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Djokovic Draws No. 1 Seed In Australian Open Amid Visa Saga; U.K. P.M. Apologizes For Attending Party During Lockdown; Judge Rules Lawsuit Against Prince Andrew Can Proceed; No Breakthrough In Talks Between Russia And NATO. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 01:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Warm welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton. Coming up right here on CNN Newsroom, even more drama swirling around Novak Djokovic and that visa question. And we've just learned he is the number one seed going into the Australian Open.

Finally, gestures but little movement. The latest on the talks between NATO and Russia. And why COVID pills could be a game-changer here from one survivor who says it was indeed life-changing.

So Novak Djokovic is now officially the number one seed in the Australian Open for the men singles. That word coming just about 20 minutes ago and the official draw for the Grand Slam tournament which starts on Monday. That's right Monday. That draw was though unexpectedly delayed for over an hour with no explanation.

And, of course, the big question remains whether Djokovic will be allowed to even compete and stay in Australia with his visa saga still unsettled. Australia's immigration minister is apparently still considering whether to revoke Djokovic's visa, and remove him from the country.

Now on Wednesday, Djokovic issued a statement admitting he didn't immediately isolate after testing positive for COVID 19 last month. And also admitted to a mistake on his declaration, which really declared whether or not he had been to other countries before he entered Australia.

We want to go now straight to Patrick Snell, he's been following everything in the latest. And a lot of news there just in the last hour with this postponed draw. It's now reality.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, you said it Paula, there's so much happening. You know, plot twist all the way at this hour. OK, this is the key top line for me. We're still waiting, right, to see if the top-ranked men's player in the world, Novak Djokovic, if he will be definitely competing in the first tennis slam of the year, the Australian Open, it all starts on Monday, as you said. But look, let's just recap. A really hectic last couple of hours, the draw that we'd all been so eagerly awaiting for. We already knew Djokovic had been confirmed as the number one seed on the men's side of things. But I guess there was that sort of suspense, will he be included in the draw? Well, that did happen. Really dramatic developments, though, before we even got to that.

What happened was when we got the men's and the women's draw, we started with a women's draw. That was due to start at 3:00 p.m. local time over there in Melbourne. But then all of a sudden, it was just postponed until further notice at that point, no reason given to the media in attendance. So then we waited to see what would happen next.

And then the draw did finally happen about 45 minutes ago. As I say, they started with a women's draw. And Djokovic, by the way, the number one seed, his first round opponent will be against his compatriot and fellow Serbian, the 22-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic as well. So that's certainly very interesting.

We'll be elaborating on that just a bit later, but more context. If he does get to play for sure in the season's first slam, he is going to have his sights set on a men's record 21st Grand Slam title taking one clear of his great rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

But again, we're still waiting to see against the backdrop of events earlier this week. Remember, a judge deciding to quash the original cancelation of the 20 times slam champs visa and order his release from detention. Though that same judge also saying that Australia's Immigration Minister still reserve the right to deport the Serbian superstar.

And it just comes after a whirlwind last 24 hours. You've seen the nighttime Aussie open champion admitting he did not immediately isolate after a positive COVID-19 test last month. But at the same time, he did deny knowing he had the virus when attending public events in his homeland.

Djokovic adding though he had made an error of judgement in doing a media interview, and photoshoot with a French sports newspaper L'Euipe after he tested positive. And also in a statement published a social media, again, just a recap this last day or so, he also apologized for an apparently false travel declaration, saying it had been submitted on his behalf by a member of a support staff in human error.

But the big takeaway so far, just to recap, Paula, Djokovic included in today's men's draw for the Aussie open as the number one seed, and he will play as of right now, his fellow served in the opening match, Miomir Kecmanovic. That is the very latest on this fast evolving story.

NEWTON: Yes, and it's interesting that the story is now pivoting again towards the sports angle, which is what I'm sure his fellow athletes really want to concentrate on at this point.

OK, Patrick, thank you for the update. We'll continue to follow events as it is still late afternoon in Australia. Right now, though, I am joined by Ben Rothenberg. He is in Melbourne and he is the senior editor for Racquet Magazine and the host of the "No Challenges Remaining" podcasts.


And I should say you had a front row seat to this draw, so tell us all about it. I mean, a dramatic postponement and then it seemed to go on without, you know, without any interruption.

BEN ROTHENBERG, TENNIS EXPERT: Yes, basically an unexplained 75-minute delay that, of course, led people all sorts of speculation here, that maybe an imminent decision was coming. And for some reason they need to buy time before the draw, delaying it this way, unexpectedly, very, very last minute.

We're all waiting outside the door of the room where he's going to take place when we got that announcement. And so but then nothing happened. Basically, they did the draw, 75 minutes as anticipated, and there was no sort of comment Djokovic was drawn into the first line of the draw, like he would be as you would normally expect. And now he talks about his first round opponent Miomir Kecmanovic.

And kind of tennis, you know, goes on, as usual on the surface. But, obviously, we know there's so much bubbling underneath and all around in this very still boiling hot saga.

NEWTON: Do you have any insight at all as to whether or not there will be a decision because certainly the Australian government could leave this issue alone? I mean, as -- is there anything in terms of an inkling as to what might happen even from Team Djokovic at this point?

ROTHENBERG: Well, they're certainly not an inkling that the Australian government is standing down. They're making it very clear they're still reviewing this. The Immigration Minister Alex Hawke make me clear they're still taking time, being diligent reviewing this. It's not a situation where we're just, you know, in suspense, if they're going to do something or not.

We do have a sense from what they're saying and what his staff is saying, or people are hearing, there will be a decision at some point. The question just is timing. And that's it. We don't know. We don't know how close to the start of the tournament.

It will be how close we'll get it if Djokovic will even play a match potentially before there's a decision on this. We don't know. It's not clear how much they're expediting this immigration dispute process, because of the schedule of a tennis tournament. It's not clear how much deference or consideration they're going to give that in the end.

NEWTON: You know, I've spoken to you about this in the last couple days, just about, you know, the organization itself of professional tennis. Do you see a way that this have could have been avoided so that we're actually talking about tennis?

ROTHENBERG: Oh, yes, there's many ways this could have been avoided, for sure. First and foremost, the way that it could have been avoided would be Novak Djokovic just having gotten vaccinated, like in 97, or more percent of his fellow players on top under to have already done. That's the main way this could have been avoided.

And then the Australian Open could have not had an exemption policy to make it so there was a sort of workaround precarious side door into the tournament that they allow Djokovic that really turned in to a massive fiasco once he came to the border and found that alternate door wasn't going to get him into the country, and set us all down this path.

And they could have also communicated better to Djokovic about how his actions would be perceived in Australia, politically, socially, here with all the uproar about his coming and about people seeing he's getting around the rules. They're very, very proud here in Australia of how they've endured the pandemic and the collective action together to get through lock downs and the high vaccination rates here.

And they see Djokovic in a lot of ways as an insult to all that and a slap in the face to destroy the Australian ethos that they've been so proud of here in the pandemic. So it's a really fraught messy situation, then there's lots of different ways with preventative action. This could have gone a lot of different ways other than this fairly disastrous route it's on now for the tournament.

NEWTON: Yes, and I'm glad you brought that up, because Australians have sacrificed a lot through this pandemic more than a lot of countries in terms of travel restrictions. And that is something that has to be noted. Before I let you go, I kind of noted in the last few years that Djokovic was on a bit of a charm offensive. He's never been the easiest opponent, the easiest colleague, the easiest person to interview, but is it -- was it my imagination but before this, it seemed he was trying to be a, you know, use a bit more tact, a bit more grace, and was more gracious in interviews.

ROTHENBERG: Yes, it's very nice to Djokovic. You know, he -- sometimes he gets criticized in court for trying too hard to be like that almost he's coming off a little bit, maybe desperate or -- which is unfair, that he really is trying to warm to the crowd and doing things they just don't see is really resonating with them and certainly, in a lot of markets.

It varies, obviously, still beloved and Serbian national hero there. And there certain fan areas, like in China, for example, determines there he's been very, very popular fans. But in a lot of spots in the world and traditional tennis markets, he has not resonated people for whatever reason.

And he's tried but he's also at the same time to pick some fights. He's starting his own breakaway player organization to try to challenge the structure of the ATP. He's been doing all sorts of different things. And, obviously, during the pandemic, his repeated stances on health issues have put in more on the fringes.

And especially now that the rest of the tour is bought in so readily, or eventually, at least fully to the idea of mandatory vaccinations for most tournaments, Djokovic has been standing out on that and really putting himself out from the norm here and make himself a bit of a, not pariah, but certainly a clear outlier, that people are looking at with the frustration that he's holding up so much just by himself. Now he really is overshadowing this tournament with his self- focused actions.

NEWTON: Ben, it's been good to lean on your expertise there as this whole saga unfolds. I will note it is approaching 10 after 5:00 in the afternoon in Melbourne and there could still be more news to come in the coming hours. We'll leave it there more -- we'll leave it there for now though.

Ben Rothenberg for us in Melbourne.


NEWTON: Now we are not done here at CNN though with Djokovic. Later this hour, I'll ask an Australian legal expert about the case. And if Australian authorities seem reluctant to deport the tennis number one star player. You'll want to hear what he has to say.

All right, switching gears here. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is apologizing for attending a "bring your own booze party" at Downing Street while the rest of the country was under lockdown, but opposition lawmakers and even some from his own party, they just aren't buying it.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has the latest from London.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOR PARTY LEADER: Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The famously unflappable Boris Johnson, the great political survivor has finally flinched.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was hosting a boozy party in Downing Street.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): After an outpouring of condemnation for attending what critics allege was a "bring your own bottle party" at his official residence 10 Downing Street in May, while the country was under strict COVID rules. The Prime Minister says he saw it as a work of it, but finally made an apology of sorts.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Even if it could be said technically to fall. Within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way. People who suffered terribly, people who are forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside. And to them, and to this house, I offer my heartfelt apologies.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Without actually admitting to wrongdoing, inciting a pending investigation, his apology stoking even more anger.

STARMER: After months of deceit and deception, for pathetic spectacle of a man who's run out of road.


STARMER: His defense, his defense, that he didn't realize he was at a party.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): It's the first time the Prime Minister has even admitted to attending one of the multiple gatherings held by his staff, while the country was essentially in a lockdown. Even though he was pictured at one such event seated alongside a bottle of wine, and a cheese board.

JOHNSON: With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): To add salt to the wound, the event was held on a day with glorious weather inviting to a public eager to get out. But it came with another warning to stay vigilant.

OLIVER DOWDEN, CONSERVATIVE MP: You can spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like. And you can meet one person outside your household.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Restrictions that were abided by at the highest levels at various points, the Queen herself one of thousands of Britains forced to mourn the death of a loved one alone. It's a potentially lethal blow to Johnson and a scandal that's made casualties of top advisers and staff.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Now, he's losing the support of his own party with calls for his resignation. It's the biggest revolt he has seen so far. And though he may be a famous political escape artist, the party might soon be over.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


NEWTON: Joining me now from Los Angeles for more on this is CNN European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas. And it's good to see you. I can't be the only one right who's sceptical that Boris Johnson won't survive this too. But, you know, some are warning me that look, things have changed. And that even conservative loyalists say that the ground has truly shifted. What do you think?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: We have to agree with that, that he is an escape artist. I think in the bigger context here, his survival really is up to his party. He served at the pleasure of the elected Conservative Party MPs. And he did secure a massive majority for them at the 2019 elections.

And they're not about to give up power or to implement any kind of mechanism that would change the current rules and regulations and go for a general election. So time is on their sides. They have power. And I think that is a sort of a paradoxical aspect of this too, is that a weaker Boris Johnson, and we saw this with Theresa May, actually within the party creates a kind of vulnerability where those MPs that want to legislate that have particular agendas might find themselves in a stronger position to be able to push that if Boris Johnson does survive in the court of public opinion.

They have two years ago until the scheduled May 2024 general election. And the fact is that there is no one single member of the Conservative Party right now waiting in the wings to take over who could arguably bring together the kind of unity and so on that had been there up until this particular moment.


And so although his position is weakened, he's increasingly vulnerable. The likelihood is that in the immediate future, he will remain at the helm.

NEWTON: Yes, and likely the most important point there, as you said, there is no heir apparent at the moment. Before I get to some other issues in Britain itself, I have to juxtaposition what the P.M. said today. And I do consider what he said almost flippant, saying, well, maybe it didn't break the rules. Maybe this was fine.

And then really, you look at the people dying in hospital rooms without loved ones not beside them, not holding their hands, but even just within a room with a gown and a mask on. These were dire days in the pandemic, and he admitted that there was this party at least one, if not many more.

THOMAS: Yes, I think it's absolutely appalling. And you can see sort of, it's completely transparent, the way in which this response was drafted is essentially, if he admits overtly to wrongdoing, he's going to open himself up, of course, to calls for resignation, and so on. If he lies, he further weakens the Conservative Party.

And so instead, he adopted for this sort of technicality optics sort of approach of saying, you know, I understand that what we did was, you know, perhaps did not look that good bet. 10 Downing Street is, after all, an unusual place, you know, he lives there. It's also a workplace, and so on, and so forth.

But the fact remains, as you pointed out, they wrote these rules, they put those rules out, essential workers had to respect these. And there were no contingencies put in place to allow for some kind of blurring of the sort of the work, play kind of environment. And in many ways, that kind of action, there inconsistent messaging has contributed to undermining the U.K.'s response to this pandemic.

And I don't think it's surprising that 150,000 people so far over that number, have died in the U.K. alone, more than their former 27 European Union, any one country within that particular space.

NEWTON: Yes. THOMAS: And so there's a broader kind of responsibility and accountability here.

NEWTON: Yes. And that is despite the success of the vaccine rollout. Before I let you go, this is not a country without its challenges, especially given Brexit. Is there a sense that at this juncture, this political chaos, it really is a real liability, not just for Boris Johnson, really principally for Britain?

THOMAS: It is. There's absolutely no doubt about it, that the -- that those -- first of all, there's a political crisis one could argue at the moment, whatever happens to Boris Johnson, there is also a pandemic crisis. And the two are not to be separated.

There are all sorts of kind of important legislative issues at hand. The recovery from the pandemic, or the ongoing struggles with them are there. And these are really significant distractions. Let alone the fact that at the end of the day, this is a prime minister who won in the general election on a single issue, which was a slogan, Get Brexit Done.

He achieved that particular goal. He secured a majority. But at the end of the day, the big question is what follows and what comes after that. And we're still waiting to see how this is going to play out in the long term. And beyond that kind of electoral populist appeal, what about the process of legislating and so on and so forth, as the U.K. is now extricated itself from the European Union. And I think that the road ahead promises to be a rocky one.

NEWTON: Yes. And again, that electoral appeal, which will likely decide the fate of Boris Johnson. Dominic Thomas, always good to get your insights. Appreciate it.

THOMAS: Thank you so much.

NEWTON: Now, a U.S. judge has ruled that a lawsuit accusing Prince Andrew of sexual abuse can now go forward. Virginia Giuffre claims Jeffrey Epstein sexually trafficked her to the Prince when she was just a teenager. The Prince has steadfastly denied the charge and tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. But now he faces a trial unless he reaches a settlement with Giuffre.

Max Foster reports.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prince Andrew's accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre says the British Prince first raped her in 2001. She says Andrew knew she was 17 at the time, and he was one of several men she was being trafficked to, by now notorious late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Giuffre alleges she met Andrew at the London town home of Epstein's longtime girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, where he first abused her. The Prince claims he took his daughter to a pizza party that night, denying any encounter with Giuffre. PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady.

FOSTER (voice-over): Then in 2010, two years after Epstein was convicted of two-state prostitution charges in Florida, the Prince seen walking with a now registered sex offender in New York Central Park.


Soon, negative publicity about the Prince and Epstein's relationship begin to circulate. The next year, another controversial image. This one of Andrew with his arm around his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, allegedly taken at Ghislaine Maxwell's home in 2001. Andrew has suggested the photo could be fake.

PRINCE ANDREW: Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored. But I don't recollect that photograph ever been taken.

FOSTER: Between 2014 and 2015, Giuffre alleges that in the past, Andrew sexually abused her at Epstein's private islands, at Epstein's mansion in New York, and at Epstein's girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell's home in London. Buckingham Palace responded that it is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre.

In 2019, Giuffre repeats her claims on television.

VIRGINIA GIUFFRE, PRINCE ANDREW'S ACCUSER: He knows what happened. I know what happened. And there's only one of us telling the truth. And I know that's me.

FOSTER (voice-over): That same year, Epstein dies by suicide in his jail cell as he awaits trial for federal sex trafficking charges. Then in December, his former girlfriend was convicted of sex trafficking and other crimes related to Epstein's abuse scheme.

Now, a judge says the civil suit brought against Andrew can continue after the Prince's lawyers had tried to get it thrown out. But the ruling doesn't determine the facts or validity of the case. If it's not settled, the British Royal could face trial between September and December of this year.

Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire England.


NEWTON: Marathon talks yield little progress in resolving the Ukraine crisis. The latest on diplomatic efforts to prevent a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. Plus, the lead U.S. negotiator speaks with CNN. The warning that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has for Russian President Vladimir Putin.


NEWTON: A diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis is so far elusive ahead of a third round of talks now. And in the coming hours, Russia will meet in Vienna with the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Talks on Wednesday between Russia and NATO ended in a stalemate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And right now the ball is firmly in the Kremlin's court now.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Yes, we will -- we are waiting for the answer to our proposal to convene there's a meeting, addressing a wide range of important issues for European security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly, Secretary General today said that the ball is now in the Kremlin's court. Your turn to answer.




NEWTON: OK. Now, the deadlock doing little to ease fears that Moscow might invade Ukraine. Alex Marquardt reports now from Brussels.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The talks between NATO and Russia on Wednesday appeared to end. No closer to a solution for defusing the situation along the border with Ukraine then when they started. The Secretary General of NATO said that the talks were difficult. The head of the Russian delegation said the situation is quickly becoming intolerable.

And the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State told CNN, that they have not gotten any commitment that Russia will deescalate. Take a listen,


WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: There was no commitment to deescalate, nor was there a statement that there would not be. They are a powerful country. The fact that they feel threatened by Ukraine, a smaller and still developing democracy is hard to understand, quite frankly.


MARQUARDT: This was the first time that Russia had sat down with NATO in two years. And the fact that they sat at the table for four hours may be an indication that they are not quite yet ready to give up diplomacy. But they are complaining that their proposals to de- escalate are being ignored by NATO. NATO and the U.S. had dismissed before this meeting even started.

The Russian demands that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and that NATO withdraw from Eastern European countries. Instead, NATO and the U.S. are hoping to make progress in other areas, arms control and communication and transparency over military maneuvers.

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that they don't know what Russia will do next and that maybe the Russians themselves don't even know. An indication that this really comes down to the decisions of one man, President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Brussels.

NEWTON: Now, meantime, the head of the U.S. delegation warns of severe consequences, should Vladimir Putin decide to invade Ukraine. CNN's Christiane Amanpour spoke with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and asked her to weigh in on the Russian President and recent Russian troop movements. Listen.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: But many are also saying that he now sees a moment to reform a sort of Russian sphere of influence. You've seen how he sent troops into Kazakhstan. How he's done it in other Central Asian former Soviet republics. Can he -- is that what he's after do you think?

SHERMAN: I think what he has done is created a crisis out of whole cloth. Russia, Christiane, you know very well as an incredibly powerful country, member of the U.N. Security Council. One of two of -- along with the U.S. largest nuclear powers in the world has vast energy resources. They have a lot of power.

The idea that they can be threatened by Ukraine, a smaller and developing democracy seems absurd on its face. So, yes, I certainly think that President Putin is looking at creating a sphere of influence. We heard my counterpart Sergei Ryabkov say in the Wall Street Journal, that Ukraine's future is more important to Russia than it is to Ukraine, which is just an extraordinary statement.

I think that President Putin amassed these troops to put pressure on Europe and on the United States, to put pressure on the Euro-Atlantic ambition, to put -- to intimidate, to coerce, and to say, I've got sticks I can bring to this discussion as well.

It is very provocative. It is very escalatory. It is very concerning. It could indeed lead to conflict. And I certainly hope that President Putin makes the smart choice. Deescalates, engages in diplomacy, otherwise, he is going to face very severe consequences, both economically and in other ways. If he indeed either invades Ukraine, or somehow subverts or coerces a change that the Ukrainian people have not asked for.


NEWTON: Wendy Sherman there speaking to our Christiane Amanpour.

OK, still ahead here on CNN. As COVID cases surged in France, 75 percent of elementary school teachers are planning to walk off the job. We'll tell you why next.


Then now COVID change the entertainment industry in Dubai. We'll hear from the owner of a business at ground to a halt.



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Returning to our developing story here.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic has been included in the draw for the Australian Open even though it is not clear whether he will actually be allowed to compete. Now, he is officially listed as the tournaments number one seed and is set to face off against, get this, fellow Serb Miomir Kechmanovic. And that is would be in the first round.

The draw was delayed by more than an hour, without explanation. The fate of Djokovic could be decided anytime now by Australia's immigration minister after revelations that the world number one did not immediately isolate after a positive COVID test last month. He's acknowledged submitting a false travel declaration.

Justin Quill is a partner with the major Australian law firm, Thomson Geer. He is with us from Melbourne right now. And I really appreciate you joining us.

And you know, there's an interesting legal perspective on this that I think many people are looking at right now. Given that the Australian authorities already lost in court once, right, in this case, what is your opinion? Do you think they're a bit reluctant to try and deport him given he could appeal and I guess if he seeks due process it could mean he remains in the country and plays tennis until that appeal is heard, right?

JUSTIN QUILL, PARTNER, THOMSON GEER: Yes, absolutely. The stakes are high for the federal government from an embarrassment point of view. It's an election year here in Australia. And they've already suffered a big embarrassment on Monday, when they had to dramatically capitulate in the federal court.

And they just can't afford from a popularity point of view to have that happen again. So I think that's part of the delay that's been happening over the last few days where they've been trying to work out, firstly is this a politically smart move? And secondly, how do we do it in a way where we make sure that the decision is bulletproof and it doesn't get appealed and overturned again.

NEWTON: But even a delay would work here, right? I mean if he has due process it means he can appeal. He could stay in country while he appeals, right.

QUILL: Yes, so that's absolutely right. What he will do, is go before the judge and say, look I have an arguable case here. I'm going to need more than a day or two to properly argue that and for you owner to properly hear that case to make a decision. And in the meantime, I need an interim law or temporary injunction.

So that I think is probably the more likely scenario. Now, the problem he has with that is, you have to show that you have an arguable case. You can't just appeal because you want to appeal. You've got to show that there are decent grounds. There has to be a decent case you're bringing to court.


QUILL: And that is why the federal government are going slowly with this and making sure that they are about as bulletproof as they can be if they are going to make this decision.

And we still, of course, don't know whether they are going to make that decision. They might not be able to actually pull the trigger and do it. That would be the reason why they don't do is if they think this isn't absolutely bulletproof.

NEWTON: Yes. And that finishing point too, I want to point out the prime minister there was just speaking, he didn't give an indication of when there would be a decision. Just saying he referred it to his immigration minister. And yet, you're saying that they could just abstain from making a decision at all?

QUILL: Well look, as things currently stand, Novak Djokovic is here in the country. He is at Melbourne Park training every day, he has a visa.

So at the moment as things stand, the federal government don't need to make any decision. They can just allow it -- allow things to go on and he could play the Australian Open. And then fly out either as the champion or not, and they don't need to make a decision.

If they want to make a decision, they've got to do it at some point. Now, in theory, they could wait until, you know, halfway through the tournament. But they're just not going to do that. That, from a political standpoint, from a popularly standpoint would be a disaster for them.

So they know that they have to do it before the Australian Open starts. Or realistically, politically, not at all. But from a legal perspective, in theory, they can do it anytime they want.

NEWTON: Ok, understood. And I will say the draw happened, Novak Djokovic as we understand is in the number one seed. So, you know, the Australian Open is kind of underway with him right now.


NEWTON: I have to ask you, though, in terms of public opinion. How difficult it is decision going to be because this hasn't gone well for the government so far. And Australians must be completely fed up with the circus right now?

QUILL: Absolutely. Let me say a few things about that. Firstly, the fact that the draw's gone ahead, suggests to me that maybe they are not going to make this decision because surely, Tennis Australia must have had some high level discussions with the government. Now, that's speculation for me, but one would've hoped so.

Now, secondly, when you talk about the politics of it all, I will say this. Australians are embarrassed. I'm embarrassed as an Australian. We Melbournians in particular, we consider ourselves the sporting capital of not just Australia but the world. And we're embarrassed about this fiasco.

NEWTON: Well, I think in the last few minutes you've certainly given us some insight into the hard decision ahead and as you say, how much Australians just want this saga to be over, sooner rather than later.

Justin Quill, thank you so much as we continue to watch the breaking news from Melbourne.

Now, in the coming hours teachers in France will go on strike en masse to protests insufficient COVID-19 protocols in schools. The teachers' unions say the government has failed to adopt proper policies to protect students and staff as COVID infections soar.


ELISABETH ALLAIN-MORENO, NATIONAL SECRETARY, FRENCH TEACHERS' UNION (through translator): On one hand, we're telling them our demands, asking for help, telling them what we want. If the government ignores all of that and tells us they know what the reality is, and that everything is fine, or that things will be sorted out, or that the strategy has just changed and everything will be better. We cannot accept that.


NEWTON: More than half of the elementary schools in the country will likely remain closed, due to the strike.

And going now to the province of Quebec in Canada, it is providing evidence that they say mandates work. One day after the province announced it would impose fines on the unvaccinated, the health minister says there has already been a spike in first-time appointments for vaccinations.

Now the amount of that future fine, what some are calling a health tax and an unvaccinated tax, that fine is still unclear but it would apply to those who do not have those key medical exemptions.

Nearly 90 percent of eligible Quebecers have already had at least one dose of the vaccine, but the government says the unvaccinated remain a huge burden on the province's public health care system.

E.U. drug regulators could decide within weeks whether to approve an anti COVID pill, made by Pfizer. Paxlovid as the drug is called already has emergency use authorization in the United States.

It has shown to be highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and severe illness. The only problem is, it's not widely available, and probably won't be for quite some time.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.


CLAY BYINGTON, COVID-19 PATIENT: I could feel the mucous buildup in my lungs.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Like millions of other Americans, 26-year-old Clay Byington tested positive for COVID-19 after gathering with friends and family over the holidays.


BYINGTON: When the coughs came, it definitely sent the aches down the body.

DR. GUPTA (on camera): Were you quite worried about how sick you are getting?

BYINGTON: I was pretty worried. I see a lot of stories about how people's health has declines very fast, you know, in a matter of days. I know that me being overweight just kind of worried me.

DR. GUPTA (voice over): Despite being boosted, Clay's BMI of 35 placed him at higher risk. So Clay's doctor prescribed him Paxlovid, an anti- viral that has been shown to reduce hospitalizations by nearly 90 percent among those at highest risk for developing severe disease.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are a game-changer. And have a potential to dramatically alter the impact of COVID-19.

DR. GUPTA: Paxlovid is a combination of oral pills that work by interfering with the virus's ability to replicate. Based on Paxlovid's high efficacy, the 20 million courses bought by the Biden administration could eventually prevent more than a million hospitalizations based on CNN's calculations.

But the problem is this, the majority of those doses, won't arrive for months.

DR. ERIC TOPOL, EVP FOR RESEARCH, SCRIPPS: There's hardly any of these pill packs around.

DR. GUPTA: Dr. Eric Topol is executive vice president of research at Scripps in San Diego. He believes the Biden administration should have invested in Paxlovid in months ago.

DR. TOPOL: Had we had hundreds of millions of booster packs. Packs of it right now. We'd be able so much better to defend against omicron.

DR. GUPTA (on camera): Several months before the vaccines were authorized, there were at risk investments being made. Many bets being made on various vaccines.

Were those same sorts of gambles, made on therapeutics?

DR. TOPOL: The fact that this was the first medication that was designed specifically against this virus that I think was worth a shot. It was worth an investment -- but there was none.

DR. GUPTA (voice over): So far, just 160,000 courses have been delivered around the country. And with more people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic, these pills will soon be in short supply. They will need to be rationed.

Leading doctors like Shireesha Dhanireddy at the University of Washington's Harbor View Medical Center, with some tough decisions.

DR. SHIREESHA DHANIREDDY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S HARBOR VIEW MEDICAL CENTER: We are using these medications judiciously. And really giving them to the people that would most benefit from these therapeutics.

If we open it up to vaccinated individuals, we would not have enough therapy.

DR. GUPTA: Should a vaccinated a person get it versus an unvaccinated person. Or should it only be for unvaccinated. I mean it's going to raise all kinds of ethical and medical sort of questions.

DR. TOPOL: The availability is so limited. And more people who are unvaccinated are going to wind up in need.

DR. GUPTA: The National Institutes of Health guidance prioritizes treatment for those at highest risk. The immunocompromised, the elderly, and yes the unvaccinated.

DR. DHANIREDDY: Many of the people who are seeking this therapy, may not need this therapy to recover from COVID-19. And it's particularly if you are vaccinated, boosted.

DR. GUPTA: There are other treatments available, but Remdesivir, an antiviral and Sotrovimab a monoclonal antibody both require fusions. And Molnupiravir, another oral pill is the last line option being recommended. None of them as effective as Paxlovid.

BYINGTON: Yesterday, my cold was in its worst and today I'm feeling a lot better.

DR. GUPTA: Clay was one of the lucky few. Getting both physical relief as well as mental relief from the drug.

BYINGTON: Once you are sick and you, you know, you're feeling the symptoms and you are kind of like, oh my goodness, is this going to get worse? So that kind of -- the medication helped alleviate that stress and anxiety.

DR. GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: Coming up here for us on CNN a history lesson underwater. Hong Kong's coral fossils offer a wealth of knowledge for those trying to save the ecosystem.



NEWTON: Today on "Call to Earth", the extraordinary bio diversity of Hong Kong's marine life is now under threat. We meet a marine biologist and historical ecologist studying the history of Hong Kong's corals to learn how they can be protected for future generations.


JONATHAN CYBULSKI, MARINE BIOLOGIST/HISTORICAL ECOLOGIST: You might not expect it in such a highly-urbanized city, but Hong Kong contains high levels of biodiversity.

Hong Kong has over 25 percent of the recorded marine species for all of coastal China. And it only makes up 0.03 percent of the coastline.

And for corals, which is what I study, there is more species of coral in Hong Kong's waters than there are in the entire Caribbean sea.

My name is Jonathan Cybulski, and I am a marine biologist and a historical ecologist. And I live in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities on earth.

But just 30 minutes from the city center, you can be in a place like this, surrounded by nature and ocean and biodiversity. It's amazing.

As a historical ecologist, it's my job to tell the story of an ecosystem through time. I look to the past to try and see what an ecosystem was like before humans so that we can identify its greatest threats and then help to alleviate that threat to give it the best chance for survival into the future.

In Hong Kong, we have two main types of coral. The first, this is known as a massive coral. And the other type, a branching coral. And this is what really promotes biodiversity because there is more areas for things to live.

But unfortunately, these corals are the most susceptible to human stress. So what we're let with is just the more massive corals which don't promote as much diversity.

First I collected coral fossils from all around Hong Kong to see what coral communities were like in the past. And then I monitored modern- day corals to see where they were growing.

And there is a very simply but very strong pattern. In areas where there's really poor water quality, we have very low marine biodiversity.

And then as you move to areas with better and better water quality, that biodiversity increases.

Human waste, agricultural waste, your garbage, everything eventually falls and finds it way into the marine environment. Anything that you can do as a human to be more sustainable will actually, in the long run, benefit the marine environment. Even if you don't know it right away.

There needs to be as much diversity in our strategy of solving the problem as there is the diversity that we're trying to protect.

And if we can get a city like this to start making change, then we'll really see positive benefits for our earth.


NEWTON: Ok, let us know what you're doing to answer the call with the hashtag, #CalltoEarth.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back in a moment.



NEWTON: One of the most distinctive musical voices of the 1960s has gone silent.


NEWTON: Bonnie Spector, lead singer of The Ronettes has died at the age of 78 after a brief battle with cancer. Now, the group had a string of hits including "Be My Baby", "Walking in the Rain", and "Baby I Love You". Spector had a tumultuous relationship with her producer and later husband Phil Spector. The Ronettes were hugely popular in England and according to her Web site headlines shows with opening acts like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Now live music is returning now to Dubai. During the pandemic, partying was one activity that can only be done online. Well, some people tried, and the owner of an entertainment company saw her business suffer as tight COVID restrictions dried up her supply of customers.

She spoke with CNN's Richard Quest back in early 2020 and again this week. Listen.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Where words fail, music speaks. So wrote Hans Christian Andersen. He could've been talking about Sunday afternoon at this restaurant along Dubai's Palm Jumeirah waterfront.

The patrons here are enjoying the live Cuban band. The whole experience feels extra special after the long, lonely days of 2020. The gorgeous music, the fine food, the company of friends. For Sherin Al Alami, the managing director of Dubai's La Cle Entertainment, it's the revival of a business that completely collapsed in the spring of 2020. That's when we last spoke. She was one of our voices of the crisis.

SHERIN AL ALAMI, FOUNDER LA CLE ENTERTAINMENT: We have artists from all around the world that come in to Dubai, as you know, Dubai is a very buzzing -- has a nightlife. And so we had to immediately find a solution to send them back to their respective countries.

We had a feeling airports and travel was going to become restricted, so it was just kind of immediate decision and crisis mode for our team to just send everyone back.

QUEST (on camera): During the pandemic, this is one of the bands you sent home.

AL ALAMI: Yes exactly, they went home March 2020 and then they came back in December.

QUEST: Have you got a lot of work for them now?

AL ALAMI: We have four or five shows a week for them. And they do different venues -- members club, restaurants, weddings, hotels, New Year's party. So we're quite busy and we go into the studio often.

QUEST: Sherin discovered during her first lockdown that her plans to experiment with continuing the business online, would not be a success.

AL ALAMI: It was a little bit difficult. We're more about experience, about trying musically hearing, connecting with the band, going through a moment. So it was -- we opted to just focus on waiting for the city and the world gets back on its feet and bring back live entertainment to everybody.

QUEST (on camera): Now omicron has arrived --

AL ALAMI: It has.

QUEST: -- at the Dubai high season --


QUEST: -- which is the winter months.


QUEST: How are you managing now?

AL ALAMI: So my last week was a bit stressful over New Year's, we bring in a lot of international acts from U.K. from London, from Paris, from everywhere over this very busy peak season.

[01:54:56] AL ALAMI: We supply hotels and restaurants. So it was a bit of a challenge but we navigated it. We got through it. We didn't -- we supplied all our services to all the hotels and restaurants.

We are just being extra careful. I think that's what we have to do. I mean we know it's there. We just need to wait and see what happens, and see what the government announces and we're ready I think after this tough two years, for anything at this point.

QUEST: To some extent, the very business you are in is used to crisis. An artist doesn't turn up, a plane is late, the equipment fails, it's not new.

AL ALAMI: No, it's not.

QUEST: But this was on --

AL ALAMI: This was on a giant scale. And yes, it is part of the nature of entertainment. We have a contract one week, we don't have a contract the next week. We miss a gig. That's -- I think that's the beauty and that's why I love entertainment. It's never the same day.

And you're working with such artistic and beautiful people every day and lovely clients that support us and believe in us as well.

QUEST: Throughout this crisis, what's skills did you realize? What depths did you plumb (ph)? What did you learn about yourself?

AL ALAMI: Well I was never a very patient person. I learned that I need to be very patient, less impulsive, just believe in myself. And some things are completely out of my control and if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. And if we're meant to survive the pandemic, we will survive it.

QUEST: Patience.

AL ALAMI: Patience is a virtue.

QUEST: One that you didn't --

AL ALAMI: I didn't have it. I really didn't.

QUEST: Are you a kinder, gentler person as a result, do you think?

AL ALAMI: I think I'll never change, I'll say who I am. I'm very -- I've always been a very nice -- I'm a nice businesswoman. But I think I'm a bit more tough.

Challenging situations, you're just kind of more, you know, matter-of- fact, this is what's going to happen. Take it or leave it. We can't -- there is no room for too much negotiation.

QUEST (voice over): Sherin knows that business is risky. After two years of ups and downs, her business has become a symbol of resilience.

And the value that we place on the little things we once took for granted like getting together, enjoying good music.

Richard Quest, CNN, Dubai.


NEWTON: And you can join "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" live from the Dubai Expo 2020 every night this week. That's only on CNN. And I'll be with Richard Quest, of course.

I am Paula Newton. Thanks for your company.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right here with my friend and colleague, Rosemary Church. She'll be back in just a few moments.