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Omicron Surge Breaking Case Records as Holidays End; Israel Offers 4th COVID Shot to Health Care Workers, 60 Plus Crowd; Hamdok Steps Down After Latest Anti-Coup Protests; U.S. to Sudanese Leaders: Ensure Continued Civilian Rule; CNN Talk to U.N. Special Representative to Sudan. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 11:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: We begin with breaking news and live pictures from Cape Town in South Africa where ablaze at the

parliament building that first began on Sunday has restarted a 49 year old man is under arrest for allegedly starting that fight.

He is during court Tuesday to face charges of arson and theft. Police say they caught him with stolen property. We are continuing to monitor these

images for you and we will bring you more as and when we get it.

Well, millions of people across the globe are returning to work today after a holiday season that saw COVID cases surging to unprecedented levels. The

Omicron wave is caused daily flight cancellations and has to be said desperate lines of people trying to get tested in many places.

Many holiday celebrations were canceled or severely curtail. But as we get out of the gates in 2022, it does feel like there is more hope and optimism

today than in past COVID surges, thanks to increasing vaccination rates in many places at least.

And the fact that Omicron appears to be less dangerous than previous variants. Well, government is suggesting the way they respond to this COVID

surge. In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there are no plans to tighten restrictions because Omicron is plainly milder, and I quote him

there than previous COVID variants.

Mr. Johnson did warn that there will be pressure on British hospitals in coming weeks. It says the country is better prepared to deal with that than

in the past. And France is easing its isolation rules.

Starting today, people who are vaccinated will only have to isolate for seven days after a positive test or five days if they follow up with a

negative test. France's Health Minister says this wave of COVID may be the country's last. But it is far from over. Let's bring in Cyril Vanier

joining us now live from Paris. What else have we heard from French authorities?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, I want to address something you just said in your introduction that there is some cause for optimism. And

it's true. We are hearing that from the authorities here in France. But it's true in the long term.

In the long term they say well, because Omicron is to some degree an opportunity because it's less severe but more contagious, that means it

will infect more people in a less severe way.

And it will therefore over time build up the degree of immunity that you see within the population the degree of protection, right. But that entire

positive scenario plays out only over the long term.

In the short and medium term, you have to protect the hospital system from being overwhelmed because even though Omicron is less severe than delta,

it's so much more infectious that you could still see many, many more people requiring care, including in intensive care.

And that could play out over the coming weeks and months. So you need to protect the hospital system. And the French says the --the French

government is also worried about keeping the country running over the next few weeks.

Because you currently have 250,000 official new infections a day with the health minister saying really it could be double that when you factor in

the people who are not getting tested. It could be half a million people who are getting COVID a day.

So if a fraction of those, you know, stay home don't go to work, then that means that you could find yourselves with sectors of your economy that

aren't running or maybe public services that can no longer be guaranteed by the state.

And that's what the government is meeting about today, Becky. So a very, very different picture, whether you're looking at the short medium term, or

the longer term. Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes, Cyril Vanier is in Paris. Have a look at these images, folks. Thank you, Cyril. Huge lines of cars in Israel, people lining up to

get a COVID test. The push to get tested comes as Israel has revised some of its rules for dealing with the pandemic.

Israel now says that people who have been exposed the Coronavirus can get out of quarantine if they test negative and have been vaccinated. Also

Monday the country began giving its unprecedented fourth vaccine shot to healthcare workers and those over 60.

Elliott Gotkine tracking the changes in how Israel is fighting COVID joining us live from Jerusalem, Elliott.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Becky, as we've seen that, you know, many countries around the world grappling with unprecedented levels of COVID

infections right now. So there'll be keeping - a very close eye on what is happening in Israel with the rollout of this fourth shot or second booster

to see if it can help in the fight against Omicron.


GOTKINE (voice over): Fourth time's the charm. Israel's immunosuppressed began receiving their second booster shot on New Year's Eve on Sunday

evening, almost two weeks after trumpeting the plan. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said they'd now be joined by those over 60 and health care workers.


NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort. Omicron is not delta, it's a

different ballgame altogether. We must keep our eye on the ball, act swiftly and decisively if we want to continue engaging and working with an

open country as much as possible throughout this pandemic.

GOTKINE (voice over): To that end, Bennett also announced that quarantine requirements would be lifted completely on people exposed to an Omicron

carrier, so long as they test negative and their vaccinations are up to date. Yet, with long lines outside testing centers and cases doubling every

few days, Israel is bracing itself for the full force of its fifth COVID wave, the only bright spot it may not last.

ERAN SEGAL, PROFESSOR, WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE: Our projection is that this wave is going to be rather quick. And that within about three

weeks, I estimate that at least 2 million people here in Israel, which is about 1/4 of the population is going to - is going to be infected. And that

may lead to a sort of herd immunity after which we may see a slowdown.

GOTKINE (voice over): For now though Israel is hoping Omicron's possibly lower level of severity, together with the rollout of the second booster

will help keep the number of serious cases down. And that like other COVID waves before it, this one too shall pass.


GOTKINE: And now that most Omicron infections are domestic, Israel has also announced the government announced today plans to relax some of its

restrictions on foreigners coming into Israel.

So the plan is that from Sunday, people who are vaccinated and or can prove that they are recovering from COVID will be allowed into Israel for most

countries, they will just need to take a negative - negative PCR test and or wait 24 hours before going on their merry way.

Some countries, though, remain on Israel's Red List and will not be allowed into the country. And those include the United States, the United Kingdom,

and the United Arab Emirates. Becky?

ANDERSON: Just finally, and we are seeing countries looking at getting vaccinations and or boosters into the arms of youngsters and kids at this

point, some real concerns about getting kids back into the education system at the start of 2022. What's the story in Israel?

GOTKINE: So they started vaccinating children, like a month or two ago, still round about 12, 13 percent like we're in double digits, but it's not

quite as successful as they would have hoped. There was a scheme to allow vaccinated kids to continue learning in school, even if someone in their

class came down with COVID.

But there's a bit of chaos and confusion actually today as to what exactly is going on. But they are still trying to push for children to get

vaccinated to help reduce the spread of the virus not just among children in the education system, but obviously from children to adults as well.

ANDERSON: Elliott always a pleasure. Thank you, sir. Elliott Gotkine is in Jerusalem. Well, Chile will soon start administering its fourth COVID

booster shot as well. Chilean President announced a fourth dose will be given to high risk citizens beginning next month.

That country has one of the highest COVID vaccination rates in the world; about 86 percent of its population has been vaccinated against the virus.

We find Of course COVID, a global issue. A decisive response if Russia further invades Ukraine, that's the promise U.S. President Joe

Biden is making to his counterpart in Kiev.

First up though after this break, I talked to the United Nations Special Representative for Sudan, but the resignation of the Sudanese Prime

Minister and the country's increasingly fragile path towards democracy, do stay with us for that.



ANDERSON: Sudan's fragile transition to democracy facing a very uncertain future. After the resignation of the Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok

explained his decision in a speech to the nation on Sunday, have a listen.


ABDALLA HAMDOK, FORMER SUDANESE MINISTER: I decided to give back the responsibility and announce my resignation as prime minister to give a

chance to another man or woman of this noble country to continue leading our dear nation and help it pass through what's left of the transitional

period to a civilian democratic country.


ANDERSON: I'm not stepped down Sunday, after the latest anti coup protests around the Capitol Khartoum and doctor's group reports three people were

killed in 57 deaths in all since the protests started in October. Here's one protestor had to say just days ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today we are demonstrating for the fall of the military power and against the political agreement which was supposed to

stop the bloodshed. But unfortunately, there are still definite violence. It means that this agreement is not the right one.


ANDERSON: Let me just remind you how Sudan got here. Civil unrest followed the ousting of the longtime dictator Omar Al Bashir, in 2019. That led to a

landmark power sharing deal and the appointment of Abdalla Hamdok as Prime Minister.

That deal fell apart when the military staged a coup last October and detained Hamdok, later releasing him. Well, Senior International

Correspondent Nima Elbagir has done extensive reporting on Sudan. She knows the story very well. And she joins me from London. With information Nima on

why it is that the Prime Minister chose to resign, what do you know at this point?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the picture that is emerging, Becky, that in spite of how definitely from the outside

for many observers, it felt like Sudan's generals were very aware that their time and their options were running out.

And that this deals this new agreement with former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was one of their final remaining lifelines that behind the scenes,

they were reneging on the basic terms of the agreement, i.e. noninterference.

A combination of sources both close to the former prime minister and within the border civilian political leadership has painted this extraordinarily

recalcitrant picture of Sudan's Military. Not only were they interfering with Prime Minister Hamdok's choices for things as low level as

undersecretaries, and the General Secretariat within individual ministries.

But they also independently brought back to life and rebranded the National Intelligence Services who not only the human rights activist and human

rights groups, but CNN's own investigations have implicated in the death of civilians somehow believing that this rename and rebrand would bring about

a different perspective from the protesters on the streets.

And as you pointed out, at the beginning of this segment, people continue to die and the impasse continues. So for many of those were speaking to

inside Sudan, they say that whether or not the international community comes out and finally speaks out against Sudan's generals, they are going

to continue to risk their lives on those streets and call for democracy, Becky.

ANDERSON: You've been speaking to a number of people who have been involved in those protests; you speak to them on a regular basis. What's the sense

amongst those who are basically putting their - themselves in harm's way at this point in search of a solution? What's the sense of what happens next?


ELBAGIR: Well, their sense is that there is no going back because this was a process that was begun in 2019. And it is either so - it is heartbreaking

to hear from so many young people that they believe that the way is either forward, or that they lose their lives because there is no return from this


And I, you know, we cover so many difficult stories. You and I speak so often about some of the most horrible places and some of those horrible

stories that we've heard. But there is something about this constant drip feed of deaths that is touching every single home in Sudan.

And of course, I am from Sudan. So I hear so many more of these stories, Becky, but it feels like there is not a single home across the country that

has not lost someone they love in these protests. Becky.

ANDERSON: Nima, what has been the response of the international community?

ELBAGIR: So far, nothing, there was some sense towards the end of the year that Senator Chris Coons' amendment in the National Defense Authorization

Act, would bring some threat of sanctions to bear against Sudan's Generals.

But I had a quick look through the final text of that act. And it does seem to be watered down to talk purely about accountability in general terms as

opposed to specific sanctions. There is a sense that America has lost its influence both in Sudan and in neighboring Ethiopia.

And those bad actors that are not as bent on accountability for Sudan's Generals are now filling that void. And that is a real concern, not just in

Sudan, but geopolitically around the world, Becky. What comes next for Sudan means so much more, not just for Sudan, but for so many people

watching around the world, Becky?

ANDERSON: Nima, thank you. My next guest tweeted about the prime minister's resignation, saying and "I regret his decision but respect it. Perpetrators

of violence during these last months must be brought to justice.

Sudan needs inclusive dialogue on how to achieve its democratic and peaceful future, UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission, Sudan, as it

is known, is ready to facilitate. Volker Perthes leads that mission and is the UN Secretary General, Special Representative for Sudan.

He joins me now via Skype from Khartoum. Exactly, what is it that the UN is preparing to do Volker at this point?

VOLKER PERTHES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SUDAN: Well, it depends on what the Sudanese want us to contribute. And yet we can

offer our good offices as we as we - diplomatically - which means we can offer to facilitate a dialogue, dialogue, comprehensive, inclusive dialogue

between the Sudanese stakeholders, and indeed, there have been stakeholders who have started asking us to do that.

So I have intensive sections in these days about what kind of dialogue the Sudanese see for themselves, and whether and how we could contribute. Of

course, there are always people who don't want any dialogue, and I have to respect that.

But then it is in the way in the DNA, those United Nations that we think talking as much about the dime --.

ANDERSON: The military as Nima has been reporting from sources was reneging on the basic terms of the agreement, and that is why we are told Abdalla

Hamdok resigned at the weekend.

The military is also brought back and rebranded the national intelligence services much feared by those who are protesting on the streets. You say

that perpetrators of violence during these last month's must be brought to justice, by which you mean, who are you talking about the Military top

brass here?

PERTHES: Well, I would not start with saying that the top brands are the ones that anybody could put in front of a court right now. But we have so

often and many people in the Sudanese society have so often been calling for credible investigations in - the killing.

And that is a good way to start this, to have a credible investigation to find out who do the deeds and brings after court. It's actually an

indicator for - powers that we are serious in rebuilding the trust they have lost in the people --.

ANDERSON: You recently penned an op-ed in foreign policy and I just want to read out part of what you said. I quote "The situation in the country's

capital Khartoum remains challenging but this is no excuse for withdrawing state capacities from the region.


ANDERSON: Sudan's authorities have the responsibility to safeguard their own people from harm, while trying to resolve the centers political crisis

brought about by the coup. With all due respect, Sir, the authorities themselves, are the ones perpetrating the violence against the people of

Sudan. So shouldn't they be called out directly for that and be held responsible?

PERTHES: Well, in the end, of course, leaders are responsible for paying dues, they are accountable for what they do, that for the time being what

we have to do now here on the ground in Sudan is try to stop secure, trying to get people to draw rather than to shoot .

We all know that according to the constitution document as a wish, I would say after the large, large majority of Sudanese-- that this country

translates to civilian government. Now to get there and to get there without bloodshed, you will have to talk.

And - transitional justice, what do you do with the crimes atrocities that have been committed, very high on the agenda of the transitional period.

Actually, it may well be that conflicts over on what transitional justice could actually be and how it could be implemented has been one of the

courses that brought the generals to undertake --.

ANDERSON: I understand the process that you are describing, which would be conceivable rational, reasonable, where it not that the people on the

streets, protesters who have been dying, don't believe the Military.

The military generals have reneged on every promise that they have made as evidenced by Prime Minister Hamdok's resignation. Should the global

community, including yourself is now be pushing for punishment and if so, in what form?

PERTHES: Well, I'm not going to push for punishment, as is not my job in my mandate. My mandate is here, to try to bring to help bring the country back

on a transition path. You're totally right when you say that the people in the street, don't trust the military.

And actually no one trusts anybody here as it seems the parties don't trust the military. The people on the street don't trust the parties and the

military. That trust is not a precondition for having a dialogue and trying to bring the country forward.

There was no trust in 2019 when Sudanese actors, civilians and military got together and agreed on constitutional documents, there's no trust today.

Trust can perhaps be built through a dialogue, but it is not a frequent issue.

ANDERSON: In response to Hamdok's resignation, the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs tweeted the following and I quote, "after Prime Minister Hamdok's

resignation, Sudanese leaders should set aside differences, find consensus, and ensure continued civilian rule".

Sudan's next Prime Minister and Cabinet should be appointed in line with the constitutional declaration to meet the people's goals of freedom, peace

and justice. One former State Department official said Sir, this reads like you are on your own, figure it out yourselves.

I mean, how you feel about that sort of narrative coming out of the U.S. And as Nima was pointing out, it's not just in Sudan; it's in Ethiopia and

in the region where I am. There is somewhat of a trust deficit with regard Washington at present and what it is prepared to do. Do you feel that way

you are?

PERTHES: Well, look, I'm neither here as an analyst, not as an activist, but as a U.N. official. So I'm not going to comment on the statements from

member states. But what I can tell you and what we can tell to Sudanese people is that they're actually not alone, while it is in the end up on the

Sudanese to agree with one another.

There is, as I sense a strong - the international community to support political processes in Sudan that brings the country back on transition

track and we are here on the ground and we are prepared to support to the extent of course to Sudanese --.

ANDERSON: You are calling for dialogue. I understand your position and there will be many watching this show who know what's going on the ground,

who are Sudanese, who have been fighting for democracy who will say that the military simply isn't listening, isn't ready for dialogue in any way,

shape or form unless they are forced to do so.


ANDERSON: So what mechanisms does the international community have at this point, to ensure that there is some progress to ensure that the Sudanese

people feel that they are being supported?

PERTHES: Well, I'm sure I didn't get your entire question, because there was another sound coming in here. But indeed, the international community

has to make clear that it is on the side of the Sudanese people supporting a transition class, which is credible, and that it is offering its support

for this.

ANDERSON: The worry that the people of Sudan will have and Sir with respect, I'm going to watch you this, again, is that the international

community is just not acting up at this point. Do you sympathize with those who do not feel that enough is being done to help them?

PERTHES: Well, I mean, as a UN representative in the country, I always would like the international community to have a stronger interest in the

country I serve in to do more to support the country more. But we also know what's the reality of international relations are.

I know there are a couple of people here who have unrealistic expectations as to what the UN can do. And they are confusing the United Nations with

Security Council, for example devastating what you as and - you should push for this or that.

Now, go to the countries that are members of the Security Council and ask them to do what you wish to do. But then what I can do is, I may reporting

to the Security Council, informing them about the situation here also transporting some wishes and aspirations of Sudanese people, choose a

Security Council and then asked for support.

This is what happened during in the past. And while I will be continuing to do, then in the end, the decisions of the Security Council ask the

decisions of the members --.

ANDERSON: All right. With that, Sir, we'll leave it there. We should speak again, very soon. Thank you.

PERTHES: Thank you.

ANDERSON: We're going to take a very short break at this point. After that, we will take a look at what is going on with regard the U.S. and Russia and

what Joe Biden has said to his counterpart in Ukraine, more on that after this.