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No Response from Palace to Bombshell Interview; Military Troops Occupying Myanmar Hospitals and Universities; China Bears Responsibility for Uyghur Genocide; British Tabloids Fire Back Over Harry & Meghan Claims; Rio de Janeiro's Hospitals on the Verge of Collapse; Vaccinated Israelis Getting 'Green Passes,' More Freedoms; Malala Yousafzai Announces Deal with Apple TV; Jury Selection to Begin Tomorrow in Death of George Floyd; Republicans Call Gen. Honore's Investigation Partisan. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired March 9, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the royal racism row: Queen Elizabeth holds crisis talks under growing pressure to respond to Harry and Meghan's stunning tell-all interview with Oprah.

A young, vibrant, free press in Myanmar, now on life support, with dozens of reporters detained and the military trying to shut down independent media companies.

The case for genocide: why China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims is a blatant stark violation of the genocide convention and why Beijing's leaders are the ones who should be held to account.


VAUSE: Now 24 hours after an incredible 17 million viewers in the U.S. turned into watch the tell-all interview by Harry and Meghan, audiences in the U.K. have now had their chance to watch as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reveal almost all to Oprah.

Buckingham Palace, is yet to respond to claims of racism and neglect, Meghan suffered at the hands of the royal family. It's a situation Meghan said was so bad, she considered suicide.


MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I just didn't want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: The British tabloids are in overdrive, bringing extra editions

with headlines screaming, worst royal crisis in 85 years. Meghan says the papers make things worse with racist and outdated colonial undertones. CNN's Anna Stewart live for us this hour.

In the early morning live hour at Windsor.

So this is the question now, will there be some kind of response from Buckingham Palace?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. I think this has shifted and inevitably it would. People are looking to the palace and what are they going to say?

So far, no comment. It's been 24 hours since the broadcast in the U.S., but remember, it is only just broadcast in the U.K. last night. Look at some of the headlines in the papers this morning, too early to go to the shops I'm afraid. But we have "The Guardian" saying palace is crisis, following devastating claims. The "Daily Mirror," worst royal crisis in 85 years.

"The Times," palace in turmoil are the claims and similarly in "The Independent," palace faces crisis over racism claims.

We've seen the same pictures all across the board, in all the papers, broadsheets or the tabloids, they want to hear a response.

Clearly, the claim that people find most troubling is that of racism within the royal family. During that interview, Meghan did not name the member of the royal family, Prince Harry just didn't want to talk anymore on it. But yesterday, we did get a little bit more from Oprah in an interview on CBS.


OPRAH WINFREY, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: He did not share the identity with me but wanted to make sure that I knew and if I had an opportunity to share it, that it was not his grandmother nor his grandfather that were a part of those conversations.


STEWART: Kind of removing aspersions from Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip, that narrows the field so, plenty of people wonder who the member of the royal family is.

This wasn't the only allegation made. In addition, Meghan talked about her mental health and as you heard, how she felt suicidal. She asked the palace, the HR department for help and did not receive any. People do want to have a response.

One thing I was thinking about, there was 2 hours of this interview left, it didn't make the final cut. There was a lot more that could come out. For the palace, I imagine, they will want to release some sort of response at some stage. But I bet they're worried about what else could come out after it -- John. VAUSE: That's a good question, 2 hours left, oh, boy. This is an

interview that has been watched by tens of millions of people. And it's being scrutinized for every last detail. Some people even noticed the chairs they were sitting on came from Costco, which is weird.

What is the reaction there?

In the U.S., it is decidedly pro-Meghan.

But what about in the U.K.?

How is it sitting?

STEWART: John, it is interesting to look at this in a completely different prism. In the U.K., opinion is much more split. A lot of empathy for Meghan, especially given the racism claims and the issue of suicide.

But I think, certainly, we see it from the prism of the royal family. The queen is our head of state. People tend to love the queen. So people see this as well as such a big crisis within the palace.


STEWART: They see it not just as Meghan being a victim but what is this issue with the royal family?

Why is it so bad?

Why does Prince Harry say it is toxic?

So, people are talking a bit more broadly about the issue. Certainly, not all of the media is sympathetic. Quite shocking yesterday, Piers Morgan, one of our lead morning TV shows, really, trashing her as a person and trashing the interview.

There are some articles and papers, that reflect that as well. Certainly, it is much more split in terms of the opinion here in the U.K. and not just a racism issue here in the U.K., people also think about class, comparing Meghan to Kate and whether Kate had problems when she joined the royal family.

So it is a different reaction here than it is where you are.

VAUSE: Funny you mentioned Piers Morgan, because we will about Piers with our next guest. Anna, thank you very much.

Diane Clehane is royals editor for the online magazine "Best Life," standing by in Connecticut.

Thank you for being with us.

DIANE CLEHANE, "BEST LIFE": Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Over the years, the royal family has had a strategy, never complain, never explain. Stay silent. But given that Harry and Meghan have made these serious issues of racism against someone in the royal family, a headline declaring, "Harry and Meghan interview revelations worse than palace could have feared."

Would you expect to see some kind of statement from Buckingham Palace?

What would be the cost to the monarchy if a decision was made to not respond?

CLEHANE: I think they are obviously planning something. The queen held crisis meetings with Prince Charles and Prince William today. And I think they are just trying to gather themselves after being on the floor, I'm sure, from what was said.

I think it is going to have to be addressed, in some way. I can't imagine with racism and suicide in the mix, that is just not something that can go away. So I think they need to be careful but I think they need to be careful to not do anything. They have to do something. However they decide to do it.

VAUSE: And if they ignored, it what would be the damage done to the royal family?

CLEHANE: I think their silence would speak volumes. We need to remember when they were unresponsive when Princess Diana died. The people in Britain were just so riled up and London was full of people in the streets that were angry.

I think with this, there is a sense of what is really going on here. Harry and Meghan, are not super popular right now in the U.K. So that is a different setup than what we had when Diana died.

But they want answers. There is about to be a big cultural shift in that country when Charles becomes king. There is a lot going on in the royal family and I think people are looking for the queen to offer some stability, to offer them something.

VAUSE: It seems to be equal parts praise, equal parts criticism for the Duke and Duchess. Here is Piers Morgan, doing something in Britain these days after his CNN show was canceled.


PIERS MORGAN, "GOOD MORNING BRITAIN" ANCHOR: The timing of this couldn't be more grotesque. It is all about Meghan and Harry and all about their mental health. How they are feeling. How they are being treated. They want the world, in the middle of a pandemic, that has killed 2.5 million people, to view them as the biggest victims.


VAUSE: Given the issues that were raised here of suicide, of mental health, is that comment insensitive to say the least?

CLEHANE: We didn't know what we were going to expect. So I think the idea was that we all thought that they were going to come, out explain why they left and sort of resurrect some old grudges. I think that is what we saw, really, with the Kate Middleton story. Meghan felt badly that that wasn't corrected and it was hardly a major one.

But to her, it meant something. She even said it was a turning point. Everyone went into this, not knowing what to expect and we all got a lot more than we bargained.

VAUSE: With that in mind, here's a part of an opinion piece from Britain's "Guardian" newspaper.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are signaling that the English speaking world now has two royal households to choose from and identify with. One appears to trade on the politics of emotion, feeling people's pain just as they felt theirs.

The other, if one accepts the Sussexes' account, is flawed, cruel and unable to cope with mental suffering.

What was the point of this interview?

Why do this?

What do they get out of it?

CLEHANE: They are building their brand. I think the biggest difference is they found the queen of redemption in Oprah Winfrey. She has known, for decades, to be the person that someone that has something important to say or explain goes to Oprah. So they had the biggest interviewer in the country, sitting down with them.

I think she gave them some semblance of credibility, although everyone knows they are friends now. But the timing is quite curious. I felt if I was their PR person I would have said, let's do it at the one year anniversary of being here in the States. But I've also discovered that with both the Sussexes and Oprah, there is always a reason.


CLEHANE: This was not by accident. So only they know the specific reasons as to why they did this, right now. But the timing did seem strange and all of the people that are piling on, oh, why did they do this while Philip is in the hospital, they would've had no idea that this all was going to happen.

But I think they are quite concerned and the palace is saying things about them or they think the palace is and they are falsehoods. So I think they really did want to take control of the narrative before things got further down the road and, right now, they are holding the cards.

VAUSE: Quickly, there is a lot of comparisons being made to the interview Diana did in 1995, saying the reverberations could be similar. I just wonder, because of the issues discussed in 1995, certainly not as serious as the ones in which Meghan and Harry talked about.

But Diana was so much more popular, so much more loved than Meghan. I wonder if that sort of balances things out? CLEHANE: In a way. I was struck by how much Diana was mentioned. Her presence there. The fact that Meghan mirrors Diana's almost exactly in terms of that she went to the institution, they didn't help her. She told them she had mental health issues and then she wound up doing this tell-all.

There are striking similarities but Diana is unique. I think anyone that tries to make a comparison between Duchess Meghan and Princess Diana, it's apples and oranges. It really is. I think they are obviously planning another big move. They want to promote a project.

It does coincide with their Archewell foundation. It could be something about that but I suspect, it is because they wanted to take control of their own story.

VAUSE: That they did. At least for a time. Diane, thank you for being with us.

CLEHANE: Thank you.

VAUSE: If you know someone who may be contemplating suicide, there are organizations which can help, like the International Association for Suicide Prevention or Befrienders Worldwide. Web addresses are at the bottom of your screen.

For anyone in the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is one 1-800-273-8255.

Myanmar's military is now moving to prevent independent reporting of the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations. According to state-run TV, 5 media companies have had their licenses revoked. At the same time, security forces are now occupying hospitals and university campuses, like this one in Mandalay.

CNN's Paula Hancocks, live, in Seoul, with the latest.

We understand at least 2 of those 5 media companies, still trying to operate. One on the satellite, the other to the internet and is using YouTube.

I guess the question is, for how long?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have seen, really, just from after the coup on February 1st, the military was trying to control the narrative. They were trying to shut down certain media outlets.

We know they changed some of the laws, some of the rules, trying to curtail what journalists are able to say. We know that they have been targeting journalists, a number of them, among the more than 1,700 people who have been arrested so far.

But revoking their licenses, what we've heard from two, they are both saying that they will continue but also, to try and keep their journalists safe. As we know, they have become a target as well. One other thing we did see overnight as well, there were, potentially,

hundreds of protesters that were cornered into one area of Yangon, the most populous city. We understand, from Reuters, hundreds of protesters were trapped there. That the police were threatening to go door to door and find out who wasn't from the district and then arrest them.

They were, according to Reuters again and in local reports, firing stun grenades and guns. They did, eventually, leave. As the curfew was lifted around 4 am, the protesters were able to escape the area.

This particular issue is interesting because it did provoke a lot of condemnation from the U.S., the U.K. and from the U.N. secretary general, Antonio Guterres, calling for it to come to an end. In this particular occasion, the police did back down, although we understand from local reports, more than 2 dozen were arrested -- John.

VAUSE: Also, the other development, too, which seems troubling and security forces toward doing a makeshift presence in hospitals, on university campuses, as well as religious temples. It seems to indicate that they are digging in for a long term, long run operation, an anti insurgency operation.

HANCOCKS: We started to hear about this over the weekend that certain hospitals, certain universities, had been occupied by the military. It is something that the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has said, that at least 5 hospitals have been occupied and they don't specify by the military.

It's certainly something that is concerning, the U.N. and other NGOs within the country have said, that this is against international law.


HANCOCKS: The U.N. saying that hospitals are locations that are protected by international humanitarian law though we've also heard from the military on this, saying that they believe that they have to be in these areas, saying that they are, quote, "maintaining them," saying that doctors and nurses have left their posts, so they have to step in.

We do know that many doctors and nurses are part of the CDM, they're part of the civil disobedience movement. We also know that they are having to set up makeshift hospitals, in different areas to try and treat some of those protesters. This is certainly an issue that is concerning. It's one that the U.N. has already picked up on.

VAUSE: Paula thank, you Paula Hancocks with the very latest there from Seoul. Thank you.

Well a scathing new report, has blasted China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Accusers of the government in Beijing of genocide, an exclusive report on those findings next.

And Brazil's hospitals on the verge of collapse, as the country fights a brutal wave of COVID, and what the government is and more importantly what it is not doing to try and stop it.




VAUSE: A new damning report makes the legal case that China bears responsibility for the genocide of Uyghur Muslims. An ethnic minority in China's Western Xinjiang province. Dozens of experts came to this conclusion from open source evidence gathered from Chinese state media, as well as leaked state communications, satellite images and witness testimony.

The independent report accuses China of violating the U.N.'s 1948 genocide convention and committing systematic atrocity. CNN has an first exclusive look at the findings and CNN's Ivan Watson has been covering this live for us from Hong Kong and the story for a very long time.

Ivan, it seems to be one of those situations that it has been happening in front of everyone's eyes. But this sort of brings all the pieces, all the threads together in the context of these violations of these genocide conventions, which China is a signatory to.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's, right it's making a case that the Chinese government has allegedly committed acts of genocide in the Xinjiang region and this is being described as the first time a nongovernmental organization has conducted an independent legal analysis of these accusations of genocide against the Chinese government.

So CNN did get an advanced copy of this report, which included the evaluations of more than 40 legal scholars, academics, human rights experts. They concluded, that according to the United Nations' convention on genocide, which defines genocide, according to give key areas: killing members of a group, causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of a group, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or part of a group --


WATSON: -- imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

This report, alleges that the following state policies that you see on your screen there, match all five of the definitions of genocide, according to the United Nations' convention on genocide.

Now of course, Beijing has had a policy of rejecting any accusation whatsoever of any human rights abuses at all in the Xinjiang region involving its population of more than 25 million people. The Chinese foreign minister confronted these allegations just over the weekend. Take a listen to what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WANG YI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The claim that there is genocide in Xinjiang could not be more preposterous. It is just a rumor, fabricated with ulterior motives and thorough lie. Over the past four decades and more, the Uyghur population of Xinjiang has more than doubled from 5.5 million to over 12 million.


WATSON: This is a really interesting argument, that the population grew over 40 years. But I want to take a look at Chinese government statistics of what's happening in the last 10 years, particularly between 2017 and 2019.

That's when, the mass incarceration policy of more than 1 million members of ethnic minorities began in Xinjiang. You can see that the birth rate from 2017 to 2019 dropped almost in half, which is a tremendous demographic shift and one of these statistics that this new lines institute for strategy and policy is using, to make its case of genocide against the Chinese government.

So, the question then is where does it go from here?

This is one academic institute, that is making very serious allegations. We do, know that the Trump administration, the day before it stepped down, the secretary of state Mike Pompeo accused China formally of committing genocide.

The new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said he's agreed with that. But so far, the Biden administration has not made this accusation formal. In recent, weeks the parliaments of Canada and the Netherlands have also passed nonbinding resolutions, accusing China of genocide in Xinjiang.

But the leaders of those 2 countries, voted against this. They were against these measures, in part because the fact is China is the world's second largest economy. A lot of governments around the world are going to be very cautious, at picking a fight over this issue.

Even though, every one of the more than 150 signatories to the U.N. convention, are basically obliged to take measures if they see evidence of genocide being committed, anywhere in the world -- John.

VAUSE: It's the biggest internment of an ethnic group since World War II, Ivan, thank, you Ivan Watson live on Hong Kong, appreciate it.

John Packer is the director of the Human Rights Research and Education Center at the University of Ottawa, he's also a professor of international law and was the principal adviser on this report, putting forward the legal argument genocide.

Thank you for being with us, professor.

JOHN PACKER, HUMAN RIGHTS RESEARCH AND EDUCATION CENTER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA: My pleasure. VAUSE: The report is very direct, you've gathered this evidence, you

make this argument that genocide has occurred.

Where did all the evidence actually come from, that makes the case?

PACKER: Well, there is actually quite an abundance of evidence, there have been a lot of things collected, this is not something which arose overnight. So there has not only been compiled literally thousands of testimonies but don't forget we're talking about a sophisticated state in full control.

So we have all of the statements of, the highest level right from the president. We also have all of the programs and policies which articulated, nobody doubts even the government doesn't deny, that they have these mass internment camps.

They have been absolutely implementing a concerted and systematic program.

The question is, what is it?

We just applied the genocide convention to answer that question.

VAUSE: I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that the Chinese government has dismissed any accusations of genocide, describing genocide as a fabrication. Here is their argument, why, listen to this.


WANG (through translator): Over the past 4 decades and, more the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has more than doubled from 5.5 million to over 12 million. The past 60 plus years have seen Xinjiang's economy expand by more than 200 times and the average life expectancy has increased from 30 years to 72.


VAUSE: I mean, it is kind of the very compelling argument in its simplicity if there is genocide, then how can the number of the Uyghur population increase so much?

PACKER: Well, I think this is really a kind of common misconception that genocide means the extermination of the group entirely or as a whole.


PACKER: So if you see some kind of statistical increase, then it can't be. But genocide convention first of all doesn't specify that. It actually says explicitly, in whole or in part. Now it has to be significant part but that may be in context. You have to read the convention, even legally, formally, the words in context.

So if we look at the actual situation, where, of course, don't forget, the whole population of China has grown tremendously. We have to look at what's really happening.

What I would characterize as a kind of insidious, fiendish, determined complex policy, if you look at it, item by item and as a mosaic altogether, you realize that this is really aiming at destroying the group as such.

VAUSE: You know, the report makes this very direct link to the highest levels of the state, the president of China, the Xinjiang Chinese Communist Party secretary, his deputy secretary directly orchestrating these policies and practices, which are relentlessly implemented by a bureaucratic line of entity s officials all the way down to the internment camp guards.

In other words, where the buck starts and stop with President Xi Jinping.

But what essentially is the motivation?

PACKER: Well, first of all it's not necessarily for us to determine the motivation. If you look at other genocides, there is all sorts of motivations. The motivations may be a variety. They give ostensible reasons, counter-terrorism, unemployment policy, population control policy.

The Nazis had a policy of lebensraum, the purity of the Aryan Nation. Lots of things that can be invoked. But we actually have to scrutinize the acts as set out in the genocide convention.

We have to apply the Vienna Convention and the law to treaties to understand how that works. And then we can see, that these acts constitute, each and every one of them and together, breaches of the convention.

VAUSE: I guess the question, now if you don't make any recommendations you just leave it as it is for governments to decide what action they should take.

That's the big if, here what can be done. More than a decade ago, the leadup to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, there was talk of potential boycotts that could be used as leverage on human rights. The world focus bringing significant meaningful change.

None of that happened, since then the Chinese economy has only grown bigger, the military is also bigger, the global influence is greater.

What of the options here?

PACKER: This is a matter between states, the genocide convention is a cornerstone of the post Second World War order. It was adopted a day before the universal declaration in rights. What the world, said was never again will we have a Holocaust, a genocide and rather, we're supposed to be building for the well-being of the population, human rights.

If you put those things together, you have to say, OK, now what are states supposed to do? Well, they certainly shouldn't be complicit. There's 151 other states parties to the genocide convention. They must ask themselves, what they do. Second of, all they should actually be working to help prevent the ongoing character of this genocide.

More than, that there are things they can do individually. For example, if there are individuals who are implicated in this, who come within the jurisdiction of other states, there is the potential to exercise universal jurisdiction and actually prosecute. Them

VAUSE: Professor Parker, we are out of time but thank you and thank you for your colleagues for this report. It makes a compelling legal argument and it's very worthwhile, at least for people to read, because it does make their case for genocide. Thank you, sir.

PACKER: Pleasure.

VAUSE: Still to come, when it came to the British tabloids, Harry and Meghan did not pull their punches during that interview. Now some of the tabloids are firing back.

Plus, the path to a normal life, the green path in Israel, where the vaccinated enjoy the freedoms only immunity can offer.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.


Well, while Britain's royal family bore the brunt of Harry and Meghan's explosive interview, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had plenty of criticism, as well, for the British press, in particular, the tabloids. And now, some of the tabloids are firing back.

Here's Max Foster.


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): "Fights, camera, action," "Harry 'The Hostage'," "Kate Made Me Cry." Flashy headlines filling U.K. newsstands as British tabloids hit back after an explosive royal interview.

PRINCE HARRY, UNITED KINGDOM: It's been really hard.

FOSTER: In a two-hour tell-all, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leveled bombshell accusations against two of Britain's most recognized institutions: the royal family and the press.

But in the aftermath, a deluge of stories focused on Meghan revealing she'd thoughts of suicide and their allegations of dysfunction and racism in the palace. One paper calls the interview "self-serving." Another nicknames the couple's rift with the royal family "Megxile."

Whilst American outlets often appeared somewhat sympathetic, some U.K. tabloids seemed to be venting their anger.

In the morning news, reactions ranged from shock to dismay.

PIERS MORGAN, CO-PRESENTER, ITV'S "GOOD MORNING BRITAIN": I'm sickened by what I've just had to watch. This is a two-hour trash-a-thon of our royal family, of the monarchy, of everything the queen has worked so hard for.

FOSTER: Such media scrutiny is one of the key reasons the couple said they moved to the U.S. Prince Harry going as far as saying the royal family was scared of press turning on them.

PRINCE HARRY: The control and the fear by the -- by the U.K. tabloids, it's a really -- it's a toxic environment.

FOSTER: Meghan spoke of the tabloids' unchecked racism, comparing headlines about herself with those about her sister-in-law, Kate. But she laid blame for media pressure firmly on the royal family.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: We haven't created this monster machine around us, in terms of clickbait and tabloid fodder. You've allowed that to happen.

I think there's a reason that these tabloids have holiday parties at the palace. They're hosted by the palace. The tabloids are. You know, there is a construct that's at play there.

FOSTER: She also spoke of outlets working with her estranged father to publish private information, which has led to a lawsuit that she recently won.

Now, Harry and Meghan's tumultuous relationship with U.K. tabloids seems to be continuing as the fallout of their explosive interview ricochets worldwide.


VAUSE: Thanks to that report, to royal correspondent Max Foster.

Well, for more on the British royal family, please head to our website, And then, it's slash royal news. You can get all the very latest. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, as well.

A surge of COVID cases in Brazil continues to threaten Rio's hospitals with collapse. Almost all of the city's ICU beds are filled. The state of Rio de Janeiro has about 5 percent of the country's 11 million confirmed cases. Strict containment measures are already in place, but officials admit tougher action could still be needed.

More details now from Stefano Pozzebon in nearby Colombia.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Coronavirus is still spreading across South America. (voice-over): And the situation is most serious in Brazil, where a local variant of the viruses is acting with devastating effects across the country.

At the center of the crisis, right now, is the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro, where occupancy rates for ICUs is over 95 percent on Monday.

And on Monday, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that, although Brazil has been one of the most affected countries in the world over the last 12 months because of the pandemic, the presidency will not impose a new national lockdown. Bolsonaro said Monday that, although he did have the capacity and the power to impose a lockdown, he would not do it.

And yet again, he put into question the seriousness of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a group of governors has started coming together to come up with a contingency plan to try to curb the spread of the virus on the back of the presidency.

(on camera): For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


VAUSE: Italy now the sixth country to top 100,000 COVID deaths. The prime minister says there's also an uptick in new cases linked to COVID variants and that the strain first identified in the U.K. has become prevalent across Italy.

Meantime, Italy has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for those over 65, just as other European countries have done. Almost five and a half million people across Italy have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Israel has now vaccinated more than half the population, five million people. Per capita, no other country comes close.

Along with easing pandemic restrictions, officials are now issuing so- called green passes. Everyone who has been fully vaccinated can live life almost like it was pre-pandemic times.

CNN's Sam Kiley has more.


SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An hour before reopening, Israeli celebrity chef Assaf Granit is on site for the renaissance of the kitchen at the center of his restaurant empire.

ASSAF GRANIT, ISRAELI CELEBRITY CHEF: It's like a re-brand. Exactly. It's like opening all over again. That's it. I think the lunch will be slowly picking up and then, you know, we're already booked. So it's going to be a long and happy day.

KILEY (on camera): It's surprising, really, that there's a party atmosphere here in MachneYuda. It's perhaps the most famous restaurant in the city, famous for its high-energy music, high-energy food, high- energy chef.

But also, it's going to be working at 75 percent capacity. Patrons have to be 6 feet, two meters apart. That's going to be policed and vigilated [SIC] by an extra member of staff.

And this is all going to be a result of the international -- the Israeli green passport, the vaccination certificates that mean that, slowly at least, this economy can start to recover.

(voice-over): First in line, 30 minutes ahead of their booking, a couple from Tel Aviv, proud of their vaccine passes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have it on the phone but here, look, you can see. These.


KILEY (on camera): Why are you so excited?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's a new day, after a year.

KILEY (voice-over): Forty percent of Israelis have had both vaccine shots and can now enjoy new freedoms to attend concerts, hotels, restaurants, bars, even universities, with some limits on total numbers.

But the fears of another lockdown loom over even the most optimistic. Renewed restrictions would be ruinous.


GRAPHIC: Let's hope they don't close us.


GRAPHIC: They won't close us. They won't close us again.


GRAPHIC: God willing!

KILEY: About five million Israelis have had a first dose of the vaccine, a world-leading level of take-up, even though ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs are lagging behind.

It's an achievement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party will trumpet in the couple of weeks remaining before elections, here.

(on camera): How does it feel to be opening?

ETHAN PADNOS, MANAGER, HATCH BREWERY: A little scary and very exciting.

KILEY: Why is it scary?

PADNOS: First of all, opening up, just seeing customers again, it's been a year.

KILEY (voice-over): He's screening customers for vaccine certificates.

(on camera): What if people don't have it?

PADNOS: Then they can sit outside.

KILEY (voice-over): Not a bad option. After all, spring is in the air.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, the long-time advocate for young women's empowerment now working to expand her message. The new deal for Malala Yousafzai in a moment.


VAUSE: Nobel Peace Prize laureates Malala Yousafzai is joining with Apple TV to expand her message of female empowerment.

The deal was announced on International Women's Day. Entertainment reporter Chloe Melas has details.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Malala Yousafzai is teaming up with Apple TV to create what she says will be empowering content for the streaming platform.

The multi-year deal, in partnership with her production company, Extracurricular, will include everything from documentaries, comedies, to children's programming.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI, ACTIVIST: I'm really excited about it, because I have been -- you know, there's my own story, and I have been telling that. And I have met so many girls. And I have -- you know, I have been able to build a platform where they can tell a story, but now, it's time to go even more, and to do even more, and to -- and to, you know, get this platform of storytelling, and bring in new perspectives.

MELAS: The news of the deal came on International Women's Day, and she told me her message for women everywhere.

YOUSAFZAI: Well, on International Women's Day, you know, every year, we highlight the issues that women are facing to this day, from like harassment, to inequality, to discrimination based on their gender, to unequal pay. All of these things are important, and we need to keep working on it.

But I also want to take this moment to remind all of those amazing and incredible women out there just to take a break. They have done so much, and right now, you know, some of them are studying from home. Some of them are looking after their kids, and they're, you know, parenting, and they also have jobs to do. And it's just so much. There is so much on their shoulders. And they -- getting all of that with grace, and with dignity.

So be proud of yourself. Be proud of all that you have done and achieved in your life. So, you know, let's celebrate. Let's be proud of who we are and what we have done for women and for everyone around us.

MELAS: Back to you.


VAUSE: Thanks to Chloe Melas for that report.

Thank you for watching CNN. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the hour, about 15 minutes from now.

In the meantime, WORLD SPORT is next after a short break.