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Prince Andrew's Legal Troubles; Djokovic Draws Number One Seed In Australian Open Amid Visa Saga; U.K. P.M. Apologizes For Attending Party During Lockdown. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 02:00:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to have you is joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. The Australian Open drawer drama will the world's number one player compete or will Novak Djokovic be on a one way ticket out of the country.

A new court ruling means the sex abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew can go forward. We will break down the ramifications for the royal family.

No deescalation inside. NATO warns of a real risk of war in Ukraine after talks with Russia store.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Novak Djokovic is now officially the number one seed in the Australian Open for the men's singles. That word coming in the official drawer for the Grand Slam tournament which starts on Monday. Djokovic is scheduled for a first round match against a fellow Serbian player. But 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 still considering whether to revoke Djokovic's visa and remove him from the country. Well, joining me now to help cover all the angles is CNN World Sports Patrick Snell. And Ben Rothenburg, senior editor for Racquet Magazine, and the host of the No Challenges Remaining podcast. Good to have you both with us. So, Patrick, let's go to you. Take a closer look at that Australian Open drawer and what that signals for the tournament ahead.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Yes, it was, Rosemary. Hi there. Great to see you. It was the day of drama as far as the draw is concerned or no bear is going to get into that and how it all played out. But as you said in your intro, Djokovic has been drawn to face his compatriot in his first round match of his fascinating dynamic between these two. You got the 22-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic taking on Djokovic.

You know, fascinating to see as I say how that is all going to play out. Djokovic, who turns 35 in May up against his fellow Serbian, close to 13 years his junior as well. This is the latest video we have from this day. Djokovic Thursday trading there in Melbourne right there in the famed Rod Laver Arena, hitting with his coach and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic inside a so virtually empty stadium.

The top ranked defending champion Djokovic seeking just to remind viewers, Rosemary, worldwide a 10th Australian Open crown he hopes, 21st Grand Slam title as well. Why is that highly significant because it would be a men's record if indeed he does get to play and win. And that is certainly not guaranteed. Now as a reminder, Roger Federer is also on 20 Grand Slam titles. He's not playing over there due to injury.

But another legend of the sport on 20 is the man from Mallorca Rafael Nadal. He is on the same half of the draw as Novak Djokovic, but the two would not meet until the semifinals if indeed both players do get that far. Fascinating race to number 21 there in the men's game. So much history at stake. Nadal is (INAUDIBLE) by the way this year. He scheduled to face the American player Marcs Giron in the first round of play in Melbourne.

You know, the span is 20 major titles. Only one though is in the open crown. And that came back in 2009. Do you want to get to the women's side of things? Remember. No Serena Williams first time in fact since 1997 that neither Serena nor Venus Williams are not a beat in a grand slam. That stat itself. Well, I can't believe I just said that. Serena out injured, not traveling. Something catching our eye. This is fascinating as well.

A potential fourth round matchup could be picking the world number one from Australia. The huge favorite down there, Ashleigh Barty against the defending champion from Japan Naomi Osaka. Osaka seeded 13 to begin a title defense with a first round matchup against the Camila Osorio of Colombia. Barty's first round opponent will be a qualifier. So, so many talking plots today. Plot twist all the step of the way. But as far as a tennis and the draw that is at least now set, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed.


CHURCH: So let's get back to the drama and Ben joins us live from Melbourne. The official draw, Ben, for the Australian Open that was delayed for almost 90 minutes but then went ahead without any announcement coming from the immigration minister, who is of course still considering whether Djokovic can stay in the country or not. So what's going on here? Why is it taking so long?

BEN ROTHENBERG, TENNIS EXPERT: It seems -- it certainly was a chaotic scene in the Australian Open. And we think we got the sense when they delayed it by just over an hour. And maybe some decision was imminent, we were going to get a ruling before the draw came out from the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. But no ruling came, we're still -- just still waiting for a decision. His office is still saying they're looking into it. They're we're still reviewing it.

They're trying to build the case or look into if they have the grounds to issue another deportation order against Djokovic. Then the meantime, the entire tournament is sort of in suspended animation right now. Djokovic obviously, it's a clear favorite to win if you -- under normal circumstances. And he's been obviously the story of the tournament, all this fiasco brewing around him.

So it really does feel unresolved. And it does feel like it's holding the tournament a bit hostage, because like Patrick was saying, there are great other stories here, you know, Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty potentially in the second week of the tournament facing each other, but until no guy showed a situation is resolved. It's incredibly preoccupying for everyone on the ground.

CHURCH: Yes, that's the frustration of all of this. It's overshadowing everybody else, isn't it? So what has been the reaction to all of this in Australia? What are the people of Australia saying about it? And of course, the players there because they are being overshadowed by this saga.

ROTHENBERG: I think as the story drags on and on and we're well into week two of the story at this point, then people are probably increasingly exhausted by it. And we just want a decision to reach at this point, knowing that it's unresolved that still sort of left hanging, I think people's patience is wearing thin. But that said, there is still seem to be a very clear sentiment against Djokovic among the public.

And so that people I think are pretty United were action they want largely, but there's just not a sense necessarily that's coming as soon as they want. So, some frustration building over the (INAUDIBLE) as big a story this is worldwide, obviously in Australia, even bigger and it's something that I think people are hoping get squared away and resolved because people are just sort of sick of Novak Djokovic being the story down here.

CHURCH: Yes. Totally understand that. Ben Rothenberg, Patrick Snell, many thanks to both of you for joining us. Appreciate it.

Well, calls for Boris Johnson to resign are growing louder. Even after an apology before Parliament. The British Prime Minister is facing a severe backlash after admitting he attended a 2020 Downing Street garden party while the rest of the country was under lockdown. Mr. Johnson says he was at the party for only 25 minutes and he believed it was a work event. Take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I want to apologize. I know the rage they feel with me. And with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules. And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right.


CHURCH: Opposition the Labour Party leader Kier Starmer is among many lawmakers calling on Mr. Johnson to resign. He says the Prime Minister's excused that he didn't know it was a party is ridiculous and offensive. Mr. Johnson visibly flinched when confronted about hosting the gathering while the rest of the country suffered.


KARL TURNER, BRITISH LABOUR M.P: He was also at a boozy party in Downing Street. So how does he think he can still maintain the one rule for him and another for the rest of us? He cannot and must resign.


CHURCH: And this isn't the first time Boris Johnson has been embroiled in scandal. He is accused of using his influence to protect a Conservative Member of Parliament handing lucrative contracts to his allies and hosting several Downing Street events during lockdown.


GUTO HARRI, FORMER ADVISER TO BORIS JOHNSON: It's an extremely toxic issue it resonates across the United Kingdom. It has caused enormous anxiety and unease on the benches behind him in the British Parliament. And very senior people across his party are now questioning whether he is the right man to take him into the next general election. So, to put it in a nutshell, he is over the next few days fighting for his political life.


CHURCH: Even before this latest revelation, polling showed only 20 percent of the British public had a favorable view of the Prime Minister.

A U.S. judge has ruled the sexual assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew move forward.


CHURCH: Virginia Giuffre claims she was sexually trafficked to the Prince by Jeffrey Epstein and that the Prince knew she was underage at the time. Prince Andrew was steadfastly denied all the allegations and tried to have due for his lawsuit dismissed. If the case is not settled, the Prince could face a trial date later this year. And Anna Stewart is in London. She joins us now live to talk more about this. So Anna, take us through this ruling by a U.S. judge and what it all means.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Rosemary. Well, this decision by a judge yesterday was a major blow for Prince Andrew and his legal team. They had really hoped to stop this case in its track, get it dismissed. And that has not happened. Now Prince Andrew has long denied any of the sexual abuse allegations here. But the move to dismiss the case was actually totally unrelated in some ways to the allegations themselves.

It was arguing that the case wasn't legally sufficient. And all hinged, Rosemary, on a -- on a settlement agreement between Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile from 2009. Prince Andrew's team had argued that that essentially, it -- while it didn't name him at all, it essentially lifted any liability from him. The judge has decided that is not the case, not least because he's not named.

There are no specifics in the settlement and he says the language is ambiguous. He also said that the argument made by Prince Andrew's team that Virginia phrase, case was vague. The complaint was vague, they said. He said Miss Giuffre's complaint is neither unintelligible nor vague, nor ambiguous. And he went on to say that the incidents of sexual abuse are very clearly detailed and they are clearly attributed to one person.

Now it goes on in the discovery process now. So that's what happens next. So that means potentially depositions, but also the exchange of documents, e-mails, phone logs, and so on. And trial could take place sometime between September and the end of the year. And this trial, Rosemary, really, regardless of the outcome in many ways, could be very, very damaging for Prince Andrew but also for the royal family by association.

Now, while the case hasn't actually been dismissed, it doesn't necessarily mean that it definitely goes to trial, because there is still some other options potentially on the table. One, the obvious one would be a settlement. But will that meet Giuffre's team's agreement? Possibly not. Another one might be a summary judgment. Again, that would require agreement from both sides. And at this stage, you wonder whether Virginia Giuffre really wants to have her day in court. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes, exactly. Yes. Anna Stewart joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well, Harry Lipman is a former U.S. Attorney and a legal affairs columnist for The L.A. Times. He joins us now from La Jolla, in California. Always great to have you with us.


CHURCH: Good morning to you. So what is your response to a U.S. judge ruling that a lawsuit against Prince Andrew can now proceed and what do you think will happen next?

LIPMAN: Yes, I think it is a devastating blow for the Prince. There are times where you can just get something dismissed by saying even if what she's saying, Virginia Giuffre on the other side is true there wouldn't be a case. The judge very clearly rejected that. And that means now it's time for evidence. The Prince is supposed to by July 14th give certain answers under oath. They're supposed to exchange evidence. And it's just a disaster for him.

It's questions such as, you know, does he -- does he sweat or doesn't he? Where did he touch her when she was on his lap? We have a legit, you know, sexual activity in Jeffrey Epstein's mansion in Manhattan. His private island and then Ghislaine Maxwell house. So it's really a parade of horribles. And my assessment here is unless they can come up with another way to just get it dismissed without getting into the evidence.

And I think they took their best shot at that and didn't make it today. I think they have to settle. I don't -- I think it's just too much of a disaster and a debacle for the Prince to face these questions. Even if he believes he's innocent, and he can't -- he could eventually prevail. He's a different sort of defendant. And I think the black eyes for the -- for him and the royal family would just be too great.

So he's now -- the judge has now put them on a road to fact-finding, exchange of facts that I just think is a disaster for him.

CHURCH: But what if Giuffre pushes back though and wants to take this to trial and not settle?

LIPMAN: Then she'd be an irrational plaintiff. It happens sometimes, but I doubted here. I think she is suing for money. She's done it against many different defendants, including Maxwell, including Epstein originally. So that's right. If she insists on her day in court, she can have it but I think it's quite likely that she'd be satisfied with a handsome settlement and it just got a lot more handsome today.


CHURCH: Interesting. And of course the judge also dismissed the claim made by Prince Andrew's legal team that Giuffre's complaint was vague. How significant was that?

LIPMAN: It's the same thing. That would have been another way to get rid of it. But of course, what did he say? Very detailed sexual encounters again in Epstein's house. His private island, Maxwell's house, very specific things that go to embarrassing details, even where he deny them under oath, which, of course, he's never done. The one sort of encounter he had was the BBC interview which was roundly thought of as disastrous.

So I just think facing the questions for him, the kind of defendant he is, is a hurdle that is insurmountable whereas as in might not be for other defendants. So that other ruling by Judge Kaplan that Nope, this is concrete enough. We have specifics says, let's exchange this specific. Show me, Prince Andrew, why you have this medical condition or give me proof that you were with your daughter.

Those sorts of factual assertions and the way they would play in the British press, I think are way more risk laden than is a big check to Giuffre as much as he doesn't want to write it. CHURCH: So how strong are the legal arguments on each side? And how quickly could this be wrapped up as a settlement if indeed both sides decide not to take this to trial, but to settle?

LIPMAN: Right. I mean, I think on the merits, it is, as you suggest, sort of a jump ball at best, it's a loser bull case. But if -- what I'm suggesting is that the case he just can't afford to try. So in that sense, it's less about the merits and more about the process. And the process begins in earnest. Under the current calendar anyway, by mid July when Andrew is forced to answer questions under oath.

And if that date holds, my best guess is there will be settlement talks and that the Prince will avoid reaching that very sort of calamitous turn by settling before then. So I see it as moving towards settlement, not because she has an overwhelming case, but because he can't afford to litigate on the facts. And by mid summer unless the judge grants a time extension.

CHURCH: And do you see that -- then this would be the end of it. If they reached a settlement here, that would be the end of it for Giuffre, but not the end of it, perhaps for Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell and all of this fallout two from Jeffrey Epstein's situation.

LIPMAN: It's not the end for Maxwell. Indeed, she's facing perjury charges in a case brought by Giuffre where she gave a deposition. I think it would be the end for Andrew. In other words, he would say, look, if you're going to hold me up in this way and ask for a big settlement, we can do it. But you must, must, must agree that's the end of it for me. No comment, no admission that I did anything wrong.

And that's part of what happens with the big payout that you're seeking. So I -- and I don't think there's any other way in which he's looking at the liability, other victims who have come forward. So that is the one thing and of course, he's a wealthy man. And he should be able to purchase closure. What he should not be able to purchase, I'm suggesting is a trial in which he comes out in any way at all, but terrible.

CHURCH: Yes. Indeed. Harry Lipman, thank you so much for joining us.

LIPMAN: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Good to talk with you.

LIPMAN: Likewise.

CHURCH: Well, marathon talks have yielded little progress in resolving the Ukraine crisis. The latest on the diplomatic efforts to prevent a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. We're back with that in just a moment.


[02:21:12] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, in the coming hours, Russia will hold talks in Vienna with the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It will be the third attempt this week at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. Talks on Wednesday between Russia and NATO ended in a stalemate doing little to ease fears of Moscow might invade Ukraine. The Secretary General says NATO is under no illusions how difficult the task will be.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO allies are clear eyed about the prospects for progress in these talks. They express serious concern about the Russian military buildup in and around Ukraine, and called on Russia to immediately deescalate the situation.


CHURCH: But Russia insists that it's actually NATO that must do the deescalating. One of Moscow's lead diplomat says the situation is becoming intolerable.


ALEXANDER GRUSHKO, RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): One of the elements of this rather sad picture is that as a result of NATO's decision, all practical cooperation between us and the alliance in areas of common interests has been suspended. Today, we do not have a unifying positive agenda. None at all.


CHURCH: CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Brussels. Good to see you, Nic. So how did all of this play out? And what hope is there of averting war in the next round of talks?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. It seems that the next round of talks are going to be very much like the past couple of rounds. I think if people want to look for a glimmer of hope here it is what NATO has said that they've offered some -- they've offered the opportunity to Russia of getting into arms control towards perhaps reciprocal arrangements on, you know, troop training exercises where they can be conducted.

How many troops can be involved. But the Russian side have said that they're not -- they're not open for that at the moment, that this is not a road that they want to go down. Indeed, they've said if there is -- what they see as this continued intimidation, they will find a military legal way of pushing back. So the language is still very strong. It still seems entrenched on both sides. Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator who is there in Geneva, they're in NATO will be there at the OSC, rather not there at the OSC but commenting on the OSC talks today said that she believed that there's only one person that knows the answer to the next move. And that's President Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I think there's only one person who knows what Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia wants to do. And that's the President of Russia. My own sense is that all of these ministers, Deputy Foreign Ministers, Deputy Defense Ministers have come to these first two sessions. I would expect the same of the permanent council, permanent representative at the OSCE tomorrow from Russia.

Have instructions, have talking points. But really at the end of the day, because of the way Russia's government operates, doesn't know exactly what decision President Putin will make. And I hope he makes the smart decision for the security of Russia, the security of Europe, and for the people of Russia.


ROBERTSON: Yesterday I spoke with both Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General and the lead Russian negotiator, the Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko. Both said that the ball was in the other's courts. Stoltenberg said the ball is now and Russia's court to respond to the possibility of discussions on arms control. And when I put that to Alexander Grushko, his answer was no, firmly no, the ball is NATO's court.


ROBERTSON: Again, if you're looking for a glimmer of hope, it is that the Russian side have said that NATO should put these proposals about arms control in writing again, though, I think everyone really waiting to see President Putin's next move. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Nic Robertson joining us live from Brussels. Many thanks.

All as the unrest in Kazakhstan has eased. Russian-led forces are set to begin withdrawing. The process is expected to last up to 10 days. The troops came as the Kazakh President's request during last week's protests. At least 164 people were killed and thousands have been detained. The president said it will take at least eight months to restore the city of Almaty. He said 21 state-owned properties along with 145 businesses needed major repairs and maintenance.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is proposing you U.N. sanctions against North Korea in response to its ballistic missile launches. Saying they violated Security Council resolutions. Earlier, the United States announced it was imposing its own sanctions on the North after it fired off to what it claims were hypersonic missiles in the last week. The U.S. sanctions target at least eight North Korean and Russian individuals and entities linked to the north weapons programs.

Several American officials say the latest missile tests have demonstrated some surprising capabilities.

Well, vaccine skeptic Novak Djokovic has been given a spot in the Australian Open but it's still unclear if he'll be allowed to stay in the country and compete. We will discuss the latest in this visa saga, next.


CHURCH: Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic has been included in the draw of the Australian Open even though it's not clear whether he'll actually be allowed to compete. He is officially listed as the tournament's number one seed and is set to face off against fellow Ser, Miomir Kecmanovic 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 of three positive COVID tests last month. He's also acknowledged admitting a false travel declaration.


And Tracey Holmes is the host of "The Ticket" podcast and is with us now from Sydney. Great to have you with us. Appreciate it.


CHURCH: So, after 90 minutes of delay, the draw for the Australian Open went ahead and Novak Djokovic was included despite no decision yet from the Immigration Minister on whether he stays or go. So, what is going on here? Why is it taking so long in making an even bigger mess than it already was?

HOLMES: That's a very good question, Rosemary, and I don't think anybody has given a very suitable answer until now. Many people have -- just sitting around this issue very quietly. Novak Djokovic, of course, who's hoping that he can remain here to defend his title and become the winningest of grand slam players. And then, of course, you've got the tennis open officials themselves who just want this mess to go away so they can go on with running in his grand slam.

But aside from that, still no word from the minister, it's been three days now. Three full days since the court hearing that washed the original visa cancelation was made. And that is when we had the first indication that perhaps it was still on the cards that Novak Djokovic could be detained and deported from the country.

So, that element certainly remains. But I guess there are some now who were thinking as the days get longer and the days separate between that court case and the start of the open on Monday, things are looking more and more Novak Djokovic's favor.

CHURCH: So, even if a decision is made to throw him out of the country, Djokovic will get to play in the tournament while he appeals that decision. So, is there, perhaps, a reluctance to make a final decision on this because of that?

HOLMES: Look, I don't think they -- is there reluctance because the federal government has been fairly adamant -- and that rules are rules and that there will be no exceptions. While many people think it's a very heavy-handed approach in this particular example, it is one and that they've obviously shine. They're not averse to using. But I think more than anything is that the minister is going to make sure that any case is going to be incredibly watertight because they don't want to have the embarrassment of what happened on Monday.

CHURCH: And let's talk about the sentiment across Australia, how people are feeling about this because before Djokovic posted his Instagram explanation, there was a swing back, a little bit more support coming his way. But once he revealed almost too many details to people, it seems to have swung back. Talk to us about that?

HOLMES: Yes. I think there's been so much discussion and it's almost as though every time zone, as you wake up in the morning here in Australia, you -- is being revealed now, you know. What are the difficulty has he got to deal with? What other anomaly? What other situation that doesn't make sense? Did he turn up at another event or did he fly to another country without declaring his position on COVID and his vaccination --?

So, all of this, just every day there's a new story that he has to deal with. His post yesterday said there's been a lot of misunderstandings. People can make of that what they will. He then said that the travel documents which was filled out incorrectly for Australia border officials was filled out by one of his agents who has profusely apologized, according to Novak Djokovic, you know. And then of course, whichever frame of mind you take to the position of Novak Djokovic, whether you like him or you loathe him, he's going to change the way that you see this sort of unraveling allegations that just seemed to continue.

The truth is, I think people who are very busy, like Novak Djokovic and other elite athletes, people like politicians, people like senior businessmen, they do have tons of people around them who fill out these documents for them. But what we've seen is how very important it is that they get this right because, you know, the consequences, as we are seeing, all of this play out now are dire.

CHURCH: Yes. Indeed. For anyone else making mistakes in a form like that, entering Australia, there'd be no doubt about, you would be thrown out. So, what about the other players at the Australian Open, what do they think about this? Because he apparently is getting preferential treatment and of course in the midst of all this, other players are getting overshadowed, aren't they?

HOLMES: Yes. It's interesting the whole idea that, you know, players don't have or shouldn't have preferential treatment because we know that, you know, the superstars of anything do. It's almost the nature of the business. And, for example, I know there were some complaints because Novak Djokovic was getting to train and practice and it was shut off to everybody. Nobody else could watch. It was shut to the public and others don't have that sort of opportunity.


But by the same token, you've got a situation where the federal government is saying, essentially he's a health risk to our nation. And then you got the nation complaining because they can't go watch him train. While all of this mess is still to be sorted out.

For the other players, it's incredibly difficult because of course for every time go to speak to the media, all they want to talk about as Novak Djokovic. And they don't have any answers. They don't know what's happening. They don't have any further insights. So, it's not playing well for anybody, at this point. And it won't until a decision is made and there's no guarantee then, Rosemary, that it will be any better once that decision had been made one way or the other.

CHURCH: Yes. You're absolutely right. But I think at least it would bring some sort of closure if that decision could be made a little faster than it is right now. Tracey Holmes joining us live from Sydney. Many thanks indeed.

HOLMES: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And still to come, the W.H.O. says a huge spike in COVID infections is actually worse than the numbers show. We will have those alarming figures next.


Welcome back everyone. Well, the World Health Organization has a warning. Do not take the Omicron variant lightly. The W.H.O. chief says while Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus especially for the unvaccinated. He says, new COVID-19 cases around the world are increasing at a record rate. Take a listen.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, W.H.O. DIRECTOR-GENERAL: Last week more than 15 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported to W.H.O. from around the world. By far, the most cases reported in a single week. And we know, that this is an underestimated. This huge spike in infections is being driven by the Omicron variant which is rapidly replacing Delta in almost all countries.


CHURCH: Europe is dealing with a massive surge in the virus. Germany just hit its highest ever daily number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Germany's chancellor is suggesting the country should make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all adults as cases spike. Meantime, Spain reported its highest ever COVID-19 infection rate amid the Omicron wave. In France, a teachers' union is going on strike to protest insufficient COVID-19 protocols in schools. And Italy reported a rise in COVID deaths despite a slight drop in cases.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau joins us now live from Rome. Good to see you, Bobby.


So, every country across Europe, and indeed the world, is struggling to find a way to contain this Omicron variant with its very high transmission rate. So, let's look at that. What is the situation from right across Europe?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I think every country in Europe is just waiting for the peak now, you know. We're hearing things here in Italy that they're saying, like, within a week or so we may hit the peak of this case.

One of the things that is -- I suppose people are looking at in a positive light is that we aren't seeing the hospitalizations that we've seen -- the rates of hospitalization that we've seen in previous waves and that's because people are vaccinated. And so, every country across Europe is focused on punishing those people who aren't yet vaccinated. Here in Italy, on February 1st, everyone over the age of 50 will have to be vaccinated or they'll face fines. They could lose their jobs.

We're seeing those sorts of restrictions and incredibly -- increasing incredibly across Europe just because people who are vaccinated don't tend to be in the hospital as much or as often or in grave condition, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And so, that's the situation in Italy where they will actually bring in fines. That's interesting because, of course, we reported Quebec doing a similar thing 24 hours ago. We have that report and certainly there was a spike as a result of that in people getting vaccinated. So, talk to us about the situation in the Germany and in France.

NADEAU: Well, in France, you know, the numbers are incredibly high but also their rate of testing is high because they're trying to do contact tracing. They're trying to make sure that people who are infected aren't infecting other people. And when you see these high rates of test, you see high rates of cases as well.

And, you know, in France and in Germany -- Germany they're looking at punishing the people who aren't vaccinated once again, you know, sort of going to this -- even locking down. People who aren't vaccinated making it impossible for people who choose not to get vaccinated to do anything that may put them at risk and may put other people at risk, you know.

And Greece, as well, they've got a vaccine mandate for people over the age of 60. They're fined there if they're not vaccinated. And they're really working across Europe to get young people vaccinated because it is those people who tend to be in the hospital right now more than others. Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Barbie Nadeau, joining us live from Rome. Appreciate it.

Well, Japan's Minister of Economic revitalization says COVID is here to stay as far as his nation is concerned. He said, Wednesday, Japan will have to coexist with the virus while working to put its economy back on track. Japan managed to contain the virus last fall, pushing the number of new cases to less than 1,000 per day. But since then, Japan has ended its 6th wave of COVID with new cases ballooning to more than 13,000 on Wednesday. One of the most iconic musical voices of the 1960's has fallen silent. Ronnie Spector, or lead singer of The Ronettes has died at the age of 78 after a brief battle with cancer.


EDDIE MONEY, SINGER: Listen honey, just like Ronnie sang.



CHURCH: Incredible voice. That is Spector performing with Eddie Money in the late 1980s. The Ronettes had a string of hits including, "Be My Baby," "Walking in the Rain" and "Baby, I Love You." The group was hugely popular in England. And according to Spector's website, headline shows with opening acts like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Well, many thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. World Sport is coming up next.