Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Novak Djokovic Wins Australia Visa Case; Immigration Minister Considering Canceling Djokovic's Visa; U.S. and Russia Set to Meet in Geneva. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world and I'm Rosemary Church. We begin with this breaking news out of Australia where top ranked tennis star, Novak Djokovic, has won a legal battle in court.

In just the last half hour, a judge in Melbourne rejected the cancellation of Djokovic's visa and ordered him to be released from immigration detention. The ruling comes ahead of the Australian Open and less than a week after Djokovic's visa was canceled on arriving in Australia for allegedly not meeting vaccination requirements for entry.

CNN is covering all of the angles. Our Phil Black is in Melbourne following the latest developments and CNN World Sports, Patrick Snell, is joining us from here in Atlanta, with his perspective. Good to see you both. Phil, let's start with you. Djokovic has won his visa appeal and can now remain in the country to play in the Australian Open. What more are you learning about this decision and what comes next?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, as we speak, Rosemary, Novak Djokovic should be, according to the time scale of the court, a free man. He was ordered to be released within 30 minutes of that decision. That time has passed. So we don't know where he is. He was watching proceedings at an undisclosed location. He was allowed out of the immigration detention hotel behind us in order to do so.

He was due to return to the hotel should the matter have been adjourned beyond today. But we have a decision. He has been freed because the judge has overturned the cancellation of his visa. The reasoning appears to focus on the procedural arguments that not Djokovic's lawyers were making in court for much of the day particularly the way he was treated through the process of being interviewed. The evidence that he was being asked for, the comments that he was being asked to make.

And it specifically comes down to a particular point where Djokovic had asked if proceedings could wait until 8:30 in the morning so that he could consult lawyers, Tennis Australia, get further advice on what he should do next. Instead, at about 6:00 or a little bit after 6:00 in the morning, the

border officials came back to him and said we'd really like to proceed with this now. There is no further benefit in delaying things. We are giving you your formal -- we're giving you formal notice of our intention to cancel your visa. This is your last chance to cancel here.

And so, essentially what the judge has found is that Djokovic was not treated fairly, was not treated reasonably. All he wanted was a few more hours to get further advice from lawyers and so forth and that he should have been allowed to do so. And it seems that primarily on that reason alone, his visa has been canceled.

Now, for what happens next, well, we understand that the ball is very much in the court of the federal government. The court was told by the government's lawyer that immigration minister, Alex Hawke, will now consider his options here and specifically whether or not to deploy his personal power to cancel a visa.

So we wait to hear whether or not that will happen. It was acknowledged within the court that if he does so that would very likely go along with a 3-year ban from entering the country. So, if that were to happen, it could very well, know that Djokovic could not return here to play for another 3 years. And in the words of the judge, the stakes have now risen further. They have not de-escalated. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And, Phil, of course, it is early yet. But Australians have really done it tough throughout this pandemic. So, how is this playing across the country or how will it likely play once people have digested it?

BLAKC: Yes. It is early. It is early, certain -- yes, it is early certainly, but I would say that broadly, it was very difficult to find people specifically outside of the Australian-Serbian community who were prepared to openly defend Djokovic who held tremendous sympathy for him.

There is a view here and it's perhaps what urged or what triggered the strong response from the Australian government to back the decisions of the border force here. That Djokovic was seen to be getting special treatment by receiving an exemption to play in the Australian Open.

It is very likely that by telling the world via social media that he had received that exemption ahead of his arrival that he then brought extra scrutiny upon himself when he did arrive.


And it would seem that and it's been put forward as a theory that the government saw no political harm in being seen to be tough and uncompromising in just how the Djokovic gates could be handled. So, I think that there will many Australians who could perhaps be frustrated or perhaps think that this is an unfair turn of events. But perhaps we won't get a real indication of that until if maybe Novak Djokovic is still allowed to walk out on the center court in about a week's time. If that happens, well, that will be a fascinating moment both for that sport superstar, but also in terms of how that big crowd response to his presence on that court at that time. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And, Phil, at the end of last year, it was made very clear to Djokovic that unless he was vaccinated, he would not be allowed in the country. It has been interesting how this has played out. Let's go through that decision and how the judge came to this conclusion.

BLACK: Well, we know because the government has made a big point of this. They told Tennis Australia, the officials there that having had COVID-19 within the last six months would not be considered a valid reason for entering the country.

Now, Djokovic contracted COVID-19 and tested positive on December 16. He still then did apply for an exemption. That exemption was then analyzed by two separate independent expert panels, one working for Tennis Australia, the other for the Victorian government, and they both approved his exemption to play in the tournament.

And that is based upon advice given by an advisory panel, which works with the government in setting vaccine policy because within its extended guidance, it says that recently recovering from COVID-19, specifically within the last six months, is grounds under some circumstances for a temporary exemption for vaccination.

So, Novak Djokovic arrived here believing that he had the exemption from tennis officials that had been scrutinized by medical experts here in Australia. He had a visa. He had declared all of these and the necessary paperwork online before getting on board his flight.

He thought that he was arriving here in good faith with everything lined up and ready to go as it should to be allowed to enter the country. Now, on that key point of whether or not he was justified in believing that, I don't think we've had any specific comment from the court or none that I can give you at this stage.

The judge's reasoning does seem to be based more upon procedural failing. And that is the belief that Djokovic should have been given a little more time on the morning that he was being detained at the airport in order to consult lawyers and others to get further advise before formally responding to the government's intent to cancel his visa.

It would seem for those reasons, on that procedural ground, the cancellation of the visa has now been overturned. And so as I say, as has been acknowledged in court, it now comes down to the government's immigration minister to consider what happens next and whether or not he should use his personal powers to cancel his visa personally.

That will be fascinating to see because what that means in theory is that Novak Djokovic could be detained, again, at any point today before the day is over. But, if that does not proceed and the government accepts this court ruling today, then it means that Djokovic is free in the coming days to train and prepare and get ready for an Australian Open. And an appearance today at a grand slam event, perhaps unlike any other in the history of tennis. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Thanks for that, Phil. Patrick, let's go to you now here in Atlanta. Djokovic, of course, winning his visa appeal, much to the surprise of many Australians that has to be said. He will now play in the Australian Open. So what impact will all this likely have on the way he plays, and of course, Rafa Nadal, this changes everything for him as well. He was looking to see what the outcome of this would be.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, absolutely, Rosemary. What a -- what an incredible last few days really, but in particular, last hour or so, as we've been following this every step of the way. Look, Novak Djokovic has put himself through this. He has endured what he has endured over the last few days because he is absolutely desperate to not just complete in the forthcoming Australian Open, Rosemary, which starts one week today, but, he wants to win it.

He wants to win not just his 10th Aussie Open crown. He wants grand slam title number 21, which would make him the most successful male tennis player of all-time in terms of grand slam titles. You mentioned Rafa Nadal there, Rosemary. He also is on 20 grand slam titles along with Djokovic and along with Roger Federer, as well, the Swiss icon who is not competing down under due to injury. So, we've had certainly a plot twist so haven't we, over the last few days and there could still be more to come.


But as it stands, it looks like Djokovic will get the chance to compete. It starts a week today and he'll be eyeing up number 21. Look, he got to the final of the U.S. Open in New York City last year. He lost that in straight sets to the Russian star, Daniil Medvedev. He is hungry and he wants number 21. Make no mistake about it.

CHURCH: And you know, Patrick, when you look at the situation like this, some of the other tennis players who did play a part the rules and all the right things, how would they be feeling about this decision do you think? And what sort of impact overall? I mean, this gets into the head of every sports person, doesn't it?

SNELL: It really does.

CHURCH: And it plays out on the court.

SNELL: It does. And we've been seeing reaction from players and, you know, some of the, I mean, very honest, open, and vocal about it. Couple come to mind, straightaway, I'm thinking of, let's talk about Rafael Nadal again, the Spanish legend who when all of this broke, when all of this was unfolding, he said, "Look, I'm paraphrasing here, but he said, look, I have some sympathy for him. I do feel some sorry -- sorrow for him. But at the same time, he knew what was required to enter Australia. It was be fully vaccinated."

That was the take from Rafael Nadal. Nick Kyrgios, the Australian star, again basically saying, "Look, I've called him out before, and again, I'm paraphrasing, but I've called him out before over the behavior during the pandemic." He was highly critical of Djokovic during the ill-fated Adria Tour of 2020. But he said, "Look, the treatment hasn't been right." That was Kyrgios' view. And at the same time, he also actually, Rosemary, gave some insight into, "Look, this is a player that if he does get to play, he's going to be so revved up and so determined to put on a good show that I just don't want to play him," said Kyrgios. No one will want to play him, basically. And I think those are good insights. Those, basically, those converging views there.

CHURCH: Has there any -- ever been anything like this in the world of tennis?

SNELL: It's just extraordinary. I, personally, have never reported on anything like this. I've never witnessed anything like this. And, you know, as I said, I think there is still more plot twists to come. It all starts a week today and it feels like we're already perhaps sort of three weeks' worth of it, if not more. It's been the buildup to.

It's been going on for months because there was always this doubt of whether Djokovic would play in the Australian Open. He haven't revealed his situation when it comes to vaccinations. We've learned a lot more particularly over this past weekend. We learned according to those court documents that he did test positive for coronavirus on December the 16th. At least that's when the positive test was recorded.

So, look, this is a situation that has got people beyond the world of tennis talking. Not just the players, not just the fans, and it's going to be absolutely fascinating to see what happens when he walks out onto court at the Australian Open for his first round match if indeed that does happen. We are waiting with bated breath.

CHURCH: Yes, exactly. It's not final yet. Phil Black and Patrick Snell, many thanks to you both for bringing us up to date on this breaking news. Appreciate it. We will, of course, will have much more on this stunning case and what comes next for Novak Djokovic in the hours ahead. You are watching CNN.



CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. We do want to return to our top story. In just the last half hour, a judge in Melbourne rejected the cancellation of Djokovic's visa and ordered him to be released from immigration detention.

The ruling comes ahead of the Australian Open and less than a week after Djokovic's visa was canceled on arriving in Australia for allegedly not meeting vaccination requirements for entry. I'm joined now by Tracey Holmes. She is host of the ticket podcast, "Looking at Politics, Governance, and the Business of Sport." Thank you so much for joining us. Good to have you with us.

TRACEY HOLMES, HOST, THE TICKET PODCAST: Welcome, Rosemary. Thank you. CHURCH: So, a little bit of a surprise, this outcome for Novak

Djokovic. What -- talk to us about this decision and how this is likely to impact the Australian Open and of course how the government is likely to respond to this because they've been left with egg on their face, haven't they?

HOLMES: Well, they have, but as you mentioned, I don't think this scenario is over quite yet. So, even though Judge Kelly ruled in the federal court that Novak Djokovic should be released from detention within half an hour of making that ruling. That he should have his passport and all personal effects handed back to him and effectively free to go. The visa cancellation had been quashed according to the court and cost be awarded in Mr. Djokovic's favor.

But right towards the end of the judge making this statement, the counsel for the Home Affairs Ministry said that he had been told that another ministry, the Ministry of Immigration, may in fact, declare Novak Djokovic's visa null and void once again on different grounds.

And so, we are waiting to see in the coming hours whether that indeed will happen. But as of this very moment, Novak Djokovic is a free man, no doubt collecting what he has at the detention facility hotel and making his way to the accomodation that he had booked where his entourage has been waiting for him.

Not many people thought this was going to be the result of today's hearing. So, it's taken a lot of people by surprise and we're her to see what the federal government will do in response.

CHURCH: And so, if Djokovic's visa is declared null and void in the end, is that the end of the matter or will then he reply with some appeal of his own?

HOLMES: Well, he would have the opportunity to do what he did in this particular cancellation. And that is to exercise his right to appeal the cancellation of that visa. When the judge was notified that there was a possibility that this could happen still, the judge did offer a word of warning I suppose you could classified as.


He said, you know, part of the reason that we are in this process now and that this particular judgment has been handed down is because we all have to operate by the same rules.

Now, Novak Djokovic fulfilled every rule and every requests that was put in front of him in order to come here on a quarantine free visa. He received correspondence on Australian government letterhead from the Department of Home Affairs saying he had been granted such a visa.

And that the method and how it all unfolded from the moment he arrived and the hours that he was detained at the airport and questioned, there were also gaps in the transcribing of the long and lengthy and detailed interrogation or interview, however you'd like to term it.

And what happened was sometimes the tapes were turned off. Mr. Djokovic was allowed to go outside of the interview room. And on one occasion, in that particular instance, the supervisors of the border force official confronted Mr. Djokovic and said, we know that you've requested extra time to wait until 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning so you can speak to officials at Tennis Australia or your lawyer in order to try and sort out this mess, but we don't believe that's in your best interest and we recommend that you accept our decision now.

That was a real sticking point for the judge. He said it had given him some angst over the weekend as he was reading through the notes and thinking about the way that this case was going to unfold. So, he wasn't happy with the news that there is still a potential that another minister may make the same decision, although on different grounds.

And this is a real challenge, Rosemary, as you understand. You heard the prime minister, Scott Morrison, at the end of last week suggesting that, you know, border control is a very important issue. The amount of hard work that all Australians have gone through in the past two years, what they have given up in order to fight COVID that the Australian government is not going to be told by anybody or threatened by anybody coming into this country without a vaccination, even though it is legal to come into Australia without being vaccinated if you get approval.

And that is what Novak Djokovic had done. And so we see even though it's a win for Novak Djokovic at the moment, there will still be a nervous wait to see whether the immigration minister indeed decides to cancel his visa yet again.

CHURCH: Yes. We will watch to see what happens. Tracey Holmes, many thanks joining from Sydney, Australia. Appreciate it.

HOLMES: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: We will, of course, have much more on the Novak Djokovic saga just ahead.

Also, talks between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine will soon get underway in Switzerland. A live report from Geneva coming your way in just a moment.



CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, U.S. officials hope talks set for Switzerland in the next hour can avert the next war in Europe. American, and Russian officials are due to meet in Geneva as Moscow's military buildup near Ukraine stokes fears of an all-out invasion. The head of the Kremlin delegation has said he is disappointed so far at signals coming from the U.S.

And America's top diplomat is downplaying expectations. Here is Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What about moving heavy U.S. weaponry out of Poland moving it further west or what about moving missiles? What about limiting the scope of U.S. military exercise or any of those on the table?

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Look, first, Jake, I don't think we're going to see any breakthroughs in the coming week. We're going to be able to put things on the table. The Russians will do the same, both directly with us at NATO at the OSC, and we'll see if there are grounds for moving forward.


CHURCH: International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now live from Geneva. Good to see you, Nic. So, these critical U.S.-Russia talks begin in just a matter of hours in Geneva. What all is at stake here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATION DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Everything is at stake. Russia has said previously that if it doesn't make progress with diplomacy on the diplomatic track, then it's willing to consider military alternatives. Russia's position is one that has already been essentially -- is one that already exceeds what NATO and the United States are willing to consider.

Russia has demanded that NATO deny Ukraine membership of NATO. That NATO withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe. This has already been declared by NATO officials, by U.S. officials as essentially a nonstarter. The Russian foreign minister has said that the talks won't -- they don't want the talks to drag on indefinitely.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin wrote a 20-page document, a public document, last summer that details, an extreme detail why he believes Ukraine is part of Russia. So, the stakes here are incredibly high. And NATO secretary general in Friday ast week, said that Russia goes into this having sent out threats, having built up its troops, and having a track record of invading neighbors.

So, the position that Russia enters this is very, very extreme position, if you will. What the United States is saying is that they are happy for the diplomatic track to go forward. NATO has said the same thing. Wendy Sherman, who's leading the U.S. delegation at the talks today, had a dinner with Sergei Ryabkov, who's leading the Russian delegation. They had a dinner last night.

The United States has laid out its position that there are things that are off the table for the bilateral talks that should be better held under the auspices of NATO and the OSC later in the week. The Russian position is they think that the United States is the most sort of anti-Russian member, or Russia-phobic member of NATO and therefore they want a bilateral meeting with the United States first.

Certainly, Russia holds the position that NATO is abrogated on its prior commitment to not expand eastwards. United States and NATO says this is a misinterpretation, a misrepresentation of historic facts.


So when you ask what are the stakes, the stakes are incredibly high because the positions are so far apart and there's already a military buildup.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Understood and Nic Robertson joining us there live from Geneva, many thanks.

Well, at least 164 people are dead and nearly 8000 people are being detained after a crackdown on protests in Kazakhstan. The demonstrations began last week over a spike in fuel prices and have expanded to anger over government corruption, poverty and unemployment. Forces from a Russian-led military alliance are on the ground in Kazakhstan at the President's request to help restore order.

And still to come here on CNN, top ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic has won a major legal battle in an Australian court. More on this breaking news when we come back.


CHURCH: Well, more on our breaking news story this hour. Tennis star Novak Djokovic has won his visa appeal and can now remain in Australia to play in the Australian Open. The ruling comes just days after Djokovic was detained in Melbourne over issues with his COVID-19 vaccination exemption. And for more on this we want to turn to Ben Rothenberg, who joins us live from Melbourne. He is a Senior Editor at Racquet Magazine and the host of No Challenges Remaining podcast. Thanks so much for being with us.

BEN ROTHENBERG, TENNIS EXPERT: Thanks for having me, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So a court in Australia has decided now to let Djokovic stay in Australia, his lawyers successfully arguing his case. What are you learning about this decision and how it ended this way because it has surprised most Australians?

ROTHENBERG: Yes, I think this decision came very abruptly in the proceedings. It came after a long adjournment from the court proceedings. The judge came back and basically said that he was going to grant a cancellation of the cancellation essentially of Djokovic's visa to the Djokovic side, throwing out the initial ruling that was made at the airport pretty much purely on procedural grounds basically saying that Djokovic was not given the time and resources and connections and access that he should have been afforded while contesting the border guards' decision to their inquiries they were making in that late night interrogation, basically, on a side room at Tullamarine Airport.


There is a sense that the government could respond pretty quickly and try to appeal this decision or re-cancel the visa de novo but it does seem like for this point, round one, at least in the legal proceedings goes to Djokovic and we'll see if and when there's a round two coming. CHURCH: Yes, of course, this isn't the end of it. But it has to be said that Australia has been particularly tough when it comes to requiring COVID vaccinations for the Australian Open and of course, other events. We know too, that it was made very clear to Novak Djokovic, at the end of 2021 that he would need to be vaccinated. So in the end, what message does this court decision sent?

ROTHENBERG: It's going to be a message a lot of people are going to be very angry for sure that seeing that Novak Djokovic will be presented as being potentially somehow above the rules or above the laws or practices that everyone else in Melbourne has abided by. Melbourne is a city that's taken a lot of pride in its sacrifice and collective action together of staying home, lots of mandatory lengthy lockdowns going on all year long, and Djokovic is seen as getting around that will not make it more popular here.

He obviously does have very ardent supporters. There's a big Serbian community in Melbourne here. He's touched a nerve also with the small but very vocal antivax movement here. And so it'll be very fractious when he plays at the Australian Open in terms of very loaded emotions in the crowd on both sides for him.

CHURCH: And then, of course, we've got the federal government making it very clear, you have to be vaccinated, you've got to the Victorian Government sending out some mixed messages along with Tennis Australia. Who dropped the ball here?

ROTHENBERG: A lot of balls are dropped along the way for sure. I mean, along the way of this sort of back and forth tennis match of the - of the deportation debacle for the government, I think Novak Djokovic first of all made life much more difficult for himself by choosing to stay unvaccinated. That put him on this much more difficult path and the tournament on this difficult path by trying to accommodate that decision of his.

They really tried to go out of their way to build in rules for exemptions to get this guy here to probably win his 10th Australian Open title. Craig Tyler, who's the tournament director really went above and beyond in terms of making new rules and practices so it would allow Djokovic to compete here. Even if he wasn't following by the vaccination rules. So Djokovic made it more difficult, Tennis Australia facilitated that and then communicated poorly to Djokovic, I think what the realities were going to be here for him on the ground upon landing, and it was certainly a rude awakening for him.

And then obviously, the Australian government being across purposes having different messages at the state and federal levels doesn't help and clearly they didn't have their ducks in a row enough to have this revocation of Djokovic's visa hold up in the first round of court hearing.

So everyone's got some scrambling to do to try to repair the damage done by this fiasco.

CHURCH: So what impact will all this likely have on Djokovic as he prepares for the Australian Open, if indeed, he does end up playing and of course, what impact on his ambitions and his mental state too as he goes out on the court?

ROTHENBERG: This has to be a very, very challenging four or five days for him mentally and physically. Being hold up like this, not being able to get on court, not being able to practice right before playing a Grand Slam tennis event at best (inaudible) he's in his mid 30s, he's not as young as he used to be and being shelved like that up in a room will really make it tough physically for him, not to mention all the mental anguish and, and strain of being in this predicament for many days, even if it was self-inflicted, it still is difficult for him.

That said, Novak is someone who really, really responds well to determination and defiance. And there's never going to be a more defiant possibility for him to succeed at a Grand Slam tournament than when the country literally tried to send him away from its shores. So it's a real chance for Djokovic to stand up and show what he's made of if he wants to take it that way as a challenge. Also, potentially he might not be up for this. We'll see how he's feeling, how much fight he has left in him after already going through this pretty lengthy legal ordeal.

CHURCH: Yes, the whole world will be watching. Ben Rothenberg, thank you so much for joining us, appreciate it. Well, still to come here on CNN, an entire city of nearly 14 million people in China is under partial lockdown as authorities test everyone for COVID. We're live in Beijing with the very least trusted.




CHURCH: Turning now to the COVID pandemic. In a dire warning from experts on the U.S. healthcare system, new data from the Department of Health and Human Services show nearly a quarter of U.S. hospitals have a critical staffing shortage. Some states have deployed National Guard troops to cover staffing shortfalls at hospitals and testing sites as healthcare workers get sick with COVID themselves.

The explosion of the highly contagious Omicron variant has pushed hospitalizations to near record levels. Children are also being hospitalized at record levels, especially kids under five years old, who were still too young to be vaccinated. Experts warn many health systems are being pushed to the brink.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The health care system is not just designed to take care of people with COVID. Of course it does that. It's designed to take care of kids with appendicitis and with people who have heart attacks and get into car accidents. And all of that is going to be much, much more difficult because we have a large proportion of the population that is not vaccinated. plenty of high risk people are not boosted. That combination sets up a large pool of people who as they get infected will end up really straining the resources we have in hospitals today.


CHURCH: And there will be no school in Chicago for a fourth day Monday. The Teachers Union wants to resume in-person learning on January 18, citing COVID-19 concerns. The mayor emphasized individual schools can be shut down if needed. But district wide remote learning is not an option. A different story in Atlanta where the city's public schools will reopen to in-person learning in the coming hours. The school system went to virtual learning when it returned from winter break last week.


Staff will be tested twice a week and with parental consent so will students. Just take a listen.


LISA HERRING, SUPERINTENDENT, ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS: We have put in place several mitigation strategies that we are clear can help us keep children and staff in place when we're able to identify positivity data, to help address those issues that are tied to some of the frustrations we're pivoting. But to be clear, we also recognize that in order to ensure health and wellness, there will be times which within schools or classrooms that pivoting to virtual may be necessary.


CHURCH: Well, meanwhile schools in Los Angeles are fighting a skyrocketing number of cases in children by implementing new safety measures. People in the district who test positive are now blocked from step - setting foot on campus as soon as CNN's Natasha Chen reports, that means 10s of 1000s of people will not be allowed back when in-person classes resume in the coming hours.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the country, resumes class in-person on Tuesday. We are at one of the many school testing sites because one of the requirements to restart school is that every student and employee needs a baseline test needs to show a negative result to be able to enter the building on Tuesday.

The school district board president told me that they have caught 50,000 positive cases, which means 50,000 people prevented from entering the building with COVID-19. A 100 percent of the employees are required to be vaccinated, about 90 percent of the students 12 and older are now also fully vaccinated. That along with universal masking are some of their strategies that have been able to help them keep schools open this entire academic year.

Now at the same time, the surge across the Los Angeles County area has been very serious, especially for children. Children's Hospital, Los Angeles told me that they have seen quite an increase in hospitalizations there. Among the children coming into that hospital testing for COVID-19, the positivity rate went from 17.5 percent in December to as of this date in January 45 percent.

A doctor from that hospital told me that while they've seen little waves throughout the last couple of years of this pandemic, none as fast as they're seeing right now. Back to you.


CHURCH: Well, the Omicron variant is pushing COVID case numbers to new highs around the world and prompting governments to impose tough new measures to stop the spread. Starting Monday, Italy will require a super green pass to access most public areas. It's only granted to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID.

Meantime, the nearly 14 million residents of Tianjin, China have been told not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary. Authorities are now testing everyone there for COVID. And we've got reporters standing by around the world. CNN's Steven Jiang is in Beijing and Nina dos Santos is in London.

Nina, let's start with you. What is the situation across Europe?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, situation across Europe is more or less following the same trend and Rosemary, it means that there's COVID cases are continuing to spike quite significantly. And that is concerning to authorities. This is the Omicron wave which of course is deemed to be more infectious, easily spreading across parts of Europe, gets a grip there. We've already seen the Omicron wave buffet at the UK about two to three weeks ago.

So this is Europe, continental Europe now getting that disease and it's replacing the Delta variant more and more frequently. It's for this reason that these infection numbers are spiking and countries like Italy are taking what is seen perhaps as more draconian measures to try and stamp out pockets of vaccine hesitancy. You mentioned that Super Green pass that they have introduced as of today, well what that does is that essentially is an immunity passport.

It means whether or not you've recovered from COVID 19, or you've had the vaccine that will give you access but you no longer have the option of saying well look, I tested negative in the last 48 hours. And even if I'm not vaccinated, here is a negative test. That option has now been removed. The reason Mario Draghi, the Prime Minister of Italy decided to do this was because he was coming under relentless pressure from some of the regional presidents particularly in the northeast of Italy, which has always historically been a hotbed of anti-vaccine - vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine movements even politically well before the pandemic.

They were saying that they were very, very concerned about the infection rate spiking.

[02:50:00] You've also got to remember that this isn't just an issue in Italy. It's an issue in France as well. It's an issue partly because this is the height of the ski season soon as well which means that a lot more people will be confined to a lot more closed door spaces as it's colder. And they're very, very concerned about within the Alps, this Omicron wave spreading between Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and other countries and like Austria as well.

Now, I should point out that there's other countries that are taking a leaf out of Italy's book as well with these immunity passports. Austria has already embarked down the same route. We're seeing the Netherlands having too up its game in terms of trying to have many lockdowns to stem the spread of COVID 19. And yet again, what we're seeing is people getting increasingly irritated by these more draconian measures.

The Netherlands has had days and days of violent outbursts with anti- COVID lockdown activists making their grievances felt on this very matter, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, appreciate that. Nina dos Santos. Let's go to Steven Jiang now and Steven talking about draconian measures, probably the most draconian have been across China and of course, we're hearing now about Tianjin, that city people pretty much being told don't leave until it's - leave the city unless it's absolutely necessary. Talk to us about what sort of measures are in place there.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: That's right Rosemary. The Tianjin cluster's really the worst nightmare for the Beijing leadership because of their insistence on sticking to this zero-COVID policy and given how highly transmissible we know the Omicron Variant has been around the world and given Tianjin's proximity to Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are set to open in three and a half weeks, this is really a double whammy for the authorities.

That's why you've seen authorities have largely shut down travel between the two neighboring cities where usually you see a quite a large amount of commuting traffic where high speed trains running back and forth almost every 30 minutes throughout a day. Now those services have now been suspended with the authorities in Beijing telling commuters from Tianjin to work from home until further notice.

And in Tianjin as you mentioned, they have adopted measures really familiar by now, we have seen those being implemented every time when you have local cases in China that is mass testing, snap lock downs as well as extensive contact tracing. But one thing they're doing there is also to reassure the public about the supply of daily necessities including groceries and medicines so not to repeat the fiasco we saw in Xi'an as you remember when that city went into a strict lockdown because of local - because of a local outbreak.

Now the Tianjin cases were first detected in the after-school care center. That's why a lot of patients are actually young students and schoolchildren. And authorities have also warned about hidden transmissions for at least a few weeks. That's why at least two more Omicron cases have now been confirmed in the central Chinese province of Hunan. So domestic transmission of this variant has definitely begun. That's why we are now seeing a growing sense of concerns and urgency, especially as we head into the peak travel season ahead of the Chinese New Year, which is only three weeks away, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And of course, the Olympics, the Winter Olympics are not far away either. So that has many people concerned although they've created essentially a bubble, haven't they? What's the latest on that?

JIANG: Well, that's right, the bubbles are going to be strictly enforced according to both the Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee but you know those bubbles that basically means all participants of the games are going to go straight into this area sealed off from the rest of the Beijing and indeed the rest of China as soon as they land at the Beijing airport.

So according to officials at least publicly are still putting on a very brave face saying this kind of strict implementation of such measures will ensure Omicron and other COVID cases won't spread to the rest of China, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. Many challenges ahead. With that of course Steven Jiang joining us set there live, many thanks.

Well, Brazilian officials are working to identify those killed on Saturday when a massive section of this canyon wall collapsed and toppled onto several tour boats in the lake below. The death toll rose to 10 on Sunday as emergency crews found two more bodies. Officials blamed days of heavy rain for loosening the earth and triggering the collapse. And there was this emotional moment in the immediate aftermath. Authorities reunited to young children with their loved ones after rescuing them from the site of the disaster.

Well, frigid arctic air is threatening to engulf parts of the U.S. Around 13 million people are under Windchill threads across the upper Midwest and Northeast. Joining me now is meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Just incredible, talk to us about what people can expect.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Rosemary, this is incredible for any time of year. And of course we are in the heart of winter here in the next couple of weeks. But you look at the air mass in place, the potential impacts especially around the northeastern United States in the coming days. We're talking running 20 to 40 degrees below average for this time of year, again, among the coldest times of years. So what is this translating to?

Well look at the windchill alerts in place in this northern tier of the upper Midwest. We're talking about 45 degrees below zero. That is what it will feel like across portions of northern Minnesota. In fact, in and around Minneapolis, windchills could get as low as 35 below and I looked into this school closures typically in place if windchills are at 35 below or lower at 6am on a school day, and you certainly take a look, forecast models for this particular region bring it down to about 35 below. But around Minneapolis looks to be around 27 below, right around sunrise. So again getting dangerously cold, almost cold enough in some spots to cause school closures. But look at these temperatures. These are the overnight lows, Chicago only 2, come Tuesday morning. 19, what is normal for this time of year.

Minneapolis a 4 below where a nine is normal for this time of year. So yes, it is typically very cold when it comes to early-to-mid-January but certainly not this cold. Not very often. And especially when you look at how things play out around portions of the northeast. Windchill alerts also extend into interior areas of New England.

Rosemary, I talked about this in New York City in Central Park, of course this being the coldest time of year you expect it to get cold but not to this level. Could get down to 15 degrees for a high on Tuesday afternoon. And that's only happened about eight times in the last 20 or so years around portions of New York City. Incredible cold in place.

CHURCH: Unbelievable. Pedram Javaheri, many thanks for keeping us up to date on that situation. And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with another hour of CNN Newsroom after this very short break. Do stay with us.