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First Move with Julia Chatterley
Global Stocks Bounce as December Trading Begins; CNN Goes Inside South African Lab Where Omicron Being Studied; China Sees One of Its Worst COVID-19 Outbreaks Since Wuhan; OPEC Oil Producers Meet as Omicron Fears Hit Prices; FDA Advisers Back Merck COVID Pill Authorization; Travel Firms Prepare for Omicron-related Disruption. Aired 9-9:45a ET
Aired December 01, 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 ANCHOR: Live from New York, I'm Alison Kosik in for Julia Chatterley. This is "FIRST MOVE." And here's your need to know.
COVID caution. Omicron cases rise as travel rules tighten.
Recovery risk. The OECD warns new variant - the new variant could damage global economy.
And crude's contortions. Oil's roller coaster ride continues as OPEC leaders meet.
It's Wednesday. Let's make a move.
Welcome once again to "FIRST MOVE." We've got another jampacked show for you this Wednesday.
Let's begin with a check of the global markets. A former picture on Wall Street after Tuesday's drop of more than 1.5 percent. Investor uncertainty
over the new COVID variant as well as the future of Fed economic support hits sentiment in the previous session. But we are set to claw back a lot
of those losses in early trading today.
Europe looks like it's recovering lost ground as well. After a modestly higher Asian close.
That said, Fed Chair Jerome Powell rattled investors during congressional testimony yesterday. He said policymakers will consider a quicker end to
their emergency bond buying program as inflationary pressures mount. Powell admitting that inflation is no longer transitory and won't ease any time
All of this raising the possibility of a quicker liftoff for rate hikes next year.
The OECD also warning today that the Omicron variant has the potential to weaken the global economic recovery.
COVID concern remains our top story today. So, let's get right to our drivers.
A doctor in South Africa where Omicron was first identified saying, most patients he has seen with the new variant have mild symptoms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MVUYISI MZUKWA, VICE CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: What we see on the ground is that we're seeing younger patients and we're seeing
milder cases of Omicron. But also, we - what we've noticed is that the people are being hospitalized are largely unvaccinated. About 90 percent of
those, unvaccinated. Like I said, there is nothing much that we have seen beyond what we have seen with the Delta variant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: This as scientists in the country are racing to learn more about Omicron and how well vaccines can stand up against it.
David McKenzie is live for us in Johannesburg.
David, the world is literally looking to South Africa at this point for more information about this variant.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the world found out about the variant because of the work of South African scientists. And in
this region, the genomics worked, the surveillance worked, that alerted the world to this variant.
There's more and more evidence though that this variant was circulating substantially before the announcement was made about the details and that's
to be expected. And as you see, different countries around the world announcing a positive case of Omicron.
I mean, again, that shouldn't really surprise us because the expectation is that it might be more transmissible than previous variants. No evidence
yet, though, that it's more severe. We went into the lab that first picked up the anomaly that led to this discovery.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): After tracking COVID for many months at this lab, Jeanine du Plessis is bracing herself.
(on camera): Have you seen a lot more positive cases in the last few weeks?
JEANINE DU PLESSIS, MEDICAL SCIENTIST, WITS VIDA RESEARCH UNIT: Yes, we have.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): First a trickle, then a flood at the Wits VIDA lab. They're studying a disturbing variant of an old foe.
DU PLESSIS: It's still too early to actually tell. There is so much that is so unknown about the variant. Everyone feels a little bit of hopelessness
in a moment like that.
MCKENZIE (on camera): This lab is really at the cold phase of the COVID response. You know they are expanding so fast. They're putting their
samples in freezers right here in the hallway. They come in in shifts. And as this wave develops, they will be operating 24 hours a day.
(voice-over): They know how bad it gets. This was Delta's awful impact in Johannesburg.
In July, patients stacked in hallways struggling to breathe in exclusive footage obtained by CNN.
At the Wits VIDA lab and all across the globe, they are trying to understand whether Omicron is more transmissible, deadlier, whether it
breaks through existing COVID-19 vaccines.
(on camera): What does it feel like that the entire world is hanging on this this discovery that was figured out here initially?
ALLISON GLASS, PATHOLOGIST, LANCET LABORATORIES: Yes. I mean, it can -- does feel a bit sort of surreal when you watch the news. And you see the
impact it's having globally. And you're thinking, wow, you know it is sort of affecting stock markets and airlines and people's travel plans. You
know, you kind of don't plan on having that sort of ripple effect.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): A spike in cases first happened in Pretoria with a cluster infection at this Technical University. But hints of a new variant
were first detected by scientists and pathologists at Lancet Laboratories.
In early November, they spotted a strange anomaly in their positive PCR tests. Then it happened over and over again. It reminded them of tests for
the Alpha variant first detected more than a year ago in the UK.
(on camera): What was it like to see this anomaly cropping up again?
GLASS: Well, it was a bit disturbing because it made us worry that we were dealing with something new and because it coincided with an increase in
positivity rate. It made us worry that we could be dealing with a new variant.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Lancet urgently notified South Africa's genomics team. Within days, they described and made public disturbing details of the
highly mutated virus. Much of the world shut off travel from Southern Africa. And scientists here say they are now struggling to fly in critical
reagent for their lab work to understand Omicron.
(on camera): Why was it so important to alert everybody about this?
GLASS: Especially with the reaction of the world to Southern Africa on the announcement of the variant. And a lot of people say, well, why didn't you
just keep quiet about what you find? But what's important is we know that a new variant is likely to cause an increase in cases, whether they'd be more
severe or not.
MCKENZIE: So, those cases are increasing in this province especially of South Africa, Alison. But at this stage, no clear indication it's any worse
than previous waves. And in this country at least, they have suffered through three waves of this virus. More variants are clearly going to
develop. And it really speaks to both whether these kind of hard lockdown of travel is worth the economic -- severe economic impact and whether we
have to just learn to live with this variant - virus and its variants. Alison?
KOSIK: David McKenzie, great access in that laboratory and bringing us all that information. Thank you so much.
And from Africa to Asia. China now seeing one of its worst outbreaks since the pandemic began. A city near the Russian border has reported more than
Meantime, in Japan, the government is asking all airlines to stop taking reservations on incoming international flights.
Ivan Watson is live in Hong Kong with more.
Ivan, what's the latest with all of these developments?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have what's being described as one of the worst outbreaks that China has seen since the
first real detected epidemic of COVID in December of 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
When we say this is one of the worst outbreaks, you do have to put this in context. We're talking about 100 cases since Saturday, a bit more than that
in the northern region of inner Mongolia around several border cities, which I think many other countries in the world would love to have numbers
like this. But for China, which is maintained such a draconian system of lockdowns whenever COVID is detected. It is maintaining the zero COVID
policy. For China this is a big deal. So, they have locked down two cities in a neighboring district.
Hundreds of thousands of people cannot leave their homes. Public transport shut down for example. And cross border trade from Russia, non-container
trade that needs to be handled also suspended with Chinese officials suggesting that this outbreak is caused by the virus being passed on the
surfaces of goods.
The Chinese authorities have seen other outbreaks of similar sizes in other parts of the country, but they have maintained these lockdowns, these
massive testing sprees where they test hundreds of thousands or millions of people in a matter of days and they have succeeded in the past of snuffing
out these regional outbreaks.
Now you mentioned Japan as well. Japan has -- and I might add, China to date has not detected any cases or announced any cases of the Omicron
variant being found.
Japan has found two cases. And it has issued a request, not a mandate yet, to Japanese and international airlines operating in and out of Japan to not
issue any further reservations throughout the month of December to international travelers, which will of course be quite a damper in the
upcoming holiday season. Alison.
KOSIK: And the question is will airlines actually stop taking those reservations. We'll have to wait and see.
Ivan Watson, thank you so much.
And join us for a "CNN Town Hall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears" hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta and featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci.
That's Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in Hong Kong, and 6:00 a.m. in Abu Dhabi.
The new variant is just one of a number of major year-end challenges for global investors. Markets have been on a roller coaster ride since the
discovery of Omicron late last week. But a positive tone today as we kick off December trading.
Christine Romans joins me now.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi.
KOSIK: You know we see those green arrows, but we have got that sort of afterglow of you know Powell saying - indicating he's going to speed up
tapering. Talk about -- talking about moving up the timetable of increasing rates just as this variant is in mix that can slow down economic growth.
You know you can't help but wonder, is Jay Powell, the Fed chair, more worried about inflation than we realized?
ROMANS: Well, you know he's not using the word transitory anymore. It looks like inflation has dug in and it's something that is going to linger. The
factors contributing to inflation, the Fed chief said, will linger into next year. So, the Fed is now in inflation fighting mode as its issue
And it's really an Omicron yoyo that we're facing here. Friday big down day. Monday up. Yesterday down. Now, it looks like we're going to be up
again today. So, I think this is the kind of tone we can expect in the near term in terms of investors.
November, Alison, was a down month - a rare down month for stocks, but not down too much. Especially for the S&P and the Nasdaq just barely a little
bit lower on the month. But you look at the year, it's been a powerhouse 2021 rally.
I mean, the S&P 500, that is the index that probably most people in the U.S., their 401(k) is probably reflective of what you see there in the S&P
500. That's up almost 22 percent so far this year.
So, really, I mean the risk is -- the headline risk is to the downside I think for investors as we wait for more information about this variant. And
we see how the Fed is going to do in both fighting inflation and rolling back its epic, epic stimulus of the American economy.
So really, really interesting moment to start December, the final month of this year. Isn't it?
KOSIK: Oh, you said it. Absolutely.
So, what -- how do you think the market would react if Jay Powell and his colleagues decide to go ahead and you know move up that timetable to raise
interest rates? You know, start earlier and do that earlier. At the same time, the market is beginning to be concerned about inflation too. So, how
do you see the market reacting?
ROMANS: Well, it's interesting because in the past, the Fed officials have hinted that they want to get all of that access bond buying and mortgage
buying done. That they want to taper all that before they actually start raising interest rates.
So, what we want to watch for is when they start to say they're taking more than $15 billion a month off the table in terms of that taper. So, we
haven't heard from that yet, right? So, there are still a lot of questions about the timing here.
There's also a lot of data to consider. We could very well get a strong jobs report, which would just add sort of fuel to the fire that this is an
economy at risk of overheating. There could be a strong jobs report.
We know the corporate profits have been doing amazing. These are the fattest profit margins for companies I think since 1950 according to an
amazing story that I just read in "Bloomberg."
So, you know that is remarkable. Companies are managing well through the supply chain crisis, through the demands for higher wages and workers who
are afraid to go back to work.
So, all of these things that CEOs complain about. They are making tons of money.
So, that would suggest that maybe the Fed could speed things up a little bit and at least corporate profits and corporate America could handle it.
KOSIK: Something in the old days good profits that would power the market higher. We shall see.
Thank you so much, Christine Romans.
KOSIK: OPEC oil producers meet today as Omicron triggers fresh concerns about demand. Oil is picking up right now after a bruising couple of days.
On Friday, U.S. crude sank 13 percent in response to the variant's discovery. That was its biggest drop in a single day since Apri l 2020. And
deepened a selloff that began earlier in November. Oil has fallen more than 20 percent in the past three weeks.
Anna Stewart joins me live now.
Wow. You know these wild swings in oil prices over the past few days, hard to keep track of. And now, today begins this OPEC meeting.
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Yes. Such a rocky ride, Alison, from that double-digit percentage decline on Friday to a modest rebound Monday,
backed down. Tuesday.
And they're all higher today. But you know what, they've fallen back to where they were.
Currently, we got Brent around $71 a barrel, 2.5 percent higher. Similar move for WTI.
Where does it go from here? And how does this change the outlook going forward? Because there's a lot for OPEC+ to consider.
OPEC meets today. OPEC+ which includes Russia and where the decisions are likely to be made and reported, that will come tomorrow.
At the moment, everyone is trying to absorb of course what does Omicron mean for the world economy. What does that mean for oil? And that is why of
course we are seeing these huge fluctuations in the last few days.
It's pretty much on any headline driven by the Omicron variant. And of course, as Christine was mentioning, nuggets that you get from a Central
Bank related to that.
What does it mean? Does it mean further travel restrictions? Does it mean lockdowns? Either regionally or nationally? Is it going to ultimately
reduce the demand for oil going forward in the months to come?
They are meeting today. They are meeting virtually. We had them with Russia tomorrow, but we're really not quite sure at this stage what we're going to
get out of this. Alison.
KOSIK: Yes. We never really know what we're going to get, but I'm curious what you think. How much you think that OPEC could wind up using Omicron,
the uncertainty around it, plus the release of U.S. oil reserves. You know, not just from the U.S., but from other countries as well.
How much do you think that OPEC will use that as cover, you know, to put the brakes on any supply increase?
STEWART: Well, it's interesting. That move to release reserves from the U.S. and other countries, the so-called anti-OPEC group, that in of itself
well before this variant was discovered was already likely to put pressure on a strategy.
OPEC resisted pressure from the U.S. with oil as sort of multiyear highs back in October. And actually, they were considered before that move to
keep up with the increased output in January. As expected, 400,000 barrels per day increase. They have been doing this gradually over the last few
months. But due to that move from the U.S., some chatter that they might actually put a halt on that.
Add the variant into the mix, and the fact that they could, we just don't know enough about it, but it could have an impact for the global economy.
It could have an impact in terms of a slumping demand for oil. That means possibly more likely.
But I have to say, it's one of those meetings where for the first time in ages, actually I'm getting totally different reports from different experts
and analysts. So, I think all options are on the table. Alison?
KOSIK: I'm hearing the same confusing things. So, at least we're on the same page here.
Anna Stewart, thank you so much.
And these are the stories making headlines around the world.
Families in Michigan are grieving after a horrific shooting at a high school in suburban Detroit. The suspected shooter, a 15-year-old student is
now in custody and on suicide watch after killing three fellow students and injuring eight people including a teacher, Tuesday afternoon. Three of the
wounded are in critical condition.
Eye opening revelations from Jeffrey Epstein. A former pilot in the sex trafficking trial of Epstein's one-time confidant, Ghislaine Maxwell. The
pilot testifying Tuesday that a who's who of powerful men including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump flew aboard Epstein's private plane. None of those
passengers has accused of any wrongdoing in the current trial.
Still to come on "FIRST MOVE."
Progress on a COVID pill. Merck's tablet is recommended for approval. I'll be talking with the company's head of medical affairs.
And travel trouble. The CEO of Trivago on how the industry will cope as Omicron leads to new curbs.
KOSIK: Welcome back to "FIRST MOVE." I'm Alison Kosik.
U.S. stocks still on track to kick off December trading with solid gains. The Nasdaq and the S&P look set to gain back a lot of what they lost on
That said though, market reaction will remain vulnerable to headline risk as we await new details on the Omicron variant.
The World Health Organization saying today the variant appears to have been detected in some 24 countries, but it stresses that most cases have been
mild. And says there's nothing to suggest the variant evades vaccines in any significant way.
The president of the European Commission today suggesting that it's time for its members to discuss mandatory vaccinations.
Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration say Merck's antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 should be authorized. The drug would be the world's first
oral treatment for COVID-19. In trials, the pill reduced the risk of death and severe disease by 30 percent. The vote was a close one amid concerns
about possible risks to pregnant women among other safety issues.
Joining me now is Dr. Eliav Barr, he is the senior vice president of global medical affairs at Merck.
So grateful for your time, Doctor.
DR. ELIAV BARR, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL MEDICAL AFFAIRS, MERCK: Thanks for having me.
KOSIK: So, I understand Merck is in the middle of studying this now, but there are indications that this pill could be effective against the Omicron
DR. ELIAV BARR, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL MEDICAL AFFAIRS, MERCK: Right. The Omicron variant is primarily different from the other types of
COVID at the spike protein. Our drug works in completely different part of the virus. So, we're very optimistic that the drug will be -- continue to
be effective against Omicron and we're studying that right now.
KOSIK: Talk with me about who this pill is for and who it is not for and whether or not this is really a game changer in the battle against COVID.
BARR: Well, I really think it is a game changer. And the reason for that is it's that everything else in the past which required a visit to a doctor or
an emergency room or hospital to get infusions for treatment. What we have here is a pill that people can take and pick up in the pharmacy and take as
soon as possible.
The pill is designed and was studied in patients who were at high risk for having complications for COVID, including those who were above the age of
60 who were overweight, who had diabetes, heart disease and other diseases that impact the ability to fight infections.
And so, but it's a very large patient population. So, I think it was a really important tool in the tool kit that we have against COVID-19.
KOSIK: Who is the pill not for?
BARR: So, the pill was not studied in pregnant women. And it certainly is a decision that should be made between the doctor and the patient about
choosing the pill. But you know as I mentioned, people who have at risk for having bad outcomes for COVID will benefit from the pill. And I think that
those who are at low risk will have probably a more milder disease. So, they may or may not need the pill.
KOSIK: But the panel did recommend against pregnant women taking this pill for fear of birth defects and other issues.
BARR: So, as a company, we don't recommend the pill to be given to pregnant women. The decision should be made between the patient and her physician.
KOSIK: OK. All right. Your final analysis had found that the drug to be about 30 percent effective at reducing hospitalization and death in high
people - high-risk people. That was lower than the 50 percent efficacy that was first announced in October. What changed here?
BARR: Well, first of all, the most important analysis was that first one. And the reason for that is it was during the time that the study was
blinded. And it was the way the study was designed to look at that at that time point.
What happened afterwards, there may have been a variety of different biases that occurred once everyone used it. The drug was effective. We don't know
exactly what happened, but I think overall, the study remains quite positive. And this is a really important additional tool to use against
KOSIK: And now in recommending emergency use authorization, many on the committee said this was a difficult vote. It was very close. 13-10. Why do
you think that is? Do you think it's because of the pill's efficacy and the concern that it could possibly even mutate into even more dangerous
BARR: Well, first of all, I think it's important to point out that we hadn't seen any such events, any mutation events. In fact, we couldn't
harvest any viable virus in patients who received. So, I think that that risk is well - is overblown.
I think overall, the committee is designed - is designed to address - to think about every possible negative thing that could happen because they
are an advisory committee. That's their job.
It's a very unusual time with COVID. And I think that the committee gave it a very thorough review. We're very grateful to the committee for the work
that they did. Ultimately, the vote was positive.
And we look forward to working with FDA to finish the EUA process.
KOSIK: With such a close vote and so much concern about safety and so much concern for pregnant women, do you think this drug is being rushed because
it's just so sorely needed globally and that there's just a limited supply of other treatments available?
BARR: No. I think that the drug went through a very thorough review and a very thorough clinical program, clinically and clinically with multiple
studies that were going on.
I think this is a complicated time. COVID is a pandemic that is evolving before our eyes. So, we all have unknowns with any of the therapies and any
of the interventions that we use. So, I think that's why there was a lot of discussion.
Again, we think that patients need to have multiple options and countries need to have multiple options to combat COVID-19. And you could see with
the Omicron that the sort of interventions like monoclonal antibodies can lose some of their potency. Pills that attack other parts of the virus are
actually quite important therefore to help treat the patients who get COVID-19.
KOSIK: Pfizer expected to come out with its pill at some point? How will that affect yours?
BARR: Well, we have to remember that the enemy is COVID-19, not competition. I think it's really important for patients to have multiple
options available. And I think countries will benefit from it. And we're all really eager to see this pandemic behind us. And so, any potential
intervention that helps is welcome.
KOSIK: OK. Dr. Eliav Barr, senior vice president of global medical affairs at Merck. Thank you so for coming on the show today.
BARR: Thank you so much.
KOSIK: And you're watching "FIRST MOVE." The market open is next.
KOSIK: Welcome back to "FIRST MOVE." I'm Alison Kosik.
U.S. stocks are up and running this Wednesday as traders kick off the last trading month of 2021. It looks like a positive start to December with
tech, energy and airline stocks all in the green after Tuesday's broad- based selloff. Only seven stocks in the S&P 500 closed with gains yesterday.
New data shows that U.S. jobs recovery still on track with private employers adding a stronger than expected 534,000 jobs last month. That
bodes well for the government's November jobs report, which will be released on Friday.
Investors are also monitoring fresh volatility in the Turkish lira. The currency plunging to record lows after President Erdogan pushed for further
rate cuts even as inflation rages. The Turkish Central Bank say, I was forced to take emergency action to prop up the currency, but the lira is
still weaker in recent trading.
The Biden administration is considering stricter COVID testing for travelers arriving in the United States as concerns grow about the new
CNN's Athena Jones is live at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Hi, Athena. What are you seeing?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alison. Well, I'm here in the international arrivals' terminal. Newark is one of four airports where the
CDC is enhancing testing for some international arrivals.
And so, behind me you can see flights from India and Paris. People arriving from those flights can voluntarily go and get a swab. They could get their
COVID test, their PCR test. They also have at home tests they can take home.
But more broadly, yes, the Biden administration is considering stricter testing for everyone flying. They want to make international traveler as
safe as possible. This is something that CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, telegraphed to reporters on Tuesday. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing
closer to the time of flight, and considerations around additional post- arrival testing and self-quarantine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So, Dr. Walensky hinted at some of the measures that are now being considered. Among them, requiring everyone who enters the U.S. to be tested
for COVID-19 one day before flying here. Right now, the requirement is three days before travel to the U.S.
Another thing under consideration, having all travelers, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents be tested again once they arrive or after
they return to where they are going regardless of vaccination status. And this is -- there's no final decision that has been made yet. This is
something that officials have been considering.
But we know this is a situation that could move quickly because President Biden has said that he's going to be laying out a plan for how his
administration is going to fight COVID tomorrow. So, we could see this sort of - this sort of announcements made this week. But this is all about
trying to make sure that international travel is safe and make sure that the CDC is on top of and can detect the Omicron variant should it arrive
here or when it arrives here, I should say. Alison?
KOSIK: Athena, I understand several U.S. airports you know are screening for the Omicron variant, but there's not a lot known about this variant.
How will they know to decipher, let's say a positive test and knowing that that's the Omicron variant as opposed to maybe the Delta variant?
JONES: Well, we don't know the details of it, but we do know that this idea of enhancing this type of screening, again it's not mandatory.
But it's something that the CDC has offered through this group called Express Check. They've had it at several airports. They're expanding it now
to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson. So now it covers right here in Newark, JFK, San Francisco and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson.
And it says, the idea is to increase the CDC's capacity to identify those with COVID on arrival in the U.S. and enhance the agency's surveillance.
Now, another layer of testing as you mentioned is needed to detect the Omicron virus. We understand that that's what the CDC is aiming at doing.
So, that's something that should be happening here under this new program.
But bottom line, you know we don't know a lot about the Omicron variant. It's something nations want to keep track of. We do however know a lot
about the Delta variant. We know that it is still driving spread in parts of the U.S.
And so, the best way to protect against that and other variants that could emerge, doctors are saying, is to get vaccinated if you haven't gotten
vaccinated and to get that booster if you have reached the point after your last full vaccination where you're eligible. Alison?
KOSIK: OK. Athena Jones at Newark Airport. Thanks for all of your reporting.
And listening to Athena's report was Axel Hefer, the CEO of the travel search platform Trivago. And he joins us live.
Great to see you.
AXEL HEFER, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CEO, TRIVAGO: Good morning.
KOSIK: Good morning.
So, the Biden administration, as you heard, considering requiring everyone who enters the U.S. to be tested for COVID. Do you think that could
HEFER: To a certain extent. But I think testing is much, much better than imposing quarantine restrictions. And it is - it is a burden that I think
in the current situation is -- is fully understandable by most travelers.
KOSIK: What about - restrictions on travel as well like what we're seeing in Japan, where the government is asking airlines to not take reservations?
HEFER: Yes. I mean, full travel restrictions I think are a measure that's obviously very extreme. And can make sense if you want to buy time to
understand a bit better on new variants. But you cannot stop a virus from entering your country no matter what you do. I mean, we're living in a
global - global world, very intertwined. So, it is - it is a short-term measure, but I don't think that that is just the right measure.
KOSIK: Let's talk about what you have been seeing, as we have seen this sort of rapid onset of concerns about the Omicron variant. How have you
seen travel bookings changed you know just over the past week?
HEFER: Bookings have actually come down. That is for sure. What - to be honest had a much, much greater impact is this surge in cases and certain
countries in Europe. Which we have now seen for the last couple of weeks. But in either case, I mean the northern hemisphere, we are - we are
expecting a very, very problematic winter. And then - then hopefully a return to almost normalcy end of spring.
KOSIK: It was about a month ago that you said that you saw the potential for normalized travel to happen by the spring, potentially by the summer.
Do you still feel that way? I know that we were sort of getting back into traveling and then the Omicron variant popped on the scene. What are your
feelings now about getting back to normal?
HEFER: Our view is unchanged. I mean it's clear that new variants will come up over the next couple of months, over the next couple of years. And we
are getting better and better adjusting to the new normal. There are obviously certain countries behind in terms of vaccination levels et
cetera. But we are still positive for next summer.
KOSIK: Let's talk about some trends. What are the key travel trends to come out of COVID-19 that you could see carried through next year?
HEFER: I do think that we will continue to see for next year a change in destinations. There's still a lot of uncertainty. And - and from that
respect, actually I think that the new variant is adding to that uncertainty. So closer to home, easier return, and a shift away from the
long-distanced and more Metra destinations to local trips or national trips. And I think that -- that's actually one of the biggest things that
we're expecting for next year.
KOSIK: Now, in looking at your search traffic, I'm curious to hear about travel behaviors. You know where are people traveling the most and where
are they not traveling? Where are they traveling the least?
HEFER: I mean the U.S. is one of the stronger markets for sure. I mean the -- the situation is obviously not great, but it's much more stable than in
Europe. And the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere has the benefit that (AUDIO GAP) summer.
The virus is obviously much more dangerous in winter. So, yes, very, very different by market and then Asia is overall still - still very
problematic. But case by case.
KOSIK: Yes, yes. No, I totally hear you.
Do you think that business travel will ever come back in a way that it was pre-pandemic?
HEFER: I mean, they are - they are -- it's a big debate. And the way we are thinking about it is there are basically two kinds of business trip. One is
relationship driven, so sales meeting, meeting long - long partners. The other one is more transactional, internal meetings, project updates, et
cetera. And we think that the latter will permanently shrink and come down because we just practiced for too long to sit in front of a video camera.
So, a certain percentage of those meetings will permanently be replaced by video calls.
The relationship meetings will come back and we all sense that during the lockdown, in-person interaction is something that everybody missed in
lockdowns and working from home. And they are quite confident. But overall, we do expect the volume to come down.
KOSIK: OK. Very interesting to see those travel trends. And we'll see how things progress as we learn more about the variant as well.
Axel Hefer, CEO of Trivago.
Thank you so much for your time today.
And for more information about COVID travel restrictions worldwide, go to CNN.com.
And finally, on "FIRST MOVE."
Given the chance, who wouldn't want to spend a weekend hanging out with who else, Adele?
(VIDEO PLAYS MUSIC VIDEO OF ADELE)
KOSIK: The superstar singer announcing her Las Vegas residency called "Weekends with Adele."
Sounds cozy. She'll do two shows each weekend from January 21st to April 16th at Caesars Palace.
Adele's fourth studio album, "30," debuted at number one last week and is already the year's top selling album in the U.S.
And that's it for the show. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to connect with me on Instagram and Twitter. You can find me @alisonkosik.
Marketplace Asia is next. I'll see you tomorrow.