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Hala Gorani Tonight
Biden Orders New Intelligence Report on COVID Origins; EU Foreign Ministers Meet Amid Belarus Plane Crisis; U.S. Promising New Era of Engagement with Palestinians; Two Vaccine Doses Effective Against Variant Found In India; Evacuations Ordered As Fears Grow Of New DRC Eruption; Taiwan Reports Record COVID-19 Deaths As Cases Surge. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 27, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Once dismissed, now suddenly credible again. President
Biden tells his Intelligence agencies to look into the Wuhan COVID lab leak theory. What has changed? We'll discuss with our reporters. Also ahead,
please save my son. A desperate plea from a mother of that detained activist in Belarus as the fate of her 26-year-old son hangs in the
balance. Will world leaders do anything about this?
And call it a flare-up, a hot spot or whatever you want, but a fast- spreading COVID variant is causing major trouble around the world, including in countries with strong vaccination programs like the U.K. What
you need to know and how it might affect you. We begin in the United States with a renewed push to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Joe Biden has given Intelligence officials 90 days to collect more information on how the virus emerged. He says agencies are reviewing a
couple of scenarios, including that theory that was dismissed in the beginning, you'll remember?
That coronavirus in fact spread from a lab in Wuhan, China, and not from a wet market. But this theory is being revisited. It's getting renewed
attention especially after a U.S. Intelligence report found that in November 2019, several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology got
so sick that they had to seek hospital care. China is of course denying those claims. Let's get more from our correspondent, CNN's Kylie Atwood is
in Washington, Nick Paton Walsh joins me from London. Kylie, first off, what is Joe Biden asking for and how will the information be utilized?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a significant development on behalf of the Biden administration. The president tasking
the Intelligence community to redouble its efforts to look into the origins of COVID-19. Now, in this statement, he noted that the Intelligence
community here in the United States still doesn't definitively know where this pandemic originated from. Of course, there are two possible theories
that the IC has information on. One, of course, is that it could have come from animals and spread to humans.
The other, that it could have originated in a lab. And both of those are things that the president wants the Intelligence community to really dive
into, because, in his words, he wants them to become closer to a definitive conclusion, something that the U.S. and the world doesn't have now when it
comes to those question of how the pandemic actually began. Now, it's important to note that his statement yesterday comes as the lab theory, one
of those theories about the origins, is getting a little bit more traction in the United States. Those who had downplayed it and said that those who
were proponent were doing so for political reasons are now saying that it deserves a look, so that is significant.
The other thing that I think is significant is that the Biden administration is demonstrating that they are looking into this, and they
are focused on using their own Intelligence community to do so. Now, I have reported that they actually shut down a Trump era secretive investigation
at the State Department that was looking into this, specifically looking into the possibility that it could have been connected to China's
biological, chemical weapons research and development program. But the State Department essentially closed that down during the Biden
administration, and it's clear that they aren't closing down all the inquiries here, they just want to focus the Intelligence community on being
GORANI: One has to wonder that if it's because it was the Trump administration advancing this theory and because the former President
Donald Trump had been caught in so many lies, that perhaps that theory was dismissed without further investigation. And, Nick Paton Walsh, I want to
get to you. It was, I remember for months dismissed as some sort of conspiracy theory that this virus escaped from a lab, that it might have
been used in some sort of WMD -- secret WMD program. Why is it being revived now, this possible avenue?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: There is not really a lot more evidence to explain why it's being revised now. Yes, Kylie,
excellent reporting about the three individuals who were sick in November 2019. We don't know what they were sick from.
And as we reported in the past at the end of 2019, there was an enormous influenza outbreak in that part of the world. So there's a question there,
certainly, can we get a hold of samples from those particular lab work because they must have been tested. If they worked in a laboratory, did
they have antibody tests? The W.H.O. report says that, that testing has already been done and come up with nothing. Why do we keep going back to
the lab-leak then? Well, obviously, it's a very simple explanation for people trying to understand this catastrophic event that's hit humanity.
There are three enormous coincidences too about the city of Wuhan. It is the center of virological research. Some of them on bats at the Wuhan
Institute of Virology. At the Wuhan Institute Center for Disease Control, in just early December, they moved the laboratory towards that particular
Seafood Huanan Market you were referring to, noted in fact in the W.H.O. report to something that could have been disruptive, some might speculate
that could have been connected to a lab leak. And finally though, those three individuals who were sick, but is there a conclusive piece of
evidence or intelligence that's public that we know of that leads us to conclude the lab leak is real and viable? Not really.
There is a lot of coincidence, a lot of people looking for a simple explanation that makes basic sense. There is a lot of a blame game here,
too. That's what China says it's been accused of today, they say the U.S. is not interested in the truth. But we're still looking possibly to see if
within this Intelligence community reassessment, there's a bit more data, an extra thing that people haven't exposed yet which will lead us close to
the truth. You did mention weapons of mass destruction now, Hala, and that's important because the Intelligence community I've spoken to, they
say, well, they can't disprove it was a lab leak, but they can't prove it was either.
Whether it comes to this being a biological weapon, someone I spoke to said, well, if it is, it's rubbish because if you create a biological
weapon, you want it to be directed, you want it to be focused. You don't want it to infect your entire population and the rest of the world, and
of course, an international situation like this. So, I think people are beginning to wonder, in short, was this something that fell out of a test
tube and got into people or got off an animal and into people? That's an exceptionally hard thing to evidentially prove the difference of, because
you're talking about a very slight change in exactly what they're looking for. Hala?
GORANI: Yes, absolutely. And we'll be talking about COVID more later in the program because we're still in the middle of this pandemic and variants
around the world, especially in certain parts of the U.K. now are causing more misery. Thanks to both of you. Kylie Atwood and Nick Paton Walsh.
Tonight, Europe is struggling to respond to the Belarusian president's unprecedented move of hijacking a passenger plane to detain a dissident, a
charge Alexander Lukashenko denies. EU foreign ministers have just come out of a meeting in Portugal, more on the diplomatic developments in a moment.
But first, let's remember that the center of this crisis are two young people. Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega. You can see both of
them in videos released by the Lukashenko regime, videos that resemble footage of hostages, some people have said. Despite being key figures in an
international incident, they are simply a 26-year-old activist and a 23- year-old law student with families who are terrified for them. We're reminded of that today because Protasevich's parents and his colleagues are
speaking out. His mother, Natalia, you see her there wiping tears, is literally begging the world to help her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIA PROTASEVICH, MOTHER OF ROMAN PROTASEVICH: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: The mother of Roman Protasevich. I want to speak to a European leader now, Krisjanis Karins is the Prime Minister of Latvia, one of the
Baltic countries sharing a border with Belarus and Russia. And he joins me now live from Riga. And your diplomatic relations with Belarus are terrible
right now. Belarus expelled your ambassador and Latvian diplomats, you responded in kind and expelled Belarusian diplomats because at an event in
Riga, the flag of the opposition of the Belarusian opposition was flown, and that irked Alexander Lukashenko. What is going on? Why are relations so
ARTURS KRISJANIS KARINS, PRIME MINISTER, LATVIA: Well, remember, as a neighboring country, Latvia of course would want to have good relations
with Belarus, but as the saying goes, it always takes two to tango. What the Belarusian regime, what Lukashenko is doing is completely without
precedence, completely unacceptable, a hijacking of a passenger plane en route between two European capitals, between Athens, Greece and Vilnius in
Forced to land, two passengers are taken off, this young activist as you just mentioned, it's completely unacceptable. Latvia is united with the
European Union, and I think the European Union is united also with the United States in a union of values, of freedom, democracy, rule of law. Our
neighbor right now is not adhering to these standards and actions which go outside of any norm go outside of international law, must have
GORANI: Do you believe that the response by the European Union was sufficient? We're talking here about sanctions. We're talking about banning
over-flights of Belarus. We're talking about the Belarusian national carrier not being allowed to land in EU airports. Will it be enough, do you
KARINS: Well, I think the action taken by the European Union was certainly swift, decisive, and I think quite definitive.
GORANI: Yes --
KARINS: And the council of heads of state and government that we had just this week, the discussion was very short. Everyone was united on what we
had to do, and it just took a few minutes to put all of the issues, the sanctions in order. So in Europe, we are clearly united and the reaction
was extremely swift also.
GORANI: Yes, but united and swift, those nobody will disagree with you on that. But I guess the question is, and the worry that some people have is
now, any time a regime is unhappy with a dissident and a commercial airliner flies into its air space, and they decide to force it to land,
that there will be no severe repercussions. Is that a possibility when it comes to Belarus?
KARINS: Well, the question is what in your mind or in anyone's mind is a severe reaction? Actually, this is quite severe, especially the economic
sanctions which are being floated. We're also looking at broader sectoral sanctions to hit the economy, and those companies that are actually funding
the regime. So, as with any regime, and authoritative regimes, they all have sources of income. We can take actions in the west to counter that,
including also with financial flows there. Is quite a bit in our western democratic tool kit. So I think the signal is very clear. Such actions have
a border. That border --
GORANI: So --
KARINS: Has been crossed -- yes?
GORANI: So, there are possibly more measures that the EU is considering, and it could put into action. I spoke with Franak Viacorka, who is a
spokesperson for the opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and he is currently in Vilnius in Lithuania. He told me that he is just -- he is
afraid for his safety. Listen to what he told me yesterday on the program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANAK VIACORKA, CHIEF ADVISER TO SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA: No one is safe anywhere. And I must say I am concerned about my safety, about my friends,
about our team, because we know after Sunday, that they can follow us everywhere. We knew that KGB agents, they were following Roman Protasevich
in Athens airport on the EU territory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Are you concerned that in your country there might be also some threats to anybody who opposes the Belarusian regime? Are you concerned
that there is the type of activity that this -- that this man described, Franak Viacorka, on your territory?
KARINS: Well, remember, Latvia is fully integrated into the EU, fully integrated into NATO. We are a part of the clearly democratic western
family of nations. The difficulty is that a regime such as the one in Belarus, similarly, as the regime in Moscow is working very hard to
undermine our democracies, to undermine our way of life, and we have to keep our guard up at all times, and that actually holds across the entire
western world. Where actually, from their point of view, they're waging a sort of battle with us. It's a battle -- a lot has to do in the information
or the disinformation sphere. There are cyber attacks, and not only, we have to be vigilant all the time, and all of the time --
GORANI: Right, I get that. But do you -- do you -- if you have on your territory any Belarusian opponents to the Lukashenko regime, are you
concerned they may not be safe?
KARINS: We are always concerned about the safety of all of our citizens and our inhabitants, and we keep a weary eye out.
GORANI: All right, so the next steps, very briefly, will be looking at further measures potentially?
KARINS: Yes, and we also -- I think what's very important here is that the EU and the United States that we enhance this Trans-Atlantic cooperation
because it's not only the difficulty with Belarus, there is a difficulty with Russia as well --
GORANI: Yes, sure --
KARINS: And the stronger we can unite our efforts and coordinate them, the better it is and the better the response will be and the more bite any
response will have.
GORANI: All right, thank you very much for joining us, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins who is the Prime Minister there of Latvia joining us on
the program. Thank you for your time. Well, the prime minister there spoke of Russia. Russia is becoming more assertive in many battles, but
specifically in the battle over international air space that Belarus kicked off on Sunday. Two flights to Moscow have been canceled after Russia failed
to approve the airlines planned bypass of Belarus. CNN's Richard Quest joins me now with that, the host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS". So we're
talking here about an Austrian flight and an Air France flight --
RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Right --
GORANI: But they canceled the flight to Moscow because what, Russian authorities did not give them --
QUEST: You know --
GORANI: Landing permission if they circumvented Belarus.
QUEST: Basically, yes. Normally, the plane would have gone right across Belarus and up to Moscow. Instead, they had to go around. But of course,
when you file a flight plan, the -- even though it's an over-flight, the receiving country has to approve your flight plan, and of course, they
weren't prepared to do that. Now, this is significant because it is the first part of real activity done by Russia to support what Lukashenko has
done. This is the first time that he's actually -- that President Putin has taken a concrete step in support. And in doing so, of course, it ties him
even further to Lukashenko.
But it also, Hala, means that the key to solving this lies through Russia, which is pretty much what the EU justice minister -- justice commissioner
said to me today here on "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS".
GORANI: All right. And we'll hear from him later on your program next hour. Thanks very much, Richard Quest.
QUEST: Thank you.
GORANI: Still to come, tonight, talk is one thing, action is another. Palestinians say they're waiting for the U.S. to follow through on promises
made during Antony Blinken's Middle East tour. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, the peace process is moribund between Israel and the Palestinians, but there was a visit by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony
Blinken, and the message that he was carrying to the Palestinians was that the U.S. is trying to reverse some of the key policies of the Trump
administration in an effort to show good will. Blinken took that message to the West Bank during his recent visit to the region. Nic Robertson met one
activist who says, well, if it does come, America's help can't come soon enough.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): While in the Mid-East, Antony Blinken reached round politicians for an unvarnished
view, meeting State Department's selected Palestinian activists.
ISSA AMRO, PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: He listened to me, and I felt from his body language that he knows enough about here, so I moved to
tell him what Palestinians want from the American administration.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): One of those he met was 41-year-old Issa Amro whose regular criticism of Israel is strongly disputed by Israeli
AMRO: We want to get rid of occupation, to get rid of the Israeli apartheid and oppression, to end the siege on Gaza, and to support our
political and human rights.
ROBERTSON: So, did Blinken tell you anything that makes you think that he understands that or is going to change that situation?
AMRO: He said that we are working to reverse Trump administration decisions, and we want to start communication with our Palestinian people
and it's not a switch button. So everybody work from the field.
ROBERTSON: Through your neighbor's garden?
ROBERTSON: And this is the only way you can move around here now?
AMRO: This is the only way you move around here.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Amro lives next to an Israeli settlement, says America's timely help is vital for Palestinians.
AMRO: This used to be the main entrance.
ROBERTSON: And the reason this is blocked now?
AMRO: It's because of the settlers.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Says in recent years, roads to his and his neighbor's houses have been cut.
ROBERTSON: From here now --
AMRO: From here.
ROBERTSON: Well, it's amaze, it's an absolute worrying of gardens.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): And worries without U.S. involvement, the settlement will grow more.
AMRO: We did tele-post from the house.
ROBERTSON: Right on the house.
AMRO: Slight of the house.
ROBERTSON: Does family still live here?
AMRO: Yes, it's terrible.
ROBERTSON: Got on the road again from here. And the soldier at the check- post here just came to check which channel we are filming for. We told him CNN, and I think he's OK with that.
AMRO: So the main road --
ROBERTSON: Yes --
AMRO: Used to be from here to many families.
AMRO: And to me, to my house was from -- to the left. A Palestinian family now left to the right.
ROBERTSON: Yes --
AMRO: I made a lot to visit them.
ROBERTSON: Because they're within the settlement area.
AMRO: Yes --
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Further down the street, another control on his life.
AMRO: It is one of the main cheap ones here, to get into your house, to your neighborhood, you should pass --
ROBERTSON: This is where you come in from the --
AMRO: Yes --
AMRO: When I come from the shopping area, I walk out from here.
ROBERTSON: And if you want to bring any friends to your house?
AMRO: I need special coronation.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): We walked on, passed a row of Palestinian shops shuttered for almost two decades.
AMRO: So, this is a Palestinian empty house.
ROBERTSON: This one?
AMRO: Yes --
ROBERTSON: The families left.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): And then we reached the limit, half a mile from his house.
AMRO: And I'm allowed only to here.
ROBERTSON: And why -- and why this? Why this line? Why only to here?
AMRO: Because they don't want us to continue.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): President Biden's help, he says, can't come soon enough.
AMRO: Biden's administration should start from where Obama's administration ended. To make the Israeli settlement illegal, then make aid
to Israel conditional. If Israel doesn't respect the principle of freedom, justice and equality for all, they should not get any dollar from the
ROBERTSON: His most radical suggestion to Blinken encourage Hamas which the U.S. designates a terrorist organization. And those rockets he doesn't
support to become part of the political landscape.
AMRO: And this is why I talked to Mr. Blinken, to do a presidential waiver to include Hamas in the political --
ROBERTSON: To include Hamas?
AMRO: Yes, exactly, we want to bring Hamas and all Palestinian parties to the PLO according to the international law --
ROBERTSON (voice-over): He says he spoke with Blinken for about 20 minutes. The clock now ticking on his and Palestinians expectations.
ROBERTSON: How long do you give them?
AMRO: I think we will wait another, you know, let me say, six months or you know, another, you know, year.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nic Robertson, CNN, Hebron, the West Bank.
GORANI: Well, it's a great on-the-ground look there at how ordinary people live in that part of the world. Rwanda has waited nearly three decades for
this moment. But for many genocide survivors, the words of the French president today did not go far enough. Emmanuel Macron visited Kigali,
formerly recognizing his country's role in failing to prevent the 1994 massacres. He acknowledged that France backed the Hutu regime that
encouraged the genocide despite clear warnings. He stressed that France was not complicit in the killings, and he did not apologize. This is how he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT, FRANCE (through translator): But France has a role in history and a political responsibility in Rwanda. And it has a duty
to look history in the face and to recognize the suffering it has inflicted on the Rwandan people by allowing silence to prevail over the examination
of the truth for too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, the Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Mr. Macron's words were better than an apology because he spoke the truth. That reaction from
the Rwandan president. Still to come tonight, rising cases, rising hospitalizations and scathing testimony from a former top official, the
British government is on the defensive against accusations that it mishandled the pandemic. Also, thousands of people forced to flee their
homes as authorities worry that a volcano will erupt again in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We'll have those stories and more after a
break, stay with CNN.
GORANI: Well, health officials are once again raising the alarm. That's because coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing in the U.K.
For the first time since April, the country recorded more than 3,000 new cases on Wednesday.
Authorities say potentially three quarters of all newly diagnosed cases are from the variant first found in India. Wednesday, France announced a
mandatory quarantine for all travelers arriving from the U.K. and Austria says it's banning all incoming flights from Britain starting in June.
All of these warnings are coming as the British government is fighting off accusations that it bungled its response to the pandemic. The British
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is having to defend himself after the former top aide of the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, accused him of criminal
behavior. But Hancock says he's been honest with the public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT HANCOCK, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: I've been straight with people, in public and in private throughout every day, since I began working on the
response to this pandemic last January. I've got up each morning and asked what must I do to protect life? That is the job of a health secretary in a
pandemic. We've taken an approach of openness, transparency, an explanation of both what we know and what we don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And that was Matt Hancock. Let's take a closer look at all of this with David king, he served as a Chief Scientific Adviser for the British
government and is the chair of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. Thank you, Sir David King, for joining us. The U.K. is one
of the most vaccinated countries in the world yet we're seeing this big spike in cases and worryingly in hospitalizations. Why is that?
DAVID KING, FORMER U.K. CHIEF SCIENTIFIC ADVISOR: Well, there are several reasons. One is that this Indian variant is considerably more infectious
than the Kent variant that is itself was more infectious than the previous form that we had in this country. And so it is outspreading all the other
variants. The second reason is because, frankly, borders were very leaky. And we did have a lot of people coming in from India, that you will know
that we have a large Indian population in Britain, a large number of British Indian people. And of course, they have many relatives in India.
And we do have a large amount of business relationships with India.
So there's a good deal of travel between India and the United Kingdom rather more than most other countries. And so we did have a good invasion
of this new variant, the B.1.617.2. And that continued for about three weeks before the government put India on the red list for inward travel.
And I fear that, once again, we took action, long, long after the stable -- long, long after everything had arrived in this country.
GORANI: But you -- yes.
KING: So basically, the disease took off as a result of allowing inward travelers to come in. And even when the government announced that he was
going to stop travelers coming in from India. We allowed four more days, and during that period of time, a really large number of people came in to
get there before the deadline.
GORANI: Let me ask you about the vaccinations. I mean, they must be having some sort of impact in terms of lessening the severity of this spike in
numbers. Pfizer, I understand is 88 percent effective against the Indian variant after two doses. AstraZeneca less, 60 percent effective. How is
this mitigating what is a troubling picture right now with the rise in cases?
KING: So I have to give the answer by saying that the first doses have been given to well over 75 percent of all British adults now and the uptake is
very high. people over the age of 45, the uptake is well over 90percent. However, second doses is down closer to 50 percent. And so the adult
population, and people are entering hospital with the new variant, even though they've had that first dose.
And the second point, and this is really important, is that a very high percentage of the people going down with this disease are in the younger
age group. And I can even tell you that the highest level of the disease is in the 10 to 14-year-old age group. And then, the five to nine, fifteen to
nineteen-year-old age group, much higher in children than ever before.
And, of course, we're not vaccinating children yet. So, I think the answer is multiple. One reason -- I mean, if we look at where it's happening,
there are about seven different areas in the United Kingdom where this is happening. Bolton, Leicester, these are places with significant people who
originate from India, living in those places.
Now, I think, however, that I do need to say that Britain is in advance of every other country in the world, including the United States in terms of
DNA analysis. So, the Sanger Center is running analyses -- DNA analyses of a high percentage of the cases going down with the disease. And I believe
this is why we're picking up the Indian variant more than in many other countries in the world.
GORANI: Let me ask you, the obvious follow up here is what needs to happen now so that these -- this -- the -- this rise in cases and worryingly in
hospitalizations and the fact that it's happening to younger people, what needs to happen? Lockdowns, closing the borders, mandatory quarantines,
what has to happen?
KING: I'm afraid all of the above. So, yes, we're just emerging from a long period of our third lockdown. This lockdown has been run more successfully
by the government than the previous lockdowns, one has to say. But at the same time, we now see the number of cases, right, of the new variant
doubling every week. And so just two weeks ago, we were saying that the 10 percent of new cases with a new variant, it's now a much, much higher
percentage approaching 50 percent plus of new cases of the new carrier.
GORANI: So you think the country should lock down again? I mean, if you really -- if you were giving advice to the government today, you would say
just go back to the lockdown?
KING: We certainly need to be very, very cautious about lifting any further stages of the lockdown that we're in now. I mean, if I just give you
numbers, two weeks ago, about 1,500 to 2,000 new cases being reported in Britain per day. And now we're over 3,500. So, the case numbers are going
up. What we have to watch is what's happening to hospitalization because that's where the serious cases, of course, end up. If the cases in children
don't become serious, then I think a full lockdown may not be necessary.
But I must say all of the lessons of this disease and this pandemic, show us that getting ahead of the pandemic is critically important. And it may
be wise to return into a full lockdown for a period until we've locked out this particular variant.
GORANI: Thank you so much for joining us. David King, the Former U.K. Government Chief Scientific Adviser. Thanks, really, for breaking it down
KING: Thank you.
GORANI: It's a little depressing to have to hear about the possible need for another lockdown, but, you know, this pandemic is what it is and this
virus does what it does, and it is vicious. Thanks so much for being with us.
Ten more neighborhoods in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being evacuated as officials fear another volcanic eruption. Officials say
the government's priority is to preserve human life. Larry Madowo joins me now from Goma with more on, you know, what's going on, what you're seeing
from your vantage point, Larry.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, there's tens of thousands of people tonight, maybe hundreds of thousands who have been
displaced from their homes because the government has ordered them to evacuate, and they have nowhere to go because there was no plan. We met
some of them crossing the border into Rwanda.
But many of them are fleeing eastwards into the neighboring town of Sake, outside of this red zone that the local government says there might be
another volcanic explosion, there might be an implosion from under the ground, or the lake nearby, or the earthquakes that have been felt more
than a hundred since the volcanic eruption on Saturday, might damage their homes.
So Mount Nyiragongo, the lava appears to have cleared up, but the damage and the danger is far from gone. And people here are having to deal with
this in the middle of already a turbulent region, a turbulent season. I met with the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council who says that
Congo is already the most neglected crisis in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: This is a place where there is a volcano-load of displacements every single day.
I mean, the volcano displaced 60,000 people. The conflict displaces 6,000 people every single day from 120 armed groups just in this region, 180, or
together in eastern Congo, there are so many conflicts, so many disasters, so much misery, so much chaos, that the people are suffering beyond belief
and nobody seems to care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADOWO: It's already the night here and there are still people trying to flee the city. The -- Goma is essentially getting deserted. The whole day,
people have been trying to gather their belongings, just carrying what they can on their back and their children, so many children. They don't know
what they're going to feed them. They don't know how long they're going to be away because the government says they don't know when they can say it is
safe to return home, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Larry Madowo thanks very much in Goma. Still to come tonight, manmade leak from a lab that used to get your post banned on
Facebook. Not anymore. What's behind the social media giant's change of policy coming up next. Plus Taiwan's cautionary COVID-19 tale early
pandemic success has deteriorated into record high case counts and deaths. What went wrong?
GORANI: Well, so not too long ago, if you posted a what was termed a conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 virus had escaped from a lab in China,
the social media giant would remove it. It would remove that claim from its website. It is reversing course on this. Our Chief Media Correspondent
Brian Stelter joins me now from New York. Is that because the U.S. President Joe Biden is ordering that investigation, that 90-day
investigation into whether or not this theory actually is plausible?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, Facebook is not citing United States government policy or United States government changes.
However, it is citing public health experts in saying that it consults with experts, and as scientific consensus changes, it is changing as well. But
this is a bit of an embarrassing moment for Facebook, a company that, in many cases, has refused to fact check or follow up or take down
But in the case of COVID-19 took very strong steps. They said they were doing this last year to try to protect people to make sure that accurate
information was able to spread on this site.
But lies and smears and incendiary information, you know, racist claims were not able to spread. So this theory, of course, sometimes used by bad
faith actors sometimes, you know, promoted by the likes of President Trump, known for lying in lots of other ways, was something that was very
concerning to Facebook and other tech platforms. And so the company was taking action last year, but now it's unwinding that, saying it will not
remove these claims anymore.
It's a really interesting example of what happens when these platforms try to address misinformation, but end up taking things down that are not black
or white, not proven or disproven. Obviously, this theory is in a much more murky area. And now Facebook acknowledging that by changing the policy.
GORANI: But I do remember that during the Trump administration, when the president who, as you said, lied about a lot of things, floated this theory
that perhaps the virus escaped from a lab, people dismissed it as a conspiracy theory. And I imagine that's perhaps why Facebook then had this
policy of removing comments and posts, you know, that disseminated, that supported this theory, and it's almost like a damned if you do and damned
if you don't. They wanted to make sure that people got good information. Now that perhaps it's a theory that holds water, they're reversing course.
I mean, it's -- look, I -- I'm not going to say I feel sorry for Facebook, but it is a complicated balancing act here, isn't it?
STELTER: Incredibly complicated. And I think conspiracy theory is an interesting phrase. Imagine Facebook trying to apply fact checks to other
conspiracy theories. There's been a lot of chatter lately about UFOs and what the United States government might know about UFOs. Should Facebook go
around and put labels and fact checks on those theories? This is incredibly complicated, and it's exactly why Facebook says they don't want to be the
arbiter of truth, they don't want to be in this position.
But because of COVID-19, because of the danger to the public, they took this position of fact checking of taking down content. And now we are
seeing the consequences. It can be really complex, they can make mistakes along the way. I think in this case, this is a tech company with good
intentions, applying a policy around the world in ways that are very complicated, and now having to unwind it in this case.
GORANI: And it's not just COVID. I mean, you'll, of course, remember that horrendous Christchurch massacre in New Zealand where some video was live
streamed on Facebook, and it's a Whac -- it's a game of Whac-A-Mole, really, is trying to figure out where there's potentially damaging
nefarious conspiracy theories, videos, content that is not acceptable in terms of its violence, or its promotion of violence. How does a company
that huge, with billions of users, even approach this in a way?
STELTER: Right, and a company that is, you know, founded based on American free speech principles, but then trying to apply those principles in a
variety of markets in a variety of communities, sometimes with staff there, sometimes not. I feel like every month, we are once again reminded about
how unusual this state of the world is that Facebook, this American company, is making up rules for the entire world and really making them up
as they go along.
I think that's what this COVID case shows they are making up these policies as they go along, changing them as the months go on. And all of us as
users, well, we can either choose to use the site or not, but we don't get any say in that.
GORANI: That's -- it's -- and you're so right, underlining the fact that they are changing the rules and determining the rules for the entire world.
It's not just America, it's everywhere.
STELTER: That's right.
GORANI: It's billions of people who rely on Facebook and who are -- and who use that platform. Thanks so much, Brian Stelter, for joining us, our media
-- our Chief Media Correspondent. Dozens of people in Greater Melbourne have been diagnosed with COVID-19 this week, forcing a week-long lockdown
in Australia's Victoria state. From now until Thursday, people there can only leave their homes for things like essential shopping, caring for a
loved one, or for medical treatment and vaccinations. Officials say they've identified more than 10,000 people who need to quarantine or be tested
because they may have had contact with someone newly infected. It is not -- this pandemic is not going away. It is not going away.
Today, Taiwan announced the new $7.5 billion Coronavirus relief package as it scrambles to curb a sharp spike in cases. In 2020, Taiwan had one of the
most successful responses in the world and now it's reporting record high case counts and deaths. Will Ripley takes a look at what went wrong.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Once a poster child for pandemic success, now a cautionary tale. Taiwan had zero local cases of COVID-19 for 255
straight days last year.
This year, local cases surging. "The pandemic is worsening," says this nurse in Taipei, "So I came for the vaccine." Vaccines are in desperately
short supply here. Only around one percent of Taiwan's population has their first dose. Millions of doses are set to arrive by the end of August. Not
soon enough, says opposition lawmaker Lai Hsiang-ling, "Our people are worried," she says. "We will lack adequate protection if we still don't
have enough vaccines."
Former Vice President and leading epidemiologist, Dr. Chen Chien-jen, says the only way out of this crisis is getting the public vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN CHIEN-JEN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST AND FORMER TAIWANESE VICE PRESIDENT: I do have a confidence once we receive adequate vaccine, and the people in
Taiwan, they will come out to get immunization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Getting those vaccines is proving to be a huge struggle for Taiwan's government. Foreign shipments face delay after delay. Leaders in
Taipei blame global supply shortages and interference by Beijing. China claims the self-governing island as its own, stepping up military activity
near Taiwan, even during the outbreak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Do you believe that Beijing has slowed down the arrival of vaccines here?
CHIEN-JEN: Sometimes, we got this us obstacles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Obstacles including political pressure from China, something the mainland denies. Taipei blames Beijing for its exclusion from the World
Health Organization. Taiwanese law bans the import of Chinese pharmaceuticals for human use. The island rejecting repeated Chinese offers
to send its own vaccines, instead asking the U.S., which plans to donate tens of millions of doses around the world. The mainland calls Taiwan's
move pointless political manipulation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEN-JEN: Politics is never a consideration for us to import any vaccine into Taiwan. The only thing we're really concerned is the safety and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Dr. Chen says evidence suggests Chinese vaccines are less effective than Moderna and AstraZeneca, both authorized for emergency use in Taiwan.
President Tsai Ing-wen says locally produced vaccines could be ready by late July, frighteningly far away for those trying to do what's spelled out
in the lights of this iconic hotel. Stay safe. Will Ripley, CNN, Taiwan.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, one of tennis' biggest star says no more questions from the press. She says it's an unfair burden. We'll be right
GORANI: The world's number two ranked women's tennis player, Naomi Osaka, will not do press conferences during the French Open. She made the
announcement on social media and it has to do, she says, with mental health. In a statement posted on Instagram and Twitter, Osaka said, "I've
often felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health. And this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one, we're
often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before, or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds that I'm just
not going to subject myself to people that doubt me. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down. And I don't understand
the reasoning behind it."
So we had a discussion in our meeting today, by the way, whether or not it's part of an athlete's job to do press conferences, to talk to
journalists, or if that's completely separate, and they should just not be subjected to press conferences. It's an interesting question. Osaka is a
four-time tennis Grand Slam Champion.
Stargazers were treated to a rare spectacle around the world on Wednesday with the appearance of a unique Super Moon, but it was those on either side
of the Pacific Ocean who had the real treat. A Super Moon that coincided with the first total lunar eclipse in more than two years, creating this
super Flower Blood Moon. The moon was at its closest point to the earth making it appear bigger and brighter, and it gained a mesmerizing reddish
color from sunlight filtering through the Earth's atmosphere. It will still look really awful for -- on your cell phone though. Don't try taking a
picture of the moon.
All right. Finally, some sad news. Eric Carle, the author and illustrator of many classic children's books, has died. His family says he passed away
on Sunday. He was 91. He was best known for the popular bedtime book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." His work often featured colorful illustrations
that were made by hand from paper cutouts. He created dozens of titles throughout his career. He sold 150 million copies.
I'm asking the crew here. Are you guys familiar with The Hungry Caterpillar? You are. I think I'm the only one who wasn't. Either way, huge
cultural impact. Thanks for watching tonight. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.