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First Move with Julia Chatterley
UK PM's Party Suffers Shock Defeat in Safe Seat; UK Hospitality Sector Hit by Latest COVID-19 Surge; U.S. to Ban Imports from Xinjiang over Forced Labor Concerns; Typhoon Rai Kills at least 12 People in the Philippines; Lab Study: Boosters Restore Protection Against Omicron Variant; Sunak: California Trip was to Bring Investment to UK; Using the Blockchain to Boost the Supply Chain; Wingsuit Daredevil Flies in and out of Active Volcano. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 17, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming to you live from New York, I'm Zain Asher in for Julia Chatterley. And this is "FIRST MOVE." Here is your need to know.
Record rise. Omicron variant cases surge around the world.
COVID closures. Businesses in the UK shut their doors calling it lockdown by stealth.
And Congress clamps down. The U.S. dropped imports from China's Xinxiang region over forced labor fear.
It is Friday. Let's make a move.
All right. A warm welcome to "FIRST MOVE." So good to have you with us on this Friday.
A day where COVID sadly once again is dominating our global headlines. We'll have the latest on the spread of the Omicron variant in just a
We'll also be joined by the chief medical officer of Moderna for his take on the new variant severity just in terms of illness and symptoms and how
Moderna's vaccines specifically holds up.
But first, I want to give you a quick check of global stocks. And with apologies to sir Paul McCartney, we are simply having a volatile Christmas
U.S. futures pointing to a continued weakness for tech after Thursday's almost 2.5 percent Nasdaq selloff. Blue chips weaker, premarket too. Stocks
rally across the board Wednesday. Even after the Fed announced aggressive new measures to ease stimulus and battle inflation.
The path to less Central Bank support could be a bumpy one for markets, particularly when it comes to high-valued tech and the economic effects of
Omicron are certainly a growing concern, too.
We're going to be talking much more about that in the show.
The rise of Omicron cases, pressuring European stocks. We'll take a look here.
As well, Asia finished sharply lower with all the main averages down by more than 1 percent, the Bank of Japan announcing today that it is also
pulling back some pandemic economics support.
A busy Friday for global investors. Let's get right to the drivers.
In the UK, the Omicron variant has driven the number of COVID cases for a record, for the second running on Thursday, the G7 nations call the Omicron
variant the biggest current threat to global health.
I want to bring in Salma Abdelaziz joining us live now from London. So, so far, Salma, eight days to go until Christmas. You got grizzly numbers
coming out of the UK just in terms of the Omicron variant. But so far, UK government has resisted sort of implementing increased restrictions beyond
Plan B. Walk us through it.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: That tidal wave of Omicron has definitely hit here, Zain. Two days in a row now, the daily record. The daily case
numbers have broken records. Records that have not been broken since the start of this pandemic.
Everyday tens of thousands of positive cases being registered by the National House Service. Businesses taking steps to shut their doors, mainly
because many staff are calling out sick themselves, cancellations are a bound, tens of thousands of people just simply canceling their Christmas
plans. And it really feels like everyone -- everyone is reconsidering where they're going to be on December 25th because more positive cases mean more
people in self isolation, means more worries and more people alone on Christmas.
And yes, of course, critics of Prime Minister Boris Johnson right now pointing the finger and saying why are there no restrictions in place.
There are two reasons for that. Of course, the first is the concern over the healthcare system. There is only a finite number of beds in this
country as there are in any country. And the concern is as we see these positive cases rise, that that could translate into more people in
hospitals in a couple of weeks.
And then, of course, secondly, these businesses. These businesses are simply suffering. We already have work from home guidance that's been in
place since the start of the week. It means many districts are sort of empty. Shops aren't full. This is the time of the year to recuperate after
two years of pandemic and the government not announcing lockdown means no government support. So, it's beginning to look a lot like last Christmas
here, Zain. Although the prime minister insists this year will be better.
ASHER: All right. Let's talk about the prime minister a bit more because the Conservative Party lost all supposed to be a safe seat in North
Shropshire in the by-elections. The Conservative Party had had the seat for about 200 years, Salma. Certainly, a massive blow to that party. What
message does that sends to Boris Johnson?
ABDELAZIZ: I think North Shropshire has never really been international news. But it is today because this isn't just about some small rural
community in England. It is about Prime Minister Boris Johnson getting that much weaker. Taking just one more hit to his credibility, to his authority,
to his position and power. Because this was a seat that was guaranteed, Zain, 200 years now that the MP for that area has been a Tory.
But in a surprise election, now that's going to a Lib Dem candidate. And she said in her speech, the winner said, now the party is over, Prime
Minister Boris Johnson. And that's exactly what many people are reading into this. This is the backlash against those scandals. Those allegations
that senior staff, senior Downing Street staff were partying, holding Christmas parties during lockdown last year, a brazen violation of lockdown
last year if that is, indeed, true.
And so, you have been hearing today all across the airwaves, on radio stations really from conservative lawmakers who are now looking at their
seats and wondering, can I continue to win votes? Can I continue to win elections if I back Prime Minister Boris Johnson?
I heard one conservative lawmaker, Zain, saying one more strike and are you out, Boris. Because remember there was that other strike earlier this week,
100 MPs -- nearly 100 MPs rather voting against him in parliament. Now a second strike, a guaranteed empty seat. Lost to a Lib Dem candidate. It's
starting to look like the beginning of the end for the prime minister here, Zain. But you never know. He has nine lives.
ASHER: He certainly does. He has this amazing ability to survive scandal. We'll see if this is it this time.
Salma Abdelaziz live for us there. Thank you so much.
And all this as the UK faces a new economic challenge from the wave of Omicron infections as Salma was just talking about there. Finance Minister
Rishi Sunak had to cut short a trip to California.
I want to bring in Anna Stewart joining us live now from London.
So, we heard Salma talking about this. That a lot of businesses especially over this busy holiday period was expecting - expecting this was going to
be much better for them financially compared to last year. Is the government going to offer support for businesses, Anna, especially in the
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, that was the big question. And a question that people wanted to ask the chancellor. He was in California yesterday,
but has rushed back. He came under a lot of criticism as the UK, frankly, is in a state of decline. Whether you're looking at the health picture as
Salma was pointing out with a surge in cases or if we look at business activity.
Now, right now there is no new additional financial support for businesses who are really struggling just in the last few days as a result of this
variant spread and why? Because the government hasn't actually explicitly imposed a lockdown.
Richard Quest actually spoke to the chancellor yesterday when he was in California and asked is new support forthcoming? Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RISHI SUNAK, UK FINANCE MINISTER: Well, I think it's important to recognize as the prime minister said earlier today that the situation is very
different to what we've done and encountered before. The government is not telling people to cancel things. It's not closing down businesses.
But what we are saying is that there are easy and effective things we can all do to protect ourselves. For example, wearing masks, ensuring good
ventilation and most importantly right now going and getting your booster. Because that is the best protection we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Well, as the chancellor says there, they are not telling people to cancel things. They are not closing down businesses. It's all true. But
frankly, people are calling this a lockdown by stealth because listing to some of the guidance that the government has given in press conferences,
just in the last few days, the prime minister has told people to work from home if they can.
The Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, he said that people need to reduce their social contacts. They need to prioritize who they want to spend time
with, given the rise of Omicron. And that will have a real impact, he says, for whether or not you will be able to enjoy Christmas with your loved
And you got to remember last year, Zain, Christmas was effectively cancelled. Households were not allowed to mix.
There was also a guidance from a medical director from the NHS this week, who said if people in the UK go to a stadium this weekend, they should be
going to get a booster jab rather than going to see a match.
Now, businesses don't disagree necessarily with any of the health guidance here. But what they want to see is more support given the sharp decline and
activity they are seeing particularly for consumer facing businesses.
UKHospitality which is the lobby group representing that sector has said that cancellations for cafes, bars, restaurants, has already fallen by a
third. And that was just in 10 days. They expect it to decline further.
So, whether it's new grands, whether it's a return of the fellow scheme, they want to see more support. We know the chancellor is back in the UK. We
know he is meeting with business leaders today. But will it be more words, or will we really get action? That we don't know yet. Zain?
ASHER: Yeah. Because they're not - OK, it's fair, they are not being forced to close. But they're having to close anyway because people are simply not
showing up in a number as they had come to rely on. That I have to close because people aren't showing up in the number they had come to rely on.
So, Anna, this of course comes as the Bank of England raised rates. But was that a little bit hasty given that Omicron looks like it could really end
up denting the UK's economic recovery?
STEWART: Yeah. I mean, economic picture in the UK is not frankly looking very good. And it wasn't before Omicron came around. So, October was the
latest GDP data we got. And the economy barely grew, 0.1 percent.
Inflation last month in November was the highest it's been in 10 years, 5.1 percent. And the Bank of England said yesterday, it expects that to reach 6
percent potentially in April next year.
That is the picture. Add in the impact of this variant. The fact that all we are seeing such a sharp decline in business activity for consumer facing
sectors. And then consider this, what about all the people that might have to take time off work for being sick or for isolating even if they are
What will that mean for other sectors? Because that's a broader impact. Will, for instance, it means that there are less drivers? We already have a
shortage of truck drivers. Will that impact supply chain, and so on? Will businesses if they don't get support have to fold? What would that mean for
what currently is actually quite a strong labor market going forward.
And if we have high inflation and a stagnating economy, the big risk here is stagflation. Zain?
ASHER: Anna Stewart live for us there. Thank you so much.
Despite a huge increase of COVID cases in the United States, the number of Americans expected to travel over Christmas and New Year is expected to be
near pre-pandemic record levels. At least one airline is adding flights to meet that demand.
Aviation correspondent Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport, that's outside Washington, D.C.
So, it appears that there is, Pete, widespread pandemic fatigue. You know, despite the fact that we're seeing these huge numbers in terms of rising
cases, people are getting on those planes anyway.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Zain. You know airline officials talk about this whole notion of pent-up demand. That
people were shut in for so long because of the pandemic. And now simply, they just want to get out.
You know things are getting busier by the moment here at airports and across the country. United Airlines says the busy period really starts
today and goes until next Thursday. In fact, it projects that passenger loads will be 20 percent higher than what it saw during the Thanksgiving
rush when we set pandemic era air travel records.
In fact, the Transportation Security Administration here in the United States predicts 20 to 21 million people will pass through security at
America's airports. Compare that to a year ago, we were lucky to see about a million people a day. We just saw 2.05 million people pass through
security at America's airports just yesterday. The highest number we have seen since December 5th. Really a signal that the rush is on now.
Now we'll have to see if this increase in infections will cause these numbers to slump off a little bit. Airlines say they've seen a bit of
wavering when it comes to airline bookings because of the Omicron variant. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby says cancellations are up a little bit. But
not as much as what the airlines saw during the Delta variant surge at the beginning the of the summer. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: 2022 are still going to be a recovery year for the industry. Because you know we're not past -- COVID isn't over
yet. COVID is never going to be over. But it's still in the public pandemic phase instead of the endemic phase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUNTEAN: What's so interesting here, Zain, is that the CDC is now giving at home coronavirus test kits to international travelers as they arrive in
airports here in the United States. The tests are completely free. And the CDC says it's imperative for travelers to get tested between three and five
days after they arrive here in the U.S.
This is just a trial run for now at a few different airports, Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis, Chicago, O'Hare. The CDC says more airports sometimes
soon. But the overarching message from the TSA here is that you have to mask up, bring a lot of patients, a lot of flexibility as well as you
travel. And they say if you have not booked your travel yet, you may want to consider traveling on December 25th, Christmas Day, itself, until the
numbers are expected to be the lowest. Zain?
ASHER: Ooh, thank you for that point there. Pete Muntean live for us. Thank you so much.
Now to new friction between the U.S. and China. Beijing strongly criticizing Washington's move to ban imports from the Xinjian region over
forced labor concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WANG WENBIN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): U.S. actions have seriously undermined the principles of market economy and
international economic and trade rules. Seriously harm the interests of Chinese organizations and companies. Beijing is strongly dissatisfied and
resolutely opposes the actions. We urge the United States to immediately rectify its mistaken ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: President Biden is set to sign the measure into law after the Senate passed the bill.
Steven Jiang has more.
STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: The Chinese response has been fast and furious with a foreign ministry official on Friday calling the latest
U.S. action showing how Washington has become hysterical towards China and vowing to retaliate to protect the legitimate rights and interests of
Now, this latest move in Washington, of course, is a part of a broader pushback by Washington towards Beijing on a series of issues, especially on
its Xinjiang policy. Just in the past few days, for example, we've seen reports of new and strengthened sanctions targeting Chinese companies that
allegedly helped authority conduct high-tech surveillance on the Muslim population in Xinjiang.
And that list includes some very prominent Chinese companies such DJI, the world's biggest commercial drone maker, as well as SMIC, the country's
biggest computer chip maker.
And if and when all those measures and laws are fully implemented, they will have teeth, because Xinjiang does play quite an important role in the
Chinese economy and even the global supply chain when it comes to the manufacturing of solar panels for instance. And that's why we've seen this
realization here in Beijing that this issue is not going away, despite their very strong and repeated denial of any human rights abuses in the
And that's also why we have seen increasingly officials here including Chinese Leader Xi Jinping emphasize the need for China to become
technologically self-reliant as Xi Jinping keeps reminding his officials the importance and urgency to free China from the U.S. chokehold when it
comes to key sectors and technologies.
Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.
ASHER: All right. These are the stories making headlines around the world.
Officials in the Philippines say at least 12 people have died from a powerful cyclone that struck the country. Typhoon Rai has spotted towns,
damaged homes and toppled trees and other buildings. Authorities are conducting rescue operations and have evacuated more than 300,000 people.
We want to bring in Selina Wang who is following the developments live from Tokyo.
So, Selina, this typhoon basically hit the southwestern - southeastern, excuse me, part of the country and brought with it flooding and very, very
heavy rains. What more do we know?
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, this super typhoon Rai has wreaked havoc on the country. The storm initially packed winds of 160 miles
per hour when it made landfall on the central east coast of the country, Siargao Island. This is a popular tourist destination and surfing spot as
well. And in the images of the destruction, you can see the typhoon, it tore houses to pieces. It uprooted trees, toppled power lines, flooded
villages and towns. And villagers were seen scrambling to salvage whatever of their belongings they could from their destroyed homes.
And, Zain, this is the 15th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year. That is a bitter blow to millions who are still rebuilding and recovering their
livelihoods from not only the storms from earlier this year in the Philippines, but also from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And communication and power were out in several parts of the country. That made the rescue efforts even more difficult. It's also making it very hard
for officials to determine the extent of the damage.
The storm also hit heavily populated parts of the country as well, including Cebu which is a city of nearly 1 million people.
Take a listen to what the chairman of the Red Cross in the Philippines had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD GORDON, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Even in the key city, strike Cebu. Buildings have been affected. Businesses have been affected. You know a lot
of people go around and there is an explosion of debris from fallen trees and fallen buildings. There were two casualties in the area. Two dead from
fallen tree and from fallen wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WANG: Authorities said that more than 300,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. The super typhoon is expected to gradually weaken and
spread to Vietnam and China's Hainan province. But the impact in those areas, are not expected to be too significant.
And as we've seen, Zain, in other parts of the world, the climate crisis is making typhoons and hurricanes more intense, more destructive. A recent
study showed that typhoons in Asia could double their destructive power by the end of the century. And a really interesting statistic here is that
they already last between two and nine hours longer and travel an average of 100 kilometers further inland than they did four decades ago. Zain?
ASHER: Selina Wang live for us there. Thank you so much.
Police in Osaka, Japan are investigating the possibility of arson following a deadly fire Friday morning at a psychiatric clinic. After 27 people may
have lost their lives, dozens more were injured. According to a news report, a man inside the building was seen spilling liquid near a heater
and starting the fire. He's reportedly in critical condition.
Still to come here on "FIRST MOVE."
Vaccine and the variant. Moderna's chief medical officer on how Omicron changes the vaccine calculation.
And real-world results. The CEO of the South African insurance company that carried out a major study of the Omicron variant.
That's next on "FIRST MOVE."
ASHER: All right. Welcome back to "FIRST MOVE."
U.S. stock futures still pointing to a weak open on Wall Street. Tech set to soften further after Thursday's 2.5 percent Nasdaq drop.
U.S. Investors are grappling where the growing COVID uncertainty as well as fresh fiscal uncertainty as well.
President Biden conceding that his massive social spending bill will not pass Congress by Christmas. And that opposition from holdout Democratic
Senator Joe Manchin debate on the bill most likely extend into the New Year.
Meanwhile, oil on track, for losing week. It's currently down by well over 1 percent. That said, Goldman Sachs now predicting that oil demand could
hit all-time highs over the next two years. Goldman won't rule out $100 a barrel oil in 2022.
All right. Here in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has updated its recommendations for preferred COVID-19 vaccine brand. It's now making it
clear that it prefers shots by Moderna and Pfizer, BioNTech over Johnson & Johnson because of a rare blood clotting syndrome is more common among
those who had Johnson & Johnson.
Earlier this week, live studies reveal that Omicron variant can evade the Moderna vaccine, but boosters restore protection.
Dr. Paul Burton is the chief medical officer at Moderna.
Dr. Burton, thank you so much for being with us.
I want to - I want you to update our audience on some news that came out about two weeks ago when we first all heard of the Omicron variant. Is
Moderna right now still working towards a version of the vaccine that is geared to specifically targeting just the Omicron variant?
DR. PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: Yes. Hello, Zain. Thank you for having me.
Yes, absolutely, we are. The beauty of the back form, the Moderna mRNA platform is that we are able to quickly adjust and tailor vaccines to meet
the new variants that come along. And Omicron is clearly a very important one, a serious one. And so, we announced as you say earlier that we would
be making an Omicron-specific vaccine and that work continues now.
ASHER: It's interesting because Dr. Anthony Fauci says that he doesn't think that we need necessarily a vaccine or a booster that specifically
targets Omicron. Clearly, Moderna disagrees with that. Why is that?
BURTON: I think Dr. Fauci is right. At the moment the data suggests that the current vaccines that we have are clearly effective against COVID in
general. And they do provide protection against the Omicron-specific variants. So, I think it's important for people around the world listening
to this get vaccinated, get booster.
But we just don't know what the situation will be worldwide in 2022 if Omicron is likely a dominant variant. I think it's likely that we will need
very specific new vaccines to address it. And it really is on us as leaders in this field of mRNA technology and vaccination against COVID to be able
to provide that. So, we take it seriously. And it's our responsibility. And we are making that vaccine.
ASHER: So, the people who have just had only recently just had their second Moderna dose, how long should they wait? Because the recommended time to
wait between your second dose and the booster shot is roughly around six months.
Do you still agree with that especially given the rise in cases both in the United States and of course you've seen what's happening in Europe? Do you
still think that sort of gap between having your second dose and the booster should be six months or do you think it should be shorter?
BURTON: It's interesting because health authorities in governments around the world are making different rulings, some are six months, some are
shorter. I think the data says, in general, that after the second dose, immunity begins to wane, and I think probably governments just have to keep
looking at the emerging data in their region and look at how cases rise and make the best choices. It may be that we will have to go to a shorter
interval, but again I think governments, regulators, you know, vaccine agents are going to have to look at the data and make their own choices.
ASHER: I mean is it worth sort of - obviously, some people are deciding you know right now when to get their booster shot, as you mentioned,
governments around the world have different sort of timelines. But if Moderna is coming out with a specific kind of booster shot that targets
Omicron, if people are on the fence and trying to decide whether to get their booster in terms of the Moderna vaccines that already exist or
waiting for the Omicron-specific booster that may or may not come out next year, what would you say to that? What is the recommended path to take?
BURTON: Yes. Look, I think the data are clear on that. First of all, if people are on the fence and haven't been vaccinated yet, there is no better
time now to get vaccinated. There is actually a very useful website makeityourvaccine.com has great information on it, you can even go down
there and get good information. So, get vaccinated now I think is clear. And I would not wait for a specific vaccine, a specific booster. You have
the opportunity. Get booster now.
ASHER: So, as you know, your rival Pfizer has an experimental drug, an experimental pill, that if authorized, if approved would be - would be a
game changer when it comes to reducing hospitalizations and death from COVID. Is Moderna working on anything similar in that vein?
BURTON: Currently, our approach to tackling COVID and helping to understand pandemic is through vaccines, to continue with the current vaccine and to
bring all the variant-specific versions. So, that will be our strategy continuing as we announced a while ago going forward.
ASHER: As you know, the U.S. passed a grim milestone this week, 50 million cases of COVID and also, you know, 800,000 - 800,000 deaths in the U.S.
specifically. You know, I want to get your thoughts on that and also how protected are people? People haven't had a booster shot. How protected are
people with just two vaccine doses from Moderna?
BURTON: Yes. So, it's - you're right. These are terrible milestones that we have to pass. You know, tomorrow, actually marks the one-year anniversary
of the authorization of the Moderna vaccine. And a lot has been said in these recent weeks about how effective are vaccines. There is a whole, you
know, they've prevented over million deaths, 10 million hospitalizations. So, they are very, very effective.
I think the best thing people can do is to get vaccinated. The Moderna vaccine has been given in 317 million doses around the world, so we know
that there are all of these vaccines are safe and highly effective.
And I think, you know, as people make their choices now, think about what to do, which shot to get, there is a lot of great information around. But
getting boosted now is clearly the way to get protected for the winter through this holiday season. And again, while Omicron is very serious. And
we need to take it very seriously.
We can get through this together. We've been at it two years now. We know what to do.
ASHER: All right. Dr. Paul Burton, chief medical officer at Moderna. Thank you so much.
All right. You are watching "FIRST MOVE." The market open is up next.
ASHER: Welcome back to "FIRST MOVE."
U.S. stocks are up and running on this last trading day of the week on Wall Street. And as expected, we've got a lower open across the board.
You can see there with particular weakness there in tech. It's another big options exploration Friday. So, stock volatility could be more pronounced
than usual. Trading is winding down after a headline-filled week with the U.S and UK Central Banks announcing cuts to economic support.
An entirely different story in Turkey, like country's currency plunging to fresh record lows after the Turkish Central Bank's fourth consecutive
interest rate cut. Turkish President Erdogan pressuring the Central Bank to keep rates low even as the inflation rate soars. The lira currently down
more than 7 percent against the dollar.
South Africa says it is seeing a much lower hospitalization rate in this wave of the pandemic. This confirms a key finding from a major real-world
study of the Omicron variant. Health insurer Discovery Health analyzed thousands of tests while the variant became dominant in the country.
It found that Omicron was more infectious, but hospitalizations were lower than for other variants. It showed a small increase in hospitalization
risks for children. But it also found that Omicron reduces vaccine efficacy.
Joining me now is Dr. Ryan Noach, CEO of Discovery Health.
Dr. Noach, thank you so much for being with us.
So, just us a bit more detail about this study that Discovery Health conducted just in terms of vaccine efficacy, reinfection and - and sort of
how widespread or how quickly, rather, this variant is spreading.
DR. RYAN NOACH, CEO, DISCOVERY HEALTH: Sure. And thanks so much for having me.
We've analyzed a large sample of COVID-19 positive cases. Unfortunately, South Africa has been the first country to be at the epicenter of the
Omicron outbreak. As a result, we've got unique insights about various issues, some of which you mentioned.
The increase in cases is frightening and has been a very steep upward trajectory. I think what is encouraging is that the typical curve of
hospital emissions, indicating severe disease that we've seen in other ways hasn't reproduced with this way.
In this Omicron, there has been a delinking between the infections and the hospitalizations. And our data points, we have been able to measure a 29
percent lower hospital admission risk across the population on average, as the result of this lower severity.
The awesome caveat around that and, you know, we are early in this Omicron wave here in South Africa. So, we must not become complacent and must wait
and see what happens.
From a vaccine effectiveness perspective, very import read. There were negative case design studies that has been peer reviewed by credible
scientists here in South Africa and that will be publishing shortly in the clinical journal. We've shown that the effectiveness of the double dose of
the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine remains 70 percent effective at reducing the risk of hospital admission.
This is quite a significant drop from the 93 percent effectiveness we saw during the Delta wave here in South Africa. Notwithstanding with 70 percent
protection is still quite reassuring, and without booster campaign or the third those of Pfizer shots commencing shortly. We are hopeful that we will
achieve greater effectiveness in due course.
ASHER: So then - so then let me ask you this, Dr. Noach. How much should the rest of the world sort of look at this study and look at what
specifically happening in South Africa and sort of apply it to what might happen elsewhere do you think?
NOACH: I think it's incredibly relevant and important. You know the more we can understand across the world the better. There are some confounding
issues, which may be different country to country. One of them that's important is that here in South Africa, we do think that there is a
relatively high population zero prevalence rate.
What that means in simple terms is we think a large portion of the South African population has had a prior exposure to COVID-19. That may turn out
to be larger in other parts of the world. That could indeed be suppressing the severity here in South African context. So, you know, I think for other
countries, I wouldn't take it for granted that it's going to be less severe that they are encouraging signs and reasons for optimism.
ASHER: Does South Africa, you know, have the adequate health infrastructure do you think to manage this particular wave, especially given how quickly
NOACH: That's a very good question. Actually, to date, the private healthcare and public health sectors in South Africa have worked very
closely together in solidarity. And they've coped very well with the COVID- 19 outbreaks. And we've had three waves here in South Africa with quite a severe beater in Delta wave.
I think what is particular about this Omicron wave is that we are seeing this lower severity, yet the volumes are enormously high. And because it's
bringing so fast on a community spread basis, it could still overwhelm the healthcare system just by virtue of the volume of infections. These all
happening concomitantly due to the rapid spread.
So, this does still pose a health system risk. At this point in time, our health system is coping more than adequately. And the hospitals are
certainly not nearly as full as they had been in prior waves. Despite us being three, three-and-a-half weeks into this Omicron wave.
ASHER: And what has been the effect just in terms of what your study concluded. What has been the effect of this particular variant and how
quickly it is spreading on the younger population, on people who are 18 years old and younger?
NOACH: Yeah, this has been a concerning issue. And we don't want to create panic. But the data is filling the story here. That children under the age
of 18, and particularly those under the age of five years, seem to be experiencing slightly more severe manifestation of Omicron, certainly
relative to the prior waves here in South Africa.
On a risk adjusted model, where we take into account different clinical factors, ages and vaccination status, we've concluded that children are at
a 20 percent higher risk than they were previously all the admission to hospital now in this Omicron wave.
I think what's going to keep in mind there, so that one doesn't become too panicky around this is that the baseline of pediatric admissions was very
low. And so, although 20 percent sounds like a big number, it's actually a small movement off the baseline.
You know, kids are still being admitted in low numbers and absolute terms. But our data is saying that children tend to have a higher risk.
And it correlates with two out of six of interesting data points. The one being our National Institute of Communicable Diseases who released data 10
days ago. And they also picked up this phenomenon with children. And the other is that we are staying very close to the healthcare professionals
treating patients on the ground and anecdotally, they are seeing this too.
ASHER: But overall, though, just in terms of applying what's happening in South Africa to elsewhere in the world, you are saying that South Africa
because of previous exposure to other waves and the Delta variant might, indeed, have a higher level of immunity?
NOACH: That may well be the case. South Africa's population is about 45 percent vaccinated. Although, in our client base where this data was
analyzed, we have more than a 60 percent vaccination rate. So, that's the vaccination rate. And that differs country to country and it's going to
play a big part here.
The second part of it is of course what the underlying immunity is from prior infection. And our estimates are that a high proportion of the South
African population has been exposed in the past. This would provide added immunity.
And so, one must take this data into account, draw the necessary optimism and encouragement. But country by country, we need to measure the severity
and make sure that there's no complacency. The underlying message is that vaccines remain the certainty that Pfizer double dose remain 70 percent
effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization. It's really a good reason to get out and get vaccinated.
ASHER: All right. Dr. Ryan Noach, thank you so much, CEO of Discovery Health. Thank you so much for being with us.
And stay with "FIRST MOVE." We'll have much more after this quick break.
ASHER: In a CNN exclusive, the British Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Richard Quest the government is not telling people to cancel plans. And it is not
closing down businesses in the face of rising COVID cases. Sunak is due to hold talks with business leaders after cutting short a controversial work
trip to California. Excuse me. Before he left, he told Richard the situation in the UK cannot be compared to how things have played out
SUNAK: Well, I think it's important to recognize as the prime minister said earlier today that the situation is very different to what we've done and
encountered before. The government is not telling people to cancel things. It's not closing down businesses.
But what we are saying is that there are easy and effective things we can all do to protect ourselves. For example, wearing masks, ensuring good
ventilation and most importantly right now going and getting your booster because that is the best protection we have.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": And in terms of being in California, whatever the intention of the trip, it's now being derided back
home. Do you wish you hadn't gone?
SUNAK: Oh, this is a long-planned trip where I'm meeting with dozens of industry leaders and investors from the technology space to talk to them
about bringing investment and jobs and new products and services to the U.K.
For example, I just met with a company this morning that's trialing a new blood test for early cancer screening with the NHS. But of course, I
understand the concerns of businesses at the moment given everything that is going on. That's why I've been in touch with hospitality industry
leaders today. My team are hosting roundtables and talking to them. And it is why I've curtailed my trip, and I will be leaving earlier tonight. And
I'll be back in the UK tomorrow.
QUEST: On this issue of more support for -- particularly, bearing in mind, let's take for example France, which has basically locked off the U.K. as
you'll be aware with new COVID restrictions. I understand an element of wait and see, but I guess I'm pushing you to say, you are prepared to do
more, if necessary.
SUNAK: I think as we've demonstrated throughout this crisis, the government has always stood ready and willing to support the country as required. I
think our track record on that is very good and the thing that we are most focused on now is for everyone to go and get their booster. We are in the
midst of an unprecedented drive to get boosters to as many people as possible, because that is our best possible protection against Omicron, and
that is why there is an enormous national effort, and I would urge everyone to go and do that.
QUEST: Can you understand though listening to businesses, listening to that, they sort of feel left out on their own a bit. They are feeling like
overnight, mass cancellations at a time of the busiest time of the year and they're looking for further help.
SUNAK: I understand the concerns of the hospitality industry, and of course, that's why we have supported the industry continuously throughout
the pandemic. And what I'd say to everyone in the industry is there is support in place at the moment that can help.
For example, this year, all the way through to next spring, people are paying only around a quarter of their normal business rates bills, so
that's an enormous boost to cash flow.
Secondly, the hospitality industry is still benefiting from a lower rate of VAT, all the way through to next spring as well.
And thirdly, we have cash that we have provided to local councils, about a quarter of a billion pounds is still available, and that can be distributed
to companies as required, and my immediate priority is to make sure that that money gets out the door to those who need it as quickly as possible.
QUEST: Now, let's talk about the wider economy. The Bank of England raised rates. It is -- we knew it was coming. It came sooner than perhaps some
people had thought, but it was there anyway.
If you had been -- I know you're going to tell me that the MPC is independent, but I'll go for it anyway. If you had been on the MPC as a
voting member, would you have gone with Silvana Tenreyro and held off for a few more months?
SUNAK: Well, in common with many other countries around the world, the UK is of course experiencing a period of higher inflation as we grapple with
many of the same global supply chain challenges as other nations.
Now, responsibility for monetary policy is of course that at the independent Central Bank. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on
that. But what I'd say is people should be reassured that the Bank of England's track record in managing inflation is very good.
And also, we, in the government are also supporting families with the cost of living through the winter, most recently cutting taxes for millions of
the lowest paid, which will put an extra thousand pounds in the pockets of those people over the next 12 months.
ASHER: Coming up, on a wing and a prayer. The daredevil flying in and out of a volcano. That story next.
ASHER: This year we've seen supply snarl-ups leading to rising prices all over the world. Shipping demand has skyrocketed, and container space is at
a premium. One company has set out to unblock global shipping using blockchain.
Eleni Giokos explains.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These bright colored steel boxes have one mission, to go from point A to point B. Constantly on the
move. Every year, millions of shipping containers are packed with some of our favorite items and transported across the seas.
SHEIKH AHSAN TARIQ, CEO, CUBEX GLOBAL: A simple cubic meter of space on a shipping container at this point is the world's most traded commodity.
GIOKOS: The issue is, because of the pandemic backlog, prices have gone up. Owners of the containers can't afford to let any space go to waste. So,
filling up every square foot is essential to be profitable.
One company has found a solution.
TARIQ: Cubex Global is like booking.com but for ocean freight. You can buy, sell and bid empty inventory in any container from any shipping port in the
world to anywhere.
GIOKOS: Using blockchain technology, Cubex Global is selling unused space on shipping containers for better efficiency and savings.
TARIQ: If you look at shipping for decades, it's been running in a very analog method. 30 percent of global shipments today are delayed because of
human error. There are 12 different documents to get - that humans have to fill up. And because maybe you've had a mistake, sometimes even entire
ships are delayed. We are able to take that element of human error out.
GIOKOS: By digitizing the process, Tariq says blockchain also provides more security and transparency. Maritime business experts say it's a new school
of thought for the industry.
PETER DE LANGEN, VISITING PROFESSOR, COPENHAGEN BUSINESS SCHOOL: I think that sharing the container itself is not new. What is new that is if you
have kind of digital technologies, the digital model really makes it much more efficient to share cargo. And therefore, also more economical for a
GIOKOS: A high-tech option for an industry that has been slow to change its system over the years.
TARIQ: It's as simple as booking a ticket from any country to any destination. So, you pick your port of destination. You enter the load and
then it takes to you the next form and then you see all the lists. It will show you the most economical route, the cheapest one, the fastest one.
GIOKOS: Economical and cheap, these are words, some people want to hear these days with some shipping rates 600 percent higher than just one year
TARIQ: At Cubex Global, the big idea is to build the platform, which is more sustainable, which is cheaper and more accessible to everybody in the
GIOKOS: A solution to maximize container space and getting some of our favorite items shipped at a more friendly price.
Eleni Giokos, CNN.
ASHER: And finally, on "FIRST MOVE."
Call it a lava leap. Today on daredevil Sebastian Alvarez plunging into the crater of one of the country's most active volcanos, wearing - get this --
only a wingsuit. Look at him go. He becomes the first known person ever to fly in and out of an active volcano. Alvarez said that he made certain to
consult a higher authority before the jump. We need to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN ALVAREZ, WINGSUIT PILOT: Let's talk seriously. This is a volcano. And it's active. And if I fail, you know the results. And if the volcano
doesn't want me there, it can do whatever it wants you know. So, I asked for permission. And then, I went there and said thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: And on that note, we are set to fly out of here on "FIRST MOVE."
That's it for the show.
"Connect the World" with Richard Quest is up next.
I'll be back in two hours' time with my show "One World."
You are watching CNN.