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Quest Means Business

Annual Inflation Soars To Highest Level Since 1982; Health Officials Say U.K. Heading For One Million Omicron Cases This Month; Heathrow Expect Slow Start To 2022 Air Travel; Assange To Appeal Extradition Decision At U.K. Supreme Court; U.S. Political Leaders Honor The Late Sen. Bob Dole; Gates Talks Vaccines, Variants And End Of Pandemic. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 10, 2021 - 15:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: So we will take you back to Thursday, a flat finish. The Dow now back to its winning ways. Have a look.

They are up a hundred points, not bad at all.

Those are the markets and these are the main events.

A big bump in the road. Joe Biden reacts as inflation hits the highest mark in almost 40 years.

The U.K. warns it could see a million omicron cases within weeks.

And Heathrow says business travelers are cancelling in droves as it predicts a very slow start to 2022.

Live from New York, it is Friday, the 10th of December. I'm Paula Newton. Richard Quest is away and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

And good evening, tonight, U.S. inflation has hit a nearly 40-year high. The annual rate rose last month to eye watering 6.8 percent. Think about

that, a level not seen since June of 1982.

Now President Biden says he thinks the pace has peaked out, but says that offers in fact, what he knows is little consolation to American families.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It really is -- it is a real bump in the road. It does affect families. When you walk in the

grocery store and you're paying more for whatever you're purchasing, it matters. It matters to people, when you're paying more for gas.


NEWTON: In fact, if you speak to people, that is what is hitting them most, the price of gas is up more than 50 percent in the last year, used

cars and trucks meantime, 31 percent more expensive. Groceries up 6.4 percent, housing costs have risen nearly four percent, the fastest rate

since the 2007 just before the financial crisis.

Now, the inflation numbers came in about as expected. This is what is interesting, the major averages got off to a slow start, but then look at

that, it kind of picked up this morning. And for a Friday, I have to say the trade, not bad. They're now up about three percent for the week, and

that is key.

Matt Egan joins us now. Matt, these numbers as we were saying, they weren't exactly surprising. They were expecting this. But give us a sense about how

widespread those price increases were and how many products and services they touched.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Paula. We were expecting an ugly report, and that is exactly what we got, and this is red hot inflation across the


You know, it's not just gas prices. You know, everything from coffee, eggs, steak, you mentioned used cars -- all of them up. We're seeing record price

increases for full service meals, tools, hardware, new cars and trucks up 11 percent from a year ago.

It is important to understand why this is happening. We are seeing this massive collision in the economy between really strong demand as the

economy bounces back from COVID, and really limited supply because of COVID-related disruptions. And so, that is why we've seen prices really go

very sharply higher.

And you know, all this is a reminder of how wrong really everyone was. The White House, the Federal Reserve, the consensus on Wall Street, that you

know, inflation was just going to be a short term thing. We now have six months in a row of five percent or higher inflation. We are closer to seven

percent now than we are to five percent.

And remember, the Fed's goal is two percent. We are nowhere near there.

Now, the White House points out that energy prices have started to come down. Natural gas prices have really fallen sharply. Gasoline, you know, it

is only down two percent from its peak. There is some forecast for the prices to go lower, but that hasn't happened yet.

The administration is really focused on trying to fix the supply chain issues. Maybe some glimmers of hope there, but that is going to take some


You know, there are some bright spots in the economy, 52-year low for jobless claims. GDP is expected to really accelerate in the fourth quarter.

People are quitting their jobs because they feel so confident they can get a better one. But Paula, you know, the question is whether or not inflation

is going to cool off enough where some of those bright spots can really shine through, and we don't really know the answer to that yet.

NEWTON: Yes, I'm going to have to remind anyone that look, even if you have increases in your pay packet, in your salary, it doesn't matter if

prices are going up at this pace.

In the time I have left, what does Jay Powell and the Fed do about this?

EGAN: Well, you don't envy Jay Powell's position here. I think the good news is that the Fed knows what to do with high inflation, right? I mean,

Paul Volcker showed in the 1970s and 1980s when we had runaway inflation, much worse than this, that it can be tamed by rapidly raising interest



EGAN: I think the bad news, though, is that the harder that they have to slam on the brakes here, the greater the chance of some sort of an

accident, whether that is in the financial markets, which have gotten addicted to very low interest rates, or in the real economy, which really

relies on very easy borrowing conditions.

For now, the markets don't seem to be all that worried about that. You can see the Dow is up almost a hundred points. This report came very much in

line with expectations.

So the market really isn't going to have a dramatic reaction either way. For now, I think investors believe that the Fed is going to be able to

unwind the stimulus, raise interest rates, and do it in a way that doesn't upset the economy or financial markets and we don't know yet whether that

is going to be the case, but clearly, that is what investors are betting.

NEWTON: Yes, exactly. Muted market response. So far, so good.'

Matt, thanks for spelling it out for us and have a good weekend. Appreciate it.

EGAN: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now, higher demand, limited supply, and shipping delays are all contributing to those higher prices, as Matt was just saying. And now of

course, there is that new variable, right, the omicron variant, and that could shift demand from services back to goods, as people avoid crowded

places and stay home instead and that could put even more stress, almost on all of those important supply chains. It could affect the supply of goods

in terms of factories, who are now having to work around those closures.

It could even affect energy demand. I mean, you heard Matt talk a little bit about it, but this would actually mean less travel, more time at home,

and could ease pressure on energy prices, which are driving a lot of the inflation right now.

Luigi Speranza is chief global economist at BNP Paribas. He joins us now from London. Really good to see you.

So, you know, very pointed question here. As high as this number was today, is the worst behind us? Do you believe we've reached inflation's peak?


I think the peak is very close, so we expect it early next year, around seven percent. But the key question is really, how quick then inflation

will slow from the beta. And my view would be that you would do in a less steep fashion than the Fed would have liked or had expected a few months


NEWTON: What is interesting here, though, as well, as we've seen this inflation shuffle its way through the economy, corporate margins are still

quite healthy. It is consumers that seem to be shouldering all the burden at this point.

How long do you think that can last? I mean, there are signs that already in the United States here, for instance, where consumers are flush that

their savings are beginning to dwindle.

SPERANZA: Yes, consumers have accumulated a lot of excess savings during the pandemic crisis, and the job market is also hot, I have to say. A

number of indicators point to improvement continuing. I think we are getting closer to full employment probably mid next year.

So, I think the job market and excess savings will shield consumers that will be able to withhold the shock from the real income from high

inflation, and it will be positive when it comes to the consumption and the growth outlook more in general for the U.S.

NEWTON: So it's interesting to listen to you and the fact that, you know, you're basically echoing what the market seems to be telling us, but then

there is the Fed and Jay Powell, his decision on interest rates in the years to come, it will be really interesting to see which way it ends up


Should rates go up further and sooner, you know, Central Bankers have tried to keep that two percent top out on inflation. How far do you think we

could get from that ideal here?

SPERANZA: Yes, I think that the direction is definitely up and probably higher and for longer than markets are actually currently anticipating. But

let's put this into context. The Fed probably next week will decide to slow the pace of tapering, but they are still adding to the balance sheet.

The Fed at the moment is still accommodating monetary policy. Monetary policy is becoming more accommodating not less, and that is extraordinary

given the shock. I think this is the first step, but I would expect three rate hikes next year to start the process to slow down the economy in

trying to keep and assure inflation rate.

NEWTON: You know, you're in Europe right now, and I note that the other Central Bankers as well obviously have that two percent target. What

happens though, if we settle out at around three or three and a half percent?

I mean, I know that doesn't sound horrible, but you accumulate that for a few years and it can really take a toll and perhaps more so in Europe than

in the United States.

SPERANZA: Yes, I think really that inflation will probably settle down slightly go to Central Bank's target, but three percent will be challenging

here and three percent I think, Central Banks will have to --


NEWTON: And we seem to have lost Mr. Speranza there, but we thank him for that analysis. I want to note that he says he believes consumers are able

to bear the brunt of this and does believe that Central Banks have the firepower here.

Luigi, in the time that I have you back, we just lost you at the tail end, I have to ask you, JPMorgan predicted that even though we have this omicron

variant, that they are predicting a full global recovery in 2022.

What do you think? Would you put money on that?

SPERANZA: I think we agree. Our view for global growth is actually positive for next year as well. Omicron created some uncertainty in the

short term, by thinking the medium term the combination of household balance sheets, which are very healthy and the supportive policy mix is

powerful, and will continue to lead growth to a bull trend level for next year and probably even the year after.

NEWTON: Luigi Speranza, I say you are living up to the meaning of your last name in Italian which is "hope." And that's a lot of hope to go into

the weekend with, given the fact that we are facing this inflation and this new variant and some troubles in Europe.

Have a great weekend. Appreciate you being here on QMB.

SPERANZA: Thank you for having me.

NEWTON: Now, the British Prime Minister is not planning any new COVID measures despite warnings of a million omicron -- I read that right -- a

million omicron cases in just a few weeks. It all adds up to an extraordinary difficult week for Boris Johnson. We'll discuss next.


NEWTON: An emergency meeting of U.K. nations was set for today as health officials say omicron is quickly taking over. Health experts in the U.K.

say if current trends continue, there could be more than one million omicron cases by the end of this month, and a spokesperson for British

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there are no plans so far for any further COVID measures at this time.

This may have been the most dramatic and damaging week of Boris Johnson's political career and trust me, that is saying something.

On Monday, the government announced there was community transmission of the omicron variant around England. On Tuesday, the now infamous leaked video

appeared. It showed Downing Street staff joking last year about holding a Holiday party, while England was in a strict lockdown.

Boris Johnson apologized for those jokes on Wednesday and then announced new COVID rules.

Thursday, we had reports of yet more Holiday parties involving Mr. Johnson and staff and oh yes, his wife gave birth.

Today, the polls show that 70 percent of Brits just don't believe Johnson when he says no COVID rules were broken during those parties.

Giles Kenningham was head of press for Boris Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May. And he now runs Trafalgar Strategy, and he joins me.

There are bad weeks, and then there's Boris Johnson's version. You can't make this up. It is stranger than fiction.

Boris Johnson has had his share. I mean, I just have to remind people, right, he has been through Brexit. He has been through COVID. He was in ICU

with COVID last year. But this is -- it's just been an incredible week.

I feel like queueing the "Monty Python" skit, except that it's not funny, right? This loss of confidence in his government is serious as it goes to

public health. I mean, how would you characterize where he stands now as the leader of the U.K.?

GILES KENNINGHAM HEAD OF PRESS FOR THERESA MAY: I mean, the cliche is that a week is a long time in politics, but certainly for him -- and you see

this, you know, often with the commentary they come up with, oh, it's been his worst week ever.

This certainly I think, has been the worst week of his premiership, but also, potentially, for him a tipping point, a defining point where

potentially people are now saying this is the beginning of the end.

Now, not to overstate that. I didn't think it's going to be happening necessarily anytime soon, but the halo and the shine has certainly come off

him. And Boris has a very transactional relationship with the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party will have no compunction about getting rid of

him, I think, if this carries on for three or four months.

What is helping him stay in place? There is really no opposition in this country. The Labour Party are not really at the races. They're not very

good. They haven't got a leader which is electable.

And there isn't at the moment, an anointed one within the Tory Party, where everyone is saying, "That should be the next leader."

But this is a story for him, which is going to continue to run around. There are huge question marks about the number of parties which were held

in Downing Street at the height of the COVID lockdown last year. And as we also understand it, there is more footage of his former Press Secretary

saying stuff, which apparently is off message, which is speculation. We may see some more this footage appearing over the weekend in the Sunday

newspapers here.

NEWTON: Yes, so more to come. I have to ask you having been in this role before with Theresa May, what's the tipping point for his party to force

him to resign?

You know, the Tories won because of Johnson's popularity, and this is a guy you'd have to admit has seemed soaked in Teflon.

KENNINGHAM: Yes, I mean, he is an election winner. I think the real difference here is he is a good campaigner, right, but he's not necessarily

good at governing and running the country.

So far, we've not seen really any sense or evidence that he is good at running the country. You're right. A lot of Conservative MPs owe their

seats to him, and so there is this kind of paradox here.

You've got all these MPs, you've got a sense of residual loyalty to him. But at the same time, we're looking at it now again, right, he helped me

win my seat, but he could also help me lose my seat, and I'll be out of a job soon.

So I think yes, there is that -- there is that problem. And also, there is this kind of this, I always think in the U.K. politics is this rule of 10

that someone could be around for about 10 years, but you have a shelf life, and that's it.

Now, Tony Blair was around for 10 years, David Cameron was leader of the Conservative Party for 10 years. Boris Johnson, you remember has been mayor

of London for eight years. He's been in the sort of mainstream political arena for longer than that, and, you know, potentially the shine is coming

off him. So yes.

NEWTON: Interesting perspective there. I want to ask you as well, though, that, you know, at the sour, they still have to iron out Brexit, right?

There are serious negotiations going on. They're saying that this new variant could take over in the U.K. by the end of the month.

At what point do these scandals put the U.K. economy at significant risk?

KENNINGHAM: Of course, all this uncertainty can't be a good thing. We are also battling inflation here. A speculation that interest rates are going

to go up.

I think this new variant, there are a lot of unknowns about it. It is certainly spreading fast. How dangerous and deadly it is, scientists still

don't sort of know, but there is a wider problem here and is that, the U.K. has been through two or three lockdowns.

When you have stories emerging of Downing Street flouting lockdowns you know, saying to the public, don't have parties, don't go out, you know, and

then doing the absolute opposite themselves. The government is going to struggle to get people to lock down again, or to comply to certain


What they've said to people is from Monday, where possible work from home. Basically, avoid parties, if possible. But everything that I'm saying is a

lot of people just like to say well, I'm going to continue going to work. I'm not locking down again. And quite frankly, why should I when they can't

even do it themselves.


NEWTON: Yes, and this is what I mean, that it's a huge liability for public health when this is seen to be happening and if we hear you

correctly, Giles, buckle up, stay tuned, more to come on the weekend.

We thank you for your analysis there and have a good weekend. Okay.


NEWTON: Thanks, Giles.

Now London's Heathrow Airport says the government should relax travel rules ahead of the Christmas holiday. Omicron has meant new travel restrictions

in the U.K. as we were just saying and elsewhere.

Heathrow says it is already seeing high levels of cancellations especially from business travelers worried about being stuck overseas and it says

demand is down 60 percent from pre pandemic -- remember, pre-pandemic levels -- and it's already expecting a slow start to next year as well.

CNN's Eleni Giokos is one of those travelers right now in quarantine in Athens.

Eleni, it is so good to see you. You have had your own cross continent journey that so many people can relate to. Unfortunately, now, the struggle

is real for so many. Tell us a little bit about what you've been through.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN BUSINESS AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello from Athens, hello from quarantine. This is the Acropolis so you can see it in the

background. I'm fortunate, I have a balcony.

The Greek government is paying for my 10-day quarantine, but that's not the case for so many people, for example, that wants to travel to the U.K. And

let me tell you, getting out of a red list country, it is hard.

It is full of anxiety. It is a stressful process because flights kept on getting canceled as I was trying to leave South Africa and it is not just

about trying to catch a flight, because you can try and book a flight and you can get a plane out. But the question is, which country is willing to

take you back? And where are you going to be allowed to quarantine? And that's the issue.

I discovered that you needed to have a second passport, that you need to have residency in another country that again, is willing to take you

immediately and allow you to quarantine. And hearing that news from Heathrow Airport that are pleading now with Ministers to lift the travel

bans, you've got to ask the question who are you really stopping from traveling?

You're stopping the affluent. You're stopping the business people. You're stopping the tourists that are spending money. And this is going to have

enormous repercussions.

Now, Paula, African leaders feel that they have been singled out and rightly so. We know that Sub Saharan African countries are predominantly on

the red list even though the omicron variant has been found in other countries.

I want you to take a listen to what I discovered as we looked at the travel bans that are currently in place globally.


GIOKOS (voice over): Passengers in South Africa's Johannesburg airport stand in long queues, many looking stressed and anxious. They aren't

waiting to enter the country, but trying to score a ticket out. South Africa is one of several African countries on the travel red list of many

airports across the world.

The detection of a new COVID-19 variant has countries changing rules and adding new travel bans and restrictions, making it again more difficult to

plan trips. These bans are evoking pushback from African leaders and much uncertainty for travelers coming in and out of those countries.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: South African scientists discovered as President Macky Sall was saying, omicron the new variant, and

what is the result? The northern countries impose a ban to punish the excellence that comes from Africa.

GIOKOS (voice over): Some of the countries that have enforced bans on those African countries are tightening other travel regulations like

mandatory quarantines, costing some tourists extra dollars.

The U.S. is requiring all inbound international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 Within a day of departing. In Norway after tiring flights,

these passengers wait in line in Trondheim Airport. The government is requiring them to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival.

In Poland, Deputy Health Minister announcing travelers coming into the country from outside the E.U. Schengen passport free zone will need to show

proof of a negative test starting December 15th.

GIOKOS (on camera): When I now arrived in Greece, the Greek government were extremely helpful and by the way, the Greek government is paying for

my entire 10-day quarantine juxtaposing that against the U.K. quarantine rules where one person has to pay 2,200 pounds for a 10-day quarantine,

which means that it makes it a very expensive exercise if you're a tourist that is now stranded in South Africa trying to get back home.

GIOKOS (voice over): In Brazil, vaccine passports have been ruled out, but unvaccinated visitors will have to quarantine for five days.

With the Holiday season fast approaching, more changes to travel policies around the world may be installed.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When the ban was put on it was put to give us time to figure out

just what is going on. Now as you mentioned, as we're getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide, we're looking at

that very carefully on a daily basis.

Hopefully, we'll be able to lift that ban within a quite reasonable period of time.



GIOKOS (on camera): The W.H.O., the U.N. scientists around the world, Paula, have reiterated that the travel bans are really not going to help

try and stop the spread of the omicron variant because the anticipation is, and we've actually seen this coming through that already, it has been

found in so many parts of the world that vaccinated people have been traveling, that there are various measures in place.

We had to take a COVID vaccine 48 hours, sorry -- a test -- a PCR test 48 hours before we traveled. We were tested on arrival. So, there are various

measures they say, that could be put into place to try and ensure that you can lift these travel bans, which we know are going to have an enormous

economic impact.

NEWTON: Yes. And I know that despite what Anthony Fauci said, and others, they haven't been lifted yet and that there is a good deal of outrage

especially as you say, because there is already community transmission in so many of these countries.

Eleni, take care. I know that at least in Greece, you must be eating well, we know that. Do not lie.

GIOKOS: I am. They are serving us with food. Honestly, I think they are just giving us food.

NEWTON: Great. There you go. Thanks for taking us all through it, Eleni, and have a great weekend. Appreciate it.

Now new data, as we were just talking about out of the United Kingdom suggests that booster shots might be essential to stave off this new

variant. More on that study and what it could mean to the pandemic ahead.


NEWTON: Hello, I'm Paula Newton and there is more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in a moment when new data from the U.K. gives us the clearest picture yet of

how vaccines hold up against the omicron variant.

And Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, give CNN his assessment of when the pandemic's impact will finally ease.

Before that though, here are the news headlines.

Lawyers for Julian Assange say they will appeal a ruling that would allow his extradition to the United States. American authorities have charged the

50-year-old WikiLeaks founder for publishing classified military and diplomatic cablesare getting new details meantime about Thursday's call

between U.S. President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Ukrainian government official tell CNN Zelensky expressed doubts that the threat of sanctions could deter Russia from invading. He also pressed Mr.

Biden to deliver weapons that were promised to Kiev last month. Funeral Services were held today in Washington for former U.S. Senator Bob Dole,

President Biden and leaders from both parties remembered the Kansas Republican who died Sunday at age 98.

The 1996 presidential nominee was a World War II hero who served 27 years in the U.S. Senate.

British Health officials say two doses of COVID vaccines are unfortunately insufficient to stop Omicron infections. They say you'll need a booster to

fully ward it off. Now the U.K. Health Security Agency says you will need that third shot to get what it calls adequate level of protection against

infection. This came after a study of patients who've had to initial doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

Our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, thankfully is here again to try and walk us through this research. And Elizabeth, I know this was a

really small sample size, but what did we learn?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a small sample size. So we want to keep this in mind that this is sort of a preliminary

set of data and we will know much more in the future. Basically what they found, Paula, is that two doses of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer, it's not

going to do a very good job of keeping you from getting infected or getting infected in mildly ill with Omicron.

So let's take a look at this. So to quote the actual report by the U.K. Health Security Agency, two doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca are

insufficient to give adequate levels of protection against infection and mild disease, but they say -- they say a booster with either Moderna or

Pfizer, in other words, you start off with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, you boost with either Pfizer or Moderna increases the immune response substantially.

Let's look at the specific numbers by each vaccine type. So if you look at folks who got AstraZeneca vaccine, when you look at the efficacy against

Omicron, two doses, according to this report no protective effect against symptomatic disease, no protective effects, that's pretty definitive.

That's looking about 15 weeks out. But after a Pfizer booster it was 71.4 percent effective. That's not bad. That's quite good.

When you look at folks who were vaccinated with Pfizer, about 15 weeks after their initial vaccination, if the Pfizer was about 37 percent

effective against Omicron, that's not great. 37 percent is pretty low. But after they got a booster, a third Pfizer dosed, then it jumped up to 75.5

percent. So all of this is to say, I know the advice, at least in the United States is if you are more than six months past your vaccination, you

should be getting a booster.

Now some people will argue, does it really matter if it doesn't protect against infection? I don't care if I get COVID, I just don't want to end up

in the hospital with COVID. We don't --we don't know sort of right now how that works with Omicron. The current vaccines may do a pretty good job of

keeping you out of hospital or keeping you from dying. However, and I know this gets confusing, but the bottom line is two doses does not do a great

job at keeping you from getting infected.

And some people would argue, I don't even want to get infected with COVID. Even if I'm just mildly ill, and home sick for a while and I don't feel

great. I don't even want that. It's worth it to get a booster to prevent any kind of illness and to prevent me from spreading it to others.


NEWTON: Yes. And again, a lot of the experts we've spoken to and I know you've spoken to Elizabeth also say that, you know, this perpetual

reinfection is not good. I want to ask you though the trajectory of the Omicron variant, we were just talking about the U.K. What is that status in

the U.K. right now?

COHEN: It's really interesting when you look at the numbers because if you look at numbers from December 8, Delta was far and away the predominant

variants in the U.K. What's more Delta out there than Omicron? But the same U.K. Health Authority, here's what they predict. They say that Omicron is

transmitting more effectively than Delta. In other words, Omicron is just faster than Delta.

And they say that if this trend continues, Omicron will be dominant. They will be the dominant variant by mid-December. Now they didn't define mid-

December, but we're almost there. I mean, I think we're just days away from mid-December. So it sounds like they're predicting that within days or

maybe a week-ish instead of Delta being pretty dominant, Omicron is going to be predominant.


COHEN: That is fast. In some ways you might say that's actually good news because Delta appears to get people a whole lot more sick than Omicron

does. We'll have to wait to see how this plays out. Paula?

NEWTON: Yes. And I guess we're still probably a week away from really knowing definitively about that. Right? How infectious it is, and then does

it really lead to milder disease? Elizabeth, never a day of rest for you, maybe not even an hour of rest. Elizabeth (INAUDIBLE) we're going, Thanks

for taking this previlige. Appreciate it.

Now, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has played an active role in confronting COVID-19, especially in poor countries. CNN's Becky Anderson

asked Bill Gates, how the new variant could affect the trajectory of the pandemic. And when he thinks it could finally end.


BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: We're getting more vaccine coverage over time. And, you know, so the peak impact should go

down quite a bit. And each side will have to make the trade off of, you know, they still wearing masks, what kind of events are they doing, but we

can look forward to a time where it will be disease more like flu has been, or it's not completely disrupting things like education.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Despite the fact that we are continuing to see these new variants --


GATES: Well, Omicron, you know, there's still some evaluation being done. You know, what are the health impacts, it's clearly very transmissive. You

know, we're working on adaptive vaccines that there's very good chance we'll need those. Looks like some of therapeutics are not affected. So

hurrying to get those out, will make a lot of difference in the depth reduction. But even if we have to make a special vaccine and get that out,

I don't think in 2023 will have the level of disruption we had, you know, for the first three years of this.


NEWTON: 2023, you mark it on your calendars. Now, three members of the Biden administration have shed light on. America's COVID testing plan in

response to this new variant, they told the news site Politoco that the White House decided against sending free rapid tests to all Americans, and

that was because of the cost. Instead, they went with a plan to rely on private insurance and reimbursements for those tests.

Critics say the plan is just too complex though, government officials say a European style plan wouldn't work in the U..S due to its size and

skepticism over the government's handling of the pandemic so far. Tom Polen is the Chairman, CEO and President of B.D. His company makes at home COVID

test kits exactly like the one I have here. A lot of us have been trying to track these down.

They've become in short supply, especially now because of the holidays lease here in North America. Now, some have argued that we've missed a huge

opportunity with these at-home, at -work rapid taste -- tests. I mean, straight up, does this test right here work well enough for you to be

confident that you are not infecting your loved ones at home, or those around you at work?

TOM POLEN, CHAIRMAN, CEO AND PRESIDENT, B.D.: Thank you for having me today. So that's exactly what it was designed to do. That test, there's a

smartphone based tests that you've got, allows you to run the test and actually have the smartphone interpret the result for you. To help provide

that confidence it gives you the result, are you positive or negative. On the screen of your smartphone, you can share that result with a loved one

or with an employer or school.

And we actually -- because we -- it is a digital test, we can see real time at a genetic level. How many tests are being run literally every minute and

around the country. And we could see certainly before Thanksgiving, about a day or two before we saw about a 10x increase in the amount of testing

happen as people were getting together with their loved ones doing exactly what you described.

And we would expect that's probably going to happen again, as we approach the upcoming holiday season.

NEWTON: You know, I want to ask you, have you seen the level of these kinds of rapid tests take off? I mean, what's interesting, we were just showing

video of it that your test is digital, as you said, you're collecting that information in real time. What have you seen and what do you expect for the

next few weeks going forward?

POLEN: Sure, we've been ramping up production of our at-home test. We've designed a whole range of tests to make sure that clinicians and consumers

have the test -- types of tests that they need. And so for clinicians, we offer rapid tests for just COVID. We also offer a rapid test that

determines are my symptoms from COVID. Or are they -- are are they from flu, and it will tell you differentially if you have the flu or COVID.

We're actually working on being able to bring that into people's homes so they can test themselves for flute or COVID. And certainly, we've launched

this at-home COVID test now, we're ramping up production. Ultimately we can make up to about 12 million tests a month. We're still moving up that

production scale now. Today we're -- that test is available just through Amazon, and we're selling everything we can make at this point on Amazon.

As we go through the month of December, our production ramp up will reach a point where we'll start over availability through other channels and we'll

make announcements as that occurs.


NEWTON: Yes. As you said you guys literally can't make these fast enough. The new variant itself, will this test still detect that new variant?

POLEN: Anytime a new variant comes out, we have a process that we analyze and determine will it work? And we've actually put out communications that

we are highly confident that that works both for Delta and the Omi strain.

NEWTON: So you don't have any concerns that in doing this at home test that one of us would be positive with the new variant and that it would slip? I

mean, what is your percentage anyway, in terms of accuracy, because we've heard a lot of different things from a lot of different rapid test makers.

POLEN: Sure. Rapid tests are in the 80s, from a sensitivity perspective is that test. And of course, our kit comes with two tests available in that.

Right now we sell that for about $26.50, about $13.00 a test. And the FDA is as -- if you're asymptomatic, encourages serial testing. And so if

someone does have COVID, we'll typically see is any test is a little less sensitive when you're very early on with the virus.

And then as the -- as it continues the infection, of course, the amount of virus increases. And the ability for the test to detect that even within a

day or two goes up significantly. And so, that sensitivity is over all different phases of the infection process. And so that's why if you're

asymptomatic serial testing is highly encouraged.

NEWTON: Understood. So if you're feeling 100 percent and you take one of these rapid tests, you're saying dinner is likely safe, even with

vulnerable people.

POLEN: That's that's the intention. And certainly serial testing is what's encouraged to help make sure that that's accurate. That's the claim for all

rapid tests at home. The serial test do more than --

NEWTON: OK, Tom. We'll leave it there. I suppose the outages test early and often and hopefully we'll all have good holidays if we can get hold of the

test, which is still a huge problem everywhere. Tom, thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

POLEN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

NEWTON: Now, Toshiba's breakup plans are facing skepticism from some shareholders. Some investors want it to go private. Instead, what that

company could learn from one conglomerate in Thailand. Richard Quest spoke to its CEO in Bangkok.



NEWTON: And now it's time for a Call to Earth where we are celebrating a week of programming dedicated to the theme rewild and restore. Today we

have a story from South Africa about documenting the fragility of fresh water life.


JEREMY SHELTON, FRESHWATER CONSERVATION BIOLOGIST: Rivers really are the arteries of our planet. They transport cool, clean water from the

mountains, down across landscapes, and give us this critical resource that we rely on so heavily for drinking, for farming, for industry. Without

these arteries bringing us clean water, we'll be in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Jeremy Shelton is a biologist and photographer at the Freshwater Research Center in South Africa. A World

Wildlife Fund report of freshwater fish featured Shelton's images which caught the attention of actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, who shared

them on Instagram.

SHELTON: It's all about inspiring people to become more aware of the natural world around them. Being able to take these snapshots bring them

above the surface, share them with people that have never had a chance to see this world that I care so much about. And once that connection is

forged to change the way they behave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than half of all fish live in freshwater environments, which are increasingly under pressure from a variety of

threats, including climate change, pollution, and Invasive alien species.

SHELTON: Behind me here you can see the Roanoke River, a beautiful mountain stream here in the Cederberg Mountains. And this is actually the site of

the first freshwater fish restoration project here in South Africa where alien freshwater fishes were removed to create room for indigenous species

that were running out of habitat in the wild. A huge success and a big conservation game for freshwater ecosystems in South Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Building back freshwater ecosystems is an important step in the fight against climate change.

SHELTON: The stability of our planet is intimately linked to having healthy, functioning ecosystems, whether it's the forests that take a lot

of carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere, or the freshwater ecosystems that really feed those forests and allow them to grow. It's all connected. And

it's really in our best interests to ensure that all of these different kinds of ecosystems stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The situation is urgent. In 2018, South Africa released a report on biodiversity, which revealed that freshwater fish were

the most threatened species group in the country. Shelton is determined to do all he can to save these precious resources.

SHELTON: I'm hoping that through connecting with these previously unseen worlds that people will treat them a little bit more gently, that people

will be a little bit more thoughtful about the way we live our lives and about the way we interact with these natural ecosystems. Whether it's

taking a shorter shower, or accessing rainwater, or brushing our teeth for a minute less, every little bit of water saving can help.

The conservation needs for freshwater life are extremely high. And it's really reaching a tipping point now where it's take action, or we stand to

lose a lot of the species and the ecosystems in which they evolved.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beautiful photography there. Let us know what you're doing to answer the call with the #CalltoEarth.



NEWTON: So Japanese conglomerate Toshiba is meeting resistance from shareholders on its plans to break up. Now as some investors argue it

should go private instead. C.P. Group is Thailand's largest privately held company, it sees getting bigger, it's getting better. C.P. Group runs more

than a dozen companies. You see them there across eight sectors, everything from agriculture to e-commerce, property development, and retail.

The C.P. Group also developed true digital Park South East Asia's largest tech and startup hub. Richard took a look at the incubator for those new



SUPHACHAI CHEARAVANONT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CHAROEN POKPHAND: Most of our main business, once we incubate it to the certain level, we listed it.

So it became a public company. And, you know, we incorporate all these transparencies and the right members of the boards, the right governance,

et cetera. And we become more or less like an investment company which are more diversified and maybe a little bit deeper into each of the vertical,

each of the industry.


CHEARAVANONT: To digital park.

QUEST: Which is what?

CHEARAVANONT: This is the place where we actually help incubate startups. We have the state agencies, we have the different venture caps, access to

the venture caps and different technology partners, including last firms, ecosystem, access to last firm ecosystem.

QUEST: How important is true to C.P. Group in the sense that, you know, I can see it's the sexy bit, I can see it's the modern bit. But is it the

significant bit?

CHEARAVANONT: Well, you know, we still tranforming. I think true, is more basically infrastructure play for telecom, right? And then just recently,

we transform ourselves into more of the technological company, digital media's, for example. So we have to be -- to work on the over the top.


CHEARAVANONT: Not only for the infrastructure. So the best way to innovate is to actually partners with startups.

QUEST: Let's go and have a look over here because there's a good description of it over here. So this is really what it's about, isn't it?

CHEARAVANONT: Well, you know, the thing is that we are not only doing this for the group, but we believe that the digital part or Innovation Cluster

could also help Thailand as a country, become Innovation Hub, or tech hub. So we take part in that as well.

QUEST: Right. So here, you've got the big boys and girls, you've got the academics, you've got the money.


QUEST: You've got the startups.


QUEST: And you've got government and licensing advice. Correct?

CHEARAVANONT: That's right. All the agency. Yes.

QUEST: The agencies. Some of these will never succeed.


QUEST: Are you prepared for that?

CHEARAVANONT: Of course, of course. I think out of the hundreds, maybe one succeed, it will be all worthwhile. And it doesn't mean that the 99 that

fail did not deliver values. They actually train people and train intrapreneurship and they actually would change the whole mindset of how we

do the business. Those people can join the traditional industry and change (INAUDIBLE) industry. Those people can also do this -- the new setup again.


CHEARAVANONT: This is the place where you can actually develop people. So it will not go in vain actually, that those values you can measure, but we

believe that is actually a really create value to the whole economy. C.P. Group is, you know, derived, you know, 100 years ago.


CHEARAVANONT: We are the small (INAUDIBLE) shops. So, we sell (INAUDIBLE) seats. My grandfather. So, you know, our idea is always about growing

things. And our vision is about, you know, growing the values for health, for good health, and going the values for the mind.

QUEST: Can Thailand become a tech hub? Has it got the policies, the infrastructure?

CHEARAVANONT: I think we can, yes.

QUEST: Every country wants to do it.

CHEARAVANONT: But Thailand is right in the middle of this three billions population in Asia. In the middle of, you know, up north, we connect to

China, you know, and then down south we connect to all this ASEAN countries with 700 million populations. If we join hand with Myanmar, we will connect

to India, it's almost like Thailand could become a logistic hub that will enhance both the economy of Malaysia and Singapore because of all this


QUEST: I get it.

CHEARAVANONT: But well, certainly the world is moving toward more and more online and fulfillments over the air and over the seas. The traffic will

only be increasing with the -- with the population and the income per capita which are rising in this region for example. India, China, et

cetera, et cetera. I mean, the cake is big enough.


NEWTON: Thanks to Richard there for that interview. There are just moments left to trade on Wall Street I'll have the final numbers in a moment.



NEWTON: So just a few minutes left trade on this week in Wall Street. Even with U.S. inflation hitting that nearly 40-year high. Look at that, Dow,

that's a nice tidy up for the day. 224 points now and it is session highs which is also surprising. The Dow is up nearly 3-1/2 percent for this week

alone. And that does it for us here at QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.


NEWTON: I'm Paula Newton in New York. The closing bell, I can kind of hear it ringing. "THE LEAD" with Pamela Brown starts right now. Have a great