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CNN International: Oxford Pauses Pediatric Trial of AstraZeneca Vaccine; Paris Investigates Secret Elite Dinner Parties; COVID Passports; Alexei Navalny Continues Hunger Strike. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 06, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello. I'm Hala Gorani in London.

We're waiting for the resumption of day seven of the trial of Derek Chauvin to resume in the U.S., in Minneapolis. The court is currently taking a lunch break. Chauvin is accused of killing George Floyd last summer by kneeling on his neck during an arrest.

In the morning session, jurors heard from training officers in the Minneapolis Police Department who discussed Chauvin's use of force and neck restraints.

We will bring you back to the trial when it resumes, when it resumes from this -- after a lunch break, as I mentioned.

Now to Russia, to Russia, where Alexei Navalny says he will not end his hunger strike, despite his declining health. The jailed opposition leader announced last week that he would go on that hunger strike until he got better medical care for leg and back pain.

Now he says he has a fever and a bad cough. He got a show of support today, as a number of doctors protested outside the penal colony where he's he is being held.

CNN's Matthew Chance was outside that prison earlier today and sent him this update.



Well, this is the penal colony where Alexei Navalny is being held behind bars. There are mounting concerns about the Russian opposition figure's health.

He's already complained a couple of weeks ago about having a really bad back and about that pain spreading to both his legs, where he's lost sensitivity. It doesn't sound too serious, but the fact that he was poisoned last August with a suspected nerve agent indicates to some doctors that we have spoken to that it could be neurological damage, which is why they want to send a specialist in, why Alexei Navalny wants a specialist doctor to come in to check out exactly what's wrong with him.

It gets more complicated as well, because to protest the fact that he hasn't got his own doctors allowed into this penal colony, Navalny has gone on hunger strike. Apparently, he's lost quite a lot of weight in the six or seven days since he's been sort of refusing food.


It's also been reported by Navalny and his team on his various social media platforms that he's got a very high temperature and a bad cough, which obviously is of concern at a time of COVID. There is also reported to be an outbreak of T.B., tuberculosis, inside this penal colony.

Supporters of Navalny, this Russian opposition figure, are now expressing really serious concerns about his health.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm in great trouble about his health, about what could happen tomorrow with his health. And I understand very clearly about some symptoms that he has now that it can lead to the very severe condition and even to the death.

And I just want to explain.

CHANCE: I was just asking them how -- if it was possible see Alexei Navalny, whether we could go in and see him. Obviously, no reaction whatsoever.

There has been some video, though, that's been put out on pro-Russian government television. It's closed-circuit television of Alexei Navalny of walking around the dormitory where he's staying, speaking to a prison officer.

There's also been pictures of him sleeping in bed. So, the whole narrative that's being created by Russian authorities is that, actually, Alexei Navalny's condition is being exaggerated; if there is anything wrong with him, he's being seen to in-house by the medics and the doctors inside this penal colony, and that, in fact, he's being treated just like any other prisoner in this country.

Matthew Chance, CNN, in Pokrov.


GORANI: All right, thanks to Matthew.

Still to come: A top U.K. minister says that any COVID passport system cannot discriminate against people who are not vaccinated. So, how will it work?

More details next.


GORANI: Oxford University is pausing a trial of the vaccine that it designed with AstraZeneca that was studying the shot in children and teenagers.

So, the pediatric trial of the Astra vaccine has been paused. The concerns over those rare instances of blood clots that have emerged are prompting a number of countries in Europe to halt and then resume its rollout or to limit it to certain age groups.


Oxford says there have been no safety concerns in the pediatric trials, but that it is awaiting a review by the U.K.'s medicines regulator before continuing with the pediatric trial.

So, that's the very latest on AstraZeneca. That has been the topic of -- that has been surrounded in some countries by uncertainty, with some medicines regulators pausing the rollout to study the possible link between the administration of that vaccine and a very rare blood clot. So, we will wait to see what happens there.

As the U.K. prepares to test COVID passports at large-scale events, its vaccines minister says any certification scheme must be nondiscriminatory.

Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC there cannot be a two-tier or multitiered system as Britain reopens. The prime minister of the U.K., Boris Johnson, made a similar point Monday.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: You have got to be very careful in how you handle this, and don't start a system that is discriminatory.

What is certainly true is that the idea of vaccination status being useful for international travel is something that all countries are looking at. I do think that's going to be part of our -- of the way people deal with it.


GORANI: All right, well, CNN reporter Salma Abdelaziz in London.

So, nondiscriminatory means what, that you don't, for instance, indicate on any passport someone's vaccination status? But then how would they be used?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very good question, Hala.

I think what you're hearing there from the vaccine minister and what you're hearing from the prime minister is them actually echoing the opposition against them, them echoing the concerns that are around them, and saying, we hear you, because that's exactly what an open letter from over 70 M.P.s over the weekend said.

It said that this policy of what the government calls COVID status certifications, what we refer to as vaccine passports, could be discriminatory. It could (AUDIO GAP) GORANI: Mm-hmm.

ABDELAZIZ: One member of Parliament said just this -- just a couple of days ago...

GORANI: Oh, we've lost...

ABDELAZIZ: So, what they're saying, by you hearing those comments, is saying, we hear you, we understand you, we get the concerns, and we're going to try to address them. We understand the fear around people's civil liberties, the ethical concerns around those who might not be able to take the vaccine.

And that's why you hear the prime minister and the government reassuring people over and over again, this will not be used to get to your grocery store or to get to your local pharmacy. These are passports or certificates that should be voluntary, around going to a concert or a sports event or something like that, but it should not be used to be able to access your basic goods, your everyday needs -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Salma Abdelaziz, thanks very much live in London.

Now to Paris. French police are investigating a report that luxury restaurants have been holding private dinner parties in Paris while the city is in lockdown. My goodness. The French TV network M6 showed hidden camera footage of two restaurants filled with mask-free guests.

In the video, a waiter is heard telling the undercover journalist -- quote -- "Once you're through the door, there's no more COVID."

The maitre d' then goes through the menu, saying guests can pay 490 euros for a meal that includes champagne and foie gras. A spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor tells CNN that possible charges could include endangerment and undeclared labor. This is all going on in secret.

Melissa Bell is in Paris with the very latest.

Talk us through these secret dinners. Where? Who? How?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: It's scandalous Hala, because you have to understand that, beyond the partial lockdown we're under, restaurants have actually been closed here in France since the end of October, so ordinary French men and women deprived of any terraces, any restaurants at all.

And this report then coming out apparently showing those two restaurants opened and serving guests, as you say, mask-free. And, initially, what we have seen in the video is one of the owners of the restaurant speaking about having dined with ministers in some of these so-called clandestine restaurants.

They're not clandestine. They're just illegal, by dint of the COVID regulations that are in place. They should not be opening at this point. So, I think that was a great deal of what caused much of the furor around this, not just the idea that there is a basic unfairness between the elites, the wealthy having access to things that most of us don't, but the idea of the hypocrisy there would be behind any government minister responsible, of course, for those COVID regulations, going to such dinners.


Now, minister after minister have come out and denied any involvement in this. And the man initially in the video who claimed he dined with government ministers has also retracted that claim, saying it was a giant joke and that he never really meant it, no ministers had been involved.

But, clearly, people are going to want answers to that question: Were there ministers involved? And if there were, who were there? So, the government, the inquiry now will investigate what went on, both looking at those who participated, who attended these restaurants, and those who organized them.

Now, we have also reached out to the interior minister, who points out that this has been a problem for many months. Now, in the five months since restaurants have closed, however, there have been 1,300 fines given out either to patrons or to owners of restaurants who were at these -- at these events that were opened and restaurants open when they shouldn't be, which gives you an idea, so about 10 fines a day over the course of last five months, that there have been a lot of people very determined to get themselves into restaurants, despite the lockdown that we're living under here in France, Hala.

GORANI: With a 490-euro menu, I mean, you would need some really hefty fines to discourage people from organizing dinners like this.

But you see this undercover video. If you know the restaurant, I mean, if you have been to some of these restaurants, you will immediately recognize which restaurants they are. How do they get the word out to these people to come to their secret dinners?

BELL: Precisely. People recognized, of course, the restaurant in question from the video that was put out.

The man who was spoken to by the undercover journalists, the owner, was then -- has spent his day on French media denying a lot of what he told that hidden camera.

But, of course, a great deal of interest paid to this story because, also, Hala, as you suggest, this was an exclusive menu. There was a sense of exclusivity. This was something that was open to the wealthy or to the connected. And I think that is part of also what has jarred as a result of these videos coming out.

And, again, remember that we are not just at the beginning, the first full week, Hala, of our third partial lockdown here in France, but the figures continue to get worse. Latest ones, more than 30,000 people now in hospital with COVID-19, more than 5,600 people now in ICU with COVID-19. We hadn't seen that ICU figure, Hala, in nearly a year. That is how bad the situation is here. And it is in that context, I

think, that you have to understand a lot of the anger that has surrounded the release of this report.


And then, even they were pixelated, the (INAUDIBLE) was happening, hugging. I mean, it was like COVID had never happened. So, interesting.

Thanks very much, Melissa Bell, live in Paris for that report.

And still to come tonight: The IMF says U.S. economic stimulus will help drive worldwide growth. Not all countries will benefit equally. An uneven vaccine rollout risks leaving some behind.

We will tell you about that story coming up.



GORANI: Let's return now to our breaking news.

Oxford University is pausing a pediatric trial of the vaccine that it designed with AstraZeneca. The trial is studying the shot in children and teenagers. This is off the back, of course, of some countries pausing the rollout because of potential concerns with rare blood clotting.

Elizabeth Cohen is our senior medical correspondent, and has more on this development.

What do you make of the fact that they're pausing this trial on younger -- on younger people, children and teenagers?


So, Hala, I think we need to make one thing clear, which is that the University of Oxford says they haven't seen safety issues with the children. That's not why they're pausing it. They said they're pausing it while British regulators look at data about possible links to blood clots or any data about blood clots among people who have taken the AstraZeneca vaccine, meaning adults.

So, in other words, they're pausing the pediatric trial while they take a look at the adult data. Now, to be very clear, these reports of blood clots among adults are rare. And it could just be a coincidence. It could be a coincidence that somebody got an AstraZeneca vaccine, and then had a blood clot issue.

Blood clots do sometimes happen. And they're trying to sort that out. That's what the British regulators are doing right now. And other regulators around the world are trying to figure out, is there a link here or is it a coincidence? It's interesting that they're pausing this trial now. This trial has

been going on since around February. And this data or this sort of concern about blood clots among adults has been around for a couple of weeks. It's unclear why now they're pausing the pediatric trial. What happened that made them say, hmm, we think we need to pause this? That part is not clear -- Hala.

GORANI: I guess the -- I mean, what I hear most often from people who are worried about the blood clotting reports potentially being linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine -- in no way has this been established, but what I hear from the people who are worried is, why are we hearing of these instances in connection to AstraZeneca, and not in connection to other vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna, if this the number of blood clot cases is no more than what you would expect to see in the general population?

That's kind of the question I'm hearing more and more, most often about this.

COHEN: Right. It's a good question, Hala.

And, unfortunately, we don't have a great answer, because, first of all, there might not be any link. We might just be hearing about this because some -- it happened to one person, and that made doctors more vigilant. And they said, wow, we're really going to try to keep track of this with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

So, maybe there's just more vigilance over this with the -- with folks who've had the AstraZeneca vaccine, rather than folks who've had other vaccines. So, that might be part of what's going on.

But, again, we just don't know if there is a link or not. But, certainly, when something like this happens, you have these rare events when you have millions and millions of people who've gotten this vaccine.

There's so much to soar through here. Is this link real? And is it only happening with this vaccine?

GORANI: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, as always, thanks so much.

The COVID clouds hovering over the global economy may be starting to lift. The IMF has raised its 2021 global forecast significantly during its virtual spring meeting to 6 percent.

That projection is largely off the back of Joe Biden's massive stimulus plan in the United States. The rising tide may not lift all boats, as the vaccine rollout around the world remains uneven. The countries where COVID persists risk being left behind.

Clare Sebastian is following the story from New York.

And some -- by the way, some of the countries where the COVID vaccine rollout has been incredibly slow are E.U. countries. So, you may have an uneven rebound between, for instance, the U.S. and some countries in the European Union. CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala.

I think what you're hearing from the IMF is that the vaccine really is the key determinant of how quickly they're going to rebound from this. Those who perhaps aren't going to see such a quick rollout are going to perhaps be more lockdowns, more restrictions.


That, in turn, hampers economic growth and slows down the whole process. They say that, while some developed economies -- we see, for example, the acceleration in the U.S. -- are going to see a good amount of people, a sort of majority of people, vaccinated by this summer, many in the developing world and some in Europe are perhaps going to have to wait until the end of 2022.

So, you see this real divergence in outcomes here. And this is something that the IMF is calling very dangerous. They're very worried that the pandemic is going to widen the chasm that we see between both rich and poor countries, and, even within those countries, between higher-income and lower-income people.

And that's what we're really getting, is a tone from these virtual spring meetings, a call to arms to try to fix that. Janet Yellen in an event just this lunchtime saying: I think it's the responsibility of the developed countries to make sure that decades of progress in fighting poverty globally and trying to close income gaps between rich and poor countries, that that is the responsibility of developed countries.

Of course, a stark contrast to the kind of tone that we had from the previous U.S. administration. But we really get the sense that the IMF meetings are trying to bring these countries together and create a more equal recovery than the one we're currently seeing.

GORANI: What is the biggest concern here, that, as the U.S., with this giant stimulus rebounds, we look maybe at the V-shaped recovery that we hear so much about -- what is the biggest concern for the countries that may not experience this type of uptick in economic activity at the same pace and at the same time?

SEBASTIAN: I think -- so, the word the IMF tends to use, Hala, is scarring, that what we're going to see is long-term damage, because, right now, for developed economies like the U.S., they actually see very little scarring.

The U.S. has the extraordinary distinction of being able to return, according to IMF predictions, to the kind of growth next year that it would have seen with or without the pandemic. But we don't see that among developing economies. They have seen more hours out of education. They have seen more businesses going under, and more restrictions are going to lead to more of that.

And that could prolong the hardship for these countries and, again, worse the outcomes for people who are already so vulnerable. The difference, however, between this crisis and the financial crisis is that the financial crisis hit developed economies. It hit Wall Street.

And, I mean, it hit a lot of sort of wealthy areas of life, whereas this crisis is hitting the world's most vulnerable. And I think that's the biggest concern.

GORANI: OK, Clare Sebastian, thanks very much.

Thank you all for watching. I'm Hala Gorani in London.

Do stay with CNN. Our coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin continues next, as they return from their midday lunch break.