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Australia Cancels Djokovic's Visa Over Vaccine Rules; Kazakhstan's Government Resigns as Fuel Protests Rage; Thursday Marks One-Year Anniversary of Capitol Riot. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired January 06, 2022 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers all around the world who are joining us. I'm Lynda Kinkade and this is CNN Newsroom.
Coming up, the world's number one tennis player caught in a COVID conundrum. The latest on the back and forth between the Australian Government and Novak Djokovic.
And loosen travel restrictions in England, carnival cancellations in Brazil and booster shots for American children as young as 12. We'll have all your COVID headlines from across the globe. And we are one year on the U.S. Capitol insurrection. The latest on a slow growing investigation. The lessons learned and what's next for the accused rioters.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Lynda Kinkade.
KINKADE: The world number one men's tennis player will not be able to defend his 2021 title at the Australian Open. Australian officials say they have cancelled Novak Djokovic's visa over COVID-19 vaccine rules. Years that he initially got a medical exemption had been met with frustration and anger. Australia's Prime Minister says no one is above the country's vaccination policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Rules are rules and there are no special cases. Rules are rules. This is nothing about any one individual. It is simply a matter of following the 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, CNN's Phil Black has more on this developing story.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the world's number one male tennis player, Novak Djokovic has hit more than his fair share of aces.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you, I appreciate it. Thank you guys.
BLACK: But the Serbian Champs COVID-19 vaccination status has put his hopes of a 2022 grand slam out of reach.
GREG HUNT, AUSTRALIAN HEALTH MINISTER: Mr. Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia and visa has been subsequently cancelled. So, it's a matter for him whether he wishes to appeal that but if a visa is cancelled, somebody will have to leave the country.
BLACK: Local authorities had originally granted a medical exemption to Djokovic to compete in the Australian Open. And Djokovic proudly announced he was travelling down under on social media Tuesday. His post inspired outrage from Australian citizens who have faced some of the most severe lockdown travel and vaccine protocols of any country since the pandemic began. And it's created an outcry over what some perceived to be special treatment for the sports icon.
Australia slammed its borders shot for nearly 20 months before beginning to ease those restrictions in November, but only after achieving 80% vaccination among those 16 and older, with some states still requiring mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Victorian officials insist he received no special treatment, saying a handful of medical exemptions were granted via an anonymous application process reviewed by two independent panels. The tennis star travelled to Melbourne Wednesday on a visa that did not allow vaccine exemptions, resulting in his detention in a room by himself at the airport for several hours, while border authorities considered his case.
Djokovic who already contracted COVID 19 once in 2020 has made no secret of his anti-vaccine stats.
During a Facebook Live with fellow Serbian athletes in April of 2020, Djokovic said personally I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel. His father is outraged by his son's airport detention. Telling Russian news agency Sputnik, the winner of 20 Grand Slam tournament had been held captive.
The incident threatens to create a diplomatic route with Serbian officials demanding answers from the Australian Government. The Australian PM tweeted a forceful defense of the decision to cancel Djokovic's visa, making clear that no one will receive special treatment no matter how famous they are, saying rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID. We are continuing to be vigilant. (END VIDEOTAPE)
KINKADE: Our thanks to Phil Black.
Well, CNN is following the latest developments from Australia and the world. CNN World Sport's Patrick Snell is here with us in Atlanta. But first I want to go to Sydney where are Angus Watson is standing by. And Angus, it really is an extraordinary turn of events, but I have to wonder how to so-called independent panels could approve this medical exemption in the first place in a country that has enforced some of the strictest restrictions in the world.
ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Lynda, Tennis Australia did all it could to try to get their champion back to defend his Australian Open Grand Slam title that he won in 2021. Novak Djokovic is the king of the Australian Open, his 1/9 times. He was going for a 10th time that was very exciting for everyone here in Australia. We love to watch him play. And we love what the Australian Open brings every summer but we're also going through this deadly wave of COVID-19. This wave that's really fueled by the Omicron variant as well as the Delta variant, which is overflowing hospitals here and those hospitals are seeing a lot of unvaccinated patients. And we know that they're the most risk from COVID-19, of course.
So, the Australian Government is saying that you need to have two vaccinations to come into this country. If you can't get vaccinated, we understand but we need proof, the Australian Government said. Tennis Australia wanted to furnish Novak Djokovic, with that proof. We have to assume now that Novak Djokovic isn't fully vaccinated. He has never said that he hasn't or has had a COVID-19 vaccine. But he has now filed these documents to try to get into the country with a legitimate medical excuse.
Now when he turned up to the airport are late last night, the federal officials there went over this paperwork, and they deemed it not efficient that it didn't match up with his visa either. And that he needed to be deported as somebody trying to enter Australia on vaccinated and that's actually, Lynda, I must said say had a good deal of support here in the community. People have gone out and gotten vaccinated here in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne well over 90% of adults are fully vaccinated. And they've done that because they want to do their bit for society as well as protect themselves from COVID-19. They've know, they're very privileged to be able to live in a wealthy country with good access to vaccines. So, they've gone out and done it. They want people coming here to fulfil that same pledge to be double vaccine protect the community, Lynda.
KINKADE: Yeah, exactly. Especially, it wasn't that long ago that everyone was pretty much under lockdown for a very long time. Angus, thanks to you.
I want to bring Patrick because at this so started really in some way because Novak jumped on social media and tweeted that he was headed down under with a medical exemption and people were furious in Australia that he got an exemption?
PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yeah, there's no question, you know, how will history come to judge that social media tweet, Lynda. It's very interesting, isn't it? Just a world where last 48 hours, you know, January the fourth, the day of that tweet, tweet from the top, ranked men's player in the world, grabbing the world's attention and setting off this whole chain of events in motion, everything that played out in the hours that he was on board that flight down under to Australia. Events taking place, very significant indeed. The tweet itself Nole tweeting 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, that tweet is highly significant. It's set off as I said, Lynda, the whole chain of events and that vaccine exemption sparking as you just said an absolute backlash in Australia.
KINKADE: Yeah. So, take us through more of their reaction, Patrick. I mean, he's own coach has been speaking out about it to CNN.
SNELL: He has; indeed, reaction has been coming in very swiftly indeed right through the day and yesterday as well from high profile big names as well. Reaction from Australian great for example, the 11th Time Grand Slam Champ arrived later calling on Djokovic to reveal the reason for the medical exemption for the ICO but that was earlier in the day. And on that theme of greater transparency, some really interesting insights as well from Djokovic's former coach the German legend and sixth time major winner, Boris Becker, who said it would also be in his best interest to openly speak about it and what he went through to get that special exemption. But this reaction as well, from the notably straight-talking broadcaster and former player and former captain, in fact of the U.S. Davis Cup team, Mr. Patrick McEnroe. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: You're entitled to have your own personal beliefs and take your own stands, but you're not entitled to impose them on other people all over the world. Particularly when you're travelling from country to country, so it is his right to say I don't want to get vaccinated but it's not his right to then say I can go to any country I want to and not abide necessarily by their laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNELL: Patrick McEnroe there, Lynda. Look, this is what's so important as well. So significant, Djokovic really badly does want to play in the Aussie Open. He wants more and more Grand Slam title to move on to 21 that will be one player of the sports other two legends, certain Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and it would give him the all-time men's record but, you know, as of right now, it's not happening. Is it? At least not right now down under. We're following it very closely.
KINKADE: Well, apparently his team is trying to appeal, but I can't see that happening. Patrick Snell, good to have you with us. Thank you. And thanks also to Angus Watson in Sydney.
Well, there's no let-up in the explosion of COVID cases fueled by the old trick contagious Omicron variant. Turkey has reported its highest number of daily infection since the start of the pandemic. And France, once again, smashed its record for new cases recording more than 330,000 on Wednesday by further most ever in a single day.
And APRO (ph) is brewing there are over recent remarks from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he wanted to "piss off" the unvaccinated. He's hoping to push through a bill that would put major limits on their lifestyle. Well, opposition lawmakers were quick to condemn the comments, but the French minister said the unvaccinated fracture the nation. Well, starting this Friday England is scrapping a key COVID Travel requirement. People arriving now will no longer need to present a negative COVID result from a pre-departure PCR test. CNN's Scott McLean has the details on while the regulation is easing with cases on the rise.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The peak of Omicron infections in the U.K. cannot come soon enough. New government estimates show that in the last week of December alone, one in every 15 people in England was infected with COVID-19 with one intend infected in London the Omicron epicenter. Despite that scary data, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not tightening restrictions, he's actually loosening some. Pre-departure tests will soon no longer be required on flights into England and cheaper lateral flow tests can be taken on arrival instead of PCR tests eliminating the need to quarantine while waiting for a result.
The Prime Minister insists that despite rising hospital admissions because Omicron is less severe, and the booster shot has already reached 60% of the eligible population. The U.K. can ride out this wave without shutting down the economy. Johnson faced plenty of questions in the House of Commons about his approach, but none from the opposition leader who tested positive for COVID for the second time in just the past few months. Few opposition lawmakers pushed him for tighter restrictions, but many questioned why tests are so tough to find. And how hospitals can possibly cope given the number of staff out sick with the virus. Scott McLean, CNN, London.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Less than 100 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. Emmanuel Macron has had strong words in the past against the unvaccinated minority in this country. But the timing of this is peculiar. The anger it provoked within the opposition provoked an interruption of the parliamentary debate about the vaccine passed. Now that is one of the government's major proposed tools to fight COVID. If the bill is passed into law, the vaccine pass would 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 translation): 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 paths along with the booster campaign are the main pillars of the government's strategy against this wave of COVID with every day bringing a new record number of infections several. Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.
KINKADE: Well, anti-government protests rattling has done after a steep hike in fuel prices. What the government is doing to help stabilize the situation in the country, that story next.
Plus, it's been one year since the U.S. Capitol riot. Now, 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 anti-government protests over fuel price hikes. And now a military alliance of some former soviet states who are sending peacekeeping troops to help stabilize the situation. Kazakhstan's President appealed for help from the group 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 Nic Robertson explains what's behind the protests.
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 stung grenades as the country's largest city reals 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 battens by those in uniform.
In the running battles, protesters often seeming to have the upper hand. The truth of the larger situation difficult to obtain as parts of Almaty in darkness. Electricity supplies cut, so to the internet. Early Wednesday, officials saying more than 200 protesters have been detained, 95 security officers injured of 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, KAZAKH PRESIDENT (through translation): These terrorist gangs were essentially International. They've 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.
(On camera): Russia's foreign ministry saying they hope for peaceful solution and a quick return to normal. The Kremlin spokesman to saying it's important there's no outside interference, a hint of Western interference, saying Russia believes Kazakhstan can solve this alone.
(Voice-over): 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.
(On camera): 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 the way into the country, the Kazakh government is going to have strong help to quell this protest. Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.
KINKADE: U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver a speech in the hours ahead marking the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. A House Select Committee is ramping up its investigation into January six, while the Justice family carries out his own probe into the events of that day, but the U.S. Attorney General has faced criticism for not taking more aggressive action against those responsible. Here how he is responding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day, or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, CNN's Ryan Nobles has more now from Washington.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL 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 TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: It's going up every year. Last year was 8600. This year was 9600. 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.
GARLAND: 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 that didn't have a security detail. So, we'd like to know what his security detail told him was going on, and what all went on.
NOBLES (on camera): And Bennie Thompson emphasized that the committee is prepared to hold these hearings in primetime and that it would be a series of hearings where they would lay out their case to the American people about the importance of this investigation. Even though the Committee continues to move in a more public direction as the course of this investigation continues. They are also still doing quite a bit of work behind closed doors. On Wednesday night they met with Stephanie Grisham former White House Press Secretary to ask her what she knew about what was going on in the White House and the days leading up to and on January 6. Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.
KINKADE: David Gergen is the Senior Political Analyst for CNN and former Adviser 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, plus his inner circle. It's very clearly orchestrated January 6, and many, many ways. Actually, once they knew what was happening, they just had on their hand, President 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 nose term, what happened was he started rolling it bearing more responsibility, what we don't yet know, Lynda, how much responsibility they pay for training for happened the days before it happened just in the last 24 hours or so. A message has been introduced by Hannity the "conservative journalist" in which shows that he knew what was coming over six days in advance. I didn't know exactly what was coming unnecessarily orchestrated. But he knew what was afoot. And the deeper that story gets more blame the Trump people will deserve.
KINKADE: The professor of history at Yale University, Timothy Snyder is warning that we could be sliding towards a civil war. I understand that you tweeted that the Financial Times made a similar warning. And we've since seen others may 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, they're historic, you're already saying that we have a Civil War of a kind going on already. And that is a lot of alienation, or the two parties toward each other. And they're sort of in fisticuffs, you know, behind the scenes. But what Tom Snyder, who's written a book about tyranny, I think, 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 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, when he team historians and asked him how the January 6 would be remembered in history in American history. Overwhelmingly, they came back and say, came back 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, thankfully be commonplace, I think public dialogue.
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 as many as 2500 could be charged with something, we're not going to see anything like that number. And I think I know these will be quite light for those who had, you know, brought no weapons who had no sort of, we're not trying to seek silence, but they were treble onlookers. They will, there'll be light is the ones who were, you know, the management heaviest, so far through a canister and a police officer (inaudible). And for that he's gotten a lot of time in jail.
KINKADE: And the Attorney General also said he'd go off to all the people at any level, even though he's not present at the time, does that suggest that he may go off to Republican lawmakers, a 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 primed for these things. And we're going to get to the bottom of it. I thought it was under heavy pressure from the left, so far more to be more aggressive to charge more people and that sort of thing, looking toward the midterm elections. But I thought Garland handled himself very, very well today. And when they emphasis and clarity that don't mess with me, we're going to take this all away and we're going to do what's necessary, this sounds like man was looking for justice.
And I came away feeling reassured that the right thing will be done.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: We will see how this all plays out.
David Gergen, as always, thanks so much.
GERGEN: Yes. It's good to talk to again, Lynda.
KINKADE: Well, on the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection of the U.S. capital, CNN has a look at the heroes who protected U.S. democracy. You can join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for a two-hour special event "LIVE FROM THE CAPITAL, JANUARY 6TH, ONE YEAR LATER." It begins Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in Washington D. C. That's Friday, 9:00 am in Hong Kong, right here on CNN.
And still ahead, Hong Kong is returning its vaccination requirements as a top city official warns of a fifth wave.
KINKADE: Welcome back. More on our top story this hour.
Attorneys for tennis star Novak Djokovic will challenge his deportation from Australia. This according to a report from CNN affiliate 7 News. Government officials cancelled his visa after his arrival to complete in the Australian Open. No application for the appeal has been submitted at this point in time. But a hearing is set to be heard in about half an hour from now.
Djokovic came under fire after receiving a medical exemption for COVID vaccination. But the Australian prime minister says the same rules for entering the country apply to everyone. Here is what one top player had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEIGH BARTY, AUSTRALIAN TENNIS PLAYER: I know hard it has been for Australians all around our nation but in particular Victorians who have had a really rough trot over the last 18 months in two years. And, you know, I understand why they may be frustrated with the decision. But ultimately, I have no interest in speaking about Novak's medical history.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Let's turn now to Christine Brennan, CNN sports analyst and columnist for "USA Today."
Good to have you with us.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: It's great to be with you, and thank you.
KINKADE: So it's no surprise that this is the number one trending story on CNN.com. The world's best tennis player arriving in Australia for a grand slam only to be held up by a border patrol and then to be told that your visa is being rejected, you can't come in. It's just incredible.
BRENNAN: Well, it is, you know, picturing Novak Djokovic, the top ring tennis -- men's tennis player in the world, arriving at the Australian Open where he's won nine times, he's the defending champ, stopped by the, you know, at the border. Stopped by at immigration.
[01:35:10] Taken to a room, according to his father there were two police outside the room, all night. And he doesn't have the right paperwork. And by the way, you're going home, get out of here. Leave. What an ignominious ending to a story that frankly it's a well-deserved ending for Novak Djokovic. You know, he thought he could just saunter right in to Australia and, you know, be welcomed with open arms. And a lot of confusion on exactly what happened, but the end result is that the government of Australia said no, you're not coming in.
BRENNAN: And I think it's a wonderful, actually a wonderful message. And I wish more sport organizations and governments did it, personally that I think, you know, you just can't -- Novak Djokovic wants it both ways. He wants to not be vaccinated but then to be welcomed by a country that has been dealing, reeling from the pandemic, and obviously they said no, and leave, and he had to leave.
KINKADE: Yes. And I have to wonder how he got this medical exemption in the first place really. So-called two independent panels through the Australian Open. His coach Boris, his former coach Boris Becker spoke to CNN earlier and said he believes Novak should be more transparent about this so-called medical exemption and that's the only way, the only appeal he might have in this particular case because otherwise he'll be heading out of Australia pretty soon if not already.
BRENNAN: Yes, and maybe that ship has sailed anyway. But, yes, if Novak Djokovic had been more transparent all long, it probably would have been better. I mean he has never officially said he was not vaccinated until applying for this medical exemption. It was pretty clear that he wasn't vaccinated. He has been very vocal in his, you know, hatred, his criticism of vaccine mandates.
He has been quite cavalier, frankly, in living his life. Those videos early on in the pandemic of him out among people and not socially distancing. And of course he apparently got COVID himself. So, you know, there is a lot that Novak Djokovic could've done differently. Getting vaccinated would be a start, a respect for the country that he was going to. Among other countries that he may go to in the future, but he didn't do it and now he's paying a big price. And certainly, being more forthcoming would have been a really, really good thing for Djokovic to do.
KINKADE: And certainly from an Australian perspective, someone who is fully vaccinated and struggled to get back home to Australia, I can understand the outrage when he took to social media to say that he was flying into Australian unvaccinated with a special exemption because this is a country that has had one of the toughest COVID restrictions in the world, and the city of Melbourne of course survived one of the longest lockdowns in the world. What impact, going forward, will this have on the Australian Open?
BRENNAN: Well, certainly it doesn't look great from the standpoint of is he playing, is he not. We're giving him the exemption. But now the government says no way. I mean, that has a bit of a (INAUDIBLE) cups look to it all, unfortunately. I think, overall, you know, had he been in the Australian Open where he would've been a very strong favorite, Djokovic, to win and of course then get the most grand slam titles in the men's game, you know, he would have been reviled.
I mean, the booing would have been extraordinary. He would have completely -- I guess he miscalculated in thinking that he'd be welcomed with open arms. So what the government did, showed us kind of a preview of what we might have seen in the stadium. And just the hatred, and the real anger at that Djokovic. So he spared himself that, but I'm wondering if that will continue to carry over throughout the year wherever he goes.
But, you know, the Australian Open is still the Australian Open. And it's a grand slam tournament, the first one of the year. And I think it will go on just fine. And maybe it's a lesson to anyone who's not vaccinated. Maybe it's time to start thinking about getting vaccinated in respect to your fellow competitors, in respect to the fans who obviously care very much. Especially in a place like Australia that has been dealt so severely with lockdowns and quarantine.
KINKADE: They really have, and like most cities around the world right now they are seeing that surge in cases. They don't want to go backwards. We'll see how this plays out. We'll see if we hear from the tennis champion himself. But for now we'll leave it there.
Christine Brennan, as always, thanks so much.
BRENNAN: Lynda, thank you so much.
KINKADE: Well, now to Japan where new COVID-19 cases have topped 2,000 for the first time in months. Those numbers come as the country's foreign minister calls on the U.S. to impose COVID restrictions on American military bases in Japan.
Earlier this week, the governor of Okinawa blasted the U.S. Military for not containing the spread. Well, data shows that more than 800 American personnel have tested positive at that base.
And in China, 13 million people are now beginning their third week of lockdown in Xi'an City. The state's news agency, Xinhua, reports that all international passenger flights from Wednesday have now been suspended at Xi'an airport until further notice.
Well, our CNN reporters are covering all the latest information from across the region. Ivan Watson is with us from Hong Kong and Blake Essig joins us from Tokyo.
I'll start with you first, Ivan. This city of Xi'an certainly a city of 13 million people. And it has -- just got incredibly strict restrictions right now, some of which are quite cruel.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's so hard to get a really unvarnished account of what's going on there. Recall that when COVID first appeared in Wuhan, the Chinese city of Wuhan in December of 2019, the first place in the world and then spread around the world, some of the Chinese citizen journalists who tried to tell about the conditions of the strict lockdown there that went on for months, were subsequently detained and disappeared. And one is still I believe in a hunger strike right now.
So we don't have those types of voices in this case. CNN has spoken with a foreign resident of Xi'an, who's described their family being stuck since December 23rd. Sharing this photo of the gate at the entrance to their compound which we can show you. There is razor wire over the gate that the resident says was put on after the lockdown began on December 23rd, and the sign here says, "Pandemic containment measures. This exit is temporarily sealed off due to pandemic containment measures. We will inform you in due course when the exit will reopen. Sorry for the inconvenience."
The resident going on to say that the city government had promised to deliver fresh vegetables, they only received one bag in two weeks. That there were daily COVID tests, and that the resident had reached out to their embassy for help to basically escape from Xi'an. Still waiting for an answer.
There are more dire examples that one that has broken through heavily censored Chinese social media and has been now reported in Chinese state media of a woman who was eight months pregnant, suffered from abdominal pains, went to one of the Xi'an hospitals, and was denied entry because her COVID test had not been conducted recently enough. Video of her showing her bleeding on the pavement outside the hospital and subsequently she miscarried her 8-month-old child who was still -- she miscarried.
And since then, the order has gone out from the city government to hospitals not to deny entry to people who need treatment on COVID restriction grounds. And top officials at that hospital have been suspended and-or reprimanded. All of this is happening in a city that has had less than 2,000 confirmed COVID cases, and no confirmed COVID deaths.
It is not the only city that is facing lockdowns in China. If you move hundreds of kilometers to the east to the Henan Province, there we've seen some 60 some odd cases in the last 24 hours. And at least six cities now in that province starting to face lockdowns including the capital Zhengzhou. Schools canceled, public transport cancelled, daily tests imposed on all of the residents there.
These are the measures that China takes to try to completely eradicate COVID less than a month before the start of the Winter Olympics in China -- Lynda.
KINKADE: Absolutely heartbreaking to hear how some people are being treated as health care workers tried to follow these COVID rules.
Ivan Watson, thanks so much.
I want to go to Blake Essig now. Blake, just talk to us about the COVID cases that you're seeing in Japan right now, which are surging, particularly at U.S. Military bases? BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Lynda. The cases involving
U.S. Military personnel are unfortunately being reported at several different American installations across Japan. And because of that, a call was held earlier this morning local time between Japan's Foreign minister and the U.S. secretary of State that lasted about 35 minutes. And one of the reasons for the call was so Japan could request stricter measures be put in place at U.S. Military bases located here in Japan. That includes restricting all service members from leaving their base.
Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture has been one of the hardest hit areas during this recent surge in cases. And Okinawa's local governor is blaming the U.S. Military for failing to contain the virus and spreading the Omicron variant to local communities. There are currently more than 800 U.S. Military personnel as you mentioned in isolation after recently testing positive in the prefecture.
That compares to about 1200 active cases amongst the local population while U.S. forces, Japan says that they've acted promptly to reduce the risk of spreading infection to local communities. A more stringent mitigation measures have been put in place following this recent rise in infection and that includes a mask mandate while on and off base regardless of vaccination status and increased testing for new arrivals -- Lynda.
KINKADE: All right. Blake Essig, for us in Tokyo, good to have you there on those angles, and our thanks also to Ivan Watson in Hong Kong.
Well, for the second year in a row, the Grammy Awards are being postponed because of COVID. The show was set to be held in Los Angeles at the end of this month, but organizers say they will announce a new date soon. Last year's Grammy Awards were postponed from January to March, and then held with a much smaller in-person audience.
And the National Football League in the U.S. is exploring contingency plans for the upcoming Super Bowl. The league says it's standard procedure for any game, but they want backup venues in place in case of weather issues or what they call unforeseen circumstances. The NFL still expects the title game to go on as scheduled on February 13th in Englewood, California.
Well, back to school amid a renewed surge in COVID infections. Just ahead, the latest guidance from the CDC to protect school age children as they return to the classroom.
KINKADE: Well, as millions of children return to school after the holidays, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has now signed off on Pfizer booster shots to kids aged 12 to 15. But with the alarming rise in COVID hospitalizations among young children, parents must now weight the benefits and risks of sending their children back to school. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like other families, the Kitleys in Chicago were filled when last fall their four children could finally go back to school. But half way through the school year, there have been bumps in the road leaving home, going back to school.
KELLEY KITLEY, MOTHER: That transition back to school has been difficult, mostly for my youngest child who felt this sense of safety and security from the age of 7 until 8 1/2 and then needing to go back to school.
COHEN (on-camera): So it sounds like your daughter got used to having the comfort of having mom and dad around all the time.
KITLEY: Absolutely, and then is expected to just go back to school from zero to 100. There wasn't a gradual transition.
COHEN (voice-over): Kitley, a therapist herself, sees the tension in her patients.
KITLEY: They are feeling increased anxiety around just how to be and communicate with people and build friendships, and being able to feel comfortable in their environment.
COHEN (on-camera): Have you seen children hit crisis points?
KITLEY: Low self-esteem and low confidence, and feeling depressed and as a coping mechanism turning to eating disorder behavior or cutting behavior, and really not being able to manage the intensity of being back in a school environment.
COHEN (voice-over): Last month, the U.S. surgeon general issued this 53-page advisory outlining how the pandemic has had an unprecedented negative impact on the mental health of children. One global study finding symptoms of youth depression and anxiety doubled.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I am so concerned about our children because there is an epidemic if you will of mental health challenges that they have been facing.
COHEN: Kitley says an empowerment group for girls that she started has helped.
Atlanta area counselor Teshia Stovall Dula says when children feel overwhelmed by the transition back to school, she offers them a safe place.
TESHIA STOVALL DULA, 7TH GRADE COUNSELOR, HULL MIDDLE SCHOOL: They often come to my office just to get a break from the noise. And I was very surprised by that, that they needed to come and take a break from the noise.
COHEN: Her advice to parents, remember that if your children seem immature for their age, there is a reason. They missed out on more than a year of development with their peers.
DULA: I mean my 12-year-old, they still act so young. They are more like elementary school kids.
COHEN (on-camera): Missing a year to a year and a half of social interaction for a middle school student, that's a lot.
DULA: It was a lot.
COHEN (voice-over): And be patient with your child as they transition from one way of life to another.
DULA: Their world was turned upside down. As adult, we are able to bounce back quicker, usually faster. But for them, you know, it's going to take them a little more time.
COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.
KINKADE: Well, CNN has spoken with numerous public health professionals about what parents can do to protect their children from COVID-19 in the classroom. Most them stress that vaccinating eligible children remains the best defense from becoming seriously ill. It's recommended that children have a negative COVID test before returning to school. And the experts were unanimous that students should continue to wear masks.
We have more guidance on that on CNN.com, slash health.
We're going to take a short break. We'll be back with more news in just a moment.
KINKADE: Welcome back. Well, COVID is forcing changes to carnival celebrations in Brazil. Several cities have already announced partial or total cancellations.
Stefano Pozzebon has details in plans in Rio de Janeiro.
STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: The city of Rio de Janeiro has announced it was canceling some of its world-famous carnival events due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The mayor speaking to journalists explained that while the most iconic events of (INAUDIBLE), which is the samba parade, will go ahead as planned inside a stadium. Street parades will be canceled instead. Here is the mayor speaking with CNN Brazil.
EDUARDO PAES, RIO DE JANEIRO MAYOR (through translator): In street carnivals, you don't get to establish any kind of health control. That's just how they are here in Rio. It's a street carnival that has a lot to do with the territory where the blocks get out. I'm going to make comparisons. It is the samba stadium. The same way you have health controls that you can impose in football stadiums, you can also establish the same control at the samba stadium.
POZZEBON (voice-over): The mayor's decision is emblematic of the tightrope that authorities in South America are walking as they try to limit the spread of the Omicron variant without imposing new lockdowns that could hurt, their economies. On Tuesday Brazil reported more than 25,000 new COVID-19 cases, and 129 new deaths attributable to the virus.
Other countries such as Colombia and Argentina are also experiencing new spikes in COVID-19 cases. With Argentina's situation, the one causing most concern. But just like in many other parts of the world, a rise in new COVID-19 cases is not immediately translating into a rise in deaths and hospitalizations.
(On-camera): For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.
KINKADE: Well, a California family is celebrating the birth of twins who were born on different days and different years. Little Alfredo Trujillo came into the world 15 minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve. His sister Aylin waited until New Year's Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATIMA MADRIGAL, MOTHER: The nurses were telling me maybe your babies are going to be -- one of them in New Year's and one of them on New Year's Eve. And yes, that's how it happened. I mean, when they're older, they want to, you know, celebrate their birthdays like different years, it's up to them. But right now that they're small and they're with me, they're going to celebrate their birthday together.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: The hospital says the chance of twins being born in two different years is about 1 in 2 million. Mom, dad and three other children are all thrilled with the new arrivals.
And unlike me and my twin brother, they will be able to have birthdays on separate days.
Well, thanks so much for watching. I'm Lynda Kinkade. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Ana Coren after a short break.