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Omicron Surge Prompts New Restrictions across Europe; U.K. Prime Minister Says Further Restrictions Could Be Necessary; Global Stocks Rebound after Monday's Selloff; Australia and New Zealand Take Different Paths on Omicron; Freed Missionaries Detail Captivity; Deliberations Resume in Ghislaine Maxwell Case; U.S. President Joe Biden to Announce Omicron Plan; Omicron Deemed to Be More Contagious than Previous Strains; U.S. Sports Leagues Postpone Games over COVID-19. Aired 10-10:40a ET

Aired December 21, 2021 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): As Omicron cases spike, fueling further restrictions, a warning from the WHO chief ahead of festive

gatherings: don't.

The U.S. President set to announce plans for free at home tests, assuring vaccinated Americans they don't need to cancel holiday plans.

But rattled by COVID-19 outbreaks, many major professional leagues opting to postpone at least through Christmas. Who will stay and play and where

this hour.


ANDERSON: Hello, it is 7:00 in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. And you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

New restrictions likely across Europe as the Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads through the continent. An hour from now, the German chancellor will

reveal his country's strategies moving forward after meeting with the heads of Germany's 16 states.

European leaders are casting a watchful eye on what is happening in the U.K., where Omicron has pushed COVID case counts to new daily highs. This

surge throws doubt into upcoming holiday gatherings in and beyond Europe.

Frustrating for many, to say the least. But the head of the World Health Organization is offering some perspective, saying, "An event canceled is

better than a life canceled." Ben Wedeman connecting us today; Salma Abdelaziz is in London.

The U.K. is reporting its second highest daily count of new COVID cases Monday, as we await the new numbers today.

Let's start with you, Ben.

What can we expect to hear from the German chancellor, the new German chancellor, next hour?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chancellor Scholz will be meeting with the heads of the states of Germany and discussing a variety

of measures to try to bring the current wave of COVID cases under control.

They're talking about limiting private gatherings to just 10 people, closing discos and night clubs. But it wouldn't go into effect, these new

decisions, which haven't actually been formalized yet, until the 28th of December. That's three days after Christmas.

So, perhaps, the COVID horse might have already escaped from the barn by the time these new measures go into effect -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben, we do know the Omicron variant is far more infectious than Delta or any other coronavirus variants. We still don't know how severe it

is, of course. And that, says America's top infectious disease expert, is an important factor to consider when looking at the big picture of

Omicron's impact.

I just want our viewers to take a listen to Anthony Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: You obviously want to pay attention to the number of infections, because they

could be the forerunner of severity. But if you have a lot of infections and less severity, it is much more important to focus on hospitalizations.


ANDERSON: And we are seeing, to that point, some new numbers from France, specifically on severely ill COVID patients.

What do we know?

WEDEMAN: The number of people in the intensive care units in French hospitals is exceeding 3,000. That's the highest number since May of this

year. This is a serious cause for concern, although French officials are quick to point out that the growth in new cases or severe cases is starting

to slow down.

And to the point of Omicron, it is not really clear yet how diffuse it is. For instance, Denmark, we know, tests every positive case to determine

whether it is the Omicron variant.

Here in Italy, however, that's not the case. Italy, the last reported number was, I think, 56 cases of Omicron in a country of 60 million. So it

is not even clear, in addition to -- it is not clear how severe it is but how widespread it is in countries like Italy, for instance -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Good point.

Salma, let's get to you. Boris Johnson, the prime minister, under a lot of pressure at this stage to bring in tougher rules before new year.

Is that likely at this point?


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Massive pressure but I think yesterday we sort of got our answer, Becky. There was a cabinet meeting, an emergency

cabinet meeting held virtually. Boris Johnson led that cabinet meeting; it lasted about a couple of hours, in which they discussed the possibility of

further restrictions.

This cabinet meeting was held after scientific advisers were pleading with the government, saying that if further, tougher measures don't come into

force, that English hospital, hospitals across England, could see up to 3,000 people a day with COVID arriving in those hospitals.

This emergency cabinet meeting was to discuss further restrictions. But prime minister Boris Johnson stepped out and announced, no new measures.

Here is what he did say.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: We agree that we should keep the data, from now on, under constant review, keep following it hour by hour. And

unfortunately, we will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public and to protect public health, protect our NHS.

And we won't hesitate to take that action.


ABDELAZIZ: So there you have it, Becky. Data being reviewed hour by hour. I think the question mark for prime minister Boris Johnson's administration

is they simply don't know enough about the Omicron variant, particularly when it comes to hospitalizations.

Yes, we're seeing record-breaking case numbers; again, yesterday, 91,000 new positive cases, an increase of nearly 61 percent in the last seven days

when it comes to the positive case counts.

But we still don't know how severe the illness will be, how many people will actually wind up in hospital in a week or two weeks' time. So that is

prime minister Boris Johnson's argument, is he needs more information on that and will review it as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, many people just taking matters into their own hands. They're self-isolating, because they have been in contact with a positive case,

they're concerned about getting sick. Many people have just kind of pulled into their own lockdown really, Becky.

ANDERSON: The queen, as I understand it, taking no risks, changing her holiday plans. What do we know?

ABDELAZIZ: Exactly. I think she's a reflection on what everyone has been doing over the last week, two weeks, reconsidering Christmas plans.

Traditionally, she would go to Sandringham, a palace further in the English countryside. This year she won't do that. She will stay behind for

Christmas this year, just out of an abundance of caution.

This is the second event that the palace has canceled. The queen also had a pre-Christmas lunch with family that had been scheduled. That was also

canceled out of an abundance of caution.

I think she reflects what people are doing more widely here. And I think that's exactly why the government is under so much pressure to clear up

this mixed messaging.

Why do people have to take matters into their own hands?

Why, if they're not -- why is there not guidance coming from the top, further restrictions in place?

But sometimes this isn't just about the science, this isn't just about the numbers and particularly, in this case, I think it is fair to say there is

a lot of politics involved.

Prime minister Boris Johnson under huge pressure from his own party. He faced a rebellion, the biggest rebellion the last time he tried to push

coronavirus measures through Parliament last week.

There is a lot at play here that isn't just about the science when it comes to rolling out the restrictions, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. Absolutely.

To both of you, thank you.

Investors keeping a keen eye on what's going on across the globe along with Washington politics and how they are playing out in the world's biggest


And we need to get a look at the stock market, say, we're having -- having a bit of a dodgy old run earlier on this week. They are rebounding after

what was an ugly selloff on Monday. Oil higher, too. Crude is still volatile, as governments in many parts of the world impose these fresh

COVID restrictions.

Those, of course, could weigh on energy demand. So markets a little higher, oil is up. But let's get Alison Kosik in, who is watching all of this for


We have said this time and time again, investors hate uncertainty.

And this is what they have at present, isn't it?

What are the volumes like, out of interest, in these markets?

Because, ofttimes, in the week up to -- the week leading up to a festive period, I'm wondering if we're seeing some volatility in these markets,

whether there are fewer people playing, as it were, because people are so concerned with so many questions at this point.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You make several good points there, Becky. These are thinly traded markets. This is the holiday-

shortened week. Friday, trading is closed, day before the Christmas holiday. So you will see that volatility spike up.

But Omicron, the COVID variant, has introduced a yet another level of uncertainty, something that markets just don't like.


KOSIK: It is why we're seeing the volatility we are seeing. Over the weekend, we saw these headlines come out about how rapidly Omicron can

spread. That spooked the markets. We saw that big selloff yesterday and, boom, today, what a difference a day makes.

We're seeing markets move the other way. It is risk on. In fact, at these levels, the S&P 500 could be on track for its first positive close in

almost a week.

Now perhaps we're seeing some relief today because of what is expected to come out of President Biden in about five hours. He's expected to make some

announcements about offering COVID testing to Americans and not, you know, not give any kind of announcement about restrictive measures as we head

into the holidays.

The concern is, of course, when it comes to Omicron, Becky, is that the variant will keep people in and that will, in fact, slow down growth when

you don't have people spending money and going to work and could cause more supply chain disruptions if people don't actually go to work.

So we would see a replay of what we saw during the height of the pandemic. That's why you saw the selloff yesterday.

As far as oil goes, you're going to see it move in tandem with stocks. We see stocks go up, we see oil go up because of that expectation about

economic growth.

The big worry is that you'll see people pull back on driving, you know, commuting. And that would, of course, make oil prices move lower.

One analyst puts it this way, as long as lockdown economic growth fears don't rise meaningfully, support near yesterday's mid-60 range for oil

should hold. And a rebound in the mid-70s should take place within the next few weeks for oil prices -- Becky.

ANDERSON: That's interesting. It will depend which side of the fence that analyst is choosing to be in and where his money is placed. You make a very

good point there. If you are risk averse, you would have to suggest to people that you stay out of this market at present because it is all over

the place.

And there is, of course, for the U.S., Alison, that added layer. The Build Back Better project that is, at the present, on the back burner, as it


What are its chances now of success, now that Joe Manchin has said "no deal" so far?

That would have provided -- or will, if it gets through -- in the new year some stimulus for this U.S. economy, won't it?

KOSIK: Yes, it would have provided a lot of stimulus. And without Manchin's vote, the deal is basically dead. Many are saying it is stalled.

Still, there is that glimmer of hope.

But you saw in that Build Back Better plan, a lot of stimulus measures, from child tax credit; that's real money going into bank accounts of

Americans. Medicare beneficiaries would have seen improvements on a host of measures, including better pharmaceutical drug coverage, including -- and

then there are tax credits for a lot of things as well.

So not having this legislation even being considered at this point, that's why you saw, you know, firms like Goldman Sachs come out and say, by not

having Build Back Better on the table, it is going to impact economic growth.

Goldman Sachs yesterday lowering growth for the first quarter from 3 percent to 2 percent. Today we heard from Moody's chief economist, Mark

Zandi, saying that they were going to lower their forecast, going into 2022, because of the concerns about the health of the economy, both because

of Omicron and the loss of Build Back Better.

So there is a huge impact; when you see things go wrong on Capitol Hill, you see that translate to Wall Street -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, so many competing layers at this point for people to digest. Thank you, well explained, Alison Kosik in the house doing the

markets for you.

Let's get you to Asia. Neighbors Australia and New Zealand taking wildly different approaches on Omicron before the Christmas holiday. The

Australian prime minister insists no more lockdowns. You see how many people are lining up to get tested at Bondi Beach. This is New South Wales,

which reported 3,000 new daily cases for the first time ever. Two people there died.

Let's see what New Zealand is up to. Will Ripley is in Asia. He joins me now live from Hong Kong.

You're keeping a beady eye on what is going on across the wider region. Tell us what we've got out of New Zealand, why we are seeing such a

different approach being taken versus Australia at this point.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes my eyes are beadier than others, Becky. But, yes, it is exhausting to be in this COVID state of perpetual --

you know, I don't know.


RIPLEY: What are we in, purgatory, COVID-19 purgatory?

That's what it feels like. And certainly for people in Australia and New Zealand, these are two islands that, in the early months of the pandemic,

they had this similar zero COVID strategy, adopted by a lot of countries in this region.

Here in Hong Kong, they have a zero COVID strategy; Mainland China, New Zealand still continues to have that strategy. But in Australia, where

their vaccination rates have been higher and certainly people's frustration with lockdown after lockdown also was higher, they have been trying to

accept the reality that you're going to have COVID in the country.

As long as people are vaccinated and hospitalizations and deaths are down, it should be OK. The problem be with Omicron is that now we're seeing,

across the region, hospitalizations, including critical cases, hitting record highs. That was the situation in -- in South Korea just on Sunday.

Critical cases at a record high. Hospitalizations shooting up. ICUs filling up. And so what they're doing in Australia, they just surpassed more than

3,000 daily cases for the first time in New South Wales in Australia. New South Wales, you know, heavily populated. People are really fearful of what

this is going to mean.

Omicron now the dominant variant in Australia. But the prime minister Scott Morrison, while he's holding this emergency national cabinet meeting, he is

calling on leaders, he needs the regional leaders as well, to tailor their approach in the face of Omicron but to avoid reinstating the travel

restrictions that have been so unpopular.

Because we're heading into the Christmas holiday. And people are fed up, not just in Australia. But in Australia there have been protests because

people are fed up about this.

In New Zealand, they are instituting travel restrictions. They decided, even though they only have 28 locally transmitted cases, on Tuesday, they

have now delayed their phased border reopening that they had planned for next month in January.

Now they're going to push it back to the end of February, at the earliest. This is the rationale for doing so. Listen to this.


CHRIS HIPKINS, NEW ZEALAND MINISTER FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE: All evidence so far points to Omicron being the most transmissible variant yet. And public

health advice suggests that every case coming in through our border and our managed isolation facilities will be the Omicron variant.

Our immediate job must be to slow it down, to delay it from entering the New Zealand community for as long as we possibly can.


RIPLEY: So that is the difference between a zero COVID approach, where you have literally a couple dozen cases and you shut down travel, and

Australia, which is seeing thousands of new cases every day and they're avoiding the travel restrictions because people felt like they made a deal

with the government -- hey, I got vaccinated.

Why are you doing this to me again?

But look, it is not just Australia and New Zealand. Here in Hong Kong, there hasn't been a single reported case of Omicron. But if you're not

vaccinated and you work for the city government here in Hong Kong, you now have to get tested for COVID every three days at your own expense if you

want to go to work.

Unless you have a medical certificate saying you're unfit to be vaccinated. But people who are still not vaccinated, it is getting tougher and tougher

for them to survive in a lot of places, even places like Hong Kong, like New Zealand, where there are no local cases essentially happening.

ANDERSON: Will Ripley in Hong Kong, thank you, Will.

With the spread of Omicron, is it time to cancel your holiday plans?

From indoor gatherings to traveling on planes, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen weighs the risks. You can see her thoughts at

Abducted, held captive and now free. But for weeks, 17 missionaries were at the mercy of their Haitian captors. A leader of the ministry talks about

that experience coming up.

And accomplice to Jeffrey Epstein or scapegoat?

It is up to the jury to decide. We'll have the latest from the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial for you.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. It is 18 minutes past 7:00 here in Abu Dhabi. The show from your Middle East programming hub. I'm Becky Anderson.

Stay with us.





ANDERSON: We know more now about what 17 missionaries endured after being abducted two months ago by an armed gang in Haiti. Christian Aid Ministries

says the group was fed but was often hungry and they did a lot of praying. They're now free. Stefano Pozzebon has more on the church agency's account

of exactly what happened.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christian Aid Ministries has said that a ransom was paid in order to help secure the release of 17 North

American missionaries that had been kidnapped more than two months ago in Haiti.

That is according to a press conference that the Ohio-based group gave on Monday. And the group said the decision came after excruciating hours.

DAVID TROYER, GENERAL DIRECTOR, CHRISTIAN AID MINISTRIES: As you might expect, the taking of our workers, including women and children, pushed us

to our knees, as we sought God's direction. Recognizing the lives at stake and having the desire for a nonviolent resolution, we grappled for many

hours over the proper course of action, many intense hours.

POZZEBON: And in that news conference, the group also claimed that the hostages had escaped, after many days of waiting and no action on part of

the kidnappers.

Now Haitian authorities have not yet confirmed that series of events, describing an escape. And CNN has asked the Haitian authorities for further

information about the circumstances around the hostages returning home.

Ransom kidnapping is a lucrative business for criminal groups in Haiti, such as the one that kidnapped the missionaries. In the year so far, more

than 900 ransom kidnappings have been reported, although experts believe the number might be even higher, because not all the kidnappings are

reported to the authorities -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


ANDERSON: Jurors have just returned for the day in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial. They're deciding if she was Epstein's accomplice or

a scapegoat for his abuses. Attorneys made their closing arguments on Monday and the jury deliberated briefly before breaking for the day. CNN's

Kara Scannell has the details for you.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jury deliberations continue this morning in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell. Yesterday, in closing

arguments, prosecutors described her as a dangerous person, someone who was crucial to Jeffrey Epstein's game.

They say that she targeted vulnerable girls and led them to Epstein, who, they say, sexually assaulted them. Prosecutors recounted in detail the

testimony of the four accusers and they also asked the jury to use their common sense, saying that they should ask themselves why two adults would

spend their weekends with teenage girls.

Why were they traveling on private planes with them?

And they also pointed to the little black book, that address book, and pointed out that, under massage therapists, they often have the names and

numbers of moms, dads and parents listed there, something that they said no professional use would require.

Now Maxwell's attorney said that she is innocent, that she is a scapegoat for Jeffrey Epstein. They also attacked the memory of many of these

accusers, saying that some of them had changed their stories over time.

They questioned why the government didn't call other family members to corroborate their stories and why they didn't call additional employees of

Jeffrey Epstein if they had such evidence that this was a widespread scheme.


SCANNELL: Maxwell's attorney told the jury that Maxwell is being tried here for being with Jeffrey Epstein. Maybe it was the biggest mistake of

her life but it was not a crime. Deliberations will continue today and over the next few days.

Jury breaks for the Christmas holiday on Thursday and Friday. If Maxwell is convicted on all accounts, she could face up to 70 years in prison.


ANDERSON: We'll keep you updated and posted on those deliberations and let you know what the verdict is, once it is reached.

U.S. President Joe Biden has a delicate balancing act to pull off, cautioning the country about the next few weeks of the coronavirus and

assuring them the government is ready for it. One of the steps is handing out millions of home COVID tests.

Will they slow the spread of the virus?

We will take a look at that. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.




ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Recapping our top story for you, the World Health Organization wants you to reconsider your holiday plans. The WHO says there is no doubt holiday

mingling will raise the number of COVID cases. The group's director general put it pretty bluntly when he said, "An event canceled is better than a

life canceled."

Australian leaders are considering their options but the prime minister says strict lockdowns and tight restrictions are not among them. In the

coming hours, we expect to hear what new restrictions German leaders are considering.

U.S. President Joe Biden will also update Americans on the next steps that his government is taking to stop the spread of Omicron. His speech later

today, according to the White House, will not be about shutting the country down. He will, rather, talk about providing home COVID tests to anyone who

wants one.

Hopefully, it will keep Americans one step ahead of Omicron, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S. CNN's Gabe Cohen has the details.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Christmas Days away, Americans are scrambling to get COVID tests, waiting in line, in some

cases, for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just kind of like trying to play it safe for the family.

G. COHEN (voice-over): Health experts are urging people, even those without symptoms, to get tested before gathering with loved ones.


if they all got a rapid test that morning.

G. COHEN (voice-over): Dr. William Schaffner is part of the CDC's advisory committee on immunization practices.

SCHAFFNER: I'm certainly disappointed and concerned that testing is not more widely available.

G. COHEN (voice-over): In many parts of the country, finding a test is extremely difficult. Appointments are tough to get and over-the-counter

rapid tests are selling out online and at pharmacies.


G. COHEN (voice-over): Dr. Brooke Watts works with MetroHealth in Ohio.

DR. BROOKE WATTS, THE METROHEALTH SYSTEM, OHIO: There isn't a rapid test to be found. And the PCR tests that are offered generally at testing sites,

the wait period is approximately seven days.

G. COHEN (voice-over): Dr. Michael Mina has been sounding the alarm on testing troubles since early in the pandemic.

DR. MICHAEL MINA, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, EMED: I think that our testing failures is perhaps the greatest failure of this pandemic.

G. COHEN (voice-over): In recent months, the Biden administration has pledged to spend close to $3 billion to ramp up testing. They've also used

the Defense Production Act several times to make millions more tests available. Last week the White House coronavirus response coordinator said

they had enough supply.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is plenty of free testing across the country.

G. COHEN (voice-over): But days later, COVID is surging and the testing supply hasn't kept up.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: We really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for

anyone who wants them.


G. COHEN (voice-over): Senior administration officials tell CNN that President Biden is set to announce new testing measures today. They'll

purchase a half-billion at home rapid tests to be delivered to Americans for free, starting in January.

And they'll set up more federal testing sites, including one in New York City, that will open before Christmas.

MINA: This far into the pandemic, the U.S. is, you know, light years behind our peer nations in terms of making these tests readily available.

G. COHEN (voice-over): Last week, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky suggested increased testing will help keep schools open.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: These studies demonstrate the tests to stay works to keep unvaccinated children in school safely.

G. COHEN (voice-over): Another sign that those swabs could play a massive role in our return to normalcy.

G. COHEN: How far away are we from a time where we'll have enough tests to accomplish that?

SCHAFFNER: We can all hope that the testing bottlenecks are resolved quickly. But I'm rather convinced that this will take some time.


ANDERSON: That was Gabe Cohen reporting for you.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, not related, joins us now with a closer look at these home tests or rapid tests as they are

called in the States, mirroring the idea of giving these out for free.

Of course, mirroring what is actually going on in other countries, the U.K., Germany, here in the UAE.

What can you tell us about these rapid tests?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So these tests are relatively inexpensive. They're about $7 a test in the United States. And

they're very useful. You can do them at home.

They're good, they're very reliable. But if you get a positive test, then you are likely positive. Positive results really do tend to be right. If

you're negative, you may not have COVID but there is a chance. So you're supposed to retest. It is -- a negative result, in other words, is not as

reliable as a positive result. But very, very useful.

You don't have to go somewhere and then wait for the results to come back. So if you're wondering, gee, maybe I know people who came down with COVID

recently, I want to know if I have COVID before I go out to some kind of gathering, you know, it is helpful to have this test.

And it is helpful to do them frequently. So it is, you know, with President Biden, if he sends out these -- this huge number, these 500 million tests

that Gabe talked about, it makes it easier for people to protect themselves -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, half a billion tests to be made available. I think you can apply online, I think that's the idea that certainly, what he will announce

this afternoon to anyone who wants one.

Ultimately that -- they will run out eventually if every American wants one. There won't be enough to go around again. So let's see how this goes.

What do you think about the next few days and weeks?

As far as holiday gatherings are concerned, should people cancel?

Should people re-evaluate?

Or should people just go ahead at this point?

E. COHEN: I think the message from Dr. Anthony Fauci and others has been pretty clear, which is, look, not all plans are created equal. It depends

what your plans are.

But don't cancel plans, for example, if you're getting together with family, you're all vaccinated, those of you who are more than six months

past your second shot are also boosted. You know, that is a -- that is -- nothing is 100 percent but that is a quite a safe gathering. Everybody is

vaccinated, those who can get a booster did get a booster.

That's a pretty safe group of people. That is different -- that is different, for example, than an unvaccinated person, going to a large

gathering, where there will be other unvaccinated people. That's really a problem.

I mean, I -- if you're unvaccinated now, you are really rolling the dice. You are really taking great risks. So if you are unvaccinated -- basically

everything is a risk with this variant because it is so transmissible. If you're vaccinated and you're going to be with other vaccinated people and

you know that they're vaccinated, that's a pretty safe bet.


E. COHEN: In between, I guess, would be vaccinated people going to large gatherings, where they're not sure of the status of the other people.

That's something everyone will have to decide on their own, whether they're willing to take that risk.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Elizabeth, always a pleasure. Thank you.

Kuwait is now mandating COVID-19 booster shots for incoming travelers. As of January 2nd, people who got their second dose more than nine months ago

will be considered incompletely vaccinated.

Starting December 26th, it also requires incoming travelers to quarantine at home for 10 days unless they receive a negative PCR test within 72 hours

of their arrival.

Let me get you up to speed on the other stories on our radar right now.

The super typhoon that hit the Philippines last week has now claimed at least 375 lives. Scores are still missing. The heavy rain demolished

communities and some roads are water-logged and filled with debris, making it hard for rescuers to reach victims.

The Turkish lira has managed to rebound significantly from Monday's new low before paring back some of its gains. It was helped by new measures from

President Erdogan, including protecting savings deposits held in lira. The troubled currency still remains close to record lows against the U.S.


The U.K. high court has ordered Dubai's ruler to pay his ex-wife $728 million in a divorce settlement. The money will be used to cover security

costs for the princess and for care of their children. It is one of the largest divorce settlements ever in Britain.

Postponements and pauses: ahead, the growing impact of COVID outbreaks on North American sports leagues. And the English Premier League dealing with

similar issues but their approach, it is quite different. Details ahead.




ANDERSON: The COVID surge in the United States wreaking havoc on professional sports and North American hockey and basketball leagues and

professional football all dealing with major outbreaks.

The National Hockey League putting a pause on its season. Brynn Gingras shows us the different ways that the leagues are handling these outbreaks.

Have a look at this.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Packed stadiums, screaming fans, it seemed like the sports world was back in full swing. But COVID-19

and the highly contagious Omicron variant proving to be team's toughest opponent yet.

Again, threatening sports schedules and forcing leagues to quickly pivot their protocols, so seasons can stay on track.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can't apply 2020 solutions to the 2021 problems that we're having.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The NFL making a controversial call over the weekend to only test vaccinated players, coaches and staff, who are showing

symptoms of COVID-19. It is a sharp shift from its previous protocols of requiring weekly testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testing is a tool. It is a tool that can offer us certain things but it has certain limitations. I do think, as I said, you

have to look at each era or each phase of the pandemic as to what the value of testing is.

GINGRAS (voice-over): League commissioner Roger Goodell calling it "a targeted testing plan." Some disagree.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I think it is a terrible message of less testing for those communities, in which these teams are pillars and

the role models for so many others.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Under the new rules, unvaccinated players must still test daily. And high-risk players can opt out of the rest of the season

without pay. But the approach means asymptomatic cases will slip detection and the virus will potentially spread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an admission by the NFL that they cannot completely contain the Omicron variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pass is over the middle.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The NFL essentially leaning on the fact that more than 94 percent of its players are fully vaccinated and therefore it says

likely safe from serious infection.

Adding in a memo, "Omicron appears to be a very different illness from the one that we first confronted in the spring of 2020."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they are probably right as far as their people go. My concern is, if everybody in the country makes that choice, you may

see a whole lot of cases. And even if only a very small percentage of them are severe, that can stress and overwhelm an already overtaxed health care


GINGRAS (voice-over): The move comes just days after the league was forced to postpone three weekend games and sideline dozens of players, who tested

positive at a crucial time in the season just before playoffs.


GINGRAS (voice-over): The NHL now temporarily pausing its season over Christmas. The hands-on approach coming after at least nine teams faced

surging COVID cases. The league had already postponed all games that required teams crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.

As for the NBA --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're kind of going day by day at the moment.

GINGRAS (voice-over): So far games have been postponed there, too. But the league trying to soften the blow for teams short on players because of

positive cases by allowing replacement players to be added to their rosters.


ANDERSON: That was Brynn Gingras reporting.