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Australia Cancels Novak Djokovic's Visa Over Vaccine Exemption; Emmanuel Macron Under Fire For Comments About Unvaccinated; Kazakhstan's Government As Fuel Protests Rage; U.S. Attorney General Vows To Hold All Perpetrators Accountable; Thursday Marks One-Year Anniversary Of Capitol Riot. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 06, 2022 - 00:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thanks for joining us.



SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is nothing about any one individual. It is simply a matter of following the rules.


KINKADE: Visa rejected. Australia refuses to let the world's number one tennis player into the country. We'll have all the fallout.

Plus, the president of France now under fire for the meeting he wanted to make life miserable for those who insist on not getting vaccinated.

And huge protests on the streets of Kazakhstan of a soaring fuel prices in the former Soviet Republic.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Lynda Kinkade.

KINKADE: The number one men's tennis player in the world will not be able to defend his title at the Australian Open, Australian officials say they canceled Novak Djokovic' visa over COVID-19 vaccine exemption.

The news was met with frustration and anger by many, but Australia's Prime Minister says no one is above the country's vaccination policy.


MORRISON: Rules are rules and there are no special cases. Rules are rules.

Entry with a visa requires double vaccination or a medical exemption. I'm advised that such an exemption was not in place. And as a result, he is subject to the same rule as anyone else.


KINKADE: Well, CNN is following the latest developments on the situation. For more, I'm joined by CNN World Sports Patrick Snell here in Atlanta. But first, I want to go to Angus Watson who's in Sydney.

Good to have you with us. Angus, this is an extraordinary turn of events. What I don't understand is how two so-called independent panels approve this medical exemption that he pushed through in a country that has enforced some of the world's toughest COVID restrictions.

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Lynda, Tennis Australia that puts on the Australian Open had worked very hard to make sure that their defending champion could come back and defend his titles.

Novak Djokovic would have been going for his 10th Australian Open Grand Slam crown an amazing feat it would have been, nine is amazing too. And the organizers were very keen for that.

So, they went above and beyond to try to furnish him with the right documentation to allow him to come into the country unvaccinated. We have to presume now that Novak Djokovic is unvaccinated. He's never said whether he is or not. He's made some statements in support of people's right to choose whether to be vaccinated or whether to leave it and said that's everybody's private business.

They shouldn't have to say whether they've had a COVID-19 vaccination or not but Novak Djokovic turned up at the airport in Melbourne with these documents in the middle of the night last night.

When he got there, he was held by immigration officials there who poured over those documents wanting to make sure that they're watertight and that they matched up with the visa that he had. They decided in the end that he didn't.

The federal government they're blocking Novak Djokovic, the men's number one tennis player from entering the country to as I said, defend his Australian Open crown in this extraordinary circumstance.

Now, the context for all this, Lynda is a lot of anxiety in the community here in Australia about COVID-19. We have rising levels of cases fueled by the Omicron variant. It's changed everything for Australia, which was doing so well in the fight against the pandemic now. Omicron is raging. It's filling hospitals with patients here in Sydney and in Melbourne, where the tournament is set to be held.

And people here are saying well, we're doing all we can to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. Everybody coming into the country should be held to the same standard, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, exactly. Especially when they've been so strict on Australian citizens coming and going with borders locked for such a long time.


KINKADE: Patrick, I want to go to you because part of this all started when Novak Djokovic took to social media to say he was headed down under and that he had a medical exemption.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, Lynda, you're spot on. It really has been. Hasn't there a whirlwind last 48 hours, January the fourth, this now famous tweet, we'll look back at this tweet. I think for a long time to come from Djokovic, it grabbed the world's attention really emphatically and he has set this whole -- let's be honest, just set the whole chain of events in motion, did everything that played out during the Serbian stars flight to Australia while he was actually on board.

That whole chain of events juggling tweeting, just to reset for our viewers. Happy New Year wishing you all health, love and joy in every moment. And may you feel love and respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet. I've spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over the break. And today, I'm heading down under with an exemption permission. Let's go 2022.

Well, Lynda, that vaccine exemption, as we now know sparking an absolute backlash down under in Australia.

KINKADE: Yes, and no surprise given the long lockdowns they've had there. So, just take us through the reaction, Patrick, because we have heard his former coach already speaking to --

SNELL: Again, it's been -- reaction has been swift. And it's come from some very high-profile names indeed. Reaction for example from Australian Great and 11-time Grand Slam champ Rod Laver calling on Djokovic to reveal the reason for the medical exemption for the Aussie Open, that was earlier in the day.

And on that theme of greater transparency there we can see the statement from the great Rod Laver. But on that theme of greater transparency, some really interesting insights coming in from Djokovic, is former coach, German legend and six-time major winner himself Boris Becker, take a listen.


BORIS BECKER, FORMER TENNIS WORLD NUMBER ONE: Novak is very outspoken. He was never asked about his vaccinations, yet, he talked about the pros and the cons. I didn't hear Roger talking about it. I didn't hear Rafa talking about it. They keep it sort of under the radar a little bit.

He's outspoken, he trains differently. He eats differently. He lives his life differently. But something must be pretty good for him, otherwise he wouldn't be a 20 major winner. But having said that, he sees everything a little bit different.


SNELL: And Lynda, just a couple of things to pick up on there. Becker referencing Rafa and Roger in that soundbite or namely Nadal and Federer.

And keep in mind, Novak Djokovic wants to win this Australian Open so badly. He needs, he wants one more Grand Slam crown to move on to 21, that will be one clear of the sports other two legends and it would give him the all-time men's record.

Amazingly, all three icons of the sport are right now on 20 Grand Slam titles each. It's a fascinating dynamic. It's an incredible, extraordinary story. It really has been.

KINKADE: It really has been and his legal team are apparently trying to appeal this decision. But I can't see that happening. I can't see that changing. We'll leave it for now there. Patrick Snell for us here in Atlanta. Angus Watson in Sydney. Thank you, both.

We want to go to France now where comments from the president have sparked a political firestorm. Emanuel Macron told a Paris newspaper on Tuesday, speaking in French but it translated to that he wants to piss off the unvaccinated.

He says starting January 15th, they will no longer be allowed to go to restaurants, bars, coffee shops and theaters.

Far right leader Marine Le Pen was quick to criticize the president claiming that Mr. Macron wants to make unvaccinated people second class citizens.

But a government spokesman came to his defense.


GABRIEL ATTAL, FRENCH GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON (through translator): What the president said seems to me much less strong than the anger of a large majority of French people, in response to the choice that some make of opposing vaccination.


KINKADE: Well, let's get more now from CNN Cyril Vanier reporting from Paris.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Less than a hundred days before the presidential election here in France and in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases, battle lines are drawn after the president said in an interview that he wanted to "really piss off the unvaccinated".

Emanuel Macron has had strong words in the past against the unvaccinated minority in this country. But the timing of this is peculiar. The anger provoked within the opposition, provoked an interruption of the parliamentary debate about the vaccine pass.

Now, that is one of the government's major proposed tools to fight COVID. If the bill is passed into law, the vaccine pass will effectively do

what Mr. Macron said in colorful language. It would exclude the unvaccinated from many aspects of public life including hospitality and entertainment venues.

Now, the prime minister did have to do some damage control on Wednesday and before lawmakers, he mounted a robust defense of the president's remarks.


JEAN CASTEX, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): What the President of the Republic said, I hear it everywhere. Yes, of course, yes, our fellow citizens are exasperated.

VANIER: Despite the controversy, the bill is still expected to pass and it will put the squeeze on the unvaccinated who currently represent a majority of patients in intensive care units.

The vaccine pass along with the booster campaign are the main pillars of the government strategy against this wave of COVID. With every day bringing a new record number of infections.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.

KINKADE: Thanks to Cyril. Well, joining me now from Los Angeles is CNN European Affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, three quarters of the French population are now vaccinated. It's one of the highest rates in Europe. These comments from the president no doubt playing to that majority, who many of which have pandemic fatigue.

THOMAS: Yes, you're absolutely right, Lynda. There's -- as Cyril Vanier pointed out, we're four months away from the French presidential elections.

And you can tell that the strategy that is in place here, on the one hand, I think, to deflect from government responsibility for the general kind of COVID situation, the COVID fatigue, and so on by attributing blame to those that are either not vaccinated or the anti- vaxxers, with the full understanding that his comments will resonate with the majority of the population, even those who will not support him in the general election are absolutely tired of the restrictions and the ways in which life in France for the last two years has been impeded.

And so, I think to that extent, he does not or has not lost much through this particular statement.

KINKADE: And they were pretty strong statements, were there -- weren't they? Because, I mean, obviously, you're speaking French but translated, you know, saying that he wants to piss off the unvaccinated and saying that they're no longer citizens.

Those comments paused a halt in the legislation that was being discussed on the health pass this vaccine pass, which pretty much will prevent people that are unvaccinated from going to places like a cinema, a cafe or going on public transportation.

But despite that pause in the debate, it's still got the green light.

THOMAS: It will, it will get it and I think there's no doubt about it. I think there are a couple of things going on here, at least.

On the one hand, it's wonderful that, you know, a French word has been debated. So, with so much attention in the -- in the international media and brought attention into that. What the word really expresses beyond the more sort of questionable aspects of it is frustration and exacerbation. And it's a word that really at the core is about irritating people.

And I think that Emmanuel Macron here is opening, is sort of lifting up a mirror to those who are not yet vaccinated or who refuse to get all the anti-vaxxers to kind of irritate them, to give them a kind of a taste of the medicine that has so irritated the majority of the French people that have gone along with this, that have been vaccinated and are looking to bring this pandemic to the -- to an end.

And I think it's important to underscore the fact that Emmanuel Macron here is not talking about mandating the vaccine. What he's talking about here is toughening the restrictions on those who have not been vaccinated by essentially saying that even a negative test, or a recovery from COVID is no longer going to be enough yet.

And so, in the face of a general election, with the understanding that the general public supports this, at the end of the day, he has nothing to lose.

Now, the other aspect of this, which you just mentioned, is essentially talking about those who are not vaccinated as being irresponsible, and then bringing into question whether or not they are good citizens. That's the really kind of problematic aspect of it.

And I think it's that that opened up the floodgates, and then allow the political opposition, in view of this general election to attack him on grounds where he remains shaky. That the fact remains that the opposition itself does not have any alternative solutions to this, or even a plan that would be better than Emmanuel Macron's or in line with measures that in many cases have been far stricter, and that have been taken by many other European leaders. And Emmanuel Macron is simply following along here in that -- in that string.

KINKADE: Yes, as you say, many European cities are already doing this. Even here in the States, you've got New York City, checking vaccination cars at every single venue, you can't go anywhere, you can't book anything, unless you are fully vaccinated.

In terms of when this health pass will come into effect, it's meant to come in to effect as potentially in the middle of this month. Do you think we'll see any more protests?


THOMAS: Yes, I think there are going to be protests as indeed there have been in other European cities around this.

I think that in terms of the parliamentary action, as I just said, the statements about irresponsibility and one citizenship is questionable, but at the end of the day, public support is there, and is overwhelmingly there for the government to take action to try and stem the tremendous, you know, expansion around Omicron virus and so on, and to try and get French life back to some kind of normality.

And I think because of that, it has -- it will -- it will eventually, you know, make its way through and come into law. And as we just said, this is perfectly in line. In fact, it's less than some of the restrictions that have been put in place in other European countries. And I see no reason why Macron will not in this particular case prevail.

KINKADE: Yes. And as you say, many people in France share that same frustration.

Dominic Thomas, good to have you with us. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you, Lynda.

KINKADE: Well, antigovernment protests rattling Kazakhstan after a steep hike in fuel prices.

What the government is doing to help stabilize the situation in the country, we'll have that story coming up next.

Plus, it's been one year since the U.S. Capitol riot. How the Attorney General is responding to criticism that the Justice Department's investigation hasn't been aggressive enough, that's just ahead.


KINKADE: Welcome back. Kazakhstan's government has resigned after massive antigovernment protests over fuel price hikes.

And now, military alliance of some former Soviet states will be sending peacekeeping troops to help stabilize the situation.

Kazakhstan's president appealed for help from the group that after the unrest. Local media say eight security forces were killed and more than 300 others injured in the violence. And officials have declared a state of emergency.

CNN's Nick Robertson explains what's behind the violence.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Earlier, protesters clashing with security forces outside Almaty's principal government building, angered by rapidly rising fuel prices. Smoke billowing from stun grenades as the country's largest city reels amidst the oil rich nations biggest protests in decades.

One unconfirmed video clip posted to social media appears to show a soldier down being dragged away from the protests by colleagues. The soldiers current condition also unknown.

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


ROBERTSON: In the running battles, protesters often seeming to have the upper hand. The truth of the larger situation difficult to obtain as parts of Almaty in darkness, electricity supplies cut, so too the internet.

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

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

KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENT (through translation): These terrorist gangs are essentially international. They have undergone serious training abroad. Their attack on Kazakhstan can and should be considered as an act of aggression.

ROBERTSON: In the swiftly developing situation, the Prime Minister replaced the government offered its resignation. Fuel price hikes rescinded and the country put under a state of emergency.

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

Russia's foreign ministry saying they hope for a peaceful solution and a quick return to normal. The Kremlin spokesman say it's important there's no outside interference, a hint at Western interference, saying Russia believes Kazakhstan can solve this alone.

By nightfall, chaos in several of Kazakhstan's principal cities. The government calling for help from regional allies, including Russia. Unclear if the government's moves will be enough to placate the protesters, whose anger appears to transcend the rising fuel prices.

The Kazakh government now promising a very tough security crackdown. Indications overnight a possible gunfire on the streets of some Kazakh cities.

And with Russian and other peacekeepers on their way into the country, the Kazakh government is going to have strong help to quell this protest.

Nick Robertson, CNN, Moscow.


KINKADE: Well, in the coming hours, U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Both the House Select Committee and the Justice Department are investigating January 6, with the Attorney General vowing to hold or responsible at any level.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has more from Washington.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the eve of the one- year anniversary of the deadly January 6 insurrection, the Capitol police chief Tom Manger, delivered a stark reality about the threats that still exist for members of Congress.

CHIEF THOMAS MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: It's going up every year. Last year was 8,600, this year was 9,600. So, the workload is increasing.

NOBLES: Manger and his force are still addressing problems exposed by the riot. Let's say, they are absolutely better prepared to defend the Capitol as a chorus of calls to hold those accountable for the insurrection grows louder.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your dedication. I am honored to serve alongside you.

NOBLES: The Department of Justice is prosecuting hundreds of individuals who stormed the Capitol that day. But questions remain about whether those who influenced or encouraged the rioters, like former President Donald Trump will bear any responsibility.

The Attorney General Merrick Garland pledging to hold all perpetrators at any level accountable under the law, but not giving a specific timeline.

GARLAND: We understand that there are questions about how long the investigation will take, and about what exactly we are doing. Our answer is and will continue to be the same answer we would give to -- with respect to any ongoing investigation, as long as it takes and whatever it takes for justice to be done consistent with the facts and the law.

I understand that this may not be the answer some are looking for.

NOBLES: On Capitol Hill, their investigation continues on a rapid clip. The January 6 Select Committee wants to hear from Fox News host Sean Hannity, who was texting White House officials like former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows begging him to encourage Trump to call off his pressure campaign to prevent the certification of the election results.

Texting Meadows, "We can't lose the entire White House Counsel's Office. I do not see January 6 happening in the way he's being told."

Chairman Bennie Thompson telling CNN the committee also wants to hear from Vice President Mike Pence and asking him to come in on his own accord.

BENNIE THOMPSON, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee. You know, everybody there didn't have a security detail. So, we'd like to know what his security detail told him what's going on and what all went on.


NOBLES: Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.


KINKADE: David Gergen is the Senior Political Analyst for CNN and former advisor to U.S. presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He joins us from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Good to have you with us.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Lynda. Good to be here.

KINKADE: U.S. President Biden is expected to speak later today on the anniversary of the insurrection and it is expected that he will blame former President Trump for what he is meant to describe as the carnage and the chaos of January 6, how much responsibility does President Trump bear?

GERGEN: Enormous responsibility if you count the president plus his allies and his inner circle. It's very clearly, they orchestrated January 6th in many, many ways, especially once they knew what was happening. They sat on their hands, the president is self-satisfied watching television, apparently thinking, I'm glad they're up. I've got some people out there fighting for me. That's what we've been told in a press release.

And so, when you look at the those turn, what happened was he started rolling (INAUDIBLE). What we don't yet know, Lynda, is how much responsibility have they pay before training it, before it happened the days, before it happened just in the last 24 hours or so.

A message has been introduced by Hannity the conservative "journalists" in which shows that he knew what was coming five or six days in advance.

I didn't know exactly what was coming, didn't necessarily orchestrate. But he knew what was afoot. And the deeper that story gets, the more blame the Trump people will desert.

KINKADE: The professor of history at Yale University, Timothy Snyder, is warning that we could be sliding towards a Civil War. And I understand that you tweeted that the Financial Times made a similar warning. And we've since seen others make that sort of a warning. You said we should pay attention to it. What do you mean by that? GERGEN: Well, I think the threats are very real. The historians are already saying that we have a Civil War of a kind going on already. And that is a lot of alienation. The two parties toward each other, and they're sort of in fisticuffs, you know, behind the scenes.

But what Timothy Snyder who's written a book about tyranny, because it got a lot of contention. Yale professor, who is saying is this actually could be Civil War, there's a book coming out that people are now talking about how war -- How Civil Wars Start, and it's going to be coming out in the next few weeks, I think we'll get a lot of conversation.

Because let me just put it this way, the sort of an organization called politico here in the United States, (INAUDIBLE) historians and ask them how the January 6 would be remembered as history, in American history.

Overwhelmingly, they came back and say, and that is one of the most dangerous moments in American history, one that could lead to Civil War.

So, the scholars are talking about at this point, I'm not sure the public is, you know, what the scholars talking about now (INAUDIBLE) commonplace, I think public dialogue (PH).

KINKADE: David, the Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the January 6 perpetrators must be held accountable. Do you see that happening given that this happened 12 months ago, and more than 350 people remain wanted?

GERGEN: Listen, -- we've been told -- press has been told there are as many as 2,500 could be charged with something. We're not going to see anything like that number. And I think penalties will be quite light for those who had, you know, brought no weapons, who had no -- were not trying to seek violence but they were treble on lookers. But they will -- that'll be light.

It's a -- it's the ones who were -- you know, the man who has been heaviest so far through a canister and a police officer tried to kill him. And for that, he's gotten a lot of time in jail.

KINKADE: And the Attorney General also said he's go after all the people at any level, even though is not present at the time. Does that suggest that he may go after Republican lawmakers, Donald Trump, Trump's family?

GERGEN: I think that statement is very straightforward sending a signal. Anybody, including the President of the United States can be tried (PH) for these things. And we're going to get to the bottom of it.

I thought Garland (INAUDIBLE) heavy pressure from the left to do far more, to be more aggressive, to charge more people and that sort of thing by looking toward the midterm elections. I thought Garland handled himself very, very well today. And the emphasis on parity that -- don't mess with me. We're going to -- we're going to take this all the way, and we're going to do what's necessary.


This sounds like, man, we're looking for justice. And I -- I came away feeling reassured that everything will be done.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We will see how this all plays out. David Gergen, as always --



GERGEN: It's good to talk to you again, Lynda.

KINKADE: Well, on the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection of the U.S. Capitol, CNN will take a look at the heroes who protected U.S. democracy. You can join Jake Thompson and Anderson Cooper for a 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.

Well, international flights to Xi'an, China, have been suspended indefinitely, as the city's 13 million people face another week of harsh lockdown. The latest on the situation, when we come back.


KINKADE: Well, 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xi'an are now entering their third week of a strict lockdown to curb China's largest COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

And now China's state news agency reports that all international passenger flights to the city have been suspended.

CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now from Hong Kong. And as I said, this has been the largest outbreak in China since Wuhan, and this -- the lockdown measures are so strict, and in some cases cruel.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and what we're seeing now is that Chinese state media, normally so censored, so keen on putting a positive spin on everything, is conceding that something is not going well in this lockdown in Xi'an, that there are problems for the 13-plus million residents who cannot cross the threshold of their own homes now, basically since December 23rd.

The biggest and most symbolic case of what's happened there is this woman who is eight months pregnant and, at the beginning of this month, suffering from abdominal pains. This is now according to Chinese state media, as well as initially, her own family's social media posts, went to one of the hospitals and was denied entry into the hospital.

And then video showed this poor woman bleeding on the pavement outside the hospital, and she subsequently miscarried and lost her child. This tragic incident is now being reported, again, in the heavily censored Chinese state media.


And the municipal government has been -- has had to respond to it, announcing that the hospital's CEO, and the director of the emergency center have been suspended, that the director of the city's Center for Disease Control has been issued a disciplinary warning, and also instructions going out that hospitals cannot use COVID restrictions as a reason not to admit patients.

There are other anecdotal accounts we are hearing about people with medical emergencies who were also denied entry into hospitals, because their COVID tests weren't considered up to date enough or had expired, so they weren't being allowed in.

And the irony here is that, since this outbreak first started in Xi'an on December 9, less than 2,000 cases, there hasn't been a single reported COVID fatality.

Instead, we're hearing increasingly about these other tragic things, like a miscarriage, like a man potentially dying of a heart attack outside a hospital.

Another case we've been looking at, we have been talking to a foreign resident of Xi'an who has described the lockdown, saying that their family can't leave their apartment complex since December 23, that they were promised fresh deliveries of vegetables from the government, and only received one bag in the last two weeks, that residents were trying to get around some of these restrictions by ordering deliveries of groceries, but there's been a crackdown on those.

And we've seen, on video, incidents of people being beaten for breaking the quarantine restrictions there and being publicly shamed, as well.

So this is difficult, and even the Chinese government is having to acknowledge this. This is all part of China's zero-case approach to COVID, which has worked for the past two years since the disease was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019.

When these clusters have erupted, they isolated an entire city. They test all the residents daily, and they manage to extinguish it.

But it hasn't worked in Xi'an. There were 63 new cases on Wednesday. It went up from Tuesday, and it is a fresh cluster that has popped up to the east of it in Hunan province, which has spread to six cities there. And the number is laughable, compared to most countries in the world, about 60-odd cases in that province.

But if the Chinese government continues with this policy of locking down cities, you may see more cases like this with potential tragedies, when the city administrators are trying to follow through on the policy and people are kind of trapped in the middle between COVID, the restrictions and the other emergencies that can come up in life.

KINKADE: Yes. That's hard. Let's hope there are no more tragedies like that. Something very cruel indeed. Ivan Watson for us in Hong Kong. Thanks very much.

Well, COVID-19 cases are surging across India, as well, days before a weekend curfew will go into effect in Delhi. Infections are reaching daily highs not seen since last summer.

And it comes as India reports its first COVID death due to the Omicron variant.

Well, scores of healthcare workers have tested positive in New Delhi, putting strains on the medical system.

I want to bring in our Vedika Sud, who joins us now from New Delhi.

And we are now seeing these curfews, restrictions, returning to major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai as the cases skyrocket, and it seems the Omicron variant is fueling that surge.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Linda. That's what even India's health ministry has said.

On Wednesday, the press conference, that most of these cases are driven by the Omicron variant.

Now the health ministry has put out the notice over the last 24 hours, as far as daily numbers is concerned, has crossed 90,000 today. I've just got back to 10 days ago on the 27th of December. These cases were just over 7,000.

And today there's been an almost 13-fold increase when compared to just 10 days back. So yes, it is the Omicron variant that is creating havoc in India. These cases are extremely high, 90,000.

But the health ministry officials in that press briefing on Wednesday did mention that, as far as these cases are concerned, the hospitalization rate is still relatively low.

Over 25,000 of the cases I just mentioned today are from the two cities, New Delhi, and Mumbai. Yes, restrictions are in place in 15 states and Indian territories are up to 36. Delhi will see a weekend curfew starting this weekend.


A lot of people are upset with the government for this weekend curfew. There are a lot of health officials involved, so gone ahead, medical experts. The question why a weekend curfew should be put in place, but that's the decision that a state can take, and that's what New Delhi has done.

Also, very quickly to tell you about the healthcare workers who mentioned that's another worry across India at this point in time. And hospitals, while the rate is low of hospitalization, health workers are now testing positive, which could put a burden on the healthcare system across India -- Lynda.

KINKADE: All right. Vedika Sud, we will talk again soon. Thanks so much for that update.

SUD: Thank you.

KINKADE: We are going to take a short break. We'll be back with much more in just a moment.


KINKADE: Welcome back, North Korea has carried out its first weapons test of the new year.

According to state media, Pyongyang tests fired a hypersonic missile. It's the second time since September, and it claims it hit its target.

Japan's Coast Guard says whatever the north fired on Wednesday fell into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula. South Korea expressed concern over the launch and called for talks to resume.

The U.S. Space Command is keeping an eye on part of a Russian rocket that has reentered earth's atmosphere. The out-of-control stage was part of a heavy-lift rocket that was launched in late December.

Most space debris burns up on reentry to Earth's atmosphere and poses little danger. But large pieces could cause damage if they land in populated areas.

Space Command says this rocket re-entered the atmosphere over the Southern Pacific Ocean.

Well, thanks so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kincade. Stick around. WORLD SPORT starts after a short break.