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Austria to Impose National Lockdown Monday; Israel's COVID-19 R Rate Hits 1; China's Influence in Africa Grows; COP26 Did Not Address Climate Apartheid; Kyle Rittenhouse Not Guilty on All Charges; China under Pressure over Tennis Star Peng Shuai. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate your company.

Coming up on the program. Austria, under lockdown. One of several European countries, seeing a worrying surge, in COVID cases.

Raising concern about our planet, we speak to one expert about what is being called climate apartheid.

And, Chinese state-run media, trying to tamp down concerns about a high-profile tennis player, missing, since accusing a top official of sexual assault.


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

HOLMES: Angry protests erupting in Europe, over new restrictions aimed at stopping a devastating wave of COVID infections. Riot police, in Rotterdam, using water cannons and say warning shots were fired, after protesters torched vehicles and threw rocks.

At least seven people, reported hurt. Western Europe, seeing some of the highest numbers of infections since the pandemic began. Officials say, months of persuasion have failed to get vaccination rates up.

And so, drastic measures are now needed. Austria, imposing a total lockdown, beginning on Monday. The government also set a February 1st deadline for every eligible person, to get vaccinated.

All of, this as the holiday season of course, approaches. The German state of Bavaria already canceling its famed Christmas markets for the second straight year. Vendors say their financial losses are severe. Let's go live, to Barbie Nadeau, in Rome, for the very latest.

This Austria lockdown, Barbie, speaks to the severity of this wave of the virus and the concerns that the governments have.

Can we expect more moves, like this, across Europe?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we'll be seeing targeted lockdowns, maybe not the entire country like in Austria but in Italy they're going back to the color-coded zones and north of the country. There is already one yellow zone and that means masks outside. There will be restrictions in restaurants.

I think this is the way forward for most European countries until everybody gets vaccinated and gets a booster shot, Michael.

HOLMES: Austria moving to the mandatory vaccines.

How might that impact what other nations do, moving to mandatory shots and moving to exclude or isolate, the unvaccinated from areas of public life?

There is a real sense of many governments, in a way, losing patience with the unvaccinated, isn't there?

NADEAU: That's right. It really is now the pandemic of the unvaccinated. And it is complicated by the fact that the booster programs aren't that strong across Europe. So, people have waning immunity and then people who aren't vaccinated can pass it along to them.

France and Italy already have a modified vaccine mandate. They have green passes or health passes to get inside restaurants, theaters and public venues. So, there are varying degrees of it. Maybe they're not calling it a vaccine mandate, but it still exists in certain ways across the bloc already.

HOLMES: We saw boosters being announced in the U.S., for everyone over 18. Places like Israel, were way ahead, on the boosters.

What is the rollout of boosters looking like?

NADEAU: When you look at vaccination rates across Europe, that are fairly low, 60 percent to 65 percent in some countries, here, in Italy, we're pretty high at over 80 percent.

But the booster programs just aren't being rolled out yet. In Italy, for example not until December will people between the ages of 40 and 60 even be offered the booster. Most of those people had their vaccines more than six months ago.

In France, it is saying that the booster programs are just getting going now. They are still trying to get those no-vax people, those people who haven't been vaccinated yet, their first round of vaccines.

HOLMES: There is a lot of concern, after a few months, vaccines lose their efficacy. Barbie, good to see you my friend, thank you, Barbie Nadeau, in Rome.

Israeli medical experts, keeping a close eye on new cases there, as the COVID transmission rate has been going up lately. In recent weeks, the R rate, as it is called, has risen to 1. That means, in simple terms, every 10 people with COVID will infect another 10.

New infections are still, far lower than in early autumn, but officials are taking no chances. Children, aged 5 to 11, can begin getting vaccinated on Tuesday. Health officials hoping that will help keep transmission rates in check.


HOLMES: And, in the U.S., as we were discussing with Barbie Nadeau there, if you're at least 18 years old and six months past your second dose, you are, now, eligible for a COVID booster. CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, with details on why that is so important.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: With the FDA authorizing boosters and the CDC now formally recommending them, boosters are recommended for all adults in the United States. That is now available to people right away. People can go to their pharmacies or doctors' offices.

First of all, even before these most recommendations, most adults in the country were eligible for boosters. If you had a preexisting condition like diabetes, heart disease, moderate asthma or obesity, you were already eligible for a booster.

What is now different it is a blanket recommendation for all adults across the country. We should point up there was a second vote on boosters, saying people over the age of 50 should get a booster. People under the age, they say, it's recommended for people and for people over the age of 50 they strengthen the language a bit, saying, they should get a booster.

Let me show you a few reasons, a few pieces of data, that drove this. First of all, in the United States, what has happened up to September here. If you got COVID, you ended up in the hospital, it was almost always in someone who is unvaccinated.

If you look at the green line at the bottom, it was pretty flat, but it has started to trend up a bit. It you look at some of the data in Israel, going up until November 1st, you saw an interesting picture emerge. The same story in that most of the people who are developing severe COVID were still unvaccinated.

But take a look at the middle graph there. That is close to 10 per 100,000 people, people who, in fact, were vaccinated, they were still getting severely ill. But if they got boosted, you can see how significant the numbers drop. So, a lot of protection from the boosters, in terms of severe illness.

Again, most of the unvaccinated but you did see some waning of that overall efficacy of the vaccines. Now one thing to point out, this is a big discussion at this time because as we go into the winter season, one of the big concerns is that if there's more and more people in the hospital, it's not only COVID that would be impacted but other illnesses, as well.

Take a look. If you start to see surges here, say 75 percent capacity for ICUs, that leads to a lot of other patients potentially not being able to take care and, according to the modeling studies, maybe 12,000 excess deaths over the following couple weeks in the country.

If ICUs become completely full, it could lead to 80,000 excess deaths over the next couple of weeks. That is what they're trying to mitigate and what they're trying to avoid.

And I think that is why these boosters are now recommended for all adults. And they get a booster, people over the age of 50 should get a booster. Again, those messages coming from the FDA and the CDC.


HOLMES: Sanjay Gupta reporting there.

Now the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is warning that the war in Tigray has launched Ethiopia on a path to destruction. Blinken will wrap up his three-nation tour of Africa in the coming hours.

He spoke with CNN's Stephanie Busari earlier, and called on Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to bring the warring sides together. Stephanie joins me now with more from Abuja in Nigeria.

What else did he tell you, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN.COM SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: Good morning, Michael. This was Secretary Blinken's first official state visit to sub-Saharan Africa. It really was a firefighting trip on many fronts.

He had to respond to an explosion in Uganda, the ongoing unrest in Sudan and, of course, the conflict in Ethiopia. Take a listen to what he had to say on that.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no military solution to the challenges in Ethiopia. None of the different combative parties can prevail by military means. That is a path to destruction for the country and misery for the people of Ethiopia, who deserve a lot better.

So, I hope that all of the leaders, starting with, again, the leader of the country, the prime minister, will do that, bring people together and work through these problems politically.


BUSARI: Michael, during this trip, Secretary Blinken also announced a U.S.-Africa summit to bolster relationships with African nations. Many are saying it is a response to the huge influence that China has on this continent.

And, for too long, African leaders have been saying they have been treated as unequal partners by the U.S. and other Western leaders.


BUSARI: And that it is time for Africa to be recognized as a major geopolitical player it is -- Michael.

HOLMES: Stephanie Busari there, thank you.

Britain is moving to declare all of Hamas a terrorist organization. Until now, only the military wing has been illegal in the U.K. But on Friday the government proposed expanding that designation to the political wing as well.

The proposal, expected to be put before Parliament, next week and if it goes through, many forms of support for Hamas would become illegal, carrying possible jail time. Hamas has dismissed the move, as biased toward Israel. But the proposal is in line with policies in the European Union, Canada, Israel, Japan and the U.S.

They have all designated Hamas a terrorist organization in its entirety.

Some climate activists, say, world leaders failed at the COP26 climate summit. Coming up, I speak with one expert who warns poorer countries will have to pay the price for climate change. We will be right back.




HOLMES: In Brazil the Amazon rain forest is, of course, rapidly disappearing these days. A new government report, finding deforestation had increases 22 percent this year, reaching a 15-year high. The surge coming, despite Brazil's government pledging to end illegal deforestation within the decade. That was just one of the commitments made at the COP26 summit last week.

Although world leaders acknowledge that some of the problems contributing to the climate crisis and included unprecedented language in their agreement about moving away from fossil fuels, some experts say it didn't go enough.

They say that global warming will continue to have a devastating impact and especially in the most vulnerable places.


SALEEMUL HUQ, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT: As far as I'm concerned, it is a failure, absolute failure. It's a death sentence for the poorest people on the planet. And not only that the polluters are saying to hell with you. We don't care. We're not going to give you a penny.


HOLMES: Philip Alston is a professor of law at NYU.

Professor, great to get your voice on this. Back in 2019, you spoke of climate apartheid, the poorer states bearing the brunt of climate change impact. Well now, COP26 is done.

Have your concerns of 2019 been alleviated in any meaningful sense?

PHILIP ALSTON, PROFESSOR OF LAW, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I don't think very much attention at all was really given to what I call the climate apartheid dimension.


ALSTON: That is the failure of the rich countries to really generate funding they promised long ago in Paris. The reluctance, even of the poorer countries, to actually give any significant priority to trying to mitigate the impact on the poorest, was not at all a priority at COP.

HOLMES: As you pointed out, obviously, which nations and people, for that matter, will be able to protect themselves with technical know- how and money, be able to finance a reasonably comfortable life, despite the environmental damage.

But what happens to the poor, even though they contribute the least to climate change?

In many ways, it's a human rights issue, isn't it?

ALSTON: Yes, it is, absolutely. One very quick point: it is true that in the climate apartheid metaphor, the rich are able to basically look after themselves. But I think it's also very important to emphasize how the rich are going to be hit.

The very wealthy in New York City, all spend their summers and much of the rest of the year on Long Island. Sea level rise on Long Island is predicted to be between 2 and 4 feet well before the end of the century.

And with the increasing severity of storms and so on, the rich will find themselves underwater. But it is true, nonetheless, that they can simply move to higher ground and can relocate, will get insurance and so on.

But the poor will simply be inundated. And what we are looking at is the likelihood of hundreds of millions of people -- some estimates go up to 1 billion, which is just unimaginable -- who will be displaced and, thus, need to find somewhere else to live.

HOLMES: And what happens to poor people ultimately will impact rich people at the end of the day. To the point you were making there, there are risks, it's fair to say, of actual conflict (ph), tangible upheaval as a result of the climate migration. You mention food shortages and so on, if these countries aren't

helped. It's in the interest of rich nations help the poorer countries.

ALSTON: If we look at what the forced migration of 1 million people into Europe from Syria and elsewhere did recently in Europe and then we multiply that by many hundreds of millions, we are going to have a huge uprising by people who are resisting the invasion of the hordes who are coming their way.

We are going to move quickly to emergency regimes designed to keep people out, to suppress them. There is going to be all sorts of major upheavals in terms of the political systems that we currently have. And it's going to be complete chaos.

HOLMES: We are almost out of time but, real quick, if you can, what immediate things should be done?

ALSTON: I think we need to -- we are not planning now for the very real emergencies that are going to happen.

The focus is on, let's try to get global warming down; let's try to keep it to 1.5 percent and then we will address the specific consequences.

But the truth is, we are not going to be below 1.5 degrees. There's a very good chance we will be as high as 3 degrees. We can predict with great certainty, right now, that there are going to be a number of really major crises. And we need to plan for them.

HOLMES: Dire warnings, indeed, but realities as well. Professor Philip Alston, thanks so much for your time.

ALSTON: Thanks, Michael.


HOLMES: Still to come here on the program, Chinese state media claims tennis star Peng Shuai has posted new photos to social media, as pressure mounts on China to show proof of her whereabouts.

Plus, the sun, the moon and the Earth put on a dance move that hasn't been seen in hundreds of years. Why stargazers were seeing red. We'll be right back.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

A U.S. teenager who killed two people and wounded another during a Black Lives Matter protest last year was acquitted on all charges on Friday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse not guilty.


HOLMES: And that was Kyle Rittenhouse's reaction to the verdict. He was accused of first-degree intentional homicide and four other felonies but said he acted in self-defense, as the case riveted the nation.

The jury, deliberating over four days to reach the verdict, which cannot be appealed. Protests over the verdict, taking place in New York, on Friday and are planned this weekend in Portland and in several other U.S. cities.

New developments in the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. The editor-in-chief of the state-run newspaper "Global Times" says that Peng Shuai will appear in public soon and, quote, "participate in some activities."

She hasn't been seen in more than two weeks now. He also said he confirmed through sources that photos of Peng Shuai, shared by a state media journalist, depict her, quote, "current state." CNN, though, has not been able to verify when the photos were taken and if they are indeed from her. CNN's Will Ripley has more.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tennis in China, a billion-dollar business for the WTA, 10 tournaments, reportedly a third of their revenue, highly lucrative and for the Chinese government, highly prestigious.

Now it's all on the line. The WTA demanding answers.




RIPLEY (voice-over): Where is tennis icon Peng Shuai?

Is she OK?

A household name in China, Peng has not been seen in public since November 2nd. The 35-year-old doubles grand slam champion accusing China's 75-year-old former vice premier of coercing her to having sex about three years ago at his home.

Chinese state media on propaganda overdrive seemingly trying to silence the growing global outcry. A Chinese journalist tweeting these pictures upon claiming they're from her WeChat with the caption, "Happy weekend;" no timestamp on the photos, no actual direct communication with Peng herself.

On Wednesday, a suspicious email released by a state-owned broadcaster only adding to fears for her well-being.


RIPLEY (voice-over): The email retracts her allegations, saying, "I'm not missing nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine."

The WTA not convinced. Demanding proof Peng is safe. A probe into her allegations. The organization's CEO telling OUTFRONT he is prepared to pull out of China potentially losing a lucrative 10-year deal.


STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: We have to start as a world making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period.

And we can't compromise that and we're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it because this is certainly -- this is bigger than the business.


RIPLEY (voice-over): China is a nation ruled by powerful men, long accused of suppressing the rights of women and minorities, including silencing leaders of China's #MeToo movement, now the apparent silencing of Peng Shuai.

China appears to be going to great lengths, using the government's immense power to protect the reputation of a retired communist party leader. So far, Beijing's blatant censorship is doing just the opposite,


RIPLEY (voice-over): China's ministry of foreign affairs refusing to comment or even acknowledge the growing controversy.

The WTA, taking a stand, a huge financial gamble. Its regional headquarters is in Beijing. The tennis organization, willing to walk away from the massive Chinese market to stand up for one of its stars.

Olympics' organizers are staying out of it, just weeks before the Beijing Winter Games. Peng is a three-time Olympian.

U.S. President Joe Biden considering a diplomatic boycott. But the IOC says experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: IOC buckles under the thought of losing business in China. The NBA buckles under the pressure. And here's the WTA saying, enough is enough. Standing up doing what's right. When in the world, do we see that anymore in sports?

A major pro-sports league or entity doing the right thing?

RIPLEY: The WTA's bold stance against China winning praise from around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are at a crossroads. And it's time now to make the tough decision that you can't do business when you're -- your -- the safety of your players are at risk.

RIPLEY: For the international tennis community, some things are more important than money -- Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


HOLMES: A woman who has staged a hunger strike while being jailed in Iran has been honored with a Courage under Fire Award. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British Iranian charity worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She has been detained for more than five years now. Iran, accusing her working with organizations allegedly attempting to overthrow the government, something she, has strongly denied.

The Magnitsky Human Rights Awards, which recognizes those involved in advancing human rights, honored her for her bravery. Her daughter, accepting the award on her mother's behalf.

Moon watchers around the world just had an out of this world experience, something that hasn't happened in nearly 600 years.


HOLMES (voice-over): Have a look at the scene over Tokyo Friday when a partial lunar eclipse turned the Earth's closest neighbor blood red. The eclipse was unusual because the sun, Earth and moon were in near perfect alignment when, with the Earth blocking sunlight from falling on the moon.

Have a look at the scene in Shanghai. The eclipse lasted more than three hours, was the longest lasting since the 1400s.


HOLMES: Happened to catch it outside the CNN Center last night, spectacular.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. Stick around; "MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST" starts after a quick break and I will see you in about 30 minutes or so.