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Novak Djokovic Takes It or Leave It Chance in France; Australia Seeing Surge in COVID Infections; Volcanic Eruption Covered Tonga in Ashes; Vaccine Does Not Give 100 Percent Protection; Allies Ready to Help Ukraine. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, unvaccinated and unwelcomed. The first tennis Grand Slam of 2022 starts without the top ranked player, now Novak Djokovic's refusal to get a COVID shot may cause him problems for the French Open as well.

Covered in ash and cut off from the world. Rescue crews struggling to assess the damage in Tonga after the largest volcanic eruption in 30 years.

And North Korea's first missile test in a month raising tensions at a sensitive time in the region, so what's Kim Jong-un up to?

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. We begin this hour in France where strict new COVID rules could spell more bad news for tennis star Novak Djokovic. On Sunday, the French parliament approved a controversial vaccine pass bill requiring proof of vaccination to enter most public places including sports arenas.

That means Djokovic who is unvaccinated could lose the chance to defend his title at the upcoming French Open. France's sports ministry telling CNN Monday there will be no exceptions for professional athletes. It's the second major blow for the tennis star in as many days.

Right now, Djokovic is back in his native Serbia after losing his bid to defend his title at the Australian Open amid concerns about his vaccination status.

CNN world sports Don Riddell has a look at what all this means for Djokovic's future, but first let's go to CNN's Melissa Bell who joins us live from Paris. Good to see you, Melissa.

So, perhaps embolden by Australia's decision, France may ban Djokovic from the French Open if he refuses to get vaccinated. So, what is the latest on all of this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a bill that the government had put forward that took much longer that it had anticipated to get through the French parliament, nearly two weeks in all. And is because it has proven fairly controversial.

What's been happening here in France is that since July when Emmanuel Macron announced that it was coming in, the French have needed a vaccine pass, a sanitary pass, rather, they called it to get into theaters, clubs, long -- long train journeys, for instance, sports venues.

What's changed as a result of this latest change to the legislation is that in the next few days, we expect this bill to become law. It has finished its parliamentary progress as tedious and as laborious as it was. The idea is that that becomes a then vaccine pass. So, before you could have a PCR test that was positive in lieu of vaccinations to get into all of those places -- as soon as this pass takes effect and of course, by the end of May, by May when the French Open is due to take place it will definitely have come into effect, you need to be vaccinated. Full stop.

You can no longer PCR your test your way out of this. And that means of course for Novak Djokovic that unless he changes his mind on vaccination, he is simply not going to be able to make it to the French Open, and therefore to defend his title, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. So, Don, Djokovic has a big decision to make, doesn't he? What could this potentially mean for his future?

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: It could mean everything for his future, couldn't it? I mean, remember he won nine Australian Open titles. That's a record. He was going for a 10th if he'd played in Melbourne, and one he would be on 21 Grand Slam singles titles which would take him past his biggest rivals, Federer and Nadal and into the record books.

He has already surpassed Federer and Nadal in pretty much every other meaningful aspect of the sport. The Grand Slam record is the one thing he needs and the one thing which will ultimately define his legacy and the one thing which will remove the possibility of anybody else saying that they were better, they were better than you.

He wants all these titles and numbers next to his name so he can say no, I was the greatest of all time. But he is now stuck on 20 and he now might be stuck with regards to the second major tournament of the year, the French Open. You would have to think that he is very seriously considering what he

is going to do. Quite apart from anything else, I don't think he wants any kind of repeat of what went on in Melbourne. That must have been very, very difficult for him to deal with. Regardless of how he got himself into that situation and whoever else might have been to blame for it.


The fact remains, if he had a couple of shots, if he got vaccinated, he wouldn't have been in that predicament. There is some precedent to suggest that he might change his mind. A few years ago, his elbow was really bothering him and he was resisting surgery. He said at the time that he was not a fan of surgery, he was not a fan of medication but he recognized that he needed this surgery to get his career back on track. And he did so.

He admitted afterwards that he cried, he said for three days he felt so guilty because he believes that the body is self-feeling. So, on that occasion, he took a pragmatic decision and he got the surgery, he got back on tour, he was very successful again. Since then, he has powered his way through at least 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

One wonders if he might take a similar approach here because it's really messed him up in Australia. He is currently facing a three-year ban from returning which may or may not actually apply if he was to try and return to Australia.

But as it stands, he can't return to play in his favor tournament for another three years, possibly he can't defend his title in France. He might also run into problems in Spain where he would hope to play in the Madrid Open in April. It remains to be seen what the situation is with Wimbledon in London.

But currently, even getting into the United States could be tricky as well, where of course, the fourth major of the U.S. Open is played in August and September. So, a very, very uncertain landscape for Novak Djokovic and a lot for him to think about right now.

CHURCH: Yes, most definitely. Yes. Many thanks to Don Riddell and Melissa Bell for joining us there. I appreciate it.

Well, Australia may have ended its Djokovic saga but the country is still struggling with its Omicron outbreak which has now led to Australia's deadliest day of the pandemic so far. At least 74 COVID related deaths were reported Monday, breaking the previous daily record set last week.

And as you can see on this graph, deaths from the virus have spiked dramatically since the end of last year. And certainly, dramatically for Australia's experience.

CNN's Phil Black joins me now from Melbourne with the latest on all of this. So, Phil, how is the government responding to Australia's deadliest day of the pandemic? PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's staying the course,

Rosemary. It is true that Australia has never experienced something like this, a pandemic wave of this nature. And that's because up until relatively recently the policies here, the lockdowns, long, painful lockdowns, the border closures, they were relatively good at suppressing infections and outbreaks.

But late last year, the government started to open up as vaccine rates finally started to get up around 80 and 90 percent. But Omicron arrived around that time too, and so, it is since then that we have seen this truly extraordinary explosion in cases from fewer than 2,000 a day in early December to more than 100,000 a day in early January.

It is putting increasing pressure on the health system and, so hospital admissions are going up, intensive care occupancy is increasing, and yes, death records as well, like the 74 -- 74 people recorded today. But the government, but the federal government and various state governments have committed to staying open they say. Insisting that vaccinations or booster campaigns, some guidance about common-sense, and safety precautions, all of this will help Australians, in their words, live with the virus.

Now they are not the first country to adopt the live with the virus mantra. And the critics here, as critics in other countries have pointed out, they believe that it is a risky gamble and experiment. But the theory goes that this is a variant that often results in less serious disease, and the government hopes that this wave will peak and subside before there is really any major disruption to the health system.

But it's also a political calculation as well, Rosemary, because there is a federal election campaign coming here, so this is undoubtedly a consideration for the Australian government. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes, most definitely. Phil Black joining us live from Melbourne, many thanks.

Well, since the start of the pandemic, one in five Americans have been infected with COVID-19 according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That's more than 66 million cases in the U.S. alone. America's top infectious disease expert weighed in on whether we are approaching the endemic phase, meaning the virus is still around but isn't affecting many people or disrupting society.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is an open question as to whether or not Omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for because you have such a great deal of variability with new variants emerging.


CHURCH (on camera): In Israel, early data now suggests a fourth COVID vaccine dose can boost antibodies to even higher levels but it may not be enough to protect against possible breakthrough infections caused by the Omicron variant.


And I spoke earlier with Dr. Hagai Levine with Hadassah Medical Center at Hebrew University in Israel about this latest data on a fourth COVID vaccine.


HAGAI LEVINE, PHYSICIAN, HADDASAH MEDICAL CENTER & HEBREW UNIVERSITY: Sometimes in the pandemic you have to make decisions based on expert opinion. With this study and with the epidemiological data that we are getting from Israel is that even people who got the first dose still have breakthrough infections of Omicron. It seems unlikely that the minister first will expand the vaccination campaign at the moment.

It seems like Israel and other countries should focus in getting as high coverage as possible for the first, second, and third dose, and also focus at other interventions such as drugs, such us prevention, and such as taking care of public health, other issues and other -- and other than COVID-19. Because we see that other diseases are also like flu are also a problem during this winter in Israel.


CHURCH (on camera): And even though Israel has been a world leader in out vaccines the vast majority of its young children are unvaccinated. And hospitals are seeing a surge in new cases.

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


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For months, this children's COVID ward at a Sheba 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 Safra Children's Hospital at Sheba, says that during the last wave they had at their peak around 15 children in the COVID ward.

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 the COVID ward weren't admitted because of COVID.

PESACH: We found them to be positive while 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, it 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 Multisystem 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 PIMPS later and PIMS is a significant disorder. We know that the vaccine protects from PIMS in 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 age 5 to 11 are vaccinated, as health officials try to get more lifesaving shots into arms, the education system is soldering on.

UNKNOWN: Here in Israel, we are absolutely sure that open schools are the best option even under the most difficult circumstances. And our policy is a 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.

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

The school's COVID coordinator, Mirit Haviv can barely keep up with her students' positive tests in quarantines.

MIRIT HAVIV, COVID-19 COORDINATOR, GRETZ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: It's crazy. It is like a wave. It's a tsunami. It's not even just a regular wave, it's a real tsunami that flushes 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's a problem. I'm a mother. I have two boys and I know how hard for them it is to stay home. And I think it's more important that the kids stay in some kind of regular routine come back to school every day, see their friends, and -- 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.



CHURCH (on camera): And 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 is against vaccinating kids, but the efforts ramped up quickly over the weekend and now 21 of 26 Brazilian's state capitals are giving the Pfizer vaccine to children in that age group.

Well, we are learning more about the aftermath of the volcanic disaster in Tonga. The death toll is rising from Saturday's massive eruption and tsunami and emergency aid is on the way. That's coming up next.


CHURCH (on camera): The death toll has risen in the volcanic disaster in Tonga. At least two people in the island nation have been killed following Saturday's enormous eruption and the tsunami that followed. The agency Save the Children says the tsunami destroyed at least 50 homes in Tonga and damaged more than 100 others. Relief groups say the top priority is getting clean water and food to the island over fears the volcanic ash likely contaminated supplies.

New Zealand's Royal Navy is sending two humanitarian ships but the journey could take up to three days.

CNN's Tom Sater with more on the international recovery efforts.


TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice over): A first look at the damage. Surveillance planes from Australia and New Zealand take to the skies to try to assess just how bad the damage is in Tonga after an underwater volcano erupted over the weekend. Triggering tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific with some waves reaching as far as Peru and the United States.

JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: We know water is an immediate need.

SATER: Countries like New Zealand, Australia, and China say they are standing by to send aid. But the scale of the devastation in Tonga is still unknown. Scientists say Saturday's eruption could be the worst volcanic eruption the Pacific has experienced in decades.

Just one day before the volcano belted out an ominous warning of what was to come. Shooting ash and smoke some 20 kilometers in the air. But it was the veracity of the next day's eruption that unleased waves of water around the world. In Tonga the wells at times reached heights of more than a meter high. No mass casualties have been reported so far.

One British woman is reported dead. But the full impact of volcanic blast is yet to be seen. Since the country has been largely cut off from the outside world. The government says phone networks are working again but international communication is limited because of damage to an undersea cable which could take more than a week to repair. That's making it hard for some aid agencies to plan their next move.

ALEXANDER MATHEOU, ASIA PACIFIC DIRECTOR, IFRC: We're roughly thinking up to 80,000 people could be affected. But how many of them are seriously affected? We don't know. [03:19:59]

SATER: Over the weekend, large waves also hit the coast of Fiji some 800 kilometers away. Tsunami warnings and advisories were issued in parts of New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the west coast of the U.S. Coastal cities in Peru were inundated with knee-deep water, trapping people on the streets. Police say two people died due to the abnormally high waves.

A force of nature felt for thousands of kilometers. officials say they hope they'll soon get a better picture of what happened Tonga where not even the volcanic island itself was spared. Satellite imagery shows that it is now largely sunk into the sea.

Tom Slater, CNN.


CHURCH (on camera): Joining me now is Shane Cronin, a professor of volcanology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: Wonderful. So, that massive volcanic corruption and tsunami devastated Tonga on the weekend. Taking everyone by surprise and shocking the world with those horrifying satellite and aerial images. As a volcanologist, what was your reaction to this, and could it perhaps erupt again, and soon.

CRONIN: It was a remarkable event. And to be honest, whilst the damage is horrifying, we were fearing much worse. It was so powerful that eruption, essentially there was a pent-up magma inside the volcano. A lot of gas within it and as that magma expanded and then encountered over the sea water the explosion was astounding.

So, it created acoustic waves, pressure waves that travel around the world. It created the tsunami that traveled across the Pacific. So, these were huge tsunami really in terms of how far they traveled, and that was one of the biggest volcanic surprises for us.

CHURCH: Yes. And as you are talking to us, we are looking at those images. I mean, it looks like an atomic bomb has gone off. It's just horrifying. One of the big questions people kept asking me is a lot of people hadn't even heard of underwater volcanoes. So how many of these types of volcanoes are there that could potentially pose a threat? And how often are these underwater volcanoes that perhaps we don't even know about?

CRONIN: Well, I've got bad news for you, Rosemary. Because most of the volcanoes are in fire underwater. And that's why we don't see them out of sight out of mind. But some of these volcanoes are very large. Tonga has a very large number of volcanoes all along the chain, so not only is Hunga-Tonga -- Hunga-Tonga a big breach at the moment. But just further north, there were several other volcanoes along the

chain and further south towards New Zealand many others near too. So, the submarine volcanoes especially in that kind of goldilocks zone where this water is not too deep and the water is not too shallow where you get the perfect conditions for magma water interaction and very large explosions.

CHURCH: And you explained at the start there how these big eruptions are triggered. But is there any way to predict them? Or is that a bit like earthquakes? You can't really predict this sort of thing?

CRONIN: Well, we're behind on the eight-ball on this one because it sits up 65 kilometers away from -- from many of the inhabited islands. And it's out there in a very harsh environment, no power reef around it and no other islands nearby that we can putt seismometers or other detection equipment. So, we're really flying blind on this one. We're really relying on satellite data.

CHURCH: All right. Shane Cronin, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

CRONIN: Great to talk.

CHURCH: Wonderful. All right. Time for a short break. But just ahead, we are live in Moscow with Russia's new plans for military drills as Ukraine braces for a possible invasion.

Plus, a Saudi-led coalition launches airstrikes in Yemen after Houthi militants claim responsibility for deadly attacks in Abu Dhabi. More on this developing story ahead.



CHURCH (on camera): Welcome back, everyone. Well, as a standoff between Russia and the west deepens, Britain says it's supplying anti- tank weapons to Ukraine to help and defend itself from any possible invasion. This comes amid a series of meetings in Kiev meant to underscore the west commitment to Ukraine's security and sovereignty.

Germany's foreign minister met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and now she's on to Moscow to true talk with her Russian counterpart.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators was in Kiev vowing to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to defend itself should Russia decide to invade.

So, let's go live to Moscow and CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Good to see you, Fred. So, where do things stand right now and how inevitable is the Russian invasion of Ukraine at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, it certain -- it certainly doesn't seem as though there is any other sort of de-escalation in the cards at this point in time. It's not really clear how inevitable anything is. However, it certainly does seem to indicate that the rhetoric that we're hearing, especially from the Russian side really, is one that does seem to be ramping things up.

We heard from the Russian foreign minister from Sergei Lavrov yesterday and he said that the Russians want answers, written answers from the United States very soon as to what those answers are about the demands that Russians -- that the Russians are making as far as their security concerns are concerned, which they spoke about with the U.S. in Geneva last week.

Now of course at the core of all that, the Russians are saying they don't want anymore further enlargement of NATO. They want written guarantees as to that, they want some troops withdrawn from NATO nations, but a lot of it really comes down to Ukraine. And the Russian saying they want written guarantees that Ukraine will never become a NATO member.

Now the U.S. and other NATO allies have already have that, that's an absolute nonstarter, that that's something they're not even willing to talk about with the Russians. However, of course, all of that in the current atmosphere certainly is something that -- that does continue to ratchet things up as the Russians as the U.S. says continue to bring more troops into that area around Ukraine.

And now the Russians apparently upping the ante even a little more, announcing together with the Belarusian that they are going to hold joint drills in Belarus in February. Now all of that, apparently is set to take place in an area fairly close to NATO territory, fairly close to Poland.

So certainly, you can see how the language that we're hearing is continuing to escalate things as you do have that diplomacy also in places well with the German foreign minister on the ground here in Moscow set to meet the Russian foreign minister very soon, obviously trying to de-escalate things.

Germany, of course, as we know, Rosemary, plays a key role in all of that because Germany has that big stake with the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline which of course plays a major role in this current situation as well. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. And of course, as the German foreign minister goes to Moscow to talk with her Russian counterpart looking for this off ramp, what are the options available?

PLEITGEN: Well, it's difficult to see. And it seems as though that with every day that goes by and with more troops especially pouring into that area close to Ukraine that it becomes more difficult to find some sort of off ramp.


Clearly all sides had said that they don't want further escalations. They don't want war. But right now it certainly seems very difficult to see what exactly those compromises could be that will make all sides happy.

If you look at some of the things the Russians had put forward, what I mentioned before, no more NATO enlargements, Ukraine never becoming a neighbor of -- a number of NATO. Those are simply things that the United States and its NATO allies are not going to agree to.

Now there might be certain smaller things that might be possible for all sides to agree on. Like for arms control agreements, agrees to possibly not conduct large-scale exercises at each other's borders at the NATO border from the Russian side or close to the Russian border from NATO and the U.S. side.

Will that be enough to tone things down? Now that certainly something that is still very much in the cards -- or very difficult to see how that's going to happen. One of the things that has been interesting is that the Russians have said after that first round of talks they had been very disappointed they say by the answers they got from the U.S. and its NATO allies and they are currently assessing whether it is even worth further talking at all.

So that could further complicate things while at the same time we do see at least on a smaller scale those diplomatic efforts certainly continuing and then also as you put it before some of the countries in NATO and also politicians from NATO member states showing their solidarity with Ukraine in this very difficult situation, Rosemary.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Yeah, all sides digging their heels in. Let's hope those diplomatic efforts work. Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Moscow, many thanks.

Well, a Saudi led coalition launched air strikes against the Yemeni Capital on Monday after Houthi militants claimed responsibility for deadly drone attacks in Abu Dhabi. The Houthis are vowing to hit more targets if the UAE does not and its involvement in the war in Yemen.

CNN's Sam Kiley has more now from Abu Dhabi.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The United Arab Emirates said that the killing of three civilians here just outside the capital here in Abu Dhabi and the wounding of eight others in two different attacks in two different parts of the city would not go unpunished and that seems to be being made good with coalition air strikes -- that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes being conducted against Houthi targets in the north of Yemen.

This follows a double drone attack, at least, in these two locations. One in the construction area of the new international airport in Abu Dhabi but the other in an oil facility to the south of the city which hit a storage tank caused several tankers -- fuel tankers to explode.

Three people were killed, six others injured there. So a total of eight injured, three dead in the first serious casualties that the Emiratis have seen since they got involved in that war in Yemen on the side of the Saudis trying to prop up the failing government there. This is particularly devastating to Emirati international foreign

policy because they have been trying to scale back their belligerent operations in places like Yemen and Libya and turn rather to (inaudible). Particularly with Iran which has been backing the Houthis.

One of the key questions now will be how much do the Iranians know about these Houthi attacks? Did they supply the weapons? Did they encourage it or was it this a unilateral decision to attack the Emirates taken by the Houthis.

The Houthis had blamed the Emirates for stepping back into the war with Yemen with supporting at least one possibly other malicious fighting in the south of that country in particular which arguably had meant that the pressure had been increased on the Houthis and prevented them from making further battlefield advances which it had been the pattern over previous months.

Nonetheless this is also a blow to the Emiratis, future foreign policy which has been to try to get out of these conflicts and step forward into (inaudible), with all of its neighbors, friend, or former foe.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Abu Dhabi.


CHURCH: We are less than three weeks into 2022 and North Korea has already launched four missile tests this year. Japan says two ballistic missiles were fired three minutes apart on Monday. Pyongyang claims they were technical guided missiles that hit their precise targets. There were two tests last week and one week before that.

In response the U.S. announced more sanctions on North Korea but it's also sanctioning select Russians who are accused of backing North Korea's missile program.

Isaac Stone Fish is a visiting fellow at The Atlantic Council and the author of "America Second." He joins me now from San Francisco. Thank you so much for being with us.



CHURCH: So, four missile tests in just two weeks what is the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hoping to achieve by doing this and why now?

STONE FISH: He is trying to get people to talk about this task and that is certainly succeeding. He is trying to communicate to the United States and to China that North Korea shouldn't be ignored. And at this important time especially for China which is less than three weeks away from the opening ceremony of its Olympics. Pyongyang is trying to say that, hey, we are a problem you have to deal with us.

CHURCH: So how should the United States, China and the international community respond to these missile tests? And this effort to get attention from the world? What is the best approach do you think?

STONE FISH: The eternal question that so many U.S. administrations have been trying and failing to figure out what do you do with a problem like North Korea. And what the Obama administration did was that they called strategic patients, which basically meant waiting until someone could come up with a better strategy.

Certainly President Donald Trump did not come up with a better strategy than that. And President Biden is now in a situation where he has to decide how much attention, how much policy bandwidth do they give the North Korean issue?

For Beijing is probably even a lot more complicated. Beijing doesn't want North Korea to collapse but it also doesn't want North Korea to be spoiling on its Olympic party and causing also very important policy distractions. So, I don't think anyone has a good solution for this crisis.

CHURCH: So, for China then, I mean, obviously North Korea needs supplies its people are very hungry. So could China perhaps to silence North Korea for this time, sends supplies?

STONE FISH: What we are seeing now is a gradual reopening of a border that' been shut for roughly two years between North Korea and China. And it is possible that this is linked to North Korea's missile tests and Beijing is either slightly changing its COVID calculus or North Korea is changing its COVID calculus. That was the ostensible reason that the border is closed.

Or it could be Beijing trying to pay off the regime or, you know, from a more positive perspective maybe they are providing humanitarian aid to a country that desperately needs it.

CHURCH: Right, and how advanced are these missiles and how far do you think North Korea will likely go with this until it gets what it wants?

STONE FISH: Well, what North Korea really wants, I would say is less the ability to strike the United States with conventional nuclear weaponry. They already has the ability to decimate Seoul, which is a major -- capital of a major U.S. ally and could do a lot of damage to Japan.

But rather wants to bring the United States and China back to the negotiating table so that it can use those negotiations to get paid, namely the bribe, money that will go to keep propping up the regime that the Kim family and Kim Jong-un can hand out as (inaudible) to North Korean elite.

CHURCH: And how big a threat is the possibility of a miscalculation that could perhaps trigger war?

STONE FISH: So the threat that North Korea poses is similar to rather walking up to, pointing a gun to his own head and saying stop or I will shoot. The worst thing that North Korea could likely do is to fall apart and collapse. And that would be an externality, much more heavily felt by China.

They would have to deal with millions of North Korean refugees, about huge stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons possibly making their way into China and the possibility that Korea unified under a Democratic and western leaning Seoul which would be a potential military threat for China.

So, Beijing does not want North Korea to collapse. The United States doesn't want have to deal with that major crisis either. So North Korea's able to say we have leverage over you U.S./China. We are going to keep reminding you of the leverage that we have. And eventually we really want you to start ponying up and oh, by the way, we do have millions of people who are starving.

CHURCH: Isaac Stone Fish, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

STONE FISH: Thank you.

CHURCH: With the Winter Olympics just a few weeks away Beijing is taking zero chances with COVID safety. Ahead efforts to contain the Omicron variant and keep the games on track.

Plus, new details about a meeting between two Chinese sports stars as Yao Ming sheds light on his visit with tennis star Peng Shuai.



CHURCH: Welcome back. Well, Beijing is racing to contain its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant and keep the Olympics on track. With less than three weeks until the Winter Games, China is imposing targeted lockdowns on areas with confirmed COVID infections.

CNN's David Culver walks us through the precautions being taken to prevent the variant from spreading.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Omicron breaching Beijing's borders. A single case putting the Winter Olympics host city on high alert. China's zero COVID policy making no exceptions. In a capital city targeted lockdowns immediately activated along with strict contact tracing.

Chinese health officials publicized the infected person's recent travel history starting with their home. We drove by the Beijing community where the woman is diagnosed with Omicron lives. Remember health authorities say all of this sparked by just one case. At least for now. .

Here we go, you can see this is one of the entrances and exits. It is gated off. They put these big blue barriers to keep folks from going in and out. The woman's neighbors allowed some fresh air but confined to a

complex. They're trash piling up waiting for a specially designated disposal teams to track it out. Many nearby businesses closed. The woman lives a 15 minute drive from the Olympic Park.

Not only where she lives that health authorities have not lockdown but also where the woman works which happens to be in a bank inside this building. So out front you can see, you've got these blue tents set up were a lot of time that will do testing and processing before they can finally declare it safe enough to reopen.

But if you think it is a bunch of empty offices look closer. COVID control staff carting in big boxes. Inside them, can you read that? Pillows. Betting, people have been in lockdown at work. And these suppliers 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 standing 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.

Sound 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 bust a centralize quarantine.


State media showing these make shift encampments built within days. Mass testing is a constant. Back in Beijing I hopped online for my regularly scheduled COVID test.

Test number 97. Done.

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 flocked into 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.


CHURCH: We are learning new details about an encounter between two Chinese sports stars last month. On Monday, a former NBA player, Yao Ming discussed a visit he had with tennis star Peng Shuai in December saying she was in pretty good condition when they met. Peng's well- being became a global concern, of course, after she accused a senior Chinese official of sexual assault. Steven Jiang has the details.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER (voice over): This is the latest twist in the Peng Shuai saga which continues to attracted global attention especially with the Australian Open taking place in Melbourne right now. Yao Ming being one of China's most famous sports personalities around the world addressing this issue for the first time.

When I asked him on Monday about his encounter with Peng last month in Shanghai at a cross country ski event. Now he said, they had known each other for almost 20 years and they were very excited to watch a competition involving a sport that was new to both of them.

YAO MING, FORMER NBA PLAYER (through translator): She was in pretty good condition that day. We were all chatting happily and asking a lot of questions about the sport since we weren't familiar with it.

JIANG: Previous late images of Yao and Peng speaking and smiling were posted on Twitter which has blocked here in China by a state media reporter amid growing international concern over Peng's safety and well-being after she posted an explosive allegation of sexual assault against a former Chinese national leader in an online post in November.

Since it was quickly scrub her post from China's cyberspace and she disappeared from the public eye for quite some time. Now Yao on Monday did not address her allegation which remains a taboo subject in this country. I also asked Yao, who was a long time player with the Houston Rockets about the backlash faced by the NBA and his former team in this country after a few members of the league criticize the Beijing's human rights record. As well as the U.S. government announcements of a diplomatic boycott against the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic for the same reason.

Yao, did not address those issues head on, instead he offered to invite Beijing's critics and skeptics to visit this country saying such visit makes change a lot of perceptions using himself as an example saying living in the U.S. for 10 years made him realize what he experienced different very much from what he had read about U.S. in books when he was a child.

Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.


CHURCH: Boris Johnson is reportedly planning a new push to save his job. We are live in London with the British Prime Minister's plan to appease his conservative base.

And a warning from Britain's home secretary about a lawyer allegedly tried to buy British lawmaker's influence on behalf of China. We'll have the details for you just ahead.


CHURCH: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has reportedly hoping to save his premiership with a list of new policy announcements. They include a freeze on BBC licensing fees and ditching the controversial COVID passports. The Prime Minister is battling calls for his resignation over a string of parties at 10 Downing Street while rest of the country was under strict lockdown.

So let's head live to London. And CNN's Salma Abdulaziz. Good to see you, Salma. So, will Boris Johnson's efforts to appease his base be enough to save his job? The big question, of course.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Of course. Well, first I have to start by saying we're still waiting on this investigation, Rosemary. The results we are expecting in the coming days that might be delayed now because every time there's a new allegation of partying, there is more there to investigate.

Still, there already seemed to be preparations in 10 Downing Street to sort of make the Prime Minister the man who can be in charge. Who can be responsible for cleaning up this mess, (inaudible) actually responsible for the mess.

So what is in line? Well, there's a few moves that had been expected but are now being pushed forward. Like the BBC licensing fee, abolishing that in the future, looking at the military being involve in cross channel migration essential protecting the border. As you also have COVID restrictions lifting by the end of the month.

All of this are really populist moves. In addition potentially to clearing house, having fallback, scapegoats that Prime Minister Boris Johnson can point to. Can say I have cleaned house, I have taken steps here. But it's going to be a challenge, Rosemary. New headlines breaking last night, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's knew, according to his top aide that a party was taking place in 10 Downing Street.

Now this specific allegation comes from again, one of the very top people in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government. He has resigned. So there's some bad blood there.

But Dominic Cummings, again the top chief I'm speaking off saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson knew that the bring your own booze party that he admitted to attending in May of last year that the Prime Minister knew it was a party. And that he was warned not to go. He was warned to cancel it and that the Prime Minister brushed that aside.

Again, this is an allegation by a resigned aide but already denials from Downing Street on this, they are saying that's absolutely not true. But you can see how these headlines, every single day, popping up, painting this picture of the Prime Minister as a party boy, reputational damage really is done here, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yeah. Alright, Salma Abdulaziz joining us live from London, many thanks. Well, Britain's home secretary is praising the U.K.s Intelligence

agency after they issued an alert about an alleged Chinese agent suspected of trying to influence is British lawmakers. Last week MI5 warned about the potential threat posed by Christine Lee. A lawyer with officers in the U.K.

Nina Dos Santos has details on the spy agency's rare public warning.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For 15 years Christine Lee cultivated her high-level connections. He set up pressure groups with British Prime Ministers and got this close to Chinese' President Xi Jinping.

On Thursday U.K. intelligence issued an alert to members of parliament saying Lee had been attempting to influence politicians on all side of the spectrum. With money coming from abroad on behalf of Chinese Communist Party. Now, CNN can revealed the U.K.'s own government has been advertising services to perspective foreign investors for years as part of an invitation only network. A vetted lawyers and accountants providing a forum for feedback directly to the corridors of power.

Lee (inaudible), Christine Lee and co-solicitors has been on the network's directory drafted by officials since at least 2016. Until a closed of business on Friday, she could still be reached by an official government website with a term promising the first hour of legal advice for free.

The Department of International Trade said that the site mentioning Lee was no longer (inaudible) and that it had to do some digging to find out why she was on there. The home office told CNN, it doesn't comment on the detail of security or intelligence.

Why does Christine Lee can't be reach it seems this here at the London office of her law firms? As you can see it looks like it's been empty for quite some time. The windows are dusty. There's papers that is still left on desks, and also interesting enough the security camera just pointing right to the front door where I'm standing right now.

There is a notice here pinned to this window it says, because of the pandemic, this office is shut. There is a number though to call for inquiries let's just try it now.

UNKNOWN: Welcome to the EE voice mail. I am sorry but the person you called is unavailable.

DOS SANTOS: Multiple emails sent to the account posted on Lee's office went unanswered.


A CNN analysis of political donations shows that one Member of Parliament from the opposition Labor Party accepted more than $600,000 from Lee between 2014 and 2020. The leader of another opposition party, The Liberal Democrats, accepted more than $7,000. Both say they were unaware of the concern surrounding Lee's activities until this week. Undercurrent U.K. laws there is no suggestion that their donations were illegal.

WANG WENBIN, CHINESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): China has always adhere to the principle of noninterference and other countries internal affairs. We have no need and will not engaged in so-called interference activities.

DOS SANTOS: Documents (inaudible) for Lee's company state that she is British, the U.K. doesn't yet have a foreign agent's registration act like the United States but it is considering passing one. A letter sent to the House of Lords by its speaker obtained with CNN says Lee's facilitation was done to (inaudible) the source of political donations coming from China.

The letter said the behavior was clearly unacceptable and would be made to cease. But this activist campaigning for human rights in China (inaudible) appears to have been so (inaudible) in Westminster is extremely worrying.

LUKE DE PULFORD, COORDINATOR, INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ALLIANCE ON CHINA: What this case shows is an abject failure of government vetting and shows extraordinary naivete on the part of the government when it comes to the purpose of these kinds of institutions and individuals.

DOS SANTOS: How Lee is still able to receive government promotion shows the extent of her access. And will give fresh impetus to the U.K.'s pledge to toughen up legislation on foreign influence in the country's politics.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN, London.


CHURCH: And finally this hour a lesson of safety over selfies. A woman in Canada had to be rescued after apparently taking a joyride on a frozen river.


UNKNOWN: Right in the middle of the water.

CHURCH (voice over): Alright. There she is not long after this, the woman's car went through the ice and slowly started sinking. People nearby rushed to help including someone with a kayak but the most bizarre part of all of this? The driver was taking selfies. Standing on top of the car while it was sinking. She was rescued though and is OK but she is now charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. Police say the car is still in the river and they are warning people to leave it alone.


CHURCH (on camera): Just incredible. Thanks for your company. I am Rosemary Church, have yourself a wonderful day. "CNN Newsroom" is back with Isa Soares.