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Connect the World

British PM Gives Update on Omicron Variant; British Officials Give Update on Omicron Variant; Prince Charles on Hand as Barbados Becomes a Republic; Afghan Women's Rights Activists Speak to CNN About Taliban; France to Memorialize Entertainer & Civil Rights Icon at Pantheon; CNN Talks with Lead Researcher in Omicron Testing. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Abu Dhabi. This is "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: It is 8 pm. Welcome back to the show; tough decisions for governments around the world with so many

unknowns about this Omicron variant. At any moment now we'll hear from the British Prime Minister along with the UK Health Secretary and the NHS


That's where you'll hear from Boris Johnson, there have been 14 confirmed cases including five in England; people are being required to wear masks on

public transport again. So far this variant is triggered international panic.

Governments restricting their borders as more cases pop up around the world at least 19 countries and territories have confirmed cases of the new

strain with Japan the latest to confirm its first case, it's also one of at least 70 countries to impose travel restrictions. A move the World Health

Organization says is unnecessary at this point.

Remember, the hundreds of travelers from South Africa who weren't stranded at the Amsterdam Airport on Friday well, more than a dozen tested positive

for the Omicron variant. Dutch health authorities are saying that the strain was already in the Netherlands a full week before those cases were


The spread is rattling markets around the world. Let's take a look and see what those are up to? And that's the story of very, very mixed picture

investors really not prepared to bail in or out at this point very unclear what happens next? Ben Wedeman standing by live from Rome, with more on the

reaction from European governments.

First I want to get you to David McKenzie, though, live from Johannesburg in South Africa. And forgive me if we jump to the Prime Minister's press

conference, which is due to happen out of London momentarily. What do you know at present about what South Africa's labs know about this Omicron

variant? I know that you've been to a lab which first spotted this variant.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky it's quite fascinating how they first picked up on this? It was through kind of a proxy that they saw

on their PCR test. Now, most people who have had a COVID test had had these PCR tests, they then go to a lab obviously, and the PCR machines noticed an


And the scientists then tracked that anomaly to being similar to something that they saw in the Alpha variant, that variant that had everyone

concerned earlier this year that was discovered in the UK. Now it appeared that that was starting to dominate infections, and there were more positive


So they quickly took that information to the national communicable institute here in South Africa. And then they seek instead. And now we are

here today. But it was just a matter of days. They do say that started seeing these kind of anomalies late October, even early November in

earnest, which does indicate that this variant, at least in Southern Africa was spreading possibly earlier than we at first imagined also as a striking

and ironic twist.

South Africa's top genomics researcher tweeted out today Becky that he was trying to get on the phone with suppliers of reagent to try and do the

critical science but was struggling because of all the travel bans and the flight restrictions. And I corroborated that with the head of a lab here.

It just shows you that while the talk of solidarity continues and gratitude continues from other nations, particularly in wealthier nations, even the

basic science they are struggling to do at times because of this global travel ban, Becky.

ANDERSON: OK. Let's listen to the British Prime Minister he's about to speak.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: --we already know for sure. And that is that right now, our best single defense against Omicron is to get

vaccinated. Omicron I should say is to get vaccinated and to get boosted. If you're boosted, your immune response will be stronger.

So yesterday, in addition to offering a second dose to all 12 to 15 year olds, the independent JCVI recommended that boosters should not be offered

to everyone over a team and that we have the minimum gap between a second dose and a booster from six months to three months.


JOHNSON: That means that over 14 million more adults have now become eligible for a booster in England alone. So I'm here today with the Health

Secretary Sajid Javid, and Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England to set out our plan to make this happen.

The target that we've set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January. And as with the first jabs, we'll be

working through people by age group going down in five year bands, because it's vital that the older and the more clinically vulnerable get that added

protection first.

So even if you've had your second jab over three months ago, and you're now eligible, please don't try and book until the NHS says it's your turn.

We've already done almost 18 million boosters across the UK, but we've got millions more to do to protect the most vulnerable, then we'll move down

the cohorts rapidly.

And working together with the devolved administration's we want to ramp up capacity across the whole United Kingdom to the levels we achieved in the

previous vaccination effort. We're going to be throwing everything at it in order to ensure that everyone eligible is offered that booster in as I say,

just over two months.

Across England we'll have more than 1500 community pharmacy sites, vaccinating people near where you live, all of our sites will increase

their capacity, and will stand up extra hospital hubs on top of those already active.

There'll be temporary vaccination centers popping up like Christmas trees, and we'll deploy at least 400 military personnel to assist the efforts of

our NHS, alongside of course, the fantastic Jabs Army of volunteers. I know the frustration that we all feel with this Omicron variant, the sense of

exhaustion that we could be going through all this all over again.

But today, I want to stress this today, that's the wrong thing to feel. Because today, our position is and always will be immeasurably better than

it was a year ago, what we're doing is taking some proportionate precautionary measures, while our scientists crack the Omicron code and

while we get the added protection of those boosters, into the arms of those who need the most.

So we're going to get behind the men and women of our NHS who saved so many lives on the frontline, and run our vaccination program for a year, almost

without a break as they have and who are going back into the breach yet again.

And I want to say on behalf of the entire country, a thank you to each and every one of them for their extraordinary efforts. And the best way we can

all show our gratitude is by doing our bit and stepping forward when our time comes to get that boost up.

I've been waiting patiently for my moment to come and it's happening on Thursday, I'm pleased to say so whenever your turn comes, get your booster

and ask your friends and your family to do the same. It's time for another great British vaccination effort. We've done it before. And we're going to

do it again. And let's not give this virus a second chance. Thank you. I'm going to handover to Sajid.

SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Thank you Prime Minister. A year ago this week, this country made headlines when we became the first nation in

the Western World to authorize a vaccine for COVID-19. This kicked off one of the greatest collective endeavors this nation has seen in peacetime.

And think how far we've come since then? 115 million jabs right across the UK, and a booster program that is expanding at a phenomenal pace. Today,

we've hit that milestone of 18 million booster doses across the UK. And the daily number of jabs has gone up a third since the start of this month.

Not only that, but we've delivered more booster doses than any other country with the exception of the USA and China. And that is something that

we can all be very proud of. And I'd like to thank the NHS, the armed forces, the volunteers, and everyone who's done so much to make this

program a success, as well as every single person that has come forward for their jab.

Thanks to you we've made so much progress over the course of a year that we have now weaken the link between cases and hospitalizations and deaths.


JAVID: This is the real world protection that our vaccination program provides. Boosters, in particular, pay a very huge part. The booster dose

provides a much higher antibody response than the primary course. So it's more important than ever, that people step up and get protected.

We're now dealing of course, with this new variant Omicron, which the World Health Organization said just yesterday, they said that it poses a very

high global risk. There have now been 13 confirmed cases in England, and also nine confirmed cases in Scotland. And we expect to see these numbers

rising over the next few days.

There's a lot we don't know, of course, and our scientists are working night and day to learn more about this new variant, and what it means for

our response. Our strategy is to buy the time, we need to assess this new variant while doing everything we can to slow the spread of the virus and

to strengthen our defenses.

One important defense is antivirals. We've already secured hundreds of thousands of doses of two antivirals that have the potential to speed up

recovery and to stop infections from progressing. Another of course, it's that vaccination program.

It's true that we don't yet have a full picture of how our vaccines respond to this new variant. But although it's possible for them to be less

effective, it's unlikely that they have no effectiveness against serious disease. So the best way that we can strengthen our protective wall is to

get as many jabs in arms as possible.

I asked the JCVI, our independent expert advisors to look urgently at our vaccination program, in light of this new variant, and as the prime

minister just set out, we'll be massively expanding booster doses, in line with the JCVI advice.

This includes having the dose interval for booster jabs from six months to three months, expanding the booster doses to include all remaining adults

aged 18 and above and offering booster doses for people who are immunosuppressed. I'd like to thank the JCVI for acting with such speed in

response to this potential threat.

This means we're now able to put our booster program on steroids and protect even more people even more quickly. We've got the jabs thanks to

the brilliant work of our vaccines taskforce who've made sure that we've had a strong supply of vaccines all the way throughout this pandemic.

And today, we are setting up our plan to get those jabs into arms. And we'll shortly be hearing a bit more from Amanda. We've set some hugely

ambitious targets. And we're asking a huge amount from the NHS. But I have no doubt that they will rise to the challenge, just as they have done

throughout this pandemic.

I know that the developments of the past few days have been worrying for some people, and that we've brought back memories. What we're seeing

recently has brought back memories of the strain of the last winter. But although we can't say with certainty, what lies ahead.

We have one huge advantage that we didn't have, back then our vaccination program, which has already done so much to keep this virus at bay. But

these defenses will only keep us safe if we use them. This is a national mission. And we all have a role to play.

If we want to give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones the best thing we can all do is step up, roll up our sleeves and get

protected when the time comes. I'll now hand over to Amanda.


ANDERSON: That's Sajid Javid, who is the UK Health Minister talking about the new booster program in the UK in light of what we have heard from South

Africa on this so new Omicron variant. Let's bring in Ben Wedeman who was in Rome today looking at the story across Europe.

We can't say with certainty what lies ahead. But we do have in our armory, as it were said the UK Health Secretary is a supply of vaccines and he

wants those vaccines in people's arms that will be difficult for the for some of the world who here who lack a decent supply and this vaccine

inequity is a really, really big problem, isn't it? What do you make of what you heard there?


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was certainly a very sort of good British style upbeat speech, stiff upper lip in it

facing the pandemic, of very reassuring, perhaps for the people of Britain, but for the rest of the world this is typical of the response of the

wealthy nations to this crisis that's been going on for quite some time.

Basically, we're taking care of ourselves. And perhaps we'll give a little charity to the rest of the world. But if you look at, for instance, South

Africa, where I think the vaccination rate is lower than 20 percent, the disparity is rather jarring.

Now Boris Johnson said the best defense is to get vaccinated or to get booster. Now, if the rest of the world had that opportunity, perhaps the

world wouldn't be staring at yet another new variant that is, we are told can be passed very easily.

So yes, it did a very good morale boosting speech if you're in the UK, if you're a British subject for the rest of the world, however, it sounds like

a bit of boasting. And that's about it, Becky?

ANDERSON: No, no talk of why such punitive restrictions have been bought in on seven countries, including South Africa. Of course, this travel bans me

out of the gate on Friday the UK firstly, if not first, certainly amongst the first to put those travel bans in place.

I'm sure many people there and around the world will be wondering just how long those lasts and more than that as we get it. Thank you, Ben! Let's get

you to Germany; the country was already dealing with a crashing wave with the virus before Omicron showed up the German government considering new

restrictions especially for the unvaccinated.

Officials hoping to work out a plan by Thursday Fred Pleitgen has been getting a firsthand look at just how bad things are in Germany? He connects

us now to the crisis from Berlin, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Becky. And the situation in Germany really is dire. And one of the things that are

coming on top of that is, of course, now, the Omicron variant as well.

Well, Germany now for the first time has detected that variant in somebody who had no history of traveling from Southern Africa or had not recently

turned from Southern Africa. So basically, the Germans are saying they believe that the variant may have been in this country for a lot longer

than they had previously thought.

But in general, this country is right now by far in the worst wave of the pandemic that it has seen since the beginning of the pandemic itself. And

one of the things that, of course, are happening right now is that ICUs especially are coming under strain.

We were able to visit one of those ICUs and saw firsthand just how tough the situation there is right now. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Another tragic day in this ICU near Germany's Capital Berlin. This 82-year-old woman's husband just died of COVID here

now doctors and nurses are fighting for her life.

PLEITGEN (on camera): When we asked if she's surprised that she got the virus she shakes her head. No, she says.

PLEITGEN (voice over): That's because Germany is currently suffering through the worst COVID outbreak since the pandemic began. And most of

those who end up in ICUs are unvaccinated or might have waning immunity because they're in need of a booster.

This ICU Head says she fears things will deteriorate even more with the Omicron variant already detected in Germany. We are extremely concerned she

says we fear December, January and February and believe things will become a lot more difficult.

The State Department has warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Germany as the country struggles to contain the latest wave of infections.

PLEITGEN (on camera): Germany has seen massive COVID-19 infection rates for weeks now. And a lot of those patients are now winding up in ICUs like this

one, and it's driving Germany's otherwise very robust healthcare system to the brink.

PLEITGEN (voice over): So bad that the German military has been called up to fly patients out of hard hit areas. One reason for that disastrous

numbers experts say despite having scientist Angela Merkel as its Leader, Germany has some of the lowest vaccination rates in all of Western Europe.

Antiviral groups are extremely strong here and a recent study found that infection rates are high in strongholds of Germany's ultra-right wing AFD

Party, which opposes measures to combat the pandemic. While the government has now made booster shots widely available, medical professionals are

calling for more drastic measures.

TOBIAS KURTH, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC HEALTH, CHARITE BERLIN: I'm afraid we have to go into lockdown, hopefully a heart short lockdown with a clear

vision what to do after.



PLEITGEN: And Becky I just want to bring you this directly because all this is actually very fast moving here in Germany right now. Angela Merkel, the

outgoing Chancellor, of course today spoke with the incoming Chancellor, designated incoming Chancellor, Olaf Scholz about possible tougher

measures, also the Head of German states as well.

And there were several things that they had agreed they want to try to implement and all that is going to be decided on Thursdays, but on

Thursday, but a lot of it involves tougher lockdown measures, especially for unvaccinated people.

And just a couple of minutes ago, the designated incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz, he was on the - TV network. And there he said that he is also in

favor of mandatory vaccinations, Becky?

ANDERSON: Fascinating. All right, Fred, thank you for that. Fred's in Berlin for you, folks. Right up next, a tiny island nation says hello to a

new president and goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II why well that is coming up. And a new report focuses on a region where food insecurity is at a high how

the pandemic is adding to the problem where tens of thousands of people are going hungry.


ANDERSON: At the stroke of midnight, Barbados officially cuts its ties with Queen Elizabeth II. Barbados becoming the world's newest Republic as it

inaugurated a new president to replace the Queen as Head of State. Prince Charles was on hand for the ceremony and he acknowledged the Crown's

checkered past on the island. CNN's Royal Correspondent Max Foster was there.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Becky yesterday this speech was in a British realm with the Queen as Head of State.

SANDRA MASON, NEW PRESIDENT OF BARBADOS: I Sandra Mason to swear that I will well and truly serve Barbados.

FOSTER (voice over): 55 years after gaining independence from the UK, Barbados cuts its last formal tie to its former colonizer. The Royal

Standard flag lowered and replaced by the Presidential standard marking the end of the Queen's reign on this island and a new future under a Barbadian

born Head of State appointed by the Barbadian parliament.

MASON: Our country and our people must dream big dreams and fight to realize them.

FOSTER (voice over): Prince Charles invited as a guest of honor amongst the likes of Pop Star Rihanna, he used the moment to acknowledge Britain's role

in the slave trade.

PRINCE CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains history? The people of

this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.

FOSTER (on camera): It was unusually Stark language from the UK, but disappointed those holding out for a formal apology.


DAVID DENNY, CARIBBEAN MOVEMENT FOR PEACE AND INTEGRATION: Prince Charles is part of the Royal Family. The Royal Family contributed to slavery. The

Royal Family benefited from slavery financially. And many of our African brothers and sisters day in battle, OK for change.

FOSTER (on camera): It was in the 1620s that British settlers arrived in this paradise. And they went on to build vast fortunes from the sugar and

the slave trades. Cause for compensation for that dark period in British history grew louder during the Black Lives Matter protests, as did the push

to a republic.

SCOTT FURSSEDONN-WOOD, BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER TO BARBADOS: Clearly, people in Africa in this region in parts of the world still feel that

profound sense of injustice. And it's quite right that we recognize that, but we're determined that such a thing could never happen again.

FOSTER (on camera): There are still 15 countries around the world with the Queen as Head of State and Republican movements in all of those nations are

celebrating with Barbados at this time hoping in - momentum to their own Republican campaigns, Becky.


ANDERSON: Max Foster in Barbados for you. Well, in some parts of the Caribbean and in parts of Latin America there is a food crisis. 16 million

people suffering from hunger that's the worst it's been in more than 20 years according to the United Nations report released just hours ago.

And a 30 percent increase in just the last year alone as lockdowns, travel restrictions and the economic fallout from the pandemic hits the most

vulnerable. Well, the region is the mirroring the malnutrition sharpened by the pandemic happening across the world.

Joining me now from Caracas in Venezuela is Stefano Pozzebon. Let's talk about the wider region and then sort of get a little more focused as to

where you are? Why has it gotten so bad?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Becky. It's gotten really bad because what happened according to this report and according to our own experiences

reporters in the region over the last two years is that COVID-19 did just exacerbate a very bad situation before that was already occurring before

the pandemic and that the pandemic only made considerably worse.

While the impact of COVID-19 meant that about more than 13 million new people 13 million people in Latin America have gone hungry in 2020, more

than they were the previous year rising levels of hunger and food insecurity has been growing since at least the 2014 and 2015 pushed by a

crisis in the economy - in the commodity prices and raising inequality.

And you have spikes in countries like where I am, as you said in Venezuela, where according to an independent research by Venezuelan universities, up

to 90 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity.

But it's also a general trend that is affecting countries that are that used to have to felt that hunger was behind their backs. We're talking

about Chile, where it rose two percentage points between 2019 and 2020.

Or in Brazil, where under Jair Bolsonaro hunger has become again a topic and will definitely be at the ballot next year where there will be

presidential elections in Brazil. It's really a general trend across the entire region Becky.

ANDERSON: Stefano Pozzebon on the story for you. Thank you. You're watching "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson. It's been just over three

months since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

Are they proven the skeptics wrong, especially when it comes to their treatment of women? Well, I'll be asking two activists, one who was forced

to flee Kabul and one who is still there.



ANDERSON: Welcome back, you're watching "Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson. It's the kind of knock on the door that can instill terror in

Afghanistan, the Taliban, asking for you by name saying they want to talk to you and then sometimes you disappear.

Human Rights Watch says that's what the new Afghan rulers have been doing along with sending fake letters of employment all to Euro, dozens of

members of the Afghan security forces to their deaths after the Afghan government fell in August.

Well, the Taliban responding saying that didn't happen and insisting Human Rights Watch has it all wrong. Well, after the chaos in mid-August to many

in Afghanistan, it must have felt like the world, quite frankly, moved on.

Well, we haven't. It's worth noting the Taliban have been running Kabul show for only three and a half months. You'll recall that early on, they

promised their new era in charge would be more moderate, especially for women. So tonight, we're going to ask how's that going.

My next guests are two of the most recognized female Afghan figures advocating for the rights of Afghans, particularly women. We're trying to

establish communications with Mahbouba Seraj.

In fact, I think we've just got on the left. She's the Executive Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Center. She's in Kabul. Fawzia Koofi

was recently a member of the Afghan delegation negotiating peace with the Taliban.

She's also a former Afghan Member of Parliament. Fawzia, I'm going to start with you. You're in Geneva in Switzerland; we are trying to establish

communications with Mahbouba Seraj, who is in Kabul where she was born. Let's start with you, Fawzia.

And I just want to get your reaction to this latest Human Rights Watch report detailing the murder of nearly 50 Afghan security members by the

Taliban. What do you make of this report?

FAWZIA KOOFI, FORMER DEPUTY SPEAKER, AFGHAN PARLIAMENT: Well, Becky, as you could see, enforced disappearance leading to murder and human rights

violation, including torture is a common harsh reality of many people in Afghanistan nowadays.

And not only the Human Rights Watch report or other institutions confirm this but based on daily contact that I have with people from security

forces, but also people who have links, just simple political links are being enforced, lead disappeared or tortured.

And that being said, in a situation that you know, women do not go to school or girls do not go to school women do not go to work. It is the same

chaotic situation of lawlessness. Taliban are not delivering to their commitment that they have said when they were negotiating with us.

ANDERSON: You played a strategic role in negotiating with the Taliban for years, its leaders had repeatedly promised amnesty for all Afghan officials

once he took over this report, detailing that they have reneged on those promises. What happens next?

We've been talking to a lot of the aid agencies, for example, and other countries, certainly those neighboring Afghanistan, who say, the most

important point at this point is that winter is coming and Afghans need support and the cash they need liquidity.

What's your perspective on this because so many members of the international community including the U.S. are not prepared to recognize

the Taliban and that is holding up the ability to get cash into the system? Don't?


KOOFI: Yes. Yes. Well, we know, Becky that people are expecting a harsh winter. A million children based on the U.N. are experiencing harsh, severe

malnutrition. A lot of people do not have access to food. That's true.

But in the meantime, actually, Taliban are taking people the hostage they need to deliver to the people, there are many better ways that

international community could reach out to the people directly.

I am, once again on daily contact with people who actually sold their young girls to feed the rest of family force and child marriages across

Afghanistan is another phenomenon, which is, you know, increased. I'm in contact with a lot of people.

I think there are better ways. There are a lot of smaller grass root organizations, the CDC, the Community Development Councils that were

structures established before they are representing people, we need to reach out to them.

And I think the U.N. should get out of their bureaucracy a little bit. And understand that the situation is, you know, needs emergency and immediate

attention. When it comes to unfreezing the liquidity under the cash, I think the international community should really hold the Taliban

accountable for not delivering when it comes to basic human rights.

Why are we are normalizing discrimination in that part of the world, which is Afghanistan, I think discrimination should not be normalized by. I

understand people's logic, but I think people could - the people of Afghanistan could be reached out directly, without them being


ANDERSON: I recently interviewed the Director of Operations at the ICRC who just returned from a six day trip to Afghanistan, have a listen to what he

told me.


DOMINIK STILLHART, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: What I believe is that it is possible to channel money into these

essential services, whilst the political legitimacy crisis is ongoing, and the question of recognition remains on the table.


ANDERSON: Fawzia, it's so important that that liquidity is available for Afghans this winter, isn't it? So the ICRC they're saying, there are

mechanisms by which the international community doesn't have to recognize the Taliban, but the money can be injected into the country? Do you agree

that, for example, that nine and a half billion that's frozen in the U.S. needs to be unfrozen at this point, and somehow got to the people who need

it most?

KOOFI: Well, I believe that the people should be, you know, in the center of the priority and that attention, because we're talking about millions of

people who have lost jobs.

We're talking about millions of people who are not paid for months for their salary, and especially woman, woman have to pay the highest when it

comes to war, they pay, they lose their loved ones, the opportunities are taken away from them.

And they pay the highest when there is conflict and post conflict by taking opportunity from them. So I know families and women who actually were the

breadwinners of the family.

They are not paid for six, seven months, she needs to support her children, and she needs to get her salary. What I'm saying is that there are other

means the Taliban must be hold accountable for not delivering to the people of Afghanistan, they have been in power for three months or more.

They have not really presented any plan in terms of governance and my experience from negotiation with them. I think they are really lacking that

kind of governance. So therefore, I think they have to really establish a broad based, inclusive government, let women of Afghanistan enjoy what they

do in the rest of Muslim world.

Why I don't know why the Muslim world is silent on this. We want the Muslim community to stand up on support and solidarity with people of Afghanistan,

because the Taliban are basically denying the people's right.

On the other hand, there is a humanitarian crisis. So I think the same way that the U.N. the salary of the teachers paid the salary of the teachers

and health staff, they could still do the same mechanisms. There are still banking system that work inside Afghanistan that could be used.

ANDERSON: Just it just works. And I'm fascinated you know, let's just briefly you have to see at the table in negotiations with the Taliban. So

and you're telling us that the behavior that you've seen doesn't surprise you correct?

KOOFI: They actually, it surprised me Becky, very much surprised me because I think before that they were just talking - and making press statements.


KOOFI: And, you know, press briefings, saying that woman and girls will have Islamic rights, to go to school to go to work, et cetera, et cetera.

But now we know that, on the contrary, they are actually denying women from their Islamic rights to education, which we don't have it in other Muslim

world, including the same country that actually holds negotiation.

Qatar, which 12 percent of girls go to school more than boys? So I think they are now doing on the contrary. And I think the reason is because their

military who took over Kabul is the more hardliner.

So therefore, I think the word still have the leverage to use the leverage over international recognition, the leverage over monetary issue, the

leverage over working relationship, these are all the leverage that the international community could use for the benefit of people of Afghanistan.


KOOFI: Once again, I'm repeating Becky; we should not really normalize discrimination, because nowadays, what's happening in Afghanistan is

heartbreaking. To see a nine year old girl being sold is beyond imagination. It's beyond imagination. Yes, poverty, but there is also lack

of institutions to hold them accountable. Remember, we had the Violence against Woman law, which is not implemented anymore.

ANDERSON: Yes. I'm going to have to leave it there. It's a pleasure having you on and you are more than welcome to come back. Of course, you've been

on the show before. And we will continue to platform the plight of Afghans and we are sorry that Mahbouba wasn't able to join us today. We couldn't

establish - in Kabul.

I was hoping that you will get a sense of this specific story on the ground and from Kabul. Folks, we will get her back on the show as well. Thank you

very much indeed for joining us. NATO expressing growing concern today about Russian troop build ups along the Ukrainian border.

The NATO Secretary General and U.S. Secretary of State speaking at NATO meeting in Latvia, in Stoltenberg, saying the alliance must send a clear

signal to Russia about massing troops at the border. Well, Antony Blinken warn that Russian aggression "can trigger serious consequences".

Well, their comments coming a day after the Belarusian defense minister said his country and Russia both neighbors to Ukraine plan to hold joint

military drills. Right, still to come an American born superstar who fled racism and ended up making a home in France is given that nation's highest

honor. Her story when "Connect the World" continues.


ANDERSON: The American born woman is about to get France's highest honor. Josephine Baker who became a singing and dancing superstar in Paris in the

1930s and then a spy and war hero in the 1940s will be honored at the Pantheon.


ANDERSON: She's the first black woman, the first performer and the first American to be immortalized there. Well if you're a regular guest on this

show, you'll remember we tee this story up for you yesterday, Jim Bittermann today outside the Pantheon for today's ceremony, Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, I'm having a hard time hearing you because I'm going to ground up by the music of

Josephine Baker. And if you're going to have real upstage I can't think of a better person they get upstaged by.

Josephine Baker song are being played here along a - flow, which leads up to the Pantheon where she is going to get the highest honor that the French

can be still. That is to say she is going to have her casket placed inside the casket and inside the Pantheon in the basement in the crypt. There are

only 80 people who have been so honored over the last 230 years.

And now she is the first African American woman is going to be so honored. A little bit earlier, I talked to one of her children; she had a famous

what she called the rainbow tribe, 12 children from various nationalities from all over the world, who she adopted. And I talked to Brian Baker. And

here's what his explanation is for why President Macron wanted to bestow his honor.


BRIAN BOUILLON-BAKER, JOSEPHINE BAKER'S SON: President Macron told me that your mother deserves to be at the highest honor in France, because of -

because she has served France during the war because she has served and be engaged with a lot of associations for peace against racism. But she will

be there as an example, an example for the future for the youth. And an example of our values, Republican values.


BITTERMANN: And just a few minutes, Becky, the casket will proceed up the street on the arms of Air Force officers. She was in the Air Force during

the war, the French Air Force during the war. They'll proceed up to the Pantheon, President Macron will make a speech and then she'll be in termed

underneath the Pantheon. Becky.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Jim. Well, a Frankenstein. That description of the Omicron variant from the top researcher on the team that discovered it, he

joins me on "Connect the World" up next.


ANDERSON: Let's get you back to our top story. It's turned up in 19 countries and territories and more countries tightening travel restrictions

to try and keep it out, medical experts scrambling to figure out if vaccines current vaccines are effective against it.

We are of course talking the Omicron variant. My next guest is currently growing the variant in a lab and testing it against blood samples of

vaccinated and unvaccinated people. In a recent interview he said and I quote, "This is probably the most mutated virus we'd ever seen, it's more

of a Frankenstein than others".

Virologist Alex Sigal joining me now live from Durban, South Africa. What do you mean by that Alex?


ALEX SIGAL, FACULTY MEMBER, AFRICA HEALTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, it certainly has a valid mutations as some of some of them we've seen before

and some of them, we haven't. And even the ones we've seen before are in a new constellation. So we haven't seen this particular combination. That

being said, the number of mutations may not indicate that this is, you know, the worst thing ever. It just means that this is a heavily mutated

and evolved variant.

ANDERSON: So when you call it a Frankenstein, do you regret that term, or are you perfectly happy with it? I mean what have you learned about it?

SIGAL: Well, look, it's all these variants are Frankenstein to some extent, right. So they have new mutations, some old mutations, and they're kind of

built up of, of kind of parts that we've seen before. So that's kind of I guess, to some extent, not a bad description. It doesn't be the mutations

don't necessarily translate to something that is not sensitive to vaccines, and I think probably it will be.

ANDERSON: OK, let's be quite clear about this. Two questions, is it more transmissible, and does it evade immunity from vaccines?

SIGAL: Yes, so according to the mutations, both of these things will happen, it will be both somewhat or a lot more transmissible and it will

evade vaccines. The question is how much because we've seen variants before, like the beta variants, which evaded vaccines, but it didn't invade

vaccines, completely vaccines had enough left over to deal with the infection, especially if he just got the vaccine.

So I mean the jury is definitely still out. We've seen similar stuff evolve here, for maybe similar reasons. And we've tested those viruses; those

viruses never quite became variants, but had log mutations, also these kinds of Frankenstein constellations. And they do the same stuff. So they,

they evaded vaccines, but there was enough of the vaccine leftover to actually have protection.

ANDERSON: So are you close enough to the data to be able to get a sense of whether there are currently more hospitalizations and deaths as a result of

this variant?

SIGAL: Well, I'm monitoring it from where I'm sitting. But we're not seeing that right now. And you know it's quite possible that you may have the

opposite that this variant will be milder. You know the fact that something is transmissible and evades vaccines to some extent or logic, that doesn't

mean it's going to be more pathogenic.

ANDERSON: Based off of what you know about this variant, and you're growing it at present, has the world overreacted in what is its initial response to

this, of course, because we know this, genomic sequencing was only really reported back end of last week.

SIGAL: I think there was a knee jerk reaction. And this includes, you know, closing off borders, isolating South Africa, which is unfortunate. I think

scientists here were very transparent in order to prepare other countries and it's too bad that kind of went in this direction.

And you know South Africa is paying a price. Of course, this is what we must kind of keep on doing is to make sure as soon as we find something, we

disclose it, and we are transparent in our science. But I think the jury's definitely still out and what this virus can do, and we don't need to

necessarily expect the worst.

ANDERSON: How long is it going to take? I mean, you're growing the variant in a lab; you're testing it against blood samples of vaccinated and

unvaccinated people. How long before it is clear that we have answers to what has so many questions at present?

SIGAL: Well, it's not only me, I mean, there's a big effort around the world to actually understand this guy. And I think in a couple of weeks,

things will be much, much clearer, and perhaps some of the panic will subside.

ANDERSON: Do you feel that South Africa has been punished?

SIGAL: I think one must be kind of careful in these kinds of responses. It's a bit short sighted. We're lucky in South Africa, we have a - we're

able to be very transparent but let's say you're a researcher in another country.


SIGAL: And the government knows that this was going to do some damage. I mean, what's going to happen to you, right? So, so it's important to not to

punish countries for doing the right thing.

ANDERSON: Let me just put this to you, the viral load was detected in Pretoria's wastewater reached similar levels at the peak of delta, so a

very sudden surge at the end of October, beginning of November, as you look for clues on how this took hold. How concerning is that, sir?

SIGAL: Yes, well, you know what, I think it's totally possible, there's a lot of virus around. But again, you know, this can be good or bad. It might

be that we have a lot of infections, which are undiagnosed, because it might be not so severe, so the fact that there's a lot of virus, it doesn't

mean much.

I think what we need to see is how much hospitalization there is, you know, what is the disease severity, you know, how bad does that this variant hit

in terms of making people sick? If it doesn't necessarily do that, as much as we'd expect, then perhaps this is just a wave. It's not; it's not

something completely different.

ANDERSON: Sir, it's good to have you on. Thank you for your work. We'll speak again I hope.

SIGAL: Thank you.

ANDERSON: You've been watching "Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson. "One world" with Zain Asher is next.