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Russian Court Rules to Shut Down Human Rights Group; Europe Introduces New COVID-19 Restrictions as Omicron Surges; CDC Reduces COVID- 19 Isolation Time for the Asymptomatic; Doctors in India Strike; Russia and U.S. to Hold Security Talks on January 10; Biden Criticized for Failure of Rapid Test Availability; Afghan Girls' New Chapter in Mexico; Celebrating with COVID-Positive Relatives. Aired 10-10:40a ET

Aired December 28, 2021 - 10:00   ET




ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST (voice-over): The cancellations keep on coming. And another day of flights being held up in the thousands.

And as Omicron forces the world to hit the brakes, U.S. health officials are shortening the recommended isolation time for some who test positive

for COVID. Details on that decision just ahead.

Plus, rewriting history: Russia's supreme court rules to shut down a human rights organization dedicated to keeping tabs of Soviet-era crimes.


GIOKOS: I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

Stay the course for now: that's the British health secretary's take on new restrictions to fight the Omicron variant. He insists the country is

following the data.


SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Of course we look at the data on a daily basis. That hasn't changed over the Christmas period. But there will

be no further measures before the new year. We won't be taking any further measures to force people.

Should remain cautious as we approach New Year's celebrations and take a lateral flow test if that makes sense; celebrate outside if you can, have

some ventilation indoors if you can.

Please remain cautious and, when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures. But nothing

more until then at least.


GIOKOS: Meanwhile, Europe's airlines are dealing with setbacks. British Airways is using larger jets to counteract canceled flights. Germany's

Lufthansa plans to cut its future flights by a third. We have Salma Abdelaziz live in London for us.

These are drastic measures coming through for airlines. The data, however, is what is prompting the health secretary to relook at restriction and

putting new and very sort of interesting measures in place.

What is the data telling us right now that is backing up these more progressive and relaxed decisions?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yet another day of massive chaos and disruptions at airports across the globe. Today, 2200 flights canceled;

that's after yesterday, you had 2,800 flights canceled and 11,000 flights delayed. We have been hearing from airliners; Delta apologizing to

consumers, saying it is doing its best to get stranded passengers home.

We heard from United Airlines, saying they had to cancel flights due to so many sick-outs from staff, people testing positive with COVID-19 or

isolating because of COVID-19.

We're seeing this across the European sector as well, where multiple airliners have reported small numbers of cancellations due to, again, this

drop in consumer demand and staff sick-outs across the industry.

It happens after we found out about more record-breaking numbers here in the U.K. No figures released over the Christmas period but we have figures

now. And on Christmas Day, records were broken yet again, driven by the Omicron variant.

More than 120,000 people testing sick on Christmas Day here in the U.K. Still the health secretary insisting that no new measures are needed.

So what are the data, what is the figures that is driving that decision?

It is a couple of things. First of all, yes, there is a huge number of positive cases. But so far that has not turned into a massive surge in

hospitalizations. So when the health secretary says they're watching the data hour by hour, they're also looking at the hospital beds inside

hospitals across the U.K.

Are the beds being filled?

NHS says they're not seeing the massive surge, the massive demand for ventilators and ICUs we have seen in previous waves. For now they're able

to cope with this wave if you're listening to the government.

But there is also always politics at play here. The prime minister has been under fire from his own party for putting tougher restrictions in place.

The Conservative Party simple against any tougher measures, so quite difficult during the Christmas period to push any tougher restrictions when

his party is against it.

GIOKOS: Salma, thank you for that update. Good to see you.

The Omicron surge is forcing governments across Europe to impose strict new containment efforts, including canceling many New Year's celebrations.

Cases have grown exponentially in Italy in recent days, hitting a record daily high of almost 55,000 over the weekend.

Look at that graph. Officials there are closing down night clubs and putting new mask mandates in place.


GIOKOS: We get more from CNN's Barbie Nadeau in Rome.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A spike in COVID-19 cases fed by the Omicron variant has led to a number of new restrictions all across

continental Europe. Here in Italy it is now mandatory to wear face masks also outdoors. We have seen other restrictions.

In France, they're waiting until after the new year to implement restrictions after January 3rd there. People won't be able to eat or drink

inside cinemas or theaters and there will be limitations in terms of how many people can attend public events.

We have seen massive cancellations across continental Europe ahead of New Year's Eve. There will be no fireworks in Paris, no concerts in large

Italian cities. And they've banned public gatherings in Milan and in Rome, in the public squares on New Year's Eve.

And some of these restrictions have been met with protests. In Germany, the protests got violent. About 12 police officers were injured when people

took to the streets, demonstrating against new restrictions there.

We also have seen a lot of trouble with travel, not just because of people who are traveling but those pilots and crew members who have come down with

COVID-19 can't come into work.

The pressure on the health care system across Europe is universal. It is not just patients with COVID. We're seeing a number of health care workers,

doctors, nurses, calling in sick for work.

Some of the countries across Europe are considering shortening the time of quarantines and self-isolation in order to get people back to work sooner

after they tested positive for COVID-19, even especially if they have no symptoms -- Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


GIOKOS: And interesting to see how our countries are dealing with the Omicron variant. We head to the U.S. now, where health officials are now --

at the CDC are changing isolation protocols for those who test positive for COVID-19.

The CDC now recommends people who test positive should isolate for five days instead of 10 if they don't have symptoms. Other recommendations deal

with the length of quarantine for people who are exposed to the virus. We have got senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to walk us through

all of this and the data.

And, you know, Elizabeth, I love the numbers. They tell us a story.

What data is backing up these new isolation rules, which seem to be a lot more relaxed at a time where we know we're dealing with the variant that is

so much more transmissible?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, I know it seems counterintuitive. Omicron is highly transmissible. What they're finding is

people tend to be most contagious in the day or two before they get symptoms or in the two to three days after they get symptoms.

At least in the U.S., there is a shortage of essential workers, doctors, nurses, people who work in transportation. That's one of the reasons why

airlines had to shut down so many -- had to cancel so many flights. We want to get workers back out there.

But of course, you want to do it safely.

The thinking was, do you need to be keeping people out at day five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, if they're not symptomatic, if they're doing OK?

The chances of them being contagious are teeny tiny. Let's look at what the CDC has done for those who have tested positive for COVID.

What they say is, if you're asymptomatic, you're positive for COVID, you're asymptomatic or you have symptoms but they're resolving, you're getting

better, you should do five days of isolation.

And five days after that, you should wear a mask when you're around others.

What about people who have been exposed to the virus, a family member has it, you're not positive yet, you have been exposed to it?

Here is what the CDC decided to do there. They say no quarantine; that's very different than what they used to say, no quarantine, but wear a mask

for 10 days. They do say that the best practice would be to get a test after being exposed, five days or so, after being exposed.

But that's not in the guidelines, strictly speaking. I want to tell you I just told you for people who have been exposed, that's if you're vaccinated

and boosted or if your vaccination was very recent.

Why did they do that?

Let's take a look at what the vaccination numbers look like, the efficacy looks like for Omicron. What the CDC says is the two doses are 35 percent

effective. That's not fabulous, obviously. But the booster dose is 75 percent effective.

The thinking here is that the booster dose is effective. And if you are exposed and you're not positive, they feel confident you did not need to

quarantine -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: It is truly fascinating, the messaging we have seen so far with regards to isolation, and we're dealing with, as we said, those very

transmissible variants.


GIOKOS: In your view, Elizabeth, are we heading into a different stage in terms of how the U.S. and other countries around the world are going to be

dealing with COVID-19 going forward?

COHEN: I do think so. I think right now, where Omicron -- it hasn't taken over the U.S. in the way that it did in South Africa, for example. So as

we're waiting for Omicron to gear up to its full possibility, they're making rules like this.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Omicron is out there in full force.

Will they keep these rules, will they not keep the rules?

But this is a different day, as you were saying, Eleni, because Omicron seems to cause such mild disease. So the rules are kind of different, the

guidance is different when you have a variant that causes mild disease, compared to, say, Delta or its predecessors, where people seem to have been

getting much more sick.

GIOKOS: All right, Elizabeth, thank you for that insight.

The city with China's highest number of COVID-19 infections is tightening its lockdown measures; 150 military medics arrived in Xi'an to help

hospitals deal with the surge of cases. The city reported 175 new local symptomatic cases on Tuesday.

So far, more than 800 cases have been reported this month, making it one of the worst outbreaks since Wuhan in March of last year. We've got senior

international correspondent Ivan Watson, joining us now in Hong Kong for more details.

Let's talk about these measures that are being put in place. And if I look at the numbers, they pale in comparison to what we're seeing in other parts

of the world. But it is creating fear, especially ahead of Winter Olympics.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that's important, the numbers. Here you have China saying that, on Monday, they

detected, across the whole country, in the world's most populous country, 182 locally transmitted cases of COVID infections.

Compare that to other countries, that will have tens or hundreds of thousands of new cases in a single day.

But what China does, when there is an outbreak, such as the one that we see in the city of Xi'an, since December 9th, where you have about 175 new

cases in the last 24 hours, is an entire city of 13 million people locked down.

People not allowed to leave their homes, public transport shut down and public places closed down, people not allowed to move around except for the

most essential workers; mass testing going on of the entire population, several times, since the outbreak began.

And another example, you can't fly in or out, mostly out, of Xi'an's airport, domestically, since before Christmas. All of these measures aimed

to continue China's government -- its national policy of zero COVID cases in the country.

This is the worst outbreak that China has seen, really, in a city since March of 2020. And it just shows how seriously the authorities take an

outbreak that most other countries in the world would love to have, something on this scale, compared to what they're wrestling with right now.

GIOKOS: Absolutely. OK, so I want to pivot and head to what we see in India, where doctors are going on strike, that's as cases are rising. That

is putting services, vital services, at threat.

What more do we know?

WATSON: There is a strike underway in India. These are resident doctors, new doctors. And the dispute is about the medical exams that doctors go

through and how they get assigned to hospitals for jobs, after the years of education and all the testing.

And that whole process has been held up for months, the tests delayed for at least nine months, in part due to the pandemic, over the course of the

past year. and now the entire process is held up in the supreme court because there are complaints and appeals against the -- how doctors will be

assigned to different hospitals around the country.

So for 11 days, you had resident doctors on strike. And you're seeing pictures from protests that were held in the capital, New Delhi, on Monday,

where resident doctors tried to march to the supreme court and numbers of them were detained by police.

Not a pretty picture in a country that has suffered from past waves of COVID infections, where there were shortages of hospital beds and oxygen

and the crematoriums were working overtime.

And here you had police rounding up young doctors, that have been kind of the heroes and are the hope, if there is another wave, particularly of

Omicron-fueled infections.


WATSON: The health minister of India has spoken to a TV channel, saying, we're trying to work on this; it is stuck in the courts right now. We think

it will be a court session on January 6th.

But in the meantime, you have India's medical association saying that the country is short of some 45,000 new doctors on the front lines right now,

due to this administrative holdup, which is kind of mind-boggling, considering the threat of a pandemic that the country is facing.

GIOKOS: Ivan, thank you very much for that update.

As we have been discussing, traveling during the pandemic means plans can be disrupted at any point. CNN has gathered some expert travel tips to put

you at ease if you hit unexpected delays.

First, avoid getting trapped at the airport. Check your flight status from your home or hotel so you don't have to wait at the airport. If you're

already at the airport, speak with an airline agent as soon as you find out your flight has been scheduled. Representatives often operate on a first

come-first serve basis.

Next, ask for hotel accommodations if your flight is delayed overnight and you're out of town. However, airlines may have different policies on this


Finally, be open to rescheduling your trip. You may be eligible for free flight changes without penalty. You can find tips and more on our website,


They finally set a date: Russia and the U.S. agree to sit down for highly anticipated security talks. The stakes are high.

But will real progress be made on Ukraine?

And the struggle to preserve Soviet-era history: a Russian court ruling is putting one group's efforts to document repression at risk.




GIOKOS: Welcome back. Russia and the U.S. plan to hold security talks on the 10th of January amid rising tensions over Ukraine. The announcement

comes as Moscow says more than 10,000 of its troops have entered training near the Ukraine border and are back at their permanent bases.

The Russian defense ministry says the troops finished combat training as part of their regular winter military drills. Ukraine and Western

countries, however, believe Russia has thousands more near the border. They believe it is for an invasion.

We have got Nic Robertson following the story for us from Moscow.

This meeting is going to be pretty important. Tell me what the U.S. wants to hear in terms of messaging from Russia, so that they can believe that

Russia doesn't have military aspirations, and, of course, these rising tensions that everyone is worried about be put to bed.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, you know, from a U.S. perspective here, what Russia has already put on the table is



ROBERTSON: The U.S. hasn't ruled out the possibility of these talks. It is engaging in them, in the terms that Russia has said it wants, legally

binding guarantees that NATO, without naming Ukraine but essentially Ukraine is not allowed to become a member of NATO; that NATO members are

not allowed to put troops or military hardware into Ukraine, because Russia feels that that threatens their core security.

So Russia has already preloaded the table for the discussion. The United States is already going to go ahead with the discussion.

But I think that early indications are that, from a U.S. perspective, there is a good possibility they would like to broaden out the talk, that would

encompass more fully arms control across a broad spectrum of areas, a spectrum of controls that have actually fallen away in recent years, that

have been put in place decades ago with Russia.

So you know, the fact that the talks are happening offers a political diplomatic track. It doesn't answer the question about, have these 10,000

troops actually gone back to their base?

Where is the verifiable information, have they taken their military hardware away with them?

And what is President Putin's intention with the other tens of thousands, who remain in relative close proximity to the border with Ukraine?

If you look at this briefly from a Russian perspective, they want to get clarity on -- from NATO and the United States over Ukraine. They want an

absolute black and white situation, no ambiguity.

And so the fact that the talks are accepted and going ahead with their proposals for them is a positive side. But this could go in many different

directions still.

GIOKOS: Nic, thank you very much. Good to see you.

Meanwhile, Russia's supreme court upheld a ruling today to shut down the country's prominent human rights group, Memorial International. The Russian

government accuses the group of failing to identify as a foreign agent.

Memorial International was founded by a Soviet-era dissident and documents repression during that period. A Memorial board member called the court's

decision "illegal," claiming Russia is no longer a legal state. Melissa Bell reports on what is at stake with the group's liquidation.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Alexey Yeks, this is history. The little things that survive the Gulags and that will have been

treasured all the more by those who had lost everything.

ALEXEY YEKS, SCREENWRITER: We want to live. We want to remind, to remember the house. Remember the normal life.

BELL (voice-over): People like Gregory Ivanov (ph), Alexey's great great- grandfather who never made it back from the Gulag he was sent to during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Here in the basement of Memorial in Central

Moscow, he explains that was thanks to the organization which specializes in investigating Soviet-Era crimes that he was able to learn the truth

about his family and why that matters. History, he says, is cyclical.

YEKS: Because our situation today was in the past a few times and such things can come back and this is awful, I think. So we should remember it

and keep it in our minds, I think.

BELL (voice-over): But Memorial is under threat. Protesters may have turned out last time the case against it went to court but the government

wants it shut down. It accuses it of breaking the foreign agent's law, which has increasingly been used to close down organizations that are not

in line with the government's thinking.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Unfortunately, Memorial has repeatedly committed violations. And as the document given to

me reads, it did so defiantly.

BELL (voice-over): At risk, the 100,000 boxes of archives the organization has gathered since it was created as the Soviet Union began to crumble.

ALENA KOZLOVA, HEAD OF ARCHIVES AT MEMORIAL (through translator): In each of these boxes is someone's story. So many letters were destroyed but

thanks to the ones we have here, we can learn more about life in the Gulag was like from those who were there.


BELL (voice-over): But it isn't just documents. Memorial also takes people on tours from the Lubyanka building that once housed the KGB to this

courtyard behind another secret police building where 15,000 executions are believed to have taken place.

STAROSTIN: The stories, the histories are huge, like social trauma and you can get past that but that trauma, if you talk about it.

BELL (voice-over): The author and journalist Andrei Kolesnikov, says the problem is that Memorial has become an obstacle to the current government's

determination to glorify Russia's past.


ANDREI KOLESNIKOV, SENIOR FELLOW AT CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER: Indeed, old memories, which has struggling with official memory, because there are a

lot of families which suffered from Stalinism. And they are keeping that memory. They are grateful to Memorial.

BELL (voice-over): Families like Alexey's, where there had been shameful silence, he says, now there is truth.

YEKS: I think history is not just the history of the state and politics. History is the history of families, of people and this is the real history

without final cuts.

BELL (voice-over): Melissa Bell, CNN, Moscow.


GIOKOS: Rapid COVID tests are a simple and useful tool in this pandemic.

So why is the U.S. so far behind in providing them?

We'll take you live to the White House, where the buck stops with Joe Biden.

And a group of inspiring young women are making a fresh start in a new country. We hear about their harrowing escape from Afghanistan and their

dreams for the future.




GIOKOS: Welcome back. I'm Eleni Giokos. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from Abu Dhabi.

The global surge in Omicron infections is causing major travel disruptions for a fifth straight day. More than 2,000 additional flights have been

canceled today, some 600 in the United States alone.

Airlines are dealing with severe staffing shortages, as people call out sick with COVID-19. To help keep people on the job in the U.S., the CDC has

shortened the quarantine period for infected workers to just five days. The flight attendants' union is criticizing the decision, saying it is more

about keeping passengers happy than keeping workers safe.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration admits the country is facing shortfalls in testing capacity as people wait for hours to get tested. Let's bring in

John Harwood, at the White House.

As the U.S. president faces mounting criticism for his response to the new COVID surge, good to see you. This is a commitment that President Biden's

administration made months ago, that there would be an increase in testing capacity. And the sense here is that they failed to do this.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been an increase in testing capacity; it simply hasn't kept up with the demand. And

what happened is you have a -- one level of increase in capacity and then you have the Omicron variant, which is so highly transmissible, appearing

just before the holidays.

And there is tremendous demand for tests, so people can keep their family commitments.


HARWOOD: And that was a very toxic mix for the president. So what you have seen in the last couple of days are two things: one, the president

announcing a ramp-up of federal activity, to try to increase that supply.

And then, secondly, the remarks he made yesterday acknowledging that what he's done so far hasn't been good enough. They purchased 500 million tests

that they will distribute to Americans for free if they register on a website.

They've asked insurance companies to reimburse people for testing and they helped states establish pop-up testing sites, they've employed the Defense

Production Act to increase production.

But when you're the president, as you indicated in the lead-in, the buck stops with you. And the people are waiting in long lines, which we all can

see. And everyone's experienced the difficulty of going to the pharmacy or the grocery store and trying to buy a COVID test and finding that they're


That is a problem for Americans and that makes it Joe Biden's problem.

GIOKOS: Yes, it is fascinating. In the meantime, you're just seeing huge disruptions occurring as well. There's a sense of trying to follow the data

and trying to understand what this means going forward.

When you see the rise in cases, shortfalls in testing and the home testing capacity, commitment to improve that versus what you're seeing on the

travel side of things, what is the messaging from the White House right now?

HARWOOD: Well, the White House does not plan at this moment to implement a vaccination requirement for travel, which is one of the things that some

outside public health experts have been calling for.

A principal reason for that is their concern that it would tie up airports, that it would harm the economy, that it would be ever more disruptive for

the American people. They did announce that curtailment of the quarantine time that you mentioned a moment ago from 10 days to five days.

They believed that that tracks the data. But the administration, like the public health experts, are scrambling to keep up with the ever-changing

coronavirus pandemic, trying to figure out ways that the next development won't prove more problematic than the last one.

Middle of last year, the administration thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel; then the Delta surge. Once that surge receded, we

have Omicron. They're hoping for a quick fall in cases sometime mid-January to late January. But this is a virus that has defied predictions so far.

GIOKOS: Yes, uncertainty, that's what we do know. John Harwood, good to see you. Thank you.

HARWOOD: Thank you.

GIOKOS: Now U.S. President Joe Biden has signed a massive defense bill passed by Congress. The law allocates a whopping $770 billion for the U.S.

Defense Department and military.

The bill also includes a nearly 3 percent pay increase for military service members and civilian employees. This year, there are several changes to the

military justice system to overhaul how the military handles sexual assault and harassment allegations.

It also provides $300 million in military aid to Ukraine. And the defense bill established a multiyear, independent Afghanistan war commission to

examine the war in Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal.

We're learning new details about the U.S. withdrawal and chaotic evacuations in the final days of the war in Afghanistan.

New data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement show some 1,400 children were evacuated to the U.S. without their parents. Many of those children

tried to flee with their families but got separated amid the chaos.

U.S. officials say the majority of the children were quickly released to live with sponsors, including other family members. But about 250 remain in

government custody.

I want to tell you about one remarkable story of escape as Kabul fell. A group of talented young scientists, who became the face of progress in

girls' education. The girls' robotics team found safe haven in Mexico. CNN spoke to team members about their fears for their families and what comes

next. CNN's Matt Rivers has their story.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just four years ago, the half-dozen girls from Afghanistan strode confidently into

competition, waving their country's flag. The Global Robotics Competition held in the U.S. was a chance to show what so many in their country

doubted, that girls can accomplish anything.

And accomplish they did, when they won an award for quote, "courageous achievement," given to teens who persevere through trying circumstances.

So much has changed since then. In a matter of months this year, the Taliban swept back across Afghanistan, toppling city after city.


RIVERS (voice-over): A mortal threat to girls like those in the robotics team, educated, progressive, the exact opposite of how the Taliban believe

women should be.

And so five of the original team made the decision to flee in a harrowing journey. They went from Herat, Afghanistan, to Kabul. There, they managed

to get on one of the last commercial flights before the Taliban took the city.

From there, Islamabad, Pakistan, was next. Eventually, followed by Doha, Qatar. And Frankfurt, Germany. And then, to Mexico City.

Landing in the Mexican capital, where the government here has allowed them to stay, while they figure out what's next. It's here in the city that we

got a chance to meet in person. Safe in Mexico, their first thoughts are, of course, about home and the cruelty of the Taliban regime.

FATEMAN QADERYAN, CAPTAIN, AFGHAN GIRLS' ROBOTICS TEAM: The rule of their government is just mockery and insult to Islam while Islam is the religion

of kindness. We kindly request, not only the United States but the entire international community, to eradicate the Taliban generation from


RIVERS (voice-over): They know that the U.S. has limited options in that regard, after its withdrawal. A terrible situation for those who are

opposed to the Taliban. They also know how lucky they were to get out.

SAGHAR SALEHI, AFGHAN GIRLS' ROBOTICS TEAM: It was really hard to, you know, leave our beloved ones in Afghanistan. But we are happy that today we

are safe, not only because of ourselves but here we can be the voice of thousands of girls who want to be safe in Afghanistan and who want to

continue their education and make their dreams become true.

RIVERS (voice-over): A dwindling reality for girls in that country; in the weeks and months after the Taliban took over, their subsequent actions have

reaffirmed a return to a society, where women are treated as wholly unequal to men. Still, the team has a message, for those left behind.

KAWSAR ROSHAN, AFGHAN GIRLS' ROBOTICS TEAM: So my message and my message to my generation is that to please don't lose your hope, your spirit.

I know it's difficult because I'm an Afghan girl, too, and I fully understand you. But, please, don't lose spirit. There is always light in

the heart of darkness. And just make your dream and follow your dream and believe that, one day, your dream will come true, because I experienced


RIVERS: And we asked all of the girls, what do you want to do next, both in the near future and in the long-term future?

All four girls that we spoke to tell us they do plan on going to college, somewhere, hopefully, in the United States. They say, as for the long-term

future, they all have hopes to return to Afghanistan, someday -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


GIOKOS: Stick around, because, still to come, the creative and sometimes funny steps some people took to ensure their Christmas didn't turn into a

COVID superspreader event.

And they came, they saw, they lost: English cricket fans know what I'm talking about. More details about this in the short break.





GIOKOS: Welcome back.

And some families didn't let a little thing like a positive COVID test get in the way of a holiday festivity. As CNN's Jeanne Moos reports, they

celebrated safely apart but together with some creative solutions.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Santa isn't the only one who got decked out for the holidays.


MOOS (voice-over): Nothing shameful about the COVID Christmas hut of shame, unless you're a brother teasing your sister, while making it

possible for her to join in the festivities.

"Best brothers ever," someone posted.

"Y'all still going to get it," commented someone else.

But the Griswolds weren't the only ones not letting a positive COVID test turn the holiday negative.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me in. Oh, my God, no. Don't let her in.

MOOS (voice-over): Even Dad got into the teasing as Maddie (ph) Haynes donned something called the "under the weather shield" that her mom bought

on Amazon at the beginning of the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people are, like, can she breathe?

MOOS (voice-over): The Texas family had Christmas dinner outdoors.

CARLY HAYNES, MADDIE'S (PH) SISTER: It was my sister's idea. She wanted to be in the shield.

Hey, guys, look what I found, why don't I put this on and we just stay outside?



MOOS (voice-over): And this guy -- Anthony Herta (ph) -- just stayed outside the window at his Michigan family's home. Cake and presents were

left outside for him like cookies for Santa.



MOOS (voice-over): In Ireland, Thomas Wright (ph) posted this photo of his brother, Peter, in a van outfitted with a table and lights. Peter had a

close COVID contact, so he just pulled the van up to the window and dined alongside the others gathered inside.


MOOS (voice-over): It is a weird holiday, being handed presents using a Grab-it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Grabs where you can't reach.


MOOS (voice-over): And hopes COVID can't reach the rest of the family -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


GIOKOS: I love that these products are actually available for consumers. It is crazy. Kind of reminds me of that movie, "Bubble Boy."