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Quest Means Business

British PM To Announce Further Steps To Control New Variant Of COVID; Dow Tumbles 400-Plus Points On First Trading Day Of 2021; In A Call, Trump Begs Officials To Find Votes And Subvert The Election; COVID Strain In South Africa Under Investigation; Bitcoin Heads Up, Heads Down A Bit; Britain Goes Back Into National Lockdown Until Mid-February. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired January 04, 2021 - 15:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Good evening. Tonight, the United Kingdom appears to be heading towards a new national lockdown. In just a

moment, you're going to hear from the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is expected to say further steps are needed to stop a surge in

virus cases caused by the new more contagious variant.

Now, early in the day, the Scottish first minister, Nichola Sturgeon, already announced new stay at home orders that start at midnight. We'll

bring you Prime Minister Johnson's address as soon as it begins.

The background, of course, to this as a dramatic escalation in the number of cases -- of new cases that have tested positive, a higher positivity

rate. More than 50,000 people a day are testing positive in the United Kingdom, and that's even allowing for the fact that there is greater

testing under way.

The blame is being put firmly at the door of the new more virulent and transmittable virus, the new variant which, of course, has knock-on effects

of more people catching COVID. It means there will be more bad cases, which means hospital numbers have risen, which is why they are up so strongly in

the United Kingdom.

And that leads to tonight. Well, the first working day back after the long Christmas holiday.


And the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, basically telling the British people, it's time to go back to a national lockdown. Apparently, there is

no other alternative.

Now the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Afterwards, we will have analysis with Phil Black who is in London; Max Foster who is in Oxford.

Go to Boris, now, let's have the Prime Minister.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: ... COVID. And there's no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were

working and would have continued to work.

But we now have a new variant of the virus and it's been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading.

Our scientists have confirmed this new variant is between 50 and 70 percent more transmissible, that means you're much, much more likely to catch the

virus and to pass it on.

As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than any time since the start of the pandemic. In England alone, the number

of COVID patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000. And that number is 40 percent higher than the first

peak in April.

On the 29th of December, more than 80,000 people tested positive for COVID across the U.K., a new record. The number of deaths is up by 20 percent

over the last week, and will sadly rise further. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones.

With most of the country already under extreme measures, it's clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our

vaccines are rolled out.

In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown, which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the government is once again

instructing you to stay at home.

You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to

exercise, to seek medical assistance, such as getting a COVID test or to escape domestic abuse.

The full details of what you can and can't do will be available at

If you're clinically extremely vulnerable, we're advising you to begin shielding again, and you will shortly receive a letter about what this

means for you. And because we now have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease, primary schools, secondary schools and

colleges across England must move to remote provision from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Everyone will still be able to access earlier settings such as nurseries.

We recognize that this will mean it's not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal. The Education Secretary will work with

Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.

We will provide extra support to ensure that pupils who are entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed

and we will distribute more devices to support remote education.

I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents and pupils up and down the country. Parents

whose children were in school today may reasonably ask why we did not take this decision sooner, and the answer is simply that we've been doing

everything in our power to keep schools open, because we know how important each day in education is to children's life chances.

And I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children, children are very unlikely to be severely affected by even the

new variant of COVID. The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.

Today, the United Kingdom's chief medical officers have advised that the country should move to alert level five meaning that if action is not

taken, N.H.S. capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days.

Of course, there's one huge difference compared to last year, we're now rolling out the biggest vaccination program in our history.

So far, we, in the U.K. have vaccinated more people than in the rest of Europe combined.


JOHNSON: With the arrival today of the U.K.'s own Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the pace of vaccination is accelerating. I can share with you

tonight, the N.H.S. has realistic expectations for the vaccination program in the coming weeks.

By the middle of February, if things go well, and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the

four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization.

That means vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social

care workers and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus. And of course, that will

eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.

I must emphasize that even if we achieve this goal, there remains a time lag of two to three weeks from getting a jab to receiving immunity and

there will be a further time lag before the pressure on the N.H.S. is lifted. So we should remain cautious about the timetable ahead.

But if our understanding of the virus doesn't change dramatically, once again; if the rollout of the vaccine program continues to be successful, if

deaths start to fall, as the vaccine takes effect, and critically, if everyone plays their part by following the rules, then I hope we can

steadily move out of lockdown reopening schools after the February half term and starting cautiously to move regions down the tiers.

I want to say to everyone right across the U.K. that I know how tough this is. And I know how frustrated you are and I know that you've had more than

enough of government guidance about defeating this virus. But now, more than ever, we must pull together. You should follow the new rules from now

and they will become law in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The Parliament will meet largely remotely later that day.

I know that the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland share my conviction that this is a pivotal moment and they are

taking similar steps.

The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet. But I really do believe that we're entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes

into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COVID and in favor of the British people.

And thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight, but we know exactly how we will get that.

But for now, I'm afraid, you must once again, stay at home, protect the N.H.S. and save lives. Thank you all very much.

QUEST: An extremely sobering message at the beginning of the New Year from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, putting England back into full

national lockdown.

England, by the way, is about 90 percent of the population of the United Kingdom. Scotland was already put into full lockdown by Nicola Sturgeon

earlier on today.

Phil Black is in London and Max Foster is in Oxford. There is much to talk about with both starting with you Phil. National lockdown, there is a

feeling that there was no other choice. It was this or potential collapse of the health service.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. That was the reason why this is needed. In practice, though, Richard, I think it's

important to note that three quarters of England was already in something very close to lockdown. The so-called tier four restriction was very

lockdown like with one exception, and it's something that Boris Johnson spent a lot of time talking about in that address and that is schools.


BLACK: Up until now, schools have been able to stay open. It has been the government's stated intention to reopen them as quickly as possible in this

New Year. But there you heard Boris Johnson, accepting what many people have said has been an undeniable reality for some weeks now, and that is

that transmission that takes place in schools is so significant that with this new variant of the virus, there was simply no chance of bringing this

back under control, without closing schools, no matter how unpalatable that may be, the government's own scientific advisers said as much on December

the 22nd.

Now, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister has accepted that fact. His critics will say once again, far too late. And so schools for the foreseeable

future here will stay closed.

QUEST: Phil, it also sounds -- listening to what he was saying, as if we're talking about a lockdown that could last into the spring. I mean, he's

talking about -- I mean, let's just take the level five as being the new one introduced. He is only talking about starting to ratchet down after the

half term, which will be somewhere in the middle of February.

BLACK: Yes, that's right. I think we're looking at this for the duration of winter, at least it would seem because there is no other alternative. That

other undisputed reality is that the tools that have been available up until now, those localized here restrictions, they're just not working

anymore. They are not -- they have not proven to be effective at managing this new, more transmissible variant of the virus.

And so with no other choice, it seems they are moving to this harder version of what is already here, in the hope that you then start to get

ahead of the virus, as the vaccine program is rolled out more widely -- Richard.

QUEST: OK, stay with me, please, Phil. I want to talk -- I have got a few more questions for you. But Max Foster, can you hear me, Max?


QUEST: Yes. Max Foster. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been started today. They're talking about up to two million, and the Prime Minister says by mid

Feb, basically, anybody at risk and in healthcare will have been vaccinated in England, is this realistic?

FOSTER: It does seem to be realistic, although you look at some of the statistics, and obviously, you can draw some criticisms there. But based on

what AstraZeneca have said about what they can produce, based on what the N.H.S. seems capable of delivering, it does look as though that is possible

because of the AstraZeneca drug, specifically, because it's cheaper, because the U.K. has ordered more of them.

But also because it can be stored more easily and transported more easily. It does make the whole vaccination program a lot easier than it would have

been just with the Pfizer vaccine, which is obviously so much more delicate than the AstraZeneca one that could be more coming on stream as well.

QUEST: This idea of the mass vaccination, the setting up of clinics, but also the shifting of the parameters for the vaccine, delaying the second

dose. Now, it's controversial. The U.S. has said, you know, they wouldn't do it but the U.K. still says what?

FOSTER: The U.K. is basically saying you do get some level of immunity from the first jab, obviously not as much as you would with the second jab. But

it's basically a case of data science, them looking to how to get the most immunity into the population.

They are thinking, you can get twice as many people immunized with one job as you can with two jabs. So they think that might be effective to a

certain extent. They're not saying you won't be able to get the second jab. But it's basically based on the data and they feel very comfortable with


The more controversial element of this emerged in the week when doctors were giving advice that if they give one of the vaccines, and they don't

have that vaccine any longer when that person comes back for the second vaccine, they can give them another vaccine.

So they are going to have two jabs from two different vaccines. So it is complex and the U.K. will be pioneering on this one, but they're basically

saying they want to reach twice as many people with a lesser level of immunity.

QUEST: Max Foster, thank you. Going back to Phil in Downing Street. If we look at other countries, I just want to refer to other countries and how

they are progressing at the moment. I'm just looking at my notes here. You've got England, Germany, Italy, Austria, and France.

Now all those countries are in some shape or form in lockdown. France is in a curfew. So the measures arguably that they're taking tonight in England,

I suppose some would say it's slower than the other countries.


BLACK: Potentially. Yes. And I think that there will be a great deal of criticism of Boris Johnson and his government over this decision to go in

lockdown at this point, because at every point and remember, this is the third national lockdown of some form that Britain has entered. He has been

criticized for pulling the trigger just a little bit too late or later than others, and particularly notable scientists have said, was necessary.

In this case, I think the argument that the government has been making is that they have pushed much of England already into these very high level

restrictions, the tier four restrictions. They wanted to see if they were working. They wanted to have a sense of whether or not they alone were


They really wanted to keep schools open, if possible. That they believe is a fundamental necessity and really a last resort to close schools. And so

for that reason, they have pushed the decision back and back and back to the last possible moment, and now decided that there is simply no other


But as you heard Boris Johnson say there in that address, they will say this is entirely because of that new variant, that new highly transmissible

variant, which is now so prevalent in this country. They believe that before this variant appeared, and before it really took off to the point

where it is now effectively out of control, they believe that their strategy was working and would have continued to work.

It is the new variant of the virus, which Boris Johnson and his government believes is the reason why this decision has had to be taken and taken at

this time -- Richard.

QUEST: Phil Black, thank you. And Max Foster, thank you, too.

I just want to find votes, those words will go down in history. They are Donald Trump's own words, talking to the Secretary of State of Georgia.

And we'll be talking after the break how the President is working through the five stages of grief in the presidential election having lost.

And a rough start to 2021, the Dow is tumbling on its first day of trading. We'll look at the reasons and discuss why.

This is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. Happy New Year, by the way.


QUEST: It's a big and a big start for the New Year for U.S. markets that now has tumbled on the first day of trading. It's now more than 400 points

lower from last week. Now it had been more than 600 points down. So, you know, let's put this in context. We are off 502.

But last year, the market gained seven percent and the S&P -- now that's a real barnburner, up more than 16 percent. The NASDAQ, if I'm not mistaken,

is up by more than 25 percent.


QUEST: Alison Kosik is here. With such strong gains coming off the back of I mean, you know, we keep it in perspective. But is there a specific reason

today, Alison, why the market is down?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's all about politics. Richard, Happy New Year to you, first of all, and what's interesting is today, it's

all about politics.

But you look over the past year, you know, all the turbulence and politics didn't seem to faze Wall Street. Well, what's happening now is two Senate

runoff races in Georgia and Wall Street cares about those because whoever wins those, if it's Democrat or Republican, that will really determine the

legislative agenda, and also who gets confirmed.

The outcome will determine, let's say, whether there's the status quo or gridlock, something that wall street likes, or whether we'll see completely

different policies in place.

The big worry for Wall Street is that if Democrats take those two seats, we could see a reversal of what the Trump administration did with corporate

tax cuts. We could see corporate taxes rise and the worry for Wall Street, Richard is that could put pressure on stocks, and that could put pressure

on company earnings.

You know, you look at how company earnings did last year. I think they were up about 13 percent -- or they fell 13 percent last year, S&P 500

companies. They are estimated to grow 22 percent this year.

But now we're seeing a scale back of that because there's this sort of a-ha moment because of the great turnout that's already happened in the early

voting stages of these two Senate runoffs. Three million votes so far, three million people have come out and vote for those races so far, and the

voting begins tomorrow.

QUEST: Alison Kosik, Alison, thank you, and that's the market.

Now, the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia where that runoffs take place, he felt no pressure from the President. Of course, in the leaked

audio, you can hear Donald Trump really pressuring Raffensperger to, in his words, find enough votes to make him the winner. Astonishing new evidence

of Mr. Trump's tireless efforts to overturn his loss in the election.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So look, all I want to do is. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is more than we have.


QUEST: It's difficult to know further what to say because in the two months since Election Day, Donald Trump's behavior has been erratic. He rants and

raves about conspiracy theories on social media, and he appears to be going through -- well, you'll be familiar, it is known as the five stages of


So what are these five stages? First, there is denial. Now, on the call, Donald Trump is adamant he denies that he lost.


TRUMP: Nothing wrong, I mean, you know, I didn't lose the state, Brad. People have been saying that it was the highest vote ever. There was no way

-- a lot of the political people said that there's no way they beat me and they beat me.


QUEST: Then it's got anger. In that call, he calls the Republican Governor of Georgia -- a Republican Governor a disaster and calls himself a schmuck

for supporting him.


TRUMP: You guys are so wrong, and you've treated this -- you've treated the population of Georgia so badly. You -- between you and your governor, who

was down at 21 -- he was down 21 points. And like a schmuck, I endorsed him and he got elected.

But I will tell you, he's a disaster and he'll never -- I can't imagine, the people are so angry in Georgia. I can't imagine he is ever getting

elected again. I'll tell you that much right now.


QUEST: Later, of course, bargaining, begging the Georgia Secretary of State, give me a break.


TRUMP: So what are we going to do here, Brad? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.


QUEST: Donald Trump repeatedly talks about sadness throughout the hour long call, which of course is the fourth stage, depression.


QUEST: And yeah, it's a very sad situation. And it's a very sad thing. They walked out complaining.

And you know, that's very, very, very, very sad.


QUEST: Which only leaves the final stage and you're familiar with that of course, acceptance. And there's none of that from Donald Trump. It doesn't

change the fact of course, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President in two weeks' time.


QUEST: So John Harwood is our White House correspondent. John is with me in Washington. This is fascinating, isn't it? Because I heard you last night,

when all this first came out, this idea of the inability to accept as he goes through these stages of grief.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Richard, I don't think he is going to get to that fifth stage, at least publicly. He may get it in his

gut and understand that he is leaving.

But I think if you listen to that hour long phone call, the kindest thing you can say about President Trump is that he is mentally ill and he is not

capable of understanding exactly what he is doing or the falseness of the things that he is asserting.

If that's not the case, it's a straight up attempt to commit and induce a state official to commit election fraud on his behalf. Election fraud, of

course, is what he has been claiming was done to him. That is not true.

And the President, weeks and weeks after the election continues to peddle this nonsense. He is obviously apprehensive. You know, Richard, as you

know, right now he is the most powerful man on earth. And in 17 days, he's going to be a 74-year-old man with big legal and financial problems. That's

a pretty big come down and he is plainly not relishing that. He is not relishing the blow to his psyche and his ego.

Donald Trump brought up all his life to be terrified of being labeled a loser. That came out of his upbringing. We learned about that in the book

from his niece, Mary Trump last year.

And so he is going to great lengths to try to convince himself and convince other people that he didn't lose, even though he did.

QUEST: Right. And that's an interesting point. I read the Mary Trump book, it is very -- once you've read that, it's very instructive about the

President's psyche.

But it also put -- the point is, he has never accepted loss. And in the past, sheer force of power, personality and threat has managed to reverse

losses. He can't do that this time with the Constitution.

HARWOOD: That's right. And the question really is going to be how does the Republican Party want to define itself in relation to this threat to

democracy? It is not going to succeed.

Joe Biden is going to become President on January 20th. The votes are not there for Congress to somehow reject the Electoral College votes that have

been certified in all 50 states that Joe Biden is the clear winner.

You've got a dozen Senate Republicans, more than a hundred House Republicans who have signaled that they're going to stand with President

Trump and object to the certification of electoral votes for Joe Biden.

As for other Republicans, most of them have been silent. A few have spoken up and spoken out and divorced themselves from these crazy claims from the

President. But the rest of the party is sort of floating in limbo, and how they define their party going forward is going to be pretty important for

what the future of the Republican Party is.

QUEST: John Harwood, thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Stay at home, save lives. That's the message tonight from the British Prime Minister, as he announced a new national lockdown moments ago. In a moment,

more breaking news.



QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. There's a lot more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS coming your way.

We'll be in South Africa where a potentially vaccine-proof strain of coronavirus is causing huge concern.

And Bitcoin is now through $30,000. It went as high as 34 and then nipped back a bit. We'll ask and we'll understand.

All of that ahead after we've had the news headlines. Because this is CNN and on this network, the facts always come first.

In the U.S., an election official from the state of Georgia speaking now about -- and disputing baseless claims of fraud and conspiracies from

President Trump, who lost, of course, to Joe Biden.

It follows the now notorious phone call between Mr. Trump and the Georgia secretary of state in which the president begged him to find votes that

would overturn the state's election.

Iran says it's begun enriching uranium to 20 percent purity far beyond the limits allowed under the nuclear agreement with the major world powers.

Iran's foreign minister says the move is fully reversible if all parties comply with the deal.

The Trump Administration abandoned the Iran deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions on the country.

Mexico plans to offer political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a British judge rejected a U.S. request to extradite Assange. The

ruling would be -- such a move would be oppressive. Assange's legal team will be apply for him to be released on bail pending an appeal.

The U.S. charged Assange under the espionage act for publishing classified military and diplomatic communications.

So England is going back into a national lockdown as is Scotland. The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the restrictions until at least mid-

February. He says a new variety of coronavirus is spreading quickly and hospitals may be overwhelmed.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: it's clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variety under control while our vaccines are

rolled out.

In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the government is, once again,

instructing you to stay at home.


QUEST: The U.K. is using an alert level to determine how tight the restrictions should be. It started off with three then they added four and

now they've just created level five. It's new, it's the highest and it calls for extremely strict social


It means there's a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

The alert level reflects the number of cases and how fast the virus is spreading.

Fiona Godlee is with me, the editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, the BMJ.

Fiona, this is -- the fact that this has happened -- look, we knew Christmas was going to be bad and then we knew that there was this new


But listening to the prime minister tonight, I'm getting the feeling things are worse than anybody expected.


FIONA GODLEE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL: I think you're right, Richard. Things are very tough at the moment in the U.K., as I know

they are also in the United States.

And I think the government were hoping that the virus would be kept under control sufficiently so that a vaccine program could keep us safe from it.

But I think what they've had to recognize is that cases are going up so quickly, hospitalizations and deaths also. And they've got to take this

other action.

QUEST: Is it realistic for us to -- Germany is in lockdown, France has got a curfew, all the other countries have.

Is it firstly -- two parts to the question, realistic that the U.K. variant will transmit to more countries faster? It's prevalent in the U.K. but it

will be prevalent elsewhere. And the second part, will other countries invariably extend their lockdowns, do you think?

GODLEE: Well, I think the presence of the new variant is obviously a contributing factor in the U.K. But I think messages I'm hearing is that

it's more widely spread around the world than may be realized and the reason it's been so closely identified in the U.K. is because we have the

sufficient testing to identify it. So that's a good thing.

The extent to which it is actually driving this surge in the pandemic in the U.K. and elsewhere is very hard to judge, or at least I don't know the

answer to that.

QUEST: You were --

GODLEE: But I think the pandemic was already surging up back in September when this new variant was really only very -- very early days for it.

QUEST: You see, that's the interesting part, Fiona. The inability, to some extent -- both in the U.S., U.K., many countries -- for social distancing,

absent a full lockdown -- normal social distancing to get a grip on the virus, we were failing at that already.

I wonder, therefore, is it likely that these national lockdowns will have to last pretty much until the decent weather arrives?

GODLEE: Well, just to say, I think it's important to say this is a dire situation we're in and it would be -- it's possible to say, did we need to

be in this dire situation?

If we had taken, the government had taken earlier action, more prolonged action and used that precious lockdown in the spring and summer to build a

proper test, trace and isolate system. They failed in the U.K. to do that.

You're asking about kind of current measures. So, yes, we need to continue social isolation, we need to have mask wearing, hand washing, reduce social

interaction. People need to take the vaccine if it's offered them.

And I think with those interventions, we may hope to be able to come out of these tighter restrictions in March.

QUEST: Has the BMJ taken a position on the government's policy of varying the dosage durations, five weeks up to twelve weeks, possibly mixing and

matching the viruses as necessary?

The doctors' organizations have come out as strongly basically warning this is not been tested or confirmed. What's the BMJ's view?

GODLEE: I think they're right, it hasn't been tested or confirmed. The communication has been rather chaotic but I do think from the science base

that it makes sense, a greater gap traditionally with vaccines does mean a greater immunological response.

So in many vaccines the gap is much larger than was used in these trials. So I think there's science to justify it but not science on this vaccine.

QUEST: If you had to sum up the situation tonight -- I mean, the United States, look, I'll be blunt, I live in New York and you could ask people on

the streets and they've got no idea what the real regulations are in terms of mixing with houses, there's certainly no tiering or alerting in that

sense, California has more.

Are we looking for things to get much worse?

GODLEE: What do you mean, in terms of the restrictions or in terms of the cases?

QUEST: I think I'm talking about the situation. Are we looking at -- we knew January was going to be bad. But is it your gut feeling, Fiona, having

studied and looked at this now in greater detail than most, that we've just lost this?

GODLEE: Well, I do think, as I've said (ph) looking back the decision making has been poor and I think we are in a very dire situation.

People are very tired, the public are tired, the healthcare workers are tired. The school children, you know, no longer allowed -- able to go to

school, exams, worries; all those things are adding to the strain.

You've then got the other side of this which has caused the economic decline of people losing their jobs, their livelihoods, you've got

increased suicide rates. We've got very many factors which do additively give one a sense of enormous fatigue around this and also continuing worry.

The science behind the vaccine has been fantastic, all the vaccines, the work that's gone into those, the brilliance that we've created all of these

vaccines that seem to be extraordinarily effective and safe in such a short time and adaptable to new variants -- we're hearing. That they should be

able to adapt if needed to the new variant on the science side.


The rollout of the vaccination, on the other hand, seems to be really rather inadequate, poorly designed, poorly planned and that's very

distressing to see that. We really need governments around the world to absolutely put their backs behind a proper vaccine rollout.

QUEST: Fiona Godlee. Fiona, thank you.

Now staying with the vaccines -- I appreciate it, Fiona.

Staying with vaccines. A second vaccine means another weapon in a fight it's currently losing. It also allows a more aggressive approach to

controlling the virus.

Salma Abdelaziz reports from London.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: A moment of national pride. A vaccine created by Britain's very own Oxford University goes into the arms of those

who need it most.

The rollout of the inoculation, developed alongside AstraZeneca, started with 82-year-old Brian Pinker who can soon safely celebrate his 48th

wedding anniversary.

The third recipient was Professor Andrew Pollard, one of the chief scientists behind the revolutionary vaccine.

PROFESSOR ANDREW POLLARD, HEAD, OXFORD VACCINE GROUP: I think this is a really critical moment. We are at the point of being overwhelmed by this


ABDELAZIZ: The U.K.'s health secretary calling this a pivotal moment in the nation's bitter battle to defeat COVID-19.

MATT HANCOCK, HEALTH SECRETARY, BRITAIN: I'm incredibly proud of the British science that's got us to this place. We've been working for a year

to get this vaccine ready.

ABDELAZIZ: The vaccinations happening behind me here are not the only firsts. The U.K. will also be the first country to try a delayed dosing


Patients will get the first injection and wait up to three months for the second one. Health officials here say that initial dose should protect

against significant illness and keep people from ending up in hospital.

But it's a controversial plan that's divided the medical community.

The policy will allow up to twice as many people to get vaccinated. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says tens of millions could be shielded from the

worst of the illness by spring.

JOHNSON: We've got a new variant that is requiring extra special vigilance and we will do everything we can to keep the virus under control.

ABDELAZIZ: That variant has caused an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 cases, worse than at any point during this pandemic. And hospital chiefs are

ringing the alarm. They say the healthcare system may soon reach a breaking point.

It is an ambitious and some say risky approach to vaccinations. But a bold battle plan may be the only way to win.

ABDELAZIZ (Voice Over): Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


QUEST: Now in just a moment, British officials are sounding the alarm about a new strain of virus we've been talking about but this time it's in South


We'll have a live report from Johannesburg.



QUEST: South Africa's COVID variant is causing fresh concern around the world.

Britain's already severely restricted travel to and from the country. And now the country's health secretary says the strain is even more of a

problem than the new U.K. variant.


HANCOCK (Voice Over): I'm incredibly worried about the South African variant and that's why we took the action that we did to restrict all

flights from South Africa and movement from South Africa. And, in fact, to insist that anybody who'd been to South Africa self-isolate. This is a

very, very significant problem.


QUEST: Now scientists aren't sure if the vaccines we currently have will be effective.

There's David McKenzie who joins me from Johannesburg.

So we also know that the U.K. variant had also been in South Africa. So this is something that's supposedly even more -- listening to the health

secretary -- even more virulent.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly. Let's deal with one thing first, Richard.

The South African authorities have really played down these statements of the U.K. officials like the health secretary there saying it's more

dangerous than the U.K. Potentially there's some politics going on here.

But let's deal with the science for a second. I spoke to the lead researcher here in South Africa, Richard, just a short time ago.

They are looking into this new variant which they discovered or announced in December that has been circulating here in South Africa for some months.

Like the U.K. variant, they believe it is more infectious.

The big question here is because the South African variant appears to have more mutations on some key sites of the virus, they are worried

particularly about whether vaccines will be effective against it.

Now I can tell you right now through the traditional holiday period here in South Africa, structural biologists and others have been working in Durban,

in KwaZulu, Natal, to try and really understand what the impact could be on that front.

But we have seen a very dramatic second wave here in South Africa of the virus, in part, they say, because of this more infectious strain but they

will only know in the coming days the big question, which is whether the vaccine will be effective. Richard.

QUEST: And when do we hope to get some idea on that? Because one imagines that all the vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, J&J and

AstraZeneca, they will be setting up various tests in South Africa.

MCKENZIE: Well, right now they are testing the efficacy of at least two or three vaccines here in terms of trials.

The vaccine manufacturers including the Oxford AstraZeneca, have said that, Richard, they can, in fact, adjust the vaccine based on the variant but it

could take several weeks.

Now that is -- on one level, it sounds pretty simple. But on a policy level and a public health level, it could become a massive headache.

Seven countries so far have been known to find cases of the South African variant, more than 40 of the U.K. variant. If either of them have any

issues with vaccines then you have to recalculate, potentially, which vaccines go out, what adjustments need to be made. Right at a time where

everyone is hoping for an end to this crisis.

To answer your question, the scientists are working right now. They believe here in South Africa they might have more answers by as soon as this


The same kind of timeline has been put forward by the WHO and U.S. officials who, of course, are looking at all these variants and whether

they will cause further complications. Richard.

QUEST: Thank you. David McKenzie.

Now after a record-setting weekend, Bitcoin is losing a little steam. It's up and down start to the New Year in a moment.



QUEST: Investors are taking a step back from Bitcoin after it hit a record high over the weekend.

The currency, cryptocurrency, is now worth more than $31,000 after hitting an all-time high of $34,000 so it's a minor pullback. It's up 300 percent

from this time last year.

Paul La Monica's with me. Paul, we shouldn't be surprised if it's this slight pullback as such. But the momentum's still there.

PAUL LA MONICA CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, without question, Richard.

Bitcoin only topped $20,000 for the first time just a few weeks ago, mid- December. Here we are and it's already at above $30,000 getting even close to $35,000 at one point briefly late yesterday and this morning. Because

remember, it trades 24/7.

So there's a lot of momentum. You have a lot more individual investors flocking to it but also institutional investors.

Anthony Scaramucci, SkyBridge Capital, they just announced today a Bitcoin fund list. I spoke to him about their thoughts on Bitcoin and he's bullish

as well. Mainly because a lot of people are finding Bitcoin to be sort of like digital gold these days.

QUEST: Is this a case of a rising tide, are others going up as well? Alinder (ph) and all the other ones, are they going up?

LA MONICA: Yes. You are seeing Ether --

QUEST: Ether.

LA MONICA: -- and many of the other smaller crypto currencies that are rising pretty dramatically as well. So I think that any time Bitcoin has a

big surge, you get this more general interest in cryptocurrency writ large and a lot of the smaller cryptos are definitely riding Bitcoin's coat


QUEST: Paul, look at the Dow Jones. Again, we've been up so much the last year. Is this political unease, is this just let's wait and see what

happens with Georgia, is this, well, why not take a profit -- what is it?

LA MONICA: I think it probably is just people taking profits after what wound up being, amazingly enough, a pretty solid year for the markets.

The thing that I don't understand about the political machinations with today's selloff, it wasn't that long ago that everyone was saying oh, we're

in a blue wave in the senate and Biden winning and stocks were going up.

Now all of a sudden we may have Georgia senate seats flip blue which would give the Democrats a very slim Kamala Harris tie-breaking vote majority and

it's not a blue wave, it's more like a blue ripple. And all of a sudden, we're panicking?

I don't know why that is being used as the explanation. Stocks are just run up so dramatically, particularly the Nasdaq. This is the healthy pull back

that we need, there are going to be more of these.


QUEST: I sort of see what -- I sort of the Nasdaq's rise because of our greater acceleration of use of technology. I worry much more about the bang

(ph) in the big stocks.

LA MONICA: Yes. I think there is a legitimate concern that valuations are getting ahead of themselves.

The good news is that earnings are very strong but it's always a question of what price do you want to pay for even the top notch quality companies

in the S&P 500 -- which, by the way, now includes Tesla which is arguably the most volatile stock out there. And last I checked, it was up today

still despite the turmoil in the broader market. So Elon Musk is happy, at least he's making some money today.

QUEST: Paul La Monica, always good too to see you. Happy New Year.

LA MONICA: Happy New Year.

QUEST: We've got many more days of going through this. Thank you, sir.

We will take a "Profitable Moment" after the break.


QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment".

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson so announces a national lockdown and there's very strong reasons why.

The number of cases in the U.K. is up dramatically on the back of the new COVID variant which was first identified publicly in Britain.

Take that as well as the positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations and you start to see why it's essential but what's fascinating and what's

worrying here is that it's likely to last until early spring.

In some shape or form, this virus, this new variant is so virulent that any reduction in restrictions really can't take place until the vaccine has

taken hold.

And it's the same in other countries. If we take a look at the other countries, you'll see lockdowns in Germany, curfews in France, and

lockdowns in Italy and so on. And that's the way it's going to be.

Here in the United States, who knows what's going to happen? The numbers are going up. There doesn't seem to be the same coordinated plan in any

shape or form but, so far, the variant is not as prevalent or virulent as it has been in Europe.

Let's wait and see how that progresses over the rest of the winter.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest in New York.

Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.

Oh, by the way, I don't think I said it at the beginning -- Happy New Year.