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France to Block British Tourists as Omicron Surges; Italy Vaccinates Children 5-11; Third Dose of Moderna Offers "Substantial" Protection; Equivalent of Category 5 Hurricane Hitting Philippines; Bank of England Raises Rates in Surprise Move; New South Wales Sees Highest Daily COVID-19 Cases. Aired 10-10:40a ET
Aired December 16, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: A record shattering surge: coronavirus cases in the U.K. put the world on high alert.
France is racing to slow the spread. The country will ban tourists from the U.K., starting this weekend.
Later in the show, rescue efforts are underway, as a supertyphoon slams the Philippines. We'll talk to an emergency group operating on the ground
FOSTER: I'm Max Foster in London in for Becky Anderson. Hello, welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.
The overwhelming number of new COVID cases in the U.K. prompting France to take extreme measures. British tourists are to be banned from going to
France, starting Friday at midnight local time.
U.K. travelers will be required to present a, quote, "compelling reason" to enter France. With incredible spread of the Omicron variant, Britain just
recorded its highest number of new daily cases ever.
Countries around the world are beginning to urge people not to travel unnecessarily. Canada, for example, is urging people to avoid foreign
travel. But it is a big ask for many people just before the holiday season.
The queen isn't taking any chances. She has called off her traditional pre- Christmas lunch with members of her family. A Buckingham Palace source telling CNN the British monarch's decision is a precautionary one so
people's Christmas Day plans aren't put at risk as COVID-19 cases surge here in the U.K.
I want to point out there is no indication this has anything to do with her health. Salma is here with us.
I think you're particularly concerned, aren't you, by this R number we have seen today.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is very worrying. These R numbers have come out. It is estimated the Omicron R number is between 3 to 5. That
means for every one person infected with the Omicron variant, they can get 3-5 other people sick. That's why you see that doubling rate is so high.
The number of cases is rising. Yesterday, that highest number of cases in the 24-hour period, 78,000 cases; 4,000 of them, 4,600 of them Omicron
cases. And, yes, we have very few hospitalizations right now due to Omicron.
That's because you have that lag time of two weeks between the positive cases and people actually turning up in hospitals.
You really feel like everyone is bracing for the tidal wave of Omicron. Everyone is canceling their Christmas plans. Everyone is getting on the
phone and figuring out whether or not they can travel.
We have new restrictions coming in from France, banning tourists. Even the queen reconsidering her plans. So a real sense that Christmas is under
FOSTER: The queen canceling; I guess she had to cancel this event, didn't she, as the person who is meant to be the figurehead to lead. This isn't
just about her lunch. It is about leading by example, I guess.
ABDELAZIZ: It is out of an abundance of precaution. Many of our friends, right, are canceling because they don't want to get sick before they go see
their parents for Christmas. So, yes, she is setting an example. And it's an example I think the prime minister and the top chief medical officer
were really emphasizing --
FOSTER: They said prioritize.
ABDELAZIZ: -- prioritize. Think twice before you go to the pub. Think twice before you meet someone you don't know. Think twice about what you're
doing. Critics would say, well, then shut down pubs and social gatherings. But right now it is a matter of individual choice. Be extra careful, be
FOSTER: What do you make of France banning U.K. tourists?
ABDELAZIZ: I saw that new and it made my heartbreak a little bit. I think it puts into question everybody's plans. This is the first travel
restriction targeting the U.K. The U.K. now is the test case for Christmas. Everyone is watching what is happening here with the booster shots,
restrictions, how quickly Omicron is spreading.
France now putting first restrictions in place. Essentially the message is, if you are a U.K. tourist, if you don't have a compelling reason to come
into France from the U.K., don't do so.
And the worry is what if other countries follow suit?
What if the U.K. faces more travel restrictions?
FOSTER: The advice appears to be don't organize anything, don't go anywhere.
It is lockdown in everything but name?
ABDELAZIZ: It really does feel like that. Even when we walk around central London, because of the work from home orders earlier this week, it's dead.
I got my lunch in --
FOSTER: We're the only ones here, aren't we?
ABDELAZIZ: -- we're the only ones in this building. So it does very much feel like it is a lockdown by choice almost. People are staying home
because they don't want to get sick. But I think it is a transition now.
ABDELAZIZ: We were avoiding plans pre-Christmas to try to make sure we made Christmas with our families. Now it looks like even that Christmas
time is under question.
FOSTER: OK, Salma, thank you. We'll be watching that. We're expecting the numbers on case numbers in the U.K. as well.
They're escalating like nothing else, aren't they?
Hope we get that in the next couple of hours.
Israel adding more countries to its so-called red list, as Omicron fears grow. Under a new proposal, Israelis will be barred from traveling to six
more European countries in the UAE, including France, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.
The U.K. and dozens of African countries were already on that list. If approved by parliament it would go into effect on Sunday. Elliott Gotkine
joins us from Jerusalem.
It is interesting because the U.K. got rid of its red list. Jerusalem is extending its red list. Each country doing their own thing.
What is Israel's reason for this?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, like you say, every country doing their own thing. I think what Israel is trying to do is basically not
repeat the mistakes that it made in the past, namely dealing with things when it is too late.
And when, you know, let's say Omicron would be rampant, which it isn't now. There are 89 cases for sure in Israel, with another 150 cases of high
suspicion. So for now, what Israel is trying to do is prevent this outbreak from running out of control.
Perhaps as we are seeing in the U.K. and other countries and to ensure that its R rate, just above 1, and its daily case numbers, which have been more
or less flat over the last few weeks, 741 new cases yesterday and the number of serious cases, which stand at 80 and are declining, they want to
make sure this situation doesn't get worse.
Just trying to get ahead of things by banning travel to these countries, except with the people that get a special permit. And although we haven't
got the likes of Germany or the U.S. on that list for now, Israel is monitoring outbreaks in other countries.
And it wouldn't be a surprise at all, Max, to see additional countries being added to that red list in the coming days and weeks.
FOSTER: Interesting test case, Israel. Famously had a very effective vaccine program. And everyone is wondering how effective the vaccines are
against Omicron. So if it does take hold in Israel, that will say something about the vaccinations.
GOTKINE: Very much so. And I think Israel is still encouraging Israelis to go and get vaccinated. Just under two-thirds of the population now is
deemed to be fully vaccinated.
You may recall that, about three weeks ago, they authorized vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11. And there only has been a 10 percent takeup
there. A lot of reluctance on part of many parents to get their young children vaccinated.
The government is concerned about not letting things get out of control. For now, most things are open as usual. One thing changing tomorrow, Max,
on Friday, which is the start of the weekend here, busiest shopping day of the week, is that people without these green passes, this is proof of
recovery or vaccination or protection against COVID, will not be allowed into shopping malls and except for essential services like supermarkets and
Originally the health minister said they will give out bracelets to people with green passes to allow them free rein at the mall. That was scrapped
because it was deemed to be unworkable.
But shopkeepers and mall operators, they don't want to pay police officers yet. They have discretion on how to impose this -- these new regulations.
And it is anyone's guess as to how they are going to enforce it. So a chaotic shopping day and start to the weekend beckons tomorrow, I think,
FOSTER: And interesting, talking about shopping and business, it is a huge effect on business when travel locks down in the way that it is locking
down in Israel.
How much concern is there in the business community about another massive hit to the economy there?
GOTKINE: Well, there is big concern. I should say the tourism sector is also being hit. And in fact, just yesterday, the government came out with a
package of a systems measures for the tourism sector.
Tourism is accounting for just under 3 percent of the economy, supports directly or indirectly a quarter of a million jobs. The prime minister
saying it is a central component of the Israeli economy. So people looking to retrain can get grants and scholarships and they're looking at
assistance for hotels. They've seen a big drop in revenue, too.
FOSTER: Elliott in Jerusalem, thank you.
Italy has started vaccinating 5- to 11-year-old children. The campaign kicked off on Wednesday in Rome. You see a doctor here, playing the guitar
to distract the young recipients there.
The European Union recommended that all children age 5 to 11 be vaccinated. Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman live from Rome.
Ben, why is Italy vaccinating all children at this age, not starting with most vulnerable children, like some of the countries are doing?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think their approach is, given that they have the vaccines available, they're using the Pfizer
vaccine, it is a third of the strength of the adult dose, they have it. So they're going to use it.
WEDEMAN: France, for instance, is only providing the vaccine to children between 5 and 11 who have pre-existing conditions.
But in Italy, the attitude is you've got it, use it. Give it to everybody who signs up to get the vaccine. We were speaking with a doctor from the
regional health service here earlier today, who is explaining that the two groups that have the highest incidence of COVID in the country at the
moment are children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Because, of course, they go to school and they hang out with their friends all day and that's a place where the disease spreads very quickly and
And in addition to that, it is the 15 percent of the population here that is still hesitating to get the vaccine. So as soon as those two groups get
vaccinated -- or as vaccinated as possible -- perhaps Italy's current fourth wave of the disease will be brought under control.
So that's why they're giving it across the board to all children between the ages of 5 and 11. It is not mandatory in any sense. Adults, parents,
have to give permission for the children to be vaccinated.
Now we're outside the Museo de Bambini, the children's museum here in Rome, that is serving as one of the centers for the children vaccination
campaign. They're expecting 30 children to come today for the vaccine. This center will be open all day long over the weekend to provide the vaccine.
FOSTER: Ben in Rome, thank you.
COVID vaccines may be no match for the Omicron coronavirus variant. Some are saying that new studies are giving mixed news about their
On Wednesday, U.S. researchers from Columbia University released a preliminary study that showed that Omicron variant is resistant to four
Still, there is some promising news. Another study shows that a third dose of Moderna vaccine offered substantial protection against Omicron. That
comes after similar findings on the Pfizer vaccine. America's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the next benefits
of getting vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: There will be breakthrough infections, no doubt about that. We know that, from the
emerging experience we're getting from people in South Africa and, particularly, in the U.K., and we will be seeing that in this country.
The critical issue and the importance is that you might be protected from infection. But clearly protection against severe disease will be greatly
enhanced by getting vaccinated and getting boosted.
The vulnerable people are the people who have not been vaccinated. And I hope that the possibility that we're seeing, that we're going to be getting
a surge of Omicron, almost inevitable, given the characteristic of high degree of transmissibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Elizabeth Cohen is with us.
Very confusing when you're told the vaccines aren't effective but boosters are effective. Just explain that what is happening here in terms of
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Max. I know this sounds so confusing as we keep hearing about these Omicron studies. I'm
going to give you the bottom line.
The Omicron variant is an escape artist. So two shots of an mRNA vaccine helpful against Omicron; super helpful, maybe not. But helpful. And a
booster is even better. Let's take a look at the results of the recent study out of Columbia University.
I'll tell you -- give you quotes from what the doctors, who did this, said. They said that Omicron is markedly resistant to Pfizer and Moderna and
Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. And they said Omicron is now the most complete escapee.
In other words, it has managed to escape the vaccines more so than any other variant that we have seen so far, including Delta.
Now let's look at what the Columbia researchers had to say about the booster. They said even a third booster shot may not adequately protect
against Omicron infection but, of course, it is advisable to do so.
So in other words, what these researchers are saying is, look, the vaccine, even with the booster, may not be as good as it was against Delta. It may
not completely protect you against the novel coronavirus. But it is going to do some good. So get the two vaccines if you haven't already. And if it
is time, get yourself a booster. Max?
FOSTER: Also the other research we're talking about, suggests go for Moderna, if you can.
COHEN: That's right. This is actually very similar. So what they found in this study of Moderna, a vaccine, one of the two mRNA vaccines, is that two
doses really took a hit. Two doses of Moderna took a hit with Omicron.
COHEN: But that a third dose brought that back up again. It brought the antibody levels back up again.
Now did it bring it back up all the way?
We're not sure. But two doses does some good; the third dose even better. Get vaccinated, get a booster if it is time to get a booster. Max?
FOSTER: Elizabeth, as ever, thank you very much indeed for bringing clarity to all that research.
Meanwhile, nearly 200,000 people left their homes, trying to stay safe, as a massive super typhoon is slamming into the Philippines. We'll take you
live to Manila for the latest.
And central bank interest rates are rising.
Staying put or bracing for hikes, depending where you live, the latest moves to keep inflation in check.
FOSTER: A super typhoon has driven nearly 200,000 people from their homes in the Philippines. It's the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane and it's
hammering the country's eastern coast right now.
The Philippine Coast Guard helped evacuate more -- before the super typhoon made landfall. It grew from a category 1 to category 5 in just 24 hours.
The massive storm brought heavy rain and flooding days ahead of landfall. The climate crisis being blamed for creating more intense storms in recent
Senator Richard Gordon is chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, joins us from Manila.
Thank you for sparing the time. I know you're incredibly busy.
What sort of situation are you dealing with?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, Dick Borden (ph).
FOSTER: Senator, can you just explain what you're dealing with right now?
RICHARD GORDON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, PHILIPPINES RED CROSS: Sorry, Max. Well, we have about 170,000 people in evacuation centers right now and in 735
There is a lot of flooding going on in Mindanao. And now the river systems, the Agay-ayan River and in the Agusan River are at critical levels because
of the rains (ph). We had about 200 millimeters of rain in the last 12 hours, similar to what happened 11 years ago, when Typhoon Washi hit
And in 24 hours, they had 400 (ph) millimeters of rain and a lot of people died. In the meantime, right now, there is no power. They've cut power or
they have lost power simply because of the rains. There are certain areas without water.
And certainly a lot of people are -- have to be looked at, at the evacuation center, because we still have COVID in this country. And we want
to make sure they're fine.
So our doctors and our nurses and our volunteers are making sure that they have masks and that especially the young people are very vulnerable and the
senior citizens are looked at by our volunteers.
And we're monitoring for diseases like pneumonia, coughs, colds and everything like that. So there is a lot of hypertension of course, a lot of
stress being experienced by our people.
And definitely tomorrow we would probably find out a lot more damage. A couple of buildings of the Red Cross and a couple of apartments (ph) have
lost their rooftops. Certainly there have been a lot of roofs flying. They're, like, shavers (ph), you know, and it's very dangerous.
So it is important that we're always looking out for the road ahead because we don't want any casualties. So far, we have not had any casualties
reported. But I'm sure it will change in a few hours as the typhoon leaves the area.
FOSTER: In terms of the pandemic, you were describing there still a risk, isn't it, you can't completely forget that, as you rightly noted.
What sort of challenges are the safety protocols presenting to you when you're on a rescue mission?
GORDON: Well, we are very well trained and veteran volunteers, who have been through all these challenges. The Red Cross is at the forefront of
testing in this country. We have had 5 million tests alone by ourselves.
And we know the dangers. And we know there is a new variant, Omicron, and we have already two cases. And we're watching out because other countries
have been in a bad way, like Korea, and even China and of course Europe, and we don't want that to happen in the Philippines because, right now,
we're experiencing a very, very low infection rate in the country, although, again we had 257 infections yesterday.
But nonetheless, the new variant could turn the tide again to a very, very bad level. So we're watching it out closely and we still are trying to make
sure that we test and we treat and we isolate.
And that's why we are -- there is a lot of concern in the evacuation areas, that they make sure that none of them have COVID. We have ambulances at
evacuation centers to make sure that they can be ferried (ph) to a hospital right now.
Mercifully now, our hospitals are not overloaded, unlike a few months ago, when it was so hard to get into a hospital. It is my hope that we will
weather this storm literally (ph) and that we are not going to get it.
But you know, hope springs eternal. We don't want a situation like what is happening in other parts of the world to happen to the Philippines again.
FOSTER: And you've had these storms, haven't you, recently, very tough period for the Philippines but a resilient people, as we learn every time
these things happen.
GORDON: Well (INAUDIBLE) disaster unfortunately. We have 7,600 islands and our people are a hardy lot.
GORDON: I'm glad that we didn't have the storm surges that we had with Typhoon Haiyan, which is the typhoon of the century, hit our country. The
Red Cross alone built 80,000 homes. And I'm glad that we're not hearing that a lot of the homes remain intact. And I hope that remains that way
because it is so difficult when you're hit with a typhoon and you lose your homes.
I'm really sure that tomorrow there will be a lot of people who will be without rooftops and homes. And we have to immediately address that because
it will be vulnerable before the elements. And certainly we want to make sure that we can face all the troubles ahead, especially coming into the
It is always tragic when kids are facing a Christmas season that will be very bleak because the economy is run down dramatically and we want to get
make sure that we can get back after this typhoon. And I certainly hope that we can lick COVID and I don't think we can lick COVID-19 right now.
But anyway, we're trying our best.
FOSTER: OK, we wish you the best. Senator Richard Gordon from the Red Cross in Manila, thank you very much indeed.
Now a tragedy on the Australian island of Tasmania has claimed the lives of at least five children. They were killed when a bouncy castle for a school
event was lifted 10 meters into the air by a wind gust. Four other children were critically injured. They were celebrating the end of term.
The Tasmanian premier called it "an inconceivable incident." Australia's prime minister voiced similar sentiments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The events that have occurred today in Davenport in Tasmania are just shattering. They are just
unthinkably heartbreaking. And young children, on a fun day out together with their families, and it turns to such horrific tragedy. At this time of
year, it just breaks your heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: The school superintendent says counselors are being provided for the affected families and the first responders as well.
Just ahead, some of the world's biggest central banks are trying to cool the heat of inflation. How they're juggling the impact of the pandemic on
one hand and surging prices on the other.
FOSTER: Welcome back. I'm Max Foster in London. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
It is the I word looming large over the pandemic, inflation. The surge in global prices is a direct result of supply shortages and increased demand,
as the world emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns. Today, the Bank of England responded to inflation concerns by hiking interest rates to 0.25 percent.
FOSTER: It comes after consumer price inflation in the U.K. surged more than 5 percent last month, the highest level in more than a decade. In the
Eurozone, where recovery has been slower, the view is, for now at least, is that inflation remains transitory.
A short while ago, the European Central Bank kept rates unchanged at record lows. This announcement comes a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve took the
gloves off to do battle against the hottest inflation in a generation in the world's biggest economy.
The Fed is hinting that its battle plan includes rate hikes next year at a faster pace than expected to try to put a lid on price growth. We have our
team coverage for you. CNN's Matt Egan is in New York and Anna Stewart is in London.
And, Matt, first of all, to you, it's a very difficult balancing act, isn't it, because you have to judge whether or not this inflation is temporary
because of all of the pandemic restrictions and whether it is long-term and that all plays into the decisions these banks are making on interest rates.
MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Yes, it is a very delicate balance and it's made that much more complicated by the fact that we have Omicron
running wild through some of these economies. And so that really complicates things.
But for now, the Federal Reserve is finally showing that it is serious about trying to tame inflation. After months of insisting that inflation
was just going to be a temporary problem, they're changing their tune here. And they're acknowledging the reality, which is that inflation is on fire.
And someone has to put it out.
So the Fed is coming in and acting like the firefighter here. They're cooling things off by wrapping up their bond buying program early. And
they're also penciling in three interest rate hikes for next year and more hikes after that.
And that's a big deal because that would mean that no longer zero percent interest, they would raise the cost of borrowing for mortgages and credit
cards and small business loans. And here is how Jerome Powell yesterday, during the press conference, here is how he explained why the Fed is making
this major policy shift.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: I believe that inflation may be more persistent and that may be putting inflation expectations under
pressure and that the risk of higher inflation becoming entrenched has increased. That's part of the reason behind our move today, is to put
ourselves in a position to be able to deal with that risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EGAN: Remember, the Fed came to the rescue in March 2020, when the whole world was falling apart. The Fed did everything it could to make sure that
the COVID recession wasn't going to turn into an all-out depression. And it worked.
But it still has those emergency policies largely in place, even though, today, unemployment is low and inflation is high. This would be like
continuing to heavily medicate a patient long after they have fully recovered.
There is going to be side effects and, in this case, it is inflation. So that's why we're seeing the Fed finally unwind these emergency policies.
FOSTER: Anna, a similar sort of trend here in London, not quite as aggressive but incredibly hard for businesses who are dealing with, you
know, lockdown effectively and then having to deal with higher interest rates as well.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, central banks have a really unenviable task here. It is a difficult balance to hike or not to hike. The
ECB today decided not to and they're not expected to raise rates through the whole of next year.
But the Bank of England did a moderate hike, just 15 basis points, pretty small there. But frankly, central banks around the world facing this
inflation issue need to do something at this stage.
Whether or not it is tapering asset purchases, which is what the ECB are doing, or raising rates, they need firepower for the next shot coming down
the road. As grim as any economic picture looks like, you've got to appreciate the fact that it can always get worse. That is what we learned
over the last two years.
Now for the U.K., on the one hand, inflation very, very high; 5.1 percent last month, which was a 10-year high for the U.K. and it's expected to go
up to 6 percent next April. So that is triple the target that the Bank of England targets.
And the jobs market is actually looking good. That's a key data point that the U.K. central bank said they would look at going forward. So that was
On the flip side, the economic picture is looking grim. The U.K. has downgraded its expectations for the economic growth of this quarter. And we
had a very dismal reading for October.
And this is where businesses are getting really worried. As you say, lockdown hasn't been imposed in the U.K., despite the highest daily cases
we've had since the pandemic began just yesterday.
However, although no lockdown, people are being advised to work from home and traveling through London, there isn't really anyone around. People are
self-imposing this lockdown. People aren't going to shops, they're not going to pubs and restaurants. People are concerned about the rise of
Omicron, they don't want to catch it, they don't want to spend Christmas in isolation with it and they certainly don't want to give to their loved ones
Now that means the economic picture isn't looking good and inflation is looking high.
STEWART: There is a risk here for stagflation. So that is on the flip side. And certainly business groups like the British Chambers of Commerce,
like the Confederation on Business Industry, they want to see what the U.K. government is going to do.
They may not even impose a lockdown but the effects of a lockdown seem to be realized here. And that's going to have a really damaging impact for
businesses, particularly in hospitality and travel and tourism and retail. Max?
FOSTER: Matt, how are the analysts dealing with Omicron?
Because we just learned about it; it feels very aggressive. We don't know what impact it is going to have. But they have had experience of previous
So how are they making predictions on this?
EGAN: I don't think that right now anyone can really accurately forecast what is going to happen with Omicron. We're certainly seeing anecdotal
evidence that this is spreading rapidly. But also some hopeful signs that maybe the symptoms are not as severe.
But we are hearing about companies that are pushing back their back-to- work, back-to-office plans, canceling conferences.
Jeffries at Wall Street Bank, they told everyone to stay home and said, you know, virtually no more travel. So there is going to be an impact there on
the economy. We just don't really know yet what that impact is.
We could see, sort of like Anna was saying, we could see people change their behavior; maybe people stop traveling quite as much, maybe they do
less shopping in person and more shopping online. And that would have an impact on the economy.
There is also the question mark about what does it do to the worker shortage?
That is one of the biggest drivers of inflation. If this means that more people are nervous about going back to work or they're forced to stay home
or they can't get child care because their day care or schools are shut down, then that can put further pressure on the worker shortage, which can
complicate the job of the central bank as they try to fight inflation.
FOSTER: Matt, Anna, thank you both very much very much indeed. Seeing more football matches canceled, I think, all sorts of cancellations coming
through. We'll get a real sense of how the economy will be affected in a couple of months, probably.
Let's get up to date on other stories we're following for you this hour.
Turkey's central bank has cut interest rates for a fourth straight month, despite soaring inflation. The president announced a nearly 50 percent hike
in the minimum wage. The move comes as the Turkish lira sinks to record lows. He says he'll ultimately make Turkey's economy less dependent on
Malaysian search crews are looking for survivors after a boat capsized off the southeastern coast. At least 16 people lost their lives in the
accident. Officials have rescued 14 of the 50 passengers. They blame high waves on Wednesday morning.
Nine people were killed in the Dominican Republic after a private jet crashed Wednesday. The jet was bound for Miami when it crashed into Santo
Domingo. Among the victims is popular Puerto Rican music producer Flow La Movie. His wife and child were also killed. No word on what caused that
There's been a lot of focus on Europe and its COVID spikes. We're also seeing rising cases in some parts of Asia. China has seen yet another day
with new cases in double digits.
And in South Africa, the number of critically ill patients is at a record high. David Culver reports.
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another day of double digit cases here in China, which for, many other countries may seem like a
successful day. But in a country where they are still trying to maintain a zero COVID policy, it is a continued struggle.
And they do say they have two cases of Omicron detected in the south. But as of now, the most recent outbreak in the province with double digits
continuing to be reported, well, those don't seem to be involving any of the Omicron variant. That, according to health officials in China.
One point of concern is coming out of a study from Hong Kong. The University of Hong Kong researchers there saying that Sinovac, widely used
here in the mainland and in many other countries, is not going to be very effective against Omicron.
Now they're basing that on the number of antibodies that are generally needed to neutralize this new variant. The study is suggesting that there
could be a breakthrough infection; meaning those who have received the vaccine, Sinovac, could very well still contract Omicron.
Now going forward, China determined to maintain their very strict contact tracing; likewise, the mask testing and the targeted lockdowns. Certainly
going to keep those in place, as we expect the Beijing Winter Olympics to get underway in February of next year.
Want to take you to Australia now. It is there where they're seeing a record number of daily confirmed cases in the state of New South Wales.
CULVER: And it may seem concerning, given that this is a record number going back to the start of the pandemic. But health officials there are
really focused on the number of hospitalizations.
And as of now, while they're still urging folks during this holiday season to try to keep a social distance, they're saying that the number of
hospitalizations is at a manageable number.
South Korea, though, experiencing another story; they, right now, are seeing a record number of critical care patients being admitted for COVID-
19. The number is roughly 989. And the real concern is that it hits 1,000 patients in ICU.
If they hit that number, health officials there say they could actually see a trickle-down effect for others who seek treatment for other illnesses at
several of the hospitals in South Korea.
What are they doing to try to counter that?
Starting this weekend, they will implement social distancing measures. For example, in Seoul, they will reduce the number of people allowed for social
gatherings from six down to four. All of this going to continue through Christmas and the new year, all part of an effort to stop the rising
numbers -- David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.
FOSTER: Ahead in sports, more Omicron cases in the U.K., more Premier League matches postponed. One manager called for drastic measures to keep
the virus in check.