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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Australia Cancels Novak Djokovic's Visa; U.K. COVID Cases Surge, But England Eases Travel Restrictions; Protests, Riots Rock Former Soviet Republic Of Kazakhstan. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 17:00   ET


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

We begin with news just in to CNN, Australia has canceled tennis star Novak Djokovic's visa to enter the country just ahead of the Australia Open.


Earlier this week, the tournament organizers announced that Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption from the country's vaccine mandate. That

decision drew huge backlash from Australians. This comes as countries around the globe are rerouting their approach to living with COVID-19 as

infections continue to soar to unseen level.

Our reporters are standing by across the world.

But, first, let's go to Angus Watson in Sydney, Australia.

Angus, what's the latest you're hearing about this crisis with Novak Djokovic?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Bianca, as you mentioned this, the world's men's number one tennis player Novak Djokovic arriving in Australia, hours

later told he's not allowed to come in, he's not allowed to defend his Australia title when the open begins in a couple of weeks time now in


He had exemption provided to him by the Victorian state government, when he got there happen the federal government, the board of security officials

said it wasn't valid. Now right now, you have to be fully vaccinated to enter Australia and Australian government has said Novak Djokovic's

exemption to that rule wasn't sufficient to allow him into the country.

Now, he has the right to appeal and might just do that, we're not sure yet. The other curling situation here is there's a potentially brewing

diplomatic issue between Serbia and Australia. We're hearing that the Australian ambassador in Serbia has been called in to explain why their

nation's hero Mr. Djokovic hasn't been allowed into the country so we'll keep a close watch on that.

The context here in Australia, as you mentioned, omicron cases of the coronavirus are exploding. Here in Sydney where I am, Australia's largest

city, in Melbourne, the country's second largest city as well, hospitals are overflowing with patients. Those hospitals are telling people not to

present unless their symptoms are extreme. They're turning normal wards into COVID wards, that extreme pressure being felt by the healthcare

workers on the frontline.

People here in Australia are nervous, and they were upset when they felt like an unvaccinated person, potentially unvaccinated person was coming in

on an exemption that wouldn't be made to them, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Angus, do we know where Novak Djokovic is right now, if any reaction to his team?

WATSON: So, Novak Djokovic has been holed up in Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport for hours now, and the border force there has not confirmed whether

he's been allowed out of that super supervised detention if you will, inside the airport. They've said he has been allowed to use his phone,

contrary to reports that we're hearing that he may have even been able to speak to the Serbian leader from his isolation. As I mentioned, he has a

right to try to appeal this decision, the best we know is that he is sitting tight, making his decision as to whether he appeals or not, Bianca.

NOBILO: And have we heard reaction from his father, Angus?

WATSON: We have. His father is extremely upset about the way in which he says his son has been treated. He said that he may even be protesting, or

he called on people to protest against the Australian government for the decision to block Novak Djokovic from coming into the country to defend his

Australia Open title.

Of course, people here want to see the tennis, it's a country that loves its tennis, that's very proud of its Australia Open, wants to see the best

players of course, that includes Djokovic, but the government says there's one rule, it's tough, but it's fair, and they have to stick to it, Bianca.

NOBILO: Angus Watson, thanks so much, bringing us much more on this throughout the hour and of course world sport coming up as well. Thanks for

keeping us posted.

Let's return now to the U.K., while waiting on more information from that story. Scott McLean joins us now.

And, Scott, Boris Johnson faced opposition today in parliament when he announced he would not be bringing in any tougher measures. How is the

country responding to that announcement given that cases are skyrocketing?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, cases are skyrocketing, Bianca, hospitalizations are also rising quickly as the prime minister points out,

doubling about every nine days but Boris Johnson's point has been that, look, this is not the same as previous waves. The virus is less severe than

previous variants, and the booster shot has reached now 60 percent of all the eligible population. So the prime minister, prime minister's questions

today, took questions from opposition lawmakers but not the leader of the opposition who actually tested positive for the coronavirus for the second

time in just the past three months.

The opposition politicians who did question him, very few of them seem to really be pushing for any kind of tighter restrictions, but they did have

serious questions about why it is so difficult in this country to find a test and how hospitals are possibly going to cope given the staggering

number of staff absences they're dealing with.

The peak of the omicron wave in this country, Bianca, can not come soon enough. The latest government estimates show one in every 15 people in

England in the last week of December was infected with the virus, that the one in 10 in London, the omicron epicenter.

But despite that data, Boris Johnson is not inclined to tighten restrictions. He's actually loosening some of them. So, a pre-departure

test for flights in London is no longer required, a PCR tests no longer required, instead can take a lateral flow test, much cheaper and eliminates

the need to actually quarantine while you wait for the test result to come.

One other thing easing up on restrictions because of how difficult it is to find a test, is that people who are asymptomatic who test positive on a

lateral flow test, no longer have to have that test confirmed by a PCR test. That means the number of officially diagnosed COVID cases is likely

to be artificially lower because a lot of people simply will not register these with the government, Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Scott.

And crossing the channel now, Cyril, if you're with us, last night you reported some colorful comments from President Macron against the

unvaccinated. What's the fallout been today for him?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fallout has been anger within the ranks of the opposition who accused him of disrespecting the French

population, so just to remind our viewers, French President Macron late last night gave an interview to the "Le Parisien" newspaper where he said

he wanted to piss off the unvaccinated here in France, the closest translation we could find to the word in French which is arguably more rude

and vulgar than what I just said.

The opposition was unhappy. The timing of this is peculiar because the opposition gave the opposition ground to stop debating the bill that Mr.

Macron's government introduced in parliament, a bill that would pass a vaccine pass into law. Now that is one of the government's pillars to fight

against COVID. The vaccine pass would essentially do what Macron described in that interview with that colorful language.

If passed, it would exclude the unvaccinated from many spheres of public life, including hospitality and entertainment venues. The idea, the

government's idea from the beginning from the beginning has been to squeeze the unvaccinated, put the pressure on that particular group of people.

Their argument is they are the majority in ICU wards in France. They are the ones requiring intensive care and therefore they're the ones on whom

the government should legitimately be putting the pressure.

Mr. Macron, just to conclude, Bianca, Mr. Macron I think he is very aware less than 100 days from the general election. That was probably a

calculated move and he's probably aware that the people he may have angered with the comments are people who wouldn't have voted for him in the first


NOBILO: I had wondered about that and I look forward to getting into the nitty-gritty to the lead-up to the French elections with us soon. Thank so

much, Cyril Vanier for us in Paris.

Crossing the Atlantic now, zipping around today, Stefano Pozzebon in Latin America.

Governments are walking a COVID tight rope there, trying to contain this record breaking infections but also keeping economy open. So what

strategies are being put in place where you are?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yeah, precisely, Bianca, I think the most prominent case for example is the one of the city of Rio de Janeiro which

today announced canceling in part, the events in its iconic carnival, but not the carnival itself, what the mayor's office explained is that they're

canceling strict parades. So spontaneous gatherings in some of Rio de Janeiro's most iconic neighborhoods but were not canceling the parades

within arenas, or the most iconic of them all which is the Sambadrome, an arena where almost 80,000 people and watch a parade of the best.

The summer school is coming up next month, and speaking with our affiliate, CNN brazil, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro himself, explained that while it is

impossible to impose health restrictions and health regulations on to the spontaneous gatherings on the street, they hope to impose the similar

restrictions to the one that are imposed, for example, in football matches, in concerts, so vaccine mandate, the vaccine certificate in order to enter

the closed space were part of the iconic carnival of Rio de Janeiro will take place.


And we're not talking just about a party here, Bianca. The carnival of Rio de Janeiro has impact, of well over $350 million for the city alone. We're

talking about jobs on the line and the economies all across South America have taken a battering in the last year alone. In Brazil, for example, 19

million people were at risk of food insecurity just in the lead-up to Christmas and that's why, even the most pressing cases like Argentina or

here where I am in Columbia, the governments are refusing to impose new lockdowns or new restrictions -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Stefano Pozzebon in Columbia, Cyril Vanier in France, Scott McLean in London and Angus Watson in Sydney, thank you all so much for joining us.

We'll be right back with more breaking news after this break.



NOBILO: The vast central Asian nation of Kazakhstan has long been known for its stability, but not anymore.

Protests and rioting are raging in the country's largest city and other regions. It started after the government lifted the price cap on fuel that

many people use to run their cars. Now, it's spiraled into widespread demonstrations against the country's authoritarian government. The Kazak

president asked a Russian-led military alliance for help, and just moments ago it agreed, saying it will send peacekeepers to help quell the unrest.

The president has now U-turned on the fuel price cap and removed his powerful predecessor from a key post. But he's also vowed to crush the

protests with, quote, maximum toughness.

Kazakhstan, south of Russia is a former Soviet Republican and the world's largest landlocked country, rich in oil and gas and stability has attracted

a lot of foreign investment. But its government has often ruled with a heavy hand, crushing dissent and cracking down on journalists.

Now, the entire nation under a state of emergency and the government struggles to quash rapidly growing rebellion.

Kazakhstan is a close ally of Russia with many ethnic Russians living there.

And our Nic Robertson has been monitoring developments from Moscow.

Nick, obviously, it's difficult to get a clear picture of what's happening because of restrictions on journalists in the country, these Internet

blackouts, what do we know and what's your assessment of where this has come from, because this is a groundswell of public support for these

protests, there are thousands involved.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, once those price caps were removed at the beginning of the year, it really took about 24

hours for people to realize just high the prices would spike and that's when the protests began. But it really does seem to be in the past 24 hours

it got to this level of momentum, that's got the government on its back foot, has brought tens of thousands of people out into the streets.


And it really has been hard to keep a handle on and I don't think at this stage we know how broadly the country is being affected at the moment. Hard

to keep a handle on how big it's become but certainly, one of the elements that emerges that is very clear is that this is more than about just this

particular price hike. This has to do with inequalities, inequalities across a spectrum of the population who feel economically disadvantaged.

The hint to that came with the government's reaction to try to quell this unrest, but as we've seen through the day it has grown and grown.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Earlier, protesters clashing with security forces outside Almaty's principal government building, angered by rapidly rising

fuel prices, smoke bellowing from stun grenades as the country's largest city reels from the nation's biggest protests in decades.

One unconfirmed video clip posted to social media appears to show a soldier down being dragged away from the protest by colleagues. The soldier's

current condition, also unknown.

Another unconfirmed clip appears to show soldiers with protesters on the run. One person in black clearly beaten with batons by those in uniform.

In the running battles, protesters often seeming to have the upper hand. The truth of the larger situation, difficult to obtain, as parts of Almaty

in darkness, electricity cut, so too, the Internet.

Early Wednesday, officials saying more than 200 protesters have been detained, 95 security officers injured, and 37 of their vehicles damaged.

By late Wednesday, the president had taken charge of national security and vowing not to be forced out, describing a worsening situation, and without

offering evidence, blaming outside forces.

KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENT (through translator): These terrorist gangs are essentially international. They have gone serious

training abroad. Their attack on Kazakhstan can and should be considered as an act of aggression.

ROBERTSON: In the swiftly developing situation, the prime minister replaced, the government offered its resignation, fuel price hikes

rescinded and the government put under a state of emergency.

In Moscow, the nation's closest ally, concern and calls for calm.

ROBERTSON: Russia's foreign ministry saying they hope for a peaceful solution and quick return to normal. The Kremlin spokesperson saying it's

important there's no outside interference, a hint at Western interference, saying Russian ah believes Kazakhstan can solve this alone.

By night fall, chaos in several of Kazakhstan's principle cities, the government calling for help from regional allies, including Russia. Unclear

if the government's moves will be enough to placate the protesters whose anger appears to transcend the rising fuel prices.


ROBERTSON (on camera): And that heavy security crackdown the government promised, we're getting indications coming from within Kazakhstan that in

some places, there's been heavy gunfire on the streets. It's very hard to determine who is shooting and who is on the receiving end of the bullets.

The president has talked about a number of security officials being killed in this, but with Russian and other peacekeepers, it appears, set to go

into the country, the level of security forces seems set to grow. And how this will play out in coming days, as you said at the beginning, it will

tarnish the image of the country, make it that much harder to get international investment.

If the security forces go in armed with weapons, and the early indications are that that is a possibility, it is very likely to get the protesters off

the streets.

NOBILO: Nic Robertson in Moscow, thanks for your reporting.

This just in, North Korea says it's successfully testified a hypersonic missile on Wednesday. State media reports it is, quote, the most important

task in the country's strategic weapons plan that say Kim Jong Un did not attend. Earlier, when reports crossed that North Korea had launched some

sort of projectile, South Korea urged Pyongyang to resume dialogue.

And let's go back to the news we brought you at the beginning of the show. As of now, Novak Djokovic, defending Australian champion, won't get the

chance to defend his title.


Australia announced his visa has been revoked, just days after tournament organizers confirmed being granted a medical exemption from their vaccine

mandate. And just minutes ago, the prime minister of Australia tweeting on the case, rules are rules when it comes to our borders.

CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan joins us.

Christine, great to have you on the program.

There is obviously big backlash to Djokovic's exemption, what's your response to the fact that his visa now been revoked.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Bianca, this is huge development, I'm not sure that I saw this coming because once the Australian Open

invited him, they figured, okay, that's -- that's the end.

But Australia government had another there. And, you know, it's not surprising in the sense Australia has been through so much during the

pandemic, haven't we all, but Melbourne, of course, the city hosting the Australia open had 260 straight days of quarantine and lock down.

The people there have really suffered, and have gone through a lot, and to have an unvaccinated, privileged tennis player who thinks he, I guess, owns

the world, just sauntering on in through the border, all of a sudden that wasn't so popular. And as we understand it, Bianca, his papers were not in

order to go through the border and whatever the paper work was, he was supposed to have wasn't right.

And as of right now, he is being deported and sent home. What an ignominious turn of events for a man who obviously thought he was going to

get away without being vaccinated.

NOBILO: I mean, as you said, people in Australia have exceptionally difficult time during quarantine, I have family and friends and my producer

is Australian. So we know that well.

And remind us if you could, Christine, about what we know about Djokovic's view on vaccines and also from your perspective, what kind of

responsibility do you think a sports star, especially one with unmatched prominence like Djokovic has to be an example in times like this?

BRENNAN: Bianca, you know, I hold athletes to a very high standard, I know you come from a sports family and you know about the role models and how

important sports figures are to their fans and to people around them, and looking up to them.

And Djokovic is one of the highest, on the highest of pedestals and he wants to be on that pedestal. You know, he makes millions of dollars

because he's on that pedestal.

Well, if you're on that pedestal, if the spotlight is on you, the way it is, you're going to be looked at, and Novak Djokovic needs to understand

that. His behavior on the now two years going through this has not been exemplary, he actually got COVID when he was running around and dancing, or

videos not socially distancing, not wearing a mask, and seemed to be pretty reckless behavior.

He is a beloved figure by many. He's controversial, of course, for many. He's one of the greatest tennis players to ever live and, you know, he's an

icon at the Australia Open. So we understand why he wants to be there.

But this is all his doing. This is self induced. If he were vaccinated, this wouldn't be happening and now, of course, even if he were to make it

into the country, one can only imagine the booing and real hatred towards him to people who suffered so much and done things he himself doesn't feel

he has to do.

NOBILO: And as you say, his action throughout the last year or so during the pandemic caused a lot of controversy and discussion. What's the

reaction been like amongst players and the tennis community?

BRENNAN: You know, most of them I think have been understanding of people's various opinions about the vaccine. Vast majority of male and

female tennis players, professional players, are vaccinated, and I think many of them see it as their duty not only for themselves and their

families but for making a statement about how important it is and we've seen athletes speak up and a lot of them talk about the importance of this.

But, you know, it's, he is an individual contractor so he's not on a team. You know, a rule, like if a league says everyone has to be vaccinated or

whatever, Djokovic has never had to worry about that because he's in individual sport, so he has been pretty much living the way he wants to


But I wouldn't be surprised after the Australian Open, assuming that, in fact, he is now being deported, again, what a turn of events, what an

embarrassment for him and deservedly so. What happens with the other major grand slam events this year?

This is going to be an on going issue for him and certainly not going to earn fans for this, and if anything probably hurts his image and I'm sure

that's something he and his agent and sponsors are not happy about today.

NOBILO: You're quite right. There is a lot to watch out for on all these subjects and we have World Sport coming up next.

Christine Brennan, it's been so great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us, and for acknowledging my sporting genes.


"WORLD SPORT" and Don Riddell will have more on the story coming up in about 10 minutes or so, five minutes.

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


NOBILO: The search for a soul mate is challenging these days. With COVID in the mix, many are turning to dating apps, while others trying to get

more creative.

Muhammad Malik, a 29-year-old from London, is taking a giant leap for love. He paid for several billboards and a website, aiding his quest as an

eligible bachelor.


MUHAMMAD MALIK, BACHELOR: I'm 29, living la vida London. I am an entrepreneur. I'm a foodie, and I'm religious. I am looking for someone who

is working on her deen. I'm open to any ethinicity, but come from a loud Punjabi family, so the banter has to be 100.

If you're interested, fill out the form or check out my details.


NOBILO: When asked why, he said I just haven't found the right girl yet. It's tough out there. I had to get a billboard to get seen.

Well there's something I can relate to as well. Good night, one and all, keep it 100.