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Hala Gorani Tonight
First Major Study On Omicron Variant Published; U.K. Prime Minister Faces Rebellion Over New COVID Rules; Fuel Truck Explosion In Haiti Kills Dozens; Omicron Spreading Faster In Europe Than Other Variants; Vaccine Mandates And Rules Drive European Protests; Belarus Opposition Leader's Husband Sentenced; January 6 Panel Reveals Frantic Texts To Meadows During Riot; Colombian Police Found Responsible For Deaths Of 11 Protesters. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 14, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, watching us from around the world. We are live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT.
The results are in from the first real-world study on the Omicron variant. We have our health team on hand to breakdown those results for you. Then as
Omicron cases rocket in the United Kingdom, the British prime minister is facing a revolt, not from the opposition, but from within his own party.
Can he pass all the new COVID restrictions through parliament? We'll be speaking to one of his MPs. And later, a very deadly disaster in Haiti as a
fuel truck explodes killing dozens of people. We'll have the latest on that tragedy. The first major real-world analysis of the Omicron coronavirus
variant is giving us good news and bad news. I'll start with the good news and the main headline. The study finds that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
provides 70 percent protection against serious illness, 7-0.
And people infected with Omicron are 29 percent less likely to end up in the hospital. The analysis comes from Discovery Health, South Africa's
largest private insurance administrator, and it compares Omicron with the original virus. But it does show that the variant is highly transmissible
and the vaccines are only about 33 percent effective against catching Omicron. There's much more of this study to look into like how Omicron
Let's break it all down with CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and our CNN correspondent in Johannesburg, David McKenzie. So,
Elizabeth, let's start with this South African study, and many people watching us are vaccinated. How protected are they against this newest
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Hala, what's interesting about the study is that, as you said, it's real world. And
also, the results of it really mesh well with lab results. In other words, when you start finding the same thing over and over again, that gives more
power to it. So, let's take a look at what this South African study found, it was with more than 200,000 people, It was by a large health insurance
company or organization in South Africa.
What they found is that when you look at two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, it was 33 percent effective against infection with Omicron. In other words,
that's not great. You were -- a lot of people who were -- who got two doses of Pfizer still got infected with the Omicron. But, and this is the big
but, it was 70 percent effective against hospitalization. In other words, it did really quite a good job at keeping people out of the hospital.
Now, this study didn't look at boosters, but Pfizer has looked at boosters in lab work that they've done, and they found that boosters really do help.
So, it may be as many experts have been saying for a while, that this is really not a two-dose vaccine, maybe it's really a three-dose vaccine and
it does at least give some significant protection against Omicron, not everything, but it gives --
GORANI: Right --
COHEN: Some really good protection against hospitalization. Hala?
GORANI: Yes, 33 percent against infection is not great, 70 percent against hospitalization certainly a more encouraging figure. And David McKenzie,
what is the World Health Organization saying at this stage?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they also are thinking that these results show some promise. As one scientist put it earlier today, it's
really whether you see it as half full or the glass half empty. Certainly, some scientists here in South Africa, Hala, believe there would be a total
collapse of vaccine efficacy when they saw the level of mutations as Elizabeth was saying, that certainly isn't the case. And despite the fact
that here in South Africa, anecdotal information suggests that it is less serious, the Omicron variant, there isn't as much of a push on the
hospitals yet. The head of the W.H.O. had this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our
peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems. I need to be
very clear. Vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis. .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: And he said that other things like we are so used to like wearing masks and social distancing still have to be part of the picture if
the world is to defeat this variant as it spreads rapidly around the world. Hala.
GORANI: And Elizabeth, we have more than one tool in our toolkit thankfully. There are these antiviral pills developed by pharmaceutical
companies Merck and Pfizer. They have to be taken after infection, and -- but very soon after symptoms emerge, right?
COHEN: That's right. And to be clear, these are not a substitute for a vaccine, it's better to get vaccinated and not get sick at all. But if you
do get sick, there are some promising results from Pfizer's clinical trials. So, what they did was they took about 1,400 people and divided them
into two groups. So, let's take a look at what happened. The group that got a placebo, the half of the participants who got a placebo, a pill that does
nothing, at the end of a month, 66 of them ended up in the hospital and 12 of them died.
When folks got the drug called Paxlovid, only eight of them ended up in the hospital and none of them died. Those are really quite stunning results.
GORANI: Yes --
COHEN: Merck has an antiviral that's already authorized in the U.S., very similar. I will say, Hala, though, you've got to take this soon. The
results I just said are for within five days of symptom onset. It's even better if you do it within three days. It's tough to do that though, you've
got to know you've had symptoms, you've got to get tested, which can be very tricky. You've got to call your doctor, they've got to prescribe it.
You have to move super quickly if you want to take advantage of these pills.
GORANI: Sure, a quick last one to you, David. How is the president doing, Cyril Ramaphosa? He announced he was infected with --
MCKENZIE: At this stage --
MCKENZIE: Well, at this stage, his office is still saying he has mild COVID and his message again, like we've been saying, is get vaccinated
because he had a very early dose of Johnson & Johnson, the one-shot vaccine. He was, in fact, supposed to get his booster this week, but it
seems he is recovering well and he is saying in a way that his situation is proof that vaccines work. Hala.
GORANI: Is it -- is it Omicron?
MCKENZIE: We wouldn't know for sure. I don't think they've sequenced his test. But given the fact that Omicron is dominating and he had these
symptoms very recently, I would say it's a pretty safe bet.
GORANI: Thank you very much for that, Elizabeth Cohen and David McKenzie, appreciate it. South Africa has been at the forefront of research on this
new variant because it was detected there first. The South African scientists sounded the alarm first, and it is sharing knowledge and
experience with the rest of the world. Later in the show, I'll speak with a South African doctor about what we can expect from Omicron as it continues
its global spread.
All right, let's talk about the U.K. now. A lot going on politically. This country is navigating how to handle the Omicron variant. It has recorded
59,610 new cases today, the highest since early January, and given the variant's foothold in this country, the government has now removed all 11
countries from the red travel list including South Africa, by the way, if you're watching us from one of those African countries. Right now in
parliament, lawmakers are voting on new restrictions called Plan B restrictions.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a rebellion, not from the opposition, but from within his own party on his move to reintroduce
stricter measures. We've just seen measures on COVID passes and face masks pass, but with Tory dissenters. In other words, there is a wing of Boris
Johnson's party that is more attached they say to individual freedoms and liberties and who do not believe that COVID passes and face masks are
necessary and that they will harm the economy more than they will help the country.
Here is what the Health Secretary in the United Kingdom Sajid Javid had to say about defending these new rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAJID JAVID, SECRETARY OF HEALTH, UNITED KINGDOM: But it's the fact that Omicron hospitalizations are low, that means it is now the best time to
act. And we've seen during previous waves, we've already seen this, the lag between infections and hospitalizations, it's about two weeks. When
infections are rising so quickly, we're likely to see a substantial rise in hospitalizations before any measure is starting to have an impact. So there
really is no time to lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, it's not just Mr. Johnson's COVID restrictions on the line, it's also his credibility.
The prime minister is still deeply embroiled in a scandal over alleged Christmas parties that took place last year when the country was in
lockdown. And by the way, our Salma Abdelaziz joins me from London. By the way, Salma, I understand that the most contentious plan B measure, which is
COVID passes to access some venues, has passed, but not with the help necessarily of all Tory party members, but with the help of Labor members
of parliament who voted in favor of this measure because the prime minister is facing a mini rebellion within his own party from MPs who are voting
against their own prime minister.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Hala, this is the first true test of the prime minister's authority, his credibility, his political standing since
the scandals broke out last week. So, yes, as you mentioned, those COVID passes did just pass through parliament, but you had 126 MPs voting against
them. What are these COVID passes? Just to explain, it just means that you have to show that you are either fully vaccinated or you've taken a recent
negative test before you go into something like a night club.
And yes, many conservative MPs are angry about this because they feel it curbs civil liberties. But let's look at the bigger picture here. This is
about whether or not the prime minister can wield his own party, right, politics is the power of persuasion. Can he persuade his own ranks to pass
these rules, to pass these bills? And they are doing that for now, yes, with the support of the opposition party, the Labor Party, but here is the
crucial question, Omicron is a concern for health officials now, but we know that the cases are doubling every two days.
If more measures are needed, Hala, if tougher restrictions are required, if Omicron becomes a bigger challenge, how is the prime minister going to face
that without the support of his own party?
GORANI: Yes, and by the way, I'm sorry for looking away, I'm just trying to figure out exactly how many conservative MPs, in other words, how many
MPs from Boris Johnson's own party voted against their prime minister. Do you have that figure here? Because the Tory majority in parliament is 79,
and I understand that over 70 Tory MPs voted against COVID passes. Do you have that figure handy?
ABDELAZIZ: I know, our producers are doing the math right now, so I don't want to say a specific figure, but yes, we are looking at dozens, an
estimated 70 MPs. So, we are looking --
GORANI: I'm sorry, go ahead --
ABDELAZIZ: At a really huge portion. I'm going to let our producers do that math before I say that number, but it is a significant if not the
largest rebellion that this --
GORANI: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: Prime Minister has seen, and it comes at an extremely sensitive time, a time in which the country is fighting yet another variant of COVID-
19, a time when health officials are ringing the alarm, they're saying the health care system is under risk -- and this is his own party, these are
other MPs, these are other politicians who are listening to experts, listening to the advice of doctors.
Imagine what you'll feel like if you're just an average Joe on the street right now, and you have learned about these alleged scandals, parties,
plural, happening at the prime minister's office and residence last year. It would be very difficult to convince you that the prime minister is
following the rules within Downing Street to ask you to follow them at home.
GORANI: So, we're going to do the math and tell our viewers just how many of Boris Johnson's -- MPs from Boris Johnson's party have voted against. If
it's anything above 79, it means that the parliamentary majority that Boris Johnson enjoys is certainly under threat, and it also is deeply
embarrassing for a prime minister whose popularity rating, Salma, has gone down for the first time in a long time, the Labor leading is now surging
ahead Boris Johnson in the polls.
The latest Ipsos MORI poll puts Boris Johnson 13 percentage points behind Keir Starmer, who is the leader of the Labor Party. And this is all against
the backdrop of a highly embarrassing set of reports that the government -- that Number 10 staffers celebrated Christmas parties while the country was
under lockdown and many people couldn't visit loved ones even if they were dying in hospital. I wonder, at what point do some of Boris Johnson's own
party members say, this prime minister is damaging us politically too much and maybe we should think about turning on him.
ABDELAZIZ: That's the question, Hala, because this is not just about it being embarrassing for the prime minister, although, it indeed is. This is
about his very political survival, right? We have to remember the conservative party is notorious actually for being willing to flip the
script, change leadership, get rid of a leader if and when it is politically necessarily, if it is politically viable to call that no-
confidence vote. So, for the prime minister, this is simply about holding on to power, holding on to his seat.
Because if Tory MPs start to feel threatened about their own political power, about their own seats back home.
So, imagine these MPs in their local offices, in their local constituencies, they start to feel threatened, and they start to feel that
they could lose their votes, that's when they would turn on the prime minister. That's when you could see the possibility of a no-confidence
vote, really everything is coming to a head here, and it all depends on Omicron, first of all, how bad does that get? How much does the prime
minister need more restrictions, not need more restrictions, need the support of his party --
GORANI: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: And then how are these MPs going to be treated when they head back home, Hala? Is there still going to be support for them and for the
GORANI: All right, thank you Salma Abdelaziz. Let's go to Westminster, I'm joined by David Morris, a conservative member of parliament, thanks for
being with us.
DAVID MORRIS, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM (via telephone): Thanks for having me --
GORANI: Did you vote in support -- thank you. Did you vote in support of the government's plan B this evening?
MORRIS: Yes, I did. I voted -- I voted with the governments on all the votes. We just had three divisions, three votes in the Common, and I voted
with the government. The reality is, we're politicians, we're not scientists. We have to listen to what the government scientists, the
government health experts tell us and, you know, that's the way that I've been voting, and before even government's advice, I've been saying to my
constituents and the public at large, you know, this is for our own safety.
We don't know enough about this new variant of COVID. We just don't know. And the reality is, you know, this is a very nasty virus that can actually
kill people. So --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: We've got to protect the public the best we can.
GORANI: But really, the prime minister got this through with the help of Labor members of parliament. Do you know how many conservative MPs voted
against their own prime minister on the COVID pass measure in particular?
MORRIS: I don't, is the truth of it, because we went through the division models, and to sort of paint a picture for your viewers and your listeners,
we go through -- it's a very old system where we go through the lobbies and there's hundreds of us being processed through. And then when we come out,
it's normally on the enunciator and the speaker actually says the results after the whips go into the chamber.
Now, with it being so busy, you can imagine, this is a huge division, you couldn't hear or see what the results were. But I believe the government
won every vote.
GORANI: So, mister -- well, we're hearing from the "BBC" that 101 Tories have voted against the government on the COVID pass measure. This is
according to Labor whips. What's your --
MORRIS: Yes --
GORANI: Reaction to that?
MORRIS: Well, in all honesty, I don't -- I have got a lot of respect for my colleagues, and a lot of my friends voted against the government.
They're still my friends. They're still my colleagues. I still respect them, you know, life goes on. We --
GORANI: But it's a party that is in this -- this is a party that is just not unified anymore. I mean it's turning on --
MORRIS: I don't think --
GORANI: They're turning on --
MORRIS: I don't think --
GORANI: Each other, the MPs.
MORRIS: No, I don't think it is like that at all. This is -- you see, it goes much deeper than just the government's having a rebellion. A lot of
conservative MPs look at this as a libertarian issue. Now, you know, I don't like voting to enforce measures to stop people, like for instance, to
make them wear masks, i don't like doing that. But you know, like I said before, I am not a scientist. I'm a politician. And if the government
scientists say that this will decrease the spread of this virus, we have to take these measures.
A lot of my colleagues and friends, they don't believe in that. That's their --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: Choice. That's what -- how the department works. You know, they're still my friends, they're still my colleagues, I still respect them, and
you know, we'll all be meeting up later for something to eat. And --
MORRIS: It is divisive, it's a divisive issue.
GORANI: Let me ask you --
MORRIS: I don't think this is a rebellion of government --
GORANI: I understand that it's divisive --
MORRIS: You know --
GORANI: But you must be concerned on some level at the political effect that this is having on the conservative party. The fact that Keir Starmer
is surging ahead according to the latest Ipsos MORI poll by 13 percent each points over Boris Johnson, that the satisfaction rating for the prime
minister is at an all-time low of 28 percent. At what point do you stop really developing a level of concern that this will harm the conservative
MORRIS: Well, you know, polls go up and down all the time. Only a few weeks ago, we were -- you know, those margins that you were describing were
in reverse. We are a government in Midterm. It's surprising that any government has got to a Midterm being head in the polls. So, suddenly, you
have a few bad weeks and you're behind in the polls. You know, the only poll that actually matters is when election day comes. And --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: We're a long way off that then. So, I don't see this as a divisive party issue. I see this as a libertarian issue. And lots of my colleagues
are, you know, expressing their views on this. But --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: From a -- I can only speak from my perspective. You know, I would like -- I don't mind putting down these kind of laws in the U.K. --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: But protecting lives. And you know, if you think about it, a lot of young people have not been vaccinated --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: To the extent, say, I have, I'm in my mid-50s, I've had my booster jab only three days ago --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: You know, and to the extent that --
GORANI: I understand that --
MORRIS: Is not enough, they want to go partying, they want to get out there, they want to do things. So --
GORANI: Not just young people.
MORRIS: They have to be protected.
GORANI: I'm in my 50s too, and I wouldn't mind being able to party every once in a while --
MORRIS: I know, same here --
GORANI: Still. But let me -- let me ask you -- let me ask you though, about this Christmas, the allegations that Christmas parties took place at
10 Downing Street, among 10 Downing Street staffers. I mean, that has to be embarrassing for the conservative party --
MORRIS: You know --
GORANI: When the country was under lockdown, people -- there were grieving people who were appearing on mainstream television shows in your country.
This made headlines on the "New York Times" front page, saying I couldn't even hold the hand of my dying relative while Downing Street staffers were
having quiz night. I mean, how is --
MORRIS: Well --
GORANI: That not deeply embarrassing for the conservatives?
MORRIS: I can't really -- I can't comment on that because I don't know anything about these parties other than what I've seen in the media. But
there's an investigation going on, and a high-level investigation to see if anything was broken, when it was broken, if it was broken. And we just have
to wait so the investigation concludes. And I'm sure appropriate steps will be taken. But you know, unlike you, the first time I knew about these
parties were when I read about it in the newspaper.
And you know, let's just see what the investigation brings up because 12 months ago is a long time in COVID memory. And --
GORANI: Yes --
MORRIS: We've had a lot of real changes in that period. So let's just see when the dates were, the times were, who was there, what happened? And you
know, for your viewers as well. You see Number 10 Downing Street, it looks like a very small house if you look at it. When that door opens up, it's
huge. I mean it's massive and it goes underground, it links up with other - -
GORANI: Right --
MORRIS: Departments, and Number 10 could be literally -- not for the Number 10 could be in a --
GORANI: All right.
MORRIS: So, we just don't know is the truth of it. And you know --
GORANI: It's certainly broken --
MORRIS: They promise to have --
GORANI: It's certainly broken --
MORRIS: And that's an investigation --
GORANI: Broken through into the mainstream discussion in this country.
MORRIS: Yes --
GORANI: And I guess that's also something we'll have to keep following. David Morris, a conservative member of parliament, thank you so much for
joining us this evening. He's been voting on these --
MORRIS: Thank you --
GORANI: Plan B measures --
MORRIS: My pleasure.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, UNICEF is now sending medical supplies to Haiti to help all of those who were hurt in a giant fuel tanker explosion,
just the latest tragedy to hit one of the poorest nations in the world.
GORANI: Well, yet another tragic disaster on a massive scale in Haiti. A tanker carrying gasoline exploded Monday night in the country's second
largest city, Cap-Haitien, killing at least 62 people, many more were injured, and the country is now observing three days of mourning. Medics
are scrambling to find basic supplies to respond to the emergency. Patrick Oppmann is standing by with more on -- do we know what caused this?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened apparently from what witnesses tell us is that one of these gasoline trucks -- this is an
important source of fuel in the country where so many people, the lucky ones rely on generators for power because the power grid is so unreliable.
And this gasoline truck was going into the second largest city in Haiti, Cap-Haitien and apparently had some kind of problem, perhaps even flipped
And at that point, usually you would think people would run away from a gasoline truck that's having some sort of mechanical difficulty, but in a
country as desperate as Haiti people, run towards them because they think that this is an opportunity to perhaps siphon off some fuel for themselves.
And that is when we understand that this gasoline truck exploded. It looks like a bomb because that's essentially what it was.
This entire area is scorched and there is a blast radius, and not only were people killed on the scene and injured on the scene, but also in nearby
houses that caught fire. So, really --
GORANI: Right --
OPPMANN: The toll of this, you know, 62 dead, dozens more wounded. We still don't know the real scope of this because it was so disastrous and
because hospitals in the area are so overwhelmed. We've heard Haiti's prime minister calling on people to donate blood because they do not have enough
for all the burned and injured people in these hospitals, hospitals that are already at their breaking point.
But you know, in a year that has already involved, Hala, as you know, a presidential assassination, a devastating earthquake, widespread gang
violence, it just seems like things can't get worse in Haiti, and then somehow they do. So, this country reeling yet again from another horrifying
GORANI: Yes, our thoughts are with them. They're really going through a very tough time and just the latest disaster. Thanks very much, Patrick.
Still to come tonight, more on our top story. The spread of Omicron, it's on the rise across Europe. We'll have the latest numbers for you. Plus,
I'll speak with a South African doctor working with COVID patients to learn more about what to expect from the new variant as it continues to barrel
through some European countries and the United States. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, sometimes it feels like it is all we're talking about. And possibly it is because it is all we're talking about some days.
Let's get back to the rapid spread of Omicron. More than 2,000 cases of the new COVID strain have been reported in Europe, according to the continent's
CDC. Those cases stretch across 25 countries in the region. They now include Luxembourg and Hungary.
As Omicron spreads, more countries are tightening their restrictions. Denmark is closing schools and limiting night life, with Omicron expected
to become the dominant variant there this week.
Norway is banning the serving of alcohol at restaurants and bars. Not sure what you would do in a bar without alcohol but there you have it. Let's go
straight to CNN's Ben Wedeman, who joins me live from Rome.
It seems these European countries are taking the Omicron threat quite seriously at this stage.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're taking it very seriously, also because of the timing, the time of year. The holiday
season is coming, which is normally a time when people get together. And there's a high risk of spreading COVID, whether it is Omicron, Delta or
what have you.
So we've seen, in recent months, even before anybody had ever heard of the Omicron variant, that Italy, for instance, had introduced the green pass.
Last Monday, it introduced the super green pass. So these measures are being bolstered by further measures to try to reduce the spread.
So as you said, Norway is banning the sale of alcohol, the serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants. It is also imposing mask use in indoors
and on public transport.
Italy, for instance, today, announced the extension of the state of emergency that went into effect in January, at the end of January 2020. It
also announced today that all travelers to Italy, including those from within the European Union who have not been vaccinated, must submit to a
So on top of the fact that Christmas is coming, the holiday season is coming, this dark cloud of Omicron is causing many of these governments to
really start to impose measures that many people thought were a thing of the past.
GORANI: All right.
GORANI: Thank you, Ben Wedeman in Rome.
Well, let's talk more about Omicron. South Africa was the first to discover and report Omicron cases. So developments there could well indicate how
other countries will cope with this new variant.
Let's bring in Dr. Sheri Fanaroff, a doctor in South Africa, working with patients there. She joins me from Johannesburg.
Thanks for being with us. So talk to us a little bit about what you are observing in terms of symptoms among people infected with the Omicron
Are they different to Delta?
DR. SHERI FANAROFF, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: What we are seeing are really mild symptoms at the moment. Most patients are presenting with things like
a sore throat, a runny nose, a headache, a little bit of a cough.
But what we're not seeing is the progression to serious illness and to serious coughs. That's been the biggest difference. So while we've got many
patients quickly getting infected, they're not getting as sick as they were with Delta. At this stage, we find that really encouraging.
GORANI: I just want to show our viewers the hospitalization numbers for South Africa.
Currently according to the latest figures, 5,434 people are in hospital with COVID. This compared to the peaks in July and January of 20,000
Does that confirm really what you just shared with us in terms of the severity of the symptoms?
FANAROFF: Absolutely. We are not seeing patients needing oxygen to the same extent. We are not seeing the inflammatory markers going up. And we're
not needing to admit most patients to hospital.
Hospitals do have patients but it is a much, much smaller scale than the viruses, even though the transmission rate is so high and the case numbers
are really high.
So what about vaccines?
For people who have two vaccines, we saw there was a real-world South African study by a health insurance provider, indicating that potentially
70 percent protection was what people with two shots could expect from hospitalization but not infection. Infection was only 33 percent.
Why is that?
Why is it so low, do you think?
FANAROFF: So I think that if you look at the new variant, there are a lot of new mutations on the spike protein. And the spike protein is what allows
it to get into cells and to spread from person to person.
That's how it is evading the vaccine immunity from people getting infected. But we are still seeing, as you said exactly today, that 70 percent
reduction in severe infection and hospitalized people.
And that's because we don't only rely on antibody immunity and the antibodies attack the spike protein but we also have T cell immunity and B
cell immunity and memory. That's why we're not seeing the severe illness.
GORANI: And can I ask you then about reinfection?
Because it appears as though -- I mean it is possible to have caught the Delta variant and to then be reinfected with the newer Omicron variant?
And it doesn't appear as though -- in your experience, tell me if this is the case -- that having been infected with Delta necessarily protects you
FANAROFF: We are seeing many, many patients who had Delta in June and July and who are now getting reinfected now, with what is Omicron. So prior
infections are not giving great immunity.
GORANI: I have a couple of questions on testing because so many of us are told, if you are asymptomatic, you know, on a regular basis, every two or
three days, take a lateral flow test, one of the rapid tests. Here in the U.K., it is the NHS test that you can order for free.
How accurate, how good are they at detecting the Omicron variant?
FANAROFF: I think that it is not that the rapid antigen test can't detect Omicron, the variant as such, it is just that they are a lot less sensitive
than the PCRs. Quite regularly we see people test negative on an antigen test.
The protocol here is, if somebody is symptomatic but negative on a rapid test, we go on to do PCR. A fair amount go on to test positive on the PCR,
having missed the antigen. Having said that, we are picking up some on antigen tests as well.
GORANI: Because so many are getting infected and, in some countries, cases are doubling every two days, so the probability we will be exposed to
someone with the Omicron variant becomes higher and higher as each day passes.
How long after exposure should someone test?
Is it the case that you should wait a day or two?
Or can you detect, with a PCR, the virus really the next day?
FANAROFF: I would really wait a day or two. We are seeing shorter incubation times, from two to three to four days from Omicron as opposed to
more like four to eight days with Delta and with the past variants. But you are very likely going to miss it if you test the day after. So I would say
to wait about three days before testing.
GORANI: All right. Also, such great information. Thank you very much, Dr. Sheri Fanaroff, for joining us live from Johannesburg. We really appreciate
it. This is really news we can all use and I learned a lot. Thank you so much.
Across Europe, a steadfast opposition to vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions is forging an uncommon alliance between parties from
all sides of the political spectrum. CNN's Melissa Bell reports from Paris.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the new front in Europe's fight against the pandemic. No longer the hesitant but those dead
set against vaccines and COVID-19 restrictions a fight that set to get much uglier.
(voice-over): Nearly one year into the E.U.'s vaccination program and amid a surge in COVID infections, vaccines are becoming mandatory for entire
populations or certain categories, like the elderly or healthcare workers.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENGBERG, FORMER AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Despite months of persuasion, despite intensive media campaigns, despite
discussion in various media, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated.
BELL (voice-over): In November, Austria became the first European country to announce that vaccines would be mandatory for all starting from
February. The far-right Freedom Party immediately called for demonstrations.
But it isn't just the far-right. Across Europe and for populist parties from all sides of the spectrum, the COVID-19 measures and vaccines have
provided a federating new focus that transcends the old left-right divide.
JEAN-YVES CAMUS, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: It's a divide about whether you trust the media or not. And it was all your trust your politicians are not
of the new divide between the mainstream and the periphery. And the periphery is made of all kinds of people.
BELL (voice-over): Sophie Tissier agrees; she's helped organize several of France's COVID demonstrations.
SOPHIE TISSIER, COVID-19 RALLY COORDINATOR (through translation): We want to create a citizen's opposition which is beyond electoral considerations
and much more like a watchdog that sits outside the world of politics. To be able to tell it look here, you are no longer protecting our rights.
BELL (voice-over): Researchers at the University of Turin have found a strong correlation between anti-vax and populist sentiment, which means
that mainstream governments are now taking on those they've already lost.
SILVIA RUSSO, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF TURIN: The results here would be that those anti-vaxers would hold even more extreme positions. If
the vaccine become mandatory than the government would need to have some kind of control about it and this can also undermine institutional trust.
BELL (voice-over): Increasingly aggressive vaccine policies may force many more people into vaccination centers but they're also likely to push many
more forcefully onto the streets -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
GORANI: Still ahead, Donald Trump's former White House chief of staff could be closer to facing prosecution, as some pretty extraordinary text
messages emerge that were exchanged on January 6th. We will be right back.
GORANI: The husband of the former Belarusian opposition leader, who planned to run for president against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, is now
facing 18 years in a penal colony. A 43-year-old blogger and YouTube activist Sergei Tikhanovsky was convicted on charges he organized mass
riots and incited hatred.
Tikhanovsky is one of thousands of activists sent to Lukashenko's prisons before and after his very questionable reelection. His wife, now leading
the opposition from outside the country, says the world is watching, even if the court acted behind closed doors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: In a sign that the regime is afraid of even those people who hide behind the bars, even in
jail they are frighten this regime with their honesty, with the strive for changes in our country.
And that's why their process was closed. Nobody was allowed in and because even the sight of those wonderful people can be inspiration for the rest of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And it hasn't happened in nearly half a century but today a former aide to Donald Trump could be one step closer to becoming the first White
House chief of staff to face prosecution after leaving office since Watergate.
House lawmakers are expected to approve a recommendation of criminal contempt charges against Mark Meadows for refusing to testify before the
committee investigating the January 6th Capitol Hill riot.
The vote comes amid a firestorm of controversy over some frantic text messages sent to Meadows as the attack was underway. Lawmakers, even FOX
News anchors and Donald Trump's own son, Donald Trump Jr., begged Mark Meadows to convince Trump to call off the rioters, which he did not do for
Let's bring in CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles for more.
So the expectation is what at this stage, Ryan?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, in the next couple of hours, the full House of Representatives will act on this criminal contempt
referral that's now been voted out of the January 6th Select Committee and passed through the Rules Committee. The House will vote on it later this
It will then go to the Department of Justice, which will decide whether or not they're going to prosecute this as a criminal act of Mark Meadows, for
defying the wishes of the January 6th Select Committee and coming before them to answer questions about this voluminous amount of information he has
voluntarily handed to the committee.
We are talking about 6,000 documents, 9,000 pages, that include text messages, phone calls, emails; including texts that he received and sent on
January 6th, that, as you mentioned, show people frantically reaching out to Meadows, to try to convince him to convince the then president Donald
Trump to do something about his supporters that were here on Capitol Hill, you know, causing a riot at the Capitol.
This is a remarkable step by this committee and this Congress to take this act. Remember, in addition to being one of the most powerful members of the
American government at the time he was chief of staff, Mark Meadows is also a former member of this body. For them to refer him for criminal contempt
is something that is, for the most part, unprecedented -- Hala.
GORANI: And I wonder, how is the Republican Party reacting to all of this?
Because here you have text messages, text messages that are clear, that even the president's son said "This is damaging to us, we need to tell the
supporters to back off."
Is the Republican Party now acknowledging the president did not act when he should have?
NOBLES: The short answer is no; this despite the fact there is a clear level of hypocrisy from what you have heard from Republican lawmakers, from
conservative commentators, who, to a certain extent, tried to downplay what happened here on January 6th, to act as though it was not that big of a
deal and that it was just a small group of agitators without a specific connection to Donald Trump that made everybody else look bad when the
evidence clearly states otherwise.
You know, Republican lawmakers here on Capitol Hill don't even want to answer questions about the text exchanges. Many of these Republican
lawmakers, who were among the group that were texting Mark Meadows that day, won't even say whether or not they are those members of Congress.
And the January 6th Select Committee has yet to reveal their identities. Meanwhile, Meadows himself has gone on a couple of right-wing media outlets
to respond to the contempt report.
And he suggests the committee is cherry-picking the information to make the former president look bad and that, from his vantage point in the White
House, that Trump actually did act pretty quickly.
Liz Cheney, a Republican, a member of the Select Committee said today during a Rules Committee hearing that, based on this timeline of events,
based on the information that they have received from Meadows himself about the communication he was getting, that it took the former president more
than 187 minutes to do a single thing to try to quell the chaos here on Capitol Hill on that day.
They believe that is a big part of the reason this committee needs to continue their investigation.
GORANI: Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.
Former U.S. Olympic gymnasts, who were sexually abused by imprisoned team doctor Dr. Larry Nassar, are hoping a settlement that's just been reached
will help them heal.
USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympics Committee have agreed to pay Nassar's hundreds of victims $380 million. And they will make
reforms to training and safety practices and enable gymnasts to put in direct input into governance of these bodies.
Nassar is now serving prison sentences totaling up to 235 years. Former U.S. gymnast Tasha Schwikert says the settlement will help the women he
traumatized deal with their ongoing anguish.
TASHA SCHWIKERT, FORMER U.S. GYMNAST: I think that with a resolution, as survivors, we feel heard and we feel acknowledged. And so many survivors
deal with severe mental illness and, you know, substance abuse and trauma.
And so that settlement will help pay for mental health services and, you know, related needs for survivors, going forward in their life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And still to come on the program, a new report is accusing Colombian police of committing a massacre against unarmed protesters last
year. That's next.
GORANI: A U.N.-backed report has found Colombian national police were responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters in Bogota last year. They were
killed during a wave of protests against police brutality. Stefano Pozzebon has more now from Bogota.
STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Colombian national police were directly responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters in the
capital city of Bogota last year, according to an independent inquiry supported by the United Nations.
(voice-over): The protests against police brutality erupted in September 2020, after a video went viral, showing police officers Tasing a man who
was being detained for violating COVID-19 restrictions.
The man, Javier Ordonez, died after his detention and the officer was later convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The incident was
often compared to the killing of George Floyd, which similarly triggered widespread protests against the police in the United States.
The inquiry was commissioned by the mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, earlier this year and Lopez broke into tears when the report was released on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR CLAUDIA LOPEZ, BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (through translator): This is painful for the soul but it is necessary to rescue and recover our
democracy. The pain we feel in confirming something we denounce in September last year is enormous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POZZEBON (voice-over): She later apologized for the loss of lives and pledged to present the results of the report to President Ivan Duque and to
the internal American commission of rights.
Violence remains a contentious topic in Colombia more than five years after the peace agreement with FARC. Earlier this year protests against
inequality erupted in violence and left those instead triggering calls for structural reforms within the police, which in Colombia responds to the
ministry of defense.
The president has pledged to prosecute any perpetrator of police abuse but maintained his support for the institution as a whole and for its current
leadership -- Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.
GORANI: In a statement to CNN, Colombia's national police said they are, quote, "interested in having justice delivered and those responsible for
those events must be punished. The full weight of the law must fall," unquote. So this is the police statement.
The world is heating up very quickly, apparently. Some of the most dramatic change is evident in the Arctic, which is warming at more than double the
global average. Today the World Meteorological Association verified a new record, saying a town in Russia's Arctic Circle recorded a temperature of
38 degrees Celsius last June.
That's like Riviera temperatures. It is the highest number ever recorded there. Other places have been smashing heat records this past year as well.
A spokesperson for the organization says the extreme heat waves we saw in Siberia in 2020 would have been impossible without climate change.
That's going to do it for me for this hour but I will see you next hour. I will be hosting "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" after a quick break. So stay with