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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

New COVID Variant Detected By South African Scientists; England And France Play Blame Game After 27 Migrant Dies; Bidens Great Troops At U.S. Coast Guard Station. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 26, 2021 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, this is EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans. It's just about 30 minutes past the hour.

Breaking this morning, a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa and it is triggering a lot of concern among health experts and investors because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people. Remember, the virus mutates more quickly in populations with lower vaccination rates.

This morning, COVID infections in South Africa are way up and stocks around the world are way down.

David McKenzie is live in Johannesburg. David, what are we hearing now about travel bans? This thing really escalated overnight.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, yes, the travel bans are happening and they are hard to keep up with. All over the world, including the United Kingdom, parts of Europe, and countries in Asia are starting to ban or red-list parts of the African continent because of this worrying new variant.

Here's what we know. This variant, which didn't yet have a designation by the WHO -- the science is just so new -- shows many mutations -- more than 30 in a key spike protein of the COVID-19 virus, which would be worrying.

Scientists say they worry it could be more transmissible and that it might break through some level of immunity. At this stage, they believe that existing vaccines should be effective against severe disease and death but frankly, they don't know. And over the next few weeks they'll be working around the world in labs to try and test whether the vaccines will be effective.

But because of the worry of the possible impact of this as it spreads quickly from a relatively low base here in South Africa is these bans coming in.

The next thing that needs to happen is to really get a sense of how bad this variant is. Is it the big one or is it something that is going to end up being a false alarm? South Africa will have meets with the World Health Organization later today -- an urgent meeting to likely designate this as a variant of concern.

It's been seen in several countries across the continent. We don't know if it comes from South Africa. It was discovered here because of the strong surveillance of COVID-19 in this country. Israel has said they have at least one positive case tested at the airport. And so, we will get a sense in the coming days how widespread this is and how fast it is spreading across the world -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes. Certainly, scientists are alarmed and all the uncertainties here. We've got to learn a lot more about this thing. Thank you so much, David.

Global markets sliding on the news. Uncertainty, of course, is the enemy for investors.

U.S. stock futures dropping as many as 700 points because of the new variant, paring losses from five percent earlier to now about two percent. Airlines, travel, and hotel stocks in Asia simply hammered. Markets in Asia, overall, falling. Tokyo -- that was the worst day for Tokyo stocks in months. In Europe, those markets have opened lower -- sharply lower. More on this throughout the day.

As David mentioned, countries in Europe moving quickly to impose new travel bans on South Africa over this new variant. Global health officials are already -- were already warning about infection spikes across Europe, which they caution could be a window into the future for the Americas.

Barbie Nadeau joins us live from Rome. These developments overnight -- you know, honestly, this news developing very rapidly here. And you can see health officials across Europe working quickly to figure out how to contain this.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. You know, we're seeing country after country now banning anyone who has been in South Africa or traveling from some of those southern African regions. And it's because the caseload here in Europe is just climbing. Every single day we're seeing more new cases.

We've got lots of different reactions from around the European Union. The European Medicines Agency just approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages five to 11. But the booster program isn't really widely available to a lot of people yet. So it's going to be interesting to see how each country handles that -- if they're going to go for the boosters first or inoculate the children first.

There are new restrictions in France in terms of mask mandates. There are new restrictions in Italy. It's no longer going to be accepted to have a negative COVID test to enter some venues. You'll have to be vaccinated.

The pressure here is to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible, and we've still got a lot of people holding out here across Europe.

ROMANS: Yes. All right, Barbie Nadeau. Thank you so much for that. All right. Less than 24 hours after at least 27 migrants died in a boat tragedy trying to cross from France to Britain, the leaders of each country spar over who is to blame.

While they dispute over one of the worst migrant tragedies in the English Channel, one survivor sums the situation up this way.


ABDEL, CHADIAN MIGRANT (through translator): In any case, this is our only route to England, so we'll always try, even if there are disasters -- always. We have no choice, you know.


We don't know what God will do. Not everyone will die in the sea. Some people will make it; some will die. It's up to God to decide all that. So we have no choice.


ROMANS: All right, CNN's Cyril Vanier is live near Calais at a small migrant camp. I see you focusing your camera there right now. What -- Cyril, what are you -- what are you seeing there?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I want to show you around a little bit because this tells you about the human tragedy that's unfolding right here in Europe, one of the richest parts of the world.

So, we are near Calais in northern France. This is one of the numerous little spots where migrants congregate. They come, they spend a short amount of time, and then they try and cross over into England.

So, look around me. This is -- this is -- so, first of all, it's freezing cold, it's wet. You see these people living in these tents just behind me and I don't want to linger too much on that. But just behind me under that tent you see the people getting warm by the fire.

You see that child? He can't be older than three or four years old. I've seen children as young as two. I've seen a 5-year-old. I've seen an 8-year-old girl.

And these are families that are coming from Iraq, that are coming from Iran. I've met Afghans as well -- Hazara-minority Afghans who have fled their country. All these people are either fleeing war or economic insecurity and they want a chance at a better life in England.

So, why do they go to England and why do they try this treacherous journey? We know that 27 people died crossing the English Channel just the other day.

I tell them -- I say you have a chance of dying. Why risk it, including with children? And they say -- well, I've got multiple answers but they've said it's better to die in the U.K. than die in Iraq, was what the last person told me. You see a food delivery there. Now, there are many groups -- aid groups that come here, hand out some bread, give them a pair of socks. But it's a Band-Aid on what is just human misery here.

These are people who have traveled 10,000 miles from where they are in the Middle East and as far as they're concerned, the last leg of their trip that would take them to England -- look at these tents here. Look at how they're living. As far as they're concerned, that's just the last small step.

We're about 30-40 miles from England and they feel they've been through worse. They've already accomplished harder. Many of them have already been through a worse sea crossing and they feel that this is the -- this is the easiest thing for them left to do in their journey.

ROMANS: So, Cyril, who is responsible for securing that border then? Is it France that should be patrolling its own shoreline? Is it the U.K. which should be doing more to tell people don't come here -- we're going to send you home? What can they do?

VANIER: Yes, France is the party that is responsible for securing the border by virtue of a deal that they have with the U.K. and have had since the early 2000s, which effectively places the U.K. border right here on a French coastline. So, yes, according to that deal France is responsible for securing.

But what is it that they're doing? They're trying to prevent thousands of people who desperately want to get to the U.K. from leaving a country in which they do not want to be. So, you immediately understand that that's --

ROMANS: Right.

VANIER: -- kind of a tough spot to be in.

And we've seen these policemen patrol the beaches. We're talking about a 200-kilometer stretch of coastline. Frankly, they are under- resourced. They told us as much, that they don't have enough personnel to be -- to have eyes on every stretch of beach at every moment. So they can't physically prevent all these boats from going.

And the other thing is they're just -- the migrants know that this is a route that is successful. So they will send many boats at the same time in the knowledge that some will be prevented from leaving by law enforcement but others will make it across and thus, the trade continues.

ROMANS: Try and try again. All right, Cyril Vanier. Thank you so much for showing us again what's happening there near Calais.

All of this just the latest hardship for men, women, and children -- mostly Kurds -- trying to flee northern Iraq. Many of them desperate migrants -- many of these desperate migrants originated there but 1,000 were sent back home from Belarus following -- remember that standoff at the border as they tried to cross into western Europe? Senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is for us live this

morning in Istanbul. And, Arwa, explain to us -- give to us the core here of the plight of these people. Why they are risking everything to leave Kurdistan.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when it comes specifically to the Iraqi Kurds that we have been seeing fleeing in numbers, the vast majority of which are believed to be the nationals did end up drowning in that horrific incident that Cyril was just reporting on, it really is about the economy. But that can seem like a fairly desensitizing way to put it when we talk about the economic plight of a population.


And so, to further sort of explain it, what this actually means is that families used to be able to feed, clothe, educate their children can no longer do so in Iraqi Kurdistan. And remember, this is a part of Iraq that was thriving. It used to be promoted as the other Iraq -- the Iraq where you don't have all this violence.

There was so much investment. Oil companies were tripping over each other trying to get a piece of the pie.

But then in about 2013 that all began to change for a number of different factors. There were disputes that were happening between Irbil and Baghdad. Government salaries weren't being paid. People saw their salaries slashed 50 percent. The economy took a nosedive. Items that were subsidized, like electricity and such, were no longer being subsidized by the government.

And so, over the course of the years the vast majority of middle-class and lower-class income families just saw everything that they had worked so hard for completely evaporate. And they also lost hope in their government -- in their own government's ability to actually alter the trajectory of their lives, and that's why you see them taking onto this desperate journey. And none of this is going to change unless the core root issues are actually addressed.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right, Arwa Damon for us this morning in Istanbul. Thank you.

The Afghan girl made famous, remember, by this iconic 1985 National Geographic cover, has been granted refugee status in Italy.

Sharbat Gula is her name. She spent three decades in Pakistan as a refugee there. Now in her late 40s, she was back in Afghanistan and trapped there when it fell to the Taliban in August.

The Italian government says it accepted an appeal on her behalf from non-profit groups working to get Afghans out of the country, making her a refugee once again.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right. Checking global markets one more time, stocks falling on concerns about this new COVID variant discovered in South Africa. The concern is a high number of mutations on the key spike protein could allow it to evade immune systems. Slow vaccination rates give this new variant an opening. It is alarming but important to note scientists don't know yet how dangerous or transmissible this new variant is.

Still, not knowing is enough for investors to rush to safety. U.S. stock futures dropping badly here. The Dow futures down more than two percent -- 800 points there. Markets in Asia tumbling. In Europe, markets there opening sharply lower here. More on this throughout the day.

All right, this may be the final holiday shopping season for two iconic brands, Sears and Kmart, which could be why Sears is offering 50 percent off everything, while Kmart is offering 40 percent off this Black Friday. The two chains emerged from bankruptcy three years ago -- a shell of what used to be a combined 3,500 stores nationwide.

President Biden and Jill Biden greeting service members on Thanksgiving Day in Nantucket, Massachusetts. They visited the U.S. Coast Guard station at Brant Point where all six branches of the military were represented.

CNN's Jasmine Wright joins us live with more. Good morning.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Good morning. That's right, Christine. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden -- they visited troops -- service members at Brant Fort (sic), really honoring a time-old tradition -- pre-pandemic tradition for the president's first year in office -- first year -- first Thanksgiving, really, as president.

And now, President Biden -- he met with service members physically present at Brant Fort (sic). But also, he met with service members across the globe when he participated in a virtual call. Now, after about an hour inside, he came out with about 20 service members, as you see on the screen here. He greeted them, thanked them for their service, offered them challenge coins, and, of course, posed for a group photo.

Take a listen to his message to service members yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been all over the world. I've watched these people. I've watched them in the South China Sea. I've watched them in Afghanistan, Iraq. I've watched them in South America -- wherever they are.

People wonder what America is, they look and they see them. That's who they see. They don't see us here; they see them. And it makes me proud. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WRIGHT: So today, we will see more of that -- the message from the president that we just heard as he visits the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Nantucket where he is spending the holiday weekend. We will see him there over the weekend.

And then, of course, he heads back to D.C. sometime next week -- or on Monday, rather, where he has a big task ahead of him trying to push through that social safety expansion package, as well as government spending and debt ceiling that he will have to respond to -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine. Nice to see you this morning. Hope you have a wonderful day. Thank you.

It was a text that changed both of their lives. Now known as the Thanksgiving Grandma, Wanda Dench is celebrating her sixth holiday in Mesa, Arizona with Jamal Hinton after she sent him a text back in 2016, by mistake. Jamal was just 17. And since then, they have celebrated birthdays and Christmas, too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What if you had never done that?



DENCH: Then we would've -- I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship. I changed my view totally about the younger generation. And now that I reflect back on all these years, I didn't change their life; they changed mine.



ROMANS: It's such a sweet story.

This year was much happier than last. Last year, Dench lost her husband Lonnie to COVID after 43 years of marriage.

A wrongfully convicted Missouri man who spent 43 years behind bars is waking up a millionaire this morning. Sixty-two-year-old Kevin Strickland was exonerated Tuesday morning of a murder in the 70s he has always said he didn't commit.

A GoFundMe account set up for Strickland by the Midwest Innocence Project is now over $1 million and counting.

There was magic in the air for some Orlando basketball fans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are the father!


ROMANS: That is shocked James Bailey, who learns his wife Taylor is expecting on the kiss cam at the Orlando Magic game, giving the couple something to be even more grateful for this Thanksgiving.


JAMES BAILEY, EXPECTANT FATHER: When I looked up and saw the writing at the bottom, that's just when my jaw dropped, and it was just such a whirlwind of emotions at that point.

TAYLOR WHEATON-BAILEY, EXPECTANT MOTHER: There is some of my friends local in town that were like are you pregnant? And I'm like oh, are you at the game? They're like no, you're on "SPORTS CENTER" right now.



The only bad news for the pair, the Magic lost. They are dead last in the Eastern Conference.

A costly penalty dooms the Dallas Cowboys in an overtime loss to the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Christine.

The Cowboys and the Raiders not very thankful for one another nor the officials this Thanksgiving. Tempers reaching a boiling point after a punt in the third quarter. The play seemed to be over (INAUDIBLE) on the sideline.

Oh, Roderic Teamer for the Raiders and Cowboys rookie Kelvin Joseph -- they got into it. The person who might have gotten it the worst in the scuffle, though -- look at the judge -- side judge Tom Hill. He had a bloody chin on that one.

Twenty-eight penalties in this one but none bigger than a huge pass interference call on Dallas in overtime. Third and long but Anthony Brown gets all up in the chest of Zay Jones as he was going up for a pass. That's Brown's fourth defensive P.I. of the game.

A 33-yard penalty puts Raiders' Daniel Carlson in position to kick the game-winner, and he does. That ends a three-game losing streak for the Raiders.

All right. The NFL's only team without a win, the Detroit Lions. They were a second away from winning their first of the year. This is against the Bears. But for the third time this season, they lose on the last play of the game.

Chicago kicker Cairo Santos doing that 28-yarder. Christine Romans a fan. The team wins 16-14, snapping a five-game losing streak.

All right, hey! Buffalo on Bourbon Street. Bills fans showing up in droves to New Orleans to see their team pour on the points on the Saints like gravy on potatoes.

Dawson Knox caught two touchdown passes in this one. He's a former walk-on at Ole Miss and never even caught a touchdown pass there. But the tight end has caught seven now for the Bills -- a single-season team record. He still has six more games to play.

Josh Allen threw for four touchdowns in this one.

Buffalo wins big, 31-6. It's New Orleans' fourth-straight loss.

The Match is back. It's the fifth generation of a charity golf event this afternoon. And this time it features one of the biggest rivalries in the game. Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau taking their long- running feud to Las Vegas for a 12-hole exhibition match.

Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, two-time winner of The Match, spoke with the guys ahead of the showdown.


BRYSON DECHAMBEAU, 2020 U.S. OPEN WINNER: Just know that Brooks and I have never been paired together in competition on the PGA tour or anywhere else. This is going to be the first time that we're together playing against each other. You may see something pretty interesting in regards to the mental competition that we're going to play against each other.

BROOKS KOEPKA, 4-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: Playing 12 holes is nice. I mean, it's better than playing 18 holes with Bryson. So anything that's spending less time around him I'm happy to do.


WIRE: All right. The sparks fly at 4:00 eastern on our sister channel TNT and will simulcast on TBS, truTV, and HLN. I don't want to say it's going to be Raiders-Cowboys sideline scuffle Christine, but there's going to be some friction there. These two guys -- I really --


WIRE: -- don't think they like each other.

ROMANS: All right, Coy Wire. Nice to see you today.

WIRE: You, too.

ROMANS: Thanks so much.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" is next.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Brianna Keilar with Kaitlan Collins because John Berman is off today. It is so wonderful to be with you on this Black Friday.

And we're beginning with breaking news. It's a new and alarming coronavirus variant that has been detected in South Africa. And right now, officials there are preparing to brief the World Health Organization. Scientists are concerned about this variant because it spreads rapidly, but also it shows an ability to evade immunity.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And there has been.