Return to Transcripts main page


More European Countries Pause AstraZeneca Vaccine; E.U. to Implement Use of Digital Green Pass; Brazil Not Bothered by Huge COVID Fatalities; Fears on Vaccine Side Effects May Have Domino Effect; North Korea Looking to Have a Weapons Test; Japan's Sapporo District Fighting for Same-Sex Marriage; First Children Get Shots In Moderna COVID Vaccine Trial; AstraZeneca Vaccine Benefits Outweighs Risks; Scotland To Lift Stay-At-Home Order On April 2; Cubans Risking It All To Flee Country By Boat; Sign The Pledge On My Freedom Day; Crisis In Myanmar, Security Forces Seen Shooting In Yangon Protesters; European Union To Adopt Strong Sanctions On Those Behind Coup; Intel Reports Russia Tried To Help Donald Trump In 2020 Vote; Rideshare Reckoning; Worsening Economic Crisis In Lebanon; Protest On Sarah Everard Murder; Prince Philip's Royal Homecoming. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 17, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, despite European Union regulators pleading to the public about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, more countries are halting its rollout.

A police official from Myanmar is in hiding after refusing to shoot protesters. We will have his story.

Plus, anger and frustration on the streets of Lebanon as the currency hits a new low.

Good to have you with us.

Well, as more countries halt use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, E.U. regulators are trying to make their case. They argue the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID outweigh the yet to be proven risk. But so far, Europe remains divided. Much of the continent is going against the advice of the European Medicines Agency.

This after reports of blood clots in just a handful of people who got the vaccine. The head of the EMA is calling on governments to change course and continue using the shot.


EMER COOKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN MEDICINES AGENCY: Hundreds of people are dying across the E.U. every day. We have authorized four highly effective COVID vaccines that can protect against severe COVID disease. These are very rare thrombi events or blood clots. We need to evaluate these very, very carefully.


CHURCH (on camera): Meantime, AstraZeneca is defending its shots saying there is no evidence of an increased risk. The World Health Organization says it's still investigating reports of the vaccines potential side effects and the EMA will release more findings on Thursday.

The pause on AstraZeneca could not have come at a worse time. A third wave of the coronavirus pandemic now threatens France and new variants continue to spread.

Well, for more on this, let's bring in CNN's Cyril Vanier. He joins us live from London. Good to see you, Cyril.

So, the WHO meets soon to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine as more European countries suspend its use over the safety concerns. But that is putting lives at risk. People are dying from COVID-19. When will we know definitively?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we already got a pretty good indication tomorrow and we will find out definitively what the advice of the European Medicines Agency is tomorrow, Thursday afternoon European time, Rosemary.

But, again, I want to go back to what they said as a preliminary assessment. Yesterday, they upheld what has been their views since the beginning, that the benefits of administering the AstraZeneca doses far outweigh the risks. That's number one. And number two, that they see no evidence suggesting that some of the adverse health effects that have been reported in Europe and that have caused the suspension of AstraZeneca by so many European Union member states are actually connected, in any way linked, to the fact that those recipients have received the vaccine.

And I think because that point was made so emphatically by the executive director of the EMA, and you just aired some of her speech, I think we started seeing a pivot yesterday.

Some of the major countries that have suspended AstraZeneca, France and Italy have now said that they stand ready to swiftly pick up the vaccination that they dropped 24 to 48 hours ago. With the French prime minister even going on TV yesterday saying he believes the EMA will recommend using AstraZeneca, and it's definitive statement. And he will then go ahead and have it done in public if necessary.

So, it looks like European countries, at least some of them, are gearing up for this pivot and they will pick up AstraZeneca as swiftly as they dropped it at the beginning of the week, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. Let's hope that does happen swiftly. Cyril Vanier joining us live from London, many thanks. So, let's bring in Dr. Clare Gerada in London. She is the former chair

of the Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the U.K. Thank you, doctor, for joining us and for all that you do.


CHURCH: So, the majority of European nations have now put their AstraZeneca vaccinations on hold, pending this investigation into concerns whether 37 reported cases of blood clots are linked to the vaccine.


This out of some 17 million shots administered. How concerned are you that this is an overreaction and could result in many thousands of people dying from COVID-19?

GERADA: Yes. And thank you. Yes, I mean, it's too early for me to do the math, but that's a very small percentage of the 17 million people in this country that have had the vaccine that have gotten clots. In fact, it's less than you would have expected in the general population anyway.

So, if anything, you could say the AstraZeneca vaccine is protective against clots. I am concerned. I'm concerned not just for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which I think hopeful we'll discuss this, had very negative press from the Europeans right from the outset, but also for the uptick of all the vaccines.

This is a critical time for the world. A critical time. The only way out of this crisis is to vaccinate the world, essentially. And if we lose confidence in one vaccine, that will spread to all the other vaccine. People won't think well, it's the AZ, they'll think the Moderna, the Pfizer.

So, it's actually imperative that number one, we put confidence back in the AstraZeneca vaccine but also, because we want to make sure we don't lose confidence in all the other vaccines.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, this is a problem. Of course, the WHO and the European Medicines Agency they have advised the E.U. to continue vaccinating, while also investigating. So, why didn't that happen? And when could we definitively, do you think, if these blood clots are linked, in any way, to the vaccine? And will that make any difference? Because as you say, the damage may have already been done.

GERADA: Well, hopefully, the damage was not been done, and hopefully we can get confidence back. But it's from the get go. If you remember right from when the AZ vaccine first came out, the French said it didn't work in over 65. The Germans refused to give it to over 65 when it clearly does work. We've now gotten in the U.K. 17 million people, mainly over 65 that have received this vaccine.

Fortunately, our levels of deaths have dropped to really, really low levels and our levels of new hospitalizations are really low now. So, pf course, we have had a lock down but nevertheless the schools are back, so (Inaudible) but if the vaccine didn't work, we'd seen a rise in cases whereas, what you heard now in Europe, mainland Europe, they are seeing another terrible wave.

So, I think what we have to do nothing is ever safe. Of course, we will expect some very rare side effects from all the vaccines. In clinical trials, you couldn't possibly do it on millions of people. It would be done on thousands of people so we will see some very, very rare side effects.

And as we get to know and as we understand this vaccine more, we'll become more confident as to what those rare side effects are and be able to tell the population. But for the moment now, the best thing is to have a vaccine. The risks of COVID are phenomenal. The benefits of the vaccine any of these vaccines far outweighs the risks of very rare side effects, which I suspect when we started to look at this are one in a million or one in two million that sort of rate.

CHURCH: How much do you think the suspension is about politics?

GERADA: I think it is about politics. Listen, we had Brexit, and I think we are not very popular with our European neighbors. Whatever one believes in Brexit, I personally -- a really bad move, but nevertheless I think it upset our European neighbors and I think they are seeing us as, if you like, this is may be part of that.

But there may also be some other sort of politics. You know, this is a really lucrative area, isn't it? The vaccine, our vaccine is being given at a much lower cost than some of the other vaccines and one wonders whether there is in a sense something much bigger than just party politics and European and political issues going on. But something maybe more sinister, because we know the spin against the vaccine has been there since the get-go.

CHURCH: And it has to be said, I mean, this is Britain and the U.K. generally has had a very successful rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine with very few problems. In fact, I don't think any that we've been reporting on.

GERADA: Right.

CHURCH: So, we touched on this. There are already very high levels of vaccine hesitancy across Europe. So, what impact could suspending the AstraZeneca option have on confidence in the vaccine and many other vaccines, because people do get confused?


CHURCH: And ultimately, efforts to reach herd immunity? Because that is the key here, isn't it, if we want to eliminate this?

GERADA: That is -- that is the key. One hopes very shortly in the U.K. we will be reaching that magical figure of herd immunity with a number of people that are infected and the number that have the vaccine.


But I rang a few colleagues yesterday who are running vaccination programs across London, and in some areas of London people are not turning up for their vaccine because they are hearing this news. And already, some people in some communities are already anxious about it.

So, I think whoever or whatever is going on, I think we need to really bottom this out very, very quickly. Because as I said, this is not about the AZ vaccine. This will be about all of the vaccines. The one thing we all need now is herd immunity right across the world.

The vaccine is as safe as it can ever had. We collect, I'm sure you do in the states, alerts, we have what's called the yellow cards. And we've had about 50,000 yellow cards, and these alerts of people who have side effects from both of the vaccines, so we have the Pfizer and the AZ.

And the rate of problems is actually lower than in the clinical trial. So, whatever is happening it's not -- this is a -- both of the ones that we use our safe vaccines. Of course, there will be side effects and these will come out as the populations getting these vaccines increase. But the benefits far, far, far outweigh the risks.

And it's so important that we push that message, and so important that we really start to understand the damage that's being done about these tales which are not from the Medicines Agencies as you heard, and not from the WHO, but really from in the start it was politicians. But it's in the noise. It's around in the ether as we say, and I think this needs to stop.

CHURCH: Such an important message. We are hearing it loud and clear. Hopefully all our viewers will as well. Dr. Clare Gerada joining us live from London, many thanks.

GERADA: Thank you very much, and keep safe.

CHURCH: Yu, too. Take care.

While Europe faces a sluggish rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine campaign, Pfizer/BioNTech has now agreed to speed up the delivery of 10 million more doses to the E.U. during the next three months. The updated agreement is in addition to the millions of doses it's already committed to the European Union this year.

The move comes after AstraZeneca warned European officials last week about a shortfall in its planned vaccine shipments to the block.

Well in the next few hours, the E.U. is expected to announce details of its digital green pass. It's essentially a vaccine passport that will allow free travel and support a struggling tourism industry. It would provide proof of vaccination, show COVID test results if a person wasn't vaccinated, and would note if the person traveling ever had COVID.

So, let's bring in CNN's John Defterios who joins us live from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you, John, as always. So, this digital green certificate is meant to simplify the travel process in the E.U. But is there a risk it will expose some of the internal challenges of this block of 27 countries?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: I like the way you phrased that, Rosemary. Because the challenge within the European Union and the headquarters in Brussels building that consensus amongst the 27 states and the conversation you just had here about the vaccine rollout in Europe, clearly, shows those divisions and the efficiency of the H.Q. in Brussels with the European Commission at the same time.

There are three priorities here. I think obviously, you want to get this up and running as soon as possible, but at the same time not be discriminatory. And what I mean by that not everybody will have the vaccine by the summer months and peak European travel.

So, this would clear those with a PCR negative test and also those who have had COVID-19, as you suggest in your lead in there that have built up antibodies but you have to be able to prove it.

This is a green certification, if you will, the green light to travel, but there is a gray area. Let's just take Hungry as one example. Right? Because it cleared vaccines from Russia and China, but the European Medicines Agency hasn't done so.

So, what happens to Hungarians if they want to travel within this market of 450 million consumers? We'll see if we get clarity later today in Brussels when they proceed with the initial stage of this.

And finally, you have that market that I'm talking about, the bubble, if you will. How about outside the bubble? So, for example, Greece wants to set up a bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom. No longer a member of the European Union, can they do so? The answer is no, unless it's cleared by Brussels.

Also, for Switzerland has had problems with vaccines. I'm thinking of a large market like Russia very important to the Mediterranean states. They have a vaccine not cleared by Brussels. Will the Russians be able to travel into this bubble as well? Big question mark.

And at the international level, we have the IATA, the International Air Transport Association with a travel pass. How would they collaborate on that front? Here is the outline from the director general.



ALEXANDRE DE JUNIAC, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: What we do is that we have provided the tool for that to certify that either you've been tested, vaccinated, or you are immune and then the IATA travel pass. But we think it's a key instrument as a compliment of the testing and vaccination that the government has to ensure the traveling is safe and that our travel is safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DEFTERIOS (on camera): De Juniac is the director general of IATA. And

Rosemary, he told the Financial Times separately that the European Union because of the challenges that we've talked about here and the distribution of vaccines, they need to rebuild confidence they can deliver on this platform, collaborate with the international players and make it happen but they have to restore the reputation after the fix starts over the last three months. That's for sure.

CHURCH (on camera): Yes, absolutely. John Defterios joining us live from Abu Dhabi. Many thanks.

Well, earlier, I spoke with Professor Melinda Mills, she is the director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, and I asked her what access these vaccines passes will give people.


MELINDA MILLS, DIRECTOR, LEVERHULME CENTRE FOR DEMOGRAPHIC SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: That's one of the main questions about what will these different vaccine passports or certificates be used for, and the discussion is being largely about international travel, and IATA and others have started to introduce and discuss, you know, using these for international travel at different borders.

And some countries have already piloted them and started to use them. But the question is, how far will it go? So, will it be, we know in Israel there is the green pass and it's used to get into places of worship, into restaurants, into night clubs and sports events.

So, the question is, how far will it go? And then you have another question about whether, you know -- will you have -- will it be a requirement to work at certain places, so will employers have a duty of care to their customers or in nursing homes to their residents, to have people vaccinated? And then we get into many different complicated legal situations as well.

CHURCH: Yes, I mean there have been some suggestions to perhaps further down the road it will be mandatory to get these vaccines, but we'll see about that.

But I want to get back to this ethical concern. Could a vaccine passport potentially disadvantage and exclude some portions of the population that won't have access to any of the COVID vaccines for perhaps many months to come?

MILLS: Ethical issues are really key. So, people have been often talking about technical aspects, will it be digital and all of these other aspects. But actually, ethics is really key. So, if you're going to introduce them, who will you exclude?

So, you are just talking about, there are different parts of the world, or different regions where people aren't, they don't have access to the vaccines at all. And also, within different countries it's often related to age rollout, so there will be entire groups that just aren't eligible yet. So, you'll have to get a fairly substantial group of the population

that's vaccinated and everyone will have to have access before these are rolled out. And then you have to think about, also, there are certain groups that are more vaccine hesitant, we know it's ethnic minorities, there's also groups that for allergies or different reasons, you know, don't take the vaccine.

And what about children? We're still testing in certain groups as well too. So, there's a lot of things, and a lot of moving parts in this discussion.


CHURCH (on camera): And that was Professor Melinda Mills from the University of Oxford talking to me earlier.

Well once again, Brazil is reporting its highest daily death toll from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. More than 2,800 people died on Tuesday, a dramatic increase from the previous record set last week. Despite all of that the federal government has not ordered a national lockdown.

CNN's Matt Rivers has details now from Rio de Janeiro.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, much like his soon to be boss, President Jair Bolsonaro, the soon-to-be Brazilian health minister, cardiologist, Marcelo Queiroga apparently does not believe that lockdown measures are appropriate, even though Brazil is right now, unquestionably, is in the worst days of this pandemic so far.

We've heard from Marcelo Queiroga when he talks to CNN Brazil on Monday evening, he was asked about lockdown measures and he said, quote, these lockdown terms stems from extreme situations, it applies an extreme situation, it cannot be government policy to lock down."

This is despite the fact that epidemiologists across the board, ones that we've spoken to here in Brazil over the past week included, are basically saying that more restrictive measures need to be taken right now because of just how dire the situation here in Brazil is right now.

We've seen a huge number of new cases, we've seen record numbers of new deaths, it was on Tuesday that there was another very high nationwide death toll driven in part by a record single day total recorded in the state of Sau Paulo, that is the county's largest, 679 deaths were recorded on Tuesday in the state of Sau Paulo.


That beats the previous record from last week which was just 521. That number now brings the average daily death toll in the state of Sau Paulo to 400 the largest since this pandemic began. That daily number is 50 percent larger than it was two weeks ago.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. CHURCH: U.S. officials are on alert as intelligent points to the

possibility that North Korea may be getting ready to conduct a weapons test. We are live in Seoul.

In Japan a first for same-sex marriage, a court has ruled on country's ban. We go live to Tokyo for the details.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. At least eight people have been killed in shootings at three massage parlors here in the Atlanta area. Police say one suspect, 21-year-old, Robert Aaron Long is in custody in connection with one of the shootings.

South Korea's foreign ministry says four of the victims are of Korean ethnicity. Investigators are not saying if the three shootings are connected and have not given a possible motive. But the leading coalition addressing anti-Asian hate and discrimination has called the shootings an unspeakable tragedy, and says they will only exacerbate fear and pain in the Asian community.

Well, two top U.S. officials arrived in South Korea just hours ago for talks that look to revitalize ties. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be meeting with their counterparts in Seoul.

This comes as U.S. intelligence has assessed that North Korea maybe preparing to carry out its first weapons test since President Joe Biden took office.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, she joins us now live. Good to see you. Paula.

So, the threat posed by North Korea will no doubt dominate discussions. What is expected overall to come out of these meetings and this trip?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Rosemary, the intention of these meetings in person, the first for the two secretaries since they took their positions in Tokyo and then here in Seoul is to reassert themselves with the allies. To create that close alliance that has been enjoyed by both countries, South Korea and the United States, although it was fairly shaky during the Trump administration.

So, what we're seeing really is what the U.S. President Joe Biden wanted was to re-engage with allies. But of course, as you say, North Korea is likely to be the top topic. And we have heard more from North Korea in recent days and we have for some time when it comes to the United States, probably not unsurprisingly.


We did hear from the United States that they have reached out to North Korea, confirmed once again yesterday on Tuesday by Secretary Blinken, but as of yet they haven't had a response from North Korea. We then heard also a little earlier from Kim Yo-jong, the sister of

Kim Jong-un, warning the U.S. not to, as she said, cause a stink in its first step otherwise it will not have peaceful sleep for the next four years.

So, this is the kind of rhetoric that we do expect from North Korea with an incoming U.S. administration. What we haven't seen up until now is any kind of weapons test or missile test which is something that we also expect from North Korea when there is an incoming U.S. administration.

It happened when former President Trump was -- came into power, it happened when former President Obama came into power, as well, but really, it wouldn't be a surprise if as the U.S. officials tell Barbara Starr, are correct that U.S. intelligence assesses there are preparations for a weapons test. They wouldn't really be much surprised if that did happen as that is the way that North Korea likes to make sure that it is being noticed.

And certainly, when you have these VIP's in country as well, the possibility of North Korea doing something just increases once again.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely right. Paula Hancocks joining us live from the South Korean capital. Many thanks.

A significant victory for same-sex couples in Japan, a district court in Sapporo has ruled that Japan's ban on same-sex marriages violates the Constitution. It's the first time a Japanese court has ruled on the issue.

CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo, he joins us now live. Good to see you again, Blake. So, what is the significance of this, and of course, its likely impact?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary. Again, no question this is a landmark decision. The Japanese district court for the first time has ruled that same-sex couples not being able to marry is unconstitutional. It's a decision which could usher in a new era of marriage equality here in Japan.

One of the plaintiffs address the media shortly after the verdict came out and had said that he was -- it brought him to tears, he called this a landmark historical verdict. And again, while the plaintiffs did ask for some damages, about a million yuan which is about $10,000 U.S. dollars, that was thrown out by the judge, but it's the impact of this verdict that will potentially set a precedent for same-sex related cases moving forward.

And the lawsuit against the government was filed in 2019 by three couples living in Sapporo after the government denied their marriage applications because they wear the same sex.

Now, this is one of five similar cases currently moving throughout the country right now regarding same -sex marriage. Four -- or three of the cases are very similar to this one, a case that was just heard earlier -- excuse me, not earlier today, but the verdict that was delivered earlier today.

Their case claim that the Japanese Constitution guarantees marital freedom and equality under the law, but right now Japan is the only country of the G7 countries that does not recognize same-sex marriage. And here in Japan, there is still a number of issues confronting people who are involved in same-sex relationships, marriages.

We're talking about people who are deprived inheritance once their partner dies, the inability to have joint custody of children that are raised together, and the inability to apply for any public housing.

So again, a big decision today but still a long way to go, Rosemary. The real decision will come in a few years, potentially, when this case reaches the Supreme Court.

CHURCH (on camera): Of course. Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo. Many thanks.

An increasing number of Cubans again making their way by boat toward the U.S. We will have an exclusive look at why Cuban's are leaving their country now and the daunting obstacles they face.

Plus, highlights from My Freedom Day. CNN's student-led day of action. Coming up, you will hear why people from around the world are pledging to end modern day slavery.


UNKNOWN: I'm Miles (Ph).

UNKNOWN: And I'm Phoenix (Ph). We're from (Inaudible), U.K. and we're signing the My Freedom Day pledge.





CHURCH (on camera): The COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna is starting a clinical trial to test its vaccine on children. The company says the first group has already received their first shots. It plans to include more than 6,700 children between the ages of six months and 11 years. They will receive different doses and will be monitored for a year after their second shot. Moderna says it wants to see if its vaccine is safe and effective to use on young children.

European health authorities are facing mounting pressure to clear up concerns about the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Millions of doses are sitting unused right now because of fears about its safety. Despite top officials insisting the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the supposed risks.

Yet four more European countries suspended their use of the vaccine on Tuesday pending an emergency review. And as Melissa Bell reports, the confusion over AstraZeneca is just the latest struggle for Europe's troubled vaccination campaign.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): These were some of the last Italians to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Then, suddenly, Italy announced that it was stopping its rollout over fears of blood clots in some vaccine recipients.

UNKNOWN: I was already unsure about it, because Germany had stopped this morning. AstraZeneca, I won't do it.

BELL: On Thursday, the European medicines agency is expected to deliver its final verdict on the safety of the vaccines. On Tuesday, it dropped a hint on its sinking.

EMER COOKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN MEDICINES AGENCY: We are looking at adverse events associated with all vaccines. At the moment, we have looked at the background rates for all the vaccines currently in circulation, and it looks like there are similar numbers coming in across the world.

BELL: But if the investigation is being coordinated at E.U. level, these suspensions have been anything but. Over the last week, one by one, amid a third COVID wave and against the EMA advice, many European countries have broken rank, stopping the AstraZeneca roll out unilaterally, even as countries like the United Kingdom, Thailand, and Australia have continued it.

STELLA KYRIAKIDES, E.U. HEALTH COMMISSIONER: A number of member states have as a precautionary measure therefor decided to suspend vaccinations, which is fully in their right to do so as vaccinations are a member state's competence.

BELL: Until the pandemic, all health matters were decided at member state level. In fact, the E.U. deal with AstraZeneca for 400 million doses in July, which was signed three months after the U.K. secured its doses, was the first attempt at E.U. coordination on public health. And it has not gone well since, with a row over delays, an export ban, and ultimately an apology from the European commission president.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISION PRESIDENT (through translator): We were late in granting authorization. We were too optimistic about mass production and maybe we also took for granted that the orders would actually arrive on time. We must ask ourselves why and what lessons we can draw from it.

BELL: But what if the lessons of the pandemic or more for Europe than for AstraZeneca? So far, some 36 percent of the U.K.'s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. At least 21 percent in the United States, but only around 8 percent in Spain, Germany, France, and Italy. What the pandemic provided Brussels with it believed was an

opportunity to unite Europe around its political leadership. In fact, what the last year has shown is that countries ended up making their own decisions in terms of their borders, in terms of vaccine procurement in some cases, and in terms of vaccine safety. In the end, what was shown was that Europe had neither the political cohesion nor the bureaucratic processes to cope with the pandemic.

MARC VAN RANST, BELGIAN VIROLOGIST: don't think they were doing the right thing. Once large and influential countries pauses this vaccination, other countries tend to become overcautious and they also seem to lack them the courage to do the evidence based thing, rather than the emotion based thing.

BELL: Whatever the European medicines agency decides on Thursday, some say that the damage is already done, not only to Europe's ambition of vaccinating 70 percent of its population by September, but to its ambition of doing that as one. Melissa Bell, CNN, Rome.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, there are some signs of positive progress against the pandemic in Europe. Scotland is set to drop its stay-at- home order on April 2nd. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement on Tuesday. She said Scott's will still be encouraged to stay local and avoid travelling.

A further lifting of restrictions across Scotland is set to happen gradually late as next month. Sturgeon said this is the most hopeful she has felt in a very long time.

Well, Cuban's are fleeing their homeland once again, trying to make it by boat to the United States. For some, it's the only way out, since they can no longer get a U.S. Visa or even an international flight. And COVID-19 is making the perilous journey even more urgent. CNN's Patrick Oppmann has an exclusive report.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the tiny boat carrying Cuban migrants approaches the coast of Florida, a police helicopter infrared camera captures the moment when things go terribly wrong.

UNKNOWN: Air one, they just had a wave that take them out, the boat is flipped over.

OPPMANN: All eight people who were aboard this boat for more than 16 days in February, survived. The coast guard told CNN, they're seeing an increasing number of Cubans trying to make the dangerous and illegal journey to the U.S. Some are stopped on rickety boats known as (inaudible). Some found on deserted islands where the coast guard airdropped supplies before rescuing them. Others are not so lucky.

In the town in Caibarien, Cuba, Beatrice keeps vigil for her daughter and two young grandchildren who are missing after the smugglers boat they took mysteriously sunk this month. The toys and shoes the children left behind sit neatly in their room. Their mom hoped to reunite with her husband in Florida, Beatrice tells us.

My daughter is a good mother, Beatrice says. She wouldn't have done this if everything wasn't safe, if everything wasn't OK. She wouldn't have put them through this. Her children are everything to her.

Just down the street, Dayami says her husband Pepe was on the same boat, trying to go to the U.S. to better provide for his family. She says, she doesn't know what to tell his teenage daughter.

She says, nothing happened to her father, Dayami says. That her father has to be alive somewhere, but where? We can't take it anymore. We are desperate.

Cuba has been hit hard by the impacts of the coronavirus, an increase U.S. sanctions under the Trump administration, tough economic commissions in the past led to waves of Cuban's fleeing the island by boat. It's nearly impossible to leave Cuba legally these days. COVID and still unexplained health incidents among U.S. diplomats here caused the U.S. to stop issuing visas at the embassy in Havana. A State Department reports says, as of November, there were more than 78,000 Cubans on a waiting list for immigrant visas.

Cubans are unable to receive visas at the U.S. Embassy here, and the pandemic has shut down most international flights to and from this island. For many Cubans, desperate to leave, now the dangerous journey by boat is their only option. Beatrice prays for a miracle for her daughter and grandchildren.


That they find him, that they don't stop looking she says. Whatever the news is, that we know what happen, it's more upsetting to not know.

But just days after our interview, Cuban officials announced that the search for the missing boat has ended. And like too many other Cubans, Beatrice's family is now lost at sea. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Caibarien, Cuba.


CHURCH (on camera): On Tuesday, CNN marked the fifth anniversary of My Freedom Day, a day of global awareness and commitment to end modern day slavery. Young people from more than 100 countries made the effort to sign the freedom pledge, outlining practical actions you can take to help eliminate this human scourge. And here is what some of them had to say about the importance of freedom.


UNKNOWN: To me, freedom is the ability to write, to speak, think, and do as one wants to.

UNKNOWN: I'm Miles. UNKNOWN: And I'm Phoenix. We are from Bristol, U.K. And we are

signing the My Freedom Day pledge.

UNKNOWN: I am Greta in Atlanta Georgia. And I am signing the My Freedom Day pledge.

UNKNOWN: I signed this paper and you should also. I side by from businesses that treat their workers fairly. Let's all do our part.

UNKNOWN: I will take into consideration for company's business practices when buying things like cloths, chocolate and electronics.

UNKNOWN: I support My Freedom Day by saying no to slavery.

UNKNOWN: I pledge to take action whenever someone is getting discriminated because of their color, race, or religion.

UNKNOWN: I found this to help to put an end to slavery and take action.

UNKNOWN: I feel free when I'm able to play tennis.

UNKNOWN: I want to be a (inaudible). I can do this. (Inaudible).

UNKNOWN: I pledge to fight human trafficking and modern slavery. I fight. I fight. I fight.

UNKNOWN: And modern day slavery now.

UNKNOWN: If we work together, we can stop slavery forever.

UNKNOWN: I pledge to understand online dangers and speak up if I see friends who might be making a bad decision.

UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) Modern day slavery.


CHURCH (on camera): And you too can sign the pledge and share it on social media using the hashtag My Freedom Day. For more on the effort to end modern day slavery, be sure to watch our My Freedom Day Global forum. It is this weekend right here on CNN.

Well, the past few days have been some of the bloodiest in Myanmar since last month's coup. Some people are seeking refuge in neighboring countries and we will hear from one of them, a police officer who didn't want to shoot protesters.

And in Lebanon, new protests amid a worsening economic crisis. The latest from Beirut in a live report.



CHURCH (on camera): Myanmar's top religious body says it will end its support of the military that is according to a local news media citing an Abbott from the state body of higher ranking Buddhist monks. Some pro democracy protesters are setting a like military barricades in the Yangon.

And security forces on Wednesday were seen shooting at protesters in the city, Myanmar's internet service has now been partially restored. But cellphones service remains disabled. The U.N. says at least 149 people have been killed since the military coup last month, and hundreds remain missing.

The ongoing violence in Myanmar is impacting its neighbor, almost 300 police and government officers have crossed the border into India to escape Myanmar's military crackdown. CNN has spoken with a police official from Myanmar who is now in hiding, he tells us about the grim and disturbing situation in his country. CNN's Vedika Sud reports.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER (voice over): Violence scenes in the streets of Myanmar ever since the military Junta staged a coup, forced this police officer to flee to India. He says he didn't want the blood of his countrymen on his hands. CNN is not disclosing his identity for his own safety.

UNKNOWN: When more than five protesters gather and we can't break the crowd, we have orders to shoot.

SUD: He says the orders by the military to arrest and shoot protesters were unacceptable to him. And that's when he decided to escape, leaving behind his parents and siblings.

UNKNOWN: They provide us with 100 bullets for G3, 100 bullets to m13, 100 bullets for 94, 50 bullets for 12 and 50 rubber bullets.

SUD: CNN cannot independently verify this officer's allegations. We called Myanmar's embassy for comment, we were asked to email a question, but we have not received a response.

The officers is one of almost 300 people, mostly police officers, government officials with families who fled Myanmar and crossed into India's northeastern state of Mizoram, after the military crackdown. Most refugees are supported by local activists. Myanmar and Mizoram shares a border that stretches more than 500 kilometers. The recent influx of those fleeing Myanmar is a growing concern says the Mizoram's chief minister, Zoramthanga, the decision and repatriation lies with the Indian government.

ZORAMTHANGA, MIZORAM'S CHIEF MINISTER: What you have to do is only to give them food and shelter. Because this is humanitarian point of view. Beyond that, everything depends upon the central government of India.

SUD: The officer who is currently in hiding says people back home are living in fear.

UNKNOWN: Civilians have to guard their neighborhood through the night, they're already facing so many issues.

SUD: Myanmar's military says its officers have been attacked, and the secretary of foreign affairs says it has been trying to maintain law and order. Authorities had been exercising utmost restrained to deal with the violent protests, he says.

UNKNOWN: I want to see my family but only after dictatorship ends.

SUD: He once dreamt of serving his country, but now he lives in constant fear, the fear of being handed back to Myanmar.

UNKNOWN: If we are sent back to Myanmar our life is in danger, there are no guarantees, we might be killed.

SUD: With Myanmar in the midst of an intense political turmoil, the way to return home could be a long one. Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


CHURCH (on camera): The European Union is expected to approve sanctions against individuals behind the military coup in Myanmar, France's foreign minister says strong sanctions will be implemented very quickly, likely after a meeting next Monday. France's foreign minister says Myanmar's military is guilty of quote, brutal repressions and crimes against the population.

Well, in the United States, it turns out China was not the biggest threat to election security as Donald Trump had longed claimed, a new report from the U.S. Intelligence Community finds Russia was the main culprit, with a not-so-secret campaign to get Trump reelected. CNN's Alex Marquardt has more.



ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This report form the office of the Director of National Intelligence is the most comprehensive report that we have seen so far about the 2020 election from U.S. Intelligence Community and it details the extent of Russia's major influence campaign to try to hurt Joe Biden's campaign and help Donald Trump.

The report goes further than what we have heard before from the U.S. intelligence community, clearly stating that people close to then President Trump and the administration were being targeted by Russian intelligence, at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This was one of the reports key finding. We assess that Russian President Putin authorized in a range of Russian government organizations conducted influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party. Supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating social political divisions in the U.S.

Now, that is generally the main goal of these influence operations, to divide Americans, to pit voters against one another, but Russia went further according to this report, saying a key element of Moscow strategy this election cycle was to use its proxies link to Russians intelligence to push influence narratives including misleading or unsubstantiated allegation against President Biden, to U.S. media organizations, U.S. officials and prominent U.S. individuals, including some close to President Trump and his administration.

Now, they don't name the Americans who were targeted and who were close to Trump, but they do name Andre Derkach, a familiar name for many, a Ukrainian lawmaker who was in contact with President Trump, personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. And Vladimir Putin according to this report, had purview over the activities of Andre Derkach. Now this report goes on to talk about Iran's multipronged covert influence campaign to hurt Donald Trump and to sow division, probably, they say approved by Iran's supreme leader.

Very interestingly, China, who Trump and his allies had said we're working to get Joe Biden elected, didn't deploy any influence efforts in the election according to this report. China didn't feel like that was worth risking the U.S./China relationship to get caught meddling in the election.

This report from ODNI also makes clear that on the technical side of voting, foreign actors did not impact the actual votes. They write, we have no indication that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect to the voting process in the 2020 election including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation or reporting results. The foreign operations, in particular those from Russia and China, according to the U.S. Intelligence Community, were all about influence operations. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH (on camera): Uber's day of reckoning has arrived in the U.K. with the drivers now officially classified as workers. It means, they are entitled to a host of benefits which Uber now has to pay for, more than 70,000 Uber drivers in Britain will be eligible for a minimum wage, paid vacations and a pension. The change comes after a groundbreaking ruling from the British Supreme Court last month, which ended a 5-year legal battle.

Well, frustration escalates on the streets of Lebanon as the country's currency drops to an all-time low. Small groups of protesters blocked roads and set fire to garbage containers, and tires in Beirut on Tuesday as the economic crisis worsens, the Lebanese pound has now lost about 90 percent of its value since late 2019. And the political deadlock is only adding to the anger


HUSSEIN MAKEIN, PROTESTER: The only solution is to form a government immediately, let those sleeping wake up, please have mercy on us, please, we are begging you. Look at us and our situation, we are starving, we are dying, the middle class is gone. There's three percent of the country, the thieves living off of it.


CHURCH (on camera): So, let's head straight to Beirut where CNN's Ben Wedeman is tracking these developments. Ben, what is the latest on this desperate and deteriorating situation in Lebanon?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, it just seems to be getting worse and worse here, Rosemary, you know, because it's not only a question of the devaluation of the Lebanese leader but the general deterioration of almost every aspect of life here.

You have massive runaway inflation, and what this mean is that the value of people salaries which has gone down by one estimate, more than 80 percent since the middle of 2019, coupled with inflation which, according to some estimates on basic food items has gone up by 400 percent in 2020, alone.


And therefore really, it just seems that the whole system is falling apart. Falling apart at a time when there is utter political paralysis, the government here, resigned shortly after the 4th of August, Beirut port blast, and it has been basically serving as a caretaker capacity ever since because the politicians cannot agree on forming a new cabinet.

So the country is adrift. The currency has lost 90 percent of its value. The infrastructure is falling apart. The daily power cuts are increasing, in fact, last night there was a power cut at Beirut airport which normally has a dependable power source.

And of course it has a knock on effect in society. One study found that homicides are up 45 percent, that theft is up 144 percent, and there is a growing unease here, that in the absence of some sort of political agreement to form a government and get things back on track, this collapse will only continue. Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): All right, very sad news there, Ben Wedeman joining us live from Beirut with the latest. Well there was anger on the streets of London Tuesday as well, crowds gathered for a fourth straight night to protests in the wake of Sarah Everard's murder.


CHURCH (voice over): Demonstrators chant and slogans outside the British parliament and police headquarters, they're angry over the heavy handle of police response to a vigil for Everard, and a bill that critics say could limit protest. Everard disappeared while walking home in London two weeks ago, a police officer is charged with her murder.


CHURCH (on camera): Last year's lockdown dramatically improved air quality around the world, but a new report shows pollution will likely soon return to pre-pandemic levels, we will have the details. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH (on camera): Prince Philip is back home after a month long stay in the hospital. The 99-year-old Duke of Edinburg has returned to Windsor Castle, reuniting with the queen.

CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster has the latest now from Windsor.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the longest stay Prince Philip has had in hospital as far as we're aware at least. He was in hospital in London for months, now safely back in his bubble here at Windsor Castle with the queen and key household staff. We know that he was treated for an infection in hospital in London, also went through a procedure for an existing heart condition.

Beyond that, he's only said, he wishes to thank all the medical staff who looked after him at both King Edward the servant's hospital and St. Bartholomew's hospital and everyone who sent in their good wishes as well. He saw him leaving hospital in a car, he was sitting upright, he look well and indeed the royal source says, the duke is in good spirits. So some, good news there.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, a new report found the pandemic lockdowns led to cleaner better air quality in most countries. About 84 percent of nations surveyed reported overall improvements after lockdown measures.