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Tanzania's President Dies after Weeks Unseen; Canada Expands Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine to Seniors; WHO: Countries Should Keep Using AstraZeneca Vaccine; European Countries Suspend AstraZeneca Vaccine; U.S. Secretary of State Says China Has Role to Play in North Korea Denuclearization; Fears Grow for Myanmar Residents; Former Brazilian Leader Urges Biden to Call Emergency Coronavirus Summit; New Dead Sea Scroll Discoveries. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired March 18, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): 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, with much of Europe putting a pause on the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, the final results of an emergency review is due in hours from now.

Plus Jordan and other parts of the Middle East now reporting a record number of COVID-19 cases. We will have a live report.

And details on the death of Tanzania's president officially ruled as heart failure. But there is continued speculation the long time COVID denier contracted the virus himself. We will have a live report on that.

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CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

In the coming hours, the European Medicines Agency will give its final assessment on whether the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is safe. It's an issue that's divided Europe and, according to many top health officials, should not even be up for debate. Leading experts from the E.U., the U.K., the U.S. and the World Health Organization all say the AstraZeneca vaccine is a good thing and that it's better to take it than not.

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MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The use of the vaccine far outweighs the risks. We know that the vaccines that are out there are safe and effective and it is really important that individuals get vaccinated. When it's your turn, when you are offered. DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: I think we need to be

very careful that we don't end up overreacting and damaging the thought of it in people's minds until we are absolutely sure that there actually is a problem. Right now, that is not certain. Let's wait for the data to be looked at before we make any conclusions.

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CHURCH: Sixteen European countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. After a very small number of vaccinated people developed blood clots.

While Europe works itself into a lather over the vaccine safety, Canada is actually ramping up its rollout. It's now recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults, including seniors. And a Biden administration official says the U.S. may send some AstraZeneca doses to Canada and Mexico while it awaits approval in the U.S.

More on that in just a moment. Let's go now to London, where Cyril Vanier is standing by. He joins us live.

Good to see you, Cyril. As pressure builds on these many European countries suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine, we should soon know the results of the investigation into those blood clots.

What's the latest on all of this?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's a matter of hours before the European Medicines Agency, which is the overarching health regulator here, gives its final assessment, final advice. And, of course, the sovereign nations of the European Union will have to decide whether or not to follow that advice. Typically they always do.

But it is worth noting there are these 2 layers of decision-making in Europe, which is why we have the situation we are in right now, by the way. The EMA has said since the beginning, the vaccine is safe. But some individual countries' health regulators have said, look, we have some questions we need answered before we can continue with this vaccine.

There is reason to believe the EMA is going to reiterate, rather, its green light for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Not only is that what they have said since the very beginning, that using it, the benefits of using it far outweigh the risks of any possible side effects, none of which have been proven.

But they've also been saying statistically they see no causal relation between these rare events of blood clots and the vaccine. That they repeated in their preliminary assessment on Tuesday. And there has been no sign, Rosemary, new data has come to change the European Medicines Agency's mind between Tuesday and today, Thursday.

CHURCH: Meantime, no vaccinations have been administered. Cyril Vanier joining us live from London, many thanks.

Let's turn to Canada, where officials are expanding the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. CNN's Paula Newton reports from Ottawa.

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PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Canada is taking a very different approach to the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite what's going on in Europe.

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NEWTON: Canada is now recommending this vaccine for every adult over the age of 18. It held back on a certain recommendation for seniors, wanting to see more real world data. Experts now say they've seen that data, it comes from the U.K. They say this vaccine is completely safe and effective for all adults, saying they don't see any kind of causal link between blood clots and this vaccine.

And all of this comes at a critical time in Canada. The vaccine rollout here has been much slower than it has been in the U.K. and the United States and, at the same time, as those variants begin to dominate in Canada, a lot of public health officials are looking at an increase in hospitalizations and admissions to ICUs and beginning to wonder whether or not the vaccine rollout will really be enough in order to really mitigate the effects of a third wave.

They are keeping a close eye on data but many people are citing pandemic fatigue. They are wondering what more can be done, given more than a year now of so many lockdowns and restrictions that have been posed on so many Canadians -- Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.

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CHURCH: Several countries in Asia continues to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite many European nations pausing its use while they investigate potential side effects. At the same time, the World Health Organization says the vaccine's benefits outweigh the risks. CNN's Kim Brunhuber reports.

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KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To the sound of snapping cameras, Thailand's prime minister becomes the first person in the country to get AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.

His shot in the arm kicks off its use across the nation.

PRAYUTH CHAN-OCHA, THAI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I've been ready to get vaccinated for quite a while. I'm thankful for all the medical staff, who have been working to get the vaccine for the Thai people. Today, I am boosting confidence in the vaccine for the general public.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Thailand is continuing AstraZeneca's rollout after a brief pause following European reports of bleeding, blood clots and low platelet counts found in a small number of those who received the vaccine.

While it has been suspended in more than a dozen E.U. countries, most of Asia seems to be deeming it safe. Indonesia is the region's only nation to say AstraZeneca's vaccine is currently suspended. But from Thailand to India, to South Korea to Australia, vaccination campaigns continue in the fight against coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In any large vaccine rollout, we do expect to see unusual events and we monitor very closely and carefully for those. But this does not mean that an event that happens after vaccination has been given, is indeed due to that vaccine.

So we do always take it seriously. We do investigate. But in this situation, I can absolutely say that I remain confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, that it's safe.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): AstraZeneca, meanwhile, is doubling down on the safety of its vaccine. It says that, of the 17 million people vaccinated in the E.U. and the U.K. so far, blood clots were, quote, "much lower" than what would be expected to occur naturally in the general population.

The World Health Organization said in a statement Wednesday, that it believes, quote, "The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks."

That may be especially true in countries like India, where COVID deaths continue to rise in a pandemic that's claimed more than 2.5 million lives worldwide -- Kim Brunhuber, CNN.

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CHURCH: The U.S. renews its goals for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and the secretary of state says China has a big role to play in reaching that goal. We will have the details in a live report.

And the death of Tanzania's president renews discussion with how he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus. We will have the details ahead come.

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CHURCH: Back to our discussion about the AstraZeneca vaccine, Belgium is another country in Europe refusing to hit pause on the vaccine. Top virologist and professor Marc Van Ranst is with us from Brussels on the line.

Thank you so much for talking with us. I wanted to ask you how concerned you are about the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in other European countries at a time when cases and deaths are increasing and variants are spreading the virus.

Are you pretty sure that this will get the green light in a matter from hours from now from the EMA?

MARC VAN RANST, VIROLOGIST: If you judged by their press conference that they had, they were pretty sure they would continue to approve the product. However, I think many countries are exerting some pressure of the European Medicines Agency and I think they can do 3 things.

They can continue the approval as is or (INAUDIBLE) the indications, for example, they could say we aren't going to give it to young women again or anymore or they might just (INAUDIBLE) the packaging. So add immune from cytopenia (ph). So that's a shortage of blood platelets and (INAUDIBLE) thrombosis and they could layer the (INAUDIBLE).

CHURCH: And what do you think they should decide?

VAN RANST: I think they will decide to add the rare side effects that have been observed in some countries to the information sheet that accompanies the vaccine. I think that would be the right thing to do. Other than that, I think we have to wait for the press conference.

CHURCH: And while Europe pulls back on the AstraZeneca vaccine, Canada is expanding its use for adults and the elderly.

As a virologist, how concerned are you that the damage has already been done in trust and confidence in this and other vaccines?

And what's your message to the world?

VAN RANST: I think vaccine hesitancy is already an important big problem. Adding to it, to have countries unilaterally suspend all their vaccination is not going to help that cause. So I think the best course forward would be to resume vaccinations in all these countries and then give a great deal of attention to vaccine hesitancy.

CHURCH: We will see what happens there. It appears that COVID-19 reinfections are relatively rare but more common in people 65 years and over, according to a new study. What does that reveal to you?

And what might this mean in terms of vaccinations for this older age group?

VAN RANST: I think we have to distinguish natural infection and immunity that you get through vaccination. The natural infection won't protect all that much and the older you are, the older the immune system is, the less that's going to work and the more reinfections you will see.

However, when you get the vaccination, the immune level and the concentration of antibodies is going to be so much higher that it probably, hopefully, is going to protect it a lot more from new infections.

CHURCH: Overall, what is your feeling about where we are going with this pandemic as we see an increase in vaccinations in some parts of the world but, at the same time, seeing these variants?

What's your overall feeling?

VAN RANST: I think it will be a continuous struggle against the variants because they will pop up and they will evade the vaccine. We are doing something that's never been done. We are vaccinating billions of people in a matter of months. The virus will be active. So we have to play catch up with the virus for quite a while.

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VAN RANST: The companies are working on their variant vaccines and probably in a matter of months, those vaccines will also become available. So the vaccines are on the horizon but we aren't there yet.

CHURCH: All right, Marc Van Ranst, thank you so much for talking with, us we appreciate it.

VAN RANST: Thank you.

CHURCH: Although vaccination efforts remain a priority globally , coronavirus cases remain on the rise, especially in Brazil, India and parts of the Middle East. Turkey had its highest daily case count of 2021 after the government eased some restrictions earlier this month. It has reported almost 19,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Meantime, Iraq also saw a record number of daily cases; despite that, the Iraqi government is planning to ease restrictions as the country faces economic challenges.

Infection rates are also climbing in Jordan, which broke another daily record of more than 9,500. For more let's go now to Istanbul, where CNN's Jomana Karadsheh joins us live.

Good to see you.

What is the latest on these cases across the Middle East, particularly in Jordan?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, it is hard to believe, you and I were speaking a year ago about Jordan's success in facing the COVID-19 pandemic. They hit hard early on with one of the strictest lockdowns. They managed to keep the numbers down.

But that situation changed as the country began opening up last summer and what is going on right now is a really devastating new wave that has hit the country. You mentioned that number, 9,500 cases reported on Wednesday, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

We are talking about a country of about 10 million people. These are stunning numbers. Over, the past week they have been reporting 7,000- 8,000 cases, anywhere from 60 to 80, more than 80 deaths. They've been reporting the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in the Arab world, even more than England.

The government is blaming this on the variant first identified in the U.K. that started spreading in the country in January. But they're also blaming people for not adhering to the COVID restrictions, some of the most basic ones, like mask wearing.

And you know, last week we saw the government coming in with these new restrictions, tightening the curfew, suspending Friday prayers, church mass on Sunday, shutting down some sectors like gyms.

But a lot of people will tell you that these measures are maybe a bit too little too late. Some of the scientists in the country are suggesting that the only way to deal with this current situation is some sort of circuit break, to try to put a full lockdown in place.

But the government is really resisting this because of the economic situation, because they use that card for very long early on in the pandemic, they just can't afford that. And there's a lot of resistance from the population, that is growing angrier with the government's handling of the pandemic and the economic situation.

We have seen some protests, so a very tough situation. And what is at stake right now, a real dire warning from the government, saying that the situation is alarming and the health care system is being pushed to the brink at this point.

Several hospitals in the kingdom have said that they have reached full capacity. Field and military field hospitals that have been set to deal with the overflow are filling up. So it is really hard to see how the government is going to be able to get out of this dire situation without drastic measures -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Exactly. Unfortunately, it is a story we keep hearing over and over in so many countries. Jomana Karadsheh, many thanks for bringing us up to date.

Tanzanian president John Magufuli, one of Africa's most outspoken coronavirus skeptics, has died at the age of 61. He hadn't been seen since February 27th, prompting many to wonder if he had contracted COVID.

But the vice president says Magufuli died of heart disease. He has battled it for years. He frustrated world health experts, he stopped reporting COVID figures, denounced vaccines and claimed God, herbal remedies and steam treatments would stop the virus.

The vice president will assume the presidency, becoming Tanzania's first female president. David McKenzie joins us now from Johannesburg with details on all of this.

Good to see you, David, there's still a lot of rumors about his death.

Why is that?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there are rumors partly because Magufuli really clamped down on the press. That was one of his chief.

[02:20:00] MCKENZIE: Critics said that he had become autocratic in his later years. There are rumors because opposition have explicitly said that their sources said that the Tanzanian president was sick with COVID- 19. There were all sorts of rumors, that he had been spirited out of the country, that he was in a coma, none of which were verified by us or anyone else.

But also the fact that he attended all of these big events without masks, was the world's league leading denier and didn't say there were any issues with COVID in the country, despite Tanzanians having to bury their loved ones at night at times because of the disease ripping through the population, both in around this time last year and then several months ago.

Up until now, there has been swirling rumors about the severity of COVID. But Magufuli officially died from heart complications, something the vice president, who will now be acting president, said he has struggled with for more than a decade.

But those rumors will continue, given that other senior cabinet and government officials are believed to have contracted COVID -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: David, what about his legacy?

What can you tell us about that?

MCKENZIE: He came into the country, seen as someone to clean up shop. He was -- came into the government as someone who was as was going to end corruption. And he did do some of that during his early years. But increasingly he was seen by the opposition and press as an autocratic leader who clamped down on the press, who rarely put in laws and security services to clamp down on the opposition as well as really rolling back women's rights and LGBT rights in the country.

Kind of taking a very different route from neighbor, Kenya, who has seen its society open up over the last several years. But the lasting legacy, at least now, will be seen as his denialism of COVID-19. He pushed herbal medicine, he said God would make people better from COVID-19. He said that he didn't want the vaccine, blamed it on Western powers and conspiracy theories.

He even told people to go through steam rooms to cure themselves if they felt sick. All of that and despite the criticism of the WHO and the Catholic Church, he held firm until his last days, until he gave a little bit in terms of COVID but that legacy have caused people's deaths in a very critical country -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: David McKenzie bringing us the latest on that, many thanks.

Two senior U.S. officials have just met with South Korea's president in the second day of a diplomatic trip to Seoul. The U.S. secretaries of State and Defense have already met with their South Korea counterparts and once again called for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They say that North Korea's nuclear program is a top priority that

must be addressed urgently. And earlier Antony Blinken said China also has a role to play in all of this.

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ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: China has a unique relationship with North Korea. Virtually all of North Korea's economic relationships, its trade go -- are with or go through China.

So it has tremendous influence. And I think it has a shared interest in making sure that we do something about North Korea's nuclear program and about the increasingly dangerous ballistic missile program.

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CHURCH: CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now live from South Korea's capital.

Paula, talk to us about this meeting, the U.S. secretary of state and the U.S. Defense Secretary have met now with South Korea president.

What is likely to come out of this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are meeting at this point and we did have some remarks at the beginning of that meeting. One thing that is of note, South Korean president Moon Jae-in said that he welcomed the return of diplomacy and alliances.

That speaks volumes, because clearly the relationship between president Moon Jae-in and the previous U.S. administration, at times, was strained and their focus for president Donald Trump was not on alliances.

This is something that U.S. president Joe Biden said that he wanted to rectify on day one of being in office, he wanted to strengthen those alliances. and that is exactly what this visit is about. It's also about China and North Korea.

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HANCOCKS: We have heard some stinging remarks from Secretary Blinken when it comes to China, saying that the country is acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, saying that they can't act with impunity when it comes to things like the South China Sea, Taiwan and disputed islands.

But also, as you've heard, him say there they do need China when it comes to handling North Korea. They know that China really is the key to trying to get North Korea to agree to anything.

Now we have heard a little more from North Korea in recent days, which is not surprising, considering the top U.S. diplomat is in northeast Asia. But we've heard from one of the top North Korean diplomats, saying that the fact that the U.S. has been trying to get in touch with Pyongyang and has been trying to reach out, saying that it is a cheap trick, that it's a time wasting trick and until the U.S. stops its hostile policy against North Korea, there is no point and they will not be responding to them in the future until that changes.

This hostile policy, that is something that North Korea has quite often said. So even though the rhetoric is dismissive, it's certainly not as fiery as we have seen in the past and the very fact that North Korea welcomes most U.S. administrations with some kind of weapons test or missile test, I think Washington will be fairly pleased with the level of rhetoric they have from North Korea, not welcoming negotiations straight away but at least not fiery rhetoric.

CHURCH: Paula Hancocks, bringing us up to date from Seoul in South Korea, many thanks.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, military leaders tighten their grip on Myanmar's biggest city, how the country's Buddhist monks and even Pope Francis are responding.

Plus Irish streets were quiet this St. Patrick's Day except for the angry chants of protesters. How some in Dublin are speeding out against lockdown when we return.

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CHURCH: Military leaders in Myanmar have sealed off key areas of the largest city, Yangon, as their crackdown on dissent grows deadlier by the day. Internet blackouts make it difficult to get information, especially from areas outside the major cities.

The country's powerful Buddhist Monks Association accuses authorities of torture and killing innocent civilians. Protesters want an end to the military rule in place since the February 1st coup. Pope Francis appealed for peace, saying, "Even I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say 'stop the violence'."

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CHURCH: CNN spoke with the U.N. high commissioner of human rights who says that more than 200 people have been killed since the military took over.

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MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FORMER CHILEAN PRESIDENT: It might be much higher. Many of these killings can happen in small villages and places and we don't have immediate access to information. And when we give numbers and figures, we give cases that we have the names of people, that we verified cases.

We also have 2,400 people detained. And we have hundreds that we don't know the whereabouts. Also we have five announcements of people who died in custody, two of them at least we can ensure their wounds were through torture they received in hand of people who were their jailers.

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CHURCH: And I spoke earlier with Pavlo Kolovos, who spent the last 2 years as the head of Medecins sans Frontieres' mission in Myanmar. I asked him how the military takeover has impacted the group's work in the midst of a pandemic.

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PAVLO KOLOVOS, MSF MYANMAR: In terms of the protesters and the violence, people have not been able to go to emergency rooms in the same way because the public health system and the public hospitals are generally closed these days. So it creates a lot of concern for people's ability to just access health care in general.

CHURCH: And what tend to be the biggest challenges for your organization?

KOLOVOS: Well, one of the biggest challenges for us right now is being able to see to -- just keep up with the needs for the most vulnerable people. With the public health system falling apart, with all the demonstrations and the general crackdown, doctors aren't able to come into the hospitals.

So we see patients, people, for example, who had HIV, are no longer able to receive drugs because of facilities impacted by the crisis. And anybody who is seeking any sort of emergency care, victims of violence and such, are also much less likely to receive adequate care.

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CHURCH: That was Pavlo Kolovos talking to me, he was the head of mission at MSF Myanmar. I will have more from our discussion next hour. So do stay with CNN.

We are just hours away from what should be the final word on whether the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is safe. The European Medicines Agency is due to reveal the results of its emergency review.

That's after 16 European countries, which happen to be desperate for vaccines, halted their use of this one over fears it could be linked to just a few blood clots. But the World Health Organization echoed other experts on Wednesday, insisting the AstraZeneca vaccine's benefits far outweigh its risks.

I want to turn to Brazil now, where hundreds of thousands of AstraZeneca vaccines just arrived to help the spiraling crisis there. Brazil reported yet another record number of daily cases, more than 90,000 and it comes as a new health minister is now saying the country can lower its infection rate with social distancing and improved hospital services.

Meanwhile, the head of the Pan American Health Organization calls the crisis a cautionary tale about the importance of keeping the virus under control, with leadership at the forefront.

Speaking of leadership, former Brazilian president Lula da Silva, the man Barack Obama once called the most popular politician on Earth, spoke with CNN. He is known for raising tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty and is back in the spotlight after the supreme court annulled his conviction for kickbacks and corruption.

It is his first interview since his court case. He lashed out at Brazil's current president Jair Bolsonaro for following the Trumpian pandemic playbook. He also made a direct appeal to U.S. President Joe Biden, asking him to lead an emergency G20 summit to provide vaccines to the poorest parts of the world.

Here is more of what he said in this CNN exclusive interview with Christiane Amanpour.

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LULA DA SILVA, FORMER BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You should see and I know that the U.S. has vaccines in a surplus and that they're not going to use all that vaccine.

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LULA (through translator): And maybe that vaccine, who knows, could be donated to Brazil or to other countries even poorer than Brazil that cannot afford to buy the vaccine.

So one suggestion that I would like to make to President Biden through your program is it's very important to call the G20 meeting urgently. It's important to call the main leaders of the world and put around the table just one thing one thing, one issue, vaccine, vaccine and vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Lula also said he would not declined an invitation to run for office again in Brazil's 2022 election. And you can watch the full interview on "AMANPOUR," 7 pm Thursday in London, 3 pm in New York, only here on CNN.

Europe's so-called vaccine passports or digital green certificates are a step closer to becoming reality. The European Commission officially unveiled its plan Wednesday to allow for safe and free movement within the E.U. during the pandemic. It's listed three different certificates would-be travelers can use to prove they are COVID free.

One is for vaccinations, showing the vaccine brand, where the doses were administered; another is for negative COVID-19 tests and the third is a medical certificate for people who have recovered from the virus within the last 6 months. The hope is to get the certificate approved by June in time for the busy travel season.

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URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: With this digital certificate, we aim to help member states reinstate the freedom of movement in a safe, responsible and trusted manner.

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CHURCH: St. Patrick's Day looked a little different in Ireland this year. The streets of Dublin should have been bustling. But a national lockdown lasting at least through the beginning of April made the usual festivities impossible. But restrictions didn't stop protesters from coming out. Aisling Roach with affiliate Virgin Media News has more from Dublin.

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AISLING ROACH, VIRGIN MEDIA NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) Hundreds of people gathered here as part of a number of protests this St. Patrick's Day. Many of those attending were carrying placards and flags.

A sign from the bandstand, organizers of the event in the park labeled it as a gathering for mental health. Over 2.5 thousand gather here on duty across the country, significant police presence has been maintained while multiple protests take place.

Also targeted was the ring of steel around the campus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) monitoring the behavior (INAUDIBLE).

ROACH (voice-over): Crowds gathered with restriction and anti vaccine placards lining a nearby footbridge. It comes amid warnings that compliance with restrictions have deteriorated. They're also concerned about house and street parties and groups gathering outdoors.

They cordoned off key locations where they suspect protesters might gather. Public order units have been deployed to various parts of Dublin city, while checkpoints are also placed to clamp down on nonessential travel.

Authorities have been urging the public to embrace virtual events and avoid mixing. Empty streets and shutters now a familiar sight for the second St. Patrick's Day under lockdown. As the celebration, which usually brings hundreds of thousands of tourists to our shores was muted once again -- Aisling Roach, Virgin Media News.

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CHURCH: Still ahead, finding more pieces of religious history. How archaeologists discovered hundreds of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We will take a look.

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CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

For the first time in about 60 years, new pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been unearthed in the Judean desert. Israeli archaeologists say they found fragments of the religious manuscripts inside a remote cave, along with many other ancient artifacts. CNN's Hadas Gold has more.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the most amazing thing I encountered that I -- I found, I seen in my life.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In these remote caves near the Dead Sea, Israeli researchers found dozens of fragments of a Dead Sea Scroll bearing Biblical text. Written in Greek and dating back nearly 2,000 years, these new pieces of a Biblical book have been unearthed for the first time in over 60 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we found is new parts of the puzzle of this rather large manuscript. The manuscript is of a translation into Greek of the 12 minor prophets from the -- from the Bible.

GOLD: Archeologists have been working in these caves and cliffs of the Judean Desert since 2017 to prevent the looting of antiquities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A survey on this scale was never conducted in the Judean Desert. We surveyed more than 100 kilometers of the cliffs of the Judean Desert and you can see the results.

GOLD: More historic elements were found. A 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child, rare coins and the complete basket thought to be the biggest and oldest intact basket in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking at a basket which is about 10,500 years old and it's kind of huge. It -- it contains between 90 to 100 liters and it's all intact.

GOLD: Centuries of hot and dry climate means this basket made from plant material may yield new information on how products were stored before pottery was invented. From just a few millimeters to a thumbnail in size, these fragments may look small but experts say they could provide a huge insight into the history before and after the time of Jesus -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.

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CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church, I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. "WORLD SPORT" is next.