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American Sunisa Lee Wins Gold; COVID-19 Cases Surge in Tokyo during Olympics, Unexpectedly Tumble in U.K.; Taliban Leaders Visit China; Cubans Face Mass Trials after Historic Protests; Corporate America Tells U.S. Workers to Get Vaccinated. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Sunisa Lee steals gold for Team USA as Simone Biles cheers on her teammates in Tokyo.

Coronavirus cases plunging in England after a big surge from the Delta variant.

What is behind this turnaround?

And a rare show of public discontent in Cuba has reportedly led to hundreds of arrests. We're live in Havana for you.


ANDERSON: It's 3:00 pm in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome to the show.

An American gymnast has won the premier event of the Summer Olympics and it is not Simone Biles. With Biles and her teammates cheering on from the

sidelines, Sunisa Lee took home the gold after solid performances after all four rotations.

Lee edged out Brazil's Rebeca Andrade, who was leading most of the way but stepped out of bounds on the floor exercise, the final rotation for both of

them. And Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova got the bronze.



ANDERSON: The gymnastics final moving the U.S. closer to gold medal leaders China and Japan at the top of the medals board. You see the latest

numbers there, China and Japan with 15 golds each, the U.S. with the most overall medals, as things stand.

Well, the surge of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo reaching a critical point, I'm afraid. That is the word at least from the Japanese Medical Association.

Tokyo has seen its highest ever number of cases for the last three days.

Right in the middle of it all, of course, is the biggest sporting event in the world. Nearly 200 COVID cases are linked to the Olympic Games.


ANDERSON: And just hours ago, U.S. pole vaulter Sam Kendricks was the latest athlete to have to quit the games over the virus. Still, organizers

say the Olympics are not overburdening the health system there.


RICHARD BUDGETT, MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, TOKYO 2020 ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: I'd just add by saying that clearly is at the highest priority

always is at an Olympic Games, preparing for the Olympic Games, that we do not affect the normal provision of care to the general population.

And we have to bear in mind that there are only two people in hospital, so all the rest are being cared for within the system that we have in place

for the games. Obviously, it's challenging for any country when there's a rise in cases of COVID-19.

But I am confident that the Olympics are being run without actually affecting that essential secondary hospital provision.


ANDERSON: The coronavirus not the only health danger Tokyo faces. The heat and humidity scorching the city and, indeed, those who are competing in

these games. Olympic organizers are trying to reschedule some of the outdoor events to give athletes a break from that oppressive heat.

Selina Wang joining us live from Tokyo with the very latest.

What do we know?

Let's briefly start with the surge in COVID cases, of course, because that's so important. Then I'd like, if you will, just to talk about that

heat and humidity.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, those beautiful, inspiring stories inside the Olympic venues but, unfortunately, the COVID-19 cases in

broader Tokyo is concerning, three straight days of record COVID-19 cases, reporting more than 3,800 cases on Thursday.

And the Japan Medical Association issuing an emergency statement, warning that they think the medical system will collapse if this spread is not

stemmed. And according to a CNN tally now, around 30 athletes are out of the Olympic Games because of COVID-19. More Olympic dreams being dashed.

But before the pandemic, Becky, the biggest health risk to athletes, was heat. Tokyo summers are notoriously hot and humid and they can be deadly.

In the country's 2018 heat wave, more than a thousand deaths were recorded.

And, Becky, we already are seeing athletes struggle under the sun. A Russian archer is being treated for heat stroke. Many tennis players have

struggled. A Russian player said he felt like he could die during his match and he felt like he was suffocating because of how hot and humid it was.

Novak Djokovic said that these conditions were brutal. In addition to that, a Spanish tennis player had to retire from her match. She was escorted out

in a wheelchair, also because of heat stroke.

And now tennis officials say they are moving these matches later in the day to avoid the brutal hot Tokyo sun during the day.

Now Becky, I spoke to an adviser to Tokyo 2020, who is a professor of urban environment and planning at the University of Tokyo. And he said, if you

combine the heat and humidity, the Tokyo summer may be the very worst condition for athletes in the entire Summer Olympic history.

Many people don't know that. The 1964 Olympic Games held in Tokyo were actually held in the fall to avoid these hot summers. For all of us here in

Tokyo, we can certainly tell you, the heat has been brutal, Becky.

ANDERSON: Selina, thank you. Selina Wang is in Tokyo.

You can keep up to date on everything going on there at Results, news, analysis, including why a former British Olympian who dropped out of

the marathon in the 2004 Athens games says Biles' withdrawals in Tokyo make her mentally stronger than before. A lot going on there at

Well, we are looking now at what you might call a great British mystery. Health officials may not be ready to call in a modern-day Sherlock Holmes

or Miss Marple just yet. But there is plenty of head scratching going on.

The reason is a dramatic drop in confirmed COVID cases. That old saying, context is everything really does apply here. Ten days ago, England threw

away the pandemic rulebook and declared a so-called Freedom Day.

Health officials were worried the move would make the existing surge from the Delta variant even worse. Well, instead, infections fell and they've

fallen dramatically by 36 percent. I have to say, no one saw this coming, not even the scientists.

Well, CNN's own Phil Black has been asking a lot of questions. He joins me now from London.

Are you getting any answers at this point?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, I think the short answer is, still no one knows precisely what's going on here. You're right, when Freedom Day

came around a week ago, as it's called, it was branded, really, at best, bold; at worst, reckless.


BLACK: And that's because even the best-case modeling suggested the existing surge was only going to get bigger and stronger, especially under

the conditions that would be created by the lifting of most pandemic restrictions.

But this totally unexpected, strange thing has happened since then. Cases have tumbled down. And nobody -- and I mean nobody -- none of the

scientific experts we've been speaking to can say with any certainty why that is.



BLACK (voice-over): In the first week of England's hands-off, mostly unrestricted policy of living with the coronavirus, something extraordinary

has happened: the U.K.'s growing wave of cases has suddenly, unexpectedly fallen away.

The drop has been quick and dramatic; compared to the previous week, the total number of confirmed cases is down 36 percent. Scientists admit no one

saw this coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not something I expected or predicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a surprise to a lot of people to see something that's come down this quickly, this much in synchrony.

BLACK (voice-over): So they only have theories on why this is happening. The end of the European soccer championships means no more big emotional

crowds. A recent stretch of good weather encouraged people to stay outside.

Schools are out this summer, closing what some scientists believe is a significant environment for transmission. Awareness of surging cases may

have inspired more cautious behavior.

And there is also the possibility vast numbers of people are still being infected; they're just not following up with tests because they don't want

to cancel plans and stay at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the issue is, is what we're seeing in terms of a reduction in cases a true reflection of the community levels of infection?

BLACK (voice-over): Scientists feel confident on one point: vaccines are helping but it's too soon to attribute the drop to herd immunity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to remember, only 55 percent of our population are fully vaccinated. The rest are either partially vaccinated

or not vaccinated at all.

BLACK (voice-over): The delay between infection and symptomatic illness means the figures don't yet reflect the consequences of England throwing

away its pandemic rules on July 19th.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: It is very, very important that we don't allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this.

BLACK (voice-over): But the sudden changes are fueling hope the U.K. will not experience the grim, difficult summer many predicted.


BLACK: So Becky, is it real?

Is it a blip?

Is it a new, sustained trend?

No one is claiming to truly understand precisely what is happening. I've been told the key indicator going forward is going to be hospital

admissions. If it is a true, sustained fall, then in the next week or so, you should also see a fall in the number of people falling seriously ill

and requiring treatment in hospital.

At the moment, those numbers are still rising -- Becky.

ANDERSON: And you rightly pointed out that the politicians, lawmakers, experts here very much pushing the vaccine take-up as such an important

story when it comes to those here in the U.K. not falling ill from COVID, even if those case numbers were to go a little bit higher.

And we've seen the U.K., of course, opening up to U.S. and European travelers from August the 2nd. Of course, the U.K. now hoping there will be

some reciprocal arrangements between the U.S. and other European countries, so people will actually encouraged to come here.

What do we know at this point?

BLACK: You're absolutely right. The E.U., U.S. citizens will be able to travel here from next week if they are double vaccinated, not traveling

from so-called red list country. That's a boon for the tourism industry here. A big part of why all of this is possible and no doubt a big part of

why cases are falling is the advanced vaccine program here, one that does have very high take-up rates compared to some other countries.

Those take-up rates are not constant across age groups. They are not constant across geographic areas or even socioeconomic groups. Doctors will

tell you that the older people are more willing than younger people.

They think that's because older people still get most of their information from more traditional sources. They are not meeting or they aren't coming

into contact with other sources of information that tend to present less scientific ideas about vaccinations and what they claim to be associated

risks and so forth.

And indeed socioeconomic areas, deprived areas, that's where they have to work to get the take-up as well. But it is having an effect. It is, no

doubt, a key part of why cases are falling, even if it is only around the edges, impacting the dynamics that take place.

The result being that subtle changes in the population's behavior can then have broader changes in terms of the spread. The government, however, I

think is quite proud of the job that it has done on vaccines and the message that it has pushed forward, somewhat successfully on this issue.


BLACK: Take a listen now to the U.K.'s ambassador to the U.S., speaking to CNN earlier today.


KAREN PIERCE, U.K. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We are cautiously optimistic. We're conscious we don't have all the data yet. We believe it has something

to do with good messaging, people following sensible rules on behavior like hand washing and, of course, the high vaccination rate.

But we need much more information before we can properly analyze this and work out what the future trend will be.

We do hope the Americans will be able to lift the travel restrictions on the U.K. and other Europeans soon.


BLACK: So the U.K., along with everyone else, is trying to work out where the herd immunity threshold is. The highly transmissible Delta variant has

changed all that, of course.

Another factor that impacts that is the decision by an independent expert committee not to vaccinate adolescents 12 to 18. They are not vaccinated

here at the moment. And some experts believe you can't hit herd immunity without vaccinating them as well.

ANDERSON: Phil Black is on the streets of London.

Thank you very much indeed for the very useful information coming out of that report.

Coming up next, China stepping up its diplomacy with the Taliban as the U.S., of course, moves out of Afghanistan. We'll tell you what the Chinese

foreign minister is saying about that group after this.

And from passion to preservation, how one man is planting seeds for a richer and more diverse food system. That all coming up. Stay with us.




ANDERSON: Well, now, on a story that we brought you yesterday. We are seeing new signs of warming ties between Beijing and the Taliban. China's

foreign minister met with senior Taliban leaders in a Chinese coastal city on Wednesday, reinforcing a growing relationship, it seems.

This as the Taliban retakes large swaths of Afghanistan and the U.S. pulls its remaining troops out of the country. Senior diplomatic correspondent

(sic) Nic Robertson joins us now.

Nic, we are seeing China offering some very public warmth with regard to the Taliban.

Why, why now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, what we heard the foreign minister quoted as saying in that meeting was that the future

of Afghanistan lies in the hands of the Afghan people.

That's code for the Taliban has a stake and a voice in the future of Afghanistan. The Chinese government has had economic interests in

Afghanistan for many, many years. It is keen to see those exploited, if you will, and developed in the future.


ROBERTSON: It is keen to see peace and stability in the region. It is keen to see a stable government in Afghanistan because that is part of its sort

of belt and road economic initiative.

A peaceful Afghanistan means a more readily, easily stable route for goods to transition from central Asia down through Afghanistan into Pakistan. So

that massive border, a massive port on the Indian Ocean that China hugely helped Pakistan finance -- and Pakistan is in debt to China for that port.

So there is mutual trust between Pakistan and China and Afghanistan to have a stable future. But I think what you're seeing the Taliban do here -- this

is the other side of the coin as well -- is reach out to Afghanistan's neighbors.

And China has about a 50-mile border, 68 kilometers, I think it is, border with Afghanistan on the northeastern corner. Taliban is keen to show that

it can have stable, peaceful relationships with neighboring countries.

They sent this message to Iran, to Russia and now to China, saying that its soil will not be used to harm China. That in itself is code for, we may be

an Islamic emirate country but we're not going to use our soil to be used to target you because you harm Uyghur Muslims.

So this is a real outreach by the Taliban to kind of settle and try to get support from within the region around Afghanistan.

ANDERSON: And we will do more on this story. Evidently, you wrote a jolly good op-ed for a paper local to Abu Dhabi recently about the concerns

people have about the vacuum that is being left by U.S. troop withdrawals and where regional players may just look for opportunities within that

vacuum. Nic, thank you.

Well, completely changing the pace for you at this point, why?

Well, because I can.

One gardener in the U.K. is following his passion to conserve what remains of the world's rare endangered heirloom vegetables. Adam Alexander collects

the seeds and grows them. In this edition of CNN's "Going Green," you are now going to get a look at how this horticulturalist is redefining our

relationship with food. Sit back, enjoy.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): In his garden in the Welsh countryside, Adam Alexander takes pride in each vegetable he grows.

ADAM ALEXANDER, HORTICULTURALIST (voice-over): I love communing with my vegetables. They come from all over the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Adam is a self-proclaimed seed detective and these are some of the crop varieties he's collected over the course of

three decades.

ALEXANDER (voice-over): A seed detective is someone who goes looking after and caring for rare and endangered varieties of edible crops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): His most prized possessions are hidden from view.

ALEXANDER (voice-over): This is my garage and, in it, I have a couple of fridges, where I keep 493 varieties of vegetables. I call them my ark: 96

come from the Heritage Seed Library. This is pasque. It's a 19th century radish from France.

And then this is a Mathania (ph) chili, which was believed to have gone extinct but which I was fortunate enough to rediscover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Adam is part of a network of seed guardians, specialty growers for the British charity Garden Organic and the

Heritage Seed Library, a living seed bank that aims to preserve the diversity of heritage crops.

ALEXANDER (voice-over): It's a sort of receptacle for all the sort of forgotten ex-commercial varieties of seeds and then heritage and heirloom

varieties. Like a book, I will borrow that seed. I will grow it out and then I will return it for members to share but also to be able to be

retained forever and a day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): It counts a member of the British royal family as its patron.

ALEXANDER (voice-over): I like to think that I'm in good company. Prince Charles, I think probably, is about as obsessed as I am in growing and

saving rare and delicious and unusual varieties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Adam's efforts as a seed guardian highlight the importance of gene diversity in our crops, planting the seeds

for a richer, more diverse and resilient food system.

ALEXANDER (voice-over): As soon as you put some seeds in the ground and, even if it's just to grow some basil or parsley on your window sill.


ALEXANDER (voice-over): Suddenly you have a connection, a direct connection with that thing that you're going to put into your tummy. And

then you're on a journey that can take you to wherever you want it to take you in terms of your relationship with food.


ANDERSON: We're taking a short break. Back after this.




ANDERSON: Welcome back, folks. I'm Becky Anderson. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. In London for you at the moment, it is half past 3, the show. In

Abu Dhabi, we'll be back in a few weeks.

They spoke up for freedom, better economic conditions and an end to dictatorships. But after a crackdown, hundreds of Cubans are facing mass

trials and swift convictions. This comes a little more than two weeks after rare anti-government protests across the Communist-run island.

Cuban officials are blaming the U.S. for helping to orchestrate the uprising. The U.S. responded with new sanctions. Patrick Oppmann is in the

Cuban capital of Havana and he joins me live.

What's going on?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. First, you had these unprecedented, island-wide protests; then a very heavy-handed government

crackdown and, now, Becky, we are witnessing the largest mass trials that Cuba has seen in a generation.


OPPMANN (voice-over): When the largest protests since Fidel Castro's revolution swept Cuba, the Cuban government quickly struck back, carrying

out mass arrests.

Some protesters were forcibly detained as a they chanted. The song has become the anthem of frustration with the Communist state. One of those

arrested was photographer Daniela Troya, who filmed part of the music video in Havana.

Less than two weeks after the protests, Troya was tried, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. His mother said he told the court he did

nothing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

OPPMANN (voice-over): "He said, 'How is this just when I haven't even seen a lawyer and I'm innocent?' he says. Immediately one of the police in

civilian clothes came and handcuffed him.

"I said, 'My love, be calm. You're not alone.'"

The Cuban government refuses to say how many people have been arrested or face trial for taking part in the unprecedented protests. An activist group

put the number at almost 700.

The government maintains those arrested are detained for attacking police, like in this video, where protesters pelt cars with rocks. And not just for

challenging the rule of the Communist Party, the only political party allowed on the island.

"Having different opinions including political ones doesn't constitute a crime," he said.


OPPMANN (voice-over): "Thinking differently, questioning what's going on, to demonstrate is not a crime, it's a right."

But on the streets of Cuba, elite special forces commandos, known as the Black Berets, who were recently placed on the sanctions list by the Biden

administration for alleged acts of oppression, prevent further protests from breaking out.

OPPMANN: Many of the relatives of the people who were arrested would not talk to us on camera. They were too afraid. But some did tell us that their

loved ones did nothing other than peacefully demonstrate or simply record and upload videos of the historic protests as they took place.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Odette Hernandez (ph) was arrested days after the protests, relatives say, for posting the video of the demonstrations to

Facebook that have now been viewed over 100,000 times.

Among the charges she and her husband face is instigation of delinquency. Her cousin spoke to several people, who were around her during the protests

and told us their accounts from his home in Paris.

"They weren't violent. They didn't throw rocks at anyone," he says. "Then special troops came to get them at their home, a commando unit with many


Many of Cuba's top artists have criticized the government crackdown and called for amnesty for nonviolent protesters.

Amidst the mass trial, some signs of leniency as, a day after we visited his home, photographer Daniela Troya was released on house arrest while

awaiting appeal. The government here, though, says, it has only just begun to prosecute those who broke the law as all of Cuba seemingly holds its

breath and waits to see what comes next.


OPPMANN: And, Becky, Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, Nicaragua, among other countries, are now donating food to Cuba in spite of perhaps or because of

U.S. condemnation against Cuba. And those tons of food will help ease Cuba's economic crisis but only for a little while -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, of course. Thank you.

Patrick is in Havana for you.

Corporate America is taking a stand to boost the stalled vaccine campaign in the United States. Its message is short and sharp: get vaccinated or

frankly get out. Facebook and Google leading the way, telling all employees they need the shot if they want to return to the office. Netflix doing the


Wall Street offices are filling up fast. Vaccines are required there, too. A human resources expert says most employees want this move because they

will feel safer, knowing their colleagues are inoculated. Well, CNN's Matt Egan is tracking developments for us from New York.

So corporate America taking the reins as it were to get more shots into arms.

What evidence this is or is likely to have an impact on those getting vaccinated?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Yes, Becky, it does feel like a real turning point for corporate America, with Delta fears on the rise and

COVID cases spiking. We are seeing companies start to crack down on employees who still are not vaccinated.

Facebook and Google have become two of the first major Silicon Valley companies to require vaccines for employees who are coming back to the

offices in the United States. Other companies, as you can see on your screen, include "The Washington Post," Netflix, Blackrock, Lyft.

The Durst Organization, one of New York City's largest real estate companies, is going a step further. It says that employees who are not

vaccinated by Labor Day are going to get fired.

Of course, there are some exceptions for religious and health issues but the point is that, after months of taking kind of a hands-off approach,

some businesses are taking a harder line here.

But requiring vaccines is not going to be easy, Becky. There is a war for talent going on right now. The United States has record-high job openings

and a lot of companies can't afford to lose the workers that they have.

ANDERSON: What else are companies thinking about doing to mitigate these risks?

EGAN: What's interesting is that technology companies, back when the pandemic began in early 2020, tech companies were really among the first to

move to all virtual work.

And what we've seen in the last week or two is that some tech companies are actually dialing back their plans to go back to work. Apple is delaying the

reopening of its offices by at least a month because of the Delta variant.

Google planned to end its work from home period on September 1 but now that's being pushed back to October 18.

And now Twitter is closing the offices that it has open in New York and San Francisco, effective immediately. Again, this is being driven by health

concerns but, of course, there are economic implications as well.


EGAN: If more companies follow suit here, that is going to deal a real blow to the local restaurants and bars, dry cleaners and bodegas that had

really been banking on a return of office workers this fall.

ANDERSON: Yes, it's really not clear what is likely to happen next. But let's suggest that whatever means it takes to get more people vaccinated is

a good idea, certainly in my book. I should not be giving my own opinion but that's it. Thank you, sir.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Up next, a planet in crisis. How climate change is causing wildfires raging in the Middle East. We are live in

Lebanon for you next hour with that. Taking a short break. Back after this.




Let's get you some Olympics news. We are keeping up with the medal count Tokyo 2020 and American Caeleb Dressel took home the gold for the men's 100

free style in Olympic record time. You see him getting quite emotional during a post-race interview and why not?

That is his family cheering him on from Florida. CNN "WORLD SPORT"s Amanda Davies is with me. And Dressel says he wouldn't change a thing about that

race. And why not?

Becky, why wouldn't you?

If you lead from start to finish, you beat the defending gold medal winner and you set an Olympic record along the way and you could see just what it

meant not only to him and his family. These are going to be some of the pictures of these games, aren't they?

Because these athletes, having the highlight of their career. But without the supporters who have been there every step of the way, actually enjoying

the moment with them in Tokyo, it's Dressel's first individual Olympic gold. You suspect there's going to be many, many more to come. He actually

gave his relay gold medal away to one of his teammates on Monday but you suspect he's going to be keeping this one.

Why wouldn't he?

More from Amanda in "WORLD SPORT" coming up. I'll be back after that, folks.