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Hala Gorani Tonight
Haiti's Political Crisis; Coronavirus Pandemic; Aftermath of Brexit; WH: U.S., Delivering on Promise to Supply Vaccines to World; Cases of Delta Variant Spiking Across Asia; Richard Branson Blasts off on Sunday. Aired 2- 3pm ET
Aired July 09, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Live from CNN, London, I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, suspects are in custody in Haiti. CNN is on the ground, what we're learning
this hour about the President's assassination.
And CNN has obtained exclusive access to video from inside a South African hospital overwhelmed by COVID cases. This as the mayor of Johannesburg has
died of the virus.
And later, do you work 40, 50 maybe even 60 hours a week? Well, it might not be necessary, new research into the benefits of a much shorter
It's a very fluid and volatile situation right now, as is often said about cases on the ground in Haiti. The nation has been plunged deeper into chaos
following Wednesday's assassination of their president Jovenel Moise. Haiti's police chief says 15 Colombians and two Haitian Americans are in
custody. And an intense manhunt is underway for eight others.
The country's acting Prime Minister says three suspects were killed in a shootout with authorities. The U.S. and Colombia are sending officials and
law enforcement to the country to help with the assassination investigation.
CNN's Matt Rivers is on the ground. He is live outside the presidential residence with more on the investigation and more on what we know. A few
days now after this assassination, Matt?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and there's also a lot we don't know, starting, Hala, with the fact that these assailants came up this road
behind me. We're in the neighborhood where the presidential residence is. They passed a police checkpoint at the bottom of that road. There was this
police checkpoint here that was staffed at the time. They managed to get past this one.
And if we come up here, you can see that about 100 meters down that road right there, on the other side of that parking lot is the presidential
residence which had more security in it as well. That's all to say it's just one of the mysteries surrounding this assassination.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RIVERS (voice-over): Arrests on the street of Port au Prince Thursday after an army police operation against heavily armed mercenaries. Mercenaries
that authority say are responsible for the brazen assassination of Haiti's president Jovenel Moise early Wednesday. Haitian police say they have
detained at least 15 Colombians and two Haitian Americans suspected to have been involved in the attack.
Police say the men who posed as US DEA agents to gain entry to the private presidential residence included foreign nationals.
This audio circulating on social media purporting to be of the time of the assassination, with men shouting they are drug enforcement agents in
English. But the audio cannot be authenticated by CNN. Police seeming to acknowledge the rising tide of anger in the wake of the attack are urging
citizens not to take the law into their own hands.
LEON CHARLES, NATIONAL POLICE DIRECTOR (via translator): We have the obligation to protect the people we have caught. We cannot practice self-
RIVERS: Still, many in the Haitian capital are asking just how such a bold attack could have been allowed to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you come from? What country sent them? Who bought the mobile? How to guns got transfer here? How do you got all these
RIVERS: In an interview with CNN, Haiti's acting Prime Minister did allude to the context surrounding the assassination but stopped short of outlining
CLAUDE JOSEPH, ACTING HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: We all know that President Moise was really committed to some, I will say, some actions against the
oligarchs in Haiti. So we know that in the last days, he spoke about the consequences that those actions can have on his own life.
RIVERS: Already a nation rife with political instability, gang violence and a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fears from
neighboring nations that the presidential assassination may push Haiti over the edge, but Haiti's interim Prime Minister insists that upcoming
elections will still take place despite the nation's upheaval.
JOSEPH: The Constitution is clear. I have to organize elections and actually pass the power to someone else who is elected.
RIVERS: But with so much uncertainty in the wake of a coordinated hit on the president and so many questions left to be answered about just who was
responsible, whether or not Haitian officials can keep the nation on track for a peaceful transfer of power remains an open question.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RIVERS: And so you have to think, Hala, what happens in the next few days. And the next few hours, even here in Haiti will have profound impact not
only in the short term, but in the long term as well. And yet, in these moments, we are just missing a startling amount of information from the
Haitian government, even if you believe them, when they say that they have found all of these suspects. And all these suspects were involved in this
assassination. It does not take away the question of how they were able to do this in the first place.
GORANI: I mean, I think many people have the question about this whole thing that I'm about to ask you is how do 28 heavily armed assassins make
it through two checkpoints and a Presidential Palace security? From what I understand none of the officers at checkpoints, and none of the palace
security were wounded or killed? How do they get through all these barriers?
RVERS: You know, we've seen multiple checkpoints here, Hala, none of them have bullet holes in them. Earlier today, we were at a scene where there
was a shootout between suspects and police, and there were bullet holes and broken glass and burned out cars all over the place. That is not the case
And so if that's not the case, if you were a federal prosecutor, if you were an investigator, you would probably have to at least examine the
possibility this this was some sort of an inside job in the sense that people, maybe they were allowed to go through how they talk their way
through, you don't know, but they clearly did not fight their way through.
And so if they didn't fight their way through, how did they get in, it would obviously point to having some complicity within the people who are
guarding that presidential residence behind me. There's no proof of that yet. We haven't heard anything about that from the Haitian government. But
you would have to imagine that when the United States, when the Colombian send people here, when the Haitian prosecutors here, look into this case,
you would imagine that's going to be an angle they're looking into.
GORANI: OK, Matt Rivers live outside the presidential palace in Port au Prince. As we mentioned, the volatile political situation in Haiti could
intensify. Two competing prime ministers have emerged each claiming the right to run the country. Melissa Bell has that story.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Haiti is a country on the edge of crisis. The assassination of President Jovenel Moise has pushed the
country from the parallel of a weak government to what is now a major power vacuum.
Immediately following the President's death, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph assumes leadership. He announced a nationwide state of siege,
declared martial law and closed Haiti's borders, saying he did not want the country to plunge into chaos.
But some would argue the country is already in chaos. The president of the Supreme Court would normally be next in line and become interim president,
but he recently died of COVID-19.
Joseph was never confirmed by Parliament, which is effectively defunct not having been in session since last year.
On Monday, President Moise had appointed neurosurgeon Ariel Henry to replace Joseph but Moise was killed before he could be sworn in. Now, he is
also claiming to be Haiti's rightful prime minister adding to the uncertainty is if or when Haiti will hold elections.
A constitutional referendum postponed use of coronavirus pandemic still hasn't taken place. But acting Prime Minister Joseph was asked to tell CNN
he still plans to hold elections.
JOSEPH: I'm not in command for a long time. The Constitution is clear. I have to organize elections and actually pass the power to someone else who
BELL: Haiti's political turmoil comes at a time of deepening economic and humanitarian woes brought on partly by the coronavirus pandemic. COVID
infections continue to rise and no vaccines are yet available. Gang violence in recent weeks has displaced thousands of people according to the
United Nations. High inflation has fueled food insecurity with 60 percent of the country living in poverty according to the World Bank.
AMY WILENTZ, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NATION: Haiti has been under siege for two years at least, with total chaos, a lack of government, lack of
responsibility, lack of forces of order, kidnappings, murders, it's just been a crazy time for Haiti.
BELL: It's the latest chapter for a country with a turbulent history. The impoverished Caribbean nation faces a host of problems two men claimed to
be in power, yet it remains to be seen whether anyone has control. Melissa Bell, CNN.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GORANI: Turning now to the pandemic. Experts say all of Africa is now under a health threat from COVID.
South Africa has been hit the hardest. In fact, the mayor of Johannesburg has died of the virus. CNN has obtained exclusive access to video from
inside one of the city's hospitals overwhelmed by COVID cases. David McKenzie reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The WHO says that this is the very worst week of the pandemic for the African continent with cases
surging in many different countries. The epicenter of this third wave is here in South Africa where doctors are struggling to combat a brutal wave
of infection driven by the Delta barrier.
(voice-over): They hoped it would be better. Hoped that COVID-19 had done its worst but 16 months in, and Mohammed Patel and his paramedic team are
in a new, more dangerous fight.
What has the Delta variants done to COVID-19 here?
MOHAMMED PATEL, PARAMEDIC: It has caused a whole lot of chaos. There is a whole lot of patients that are suffering. The oxygen levels are dropping
MCKENZIE: South African scientists tracking Delta so what dominate new infections in just weeks. Patel takes us into your home south of the city.
PATEL: Hello, good morning.
MCKENZIE: Where delta is tearing through families, ripping through the country's largely unvaccinated population. Less than 1 percent of South
Africans have been fully vaccinated.
The 67-year-old patient has critically low oxygen levels.
PATEL: We're going to get you through, OK?
These patients that are suffering at home because they aren't able to get hospital beds, there is no spaces in hospital, there's no ventilators
available. They -- it's completely a chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third wave has really been far more devastating, far more overwhelming.
MCKENZIE: For months now, CNN has requested access to hospitals, but we were denied. So the true impact of this brutal Delta wave has been largely
hidden from view. But CNN obtained this disturbing video from the emergency room at a Johannesburg hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patients are waiting they are on stretchers. They in cubicles. And doctors are overwhelmed. Nurses are overwhelmed.
MCKENZIE: Not enough beds. And what does that result in in these waiting areas of the hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's chaos.
MCKENZIE: The senior doctor wanted to speak out, reveal what they call Warzone like conditions. We agreed to hide their identity because they were
afraid of reprisals from the government.
In recent days, they said the bodies couldn't be wrapped fast enough to make space for the sick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are patients who are dying while they are waiting to be seen, while they are waiting to go to the ward. Because the resources
are just being overwhelmed by the onslaught of patients.
MCKENZIE (on camera): And how does that make you feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sense of helplessness, but then also almost a blunting, a desensitization that we're doing everything we can, but it's
still not enough.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Patel's team is often diverted from hospitals with critically ill patients. They search for hours to find a bed so a charity
called gift of the givers constructed this 20-bed field clinic staffed with volunteer doctors and nurses in less than five days. Every single bed to
give a sick patient a chance.
MCKENZIE (on camera): You know, doctors we spoke to say that sometimes patients are just too sick when they arrive at hospitals and will die even
when there's a great deal of space and support. We took the conditions of the hospitals to the Department of Health here. They didn't respond to
those questions but sent us presentation showing that increased bed capacity. Scientists say the best way to get out of the cycle of waves of
vaccinations after a slow start, South Africa is ramping up its vaccination campaign. David Mackenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GORANI: That is one of the biggest challenges is to get as many vaccine doses to countries where the rate of vaccination is very low, including
South Africa. And I'll be speaking about efforts to get COVID vaccines to the entire world. Loyce Pace of the US Department of Health and Human
Services joins me in just about 15 minutes.
She's on Biden's COVID-19 Task Force and one of her jobs is to distribute these vaccine doses that the U.S. is donating to the world. You'll remember
that at the G7, Joe Biden the US president pledged half a billion Pfizer doses to the world.
More now on the vaccine themselves. Speaking of Pfizer, the drug maker says it's seeing waning immunity from its vaccine and plans to seek emergency
authorization for a COVID booster shot.
So after your two shots, do you need a third one, a booster shot? Two American health agencies say extra dose aren't needed yet. So, which
version is the right version? What are scientists saying? Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live in Atlanta.
Will we need a third shot, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, maybe eventually maybe months from now or a year from now, a period of time from
now. But the CDC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and every expert who we've talked to you said,
basically, you do not need this. They said very clearly, you do not need a booster. Now, if you've had two shots of Pfizer, or Madonna or one shot of
Johnson and Johnson, you do not need a booster.
Now, it is a little bit odd what Pfizer has done according to everyone that we've spoken with. Pfizer's saying that immunity is awaiting but didn't say
immunity is waning, but didn't say, Oh, this is based on a new study that we did. And here's that new data. Instead, they just pointed to a very,
very small set of Israeli data. So let's look at that Israeli data.
That Israeli data, which was announced earlier this week, said that the vaccine is two doses of Pfizer now as we speak, is 64 percent effective at
preventing infection, but 93 percent effective at preventing severe disease and that second one is the important one. You can get infected and be
completely fine, but it is 93 percent effective at preventing you from getting very sick.
How does that point to waning immunity? Pfizer did not explain. And so the CDC and the FDA did something very, very unusual. I've seen them do this
only a handful of times over the years. They put out a joint statement. So let's take a look at the joint statement from the CDC and the FDA. They say
Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.
So it doesn't get any clearer than that again, might we need boosters eventually? Yes, but right now the shots that any of us got since the
rollout in December are working against these variants. Are they working perfectly? No, but certainly not enough that you would need a third shot.
GORANI: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for the updates.
GORANI: Coming up next, a united Ireland and might once have been unimaginable in our lifetime. Is it now though a political -- is it
politically inevitable, we'll be right back.
GORANI: The Irish government is being accused of launching a Cold War in northern In Ireland.
That's the claim being made by a prominent loyalist paramilitary group, which is adding to a growing chorus of frustration in the aftermath of
Brexit. It's bringing the prospect of a united Ireland closer to reality within our lifetime. Nic Robertson reports on the climax of the volatile
marching season approaching.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): passions among pro-British loyalists are up, many readying for a weekend
traditionally prime for confrontation. Massive bonfires commemorating centuries of Protestant domination over Irish Catholics, soon to be
ignited, admits fears that historic hegemony is fading.
JAMIE BRYSON, LOYALIST ACTIVIST: We feel as if we're second class citizens in our own country we feel under siege and when you push and push people
into your corner people are going to kick back.
ROBERTSON (on camera): These soon to be tiring infernos are an annual honouring of ties to the UK. And this year bigger than ever, a statement
signifying a raging anger in these pro-British loyalists communities that Brexit is making them feel less British.
(voice-over): For a few, Brexit new customs controls, known as Northern Ireland Protocols across the Irish Sea to mainland Great Britain are an
BYRSON: Unionism is community in Northern Ireland see this almost as the last big battle. This is on the window ledge of the Union. So I've never
seen anger like it and in my lifetime.
ROBERTSON: More moderate pro-British unionists are feeling the pain of the protocols to the biggest party, the most divided. It's been in decades and
JEFFREY DONALDSON, LEADER, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY: I think that talk of a united Ireland, talk of a border poll is divisive, it is unsettling. It's
destabilizing at a time when we need none of those things.
ROBERTSON: Donaldson is his party's third leader in two months, is vowing to remove the so called Irish Sea border.
DONALDSON: The decisions the Prime Minister took on Brexit and his support for the protocol have created a very significant problem have resulted in
instability here and harm to our economy and our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom.
ROBERTSON: In recent days for so called sausage wars over EU controls of chilled meat moving from the UK to Northern Ireland have ease temporarily.
But some businesses have already shifted supply chains towards a more economically united island of Ireland.
JAMES DOHERTY, DOHERTY'S MEATS: There's no doubt about it. It's much easier to source materials in the south from the south of Ireland, for a Northern
Ireland business than it does from GB. So, and again, that's something that the protocol has introduced.
ROBERTSON: At sandwich makers, Deli Lites, protocols have sped a natural evolution to source locally. And they're making new sales because of it.
BRIAN REID, FOUDNER, DELI LITES: We have access to the European market. And we've also access back into the UK. So there's a huge opportunity here to
be able to produce a product here and have access to both markets.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And just down the road from Deli Lites, more changes coming. The Irish government funding a new bridge from Ireland over the
river to the north, improving increasing those connections.
(voice-over): Connections loyalists fear that Brexit is irrevocably forging. They're fire and fury now firmly focused on torching the
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GORANI: Well, let's get more from Nic Robertson. He's in Portadown and what do we expect from this weekend of marches? I imagine it's going to be more
intense than in other years.
ROBERTSON: It is and that's the real sense. The Protestant unionist loyalists community really feel under threat from the protocols and the
marches this year and the bonfires are really going to signify that. There are about 250 bonfires planned over this weekend. The police say about two
to three of them are in contentious locations.
One of those is actually going through a court process right now to determine whether or not the police will come in and support the removal of
that particular bonfire. But what we're hearing from the nationalist community, from the Catholic leaders of the major Catholic party,
Nationalist Party, Shin Fane, they are saying that they have concerns about the safety for some of their supporters who live very close to where some
of the bonfires are going to be lit. This is what Shin Fane Northern Ireland leader said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE O'NEILL, NORTHERN IRELAND DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER: He's picked any of the residents here the very fearful for the weekend ahead, because of
their experience, you know, their homes have been attacked. They've been very fearful for their family, can't allow children into their gardens. So
I be concerned for them, concern for many families who live in interfaith areas.
So what I would call for would be for calm and we want to see people can enjoy their culture but it's not culture to be attacking others and attack
on their homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: You know, I've been talking to organizers here and the Catholic neighborhood is very close, it's just about 100 yards away in this
direction. But things have been calm in recent years. There haven't been tensions at this particular place. And that's the intention of the
organizers here not to inflame passions and tensions.
And look, you can hear in the background, Hala, there's a marching band about to come past this here, again, part of the celebrations that are
going to go on this weekend, and there will be many, many of these bands marching around different parts of Northern Ireland, and they in the past
have been contentious.
And there's a little bit the literally just around the corner about to come around here. And what you'll see with these bands is there's a lot of
children, there's a lot of families, and when this bonfire is lit here later on this evening, they're expecting as many as perhaps about 1,000
people here, Hala.
GORANI: All right, so that tower that's behind you that will be lit, that's one giant bonfire.
ROBERTSON: 120 feet high. It took them weeks and weeks to make it. So what they tell us is they will light it about halfway up, you can see and if you
can see right now if Louis (ph) can pan up, but they're actually putting some flags on the top of that bonfire, that will be lit in a couple of
hours from now, and I can't quite see what those flags are from here.
But traditionally, they would be flags of groups that this community wouldn't support. And they would burn those. And I think we're just about
to see, you know, here comes the first of the band around the corner.
Now this marching band set off about an hour ago, and they've got another three or four hours marching ahead of them all around this community. And I
was here 25 years ago, and there were -- there was intense troubles at that time, real confrontation. And that's not what's happening here tonight.
However, again, this year is a year where the tensions are particularly high. The protocols and the way that the Protestant unionist, loyalist
community feel they're being treated. That's really at the heart of some of that frustration and anger. I just step out of the way. Now the band is
stopping up there. And you see a couple of police officers, fluorescent jackets on their pushbikes coming along in front of the band as well. Hala.
GORANI: Right. Well, it looks like more fun than anything else. And that bonfire looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, though it's not long for this
world. Thanks very much, Nic Robertson live in Portadown.
Still to come tonight, the United States says it's making good on a key promise to the world involving life-saving vaccines, and we'll take you
along on a trip to Tokyo, the unique challenges of getting to this year's Olympic Games. That's next.
HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: The U.S. says, delivering on its promise to be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. The White House Press Secretary just
gave reporters an update, saying that this week, the U.S. has sent nearly 15 million doses to countries including Guatemala, Uruguay, Afghanistan and
Let's get more now on global vaccination efforts. We're joined by Loyce Pace. She's the Director of the Office of Global Affairs at the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Thank you very much for being with us.
LOYCE PACE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you for having me Hala.
GORANI: Yeah, at the G7 in Cornwall, the U.S. President, Joe Biden, pledged half a billion doses, how is distribution going so far?
PACE: Well, it's going well, as you just said to your audience, we were able to deliver 15 million doses just this week, that's making good on a
promise that the President has made to deliver millions of doses through the end of next year. So far, we've gotten about 80 million out the door,
or at least allocated to about 50 countries. And so I'd say that's going well. But we certainly have more to do. The President did commit an
additional 500 million doses, hundreds of millions of which we will be getting out the door still this year. And so I expect our efforts to ramp
up over the next several weeks and months.
GORANI: What are the biggest challenges for you?
PACE: Well, we definitely are working day and night, week by week, really trying to understand what the readiness is in countries where we're trying
to send these vaccines. Certainly, there's also regulatory hurdles and other logistical circumstances that we have to consider. So it's more than
putting products on plains. We have to dot all the I's and cross all the T's, as they say, to ensure that it's really reaching the people that we're
trying to serve.
GORANI: And where -- which regions have been tougher than others, and why?
PACE: Well, I think that's a bit of a hard question. I think if we look at humanitarian or other settings where there are ongoing challenges, I think
that we will find there, the hurdles are a bit higher, perhaps in those circumstances. I think also in countries where we have variant circulating,
where the health systems are being challenged, where government authorities are certainly focused on the very real time response that also can prove
challenging, because while they're trying to, of course, receive these vaccines and ensure that they can receive them and distribute them, they're
also battling a very real crisis, real time in their countries.
GORANI: Yeah, I mean, the Democratic Republic of Congo a few months ago even sent back 1.3 million doses to COVAX because they said they wouldn't
be able to distribute them before they expire. We have correspondence in across Africa and Asia, some countries where they have issues with
distribution, with registration systems, with storage of vaccine doses as well. I mean, it's not as you say, just putting the vaccine doses on planes
and landing at an airport. You then have all these logistical hurdles ahead of you. Has this job been tougher than you thought it would be in terms of
distributing these doses to the world?
PACE: Well, the good news is that we have some experience doing this, working hand in hand with institutions like WHO, as well as UNICEF, or
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to distribute vaccines in countries, let alone these partnerships that we have with governments and ministries of health.
And so that does help us but certainly no one has done this before, at least not in this past century, right? And so while we've been able to work
towards discrete vaccination programs in certain regions or countries, this is now a global vaccination effort. So in the same way we have had our face
those challenges here at home. We're now facing them abroad.
GORANI: And if you had to -- I mean, you've been doing this now for quite some time. So if you had to -- what's the way to increase speed? I mean,
now that you've kind of ironed out, I'm sure some of the some of the teething problems of the operation, what's a way to distribute these doses
PACE: I think working through COVAX is certainly helpful and a very efficient way that we can do this work. They've already run the traps on a
lot of these issues, as I said, whether they're around legalities or logistics or other considerations, that's very helpful to countries like
the U.S. who are trying to share or otherwise distribute these vaccines to sort of send them through this centralized clearinghouse and not need to
sort of do that work country by country, but rather work with one institution, one place to distribute those vaccines. That's something that
we're doing with the Pfizer vaccine, for example.
GORANI: And what part of the world is next? I mean, we mentioned a list here of countries that the Press Secretary updated us on, what what's the
next part of the world that you will be focusing on?
PACE: Well, we acknowledge that there are countries around the world that still have very low vaccination rates. And I think you're able to look to
that data. Looking at the continent of Africa, for example, we know that the vaccination rates there are incredibly low, falling in the single
digits in terms of their percentages, and so it's important for us to keep an eye on those places. As well as regions where these variants are
starting to circulate. And so that we had some sense of things following what India face. And so we weren't surprised, unfortunately, to see that
affect Indonesia in the way that it has or countries like Nepal. And so that's what's driving our allocations. We're certainly letting the science
guide us though.
GORANI: All right, Loyce Pace thanks very much, the Director of the Office of Global Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Thanks
for being with us on CNN.
Asian countries are also racing to curb the spread of the Delta variant. Many of these places had been able to keep the virus at bay since the onset
of the pandemic but are now at major risk because of low vaccination rates. We were just discussing that with Loyce Pace.
Kristie Lu Stout has the latest from across the Asian continent.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Across Asia, the Delta variant is fueling a growing wave of new COVID-19 cases. In Thailand, coronavirus
deaths are climbing. The country has ordered new restrictions in the capital of Bangkok and surrounding provinces starting on Monday, including
mall closures as well as limits on travel and social gatherings.
Cases are also spiking in Vietnam. Both the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Ho Chi Minh City have tightened restrictions to contain the virus.
Indonesia has reported a record number of deaths fueled by the Delta variant, Save the Children is warning that many more children will die
there. Its humanitarian chief in Indonesia says this, "The health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are already being overwhelmed. Oxygen
supplies are running out and health services in Java and Bali are woefully ill-equipped to handle this surge in critically ill patients."
South Korea is raising its pandemic restrictions to the highest level in and around the Capitol. So from Monday, Health Ministry officials said that
the country is in a, "dire situation" with the Delta variant detected at an increasingly fast pace in the greater Seoul area. Only 11% of the country's
population is fully vaccinated.
Japan has also been hit with a sharp rise in infection following a new state of emergency in Tokyo. Olympic organizers on Thursday said that they
would ban all spectators from Olympic venues in and around the city, just over 15% of Japan's population is fully vaccinated.
China has reported its highest daily tally of infection since January, with all local cases from Raleigh to City in (inaudible) province, which borders
Myanmar, parts of the city are in full lockdown. According to local officials, some patients were infected with the Delta variant.
In Australia, the state of New South Wales on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases this year at the outbreak began with
an unvaccinated driver catching the Delta variant from a flight crew member. Just over 9% of the population in New South Wales has been fully
The Delta variant is also ravaging the Pacific island nation of Fiji. The mortuary in Fiji's main hospital is already filled to capacity. Early run
countries across Asia have managed the coronavirus with some success but the highly contagious Delta strain along with the slow pace of vaccination
in countries like South Korea, Australia and Indonesia have given rise to a devastating new wave of the pandemic.
Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
GORANI: You heard there that organizers have banned fans from the Olympics because of a spike in COVID cases but some like journalists are still
heading to Tokyo to report. CNN's Will Ripley shows us the logistical challenges of traveling to Japan.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The first thing people ask when I say I'm going to the Summer Olympics, is that still
happening? The second thing they ask, is it safe? My team and I are traveling to Tokyo to find out.
Our journey begins four days before we fly, two tests for COVID-19, 96 and 72 hours before departure.
Already, there has been tons of paperwork to fill out, lines to wait in just to get to this point.
We could only go to testing center as proved by the Japanese government.
This is by far the most documentation I've needed just to get on a flight.
Processing my pile of paperwork takes nearly an hour at the airport.
This is the moment of truth. They're checking my documents. I think I prepared them correctly. They have now brought in a man in yukata.
He tells me I need to download an app, fill out an online health questionnaire.
I have never been more grateful to get a boarding pass.
Only a few dozen passengers on my trip from Taipei to Tokyo, many airlines are canceling empty flights or suspending service altogether. Athletes from
Fiji have to fly on a cargo plane that usually hauls frozen fish. I'm just grateful to have a window seat.
This is my first trip back to Japan since the start of the pandemic. Tokyo's Hanada Airport eerily quiet.
As you can see, I don't have much company.
A handful of passengers, a small army of health workers pouring over my paperwork, scanning my Q.R. code, ordering me to spit in a cup, the first
of many daily COVID tests.
Social distancing, not a problem, as I wait for my results.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative.
Being here for the Olympics feels surreal and sad. Japan invested billions to host the games, banking on a tourism boom. This is not what anyone had
The pandemic makes you appreciate life's little victories, like the moment I get my Olympic credentials.
Wow, there it is. It is official.
I clear customs and see an old friend, our longtime Tokyo hero driver Mr. Okano (ph).
Mr. Okan was the very first face that I met in Tokyo.
As we leave the airport and head to the hotel, it finally feels real. We made it to Japan. The process surprisingly smooth, overall, even as the
Japanese capital fights a fresh surge in COVID cases.
Will Ripley, CNN Tokyo.
GORANI: Wow. That is a very high number of (inaudible). One thing's for sure, Will Ripley does not have COVID. We know that now after watching him
take all those tests. So to come tonight, does less work really lead to more productivity? Researchers in Iceland are putting that theory to the
test. Details on what they learned in just a few minutes.
GORANI: The Taliban are pressing ahead with a lightning offensive in Afghanistan, now claiming that they control 85% of the country. The
militants overran two key border crossings today. Just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden defended his troop withdraw, saying America had quote
achieved its goals. CNN's Anna Coren is in Kabul.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban continues to make sweeping gains across Afghanistan seizing one of the country's main trading gateways with
Iran. The militants took control of the dry port of Islam Qala in the western province of Herat, where millions of dollars worth of fuel and
The Taliban also claimed another border crossing bordering Turkmenistan. The government says security forces are attempting to recapture these key
areas. It comes after President Biden vigorously defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces and end America's 20 year war in Afghanistan. He said
the decision was overdue that America did not come here to nation build, and that it was up to the Afghan government and its security forces to
defend its people.
Meantime, a delegation from the Taliban meeting with the Russian government in Moscow gave a press conference, stating that he had claimed 85% of
Afghan territory, a figure denied by the government.
It also said that humanitarian groups should keep operating, the schools and hospitals must stay open, and that the border crossings and customs
officers which have been seized will remain operational, but attempts to betray the extreme Islam as group as an alternate governing body is not
The fighting continues to rage on the battlefield with 10s of 1000s of people being displaced, while those who can plan for an exit strategy out
of this country. Anna Coren, CNN Kabul.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, just days to blast off for billionaire Richard Branson. We look ahead to the launch.
GORANI: Well, as companies try to figure out what their post pandemic future is going to look like, there are growing conversations about the
work day will look like. Will you work full time while you work from home? Will it be a hybrid model? A little bit of home, a little bit of office?
Well, Iceland did some research, public sector employees took part in two large trials working 35 to 36 hours per week, instead of around 40 hours
for the same pay. The result, guess what, worker wellbeing increased dramatically.
Clare Sebastian joins us from New York with more. So Clare, it's not surprising that what worker wellbeing will increase if you lower the number
of working hours, but what about productivity?
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, so the study shows, Hala, that was either unchanged at the various workplaces that the study looked at, or
it actually improved. This is according to the data that was collected by those two studies run by the Reykjavik City Council and by the Icelandic
government over quite a large period of time between 2015 and 2019. Those two studies and this study is actually unique because of the wealth of data
that we had, they did surveys of the workplaces, they talked to the people involved. And they found that overall, both on the side of the employees
and on the side of the workplaces themselves, there was a positive net benefit of this. The other really interesting thing about this is what
we've seen since those studies ended, so people went back to their regular hours. And then we suddenly saw a surge in union activity.
I spoke to Will Stronge from autonomy, U.K., he's one of the directors of that organization who co-authored this study. This is what he had to say
about what happened next.
WILL STRONGE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND POLICY, AUTONOMY: Trade Unions, the green new working contracts, basically for 86% of the country's workforce,
and those working contracts included reductions of hours, that could be one, two, three hours as reduced. So not a huge amount, but it's basically
a roadmap towards a much shorter working week. All those contracts allow for new mechanisms for negotiating shorter working hours. So the whole
working culture in Iceland really has seen a huge shift in the conversation around what is good work, what's best practice work.
SEBASTIAN: And that doesn't mean that all is rosy during this sort of transition period where they're moving according to these new union
contracts or shorter work week. There was an interview this week, Hala, with the head of the police union on a local news station. And he said that
they're waiting for -- the government promised them more funding for it to add new jobs to make up the shortfall and hours. They're still waiting for
that funding. He said in the meantime, there's more stress on the force because fewer police officers on the shift. So clearly there is a sort of
tricky transition period in some of these jobs.
GORANI: All right, Clare Sebastian interesting results from this experiment in Iceland. Thank you.
Well, Virgin's Richard Branson is launching the billionaire space race this weekend. He's going first, as he blasts off aboard Virgin Galactic rocket
powered jet in New Mexico on Sunday. He'll be accompanied by a group of pilots and Mission Specialists. The trip is taking place just nine days
before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos makes his own journey to the stars.
Joining us now is Space Correspondent Rachel Crane, who's in New Mexico, where Sunday's launch will take place. Hi, Rachel.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Hala. I got to tell you I am pretty pumped right now. That's because we are actually
behind the gates at Spaceport America. This is the facility where the spaceflight will take place Sunday morning. And, you know, it is a flurry
of activity here. You can see from our Mastcam the runway here at Spaceport America, it's 12,000 feet long. That is the runway that this rocket powered
space plane will take off Sunday morning. It will be mated to its mothership called Eve. That mothership will transport the spaceship around
40,000 feet into the air before it drops it and then the space plane will fire its rocket and blast off to the very edge of space. And nobody is more
excited about this upcoming journey than Richard Branson himself.
I had an opportunity to speak with him just a few days ago. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN: Richard, you are finally going to space in a matter of days. Tell me how do you feel?
RICHARD BRANSON, CEO, VIRGIN GALACTIC: Well, I've managed to avoid getting excited for 17 years since we started building spaceships and motherships
and spaceports and all these things and you had to get through the test programs and then yesterday I finally got the call from our chief engineer
saying that every single box of being ticked on the safety aspect and that I was -- would I like to go to space and I hit the roof, I was so excited.
So and obviously, yeah, never been more excited in my life and the wonderful team are coming up with me are equally set.
SEBASTIAN: You talk about excitement, but tell me, are you nervous at all?
BRANSON: I'm not nervous, I'm obviously always -- you're always nervous of letting the rest of the team down. I'm going up, you know, as someone there
to test the customer experience, and I'm just going to enjoy every single minute of it. It's something that, you know, I think millions and millions
of people out there would want to take my seat. And I'm going to enjoy every second from the beginning to the end. And it's so excited that this
is the start for 1000s of people who can become astronauts in the future years and yeah, looking forward to seeing a lot of those people off in
future years to come.
SEBASTIAN: Now, Hala, Virgin Galactic says that their commercial operations will begin in the beginning of 2022. That's when some 600 passengers who
have already plopped down around $200,000 for a ticket to fly on this system will begin to start to have their chance to take flight. Hala.
GORANI: And how will this flight be different from Jeff Bezos' flight?
SEBASTIAN: Well, let me tell you, social media is abuzz about just that point right now. And there's a particular sticking point that people are
focusing on, that's about how far these rockets, these spaceships go into space. Now Jeff Bezos' new shepard, which is set to make its first crewed
launch on July 20, Bezos announcing that he will be on that maiden crewed flight. They are a fully autonomous vehicle and they go 60 -- above 62
miles above Earth. Now 62 miles is important here because that's what is the internationally designated boundary of space, it's called the Karman
line, but Virgin Galactic system, they only go about 50 miles above Earth. Now 50 miles here in the U.S., that's what NASA recognizes as the edge of
space, same with the Air Force. So here in the U.S., Richard Branson, and the future astronauts they will be getting their astronaut wings, but all
around the world, unfortunately, they will not be classified as astronauts. Hala.
GORANI: All right, well, Branson is first but Bezos will go higher, will follow both. Thanks so much, Rachel Crane. I'm Hala Gorani. Quest Means
Business is up next.