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Tonga Speaker Of The House Says The Country Needs Immediate Help With Drinking Water And Food; Australia Reports Deadliest Day Of The Pandemic; Future Grand Slams In Doubt As Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Returns Home; U.S. senators visits Kyiv to discuss weapons for Ukraine. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 00:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, cut off from the world. Heavy ash is still preventing aid from reaching Tonga following the largest volcanic eruption in three decades.

The coronavirus deals another blow to the Beijing Olympics, making it even harder for fans to attend the games.

And back home but not out of the woods. How Novak Djokovic's anti-vax stance could put his next Grand Slam tennis tournament in jeopardy as well.

Tonga is in urgent need of help after a monstrous volcanic eruption and tsunami devastated the island country. Tonga's Speaker of the House posted on social media saying they need immediate help getting drinking water and food to the people. There is much we still do not know about the full impact of the disaster as Tonga remains largely cut off from much of the world.

Well, this was the scene on Friday after the first eruption before Saturday's more powerful blast. New Zealand officials say the disaster has caused significant damage to Tonga's main island covering it in thick -- in a thick layer of ash. A British national killed by the tsunami is among the victims.

The family of Angela Grover (PH) says she tried to rescue their dogs when she was swept away. More countries in the region are working with Tonga to get them help.

This ship from New Zealand's Navy set of earlier with personnel, equipment and supplies ready to assist.

Well, CNN's Blake Essig joins us now from Tokyo with more. Blake, obviously, this is a fast-moving story. We also don't have a lot of access to information but what do we know about what is happening on the ground and when aid will arrive?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We know Anna, it's now been more than three days since the underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga. And while there haven't been reports of mass casualties, at least one person has died as you mentioned.

No outside aid has arrived as of yet and we still don't know the full extent of the damage. The reason, according to New Zealand High Commission in Tonga is that the volcanic eruption damage communication capabilities, especially with the outlying islands.

Now despite ashfall, New Zealand's government has been able to carry out surveillance on the impact that islands and reported significant damage along the western coast of the main island.

But for the time being with communication, extremely limited, the island nation is essentially cut off from the rest of the world, leaving friends and family to check on loved ones with little to no response.

Now, that includes aid workers earlier today. CNN spoke with Katie Greenwood with the International Red Cross who says that she was able to briefly make contact with her colleagues in Tonga, who told her things are going relatively well, take a listen.


KATIE GREENWOOD, PACIFIC HEAD OF DELEGATION, IFRC: We're very focused on the water emergency that might be emerging as a result of the ash fall and into the main water sources for people, so that will be a focus of our effort in the coming days. We're also focus on making sure that people have the necessary items they require to shore up and remedy their houses that may have been affected by ash fall and inundation from the tsunami waves as well.


ESSIG: Well, Greenwood says that things seem relatively stable on the main island, she says there's a big concern for some of the lower lying areas and islands closer to the eruption site. Roads and properties were flooded in the mainland from roughly one-meter tall tsunami wave.

And the bigger concern at this point is the ash fall, save (PH) the children says that drinking water supplies could be contaminated, and there's immediate concern for Tonga's air and water safety.

And for those not familiar, Tonga is made up of more than 170 islands and home to about 100,000 people. This remote island chain is located in the South Pacific about 800 kilometers east of Fiji and nearly 2,400 kilometers from New Zealand.

And as you mentioned, Anna, experts say that Saturday's eruption of an underwater volcano located about 30 kilometers from Tonga's main island was likely the largest recorded volcanic eruption -- underwater volcanic eruption anywhere on the planet in the past 30 years.

COREN: Yes, truly extraordinary. Those images just amazing. Blake Essig, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

Alexander Matheou joins us from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. He's the Asia Pacific director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. Great to have you with us.


ALEXANDER MATHEOU, ASIA PACIFIC DIRECTOR, IFRC (on camera): Thank you for having me.

COREN: Alexander, what do we know about the extent of the damage and the number of casualties?

MATHEOU: Well, we know a little bit more today than we did yesterday, thanks to satellite imagery and reconnaissance flights. And the fact that some people, a very small number of people on the island have now got access to satellite phones and are giving little bits of information.

So, what we are seeing is roughly what we expected to see that there is large scale coastal damage as a result of the tsunami wave, a large amount of fallen ash, which we suspect is having a big impact on quality of water and access to water across Tonga.

Fortunately, we are not seeing evidence of loss of life. Now, we don't have all the information yet. And there is one tragic case we know of a U.K. citizen. But we're not seeing evidence of large scale loss of life.

And of course, we hope that will remain the case.

COREN: Do you fear however, that the death toll could rise, considering this is an archipelago of many islands, home to 100,000 people?

MATHEOU: Well, of course, we are concerned especially for those outlying islands close to the eruption itself about which at the moment, we know very little. So, of course, that is a concern.

But you know, we respond to disasters all over the world. And a crisis is not just about loss of life, it's about loss of livelihoods, loss of critical infrastructure, loss of access to money, access to clean drinking water, access to health care, all of which can both disrupt life and result in loss of life further down the line.

So, a crisis is bigger than immediate loss of life. And we're looking at a whole range of risks at the moment.

COREN: Tell us about those risks and what your priorities are going to be once you can get on the ground there in Tango.

MATHEOU: Well, for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, there are three things we are particularly looking at and concerned about at the moment. One is the impact of fallen ash, particularly on quality of water. So, water will have been affected by the ash, and by the tsunami waves. So, access to clean drinking water is number one.

Number two is anybody who is living in coastal areas where houses have been damaged by the tsunami waves will be in need of shelter support. So, that is number two.

And number three is we know there are many people across the islands, across the Pacific and even around the world who have lost contact with loved ones. And restoring those family links is another critical Red Cross surface.

COREN: Australia and New Zealand have sent surveillance flights and obviously, aid agencies like yourselves that are ready to assist. But why haven't ships been sent from either Australia or New Zealand? We know that there is a crisis, we know that there is a layer of ash covering, you know, a lot of Tonga, when will that aid actually start arriving?

MATHEOU: Well, for a start, as I mentioned, there is some on the island already, we anticipate crises like these and therefore we preposition stocks. Boats have now been stocked and are on their way. So, we hope we will see arrival in the coming day or two.

There is an additional complication with this response, which is complicating the ability to arrive quickly and deploy people and deploy supplies. And that is that the disaster has happened in the middle of the pandemic.

Now, Tonga has done very well to protect its population from COVID-19 to date with a very small number of cases. And they are -- and they will we anticipate continue to be quite strict on allowing both people and items onto the island without a quarantine period.

So, all of this is being negotiated as we speak. And there will have to be a balance between managing the risk of the pandemic and managing the risk of not receiving relief items or specialist relief personnel to support the response and that is a negotiation that is ongoing at the moment.

COREN: You think clean drinking water, food definitely a priority for those on the island. Let's hope that it gets to them very soon.

Alexander Matheou, joining us from Kuala Lumpur. Many thanks.

MATHEOU: Thank you.

COREN: Officials in parts of Europe are pushing for more restrictions and more vaccinations, as the Omicron variant fuels a surge in COVID cases. Among the countries France which reported its largest one day jump in COVID related hospitalizations in more than a year.

All police in Paris are now requiring masks to be worn outside in crowded areas that includes markets, rallies or in groups of 10 or more people in public.

The move comes just days after a court ruled to remove the city-wide mask mandate outdoors.


Meantime, in Israel, early data suggests a fourth COVID vaccine dose can boost antibodies, but it may not be enough to protect against possible breakthrough infections caused by the Omicron variant.


DR. GILI REGEV-YOCHAY, DIRECTOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASE UNIT, SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER: What we see is that the fighter vaccine after two weeks, you see an enhancement or increase in the number of antibodies and neutralizing antibodies are pretty nice increase. It's even a little bit higher than what we had after the third dose. Yet, this is probably not enough for the Omicron


COREN: A new Omicron outbreak has resulted in the deadliest day of the pandemic in Australia, at least 74 COVID related deaths were reported Monday, breaking the previous daily record set last week.

Well, CNN's Phil Black joins us now live from Melbourne with more. And Phil, in the last few months, Australia has dramatically changed tact, it's gone from fortress Australia to essentially letting it rip and learning to live with COVID. But that's obviously come at a price with a spike in deaths. Tell us more.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right and this is a new experience for Australia unlike other countries that are experiencing and Omicron wave. Australia's never been through anything like this before because up until relatively recently, outbreaks, infections were suppressed relatively successfully through her lockdowns and particularly border closures.

That started to unroll late last year as things started to open up, as vaccination rates rose to 70, 80, 90 percent and beyond. But it's been complicated by the arrival of the Omicron variant. And since then, numbers have -- well, they have exploded.

In early December, you were looking at less than a fewer than 2,000 cases a day. Early January, it was more than 100,000 cases a day.

Now, despite that explosive growth, governments here state and federal have effectively doubled down on the idea of staying open of putting lockdowns or consigning lockdowns to history insisting that this can be managed, that people can live with this through vaccinations, particularly rolling out boosters.

And through some general common senses, they say, health precautions, live with it as you say. It sounds very much like the English model and very much like the English model, it is something of an experiment. It is a risky gamble, critics would say because the bet is that this Omicron wave will peak and subside relatively soon, hopefully imminently before health systems come under intense pressure. But that is -- that is not certain at this stage.

So, here there is a great deal of fear and concern among many Australians. So, we've been watching the numbers for two years and have just never experienced anything like this before.

A record day of deaths for the country today is 74. And health officials believe that it very likely won't be the last.

COREN: Phil, have the government's both state and federal come under fire for easing restrictions? Or do you feel that the majority of Australians are on board?

BLACK: I think there is a mix here certainly. As I say, some people are genuinely fearful about where this is going, how quickly the situation appears to have deteriorated here. And that's where -- and that tends to be people who say the country is -- or the governments are letting it rip without any real concern for public health.

There are also critics on the other side who say that there is still essentially a de facto lockdown here that the guidance, the warnings or the talk about being cautious is so great that people are responding so cautiously that the economic effects are very similar to a lockdown anyway.

The governments are hoping that as I say, this will ride out and this will prove to be the right course of action.

But at this point, they just simply cannot be sure. But they are acting I guess from a point of view that says lockdowns have been proven to be bad in all sorts of ways, both economically, in terms of public health, mental health and so forth. And they really want to try and do everything they possibly can.

Crucial to this theory, of course, is also the belief that Omicron cases often result in milder disease. But as critics have pointed out here, when you are talking about so many infections, a small percentage of that very big number falling seriously ill can still be a very significant number for the hospitals to deal with, Anna.

COREN: Phil Black joining us from Melbourne. Great to see you. Many thanks for your report.

Well, joining us now is Dr. Scott Miscovich, President and CEO of Premier Medical Group USA and a national consultant for COVID-19 testing.

Doctor, great to see you.


COREN: Very well, thank you.

Tell me, do you agree with Australia's policy of let it rip? Considering that the nation's vaccination rate currently stands at 91.5 percent?

MISCOVICH: Wow, this is something that we're seeing across the country, across the U.S., Europe and the world and I can't say no in any other terms.


MISCOVICH: One of the big things we just don't know are the long-term effects of long haul COVID. And a lot of the studies we're seeing right now show that even mild disease can cause some permanent long- term conditions, we have three major studies that are really, really disturbing us.

One is that adults 50 and over will have major functional mobility issues even with mild COVID. Children, mild COVID 150 percent increase the diabetes, and women more than men are going to develop immunosuppressive conditions and immunologic disorders, we just don't know enough to be saying let it rip of what the long-term conditions will be. So, I totally disagree. I think most medical experts would.

COREN: Are these governments thinking, you know, collective immunity with the sheer volume of cases?

MISCOVICH: Yes, I mean, I think that's what people are making the mistake, because they're looking at some of the issues to say, well, you're going to develop some immunity. And since so many people are going to get it, then basically, well, everybody's going to be immune, and that concept of herd immunity. Well, that's not what's going on.

Because remember, we had all those earlier variants, and then they went like this. And all of a sudden, Omicron was just off the mark with what we call immune escape. It is so different than the other variants, we do not know what that is going to protect for in the future.

Because what happens if another Delta variant is in our future or a complete separate variant? So, no, we do not know, no one knows right now.

COREN: Europe is bringing in more restrictions with the surge of Omicron cases, as we earlier reported, police in Paris ordering that masks be worn outdoors. I mean, is this just common sense?

MISCOVICH: Total common sense. You know, nothing has changed since the beginning of this over two years ago. And that is testing, quarantine, isolation and mitigation.

Number one mitigation measure we know is in washing your hands. It's wearing a well fitted mask that's going to protect you because we know that it's so sensitive the respiratory droplets, especially with Omicron.

And so, we are now recommending to all of our patients and all of our people across the world, wear a mask outdoors, especially if you're going to be within six to 10 feet. So, absolutely, it's common sense.

COREN: And then, we're hearing from Israel, its encouraging news that the fourth dose of the vaccine increases antibodies, tell us what you're learning.

COREN: Well, it's good news, bad news. The good news is there are some short-term antibody production, we probably will see some long-term antibody production. But the question is, how long it will last? And because Omicron is so specific, is it going to be enough?

All of us know that there will be more vaccines coming. And we know that there is a Omicron specific and a broad variant predictive vaccine that's being developed. Is it enough? No, we need a new Omicron and a vaccine that's going to start kind of using A.I. predicting what else could be coming. Even then, we all think that we have at least two more years of regular vaccinations.

COREN: Dr. Scott Miscovich, as always, great to get your insight and putting everything into context for us. Thank you so much.

MISCOVICH: Thank you, Anna.

COREN: OK, Russian allies preparing for military drills that could spell trouble for Ukraine. We'll have the latest on diplomatic efforts to ease the standoff in a report frontier.

Plus, just days after being deported from Australia, tennis star Novak Djokovic is facing more fallout over his COVID vaccination status.



COREN: Well, tennis star Novak Djokovic is back in his native Serbia and could be facing even more bad news. After being deported from Australia and losing his chance to defend his title at the Australian Open, we're now learning he could also be barred from the French Open if he's still unvaccinated.

CNN's Scott McLean has this report.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Novak Djokovic arrived back in his home country of Serbia after Australian authorities canceled his visa on public health and order grounds. The Serbian government outraged by the political intervention.

ANA BRNABIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I think the decision is scandalous. I'm disappointed, and I think it is shown how the rule of law functions in some other countries, i.e., how it doesn't function. It's incredible. MCLEAN: Australia's immigration minister argued that Djokovic, who is unvaccinated but sought a medical exemption to play in the Open, could incite the country's anti-vaxxers. It was their final volley in a drawn-out legal grudge match that saw him detained by immigration authorities twice in a matter of weeks.

Djokovic has been widely criticized for remaining unvaccinated and for breaking self-isolation in Serbia. After testing positive in December, he attended a photo shoot in person.

But here in Belgrade, the tennis star doesn't appear to have lost any fans. Nor has he been labeled an anti-vaxxer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Everybody has their own choice. I don't think he's spreading anything, even non-vaccination nor vaccination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's his choice and no one should be forced. I myself am vaccinated but I don't think no one should be forced.

MCLEAN: While Serbian fans welcomed them home with open arms, tennis fans in Melbourne welcomed the end of the visa saga that has overshadowed the actual tennis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was kind of dragged on a little bit too long, but it's great that we can put that behind us.

MCLEAN: Djokovic has officially lost the chance to play for his 21st Grand Slam title and may be barred from Australia for the next three years.

KAREN ANDREWS, AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Now, there are some compelling reasons that may be able to be looked at but that's all hypothetical. At this point, any application will be reviewed on its merits.

MCLEAN: His next Grand Slam may also be in jeopardy. France announced Monday that all professional athletes competing in the country will have to be vaccinated, with no exceptions.


MCLEAN (on camera): And according to Forbes Novak Djokovic earns $30 million per year in sponsorships alone and while most of his sponsors have been quiet on all of this, Lacoste says it would like to have a word with Djokovic as soon as possible.

Now, if he opts to skip the French Open, his next chance at a Grand Slam would be at Wimbledon, but even then, you will have to plan on arriving in England plenty early in order to complete the mandatory 10 day quarantine imposed on those who show up unvaccinated.

Scott McLean, CNN, Belgrade, Serbia.

COREN: A Saudi led coalition launched airstrikes against the Yemeni capital on Monday, after Houthi militants claimed responsibility for drone attacks in Abu Dhabi.

A spokesperson for Yemeni's Houthi say they hit the UAE with missiles and a large number of drones striking targets like this industrial area. Emirati state media report at least three people were killed.

The Houthis are vowing to hit more targets if the UAE doesn't end its involvement in the war in Yemen. They also say Monday's coalition airstrikes on Sanaa killed at least 12 people.

More tensions along Ukraine's borders could be getting worse as Belarus says it plans to hold joint military drills with Russia next month.

Well, Germany's foreign minister is among the latest diplomats trying to defuse the standoff with Russia. She was in Kiev on Monday telling Ukraine's president: Germany will do all it could to guarantee the country's security. She will meet with her Russian counterpart in Moscow in the coming hours.

More now from CNN's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, a cross party group of U.S. senators that have been visiting Ukraine are expected to return home with "strong recommendations to tighten sanctions on Russia and to supply Ukraine with more lethal weapons to deter what they call Russian aggression". That's according to the Ukrainian government who told CNN the visit was an important show of bipartisan U.S. support.

Also, NATO says that it's stepping up its relationship with Ukraine, agreeing a new deal to deepen technological cooperation with the country supplying technology it says to help Ukraine defend against the kind of suspected Russian cyber-attacks that it suffered just last week.

And then, Britain says it will supply Ukraine with "A new security system package", including light anti-armor weapons to help defend Ukraine against what it calls increasingly threatening behavior from Russia.

All this coming after a week of intensive negotiations between Russia and the U.S. deadlocked over Moscow's demands for legal guarantees that NATO will no longer expand and that Ukraine will never be allowed to join.

Meanwhile, Russia, which has tens of thousands of troops positioned near the Ukrainian border has rejected U.S. allegations that it's planning to provoke a war. There have also been renewed warnings by the U.S. of crippling sanctions on Moscow, if Russia stages another invasion here.

But with no sign of progress on the diplomatic front, tensions are high in the region, and it is bracing for a military complex.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kyiv.


COREN: With the Winter Olympics just a few weeks away, Beijing is taking zero chances with COVID safety.

Ahead, efforts to contain the Omicron variants and keep the games on track.


COREN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong.

Well, less than three weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics, China is tightening its COVID restrictions.

The Olympic Organizing Committee announced Monday that they won't sell tickets to the general public. The move comes after Beijing reported its first case of the Omicron variant over the weekend.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is covering the story for us live from Hong Kong.

And Kristie, so tickets will not be sold to the public. I mean, how did Olympic organizers explain this decision?


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, due to a, quote, "severe and complex" COVID-19 situation, tickets for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics games will not be sold to the general public. Instead, they'll be distributed by authorities, but Olympic officials didn't specify how.

Now, the announcement comes just days after Beijing confirmed its first locally-transmitted case of the highly-infectious Omicron variant. And in zero-COVID China, that meant an entire office building with people inside were sealed off and went into lockdown after that one case of that variant was detected in Beijing.

As for the total number of Omicron cases across the country, that is still not clear. But the Omicron variant and local cases of it have been detected in at least nine different cities across China, from Dalian and Liaoning province to Shenzhen in Southern China.

Now when the Olympic Games kick off, they will be taking place in what is called a closed-loop system. That will be covering all stadiums, venues, accommodations, all participants, and athletes, and volunteers will have to stay. They're not allowed to leave this closed-loop system. They'll have to undergo daily COVID-19 testing.

And fully-vaccinated athletes will be allowed into the closed-loop system. Those who are unvaccinated will have to undergo 21 days of quarantine. I should add that the Olympic Games kick off in less than 21 days from now. The first day is coming up Friday, February the 4th. Back to you.

COREN: Kristie, Chinese state media blaming imported goods for causing local outbreaks. What more are we learning?

STOUT: Yes, this is a very interesting line that we keep hearing from Chinese officials, Chinese state media throughout the pandemic. And what we're hearing from the state-run "China Daily," they're claiming that -- or reporting that these cases of Omicron detected in Beijing and in Shenzhen have suspected links with packages from North America.

And I should add that many disease experts, epidemiologists, the U.S. CDC, they say that surface transmissibility is extremely low, compared to airborne transmissibility of the virus -- Anna.

COREN: Interesting observation, isn't it? Kristie Lu Stout, joining us in Hong Kong. Good to see you. Thank you.

Well, meantime, Beijing is racing to contain its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant. It keeps the Olympics on track. CNN's David culver walks us through the precautions being taken to prevent the variant from spreading.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Omicron reaching Beijing's borders, a single case putting the Winter Olympics host city on high alert. China's zero-COVID policy making no exceptions in the capital city targeted lockdowns immediately activated, along with strict contact tracing.

Chinese health officials publicize the infected person's recent travel history, starting with their home. We drove by the Beijing community where the woman diagnosed with Omicron lives.

Remember, health authorities say all of this sparked by just one case, at least for now.

(on camera): Here we go. You can see here, this is one of the entrances and exits. It's gated off. They put these big blue barriers to keep folks from going in and out.

(voice-over): The woman's neighbors allowed some fresh air, but confined to the complex. Their trash piling up, waiting for especially-designated disposal teams to track it out. Many nearby businesses closed.

The woman lives a 15-minute drive from the Olympic Park.

(on camera): Not only where she lives that health authorities have it locked down, but also where the woman works, which happens to be in a bank inside this building.

So out front, you can see they've got these blue tents set up where a lot of times they'll do testing and processing before they can finally declare it safe enough to reopen. (voice-over): But if you think it's just a bunch of empty offices,

look closer. COVID control staff carting in big boxes. Inside them? Can you read that? Pillows. Bedding.

People have actually been locked down at work. And these supplies might make their stay a bit more comfortable for what could be days of testing. Omicron not only in Beijing. Cases also surfacing in several other Chinese cities, including Shanghai.

Social media showing snap lockdowns, trapping shoppers at one store.

Outside this mall, a person posting that this woman was emotional, wanting to hold the child who was staring back at her from behind the glass. Although it is unclear when the woman and child were reunited, officials kept them all closed for two days as they tested those inside, performing a deep clean before reopening.

It sounds extreme, but most online voicing their support for the strict containment efforts.

Less than three weeks until the Olympics, and recent outbreaks had 20 million people sealed in their homes; others bussed to centralized quarantine. State media showing these makeshift encampments built within days. Mass testing is a constant.

Back in Beijing, I hopped in line for my regularly-scheduled COVID test.

(on camera): Test No. 97, done.

(voice-over): But if you think the heavy measures have brought life here to a halt, most who are not traveling might say otherwise.

On Sunday, crowds flocking to this popular Beijing lake, frozen just in time for the Winter Games. Families enjoying the chill and seemingly confident officials will keep COVID in check.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


COREN: Israeli hospitals are struggling to cope with a rise in children's COVID cases, but despite that, schools remain open. Details ahead.


COREN: Well, most Brazilian capitals are now vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 against COVID. The country's health ministry began the campaign on Friday after weeks of delay and strong opposition from President Jair Bolsonaro, who's against vaccinating kids.

But the efforts round up quickly over the weekend, and now 21 of 26 Brazilian state capitals are giving the Pfizer vaccine to children in that age group. Well, Israel has been a world leader in rolling out COVID vaccines,

but the vast majority of its young children are unvaccinated and hospitals are seeing a surge in youth cases.

CNN's Hadas Gold spoke to a doctor about a new threat in this latest wave.


HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months, this children's COVID ward at Chiba hospital in central Israel sat empty. Now, it's reopened, and nurses are suiting up again, as health experts estimate that COVID cases in children will soon surge to tens of thousands per day.

Dr. Itai Pesach, director of the Safra Children's Hospital at Sheba, says that during the last wave, they had their peak around 15 children in the COVID ward.

DR. ITAI PESACH, DIRECTOR, SAFRA CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL AT SHEBA: We broke that number this week, and I'm sure it's going to be higher because the rate of positive people, and positive children around the country is still rising.

GOLD: But something is different about this wave. Most of the kids in COVID ward weren't admitted because of COVID.

PESACH: We found them to be positive when we were treating them from other -- from other illnesses. So the COVID actually complicates a little bit the conditions we have to care for them, but otherwise poses no significant medical risk for them.

GOLD: Dr. Pesach is especially worried about the long-term ramifications of so many positive cases.

Children with even asymptomatic COVID infections sometimes develop a debilitating disorder called PIMS, Pediatric Inflammatory Multi-System Syndrome.


PESACH: If the Omicron does cause PIMS, the vast -- the huge number of positive cases that we see will definitely bring a wave of PIMS later. It is a significant disorder. We know that the vaccine protects from PIMS very good -- in a very good way.

So going back to the vaccine, if most of the kids were vaccinated, we wouldn't have to worry about what's going to happen in a month now.

GOLD: But less than 15 percent of Israeli children aged 5 to 11 are vaccinated. As health officials try to get more lifesaving shots into arms, the education system is soldiering on.

DALIT STAUBER, DIRECTOR GENERAL, ISRAELI EDUCATION MINISTRY: Here in Israel we are absolutely sure that open schools are the best option, even under the most difficult circumstances. And our policy is very clear to keep schools open under any circumstances.

GOLD: At the Gretz Elementary School in Tel Aviv, open windows for ventilation, masks, and a new kind of homework.

(on camera): Because of an intense demand for testing, whether at home or for and by professionals. The Israeli government has decided to give each student in the education system three free at-home antigen tests.

(voice-over): The school's COVID coordinator, Minit Haviv, can barely keep up with her student's positive tests in quarantine.

MINIT HAVIV, COVID-19 COORDINATOR, GRETZ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: It's crazy. It's like a wave. It's a tsunami. It's not even just a regular wave. It's a real tsunami that just flashes everything. That's it.

GOLD: But she agrees schools must stay open despite the risks.

HAVIV: I think it would be easier to shut down schools, yes, but it is a problem. I am a mother. I have two boys, and I know how hard for them it is to stay at home.

And I think it's more important that the kids will stay in some kind of a regular routine, come back to school every day, see their friends, and it's-- I think it's much more important.

GOLD: And so the children in Israel continue on, testing and hoping that they can make it through the tsunami.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Tel Aviv.


COREN: Investigators say they've uncovered a prime suspect in the revealing of Anne Frank's hiding place to the Nazis.

After a six-year investigation, a team of historians, criminologists, and data specialists claim it was most likely Jewish notary Arnold Vandenberg.

The key piece of evidence came in a note to Frank's father, alleging Vandenberg disclosed the hideout, possibly in an effort to save his own family.

The Frank family lived in a secret annex in Amsterdam for nearly two years before the Nazis found them in 1944. Frank documented her experience in a diary published after her death, in a concentration camp at the age of 15.

Well, thank you so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.