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German Health Minister: Not Enough Vaccines to Stop Third Wave; Rio de Janeiro Closing Beaches to Spare ICUs; U.S.-China Tensions; Rape as a Weapon of War in Tigray; Iceland's Residents Warned as Volcano Erupts; Europe's Plagued Vaccine Rollout; Ireland Resumes AstraZeneca Vaccine; Future of the Pandemic. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired March 20, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Under lockdown, yet again. Europe, reimposing restrictions to an already weary public, hoping to blunt the latest wave of coronavirus.

Also, a CNN investigation in a country where rape is used as a weapon of war. Hear from one of the survivors.

And, a long dormant volcano, erupting in Iceland, prompting warnings to stay indoors and shut the windows.

Hello, everyone, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Michael Holmes.


HOLMES: More European countries, continuing to lockdown amid a third wave of coronavirus infections. New restrictions, now in place in Paris and 15 other regions in France. Poland has just closed malls, theaters and hotels nationwide. Here is how things look now this week, compared to last week.

Germany and Poland, among the nations you see there and dark orange. Seeing an increase in up to 50 percent. Ukraine, indicating arising more than 50 percent. Germany fears more is needed than just vaccinations.



JENS SPAHN, GERMAN HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): There are not yet enough vaccines in Europe to start the third wave through vaccination alone. Even if deliveries are reliable, it will still take several weeks before the risks are fully vaccinated. Only then can we talk about wider openings in society.


HOLMES: Ireland, joining Germany and other nations, in resuming the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine. That, is of course, after the E.U.'s medicines regulator reassured everyone it was safe and effective, amid fears that it could be linked to blood clots.

A lot of Europeans are not sure they want to get the AstraZeneca shot, even though it's safe. Melissa Bell reports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The AstraZeneca vaccine, if it was offered to me today, I would not take it. I would not be vaccinated with it. That's it.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least some of the 8 million shelved AstraZeneca vaccines in Europe, once again, being put into arms and places like France, Germany and Italy. After the Europeans medicine agency declared on Thursday, it did not increase the risk of blood clots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not a doctor, so I asked my doctors, he said it was fine, i should do it so I followed his instructions.

BELL (voice-over): At this drive-in, the AstraZeneca vaccine was on offer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Listen to the experts, they say there is no correlation to those tragic events and the vaccine. So you need to trust them.

BELL (voice-over): The French prime minister, trying to instill exactly that, some trust. But getting the shots himself with the new poll showing that only 22 percent of French people, now, have confidence in it.

After it was suspended in several countries, its rollout ground to a halt in Italy on Monday. The very day that they entered a new partial lockdown.

BELL: Here, this vaccinations outside the airport giving the AstraZeneca vaccine. As we, arrived officials were given the word that there were no longer allowed to distribute it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were vaccinating around 200,000 people in Italy, per day. So this really slowed us down. We know we will need to recuperate with vaccinations but we may need to double the speed.

BELL (voice-over): By Wednesday, under the pressure of the third European COVID wave, the president of the European Commission, criticizing AstraZeneca not over safety but supply.

URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: We also know that AstraZeneca has, unfortunately, underproduced and underdelivered and this, painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign.

BELL (voice-over): For now, Europe's fully inoculated less than 4 percent of its population. Its aim, to get to 70 percent by September -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


HOLMES: More than one year after Brazil confirmed its first case of COVID-19, its country is dealing with his daily record of new cases. Again, breaking them. Hospitals on the verge of collapse, Rio's famous beaches are shutting down to try and stop the spread of the virus.


HOLMES: Matt Rivers, there for us.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day, another record, here in Brazil. 90,570 coronavirus cases reported on Friday. That is the highest single day total since this pandemic began.

Health officials also announcing, on Friday, they recorded more than 2,800 coronavirus related deaths. That is the second highest figure since this pandemic began.

Amidst the surge in cases and deaths, we know that states across the country are trying to take it on themselves to put in place more restrictive measures to halt the spread. Here in the city of Rio de Janeiro we know the famous Copacabana beach, right to my right, will actually be closed weekend as part of restrictive measures.

There is also an overnight curfew in place here in Rio and that kind of curfew, also, being instituted and other places around the country.

President Jair Bolsonaro, not happy about that. He wants to keep things opened and he says, only he is allowed to put into place those kinds of curfews. He has filed a lawsuit against some of these restrictive measures in Brazil's federal supreme court.

But we've heard from several states, they will be fighting back against that lawsuit. Several states, banding together, to fight back against this action Bolsonaro has taken in the federal supreme court -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Rio de Janeiro.


HOLMES: U.S. and Chinese officials, now making measured comments following an extraordinarily contentious debate that played out before cameras this week. The adversaries, meeting face to face on Thursday for the first time since Joe Biden won the White House.

In a rare public display, the country's top diplomats traded sharp criticisms over issues like China's human rights abuses and political and racial unrest in the U.S. The talks ended on Friday with both sides weighing in.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We wanted to share with them significant concerns we have about a number of actions China has taken. And the behavior it's exhibiting, concerns shared by our allies and partners. And we did that. We also wanted to lay out very clearly our own policies, priorities and world view. And we did that, too.

WANG YI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We still hope the United States will make joint efforts, with China, to meet each other halfway. In particular, to respect each other's core interests and major concerns. On the basis, the door of China U.S. dialogue will always be open


HOLMES: Of course, relations between Russia in America is nothing new but this was not diplomacy as usual. CNN chief security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, with more from Washington for us.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is an extremely unusual public confrontation between U.S. and Chinese officials at a very senior level. I've been in a lot of these meetings and I've never seen a public outburst like this in front of the cameras. Nothing quite to this degree, even in private.

This is in part an expression of China's growing confidence, not only to match the U.S. but to surpass the U.S. and it has a goal of doing so around the middle of the century. There is some in China, Chinese officials, who bring up that timeline to the next several years, perhaps the 2030s because they see the U.S. having been weakened by the Trump era, by the 2008 financial crisis, by long wars in the Middle East.

We've seen this kind of forthrightness from Chinese diplomats, ambassadors; even on Twitter it's called wolf warrior diplomacy. But not from the seniormost Chinese leaders and diplomats.

It's a reflection right up to the top of Xi Jinping, an increasingly confident leader and increasingly aggressive leader, who's made moves in Hong Kong, imprisoning Uyghurs in northwestern China and whose hostile moves towards Taiwan that made American officials are nervous, all of these things an expression of China's confidence -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.



HOLMES: Bonnie Glasar is the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and joins me now from Washington.

The official line was constructive talks but that meeting on Thursday, how would China view that fairly direct and U.S. public position straight out of the gates, setting a tone and one that China probably, did not like? BONNIE GLASAR, DIRECTOR, CHINA POWER PROJECT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think that's right. The Chinese expected that while the cameras were in the room, there would be a brief exchange of pleasantries and that after the media left, then, the two sides could get down to business.

I'm sure that they expected that it would be a little testy.


GLASAR: I do think there was a surprise that the United States, right out of the gate, was quite direct about the nature of the problems that are in the relationship and sees itself in the strong position to compete with China, even confront China. We saw pretty tough reactions from the Chinese member, but I think he was speaking to a domestic audience. After all, the cameras were rolling.

HOLMES: Domestic audience of one, you may say. There are so many areas of disagreement -- Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, with an aggressive military posture in the region, in the South China Sea and so on.

How important in the broader picture is the reality of economic self- interest?

GLASAR: I think both sides recognize they have a very important economic relationship. Even where they compete, in some areas, in technology and the U.S. may not want to see that advance technology going to China, it is targeted areas. Huawei's technology, where they want to sell into our 5G systems and we don't want to buy their equipment, still, just a drop in the bucket.

So trade is very important in the relationship and will remain important.

HOLMES: Speak to the U.S. under Biden, as opposed to Trump. Biden has already reengaged allies when it comes to China, which is different.

How does it strengthen the U.S. position on the united front?

GLASAR: Well, the United States still had meetings with the secretary of state and Secretary of Defense in Korea, then to India and the president engaged in a summit, with the Quad, Japan, Australia and India.

The U.S. believe we're reengaging with the world and multilateral institutions. We joined the World Health Organization, with the U.N. Human Rights Council, supporting the World Trade Organization.

The Biden administration thinks that this will enable us to compete with China more effectively, because, unilaterally we're limited in how much we can influence China.

HOLMES: I want to ask you this, China has always played the long game, both in terms of economic and geopolitical strategy. Looking decades down the road. While the West doesn't, do you agree with that? GLASAR: I see China and increasingly impatient. They see the wind at

their backs. The East is rising, and the West is declining, setting out a vision for where China should be. 2029 is big goal but there's interim targets for 2035, increasing China's soft power.

I think the Chinese are very impatient to become the biggest economy in the world. We take what they see as their rightful place.

HOLMES: That is fascinating. I just want to finish up, with the space available, to craft a strategy, goals like competition but also cooperation at the same time.

GLASAR: Wise leadership and good policies have a good chance of being successful. We should not ignore cooperation and the Anchorage talks. They've agreed to work together on Iran, North Korea, climate change and Afghanistan.

So it will be difficult to thread this needle but we ought to be able to, in areas where we have common interests, cooperate. We are going to compete, game on, that is a message of the Biden administration.

And then areas where we have a conflict of interest or we have to manage that difference of interest and prevented ourselves from going to war.

HOLMES: Yes, those tensions. Bonnie Glasar, thank you so much.

GLASAR: Thank you.


HOLMES: Take a quick break, when we come back, a CNN investigation into war crime allegations in Ethiopia.


HOLMES: Women who survived years of unthinkable violence and horror tell us their stories, that's coming up.

Also, something that has not happened in 800 years, a long dormant volcano, erupting in Iceland with a warning from local officials. All that and more, when we come back.




HOLMES: A brand-new CNN investigation revealing the heartbreaking and extremely disturbing reality for women in Ethiopia. Over the past few months, conflict in the northern Tigray region has killed thousands of people; hundreds of thousands more, fleeing their homes.

The Biden administration bringing the humanitarian crisis to the forefront this week, announcing that they are sending more than $50 million in aid to the region.

They are also dispatching Biden ally, Senator Chris Coons, to the Ethiopian capital to meet with the country's prime minister and address what the U.S. secretary of state has called an ethnic cleansing.


BLINKEN: The challenge in Ethiopia is quite significant and it is one that we are very focused on, particularly, the situation in Tigray where we are seeing very credible reports of human rights abuses and atrocities that are ongoing.


HOLMES: Now CNN has learned that soldiers in the Tigray region are using rape as a weapon of war. We want to warn you, some of what you will hear and see, is graphic. CNN's Nima Elbagir speaking to Jake Tapper earlier, he asked who is responsible for the alleged crimes.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They feel like no man in uniform is safe for them. A combination of ethnic Amhara militias from the Amhara ethnic group, allied with the government, soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, soldiers from the Fano Amhara ethnic militia, even here in Hamdayed (ph).

Just a couple of months ago, this was a safe haven. There were so many refugees were able to cross here.

Now they're describing to us a toxic mix of all of those forces, the ethnic militia, the Fano militia, the Eritrean soldiers blocking them from across the river from where we're standing here from coming to safety. Even here in Hamdayed (ph), they feel the shadow, Jake, they feel that fear.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You were able to speak with a doctor who's treating some of the women who have been attacked and even some of the victims.

ELBAGIR: We went to a clinic where Dr. Tedros Tefera, this extraordinary surgeon at home in Tigray, here, he's taken over the running of the clinic. He was examining a young woman who we asked if we could speak with, and we discovered that she had been raped, and she gave us permission to broadcast this, Jake. Take a look at it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He pushed me, and he said you Tigrayans have no history, no culture, I can do what I want to you and no one cares.

ELBAGIR: What brought you to the clinic here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I haven't told anyone, but I've been thinking that I'm pregnant from the rape, so I came to check, and I discovered I am.


ELBAGIR: And the doctor says of the cases that are actually reported to him like that young lady, it may be less than ten, but the cases that he suspects based on the injuries they present with, he thinks that just here they could be potentially in the thousands and he believes that this isn't just about ill-discipline, as horrible as that is, that this is part of a campaign that's being intentionally waged against the women of Tigray. This is what he told us, Jake.


DR. TEDROS TEFERA, EXAMINED TIGRAY VICTIMS: The women that they've been raped, the things they were saying to them as they were raping them, is that they need to change their identity. To either Amharize them or at least leave Tigrinya status. And they've come there to cleanse them.

ELBAGIR: Cleanse the blood line?

TEFERA: Cleanse the blood line and get them that they are different. Practically this has been a genocide of different phases.

ELBAGIR: And it is that cleansing of the blood line that these women say that they're being told is being done to them. That's what gives this the hallmarks of a genocide, Jake. That's what gives this the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing, rather than just an unfortunate consequence of war.

And it's not here in Hamdayet, our team have been gathering evidence, our extraordinary team has also been working on gathering evidence from inside Tigray and I have to warn you and our viewers that what we're about to share with you is incredibly, incredibly upsetting, but it is a key piece of evidence in the wielding of rape as a weapon of war.

A doctor from inside Tigray was able to record a video of a procedure being carried out to remove foreign objects that had been inserted into an alleged victim victim's vagina. And we can't show you the video. It's too horrifying. I watched it. It's nauseating and appalling. We can show you these stills. These stills are what the doctors removed from inside this woman that told them she had been held captive by Eritrean soldiers and raped multiple times over a period of times.

You see in those stills, in a bucket those foreign objects nails measuring around 3 inches, rocks, used condoms. This is rape as a weapon of humiliation. It's a weapon of collective punishment, and the fear that it has instilled in the women even here in this safe haven in Hamdayet, Jake, is so awful to witness.

TAPPER: These stories and images that you're bringing to our viewers, it's so important obviously, also so heartbreaking.

We know that President Biden has dispatched his good friend Senator Coons, but beyond that, what else is the U.S. doing to help end this crisis?

ELBAGIR: Well, the U.S. has as Secretary Blinken said at this humanitarian spend. But in practical terms, what the U.S. is not doing, which it should be doing, is ensuring that hear, this safe haven in Hamdayet remains open, and that is not happening.

This is the only safe place for many Tigrayans and the Ethiopian forces, Ethiopian allied forces, Ethiopian government forces, we're told, are blocking that. That's a war crime. Blocking safe passage to fleeing communities would meet the metrics, the guidelines for a war crime, Jake. That's a simple fix. Give more humanitarian spending here to agencies and people like Dr.

Tedros who hasn't been paid for months. He's doing this for free, who are helping the communities here. But pressure the Ethiopians to release, to relieve some of that fear and some of that pain that's just across the border. Let them come here. The Sudanese government has agreed to give them safe haven. Allow them to take up that opportunity while that situation is being resolved, Jake.


HOLMES: Doctors are seeing patients as young as 8 years old. Survivors, telling their stories and the stories of their mothers and sisters. There is much more of this important reporting on

We will be right back.





HOLMES: You are looking there at lava, flowing from a volcano in Iceland that, until a few hours ago, had been dormant since, wait for this, the 12th century. Emergency management officials, urging residents to stay indoors and close windows, to avoid volcanic gas pollution. They add, this is not considered to be a major eruption. It does come as more than 40,000 earthquakes hit the area in the past month.


HOLMES: We are taking a quick break, when we come back, how Europe is counting on the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now that it's in the clear but actually, getting shots into arms is easier said than done.





HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers, all around the world, I am Michael Holmes, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Let's update you on the top story.

European leaders working to rebuild trust in AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine after those fears that it may cause blood clots. More nations are resuming it, following the go ahead from regulators.

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, making a public show of his confidence in the vaccine on Friday, sharing it with praise, after receiving his first dose.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: And a wonderful nurse, Lily, and she said you'll feel a sharp pinch and I did not feel a thing. So it was very good, very quick and I'm going to say, I cannot recommend it to you enough.

Everybody, when you do get your notification to go for a jab, get it. It is the best possible thing for you, for your family and everyone else.


HOLMES: French officials, also trying to rebuild confidence in the AstraZeneca shot but vaccine hesitancy there, already high to begin with. We hear from CNN's Jim Bittermann and France. First, let's go to Fred Pleitgen, in Berlin.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the main vaccination centers of the German capital of Berlin. One of the things the authorities here in Berlin decided is that when Germany decided to use the AstraZeneca vaccine again, they wanted to get going as fast as possible.

As you can see, we are in the waiting area where people come, after they get the vaccine, because they are monitored to ensure they don't have side effects. If they do have side effects, of course, they can be helped medically, very quickly.

We did speak to some of the people who came here and, they generally, told us that they are not concerned about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. Here's what they said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a doctor but I asked my doctor, he said it was fine and to do it. So, I trust him and follows instructions.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): "I have no problem with, it she says, not at all. For me, the relation to the large amount of people who got vaccinated worldwide, to those of you who had complications is not that significant."


PLEITGEN: Now of course, when Germany and other European countries decided to hold the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, it caused all sorts of problems with the appointments, here, at this vaccination center and another as well.

There were some people we talked to today and they told us that they got their appointments for the vaccination very quickly. Some said they went on a website today, immediately got an appointment because, of course, they want to move as fast as possible.


PLEITGEN: The use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, is extremely important. Not just to Germany but other European countries as well. Especially since their vaccination campaigns have been going slowly.

Look at Germany for instance, they want to start administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to general practitioners and in their offices, just to ensure more people can get the vaccine faster.

One of the things of the German health minister said, earlier today, is he with the vaccines currently available, German does not have enough vaccine to stop the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic and therefore, countries like Germany and other countries as well, may put in place new lockdown measures.



JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: For the next month, an estimated 20 million French will be facing new restrictions as the government attempts to break down the alarming rise in COVID cases. A large part of the country, stretching from Paris, to the north, to the English Channel and Nice, an estimated 110,000 nonessential businesses and people have to carry justifications for being out.

As well travel is under restrictions and other areas forbidden. Meanwhile, the lagging vaccination program here seems to be back on track. The prime minister himself, getting a shot, on television, encouraging the French to do the same -- Jim Bittermann, France.



HOLMES: Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner.

Good to see you, Doctor. Now let's talk about AstraZeneca. The issues, again, raise the issue in some ways a vaccine nationalism. Wealthy nations with the vast majority of doses, while the rest of the world does not have good access. Rich populations have more of the vaccine.

How is that in terms of controlling the pandemic and the variants?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it's an issue from a humanitarian standpoint, certainly. When it comes to all global citizens but even if citizens and wealthy nations want to think about it in a selfish manner, a self-serving manner, it impacts them as well.

That is because, if we have this large spread in countries not vaccinated, variants can develop that may be less susceptible. And these could be more contagious and deadly so we're in this together. We, as a world, are only as strong as our weakest link.

HOLMES: Absolutely. You have China and Russia, sending vaccines overseas. That, obviously, is a good thing. But many people see a motive of political leverage in doing so. So vaccine diplomacy.

In terms of fair distribution, especially if there is an inferred or explicit quid pro quo politically, or, is it just about jabs in arms?

WEN: It's hard, because from a public health standpoint, it really is just about jabs in arms. We have many countries with health care workers, where they get decimated. They don't have the masks and other equipment and now not getting those vaccines.

I really feel for those countries and understand why they would accept vaccines no matter the terms because they're desperate to save lives.

HOLMES: Good point. We are seeing surges in Europe. Dr. Fauci, on Friday, suggesting a major factor in the increase is due to the U.K. variant in the U.S. as well along with the increased risk of death that variant brings, by all accounts. Yet, vaccine hesitancy, how does it impact the ability to control the spread?

WEN: Ultimately, we want to reach herd immunity, that is 70-85 percent having immunity, either recovery from infection or vaccination. Now right now, our major barrier to reaching herd immunity is supply of the vaccine, as well as a limited distribution. But at some point, what is in the way is vaccine hesitancy.

I am very concerned about all of the misinformation and disinformation that is out there, very much, worried that we will never be able to admit in this pandemic, because of vaccine hesitancy.

HOLMES: In the broader picture, how do you see the global landscape the next 2 months?

Vaccines great news, obviously but also these surges are happening regardless.

WEN: On top of that, we also have a huge amount of pandemic fatigue. Here at the U.S., we see plenty of restrictions being lifted, going back to pre-pandemic normal when, it's not time to do that.

So frankly, I don't know what's the next several months will look like.


WEN: We could be on two different paths. On one hand, maybe vaccine rollout continues to speed up. Maybe we get these variants under control. But we could see massive surges.

HOLMES: Exactly. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you.

WEN: Thank you.

HOLMES: Now U.S. President Joe Biden says hate crimes are skyrocketing and none of us can stay silent anymore. Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, visiting Atlanta on Friday. They met with Asian American leaders. This was days after 8 people, including 6 woman of Asian descent, were killed in a mass shooting.

Mr. Biden, explaining how the violence comes from racist rhetoric around the coronavirus.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are learning again what we've always known. Words have consequences.

It's the coronavirus, full stop. The conversation we had with the AAPI leaders and that we hear across the country is hate and violence often hide in plain sight.

It's often met with silence, as throughout our history. But that has to change. Because, that is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out, to act.


HOLMES: Vice President Kamala Harris says it is critical to treat all with dignity and respect.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone has the right to go to work, to go to school, to walk down the street and be safe and, also, the right to be recognized as an American, not as the other, not as them but as us.


HOLMES: A newly described fossil, revealing a previously unknown type of shark. We show it to you now, this unusual eagle shark. Its wings stretch up 1.9 meters across, around the link of a double bed.

Here is how it may have looked by 93 million years ago with a large mouth, teeth within the tank but we got 11 new sergeants. The first, found in Mexico, Famous for remarkably well-preserved fossils.

Feel smarter now. I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate your company, follow me on Twitter and

Instagram @HolmesCNN. I will be back in about 15 minutes. With more CNN NEWSROOM. Meanwhile, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is up next.