Return to Transcripts main page
Hala Gorani Tonight
U.K. Prime Minister Johnson Urges Caution As England Drops Restrictions; Haiti's Acting Prime Minister Joseph to Hand Power to Prime Minister-Designate Henry; Death Toll in Western Europe After Floods Rises to At Least 195 People; Report: Pegasus Spyware Used To Target Journalists, Activists; Bezos Prepares To Travel To Edge Of Space. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired July 19, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm Cyril Vanier in for Hala Gorani. Tonight, a taste of freedom or a dangerous
experiment? England drops almost all coronavirus restrictions. We'll be taking a closer look at what the global implications of that could be.
Plus, as the flood waters recede, angry survivors ask why early warnings were missed. We'll be live in a heart-hit region in Germany.
And a CNN exclusive tonight, we take you deep into the Amazon where one tribe is using ancient tools to fight a modern day threat. So freedom day
or a day to be feared? Well, we begin here in England where the government is urging caution about rising COVID numbers despite choosing to drop
almost all restrictions in the country. Around 50,000 new cases are being reported a day here in the U.K.
This as both the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Chancellor Rishi Sunak are having to self-isolate after the health secretary tested
positive. Mr. Johnson had initially tried to claim an exemption from the rules before making a u-turn. Phil Black has more on a day that's throwing
England into the global spotlight.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The freedom, the joy of dancing with friends in a packed nightclub for the first time in more than
a year, no masks, no crowd limits, no rules. It's what the U.K. Prime Minister has long promised and is now delivering regardless of the risks.
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: We're now traveling on a one-way road to freedom.
BLACK: Newspapers enthusiastically gave that journey's end an obvious name, freedom day. Now it's here. For most, it doesn't feel very free and
especially for Boris Johnson.
JOHNSON: Hi, folks --
BLACK: He's isolating because the U.K. health secretary has tested positive.
JOHNSON: We've got to do it cautiously. We've got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there. Cases are rising. We can see the extreme
contagiousness of the -- of the Delta variant.
BLACK: The Delta variant changed everything. After months of steeply declining cases, this highly-transmissible mutation is now swamping the
U.K. with an accelerating wave of infections. The government is lifting restrictions anyway.
CHRIS WHITTY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, ENGLAND: There is quite a strong view that by many people, including myself actually, that going in the Summer
has some advantages.
BLACK: Advantages like reduced seasonal pressure on hospitals and with schools out, reduced spread among students. But the plan has many expert
critics who use words like reckless and unethical.
DEEPTI GURDASANI, CLINICAL EPIDEMIOLOGIST, QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: All the models show that there will be millions of cases for the Summer,
and that there will be 1,000 to 2,000 daily hospitalizations over the Summer.
BLACK: The government is also aware of another ominous warning from its own scientific advisors that points to the possibility of dire consequences
for the whole world. The combination of high prevalence and high levels of vaccination creates the conditions in which an immune-escape variant is
most likely to emerge. The likelihood of this happening is unknown. They're talking about a variant that's better at beating vaccines.
RAVI GUPTA, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE: Considering the high levels of infection are only going to drive further mutation of the virus and
potential further problems down the line, in other words, even less vaccine efficacy against mutated versions of the virus. We know that there is a
significant risk of this happening from what we've seen in the last six months.
BLACK: The government hopes most people will follow its new message. Yes, the rules are going away, but please don't change your behavior. One of its
own advisors on behavioral science says that's messy and inconsistent.
SUSAN MICHIE, DIRETOR, CENTER FOR BEHAVIOR CHANGE, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: This kind of mixed messaging is really damaging. We've had it
previously in the pandemic. And people want clear guidance. They want leadership. And they want clear, concise and coherent messages.
BLACK: But this is an unprecedented experiment, a desperate bid for freedom. Its success or failure will be measured in lives and suffering.
Phil Black, CNN, London.
VANIER: And Scott McLean is here in London with more. Scott, how much of a difference did you see in the streets of London today? Are people acting
differently now that most restrictions are gone?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Cyril, so, I mean, unless you're Boris Johnson in isolation along with hundreds of thousands of others who
have been told to isolate by the government, most people probably wouldn't notice a big difference. I'm sure you had a similar experience, I came in
this morning on the London underground. The vast majority of people were still wearing their masks, of course, there's always a few people who don't
want to or exempt, but the vast majority of people wore. I also went to the barber who was wearing a mask this morning.
But at the coffee shop next door, the employees were not wearing masks, and they're not required to. The government has essentially left it up to
individuals and to employers to decide what works best for them. Now, this is a day that the government and certainly a lot of people in this country
after the year, year and half that we've had have been dreaming about for a long time, but this is not what the government was hoping for nor is it
probably what they expected either. That's because daily case-counts are terrifyingly high. Now 50,000 a day as of late and expected to get much
higher as we move toward the Summer of peaking sometime in late August.
The big difference this time is that you would expect normally hospitalizations to track the line of rising infections, but this time they
are a fraction of what you'd expect considering -- and that's because two- thirds of the adult population are fully vaccinated. But the risk is far from over. In fact, the prime minister said very plainly today that once
everybody over 18 has had the chance to get fully vaccinated. that's two shots of the vaccine sometime around September, you will be required to
show proof of vaccination to get into any crowded venues, nightclubs, sporting events, theaters. Proof of a negative test is not going to be good
enough, that is bound to be controversial and may also incentivize some people to get the vaccine who otherwise might not, Cyril.
VANIER: Yes, meanwhile, people can go to nightclubs without showing anything for what, the next two months? Look, Scott, the government-contact
tracing app. Let's talk about that a little bit because it's been activating on my phone about three times a day now, checking, telling me
that I've had brushes with COVID at some unknown times in the last two weeks. Now, I have not been sent into isolation yet by this app, but
hundreds of thousands of people, you mentioned that recently, have in recent weeks. And of course, now there are fears that it could cause
disruption because of staff shortages, whether it's hospitals, supermarkets, the economy. How is the government handling this?
MCLEAN: Yes, for those who don't know, that app works on a Bluetooth signal. So, if you're within 2 meters of anyone who has tested positive for
COVID for more than or goes on to test positive for COVID, I should say for more than 15 minutes, you will get ping telling you to self-isolate and to
go get tested. Infections are high as I mentioned, Cyril, and there is this growing problem of more and more essential workers not showing up for work.
So, we saw this briefly in -- you know, trains on the London Metro being cancelled or delayed because there weren't enough drivers. And so the
government today announced -- the prime minister announced that there would be specific carve-outs for essential workers.
So, people who keep the lights on, keep the trains running and of course, the people who work in the hospitals to avoid big disruptions to the
economy or shortages in hospitals. But Cyril, I just want to point out quickly, one thing that Phil mentioned in this package, the other big
concern that the government has here is that the conditions in place right now in the U.K. of high vaccination rates, but also high case-counts create
the ideal environment for a new variant to emerge that could escape the protections of a vaccine. This is really uncharted territory that we're in.
This is an experiment that a lot of countries ought to keep their eye on.
VANIER: Yes, absolutely, and that really is a concern. We'll be talking about that later in the show. Scott McLean reporting, thank you very much.
MCLEAN: You bet.
VANIER: Now, we're counting down the days to the Tokyo Olympic games set to start on Friday. Why the list of athletes testing positive for COVID-19
is ticking up. A beach volleyball player from the Czech Republic and two athletes on South Africa's football team have contracted the coronavirus,
and 17-year-old American tennis star Cori Coco Gauff tweeted on Sunday that she will miss the games after testing positive. Adding to anxiety and
worry, about 60 coronavirus cases are linked to the Olympics so far. CNN's Selina Wang is in Tokyo. So, Selina, what I don't understand is there's
supposed to be very strict testing and very strict health screening around the athletes and the delegation. So how are these athletes getting infected
and what is the protocol for those who do test positive?
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, there are, and we're seeing instances of athletes testing positive before they getting into Japan, at
the airport, after they get into Japan at their pre-training camps, and now also at the Olympic Village. Now, vaccinations are not required but many of
these Olympic athletes are, the majority of them are officials, say more than 80 percent of them are.
But we are seeing instances where fully-vaccinated people and athletes are testing positive for COVID-19 including the first case of a U.S. Olympic
athlete testing positive. We have a teenage Olympic athlete whose is an alternate on the U.S. women's Olympic team, her father said she was fully
vaccinated. And then in many of these cases they're testing negative before arrival. Now, Cyril, what these IOC officials would say though is that, the
fact that they're finding these cases show there are layers of COVID restrictions and rules are working. These athletes are tested every day.
They are contact-traced. They have to be socially-distanced.
They have to wear masks, avoid taking public transportation, trying to keep them separate as much as possible from the Japanese public here. But it is
very worrying indeed that we've seen the number of COVID-19 cases now tick up to 61 here in Japan for those linked to these Olympic games. And many
medical experts here say it is just not possible to completely separate these Olympic participants from the public here, and a big worry is that
some of these cases could spill out into the public.
VANIER: And Selina, we know there was a good deal of concern within the Japanese public about these games. And now that we're seeing cases get
confirmed and arise, how is the Japanese public reacting to all of this?
WANG: Well, there is still intense public opposition to the games here. And now that we are just days away, there is some growing excitement and
buzz around the city. I was talking to residents here by the Olympic rings, I'm outside the Olympic National Stadium just hours ago, and they said
there was really just this mix of wanting to watch the games on TV, but also being really worried about the surge, potential surge in COVID-19
cases. As you know, Tokyo right now, we're in a state of emergency. COVID- 19 cases surging with the Delta variant continuing to spread.
And a key point here, just 20 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated. And what's really interesting to see here is even
corporate Olympic sponsors here in Japan are telling me that they're worried about potential brand damage for being associated with the Olympics
and that they're having to scrap plans and promotional events because of the ban on spectators. So, not at all the Olympic spirit that you would see
in normal times. And Cyril, I've even spoken to some Olympic volunteers who tell me that they are worried about the direction that these games are
VANIER: Selina Wang, thank you for your reporting. Thank you for staying up so late for us there in Tokyo, thanks. Now to politics in Haiti where a
major shift is unfolding this week following the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise. That leadership void set up a power struggle
between these two men, but now, Haiti's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph will step down and hand power to Prime Minister-designate Ariel Henry.
Henry was nominated for the premiership just days before Moise was murdered. Joseph will remain Haiti's foreign minister. We're told that
Haiti plans to announce a new government on Tuesday.
Still to come tonight, as the focus turns to recovery, many in Europe are asking how to prevent more deadly floods. We'll be bringing you the latest
situation on the ground. And then digging for gold in the heart of the Amazonian rain forest. A dangerous battle is brewing between an indigenous
tribe that lives there and illegal miners, hoping to strike a rich. We have a CNN exclusive report just ahead.
VANIER: Now, the number of people who died as a result of flash floods in western Europe now stands at 195 and it could rise further. The vast
majority, 164 people were killed in Germany, the rest in Belgium. Amidst the recovery efforts and clean-up, questions are now being asked about what
more could have been done and how to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. Fred Pleitgen reports from Ahrweiler in western Germany.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Often, heavy-lifting equipment is needed to even begin the clean-up. York
Avala(ph) shows us how high the water rose as the town of Ahrweiler was inundated, destroying nearly everything he owns. "It all went so fast", he
said, "only about 15 minutes and the water was almost up to the ceiling here". One of York Avala's(ph) neighbors, an elderly lady, couldn't get to
safety fast enough and was swept away. Her body later found nearby, he says. As the death toll from the massive floods continues to rise, some are
asking why weren't there more warnings about the impending disaster?
Both the Belgian and German weather services issued severe weather warnings, still, many were caught off guard.
(on camera): One thing many people who live here tell us is that they were surprised at how fast the water levels here began to rise, tearing through
the embankment, destroying everything in its path and killing scores of people.
(voice-over): Some weather experts say Germany's early warning system simply failed.
KARSTEN BRANDT, DONNERWETTER.DE (through translator): So, meteorologists did warn them, but these warnings were apparently not heard. They were not
implemented in measures that one could act or could act sufficiently so that one could protect people.
PLEITGEN: The German government says its main priority right now is helping those affected. The country's interior minister, who visited the
flood-stricken areas on Monday says now is not the time to place blame.
HORST SEEHOFER, INTERIOR MINISTER, GERMANY (through translator): We shouldn't make unnecessary changes. Centralism won't improve anything here.
We need certain central units by the technical assistance agency which is then brought in to offer support, but we do not need a decision-making
authority in Berlin.
PLEITGEN: In the most affected areas, people are in no mood to point fingers, but rather to offer helping hands. This school class is clearing
mud from their headmaster's apartment. Solidarity is unbroken in the disaster zone, but Germany understands it will have to improve its disaster
management to prevent similar loss of life in the future.
VANIER: Fred joins us now. Fred, are there still a lot of people who are missing at this stage or have most people been accounted for now?
PLEITGEN: No, there are, just a lot of people who are missing. I mean, one of the things that we have to keep in mind, Cyril, is that a lot of the
infrastructure still here is very much down, very difficult to get -- for instance, service on your phone, also get internet service as well. There
are simply people who are still knocked off from that communication. So, yes, there are certainly are still people missing. But also, there's also a
lot of people who simply have left this area, in the aftermath of disaster and have not come back yet. There are, however, a lot of volunteers who are
helping out, we just saw that in some of the report as the folks here are trying to pick up the pieces and trying to get things back on track.
But I can tell you, having been here in the town of Ahrweiler, having visited some of the other towns around the area as well, this is going to
be a task that's going to take a very long time. You know, one of the things that we were talking about in that report is the German early
warning system, some people saying it didn't function well enough, that people weren't warned fast enough, weren't warned maybe strong enough to
leave their areas. But one of the other things that people are talking about as they try to clean this up, as they try to get things back on track
is, how are they going to build back?
I think a lot of them have now understood that this is an area where nature can get very dangerous especially in the face of climate change that's been
going on in this region and many other regions as well. They say they need to try and rebuild this infrastructure in a smart way to hopefully make
disasters like the one that they believe could happen again less deadly in the future, Cyril.
VANIER: Well, Fred, you talk about infrastructure, and in my own experience reporting on these natural disasters, that's really what's
debilitating in these circumstances. You're standing in front of what looks like a bridge or road. It looks it sustained --
PLEITGEN: Yes --
VANIER: A lot of damage. Can you describe the scene where you are?
PLEITGEN: Well, you're absolutely right. I mean, behind me is one of the main sort of bridges in this town. Essentially, the town that we're in
right now is basically two towns in one. There's -- one side on this side of the river, the other on the other side of the river, and obviously these
bridges were key. This bridge is actually one of the few bridges where people can still walk across because it was put down by the flood waters,
but at least, part of it is still there, most of the other bridges have been knocked out completely. And that's one of the things of course, that
was also so deadly here, and one of the things that I think a lot of people simply could not have contemplated before all this happened, never would
have contemplated it happening.
I mean, the people that we spoke to today, they said this is normally a fairly small river, a fairly calm river. But all of a sudden, in a span of
15 minutes, it just started rising very quickly, it became very fast and many people were simply swept away and a lot of the infrastructure was
swept away as well. Now, how to full-proof that in the future, how to make it -- build -- rebuild it in a way that it wouldn't get destroyed in the
future, maybe, less of it would be destroyed, that's something that really is very hard to predict at this point in time or very hard to plan also for
the folks here. But they say that something certainly needs to be done.
I think this disaster that we saw here in Germany was really a wake-up call for many people where they've really seen that the places that they live
in, especially if they're close to the rivers, like the one that you see behind me, they really need to rethink some of the infrastructure that's
really -- rethink also some of those early warning systems as well. I was actually in the rainfall when it came down in a crowded town close to here
in Cologne. And I can tell you I have never seen rain like that in that region before. It was simply something that is unprecedented. And I think
the people here are saying they really need to rethink, re-contemplate and re-plan how they are going to rebuild this place to try and make it safer
in the future, Cyril.
VANIER: Well, Fred Pleitgen reporting from Ahrweiler, Germany, thanks for bringing us on the ground there. And a battle is taking place inside a
remote region of the Brazilian Amazon that critics warn is being fueled by President Jair Bolsonaro. The indigenous tribe that lives on a protected
reservation says that they're being targeted by illegal miners hunting for gold who are trying to seize their lands. Isa Soares has our exclusive
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under the cover of the day, this Amazonian jungle, the Yanomamo indigenous tribe in Brazil step out for
battle. But theirs is as much a rallying cry as it is a cry for help. The approximately 27,000 Yanomamo is under attack from an elusive but old
enemy, wildcat miners with a thirst for gold and a hand for destruction. With only bows and spears as their defense, they're here to protect their
river banks on their villages from boats like this one, illegal gold miners exploiting and destroying the rivers and land, and in doing so intimidating
and firing at Yanomamo.
In May of this year, a half-hour shootout between the miners and the Yanomamo was caught on camera. Women and children are seen desperately
running for cover as a speedboat of gold miners fires as it passes. With the violence on the rise, the federal police and the army have been sent in
to investigate these deadly clashes that have left four dead, including two indigenous children. Fernando, one of the Yanomamo community leaders tells
us what they have been enduring for months now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The problem is there are miners who pass here at night. There are always a lot of them.
SOARES: The entire community has been put to work, converting paddles into weapons, bamboo into spears.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is a spear. This one pierces quickly. You will die fast. It goes through everything. This one, made from
bamboo, has venom, lots of venom.
SOARES: They say they've had no choice but to step up these last few years under a populist president who promised his base to develop, some would say
exploit the rain forest for its resources. Naturally, they're furious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Bolsonaro, you are ignorant! You let these people walk into our land and threaten the Yanomamo. These people
have come and have killed us, we want you to remove them quickly.
SOARES: And with 30 percent of the land in the hands of illegal gold miners, their plea is clear and loud, get the miners out. All they ever
wanted, they say, is to protect the children and their already vulnerable way of life, their very existence as the guardians of the Amazon.
From above, the challenge is made clearer. The Yanomamo reserve almost 24 million acres of it sits deep in a dense Amazonian jungle, finding miners,
an estimated 20,000 of them here, becomes a game of cat and mouse. This boat knows what's circling above and speeds away from the authorities. But
the police persist and follow the trail of devastation. They spot an opening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SOARES: This is as much about catching the criminals as it is understanding how they work. Who pays them and funds the devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SOARES: The women often used as cooks pay for their journey in gold in advance, but the gold rush is not what they imagined and they struggle to
pay it back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SOARES: Miners too become disillusioned that, that dream of striking it rich fails to materialize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I've been here for three months. I came here because they told us it was good. It would be good, but until
now, we haven't seen any gains.
SOARES: Yet, the destruction is clear for all to see. Their very presence in raising the pine forest, their thirst for gold contaminating rivers with
mud and mercury. The police go deeper and find several wooden barges full of heavy machinery to dredge for gold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SOARES: The police know this is a losing battle. There's too many miners and the area is too vast to patrol. So all they can do is slow them down
by destroying their equipment. This isn't the solution the Yanomamo had been pleading for. But until President Bolsonaro changes his environmental
policies, the Yanomamo's cries will continue to fall on deaf ears, and this burden of riches, the lungs of the world, risks falling with it. Isa
VANIER: And just a note, the Brazilian government has told CNN it is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. It
also said that alleged violations by illegal miners in the Yanomamo indigenous land are being investigated by federal authorities in multiple
Still to come tonight, more on our top story. England lifts its COVID restrictions triggering all manner of fallout on two connected fronts,
politics and health. We'll be discussing that next. Plus, concerns that spyware designed by an Israeli firm for governments to track terrorists
may have been used to hack journalists and political opponents. We'll have the details.
VANIER: After more than a year, most of the COVID restrictions here in England have now been lifted. And it's a big bet for Prime Minister Boris
Johnson, who is trusting the U.K.'s high vaccination rates to dampen the impact of its resurgent case numbers. Mr. Johnson is still advising
caution. And he's doing so from isolation in fact, along with two of his top cabinet ministers. After initially saying that they wouldn't, they
joined hundreds of thousands of Britons ordered to isolate by the National Health Service app.
Some businesses and now warning that panic caused by those orders could leave supermarkets in a supply shortage. With all that in mind, what was
intended to be a day of celebration is more like a day of chaos here. So for many of the mood in London is uneasy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's way too many scientists saying that we're going to hit 100,000 a day, 200,000 a day, whatever we read. They've been saying
that since they mentioned it in 19th of July. So I'm going to go cautiously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm caught in two minds really if I'm honest. I -- I'm a little bit nervous about the whole thing coming to an end. I'm not a
hundred percent sure on what's happening with the masks. I mean, should I be wearing a mask on public transport? My going to shops?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: How the U.K. is handling this new step comes down to a cross- section of politics and health. So let's discuss the implications for both with our experts, the Dr. Peter Drobac of Oxford University and we have our
political commentator, John Rentoul with us as well. Let's start with you, Dr. Drobac. This really boils down to a conversation about how and when to
reopen. Now you believe it's too soon, you've made your views known, despite the fact that two-thirds of adults in this country are fully
PETER DROBAC, INFECTIOUS DISEASE & GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: Well, despite the high vaccination rates, if you look at it, we're
really just at 50 percent of the total population. Kids can catch and transmit COVID like everybody else. And, you know, the U.K. is really an
outlier here when you think about the fact that we're relaxing restrictions, despite an exponential rise in cases.
Now the government's betting that the fact that most more vulnerable adults have been vaccinated is that we won't see high levels of hospitalizations
and high levels of death. But the reality is, it's a big gamble. And it's also I think, doesn't take into consideration the other bad outcomes that
can come from really high rates of COVID transmission like long COVID, which is affecting over one million people in the U.K. already in set to
rise. There's also the risk, of course, that half the population vaccinated, the other half getting COVID sets very good conditions for the
emergence of new variants. So I think it's a real risk here.
VANIER: All right. So you said the risk of long COVID, especially for the younger sections of the population and the risk of the emergence of a
vaccine resistant variant, those are two things that we'll explore. I want to go to John, though. John, why is Boris Johnson going down a path that
his own government says will cause potentially a hundred thousand infections a day, if not more, let's put those numbers up with Neil
Ferguson, epidemiologist here in England, formerly with SAGE, obviously the adviser to the government in terms of the pandemic.
So he says a hundred thousand new cases per day, that's utterly predictable. That would be a thousand people going to hospital every day,
and it could be a lot more. He says it could be, who knows? Two hundred thousand people getting infected a day. So why is the prime minister doing
this then, John?
JOHN RENTOUL, CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, THE INDEPENDENT: Well, he tried to explain it today in a broadcast from his glorious isolation in his
country house in Buckinghamshire.
He -- his argument was essentially that the summer is a good time to do it because people can be outside, the school holidays are right to begin so
there won't be so much transmission at schools, because he's expecting a -- another wave in the winter. But his argument, I have to say, did not make
complete sense to me. Because what he said was, if we keep the restrictions in place now, that will only delay the inevitable. Now I thought the whole
point of government policy was to delay the inevitable deaths and hospitalizations that are going to result.
VANIER: All right. Let's look at the numbers. Peter, I think I want you to comment on these numbers. Let's look at the infections first and then we'll
look at the deaths. OK? Because this is something, Peter, that you brought up. The infection numbers have been surging. And so if you just look at
that graph, it does look like we're in the middle of a new wave of COVID, which I suppose by definition we are, but what really matters is the number
of severe cases and, of course, the number of deaths. So let's look at those. That graph, that curve, not going up by nearly as much. All right?
So that's the argument that the government is making. Peter, why do you not buy this?
DROBAC: Well, it's true that the high levels of vaccination hopefully will mean fewer hospitalizations, and deaths relative to the number of cases
compared to what we saw before. However, by the government's own estimates, we are headed for a thousand hospitalizations per day or more. We just
don't know with as much more transmissible variant. And so even that, risks putting a lot of strain on the NHS and some of the more high burden regions
of the country, we're already hearing about extra COVID wards being set up once again, of ICU starting to get full.
And we've got millions of people who have had to delay elective surgeries and cancer screening and other things. This is going to put a tremendous
burden on the NHS. And even if it doesn't get as bad as it was before, we're still in for a very difficult time.
VANIER: John, is this good politics for Boris Johnson? Because I'm yet to hear a doctor or a scientist who backs this gamble so there must be a
reason the Prime Minister is doing this.
RENTOUL: Well, they -- the government scientists, the government official advisors, do in public say that they that they agree with the policy, and
that they don't think that the pressure on the NHS is going to be that great. And that the link between the number of infections and the
hospitalizations has been so weak and that --
VAUSE: We also warn, John, that this could easily go sideways.
RENTOUL: Yes, they do. That is true. And, you know, Boris Johnson himself accepted that when he said, these changes were irreversible, he didn't mean
it. He meant he will reverse them if he has to. So he was very clear about that. But you're absolutely right, that there is the puzzle of about what
the -- how the politics will work out because public opinion is very much on the side of Peter and the doubting scientists who think that this is not
the time to release the restrictions.
They want them to carry on. Most people do only -- most people want to actually carry on with compulsory mask wearing and all the rest of it. So
it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out. Because at the same time, as all that is true of public opinion, the conservatives have a
healthy lead in the opinion polls, and Boris Johnson is still extremely popular.
VANIER: All right. So it's working out politically so far. Peter, is this risk-making England especially London, a threat to the rest of the world
because, of course, London's an international travel hub. And if, as you say, a new vaccine resistant variant emerges from this, then it could
easily spread to other parts of the planet.
DROBAC: It is possible. I don't know that it's likely. But we've certainly been surprised by this virus before. We know that it mutates and we know
that these conditions put selection pressure on the virus that could lead to a vaccine-resistant variant. And I think this is the case not only for
the U.K., but for everywhere. We have relatively high rates of vaccination, but now rising cases in the face of the Delta variant, it comes down to
that thing we've said again and again for the last year and a half that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. So that new threat could
emerge here from the U.K. or from many other places. We've still got a long ways to go in this fight.
VANIER: All right. Dr. Peter Drobac, John Rentoul, thank you very much to both of you for your analysis this evening.
DROBAC: Thank you.
VANIER: And we are keeping an eye on U.S. markets. The Dow Jones has fallen more than 900 points. Investors are worried about the spread of the Delta
variant and how it could affect the economic recovery. Shares of companies in sectors that were expected to benefit most from the reopening of the
economy are, of course, getting hit the hardest. More on this in the next hour on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS right here on CNN.
Also just ahead, was spyware from an Israeli company used by foreign governments to target journalists and political opponents? A new report is
sounding alarms around the globe. Stay with us.
VANIER: The United States and its allies are accusing China of a widespread global cyber espionage campaign. The White House and governments in Europe
and Asia accused China's Ministry of State Security of using hackers to conduct destabilizing activities around the world. Among them, a massive
hack of Microsoft's exchange email service back in March, and a ransomware attack against an unspecified U.S. target. Secretary of State Anthony
Blinken claimed that the spying was "a major threat to our economic and national security."
The broad coalition marks an unprecedented condemnation of Chinese cyber activity and it comes at a time when President Biden continues to take a
hard line on China. Now another hacking story you need to be aware of, Israeli spyware company, NSO Group, is under scrutiny after an
investigation by an international group of news outlets found that its Pegasus surveillance software was used to hack the cell phones of
journalists, activists, politicians, and others.
Now in theory, anyone including you or I, could be targeted by the software, which is licensed to governments around the world, nominally for
tracking terrorists and criminals. Hadas Gold is covering this story from Jerusalem.
Hadas Gold, Cyril this intensive investigation was conducted by an international alliance of 17 news organizations and human rights groups,
among them the Washington Post and Amnesty International. Now it started from a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers, which the group says were
possible targets for spying by governments around the world which utilized a hacking program called Pegasus developed by the Israeli cyber security
Now says they licensed this software to target terrorists and other criminals. So sophisticated that experts say it can essentially give access
to everything on a target's phone, even controlling the microphone and camera, which led to widespread security concerns when it was first
revealed in 2016.
But this consortium says that among the list, they found numbers in countries like Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, belonging to business
executives, human rights activists, and journalists, including some CNN reporters. The group said that 37 of phones they were able to examine
showed some sort of evidence of having been targeted or even breached by this Pegasus software.
CNN has not independently verified the findings of this report, but it is bringing scrutiny back onto this company, NSO, and so and the Israel
government for just allowing the software to even be licensed to governments that may use it for reasons beyond its advertised purpose. Now,
NSO is pushing back strongly against this report, a senior source telling CNN that the report is flimsy and that they haven't seen the list of 50,000
numbers. But it would be nearly impossible for all the numbers to be targets of their clients, because their clients only target about 4,000
targets per year.
With senior source also stressed they do not operate the software for their clients and have no visibility into the data, that they investigate any
claims of misuse and will cut off contracts with clients that misuse the technology, something they say they've done five times in the past. Cyril.
VANIER: Hadas Gold reporting there. Now Bill Marczak, a Senior Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab in Berkeley, California joins us. Well, you're in
Berkeley, California. So are we defenseless against this, then?
BILL MARCZAK, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, CITIZEN LAB: Well, in terms of the average user, it's very hard to defend against the sort of Pegasus spyware.
And the reason is that the spyware is often delivered by what we call a zero click technique, meaning that the user who's being targeted, does not
need to open up any sort of link, or attachment, or really click on anything, or take any action to facilitate the surveillance. It is
something that is fully automatic, so your phone can be sitting on the table, one minute, it's fine, the next minute attacked.
VANIER: All right. Because I'm one of those people who prides myself on, you know, on checking the emails before I open them and not opening
anything that feels suspicious. But none of that matters anymore with this new technology. You're -- you could be hacked without making any kind of
MARCZAK: That's true. Yes, I mean, it's obviously still important to practice good digital security behaviors, namely checking emails, checking
texts, to make sure they're from who you think they're from, installing updates, enabling two-factor authentication, those are all still important
things to do. But they can't really protect you from this very sophisticated zero click hacking technique.
VANIER: Once you've been hacked, what happens? Your phone essentially becomes this open book for the hackers and a recording device.
MARCZAK: That's true. Yes. So anything you can see on your phone or any action you can take on your phone as the user, the operator of the spyware
can also take. So they can peer into your private messages, they can take your photos, they can even, as you said, turn the phone into a wiretapping
tool, so they can enable the microphone and take pictures through the camera so they can spy on meetings or other activities in the vicinity of
VANIER: And so how do you stop this then? Because now that technology exists, it's out there, it's in the world, clearly, multiple countries,
governments are ready to pay for it and use it. How do we put guardrails on this? Because initially, this was used to track terrorists only.
MARCZAK: Well, the company says that it's supposed to be used to track criminals and terrorists. But they also say that once they sold the
technology, the customer really makes the decision on how to use it. But I think that, you know, NSO Group can't hide behind that justification,
because they're doing deals and selling the spyware to very repressive governments. So we've seen deals with Saudi Arabia, we've seen deals with
the UAE, we've seen deals with Rwanda, and other countries like Mexico, and these countries are, in the case of Mexico, is somewhat a democracy.
But in the case of these Middle Eastern countries, like Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, maybe they're going after some criminals and terrorists, but
they're also very concerned about journalists and activists, what they might be planning next, and how to subvert that before it happens. So I
think that really the way to stop this or to put controls on it is to look at where these companies are based. And right now, Israel has a very robust
ecosystem of these surveillance companies. So I think it's up to the Israeli government and Israeli lawmakers to introduce more controls on
these sorts of exports.
VANIER: So what part of this exactly is illegal? At what point is the law broken? Because it's not illegal to make the technology, it's not illegal
to sell it to the government, the government is allowed to buy it, and yet it's utterly reprehensible what we're learning. At what point is this --
does this break the law?
MARCZAK: Well, that's a great question. What NSO group says is, well, we require our customers to abide by local laws. But that's not very
satisfactory, right? Because NSO Group is involved in setting up the system for the client. They're potentially involved in setting up the
infrastructure of the servers that are delivering these, you know, spyware payloads and receiving the stolen information from the devices.
So I think that NSO Group has a responsibility to better control this technology. The Israeli Government has a responsibility to better control
this technology and really ensure that, you know, this sort of transnational hacking, which, you know, there's still ongoing efforts to
hold the company and the governments to account.
But there needs to be new safeguards in place, there needs to be new remedies introduced for victims of this sort of surveillance.
MARCZAK: And what's to stop private entities? Once this has been sold by this Israeli company to a government, what's to stop this from falling into
the hands of a private entity or even being sold to a private group or whether it's a business, whether it's militias, private hackers want to use
this for their own interests?
VANIER: Well, NSO Group says that they have a mechanism to remotely cut off or disable the system, you know, if they have any suspicions that maybe
it's being used improperly. The other dimension, though, of this is that even if the system is not sold to a third party, we still see evidence that
third parties can potentially influence how it's used and potentially influence the selection of targets.
So for example, we, at the Citizen Lab, documented in Mexico several years ago, researchers who were focusing on the soda tax and advocating for an
increased tax on sugary beverages in Mexico, they found themselves targeted by the Mexican government using this Pegasus spyware. And this doesn't
really seem like an issue that would be sort of front and center of the minds of, you know, the intelligence agency in Mexico, right?
So there's potentially the implication here that in some cases, due to corruption or other factors, there are private entities or corporations
that are able to, in some cases, potentially influence the targeting of the spyware and maybe even receive intelligence or information gathered from
VANIER: Bill Marczak with the Citizen Lab, thank you very much for your time today.
MARCZAK: Thank you.
VANIER: And still to come tonight, from shaking up the retail space to shaking up travel into space itself, Jeff Bezos is less than a day away
from the journey of a lifetime. CNN hears from him next.
VANIER: And we should soon be starting a countdown to launch in less than 24 hours. Jeff Bezos will join a very exclusive club of billionaires by
blasting off into space. He is scheduled to rocket to the edge of space with his company, Blue Origin. Also on board with Mr. Bezos will be his
brother, Mark, as well as 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old aviator, Wally Funk.
They will be the youngest and oldest people respectively ever to travel into space. Bezos told CNN's Rachel Crane that the journey isn't about
neglecting challenges here on Earth, it's about making inroads for the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF BEZOS, BLUE ORIGIN FOUNDER: You know, we have -- there -- we have lots of problems in the here and now on Earth, we need to work on those and we
always need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization, we have to do both. And what our job at Blue Origin is to
do and what this space tourism mission is about, is having a mission where we can practice so much that we get really good at operational space
travel, more like a commercial airliner and less like what you think of as traditional space travel.
If we can do that, then we'll be building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there. And those amazing things will solve
problems here on earth. And, by the way, maybe it'll be all Oliver. He's 18 years old, maybe that'll be -- maybe he'll found a space company that uses
the infrastructure that this generation is building right now. So the real answer is, yes, we have to do both.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jeff, last question, you know, the timing of this flight, about two weeks after you stepped down as CEO of
Amazon, is that because of the inherent risks of this flight?
BEZOS: No, I could have done this flight as CEO of Amazon, and it would have been fine. So I, first of all, I -- we really believe this flight is
safe. We wouldn't, you know, people say -- I had friends say to me, how about how about the second flight or the third flight? Why do you have to
go on the first flight? And the point is, we know the vehicle's safe. If the vehicle is not safe for me, then it's not safe for anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: All right. Jeff Bezos and team blasting off in less than 24 hours. We will, of course, have full coverage of the launch here on CNN. That's
scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday if you're watching in New York, 2:00 p.m. here in London. And before we call this a night, let's take another
look at the numbers coming out of Wall Street. We told you earlier in the show the Dow had dropped sharply. It's down 885 points as we speak, minus
2.5 percent. You'll have a lot more on that in quest -- with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," that's in just a few minutes here on CNN. All right. Stay with
us. Richard Quest up next.