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Australia Cancels Novak Djokovic's Visa; United Kingdom Impose New Travel Rules; Merrick Garland Wants Justice for January 6th. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 06, 2022 - 03:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Australia cancels Novak Djokovic's visa to enter the country moments after he had already arrived but the world number one tennis champ may not be able to defend his title.

Well, violent protests erupt in Kazakhstan over surging fuel prices, what the government is doing to quell tensions.

Plus, it's been one year since the deadly U.S. Capitol riots, an investigation into the preparation is ongoing -- into the perpetrators, I should say, is ongoing. And the U.S. attorney general is vowing to hold him accountable.

The fate of Novak Djokovic's participation in the Australian Open is in the hands of an Australian court. Djokovic's lawyers are challenging his deportation and the decision to cancel his visa. Well, that's according to a report from CNN affiliate 7 News.

The world number one men's tennis player came under fire after receiving a medical exemption for COVID vaccinations. But Australia's prime minister says the country's vaccination rules apply to everyone.


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 will be subject to the same rule as anyone else.


COREN (on camera): CNN is following the latest developments on the situation. For more, I'm joined by CNN world sports, Patrick Snell in Atlanta. But first, let's go live to Sydney where Angus Watson is standing by.

Angus, we understand that an Australian court there in Melbourne has actually adjourned the decision for Novak Djokovic's fight against the federal government not to grant him a visa. And potentially deport him out of the country. Tell us what are you learning? ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Anna, this is another extraordinary twist

to an extraordinary story. Novak Djokovic's lawyers going to a federal court today to try to seek a stop on his sending out of the country's deportation from Australia.

That case is now been adjourned until Monday morning. Australia's public broadcaster is now reporting. So, we have a situation in which Novak Djokovic, the world number one tennis player for men could be staying in an immigration detention hotel for days longer while his bid to play in the Australian Open, to defend his championship crown is heard. And his stay is extended in this country.

I mean, or he gives up and decides to go home. That certainly what Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia indicated today earlier with those firm words. Saying that you either come in fully vaccinated or you don't come it at all. And Novak Djokovic is no different and that he has to leave.

Anna, the bad crown to all, this is rising anxiety here in Australia as Omicron cases go through the roof here in Sydney and in Melbourne where the tennis is set to be staged this month.

Thousands upon thousands of cases, hospitals overrun with people, with record numbers of people, those making up those hospital admissions are largely the unvaccinated. So, people here in Australia are saying well, we've done our bid, we're doing what we've told to do as good citizens to go out and get vaccinated to protect ourselves and our community, people that come here need to do that too, including Novak Djokovic. Anna?

COREN: Yes. And we know as well, Angus, that Melbourne has been particularly hard hit. Victoria has been particularly hard hit during this pandemic. Months' long lockdown. We also know that any spectator who goes to the Australian Open, which kicks off on the 17th of January, they have to be vaccinated.

So, I mean, how long could this be drawn out for, considering as you say, Novak Djokovic now has to stay in a government quarantine hotel for the next four days, five days until the hearing resumes at 10 a.m. on Monday. How long could this be drawn out for?

WATSON: Anna, tennis Australia, according to Novak Djokovic's lawyers wants the matter settled by Tuesday because that's when they have to finalize the draw for the competition. They need to replace Novak Djokovic if he is not going to take part.


According to our affiliate Channel 7, the judge presiding over the case has said that he's not going to let the tail wag the dog in that way. That the case is going to play out in the way that it should.

So, we are really at the standoff between Novak Djokovic and his lawyers that want to get this injunction against his deportation and the federal government that really wants him gone, Anna. COREN: Yes. They certainly do want him gone. But as we know, this

could be held up in the courts. On the issue of Novak Djokovic, obviously he's the world's number one, but in Australia, you know, he's not necessarily loved. And once people learned that he was given an exemption earlier this week to attend the Australian Open there was a severe backlash right across the community.

Tell us a little bit about how that was received by the public?

WATSON: That's right, Anna. I mean, Novak Djokovic is a sports star held in a very high sporting regard here. He's won the Australian Open nine times. This would be going for his 10th. An extraordinary record. But people here while they've watched his exploits on the court, they've also listened to what he's had to say about coronavirus and vaccines.

He's come up with some statements that lean towards the kind of anti- vax of worlds, he's said that civil liberty should rise over his necessity for him to get vaccinated. That he shouldn't have to tell anybody whether he's vaccinated or not. He still hasn't, but now of course we have to presume that he's not vaccinated against COVID-19 because he tried to file these exemption papers to get into Australia without having had a vaccine.

Those exemption papers which are of course being denied by federal officials in the airport last night. Keeping the men's world number one tennis player in a room, in the airport, overnight for hours, Anna, while they try to establish his case. Quite extraordinary.

COREN: Yes. Angus, just before I let you go, obviously, Australia has had some of the strictest quarantines and border, you know, measures in the world during this pandemic. And they've done a very good job in handling cases. Since they open the borders at the end of the year, cases are now surging across the country, and even in Victoria today they recorded 23,000 COVID cases.

The government is talking about bringing back, you know, mask mandates and restrictions on gatherings. On hearing this news that Djokovic and his visa had been canceled, and that he was being deported, how did that -- how did that play out in the Australian media? And now news that he could be in the country or is in the country now until at least Monday or Tuesday next week. Hos is that being received?

WATSON: Well, Anna, we talk about pandemic fatigue, Novak could be quite as fatigued perhaps as Melbourne. One of the most lockdown cities in the world. Two hundred sixty days cumulatively that city has been locked down under strict terms as the city, the state, and the country at large has tried to navigate its way through this coronavirus pandemic.

And as you are saying there, Anna, Australia has had great, some great success in trying to shield itself from the worst of the pandemic. Put it this way, Anna. Australia has had just over 500,000 cases. Two hundred fifty thousand of those, half of those have come in the last few weeks as Omicron has taken over as the dominant variant over Delta. And hospitals have started to fill up here in Sydney in Melbourne as well.

As you mentioned, there's a lot of anxiety. And there are people in the hospital, and as I mentioned, it's largely in unvaccinated people that are there. We worry about them, of course, the rest of the public wants this to be over with. They think that vaccination is the way out of it. They know vaccinations are the way out of it and they want that the hold for everybody. Sports stars included.

COREN: Yes. Hence that anger towards Novak Djokovic. Patrick Snell, if I can now bring you into the conversation. I mean, we are talking about the number one ranked tennis star in the world facing deportation. How is his being received in the international sporting community?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Yes. It really has just been, Anna, an extraordinary last 24 hours. Really 48 hours really if you take it back to that tweet from Djokovic that really set this whole thing in motion on January the 4th.

But I do want to get to something, which is really significant. Because one of his great rivals, Rafael Nadal, has been speaking out today. He was asked by a reporter about his opinion on the matter. I want to get to these Nadal quotes of course. Because these two are really neck and neck when it comes along with Roger Federer to try to get to number 21 in terms of Grand Slam titles.


Nadal saying, I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem. He made his own decisions. And everybody is free to take their own decisions but there are consequences. Of course, I don't like the situation that is happening. In some way, I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since lots of months ago. So, he makes his own decisions.

The forthright views there, Anna, of Spanish tennis legend Rafale Nadal weighing in on this extraordinary chain of events. But yes, you're quite right, we've been having really forthright opinions everywhere you look for some really big names as well.

I'm thinking of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver calling for greater transparency from Djokovic upon whom so much attention is now focused. And even his former coach, German tennis legend, Boris Becker, a six- time Grand Slam champion himself, echoing that theme of, look, give us more information. Explain more, shed more light on it all.

And, the always forthright views of broadcaster and former player and former U.S. Davis Cup captain, Patrick McEnroe. Take a listen to this.


PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: You are entitled to have your own personal beliefs and take your own stance, but you're not entitled to impose them on other people all over the world particularly when you're traveling from country to country. So, it's 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.


SNELL (on camera): The views of Patrick McEnroe there speaking on CNN last night. You know, this is a really, really strong story. It has the world captivated, Anna. There is no question about that. And it's fast changing, isn't it? Every step of the way.

COREN: And dragging on, Patrick. We don't get the follow-up until Monday next week.

SNELL: Right.

COREN: Do we know why Novak Djokovic will not get vaccinated? Considering, as we heard there from Patrick McEnroe that he knows the laws of Australia. He knows that he needed to be vaccinated unless he had some sort of medical exemption to play in the Australian Open. So why not get vaccinated?

SNELL: Right. Well, I mean, we don't know for sure what his vaccination status is. He's never actually confirmed it one way or the other. We do know his stance when it comes to vaccinations. He's been very clear on that in the past.

But you're quite right, Anna. He's known for months the requirements to compete at this year's Australian Open. The first tennis Grand Slam of the new year. This is the first Grand Slam tournament that does require a mandatory player vaccination. But I'll tell you what, it certainly almost certainly not going to be the last. And that is something that Djokovic will be well aware of.

And another fascinating plot twist to all of this, is what I mentioned at the top there. He is on the brink of becoming the most successful tennis player on the men side of the game of all-time. It's a fascinating race to get to 21. We got Rafael Nadal on 20, Roger Federer on 20, Djokovic currently on 20. This is the tournament that he loves. It's food and drink to him. He's won it nine times including the last three3.

As Angus said he's going for number 10. He wants 21. That is why he is so desperate to compete at this year's Australian Open. He sees his place in history was denied number 21, wasn't he, last year at the United States Open in New York City. The subplots everywhere you look at this. And as you say, the next twist is coming our way on Monday. But I don't believe there aren't going to be twists before even in the lead up to Monday. We got whole weekend to go, right?


COREN: Yes, somehow, I think he's got a phone. He is in a government quarantine hotel, I'm sure he'll be tweeting it and making headlines.

But Patrick, let me ask you this. Because as an Australian I'm looking at this thinking, you know, what -- what a mess. What a debacle. How did it ever get to the point where he was allowed to get on a plane despite the federal government of Australia telling tennis Australia that players who are unvaccinated or who had had COVID in the last six months they were not allowed an exemption.

So, we know this. And yet, he's allowed to fly into Australia with a visa. So, somebody has clearly given him a visa. Someone in the federal government has given him a visa. He's got there, he's been denied entry, he's now in a government hotel, quarantine hotel for the next few days.

And as I say, as an Australian looking at this as a national embarrassment. I know that one of his fellow players he's also anti- vax said that Australia does not deserve to host a Grand Slam after this debacle. Do you think that's true?


SNELL: There's just so many questions here, isn't it? It's got to be embarrassing on so many levels.

Look. Look, this is the number one player in the world. The number one men's player in the world. In his mind, arriving in Australia to prepare for a crack at Grand Slam title number 21. We were going back earlier. This --this -- the course of history, when you look at that tweet from Novak Djokovic that he tweeted out on January the 4th for two days ago now that really set this whole chain of events in motion. Let's go 2022.

He announced to the world after months of doubt and speculation, Anna, as to whether he would be competing. No one knew for sure. He hadn't said anything on it specifically. And then all of a sudden, on January the 4th, we get that tweet.

And while he's on route down onto Australia, while he's in the air for all those hours, this chain of events unfolding. And that's when he arrives when he touches down in Australia, that's when he arrives to.

It's just a poor look on many, many levels, I tell you. And there's many questions that need to be answered now. Specifically, I want to hear obviously from the player himself when we are definitely affording that. And when Novak Djokovic speaks, Anna, it's very, very, very, very full of passion, full of emotion. So, we are really, really keen to hear from him.

And also, so many questions for tennis Australia. This is, look, this is the pride and joy of Australian sport. Yes, you've got the ashes cricket going on right now in Australia. Don't tell me --


COREN: I could tell anyway.

SNELL: -- as they've been to this cricket fan.

COREN: Yes. SNELL: But look, this is the showpiece event from the Aussie's sporting calendar --

COREN: Of course.

SNELL: -- as you well know.

COREN: Of course. Of course, it is. And it's, you know, on the international stage something that Australians are incredibly proud of.


SNELL: Yes, it's just the poor look, isn't it?

COREN: But the way that this has been poorly handled.

SNELL: It's the poor, poor look.

COREN: It's farcical. It's farcical. No doubt some heads are going to roll.

Patrick Snell joining us from Atlanta. Great to get your expensive. Angus Watson joining us from Sydney. Many thanks for that.

Well, there is no letup in the explosion of COVID cases fueled by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant. The German health ministry says in just a few days Omicron will become dominant in Germany. It already makes of about a quarter of the country's cases.

France, once again smashed its record for new infections reporting more than 330,000 on Wednesday, by far the most ever in a single day. This comes as the French government prepares to ease travel restrictions with the U.K.

And starting this Friday, England is scrapping a key COVID travel requirement. The British prime minister says that people arriving there will no longer need to present a negative COVID result from a pre-departure PCR test.

Well, CNN's Nina dos Santos is following all of this from London for us. And Nina, explain to us the rationale why don't people have to get a negative PCR test to enter the U.K.? To me, that does not make sense.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really important question considering as a case numbers here are at another record high with that Omicron variant being responsible for being carried in one in 15 people across England, which is the larger part of the U.K.

Here in the British capitol it's one in 10 people currently have Omicron. Which means that you just can't avoid it if you're traveling around the capital, or for instance, going to the shops.

Statistically, it is extremely likely that you will be in close proximity with somebody who does have Omicron. Now the logic behind Boris Johnson's decision to repeal some of the recent astringent restrictions on travelers who come to the U.K. is largely because one, he believes that the Omicron variant is milder and the larger portions of the U.K. population are now able to deal with it.

It doesn't cause serious infection. He says, in many cases, because people have had at least two shots against COVID-19. In some cases, a booster shot as well vaccination against it. But also, he says that it dissuades a lot of travelers coming to the U.K. because they fear that they may get stuck abroad and won't be able to get back into the country after a vacation because they might have tested positive on a PCR test at some point.

So now, those rules have changed. As you said, as of 4 a.m. tomorrow morning people will not have to do a PCR pre-departure test and also, when they come back to the U.K. they won't have to isolate for two days either waiting for a PCR test result to come back. They can instead do a lateral flow test if they have symptoms and a lateral flow test becomes positive, then they can book a PCR test and they should isolate in accordance with COVID positive rules.

But yes, as you said it seems to be mixed messages for the British government. The government essentially says that this plan B that they have in place which includes asking people to wear masks in confined spaces like, for instance, the London underground, COVID passports for big venues like football stadium and so on and so forth.


They believe that this is enough. The reality is also that there's a political dimension to this too, and that is that Boris Johnson is facing a big backlash from inside his own party which may prevent him from actually moving forward with more tougher COVID restrictions.

So, he's trying to balance things with the difficult of his own party domestically. And also say that the Omicron is a milder for the British population, and as such they think that they can have a reprieve on some of these travel restrictions. Anna?

COREN: Nina dos Santos joining us from London. Good to see. Many thanks.

It's been one year since the U.S. Capitol riots. Just ahead, how the attorney general is responding to criticism that the Justice Department investigation has not been aggressive enough. Stay with CNN.


COREN (on camera): In the coming hours U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver a speech marking the one year anniversary on the attack of the U.S. Capitol. Both a House select committee and the Justice Department are investigating January 6th with the attorney general vowing to hold all responsible at any level accountable.

Well, CNN's Ryan Nobles has more from Washington.


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

TOM MANGER, CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's gone up every year. Last 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. But 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, U.S. 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 a prosecuting hundreds of individuals who stormed the capitol that day, but questions remain about whether those who influence 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 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 it will be continued to be the same answer we would give 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 that 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, quote, "we can't lose the entire White House counsel's office, I do not see January 6 happening in the way he is 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.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), CHAIR, JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily, and talk to the committee. You know, everybody there didn't have a security detail, so we would like to know what his security detail told him what's going on? And what all went on.


NOBLES (on camera): Now Bennie Thompson emphasize that the committee is prepared to hold these hearings in primetime. And that it would be 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, the former White House press secretary to ask you what she knew about what was going on in the White House in the days leading up to and on January 6th.

Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.

COREN: Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic. He joins me now from Los Angeles. Ron, great to have you with us.



COREN: The attorney general Merrick Garland has said the actions we have taken thus far will not be our last. And that the Justice Department would pursue wrongdoing at any level. Do you believe that they will go after Trump and criminally prosecute him?

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, that is the critical question and there have been many voices among voting rights advocates among students of democracy and in the Democratic Party more broadly who have been extremely frustrated that there really is no evidence at all so far that they, the Justice Department is looking beyond those who immediately invaded the capitol.

I mean, there's been no indication of a broader investigation. Merrick Garland today I think was kind of, kind of going out there and kind of holding action. You know, saying, don't -- don't write us off yet. Don't put the final verdict on what we're doing.

But I think there is a lot of concern. For example, I spoke with the secretary of state in Michigan yesterday, Jocelyn Benson who said, look, if there is not accountability, all up and down the line for what we saw in the period after the election, culminating on January 6th, we are just going to get more of it. And I think that is a spreading view in the Democratic Party.

COREN: Would you say that the forces threatening democracies or the forces trying to defend democracy have gained more ground since the attack on the capitol one year ago?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think there's no question at this point the forces threatening democracy they're revolving around Donald Trump have been on the offense. We've had 19 states passed laws making it harder to vote. We have half a dozen states conducting kind of sham audits of the results.

We see Trump consolidating his control over the Republican Party. Three quarters of Republican voters say that the elect -- Joe Biden was illegitimately elected. Well, now, up to basically half of Republican voters saying January 6th was an act of patriotism or an attempt to defend freedom.

So, in a lot of different -- and critics of Trump those who resisted his false claims have been put on the defense, we -- they are going to -- his -- Trump is promoting primary challenges against several of them.

So, all of those ways the forces that are threatening American democracy in a really unprecedented way have been gaining ground. We are about to see though, whether there is going to be a response. Because in a couple of weeks, the U.S. Senate is going to face a make- or-break vote on whether to change the filibuster rule to allow the Senate to pass legislation establishing a nationwide floor of voting rights and nationwide system of protections for impartial election administration. That would negate many of the deleterious things that have been happening in the states.

So far, Republicans have been able to block those legislations, they passed the House, they've been able to block it in the Senate with the filibuster rule, and we are about to find out once and for all, I think, whether Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are going to agree to change the filibuster and pass this legislation.

Whether they are going to let the Republicans block any response to this really historic rollback of voting access that we're watching in the states.


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Ron, the GOP has refused to repudiate Trump since the insurrection. Instead they have him, embraced him, and the lie of a stolen election. Where does that leave Trump Republican Party in the future of the American democracy?

BROWNSTEIN: And I said, really. You know, I've talked to multiple experts, academic who study the erosion of democracy through history and around the world. And most of them I think will say that at this point, the dominant faction in the Republican Party is more like the kind of party we see in Hungary, or Poland, or Venezuela. It is committed to rigging the rules and (inaudible) only the kind of the patina of democracy while trying to establish permanent control and anything like we have seen in American history.

And it has put us in this extraordinarily difficult and precarious position, where one party alone, the Democratic Party, is essentially trying to shore up and butchers the basic pillars of American democracy. That is really hard for one party alone to do. In the immediate aftermath of the attack it appeared that there would be at least a slice -- a stratum of Republicans who are willing to join Democrats and cross party alliance, a popular front, a grand alliance to defend the democracy.

That has not happen. And then maybe the most significant thing that has occurred since the attack, that Democrats are now in this position of defending democracy alone while Republicans more and more of them, move to a position of accepting Trump's term towards autocracies.

And I think, you know, you can talk to in wide array of scholars and advocates who will say, that this is pointing America toward really the biggest challenge to our democracy, the greatest most fundamental challenge to our democracy since the civil war.

COREN: That is a frightening picture that you are painting, Ron Brownstein, always great to get your perspective. Many thanks for joining us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

COREN: On the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capital, CNN has a look at the heroes who protected U.S. democracy. Join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for a two-hour special event. Live from the Capitol, January 6th, one year later. Begins Thursday, 8:00 p.m. in Washington, that's Friday 9:00 a.m. in Hong Kong, right here on CNN.

Well just ahead more on our breaking news story, tennis star Novak Djokovic faces deportation from Australia over a canceled a visa. We'll have the latest on his appeal to reverse the decision.


COREN: Welcome back. Well the Australian court deciding the fate of tennis star Novak Djokovic has adjourned, the decision until Monday. This means the world number one men's tennis player has to wait until next week to find out if he will be deported.


Djokovic's lawyers are challenging the decision to revoke his visa over the country's COVID vaccination rules. And supporters are gathering outside a hotel believed to be where Djokovic is at present. The top tennis player came under fire after receiving a medical exemption for COVID vaccinations to play in the Australian Open. Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the country's vaccination rule apply to everyone.

Well, 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xi'an are now entering their third week in the strict lockdown to curve China's largest COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic started in Wuhan two years ago.

The Winter Olympics than a month away, keeping the virus from spreading further is a top priority. But the harsh rules are making daily life extremely difficult. And tragic stories are emerging that some people are being denied emergency medical care until it's too late.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has our story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): No eye contact from this anti-pandemic worker. As woman under lockdown pleads for a basic essentials and her dignity. (Inaudible) she says, my period came yesterday, I called the hotline, the police CDC but no one responded. CNN can't confirmed the authenticity of the video.

Residents in the Chinese city of Xi'an which has seen the largest community outbreaks of COVID-19 since Wuhan, says they continue to struggle to get basic supplies and food. The municipal government concedes that there are some problems inside its working on improving the situation.

Since December the 23rd, this city of 13 million has been under strict lockdown. Residents are forbidden from leaving their homes unless its for tests. There's been public shaming of people accused of breaching COVID-19 safety laws, and a man was beaten by government COVID prevention workers for breaching lockdown. The workers were later punished after this footage emerge online.

In Xi'an there are instances of people being turned away from hospital because COVID protocols. In a disturbing video, a pregnant woman was allegedly turned away because she didn't have a valid COBID-19 test. And according to the post from a Weibo user claims to be her niece, the woman is seen sitting outside the hospital with a pool of blood on her feet. Hours later, she was finally admitted but ultimately suffered a miscarriage.

A staff member from Xi'an (Inaudible) hospital told CNN they were investigating the incident and that the hospital had initially turned away the woman in accordance with the government's COVID-19 rules.

Officials had vowed to achieve community zero COVID before lifting the lockdown. In many ways China's zero COVID policy has been a huge success, it has curb local outbreaks and saved lives with mass testing and tracing, snap lockdowns and travel restrictions. But in Xi'an, patients has been pushed to the limits.

The Eurasia group play China's zero COVID policy at the top of its list of global risk for 2022. Anticipating its cycle of infections, lockdowns, disruption and discontent that would rock the global economy. The winter games posed a big test to China's strategy. Experts say people in China are vulnerable because of their lack of exposure to the omicron variant, the lower efficacy of its homegrown vaccines and the limits of zero COVID.

Even in China, will there be any zero COVID?

JIN DONG-YAN, VIROLOGIST UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: I don't think so, actually to live with COVID is actually the direction you go.

LU STOUT: In Xi'an the number of new cases is decreasing but desperation is growing as the lockdown enters a third week.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Let's bring in CNN's Ivan Watson live for us here in Hong Kong. And Ivan, obviously from Kristie's report, those distressing scenes coming from that Xi'an lockdown, we are now hearing of another outbreak, what can you tell us?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): That's true. You know, Xi'an, with this lockdown, has had less than 2,000 cases since the beginning of December. No COVID deaths reported by the government. And yet to 13 million people who can't leave their homes, and a resident who we have spoken to does not want to be identified sent us this this photo of one of the exits from their apartment compound which has been close since the 23rd of December. With razor wire placed over the gates, and a sign that says the exit is temporary sealed off due to pandemic containment measures. We will inform in due course when the exit will reopen. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Now, all of these is being done to that city of Xi'an and will continue to happen as long as there are cases there. And in the last 24 hours there were about 63 new cases in that city. So, expect this stay stuck inside your home at that point.


There is another province, hundreds of kilometers to the east of (inaudible) province where Xi'an is that is also now dealing with an outbreak, laughably small compared to most countries in the world. But the capital city Zhengzhou is locked down in Henan province and it has now spread to six other cities in that province and they've only had about 60 odd cases there.

Strict lockdowns, schools closed, public transport closed, residents having to do daily COVID tests. This is the price that you have to pay in China if there is an outbreak it means the rest of the country can kind of live relatively freely. But if you have the bad luck to have a case pop up in your home city, expect to have life grind to a complete halt. And that is kind of the bargain that China has made.

It has protected the country from suffering something like the U.S. has which is more than 800,000 deaths from COVID since the pandemic began, but on the flipside of it you have people who have to live under house arrest if there even a handful of cases in their city, Anna.

COREN: Very tough to those communities living in lockdown. Ivan Watson, as always, thank you.

Well, COVID-19 cases are surging across India days before weekend curfew goes into effect in Delhi. On Thursday, India recorded more than 19,000 cases, that's the highest number since last June and a 56 percent increase from the day before. It comes as India reports its first COVID death due to the omicron variant.

Well, meanwhile, scores of health care workers had tested positive in New Delhi putting strains on the medical system. Well, let's bring in CNN's Vedika Sud live from New Delhi. And Vedika, as we just said that the hospital system is really struggling to cope. Tell us more.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Well, there's still some more time before we see that ease going to happen is my feeling. But of course we will have to wait and see what the medical experts have to say, Anna.

But Health ministry of India yesterday also mentioned that most of the cases of omicron driven and they could be pressure on hospitals sooner than later. Now you mentioned, almost 91,000 cases in the last 24 hours, that's a wide number indeed.

Let us try to tell our viewers why, because 10 days ago, Anna, the cases stood just over 7,000. We're talking about the new daily cases within the window of 24 hours. Up to today there's been an almost 34 rise in those cases. The death toll still is significantly low to what we've seen in the second wave, and like you've mentioned the last time, we saw figures as high as almost 91,000 was in last June, And that's when the second wave was just about (inaudible) off.

Interestingly, during Wednesday's press conference held by health officials from health ministry, a lot of media personnel repeatedly asked them if they're witnessing a third wave. They were hesitant to confirm that, though they did say that most cities are seeing a rising trend in the number of cases that are being reported from them.

But, if they're not confirming this, what medical experts are saying is that India is on the precipice of a third wave, which can be worrying. That seems to be an (inaudible) support when it comes to oxygen, because if you remember last year during the second wave, there was a huge problem and supply of medical oxygen for people especially in India's national capital, New Delhi.

But we are hoping that's hoping that's not the case now. For now, they're at least 25,000 plus cases in just two cities, Mumbai and New Delhi. And the hospitalization rate there is significantly lower as of now. But we have to wait and watch and see, how that pans out in the days to come.

But, the political rallies continue, there is a weekend curfew like you mentioned coming up this weekend in New Delhi. A lot of people on social media, especially citizens are asking to New Delhi government, why can politicians carry on with those public gatherings, with those political rallies? And why should citizens be sitting at home over weekends? The rational really is something that's lost in them at the point, Anna.

COREN: You would've thought that by now, that they would've learned these political rallies are superspreader events. Vedika Sud joining us from New Delhi, many thanks.

Well, COVID-19 is forcing some changes to major U.S. events for a second straight year. The Grammy awards were scheduled for the end of this month in Los Angeles, but they will be pushed back again. Organizers say they will announce a new date soon. [03:45:00]

And the largest independent film festival, in the U.S. will be entirely online later this month. The Sundance Film Festival was supposed to be a mix of virtual and in person screening events.

The National Football League is exploring contingency plans for the upcoming Super Bowl, because of the COVID surge. But the league said it still expects the game to go on as scheduled on February 13 in Englewood, California. A NFL spokesman said several clubs have been contacted about stadium availability, in case of weather related issues or unforeseen circumstances.

Antigovernment protests are rattling Kazakhstan after steep hype in fuel prices.

What the government is doing to help stabilize the situation in the country. That is next.


COREN: Anger has boiling over on the streets of Kazakhstan following a steep hike in fuel prices. The government sit-down Wednesday after massive protests for the nation. The country is now under state of emergency. Russia says it's stepping up security, added space (inaudible) in Kazakhstan because of the protests. And they started security watchdog group says internet service was out across Kazakhstan, Thursday morning.

But now Kazakhstan is expected to get help from outside the country, to get the situation under control. The Armenian Prime Minister says a Russian led military alliance will send peacekeepers to Kazakhstan. The move came after Kazakhstan's president, called for assistance from the group.

Meantime, a journalist told CNN that authorities in Kazakhstan largest city (Inaudible) are warning residents to stay home while an anti- terrorism operation is underway. And that people can be shot, without warnings.

CNN's Nic Robertson has the details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Earlier, protesters clashing with security forces outside Almaty Principle Government building. Angered by rapidly rising fuel prices, smoke billowing from stunned grenades as the country's largest city reels amidst the oil rich nation's biggest protests in decades.

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

Another unconfirmed clipped appears to show soldiers with protesters on the run. One person in black, clearly beaten with batons by those in uniform. In the running battles, protesters often seeming to have the upper hand.

The truth of the largest situation, difficult to obtain as parts of Almaty in darkness. Electricity supplies cut, so too the internet.


Early Wednesday, officials saying more than 200 protesters have been detained, 95 security officers injured and 37 of their vehicles damage. 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 translator): These terrorist gangs are essentially international. They even had gone serious training abroad. Their attack on Kazakhstan can and should be considered an act of aggression.

ROBERTSON: In the swiftly a developing situation, the Prime Minister replaced, the government offered his resignation. Fuel price hikes rescinded, and the country put under a state of emergency. In Moscow, the nation's closest ally, concerned 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 West interference, saying Russia believes Kazakhstan can solve this alone.

By nightfall, chaos in several of Kazakhstan 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 of possible gunfire on the streets of some Kazakh cities. And with Russia and other peacekeepers on their way into the country, the Kazakh government is going to have strong help to quell this protest.

Nic Robinson, CNN, Moscow.


COREN: America's top diplomat is urging Russia to de-escalate tensions on the border with Ukraine ahead of talks next week in Geneva. Antony Blinken met with his German counterpart in Washington on Wednesday, he warned that Russia faces massive consequences, if it renews its aggression against its neighbor. And he said it would be impossible to make progress towards peace with a gun pointed at Ukraine's head.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: What's happening right now is Russia's actions toward Ukraine? Isn't just about Ukraine. It's important as that is. It's about some of the most basic principles of international relations that we both share and adhere to. For example, that one country cannot simply change by force the borders of another or dictate the choices another country makes in its foreign policy or to whom it chooses to associate.


COREN: U.S. President Biden spoke by phone with Russian President Putin about the situation in Ukraine, last week.

It's rain, weather wreak havoc on planet last year and here's another sign things are getting weird. A whole lot of lightning in a very unlikely location.


COREN: A stunning change is happening in the far northern arctic. There's a huge increase in lightning strikes. North Pole lightning is rare and this is not supposed to be happening.


Let's bring out, bringing out our meteorologists, Pedram Javaheri to explain this to us. Pedram, what's going on?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Anna, a pretty fascinating finding here when you take a look at some of the data that was shared with us and you look at the perspective of them. To know about lightning, you've got to look at the global distribution of it. About 70 percent of the world lightning strikes they occur off the tropics, because it takes a very particular set of elements. You want warm air, you want humid air, you want air to rise to create thunderstorms, of course, cause lightning.

Now you find that across the tropics, and some areas displacement from the tropics into the subtropics, but certainly not into the arctic. Maybe a couple hundred per year out of two billion strikes on our planet occurring outside of these areas and into the arctic region, and the highest density of lightning strikes. Again, you got to work your way towards this area where you have the Congo, for example or Venezuela in this tropical region.

You have got several hundred strikes per square kilometers, which tallies up to millions over a span of that region. But notice what this data recent finding from 2021, it showed us over 7,000 strikes were observed at the 80-degree north latitude remark. We're talking above the Arctic Circle. Again, when you look at the data, in the past nine years, this is 91 percent greater frequency than the last nine years of lightning strikes put together that just occurred in the past 12 months across this region.

So what does that tell us? Well, officials are saying and climate scientists are saying that this is a key indicator that warmth is now expanding beyond the normal reaches, reaching across some of this arctic regions and allowing thunderstorms to be present and that's why lightning strikes are being detected here.

In fact, we know the Arctic Ocean has been warming steadily since about the 1900s or so. The early 19oos and again this key indicator is the primary component here. Because the arctic in particular is warming at an alarmingly faster rate than the rest the world. Three times faster, to be precise. About three degree warming, going back over past -- since the industrial era.

But you take a look at this, with increased frequency of lightning strikes, of course, every time we see a degree Celsius increase, but a 12 percent increase in strikes are expected. Why is that significant?

Well, Anna, when you take a look at what lightning does, of course, in other areas around the world, it triggers fires. And we know that in the United States alone we've seen significant increase in fires, a lot of this just past year was also attributed to an increase in lightning strike activity as well, Anna.

COREN: Fascinating, but certainly alarming. Pedram Javaheri, thank you for explain that to us.

And thank you so much, for joining us. I'm Anna Coren. "CNN Newsroom" continues with Isa Soares. That's next.