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U.S. Expected to Elaborate Action Against Saudis; Central American Migrants Make the Grueling Journey North; U.K. Vaccine Rollout Expands to People Aged 60 and Older; Some Germans Rejecting Oxford-AstraZeneca Shots; Award Season Kicks Off with Telecast Altered by Pandemic. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 1, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: The United States is expected to offer more details on how U.S. policy on Saudi Arabia is changing after Friday's intelligence report into the death of Jamal Khashoggi. The report said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill the journalist.

And you are looking at the last few moments he was caught on camera alive. This is surveillance footage from Turkey showing Khashoggi entering Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. President Biden says his administration will address, quote, what we are going to be doing with Saudi Arabia generally. Arlette Saenz has more.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is defending President Biden's decision not to impose direct sanctions on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia after the unclassified report showed he approved the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Now while he was a candidate Biden said that senior Saudi leaders should be punished, and that the country should be treated like a pariah. But now the White House is saying there are more effective ways to address it. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe there is more effective ways to make sure this doesn't happen again and to also be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement, where there are interests, national interests for the United States. That is what diplomacy looks like. That is what complicated global engagement looks like and we have made no secret and been clear we are going to hold them accountable and on the global stage and in with direct actions.

SAENZ: On Friday, the State Department announced visa restrictions on 76 Saudis involved with harassing activist and journalists. And the Treasury Department has also issued some sanctions but so far there is nothing that directly touches the Crown Prince. Now the White House has said that the State Department will provide more details on Monday about the administration's approach to Saudi Arabia, a key strategic partner.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president in Wilmington, Delaware.


CHURCH: And for more on tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and what the ramifications could be, let's bring in John Defterios live from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you, John. So the Biden administration apparently planning to take a tougher stance against the Saudi Crown Prince. But how likely is it that Mohammed bin Salman will feel the impact of any sanctions or any other response or consequence?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well no direct impact, I think that's fair to say, Rosemary. But this is where you have to balance out the regional interests, at the same time send a message to the Crown Prince and reframe the relationship.

In fact, Joe Biden said he'll only deal with King Salman, the father of the Crown Prince and reopen the Iranian file. And they have to kind of balance these interests between Saudi Arabia and Iran around the Strait of Hormuz. It's a very delicate situation indeed. But it's very different from Donald Trump who had a bear hug around MBS and the dangling in front of Saudi Arabia of $100 billion of military hardware. So this has changed quite radically.

And when it comes to business itself, I would say self-harm for Saudi Arabia. You can go back to two major incidents, 2017 and the rounding up of the Saudi businessmen in the name of corruption. They didn't use the Saudi court system. They pulled away $100 billion. But those Saudi businessmen were partners of U.S., European and Asian investors into Saudi Arabia.

In 2018 the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi shocked the international community after all.


MBS had gone from Silicon Valley to London to woo investors to support his reform. So what's the result here? Foreign direct investment in the country plummeted under the Crown Prince. He announced his vision 2030 in 2016. FDI went to $1.4 billion, then it recovered to 4 to $4.5 billion. But that is half the level normally seen in Saudi Arabia. In fact it was peaking at an annualized basis of $12 billion -- so that's suffering.

And then the foreign exchange reserves in Saudi Arabia. If you go back to 2015, there were over $730 billion and then you see the staircase lowered down to just over $450 billion. This is the earnings from oil exports around the world, and they're the number one exporter. But the Crown Prince needs to support the neon project, major tourism development, Riyadh as a super city, all of the infrastructure that goes with it. He doesn't have the foreign partners right now as a result of what we've seen of Jamal Khashoggi and also at the Ritz Carlton. That's the reality he has to deal with today.

CHURCH: All right, we'll keep a close eye on this. John Defterios, many thanks.

Well the U.S. president will meet virtually with his Mexican counterpart today. On the agenda for Mr. Biden and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, migration, development and economic cooperation, and of course, the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Lopez Obrador is expected to ask the U.S. to share some of the vaccine supply. Mexico has agreement for hundreds of millions of doses, but most have not arrived.

Well since taking office Mr. Biden has reversed several Trump immigration policies. The change in the White House just one of many reasons behind a surge in Central American migrants heading north. Matt Rivers has more on the story from the Mexico/Guatemala border along with teenage brothers on a risky and grueling trek.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not far from the Mexico-Guatemala border, fielding two full soccer teams at La Centiedos (ph) Migrant Shelter is easy because the number of people headed to the United States is surging.

Carlos, 19, is bound for the U.S. too. He left Honduras five days ago with his little brother, 14-year-old Wilfredo (ph).

He says a lot of people, not just us, decided to leave and migrate to look for a better life.

After dark, there are among dozens that will spend the night inside the shelter.

RIVERS: The number of migrants like these lining up each night to enter the shelter has blown away the numbers that we saw last year. In the first two months of 2021, more migrants have already been registered here than in all of 2020.

RIVERS (voice-over): The shelter says more than 5,500 people just since New Year's Day.

Father Gabriel Romero (ph) says people are no longer afraid to leave their countries due to COVID. This is a moment of a humanitarian emergency.

The next day, Carlos and Wilfredo (ph) are among the dozen that set out at dawn, set to walk for hours through an overgrown, unforgiving landscape. And thousands have just taken similar trips. The number of people apprehended at the U.S. southern border last month, higher than the same month in each of the last three years.

Over three days, dozens of migrants told us the reasons for the increase are myriad with poverty chief among them. Finding work was always hard but never worse than during the pandemic. Plus, after back-to-back category four hurricanes destroyed entire Central American communities in November, tens of thousands were displaced.

And as this group of migrants told us, there is another reason, too. It is not a Trump White House anymore.

This migrant says it's no longer a racist president because he looked at us like we're animals.

The Biden administration is trying to end Trump's more restricted immigration policies and says it will admit more asylum seekers. But they have also said that now is not the time for migrants to come, citing the pandemic and policy changes not yet completed. But that did not dissuade anyone we met, with many saying Biden in charge gives them a better chance of getting in.

That is the difference, he says, that suddenly the new president is noble with a good heart.

On a break from that day's track, Carlos told us they hadn't left for any one reason, poverty, hurricanes, Biden, all a part of it. He just remembers his mom crying as they walked away. We asked what she said.

She said not to go, it is so sad leaving not knowing if you are going to die. Because all migrants know how dangerous these tracks can be, and the proof came just a few hours later in a small village. The group had just been attacked and robbed by armed men, left with nothing but their clothes.


We had a basic medical kit on us, so CNN producer Natalie Gallon and I tried to patch them up the best we could. Both brothers were pistol- whipped, 14-year-old Wilfredo with a deep gash on his head.

RIVERS: All you can see here the blood in his hat after he was hit with the butt of a pistol, according to the group. Now, we have given him a bandage and --


RIVERS: OK. So he says he's in a little bit of pain but he's OK for now. So --

RIVERS (voice-over): But just moments later, they had to run. A van is fast approaching.

RIVERS: So this is Mexican immigration. And that's why our group here just ran into the woods.

RIVERS (voice-over): We wouldn't find them again until early the next morning. They walked more than 12 hours after they fled. Exhausted and resting outside of a small shop, we took the moment to ask, is this worth it? Carlos said it was, that a better life awaited. Wilfredo, quietly not so sure.

I don't really know, he says, but wherever my brother is, I'll always be there.

Another half mile down the tracks, they enter another shelter for the night. But for the weary, there won't be rest because in the next day or two, it will be more tracking through never-ending forests, their singular group just one of thousands doing the same.

Matt Rivers, CNN, near the Mexico-Guatemalan border.


CHURCH: And still to come here on CNN. There is a high demand for vaccines all over the world. So why are there hundreds of thousands of doses of one vaccine reportedly going unused in Germany? We'll have a live report.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. New Zealand's biggest city is now in week two of a weeklong lockdown. And so far, there are no new local COVID infections to report. Tough restrictions were imposed in place in Auckland after two cases of unknow origin where detected Sunday. Under the lockdown travel in and out of Auckland is restricted. People can only leave their homes for work or essential shopping. And high profile events have been canceled.

Well I want to turn to Europe now where there are reports one vaccine shot is going unused. It turns out Germans may be rejecting the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine over fears it's less effective than others. Meantime, the U.K.'s vaccination program against COVID-19 has just entered a new phase. People who are 60 to 63 years old can now sign up to get a shot.

So CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us from Berlin with more on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. And our Salma Abdelaziz is in London following the vaccine rollout in the U.K. Good to see you both. So Fred let's start with you. How are German authorities planning to counter this strange rejection of the AstraZeneca shot?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, German authorities, Rosemary, are now admitting that they believe that some of the things they might have said in the past may have led to the fact that people here or some people are not very confident in the AstraZeneca vaccination. The German Vaccination Commission originally only approved that vaccine for use in people between the ages of 18 and 65.

Now they say that was never a rejection or criticism of the vaccine itself. But that they simply didn't have enough data from the AstraZeneca trials to approve the vaccine in people who are older than 65. Of course there were also some reports that maybe that vaccine is a little bit less effective than for instance the vaccines from BioNTech or Pfizer or Moderna.

But essentially, the German authorities are saying, look, this vaccine is effective. But things like that didn't exactly lead to more public confidence in that vaccine on the part of folks within the German public. And that's something that the authorities here are now trying to change. So the other problem they also had, Rosemary, is that when some people

didn't show up for their vaccination appointments with the AstraZeneca vaccine, there was really never a next man up principal in place to have those doses be used. And as a result of that, anywhere between 75 percent to about 85 percent of the doses that were ordered by the German government and delivered, of the AstraZeneca vaccine, so far have not been used.

Now the vaccination commission is saying now is they're going to look at that data again. They say that things didn't go exactly in the right way as they put it. And they say they probably in the middle of this week they're going to have a new recommendation that says, look, this vaccine is now good for people of all ages.

At the same time, you also see the authorities here, politicians saying, urging people who are eligible to receive that vaccine to go and actually take it because of course any vaccine right now in the country where right now there's a pretty steep rise in new coronavirus cases, any vaccine right now, of course, very important trying to bring the numbers down -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, the best vaccine is the one available. We have to get that message out. Thanks so much, Fred.

Salma, to you now in London. And U.K. vaccinations are now open to everyone 60 to 63. How is that working?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Well Rosemary, today if you are between the ages 60 to 63 you should be getting a letter in the mail. It'll be calling on you to book your appointment with the National Health Service and go and get the first injection of your immunization. We already have 20 million people in this country across the U.K. who've received the first dose of their shot and all of this as the government speeds on through to hit the next vaccine target, that's April 15th.

By that date you should have all of the over 50s in this country having received their first dose of the vaccine. All of those with serious underlying health conditions as well should have received their first dose. You also have health officials. You know, we're in a nationwide lockdown here. That's going to be lifted in next few weeks. Starting to ease up in the next few weeks.

And you also have health officials tracking down variants across the country. There's been a few cases of that variant that was first identified in Brazil. That's been found here, six cases. So authorities are rolling out surge testing in areas. So you're seen this dual strategy. Keep the rules and restrictions in place. Clamp down, of course, on all of these variants wherever they pop up. And then of course, keep these vaccinations going as quickly as you possibly can.

But to my colleague Fred's point about the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, here it's been a very different picture. I've been at a vaccination center where I saw people asking for the Oxford University vaccine, because there's a point of national pride here around it. Of course, invented, created right here in the U.K.


And there's been numbers coming from public health Scotland that show that it is reducing hospitalizations. This Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine reduces hospitalizations by about 80 percent in the over 80s after four weeks from that first dose. So a lot of positive signs around that vaccine here. A lot of positive hopes around that vaccine and of course the idea that that should reach the rest of Europe -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: The importance of good messaging. And of course, wow, what an impressive rollout of the vaccines there across Britain. Many thanks. Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, Salma Abdelaziz in London.

And coming up, Hollywood holds a mostly virtual Golden Globes award ceremony. A look at the highlights including a rather unique acceptance speech from one top actress. Back with that in a moment.


CHURCH: The Golden Globes on Sunday proved Hollywood is still trying to find its rhythm in the pandemic. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the show put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with awards given to nominees video chatting from their homes.


Film and television nominees were notably different with screening media dominating the categories.

British royalty drama "The Crown" swept the television categories taking home four trophies, including best drama, actor and actress.

"Nomadland" director Chloe Zhao, made history as the first Asian woman and second woman overall to win best director. Her film also took the award for best for motion picture drama.

But the night also had its share of funny moments. Actress Catherine O'Hara won best actress in a musical or comedy for her work in "Schitt's Creek." And was played off the stage by her husband just a few words into her speech.


CATHERINE O'HARA, ACTRESS: It's an experience I'll forever hold dear to my heart and I'm proud to be part of their family, although not really.

Thank you, Tim, for making -- no. Thank you, CBC, for making the show in Canada. Thank you -- Seriously? Thank you, Netflix. Netflix brought this show around the world. Our family is in lockdown. I hope it won't take you six years to realize your greatest asset is having somebody to love.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.