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People in the Balkans Flock to Serbia for Vaccinations; New Campaign to Encourage Black Britons to Get Vaccinated; Armed Ethnic Groups Warns of Major Conflict; Aung San Suu Kyi Gets First Meeting with Lawyers Since Coup; Wildlife Rescued, 185 Baby Tortoise Found in Suitcase; Suez Canal Working to Clear Backlog; YouTube Videos Lead Police to Alleged Mafia Fugitive; Germany and France Calls for Russia's Help; Jair Bolsonaro Reshuffles His Cabinet; Skepticism is High on WHO's COVID-19 Report; Emotions Pour in Court from Witnesses; Patriots Are in, Opposition is Out. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 31, 2021 - 03:00   ET




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

Just ahead. Amid a surge in COVID cases, France and Germany turned to Russia for help with vaccines.

More than a dozen countries express public doubt about the World Health Organization's report on the origin of coronavirus.

Plus, celebrities and activists sign an open letter, pleading with Black Britons to get their COVID vaccine. We'll speak with one of them.

Good to have you with us.

We begin in Europe where the COVID vaccine rollout is moving at such a sluggish place, some countries are now turning to Russia for help. The leaders of Germany and France have spoken with President Putin about possibly using Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, which is still being reviewed by the E.U.

The talks come as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are under heavy pressure to contain growing outbreaks at home. Germany is steadily approaching three million confirmed cases of the virus. And France is now treating more than 5,000 COVID patients in ICU's, the highest number in nearly a year.

So, let's get more now on all of this from CNN's Melissa Bell. She joins us live from Paris. Good to see you.

So, with Germany and France facing pressure to get surges under control, Merkel and Macron are turning to Russia's President Putin for vaccine help. What is the latest on all of this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Rosemary. So far, it had really been European countries very critical of the way the rollout had been handled by Brussels, that had been turning in growing numbers to the use of Sputnik vaccine I'm hearing. Thinking here of Hungary, Slovakia, but also Austria which is now in negotiations with Moscow for the delivery potentially of up to a million Sputnik vaccine.

The fact that Angela Merkel and President Macron had this phone call with Vladimir Putin over this Sputnik vaccine, tells us really all we need to know about those vaccine shortages.

Here and in many parts of Europe, that vaccine rollout has been spectacularly slow. And although it will take some time for any Sputnik vaccine to become available here, since it has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, and although it's already been rolled out in Hungary, in most countries, they will wait for the EMA's advice and then their national agencies advice. So, it could be several more months.

But interesting that Germany and France are positioning themselves differently on this question already, looking to procure some of those vaccines and work with Russia to work out how that delivery might be organized. And of course, that really speaks to two things.

First of all, as you mentioned Rosemary, how slow the rollout is in so many countries including here in France and Germany with that problem of supplies now top of the list. Other things haven't been ironed out, logistics and so on. It is really now a matter of getting hands on vaccines.

The other thing that that speaks to is that surge that you mentioned of COVID-19 here in France. We just heard from an Elysee spokesman that Emmanuel Macron is to address the nation tonight. We had understood that that was on the cars over the coming days.

We had also understood the French authorities were hoping to put that off as long as they could as they waited to see whether those fresh restrictions were put in on the 20th of March would have the effect. For the time being now we just understand that they have not had the desired effect. But hence, this speech by Emmanuel Macron on French television tonight at 8 p.m., in which, let's be clear, we expect him to announce once again fresh restrictions as the French health care system struggles once again to cope with yet another wave of COVID-19, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And meantime, Melissa, Germany is considering suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine for some groups at least. But the U.K. has had a very successful rollout of the same vaccine. So, what is a justification for holding out this process when cases are surging in Germany?

BELL: That's right. Several European countries as you know, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been at the heart of so many rows for the European Union. Even as its delivery has been has gone remarkably smoothly in the United Kingdom.

Questions over the delivery of supplies of course, of other shortage, rather, and the shortfalls in delivery. But of course, all these questions that we've seen over the populations to which it can and cannot be delivered.

Initially, European country after European country announcing that despite the European Medicines Agency, that the advice for the AstraZeneca vaccine was good for all populations. Many European countries followed one another and announcing that in fact it would only be delivered to younger populations.


That changed then after a couple of weeks. We then saw those issues with country after country stopping its rollout altogether while issues to do with patients having developed blood clots were investigated. Those results then resumed.

But with this fresh take on the advice being given here in France and now Germany as well, the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine being reserved only for older populations. So, it's had a complete turnaround in those populations that it was advice for.

And this once again, because of insistence and it's the case in Germany as well, to do with blood clots that emerged in particular in younger women. So once again, questions of the confidence the Europeans can have in this vaccine. Even as you say, they struggle to get the right amount of vaccines prepared for their populations to receive them in a way that can ensure that they get somewhere close to the 70 percent of the E.U. population they want to have vaccinated by September. Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): Yes, this is unfortunately as why so many people get confused about the vaccines. Melissa Bell, many thanks, joining us live from Paris.

Well coronavirus variants are spreading quickly across Canada. And they are fueling a huge spike in cases and hospital admissions. The nation's top doctor calls it a third resurgence of the pandemic, one that's hitting younger people especially hard.

In Ontario, intensive care units are seeing a growing number of patients under the age of 60. And the crisis is getting so bad officials are threatening more restrictions.


DOUG FORD, PREMIER OF ONTARIO, CANADA: Everything is on the table right now. So, folks, be prepared. I'm asking you don't make plans for Easter. That's all I can tell you. I won't hesitate to lock things down if we have to. I did it before, I'll do it again. Nothing is more important than our health.

You know, the economy, yes, it's important, but that can wait. Without people's health, we won't have an economy. So, everything is on the table. And I'll be out over the next couple of days.


CHURCH (on camera): Parts of Ontario, including Canada's largest city, Toronto, are already seeing some COVID restrictions.

Well, Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro is facing harsh criticism for his handling of the pandemic. And he could be looking at a rough reelection fight next year. That's the backdrop for a major shakeup in his government over the past few days.

Shasta Darlington has our report.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The biggest cabinet shakeup since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office. On Monday, he announced six cabinet changes, including a new defense minister, and a new foreign minister. On Tuesday, his government announced that the leaders of all three branches of the armed forces were being replaced.

The reshuffling an indication of how much pressure Bolsonaro is under as COVID-19 continues to ravage the country. The change in the armed forces also fueling speculation about a possible breakdown between Bolsonaro and the military.

On Tuesday, Brazil registered a new record number of deaths from COVID-19, more than 3,700. The total death toll is over 300,000 people and the vaccine rollout has been slow and plagued by political infighting. Brazilians are increasingly directing their anger and frustration at Bolsonaro who downplayed the virus and lashed out at governors for lockdown measures.

The cabinet shuffle allows him to shore up support in Congress. It was also important because he replaced the foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo who came under fire from Congress for his antagonistic relationship with China. China is not only an important trade partner. They've also been a main supplier of raw ingredients in vaccines.

The other cabinet changes however, took Brazil by surprise, especially Bolsonaro's decision to remove the defense minister. Bolsonaro has repeatedly claimed to have the support of the military, and has appointed a number of generals to key positions. But he's grown frustrated with the lack of public support from the military in recent weeks.

The departure of all three armed forces commanders on Tuesday highlights the growing rift.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sau Paulo.

CHURCH (on camera): The World Health Organization report on the roots of COVID-19 isn't cutting it for more than a dozen countries. They have put out a joint statement calling for an independent review. They are concerned about a lack of transparency from China and access to raw data.

The report says coronavirus was very likely passed from one animal to another before infecting humans. The study also found the idea that the virus came from a lab unlikely. But even the head of the WHO thinks more needs to be done. He says this. I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.

One of the report's authors spoke earlier to CNN. He says China did answer tough questions.



PETER DASZAK, MEMBER, WHO TEAM INVESTIGATING COVID-19: I think the big take out from that is there was a lot of detail to what we asked and some of the questions were right along the lines of the sort of the conspiracy theories word that's been out there, and the lab hypothesis suggestions that China is not been responding to in the past.

I think it's important that they did respond and that they did give us answers. And that those answers were to questions that were not vetted ahead of time. So, we had a live Q&A and we got answers to those questions that made sense that weren't unusual.

The for instance, they tested all of the staff in the background of our group for coronavirus for SARS COV2 to see if they had been infected and they were negative. And that's what they told us. And I think that's new information that's not been out there.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, CNN's Steven Jiang is tracking developments from Beijing. He and joins us now live. Good to see you, Steven.

So, the WHO appears to be casting doubt on its own report's credibility. Certainly, the chief at least wanting more extensive studies on the lab leaked theory, while more than a dozen nations are calling for an independent review. But how can that be done given China's push back?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Rosemary, that's indeed a big question mark. But it's remarkable to hear Dr. Tedros, the head of the WHO, considered pro-Beijing by critics, you know, making the surprisingly critical remarks about China. Not only he said more data and studies are needed for the Wuhan lab leak theory.

He also said that WHO's experts encountered difficulties in accessing raw Chinese data during their investigation in the country. And he is saying that he expected more timely and comprehensive data sharing during any future collaborations.

So, this kind of remarks are obviously echoing or reinforcing growing international voices of skepticism and criticism about China's role in this investigation. Now for its part of course, the Beijing government has come out to respond to this release of this report, saying that it's the result of their close collaboration with international experts and that it shows China's open, transparent, and responsible attitude.

While also, again, calling for an investigation to be conducted in other countries because they have been pointing fingers at the U.S., especially this U.S. military-run bio lab in Maryland without presenting concrete evidence. So, the foreign ministry of course also denounced any attempt to politicize the issue.

But I already hear, Rosemary, is even them saying that, what they have been saying about the U.S. seems to really be doing exactly what they denounced. Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): All right. Steven Jiang, many thanks, joining us live from Beijing.

Well, Professor Marion Koopmans is a virologist who was part of the WHO team and an author of the report. She spoke with CNN about her experience investigating the virus.


MARION KOOPMANS, VIROLOGIST: I think that skepticism in this opinion was already circulating before the report ever came out. And that is the concern from a group that feels that the virus came from a lab and that that needs to be investigated. Now what we did was work with our Chinese colleagues to collect, discuss, aggregate, analyze all the information that is available based on a long list of studies that were done. And that's not an inspection. That's not an audit. It's a joint study.

I think there's some misunderstanding about how this was set up. Did we discuss the possibility of a laboratory leak? Yes, we did, with all the labs that were involved in the early response. We were there. We visited them. We discussed the bio security. We discussed their programs of work, the training of the staff, the testing of their staff, and we did not find any indication or a lead for any further follow-up.


CHURCH (on camera): Marion Koopmans talking to CNN last hour.

Well, emotions ran high in Minneapolis court as witnesses recalled seeing George Floyd die, and here is what one of them said.


DONALD WYNN WILLIAMS, WITNESS: I did call the police on the police.

UNKNOWN: Right. And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believed I witnessed a murder.


CHURCH (on camera): More on the powerful testimony, next. Plus, Beijing is overhauling Hong Kong's electoral system as it seeks

to quash the pro-democracy movement. Why a new law means less opposition?



CHURCH (on camera): In just a few hours, the jury will continue to hear testimony from witnesses in the murder trial of the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd. Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes during an arrest last year. And his death was a catalyst for worldwide protests and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Tuesday, six bystanders described feelings of horror and fear as they watched Floyd's final moments. One was a firefighter, another, just nine years old.

CNN's Sara Sidner has details but we must warn you. There are images in her report you may find disturbing.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eyewitness Donald Williams took the stand with a remarkable revelation, telling the jury what he did after witnessing George Floyd's body slump as then officer Derek Chauvin continued pressing his knee down on Floyd's neck.

WILLIAMS: I did call the police with.

UNKNOWN: Right. And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

SIDNER: Williams cannot hold back tears as his 911 dispatch audio played in court.

UNKNOWN: Nine-on-one what's the address of the emergency?

WILLIAMS: Officer 987 kill a citizen in front of a Chicago store. He just pretty much just killed this that wasn't resisting arrest. He had his knee on the dud neck the whole time, officer 987.

UNKNOWN: Whose badge which officer were you referring to?

WILLIAMS: The officer sitting over there.


SIDNER: Late last year the world saw Williams on the scene when police body camera video was released. The jury has yet to see this video.

WILLIAMS: You all murderers, bro. You all murderers Thao. You going to kill yourself. I already know it.

SIDNER: In cross-examination, Chauvin's attorney focused some attention on the harsh words Williams used against the officers.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE LAWYER: You called him a tough guy.


NELSON: Those terms grew more and more angry. Would you agree with that?

WILLIAMS: They grew more and more pleading for life.

NELSON; All right. After you called him a bum 13 times, you called him a (muted) bum.

WILLIAMS: That's what you heard?

NELSON: Did you say that?

WILLIAMS: Is that what you heard?

NELSON: I'm asking you, sir. Did you say that?

WILLIAMS: You heard that. I'm pretty sure you did.

SIDNER: Williams tried to counter the angry Black man stereotype, instead explaining he was trying to save a life but Chauvin's attorney was painting a picture of a scene that created fear in the officers mentioning one officer pushing Williams back.

NELSON: Do you recall saying I dare you to touch me like that? I swear I will slap the (muted) out of both of you?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I did. I meant it.

SIDNER: The next witness dissolve into tears for the fear and trauma she continues to experience.

DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESS: It's been nights I've stayed up apologizing and -- and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.


SIDNER: That is the voice of the teenage bystander who took the video the world saw. She was a minor at the time of the incident, a picture of her and her cousin was shown on the scene, but the court ordered cameras could not show them testifying and only use their audio.

What was that about the scene that caused you to come back?

FRAZIER: It wasn't right. He was -- he was suffering. He was in pain.

SIDNER: The jury then heard from the youngest eyewitness who was nine years old. She needed her memory jogged as to what Chauvin looked like. UNKNOWN: OK. How about him?


SIDNER: But she did remember was upset her that day.

J.R., WITNESS: I saw the officer put a knee on the neck of George Floyd. I was sad and kind of mad.

SIDNER: The jury also heard from an off-duty firefighter EMT who happened to be on a walk. This is Genevieve Hansen's 911 call on May 25th.

GENEVIEVE HANSEN, MINNEAPOLIS FIREFIGHTER: I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man. And I am a first responder myself, and I literally have it on camera.

SIDNER: Hansen was moved to tears.

HANSEN: There is a man being killed, and I would have had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities and this human was denied that right.


CHURCH (on camera): Sara Sidner reporting there. And the trial resumes later today.

In the United Kingdom, a report says the London police acted appropriately when they broke up a vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard. The level of force used at the demonstration has been called tone-deaf.

A police officer had been charged with Everard's kidnapping and murder, and there had been discussions about the intimidation and harassment of women. An independent watchdog says officers were not out of line, it says they were acting according to COVID rules.

In a unanimous vote, China's rubberstamp parliament has passed a new law that will further restrict opposition in Hong Kong, reshaping the legislature and changing how lawmakers and the city's leader are chosen.

Hong Kong's chief executive said on Tuesday that overhauling the electoral system would ensure, quote, "patriots govern the city." Carrie Lam also announced the government expects to hold legislative council elections in December more than a year after they were put on hold due to the pandemic.

Well, Kristie Lu Stout joins us now live from Hong Kong to talk more about this. Good to see you, Kristie. So, a shakeup in Hong Kong's electoral system that puts what they call patriots in charge of the global financial hub. What is going on here?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes. And a patriot would mean someone who loves Hong Kong, loves China, respects one country two systems and the Chinese Communist Party. Look, this represents the era of ever tightening Chinese control over Hong Kong.

The National People's Congress standing committee has formalized these changes to the electoral system in Hong Kong, as a result there will be fewer democratically elected leaders, even though the legislature will be expanded the number of directly elected lawmakers will go down while the number of Beijing approved lawmakers will rise.

Also, a new vetting committee will be set up to screen candidates for patriotism. And we've learned that the national security law unit of the Hong Kong police force will conduct national security law reviews of all potential candidates. All these changes represent a major change in the political destiny of Hong Kong.


LU STOUT: The political fate of Hong Kong remade by Beijing. The National People's Congress standing committee, a powerful panel of China's top legislature has amended Hong Kong's basic law to formalize changes on how the city's top leader and legislative council members are elected.

A small committee that chooses the chief executive will now also select some lawmakers, reducing the percentage of seats that are directly elected and a new panel will vet candidates for patriotism.

What does it mean to be a patriot?

HORACE CHEUNG, PRO-BEIJING LAWMAKER, DAB PARTY: It means that you love the country, it means that you support one country, two systems, especially in the last couple of years. The central government observed that. We are not going on the wide shot being our electoral system.

LU STOUT: According to NPC's standing committee vice chairman Wang Chen, the changes are necessary because of obvious loopholes that caused chaos in Hong Kong.


The events of 2019 were seen as a direct challenge to Beijing. The pro-democracy protests that gripped the city for more than half a year, the involvement of U.S. lawmakers who voiced support for the protesters, and the massive turnout for pro-democracy candidates at district council elections, but that Hong Kong is gone.

Last June, China imposed the national security law which criminalizes secessions, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, making them crimes punishable with up to life in prison.

Forty-seven pro-democracy activists including former lawmakers have been charged with subversion. Scenes of social unrest and mass protests are over. In June of 2019, I reported from a mass march when, when according to organizers, more than one million people marched on the streets of Hong Kong. Under the national security law, nothing even close has happened

since. A slogan has been outlawed. A song has been outlawed. In schools, national security curriculum is being rolled out. This is the new political reality here.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has promised to fast-track the new electoral changes made in Beijing and there would likely be little pushback. Hong Kong's pro-democracy leaders are in exile, in prison, or intimidated by the national security law.

EMILY LAU, FORMER LAWMAKER, DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Hong Kong has changed beyond recognition. Beijing chose or chooses to clamp down on us, to snuff out opposition voices, which I think is dreadful. And they are going to replace, especially the pan-Democrats and others, with what they call patriots.

LU STOUT: In less than a year, Hong Kong's political destiny has been dismantled and re-built for patriots to run the city.


LU STOUT (on camera): After the electoral changes are made in Beijing, the British foreign secretary slammed the move, calling it a, quote, "clear breach of the joint declaration." Other foreign governments including the United States under both the Trump administration and Biden administrations have slammed China's moves to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy.

But China is resolute. China is unwavering in its support for these electoral changes, as well as for the national security law. We heard from the commissioner's office of the ministry of foreign affairs here in Hong Kong saying this. No external interference will hamper the success of one country, two systems. And any plot to meddle with Hong Kong affairs is doomed to fail. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Kristie Lu Stout, bringing us the latest on that from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

And still to come, why people across the Balkans and beyond are making the trip to Serbia to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Plus, COVID-19 has hit ethnic minorities hard in the U.K. Now, the National Health Service is launching a campaign aimed at Black Britons.


UNKNOWN: Don't let your concerns be the things that widens racial inequality in our society.

UNKNOWN: Don't let coronavirus cost even more Black Lives.





ROSEMARY CHURCH CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back everyone. Serbia has become a regional vaccination hub. The country has one of the highest COVID- 19 vaccination rates in the world. And now its welcoming people from neighboring countries to come get vaccinated.

For more on this, let's bring in CNN's Frederick Pleitgen. He joins us from Belgrade. Good to see you Fred. So, how has Serbia been able to get this right while France, Germany and other European nations have struggled with vaccine rollouts?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, good morning, Rosemary. I am actually in the biggest vaccination center here in Serbia. It's like a trade fair in Belgrade. You could see this place is absolutely humming. I just got word from the folks who run this center and they say that in the first hour and a half that they've been open so far today, they've already vaccinated more than a thousand people.

But again to your question, I think it's really two things that made the difference for Serbia. I think on the one hand, it's a lot of pragmatism and it's also a big sense of urgency. You can see around here, they have this sputnik vaccine. People getting vaccinated with it right now. You look on the other side, there is Sinopharm, the Chinese vaccine. And the folks in the government here tell us that they made a point to order as much vaccine as early as possible and now they are in a really good spot. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice over): In abundance of vaccine doses and a lightning fast rollout. Serbia a non E.U. state is setting the pace in Europe. Fully vaccinating people with two doses quicker than any other country on the continent. Zoran Bekic (ph) just got his second shot.

UNKNOWN: About 10 to 15 minutes.

PLEITGEN: It was very easy.

UNKNOWN: Very easy, very smooth, very fast.

PLEITGEN: Serbia has so much vaccines they're even offering free shots to foreigners like Thomas Cooper, from the Czech Republic who came here on a work trip and decided to get inoculated as well.

UNKNOWN: Freedom. I guess. Freedom to be normal again.

PLEITGEN: Serbia's secret, they ordered vaccines early they ordered a lot and they ordered from various manufacturers Chinese, Russian and western companies. The country's biggest vaccine center at the Belgrade fair alone administered around 8,000 doses per day, the center head says.

ZORAN BEKIC, HEAD OF VACCINATION CENTER AT BELGRADE FAIR: Thanks to authorities in our country we have I think much more vaccines than in other parts in Europe. PLEITGEN: Another key to the fast rollout and easy to use

registration site that cuts down on unnecessary bureaucracy Serbia's head of E-governing explains.

Your I.D. your number, name, surname and it is very important e-mail address, mobile phone or fixed phone, because we are going to enlight you through SMS and email.

PLEITGEN: Unlike the E.U. which is facing severe vaccine shortages, Serbia is donating vaccine to neighboring countries and allowing their citizens to get vaccinated in Serbia making their country a regional vaccination hub. Also out of self interest the Prime Minister tells me.

ANA BRNABIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: We are also trying to support mostly the region, so our neighboring countries north Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnian, (inaudible) because is, I mean -- we are a small region and if they are not safe even when we get the collective immunity we are not going to be safe.

PLEITGEN: But like many countries Serbia is facing rising numbers of new coronavirus infections and has had to put new restrictions in place. The only way out of the pandemic the government believes is to keep vaccinating as fast as possible.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And that certainly seems to be what they are continuing to do. And a lot of folks from the E.U. are indeed coming here, Rosemary. So far, the government says around 40,000 people who are not residents in Serbia and are foreigners have already been vaccinated here in the country. If we go around here, you can see that there is just a lot of people who are coming here to get their vaccination shots.

But I also want to get back to that pragmatism a little bit, because I was speaking with the Prime Minister, and she told me, look, for instance, they had a big batch of AstraZeneca here. And a lot of that was in danger of expiring, because they weren't vaccinating it fast enough. So they just decided to give that to other countries around the region and then also of course, invite the foreigners to get their shots here as well rather than seeing any shot go to waste.

And one of the things I really have to say, that I was really impressed with here is the I.T. system that they have. I took a look also at the way that they monitor the vaccine that's coming in at the vaccine that they are administering, it really is very quick, very up to date. And that also allows them to keep track of what they have, what might be in danger of expiring and what they need to vaccinate as fast as possible and really get shots into arms very quickly, Rosemary.


CHURCH (on camera): That is so impressive. And perhaps it offers a model to other nations around the globe. Frederick Pleitgen many thanks for that great report. I appreciate it.

Well, Black British people are being encouraged to get vaccinated with figures suggesting less than half of Black adults in the U.K. are likely to get the jab. This despite COVID death rates being highest among Black males in the U.K. and the new campaign is being led by comedian Lenny Henry and features stars such as Adrian Lester and Bridgerton actress Adjoa Andoh.


UNKNOWN: Don't let your concerns be the things that widened racial inequality in our society.

UNKNOWN: Don't let coronavirus cost even more Black lives. Because we matter.

UNKNOWN: We love you. We don't want you to get sick.

UNKNOWN: We don't want you to die.

UNKNOWN: So, please hear us.

UNKNOWN: And when your turn comes take the jab.


CHURCH (on camera): That is powerful. Lord Simon Wooley is the founder and Director of Operation Black Vote and joins us from London. Thank you sir for talking with us.


CHURCH: So, in an open letter that you are a signatory to comedian sir Lenny Henry is urging Black Britons to get the COVID-19 vaccine and as we see in these numbers, vaccine hesitancy among the U.K.'s Black population is very high at nearly 44 percent compared to only 8 percent for white Britons. So, how difficult will it be to convince Black Britons they need to get the shot?

WOOLEY: Yes. Well, there's a number of factors was there such. Hesitancy and -- I guess the largest is trust or lack of trust of the government and of the science and of the medics. They can do the right thing by Black Asian and minority ethnic communities. And I guess one of the key reasons for that is because we have so much racial inequality that when the state says that you need a jab people think, are they going to (inaudible), are they doing right by us or are we being used as guinea pigs.

There were French medics that said this time last year that with the vaccine as it was being tested, they said less testing on Africans. So there's a lot of historical baggage that is holding people back, but what we are saying is, look we've got one of two choices, either we take our chances with COVID and we know how that turns out with four times more likely to die not least because we are overly exposed to the disease or we take the vaccination. It needs community leaders, faith leaders those who communities trust. And in doing so we can get the rates that much higher.

CHURCH: Right. I mean, it is a difficult task, there's no doubt about it. And of course, we showed some of that powerful short film that Sir Lenny Henry pulled together in conjunction with his open letter. How critical do you expect this film will be in trying to convince Black Britain's to get the shot? That it is safe. And what more needs to be done to show that, to really indicate that to people. Because it's going to take a lot of convincing isn't it?

WOOLEY: There's a lot of convincing, because we know, we are starting from minus. We are starting from a lot of the misinformation that our (inaudible) were most led through example that there are animal products in this that it affects pregnancy, etcetera, (inaudible) willful toxic and misinformation.

And then there's distrust of the government. You know, when we see the shocking data from COVID and it is laid bare those uncomfortable truths in jobs in housing. The people say do the government have our interest at heart? So we got to work with communities to convince them, to show them that the vaccine is safe and that we need to tackle the structural inequalities that have caused such a bad effect on our communities.

I think the former project in terms of people like myself going to the elderly and young, having the conversations to close those gaps is doable, but we need the government to play their part too and they are not playing their part. They are almost in denial, too often of these racial inequalities that have caused these shocking numbers. I think it's the same in the USA. The racial disparities of those most badly affected by COVID needs to be acknowledged and addressed. That's how you build confidence.


CHURCH: And so you will have some sort of outreach in conjunction with this letter and the film to go to communities and talk to particularly men because of Black men have a very high death rate as a result of COVID. Don't they? And talk to us about the people that you really struggling to convince here.

WOOLEY: Yes. Well, in (inaudible) and they say to you, I'm not taking the jab. I don't trust the government. They don't trust the science. They say look what happened in the USA in the 1920s the way that Black people, African Americans were used and tested. And so, you know, we have to convince them. We know that we are dying at a greater rate. We know that we have a greater propensity to be ill. Have greater illness from this disease.

And you know, the only protection that we have got right now is to stay indoors and don't leave your house or have the vaccine. But we have to have the conversation with our community. Lay bare the uncomfortable truth, the facts about what happen when we catch this disease and convince our communities it's the only way we can meet each other, to be with each other.

You know, Sir Lenny Henry, the very famous comedian here has written with our support a love letter. It's a love letter to our community. To say we love you so much. We care about you so much that we need you to take the vaccine.

CHURCH: Yes. And absolutely, we salute you for your good work with this. And I hope that you convince so many more Black Britons to do what they need to do is get this jab. But Lord Simon Wooley founder and Director of Operation Black Vote, thank you so very much.

WOOLEY: Thank you very much.

CHURCH (on camera): Well, an armed ethnic minority group in Myanmar is warning of a looming major conflict. The Karen National Union says its people are fleeing the onslaught. The group says government troops who are advancing into their territories. Villagers have tried to find refuge in neighboring Thailand but activists say they were being sent back to Myanmar. Thailand's Prime Minister denies refugees were turned away.


PRAYUTH CHAN-OCHA, THAI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Some villagers arrived and we asked what problems there were and they said there weren't any. Then can you go back. We didn't point guns in their faces. We shook their hands and even wished them well. That's humanitarian.


CHURCH (on camera): Military airstrikes on KNU territory killed six people and wounded 11 on Tuesday. That is according to a humanitarian group who says children are among the victims. Hundreds of people are said to have been killed since the military coup in February. The U.N. is holding a session on the crisis today. The U.S. is ordering all non emergency embassy staff out of Myanmar.

We've just learned Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi has had her first meeting with a lawyer since the February 1st coup. The military has detained her for weeks now.

And CNN's Ivan Watson has the latest from Hong Kong. So, Ivan, what are you learning on this?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Right. This is all coming from Aung San Suu Kyi's defense attorneys who have not been able to attend her previous court appearances since she was overthrown on February 1st and has basically been detained incommunicado at an unknown location ever since.

One of the attorneys, Min Min Soe, was summoned to a police office stationed in the capital (inaudible), and they're under police guard was put into a virtual meeting with the ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi who also appeared, according to the lawyer to be guarded during this meeting. In other words both client and attorney were flanked by guards.

The lawyer informed Aung San Suu Kyi that the defense team had requested a meeting long ago but it had not been granted. Aung San Suu Kyi told the lawyer that she assumed that there must be a large number of cases against her right now that we're overloading the defense team. In fact there are at least four charges that have been pressed against Aung San Suu Kyi.

At one point Aung San Suu Kyi turned to her guards and said she approved of the six person defense team and requested a private meeting with her defense attorneys. Again, Aung San Suu Kyi, also the president who was ousted, who came from the National League for Democracy and a number of other officials have been held incommunicado for some time. There is a pretense that there is some kind of legal procedure underway here to prosecute some of these individuals.


But as we've seen for two months they have not been allowed even to meet with defense attorneys. There is a step in that direction. Also under the guard of security forces but a first real citing and conversation that we've heard of since the coup of February 1st. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alright. Ivan Watson joining us from Hong Kong, bringing us up to date on the situation in Myanmar, many thanks.

Well, a disturbing discovery in the Galapagos Islands airport. Authorities found dozens of newborn tortoises stuffed inside a suitcase. More on the alleged smuggling operation next.


CHURCH (on camera): Airport authorities in the Galapagos Islands made a shocking discovery in a suitcase. They found nearly 200 newborn tortoises wrapped in plastic stuff in it. Officials say the young tortoises were in poor condition and appear to be extremely underweight. And at least 15 of them have died.

The box was found for mainland Ecuador and a police officer has been arrested in connection to the alleged smuggling. Ecuador's environment minister is furious.


MARCELO MATA, ECUADORIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: There is no second thought by these people who do so much harm to society, the environment, health and the ecosystem. We will apply the full weight of the law. And as Ecuador's main environmental body, we will be ready to collaborate with prosecutors and other authorities. This is not just an administrative issue. This is a criminal issue.


CHURCH (on camera): Joining me now is Ron Magill, the communications Director of the Miami Metro Zoo. Thank you so much for talking with us.


CHURCH: So, as a wildlife and conservation expert, what is your reaction to this news that nearly 200 baby tortoises wrapped in plastic inside a suitcase bound for Ecuador was seized out an airport in the Galapagos Islands? And what more are you learning about all of this?

MAGILL: Profoundly sad by it. But unfortunately it's not terribly shocking anymore. You know, the wildlife trade, not just in Galapagos tortoises, but the illicit wildlife trade is only behind trafficking in drugs and weapons. So wildlife trading is something that is, it's incredibly lucrative and people go to extreme measures to try to make it happen.

CHURCH: So, in this particular instance about 15 of the baby tortoises have died since and the others are apparently not doing very well. As you say, and this is just so very sad. Let's talk more about how often this level of wildlife smuggling succeeds and gets through these airports and other checkpoints undetected? And where are the main hotspots across the globe?

MAGILL: You know, unfortunately it happens more often where they don't get caught and they do get caught. Which is why it is so lucrative. They just don't have enough enforcement. I think in this particular case, even a police officer was arrested, because he was involved in facilitating the transfer. This is something -- understand that these tortoises themselves can fetch thousands of dollars each on the Black market.

So you have close to 200 animals here. You have, you know, six figure amount of money going into this illicit trade. And this is something that happens around the world. The big ports of course, of places like, you know, Central and South America on ports coming in here Miami, in New York.


U.S. fish and wildlife is constantly trying to keep up with the tremendous amount of wildlife that is imported every year into this country. Not just you know, for illegal trade but, you know, they tagged on for illegal trade, the pet market, the Black market and pets is just unbelievable. Rare birds, rare reptiles. It is something that brings in a tremendous amount of money and unfortunately the overwhelming amount of those animals that are imported end up dying.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, that is the heartbreaking part of this too. I wanted to get an idea from you, what more needs to be done then to shut down operations like this. Is that even achievable do you think?

MAGILL: No, I don't think it's achievable right now to shut it down but certainly by educating people, making them more aware of this illegal trade. It's a supply and demand thing. You have these collectors that wanted to have this rare animal that nobody else has. To have that conversation piece.

And then you have the other end of the market where they are used for medicinal purposes, for different types of cultural purposes. It's hard to overcome that in just a year or two. Enforcement needs to be you know, supported. We need to have more efficient wildlife officers. More of that type of enforcement and when people are caught, I think the penalties need to be greater.

You know, a year in prison and a $50,000 fine is nothing for somebody who is making so much more money doing that. It's like the illegal drug trade. When you have such a lucrative payback without any kind of serious repercussions, people are going to take that risk.

CHURCH: Let's hope something can be done about this. Ron Magill, talking to us from Miami Metro Zoo, many thanks.

MAGILL: Thanks.

CHURCH: Well, it's back to business as usual. Ships are once again passing through the Suez Canal after a grounded vessel was freed. We will have more on how long it will take for the backlog to clear, that's next.


CHURCH: Well, the Suez Canal is now open around the clock as it tries to clear the backlog of ships waiting to pass through it. Traffic resumed after the grounded ship Ever Given that has been blocking the trade route was freed. But experts warn the impact on global trade may be felt for months.

And for more on this let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman. He joins us live from Cairo. Good to see you, Ben. So, Egypt's government racing to clear the backlog of vessels in the Suez Canal. How long will this likely take and what's the impact of all of this?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's going to take a few more days keeping in mind Rosemary, that at its peak there were almost 450 ships waiting to pass. We did hear the chairman of the Suez Canal authority Osama Rabie saying, we will not waste a second to clear up that backlog. And certainly that appears to be the case.

But we have to remember in addition to the ships that we're already waiting there were many on the way. And all it takes is just one glance at some of these maritime tracking websites and you realize how many ships are backed up in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. But, so it's going to take four or five days at least to clear that backlog away.

In terms of the impact on the global economy, because this only went on for about six days, it will be small in this grand macroeconomic point of view. But this really does -- this incident does underscore the vulnerability of the late capitalist system whereby stocks are kept at a minimum and you depend upon the rapid delivery of goods to meet a spike in demand.

[03:55:29] And so clearly, there is going to have to be some re-thinking about

how this system works but of course, because money is involved perhaps the thinking will come later if not too late. Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): Alright. Many thanks to our Ben Wedeman, joining us live from Cairo.

An alleged mafia fugitive on the run for years has finally been caught in the Caribbean. He wasn't cooking up any new schemes. He was cooking Italian dishes and sharing them on YouTube. And that's how police found him. Here is Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An amateur chef who posted videos of himself cooking on YouTube may have given way more than recipes, Italian police say. Marc Feren Claude Biart is an alleged fugitive who according to Italian police was involved with drug trafficking between the Netherlands and Italy.

One Italian official said that Biart is one of the most dangerous fugitives that belong to the Ndrangheta, a powerful syndicate that is believed to be responsible for about 80 percent of the cocaine that enters Europe. For the last five years or so, Biart lived a quiet existence except for a hobby where he posted videos of him and his wife cooking on YouTube.

In the videos you don't see Biart's face, but you can make out some of his distinctive tattoos police say. And that led them to Biart and to his arrest. Biart was sent back to Italy on Monday to face some of those charges of alleged drug trafficking. CNN was unable to reach any of Biart's attorneys. Police in Italy say that since 2014, Biart has been on the run and that he may have been able to remain in hiding if not for his passion for Italian cooking which he shared with the world. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


CHURCH (on camera): And thank you so much for joining us. I am Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Do stay with us.