Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Djokovic Admits To Error On Travel Form To Enter Australia; WHO: Global COVID Cases Up By 55 Percent In First Week Of 2022; Poll: Two-Thirds Say Boris Johnson Should Resign; Hospitalizations From COVID Reach High In U.S.; U.N. Appeals For Record $4.4. Billion For Afghanistan; NATO-Russia Talks Set For Coming Hours In Brussels; Russian-Led Forces To Begin Leaving In Coming Days. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 01:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone, I'm Paula Newton. Ahead right here on CNN Newsroom, Novak Djokovic tries to clear a few things up. The embattled tennis star fights back against what he calls misinformation surrounding his positive COVID test. This as Omicron continues its tear right across the globe with new warnings, more than half of Europeans could get infected over the next two months.

And the world's longest school shut down due to COVID-19 is finally over. But for some students returning to class, easier said than done.

And we begin with new developments in the visa saga involving Novak Djokovic. The top ranked tennis star is now admitting mistakes were made on the travel form he submitted to enter Australia. Djokovic put out a lengthy statement on Instagram, saying he wants to address and clarify what he called misinformation about his activities last month ahead of a positive COVID-19 test results. This comes as Djokovic prepares to compete in the Australian Open, which begins Monday.

Though Australia's immigration minister is still considering whether to cancel the Serbian tennis star's visa and remove him from the country. We go now to our Patrick Snell who's been following all the latest developments. You know, I'm sure in his mind and in his team's mind Djokovic thought this statement might actually put a lot of the controversy to rest. And yet it may have done anything about that.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: The very opposite. You could argue, Paula, yes, there's so much we learned from this. It was a lengthy statement, wasn't it, earlier today. But in turn, we're now asking ourselves many more questions. Indeed, look, we needed to hear from the world's top ranked men's player. And we have some rather candid admissions too, I think fair to say.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion from Serbia admitting he didn't immediately isolate. This after testing positive for COVID 19 last month, but denying knowing he had the virus when he attended public events, adding he wanted to, quote, address the continuing misinformation, as he called it about his activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to that positive PCR COVID test was out.

Let's try and break down the timeline if we can over those key dates in question. Djokovic saying he attended a basketball game we now know in Belgrade. This was on December the 14th, where many people tested positive afterwards. He though showing no symptoms, gets tested on December 16th.

On the 17th, before he received the official result of his test, he took he says a rapid test that came out negative. He then attended a youth tennis award ceremony and it was only after that, that he received the official positive result, according to that statement. He issued the following day, December 18th, highly significant indeed. That's when he says at his Tennis Center Belgrade he conducts an interview and a photoshoot with Frances.

And they keep saying he canceled all other events except for that one, adding he didn't want to let the journalist down. Djokovic saying he was socially distance though, and wearing a mask except for when his photo was being taken. But this part of the statement really does leap out at me. It's one that's going to get plenty of traction and fall out as well.

"While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment." They're the words of Novak Djokovic, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes. You know, and the TikTok of this, everything you've just laid out, hardly engenders confidence here. Now, Djokovic is also addressing, of course, the controversy over his declaration upon arriving in Australia.

SNELL: Yes. This is what came out of the hearing Monday there in Melbourne. Now just for context to remind our viewers, Djokovic declaring he had not traveled and would not do so in the 14 days leading up to his arrival on Australian soil on January the 5th. That was according to the travel declarations submitted as part of Monday's court hearing evidence.

However, then we got the online pictures, didn't we, taken during that two-week period appearing to show Djokovic in both Spain and his homeland Serbia. Now in response, Djokovic saying, "On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf -- as I told immigration officials on my arrival -- and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur."


As we said at the top, Paula, you know, it's all very revealing and we're grateful to hear finally from Djokovic on this but it does leave so many more questions to be answered. And, you know, we're going to be doing that. We're seeing across it every hour, right?

NEWTON: Yes. And it does kind of leave you to the point where you think are you tone-deaf, especially, you know, as you quoted him saying, my agent apologizes.

SNELL: Right. Yes.

NEWTON: OK, Patrick, I really appreciate you taking us through that. As we continue to remind everyone, there could still be more news out of Australia in the coming hours on this. Appreciate it.

Now to some alarming news from the World Health Organization, in global COVID-19 cases were up 55 percent in the first week of 2022 compared to the week before. Now, infections in Europe are surging. On Tuesday, France and Italy recorded their highest daily case count since the pandemic began, with nearly 370,000 new cases in France alone, and more than 220,000 cases in Italy.

Now, the WHO's European chief says the Omicron variant is sweeping right across the region from west to east like a tidal wave. He's warning that more than half of Europe could catch the virus in the next two months. Listen.


DR. HANS KLUGE, WHO REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE: At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks.


NEWTON: Dr. Eric Topol is Cardiologist and Professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research, and he joins me now from La Jolla, California. Really good to see you. And I hate to remind you, I'm sure you don't need reminding, you have been tracking this so closely for the better part of two years. What strikes you about the latest data on this variant? And I will add here that in the United States, Dr. Fauci as well also said that this virus will, in his words, find just about everybody.

DR. ERIC TOPOL, CARDIOLOGIST, SCRIPPS RESEARCH: Well, good to be with you, Paula, and thank you. I think the main thing that we have to keep in mind is while these case counts are horrifying in terms of numbers, and transmissibility of this version of the virus, like we've never seen. On the good side, the countries that have really high vaccination rates and booster rates are holding up pretty darn well.

And so as you mentioned, France, and we've already seen in Denmark and Norway, the U.K. So it's a much better seeing there than it is in the U.S. And as this moves east, across Europe, is going to be more trouble because of the lower vaccination rates, and much less in terms of the third dose of vaccine. NEWTON: Yes. And again, there's those low vaccination rates that everyone talks about. You know, a few studies out now basically indicate that Omicron likely leads to half as many hospitalizations, far fewer end up in ICU, people are spending less time in hospital as well, which is interesting than they did with other variants.

I mean, do you think the trajectory of Omicron now is going to be something that should give us some optimism? Could this be a more manageable phase of the pandemic? And if it is, what's your best guess? You know, with Omicron in the driver's seat, is it two months? Is it spring? Is it late spring?

TOPOL: Yes, those are tough questions, Paula. I think there are two things that we're lucky about. One is that the vaccines are holding up. In fact, it's not 50 percent, it's 88 to 90 percent some reduction of hospitalizations with the third shot.

So we're lucky because the immune escape of this version of the virus, of Omicron is really extensive. The second thing as you're getting at is we're going to create a whole lot more immunity throughout the world with this. And that's not going to get us to any sense of endemic state by itself, but it's going to help us get that way.

So I guess what I'd say is, if we don't get another version of the virus, it's worse than Omicron. Hard to be more transmissible, but it could escape our vaccines more, that would be even more trouble. It could induce more severe disease.

Fortunately, it's much less in terms of severity, about 60 to 70 percent less. The problem, of course, it's compensated by five, tenfold more cases. So it's almost like a wash. So that's what we have to look forward to. If we get a lot more immunity, and we don't have a variant that turns out to be a worse than what we are seeing right now, then we should be moving towards a much better situation.

NEWTON: And I want to drill down on that a little bit. You know, the only way to describe this virus, if you ask me, is it's been terrorizing and I say that because it is humbled and divided even the most brilliant scientists and case in point. You know, you tweeted today about a very provocative editorial on the Wall Street Journal and you can see the headline there. It said, "Slow the Spread. Speeding it Might Be Safer.


Now this article, just to boil it down to the basics, it argues that slowing the spread of this Omicron variant may create a super variant or doomsday variant in future. You know, I kind of want to get your take on this because this kind of goes back to that old-fashioned idea, well, if we all get it, then this pandemic will finally be over. What are the flaws in that thinking?

TOPOL: It's totally flawed. We do think that we're going to nurture a variant by trying to slow the spread is the opposite of what this is all about. The problem we don't know about yet is the more people who get infected, the more we could be looking at long COVID. Now, this disabling protracted state that can be really a problem and has affected large numbers of people throughout the world. So no, this editorial was really what I considered reckless, and a lot of reactions have been put out on social media about it.

You know, I think the essential thing is we don't want to be the sense of inevitability, the sense that we should be having things like chicken pox parties, which was referred to in that piece. These are just completely illogical, and not based on any data that shows that suppression of the virus at this point will help containment, not make it worse. We haven't ever achieved containment here in the United States. And hopefully, we'll get there someday.

NEWTON: Yes. And you can see, Dr. Topol, that given the debate among doctors and scientists that the rest of us are having a really hard time with this. I will -- I'm going to have to leave it there for tonight, Dr. Topol, but I do want to let everyone know that your Twitter feed is excellent. I have it on notifications and the studies in there make it abundantly clear where this variant is going on a day-to-day basis.

Dr. Eric Topol for us in California, thank you.

TOPOL: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now a new poll finds two-thirds of British adults believe Boris Johnson should resign. The Prime Minister is under fire once again over parties at Downing Street while the rest of the country was under lockdown. The latest allegations surfaced in a leaked e-mail from a top official inviting staff to a garden party in May of 2020.

Opposition Leader Keir Starmer says it's time for Mr. Johnson to stop lying to the British public. Another lawmaker, you'll want to hear this, broken in tears after talking about the apparent double standard.


JIM SHANNON, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY MP: In Northern Ireland, we reached the milestons of 3,000 deaths due to COVID just last week, 3,000 people who followed the rules and grieve today. So will the paymaster -- and putting, my mother-in-law who died alone -- will the paymaster general confirm that there will be a full and complete disclosure to enable the police service to ascertain if all was done decently and within the regulations on the date and at that time?

I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker.


NEWTON: Yes. So sad there's so many people have been through so much. Boris Johnson says he, for his part, won't comment on whether he attended the 2020 garden party while an investigation is underway.

Now despite all the predictions that the Omicron variant would be milder, hospitalizations here in the United States have hit a new record high. Close to 146,000 people are currently at this hour being treated in hospital. Admissions are rising in all but four states. You see them there.

Meanwhile, several top medical advisers are warning it's only a matter of time before almost everyone is exposed to COVID with many becoming infected. But one expert says that doesn't have to be the case.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: This is not a virus to fool around with. This is not influenza or parainfluenza or other typical respiratory viruses. This virus can cause you to make an immune response to your own blood vessels which means that you can have heart disease, brain disease, kidney disease, a lung disease as well as liver disease. This is a different virus. This is like no other respiratory virus, so avoid it and the way to avoid it is to vaccinate.


NEWTON: Now more on today's headlines from the United States from CNN's Lucy Kafanov.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a sobering assessment from the nation's top health officials.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Omicron with its extraordinary unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility will ultimately find just about everybody.


KAFANOV (voice-over): More Americans are now in hospitals, sick with COVID than ever before.

WOODCOCK: What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, you know, other things central services are not disrupted while this happens.


KAFANOV (voice-over): Hospitalizations about twice as many as two weeks ago surpassing last winter's peak underscoring the threat posed by the highly contagious Omicron variants, especially for the unvaccinated.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, U.S. CDC DIRECTOR: Despite a potential decrease in severity, the substantial number of absolute cases is resulting in hospitalization increases across all age groups, including children aged zero to four.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Hospital staff struggling to cope. DR. MARK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, COLORADO MEDICAL SOCIETY: We have so many physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, other practising health individuals in healthcare, who are getting to the end of their rope as far as being able to care for patients. The high mental health risk of being almost like in a war zone.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Deaths are also spiking. Up 33 percent from last week, the U.S. now averaging more than 1,600 new deaths each day. New cases averaging over about three quarters of a million a day. This as the CDC reportedly weighs updating its mass guidance to encourage people to wear N95 or KN95 masks, which provide better filtration to help curb Omicron spread, according to The Washington Post.

WALENSKY: Omicron is likely not to be the last curveball this virus throws at us, but we have the tools to prevent for the spread of this virus. This means for everyone five and older, please get vaccinated. For those 12 and older, get your booster shot.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Despite logging some 66,000 positive COVID cases, Los Angeles students and staff are back in classrooms today. Chicago also following suit.

WALENSKY: Schools should be the first places to open and the last places to close. We had a Delta surge in the fall and 99 percent of our schools were safely open. We have vaccines that are available for every child over the age of five.


KAFANOV: Meanwhile, one sliver of good news, U.S. officials told Senate lawmakers today that the first of 500 million COVID-19 test the Biden administration plans to send directly to Americans will go out later this month and the rest will be shipped over the next 60 days. The White House still working on a website where Americans can sign up. This as experts warn that the latest Omicron search could peak later this month, but that the next few weeks are critical. Vaccinations and boosters are key to turning the corner on this pandemic.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Denver.

NEWTON: And out of the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the U.N. is asking donors for nearly $4.5 billion in emergency aid for Afghanistan this year. And it is the largest appeal ever for a single country. Officials say the situation is extremely dire following conflict, drought and financial chaos, of course, in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

Now, this is the very basics, right? Food, medicine are scarce. And about 9 million people are on the brink of starvation. Listen.


MARTIN GRIFFINS, U.N. HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AND EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: This is a stop gap, an absolutely essential stop gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today. Without this being funded, there won't be a future. We need this to be done, otherwise, they will be outflow. there will be suffering.


NEWTON: CNN's Arwa Damon has more now on the humanitarian crisis and desperate appeals for more aid to Afghanistan.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Among the biggest tragedies that is Afghanistan story is perhaps the reality that this very situation, this level of such a dire humanitarian catastrophe could have been avoided. It's worth remembering that even before the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan was a country whose population, about 50 percent of its population lived below the poverty line.

It had just emerged from the worst drought in the last three decades, heavily hitting its agricultural sector, its own food stocks, and then, of course, its economy it was already in a dire situation. And then you had the chaotic U.S. NATO withdrawal. The Taliban takeover of Kabul, the freezing of Afghanistan's assets, billions of dollars of them and the effective evaporation of international assistance and crucial much needed development aid.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, around 80 percent of Afghanistan's budget was funded by the United States and other Western nations, all of that gone. And now the country has no means, no ability to try to assist its own people. Humanitarian organizations have put out this call for $4.4 billion, laying out a very detailed plan to address everything from providing food, to winterization programs, to education, to child and women protection.

And they are also providing assurances that this money will go directly to the beneficiaries that will not fall in the Taliban's hands.


And right now, so many are saying that Afghanistan is in such a critical situation that the world cannot afford to turn away. According to the heads of -- the head of one of the leading international aid organizations, at this very moment, around 9 million people in Afghanistan are on the brink of starvation.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

NEWTON: For more information on how you can help, head to our website at

Now Russia is taking its case to Europe trying to convince NATO to respect its red line on Ukraine. We look ahead its critical talks in Brussels, that's coming up. And mission accomplished apparently in Kazakhstan. The President says Russian led forces will be leaving soon.


NEWTON: Talks between NATO and Russia are just hours away in Belgium amid reports. Moscow has launched new military drills near that border with Ukraine. Now talks between the U.S. and Moscow ended in deadlock on Monday, as Western diplomats look to prevent a Kremlin invasion.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has more now from Brussels.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The United States says that diplomacy can't work unless Russia deescalates the situation along the border with Ukraine and Russia is not doing that. Not only are they not withdrawing the 100,000 troops all along the borders of Ukraine, but Russia's Ministry of Defence has just announced that some 3,000 of those troops will be carrying out live fire exercises along the border along with some 300 pieces of military equipment, including tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. That is, in the words of a senior State Department official exactly the opposite of what Washington wants to see from Moscow.

Now, I spoke with the U.S. ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith, who told me that the U.S. expects Russia to send more troops to the border of Ukraine, but that for now they're holding their current posture along those borders. And they claim simply carrying out exercises. Take a listen.


JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: They claim they're exercising, that seems like an awful lot of forces to have on the border for an exercise. And there was no notification of any sort of exercise either. I think the excuse or the reasoning that they've put forward on exercises doesn't really hold water at this point.


MARQUARDT: Smith did tell me that she believes that for now Russia is committed to these critical talks this week, first in Geneva than here in Brussels on Wednesday. And later this week, in Vienna on Thursday. At the same time, the U.S. and NATO have already dismissed and said they will not discuss with Russia their main demand and that is that Ukraine never join NATO. That is completely off the table for NATO.

Instead, the U.S. wants to focus on areas where progress can be made and that includes arms country, nuclear weapons, missiles and the placement of missiles as well as transparency about military exercises.


The U.S. hopes that the combination of progress on those fronts and the threats of extreme economic sanctions, trade restrictions and support for Ukraine militarily as well as Eastern European NATO countries will deter Russia from invading Ukraine again.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Brussels. NEWTON: Now the Russian led forces in Kazakhstan should begin leaving the country in the coming days. Kazakhstan's President requested their support during the violent unrest last week, but now says their job is done. Listen.


KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENT (through translation): The situation in all regions is stable. Thereby, I have to say that the main mission of the CSTO Peacekeeping Forces has been successfully completed. The withdrawal process of the contingent will take no more than 10 days.


NEWTON: The President has appointed a new government and is acknowledging anger over income inequality. Now, he's calling on associates of the former president to share their wealth. We get more now from CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kazakhstan's leadership appears to be trying to show that it's getting the situation in the country under control, but at the same time also continuing their crackdown on the people who participated in the protests that shook that country. Now, the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Tokayev, he had his pick for new prime minister approved by Kazakhstan's parliament on Tuesday. At the same time, the authorities there also announced that the number of people detained in the wake of those protests had once again risen sharply.

The authorities now saying that nearly 10,000 people have been detained and that number has been continuously steeply rising over the past couple of days. The authorities are also saying that more than 160 people were killed in those protests, and the vast majority of those more than 100 people in one town and that is the town of Almaty. That, of course is also the place where we saw some of the worst violence as those protests were taking place with rioters in the streets going into government buildings.

But at the same time also Kazakhstani security forces on the ground there as well sweeping those areas, and in some places, apparently opening fire as well. Meanwhile, the Kazakhstani government is saying that those international forces that they've called in, of course, led by Russian forces that their mission has been complete and that their withdrawal will start in two days. However, that withdrawal is going to take at least 10 days to complete if things go according to plan.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, at the Kyrgyz-Kazakhstan border.

NEWTON: Now it's about to get much more expensive for certain Canadians refusing the COVID-19 vaccines. Or as Quebec puts it, the unvaccinated now have a new way to contribute to overwhelmed hospitals.



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Now we continue to track the latest twist in the visa controversy involving world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic. Now in a social media statement, Djokovic now admits that a mistake was made on his travel declaration to enter Australia, saying his agent (INAUDIBLE), his agent apologizes for checking the wrong box regarding his previous travel before arriving in the country.

Djokovic is hoping to compete in the Australian Open which begins next week. But Australia's immigration minister is still considering whether to cancel the Serbian tennis star's visa and remove him from the country.

Serbia's prime minister meantime says she is hoping for a quick resolution here.


ANA BRNABIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I hope that a final decision will be announced soon because I think that this uncertainty is not good for any of the stakeholders in the story, from Novak to the Australian Open and the entire tennis tournament. This whole saga surely does not benefit anyone.


NEWTON: I'm joined now by Ben Rothenberg. He is in Melbourne and he is the senior editor for "Racket Magazine" and the host of "No Challenges Remaining" podcast.

And good to see you again as we continue to get updates. I want to go first to the statement by Team Djokovic here. Do you think this will help -- A, did it help clarify any situation. Or did it really raise a lot more questions?

BEN ROTHENBERG, SENIOR EDITOR, "RACKET MAGAZINE": I think a bit of both. It did clarify, at least what Djokovic's version of the story is for the timeline of what was happening in mid December. That he took a positive test on -- sorry, he took a test for COVID on the 16th, a PCR test.

The paperwork shows that the result was registered on the 16th later that day. But he's saying that he didn't see that until some point on the 17th after he had already done a children's trophy awarding ceremony earlier that day. But he did admit that he was knowingly COVID positive from this tests having told them that before deciding to go ahead and do another public appearance and interview with L'Equipe Magazine (ph) or a French news sports newspaper, I should say, and a photo shoot with them in person, in Belgrade.

So he admitted in that statement also that he thought that it was already a mistake and upon reflection he did wish that he hadn't done that. But it's not going to win him a lot of support, certainly admitting that he knowingly, positive with COVID, agreed to leave isolation. Or flout isolation and go meet up with someone in this interviewer from "L'Equipe" who had -- was undisclosed. He did not, know he was kept in the dark that Djokovic had knowingly been COVID positive at that point.

NEWTON: You know, the statement had a lot of caveats certainly. I guess it was meant to show a bit of contrition, but Djokovic also pointed and said, oh look I am always careful with everyone's safety.

And I think when he starts to make statements like that, I mean, how much skepticism is there right now. Even among his fellow athletes that he may not be being completely -- he may not be disclosing everything about how the situation came about.

ROTHENBERG: No. And it's pretty clear he sends this from inside the locker room that Djokovic is not going to win any's, you know, good citizenship award during the pandemic for how he's acted. And obviously his -- at this recent (INAUDIBLE) he is very alone, or very close to alone at this point in men's tennis, in the league men's tennis for staying unvaccinated. Only three at most of the top hundred at the ATP are still unvaccinated, he himself being one of them.

And also, he had a history in 2020 of not really, you know, showing respect for what the world is going through in the pandemic holding a super spreader event in the Balkans, (INAUDIBLE) organized for charity ostensibly but one that's being a big super spreader and a lot of careless behavior at a time when other global sports have really shut down or being careful, Djokovic was not.

So there's a real clear pattern here of him not taking the pandemic seriously at a time when public health has become such a pressing issue for everyone in the world right now.

NEWTON: Well everyone's awaiting this decision by the immigration minister and Australia. Apparently his office say look there's a lot more information that's come in, and we have to look at it.

I mean just to get down to the practical issue of this, you know, tournament, how soon does he have to make this decision? I mean I know the tournament is happening next week. And do you have any sense of which way it could go now?

ROTHENBERG: I don't know if the minister for immigration is going to be swayed by the tournament schedule. I mean Djokovic could yanked out of the tournament at any point if he gets deported.

I think he should probably stay at the (INAUDIBLE) were not going to deer to the planned schedule of the tennis tournament in order to make our decision about what we do at border security and health regulations. I don't think he's going to defer to that.

But the draw we made later this week Djokovic would be the top seed in the draw and could play his first match on Monday or Tuesday of next week if he is in that draw.


ROTHENBERG: But again, I am not sure how much pressure I think the minister of immigration would see that as a pretty artificial deadline closer to the tournament when it comes to a serious decision. That said, I think also there's a sentiment that this should not drag on too long. It is very much a limbo purgatory kind of field for Djokovic and also the wider tournament right now.

NEWTON: Yes, and the wider tournament -- and you know, beleaguered Australians have been through so much in this pandemic. The last thing they needed was this controversy on top of everything else.

Ben Rothenberg, I know you'll get to us if we have any more breaking news on this. Appreciate your insights there.

Now, people in Quebec, the province of Quebec in Canada who refuse the COVID vaccine, get this, are going to have to pay for their decision. The provincial government says they can expect significant fines in the coming weeks. How much they'll be charged is not yet clear.

The Quebec premier says that it's only fair, the government calls it a way for the unvaccinated to, in their words, contribute to the overburdened public health care system.

Now the fine will not apply to those with a medical exemption. Last week, in fact Quebec announced that only the vaccinated were allowed to buy alcohol and cannabis. The health minister says vaccine appointments spiked after that as a result of that requirement.

Dr. Donald Vinh is an infectious disease specialist at McGill University and he joins us now.

This has been very, very interesting in terms of what's going on in Quebec. To keep everything in mind, Quebec has a very high vaccination rate. Nearly 90 percent, and still the hospitals are overwhelmed. That is why the premier said that those unvaccinated finally have to, in his word, face a consequence. I am wondering, do you think this is good public health policy?

DR. DONALD VINH, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, MCGILL UNIVERSITY: Let's be really honest here, right. The hospitals are overcapacity and they have been increasingly overcapacity over the last month. Every time we expand our capacity that means that we compromise other types of care. We just get overwhelmed with new admissions.

And you know, at one point when you look at the data you can see that in Quebec, about a third to a half depending on where you are, of the hospitalizations are people who are inadequately or less than doubly vaccinated.

You know a lot of measures have been tried to get these people to be vaccinated. And now I think the government is saying enough is enough. Well, the gloves are coming off. We are going to come down hard on you. And I think that any measure that can bring down hospitalizations by increasing vaccination is welcome.

NEWTON: So you think it will work. You don't think it's just a political ploy?

DR. VINH: I think that -- I think it's -- it's both. I don't think that they're mutually exclusive.

Do I think it will work? I think that it will be an incentive for a certain proportion of the have vaccine-hesitance. And it will particularly be useful because it will be a health levy. It is essentially an additional tax that you will have to pay just by being unvaccinated even if you don't go to the hospital. So that will certainly motivate people to go ahead and start getting vaccinated.

On the other hand, there is also the context that the new -- the director of public health has just resigned. And a new one has been placed. And it could be within the context that there is some, you know political leveraging also going on.

NEWTON: Now to put this in context here, Quebec has had one of the most restrictive responses to COVID-19 arguably in all of North America. I mean the province right now is under a nightly curfew. How frustrating has it been that despite the best efforts, the virus is, as you say, still overwhelming hospitals?

DR. VINH: Well, I'm going to be very honest with you. It's really frustrating. It's in fact, maddening. And the reason is because we have, you know, two components here. One is yes, we have a partial lockdown with nightly curfew with the goal of trying to decrease social contacts, particularly among the young adult age group, 18 to 39, which is also has the lowest rates of vaccination.

On the other hand there are also other measures that haven't been adequately addressed. Like the need for aerosol filtering masks and indoor spaces and ventilation. And again, there is this inconsistency in the policies that are leading to ongoing community cases.

And of course, there is questionable adherence (ph) by certain demographics in the population which is only making the situation worse.

NEWTON: You know the other thing that came out of Quebec, which has really raised a lot of eyebrows here is Quebec's health minister says said that when they impose the vaccine requirement to buy alcohol and cannabis, right -- marijuana, they did this last week, that first time appointments to get the shot quadrupled.

I mean, I will say that the level is still quite low. It went from 1,500 appointments to 6,000 -- you guys need to get hundreds of thousands of people their first dose yet. And yet, what do you think is going on there in terms of the psychology of that?


DR. VINH: Well, I think it unfortunately gives a hint that, you know, the type of demographics that have remained vaccine hesitant at this point. And I think, you know, putting a need -- a vaccination passport requirement to get into these government regulated liquor and cannabis stores, I think is an important gesture. Of, course these people can also continue to order their products online.

So it's not meant to be to restrict them from consuming alcohol or cannabis. But really to restrict them from being in indoor spaces.

But like you said the impact so far has been, you know, marginal -- 1,500 to 6,000. And those are just those who are registered. Of course, whether they actually carry it and actually get the vaccine is a different thing. But like you, said we are still a ways away. You know, 6,000 is just a drop in the bucket here.

NEWTON: Yes, and so far to go. And I'm sorry to hear that your hospitals continue to be overwhelmed.

I want to thank you for all your work on what has been an almost two years through this pandemic. And we certainly hope that the cases start to come down in Quebec as they will hopefully throughout the rest of the world.

Dr. Vinh, appreciate it.

DR. VINH: Thank you Paula.

NEWTON: North Korea is touting its missile launch which the United States said did not pose an immediate threat and yet the launch prompted an unusual response in part of the United States.


NEWTON: Last year was the hottest on record for the world's oceans for the third year in a row. And an annual study published Tuesday says it's part of a long term trend, rising ocean temperatures.

Now researchers say this is overwhelmingly due to human-caused global warming. And as you can imagine, it has serious consequences. Fossil fuel emissions track heat in the planet's atmosphere, the oceans in turn absorb about 90 percent of that excess heat and that super charges weather patters creating more extreme and powerful storms, hurricanes and rainfall.

Now, North Korea claims it has successfully tested a hypersonic missile with leader Kim Jong-un on hand to watch. This is the third time the regime has claimed fire such a missile and the second time in just the past week.

Now, the United States and its allies condemned the launch but the United States also did something unusual.

CNN's Brian Todd explains.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A provocative move by North Korea's 38-year-old dictator causing enough of a security concern that the U.S. to halt air traffic. The FAA ordering a ground stop for some pilots along America's West Coast.

This after NORAD, the U.S. military's North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that Kim Jong-un's regime had test fired a missile Monday evening. Some pilots were instructed to land. Others prevented from taking off like at Burbank Airport in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a ground stop to all departures, all airports right now. It's just until further notice right now.


TODD: The FAA says flights resumed in less than 15 minutes and that it's reviewing the ground stop order. NORAD says it didn't issue any warning and assessed the North Korean launch did not pose a threat to the continental U.S.

Still U.S. officials call Kim's latest missile test destabilizing, dangerous. And missile experts are concerned about what they could mean for security in the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This shows that they're making some progress.

TODD: The suspected ballistic missile, according to South Korea's top military officials reached a velocity of more than 10 times the speed of sound. North Korean state media says Kim Jong-un attended the launch and calls the projectile a hypersonic missile.

South Korea's military says this projectile was more advanced than the weapon the North Koreans tested last week which the regime also claimed was a hypersonic missile.

If that is true, North Korea may have now tested hypersonic missiles three times in recent months.

SUE TERRY, THE WILSON: These missiles, if they are equipped with nuclear weapons, they can reach Seoul in less than a minute.

TODD: Experts say what also makes hypersonic missiles and more specifically the so-called glide vehicles those missiles sendoff, so dangerous is that they could fly as fast as 20 times the speed of sound and are more maneuverable in-flight than other missiles.

DARYL KIMBALL, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATIONS: These hypersonic missiles would be less vulnerable to the U.S. missile defenses based in the region. And it can make the U.S. conventional forces and bases more vulnerable to the North Korean attack.

TODD: The young dictator has just passed the 10th anniversary for his ascent to power and experts say there is little doubt what his rule has meant for North Korea's weapons capability.

TERRY: Are they more dangerous? Yes. The threat has increased because their nuclear weapons and their missile program have expanded and they have modernized. And they are continuing to do so. And there is not really any way for us to stop them.

TODD (on camera): While analysts worry about the North Korean weapons program getting even more dangerous, they're also worried about a lack of diplomatic engagement with North Korea right now. One analyst points out he believes the Biden administration is distracted by the security issues between Russia and Ukraine, by the pandemic and other issues. It takes a lot of diplomatic energy to engage North Korea on weapons, this analyst says. And he says the U.S. doesn't seem to have that right now.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.


NEWTON: Now in the battle against COVID and the omicron variant, one community is getting four-legs up on the standard protocols. Ahead, the canine COVID patrol.


NEWTON: Schools in Uganda are now open for the first time, do you believe this, in nearly two years. The world's longest school shutdown helped Uganda apparently, contain COVID-19.

But as Zain Asher reports many young people are paying the price for it.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A morning routine that begins while it's still dark. Packing school bags, saying goodbye to Mum. It has been nearly two years since parents in Uganda sent their kids off to school in what UNESCO says is the world's longest country-wide school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 80 weeks outside of the classroom and there are worries not everyone will return.

Many children say they are glad to be out of the house and back with their friends.

NAWILAH SENKUNGU, STUDENT: I am happy because I was missing my teachers and my studies.


ASHER: But Ugandan authorities estimate in August that about a third of Uganda's 15 million students will never come back. And of those that do, some may have fallen behind in their studies, especially the ones who come from rural and poor areas where remote learning was inconsistent or unavailable.

School is better within the city or within the towns. Some of them have the opportunity maybe to get study material and they did something for some time. In some schools up country, some of them did not study anything.

ASHER: For others, studying in any form was no longer an option. Many people lost their jobs during the pandemic and some students like 18- year-old Frida, had to find work to help support the family.

Frida says she loved biology, and chemistry, and dreamed of being a doctor. Now she is waiting tables at a restaurant instead of returning to class.

FRIDA NAMUGANZA, TEENAGE STREET FOOD VENDOR (through translator): I'm worried as a girl. Without being in school, I might be tempted to get married because life can get very difficult with no solutions to it and marriage would be the only option.

ASHER: Teenage mother Sarah will also not be coming back. She said she was lured into a relationship with an older man while she was at home. Now she barely leaves her grandmother's house saying she is embarrassed and angry and would much rather have been in class.

SARAH (through translator): The decision caused me harm because if schools had been reopened earlier, I would have returned to school and this would not have happened.

ASHER: The school closures and other strict measures helped contain the number of coronavirus cases in the country. With so far around 154,000 confirmed cases and about 3,300 deaths.

But Uganda has one of the world's youngest populations and even before COVID-19, it struggled with high unemployment and poverty. Now many fear what was lost in the pandemic is much more than time, but life- changing opportunities that many of Uganda's children desperately needed.

Zain Asher, CNN, New York.


NEWTON: Now to France where a teachers' union is planning to strike Thursday over COVID-19 protocols. The union says the current rules are not enough to protect students, staff and their families.

They are also protesting the softening of new testing protocols. Now students will only be required to take three COVID tests at home, following a positive test in their class before returning to school.

In Chicago, students are expected back in school in the coming hours after a standoff ended between the city and the teachers' union over COVID-19 safety protocols.

The union is still voting on the agreement that is supposed enhance testing in schools through the rest of the academic year. Parents remain divided over whether it is safe enough for children to be in classrooms.


MICHELLE EGAN, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENT: As a parent who was hoping that the kids would return to school in person and be in the classroom, I am thrilled. You know, I personally believe that our kids should be in school. I believe in what the public health experts are saying, which is that schools are safe.

BRENNA O'BRIEN, CHICAGO PARENT: The in-person conditions right now are not safe. Just to be clear, four out of five teachers in my school, in a single grade, are out in quarantine.

So when parents demand that kids go back in person right now, there is not much school there in person. They're in quarantine. They're at home.


NEWTON: And now one elementary school in Massachusetts is getting a boost in the battle against COVID-19. Gary Tuchman reports on the four-legged helpers who are sniffing out the virus to prevent its spread.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is Hunter. She's a black lab. She is 14 months old and she is a warrior in the fight against COVID.

Hunter received training to recognize the scent of the coronavirus. If she smells it she will give a signal and then get a toy. Nothing found in this second grade gym class at the LG Norse Elementary School in Norton, Massachusetts. So she goes on to play with some of the children.

But then Hunter is brought into the school library.


TUCHMAN: And while first graders have music class on the other side of the library, Hunter abruptly sits down. A signal that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have some odor, presence of COVID odor on this bookshelf. She just -- she actually just sat.

Good girl. So what I'll do is, I'll praise her good girl, let her wait it out a little bit kind of dial it in, try to narrow it down.

TUCHMAN: We know COVID-19 primarily spreads through the air. And Hunter is searching there too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An odor is almost like a cone, if you can picture a cone, the source of the odor, they're strong at the base like it was on the bookshelf. And then the odor goes out into a cone.

TUCHMAN: This is Duke, he is Hunter's partner in the canine COVID patrol. This is the school cafeteria. He stops abruptly and sits too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just found something.

TUCHMAN: And then two minutes later --

(on camera): What did he find here?


[01:54:59] TUCHMAN (voice over): So what happens after Duke and Hunter make their discoveries?

JOHN BAETA, NORTON PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: We notify parents in terms of if we have information that a student is specific in that seat. We want parents to have that right to make a decision about do they want to test this student, do they want to pull the student? Or just keep an eye out for symptoms.

TUCHMAN: In addition, after the detector dog makes a hit the areas are disinfected.

The now regular visits of these dogs to Bristol County schools, police stations, city halls and other locations is a result of research done at Florida International University.

Kenneth Furton is the provost there and a scholar in forensic chemistry.

KENETH FURTON, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Normally, you could turn dogs to above 90 percent accuracy. And when we train these COVID- 19 dogs we did double blind studies and we published them in (INAUDIBLE) journal. We actually received a 97.5 percent average of accuracy in double blind trials.

TUCHMAN: However, there is acknowledgment that things like density of a space or an unmotivated dog can make accurate canine COVID hits harder to come by. The research is promising but it's still early.

(on camera): Are you concerned that parents here and other people here will say, we don't need to mask up all the time. We don't need vaccines. We don't need a test. We have the dog.

SHERIFF THOMAS HODGSON, BRISTOL COUNTY FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: This is not to replace what CDC and DPH are telling people in the communities about what to do. That is a whole part of the science and what they believe in the preventative measures.

So this is a way for us to enhance that in a very direct way and be proactive. To prevent more people from getting sick but they should continue to do what CDC is recommending.

TUCHMAN: So basically, the training is the dogs sniff mask that had been positive for COVID-19.


TUCHMAN: And that's how they got their training.


TUCHMAN: If I take off my mask --


TUCHMAN: Hunter can tell me and tell me if I have COVID. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

TUCHMAN: Ok let me take it off, I'm going to put this other one on in the meantime.

All right, Hunter.

TUCHMAN: I'm going to put it right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no problem.

TUCHMAN: Ok. Right here.

All right. And the fact that Hunter has not sat down means I'm negative which I knew when the day started.


TUCHMAN: All right. Hunter.

(voice over): Like many schools, the numbers of students and staff out with COVID are high. The hope here is that conditions can be made safer with the help of these four-legged warriors.


NEWTON: Our Gary Tuchman there. What a great story. Love to have those four-legged pets in those schools.

I want to thank you for watching. I'm Paula Newton.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with Rosemary Church right after a break. I'll see you right back here again tomorrow.