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Brazil's ICUs Overflow; Ship Blocking Suez Canal Has Economic Toll. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired March 27, 2021 - 00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone I'm Michael Holmes, I appreciate your company.

We begin with an increasingly dire situation in Brazil as the country battles under the weight of a massive coronavirus surge. Brazil, on Friday, adding more than 3,000 virus deaths to its toll for the second time in a week, a sad new record.

Since the pandemic began, more than 300,000 Brazilians have lost their lives to COVID. Hospitals are overflowing, needed medicine in short supply and now CNN has obtained footage from inside burst intensive care units. And it can be tough to watch but it's important to get an idea of what's happening in that country. Matt Rivers with the story.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the system collapses, it starts here. Paramedics rushing to respond to seemingly unending cries for help. This time, it's a grandmother short of breath, another COVID case limping toward a hospital system that cannot handle more patients.

RIVERS: So it's easy to spot ambulances like this one racing all over the city going on call after call after call and in some cases, going to multiple hospitals before they actually find one that can admit the patients that they have in the back.

RIVERS (voice-over): Here, a dozen ambulances with patients await outside a Sao Paulo hospital, hoping a spot opens up inside. These days though, getting inside might not help.

The person who gave CNN this footage from another Sao Paulo hospital told us, it feels like a war zone. The rampant viral spread its own mass casualty event and, across the country, a lack of medical supplies is crippling the ability to care for patients.

In this footage given to us from Brazil's federal district a nurse says this oxygen tube is leaking, taped to a wall, they're strung up all over the hospital this way. In some places, draped between windows. It's the only way to get the limited oxygen they have from its source to the patient. Overflowing rooms are the norm in Brazil now. This Sao Paulo hospital

was designated this week as a COVID only facility but it's plain to see, as we walk through, that it's filled beyond capacity, unable to accept any new patients.

RIVERS: This facility is designed for 16 patients; there's roughly double that number inside there right now.

RIVERS (voice-over): Crowded ICUs across the country have created impossible choices. This nurse, who fears he could lose his job for speaking with us, says one older patient this week was the victim of a zero-sum game. His life for another.

RIVERS: Did you even think that was possible?

RIVERS (voice-over): The nurse says the patient wasn't getting better, so we extubated him and gave his ventilator to a younger patient with a better chance to live.

And for those watching this all up close, like paramedic Luis Eduardo Pimentel (ph) the health care collapse is unbelievably painful.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he says, crying. "There is this cycle, taking a patient to the hospital, then a hearse arriving to get another body. It just hurts too much."

This video given to CNN from inside a city morgue shows coffins, bodies inside waiting to be cremated. There are so many, demand is roughly triple what they can handle in a single day. So the coffins are stacked, waiting their turn.

So many people have died in Sao Paulo recently, this week, there's been burials every few minutes, enough that they can't get them all done during the day. Cemeteries now busy, even at night.


RIVERS: We've been on the ground here reporting in Brazil for more than 2 weeks now and when we try to show in the report is what we've been seeing, which are consistent signs of collapse at just about every level of Brazil's health care system. And when you look at what's going to happen going forward.


RIVERS: Consider that there's been hundreds of thousands of new cases recorded here in Brazil in just the last 7 days, which is why so many epidemiologists that I've spoken to are concerned that we haven't even hit the peak yet here in Brazil.

And that's on top of what we've seen so far. Consider, Michael, just over the last 2 weeks or so, of all the coronavirus deaths recorded around the world, Brazil has accounted for roughly a quarter of those deaths, an absolutely dire situation that is ongoing here in Brazil -- Michael.

HOLMES: Thank you, Matt Rivers.

Now COVID-19 cases also surging in France where a third wave is hitting hard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We weren't really expecting a resurgence of this epidemic as fast as intense as this because right now, we are submerged in severe cases. People who are younger than the last time. And we can't pin down how long this wave will last. Two, three weeks?

Or two, three months?

We don't quite know.


HOLMES: Officials are ordering new restrictions there, a big part of the country already under lockdown but now, in those areas, classrooms will have to shut down if there is just one positive case. It used to be 3 cases from primary schools all the way to high school.

To Germany now, classifying all of France as high risk. Starting on Sunday, travelers from France will have to quarantine upon arrival and have a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

Officials in the U.K. have also taken note of the situation in France. Scott McLean is in London for us.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have a new effort to keep new COVID variants out. The British government will soon require truck drivers transporting goods from France to be tested for COVID-19 on arrival, according to an industry source familiar with the plans.

Much of mainland Europe is dealing with a new surge in infections without enough vaccine to stop it. France says it will allow dentists and even veterinarians to administer shots to help speed out the rollout of its vaccination campaign.

In Italy, the Vatican is offering the Pfizer shot to poor people in Rome, while in Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orban is promising his country will have a summer of freedom. Hungary has jumped ahead of most other European countries in the vaccine race, thanks, in part, to its decision to use Russian and Chinese made vaccines -- Scott McLean, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Myanmar's top general promising to hold elections and accusing pro-democracy protesters of violence. The general spoke during a parade marking Armed Forces Day in an effort to justify last month's military coup and the ongoing deadly crackdown on protesters.

More than 328 people have reportedly been killed by security forces. Pro-democracy activists calling for more large protests today, that is despite a warning, broadcast on state TV, saying, they risk being, quote, "shot in the head or in the back" if they turn out.

The Biden administration says it is offering to help in any way to dislodge that massive cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal. Two Defense officials say the U.S. Navy is sending a team of dredging experts to lend their expertise. Hundreds of other ships are at a standstill in the busy waterway and it is wreaking all sorts of havoc. CNN's Ben Wedeman with the latest from Cairo.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The race is on to dislodge the giant container ship wedged across the Suez Canal since Tuesday. The canal authority estimates up to 20,000 cubic meters of sand and mud need to be removed to refloat to ship.

As dredging work continues, a fleet of tugboats stand by, hoping high tide will provide the vital window in which to free the free the carrier. Almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, the Ever Given got stuck during a sandstorm in 40 knot winds. Blocking a crucial supply chain, that waves around 12 percent of global trade through the quickest maritime link between Asia and Europe.

SAL MERCOGLIANO, MARITIME HISTORIAN: The potential for this is to magnify. If this goes on for a long period of time, worst-case scenario, this goes on for a month to clear the vessel, that's going to cause a massive disruption in the economy.

We saw what happened with a global recession almost that took place in early COVID when all of a sudden, we were not able to move goods in a clear efficient way.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Roughly 30 percent of all global container volume transits daily through the 120-mile waterway carrying vital fuel and cargo. Incoming ships will now be made to anchor in waiting areas in the Red Sea and Mediterranean.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): More than 200 vessels are backed up in either direction with more than 100 en route over the weekend. Their only alternative is to divert around the southern tip of Africa, adding about a week to the journey.

Japanese shipping companies who own the Ever Given told CNN they're bracing for lawsuits but insist their priority right now is refloating the ship, possibly as early as Saturday.

WEDEMAN: And time is of the essence, as data from the shipping expert, Lloyd's List suggests nearly $10 billion worth of goods is disrupted every day, raising the question, who will bear the cost? -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo.


HOLMES: Now back to Barclay's, forcing some shipping lines to consider taking some of those other routes. Have a look at this, ships carrying everything from grain and

livestock to consumer goods and oil. And some of them can't reroute. A short time ago I spoke with maritime historian, Sal Mercogliano, who we also saw invents report about the impact on the world economy. Here's some of what he said.

MERCOGLIANO: If you start seeing but we're seeing, we're starting to see vessels diverting. Ever Green has already diverted their first vessels around the Cape. We're seeing tankers go around. We're seeing a 3 percent spike in oil right now in.

We can expect to see container charges right now, container rates coming from the Far East are $7500 per box. Companies are thinking about adding a surcharge on that because it's going to be costing extra fuel and an extra 3,500 miles, 7 days steaming. So we're about to see it in the pocketbook here real soon.


You can hear my full conversation with Sal Mercogliano right here in about 2 hours from now.

And finally, a dramatic display of Russian military hardware at the top of the world, 3 nuclear armed submarines smashing through the arctic ice as they surfaced in a coordinated maneuver. The defense ministry posting this video. President Vladimir Putin boasting that Russia has never seen anything like this in its history.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me, I'm Michael Holmes, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" starts after a short break. We'll see a bit later.