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Netanyahu Vows To Stifle Iran's Nuclear Efforts; U.S. Denies Involvement In Natanz Facility Blackout; WHO Says Vaccines, Measures Can Bring Coronavirus Under Control; German Chancellor Angela Merkel To Meet With Cabinet On Curbing Third Wave; Expert Cardiologist Says Floyd's Death Was Preventable; Some Migrants Expelled By U.S. Face Danger They Had Fled; Chinese Official Admits Efficacy Issue With Its COVID-19 Vaccine; Protests In Montreal Over Curfew. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired April 13, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome to all of our viewers around the world, thank you for joining, me I'm Robyn Curnow.

Ahead on CNN, Iran vows revenge for a mysterious attack on its Natanz nuclear plant, which could sink new efforts to revive its nuclear deal with the West.

Stark warning from Germany's chancellor, ahead of COVID crisis talks, Angela Merkel says the pandemic's third wave could be the toughest yet.

And, a blow to China's vaccine diplomacy, the country's top health official admits, their jab is not very effective. How they are hoping to change that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: We begin with these new details on the blackout at Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging the facility and is warning of revenge, as tensions between the two countries, continue to rise.

New advanced centrifuges at the site, appearing to be damaged in an explosion on Sunday. Iran says a person involved has been identified.

This comes as the U.S. and Iran are about, resume direct talks on Wednesday, on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal. On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, met with Israeli prime minister and Benjamin Netanyahu vowed, Iran will never get a nuclear weapon.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: My policy, as prime minister of Israel is clear. I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel. And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran's aggression and terrorism.


CURNOW: Fred Pleitgen, following the story from Berlin. Fred?


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still unclear how big the damage has been to the Natanz nuclear facility. But the Iranians certainly do seem to be angry about this incident. But also, quite defiant in this aftermath.

We are hearing that Iran's atomic energy agency repair has already begun on the facility and that emergency power system has been reported as well. The Iranians, from the very beginning, have said about this incident, that there was a power failure, no one was seriously injured that no radiation was leaked, either.

Meanwhile Iranian politicians blasting Israel. For instance, Iran's foreign minister saying Zionists want to take revenge on the Iranian nation for their success, meaning Iran's success, "in the course of lifting sanctions. But we will not allow the Zionists and we will take revenge from the Zionists for this action."

Now the Iranians not saying what exactly that revenge is going to look like. But one of the things that they have said, is that Natanz is going to continue operating. Iranians have said, they are going to put more advanced centrifuges into Natanz to make it, as they put it, more potent and more effective than it even was before.

Now of course, all of this comes at a very important juncture, as the U.S. and Iran at least indirectly are negotiating, about trying to salvage the Iran nuclear agreement. The Iranians have always been saying they don't want the nuclear weapon.

The Israelis say that they for instance don't believe that. But right now, in Vienna there are negotiations going on to try to bring the United States back into the nuclear deal and try to bring Iran back into full compliance.

Both Iran and United States have said that they want to save the deal. Of course we do know that the Israelis are vehemently opposed to the nuclear agreement -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


CURNOW: Thank you for that Fred.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is denying any involvement in this incident, saying it is still committed to diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our focus is, of course, on the diplomatic path forward. We've not been given any indication that attendance at the discussions and that will proceed, on Wednesday, has changed.


CURNOW: CNN global affairs analyst, Aaron David Miller, joining me now. He's a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former Middle East negotiator for the U.S. State Department.

Great to have you on the show.

What do you make of those comments from Jen Psaki?

We are also not hearing very much from the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, while he was in Israel.

Are the Americans trying to ignore this incident and push ahead diplomatically?

Or are there serious conversations happening behind closed doors?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The administration already made a statement, that they had nothing to do with this operation. They cannot recognize the fact that it took place and it likely will complicate things.


MILLER: But I think they are hoping, with some justification, that the negotiation schedule that began mid-week in Vienna, will resume. Regardless of the latest stressor. And it was a stressor.

The negotiations are confronting significant problems to begin with, a lack of trust, a profound political constraints on both sides and under some time pressure. If it is not included by mid May, when the Iranians enter their campaign season, for presidential elections in June, it is going to be increasingly difficult to conclude something.

CURNOW: The Israeli army chief hinted that Israel was behind this incident.

What is the messaging and the timing, in particular?

And what is the calculation here from Israel, if that is, indeed, the case?

MILLER: It's hard to read these things. Clearly, I think the Israeli message they've been communicating to the administration, up until these talks began, was to say, look, what's the hurry?

Why rush into the JCPOA?

The Iranians are at least two years away from actually producing a nuclear weapon. Perhaps, even longer. I think the Israeli calculation has changed, partly because Mr. Netanyahu, I think, has his back against the political wall, partly because, I think the Israelis believe, in fact, there is a reasonable chance that Iran and the United States, may come to an agreement, to re-enter the JCPOA as it is.

That, from their perspective, is not Israel's interest. I think it is, clearly, hard to imagine that this was not timed to create some difficulty into demonstrating both to Iran and the United States that Israel has a vote in these matters as well.

CURNOW: If Washington and the other signatories to the Iran deal and Tehran, see this as an Israeli attempt to complicate or sabotage the deal, was it successful politically in terms of an operation?

And what kind of pressure has it put on Iran, in particular?

Does it give Iran less leverage now?

Is there some sort of fallout?

MILLER: I've heard the argument made, since, presumably, we don't know the details of this attack, we really don't know how destructive it was with respect to constraining the enrichment capacity and capability.

But what I think it will do, in terms of the complicating factor, simply, will make the Iranians more resistant to any concessions. They, simply, cannot afford, even before this attack, to somehow feel they're being pressured either because of Trump's maximum pressure campaign or the Israeli operation, being pressured somehow, to enter this agreement from disadvantageous circumstances.

This may affect the timing but, again, I think there is a reasonable chance that these negotiations could actually succeed. If there wasn't such a chance, I doubt, frankly, that the Israelis would've undertaken, in the last week or two, the operation last week against an Iranian cargo vessel, which, many people, believe was a floating command platform for the Revolutionary Guard, in the Arabian sea.

It's not the first time this has happened. So I think there is a sense, again in Israel that this may work.

CURNOW: If you are bullish on this and if many watchers are bullish on this deal coming together, what, could potentially, stop it?

Could Congress get in the way at the end?

MILLER: Having been around negotiations, they really only have 2 speeds in this part of the world, slow and slower. I'm not sure whether I'm bullish, I just think there is a lot of political will, I think, to find a way back into this agreement, on the part of the Biden administration.

Even with some reservations and hesitation on the part of Iran. But again, I think the major obstacles remain, not the sequence, the who is the first problem, I think that can be orchestrated.

The issue is whether or not the Iranians are prepared to re-engage and re-enter compliance with all of their obligations, under the original JCPOA. Perhaps, even more complex.

Whether or not the Biden administration is prepared to address sanctions relief, not just the original sanctions but those imposed by the Trump administration. I think it's not the timing or the when that's the issue, here it's the what. I think, that remains to be seen, whether or not they can find the kind of balance and interest that would facilitate reentry.

CURNOW: Aaron David Miller, good to see you, thank you for your expertise.

MILLER: Thank you, Robyn.



CURNOW: The World Health Organization, warning the coronavirus pandemic is a long way from over, as global COVID cases are rising again.

It says, we still have the ability to bring it under control. The WHO, saying the pandemic, is now, at a critical point. Cases are increasing for a seventh straight week, with more than 4 million new infections reported in the last week alone.

As infections climb, so, of course, do the deaths, up globally, for a fourth week, but the WHO director says the vaccinations, along with public health measures, can work to save lives.


DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: With a concerted effort to apply public health measures alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control, in a matter of months.

Whether we do or not, comes down to the decision and the actions, that governments and individuals make, every day. The choice is ours.


CURNOW: German chancellor Angela Merkel, soon meeting with cabinet members to discuss measures to slow a third wave, says vaccines must be administered quickly to get the pandemic under control. Health care workers and intensive care units, overwhelmed with patients recently, which the chancellor acknowledged.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): The number of infections is, currently, far too high. The use of intensive care units in our hospitals is increasing again and we need to say, this third wave may turn out to be the toughest for us.


CURNOW: Today alone, Germany reported 11,000 new COVID cases. Chancellor Merkel and other leaders calling for a brief, sharp lockdown, as Germany tries to vaccinate more people.

Dr. Christian Karagiannidis says that the president of the German Society for Internal Medicine and Intensive Care, and emergency medicine, that over the past few weeks has been making this public, and impassioned pleas, for a 2-week lockdown.

Doctor, hi, thank you for joining us on CNN.

How much pressure are you and other German doctors, under right now?

Tell us what it is like, particularly as it appears that ICU beds are running out of capacity.

DR. CHRISTIAN KARAGIANNIDIS, GERMAN ICU REGISTRY: The major problem in Germany, is now that we are facing the third wave, within a few weeks after we came down with the numbers from the second wave.

We are now approaching once more, 6,000 COVID patients within the next 2 or 3 weeks. That is too much within this short timeframe. The nurses are tired, the doctors are tired and especially, we have more than 80 percent, non COVID patients, on the ICU.

Let me give an example here, in Cologne, we have 1 million inhabitants. Yesterday evening, we had 63 ICU beds. That's not enough for such a big city.

CURNOW: No, it is terrifying, no doubt, as a doctor. When you face a pandemic.

How does that make you feel when you push to that kind of limit?

KARAGIANNIDIS: We have a huge registry in Germany and we see, every day, where are our free capacity and how occupied the ICU is, especially, in the big cities. I guess, at the end, every patient gets a bed in Germany. That's the good news.

The bad news is, we have to transfer the patients to regions in Germany where you have free ICU beds. On the other hand, it would be so easy to implement some measures coming down with the infection numbers, we have less of them and then the vaccination wave comes and gives us the protection we need.

So it must be within the next weeks, as Angela Merkel said, we come down with the numbers. Then, we will have a nice summer.

CURNOW: You say it's so easy but clearly, German authorities don't find this easy, based on the numbers.

What needs to be done?

Ms. Merkel is meeting with the cabinet, there's a lot of political inaction, political stalemate.

What needs to be done and done quickly?

KARAGIANNIDIS: I guess, in Germany, we have a law that regulates how we behave during this pandemic and not only with COVID. The federal states, they have their own laws, I would say.

The problem is, we need to bring everything together and it needs to be very quick because, every, day we wait until we go into a stronger lockdown than we have, at the moment, meaning, we have around about 100 more patients, per, day in Germany with COVID-19 on the ICUs. That means, Angela Merkel needs to hurry up and make sure we get it.


The numbers at the ICU will still rise, even if we implement a lockdown and we have another 14 days afterwards for increasing numbers until this stops.

CURNOW: So you're asking Angela Merkel to override regional authorities and to centralize everything now.

Are you advocating a radical shift here from the chancellor?

KARAGIANNIDIS: I guess we can bring both together. Lock down in itself will not work without having this federal state system. I guess it's important that Angela Merkel now says we have to stop. After the stop, 2 or 3 weeks, we have to reopen.

In this reopening scenario, we need all the federal states with a lot of testing and speeding up vaccination and so on. And I would clearly advocate that we bring these two things together.

CURNOW: Is the German health care system breaking down as some have suggested?

KARAGIANNIDIS: No I guess not. We have the highest number of ICU beds in Europe that's comparable to the U.S. It's nearly 30 per 1,000 inhabitants. We will not get into this situation we have for example in U.K.

But the quality is not the same as if we are not in such a strong amount of COVID patients. Let's not forget that 50 percent of the patients are on ventilation with COVID-19 dying in Germany and that puts a lot of pressure on nurses and doctors.

CURNOW: How are you doing?

This has been a long year. It's not over yet.

How are doctors like you doing right now?

KARAGIANNIDIS: We are all tired but we all know this now, with the third wave, it's the most critical point of this pandemic. Everyone is concentrated, although being tired. We have to manage now the next 3-5 weeks. Afterwards, we are looking into a great summer, I hope. CURNOW: OK. I hope so as well. Dr. Christian Karagiannidis, thank you very much. Thank you for all the hard work you are doing. I will leave you right now to go back to work, thank you.


CURNOW: In the U.K., people packed the streets of London on Monday. Take a look at these images, braving the cold for a chance to stop, to shop in person or get a haircut for the first time in three months. Pubs, gyms and salons are able to open at the step 2 of the COVID roadmap.

But not all can adapt to changing consumer habits and the cost of safety requirements. A British trade group says shops have lost out on more than $41 billion during the lockdowns over the past year.

India has overtaken Brazil to become the country second most affected by the coronavirus, behind the U.S. The health ministry reported a dip in new infections after 6 consecutive days of record high cases.

Millions of Hindu faithful are taking part in the world's largest religious pilgrimage. Officials say they expect up to 5 million people to take a dip in the river Ganges on Monday alone.

We will monitor that story and many more, but still to come on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): She says she felt she was dying as she watched her sons cross the river hand in hand, in tears and then gesture goodbye.

CURNOW (voice-over): A heartbreaking decision so many migrant parents across the U.S. border to keep their children safe.

And fond memories of humor and affection from Prince Philip's grandsons. That's next.





CURNOW: Police and protesters have clashed for a second night in a suburb of Minneapolis. Police fired tear gas and made some 40 arrests after people gathered outside police headquarters.

Police say some shot projectiles and they responded to sporadic reports of looting as well. Demonstrators are demanding justice after an officer fatally shot an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop on Sunday. The officer grabbed her gun instead of her Taser, in what authorities are saying was an accidental shooting. While tensions mount in Brooklyn, in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the

defense is presenting its case later today in Minneapolis. On Monday Floyd's brother gave this testimony about their families' loss.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE'S BROTHER: He was a person that everybody loved in our community. He just knew how to make people feel better. George, he would always be with our mom. A big mama's boy. I cry a lot but, George, he loved his mom.

He was my oldest brother, George. I miss both of them.


CURNOW: Earlier a cardiologist testified that George Floyd died from cardiac arrest and his death was preventable. His testimony echoed a series of medical experts, who testified Floyd died because of the officer's actions.

Now the White House says it's cut deals with neighboring countries to help ease the migrant crisis around the U.S. southern border. Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, have agreed to beef up security to stop people from going north.

The Biden administration has struggled with the influx of migrants in recent weeks. U.S. Customs and Border Protection caught more than 170,000 people trying to cross into the U.S. in March alone.

That's a 70 percent increase from the month before. Some of those migrants sent back are living in limbo and fear. Rosa Flores explains.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the more than 100,000 migrants expelled by the Biden administration last month ended it up here, at a plaza located in the crime and kidnapping hot spot that is Reynosa, Mexico, living in squalor and with impossible choices.

This woman says her husband and daughter face certain death if they return to El Salvador, where their family couldn't cover a 200 dollar a month extortion fee to criminal gangs.

She says, she just wants to work and provide for her daughter. In Reynosa, she and so many expelled migrants are now surrendered by the same dangers they fled. Like this 31-year-old woman from Honduras, who is now in a shelter clutching a pink rosary.

She said she promised to carry the beads during her journey for protection. We can't show you her face, because, late last month, she said she was kidnapped from a street near the dangerous plaza, kept for three days, beaten and raped.

Her 9 year old daughter with special needs was with her. Wiping away her mother's tears. She says, it was moments of terror.

With her faith intact, she said she escaped and, with her clothes in tatters, crossed into the U.S. again. She says immigration officials put her right back into Reynosa.


FLORES (voice-over): Attorney Jennifer Harbury has been representing migrants like her since 2016.

JENNIFER HARBURY, ATTORNEY: The problem that was created by president Trump is so enormous, that it's not settled yet.

FLORES (voice-over): While President Biden is perceived as more humane than his predecessor, some of his decisions --

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming.

FLORES (voice-over): Have Jennifer urging Biden to consider their true impact.

HARBURY: People are being hurt, raped, attacked and killed in northern Mexico -- Mexico, because we have sent them back. That's not humanitarian.

FLORES (voice-over): It leaves many mothers like this one from Honduras with a Sophie's choice. With her special needs child in arms, she said she didn't want to separate from her 12- and 16- year old sons on the banks of the Rio Grande.

FLORES: Your son said it best, you shouldn't separate.

FLORES (voice-over): They have been expelled to Mexico twice, under the pandemic public health rule which allows for the swift return of migrants to Mexico. When her oldest son told her he wanted to cross alone with his brother, because the Biden administration was allowing unaccompanied children to enter the U.S.

She said she felt she was dying, as she watched her sons cross the river hand in hand, in tears and then gesture goodbye. She says that she misses her sons, who are now in a shelter in New York.

As for the woman and the others who are stuck in a dangerous plaza in Reynosa, their American dream is still alive, despite having to sleep in shifts to watch each other's backs -- Rosa Flores, CNN, Reynosa, Mexico.



CURNOW: Britain's Parliament honored Prince Philip on Monday, lawmakers in the House of Commons and the House of Lords observed a moment of silence. He died at the age of 99. He's lying in a private chapel in Windsor Castle. He had a small funeral on Saturday. Prime minister Boris Johnson said the Duke said he shaped and protected the monarchy.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Though I suspect, Mr. Speaker, that he might be embarrassed or even faintly exasperated to receive these tributes. He made this country a better place. For that, he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come.


CURNOW: Many of the tributes to Prince Philip focused on his long service to the monarchy. Two of his grandsons also highlighting his affection for family and humor. Here's Max Foster.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Having heard tributes from Prince Philip's children over the weekend, Monday was an opportunity to hear from two of his grandchildren.

Prince William describing Prince Philip as an extraordinary man. Prince Harry saying his grandfather was man of service, honor and great humor and a legend at banter.

As the shock of Prince Philip's departure really sinks in, we are hearing more and more about his legendary sense of humor. Prince William released this photograph taken by his wife of Prince Philip sitting on the carriage with their son, Prince George.

Prince William said I'll never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves his infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humor.

We're excited to hear more details about the funeral on Saturday later on this week and who is invited. An awful lot of work behind castle walls behind me as they prepare for a globally broadcasted events but it's fundamentally a private service and the public are not invited in because of the COVID restrictions -- Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.


CURNOW: Thank you to Max for that.

Coming up on CNN, China's top disease experts say there is media damage control after he said the vaccine isn't that great compared to the alternatives.

Too little, too late, health care workers in Canada say there's just not enough vaccines to go around and to avoid a new wave of COVID infections. That story next as well.





CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow, is 31 minutes past the hour.

China's top disease fighters, making a rare admission about the country's own COVID vaccine. He says, its efficiency isn't high. Now state media says he is walking those comments back. I want to talk about this with Kristie Lu Stout, joining us from Hong Kong.

What did he say and how is it being pulled back?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: China is defending the efficacy of its homegrown vaccines after this top Chinese health official, making this very rare admission about the low efficacy rates of Chinese made COVID jabs.

His comments over the weekend, going viral on Chinese social media. They have been censored on Chinese social media and Chinese state run media is now pushing out an interview with the official.

This is the Chinese CDC secretary, in which is trying to walk back those comments and say, any reports about the so-called admission are a, quote, "complete misunderstanding."

In those comments, not only did he say that the protection rate of Chinese made vaccines, as they exist today are, quote, "not high," they also laid a number of options in order to improve their efficacy. One option was to increase the number of doses and another, to extend the time period between doses. Another option, a third one, to mix vaccines.

Imagine mixing a more traditionally made, Chinese made vaccine, like Sinovac and messenger RNA vaccine made by Pfizer and Moderna. There is very little data out of this type of mixing of vaccines, the trials are underway, as we discovered, here, in Hong Kong.

Just this morning, I spoke to an infectious disease expert and he is recruiting suspect for a mixing vaccine study. He is looking for 100 people who, will first, get the jab from Pfizer BioNTech and then 4 weeks, later get the Sinovac jab.

He says, what they're trying to look out for in this study, is to see if the mixing vaccines, in this way, it will be more effective and also, more safe. Take a listen.


DR. IVAN HUNG, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: This could be ruled out as a one-off strategy, especially to tackle the variants problem and, also, to address the issue that some of the individuals who have received, perhaps, the BioNTech or the Sinovac vaccine and then, have an allergy to that vaccine and would like to switch platforms for the second dose. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Doctor Ivan Hung, at the University of Hong Kong, head of the trial, as he tries to recruit 100 people for this mixing vaccine study, mixing a Chinese made vaccine, with the Western made Pfizer BioNTech. He tells, me results from that trial, could be available as early as August -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you, Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

Montreal's latest COVID curfew, having been met with protests.


CURNOW: The city, like many parts of Canada, seeing a spike in cases. Prime minister, Justin Trudeau, saying the next few weeks are crucial to get a change. A chance for vaccines to take hold. As Paula Newton reports, the vaccines, likely, arrived too late for Canada to avoid a third wave.


DR. TASLEEN NIMJEE, HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL: That is hard to stomach. It really is hard to stomach.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctors frustrated, exhausted, as a growing 3rd wave of COVID cases, spreads across Canada, even more serious than the first two.

And, vaccines are arriving far too late to stem the surge. One horrifying look in Canadian ICUs, filled to capacity and beyond and it's clear, doctors say. Canada's vaccine shortage, now their problem.

NIMJEE: We went through a period where we were rapidly trying to immunize our health care workers, both, first and second doses, to, all of a sudden, we aren't getting the supply we thought we would. We have nothing and it went down to, I remember, weeks, where there was no vaccine. Vaccines changed the game of this pandemic.

NEWTON (voice-over): Canada, still on the losing end. For a country that had, categorically, claimed to have secured more doses, per capita, than any other in the world, doses have not arrived in time and doctors say, the early vaccine drought, will cost lives.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau, saying Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines. Unlike the U.S. and the U.K., was unable to ramp up domestic manufacturing. So Canadians are at the mercy of imports not even from their American neighbor but from Europe.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We continue our discussions with the American administration on getting more doses into Canada.

NEWTON (voice-over): The Biden administration sent 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, to Canada, in recent weeks. But there's no announced plans to send more. And, from Europe, Canada has received more than 8 million total doses,

all of it, not enough for a country of nearly 38 million people, forcing most Canadians, including front line workers, to get only one dose; the second shot, postponed, as long as 4 months.

That prompted the head of the world-renowned University of Ottawa Heart Institute, pleading with the Ontario government to, quickly, get a second dose to medical staff.

DR. THIERRY MESANA, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA HEART INSTITUTE: It's not a small problem, it isn't. People are exhausted, we see staff, not coming to work, because they may have COVID. Now they are not hospitalized but they have symptoms, even with the potential one dose.

NEWTON (voice-over): The weeks ahead, it will be more gut-wrenching, still. Many provinces, now locking down and triaging and transferring patients. Activating surge capacity in its health care system, that is now under threat of COVID-19, like never before -- Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


CURNOW: Still ahead, Japan plans to release treated Fukushima waste water into the sea and it's triggering a major reaction and concern from China and South Korea. We have that, next.





CURNOW: Taiwan's defense ministry says 25 Chinese warplanes entering its air defense zone in the largest breach of that space in a year. It happened on Monday, just one day after the U.S. secretary of state warning Beijing that the U.S. was committed to the defense of the self governed island.

Taiwan responded by scrambling aircraft and issuing warnings. In recent weeks, Chinese planes have made near daily incursions into Taiwan's air defense zone.

And Japan says it plans to release treated wastewater into the sea from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. It will happen in 2 years, pending approval. The water was contaminated, as you remember, from the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Both China and South Korea, say they have grave concerns. Japan insists the water is safe and the U.S. says the move meets global safety standards. To Tokyo, Blake Essig, joining me now.

This, is obviously, raising a lot of eyebrows.

How can Tokyo guarantee the safety of this water? BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, perception is reality. The reality on the ground, here, is that we just don't know. When you talk to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Japanese government, talking about the fact that this water has been treated, meeting international standards and is safe.

But when you talk to the fishermen that make a living off the coast of Fukushima and other countries who buy seafood, like South Korea, they have concerns.

Again, what things look, out 10, 20, 30 years from now, we don't know. But the standards that must be met, according to the Japanese government and the IAEA, will be met with 1.25 million tons of water being stored, in 1,000 tanks, at the seaside plant.

What they are doing, is over the next -- in 2 years, the goal is that, once that water is treated, around three quarters of, it's still, not treated and must be re-purified. Once it is, that water will then be disposed and released into the ocean.

I had the chance to talk to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, talking about the potential environmental impact and this is what he had to say.


RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Once you start discharging, in a controlled manner, this water, into the ocean, it is not like you are going to see the sea glowing purple or green and all fish will be dead and the Pacific Ocean will be killed. Of course not.

This has been done, as I say, in the North Atlantic, in the Mediterranean and in many parts of the world. There is no environmental impact whatsoever.


ESSIG: Despite the idea that it is, likely, that this water could be safe according to the agency and the Japanese government, there is a lot of concerns of people here in Japan with the idea of buying the seafood caught off the coast of Fukushima.

The reputational damage that has already been done by the disaster, 10 years, ago likely will be amplified if this water is, in fact, disposed into the Pacific Ocean.

CURNOW: Blake Essig, good to see you, thank you, important story, live from Tokyo.

Thanks to you all for watching CNN, I'm Robyn Curnow, be sure to find me on Instagram and on Twitter. "WORLD SPORT," starting after the break. Enjoy.