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Hala Gorani Tonight

New COVID Variant Causes Global Concern; Ukraine's President Calls Out Alleged Coup Plot; British Home Secretary Disinvited From Talks With France About Ongoing Migrant Crisis; France Uninvites Britain From Migrant Crisis Meeting; Taiwan Faces Uncertain Future As China Ramps Up Pressure; U.S. To Restrict Travel From South Africa, Seven Other Countries Starting Monday. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 26, 2021 - 14:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm Bianca Nobilo in for Hala Gorani. Tonight, growing concern over

a new COVID variant that sent shock waves around the world. We're live in South Africa to find out more. Ukraine's Prime Minister tells a stunned

press conference that he's uncovered a Russian plot to oust him.

And the British Home Secretary is disinvited from talks with France about the ongoing migrant crisis. We start with breaking news. The World Health

Organization has just classified the new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa as a variant of concern. They've given it a Greek name,

Omicron. South African officials first reported the variant to the W.H.O. on Wednesday. But now, cases have been found as far away as Israel, Belgium

and Hong Kong. And we're already seeing a forceful global reaction.

Several countries are banning flights from South Africa and other African nations. Fear is spreading to the markets, the Dow had its worst day in

over a year. European stocks closed sharply down and oil prices tumbled. So far, health experts know Omicron has an unusually high mutation rate which

could make it more transmissible. Scientists at BionTech say they've already -- they've already started studying how the variant could impact

its COVID vaccine.

They expect data within the next couple of weeks. First, let's go to South Africa where the variant was first identified. David McKenzie is in

Johannesburg for us. David, how long have authorities there known about this variant, and why is concern starting to grow rapidly?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, they've known about this for a very short time relative to how this kind of science normally

developed. So, they have spotted this several days ago in fact only, and what -- the reason that they were particularly worried about this variant

which is now being designated a variant of concern was because of its rapid rise within this province where I'm sitting, Gauteng Province.

There's also something else worth noting that's important because of the nature of the mutations, this variant was picked up pretty early on by

standard PCR tests because of an anomaly in this variant. So, that also helped alert scientists here in South Africa that this is something

different, once they did a gene under -- a genetic understanding of it, the genomic sequencing, they could see that it potentially could be very

worrying. Bianca?

NOBILO: And David, we've just heard in the last few seconds, breaking news, in that the U.S. will be restricting travel to South Africa. What is the

public mood now in South Africa that countries are starting to try and restrict travel to the region? Is there worry? It's also a country that

hasn't been vaccinated to a large extent.

MCKENZIE: Well, about -- just under 40 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated. This increasing number of countries in regions cutting off

South Africa from the official standpoint. Government officials are calling this a knee-jerk reaction, they're certainly angry at the swiftness of


And Africa's CDC has for its part for many months now said that these kind of travel bans aren't exactly helpful from a public health perspective.

Also given the nature of this virus, it's possible that this virus has already spread, this variant has already spread widely, so it might not

have an impact.

But I think people here also understand the political implications for leaders that maybe don't announce these restrictions, and once the ball got

rolling from the United Kingdom banning seven countries in the region, really it was only a matter of time before others followed suit.

NOBILO: And David, what happens now? How is this variant going to be tracked in terms of its growth and how is it going to be studied?

MCKENZIE: Well, South Africa already is at a pretty good space ironically of its COVID-19 pandemic. We've had three brutal waves, but in the last few

days, we've seen the positivity rate, a key indicator jumped significantly, and it's believed this is in part due to this new variant that has been



What happens now is that scientists around the world will be doing lab tests, challenging this variant, this live virus in highly secure labs to

see if it evades immunity from previous infection, and if it has any impact on the vaccines. Now, if there's any good news here, most scientists

believe that the vaccine still will have efficacy against this variant, but frankly, they don't know for sure, and I think that's one reason you've

seen this alarm across the world about this variant It is early days yet still, it could be that this is a false alarm, but it's just too early to


NOBILO: David McKenzie in Johannesburg, thanks so much for joining us. So, why is this new variant so concerning, and what's the science behind it?

Anne von Gottberg is a clinical biologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, and she joins me now live from

Johannesburg. Thanks so much for being with us this evening. First and foremost, the main line that we've been hearing about this new variant

which is concerning people is the number of mutations.

I believe it's over 30, 32 is the number that I've heard. Is there a threshold number of mutations above which it becomes very concerning when

you think about vaccine efficacy?

ANNE VON GOTTBERG, CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGIST: Not really. I think even with the earlier variants where mutations were about ten -- five to ten for

example, it's the -- it's wave mutations are and what the mutations do that really worries us. But it happens to be that these mutations are in the

spike region and it's the recognized -- the ones that we can recognize that were previously already researched and have shown to be involved in immune

escape as well as increased transmissibility, and it's that reason.

So, I don't think we're thinking of it as a threshold, I think that these are really important mutations that we know about, and then additionally,

in those region, so many that we don't know about, and that worries --

NOBILO: And are there any indications as yet as to whether or not it's more deadly than previous variants?

VON GOTTBERG: Not yet. I think the severity we don't know about. It's been -- it really has been very early days, very quick in detecting this because

we've been able to detect this so-called SP(ph) dropouts, so it's something that epidiagnostic stage of the diagnosis stage we were able to -- we've

been able to detect.

But the moment I think we're monitoring admissions and clinical outcomes in individuals who have been infected by this variant, and that's the work

that needs to be done in the next few weeks to really monitor carefully to see if there is increased severity in disease.

NOBILO: And to the extent that you can say obviously, the patients that have been detected as having this new variant, how are they doing? What do

we know about their experience with the virus and their outcomes?

VON GOTTBERG: But interestingly, many of them have been vaccinated because they were detected. In fact, some of those travelers that have been

detected in other countries, they -- people -- travel -- travelers, but they were detected, they were vaccinated and in fact, some of them have

been asymptomatic, others have had very mild symptoms. And so even in South Africa, the ones that we have followed up and investigated, some are our

patients, individuals who were tested for screening reasons or have mild symptoms.

So, at the moment, there's a whole mix of patients. I think really what we'll know better in the next week or two is when more and more people

become infected and you get a range and then you can really see also over time whether any of these individuals will become admitted and have a

clinical course that is severe.

NOBILO: Now, the task of greatest urgency at the moment seems to be to try and ascertain whether or not the vaccine is still effective against this

new variant if indeed it does continue and takes hold. What do we know about that and how will that be tested?

VON GOTTBERG: We don't know much about that, and I think the one comfort we have is that the previous variants even though some of them may have been

in the laboratory shown some reductions in effectiveness against some of the vaccines, most of them were able to -- in fact, all of them had been

able to prevent admissions for severe disease and death, and I think that's how one hope that whatever we find, if there's any reduction in the vaccine

effectiveness, that it will -- it won't affect what we are really monitoring and wanting from the vaccines is to prevent admissions into

hospital and severe disease.

And what we're trying to do now is link infections that are caused by this variant to exactly those outcomes. How many people are being admitted with

or without this variant, and how many people are having severe outcomes during their clinical course?


NOBILO: There does seems to be a lot of panic about this new variant, and large part, that's because early conversations are about it being a lot

more transmissible and obviously some of these are unknowns. I mean, is it possible -- as our correspondent just referred to, David McKenzie, that it

could be a flash in the pan like other variants and perhaps it's because of more testing or other circumstances or is there something about this which

is making you as a microbiologist think, no, this one is really worrying?

VON GOTTBERG: I think we always hope -- I would love for the story to be that this is -- we don't have to worry about that. So, I think it would be

wonderful if this BOC can then be downgraded and we find information in the next two or three weeks that tells us this was an early peak or slight

increase, and in fact, now, things are coming back to normal.

I think that would be the best scenario. I think as a clinical microbiologist and with the evidence currently available, I am worried, and

I'd like us to really collect the data here in South Africa and elsewhere in the world where the infections might be increasing to be able to guide

global response to this variant.

NOBILO: I read earlier in a couple of British papers that scientists, some scientists have said that this variant may have risen in a patient who was

immunocompromised. Is that true to your knowledge? And also, even if it isn't, why would immunocompromised patients be dangerous people to watch in

terms of variants?

VON GOTTBERG: So it's been shown -- in fact, several research studies have shown that in immunocompromised individuals, so even those with cancer on

steroids, on immunosuppressive therapy, their immune system isn't responding to the virus in the same that a healthy individual might respond

to the virus. And as a result, the virus can grow at high levels in that individual and can mutate in that individual. So, theoretically, it is a

concern, and it has been shown already in research in individuals, but the numbers have been small.

And in fact, in South Africa, the real risk would be in those that are not HIV infected individuals, cancer, on therapy, but those that are not --

they're immunosuppressed, and I think that's really important to consider. I don't think it's the only explanation for this.

Remember, we sequence very few viruses, so there's a -- we know about the tip of the iceberg, there's a lot of information and ongoing transmission

of viruses that we don't sequence, that we don't know about, and so I think there are many hypothesis, we have to keep our minds open to explore all of


At the moment, I think also, we need a lot more data, we need to sequence both sort of historical specimens from South Africa, from elsewhere in the

world. And I think the data will show itself and there will be some explanations. But we don't know and there's no evidence in South Africa

that this is linked to an individual who was immunosuppressed.

NOBILO: Anne von Gottberg, thank you so much for joining us this evening. We'll of course keep our eye on any more data that comes out about this

variant, thank you.

VON GOTTBERG: Thank you. And just to recap our viewers, we are covering the breaking news now that the W.H.O. has classified this new variant that we

have seen in South Africa, Botswana, as a variant of concern, and the U.S. will be restricting travel from South Africa. We'll keep you posted on the

latest lines as we get them. Now, major U.S. airlines say they're closely watching this new variant, it's got global markets spooked and the numbers

tell the story. Wall Street was hit hard after returning from the Thanksgiving holiday.

Investors got a little bit of a break if only because today's trading session was shorter than usual and volumes were light. European markets

also rattled, the major stock indices there sold off heavily. And the price of oil sliding, Brent crude, the global oil benchmark and U.S. oil futures

have both fallen. CNN's Richard Quest joins us now from New York. Richard, this variant is making the markets panic more it seems than any other. Why

this variant?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Because of what your last guest said. She said "we don't know" when you asked her about what was

likely a new sequencing and where it came from and how bad. We don't know, but what we can say with an element of certainty is that as more countries

introduce restrictions, for instance, the U.S. has joined other European countries by restricting travel from certain African countries where it is

now present.

As restrictions are in place, so economic slows -- the economy slow down, travel slows down, trade slows down, and we end up with a very nasty

downward spiral. And that's what's driving it. It's fair at the moment, fear of where this may go, uncertainty of how long it may last.

NOBILO: And do you think, Richard, a large part of this is because the only coronavirus suppression and mitigation strategies we have, such as

vaccination being the main one. If there are in fact, 30-plus mutations on this new variant, then all their strategies could potentially be shot to

pieces if vaccines don't work.


QUEST: Well, let's call a spade a shovel. What you're really saying is, could it happen that the vaccines that we've currently got are ineffective.

And that we have -- we're back to square one. That is the ultimate, if you like, nuclear option of Omicron. And we just don't know. And it is that

concern about it that it is most worrying. And also the fact that economies are not in good shape, inflation is on the rise. If there was to be a

slowdown in developed economies, you could end up with a very nasty bout of stagflation.

We are a long way off that. I'm not going to be alarmist in that sense. But these are the fears that the market is looking at. I would say to anybody

tonight who is sort of chewing their fingernails, remember 2020, remember at the -- when this thing began and markets fell out of bed. They recovered

because we quickly adapted. We knew how to work from home. We knew how to buy online. We were able to resume economic activity of one sort or


We are not going to be back to 2020 again. Nobody seems -- I've spoken to believes that. So, it is uncertainty that's caused the market to be down.

One would expect that to be the case, but I think an element of perspective is also required.

NOBILO: Thank you, Richard. Your pep talks are always the best. See you soon. Still to come tonight, Ukraine's president says there is a plot to

overthrow him next week. We tell you who he says is behind a planned coup. And then NATO's Secretary General has a warning for Russia as it

intensifies its military build-up near Ukraine. My interview with Jens Stoltenberg ahead.


NOBILO: The president of Ukraine says his government has uncovered a planned coup attempt. Volodymyr Zelensky says a group of Ukrainians and

Russians are plotting to overthrow him. He told reporters his government has audio recordings to prove it.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE (through translator): There are great challenges within our state which are already been recorded by the

Intelligence services of other countries. I will tell you, frankly, I live in this process. For example, we received information that on the 1st,

there will be a coup in our country. I think this is an important information on the 1st or 2nd of December.



NOBILO: The Kremlin denies any role in the coup plot, saying, quote, "in general, Russia is never engaged in that kind of thing." As Matthew Chance

reports, the allegations come amidst heightened tensions between Ukraine and Russia as Moscow continues its military build-up near the border.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's all part of the general concern that's been accelerating and getting worse over the

course of the past several weeks and months, with the United States and with Ukraine warning about an imminent threat from Moscow on several

different fronts. The military front, there's been allegations that Moscow denies, of Moscow building up its military forces close to Ukraine's

borders, and there have been suggestions that Moscow could be fomenting some kind of unrest, some kind of potential rebellion inside Ukraine as


So, on one level, that talks to that. It was President Zelensky articulating those concerns that Russia may be behind some kind of an

attempted, you know, plot or coup, in his words, against his government. And very recent, of course, in just the next few days, he said this coup is

meant to have taken -- have taken place. But, you know, I think we also have to see it within the context of what's happening in Ukrainian politics

as well.

There's a big campaign underway at the moment led by President Zelensky to crack down on extremely rich and powerful business people inside Ukraine,

he so-called oligarchs. There's a law been passed to try and limit their power and to claw back some of the economic wealth that they control. And

one of the individuals named by President Zelensky as possibly being associated with this, although not directly involved, was Rinat Akhmetov;

he's Ukraine's richest man, he's got massive industrial and banking insurance interests in the country.

And there's a sense in which, you know, this is a move, and this is what critics of Zelensky say, that this is a move by the president to try and

curb some of the -- you know, some of the critics of his government who are powerful inside Ukraine. So it's difficult to know, to ascribe what

credibility we should give to this allegation that there's a coup, but, you know, clearly, you know, there's a real threat facing Ukraine, and this was

articulated by the Ukrainian president.


NOBILO: Matthew Chance, thank you. Before the show, I spoke to NATO's Secretary General about President Zelensky and his allegation of a planned

coup. Jens Stoltenberg didn't want to speculate, saying no one knows Russia's true intentions, but he did say Russia's military build-up near

Ukraine is concerning and he wanted to send Moscow a message.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: So, what we see is a significant Russian military build-up, unusual concentration of forces, heavy weapons,

battle tanks, drones, armored vehicles and also electronic warfare systems and many combat-ready troops. Of course, this is serious, also because it's

the second time this year.

We don't know the Russian intentions, but what we do know is that Russia has used force against Ukraine before. They annexed Crimea. They

destabilized eastern Ukraine, and they have conducted hybrid and cyber attacks against Ukraine many times.

So, this is serious and, therefore, we need to monitor very closely and assess this very actively to follow what Russia does.

NOBILO: How difficult is it to build up a clear picture of exactly what Russia is doing and where it's concentrating its forces? Because

presumably, a lot of this movement is covert. I assume you are relying on intelligence and satellite imagery.

STOLTENBERG: So I cannot -- I cannot go into the details of our Intelligence, but we have the capabilities that provides us with quite

accurate and a lot of information. This is close to the Ukrainian borders, and there are different ways of monitoring what Russia does. I think that

on top of this unusual military build-up of concentration of forces, we also have a very aggressive rhetoric.

So when you combine that, also the track record of Russia, aggressive actions against Ukraine, of course, this is something that causes concern

and that will be one of the important topics that we'll discuss when NATO foreign ministers meet in Riga early next week, and also Secretary Blinken

will be there with all the other NATO-allied foreign ministers.

NOBILO: We've heard from the chief of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Agency, that they think an attack early in 2022, and late January, early

February, is likely. How would NATO respond to an attempted Russian expansion within Ukraine?

STOLTENBERG: If they -- despite our clear message and the message from the whole international community, decides to violate international norms and

rules, and once again use military force against Ukraine, then there will be costs.


There will be consequences for Russia, and there are different options that we can use. We saw after 2014 when they invaded Crimea and occupied Crimea

and part of Ukraine. Since then, all NATO allies have imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia -- economic, financial sanctions, diplomatic

reactions, and also NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement since the end of the cold war.

For the first time in our history, we have combat-ready battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance, we have tripled the size of our response

force, more presence in the air, on land and at sea, in the Black Sea, in the Baltic sea.

And all of this, of course, demonstrates for Russia that there will be consequences if they once again use force against an independent sovereign

nation, Ukraine.

NOBILO: And speaking of 2014, you mentioned the build-up of NATO resources in those areas, is that how you actually are tracking, monitoring

incursions or violations of the Minsk agreement?

STOLTENBERG: Yes, one of the ways we are tracking that. We also have the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OCE, which also

actually has demanded of monitoring the Minsk agreement, which has as one of the provisions a ceasefire which has violated frequently. And, again, we

see that Russia continues to support the separatists within Donbas, and the Minsk agreement is about Donbas; the eastern part of Ukraine, and it just

demonstrates that Russia lacks the respect for borders for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of sovereign nations and Ukraine.


NOBILO: That was NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. I also spoke to him about the situation in the Baltics as well as Germany's leadership role

in Europe given the upcoming departure of Angela Merkel. Part two of that conversation is coming up on my show, "THE GLOBAL BRIEF" in less than three


Still to come tonight, we are raising a red flag, the words of the Israeli Prime Minister. Just ahead, why he is so alarmed over the new COVID





NOBILO: France has uninvited the British Home Secretary from a weekend meeting on the migrant crisis in the English Channel, as the diplomatic

spat between the two countries escalate rapidly. French President Emmanuel Macron hit out at the U.K. Prime Minister saying that Boris Johnson was

"not serious."

This after Mr. Johnson tweeted out a five-point plan to stop migrants making the deadly crossing. This war of words is playing out against a real

life humanitarian crisis as many men, women and children are still waiting in makeshift camps on the French coast.

Cyril Vanier is in Dunkirk. Cyril, it is difficult and frustrating, I'm sure, for many people who've been affected by this to hear this acrimony

and this clash of political egos when 27 people have died this week and the crisis continues. What's your take on the ground?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, I think that's a fair assessment. The people that we've been speaking to here on the ground, the migrants,

they are, of course, de facto caught in between France and Britain in these sometimes competing interests as far as each country's immigration policy.

But these migrants, they've been through so much already. They've been through so much to get to where they are now, that frankly, they don't even

look at these big politics issues. Their only question for most of them who wants to get to the U.K. is how do I get that done? We went to a migrant

camp, Bianca. This is what we found.


VANIER: Migrants huddling under the rate. A father and his little girl, no more than 8 years old, seeking some warmth. This stretch of road tucked

behind a highway is one of several migrant encampments dotted near France's northern coast. 21-year-old geography student Ahmed says he arrived three

days ago from Afghanistan.


VANIER: So this is where you live?


VANIER: His earthly possessions, this tent and a few blankets. His final destination, he hopes, the United Kingdom.


AHMED, STUDENT: By boat is the only option.

VANIER: You know some people died trying to cross the other day.

AHMED: Yes, this is normal for us. You know, Turkish border, Iran border, much more people dying there. Nobody care.


VANIER: Consider his five-month Odyssey through Asia, Turkey, the Balkans and Europe, thousands of kilometers on foot, in trucks and trains crossing

borders illegally. And it becomes clear, Ahmed won't stop now. Nor will the others here. Some 200 migrants fleeing Iraq, Iran, the world's trouble


They are sometimes offered Shelter by government agencies, but even those who go only use it as a temporary reprieve. In recent years, migrants used

to jump onto trucks bound for England with security tightened. This is now the last leg of their journey.

The English Channel, cargo ships, strong winds, and near freezing temperatures, dangerous, but so close to England, a mere 50 kilometers

away. French police do patrol these beaches. However, a local officer acknowledged to CNN that they don't have enough resources to monitor every

inch of coastline and the smugglers take advantage.


VANIER: This is one of the boats that was provided by smugglers to a group of migrants. Clearly, his one was intercepted by law enforcement. They're

about 10 meters long. They can fit several dozen people. And you can see they're fairly rudimentary. I mean, this is the bottom of the boat, pretty

easy to make, just wooden planks. Local police tell us often these are buried and then when the time comes, migrants can inflate them fairly

easily. Several dozen people get in and head out to sea in that direction.


VANIER: Eight thousand migrants have been rescued at sea since the beginning of the year, according to French authorities, in operations like

this one. Strewn along the beach, engines, a jerrycan, and personal belongings is easy.


VANIER: There's even in the inside pocket here a ring. Now, the people all this belongs to at this stage, either they crossed the channel and they're

in England, or they failed and they're back in France, or they're dead.


VANIER: And Bianca, Ahmed, the geography student that we spoke to, he's really only worried about one thing.


He says that because of what happened on Wednesday and because of the media focus now on this stretch of coastline, because all the cameras are here

and so many official eyes are looking at this right now, he says the smugglers are probably going to lay low, and he's not going to get an

opportunity to cross for ten days to two weeks maybe, he says. Bianca.

NOBILO: Thank you, Cyril. Cyril Vanier for us in Dunkirk, France. Thank you very much for your reporting.

More now on our top story, the spread of the new COVID variant dubbed a variant of concern and renamed Omicron by the World Health Organization.

Belgium and Israel have discovered at least one case. Israel says it suspect they may have three more.

A growing number of nations are taking action, restricting travel as we get new details about the variant. Just in the last hour, we've learned that

the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday, while Switzerland has now banned all flights from South

Africa. Keep in mind now that Europe was already getting a very hard time from the Delta variant. And now the Netherlands says it will re-impose a

partial lockdown starting the Sunday to try to get a grip on the rising COVID death toll.

CNN's Nada Bashir is standing by in London. But first let's go to Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. Hadas, Israel's obviously been a leader in the pandemic

in many ways when it comes to suppression strategies and vaccination. What are they most worried about here?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're incredibly worried, Bianca, by this new variant. Overnight, they confirmed there is one confirmed case of

this new variant, three more suspected cases and they are expecting more. The way these cases were discovered was that anybody who lands in Tel Aviv

at Ben Gurion Airport must get a PCR test. And so they review all these tests. And that's how they discovered this case with the variant. This is a

person who came from Malawi.

But so far, Health authorities say that that person at least is vaccinated and so far, their symptoms are mild, but as a result of this new variant,

they are issuing sweeping new travel restrictions, they are banning travel from most African countries, except for a few of the northern countries.

This is much wider than the travel bans we've seen from other countries. And Israelis who are returning from any of those countries into Israel will

be mandated to go into quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated and would otherwise be exempt from quarantine.

And in addition to that, any Israelis who were recently in any of those countries in the past week or so will be contacted by officials. They will

be tested once again and also placed into a preventative quarantine as part of all of these precautions. Israeli authorities are very worried about

this new variant.

They actually had a drill just the last couple of weeks, a nationwide drill, in preparation for the possibility of a new and dangerous variant,

and they said the lesson that they learned from that drill is that have to act very quickly and very decisively.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, in a press conference just a few hours ago, said that they are approaching potentially a state of

emergency and they're preparing for a worst-case scenario. Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Hadas. Let's go next to Nada who's standing by in London, where in Europe we now also have a confirmed case of this new variant.

Nada, tell us what you know about this person in Belgium who's had a confirmed case, where they are, where they came from, and also what action

the government's taking to stamp this out.

NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER: Well, there is serious concern, as you mentioned. That case confirmed in Belgium now has put increased pressure on

European leaders to work to tackle the spread of this virus before it does, if it does spiral out of control. As Hadas mentioned, it is decisive and

swift action that is being called for in Europe much like in Israel.

There are serious concerns we've seen in the past, the Delta variant, and even the Alpha variant identified first here in the U.K., putting immense

pressure on the healthcare sectors across Europe. And as we move into these winter months, there are concerns that this could be a repeat of what we

saw last year, and that healthcare sectors could fall under the pressure posed by this new variant.

There are also serious questions about what we know about this variant. A, is it more transmissible, that is the key question now, but also, what

impact will it have on the efficacy of this -- of the vaccines that we have, AstraZeneca one of the key vaccine-makers, are saying that they are

working to investigate and identify whether or not it will have a negative impact on the efficacy of their vaccines.

But what is also clear now is that more needs to be done to look at these cases that have been confirmed, particularly this case in Belgium and these

travel restrictions are all part of efforts to really bring under control this virus before it does get out of hand. Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Nada. Hadas, what is the public mood in Israel? Obviously, yes, it's only one case at the moment, but there's suspected to be more. I

also wonder what you think about the fact that Israel, having had such a successful vaccination effort, would be an interesting and valuable test

case in terms of whether or not this COVID variant is going to be harder to tackle with the vaccine.


GOLD: Well, there -- this is coming at a kind of an interesting time because the R rate, which is the rate that one positive case infects other

people, has been rising. And it actually passed that one threshold that health experts are so worried about. So, there is a concern that this

decline that Israel had been experiencing as a result of their booster campaign that started at the end of July, beginning of August, that somehow

that decline was starting to plateau.

And there was this feeling that as they started to vaccinate children, children aged 5 to 11, were just starting to get vaccinated this week, that

that would help these rising cases because more than 50 percent of the new cases were in children. So, there was the hope that getting these children

vaccine would help stop a potential fifth wave of coming into Israel.

So, I think that's why there's a lot of concern about this new variant. There is even a potential talk questioning whether Israel will potentially

shut its borders again to foreigners, because they just opened up on November 1st to foreign vaccinated tourists. There are very heavy

restrictions in place for who can be let in, but the tours were starting to trickle back in.

So, there is a lot of eyes on the government to see just exactly what they will do. Will they actually close the border to foreigners or will they

keep it open, what further restrictions might come back into place as part of this effort to try to stem this new variant from taking over the -- of

the virus strain here in Israel?

NOBILO: And Nada, what action is Belgium and the E.U. more widely going to take? Because many countries within the E.U., especially the ones that have

had low vaccination rates, are at breaking point in terms of their hospitals, the surging COVID infections, and deaths? There obviously is an

urgency here. They need to take action.

BASHIR: European Union is taking this group action to restrict the travel from the Southern African region. But there is an emphasis now on the

national measures that need to be put in place. We've seen countries in the last few weeks, Austria, Slovakia, even the Netherlands now putting in that

place partial lockdown measures and there is some reluctance in some European countries to go back to that lockdown and we saw in previous

months, the impact on national economies of course has been huge. But there is a real sense of urgency now.

That action needs to be taken at a national level, at least, to stem the spread of the virus but really to put an effort into put -- bringing under

control Coronavirus in general. So, bringing back those restrictive measures we've seen in the past, mandatory mask wearing, more frequent

testing, we've seen countries like France, for example, in Italy, introducing health passes to really monitor who has been vaccinated or has

received a negative Coronavirus test. And France has really stepped up that effort in recent days.

They've announced that their health pass will now require those who are unvaccinated to prove that they've had a negative Coronavirus as to every

24 hours if they want to access places like bars and restaurants or to travel within the country in Italy going so far as to prevent people

working in both public and private sector from doing so if they haven't been vaccinated or could prove that they've had a negative test.

So, there's a real sense of urgency now for governments to take national measures to really bring this under control, particularly as we move into

the winter months. Countries are obviously reluctant to do that, as with the shopping for Christmas and Christmas markets, those have been closed

now in Austria. So there's a real sense of concern that national measures really need to be ramped up to bring the virus under control and the

identification of this new variant in Belgium in the European Union will only heighten that pressure on European leaders to take urgent action.


NOBILO: Nada Bashir in London, and Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. Thank you both.

Still to come tonight, faced with mounting Chinese aggression, CNN speaks to the people of Taiwan about their hopes and fears for the future.



NOBILO: South Korea's health minister says the country is facing its biggest challenge in the battle against COVID-19. Cases are rising again

and have hit new records this week. Paula Hancocks has more on how South Korea is going to deal with this.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An easing of COVID-19 restrictions here in South Korea means that we have seen a record number of new cases this

week. Not really a surprise for officials, though, as they did bring in their policy of living with COVID from November 1st.

But what is concerning officials is the fact that there's a record number of critical cases. Now Health officials say many of them are over the age

of 60. They would have been vaccinated early on in the process. And so that efficacy is now waning. They're hoping to give a booster shot to everyone

over the age of 60. And what we're also hearing from the Prime Minister is that he believes the situation in the greater Seoul area is urgent,

suggesting that some of those eased restrictions might actually be walked back.

There is also a concern about the lack of ICU beds in Seoul trying to secure more that can accommodate COVID patients. One cluster of concern is

very similar to what we saw 21 months ago at the start of the pandemic, and that is an outbreak at a religious group. Now this particular one is a

religious community here in Cheonan, it's about two and a half hours drive south of the Capitol.

And city officials tell us that some 427 members are within this community, that they worship together, that they many of them have communal living,

and more than half of them have so far tested positive. Results are still coming in as well. And officials say that of those that tested positive,

more than 90 percent were not vaccinated, that they could not tell us why that was such a high level. We've been unable to get hold of anybody from

the church itself. It's not reflective though in the nationwide vaccination figures.

Close to 80 percent of people here in South Korea have actually been vaccinated. There is hope among city officials that because this community

kept themselves to themselves for the most part, that there won't be a larger outbreak in the community. But outbreaks at religious groups have

been a recurring concern during this pandemic here in South Korea. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Cheonan, South Korea.

NOBILO: As China's steps up pressure on Taiwan to unify with the mainland, residents of the Democratic Island are growing increasingly worried about

what their future might look like. CNN's Will Ripley has been following these tensions and brings us this report.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hong Kong and Taiwan, two islands claimed by China less than 500 miles apart, they might as well be different worlds.

In 2014, student-led protests broke out in Hong Kong and Taipei, both taking aim at Beijing's communist rulers. Taiwan's Sunflower Movement

occupied the legislature for weeks.

In Hong Kong, five years later, it was only a matter of hours, two similar events, drastically different outcomes.


RIPLEY: If you had done the exact same thing, but you were in Hong Kong, where would you be today?

LIN FEI-FAN, TAIWANESE ACTIVIST: I think I would probably be in jail. Yes.


RIPLEY: Back in 2014, Lin Fei-fan was a student protests leader today, a political leader. He says all of his activist friends from Hong Kong are

either in exile or in jail, targeted by a sweeping national security law, a law imposed by Beijing last year. With the stroke of a pen, many of Hong

Kong's freedoms promised for 50 years under one country, two systems, erased.



RIPLEY: What does that mean for Taiwan?

FEI-FAN: I think that tells us that we must prepare. The threats from China is -- very kind of very escalating and require serious level.


RIPLEY: Fears are growing. China may use its massive military to forcefully reunify with this self-governing island. Those fears helped Taiwan's

president, Tsai Ing-wen, win reelection by a landslide last year.


RIPLEY: So you don't believe that China, even if they promised one country, two systems, would actually deliver that here in Taiwan?

TSAI ING-WEN, TAIWANESE PRESIDENT: This is an issue of credibility. And the Taiwanese people have said it very clearly that they don't accept one

country, two systems as the formula to resolve the country issue.


RIPLEY: Opinion polls shows support for Taiwanese independence at its highest point in decades. Students like Samuel Li afraid for their future,

afraid the world's only Chinese speaking democracy could become the next Hong Kong.


SAMUEL LI, TAIWANESE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Those protesters who are just as young as me, getting tear gassed and, you know, getting beat up by the

police. I mean, that's just outrageous and devastating to watch.

RIPLEY: What do you think is inevitably going to happen?

LI: The Chinese government taking over Taiwan is going to be inevitable in my lifetime, I would believe.


RIPLEY: He worries this tale of two islands could have the same sad ending. Will Ripley, CNN, Taiwan.


NOBILO: Still to come, our top story, the spreading fear over the newest Coronavirus variants. The U.S. joins a rapidly growing list of countries

clamping down on travel. That's just ahead for you.


NOBILO: Let's go back now to our breaking news. The fallout from the spread of the new Omicron variant of Coronavirus, the U.S. is imposing travel

restrictions starting Monday. I'm now joined by Chief U.S. National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks for joining the program. Could you

explain to us how concerned President Biden and the U.S. is about this new variant of concern and their thinking behind imposing the state


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden was briefed earlier today by Dr. Anthony Fauci, his chief medical adviser on

the Coronavirus, in this government, the Biden administration is taking this very seriously.


They said they're looking for more information, they're waiting for more details to come out from the science, but they are not waiting to issue a

travel ban here to flights to the U.S. from South Africa and seven other nearby African countries. That takes effect on Monday.

You may be wondering why there is a delay between Friday and Monday, a White House official telling me that it simply takes time for airlines to

make some changes and for security changes to be in effect as well, but we are told that the White House and airline executives were having

conversations before this announcement was made.

So clearly the Biden ministration taking this very seriously as the W.H.O. is calling this a variant of concern and that is absolutely the feeling

here on Nantucket, where President Biden is spending an extended Thanksgiving Day holiday but certainly this news interrupting that a bit.

He was briefed on this earlier and, again, imposing a travel ban starting Monday.

NOBILO: Yes, the delay does seem strange when you consider the other countries to have imposed it immediately. And obviously, that the muscle

that the U.S. has, in terms of international affairs, Jeff, how will this go down domestically? Because obviously, travel restrictions aren't

necessarily as controversial as vaccines or masks. Do you think Americans will be quite accepting and think this is what's required?

ZELENY: I would think Americans, certainly those are -- who are traveling would be accepting of this and American citizens are not bound by this. And

certainly all the same protocols must be in place, you must have negative tests to fly, et cetera. So I think the bigger issue here is just the

number of unvaccinated Americans, which is still somewhat significant here. So that is certainly what the White House is focusing on.

NOBILO: Yes. Jeff Zeleny in Massachusetts, thank you. Finally, it's Black Friday, the day dedicated to shopping bargains and discounts but one of the

world's biggest sellers faced an unexpected challenge. The Extinction Rebellion climate activism group turned out to disrupt Amazon distribution

services across the U.K. and Europe. The group says the e-commerce giant epitomizes obsessive overconsumption and is responsible for CO2 emissions

equivalent to those of a small country.

The blockades took place in English cities, including Manchester, Newcastle, and Bristol, as well as depots in Germany and the Netherlands.

Thanks for watching tonight, stay with CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next.