Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Countries Struggle to Contain Omicron; U.K. to Stick to Plan B; President Macron Address Unvaccinated Citizens; New Delhi Under Curfew and Weekend Lockdown; Israel Looking for a Fourth Dose; Prince Andrew's Legal Battle Still Undetermined; U.S. Capitol Police Now Well Prepared. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, Omicron sweeping the globe leading to record COVID cases filling hospitals and forcing new mandates in many countries. And experts say the best tool to stop all that, get vaccinated and boosted and don't delay.

It was the ugliest day on American democracy this century. Law enforcement in Washington taking no chances of a repeat beefing up security as the dark anniversary of January 6th approaches.

And lawyers for Prince Andrew trying to block a sexual assault lawsuit against him in New York. We'll explain what happened in court and lay out the timeline of how the case got to this pint.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

Well, the explosion of COVID cases driven by the super-contagious Omicron variant is causing alarm and confusion all over the world as people and governments weigh their response and their own risk tolerance.

France has set an old-time record for daily infections since the start of the pandemic with more than 270,000 on Tuesday. Authorities warn that figure could soon soar to 300,000. And there's a 300 percent increase in the number of young French children hospitalized in just the past month.

Italy also reported its highest number of daily cases on Tuesday. Some 170,000, but that coincides with a record spike in testing with more than 1.2 million people tested in 24 hours.

In England, nurses are demanding tighter COVID restrictions, saying absences among health care workers have doubled in the past two weeks. But the British prime minister says he's planning to keep the current measures in place at least for now.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have a chance to write out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again. I will be recommending to cabinet tomorrow that we continue with plan b, because the public have responded and change their behavior. Change your behavior, buying valuable time to get boosters in arms and help the NHS to cope with the Omicron wave.


CHURCH (on camera): The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce Omicron is up to three times more infectious than the Delta variant. U.S. Hospitalizations are at their highest level since the Delta surge peak in September.

The Biden administration says it's doubling its order of the new Pfizer anti-viral pill to 20 million treatments. But one of the creators of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine says something has to change, because the world can't dole out booster shots every six months. Listen.


ANDREW POLLARD, DIRECTOR, OXFORD VACCINE GROUP: It's just not from a global perspective affordable or sustainable or deliverable to give fourth doses to everyone in the planet every six months. And remember that today, less than 10 percent of people in low-income countries have been even had their first dose. So, the whole idea of regular fourth doses globally is just not sensible.


CHURCH (on camera): Meanwhile, China is locking down another city in an effort to contain its COVID outbreak ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. And India is imposing strict new measures this weekend in New Delhi in hopes of slowing the Omicron surge.

And we have reporters around the world covering the crises including our Jim Bittermann in Paris but we begin with CNN's Nada Bashir in London.

Good to see you, Nada. So, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says plan B measures are staying in place with no further restrictions. How workable is that? And what do the experts, and of course the health workers say about that plan?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, we've been hearing from the health care workers calling for those restrictions to be tightened. Britain's largest nursing union has called on Boris Johnson to really implement new tougher restrictions to ease staffing pressures on hospitals they've said that.

[03:04:56] They've seen staff absences doubled since Christmas Day and there are serious concerns now with the number of health care regions now declaring major incidences due to this health care staff shortages.

So, there are calls there. We've also heard from the head of the NHS confederation saying that hospitals are facing a perfect storm with both cases and patients admissions rising at an alarming rate.

But you heard there from Boris Johnson he is sticking to plan b, that's what he's calling on his cabinet ministers to do. What that means is keeping the measures that are currently in place there for the time being. No tougher restrictions. And those include wearing masks in mandatory areas such as public spaces, indoor public spaces, and of course on public transport. And for those who can working from home.

Now the prime minister says this is the right approach, he's aiming for the country to ride out the Omicron variant, that's what he described it as. Without shutting the country down. Without going into another lockdown, which of course had a serious impact on the economy.

And he said that the country can't do this for two key reasons. The country he says is in a far stronger position to cope with the virus than it was 12 months ago, the Omicron variant according to evidence milder than the Delta variant. And despite the fact that we've seen record-breaking figures, more than 200,000 new cases, more than 15,000 patients currently in hospital.

The key thing here is that we're not seeing this translate into an increase in the number of patients going in to critical care, into ICU according to the health secretary. That figure is broadly flat. And of course, the second key thing is the vaccination campaign.

The prime minister was very stressing yesterday that the majority of patients in intensive care haven't received their vaccines. And of course, we've seen more than 34 million booster doses already administered. So, the prime minister's aiming for the country to stay away from these toughest restrictions and to keep ahead with the current measures in place. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. And, Jim, let's go to you know in Paris. France is reporting record COVID infections while President Macron admits he is targeting the unvaccinated here. What is the latest on all of this, and of course the situation across other parts of Europe?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, the situation in France is desperate, I would say. And there's more than 270,000 new cases as you said in the last 24 hours that have been reported, and the situation in the hospitals is also bad. Hospital admissions are up.

Seventy-two percent of the ICU beds are now occupied by COVID patients. And those are beds that have to also be used for things like operations and car accidents and whatever else that may come along the line, but 72 percent of the beds are occupied by strictly COVID patients. President Macron has depended on the idea of vaccination just like

Boris Johnson as the way to combat the coronavirus. And he is expressing frustration at those who refused to get vaccinated. He said -- he told a newspaper overnight that he is deliberately trying to piss off -- as he put it on their day was the verb he used in French. Those who are unvaccinated hoping to encourage them to get vaccinated.

He said, I'm not going to put them in jail, I'm not going to forcibly vaccinate them, but I'll just put them on notice that as of January 15th -- this is when he wants to make changes in the health pass restrictions here -- as of January 15th, you won't be able to go for a coffee, for a drink, to theater, to a cinema without having a health pass or without that shows that you have been vaccinated.

And that change in the health pass vaccination rule is something that's being debated in parliament right now. The parliament was suspended last night after they heard about the kind of rude comments the president made.

But nonetheless, they're expected to take up hundreds of amendments to the president's plan today. And at some point, around the next two days they're going to hopefully take a look at voting on the health pass, the health changes and see what can be done in terms of encouraging people sadly, to get them vaccinated.



CHURCH: Very much the spotlight on those unvaccinated who are keeping the rest of us stuck in this pandemic. Nada Bashir, Jim Bittermann, thank you to you both for bringing us to date on the situation.

Well, the U.S. is pushing back against criticism from Japanese officials who say an Omicron outbreak at American military bases is to blame for a spike in COVID cases in Okinawa.

CNN's Blake Essig joins me now live from Tokyo. Good to see you, Blake. So, what is the latest on the story?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Rosemary, unfortunately cases involving the U.S. military personnel are being reported at several different installations in Japan. But of course, the majority of those cases have come out of Okinawa.

Now Okinawa prefecture reported 225 new cases on Tuesday involving the civilian population -- the case count that has nearly doubled two days in a row and is once again the highest daily total since last September.


Now those numbers do not include U.S. military personnel stationed in the prefecture. Since Monday more than 3,800 U.S. forces have tested positive. And according to U.S. forces Japan about 47 percent of those cases are believed to be Omicron. Now Okinawa's local government says they are outrage and it's blaming

the U.S. military for failing to contain the virus and for spreading the Omicron variant to local communities.

Now in response to the increase COVID-19 spread, U.S. forces in Japan said, quote, "we take seriously our responsibilities to protect not only our personnel, but also the surrounding communities."

A USFJ official say all COVID-19 infected personnel have been put into isolation and that aggressive contact tracing has been conducted to place close contacts into quarantine, a U.S. military personnel are also now required to wear masks while off-base regardless of their vaccination status. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And Blake, meantime, cases have doubled in Japan over the last 24 hours as the sixth wave hits the country. What is the latest on that, and of course, India's weekend lockdown?

ESSIG: You know, Rosemary, here in Japan a sixth wave of infection does seem to be taking shape while the general case count is still relatively low compared to other countries around the world. Cases across Japan have roughly doubled from Monday to Tuesday, topping more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since October.

And with cases rising, Japan's prime minister says the country must prepare for the possibility of a worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile, in India, the country is seeing a surge in cases with more than 58,000 new infections reported just today. That's an increase of 55 percent compared to yesterday. Health officials say that cases are doubling every two to three days, and that the Omicron variant accounts for majority of the new infections.

As a result, the capital territory of Delhi has announced a weekend curfew to try and control the viruses rapid spread. Health officials are asking people not to leave their homes, Rosemary, and say that all establishments except for essential services will be closed.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo. I appreciate it.

Well, Israel's prime minister says he is more confident a fourth dose of vaccine is safe. New data suggest the fourth dose boost COVID antibodies fivefold. Meaning a drastic increase in the body's ability to fight infection and severe symptoms.

The country is offering a Pfizer/BioNTech booster to health care workers, the immunocompromised, and adults over 60. Israel's daily infection rate has increased more than tenfold over the last month.

So, let's bring in Elliott Gotkine. He joins us live from Tel Aviv. Good to see you, Elliott. So, what more are you learning about this fourth booster shot, and how likely is it that Israel will consider extending that to other age groups in the future?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, I suppose those are the two key findings that a fourth dose or a second booster, if you will, does dramatically increase the amount of antibodies in the person receiving it, pointing to much greater protection against the infection from COVID-19.

And the other finding that it is safe but the side effects that they witnessed in the subjects receiving this fourth dose were no different from those that they experience in a third shot or a second shot or a first one for that matter.

So those are just the two things. But just a word of caution, these are preliminary findings. They have not been peer reviewed, they have not been published in journals, the study is ongoing. We expect more data and more findings to come out going forward. But just to kind of, you know, have that word of caution in mind when looking at these results.

In terms of a broader roll out, if history is any guide, they start by giving booster shots to high-risk groups, we talked about the over 60's, about health care workers and those with suppressed immune systems and then they roll it out to the population at large.

So, if history is any guide, that will probably happen at least that's what a spokesperson for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told me yesterday. However, it's not his decision or even the government's decision that ultimate decision whether to give a fourth boost -- or fourth dose a second booster to the whole postulation lies with director general of the health ministry.

And that he will be keeping a very close eye on hat study taking place in their hospital just outside of Tel Aviv, the Shema Medical Center. And of course, also to see what transpires between from the rollout to those high-risk groups, as well.

And of course, it's not just the director general keeping a close eye on things, other countries as well will be keeping a very close eye on how things play out in terms of a fourth dose to see if perhaps that is something that they wish to do as well. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And of course, the whole world watching Israel leading the charge as it is with this fight against COVID-19, and of course Omicron.

Elliott Gotkine joining us there, I appreciate it.

Well, Dr. Peter Drobac is an infectious disease and global health expert at the University of Oxford, he joins me now from England.

Thank you so much, doctor for talking with us.



CHURCH: So, we are seeing different countries respond in very different ways to this explosion of record COVID infections due to this highly contagious Omicron variant. Which country do you think has got this right? And what is the best approach to this as we find a way to eventually live with COVID?

DROBAC: Well, thanks. It's a really difficult question, and you know, I think it's a reflection of how much the game has changed with Omicron, and that we're still trying to find our footing, and understand what really matters.

And I think one of the most important things here that we've seen is this, perhaps this shift away from focusing just on infection rates or case numbers, to thinking about hospitalizations and deaths.

And so, what we are seeing in the U.K., for example, is relying on high levels of vaccination and a booster campaign. And hoping that even if infection levels, you know, continue at this levels that we can ride out the wave, while keeping people, enough people out of the hospital and preventing a surge that will overwhelm health systems.

Other countries, particularly some with lower levels of vaccination are having to take more extreme measures. You know, it's hard to say exactly which approach, and there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach.

But we do need -- we do know that vaccines remain tremendously effective, that boosters are more important than ever, and that we need to think about increases, and for example, the ability of -- the availability of rapid testing to prevent spread in workplaces and schools.

Because the other real thing that we're seeing right now is not just pressures on health systems but upheavals in workplaces and health care settings and schools and of the travel industry because of all the worker shortages.

CHURCH: Yes. Very important point there. And doctor, many countries don't have enough COVID tests to meet the current high demand, including here in the United States. What is the smartest approach to testing when this virus is so incredibly contagious that most people will eventually get the virus to varying degrees of course?

DROBAC: We are seeing a huge demand in -- for rapid tests everywhere in the world, not only because of course we're seeing so much more transmission. But also, because changes in guidance are calling for more testing.

So, for example, here in the U.K., you can shorten your isolation period after you test negative for six and seven days. And so, all of this is putting a real strain on the system, we need orders of magnitude more rapid tests than we currently have. And what that's causing is a global squeeze on the supply. And I think that's really difficult.

It's unfortunate that we weren't more productive in anticipating this. I think the rapid testing is going to remain tremendously important for the reason that I mentioned before. That with this incredibly transmissible variant the way we're going to be able to prevent closures of schools, cancellations of flights, problems in hospitals and health care settings because of staff shortages is going to be the availability of regular testing so that people aren't spreading infection through workplaces and having a number of people go down at the same time.

So, I hope that we'll be able to catch up on the supply, but I do anticipate that frequent rapid testing, and ideally freely available testing as it is in many countries is going to be an incredibly important tool for us in the months to come.

CHURCH: Yes. so important. And doctor, one of the creators of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is now saying that something has to change because the world can't keep giving out booster shots every six months. What's your response to that? I mean, what is the alternative to that?

DROBAC: Yes, I think what he was doing is just pouring a little bit of cold water on this rush to more and more vaccines. We're seeing it of course now in Israel, as you just reported, rolling out fourth doses of vaccines now.

You know, a couple of things to think about here. The first is, you know, do we actually, you know, when do we need a fourth dose in order to continue to provide permanent protection. And the answer is we don't exactly know yet. We're tracking antibody levels but that's just one part of the body's immune response. We know that t-cells and b- cells provide more sustained protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

And I think we need to follow this out a little bit further. You know, the other important part of those comments, and I think these echoes with what we heard from Dr. Fauci in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago. That, you know, if you look around the world, in poor countries only 10 percent or less of people have had even a single first dose.

And if we just continue to push for a fourth dose, a fifth dose, a sixth dose it's going to be tremendously expensive, it's probably not going to be feasible, and it's only going to fuel more inequity around the world.


So, I think we have to wait and see what's going to happen. At this time, I wouldn't advocate for a rollout of fourth doses. I think we need to see what happens as the booster campaign continues.

CHURCH: All right. And of course, we'll watch very carefully. Dr. Peter Drobac, always a pleasure to get your expertise and analysis. I appreciate it.

DROBAC: Thank you.

CHURCH: A judge will soon decide if a sexual assault case against Prince Andrew should be dismissed. Ahead, what's at stake and how the legal battle matter reached this critical point. And U.S. Capitol police say there won't be a repeat of last January 6.

But some say not enough has been done. The security preparations going into the anniversary, still to come.


CHURCH (on camera): A federal judge in New York says he will soon decide whether a civil sexual assault case against Prince Andrew will move forward, or be dismissed. Virginia Giuffre is suing the prince, claiming he sexually assaulted her when he she was underage. The Duke of York denies the allegations.

As we wait for the judge's decision, CNN's Max Foster shows us how the legal battle reached this point.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A long running scandal, taking another turn on Tuesday. Britain's Prince Andrew continues a civil battle over rape allegations. In a controversial saga that began more than two decades ago.

Andrew's accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre says that the prince first raped her in 2001 when she was 17. She says she was one of several men she was being sex trafficked to, by now notorious late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Giuffre said her first encounter with Andrew was at a London town home of Epstein's long-time girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell. After meeting the prince Giuffre says they went to a nightclub, and she was later forced to have sex with him.

The prince denies those allegations entirely. According to a BBC interview, he says he had taken his eldest daughter to a pizza party that night.

PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: I can tell you categorically, I don't remember meeting her at all.

FOSTER: Seven years later, Jeffrey Epstein was convicted after pleading guilty two state prostitution charges in Florida. Then in 2010, Prince Andrew was photographed walking with Epstein, now a registered sex offender in New York Central Park.

The image was published and negative publicity about the prince's relationship with Epstein began to circulate. The next year, another controversial image surfaced, this one of Andrew with his arm around his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, allegedly taken at Ghislaine Maxwell's home in 2001.


Between 2014 and 2015, Giuffre claims that in the past, Prince Andrew sexually abused her three separate times. Her allegations first seen in a civil filing in Florida, then in court documents unsealed in New York federal courts. Buckingham Palace responds with a statement, that it emphatically

denies that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre. In 2019, Giuffre repeats her claims on television.

VIRGINIA ROBERTS GIUFFRE, PRINCE ANDREW ACCUSER: He knows what happened, I know what happened, and there's only one of us telling the truth, and I know that's me.

FOSTER: That same year, Jeffrey Epstein dies by suicide in his jail cell as he awaits trial for federal sex trafficking charges. Then, last week, his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, was convicted of sex trafficking and other crimes related to Epstein's abuse scheme.

Now, Prince Andrew is trying to get Giuffre's lawsuit against him thrown out. His legal team claims a previous settlement agreement she had signed with Epstein, releases Andrew from legal action. But a U.S. judge appeared skeptical of his legal team's arguments on Tuesday, leaving much to be determined in the case against the British royal.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.


CHURCH (on camera): Security is ramping up in preparation for the anniversary of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. The homeland security secretary says there's a heightened threat level, but he isn't aware of any credible threats directly tied to the anniversary.

Meantime, the chief of capitol police said his force would be able to defend against another mob attack.

Paula Reid has our report.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Just days before the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger address the current state of his embattled department.

THOMAS MANGER, CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: The United States Capitol Police as an organization is stronger and better prepared to carry out its mission today than it was before January 6th of last year.

REID: A report last month by Inspector General Michael Bolton, found that only about a quarter of the 104 recommended changes to the U.S. Capitol Police following the January 6th riot have been implemented. But today, major said 60 other reforms are in progress.

MANGER: There is no question in my mind looking at all of the recommendations that intelligence, operational planning, and getting our civil disturbance unit up to where it needs to be with the three biggest issues. And those are the ones that we'd worked on first, and those the ones that are frankly largely completed.

REID: Still, the department faces daunting challenges, at least for January 6th responders have died by suicide over the last year. The department also has not been able to fully address staffing issues. It has lost over 130 officers through retirement or resignation after January 6th. And the force is still about 400 officers short of where it needs to be. And those who remain still have scars from the attack.

AQUILINO GONELL, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: This whole past year has been very difficult.

REID: Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, a 15-year veteran of the force was assigned to guard the west entrance to the capitol on January 6th. Today, he reflected on that haunting experience.

GONELL: So, the magnitude of what we encounter was something like I never experience myself and not even when was overseas and in combat.

REID: Gonell was out for months because of injuries sustained during the insurrection and till grapples with trauma from that day.

GONELL: When I return to the capitol on November 3rd, I hesitated before going in to be honest. And for a moment I thought it's going to be gut wrenching to even take the first step out of my car.


REID: The major said he is aware of some events planned for Thursday but there is no intelligence that indicates here will be any problems. The Department of Homeland Security chief also said today that he is not aware of any specific credible threats on the anniversary of the insurrection.

Paula Reid CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: And on the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol CNN has a look at the heroes who protected U.S. democracy. Join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for two-hour special event live from the capitol January 6th one year later. It begins Thursday at 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C. That's Friday, 9 a.m. in Hong Kong right here on CNN.


And still to come, China rushes to contain COVID outbreaks with just weeks to go before Beijing host the Winter Olympics.


The latest on the games in a live report.

And stuck in a hospital with complete strangers for weeks on end. A zero COVID policy is taking a toll on the mental health of travelers to Hong Kong. We'll hear from someone going through it. That's next.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, China is locking down another city over COVID-19 concerns as officials work to contain outbreaks ahead of the Winter Olympics. We're now a month away from the opening ceremony in Beijing where plans are in place to try and keep the virus at bay.

Olympic officials held a news conference set just a few hours ago. CNN's Ivan Watson is tracking developments and joins us now live from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Ivan. So, what is the latest on China's efforts to prevent COVID from derailing the Beijing Winter Olympic Games?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Right. Well, China has maintained this zero COVID strategy where it tries to eradicate any outbreak of the virus in the country. And it has succeeded to a large part in preventing the kind of spreads that we see in so many other countries around the world.

But on the flipside what you get is when there is a pocket of the virus, an outbreak, an entire city of some 13 million people can pay the price. And that's what we've seen in the city of Xi-an now. Since really December 23rd, it's been under strict lockdown. 13 million residents in a city that since the beginning of December has had less than 2,000 COVID cases. No confirmed deaths due to COVID. But all of the residents are confined to their homes.

They cannot even leave to get groceries for example. It's only to get COVID tests. And while the number of cases has started to drop from the last couple of days down to just 35 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, we are also hearing anecdotally about the kind of really disturbing impacts that that is having on the community.

One video coming out on very heavily censored Chinese social media showing a woman outside a hospital in Xi-an, who is visibly bleeding and the post described her as being eight months pregnant and not being allowed into the hospital and subsequently miscarrying.


We've tried to confirm this, reaching out to the hospital. They've told us the woman is in fact OK. But a provincial women's association says, it is investigating that case, Rosemary.

Another case showing a man apparently being forced to make a confession on camera by village officials, by neighborhood volunteers. That he had scaled the walls of his compound to try to buy groceries. And subsequently those volunteers have had to apologize to that man. And even state media conceding that this is really tough on the population.

The hardest lockdown that anybody has seen since the virus was first detected in the city of Wuhan in December of 2019 believed to be the origin point of COVID. That then subsequently spread around the world.

And if you want another example, you look several hundred kilometers east to the city of Zhang Gao, there you only have two symptomatic cases and nine asymptomatic cases. And already entire neighborhoods potentially millions of people also being put under a similar lockdown. This is the price that communities have to pay for the entire country

to be spared right now, the kind of COVID outbreaks that are raging across much of the rest of the world, Rosemary.

CHURCH: I mean, these are draconian measures aren't they? And we are also hearing about new restrictions in Hong Kong. What more can you tell us about that?

WATSON: Right. This is just been announced moments ago in a briefing that is still underway. The chief executive of Hong Kong saying that they are going to close restaurants after 6:00 p.m. starting on Friday. That they are going to shut down a number of other leisure activities as well and this is because they've realized that there is Omicron spread happening within the community after nearly three months without any local transmission.

That envy will track record has been broken and now the authorities are trying to lock down for the next two weeks. Including banning all passenger flights from eight countries, including Australia, the U.S., France, the U.K., the Philippines, India, Pakistan. In another dramatic announcement they are creating mandatory quarantine for some 3,000 plus passengers and crew that were on a cruise ship to nowhere.

With restrictions so intense here in Hong Kong where you have to do up to three weeks of mandatory quarantine if you return from any travel overseas. People desperate for some kind of entertainment, we are getting on these cruise ships that were just kind of tooling around in the sea and now one ship that had nine close contacts to a positive case.

Because of that, because they were on board the ship. Now 3,000 people plus being sent into mandatory quarantine. These are some of the measures that the Hong Kong government are imposing.

Ironically on New Year's Eve the government announced that they believe there are these first positive cases starting to emerge within the city and they said that they are urging people not to gather in large groups.

But they still allowed large government sponsored New Year's concert to go forward that was attended by thousands of people. So apparently they waited till after those government events to announce these new measures. Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Incredible. Ivan Watson, joining us live from Hong Kong, many thanks for that.

And of course throughout this pandemic, several countries and territories have aimed for a zero COVID strategy. Mainland China and Hong Kong, of course, are committed to keeping their lines on this chart from spiking. Hong Kong is set tighten its vaccination requirements even further. Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, says people must be vaccinated to enter their news including museums, libraries, and schools from February 24th.

Now this is on top of strict border rules. So what toll are all of these restrictions taking? Well, CNN's Will Ripley looks at the impact of long term travel quarantines.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In zero COVID Hong Kong, pandemic protocols had paralyzed this once busy travel hub. The arrival process that used to take minutes now drags on for hours. Mandatory testing at the airport, waiting hours for the result. The lucky ones test negative and spent up to 21 days in self paid hotel quarantine.

Darryl Chan is not one of the lucky ones.

DARRYL CHAN, TESTED POSITIVE FOR OMICRON IN HONG KONG: I've had (inaudible) my jab. I've been boosted. I didn't ever think that I would test positive on arrival.


RIPLEY: Thirteen hours after landing in Hong Kong, Chan was in an ambulance. His luggage left at the airport. He tested positive for the Omicron variant. Even without symptoms. His minimum hospital stay is nearly a month.

Do you worry about your mental health these days, turn into weeks?

CHAN: Yes, absolutely. Because I've never been in a situation like this before.

ELIZABETH WONG, HONG KONG'S PSYCHIATRIST: In general there is an increased sense of isolation anxiety. And in some of the cases, even post-traumatic stress.

RIPLEY: Hong Kong's psychiatrist, Dr. -- Elizabeth Wong says longer quarantines can be more traumatic.

WONG: And then, then we have a lot of changes between the seven days and the 14 days, and the 21 days. And that was when people reported more stress, especially with the longer periods of quarantine.

RIPLEY: Darryl's day begins with the wake of jingle.

UNKNOWN: Attention please.

RIPLEY: He takes his own vitals. Calls and messages with friends and family help pass the time.

CHAN: Social media has really helped actually. It definitely makes you feel not alone.

RIPLEY: One of his greatest struggles, sharing a room, a bathroom with two strangers.

CHAN: But I think (inaudible) definitely impacted me the most so far is the feeling of - just you know, not having the freedom and regressing into -- almost feeling like you're back at school. You know, with a controlled wake up and bed times. Not being able to control what we can eat.

RIPLEY: Hospital meals often consists of mystery meat. The bigger mystery? Chan's release date. He's supposed to start a new job, a new life in Hong Kong. What's the worst part of this?

CHAN: I think the worst part is not knowing when I'll be able to get out.

RIPLEY: For now all he can do is wait. From his hospital bed, freedom feels like a lifetime away.

Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHURCH: Ohio is just one state breaking records for COVID hospitalizations. The numbers in recent weeks have soared beyond their all-time high in 2020. Ohio's governor is trying to ease the crashing toll on the health care system and its workers.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has our report.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the overnight hours of Cleveland's Metro Health Medical Center. Justin Rightner goes into a room to take care of a patient.


TUCHMAN: So does Brandon Brown.

UNKNOWN: What's going on my guy?

TUCHMAN: And Jordan White does the same.

UNKNOWN: Hi. Can I take your vitals?

TUCHMAN: But none of these three people are employees at the hospital. They are with --

UNKNOWN: The Air National Guard.

TUCHMAN: And the other two are with Army National Guard. All three of medical training.

UNKNOWN: (Inaudible), doing OK?

UNKNOWN: I think so.

TUCHMAN: National Guard Justin Rightner is working with one of hospital's registered nurses. They're taking care of 88-year-old COVID patient Louis Murry, who's got just transferred out of the intensive care unit.

UNKNOWN: Here we go. Give me a second. All good. TUCHMAN: We decided to join National Guard after seeing what happened

on 9/11 when you were in kindergarten?

UNKNOWN: Uh-umm. I just want to help my community.

TUCHMAN: There are 28 National Guard members working at this hospital and they have their work cut out for them. Not only because the hospital is full but because of about 400 employees at this hospital are out of work because they have COVID.

International Guard Captain Lanette Looney is the officer in charge of the guard mission at this medical center which also consists of guard members who do non-medical tasks.

Are you concerned that any of your international guard members will contract COVID?

LANETTE LOONEY, OHIO AIR NATIONAL GUARD: Oh, absolutely. Within two days of being here we had four guard members that were symptomatic with sore throats, headaches, body aches, fevers, nasal congestion and they all tested positive for COVID.

TUCHMAN: The personal risks are inherent part of the mission. But chief nursing officer of Metro Health is grateful.

MELISSA KLINE, METRO HEALTH SYSTEM, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER: Just to have some extra help. I know that others are looking out for us is greatly appreciated.

TUCHMAN: Frank Hudson also ends up in the ICU after testing positive for COVID.

UNKNOWN: How are you feeling?


UNKNOWN: Good? Do you need anything?

UNKNOWN: I already got a hospital.

UNKNOWN: You already got a hospital? Yeah, I bet?

TUCHMAN: Guard Jordyn White is 22. She is an EMT in civilian life and wants to be a nurse practitioner.

UNKNOWN: I'm going to put this on your finger. Perfect. You can relax a little bit.

TUCHMAN: Are the patients surprise when you tell them that you're in the military and you're taking care of them?


JORDYN WHITE, OHIO AIR NATIONAL GUARD: Yes. They are like really, they think it's cool and I think it's nice. I'm glad that they feel that way. TUCHMAN: The National Guard members also take care of patients in the

hospital for other illnesses. Patient Sammy Hunter is here for a torn aorta and bleeding in his brain. He's getting an EKG from a hospital R.N. and Guard member Brandon Brown.

BRANDON BROWN, OHIO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: I'll switch over for you. I got you I.V. five. There is sense of pride that swirls up in you when you know you're helping your community. It's a beautiful feeling honestly.

TUCHMAN: Always on people's minds here with the sense of sadness that so many people don't get COVID vaccines.

BROOK WATTS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, METROHEALTH: So in ICU admission the vast predominant up to 90 percent of patients are unvaccinated patients.

TUCHMAN: Did you know that in addition to the nurses and the doctors that you have people from the National Guard, the military helping you out?

LOIS MURRAY, COVID PATIENT: Oh yeah. There are so good. They are wonderful.

TUCHMAN: How does that make you feel?

MURRAY: Very safe.

TUCHMAN: And among these people who have been so very sick, are feeling of American patriotism.

MURRAY: The best (inaudible) in the world.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Cleveland.


CHURCH: And we'll be right back.


CHURCH: Well, we are following developments on the Korean peninsula where South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says North Korea has fired an unidentified projectile into the sea off the East Coast. In a tweet, Japan says the projectile that fell into the water Wednesday morning may have been a ballistic missile. Now, this marks the first projectile launched since North Korea said it test fired a new submarine launched ballistic missile back in October.

We're learning the U.S. military conducted airstrikes in Syria after troops were faced with indirect fire. A coalition official says the fire posed an imminent threat to troops near a base in Eastern Syria while the U.S. hasn't formally confirmed that carried out the strikes. A defense official acknowledges American forces where the only ones in the region with that capability.

When NATO foreign ministers are hoping to head off a conflict between Russia and Ukraine with talks planned for this Friday.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports now from Moscow.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, the diplomacy really seems to be gathering momentum now ahead of those U.S.-Russia talks next week. U.S.-NATO talks just a couple of days after that. NATO announcing that Friday this week they will hold a foreign ministers meeting, a virtual meeting to discuss Ukraine.

But on Tuesday, NATO and the E.U. announcing that the E.U. foreign policy chief, Josep Borrel had discussed Ukraine with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. This to try to get the E.U. to get NATO and the United States as well all on the same page about Ukraine.


Josep Borrel, the E.U.'s foreign policy chief on his way to Ukraine. Likely to visit the frontline there on Wednesday. The message from the E.U. from NATO from the United States to Ukraine is one of solidarity, one of support, one of recognizing its sovereignty and its territorial integrity. And a commitment to it not to discuss issues about Ukraine without Ukraine in the room. Josep Borrel's mission there, a diplomatic mission and really indicative of how the tensions are building ahead of these big talks next week.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.


CHURCH: Kazakhstan's president has accepted the resignation of the country's Prime Minister. That is according to a statement on the presidential website. And this comes after protests against skyrocketing fuel prices turned violent late Tuesday in some regions of the country. Police detained more than 200 people and nearly 100 security personnel were injured. The president has appointed an acting Prime Minister and members of the government will continue to serve until a new cabinet is forms.

Mass demonstrations erupted on Sunday after the government lifted caps on fuel prices. The president announced a number of measures meant to stabilize the situation. And the two-week state of emergency is in effect.

Well, just ahead here on CNN, how female sumo wrestlers are challenging deep sporting traditions in Japan. Back with that in just a moment.


CHURCH: Tennis star Novak Djokovic will get a chance to defend his Australian Open title later this month after receiving a medical exemption from the tournaments COVID vaccine mandate. While the nine- time champion hasn't revealed his vaccination status, organizers say he applied for the exemption and it was approved by two panels of medical experts.

The ruling has sparked anger and frustration from Australians and other tennis players. Some Australian officials have called on Djokovic to explain his reasoning for the exemption to the public once he arrives. But can't compel him to do so.

Well, sumo wrestling is no longer a sport restricted to men in Japan. CNN's Don Riddell shows us how some women are changing the face of the sport and challenging its deep ancient traditions.


DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is sumo the national sport of Japan. Their wrestlers are hard to miss with their top knots and iconic groin cloths, there are hulking bodies and a high impact bouts. It's ancient sport dating back more than 1,000 years. And through all that time very little has changed. As a professional sport women have always been banned.

But changing attitudes in Japan mean there might now be a future for girls and women in sumo. Senna Kajiwara has been learning sumo since she was eight years old. She's also ready to topple the barriers to entry of a male dominated sport.


SENNA KAJIWARA, AMATEUR SUMO WRESTLER (through translator): People tend to think that sumo is just four boys and men. I think that's why they're usually surprised and even shocks when they find out I do it. If we get more girls and women in sumo, then we will be able to level the playing field and make a living from it.

RIDDELL: A number of scandals in recent years have tarnished the reputation of Japan's national sport. In 2018 when a city mayor collapsed in the ring, the women who are trying to save his life were asked to leave.

According to tradition the supposedly impure women would pollute the sacred space of the Dohyo. The man's life was saved but the incidents sparked a backlash in Japan, prompting the Japan's sumo association to apologize.

The following year, the inaugural run (inaudible) girls national sumo championship was held in Tokyo. The event has been open to boys since 1984 but only now our girls aged between eight and 12 getting their shot.

KAJIWARA: I do hurt myself sometimes but I don't get scared at all when I'm in the ring.

RIDDELL: Senna Kajiwara is the defending champion.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Sumo is Japan's national sport. Senna can be quite (inaudible). The tournament can be determined in an instant. I think sumo suits her character. RIDDELL: The 12-year-old made it to the final of (inaudible) in 2021

but looked as though she was on the brink of defeat. However she turned it around and successfully defended her title.

KAJIWARA: I was so nervous before the tournament. I won the championship when I was in fourth grade, so I felt a lot of pressure and expectations this time. In the future I want to keep up sumo and go as far as I can with it.

RIDDELL: Don Riddell, CNN.


CHURCH: Well done. Well, the most advanced telescope in history got some news sunscreen on Tuesday. The James Webb telescope is deploying its tennis court sized sunshield. There is no video camera on board to show us that happening. But here is what a test run on earth looks like. Eventually five layers of these reflective sheets will protect the telescope from solar heat and light. And that of course is crucial because unlike Hubble which orbits earth, the James Webb will orbit the sun.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church, Have yourself a wonderful day. "CNN Newsroom" continues now with Isa Soares.