israeli woman as she walked her children to school. Israeli

army spokesman says that while there has been indeed an uptick of violence of late, he says it wouldn't be correct to say that a new wave of attacks

is under way.

Elliott Gotkine, CNN, Tel Aviv.


KINKADE: Well, the U.N. is condemning what it calls retaliatory attacks in the wake of those deadly shooting. Witnesses say settlers attacked

Palestinian villages near Nablus, damaging homes and vehicles, and one Palestinian man was hospitalized. The U.N. is urging community leaders on

all sides to de-escalate the situation.

Well, let's take a look at the other key stories making international impact today.

Flash floods caused by heavy rains are bringing chaos to northern Iraq. The mayor of Erbil says at least 12 people in the area have now died. Rescue

operations are under way for others. Officials say climate change appears to be behind these sporadic heavy rainfalls.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has voted to create a commission to investigate alleged atrocities by all sides in Ethiopia. The conflict that

began with the government offensive against rebels in Tigray has spread to other regions leaving thousands of other people dead.

A warm welcome from Pope Francis at a Vatican for a group of refugees across Africa and the Middle East. They have been relocated to Italy from

cypress and will take part in a one-year integration program. The relocation follows the pope's recent trip to Cyprus and Greece.

Well, those are the lucky ones. People who made it to safety. But we have pictures of a memorial service in northern France where family members bid

a tearful farewell who drowned in the English Channel last month. Twenty- seven people died when their dingy heading from France to Britain collapsed. It was the deadliest channel crossing on record.

International Migrants Day will be commemorated across the world this Saturday. CNN's Ben Wedeman has been speaking to one refugee from Somalia

who like some of the people you saw meeting the pope has made Italy his home, and his story is one of success. Take a look.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Abdullahi Ahmed walks the corridors of power, local power, as an elected

member of Turin City Council. This 33-year-old native of Somalia has come a long way since 2008 when he stepped ashore in Italy after a perilous seven-

month journey across desert and sea.

I arrived here when I what is 19 years old, he says, without a family. I didn't know Italian. I didn't know anyone here.

Under the gaze of the once high and mighty and the sala rossa of Turin City Council, Abdullahi insists migrants shouldn't shy away from public life.

I've always believed that you can't be a foreigner forever, he tells me. You have to become a well-informed active citizen working for the future of

your city and society.


Abdullahi no time. He became fluent in Italian, founded an NGO to help raise awareness about the challenges facing migrants, wrote an award-

winning book about his experience. helped his siblings complete their higher education back in Somalia and run for local office. Not bad for one

stranger in a strange land.

In recent decades, Italy's migrant population has grown dramatically, changing along the way what it means to be Italian, something the Pakistan-

born community activist, Adnan Malik-Sher, and friend of Abdullahi knows only too well.

ADNAN MALIK-SHER, PAKISTAN-BORN COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: It should be like black and it should be brown and white, and why not.

WEDEMAN: Tunisian-born baker Hamid Saif (ph) voted for Abdullahi in the last local election. Now we're going to give you something to do, he tells


Thirty-two years in Italy, Hamid sees the presence of a migrant in local government as a step forward.

Now maybe our vases will be heard, Hamid tells me. In the past, we weren't heard at all.

Finally, new Italians are starting to raise their voices and are being heard.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Turin, Northern Italy.


KINKADE: Well, we're learning that some of the world's most vulnerable people may be denied COVID-19 vaccines because some manufacturers don't

want to take on the financial liability for potential side effects. The Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunizations, GAVI for short, tells us

that this is putting 167 million displaced people at risk. Normally, pharmaceutical companies are financially responsible for negative effects

on their products, but these are not normal times.

Vaccine manufacturers are now forcing buyers, governments for the most part, to take on that risk. When people are displaced, that's not possible.

Well, still to come, the death of a dictator ten years on. As North Korean marks a somber anniversary, we'll see what's changed since Kim Jong Il's

son came to power.


KINKADE: Well, it's been ten years since North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died ending his 17-year rule of one of the most repressive countries on

earth. North Koreans gathered today to mark the anniversary with solemn memorials. Three generations of Kim family have ruled the country since

1948 demanding absolute loyalty to those who have absolute power.

CNN's Paula Hancocks tells us what's changed since Kim Jong Il's son took the helm.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): October 2010, Kim Jong-un was introduced to the world as North Korea's heir apparent, a warning to

expect near dynastic succession to the Kim family. The following year in December, Kim Jong Il died and his son took control.

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA: I was in the State Department when we heard Kim Jong Il had died. His father had

died and we thought goodness, is this it, essentially what, 25-year-old is taking over? Twenty-six-year-old taking over? And you saw hum kind of

looking bewildered as we walked by the hearse.

HANCOCKS: Speculation of instability were opening up by a leader educated in West soon died down once purge has begun as Kim consolidated power.

YUN: We saw him having his uncle, almost like a regent being executed, summarily executed and then, of course, a few years later his older half

brother being killed, assassinated in an airport in Kuala Lumpur.

HANCOCKS: Kim Jong-un oversaw more nuclear missile tests than his father and grandfather combined over the past 10 years, intense development and

launches making North Korea far more than just a regional threat.

ANKIT PANDA, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Many of the developments that we saw North Korea complete during Kim Jong-

un's tenure so far were initiated by his father and his grandfather. So, there is a story here that involved all three Kims. But, certainly, Kim

Jong-un will be remembered in North Korea for crossing the most important threshold which includes spring the United States into range with ICBMs.

HANCOCKS: Intercontinental ballistic missiles, a new version paraded just last year.

In January at this year, with the Eighth Party Congress, Kim Jong-un announced his weapons agenda, hypersonic missiles, submarine-launched

ballistic missiles. Among them testing this year reported to be from the very wish list.

PANDA: If I were in North Korea I would look on one thing or two things and doing three things well. But what we see in North Korea is really more

than 10, around 15 potential delivery nuclear system under development. It's really remarkable.


HANCOCKS: Tense exchanges between Kim and then U.S. President Donald Trump brought the peninsula closer to military confrontation than it had been in

years. Both sides blinked and more than a year of unprecedented diplomacy ensued.

Kim achieving what his predecessors could not, meeting a sitting U.S. president.

YUN: He appeared quite confident talking with Trump one-on-one as a leader to leader, and also you saw him doing things that you don't normally

economist a communist dictator to do which is he was walking around the marina area kind of waving people and taking selfies.

HANCOCKS: Three meetings with former President Trump, five with China's leader Xi Jinping, and three with South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Kim

Jong-un is well-established on the international stage.

DUYEON KIM, SR. FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: I think he's tried really hard and tried to be perceived as a normal leader of a normal

country, and really putting his stamp, his mark on old policies.

HANCOCKS: His pledge to revive the economy remains elusive. International sanctions and closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic have crippled the

country already considered one of the world's poorest.

The U.N. said this year around 40 percent of the nation suffered food insecurity before the pandemic and that has only increased. Adverse weather

and bad harvests pushed Kim Jong-un to admit this year, quote, the people's food situation is now getting tense.

CHEONG SEONG-CHANG, SENIOR FELLOW, SEJONG INSTITUTE (through translator): The biggest difficulty North Korea is facing now is that even North Korea

doesn't know how long this isolation situation will last.

HANCOCKS: Kim Jong-un's health has kept intelligence agencies guessing, South Korea's national intelligence service told lawmakers, Kim has lost

some 20 kilos, 44 pounds but appears healthy.

Photos over the span of recent months shows a significant change. Assumed health cares earlier in the rain sparked fevered speculation who might

succeed him. That has now calmed down.

YUN: I see him beyond ten years, 20, 30, 40 years and assuming his health holds up.

HANCOCKS: Ten years into his rule, Seoul's spy agency says it believes Kim is beginning his own brand of self-idolization, removing the photos of his

predecessors from a key meeting and starting a new concept called Kim Jong- unism.

KIM: Our people first, our nation first, self-reliance, really trying to differentiate himself from his father and grandfather.

HANCOCKS: A metaphorical coming of age. His predecessors introduced their own isms at a certain point, a sign Kim Jong-un is just starting to stamp

his style on the country he inherited.


Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


KINKADE: Our thanks to Paula for that report.

Well, you are watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right bang after this short break.


KINKADE: Welcome back. It's time now for your much-needed weekly dose of good news.

And Ugandan health workers are taking to the skies to get HIV drugs safely to isolated people in Lake Victoria. They say using drones takes away the

risk from having to transport them by boat and if this pilot project works out, they hope to expand it to other remote communities across the country.

Well, meantime, a Peruvian Santa is getting a holiday lift along with dozens of young COVID patients. Santa traded in his sleigh for a fire truck

so he could deliver gifts to children through their windows.

And, finally, Brit John Evans is aiming to get his 100th world record in time for his 75th birthday which is next march and he balances objects on

his head. Now, he hopes to balance a bow and chimney.

Evan says he has only one working eye. He's got asthma, he's got diabetes, he's got angina, a coronary disease. But he says he also has 98 world

records, so I say he should go for that 100th.

Well, that was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and stay safe.

"WORLD SPORT" is up next.