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Omicron Overtakes Delta As Dominant Strain In Scotland And The U.K.; France Reports Very High Infection Rate In Children 6-10; British Finance Minister Speaks To CNN About Business Uncertainty; Twelve Remaining Hostages Abducted In Haiti Flown To The U.S.; CDC Updates Vaccine Guidance; NBA, NFL Changing COVID-19 Protocols As Cases Rise. Aired 10-10:45a ET
Aired December 17, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: This variant of the virus is at the moment running faster.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The U.K. cannot keep up with Omicron as it takes over as the dominant strain in Scotland.
Bad news for Boris Johnson as the -- bad news I should say for Johnson. There are more bad news for Boris Johnson, but that's another story later
in the program. Bad news for Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine. New research leads U.S. officials to say they choose Pfizer and Moderna
The Premier League postponements keep coming. Europe is now nine games down because of virus outbreaks.
I'm Richard Quest in London, filling in for my colleague Becky Anderson. And a warm welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.
The Omicron variant is now officially the dominant coronavirus strain in Scotland. Merely two weeks ago, the First Minister of Scotland said Omicron
wasn't widespread there. Now she's saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STURGEON: And we have a variant of this virus right now that is doubling every two or so days. So we are in a situation right now that no matter how
fast we go with vaccines, this variant of the virus is at the moment running faster.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: In fact the whole of the United Kingdom reporting record numbers of new COVID cases for the second day. It's a spike in plain sight as you can
see on the right-hand side of the screen. And the speed and ferocity of it makes everyone wonder just how far and how fast it will go, and what the
longer term implications will be.
Omicron is expected to outpace Delta across Europe by mid-January. In preparation the bloc is going to order more than 180 million doses of
Pfizer. It's been adapted against it. And while health authorities are seeing lower levels of hospitalization of Omicron, there has been an uptick
in the number of children infected. France, for instance, is reporting very high COVID infection rates in children age 6 to 10.
Jim Bittermann is in Paris, Selma Abdelaziz is in London. I'll be with you in a second, Jim, I do need to start in London.
When the first minister in Scotland basically saying, I mean, she doesn't say it's out of control but it's on the rampage. And anecdotally here, I'm
sure you know, anybody who's got it or knows somebody who has got it, this is starting to really take off.
SELMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. London is the canary in the coal mine right now. Here it is already the dominant strain and I can tell you
anecdotally almost everybody is dealing with either a positive case that was somewhere nearby or they're positive themselves. It's indeed that
speed, that ferocity, that quick doubling time of case rates that has many people here feeling like they are in lockdown by stealth.
Of course, the authorities here have some measures in place. Light measures in place. Mask mandates and showing a health pass before you go into an
event but most of those events are already cancelled anyways, Richard. And if it comes down to businesses, well, they're closing their doors because
staff are calling out sick. People are making cancellations.
I think everyone sitting down right now and wondering where do I go for Christmas because more positive cases means more people alone at Christmas
time. And that's really the concern here, is that across the country, people are essentially self-isolating at home. Businesses are closing their
doors with no support from the government and everyone is just having to make an independent choice on where they're going to be on Christmas Day.
QUEST: Right. Well, I'll be here broadcasting, but I realized that's not what you meant, Salma.
Jim Bittermann is in Paris. The situation in the U.K. is grim. Now the French decided to pull up the drawbridge across the channel with
restrictions but the situation is not going to get much better in France either, is it?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it isn't, Richard. In fact it's just about as bad as it is than anyone. The rates are
going up here. The number of ICU beds occupied by COVID patients. That sort of thing. All the measures that we use, they're all in the red zone.
They're not where the government wants them at all. And there's a Defense Council meeting like Health Defense Council meeting taking place right now
this afternoon and we expect there's going to be some announcements coming out of that.
One of them is the one that you hinted at earlier on. There's a possibility that they may install a program of vaccination of young children from ages
5 to 12, say, for example. Not make it mandatory but they would certainly encourage it and then not make -- the children would not have to have a
health pass which we all have to have. Adults have to have. But they are alarmed at the spread of Omicron amongst children in particular.
Another thing that might come out of it is the possibility that they'll provide free at-home testing kits, something that's available in a lot of
other parts of Europe. But elsewhere in Europe it's looking very grim, Richard. And the new health minister in Germany Karl Lauterbach says that
in fact it's going to be massive challenge to the health care systems, Omicron is, and the other variants are going to be a massive challenge to
BITTERMANN: -- German health care system. And as well in Italy they're alarmed at the rate.
BITTERMANN: And in fact they've drawn up the drawbridges there between France and Italy and any other country, any other European countries from
coming to Italy -- Richard.
QUEST: So, Jim, on that point, Jim, do you expect to see essentially a dismantling of Schengen, a temporary dismantling of Schengen? I know
they've tried to rebuild it and get it started again. But if Italy is already saying to France, stay out, it won't be long before the other
countries say to the worst affected, stay at home.
BITTERMANN: Yes. Exactly. I mean, the Italians are basically saying that you've got to quarantine for five days if you come in from another European
country. Up until now, you could generally freely transit within the zone, within the European zone pretty easily at least in the last few months. But
now it's more like it was back in the battle days of last year.
BITTERMANN: And as a consequence, there are a lot of number of countries have installed this kind of restrictive measures for the transit of
European citizens. And the other thing that's happened is that in fact a lot of health concern is taking place everywhere. There's this expression
about need for more vaccine, for example, in Germany. They are saying they may not have enough vaccine supply. So I mean, it's a real dramatic
situation with Omicron. And people are looking at all sorts of it.
Here in France, President Macron said the other day that he doesn't think that they're going to have to do, install a kind of European measures that
we have seen with Italy.
BITTERMANN: But he seems, you know, France can be pretty much the way it's been over the last few months -- Richard.
QUEST: Salma, back to you finally. I tried to get a box here in London. I tried to get a box of test. I brought a few over with me from the States.
Now I remember last year when I was here, they were handing them out on the street. Now they can't be have if I have no money.
ABDELAZIZ: Tests are the most precious commodity here, Richard. Now the government says they do have more tests in place but you can imagine with
so many positive cases and so many people getting those messages, getting pinged because they were near a positive case, those tests are crucial.
Every one trying to grab them. And on top of that, you have the PCR test that everybody is supposed to take before they travel.
Look, this is just about the sheer volume of people getting cases. The amount of resources that it requires from tests to the potential of
hospitalization to what it means for travel plan. It's not about whether or not Omicron is going to be mild quite as much anymore as it is just about
how many people are going to get it -- Richard.
QUEST: Thank you, Salma in London.
And so to Dr. Sonia Adesara, who works in the National Health Service in Britain. Now she has been feeling the impact of Omicron as it overwhelms
the health care system. And in fact she's feeling it personally.
Doctor, you're isolating because you recently got infected while dealing with COVID patients. Before we talk policy, are you feeling well? Are you
DR. SONIA ADESARA, NHS DOCTOR: Yes, I'm feeling fine. Yesterday I had a mild fever and muscle aches but today I'm feeling pretty normal.
QUEST: Out of interest, do you know was this Omicron? Was it Delta? Doesn't really matter, but do you know?
ADESARA: I don't know yet. I think we are seeing more Omicron cases in London. I think it's likely that it was Omicron and it does seem that the
symptoms that people are getting with Omicron are different to Delta. And so with Omicron anecdotally we know that people are less likely to get
maybe the cough and sore throat, but more likely to get fever and the headaches and feeling under the weather which the symptoms that I had and
also the --
QUEST: Which is interesting because that is much closer to the sort of traditional flu so you could have the fever, the headaches, the bit of the
chills and think, hang on, I've just got a nasty bit of cold or a bit of the flu but actually it could be Omicron. But are you seeing -- I
understand that it's less -- it's more virulent but people are as bad but it's still very deadly to those who unvaccinated.
ADESARA: Of course yes. There's still a lot we don't know about Omicron. So we think it may be, may be less severe. And of course we've got population
now that is generally vaccinated. About two-thirds of London are vaccinated. So we know that people who are getting the virus have now
better levels of protection. But it's still of course it still be deadly to people that are unvaccinated and of course the vaccines are not 100
ADESARA: So you can still get the virus if you've been vaccinated and you can still become unwell with the virus if you haven't vaccinated.
QUEST: I understand that it's a numbers game in a sense that if more people are infected even if the same percentage has to go to hospital. The
unvaccinated or indeed those who's -- the elderly. Are you seeing, where you work either in your practice or in your hospital, are you seeing
resources coming under pressure?
ADESARA: Definitely. And, you know, the sources have been under pressure for the past month now. It's been a very difficult situation throughout the
NHS. Winters are always very difficult for the NHS. Just a couple of weeks ago my local hospital put out a critical alert because they were running
out of hospital beds. So we're already in a very difficult situation.
And now we've got this situation where we can see the cases of COVID just absolutely soaring. I've seen that in the practice and working because we
get all the numbers of patients that are testing positive. And in the past week we're seeing those numbers increase. We are already starting to see
hospital admissions increase.
But of course, there's a delay between people getting the virus and then being admitted to hospital with the virus. So potentially within the next
fortnight, our hospitals are going to start to really, really be under signature pressure. And general practice as well. In general practice we
are now having to do the vaccination program as well so there's just severe pressures across the health service. It's really difficult and staff
QUEST: OK. All right.
QUEST: Well, you'll be back at work soon enough. Look, Doctor, if last year at the height or even of last winter, if that was a, say, level eight alarm
from where we are now and where you think we're going to be for numbers and crisis, and bearing in mind, what would you say we're going to be heading
towards, higher than that?
ADESARA: We don't know at this point. But what we do know for certain is that the numbers of cases are soaring.
ADESARA: We don't know what levels of admissions that we'll get from those cases but it is potentially very concerning. And even if it's less severe,
the sheer numbers that we're seeing could lead to --
ADESARA: Could lead to significant admissions increase and it could be eight and above, and it's a very concerning time. So we try (INAUDIBLE).
QUEST: Oh, dear. Doctor, well, we lost you there which is probably just, I was going to say, go ahead and have a cup of tea. Prop your feet up. And
have a bit of a rest. I'm very grateful that you joined us.
Meanwhile, the British Finance minister, the chancellor of the Exchequer, has returned. He's back in the U.K. where he's holding business crisis
talks. With Omicron surging everywhere, there are new economic challenges. I spoke to Rishi Sunak before he cut short his controversial work trip to
California. I asked the chancellor if he understands the British hospitality industry is feeling left out, left on its own after mass
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH FINANCE MINISTER: What I'd say to everyone in the industry is there is support in place at the moment that can help. For
example, this year all the way through to next spring, people are paying only around a quarter of their normal business rates bills. So that's an
enormous boost to cash flow.
Secondly, the hospitality industry is still benefitting from a lower rate of VAT all the way through to next spring as well. And thirdly we have cash
that we have provided to local councils. About a quarter of a billion pounds is still available and that could be distributed to companies as
required and my immediate priority is to make sure that that money gets out the door to those who need it as quickly as possible.
QUEST: Now let's talk about the wider economy. The Bank of England raised rates. We knew it was coming, it came sooner than perhaps some people have
taught. But it was there anyway. If you had been -- I know you're going to tell me that the MPC is independent. But I'll go for it any way. If you had
been on the MPC as a voting member, would you have gone with Silvana Tenreyro and held off for a few more months?
SUNAK: Well, in common with many other countries around the world, the U.K. is of course experiencing a period of higher inflation as we grapple with
many of the same global supply chain challenges as other nations. Now responsibility for monetary policy is of course that of the Independent
Central Bank. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on that.
But what I'd say is people should be reassured that the Bank of England's track record in managing inflation is very good. And also we in the
government are also supporting families with their cost of living through the winter. Most recently, cutting taxes for millions of the lowest paid
which will put an extra thousand pounds in the pockets of those people over the next 12 months.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Anna Stewart is with me. And the point is that the government is sounding out of touch. On the one hand that warning this is going to be
dreadful, awful, terrible, horrible. On the other hand, he's not prepared to say we're going to actually do something about it or at least we're
going to offer more.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And add to that the fact that the chancellor was in California when business leaders are calling for help but
he packed his bags and he left early. And he is now meeting with business leaders today. They don't want more talk. They actually really want action
at this stage. Now as he said in that interview, they are not telling people to cancel things. They have not closed down businesses. Therefore
they have not imposed a lockdown.
It is not their duty therefore perhaps to introduce new financial measures. But the reality is, as you see in London, we are experiencing something of
a de facto self-imposed lockdown by stealth, whatever you want to call it, the effect is real.
QUEST: And the Bank of England's decision to raise rates, it can be seen as crass at one level because things are getting worse with Omicron but on the
other hand, it does -- you know, inflation is high.
STEWART: Inflation is very high. 5.1 percent last month. That's a 10-year high. And the bank yesterday said it could get to 6 percent next April.
They also need fire power within because what happens for the next shot down the road? So yes, they did raise rates by 15 basis points.
The issue now, and this is where the government needs to step in is what happens if you see a sharp decline in economic activity from businesses
both consumer facing but also as an effective people getting sick, staying home, supply chain disruption, you name it. If you see further economic
decline and inflation rise, what do you get, Richard?
QUEST: You get stagflation.
STEWART: You get stagflation. That is a mess.
QUEST: Yes, but nobody -- but the problem is, and I'm -- I'm one of those who sort of have asked that question. People always think you're talk about
the 1970 style stagflation where we're -- don't look at me like that. Don't look at me like that.
STEWART: You remember it, Richard.
QUEST: No, I do. I do. But that's -- you had very high interest rates. The Paul Volcker years thereafter, it was designed to get rid of inflation.
We're not talking about that, are we?
STEWART: Well, we don't know what we're talking about at this stage. But I'd still say this is a risk, this is a risk bar up. It is a risk that's
becoming more real and it's something economists were warning about months ago. And I thought don't be ridiculous. Stagflation? But you know what, the
economy grew 0.1 percent in October, and that was before Omicron was even discovered.
QUEST: Getting tests in this country is quite difficult.
STEWART: You're noticing now. Yes.
QUEST: And the reason I'm noticing it because it's very different to how it was. You know, at first (INAUDIBLE) getting back in August of last year, in
2020, they were handing them out on the street.
STEWART: Like sweeties.
STEWART: You can get them at some pharmacies. You can occasionally get them through the government Web site when it hasn't crashed or run out. It
speaks, though, not just to demand, but also supply chain issues which is another conversation.
QUEST: Which we haven't. Do not have time for at the moment. I'm grateful to you. Thank you very much.
America's top infectious disease specialist says it won't take long for Omicron to become the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.S. as well. Dr.
Anthony Fauci says the shutdowns that put such a crimp in last year's holiday season do not need to happen this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we follow the CDC guidelines about when you are in indoor
public congregate settings to make sure you wear a mask even if you are vaccinated and if you are vaccinated, please get boosted when your time
comes and certainly if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If we do that, I don't believe we'll have to be doing any kind of shutdown with
regard to businesses in your community.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Dr. Fauci says there's no need to cancel holiday travel plans but he does advice travelers to be prudent especially in crowded airports.
A frightening chapter for a group of kidnapped missionaries has come to an end. The details on their return from Haiti and their months in captivity.
And the CDC office updated dos and don'ts on what COVID-19 vaccine to use.
QUEST: The 12 hostages released on Thursday in Haiti are now back in the United States, according to a source in Haiti security forces. They were
flown on a coast guard flight. The seven missionaries were initially kidnapped by a gang in October. CNN has also learned ransom money was paid.
Matt Rivers is following the story for us in Port-au-Prince in Haiti.
Matt, I heard your reporting yesterday and I saw your report about just the size and scale of the kidnapping situation. And do we know who paid the
ransom and of course do we have any idea how much it's likely to have been?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So what we do know, Richard, and these are details that our source in Haiti security forces is keeping close to
the vest because he doesn't want to set a precedent as he called it to give other people some idea about what the going rate for hostages would be.
However, what he did say and remember that when we first got a ransom demand from 400 Mawozo, which is the gang that authorities say was
responsibility for this kidnapping, you know, they came out pretty quickly thereafter and made a demand of $1 million per hostage.
What we can say is that the ransom that was paid on behalf of these hostages, all 17 of them, was far less than that amount. So this is
something that happened over the two months where there was negotiations ongoing between Christian Aid Ministries, the group that these missionaries
were here working on behalf of, and also directly to the gang.
We know that Christian Aid Ministries was receiving advice from several different agencies within the U.S. government and those negotiations
clearly brought down the price which allowed this ransom to be paid and allowed these people to be released.
But, Richard, it's pretty interesting since we first reported this news on the show yesterday, we got some more details about exactly how they were
released. These 12 remaining missionaries were dropped off in a town just outside of Port-au-Prince around 5:00 a.m. They were simply left on their
own by this gang to just walk around this town. And they stood out in this community. And it was actually community members that saw these people
walking around and brought them to the local police station.
That is how authorities were first alerted that they had been released and then they're obviously subsequently transferred to the custody of the
United States government and now they're back in the United States, Richard. But you can only imagine the sense of relief not only for the
kidnappees themselves but also their families back in the U.S. and one family in Canada just to have this ordeal finally be over with even if they
now have to process all this trauma that they went through.
QUEST: Matt, what breaks the cycle? I mean, if ransoms are paid and there is a perception of gain, or reality of gain as a result of a kidnapping,
what would it take to break the cycle?
RIVERS: This is a fantastic question, and I'm not sure that there is a great answer for it to be frank. I mean, if you look at the overall number
of kidnappings in Haiti this year, Richard, we're nearing 1,000 and the year is not over with yet. There was more than 100 in November alone. The
number was even higher back in October. And what you're seeing is this kind of the proof for gangs, if we kidnap people, we get paid. And this is
something that they have been seeing.
I think what you could look at from a macro perspective is giving these gang members more economic opportunity to get jobs, to be able to
participate in an economy that works. You get a government that can actually provide security for ordinary people. A government that is not
ceded essentially 50 percent of the territory in Port-au-Prince to gangs. But those are the realities right now. There is barely a functioning
economy. The federal government is utterly incompetent and cannot provide security for ordinary people.
And so what the solution to this in the near term is? I don't think anyone really has that answer at this point. And it's incredibly difficult for
ordinary Haitians going through this, Richard, because a very small percentage of the people that are kidnapped are foreigners. The vast
majority are Haitians who simply don't have the money to pay ransoms. It is just a brutal situation right now.
QUEST: Matt Rivers, many thanks in Port-au-Prince in Haiti.
Multiple COVID vaccine options in the United States. And their health officials are urging people to avoid using one of them. What's wrong with
it? In a moment.
QUEST: Welcome back. I'm Richard Quest in London, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD.
President Biden is warning Americans there will be severe illness and death this winter for those who are unvaccinated. The president is joining a
chorus of health experts calling for Americans to get COVID vaccines and booster shots to prevent serious illness. The fast-transmitting Omicron
variant is spreading the country. And millions of people are unvaccinated under grave risk. More than 1200 Americans are dying each day from COVID.
The U.S., the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated a recommendation. It says now take Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the MRNAs,
over the single shot J&J Johnson vaccine.
CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me.
This is tricky, isn't it, Sanjay? Because here they are, they're saying don't get a booster from J&J. Take Pfizer and Moderna, which leaves all
those people who've got Johnson & Johnson coursing through their body saying well, hang on, what about us?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. No, I hear you, and it has been confusing and frankly even during the clinical trials there
was some concerns you may remember about this potential of blood clots back then. The vaccine still got authorized. And to be fair, I will show you the
numbers here in a second, Richard, in terms of just how rare this is. But to give you a little context, about 17 million people have received J&J.
First of all if they have received it and they hear this news, they shouldn't be worried that this could still happen to them.
What they found is this risk of blood clot again rare. If it did happen, it happened within the first couple of weeks after the shot. So, you know,
it's not one of those things that should cause anxiety. And they're not even taking this off the market. What they're basically saying is when we
look at risk-reward, we think that these other options are better overall. And I'll show you that.
With regard to the clotting problems overall, again, I emphasize this is rare, but if you look at men, women, who is most likely to get this, you
found that it was typically women between the ages of 30 and 50 that were most likely to develop some sort of clotting condition that we're talking
What we did was we then took all the numbers and put it together in a single thing. And what you found by the end of August that you had a
certain number of these cases that were developing. There was about 14 million of those vaccines that have been given out by that time.
And then by the end of -- by mid-December, roughly December 9th, there were 17 million doses and there have been nine deaths, Richard, so, you know,
this is -- it gives you an idea of just how detailed they get looking at these adverse events. But also this is what sort of prompted I think this
recommendation now from the CDC to not use this as a first line choice.
QUEST: Is there a risk here? This is a sort of -- one of an unpleasant thought. But at the end of the day, OK, so J&J is not as effective and
there's this marginally increased risk, and then AstraZeneca, again, not as effective and there is a risk for them. So what we do is we ship these
vaccines to other parts of the world. We keep the good stuff if you like for ourselves in the northern hemisphere. Meanwhile, the developing world,
send them the J&J and the AstraZeneca.
GUPTA: Yes, I think you do have some of that. That was already happening even before this because some of these other vaccines one of the advantages
of those vaccines is they don't require the same level of storage, you know, cold storage, things like that. So they can be more easily
distributed in many parts of world.
But, you know, I think, if you talk to the folks at J&J, they'll sort of emphasize that yes, as you point out, there's marginally increased risk,
marginally less effectiveness. They believe that their vaccine is actually very effective over the long term.
They think it may have a more durable coverage than the MRNA vaccines which we do see have this waning sort of protection as we talk about boosters and
things like that. So there is a back and forth. But I think what we're dealing with here, Richard, is a brand-new class of vaccines.
These MRNA vaccines have been worked on for a long time but they didn't exist before. So there wasn't a context box for this. They were always
these other adenovirus type platform vaccines. So will MRNA just become the vaccine of the future? Perhaps. We'll see.
QUEST: So since I -- it's one of those classic cases, since I've got you here, Doctor, I'm going to make the most of it. Just how bad is this
Omicron, in your view, going to get? And we know -- look, the government in the U.K. where I am at the moment, has admitted they're going through the
roof, the numbers. And we know that if there's only the same percentage you're ill or whatever, and that's still alarming, how concerned are you?
GUPTA: Well, you know, I'll preface by saying, you know, people want certainty in an inherently probabilistic world. You know, and I think this
pandemic over the last two years has taught us the fallacy of that because there's not many things that are certain. Having said that, when you look
at the data, I think two things become really clear. It does appear more contagious.
I mean, you know, people have talked about this in terms of doubling times and things like that. I looked at the trajectories of Delta, for example,
and Omicron and you find that Omicron just took off a lot faster. Everywhere in the world that it's been, it takes off a lot faster. You also
look at South African data which is early data and you find that the risk of hospitalization was about 29 percent to 30 percent lower with Omicron as
compared to Delta. So there's increasing evidence that it's not as severe.
But, Richard, what this comes down to more than anything else is if you have immunity against this, you're probably pretty well protected. You
know, but, in the United States, for example, there's some 90 million people who still don't have at least vaccine induced immunity. And what
concerns me is a lot of those people may have said look, I've had COVID in the past, I have that protection, I understand that line of reasoning, that
infection acquired immunity.
Problem is, you know, we still got 67,000 people in the hospital. We've got 1200 people dying every day. So if there's a lot of that immunity out
there, it's not offering a lot of protection. So get vaccinated, get boosted, that's still the best bet.
QUEST: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always good to see you, sir. I appreciate it. Thank you.
GUPTA: Have a good one.
QUEST: South Africa is reporting lower hospital admission rates with Omicron as the dominant strain compared to previous waves. Early research
from the health officials there shows that COVID patients are spending less time in hospital with fewer on oxygen and ventilators.
South Africa's health minister says the part of the country hit first by Omicron is showing signs infections may have hit their peak. His message
remains jab before you (INAUDIBLE). A word of caution, South Africans who get vaccinated before they begin partying for the holidays.
Other stories now making news on our radar. The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un marked the 10th anniversary of the death of his father Kim Jong-Il
with a solemn ceremony in Pyongyang. Like his father, Kim has ruled North Korea with an iron fist and the country's economy struggled with sanctions,
with nuclear program and border lockdowns because of the pandemic.
Nineteen people are dead and three people are in critical condition following a building fire in Japan. It started on Friday morning at a
medical clinic in Osaka and has since been extinguished. Police are investigating the cause. According to Japanese media, arson has been and is
Research and rescue operations are under way after super typhoon slammed into the Philippines. It's Typhoon Rai and known locally as Odette. It's
claimed at least 12 lives. Power and communication lines are out in several areas. And that's making rescue operations much harder. Rai is the 15th
typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.
China is demanding that the United States, in their words, immediately correct its mistake. It comes after the U.S. Senate gave final passage to a
bill that would ban imports from China's Xinjiang region. And the U.S. Treasury Department has aided eight Chinese firms to its investment
blacklist saying the company has played a role in facilitating China's human rights abuses towards the Uighur Muslim minority. Among the list of
companies are the drone maker DJI. When it came under scrutiny in December, the company said it did nothing to justify being placed on the list.
China's reaction is not unexpected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WANG WENBIN, SPOKESPERSON, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY: U.S. actions have seriously undermined the principles of market economy and international
economic and trade rules. Seriously harm the interest of Chinese organizations and companies. Beijing is strongly dissatisfied and
resolutely opposes the actions. We urge the United States to immediately rectify its mistaken ways.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Voters in Chile head to the polls this Sunday to decide between two very different candidates. The runoff elections most polarized. Vote Chile
has seen since its return to democracy in 1990. Putting the ultra- conservative Jose Antonio cast against the leftist lawmakers Gabriel Boric, a former student protest leader there, in a tight race that could come out
to turn out just to who finally wins. Observers are worrying that the polarized nature could prevent many centrists from voting at all.
And the virus has loomed like a black cat over the world of sports since the start. Now on both sides of the Atlantic, pro teams are forced to deal
with rising cases in different ways. We're talking, next.
QUEST: All right. There are two top U.S. sports leagues, it's the NBA and the NFL. And they are now taking steps to save their season by putting new
COVID protocols in place. It's all to do with mask wearing and social distancing. Positive tests have doubled in the NFL this week. No games have
been cancelled. Basketball hasn't fared nearly as well. Several have been postponed and testing have become more frequent over the next few weeks.
Different approach in the U.K. The English Premier League has postponed four more matches because of COVID. Nine is the total. Awful timing.
Christmas is traditionally the biggest period of the league. And Omicron is pushing infections to the highest level.
Alex is with me. So, what is happening here? Is it the people have tested positive or is it that they have been next to somebody who hasn't and
they've been pinged? What's actually going on?
ALEX THOMAS, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: It's not dissimilar to what you've been talking about in other stories actually, Richard, because world sport
doesn't live in isolation. It's deja vu to the worst of the previous lockdowns. But the difference being here that we don't know exactly what's
going to happen with Omicron. So we don't want to go back to stadiums behind closed doors, no fans in there. But equally the health and safety of
players and staff and even fans is at risk.
The Premier League is under pressure to maybe have a fire break. Just to have a week off. Just to stop the spread of infections.
QUEST: But is it the spread of infections amongst the team? I mean, these cancellations and postponements that we've been hearing about, is that
because somebody within the EPL or within the team has either tested positive or is with a person of concern?
THOMAS: Large groups of players, key players. It means that even if a team could put 11 players on the field, actually some of those will be three or
four goal keepers and two that aren't actually fit enough the play. So the Premier League are making case by case decisions whether to postpone games.
So managers are complaining, where is the transparency? Where's the specific rules? How are you making the decisions?
QUEST: I mean, obviously the managers -- I mean, the league can do this. But what's the downside in a sense? Let's look at it from two sides. So I
can give an argument that says, so what, it's football, cinema or whatever, we're talking about the health of the nation. But you could arguably say,
well, actually we're talking business and we're talking about something that millions of people watch.
THOMAS: Of course. And we've already gone without it for so long over the last 18 months.
QUEST: Yes. Yes.
THOMAS: It's now back, we're enjoying it again. And equally, England's Premier League, most globally watched, most globally profitable in terms of
Europe's Big Five. Those other four gone on winter break. So it's only the English Premier League that plays through this festive season to a global
QUEST: Are they being realistic here in the sense of if what the prime minister in Britain says, and if what the first minister in Scotland says,
this is going to get worse. Would they be better off just pulling up the phase to mix the games, putting up stumps?
THOMAS: Well, that's what some coaches are saying. They're saying do it for a week now before it gets worse. There'll be some hints of recovery and
you'll be in a better position come Christmas. But of course what those ministers are not saying is we are forcing you to call it off.
QUEST: Yes, of course.
THOMAS: The decision is yours.
QUEST: Stealth. There will be little stealth when Alex returns after the break for more "WORLD SPORT." This is CNN.