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Ex-Boris Johnson Aide: I'll "Swear Under Oath" That P.M. Lied; Israeli Study Shows Fourth Vaccine Dose May Not Protect Against Omicron; Airlines Warn 5G Rollout May Ground Planes And Wreak Havoc. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 07:30   ET





To China now where the birth rate is plummeting for the fifth year in a row to a new record low in 2021. The world's most populous country has realized its decades' long one-child policy led to an aging population and labor shortages that could severely hurt economic growth. Now, the government making major efforts to encourage couples to have more children.

CNN has reporters around the world with the latest headlines.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Moscow as Russia continues to pile the pressure on the U.S. and its NATO allies. The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov saying that the Russians want answers very soon to some of the security demands that they put forward in those security talks with the U.S. that happened in Geneva last week.

Now, the Russians also announced that they would be holding largescale military drills together with the Belarusian army in February, and the Russians say they are currently already conducting sniper drills in an area that's very close to Ukraine.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sam Kiley in Abu Dhabi where the authorities have promised a swift response to the killing of three civilians here in the Emirate capital. Now, one Pakistani and two Indians were killed by a Houthi attack, probably believed to be a drone attack of some kind out of northern Yemen.


And in the last 12 to 15 hours the authorities have, indeed, made good on the swift retaliation promise with the Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes in and around the Houthi headquarters in the Yemeni capital in the north of the country with at least 12 civilians reported to be killed. This is a claim we have not been able to verify from the Houthis. They also claim that among the dead are women and children.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Blake Essig in Tokyo. It's now been more than three days since an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga. While we haven't received reports of mass casualties, the reality is we still don't know the extent of the damage, especially for those outlying islands close to the eruption site. Now, it's because communication with anyone in Tonga remains extremely limited and ashfall has left runways unusable, preventing outside aid from arriving.

New Zealand has sent two Royal Navy ships but they won't arrive for about three days. For now, aid organizations on the ground say the biggest issue is food and water security as a result of ash contamination.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, damning new allegations from the former top aid to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Dominic Cummings says Johnson knew about the parties at 10 Downing Street during the U.K.'s strict COVID lockdown and has since lied about it.

Joining us now, Ed Davey. He is a member of Parliament and the leader of the Opposition Party, the liberal Democrats. Thank you so much for being with us, sir.

This statement from Dominic Cummings -- Boris Johnson knew and has lied about it -- how big of a deal is it?

ED DAVEY, MEMBER, U.K. PARLIAMENT, LEADER OF LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WHO IS CALLING ON BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TO RESIGN (via Skype): A huge deal. The British prime minister had a -- put really strict rules on everyone here in the U.K. at that period in a big lockdown. They were really tough and a lot of people made huge sacrifices. People not being able to go the bedside of their loved ones when they were dying. Not being able to attend funerals.

And at the very same time, the British prime minister was breaking his own rules and he's been caught out. And then, he's lied to Parliament. And in the British system, if you lie to Parliament as a minister, including as a prime minister, you have to resign. So that's why my party, the Liberal Democrats, have called for Boris Johnson to resign and have tabled a motion of no confidence in him in the House of Commons.

BERMAN: There is this official inquiry being led by Sue Gray here. Why not wait until the conclusion of the inquiry to decide what kind of action to take? DAVEY: Well, I have been waiting for that but in the meantime, after that was set up, we've had a lot more evidence which, frankly, is unambiguous. It's very clear. It's very clear that the British prime minister broke the rules and it's very clear that Boris Johnson then lied to that to Parliament.

And today, we've Dominic Cummings providing yet more evidence that the British prime minister did lie and did break the rules. And frankly, the evidence is now overwhelming and it has been for a few days if I'm frank with you. So that's why we don't need to hear the inquiry results from Sue Gray. They've almost been -- become redundant because of the evidence we've had since the inquiry was set up.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, the specific lie in this case is Boris Johnson -- Boris Johnson is claiming he thought or might have been under the impression that it was a work event in which case it might have been permitted under the lockdown rules. But you believe and you think Dominic Cummings is saying he knew all along it was not a work event; it was just a party, correct?

DAVEY: That's correct, though I would say it's only one of the lies. The prime minister did tell Parliament that he knew nothing about the parties and we've had evidence to suggest that there parties every Friday and Boris Johnson knew they were going on. So, there's actually a series of lies from the prime minister to Parliament and so there are many reasons why he should resign.

But above all, when you're a member of Parliament elected by your voters and your voters are telling you about their personal sacrifices -- how tough it's been for them and they cannot believe the prime minister who made the rules, which they abided by, was breaking those rules -- then the anger amongst voters and the genuine upset and distress is very real. It's very raw.

BERMAN: Right.

DAVEY: And that's why I believe the prime minister really has to go.

BERMAN: And I can understand the basis of that anger if they were all living under -- if you were all living under a different set of rules then it appears the prime minister. But I can also see and have already heard people taking the view -- look, you're going to throw the guy out for having a drink outside when now we know that being outside was probably perfectly safe all along? Is that really a reason to kick a prime minister out of office, the argument would go.


DAVEY: Well, I think the United States is a great bastion of the rule of law, and so is the United Kingdom. And the rule of law says very clearly there's one rule for all of us and no one is above the rule of law. And when the person who is making those rules has clearly broken those rules, that undermines the very substance of our democracy based on the rule of law. There cannot be a situation where there's one rule for the leaders -- the people at the very top -- and another rule for the rest of us. And with this clear, blatant breach of this very core democratic

principle in law-abiding Western democracies, this clear breach of that rule by the British prime minister is extraordinarily serious, and that's why I don't think one can make light of it. This really is a grounds for the resignation of the prime minister.

BERMAN: Sir Ed Davey, appreciate you joining us this morning. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens in the coming days or weeks because as you say, this is having a serious ripple effect. Appreciate it.

DAVEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith revealing his brutal battle with COVID. What he says saved his life.

HUNT: Plus, a massive asteroid is about to make a close encounter with earth. Is it close enough to call in Bruce Willis? We'll have details ahead.

BERMAN: It's always close enough. You always have to call in Bruce Willis.



HUNT: ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith revealing his near-deadly battle with COVID, crediting the vaccine and doctors for saving his life -- listen.


STEPHEN A. SMITH, COMMENTATOR, ESPN: I had a 103-degree fever every night. Woke up with chills in a pool of sweat. Headaches were massive. Coughing profusely.

And it got to a point that right before New Year's Eve, I was in the hospital New Year's Eve into New Year's Day. That's how I brought in the new year. And they told me had I not been vaccinated I wouldn't be here. That's how bad I was.

I had pneumonia in both lungs. My liver was bad. And it ravaged me to the point where even now, I have to monitor my volume. I've got to get in the gym every day, walk before you run, and work your way back because I'm still not 100 percent with my lungs but I'm COVID-negative and all of that stuff, and I'm on the road to recover me -- to recovery.

But if it wasn't for several doctors, like Dr. Booth (ph), Dr. Spivak (ph), Dr. Chano (ph), and others, I wouldn't be here.


BERMAN: We are glad he is back. All right. Just in, a dire warning from healthcare officials in four

Oklahoma City hospitals, writing in an open letter, quote, "Our emergency departments are overflowing. The Oklahoma City Health Care System is at a breaking point. Soon, you or a loved one may need us for lifesaving care, whether for a stroke, emergency appendectomy, or trauma from a car accident, and we might not be able to help. This pandemic isn't just impacting care for COVID patients."

The letter says 107 patients are waiting for beds in Oklahoma City emergency rooms.

HUNT: And new data out of Israel suggests that while a fourth COVID vaccine dose can illicit and increase antibodies, it still may not be enough to prevent possible breakthrough infections caused by the Omicron variant.

Joining us now, Michael Osterholm, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Sir, it's always great to see you. Thanks so much for being here.


HUNT: Let me just ask for your reaction, first off, to this study that shows -- out of Israel -- that perhaps this fourth shot won't actually protect you from a breakthrough infection.

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think it's very important to really break this into two separate parts. The first one is let's make it clear that for seven million Americans right now who are severe or moderately immune- compromised, there is a very strong recommendation to get a fourth dose. And the data there does, in fact, support that can improve on your outcome and the antibody that it produces.

The question is what does it mean for healthy adults, and that's what the study in Israel is addressing. And this was really just a lab- based study looking at the amount of antibody. The study is ongoing and we'll have much more clearer information within the next month or two as does it actually help prevent getting infected or having serious illness.

And so, I think the jury is still out on what it means for otherwise healthy people.

BERMAN: Professor, we have two huge things happening in the United States this morning. Number one, and I do think we need to draw focus to this, it really does seems as if cases and hospitalizations are dropping in the northeast and in the part of the United States where this Omicron wave hit first and worst. It now seems to be getting better. You can see the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in New York.

But while that's happening, we just saw that letter from healthcare workers in Oklahoma City who are very concerned because now it's starting to hit there. How do you describe what's happening in the country right now and what do you make of it?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, as I've described this for the last six to eight weeks, this is a viral blizzard. And a blizzard doesn't hit the entire country all at once. It actually has a path that it follows and it unfolds, often, over days.

Well, we're seeing very much the same thing with regard to this virus. The northeast was hit first. They surely saw the very rapid increase in cases when some other parts of the country, including my own state of Minnesota, weren't seeing the big increases in cases. Now what's happening is because we see that the Northeast is a week to 10 days ahead of the rest of the country, we're glad that we're seeing these cases drop.


But as you just pointed out, in the other states, particularly in the middle west, in the Atlantic region -- southern Atlantic region -- we're just now seeing those rises occur.

And so, I think for the next three to five weeks we're going to continue to see large case numbers around the country as kind of a mosaic of outbreaks happening in each state.

HUNT: Well, and isn't this a serious concern around capacity? I mean, obviously, where this wave started -- big places like New York, Washington, D.C. where there is perhaps more concentrated significant capacity to handle these kinds of waves. I mean, clearly, they don't have that in Oklahoma.

How worried are you about that part of this?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, Kasie, the really key point here is that this is not about hospital beds, it's not about ventilators, it's about people. It's about healthcare workers. And we are already hanging on by the skin of our teeth in this country in terms of providing care just because of what's happened over the past two years and the number of healthcare workers who have left their jobs, literally suffering class post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Now we overlay this situation and we're seeing 10 to 20 percent of healthcare workers who are infected and they, themselves, cannot come to work because of the fact that they're infected. And so, this has really made this a perfect storm kind of moment where we're seeing at a time when we need more healthcare workers having less.

And while the administration has surely put forward DOD medical teams and so forth, just put this into perspective. We now have 1,000 DOD medical experts in the field yet we're probably missing about two million healthcare workers today who are out because of their infection status. So this is very serious.

And what you heard from Oklahoma City is being played out in many other areas. This is not just about COVID care, this is about now is not the time to have a heart attack, a stroke, or be in an automobile accident.

HUNT: No, and it's a very good reminder of just what our heroic healthcare workers have been through over the course of the last two years and what they continue to go through amid this Omicron surge.

Michael Osterholm, thank you, as always --

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

HUNT: -- for being with us.


HUNT: All right.

Up next, the major airlines warning of a catastrophic disruption to air travel starting tomorrow. What they're begging the Biden administration to do right now.



HUNT: Airline industry executives calling on President Biden to take immediate action against the rollout of 5G technology near major airports. They are warning that 5G could interfere with and compromise key safety systems causing what they say could be catastrophic disruption of thousands of flights.

CNN's Pete Muntean live at Reagan National Airport -- or, actually, in Washington, D.C. Pete, it is great to see you. Glad you're a little warmer this morning than when we --


HUNT: -- saw you yesterday.

But talk a little bit about this. I mean, this sounds pretty scary.

MUNTEAN: Well, Kasie, the airlines say there is a real threat to your safety here with 5G set to turn on nationwide tomorrow, and they say this will only mean more delays and more cancelations. We've seen so many lately -- about 1,000 on a typical day because of this 5G issue, airlines say.

What is at issue here, the airlines say, is the power from the 5G transmitter towers, especially when they are near airports. They operate on a similar radio spectrum to what is called a radar altimeter. That is a critical piece of in-cockpit instrumentation that airliners use, that cargo airplanes use, that helicopters use, especially when they are low to the ground in those critical moments right before landing.

Now, the CEOs of all the major airlines have written the Biden administration to say there should be another delay of the 5G rollout. It's already been delayed by two weeks, set to turn on tomorrow. This is the quote from the letter. It says, "The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce, and the broader economy are simply incalculable."

Now, the FAA says it's continuing work on this. It is testing these 5G transmitters close by to airports.

The other idea put forth by United Airlines is a two-mile buffer zone near airport runways, essentially turning off these transmitters to make it so that these planes can safely land. This is the new statement from United Airlines. It says we will not compromise on safety -- full stop. Governments of other countries have successfully designed policies to do this. Now the U.S. government must do the same, it says.

Now, the telecom industry insists there is no real issue here. It says this has been successfully rolled out -- 5G -- in plenty of other countries around the world. AT&T and Verizon are behind this big push. AT&T owns the parent company of CNN. It is not commenting on this new letter.

HUNT: Well, I will say that I would much prefer that my plane lands safely than my phone work a little bit faster.

Pete Muntean, thank you very much for that report.

BERMAN: So, early this afternoon, an asteroid that's just over half a mile wide will fly by earth -- fly by earth. What exactly does that mean? So, according to NASA, it will pass earth at speeds of 12 miles per second, which is pretty fast. The distance is 1.2 million miles away.

CNN's Kristin Fisher joins us now. I don't know whether that's close or not. Is that close? How scared should I be this morning?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: You should not be too scared, John, but 1.2 million miles away -- I mean, that sounds really far away. But in the grand scheme of things, the scope and size of the universe, a million miles away is not that far at all. And it is close enough to earth and this asteroid large enough -- about twice the size of the Empire State Building -- that NASA has labeled it a potentially hazardous asteroid.

Now, you can just go about your day just fine, John. You don't have to worry about it. But this is just one example of some of the reasons why NASA is so concerned about the potential of not just this asteroid, right? This asteroid is something that has been watched and monitored and detected for decades now.