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U.K. Says Omicron Patients Much Less Likely To Need Hospital Care; Omicron Impact In South Africa Much Milder Than Delta; U.S. Commerce Secretary Says Omicron Will Not Hurt Supply Chain; Call To Earth: The UAE's Coral Reefs; Dozens Test Positive On Board Royal Caribbean Cruise. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 23, 2021 - 15:00   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS HOST: And you've been watching coverage of the verdict in the trial of Kim Potter. She has been found guilty of the

manslaughter of Daunte Wright. We are going to have more on that story later this hour.

Here in New York, markets are solidly higher. The Dow is up triple digits and record highs could even be in the cards.

Those are the markets, and these are the main events.

New studies from the British government say omicron cases are less likely to end up in hospital than delta.


KOSIK: Cruise liner chaos at Christmas, as ships with COVID outbreaks are turned away from ports.

And Intel apologizes to China after telling suppliers not to do business in Xinjiang.

Live from New York, it is Thursday, December the 23rd. I'm Alison Kosik, and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Good evening, we begin with major new analysis on the omicron variant and how it affects the number of people needing hospital treatment. Britain's

Health Security Agency says people who catch the strain are 50 to 70 percent less likely to be admitted to hospital and people are around a

third less likely to go to accident and emergency compared to a delta variant infection.

However, the study says increased pressure on hospitals remains a risk. This, as the U.K. again breaks its own record for the highest number of

daily COVID infections, almost 120,000 in the past 24 hours.

Staying in the U.K., and the British Prime Minister has confirmed people can go ahead with Christmas plans without facing further restrictions. The

decision was made after data showed hospitalization numbers in the U.K. have remained steady over the past few months, and are only a fraction of

what we were seeing around a year ago.

Salma Abdelaziz is in London for us covering this story. So Salma, I get that, you know, Boris Johnson is, you know, ruling out any new restrictions

as it pertains to Christmas, but what about as we get closer to the New Year? There is a week in between then when, you know people customarily get

together in big groups.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: There is a high expectation that potentially there could be restrictions after Christmas, but again, Prime

Minister Boris Johnson promising nothing will be announced before Christmas Day. What he did promise is that the authorities would be watching the data

hour by hour and if you're looking at those numbers, Alison, it's simply not a good picture for another day.

Omicron has driven record breaking case numbers, nearly 120,000 cases, as you mentioned, numbers that this country has not seen since the start of

the pandemic. Now, there is some encouraging news and that is what you mentioned, several pre-print studies preliminary data studies show that

omicron is less severe.

The latest, of course, coming from the U.K. House Security Agency that shows that you are two-fifths less likely, 40 percent less likely to end up

in hospital than you were under the delta strain, if you have the delta strain. That is consistent with what we saw from the University of

Edinburgh yesterday, which said you're two-thirds less likely to be hospitalized with omicron than you were with delta, if you're double


So at varying estimates here, we're looking at significantly less risk of hospitalization with omicron. A growing body of evidence that shows this

than there was under previous waves, but it's still a numbers game, right, Alison? Because if the ratio of people, if that is a huge portion of

caseload, if that ratio of people, even if it's smaller, it still might turn into a huge number of people putting pressure on the healthcare


The other factor to consider here is that healthcare workers themselves are being impacted by the omicron variant, thousands of N.H.S. workers have

called out in recent days because they themselves have been infected or in touch with a positive case.

So authorities here still watching those figures, watching the N.H.S., watching the National Health Service, watching these positive cases. For

now, no new restrictions, but it is still too early to tell -- Alison.

KOSIK: Still too early to tell, but even scientists are saying that they're concerned that in the U.K., they're just -- you know, Boris Johnson

is waiting too long. And, you know, it could be where, you know, there could be regret after Christmas where everybody gets together and then the

numbers really spike even more.

ABDELAZIZ: I mean, Alison, anecdotally, just from living in London, I don't know a household, I don't know a person who has not been impacted by

COVID-19 in some way in recent days. Every single person here has had to reconsider their Christmas plans.

Many people have just gone into isolation on their own because that was the House Secretary's advice, right? It is be cautious. Think twice, Follow the

guidance. People are just taking matters into their own hands.

And yes, of course, Prime Minister Boris Johnson being criticized for this, for not taking the steps that scientific advisers have pushed him to take,

which is to put further tougher measures in place. And these scientific advisers that advise the government, the Sage Group, they've warned that

England could see thousands of people hospitalized a day if tougher measures don't come into place before the end of the year.

But here's the thing, it is not always just about the science. Prime Minister Boris Johnson right now is embroiled in multiple scandals. He has

faced a rebellion from his own party, members of his own Conservative Party not wanting to put further restrictions in place, opposing him in

Parliament. So there is a lot of politics at play here, too.


ABDELAZIZ: So Prime Minister Boris Johnson maybe buying his time, trying to make a political calculation as well as a scientific one -- Alison.

KOSIK: We shall see if it is the correct calculation. Salma Abdelaziz, thanks very much. Have a great Holiday if I don't see you.

South African scientists were the first to identify omicron last month and initially, the new variant caused an explosion of new cases throughout the

country. But now Health officials say t there that the fourth wave is not only subsiding, it is less severe than previous outbreaks.

Still, the head of the African Centers for Disease Control warns we shouldn't extrapolate South Africa's experiences with the new variant

across the rest of the world. There are several factors at play in South Africa including its young median age, and its high rates of previous COVID


CNN's David McKenzie takes a look at the delta wave that led to chaos throughout the country.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dispatch south of Johannesburg, paramedic Mohammed Rasool says omicron is nothing

like delta.

MOHAMMED RASOOL, PULSATE EMERGENCY: During then, it was only COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID and nothing else.

Will you be able to walk, sir?

MCKENZIE (voice over): We were with them during the chaos when the delta wave of COVID-19 ripped through South Africa. Severe patients crashed


Rasool's team spent hours looking for hospital beds, charities like Gift of the Givers rushed to set up field clinics, scrambled to distribute oxygen

concentrators to save lives.

With omicron, they say they haven't sent out a single one.

RASOOL: It's a patient that complaining of tightness in chest.

MCKENZIE (voice over): Rasool says the calls out now are for less severe patients, like this 46-year-old who tested negative, but is still suspected

of having COVID.

Reassess after five minutes, check the chest.

MCKENZIE (on camera): There's been a surge of cases of COVID-19 with omicron, but there hasn't been a surge in severity or hospitalization. This

kind of call out is pretty typical.

What advice do you have for other countries that are facing an omicron wave?

NICHOLAS CRISP, ACTING DIRECTOR-GENERAL, SOUTH AFRICAN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Don't panic. This is -- you will ride the wave. Far less use of

oxygen, far fewer people being admitted, despite the high numbers of cases, very high transmission of people getting mild illness, not even getting

diagnosed at home.

MCKENZIE (voice over): It's still unclear why it's seemingly milder, or whether that will translate globally.

Scientists here believe up to 80 percent of the population in South Africa may have had COVID-19, before likely providing a shield of immunity against

severe infection. Vaccine coverage also plays a major part.

CRISP: This would have been an absolute nightmare if it was delta, so I think we can just be very grateful that it has not been as devastating as

it could have been.

MCKENZIE (on camera): But there's still reason to be cautious, it seems.

CRISP: Yes. Well we've learned with COVID, generally you never let your guard down.

MCKENZIE (voice over): For a brief moment, though, Rasool dares to hope.

RASOOL: The reality of the illness is not that as it was, so I'm actually quite optimistic about it.

MCKENZIE (voice over): David McKenzie, CNN Johannesburg.


KOSIK: Experts warn that while omicron may be milder, it is spreading faster than any variant yet. CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth

Cohen joins me now.

So listen, it is still disruptive, omicron, but I'm feeling that shouldn't we be encouraged by the findings that omicron poses a lower risk of


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we should be encouraged. Obviously, it is better than the opposite. It is better than if

we found out that it was highly virulent and people were getting, you know, very sick and in larger numbers.

But I will -- you know, I don't need to be such a downer here, but I will give these caveats. First of all, the experience that you see in one

country does not always translate to another country.

Also, omicron is so incredibly transmissible, huge numbers of people are going to get infected with the omicron variant, including unfortunately,

people who are vaccinated that if it's just a small percentage who become seriously ill, a small percentage of a large number can still be a large

number, it can still be to use the word that you used, "disruptive" to medical services.

But let's take a look at what a South African study has found and what a Scottish study has found. So a South African study looking at COVID cases

in October and November when they were omicron, about 2.5 percent of them were admitted to the hospital, when they were delta, 12.8 percent were


When you look at the Scottish study, two-thirds reduction in hospitalization risks so similar along the same lines, also finding that a

booster was linked to a 57 percent reduction in the risk of symptomatic infection.

So really, the take home message here is the same, which is get vaccinated. It makes a difference with omicron. It can be the difference between having

a mild illness and landing in the hospital and if it's time for you to get a booster, get a booster -- Alison.


KOSIK: And we know why South Africa's omicron variant, the case numbers peaked already. But I'm wondering if it stands to reason that because

omicron spread so quickly that so many people are expected to get it. That isn't it okay to think that maybe it'll peak quickly in other countries,

too, because so many people will get it.

COHEN: Right, so let's take a look at what happened in South Africa, because it's really quite dramatic. If you take a look at this graph here,

it was, you know, in around sort of November 20th, it started to go up, up, up, and then it started to come down, you know, really just a matter of

weeks later, it really was very quick. Hopefully, this is what will happen in other countries.

Alison, it's hard to say. You can look at other viruses before the novel coronavirus and you can see that they were horrific in some countries and

not such a big deal in others. It really -- so much depends on the country, and so you can look at South Africa, which has a very young population.

Also they have a country -- a population that's had a lot of COVID, so there was some natural protection there. Each country is different. And so

unfortunately, you can't predict that because this happened in South Africa, it will happen elsewhere. Hopefully that will be the case.

KOSIK: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for your expertise. I hope you have a great Holiday.

COHEN: Thanks.

KOSIK: U.S. markets are in a confident mood. For the third straight session, the Dow is up triple digits. More positive news on omicron is

boosting stocks across the board. The S&P 500 could even close at an all- time high. This is the last trading session before the Christmas Holiday.

The U.S. Commerce Secretary says she doesn't expect omicron to cause long term disruption for supply chains. Gina Raimondo admitted that everyone is

sick of having to deal with COVID at this point.

She told CNN's John Berman that with enough vaccinations, the United States would get through it.


GINA RAIMONDO, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: You know, if we've said it once we'll say it a thousand times again, get vaccinated. We know these vaccines

work. If you've been vaccinated, get boosted it.

It really depends on whether people do what needs to be done and get vaccinated. You saw yesterday, the President took action with more testing

that will help -- we will get through it.

You know, I don't think that omicron will have long-term disruptive, you know, significant disruption in supply chains. I think the next you know,

period of time here will be a challenge. But if folks go out, get tested, wear masks, be careful, get vaccinated, we will get through it, you know,

just like we have delta, just like we have COVID.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, one of the issues might be with positive test rising, people may have to move off the manufacturing line, it might

just be that people are missing work at a larger rate.

And I do wonder, this isn't going to be your decision, this will be a C.D.C. decision. But the guidance on isolation after a positive test is 10

days right now. If 10 days out of work, that might be something that affects manufacturing supply chain issues.

RAIMONDO: It is possible. However, we've been living with this now for a couple of years. And you know, I have talked to many manufacturers as

recently as a couple of days ago asking the question you just asked me. And by and large, they think they'll be able to manage it.

They've been managing it, they've learned how to change their operations in order to manage this. So, it's certainly a factor. There will be some

disruption, but we are all a lot smarter now about how to run our businesses and run our lives with COVID than we were a year ago.

And so, I am hopeful that it won't be massively disruptive.

BERMAN: You know, we just had a conversation with David Frum, and we looked at some of the polling numbers last hour here and the President is

underwater on the economy, which is interesting given that unemployment, the unemployment rate is so low right now. The GDP is high, and the annual

growth rate is going to be very high right now.

You've got experience, both in the political world and in the world of finance and the economic world, why the-disconnect between what people may

be feeling and what the numbers are showing?

RAIMONDO: Yes, so I would say it's what you just said, people are maybe not feeling great at the moment, because there's still so much uncertainty,

especially as it relates to COVID. And I think we're all sick of it, quite frankly.

I mean, people have been dealing with masks and tests and COVID for a long time, and so it doesn't -- it doesn't feel great.

On the flip side, as you say the economy, you know, under this President's leadership, he has overseen the greatest resurgence in an economy in his

first year in office, you know, greater than any other President that we know of.

So what I believe is we just have to stay at it and continue to create good jobs, continue to unstick the supply chain, continue to get folks

vaccinated, and over time, people will start to feel better about that.


RAIMONDO: And you know, I can't speak for the President, but I think that's how he feels, like he spends much less time looking at polling

numbers than he does looking at unemployment, wages, supply chains.

You know, he spent his day yesterday talking to CEOs grilling them on questions of what more can we do to move packages. So, you know, folks want

to feel it in their lives. And I think six to 12 months from now, they will, right? We'll be moving past COVID, more -- you know, wages will

continue to rise, and I think we just have to stick with the program and so folks will start to feel better.


KOSIK: Coming up, as omicron variant fuels a surge across Europe, nations like Greece and Spain are imposing brand new restrictions.

A live report from France, next.

Plus, Intel is reacting to Chinese backlash after a statement Intel made this month about labor and goods from the Xinjiang region. We will explain

why the U.S. chipmaker is apologizing.


KOSIK: Welcome back. COVID-19 spread fueled by the omicron variant is pushing European nations to cancel events and impose new restrictions.

Greece just announced that it is canceling all public Christmas and New Year celebrations. And Greece, Italy, and Spain are again making it

mandatory to wear facemasks outside.

Meantime on Thursday, Germany reported its first death from the omicron variant.

CNN correspondent, Cyril Vanier is in Paris for us. You know Cyril, we talk about how the omicron variant isn't causing as many hospitalizations, but

then you hear about this death in Germany. So we understand the seriousness of this variant as well.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. Germany reporting his first death today due to omicron somebody who was between the age of 60 and

79. We don't have a whole lot more detail on that particular person whether that patient was vaccinated or unvaccinated.

What is for sure is that omicron is ripping through the continent at the moment. It is already the dominant coronavirus variant in multiple

countries, in Denmark, in Portugal, in the U.K. It's going to become dominant here in France before the end of the year and will be dominant in

Germany within the next two or three weeks.


VANIER: That is why you're seeing countries really battening down the hatches as this omicron storm, as the World Health Organization calls it,


So you mentioned some of the restrictions that have been put in place, cancellations of gatherings for the New Year's and Christmas Eve. There are

even more. You know, in Germany just after Christmas, some very strict social distancing and social gathering restrictions are going to kick in.

There are also those countries that have imposed a coronavirus vaccine mandates. You know, most of these restrictions are kicking in just after

Christmas for obvious reasons. Countries want people obviously to be able to enjoy their Christmas, but they also recognize that they have to slow

down this wave of omicron because, yes, the real life data says it is less severe, but it is so much more transmissible that -- and I believe

Elizabeth Cohen was explaining this to your viewers earlier, it is so much more transmissible that if you get three, four, five times the number of

cases, even if a smaller fraction of them end up going to hospital, that's a smaller fraction of a much bigger pool of infected people, it could still

overwhelm the health systems here.

KO Yes, that's the concern across just globally. You know, you look at these countries that are imposing these stricter restrictions than let's

say, even the U.K., do you see these countries that are making these restrictions -- putting these restrictions in place, do you see them

actually going all the way into lockdown mode even a little bit?

VANIER: Look, it's no longer being ruled out. This is something that many countries were ruling out even just say two, three weeks ago, and they're

not ruling it out anymore.

The German Health Minister has said she cannot rule out -- there are no red lines in terms of what restrictions they will apply and therefore she

cannot rule out a hard lockdown if cases surge again after Christmas.

Here in France, they were also ruling it out, not anymore. You know, the language of the government is changing on an almost daily basis as frankly

they are on the back foot again because of this omicron wave that is hitting them.

And so could lockdowns happen again? Yes. We have started to see it. It happened in Austria. It's happened in a handful of other European

countries. It may happen in some of the big Western European countries again, this despite what has been a successful vaccination campaign over

the last year.

KOSIK: Because it's so unpredictable this virus. Cyril Vanier, thanks so much.

For the fourth time, COVID spread has prompted China to put a major city under what's called a controlled area lockdown. This happening in Xi'an

head of Lunar New Year travel, and it is impacting millions of people.

CNN's Selina Wang reports from Tokyo.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Chinese city of Xi'an and its 13 million residents have been put under strict lockdown. The city has

recorded more than 200 COVID-19 cases since December 9th.

Residents are largely banned from leaving their homes, but one designated person from each household will be allowed to leave every two days to buy

groceries. Otherwise, residents are only allowed to leave in the case of a medical emergency or for quote, "urgent or necessary works." That's

according to the local government.

Xi'an has also shut down all schools, public transport, and facilities except for essential service providers.

This is the fourth time a major Chinese city has been placed under strict lockdown. The first was back in early 2020 when Wuhan, ground zero of the

pandemic went into lockdown. With the Games now less than 45 days away, the country is doubling down on its zero COVID strategy.

Cities are locking down and mass testing residents in response to just a handful of COVID-19 cases in the country. Olympic participants will have to

be in a strict bubble and tested daily. If they are not vaccinated, they will have to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival.

If China pulls off the Winter Olympics successfully, it would be a propaganda win for its handling of COVID-19 and for its authoritarian


Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


KOSIK: U.S. chipmaker, Intel, is trying to smooth things over with China after a letter it sent to its suppliers earlier this month sparked


Here is Julia Chatterley with the details.


JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: Intel has become the latest company caught between Beijing and Washington, D.C. The U.S. chip

maker has apologized in China, after it sent a letter to its suppliers telling them not to source products or labor from the Xinjiang region.

It caused controversy in Chinese media. The state-owned newspaper "People's Daily" called the letter quote "absurd." And a Chinese popstar quit as

Intel's brand ambassador, that led Intel to issue a new statement saying quote, "Although our original intention was to ensure compliance with the

U.S. laws, this letter has caused many questions and concerns among our Chinese partners, which deeply regret."


CHATTERLEY: Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Beijing of detaining Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, in

reeducation camps and using them as forced labor. They say this has become part of a global tech and retail supply chains, either directly or

indirectly. It has also led to sanctions from U.S. and other Western nations.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry said that claims related to Xinjiang such as forced labor are lies by U.S. anti-China

forces. An Intel spokesperson told CNN that they would continue to make sure its global sourcing complies with applicable laws and regulations in

the United States and in other jurisdictions.


KOSIK: Thanks to Julia Chatterley for that.

Still ahead, it is the day before Christmas Eve and all through the country, plenty are stirring as they make their way home for the Holidays.

How things are looking for the travel industry, next.


KOSIK: Hello, I'm Alison Kosik.

Coming up on the next half hour of QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, the chief executive of Manpower tells me why omicron hasn't dented his optimism for


And we'll be live in Colombia where cruise passengers are locked down after a COVID outbreak on board their ship.

Before that, these are the headlines on CNN this hour.

Former Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter has been found guilty of two counts of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old, Daunte

Wright. Potter says she mistook her handgun for her Taser after Wright was pulled over for a traffic stop in April. His death helped fuel racial

justice protests nationwide.

As Moscow and NATO square off over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a yearend news conference Thursday that lasted several hours.

Mr. Putin reiterated his demand that NATO needs to guarantee it will never expand further eastward and he accused the U.S. and NATO of deception.



ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST (voice-over): Russian president Vladimir Putin held a year-end news conference Thursday that lasted several hours. Mr. Putin

reiterated his demand that NATO needs to guarantee it will never expand further eastward and he accused the U.S. and NATO of deception.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Saudi Arabia is building its own ballistic missiles with China's help, according to three sources familiar

with the intel. The news could have an impact on the U.S. administration's efforts to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the Saudis' top

regional rival.

A memorial to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre has removed from Hong Kong University. The sculpture, called the Pillar of Shame stood

for more than 20 years. The last of its kind in Hong Kong, it will now be held in storage.

Queen Elizabeth spending Christmas with her eldest son, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, instead of her usual royal family get-together. The

queen usually spends the holiday at her estate in Sandringham but COVID precautions meant her pre-Christmas lunch with family was canceled. She

will spend Christmas at Windsor Castle instead.


KOSIK: As the song goes, "Christmas Baby Please Come Home," by Darlene Love and this year, it seems people are. With holiday air travel in the

U.S. rivaling prepandemic levels, the TSA is saying more than 200 million people were screened on Wednesday alone, more than 2019. It predicts over

20 million will fly over Christmas to New Year.

Pete Muntean has been in the thick of it at Reagan National Airport.

Pete, what's it looking like where you are?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Allison, things are getting busier by the moment. These numbers are higher than we saw in 2019, before the

pandemic. The TSA screened 2.08 million people in airports across the country yesterday.

Compare that in 2019 when 1.94 million people were screened. That day, back in 2019, was Christmas Day, when passenger volumes are a little lower.

Still, though, we have seen numbers just shy or above 2 million people a day for the last week.

And the TSA says some of the busiest days are ahead here. January 3rd will be busy, too, when everyone begins coming home all at once and travelers

tell us they feel pretty confident right now, even in spite of the Omicron variant. Here's what they said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I mean it's a little nerve-racking but I mean, when we flew out here, it was definitely safe. Everything was wiped down,

you could tell it was clean. So definitely a little nerve-racking because you'll always be nervous. But I feel confident that we're going to be OK.


MUNTEAN: Here's the big number, Allison, the TSA predicts 20 million people will fly nationwide between today and January 3rd. Airlines continue

to insist that flying is safe because of the heavily filtered air on board.

And the federal transportation wide mask mandate in place until March 18, 2022, and now the TSA and FAA have a new partnership, where if you defy

that rule, you could lose your precheck status for good. They say step out of line on board, have to wait in line.

KOSIK: Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Back to live coverage of the Kim Potter trial. The attorney general in Minnesota is speaking now.




KOSIK: And I'm Allison Kosik. More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS right after this break.





KOSIK: Welcome back.

Today on "Call to Earth," the UAE's coral reefs have thrived for thousands of years in extremely hot temperatures.

Scientist John Burt says the reefs are a proxy for what's to come for the rest of the world due to climate change. He studies how they could help

marine life in other parts of the world survive in a warming climate.


JOHN BURT, SCIENTIST (voice-over): Coral reefs provide hundreds of billions of dollars a year in services and benefits to humanity. These

beautiful ecosystems, with vibrant colors and fishes floating around, they are the richest ecosystem that we have in the seas.

So they're incredibly important in terms of biodiversity.

Probably in the next three decades we'll see substantial declines of coral reefs around the world. By 2100 they'll largely disappear as a result of

climate change.

My name is John Burt, I'm an associate professor of biology at New York University Abu Dhabi.

My team and I are out several times a week on these reefs. This is a beautiful natural laboratory trying to understand how organisms might

respond to climate change in other regions, because it's so warm here.

Coral reefs of the Arabian Gulf are some of the most interesting in the world. They exist in conditions as proxy for what we'll see at the end of

the century in other parts of the world.

When you look at climate change, you have greenhouse gases going into parts of our atmosphere, our oceans are warming up and that heat is affecting

marine organisms as a result.

So science is in a bit of a race to outpace global climate change by doing things like assisted migration, moving corals from a warmer location to a

cooler environment, as well as coral cross-breeding.

In my lab, we published a paper recently where we cross-bred corals from the Persian Gulf, the world's hottest sea, with those of a more benign

environment in the Indian Ocean. We saw upwards of an 84 percent increase in survivorship in the offspring of those corals.

We have this extreme environment that filters out a bunch of species so we do have lower diversity. But the species here are really robust.


BURT: We've also done genetics work, for example, showing that the coral animal itself, as well as the algae associated with it are genetically

distinct here in the southern Gulf from those in the Indian Ocean.

So they really have adapted to this unique extreme environment we have here and offer a lot of hope for science in trying to understand how organisms

might respond to climate change and adapt to it.

These reefs are certainly the most tolerant in the world but we're losing them at an astounding rate because of the recurrent heat waves coming

through. So there's some hope out there but we're running against time.


KOSIK: Let us know what you're doing to answer the call with the #CallToEarth. We'll be back in a moment.





KOSIK: Two cruise ships in the Caribbean are struggling to manage COVID outbreaks on board. Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas, sailing out of

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been denied entry to Curacao and Aruba; 55 crew members and passengers contracted COVID on board.

All of them were fully vaccinated and seven COVID-19 cases have been detected on board the Seven Seas Mariner cruise. The ship is now under

lockdown in the Colombian port of cartagena.

All of this disruption hasn't hurt cruise company investors yet, though. Shares of Royal Caribbean and its rivals, Carnival and Origin Cruise Lines

(ph), are all up 10 percent or more over the past week.

The Carnival CEO said earlier this week, that the current environment has improved dramatically since last summer.

Oh, that is no comfort for the passengers stuck on board those two ships. Stefano Pozzebon joins us now from Bogota, Colombia.

I can't imagine what it's like to be stuck on those ships. Talk to me about the status of the crew, the passengers.

And when will they be allowed to disembark to get off of those ships?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most likely, Alison, the crew and passengers will be allowed back on land, only in the United States. Both

ships are hurrying their way back toward the United States; in particular, the Odyssey of the Seas, which was due back in Florida on December the

26th, this coming Sunday.

It will be back in Fort Lauderdale one day before that, just on Christmas Day, after it was denied the possibility of landing some of its passengers

in Aruba and Curacao.

The other, the Seven Seas Mariner, which left the port after it was placed in lockdown by Colombian authorities yesterday, has just bypassed the

Panama Canal and is on its route north to the final call, which is San Francisco.

Of course, lots of eyes on these ships, because how will the virus impact the crews and passengers on board those ships?

Will have greatest consequences for the rest of the travel industry, who is just trying to find its new foot after two years of COVID-19 pandemic

(INAUDIBLE). And this holiday season was promised to be a season of renewal, a season of building back better, a season of new travel. Of

course, Omicron has put all those plans into disarray, Alison.

KOSIK: Yes, I mean I can only imagine what those people are thinking, who took those trips on those cruise ships and then are just circling back.


KOSIK: Did you have a chance to talk with any of those passengers while they were waiting to learn their fate of where they would disembark?

POZZEBON: No, they are under lockdown and at CNN we were unable to reach any of the passengers or crews. It's important to notice that most of the

people that currently seems to be impacted in those ships are the crew, are the mariners, the helpers, waiters, people who are there for work and not

just the tourists and the travelers.

We just hope that it will be home soon, even though the Christmas plans are definitely being scrapped, Alison.

KOSIK: Yes. All right, Stefano Pozzebon, thank you so much for your great reporting.

Just moments to trade on Wall Street. We'll have the final numbers and the closing bell, right after this.




KOSIK: There are just moments left to trade on Wall Street and the S&P 500 is trying to close at a record high for the first time in almost two weeks.

It looks like that Santa Claus rally is actually happening. Stocks are up across the board, the third straight session of gains for these indices.

The Nasdaq doing the best of all, more than 1 percent higher. We had inflation numbers in the United States, which showed prices rising at their

fastest rate in almost 40 years. But that hasn't shaken markets for the trading day today.

The Dow is close to its highs of the day; in trying to finish above 36,000, it just fell just below it. But this is how it's doing just before the


Investors are taking optimism from a U.K. report that says hospitalizations are less likely from the Omicron variant, compared to the Delta variant.

That's according to studies from the United Kingdom and South Africa.

It is the final trading day before Christmas, here in New York. Investors in Europe are also latching onto the positive studies on Omicron and COVID

cases. In Frankfurt, the DAX closed over 1 percent higher. Markets there are closed tomorrow for Christmas Eve.

Traders in London and Paris get a half-day. Both of those markets finished higher as well.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'm Alison Kosik. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @AlisonKosik.