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U.S. House Passes Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package; Coronavirus Variants Likely More Common than Testing Shows; Saudi Crown Prince Approved Khashoggi Killing; U.S. Airstrikes Hit Iran- Backed Militia in Syria; "Too Much Vaccine in the Fridge" in Germany; U.K. to Continue Vaccine Rollout Based on Age; Study Raises Privacy Concerns over Immunity Passports; More than 300 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria; London's Rat Population Booms in Lockdown. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 27, 2021 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of you watching here, in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

All right. I want to get straight to our lead story. Not long ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package.

The legislation provides billions in various forms of assistance for struggling Americans, along with money for businesses and schools. After hours of debate, the measure passed just after 2:00 am Washington time.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The yeas are 219. The nays are 212. The bill is passed without objection. A motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.


BRUNHUBER: And on Friday, an FDA panel recommended that Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine receive emergency authorization. It could get the final green light by Sunday and start going into arms early next week.

All right. While Democrats don't have time to celebrate their victory in the House now the economic relief bill goes to the Senate, where it will face changes. Congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles has more.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It took into the early morning hours of Saturday, but Democrats have finally passed that $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, a key priority for President Biden in the early days of his administration. This is just the first step in the legislative process. It still needs

to be passed by the Senate. They will likely change the bill before it goes back to the House for final passage.

This version of the bill that was passed on Saturday does include that increase to $15 an hour of the federal minimum wage. When it makes its way back to the Senate, that will likely be stripped out because of a ruling by the Senate parliamentarians, saying that it cannot be passed under reconciliation which would mean that with only 51 votes in the Senate, which is how this legislation is making its way through Congress.

Aside from the minimum wage, there's still a lot of other important things that Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill are really wanting to be a part of the package. That includes an extension of unemployment benefits, which are scheduled to sunset in the middle of March.

Also, an expansion of the child tax credit. And then there's the direct payments to Americans, $1,400 a person for most Americans under a certain income level, getting the full amount of aid to folks to that $2,000 mark, which was a big key debate that happened at the end of 2020.

This is a big priority for Democrats and President Biden but it's something that Republicans are still pushing back in a big way, Republicans very roundly against this in the House of Representatives, most voting against the bill on Saturday.

And it's expected that it will be the same when it makes its way to the Senate as well. But there are more Democrats than Republicans on Capitol Hill right now. They don't need Republicans to pass this legislation and it looks to be the path that this bill will take as it makes its way through the House and Senate.

The leaders up here hoping they have the bill on President Biden's desk by March 14th -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: All right. For perspective, we turn now to Leslie Vinjamuri, the head of the U.S. and the Americas Programme with Chatham House at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and she joins me now, live, from London.

Thanks so much for being here. I want to start with that increase to the minimum wage, even before the Senate parliamentarian ruled against it. Some Democrats were crafting plans for an alternative.

So, what do you think happens next, with that?

What's the most realistic way forward here?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, CHATHAM HOUSE: Well, I think that people have been anticipating that this would be the sticking point, especially, since there is this desire to take it through the budget reconciliation process because it only requires that simple majority. My guess is that it gets pulled from the legislation simply, to make

it possible to pass it in a timely fashion, because, as you know, those unemployment benefits run out for so many Americans in the middle of March.

And the number one priority is really to get that stimulus into the pockets of people across the country, including the $1,400 checks. So, the Democrats in the House have made it pretty clear that it -- even if that minimum wage provision is pulled, they will still pass the bill.


BRUNHUBER: Yes, but I mean, so many Democrats, especially progressive ones, see it as key and it's popular with voters, too. I saw one -- one poll showed that white, non-college men are -- are now basically the only demographic group where a majority are against raising the minimum wage.

So how do Republicans go about opposing it, if it -- if it's, you know, a clear, standalone bill and they can't raise the -- the specter of the swamp of Democratic earmarks?

VINJAMURI: No, it's a really important point. There have -- has been some discussion that, in the Senate, the Democrats might try to use other levers to push large corporations, for example, to -- to -- to use that minimum threshold on the wages by, for example, raising taxes for corporations that don't.

It's going to be very difficult to get this through, you know, in the timeframe that -- that's necessary to really -- to get those, again, those unemployment checks into people's pockets by middle of March.

So, it might be, the loss, which, of course, would be devastating for a lot of Americans. But I think that this Congress will continue to return to the question of raising the minimum wage even if they don't get it through in this very large package.

Remember, at $1.9 billion (sic), this is the large -- second largest fiscal stimulus package in the history of the U.S. to be passed. So, it's very significant and broadly supported by the majority of -- the vast majority of Americans.

It's far less partisan amongst the American public, than it is in Congress where, of course, it's deep -- remains deeply partisan.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, but exactly. That's -- that's what I wanted to ask. I mean, talking about the mechanics of the vote, here, what we saw there, the unanimity of Republicans and, you know, the defections, the two defections, I think, that we saw on the Democratic side.

Does -- does it underline the fragility of the Democratic alliance and the tightrope Biden will have to walk, going forward?

VINJAMURI: It, certainly, does. It shows that, you know, Congress is pushing back, again, against the -- the popular -- the public opinion on this. People want to see that stimulus. The stimulus checks are important. It's capped off at a pretty low level of income. Those working-class Americans need that income.

The aid to states is incredibly important, to small businesses and on vaccine distribution and public health there's a lot in that bill. But the -- in Congress and the House, we -- we have seen that this is really, you know, every single Republican's lined up against it.

And for President Biden, looking forward, of course, this is important because what he wants to be able to do is not only to build bipartisanship, generally but specifically, to get a bipartisan support for those things, like infrastructure, immigration, that he won't be able to pass through budget reconciliation, where he's going to need a -- a much-larger number of Republicans to support legislation.

So it doesn't bode well; however, the number one priority, right now, in the U.S. is really keeping people secure, economically, while we move through the next few months, where that vaccine delivery is looking promising but it's still very behind. It's not where it needs to be, yet.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. All right. Thank you, so much, for joining us, Leslie Vinjamuri, always appreciate it.

VINJAMURI: Thank you. Thanks so much, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: The CDC advisory committee will meet Sunday to give one of the final nods to Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine. Once that's done, state and local officials can start ordering doses, the same day.

Nearly 4 million will be available, immediately, which will increase states' vaccine capacity by up to 25 percent. And it's, obviously, welcome news for U.S. officials trying to keep coronavirus numbers headed in the right direction. Alexandra Field has this story for us.


DR. H. CODY MEISSNER, FDA VACCINES AND RELATED BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We need every tool that we can possibly get to curtail the spread of this pandemic.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Initially Johnson & Johnson won't be able to produce as many shots as the Biden administration had hoped but the ease of the country's first single- dose vaccine should boost critical efforts to vaccinate more Americans.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: The more vaccines that have high efficacy, that we can get into play, the better.

FIELD (voice-over): With the possibility now of a third vaccine in the U.S., health officials say people should get any vaccine they can get. Studies show Johnson & Johnson's is 85 percent effective at protecting against severe illness.

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Also, everybody who got the J&J vaccine, no one was hospitalized and no one died. I know we're so used to the 95 percent number with Moderna and Pfizer, it's a very good, safe and effective vaccine.


FIELD (voice-over): This as new cases and hospitalizations are down significantly from all-time highs. But the CDC says they're seeing a concerning shift. Those declines may be stalling at a high level, with cases increasing for the past three days.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: CDC has been sounding the alarm about the continued spread of variants. We may now be seeing the beginning effects of these variants.

FIELD (voice-over): More Americans are getting vaccinated, more than 2 million in the last day. And more Americans are willing to get vaccinated, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study. But officials remain concerned about a fourth surge.

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The variants that are popping up are not only just evading our immune response. They look like they're going to be more dangerous than the original strain.

FIELD (voice-over): As to whether vaccines could help combat potential new surges, Fauci is saying they can play a big role. They don't have to specifically target a new variant in order to be effective.

FAUCI: Get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can. Everything you throw at us about a mutant is going to be countered by getting people vaccinated.

FIELD: The Biden administration says it's preparing to be able to immediately distribute Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.

But before any shots can go in arms, a CDC advisory committee will meet over the weekend to make its recommendation on whether Americans should get it and who should get priority access to it -- in New York, Alexandra Field, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: A long-awaited report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi squarely blames the Saudi prince but MBS won't face any punishment from the U.S. We'll have those details, just ahead.

Plus, the U.S. airstrikes against militias in Syria and the message it sends to Iran. We'll have a live report from Baghdad, coming up next. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that no one, except the Saudi crown prince, could have authorized the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The long-awaited intelligence report didn't include a so-called smoking gun in its analysis but it points to Mohammed bin Salman's longtime control of the Saudi government, his support for violence against Saudi critics and the direct involvement of his most trusted advisers in the killing.

The Saudi government has rejected the findings, calling them negative, false and unacceptable. The White House declined to take any punitive action against the crown prince but imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on dozens of key Saudi individuals. CNN's Nic Robertson is live in London with more.

Nic, the Biden administration has promised the kingdom will be held accountable.

So, what do you expect the president to do?

And -- and what does that mean for U.S.-Saudi relations, which the Biden administration has explicitly said they want to reset?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes and, look, it's really going through a bump at the moment. And I think, the speed and tone of the response from the Saudi foreign ministry really tells you how displeased they are with the way that this is playing out.

I mean, it's not unsuspected (sic). They did know that there was going to be a downturn in the relations with -- with this White House, with this administration, under President Biden. They knew that was coming.

I think, how does this play out, from here?

You know, the fact that Mohammed bin Salman hasn't, himself, been sanctioned, that only a few people have actually received sanctions and visa bans, is something that the Saudi leadership can get over.

This is a leadership that has a vision for the future of the country. And part of that vision of reform and change and - and increased employment and change to society means a need for international investors.

And -- and the country looks to the United States as one of those, sort of, leading countries that will produce a type of investor that they're looking for. So, I think, that's all, you know, that -- that's how it's going to look, in the future.

But yes, absolutely going to be uncomfortable when President Biden sits around a table, at any time in the near future, at a leadership summit of some kind, perhaps, G20, where the crown prince is. He is going to be looking at a man, who is -- knows he's put on notice not to, you know, not to harm any dissidents.

BRUNHUBER: But, if the -- the reaction isn't strong enough or perceived as strong enough, anyway, is -- is one of the dangers here that it would be, you know, clearly seen as a -- a double standard, going forward, particularly, when the U.S. is dealing with other nations, like -- like Russia and China?

ROBERTSON: You know, I suppose, if you -- if -- if we really step back and look at the way that other countries have treated Saudi Arabia, you know, allies of the United States, European nations have treated Saudi Arabia, Britain, for example, hasn't followed the step that United States has done, which is, under President Biden, which is stop supplying weapons systems to -- to the Saudis.

Germany and France have taken a slightly tougher line against this leadership in Saudi Arabia. However, they haven't broken -- they haven't broken off relationships. And these European countries weren't sitting on intelligence reports, you know, for a couple of years that, you know, sort of, are not hugely shocking. They -- they weren't sitting on those reports.

So, their analysis is already sort of baked into their relationship with the Saudis and the United States. So, I think, understanding where other nations come from is how they'll perceive the way that President Biden has handled this.

Not easy; a tough, diplomatic call, balancing complex and difficult interests for both countries. So, yes, but at A level, it does undermine the position that Biden puts the United States in, and democratic values, human rights, are the key to sort of global influence and power. The realpolitik of it, though, is -- is a little different.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Absolutely. Thanks so much, as always for the analysis, Nic Robertson in London.

Some congressional Democrats are pushing back against President Biden for authorizing airstrikes in Syria. They question the legal basis for the strikes. But the White House says the president has the constitutional authority to defend U.S. forces.


BRUNHUBER: Two U.S. fighter jets dropped precision guided bombs on a small compound in Syria just across the Iraqi border. At least several suspected militants were killed.

The U.S. alleges the site was used by Iranian-backed militias to smuggle weapons and are the same militias that had been firing rockets at U.S. forces in Iraq in recent weeks. All right. CNN's Arwa Damon joins us from Baghdad with the perspective from there.

Arwa, we have heard condemnation from Syria, from Iran.

What's been the reaction there, in Iraq? ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very muted, Kim, because the Iraqi government really does not want to get any more involved than it already is.

And one has to say that this country's extraordinarily involved, given that it is the proxy battlefield, the main proxy battlefield between the U.S. and Iran because, let's just note that the United States carried out airstrikes against Iraqi Iranian-backed militias inside Syria.

And it just gives you an idea of how complicated all of these dynamics are. But for quite some time now, Iraq has been stuck between two of its own allies.

On the one hand, the United States, that the country most definitely wants to maintain a healthy, viable relationship with and, on the other hand, its neighbor, Iran, that it has very significant economic ties with, shares a border with, cultural relationships with.

But Iran's meddling inside Iraq has, also, proven to be very detrimental to stability within this own country, especially, given how powerful these paramilitary forces that are largely backed by Iran have proven themselves to be.

And their tentacles, extending deep into the Iraqi government, as well. But in this strike, we are, also, seeing something of a return, by the United States, to what can, perhaps, be called the status quo.

And by that, Kim, I mean that, for years now, these various, different paramilitary forces that are, again, backed by Iran, have been inside Iraq, launching indirect fire, that is, mortars, rockets, at various, different, U.S. installations.

The vast majority of the time, this is targeting the vicinity of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. But they've, also, gone over after other targets, as well. And in the past, the U.S. has retaliated, specifically, choosing its targets.

So, what we're seeing right now is something of a message, saying, if you do carry out these indirect fire attacks, we will be retaliating. But the U.S. is, also, being very careful not to escalate the situation.

BRUNHUBER: Arwa Damon, appreciate your reporting there, in Baghdad. Thank you so much.

All right. Let's bring in Adnan Tabatabai, who is an expert on Iran with the Centre for Applied Research and Partnership with the Orient, which is a German think tank.

Thanks so much for joining us. So when -- when asked what message he was sending with the airstrikes, President Biden said you can't act with impunity. Be careful.

So, is that the message Iran is receiving?

And what do you make of Iran's response?

ADNAN TABATABAI, CENTRE FOR APPLIED RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIP WITH THE ORIENT: Probably, that -- that is the message. And I think that it is going to be received in this manner, in Tehran, as well, given the fact that we are in the midst of an attempt to restore the nuclear agreement.

And the two parties most important to that are the U.S. and Iran.

And there are so many other issues between the two countries, such as regional affairs, such as the situation in Syria or Iraq, that these signals seem to be sent, on a regular basis, from -- from Tehran and from D.C., also, to respond to a domestic audience that has a lot of expectations towards the respective governments.

So it's a very complex context that we have to -- to keep that context in mind, all the time.

BRUNHUBER: Well, the Biden administration has been maintaining that these limited targeted strikes are meant to deescalate tensions. But Syria warned that the strikes would, quote, "lead to consequences" that will escalate the tensions or the situation in the region.

And Senator Bernie Sanders put out a statement, saying that the -- the strike, quote, "puts our country on the path of continuing the forever war," instead of ending it.

What do you think the consequences here will be?

TABATABAI: It's -- it's always an extremely slippery slope when you -- when you try to, on the one hand, deter your, let's call it, adversary, by some certain actions while, at the same time, you may be provoking counterattacks or retaliation that can further escalate the situation.

So, it is difficult for us to really see what -- how the military actors, on either side, have really read the recent activities.


TABATABAI: They will, ultimately, know where their limits are. But looking at the past and looking at the past actions between U.S. and Iran in Iraq but also between Iran and Israel, we have always seen a certain limit to these kinds of operations.

At times, they need to send signals, particularly, when there is something on the political front and that would be the JCPOA, again, the nuclear deal. So, I think this is the time when both sides have to show a tough stance while, at the same time, being forthcoming on the political front.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. So as our correspondent there, Arwa Damon, said, a return to the status quo, in a way. You know, many -- many analysts here say, you know, Biden reaching out to Iran, being more diplomatic, less bellicose, more restrained shows a clear distinction from his predecessor. But many in Iran and I think, yourself, disagree, saying that it's --

the attack shows it's more -- more of the same, right?

Is that right?

TABATABAI: Well, at least at the moment. If I look at European reactions to the election of Joe Biden, we could, immediately, see everybody thought, OK, reason is back in D.C., we will have a president who is decent and civilized, again.

So, to speak on the Iranian side, that's certainly not the case, yet. And actions like the military strikes in Syria do, obviously, present a counterargument for the Iranian side. The fact that all sanctions and, in fact, the maximum pressure campaign is still in place effectively is the argument brought forward by the Iranians.

But that doesn't mean that it can be reversed and that that can be remedied by initial steps toward the restoration of the JCPOA undertaken by President Biden.

BRUNHUBER: So, we are a couple of months away from presidential elections in Iran.

How is the -- how is that playing into the -- sort of the diplomatic and military confrontations here with the U.S.?

TABATABAI: What we have to bear in mind is that, first of all, on the issue of the U.S. presence in the Middle East, there is consensus of the political leadership in Iran that the U.S. is not welcome to be there, not welcome to be present.

So regardless of who wins the elections or regardless of who runs the government, this policy of trying to oust the U.S. out of the region will always stay there.

Similarly, the JCPOA, as such, the nuclear agreement, is a document with a broad consensus.

The question, however, is, how do you bring about the implementation of it?

And there are differences between the different political camps as to how much pressure you have to exert on the U.S. to fully implement the JCPOA. And this is the back and forth we might be seeing in the run-up to the elections in -- in June in Tehran.

And -- and depending on how things go until then, the pro-engagement folks, like Javad Zarif, others, might gain ground if we see further escalation, which is obviously not what we are hoping for.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Listen, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

TABATABAI: Sure thing. Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: The British monarch addresses vaccine hesitancy in the U.K. Just ahead, we will find out what Queen Elizabeth has to say to those who don't want to get a COVID shot.

Plus, immunity passports are supposed to help the world get back to normal sooner. But a recent study is raising concerns over data privacy. So, we'll talk to one of the authors of that study, when we come back. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching here, in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth has a message for those refusing to get vaccinated for the coronavirus. She says they ought to think about other people rather than themselves. The British monarch made those comments Thursday during a virtual chat with health officials leading vaccine deployment.

The queen, who's already received her first dose, added that it was quick, easy and didn't hurt at all.

Meanwhile, Germany's health minister says his country needs to step up its vaccination rollout because they have, quote, "too much vaccine in the fridge." Only 4.5 percent of the population have received a first dose. Over 2 percent have received a second. Germany plans to distribute 11 million vaccines across the country by the end of next week.

All right. Let's go, now, to London, where I am joined by CNN's Scott McLean.

Scott, a very different situation there in the U.K., where vaccines are being administered there at breakneck speed and they've -- they've made some decisions, now, about who will be next in line. Tell us about that.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kim. So the U.K. has administered almost 20 million shots of the vaccine. They have given a dose to more than one-third of the adult population. They are doing about 2.5 million per week.

At the moment, they are specifically targeting people who are over the age of 65 or those with specific underlying health conditions that may make them at higher risk of serious illness or death. The goal is to offer everybody 50-plus a vaccine or the first shot of the vaccine by mid-April.

So who will be next in line has been a subject of some serious debate in this country because there are certain demographics that are more likely to be hospitalized, like men, poor people, obese people, certain ethnic minority groups as well.

And there are some evidence, not surprisingly, that some public facing occupations are, also, at a higher risk. And with schools going back to in-person learning in just over a week from now, there were, also, calls to put teachers at the front of the line. But here's the health secretary, yesterday, explaining why they won't be.


MATT HANCOCK, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Thankfully, teachers are no more likely to catch COVID, than any other member of the population who goes to work. And so, trying to come up with a scheme, which prioritizes one professional group over another would have been -- well, would've been complicated.


MCLEAN: And so, the government consulted its group of experts to determine who should be next in line. And while that -- those experts determined there may be merit, in putting some demographic groups ahead of others. Ultimately, they decided that coming up with a scheme like that would simply be too complicated and would ultimately slow down the really quick pace of vaccinations going on right now.

So instead, they're opting for a purely age approach.


MCLEAN: So, the next in line will be people 40-plus, 30-plus and then, ultimately, people 18-plus. And speed is important here. I just want to show you one graphic, quickly, showing the infection rates in Europe, in blue. And the U.K. in white.

And you can see, they are coming down very sharply, except for recently, when that line has started to flatten just a little bit. So, they are warning people not to be complacent. The British health secretary's specific words were, Kim, "We are nearly there. Don't blow it."

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Well said there, thank you so much, Scott McLean, in London.

Well, there are multiple initiatives underway around the world to develop so-called digital health passports, designed to help control the spread of COVID. Now it's hoped that these immunity passports, as they're more commonly called, can facilitate some return to normalcy.

It could enable people to return to work, travel and attend large live events, like sports or music festivals.

But a recent report, published by the University of Exeter in the U.K., is raising ethical and data privacy concerns. The study found the passports use sensitive, personal health information, create a new distinction between individuals based on their health status and can be used to determine the degree of freedoms and rights one may enjoy.

Joining me now is Ana Beduschi, a law professor and one of the co- authors of that study.

So glad to have you here. Thanks for -- for coming on. We're already seeing the beginnings of this type of passport in Israel. You -- you show your -- your green COVID-test result. And, you know, you can go into a restaurant or a gym, for example.

It sounds great, right?

You can reopen the economy, faster and safer, you know?

What's not to like?

So, first of all, before I get you to answer that, because I know you have reservations, flesh out, exactly, how it might work.

What kind of technology would be used?

And in what context might you see it used, you know, within a country, within the U.S., let's say?

ANA BEDUSCHI, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER: Well, thanks, Kim. That's a very interesting point that -- that you're making. And indeed, we have seen a variety of initiatives that relate not just to COVID tests but also concerning vaccines.

So that -- these are credentials or certificates that would be linked to the identity of someone so they would need to verify the identity of that individual. And then, link that to the health certificate.

That could be the result of a test that -- that person would have taken, so a COVID test but also, a vaccination record that would be done in a digital format.

And that -- these are -- to me, there are good news that governments now are looking to that and looking to reviewing how to implement this type of tools that could be used, as you say, for international travel but also, domestically to allow people to go to public and private spaces, like public transport but also, spaces where -- where we gather with others, such as churches, restaurants, sports venues and so on.

So, it's good to hear that governments are doing that. That is, indeed, a matter for public policy and it -- it's good to see that we're not letting the private sector decide on that, alone.

BRUNHUBER: So that's -- that's the pro. But there are -- there are plenty of problems and one of the key ones you have highlighted in the report is health data privacy. So -- so, quickly, outline what you mean.

What's the worry there?

BEDUSCHI: Well, data privacy and, in general, we need to -- to know and governments should understand and bear in mind that it's not sufficient to develop only the technical parts, to develop the technical solutions for the verification of people's COVID-19 health status because everything that these technologies do not evolve in a legal vacuum.

So, the existing laws and regulations should be respected, must be respected. So in relation to data privacy, there are important considerations. For example, the fact that the -- there is a special protection that is afforded to health data, such as COVID-19 test results or vaccination records, that's very important.

To give you an example, even if people would say that they give consent to use a health app on their phone, that -- that would be used to display the results of their COVID test or the -- the vaccination records, still, providers should be integrating data protection and privacy to the design of these tools.

And also, they should be -- because their -- they pose such risks for people's rights, they should be looking at that preventively. So, they should be implementing data protection type assessment before they roll out this -- this tools.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, and then -- and then, there are the ethical considerations, too. I mean, already, here we are seeing huge racial disparities between those who are getting the vaccine and those who aren't.


BRUNHUBER: People of color are being left behind. So, you could see a vaccine passport creating a privileged class of people, who would be able to kind of do as they please when everyone else is -- is left behind.

So -- so how can this work, equitably?

BEDUSCHI: Yes. That's -- that's very good point, Kim. And to -- to give you an example, so imagine right now, we would be in the situation in which this COVID-19 health status would be required to enter this public and private spaces.

And then, that would allow some people to -- to move freely, right?

So those that have tested negative for COVID or those that would have been vaccinated. Now if you think about certain categories of people, as you are fleshing out already, that cannot receive a vaccine, for example, let's think of pregnant women.

So, it's not, yet, recommended for pregnant women to receive a vaccine. And if they cannot, also, afford to get a test so then, they would be de facto excluded from so many -- so many places, including, perhaps, even their workplace, if that would be a requirement.

And I'm concerned that decades of progress on women's rights, for example, could be reversed if governments don't think it through and they don't provide good guidelines for the implementation of these passports, these digital health certificates beforehand.

So, we need to -- to be thinking about that and think of all the consequences that that can have. It's not just have a matter for finding a technical solution. We need

to look at the current laws and regulations and the ethical considerations and try to minimize the risks and also, to mitigate these risks, as much as possible, before any large-scale deployment.

BRUNHUBER: Absolutely. We will have to leave it there. Very interesting, though. Thank you very much, appreciate it, Ana Beduschi.

BEDUSCHI: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BRUNHUBER: Still to come. Nigerian parents are begging for the return of their children after hundreds of girls were taken at gunpoint from their school. We'll have a live report, next.





BRUNHUBER: A search-and-rescue mission is underway to find more than 300 Nigerian girls who were taken from their school on Friday. So, for more, let's go to Stephanie Busari, who joins me from Lagos.

Stephanie, how is the Nigerian president and Nigerians reacting to this?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN.COM SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: Well, as -- as you can imagine, Kim, there was shock and outrage that this has happened again. This is, after all, the third kidnapping in as many months from a school in this particular region of northwest Nigeria.

The president has come out and issued a hardline statement, saying that the terrorists and kidnappers cannot believe that they're more powerful than the Nigerian government and that they will take a hardline stance against these kidnappings.

But Nigerians have been hearing this for seven years. They have been hearing this, the previous administration, this administration.

And parents are just asking how can we keep our children safe when we send them to school?

And we've been to the area where this latest kidnapping has happened, where more than 300 girls, 317 exactly, we're told, were taken in early hours of Friday morning. We've been talking to some parents there. Take a listen to what they had to say.


BUSARI (voice-over): A teenage girl just 16 years old, until Friday, she was a high school student in northwestern Nigeria. Now Khadijah Abubakar (ph) and more than 300 of her classmates are missing. Men armed with guns raided their school in Jangele early Friday

morning. A government official tells CNN they arrived here at the school on about 20 motorcycles just after 1:00 am.

Hamsir (ph) was lucky. She narrowly escaped being abducted.

"I got afraid when I saw them running in, shouting and shooting," she says.

She's afraid to ever return to school again.

Jamal Haruna's (ph) daughter, Hatsut (ph), was among those taken. She believes she was grabbed in her pajamas, a hijab left behind for her mother to find.

"By Allah's name, there is no security," she says. "If there was, this would not happen."

Even if God brings back her daughter, Haruna (ph) says she will never allow her to return to school.

The state police say they have launched a heavily armed search and rescue operation. In April 2014, 276 girls were abducted from Chibok in northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group, who names translates to "Western education is forbidden" in a local language.

It sparked a global movement, Bring Back Our Girls. Scores would escape or later be freed.

Nearly seven years later, more than 100 of these girls are still missing. After my colleague, Nima Elbagir, showed a proof of life video to the Chibok girls' families in 2016, CNN confronted President Muhammadu Buhari.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Why didn't the government share this information with them?

MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: I haven't seen that video but even if I see it, I'll be very careful about showing it to the family. There is no point to deliberately raise hope of the families if you can't meet them.

I saw the families as a group twice. One, they came to visit me and my wife. Two, they came as soon as a group to see me. And the less I see them, the better for my own emotional balance.

AMANPOUR: It makes you sad?

BUHARI: Yes. I try to imagine my 14-year-old daughter, 14 to 18, missing for more than two years, trying to imagine what condition are they in.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BUSARI: There you have it, Kim. There is no security. That is the

prevailing feeling here that many Nigerians are feeling in the wake of this spate of kidnappings. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Tragic. All right. Thank you so much, Stephanie Busari, in Lagos.

And we'll be right back.





BRUNHUBER: Well, life in London can be a bit of a rat race. But now, coronavirus restrictions means the rats may be winning. Here's CNN's Nina dos Santos.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): They're in the parks, up the pipes and heading toward a kitchen near you.


DOS SANTOS: Lockdown London has become a boom town for the capital's rats, left unchecked in shuttered shops and restaurants over the winter and now making their way out of the inner city and into the suburbs.

MICHAEL COATES, CO-FOUNDER, COMBAT PEST CONTROL: Look at this rat, trying to get into the house.

DOS SANTOS: According to the British Pest Control Association, rodent sightings increased 51 percent during the first lockdown and 78 percent, thereafter, prompting fears the U.K. capital could soon become famous for the super rats that once belonged in Paris and New York.

COATES: Look at that, a (INAUDIBLE).

DOS SANTOS (on camera): Like a hole.

COATES: A hole.

DOS SANTOS: To let water out.

COATES: Exactly. It's screwed out, because people get lazy. They undo it and it will come off.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): To avoid that, the city needs prevention like this. It's just before daybreak on the banks of the River Thames. And former soldier Michael Coates is patrolling the refuse site, looking for the telltale signs.

COATES: And what you can also find, especially in heavy populations of rats, they'll start gnawing. And this plastic's real easy for rats to gnaw.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Fewer people on the streets has made rats more conspicuous.

DOS SANTOS: Do you ever see rats?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen one, a little one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rats and pigeons and everything, yes.

DOS SANTOS: So you think there probably is something in there?

COATES: Definitely stuff in here. Definitely.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): And more abundant waste from locked down homes has lured them to backyards.


COATES: We've certainly seen now a spike in rats migrating back into people's gardens. Beginning of last year, we got a really bad case in someone's garden. She was an elderly lady and she'd seen a few rats. And by the time we got there, there was maybe 10 or 15 rats and it had become this really big issue.

DOS SANTOS: Rats have always been a part of London life, but nobody really knows how many there are in the capital. That's because usually, they're pretty elusive.

They do, however, outnumber the human population and they multiply really fast. Just one pair of breeding rats could give rise to 1,250 in one year. As the population swells, rats themselves are getting bigger and harder to catch. Some are immune to poison. Others have figured out how to avoid traps.

Exterminator Paul Claydon has never been so busy.

PAUL CLAYDON, OWNER, FAST TRACK PEST CONTROL: I would say, probably, calls have increased about 50 percent for me.

DOS SANTOS (on camera): Do you think that when London eventually reopens, they're going to realize they've got one big rat problem?

CLAYDON: I think that's right. And I think a lot of commercial businesses have -- have been closed so long. I think when they start going back to these properties and certainly, businesses that haven't have pest control contracts involved, they might find themselves going to have a big surprise.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The mayor's office doesn't have a rodent plan and many local governments don't offer free pest control, either, meaning businesses and homeowners are often left to their own devices to deal with their new post-pandemic neighbors -- Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: Los Angeles police say Lady Gaga's two stolen French bulldogs have been returned unharmed. They were turned over at a police station in LA after a brutal robbery on Wednesday, where assailants shot the dog walker and drove away with the dogs.

Now a source close to the singer says the dog walker is recovering well in hospital. Lady Gaga offered a $0.5 million reward for the return of the dogs.

All right. That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber and I will be back in just a moment with more news. Please, do stay with us.