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CNN NEWSROOM

Top Myanmar General Vows To Uphold Democracy On "Day Of Shame"; U.S. Voter Suppression; U.K. To Test Truckers Transiting France; Ship Blocking Suez Canal Has Economic Toll; Boulder King Soopers Shooter Passed Background Check; Kenya Imposes New Lockdown On Some Provinces; Inside Hong Kong's Rough And Confusing Vaccine Rollout; Football Legend Thierry Henry Quits Social Media. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 27, 2021 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We're following a dramatic escalation in bloodshed in Myanmar. Reuters is reporting that security forces killed at least 50 pro-democracy protesters have been killed. Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson joining us from Hong Kong.

We are hearing horrific numbers.

What is the latest?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Local media saying 50 people have been killed. Earlier numbers, perhaps 16 killed. It will take a while to sort some of these numbers out and try to confirm them.

But make no mistake, from some grisly images on social media by anti- coup groups, it looks like it has been a day of bloodshed across the country, a day that the military has declared a holiday to celebrate the armed forces and a day when the anti-coup protesters had planned to protest against the military junta that swept a civilian elected government from power on February 1st and since then has been responsible for deadly crackdown on the opposition -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. The military warned protesters they might get shod in the head or the back and that seems to have come to pass.

You mentioned that it's Myanmar Armed Forces Day.

Did that play any role in all of this violence crackdown?

WATSON: Well, it's a holiday in Myanmar, so you had the military throw a party for itself in the capital with a military parade there and normally it's attended by foreign delegations.

But to the best of our knowledge only a Russian delegation showed up and applauded by the military dictator, the commander in chief of armed forces, who declared himself the ruler of the country on February 1st.

He went on to say he promised to organize elections in the country. The military proxy parties lost in last November's election and the military has used allegations, unfounded, of vote fraud as justification for their coup.

He went on to say -- and accused the ousted government of being guilty of crimes such as corruption that they are being prosecuted for.

Ironically, the former civilian leader, who is being held in detention, who he ousted, is Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the founder of the military. And it's his initial creation of the military that is celebrated today but nobody has heard from her since February 1st.

BRUNHUBER: This worsening violence doesn't seem to be stopping the demonstrators from going out.

But is there anybody working to protect them at all?

WATSON: A lot has changed in less than two months since the coup. Just about a month ago, the protesters were out on the streets engaging in cosplay and using a lot of humor. Then the violence increasingly got worse.

There are estimates that 100 people were killed by the security forces. Increasingly the demonstrators have resorted to making helmets, shields, using fire extinguishers.

There are call for violent tactics coming from within the protest movements for a creation of something called a federal army, which would presumably link the protesters in the cities with ethnic armed militias that control enclaves in border regions.

Myanmar has 135 different ethnic groups in the country, many different languages. And ethnic militias have been at war with the government for decades and control these enclaves.

[05:05:00]

WATSON: The calls for an alliance, the biggest militias, have expressed support for the protest movement and CNN interviewed the leader of one of those groups, who has denounced the coup and said the military has basically turned Myanmar into a failed state. Listen to what he had to say to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. AWD SERK, SHAN STATE ARMY COMMANDER (through translator): We will stand with the people. It means, if they are in trouble, they come to us seeking help and we will take care of them.

If the military continues to shoot and kill people, it means the junta will, have simply, transformed themselves into terrorists. They simply do not care about the people. We won't sit still and we will find every means to protect people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: There is big question here.

What may happen in the weeks ahead?

Could this protest movement start to evolve into urban guerrillas in the cities?

Some want it and some don't. And there is division within the protest movement about how to move forward -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: We will keep monitoring this story throughout the day. Thank you so much, Ivan Watson, in Hong Kong.

U.S. President Joe Biden says the Justice Department is examining Georgia's sweeping new law that critics say will discourage minority voters. He slammed the revamped elections law, "an atrocity and blatant attack on the Constitution and Jim Crow in the 21st century."

Jim Crow refers to a legacy of harsh U.S. and state laws to enforce racial segregation up until the 1960s. Here is what president said on Friday at the White House. Listen to this.

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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an atrocity. The idea -- if you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They pass a law saying you can't provide water for people standing in line while they are waiting to vote?

You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can't provide water for people about to vote. Give me a break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: CNN's Sara Murray takes a closer look at the barriers that Georgia's new laws have created for the state's voters.

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SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing a dramatic overhaul of the state's election laws, the first GOP victory in restricting voter access in a major battleground state.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): After the November election last year, I knew, like so many of you, that significant reforms to our state elections were needed.

MURRAY: The law puts new voter identification requirements on absentee ballots, limits drop boxes to indoor locations during business hours, allows state officials to take over local elections boards and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to provide food and water.

KEMP: Well, it wasn't a voting rights bill. It was an election security bill that actually increases early voting opportunities on the weekend here in Georgia.

MURRAY: The legislation doesn't include earlier efforts to get rid of no-excuse absentee voting and it allows expanded weekend early voting, but advocates say it is still riddled with restrictions that make it harder, particularly for minorities, to vote.

STATE REP. DONNA MCLEOD (D-GA): This is despicable and disgusting. And it creates more barriers to our voters, so that they're not having access to the ballot box like they should. And to actually say to people, you can't give somebody food or water, that's just cruel and inhumane.

MURRAY (voice-over): It was a striking scene Thursday, Kemp huddled behind closed doors with a handful of white men designed to sign the bill.

MCLEOD: This Jim Crow 2.0 is represented in that picture. You see those man. There's no color in them. There's just pure white males trying to basically hold onto power with their life.

MURRAY: Just outside Kemp's office, Park Cannon, a black state representative, was arrested and marched out of the Capitol by several police officers after she knocked on Kemp's door, trying to gain access to the signing ceremony.

Cannon now out of jail and facing two felony charges, which her allies say she intends to fight.

STATE REP. ERICA THOMAS (D-GA): We are now -- is praying for her strength to get through this and we are definitely lawyered up to defend her in every way we know how.

MURRAY: Georgia's law just one of hundreds of bills Republicans are pushing nationwide, as they hold tight to baseless claims of fraud amid their 2020 electoral defeats.

Even Kemp, who defended Georgia's election integrity last year, now appears to be buying into the big lie, as he braces for a reelection fight in 2022.

KEMP: There's no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled.

[05:10:00]

KEMP: And those problems, understandably, led to the crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia.

MURRAY: Former President Trump, meantime, still parroting his fact- free claim.

TRUMP: If you look at the last election, it was disgraceful. It was a Third World election. It was a disgrace.

MURRAY: As the fallout of the big lie spreads, FOX News facing a $1.6 billion defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems for spreading lies that the machines were linked to election fraud.

STEPHEN SHACKELFORD, ATTORNEY FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: FOX gave life to these lies. FOX took this small flame and they turned it into a raging fire.

MURRAY: This as former Trump legal team member Sidney Powell defends herself in her own defamation suit from Dominion, claiming in a court filing that, even though she spread voter fraud claims, "No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact."

In a statement Friday night, Trump congratulated the Georgia state legislature, saying, "They learned from the travesty of the 2020 presidential election."

Meanwhile, there's three civil rights groups that are already challenging the new Georgia law in court -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

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BRUNHUBER: I spoke a short time with Tia Mitchell, the Washington correspondent for the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" newspaper. I asked her where the battle goes from here and if the damage is already done to Georgia's political reputation. Listen.

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TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION": I think there is still a lot that we don't know. There have already been lawsuits filed and there could be changes coming at the federal level.

But I do think, you know, the brand of Georgia is somewhat tarnished by what happened yesterday, not only with the bill being signed but, as you noted, you know, seeing a Black Democratic lawmaker being arrested for knocking on the governor's door in that process.

BRUNHUBER: So what do you make of the politics here in terms of voter engagement?

You know, so much of politics generally on both sides is fueled by outrage and the sense of something taken away from them.

Without Donald Trump to get exercised about, will this be the issue that energizes Democrats and could this play a huge role in the battle for governor between Kemp and Stacey Abrams?

MITCHELL: I think it will. No matter what happens, it will. Democrats are energized in Georgia after a very successful 2020 cycle that went into the runoffs in January. Now they are saying, look, we were so successful that Republicans have passed the law to try to keep our voters boxed in, to -- you know, Democrats feel like this law is specifically targeted at core Democratic constituencies to make it harder for them to vote.

I think a powerful rallying cry and it's resonating. When you have a message that resonates, you know, candidates know that is a winning message. I'm not saying that Democrats are guaranteed to win. But they definitely have a message that resonates.

On the Republican side, unfortunately, that message on their side continues to be we can't trust our election system and, therefore, we need to fix it and, therefore, these changes are needed because we don't quite know if your vote can be counted accurately.

And what we learned in 2020 is that is not a winning message on the GOP side so it's going to be interesting to even see how it affects Republican voters in the coming months.

BRUNHUBER: Good point. We will have to leave it there. Thank you so much, Tia Mitchell. I appreciate you coming on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: The U.S. is making headway on COVID vaccinations. Almost 3.4 million Americans got a shot on Friday. That is a new daily record, according to the White House. The CDC says more than one quarter of the population has received at least one dose and almost 15 percent are fully vaccinated. But health officials warn the fight is far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: It's clear there is a case for optimism but there is not a case for relaxation. This is not the time to let down our guard.

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BRUNHUBER: Most states have now announced plans to open up vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older. Only two states haven't shared a timeline for vaccinating everyone, that is Arkansas and New York.

The World Health Organization has finished its report on the origins of COVID-19. It's undergoing final checks and should be released to the public within the next few days.

France is struggling to contain a third wave of coronavirus infections so countries across Europe are taking action.

[05:15:00]

BRUNHUBER: The British government will begin testing truck drivers entering or returning from France, that is according to an industry source familiar with the decision. The exact details of the plan are unclear.

But an announcement is expected as early as this weekend. France is set to impose new measures in schools as cases surge. Classrooms have to shut down if there is even one positive case.

Germany is classifying France as high risk and travelers from France will have to quarantine upon arrival. Jim Bittermann is joining us.

You are in a high-risk zone, according to Germany.

What led to this?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: I think the Germans say it's not political and nothing to do with politics. But it's just the numbers and the numbers are not good for France. Basically, the Germans look at the incidence rate, which is the number of cases, positive cases in a population of 100,000.

In Germany, it's around 119 people per 100,000 have tested positive. In France, it's well over 200 tested positive for coronavirus. And as a consequence, the Germans said that is the threshold, so we will impose these restrictions.

It's all of France and overseas territories, are under a restriction having to show up in Germany with a COVID test that is not more than 48 hours old. And they also face a quarantine of 10 days. It's a big new sort of step for the Germans and not political, they say, but it is going to lead to some problems.

And especially the border regions that have cross-border traffic, they have people who commute over the border to work. And the question as to how that is resolved as well as with truckers.

The schools is another issue. The French tried to keep their schools open at all costs. One of the costs is the students are getting infected. Last week alone, 21,000 student infections in France.

As a consequence now, there is this new lockdown measure in 19 of the so-called departments of France, in which the schools will discontinue classes if they have so much as one positive test per class.

So that has already led to 3,000 classes being shutdown and probably more in the future. It's a difficult problem. The numbers are rising across the map. So now steps are being taken -- Kim.

Brussels France really struggling there. Thanks so much, Jim Bittermann, outside Paris. Appreciate it.

A logical nightmare at the Suez Canal. How crews are trying to move a ship blocking one of the major trade routes. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: The Biden administration says it's offering to help in any way it can 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's wreaking all sorts of havoc. CNN's Ben Wedeman has the latest.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. 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. 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.

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BRUNHUBER: So will this affect you and the prices you pay for food and other goods?

One expert tells CNN, probably not, unless you're in the industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LARS JENSEN, CEO, SEAINTELLIGENCE CONSULTING: Perhaps the counterintuitive aspect of this is, if you're a consumer, you won't notice any immediate difference. You won't see shelves go dry at the supermarkets.

[05:25:00]

JENSEN: You won't see any lack of goods as such. This is where the counterintuitive part comes in.

The consumer will immediately notice absolutely nothing. But if you're working in companies that import or export, you will have your work cut out for you to try to make ends meet.

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BRUNHUBER: After months on the ground and allegations of atrocities, Eritrean troops will withdraw from the Tigray region in Ethiopia. Pressure has been mounting to get the forces out and hold them accountable for their actions. CNN's senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir reports.

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NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ethiopian Prime minister Ahmad Abiy has conducted a series of rapid about-turns, first acknowledging for the first time that Eritrean forces were fighting alongside Ethiopian forces in the region. And now saying that Eritrean forces will be withdrawn.

This coming after months of denial in spite of eyewitness reports that placed Eritrean soldiers at the scene of multiple massacres in Tigray and comes weeks after U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken first asked for them to withdraw.

For many of those we're already hearing from on the ground, who have lost loved ones or survived atrocities perpetrated in that region, they are telling us just Ahmad's word is not enough. Many activists are asking for accountability for some kind of U.N. mechanism, some body, to ensure that Eritrea really has left and from there to conduct a independent investigation into the allegations of atrocities and war crimes against both Eritrea and Ethiopia -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Sudan.

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BRUNHUBER: Just ahead, new information about the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. We'll learn about a police officer's bravery just before he was killed.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us in United States,

Canada and around the world.

The district attorney in Boulder, Colorado, says he expects to file more charges in the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 10 people. Police are still on the scene gathering evidence but the suspect's motive remains a mystery. Kyung Lah reports.

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KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With flowers and emblems of grief covering fallen Officer Eric Talley's police vehicle, the Boulder police chief says what is haunting investigators, the killer's motive still unknown.

CHIEF MARIS HEROLD, BOULDER POLICE DEPARTMENT: Like the rest of the community we, too, want to know why, why that King Soopers, why Boulder, why Monday?

And, unfortunately, at this time, we still don't have those answers.

LAH (voice-over): What they do know: Ahmad Alissa purchased the semiautomatic Ruger AR556 pistol here at the Eagles Nest Armory, six days before the shooting.

The owner says the sale was legal, adding, "Regarding the firearm in question, a background check of the purchaser was conduct as required by Colorado law and approval was provide by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation."

The gunman also carried a 0.9 millimeter handgun, but police say he did not use it in the rampage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 136, we have multiple shots being fired.

LAH (voice-over): The first responding officers did exchange gunfire.

MICHAEL DOUGHERTY, BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: They charged into the store and immediately faced a very significant amount of gunfire from the shooter who at first they were unable to locate and they put their lives at risk.

That will be reflected in additional attempted murder charges that will be filed by the district attorney's office the next couple of weeks.

LAH (voice-over): Funerals will begin next week for the 10 victims, people who were just in their neighborhood grocery store, where officers are now counting the bullets one by one.

DOUGHERTY: You picture a supermarket, picture all the shelves, all the products, everything. They are going through every single shelf, pulling everything off the shelves, looking in the walls. And that is going to continue throughout the weekend.

LAH: The Boulder police department released more details about those first arriving officers. Officer Talley led that first contact team in to the store within 30 seconds of arriving on the scene.

The suspect immediately started shooting at the police officers, killing Officer Talley and those police officers say the suspect kept firing on them until he was apprehended. As far as everyone in the store, no one else was shot or killed as officers took on all that gunfire -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Boulder, Colorado.

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BRUNHUBER: The back-to-back mass shootings in Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia, have brought renewed calls for tighter gun control laws. But any legislation needs 10 Republican senators and that is considered highly unlikely.

It takes a super majority of 60 votes to get most bills through the U.S. Senate. That is how many votes it takes to end a filibuster. There are growing calls to change or scrap the filibuster altogether. President Biden was a long time U.S. senator. He says the filibuster of old is being abused as a political weapon. Listen to this.

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BIDEN: Between 1917 and 1971, the filibuster existed, there were a total of 58 motions to break a filibuster, that whole time. Last year alone, there were five times that many. So it's being abused in a gigantic way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Joining me is Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and former deputy assistant attorney general and a host of the "Talking Feds" podcast.

Thank you for coming on. If you name an issue, gun control and voting rights and it seems clear that President Biden and Democrats in Congress will be running into the buzzsaw of Republican opposition and the idea of getting anything done in a bipartisan way, do you think Democrats will kill the filibuster?

If so, what do you think will be the issue to galvanize them behind what could be a very politically turbulent move?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. You make a great point, Kim, because you've named an array of issues.

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LITMAN: And every single one of them now is subject to the filibuster. The filibuster has become very easy for minority party to try to deploy. And they can just sit back and be passive about it and force a majority to try to somehow get up to 60.

I think the odds on a particular compelling issue of getting to 60 might be better than actually killing the filibuster. There seem to me to be at least two senators who are very unlikely to go along with what they view as a very sort of harsh and radical move; even though that view is, itself, pretty dubious.

BRUNHUBER: Let's take voting rights, for instance. I mean, the strategy, as I understand it, will seem to be that they will, you know, just reintroduce, you know, bill after bill, you know, change it up and so on and it will get shot down by the Republicans and they'll see we need to get rid of the filibuster.

LITMAN: Could be.

Look, the pressure will grow. And of course, by that same token, the pressure will grow on certain moderate Republicans to actually step forward and hope to constitute a coalition of 60.

You're surely right. And that's the best example as against the notion of the filibuster, the exigency of passing voting rights legislation dwarfs it. It only takes a couple of Democrats to resist. As it gets more exigent, my read is, to get every Democrat behind mowing it down is very hard.

BRUNHUBER: Changing the 50-vote threshold, that is not the only thing they can do, obviously. There are other options. You've highlighted the Franken proposal.

And is there a way to quickly explain it and I'd be curious to hear whether you think it's realistic or just a cute thought experiment?

LITMAN: I think it may be realistic. Manchin and Joe Biden and others signaled it might be. The basic idea, it's gotten too easy to use the filibuster.

What Franken and Ornstein say, instead of the Democrats have 60 votes, make the Republicans show up and continually have to muster 40 or 41 votes to keep the debate from closing and have the sort of "Mr. Smith Comes to Washington" old style dynamic of their really having to be there in the well and arguing for days on end.

It seems silly but it isn't because it forces them to highlight the rare issue they think is so important that they will pull this extreme move.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you. Really appreciate it.

LITMAN: Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: A massive cleanup underway in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. At least six were killed and many homes ripped to shreds as powerful tornadoes tore through the Deep South. The national weather was said one in Newnan, Georgia, was an EF-4. Another in Eagle Point, Alabama, was an EF-3, packing winds of 140 miles per hour.

All right. There is much more to come on CNN NEWSROOM, including tough new coronavirus restrictions in Kenya, now battling a surge in cases. We will take you live to Africa for the latest. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: Strict new COVID lockdown measures are now in effect for much of Kenya. Movement in and out of Nairobi and its surrounding counties is now banned. Eleni Giokos has the story from Johannesburg.

There is so much travel in and out of that city.

How do they contain this?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Look, we have always seen the Kenyan government being able to enforce lockdown measures and now these perhaps the most interesting come about in the third wave.

They started to look at the country as 47 counties and look at where you're seeing a hotbed of cases; 5 out of the 47 counties in Kenya is what they have called the disease-infected area, that being Nairobi county.

There will be no movement in and out of these areas, only be for movement of goods. Curfew in place now at 8:00 pm to 4:00 am And it's to try to bring down the numbers. The president there gave a reality check for Kenyans yesterday. He was talking about the increase in hospital admissions have risen by over 52 percent in the last 13 days.

The third wave, he says, started at the beginning of March. One of the doctors that works in Nairobi, I spoke to yesterday, he was telling me that these measures should have been taken two weeks ago to try to bring the numbers down.

Now the big issue here is that the hospital system cannot cope with the admissions and cannot cope with the sick. Now we are seeing ICU beds filling up and you're starting to hear that a lot of people, that need health care assistance that is non-COVID-19 related, are not able to find hospital beds.

The president was realistic and said cases are probably going to rise and max out at around 3,000 per day in the next few weeks and, hopefully, start to subside in the next 50 to 60 days. That rollout is underway in Kenya.

But there is concern that it is just not happening quick enough. The rest of the country put new public health measures in play and installed curfews and schools have been suspended.

But at the end of the day, as these cases rise and vaccine rollouts are happening in parallel, at the end of the day, it's been such a very difficult situation to deal with when you have such a big movement of people on a daily basis in these very densely populated areas.

BRUNHUBER: Exactly. Big challenges ahead. Thank you so much, Eleni Giokos. Appreciate it. [05:45:00]

BRUNHUBER: So far Hong Kong kept COVID cases at a minimum.

Now it has plenty of vaccine doses to go around so its vaccine rollout should be relatively easy, right?

Not exactly. Kristie Lu Stout explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hong Kong should be an easy vaccine success story. It has secured 22.5 million doses from Sinovac, Pfizer BioNTech and AstraZeneca, more than enough to inoculate a population of 7.5 million.

A widely praised online booking system in place and a vaccine rollout has been underway but the rollout has been rough. Due to concerns over packaging problems, health officials have suspended the use of two batches of the European made BioNTech vaccine, distributed by Fosun Pharma.

In a statement, they said that, "So far, BioNTech and Fosun Pharma have no reason to believe that there is a risk to product safety."

Before the suspension, vaccine hesitancy was already high. According to a University of Hong Kong study, only 50 percent said, in January, they intend to get vaccinated, much lower than elsewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the reasons for, that is our success, in controlling COVID in the past year. We've only had 11,000 cases in 7.5 million people, less than 1 percent of people in Hong Kong. I think that means we don't necessarily see the risk as the U.S. and Europe.

STOUT (voice-over): Another factor behind the hesitancy, fear: at least 8 people have died after getting the Chinese made Sinovac vaccine, although official investigations found no direct link with the inoculations.

At least one death of a patient who received the BioNTech vaccine is being investigated. The fatalities have spooked many in Hong Kong but experts insist there's no reason to be concerned.

DR. CHRISTOPHER HUI, RESPIRATORY AND CRITICAL CARE SPECIALIST: Don't be afraid, get vaccinated. What we have seen is there has been a lot of information. Sometimes, with a lot of information in the open public, it creates a kind of analysis paralysis. People, perhaps, are beginning to overthink.

STOUT (voice-over): Sinovac has yet to be approved by the World Health Organization. A lack of data could also feeding public reluctance to get that shot. The government said that the benefits outweigh the risks and accused critics of smearing the Chinese made vaccine.

To boost confidence, Hong Kong's top leader receiving her first and second Sinovac injections on camera. But a quick vaccination drive may be a long shot;, as of Wednesday, only 5.5 percent of the population has received a dose.

STOUT: Hong Kong experts say that 70 percent of the population need to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity, paving the way for the city to relax social distancing restrictions, resume international travel and reboot an ailing economy. But some say it may take 300 more days for the city to reach that goal.

STOUT (voice-over): Before the suspension, the BioNTech vaccine was taken up at a faster rate. Many of the newly inoculated shared celebratory selfies of their first jab. But these moments of relief and joy, including my own, are happening at an even slower pace as hurdles and hesitancy hamper the rollout -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

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BRUNHUBER: Why he's taking a stand against racism. Why soccer legend Thierry Henry is quitting social media and why he is hoping others will dot same. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: Soccer legend Thierry Henry says he has had it with the recent spate of online bullying and racism so he is leaving social media until tech companies do more to hold users accountable for their posts and he hopes others will encourage to do the same. He spoke about his decision with Darren Lewis.

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THIERRY HENRY, FOOTBALL STAR: Muhammad Ali didn't wait to see if everyone was with him. That's what it felt. Please understand I'm nowhere near that caliber, nowhere near. But I said to myself, Thierry, that's how you feel, you feel strong about this?

That's what I want to do is to show, obviously, I'm not happy with the way things are going on social media and where it goes. Because every time I hear these types of complaints -- and I'm not understanding well, it's not just bad things on social media, it's also -- I mentioned it again, there is a lot of good stuff.

But can it be a safe place for a person to operate on it?

DARREN LEWIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you speak about this, you show people that you do have the option to take yourself off social media if it is affecting your mental health. And I think we are in a situation now, where people have to realize that if the social media companies won't take that action we need to take that action for ourselves. HENRY: I played the game. Social media wasn't that big at that

particular moment but I've seen a lot of it. I understood recently, the vulnerable resource of good emotion and showing emotion is a good thing. I come across so many people. But we all know, right?

That when you see a comment on social media, although you have 1 million that don't, you will concentrate on the one bad one. That is what is going to happen on that site. OK?

So you, I or anyone -- and this is a me thing personally -- sometimes, I just try to figure out what I should do, who am I, the and what they're saying is, is it right?

Is it true?

Am I like this?

I'm just trying to imagine a kid going through these wishes and sometimes, I just can't deal with it. With all your knowledge, with all of your learning, you are a man of a certain age.

[05:55:00]

HENRY: So just imagine when you're a kid and this is what I'm saying.

Can it be safer for kids?

Can it be safer for any community?

Can it be safer for your mental health?

This is something for me that is very important. We are seeing it by the minute. Things are just a tiny bit better. Now the problem has moved on social media where people can hide. People can hide behind fake accounts and they can say, oh, it is difficult to trace where it is, they can close the account and reopen a new one.

Who is it?

Can we know?

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BRUNHUBER: CNN reached out to social media companies for their reaction to Thierry Henry.

Twitter said, "Racist behavior, abuse, harassment, have no place on our service. Twitter is a safe place to express yourself and to follow the conversation about football, without fear of abuse or intimidation."

Nice in theory.

Facebook and Instagram, sending a combined statement, saying they will, quote, "take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules, in direct messages and have built tools to help people protect themselves.

"We will continue this work and we know these numbers are bigger than us. So we work with others to, collectively, drive societal change."

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "QUEST'S WORLD OF WONDER" is next for Canada and the U.S., "NEW DAY" is straight ahead.