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Europe Countries Pause AstraZeneca Vaccine; U.S. COVID Relief Bill Now Signed into Law; Brazil on the Brink of Collapse; Brazil's President Don't Mind the Death Toll; More Protesters Dying in Myanmar; People in Myanmar Flee to India; Millions May Die in Yemen; Duchess Of Sussex Interview, Royal Rift Between Prince William And Prince Harry; Vaccine Rollout Helps U.K. Seniors See Their Loved Ones; Space Exploration, New Long March 7A Rocket; U.S. Condemns China's Hong Kong Electoral Changes; U.S., India, Australia And Japan, First Quad Summit; Power Play To Save Planet. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 12, 2021 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company.

Coming up on CNN Newsroom. Military leaders in Myanmar accused of ordering their military to use deadly force on unarmed protesters. Now, a U.N. special envoy saying that those actions are likely are crimes against humanity.

Some European nations pausing the AstraZeneca vaccine as reports of blood clots are investigated.

And the royal rift deepening. Prince William defending the U.K. monarchy against racism accusations.

In 12 months since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, millions of lives have been lost, many millions more changed forever. There has been well over 118 million coronavirus cases, 2.6 million deaths according to Johns Hopkins. On Thursday, the U.K. became the fifth nation to top 125,000 fatalities. But amid the challenges effective vaccines have been developed and authorized for use in record time.

That includes drugs from Moderna, and Pfizer/BioNTech, along of course with Russia's Sputnik V and more are on the way. The European Commission on Thursday approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. It is the fourth one the European Union has licensed and will provide a much-needed boost to its troubled vaccine effort.

Meanwhile, Thailand has cancelled its planned rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after several European nations decided to stop using it. Regulators are looking at a possible link, as we said to blood clots. But France, Spain, and Nigeria say they are satisfied the vaccine is safe and plan to keep administering it. Let's bring our Melissa Bell in now joining me from Paris. So, you've

got this confusing that some E.U. countries suspending AstraZeneca vaccinations, talking about these blood clots, and other saying it's fine. What's the debate about? And what's the confusion leading to?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well these very similar cases in a number of different European countries that seem to show that some patients who have been inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine then went on to develop blood clots. So even as that is investigated, of course Michael, and as you say, it divides Europe, it is being closely watched by the rest of the world.

Of course, AstraZeneca, one of those big vaccines to become available, you mentioned the Thai rollout that has now been paused as a result of those findings in European countries. The Thai prime minister had been due today, Michael, to get himself vaccinate with the AstraZeneca. That was put on hold. And in fact, the whole country's rollout of that vaccine will now be stopped pending the results from those investigations in Denmark and in other European countries.

So, those questions will have to be answered, but of course, in the meantime, bear in mind that for the European Union where you had these huge supply problems for the time being, you just mentioned a moment ago, that fourth vaccine that's now been approved by the European Medicines Agency, but bear in mind that that decision then has to go to the member states so it could be some more days or weeks before it comes -- become available here in Europe.

In the meantime, AstraZeneca was one of the three vaccines now available. The fact that it had to be paused in so many countries, of course another blow to the European rollout strategy campaign, already so beset by problems.

HOLMES: Yes, it really is, isn't it? Novavax says the U.K. final data shows that its vaccine, I think it's 89.7 percent efficacy and offers good protection against variance. What does that mean for rollouts?

BELL: Well, some more hope for the European Union since it is one of those vaccines that's currently the subject of the rolling review that the European Medicines Agency has been carrying out on perspective accents. So some hope there that if those clinical trials proved as good as that in the U.K. We now wait for the clinical trials that are taking place in Mexico and the United States we should know the results in April.

But sometime after that of course, it will be possible to see whether it can be approved. And of course, that could also help with European supplies. And remember that for the European Union where the vaccination rollout has been so slow, but also, Michael, where the variants are spreading so fast, these new vaccines coming through now that have been tested and shown to be efficient against the variance are incredibly important.


And provide some kind of hope that if the vaccines can get rolled out more efficiently, Europe can start seeing some progress in its fight against those, for now, in many parts rising COVID-19 figures.

HOLMES: Indeed. Melissa, good to see you. Thanks for that. Melissa Bell in Paris for us.

U.S. President, Joe Biden looking forward to Independence Day, July the 4th as a time when Americans might begin to get some freedom back from the coronavirus. He signed that $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill on Thursday before speaking to the nation in a primetime address.

Mr. Biden says the fight against COVID is far from over. In fact, a key model suggesting the U.S. death toll will be close to 600,000 by July the 1st. But the president promising more vaccines at a faster pace.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. That's much earlier than expected. Let me be clear. That doesn't mean that everyone is going to have that shot immediately, but it means you'll be able to get in line beginning May 1. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot, and to do this, we are going to go from a million shots a day that I promised in December, before I was sworn in, to maintaining beating our current pace of two million shots a day. Outpacing the rest of the world.


HOLMES (on camera): Now the governor of Brazil's most populous state, Sao Paulo, has a blunt warning for his country. He says Brazil is, quote, "collapsing." He's announced the state of emergency, meaning new COVID restrictions starting Monday. And he is not alone.

In fact, many governors across Brazil are calling for more restrictive measures to contain the virus. But they are being met with resistance as President Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly continues to downplay this crisis, saying more restrictions will bring chaos.

Brazil's daily coronavirus death toll top 2,000 again on Thursday, and with more than 270,000 dead since the pandemic began, Brazil's death toll is second only to the U.S. In the meantime, ICU across the country above capacity. State health secretaries are telling us.

CNN's Isa Soares talks with one former patient.


MOISES BARBOZA, CITY COUNCILOR, PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL (on screen text): I saw them discussing whether I should be intubated or not.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Shaken and still visibly weak, Moises Barboza, a councilor for the city of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil tells me he has never smoked or been seriously ill. Still, the 42-year-old ended up spending 10 days inside an intensive care unit after contracting COVID-19. He survived but the trauma is deep. BARBOZA (on screen text): While I was in ICU, I lost my father-in- law, he died, and I didn't know. He was admitted, and was still speaking and four days later he was buried. And I didn't know.

SOARES: Weeks later, Barboza's voice remains course. And as we speak, it's clear he is still breathless. But even if those lingering affects fade, others are forever etched on his mind.

BARBOZA (on screen text): I saw three people, unfortunately die in front of me. There was a girl, 39 years of age intubated in front of me.

SOARES: Barboza's case is one among thousands as ICUs across Brazil reached peak capacity and daily deaths hitting new records. Warning signs seemingly not severe enough to change the Brazilian president's view of the pandemic.

JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): We have to face our problems, enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?

SOARES: Under Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has struggled to implement a unified country wide strategy to deal with COVID-19. Not least because the president has continuously downplayed the virus at every turn. First insisting it was just a sniffle.

BOLSONARO (on screen text): A little flu

SOARES: And now questioning vaccines as they become available.

BOLSONARO (on screen text): If you turn into a crocodile, it's your problem

SOARES: Jeopardizing a vaccination program that continues to progress at a very slow pace. Just a couple of months ago, he was accused of failing to act as the healthcare system in the Amazon state capital of Manaus collapsed. He blamed local health officials. An investigation is underway.

In Manaus, patient after patient literally gasps for air when hospitals run out of oxygen. Now tells me, professor Nicolelis its much, much worse.


MIGUEL NICOLELIS, PROFESSOR, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: People in outside Brazil focus on in Manaus. Manaus has been a huge tragedy. Well, I have news for you. We have 20 Manaus right now in Brazil. Twenty capitals in Brazil have reached capacity in ICU beds.

SOARES: Nicolelis who is a doctor and a neuroscientist at Duke University in the U.S., and who has been tracking the crisis in Brazil, tells me it's a matter of when not if the Brazilian healthcare system collapses.

NICOLELIS: This is a perfect storm. SOARES: Speaking from Sao Paulo, he tells me Brazil he says is an

open-air laboratory for the virus to evolve creating more deadly mutations. A challenge, he says, not just for Brazil, but for the world.

NICOLELIS: If you allow this thing to run amok in Brazil, this pandemic, you are certain to get new variants, it's going to spread first on the continent here, Latin America and South America, likely into the U.S., in Europe, and Asia too.

SOARES: So now he says the world needs to challenge the Brazilian government over its failure to contain the virus.

back in Porto Alegre, Barboza says for that to happen, the political saber rattling must come to an end.

BARBOZA (on screen): It's very sad for me, being a part of the political class, to see that. It's not the moment for that. Myself, for example, I would of course trade away my mandate for my father-in- law's life.

SOARES: Isa Soares, CNN.


HOLMES: And joining me now from Oxford, England, infectious disease and global health expert, Dr. Peter Drobac. Good to see you, doctor.

Looking back on what is a bleak anniversary, lessons are often not heeded, but what lessons do you think have been learned for next time? Because surely, there will be a next time.

PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, OXFORD SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL: Absolutely. And thank you for having me, Michael.

I think the first lesson is that we live in an age of pandemics. We are in an interconnected world and the next, you know, pandemic threat can come from anywhere at any time. And so, the big lesson is that we were not prepared. If you think about where we were a year ago now as the virus is really taking hold in Europe, in America, et cetera, we were not up to the challenge.

Those countries that had experienced SARS and had public health systems in place were able to respond quickly. Here I'm talking about Japan, South Korea, Singapore, et cetera. So, we need mechanisms within countries and across countries to be prepared for the next pandemic.

I think the second big lesson is that global threats require global cooperation. On the political side, we haven't seen much of that. On the scientific side, there's been extraordinary cooperation. And that of course has been the big success story of the last year.

HOLMES: Globally, and we've been reporting this too, that the one nation that really stands out for the wrong reasons, Brazil. About 2,000 COVID-related deaths in a single day for the first time. I mean, there are reports of people who had COVID being re-infected with that country's variant, and that speaks to the issue of the risk to even the vaccinated world that when spread is uncontrolled, it leads to more mutations which could then evade the vaccines. And that affects everyone. So, how important is it that wealthy nations share the vaccine?

DROBAC: You're exactly right, Michael. A threat to, you know, health anywhere is a threat to health everywhere. And beyond the rolling tragedy for the people of Brazil right now, you know, this is -- this is a threat to all of us. It's a perfect storm in a way. Every time the virus replicates is an opportunity for a new mutation that could contribute to a new variant.

We know that one of the things contributing to the spike right now apart from the malignant incompetence of the Brazilian government's response has been the spread of this P1 variant which is more transmissible, and seems to be able to evade natural immunity. So, we are seeing people who have had COVID in the past getting re-infected.

So, this variant continues to spread that could threaten our vaccination program, but we also have to remember it may not be the last variant that we see. You know, this is happening as we speak, and the combination of a few people being vaccinated in an uncontrolled spread in the rest of the population is a perfect recipe for the emergence of new variants.

HOLMES: Absolutely. That is a big worry. I mean, one year and we do -- we do have to acknowledge that we have quite a selection of vaccines. I mean, I guess it's important to note the momentous aspect of that achievement.

DROBAC: Absolutely. If you had asked me one year ago, would we be in this place having several safe and effective vaccines, and having also seen them rolled out to tens of millions of people around the world, you know, it would have been hard to fathom at that time.

This is such an extraordinary accomplishment, it's a testament to the power of scientific innovation, and also scientific cooperation. So, it's extraordinary, it gives us a reason for hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. We still have a long way to go, and of course, a real concern is that we are seeing almost all of the vaccines have been hoarded by wealthy countries.


And as we just talked about with Brazil, it's important that we have a strategy for equity to vaccinate the world.

HOLMES: Absolutely. And real quick, if you can, I mean, just speak to, you know, as people are being vaccinated that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. It is important that ball is not dropped. I mean, not everyone is vaccinated, a 1,000 dead today in the U.S., as we said, 2,000 in Brazil with variants and so on. It's not the time to think it's over, right?

DROBAC: That's right. In fact, it's a critical and almost a dangerous period. It's a time not to let down our guard because the bulk of populations almost everywhere is still susceptible to the virus. There are still the threat of new variants. So we need to do is we hope and we accelerate the vaccination campaigns, as is happening in the U.S. We need to really doubled down on all of the other public health measures, individual, and as a society to prevent the spread of the virus.

HOLMES: Dr. Peter Drobac in Oxford, England, always a pleasure. Thank you, doctor.

DROBAC: Thank you.

HOLMES: As the death toll rises in Myanmar, a new U.N. report strongly suggests that the military's brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters is a crime against humanity. We'll have that.

And also, a desperate plea to end the fuel blockade in Yemen as the head of the World Food Programme says a child dies there every 75 seconds.


HOLMES (on camera): Welcome back. The U.N. now estimate at least 80 civilians in Myanmar have died at the hands of riot police so far including a dozen protesters killed on Thursday. A scathing new U.N. report says the indiscriminate carnage likely meets the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.

Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar detailed his findings on Thursday to the U.N.'s Human Rights Council. He alleges that the ruling junta and its lethal crackdown on peaceful protesters has been done deliberately with advanced planning and on a coordinated scale. And he warns it will likely continue unless the international community steps in.


THOMAS ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TO MYANMAR: This basically laid out the case. I mean, this is a brutal military regime that are attacking people not at random but in a systematic basis. These are not combatants that are engaged here, these are innocent people. And it is spread out over a wide geographic area, and now, over 70 people have been killed in 28 different districts around the country. There are over 2,000 that have been arbitrarily detained.


So, when you look through the basic criteria for crimes against humanity and you look at the reality of what's going on in Myanmar right today, it's a very close fit.


HOLMES: Now Myanmar's foreign secretary dismiss the U.N. findings and said authorities have been using, in his words, 'utmost restraint in dealing with violent protests.' Now, he added that Myanmar's military leaders remain committed to, again, quoting him, "free and fair multi-party Democratic elections." No word on when they might be.

Myanmar's ethnic populations have been experiencing violence from authorities for decades now. Well, many of those minorities have found common cause in the nationwide protest.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me now from Seoul with the latest. Unity is rare among the ethnic groups, but this coup has brought them together.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems to have, Michael. Yes. I mean, they have a common enemy at this point in the military. And as you say, the people in the ethnic areas of Myanmar have been dealing for decades with what those in the cities are now dealing with. We know that some of the light infantry divisions, some of those specific troops that have been committing atrocities in the ethnic areas are now are in the cities and using excessive force against those protesters as well. So, there really is a sense of unity in a common enemy.


HANCOCKS (voice over): Villagers flee their homes in the mountains of the Karen state, saying Myanmar's military is attacking. Violence and oppression from the army that many ethnic groups across Myanmar have face for decades.

Sheltering in the jungle, the displace rely on humanitarian groups for food and medicine. Children continue their schooling wherever they can. Aid group Free Burma Rangers believe some 6,000 people are currently unable to return home in this one state alone.

DAVE EUBANKS, MEMBER, FREE BURMA RANGERS: The coup, evidently, was well planned beforehand, and we saw the pressure begin to build in the ethnic areas here in December last year, and then in January, and then after the coup even more.

HANCOCKS: Ethnic groups on self-determination, the military has been accused of carrying out atrocities against them. Most recently, against the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state in 2017, the military generals stand accused of genocide at the international court of justice. An accusation they and the now deposed civilian government deny.

The one thing the coup has achieved which even a nationwide ceasefire signed in 2015 could not entirely ethnic unity. With 135 different official groups in a 70-year long civil war solidarity between ethnic groups and with those in the cities has until now been scarce. Groups say the ceasefire with the military is off and they stand firmly behind the anti-coup protesters.

LIAN HMUNG SAKHONG, CHAIRMAN, ETHNIC NATIONAL COUNCIL: So, I think this is the time we are so united ethnic groups and the people, the whole country, the whole nation we are united for democracy, for equality, for federal peace. And the people are very much aware that, you know, they don't want to go back to military rule. They have suffered long enough.

HANCOCKS: Two thousand teachers and students in Karen state protested earlier this week escorted and protected by the ethnic armed forces, the KNU. Last month, before security forces increase the level of forced used against protesters, a number of ethnic groups gathered in Yangon, sharing solidarity with the civil disobedience movement.

This protester says, we have been protesting against the military dictatorship for well over 70 years. We are not just starting now. It is important to be here as we do not know how long it might last. The protests in the cities may seem a world away from the displaced in the jungles. But the desire for democracy and hatred of the military runs throughout.


HANCOCKS (on camera): And the head of the humanitarian aid group I was speaking to, also said that he did meet one elderly lady who had lost count of the times that she had had to flee her village because of the military shelling it. Michael?

HOLMES: Wow. The military had a news conference Thursday, Paula, talked about, you know, how they appreciate the international community, and you know, respect press freedom, which is well and good. But what is the reality?

HANCOCKS: Very different from the quote that you just gave there, Michael. I mean, we know that there have been dozens of journalists. The U.N. spokesperson in Bangkok has said he believes at this point there is about 36 journalists that were arrested. About 18 of them still in detention.


And the spokesperson from the military also said that they do respects the international community but they will still continue to do what they are doing, and they will continue to try and reach their goal. Claiming once again that there will be free and fair elections at the end of this process. Not giving a timeframe.

But what they've also done as well is they have alleged that Aung San Suu Kyi, the ousted leader, had been taking payments between 2017 and 2018. An accusation that her lawyer says is completely baseless.

HOLMES: Paula Hancocks there in Seoul, covering all of this for us, thanks, Paula.

Now the ongoing violence in Myanmar is actually impacting its neighbors. Several hundred civilians from Myanmar including government workers and police even have recently crossed the border into India to escape the bloodshed.

CNN's Vedika Sud has more from Delhi. An awkward situation for India. How are they handling it?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER: Good to be with you, Michael. Absolutely awkward. And it is a bit complicated as well. CNN spoke with the chief minister of the northeastern state of Mizoram that shares an over 500- kilometer border with Myanmar, and was speaking to me he said that there is a growing number, in fact, of people who are fleeing from the country into Mizoram and that could be a worry in the coming days.

In fact, CNN also spoke with the police officer who fled Myanmar and reached Mizoram. He is in hiding of course and we cannot reveal his identity because we need to protect it here. But he was very concerned about what's happening back in Myanmar.

He also went on to talk about how he fears that if he returns to the country, he could be killed. Here is what he had to say about the situation and the orders he says he had gotten from the top level after the protests again.


UNKNOWN (through translator): We were ordered to arrest the persons who were hitching pots and pans. We were ordered to shoot if we were not able to break the crowd.


SUD (on camera): CNN also reached out to the Myanmar embassy here in New Delhi, we are still awaiting a response on the statement made by this police officer to CNN. Of course, the latest we've heard is from a state-run newspaper, daily newspaper in Myanmar that has echoed the narrative of the military there that states that we are using minimum force against protesters.

As far as India is concerned, Michael, what we do know is that the Mizoram chief minister speaking to us has said that the final word lies with the government of India. Until then, they will be providing shelter and food to those who flee from Myanmar into Mizoram. Michael?

HOLMES: Vedika Sud in Delhi, thank you.

SUD: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. Now Yemen is on the verge of, quote, "the biggest famine in modern history." And the head of the World Food Programme says the Saudi-led coalition must lift its blockade.

An exclusive investigation by CNN's Nima Elbagir and her crew found children starving and dying in a hospital in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. And famine has gripped parts of the country as food and fuel run out.

Now the U.N. report says more than 20 million Yemenis are in need with more than half in acute need and four million people have been forced from their homes.


DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Around 400,000 children may die this year without urgent intervention. That is roughly (Inaudible) child every 75 seconds. So, while we are sitting here, every minute in a quarter a child is dying. And then, to add to all -- to add all of their misery, the innocent people of Yemen have to deal with a fuel blockage. A fuel blockage.

For example, most hospitals only have electricity in their intensive care units because fuel reserves are so low. I know this firsthand because I walked into the hospital. And the lights are off, electricity was off. The people of Yemen deserve our help. That blockade must be lifted as the humanitarian aid, otherwise, millions more will spiral into crisis.


HOLMES (on camera): Well Saudi Arabia is responding to CNN's exclusive investigation. Its U.N. ambassador says the kingdom is looking for a political solution in Yemen. While Iranian-backed Houthi rebels continue to attack.


ABDULLAH BIN KHALID BIN SULTAN AL SAUD, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Saudi Arabia has always looked for a political solution in Yemen. Saudi Arabia committed to the ceasefire in the past year, unfortunately, the Houthis have not. They have launched dozens of ballistic missiles and drones in the past month. This is not an act of any party that wants a ceasefire or that wants peace.


HOLMES (on camera): It's the Saudi version, of course Houthi leaders tell a much different story. They blame the U.S.-backed Saudi led coalition for the suffering and the starvation.

And you can see Becky Anderson's full interview with the Saudi ambassador to the U.N. on Connect the World. That's 3 p.m. in London, 7 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): And welcome back to our viewers, joining us all around the world, I am Michael Holmes, you're watching CNN Newsroom. We are now hearing from Prince William, for the first time since his brother, Prince Harry, and sister-in-law, Meghan, sent shockwaves around the world with their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Among the most serious allegations from Meghan, that a senior royal made a racist comment during her pregnancy. CNN royal correspondent, Max Foster, has Williams's response.


UNKNOWN: Sir, have you spoken to your brother since the interview?

PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: I haven't yet, but I will be.

UNKNOWN: And can you just let me know, is the royal family a racist family sir?

WILLIAM: We are very much not a racist family.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A reporter breaking protocol with unsolicited questions, answered by a brother, still, not ready to talk. The royal rift, never more apparent than just days after a scathing no holds barred interview. In which Harry made allegations that will live with the British monarchy for years, if not decades. Prince William, still, the heir. Prince Harry, no longer his stand in. An ocean apart, with a distance between the two, even greater.

PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: The relationship is space, at the moment.

FOSTER: That space, confirmed, it seemed on Thursday, by the future king of the United Kingdom. A far cry from this.

PRINCE HARRY: He definitely got more brains than me, I think we've established that from school, but when it comes to all this, I'm much better hand-on.

FOSTER: With the gentle ribbing and teasing of two brothers who have been through so much, showed just how inseparable their bonds seemed to be.

WILLIAM: It's pretty rich coming from a ginger.

FOSTER: These two young men, who had grown up being watched by millions, living through the unimaginable tragedy of losing their mother as young boys. And emerging on the other side, together, side by side, candidly exposing their pain.

WILLIAM: We have been brought closer because of the circumstances as well. That's the thing. You know, you are, you know, uniquely bonded because of what we've been through.

FOSTER: Making mental health a joint centerpiece of their royal platform. At a time, both men aware of the duty on William shoulders as a future king. Their grandmother, the queen, committed to a slimmed down future monarchy, only adding to the burden they were meant to share.

PRINCE HARRY: There was a lot of times that both myself, and my brother and wish obviously that we were just, you know, completely normal. But we've been born into this position, and therefor we will do what we need to do.


FOSTER: After a period of smooth sailing, royal tolls, engagements, weddings, and births, rumors of turmoil within. Becoming reality, as Harry and Meghan took steps, last year, to stand back and ultimately to stand apart. Prince William, reportedly saddened by the couple's decision.

According to the Sunday Times, saying to a friend, I put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can't do that anymore, we are separate entities. Harry, solidifying that separation in a sit-down tell-all with his wife, to Oprah Winfrey.

PRINCE HARRY: He's my brother and we've been through hell together. And we had experience but we were on different paths.

FOSTER: Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire, England.


HOLMES (on camera): And CNN's Anna Stewart, joins me now, live, from Windsor Castle. I mean, one thing that just stands out, it just seems so jarring that Prince William is in a situation where he has to say about the royal family, we are not a racist family. I mean, really, it is extraordinary.

ANNA STEWART, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Yes. I mean, the future king of England, that having to deny that the royal family is racist. I mean, who could imagine that this would be the case, even just a week ago? It was very interesting what happened yesterday, it took us all by surprise, as Max points out in that piece, there's a fact that really kind of broke the protocol, we've been on many of these official royal visits.

They are masterminded by the palace, you can't really talk about them till there over. You certainly don't lob questions at members of the royal family, and they don't answer them. And so, this did break the protocol, clearly, the journalist felt you couldn't not ask that question, and Prince William felt he couldn't be silent on it.

You also, of course, have a potential breakdown in terms of how the royal family want to deal with the situation. Statement from the queen, earlier this week, made it so clear that they now want to deal with this privately, as a family. Prince Charles, dodged a question on another visit this week, but Prince William answered one.

It's playing out across the press, everyone has got the headline of course, you know, Prince William says the royal family, not racist. I think when I answer this question will be it at very briefly, it's probably going to encourage lots of more questions.

HOLMES: And actually, the other thing to be said, you know, it's a two-part, he answered two questions, and the first one was equally surprising. I mean, Prince William, has not yet spoken to his brother, even after such explosive accusations.

STEWART: Yes, it really highlights how deep that rift goes, I think. But Prince Harry said in the interview that currently, their relationship is one of distance. They perhaps is not a huge surprise, although you would expect that interview to afford some sort conversation between the two. It is all very sad, and I think Max, the story, really, just highlights, you know, what has happened to what was a very loving relationship between those brothers. You know, they were thicker than thieves, they've gone through a lot

together. There are hopes though, Michael, that perhaps it will be Princess Diana, ultimately that unites them. Because it would have been her 60th birthday come July. And there is some sort of speculation that the two brothers will get together to mark that event.

So, time is a healer, hopefully, this will lead to some sort of reconciliation. But yes, I think there is very short remarks, highlighted quite a lot, not at least of the royal family, according to Prince William, is not racist. But also, that this rift between the brothers is really rather deep. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes. Absolutely. Anna Stewart, in Windsor England, get yourself into a tea shop, it is raining heavily there.

STEWART: I'll do that Michael.

HOLMES (on camera): Good to see you. And by the way, for more about the British royal family, do be sure to visit our website. We do have a weekly newsletter now. Sign up at news.

Now, also, in the U.K., thanks in part to the vaccine rollout, many seniors are now able to see their loved ones again in person. CNN's Phil Black, shows us some of those emotional moments.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From its earliest days, the pandemic has stood like a barricade, blocking David Alexander's sense of duty, and love for his wife.

UNKNOWN: Hello, my darling.

BLACK: Until, this moment.

UNKNOWN: Hello. Do you know who I am? I'm David. Do you know David? Your husband.


UNKNOWN: Long time since I've seen you.

BLACK: Sheila has dementia. She rarely speaks. So David can't know what this reunion means to her, or what she thought, and felt, through the long stretches where he wasn't allowed to visit. They have shared their lives for more than 55 years. But this is only the second time they have sat together during the pandemic. It is almost 5 months since Shiela last heard David's voice.


UNKNOWN: I've got you a few little flowers out of our garden.

BLACK: Or felt his touch. UNKNOWN: Even with gloves on, it is better than what they arranged

before. So, I guess you have to be thankful for what you've got. You all right, love?

BLACK: Emotional reunions, poignant, and joyful. Taking place in nursing, and care homes across England. Because as vaccines roll out, residents are now allowed one designated visitor.

UNKNOWN: Lovely to see you, darling.

UNKNOWN: And you.

BLACK: For Rene Doland (ph), it's her granddaughter, Sara.

UNKNOWN: It's my first time seeing her in such a long time.

UNKNOWN: I know, but listen, listen, I'm going to come back next week as well.


BLACK: After so many months apart, the need for physical contact, and comfort, is overwhelming. But, there are still rules. No hugging, or kissing, they can only hold hands. In this moment, that limited gesture is loaded with feeling.

UNKNOWN: It means everything to me. Everything. I'm going to cry.

UNKNOWN: It's OK, don't worry.

UNKNOWN: Hello. How are you?

BLACK: Howard Chapman and his her daughter, Andreas say in normal times they don't usually hold hands, but these aren't normal times.

UNKNOWN: To have somebody like this. My lovely daughter. What's your name?


UNKNOWN: Yeah, which one are you.

BLACK: In the (inaudible) Home nursing home --

UNKNOWN: Are you excited to go out today, George?

BLACK: There is a buzz of anticipation. Some of the residents are leaving the grounds for the first time since last summer.

UNKNOWN: You're quick on your feet this morning.

BLACK: It is only a small excursion, a drive through the nearby countryside, followed by tea in a park near a local beach.

UNKNOWN: And now we can explore that big place, can't we?

BLACK: its more freedom than George (inaudible), thought possible.

How are you doing today?

UNKNOWN: Very well. We have been locked up for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. Never thought that we would actually get around again for us. You come here, and you realize how big England is. You almost forgot how big this place is, really.

BLACK: Many of England's elderly were lost to the pandemic. And so many more have been forced to endure heartbreaking confinement. Their restored freedoms are modest, but they allow the possibility of hope. For more time with loved ones.

UNKNOWN: I love you.

UNKNOWN: Yes, I love you. Alright. See you next week.

UNKNOWN: Alright, darling.

BLACK: And more walks by the beach. Phil Black, CNN, southern England.


HOLMES (on camera): And we will be right back.



HOLMES: Lift off, just a few hours ago, China successfully launching a new generation long March 7A. A rocket that is sending an experimental satellite into orbit. The Xi'an 9 satellite is designed to test new technologies in such areas such as environmental monitoring. It's fair to say that the rocket can potentially help explore the moon, mars, and asteroids as well. China plans to launch three to five of these rockets every year before 2025.

Washington, strongly criticizing China's move to change Hong Kong's electoral system. But critics say it will reduce Democratic representation, and promote pro Beijing candidates. The State Department, calling it a direct attack on Hong Kong's autonomy. Now this comes just hours before leaders of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia are to meet in a virtual summit with, of course, heightened tensions with China being one of the topics.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, joins me now from Hong Kong to talk about all of this. Let's start with the U.S. hitting back on China's latest news of Hong Kong.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes. Some harsh words from the United States. Targeting China ahead of some pretty key, diplomatic meetings, involving China. You know, a day after China pave the way for Hong Kong to be run by patriots, we have this harsh condemnation coming from the spokesman of the U.S. State Department saying, that the new electoral reform plan that was passed in Beijing on Thursday, is quote, a direct attack on Hong Kong (inaudible) and its Democratic processes.

On Thursday, as expected, the rubberstamp parliament passed a resolution. It effectively does the following. It expands the election committee which is the usual pro-Beijing committee that selects the chief executive, or top leader of Hong Kong. But it also sets up a vetting committee. A committee that will screen for patriotism, for candidates for the election committee, for chief executives as well as members of the legislature.

The chief executive of Hong Kong, has hailed the electoral reform plan, says that it will be implemented, and she also said it is very good to have it, in order to screen out harmful elements in the opposition. Listen to this quote that caught our attention.


CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: They are trying to politicize everything that we put through the legislative council. And, by advocating, and promoting, this anti mainland, anti government sentiment. Or, even, inviting external forces to impose sanctions on Hong Kong. Which is not hurting the government alone, it is hurting the people of Hong Kong.


LU STOUT (on camera): Now, mainland Chinese officials, of course, agree with here, they say that this is an improvement to the current system, but critics, and pro democracy activists, say that this is a major step backwards for democracy. And it is another example of China's tightening grip on Hong Kong. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes, well being screened for patriotism, I mean, just the phrase itself. I want to ask you about this quad summit, China, not happy, and this is coming as all four countries have these tensions with China.

LU STOUT: It has become a talking point ahead of this summit, which is due to take place a few hours from now, 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. A virtual meeting between these four leaders of U.S., Australia, Japan, and India. When asked the question, should China be concerned? The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said, no, China should not be concerned. He described the quad as, quote, an anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

But traditionally, the quad has been set up as an alliance to counter an increasingly assertive China in the region. This year, it is expected that the discussions will dominate a non-China topics though on the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccine manufacturing, as well as the rollout on trade, as well as climate change.

But, look. Looking at the four countries that are involved in the quad, these are four countries with very fraught relations with China. And four leaders are going to be talking to each other during this very delicate time. It is a little wonder that China sees this as an escalation aimed against it. According to the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, you know, it says

it follows quote, days before the meeting, Japan, India, and Australia couldn't help but to get hype on the so-called China threat. It goes on to say, the quad is not an alliance of like-minded countries as it was claimed. Unquote. That is an interesting take there, because it's also a take that's been shared by some analysts in the West who point out that the quad must prove itself. Is this going to be a unified alliance? Or, is this is going to be just another talk shot between different parties who had different interests. Michael?


HOLMES: And real quick, I mean, what about the significance of President Biden making this one of his earliest multilateral engagements? I mean, even ahead of, you know, high level U.S.-China meeting in Alaska?

LU STOUT: The timing is very significant. You are seeing the quad meeting take place, days before the American senior diplomats travel to the region here, to meet with key allies in the region, South Korea, and Japan. And then, going to Alaska to meet with top Chinese diplomats. I mean, the timing here is very, very key.

And overnight, we heard from the U.S. State Department, the spokesman said that China should brace for very difficult issues to be brought up during that Alaska meeting between the U.S., and China. Taiwan will be on the table. Hong Kong, and the Democratic rollback here will be on the table. Human rights abuses in Xinjiang, will be on the table as well.

Now, Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman did say that yes, they will bring up areas of cooperation between the U.S. and China, like, for example, climate change, but in a rather pointed remark. Ned Price said, the onus is on China to change. China needs to change, if it wants to improve the frayed relationship. Michael?

HOLMES: Interesting days ahead. Thank you very much Kristie Lu Stout, there in Hong Kong for us.

Well, Russia is taking aim at climate change with the help of some hockey stars. How hitting the ice could help save the planet. We are live with Fred Pleitgen after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Russia is taking a chilly approach to bring awareness to the threats of climate change. We are talking about ice hockey. NHL legends are playing matches in places endangered by global warming, including at Lake Baikal in Siberia, the worlds largest, and deepest freshwater lake. And that is where our Frederik Pleitgen is right now. Ice hockey, but with a real message, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, you are absolutely right. Lake Baikal, as you mentioned it, Michael, it is certainly one of those places where you can really feel global warming happening. Where climate change is having an immediate effect. The folks here, tell us that the winters here are already getting a lot shorter.

They say, for instance, that the frozen Lake Baikal that we have here right now where people can go on, they could even drive across that lake. That's something, in the past has been possible for several months, up to three months. Now they say, usually a one month, maybe a month and a half. Like global warming, clearly, is being felt here.

And you're absolutely right, hockey, of course, the favorite sport of Russians, and therefore, it was only natural for them to put on a hockey game to raise awareness for global warming, and the battle against climate change. I was able to play with these all-stars, and it was a pretty good thing. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice over): A power play to help save our planet. Russian hockey legends, playing a match on the majestic lake Baikal, the largest freshwater reservoir in the world. Organized by all-time NHL great, Vyacheslav Fetisov, who is now the U.N.'s patron for Polar Regions.

VYACHESLAV FETISOV, U.N.'S PATRON FOR POLAR REGIONS: We play on ice, and as you, know the ice melts everywhere, not only on North or South Pole. It doesn't need to be a scientist to see what's going on.


PLEITGEN: I had the privilege of being allowed to play in the match, on a rink made of ice blocks at this stunning venue.

The initiative is called the last game, which plays hockey and places endangered by global warming around the world. Endorsed by the U.N., and even blessed by Pope Francis. Of course, the reason for this game is very serious. The warmer our earth gets, the less space there is for games like ice hockey, and other winter sports as well.

Lake Baikal is one of those endangered areas. It is gigantic, holding more freshwater than all of America's great lakes combined. A fifth of the world's unfrozen reserves. But, there are a lot of unresolved problems here from unregulated tourism, to harmful industry. The Russian government, also, recently relaxed regulations protecting the lake.

And Russia is one of the country's hardest hit by global warming. Record temperatures for several years have led to a massive melt of its permafrost, leading to giant sinkholes, and releasing even more greenhouse gases, as well as massive wildfires that further increase the world's temperature.

UNKNOWN: This is the catastrophe no vaccine could be found for.

PLEITGEN: And while hockey won't save the world's climate, at least the organizers hope it will cause some to take action to try and preserve the natural playing fields of the game, that so many love, so much.


PLEITGEN (on camera): So, it's all about really raising awareness for the problem of global warming. Of course, not just here in Russia, but Michael this area of Russia, the Siberia area really is, you can feel that year by year, a frontline in the battle against global warming in the battle against climate change.

It's not just those wildfires, it's not just the permafrost melting, but for instance if you look at this region down here, the (inaudible) region, you also have massive flooding that's been taking place over the past couple of years as well. And if you look at the situation, the projection for this part of the world, they do believe that the temperatures are going to continue to rise. And you are going to have record heat in summer, in the future once again.

And we've had years, Michael where there was over a 100 Degrees Fahrenheit in the arctic. Above the Arctic Circle. And that certainly shows just how far global warming has already come here in this part of Russia, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, a very serious message, but less serious question. What position do you play?

PLEITGEN: Well, I usually -- first of all, when you're playing with NHL legends, you play whatever they want you to play, right. I was playing right forward, right winger in that match. But I always play whatever they want me to play. Normally, though people who are as tall as us, I'm 6'5 and you're like 6'3, well, usually defenseman. Usually, the long guys usually defensemen.

HOLMES: Exactly. I can attest that he is both tall, and has all of his teeth. So, he's got to be a decent player. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much, I appreciate it.

And thank you for watching CNN Newsroom, I am Michael Holmes, don't go anywhere, another colleague with teeth, Kim Brunhuber, will be here with more in just a moment.