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First Move with Julia Chatterley
Italy Heads into a New Lockdown and COVID-19 Cases Climb in Hong Kong; Bitcoin Soars Past 60K Only to Selloff Sharply; After a Year of Radical Upheaval, the Movie Industry Prepares for the Oscars. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired March 15, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Live from New York, I'm Alison Kosik, in for Julia Chatterley who hopefully is getting some rest as we get
used to this time change, this is FIRST MOVE and here is your need to know.
COVID concerns. Italy heads into a new lockdown and cases climb in Hong Kong.
Bitcoin bounce. It soars past $60,000.00 only to selloff sharply.
And nomination time: after a year of radical upheaval, the movie industry prepares for the Oscars.
It's Monday. Let's make a move.
Welcome to FIRST MOVE. We have got plenty ahead on the show today including signs that it may be too early to declare victory against the coronavirus.
A new Hong Kong cluster and tighter restrictions in Italy are raising concerns and we are going to bring you all of the details shortly.
First, let's take a look at the markets. U.S. stocks are set for a higher open after a record close Friday for the S&P 500 and the Dow. Optimism
about economic recovery fueling last week's rally.
This week, all eyes will be on the U.S. Central Bank, the Federal Reserve begins a critical two-day meeting on Tuesday.
The prospect of rising inflation has pushed bond yields to levels not seen in many months. Investors will listen out for clues to how the Fed sees the
recovery shaping up, and any tweaks to its timeline for rate hikes.
Italy is entering a new phase of tighter coronavirus restrictions. Much of the country is under new measures with a national lockdown set for Easter
as cases spike again.
Melissa Bell is live for us in Rome. Melissa, this is certainly not the turn the folks in Italy wanted to see.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the turn no one could have imagined just over a year ago when Italy first entered lockdown,
Alison, becoming the first western democracy to do so that a year on, this is what would be happening, and of course, it is once again because
throughout this pandemic, Europe has been just a few weeks ahead of the United States, a warning really to what might happen there next.
What we've seen these last few weeks after falling cases at the turn of the year, a rise as a result of those new variants and specifically, Alison,
the one first identified in the United Kingdom.
They've been spreading faster. We now know that it is potentially more dangerous than the others. ICUs are filling up across Europe once again,
and this as vaccination campaigns are simply not moving fast enough to have a compensating effect on that.
Here in Italy, it is just over three percent of the population that has been fully vaccinated. The government has now announced a fresh strategy
from last Saturday, and listen to this, its target is so ambitious, and so what it is hoping to do is get 500,000 injections delivered every day.
Italians have put a General in front of this taskforce to try and get this up and running hoping that the Army will be able to do what civilians have
failed to do so far.
That would allow them, they say, to vaccinate 80 percent of Italy's population by September, but, again, 500,000 injections every day. We're a
very long way from that right now.
KOSIK: Melissa, as Italy goes back into lockdown, what are the lessons that other countries can learn about maybe where Italy went wrong?
BELL: Well, I think it's important to understand that, in a sense, what's changed between this lockdown and the last one not only are the streets of
Rome very different than they were just over a year ago because although the rules are the same, Alison, people thanks to masks, thanks to testing,
thanks, also, to the fact they are no longer as afraid of the unknown as they were a year ago.
Although, the rules are the same, many more people are going out to work, and I think you can apply that comparison as well to the system as a whole.
Last year, the country locked down because ICUs were overburdened. This time, the regions that have locked down, just over half of all of Italy's
regions, it is because they've hit a particular rate of incidence rates.
So, when a regions gets to 250 positive people per 100,000, it goes into red and locks down entirely as the region around Rome has, and that's
because we now know how COVID-19 works.
We don't wait for the ICUs to become overburdened. We understand that at some point, you have to take measures that are unpopular, that are harmful
to the economy, because you can be sure of the fact that in the next two to three weeks, the ICUs will become overburdened as a result of fast-rising
rates of incidents of infection.
So, I think those are some of the lessons that have been learned. In a sense, it feels like we're back to where we were. But in other ways, we're
not because we know how this virus functions and we know how to stop it before our country's healthcare system collapses -- Alison.
KOSIK: And Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that if the U.S. lifts restrictions too early, it could risk going the way of Italy, yet, another
Melissa Bell, thanks so much.
KOSIK: In Hong Kong, officials taking action over what could be a fifth wave of COVID-19. Eleven residential buildings have been locked down, and
the people in them given compulsory tests.
Will Ripley reports.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hong Kong is announcing plans to open more vaccination centers and make vaccines
available for more people, anyone over the age of 30 starting on Tuesday, this, as the city battles a new spike in cases right here in the heart of
RIPLEY (voice over): As Hong Kong fights off a possible fifth wave of COVID-19, nowhere is immune.
This weekend, hundreds of healthcare workers and police sealed off several upscale neighborhoods, ordering thousands to line up for testing and
lockdown to wait for results.
MANIKA BAKHSHI, HONG KONG RESIDENT: It was a little overwhelming, we didn't know what to expect. Suddenly the building was taped off and there
were a lot of cops and there was a medical crew that walked in in hazmat suits, so it was all very sudden.
RIPLEY (voice over): Hong Kong began ambush-style lockdowns in late January targeting clusters in densely populated lower income areas. These
are the first to hit the high-rent district, full of ex-pats, foreign residents finding themselves on the frontline of Hong Kong's latest
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Granted that we've had COVID for about a year and suddenly this comes up, we were a bit surprised. But I guess, these
measures need to be taken to avoid the next wave outbreak.
RIPLEY (on camera): The hundreds of people who live in these buildings and others in the area won't be allowed to leave until all of this testing is
complete. They have to stay in their homes.
Health authorities say this latest super spreader event started here at this popular fitness center raising questions about safety just weeks after
Hong Kong allowed gyms to reopen.
RIPLEY (voice over): More than 100 cases are linked to this single gym. The cluster has closed schools, offices, and forced hundreds into
government quarantine centers, locked down for 14 days including single mom, Jen Burman.
JEN BURMAN, QUARANTINED GYM CLIENT: The most stressful thing is just the uncertainty and it was the not knowing. It's getting that phone call.
My main concern was my son. It was really just not knowing if he was going to have to quarantine with me, what the results were going to be, because
if I turned out to be positive, it means that my son would have to quarantine and go through this process, too.
And obviously, as a mom, it's your worst nightmare for them to have to go through something like this.
RIPLEY (voice over): Children may have a harder time coping with quarantine, mental health experts say.
JOHN SHANAHAN, DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST: And young children in particular really thrive on safety, security, and consistency. And so when
their whole world is kind of turned upside-down that can be really disruptive and, as I mentioned, it can be quite traumatic.
RIPLEY (voice over): Hong Kong has one of the harshest quarantine policies: up to three weeks for incoming travelers, two weeks for anyone in
close contact with the infected.
The city is just beginning COVID-19 vaccinations. Most may have to wait months before they can get a shot. Potentially meaning more outbreaks, more
lockdowns, and more damage to the already devastated local economy, just as many hoped life was finally getting back to normal.
RIPLEY (on camera): Hong Kong health officials say if case numbers start to go down, they'll consider easing restrictions on public gatherings and
businesses. But they say if the numbers stay where they're at or continue to go up, they might impose more restrictions on the city.
Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.
KOSIK: Now to Brazil where a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases is overwhelming the country's healthcare system. ICUs across Brazil now
reaching near capacity.
Matt Rivers is live for us in Sao Paulo. Matt, what's the latest?
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alison, I think that if you told health officials here in Brazil that they could be in Italy right
now or in Hong Kong and look at those numbers in any of those places, they would be thrilled, because the frank way to put it is that what is
happening in Brazil right now is the worst situation of any major country in the entire world including death rates, including case numbers.
What is happening here in Brazil, this country is going through the worst days of its pandemic so far.
RIVERS (voice over): Pamela Ravibi (ph) can only look at the photos of her grandmother. She says watching the videos is too painful.
"The world didn't deserve my Grandma," she says. "She was too good."
Admitted March 3rd with COVID at this small hospital outside Sao Paulo, she died just two days later. The facility quickly overrun by a new wave of
This doctor who works there says we think about the families that are suffering, and we can't sleep. It is unbelievable.
RIVERS (on camera): This hospital just doesn't have the facilities to care for those who are really sick. Those patients would usually get transferred
somewhere else, but right now, there's nowhere else to go.
So instead of getting transferred, they're dying.
RIVERS (voice over): In just five days last week, 12 patients died waiting for an open bed somewhere else according to hospital officials.
Pamela's grandmother was one of them. She thinks that she would have survived if treated in an ICU. But right now, access to those facilities is
Albert Einstein Hospital is one of Brazil's best, but here, too, the rooms are full. They are scrambling to build more ICU beds because the patients
just keep coming.
DR. FARAH CHRISTINA DE LA CRUZ SCARIN, ALBERT EINSTEIN HOSPITAL: It's the most busy time we have ever been in this last year.
RIVERS (voice over): We first saw hints of this about six weeks ago when we reported from Manaus, a city in Brazil's Amazon rain forest.
Hospitals there were overwhelmed amidst a new outbreak and the city was forced to build so-called vertical graves.
And from then to now, that chaos has spread nationwide. In 22 of 26 Brazilian states, ICU capacity is at or above 80 percent government data
shows. In Sao Paulo, it is 90 percent and climbing, and when you run out of beds, doctors tell us, people die.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The coffin is closed so the family doesn't have the opportunity to say goodbye.
RIVERS (voice over): The number of such coffins is surging at the Sao Paulo public cemetery. From above, you can see the thousands of newly dug
RIVERS (on camera): The number of burials like the one going on behind me have been staggering recently. Since the pandemic began, the three single
days where Sao Paulo has recorded the most coronavirus deaths have come in just the last week.
RIVERS (voice over): Experts say the causes of the new surge are myriad: a more transmissible variant, few vaccines, relaxed lockdowns and government
mismanagement all playing varying roles.
But no matter the cause, these are the effects.
Outside this public hospital, every day between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m., family members of COVID patients inside wait to hear their names.
They go in to get news on conditions. And often, it's not good and then comes the grief and the tears wrought from a pandemic that just won't end.
RIVERS (on camera): And when you're talking about vaccines here in Brazil, you are talking about a program that is woefully lacking so far, less than
10 million doses, less than 10 million people, rather, have received a single dose of the vaccine. Less than two percent of the population here
has been fully vaccinated.
There remains little planning in terms of exactly when more doses of the vaccine is going to arrive. You couple that with a variant. You couple that
with the President Jair Bolsonaro and his continued reluctance to talk about the death toll and how serious this is in favor of talking about the
economy and Alison, unfortunately, I wish I could tell you something different, but there is not a lot of good news on the horizon here in
Brazil. It appears that things are only going to get worse.
KOSIK: Awful crisis there, Matt, so heartbreaking. Thanks for bringing us those stories.
Bitcoin is taking investors on a wild ride after surging past $61,000.00 to an all-time high over the weekend. It's now down heavily on rumors India is
considering a total ban on cryptocurrencies.
Paul La Monica has been following the crypto ups and downs, and you don't need me to tell you there are plenty of those. A question I have is, how
concerned should investors be about India looking to ban cryptocurrencies? I mean, what if enough countries do something similar? What would that mean
for digital assets in general?
PAUL LA MONICA, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, obviously, Alison, if the reports about an India ban turn out to be true, that could be very
worrisome for Bitcoin and other forms of digital currencies.
The issue, though -- I think, though, will other nations really follow suit? I find it hard to believe that the United States would really go
through and ban Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in a serious way. You don't even get the sense that China or other emerging markets would do that
as well. So I think what we might be seeing in India could be isolated.
Bitcoin has been extremely volatile and every time it hits a milestone, it pulls back, but it keeps roaring higher. I mean, obviously, we've surpassed
the thirty, forty, fifty, and now 60,000 milestones in just calendar 2021. It's a stunning rise.
KOSIK: Yes, it's truly amazing. Now, on to another roaring company, digital payments company, Stripe, which makes software that allows
businesses to accept payment over the internet, that's raised $600 million in a funding round that boosts its valuation to a whopping $95 billion.
What is this company going to do with the money?
LA MONICA: Yes, Stripe says that it's going to look to expand even further in Europe. This is a company that has dual headquarters in the Silicon
Valley and in Ireland. So I think they're looking to do more in Europe, and it's fascinating, Alison, this is a company that, you know, competes with
the likes of PayPal and Square in digital payments, but, interestingly, they pulled back on accepting Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies a couple of
years ago, they said they weren't going to be doing that anymore.
So while Bitcoin continues its epic rise, we still have demand for services for traditional digital payments involving actual cash and credit, not
So, I think it's interesting to see how Stripe is obviously a winner in the mobile and digital payment space.
KOSIK: Absolutely. Okay, Paul La Monica, thanks so much for your reporting.
And these are the stories making headlines around the world. Security Forces killed at least 38 people in Myanmar, Sunday, at one of the
deadliest days since a military coup on February 1st.
Heaviest casualties were in an industrial suburb where several Chinese factories were set on fire. Communications networks have been disabled
nationwide causing the trial of the country's deposed leader, Aung San Suu Kyi to be delayed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a meeting of his crime taskforce to discuss protecting women from violence.
Thousands of women attended a vigil in London on Saturday night for Sarah Everard days after she was kidnapped and murdered. Officials will also
investigate the heavy handed response by police to the peaceful demonstration.
Buckingham Palace has hired a law firm to investigate claims that the Duchess of Sussex bullied Royal staff, accusations that were first reported
in "The Times." A spokesperson for the Duchess earlier described the claim as a calculated smear campaign saying the Duchess herself had been the
target of bullying.
Coming up on FIRST MOVE, as employers lean toward vaccinated candidates for jobs, we'll look at the thorny legal issues this raises.
And farming where no one has farmed before. The technology that makes growing crops possible even in the toughest climate.
KOSIK: Welcome back to FIRST MOVE. I'm Alison Kosik.
Futures are pointing to a higher open for U.S. stocks this morning. Fresh stimulus and vaccine rollouts continue to fuel optimism about the economic
In the U.S., President Biden sets out on a Help is Here Tour aiming to sell his $1.9 trillion relief bill to Americans, some of whom have already seen
new stimulus checks hit their bank accounts.
Joining me now is Mark Zandi, he is the Chief Economist of Moody's Analytics. Mark, great to see you. And you know, we have talked throughout
the pandemic, and now it feels like we're kind of at the other side of this, kind of. We see that kind of light at the end of the tunnel, and
there's a lot of optimism especially in the market.
You look at the S&P 500 at a record. Stock prices up 20 percent compared to where it was pre-pandemic. We have got the relief bill out there.
Do you think investors and Americans are getting too ahead of themselves though?
MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, there's a lot to be happy about, Alison. As you point out the pandemic feels like it's starting
to wind down. Twenty percent of Americans now have at least one dose of the vaccine. We have got this very, very massive fiscal support package, $1.9
trillion. That's a lot of juice.
Now, we've got a lot of folks that have been sheltering in place and saving and have a lot of pent-up demand. They want to go out and do things and
they have the cash to do that. So you add that all up, that signals a very, very strong economy, at least over the next 12 to 18 months.
Yes, investors might be a little bit euphoric getting a little ahead of themselves but a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
KOSIK: One headwind, of course, could be inflation and something that Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell has been dismissing, not concerned of
inflation. We saw little hiccups in the market over the past couple of weeks about rising bond rates, an indication that the Fed may move up its
timetable in tapering.
Do you think the Fed is handling this right in staying the course and not looking to raise rates at least until 2023? Or how concerned are you about
ZANDI: I'm not concerned. I think inflation worries are really putting the cart before the horse. I mean, unemployment is still very high, over six
percent nationwide and we have a lot of -- millions of people that have stepped out of the workforce, not looking for work and, therefore, don't
count as unemployment. So the under employment rate is very high.
It is going to take us at least a couple of years to get back to full employment where everyone is working and it is not until then that I think
inflation becomes a problem.
That's not to say there won't be price increases for certain things that we buy like gasoline price are going to go up, for example, because oil is up
for lots of various reasons.
But broadly speaking, I don't think inflation is an issue, certainly, not at this point. And I do think the Fed is conducting policy appropriately
KOSIK: One analyst I spoke with earlier this morning said that everybody is getting ready for President Biden to announce the first major tax hike
since 1993, that it's needed to pay for the next part of the economic plan, that it's increasingly clear that a tax hike is going to be part of what's
If this is the case, and it looks like it could be the case, do you think if something like this goes ahead and passes through Congress that this
could undercut growth, any growth that we would see this year?
ZANDI: No, no, not at all. I mean, I think the package that is now being discussed that would likely include some tax increases on large
corporations and on the well-to-do. That is not coming until very, very late this year, probably towards the end of the year and the tax increases
probably won't kick in until 2022 and perhaps in many cases, until 2023 when, presumably, hopefully, and I think, correctly, the economy will be
back to full employment and off and running.
So, you know, I think, a lot of that funding -- those tax increases are going to fund things like infrastructure spending, spending on healthcare,
education, housing, child care, eldercare, so all of those things will help to support growth as well.
So, no, and I think it's entirely appropriate that once the economy is back to full employment that whatever the President wants to do in terms of
spending, he is going to have to pay for with tax increases, and I think that's entirely the appropriate way to go here.
KOSIK: I want us quickly get to housing and real estate. Housing, the market here in the U.S. booming, but commercial real estate apparently a
different story. We see lots of empty storefronts. What kind of domino effect could we see from this in the economy?
ZANDI: Yes, yes, you're right. Single family housing boom times, right, low mortgage rates, work from anywhere. All the support from the
But the commercial real estate market is kind of on the flip side. It is the casualty of the pandemic. Hotels, obviously creamed by the lack of
tours and the business travel. Retailers, brick and mortar retailers creamed by online e-tailers. Office buildings hurt from work from anywhere
So, the commercial real estate is really the part of the economy that has suffered the brunt of the pandemic and it will be a drag on economic
Fortunately, it is a small piece of the pie. You know, it is a big economy and CRE, commercial real estate is a small part of it, but that is one part
of the economy that will struggle for the foreseeable future.
KOSIK: Very quickly, how soon will we see a recovery in the labor market?
ZANDI: Alison, it's going to happen next month. We're going to get a jobs report in a couple of weeks for the month of March and I would be pretty
surprised if we don't see 500,000 to a million increase in employment.
I think we're off and running here, and so, it will become very clear that the job market is on the mend in the next few months.
KOSIK: Let's hope those kinds of numbers that you just mentioned will become the trend. Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody's Analytics, great
getting your perspective today. Thanks for your time.
ZANDI: Sure thing.
KOSIK: And the opening bell is next.
KOSIK: A couple of high-fives there, that tech firm, Aeva ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange this morning.
And welcome back to FIRST MOVE. As you can see once again, that was the opening bell, I'm Alison Kosik.
Stocks are rising as investors continue to bet on the economy recovering strongly from the pandemic.
Let's take a quick look at Tesla. Elon Musk was given a new title this morning. In an official filing, he is now called CEO and Techno King of
Tesla. CFO Zach Kirkhorn will be known as Master of Coin. Remember, Tesla announced last month that it had bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin. The
stock right now is slightly lower.
Moving on, as Europe grapples with a new wave of coronavirus infections and a slow vaccine rollout, more countries are suspending using the AstraZeneca
vaccine. There are worries it could be linked to instances of blood clots, but the company is doubling down that there is no evidence of it.
So, let's bring in Dr. Peter Hotez, he is a co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, and he is also the Dean
of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and he joins us via Skype. Peter, great to see you.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Nice to see you, Alison.
KOSIK: So, let's start with this AstraZeneca vaccine. We know that Ireland is the latest country to suspend the use of their vaccine over these
concerns over blood clots. I want to hear what you think about this vaccine.
HOTEZ: Let me say up front, Alison, this is a good vaccine. I was offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine back at the end of December, but if you had
offered me the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, I would have taken it. It is highly effective against the original COVID-19 strain, it is highly
effective against the U.K. b.1.1.7 variant that is now accelerating across Europe. It can save your life.
And you know, there have been 17 million doses administered of this vaccine across the European Union and the United Kingdom and, yes, there have been
a handful of cases of deep venous thrombosis and thrombocytopenia and other blood clotting disorders, but, you know what, if those people had not
gotten the vaccine, it probably would have been the same rate.
We can't say that with a hundred percent certainty, but you have to remember, when you're selecting a vaccine that is primarily being given to
an older group, older groups have a number of medical issues that happen to them on any given day, and it is likely that this is not related to the
vaccine. That's what the company is saying.
And I think the E.M.A. is reviewing the data, but I really worry about suspending use of the vaccine because COVID-19 is accelerating across
Europe. This b.1.1.7 variant is a bad actor, much more transmissible than anything we have seen, higher lethality and mortality. The deaths are going
to start to mount once again in Europe like they did last year, and this is not a time to be halting the vaccine in my opinion.
KOSIK: Yes, we are seeing this acceleration of COVID cases across Europe. Meantime, in the U.S., we are seeing lots of optimism, almost like a
transition is about to happen. We're about to turn the corner. Are Americans being too optimistic?
HOTEZ: Yes, to give you a one word answer and let me explain why. Yes, the number of cases are declining, but now they're start to go plateau a little
bit, and once again, we have that b.1.1.7 variant. We've seen what it is doing in the U.K. and Europe right now and we should believe that likely,
it is going to do the same thing especially in certain states in the U.S. Florida, Georgia, Texas, almost half of the virus isolates are the b.1.1.7
And I worry it is going to come up and we've only vaccinated about 20 percent of the U.S. population, only 20 percent has gotten a single dose.
So we are only really just beginning now, and so, we still have a ways to go.
And I worry a number of governors are relaxing mask mandates prematurely. This is not the time to do it. Let's see how the b.1.1.7 variant plays out.
Let's get more of the U.S. population vaccinated.
As that 20 percent number starts to double, I will feel a little more comfortable.
So everything is premature. We should hold off on doing any reckless for the next month or two.
KOSIK: Looking at the vaccines broadly, are these vaccines kind of a work in progress because of the variants? Are they going to change as far as the
doses even going up to a third dose for the Pfizer and Moderna and maybe a second for the J&J?
HOTEZ: I think it's quite possible that's going to happen, and let's remember why. By adding another dose, you increase the level of virus
neutralizing antibody, that how all of these vaccines work, and it might increase the durability of protection and it might give extra layers of
protection against two variants in particular that we're worried about, the South African one that's now accelerating, of course, out of South Africa,
into the rest of Sub Saharan Africa and the P.1 variant of Brazil.
So we don't have to make that decision now because primarily in North America and Europe, it is the b.1.1.7 variant that's accelerating and all
of the vaccines seem to work really well against that one, but in time, don't be surprised if later in the year or early next year, there are some
decisions made about adding an extra dose.
KOSIK: Okay, and we will watch for that. Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine, great to talk with you. Thank you.
And another sign of the times, some employers are telling workers, they need to be vaccinated if they want a job.
Anna Stewart takes a look at the thorny legal issues that raises.
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice over): The founder of Pimlico Plumbers, it's a no-brainer.
CHARLIE MULLINS, FOUNDER, PIMLICO PLUMBERS: I believe that's the way that the future is going. No jab, no job. No jab, no travel. No jab, no fun.
STEWART (voice over): He wants all current and future employees to have the vaccine, and he'll add it as a clause into their job contract.
MULLINS: Going by the response for that for my staff, 99.9 percent of them are up for it and you know, at the moment, they are -- all across, they
would like it to get the vaccine.
STEWART (on camera): I guess, the big question is, though, are you prepared to go to court if it comes to it?
MULLINS: According to our lawyers, we're doing nothing wrong. We are actually safeguarding people.
STEWART (voice over): Adding a no jab, no job clause into a contract isn't illegal in the U.K., but if an employee refuses to accept it, they could
take legal action.
DAVID SAMUELS, EMPLOYMENT LAWYER, LEWIS SILKIN: If someone doesn't want to get a vaccination and their employer insists that they do in order to
undertake their role, then the basis on which they would challenge it is because perhaps they have medical reasons for not having the vaccination or
they have ideological or religious reasons for not having the vaccination.
They would then argue that by putting a basic requirement that they be vaccinated and other employees are vaccinated, the employer's policy is
disproportionately affecting people like them who share that characteristic or the medical condition and that that is, therefore, a form of indirect
STEWART (voice over): The arguments may be strong where lives are at stake. Care homes were some of the hardest hit by COVID.
One of the U.K.'s leading chains, Barchester Healthcare, have set April 23rd as a deadline for staff to be vaccinated allowing for some exemptions
They say they are aware of discrimination concerns, but they say they're doing everything possible to ensure fairness while also delivering on their
duty to protect residents, patients and staff.
STEWART (on camera): Vaccine passports could be rolled out far more widely than the work place in the future. You could need proof of a vaccine to go
abroad, to the cinema, or even to the pub. It's something the U.K. government is actively considering.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There are clearly some quite complex issues, some issues -- some ethical issues, issues about
discrimination and to what extent can government either compel or indeed, forbid such -- use of such certification. I think all that needs to be gone
STEWART (voice over): While the government considers its position, some British businesses are forming their own. No jabs, no jobs.
Anna Stewart, CNN, London.
KOSIK: Coming up, farming in a desert? The smart farm that's working to improve food security in the Middle East through innovation. That's next.
KOSIK: Welcome back. UAE-based agricultural technology firm Pure Harvest Smart Farms raising $60 million in the latest funding round. The company is
using smart greenhouses to allow agriculture to flourish in the tough Middle East environment.
Joining us now, CEO and co-founder of Pure Harvest Smart Farms, Sky Kurtz, great to see you.
SKY KURTZ, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, PURE HARVEST SMART FARMS: Great to see you as well and good morning.
KOSIK: Good morning to you. So, let's walk through, for those who don't know, what Pure Harvest is and how does it work?
KURTZ: Yes. So we are a Middle East-based startup, but we design, build, and operate high-tech climate controlled -- what we call hybrid growing
systems. These systems enable us to control harsh environments and create an environment that's perfect for a plant to grow year round, locally grown
and sustainably grown fresh produce really anywhere.
And I heard in the lead-in that mentioned the Middle East and what we have started in the Middle East, we see this really as a laboratory, a great
place to build this business, but really to develop a solution that can solve heat and humidity and make food production possible in places that
previously wasn't possible.
Within eight hours in Dubai, there is a massive opportunity and a huge population base that has favorable demographics and it is an attractive
market that needs food security that needs water conservation, economic diversification, and more sustainable food future. So, we see a massive
opportunity both here and anywhere really around the equator that historically depend upon food imports.
KOSIK: And speaking of opportunity, I know that Pure Harvest made an announcement today about raising $60 million, this as an addition to
another round of fundraising that you had in April of last year of $100 million. So you're getting a lot of investment. What are you looking to do
KURTZ: Yes. We, indeed finally are crossing that chiasm to secure significant capital, and it is really first to expand around the region.
We're expanding our footprint here in the United Arab Emirates, we are building a big beachhead in Saudi Arabia and a very large project in
But we're looking outside the region. We are beginning -- our aspirations are looking toward markets like Singapore in Southeast Asia because really,
again, our solution tackles heat and humidity and makes possible food production in places it used to not be.
And so, right now, we're producing tomatoes and strawberries but we are also diversifying what we produce. We are moving into leafy greens and we
can pretty much produce anything in a Mediterranean climate corridor, so tomato, capsicum, cucumbers, strawberry, aubergines, micro greens, herbs,
so really anything.
And really, there are some companies in the U.S. that have received a lot of interest and one of which went public recently, AppHarvest. We're a very
similar business, however, we have much more technology invested in our climate systems and in corrosion protection to operate in markets that are
really food deserts and really real deserts.
And so we are operating in a very different environment, but we hope to take that solution and bring it to other markets that have similar dynamics
and needs. It's a massive global opportunity and one that we hope to not only spend the capital we have sourced to date, but also to secure more
capital and continue to grow around the world.
KOSIK: And just a question about the announcement today of the capital that you've secured. This money is actually also through an Islamic
structured finance solution. Why did you do that and how does that vehicle work?
KURTZ: A very good question. So why we did it is: Islamic finance is kind of an alternative capital market that is very deep here and also where a
lot of yield-hungry investors exist for instruments that are really fixed income, right?
So, this is like a bond. It's similar to a bond but, of course, compliant with Sharia law and why we did that was to tap that deep investor base, and
really, our partners in Shaw-Franklin Templeton Investments and with Sancta helped us to lead this structured, really, venture debt security. They gave
us the capital we need to complete these expansion that are under way.
So it allowed us to access a new and deeper capital market but also to establish a reference security. This is a semipublic, over-the-counter
exchange rated bond that allows us to have a reference security and to attract future capital.
And really, now that we've tapped the bond markets, if you will, we can tap them again in the future. So, really, this opened a lot of doors for us and
we're really proud and grateful to our partners for helping support our business.
But for our region, this is a massive amount of capital secured at such an early stage, and even on a global scale, but fundamentally, we really want
to start to bring our solution around the world.
We've really done some pretty special things out here. We call it our miracle in the desert. But to produce when it is 51 degrees Celsius outside
and 90 percent humidity, a perfect product year round, and we've been in continuous production since August of 2018, it's no small feat.
And now we can dumb down that solution to other markets around the world whereas others who want to bring their solutions to our market, it's much
more challenging. The environment here is unprecedented.
KOSIK: Very quickly, what about plans for an IPO?
KURTZ: Yes. I mean, ultimately, we believe that the public markets would like this company. We're interested. The SPAC market as you know is very
hot and has taken one of our, you know, analogues public valuing in America valuing the company at over $2 billion and we have a much bigger
addressable market solving a bigger need.
So, we really hope that people are interested in us and it's something we will be looking forward to in the future, and we hope to talk to you again
about it when it's done.
KOSIK: Well, we will certainly look to have you on if that happens. Sky Kurtz, great talking with you. CEO and co-founder of Pure Harvest Smart
Farms. Thank you.
KURTZ: Thank you.
KOSIK: Still ahead, history was made at the Grammys last night, a roundup of the big winners. Plus the Oscar nominations next.
KOSIK: Welcome back. I'm Alison Kosik. It was a star-studded night at this year's Grammy Awards. It was a little different because of the pandemic,
but still featured a few live performances, acceptance speeches, and some history being made.
Four women won the top four awards Sunday night. And on top of that, Beyonce broke the record for all-time wins by a female artist, and by any
singer, male or female, with 28 Grammys.
Dua Lipa took the award for best pop vocal album for "Future Nostalgia." She also performed on the show singing her hit "Levitating."
"The Daily Show's" Trevor Noah hosted the event which put a big emphasis on diversity and race. One of the highlights was H.E.R. winning of the year
for "I Can't Breathe."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREVOR NOAH, COMEDIAN: And the Grammy goes to "I Can't Breathe," H.E.R.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
H.E.R., AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: We are the change that we wish to see, and you know that fight that we had in us in the summer of 2020, keep that
same energy. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: And from the biggest night in music to the biggest awards show of them all, the Oscars. Nominations were announced in the past hour by
actress Priyanka Chopra and her husband, Nick Jonas.
This year's ceremony has been delayed until April because of the pandemic, but we all want to know, what are the big films to look out for?
Let's bring in Brian Stelter. He is here in New York with more. So Brian, what should we look out for because most theaters were closed, most of the
big blockbusters weren't released, so this isn't about the box office, this is about streaming, right?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is even more about specialty films and the streaming wars. Netflix with its Best Oscar season
yet coming away with dozens of nominations for many different films.
And what we're going to see at the Oscars when the ceremony takes place when the winners are named, is all of those streaming platforms competing
and Netflix leading the charge, as it is of course on Wall Street and as it is in the industry.
The biggest nomination this morning is for "Mank." "Mank" is a film about the making of "Citizen Kane," the Academy, the voters always love movies
that are about movies, and this is one of those years.
"Mank" taking 10 nominations and leading the pack. There are a number of films with six nominations each including, Ma Rainey's "Black Bottom," "The
Trial of Chicago 7," and "Crip Camp." And you know, these are, in some cases, like "Crip Camp," a Netflix documentary produced by the Obamas, and
so it has all the kind of prestige that Academy voters are looking for.
KOSIK: I know the academy had announced that there were efforts to improve inclusion not just in their ranks, but in the Oscars themselves adding a
diversity requirement for eligibility. Is that for these awards?
STELTER: Yes. What we are seeing is this gradual rollout of these eligibility standards and we are seeing progress from a couple of years ago
when the #OscarSoWhite was embarrassing to Hollywood and there were vows for change.
We are really seeing progress although not as quickly as many would like. This is a record year for the number of women nominated for Academy Awards.
Two female directors nominated in the category that oftentimes is entirely male directors. That's been another source of embarrassment for Hollywood,
and we are starting to see these changes.
I think in some ways, these academy awards are going to be rather predictable. Chadwick Boseman for example, nominated for actor. He passed
away last year. There's a real rallying around Boseman and his family. He is likely to get that award.
Some of these are predictable. "Nomadland," a likely contender. Netflix, like I said, leading the pack. But it is always interesting to see how the
Oscars are reflecting the evolution of Hollywood.
These streaming companies, these other studios do not want to be perceived as stuck in the past, behind the times. They don't ever want to hear that
Oscar so white hashtag ever again.
And from the nomination today, we are seeing progress
KOSIK: How soon will we see some blockbusters released, Brian, so we could -- not that I don't enjoy the streaming movies -- but ...
STELTER: Well, that's the interesting dynamic about this. I was thinking about some of the films that were nominated this morning. I mentioned
"Nomadland" for example, which is playing in theaters here in New York now that theaters have reopened.
And yet, I was doing the calculation in my head. Do I want to spend 15 bucks and see it in a theater or do I just want to watch it on Hulu?
Now people have the choices, and in some ways, it flips the Oscars on their head. Now, instead of the Oscars, the nominations being a sense of, oh,
what movies should you go out to the theater and see, now, it is, hey, what should you go stream before awards night?
STELTER: But to answer your question, Memorial Day, June, July, that is when these studios are really banking on people going back to theaters. And
I think there is going to be a huge surge of interest to get to theaters to see those blockbusters this summer.
KOSIK: Yes, we will see if everybody heads back to the theaters.
All right, Brian Stelter, great talking with you.
STELTER: Right. Thanks.
KOSIK: Tomorrow, CNN is partnering with young people worldwide for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery.
This year, we're asking young people to make a pledge to take specific actions to help end slavery.
Join CNN on Tuesday for My Freedom Day. Sign the pledge and nominate your friends to do the same. Share your pledge on social media using the
All right, stay safe. I'm Alison Kosik filling in for Julia Chatterley for FIRST MOVE.
"Connect the World" with Becky Anderson is next.
I'll see you soon.