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Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Convicted; France Under Third National COVID-19 Lockdown; U.N. Special Envoy To Myanmar, "A Bloodbath Is Imminent"; Witnesses To George Floyd's Murder Express Regret And Helplessness; New Wave In India As Festival Nears; Inside Pfizer's Manufacturing Facility; Navalny Goes On Hunger Strike. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired April 1, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, deadly COVID variants leading to a surge in cases across Europe. Now France will head into its third nationwide lockdown. We will go live to Paris.

A court in Hong Kong convicts Jimmy Lai for his role in the 2019 protest. What this means for the pro-democracy movement there.

CNN goes inside a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility. That exclusive report from Dr. Sanjay Gupta just ahead.




CHURCH: Europe is up against a third wave of coronavirus infections and more contagious variants have a lot to do with it. They have led to an epidemic within an epidemic as French president Emmanuel Macron puts it. He is ordering a number of nationwide lockdowns. The third one so far and that's even though he'd been trying to keep the country open.


EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): I know how difficult the efforts I'm asking of you are. I know the consequences for our country and your lives and you also know that we have done everything to take these decisions as seriously as possible when they are necessary. That's now.


CHURCH: Other countries are also on edge. Spain says it's starting to see a steady rise in COVID-19 cases and Sweden is holding onto some of its restrictions, for now, at least. Vaccines would help, of course, but the E.U. has had to deal with a lot of drama on that front.

So now, more and more countries are looking into Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, Austria being the latest, with a potential order of 1 million doses going in as soon as next week. Melissa Bell is following all of this from Paris. She joins us now live.

A lot to cover, Melissa.

What's the latest on all of this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was really the speech Macron put off hoping to avoid it. In the end, though, by the time he took to French TV last night to speak to the nation, once again, since this pandemic began, he's done it several times. Of course it's a third partial lockdown he's had to announce.

It was under a great deal of criticism. As you say, he explains is because the new variants had really been game-changers. They'd led not only to increased contagion, more people are getting sicker faster but also to the nature of the people entering ICUs changing.

He pointed out, for instance, Rosemary, that France has more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients and in ICUs, which is the highest figure since last April. The first wave when it hit France is also that the faces of those people are changing. He pointed out is 44 percent of those and I see you now are under the age of 65.

That's because, as we've been hearing from French doctors and heads of ICUs these last few weeks, it's younger people now being infected and it's those with no comorbidities.

So because of those new variants, because of the speed with which they spread, because of the effects they have on entries into ICUs and in places like Paris, the hospitals are under severe strain and they've been warning for some weeks now that they were really on the brink once again of collapse.

Criticism that Emmanuel Macron may have done too little too late. This is what he had to announce last night.


MACRON (through translator): Tonight, I'm speaking to you with as much humility as determination to tell you we are going to hold on again and take stock of the epidemic.

The next steps, try to say that if we remain united, if we know how to organize ourselves over the next few weeks we will see the end of the tunnel. And we will meet again.


BELL: Rosemary, a president announcing the restrictive measures that were in place in 19 departments spread to the entire country from Saturday, that lockdown will last until the 1st of May. Schools closed as well. France had bucked the trend of its European neighbors trying to keep them open.


BELL: In the end it wasn't possible in the face of the figures. Macron speaking to the vaccination rollout which has not progressed fast enough to keep up with those new variants to compensate for their fast spread.

Macron vowing to make sure that every adult in France was given the possibility of a vaccine by the summer. From where we are looking now, that's a tall order. You are looking at only 11 percent of the French population for the time being haven't been given at least one dose -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: That's frustrating for everybody. Melissa Bell, joining us live from Paris, many thanks.

A court in Hong Kong has convicted nine prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of unauthorized assembly. Among them is media tycoon Jimmy Lai. He owns the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily.

Lai is also a prominent critic of Beijing. He's been in custody for months. He's facing a range of charges stemming from the nearly year- long protests in 2019. And Will Ripley is in Hong Kong with the details. He joins us now live.

What more are you learning about the convictions of possible sentences here and the fact that it looks like they are trying to hold these activists up as an example?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jimmy Lai and eight other codefendants, including the man kind of walking slowly in the middle of that press group there, one of the nine people who have been found guilty today of leading in unauthorized assemblies, started as a legal march in Victoria Park.

But when these leaders of the pro-democracy movement led the crowds into the street, marched through Central peacefully, there was no violence on that day in August of 2019. But they've all been found guilty anyway and could face up to five years in prison, Rosemary.

You can see they will give a statement in front of the row of cameras and microphones. We do have that covered over there. We will keep you posted on what he said on Martin Lee, the father of democracy here in Hong Kong. He walked past without saying a word.

And we don't expect to see Jimmy Lai today because he remains in custody facing charges under the national security law imposed by Beijing and was not granted bail in that case. Jimmy Lai also faces 2 more unauthorized assembly trials. This one lasted 20 days, Rosemary. So it's a very long and arduous legal process and the first round has not been good for Jimmy Lai and these other codefendants.

CHURCH: Will, what impact will this likely have on other pro-democracy activists?

RIPLEY: Without a doubt, Rosemary, this is an attempt to set an example for others, to instill fear in people that if they cross the line when it comes to calling for democracy in Hong Kong, which Beijing used as a threat to not just Hong Kong stability but all of China's stability, the protest of 2019 infuriated the top brass in Mainland China.

And they have shown now not with tanks rolling through the streets of Hong Kong but by writing this law that they can effectively stop all of that momentum and hope that was here in the city through the summer of 2019, using the protesters' own actions against them, the violence, the clashes with police.

And so even though things were very visual and very dramatic during the protest movement itself, it's now all kind of withering up and dying in these courtrooms, where judges are hearing the cases, finding people guilty, trying to let the future of democracy here in Hong Kong know it's not the place to speak out and to ask for anything other than what's Beijing wants to impose.

CHURCH: That's why we will stay on top of this story. Will Ripley joining us live from Hong Kong, many thanks, as always.

There are growing concerns of a widening conflict in Myanmar and a U.N. envoy that warns a bloodbath is imminent. The U.N. Security Council met privately Wednesday to discuss the situation. But there's no word on what further action it will take.

In the coming hours, Myanmar's deposed leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is scheduled to appear in court. She had her first meeting with one of her lawyers Wednesday by video. Meantime, the military has declared a cease-fire of sorts but it doesn't apply to the anti-coup protesters. Ivan Watson has more.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The deepening crisis in Myanmar is starting to spill across borders. Thousands of civilians crossing the river between Myanmar and Thailand to escape airstrikes carried out by Myanmar's warplanes.

They're from a region controlled by the Karen national union.


WATSON (voice-over): It's the oldest of dozens of armed ethnic militias that have fought off and on against the military in Myanmar for generations.

This is a patchwork of just some of the militias that operate in Myanmar's border regions. Two months after the coup, the deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters in the cities have sent people fleeing to these militia enclaves, including the one controlled by this man.

WATSON (voice-over): Yawd Serk is the leader of the Shan state army. In an interview with CNN, he denounced the coup.

SERK (through translator): If the military continues to shoot and kill people, it means the junta have simply transformed themselves into terrorists.

WATSON (voice-over): In the cities and towns of central Myanmar, the death toll amid the anti-coup protesters continues to grow.

WATSON: Do any of you have the training or background to lead a grassroots political protest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, none of us. I work in an office. I was department head.

WATSON (voice-over): This man, who asks not to be identified for his safety, is the leader of the protest movement in a neighborhood of Yangon. In just two months, it's gone from organizing festive but passionate gatherings, with costumes and signs, to desperate efforts to defend barricades from the heavily armed security forces.

The protest leader says he's hearing growing calls for armed attacks.

WATSON: Do you support violent attacks on the military?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all because, like I said, it won't accomplish our goal.

WATSON (voice-over): He said some demonstrators have made largely unsuccessful attempts to carry out what they call "car wash" operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A car wash operation is throwing Molotovs at a moving or stationary vehicle or whether there's army personnel in it or whether it's an empty truck.

WATSON (voice-over): Demonstrators in Yangon tell CNN there are some efforts being made to arm anti-coup protesters and to send activists to receive combat training in enclaves run by militias, like the Shan state army.

SERK (through translator): If they don't have training, we will train them.

WATSON (voice-over): Myanmar's military doesn't want to keep fighting these well-trained rebels. Instead, on Wednesday, it called a unilateral cease-fire for one month. No such mercy for civilian protesters, who soldiers and police continue to kill with impunity, driving ordinary people towards radicalization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When ordinary civilians like us, all these workers like us, started taking arms and get maybe training for six months and start shooting people, I guess civil war would be unavoidable.

WATSON (voice-over): Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH: And as we just mentioned, the junta declared a cease-fire of sorts; in a statement it says this.

"The military will suspend its operations unilaterally from April 1st to April 30th for the cease-fire, except for defending from actions that disrupt government security and administration."

David Mathieson is an independent analyst, joining me now from Thailand.

Thank you so much for being with us. So let's start with the military declaring that limited cease-fire that only applies to action against armed ethnic groups, not protesters.

What does that signal to you?

DAVID MATHIESON, INDEPENDENT ANALYST: It's their idea of an April fool's joke. The military have been declaring unilateral cease-fire since the end of 2018 and they have been cooperating of a sort in a nationwide peace process for the past several years.

But there's been no sincerity there. They talk about this and keep on attacking. Right now, there are two civil wars going on in Myanmar. There's the civil war against the entire population. We started with the coup. And there's a civil war that's the longest one in the world that's been going for 70 years against (INAUDIBLE) militias.

CHURCH: The U.N. special envoy on Myanmar says a bloodbath is imminent. You are saying we are not on the brink of civil war here; they're in the midst of it.

MATHIESON: I think what we should've said was there's a bloodbath ongoing. There has been a bloodbath for the past several weeks. You know, on armed forces day, more than 100 people being killed. There's been a bloodbath in the conflict areas for decades.

So I think she should update her assessment of the situation and call it for what it is, which is the military waging war on the entire population of Myanmar.

CHURCH: Even after saying that and after all of us knowing more than 500 civilians have been killed since the February 1st coup, no decision was made to do anything and we haven't seen very much done by the international community up to this point.


CHURCH: Why is that?

MATHIESON: I think because the international community is hamstrung by its own divisions and it really has no imagination about how to deal with conflicts like this. It talks about sanctions; the Security Council issues statements.

People inside Myanmar are deeply frustrated by all of the statements and talk about deep frustration and concern. They want to see action. Until the international community, the West, starts thinking differently and finds ways to put pressure on Myanmar's neighbors, the only ones who will listen, and to convince them that Myanmar going through civil war will spill across the borders and affect regional stability, nothing really will change.

I think what we saw with the Security Council yesterday is a performance of inaction.

CHURCH: The U.S. has suspended trade with Myanmar but, of course, you are saying that's not sufficient.

What do you see going forward?

Is it just going to be more bloodshed?

The military will kill more people across Myanmar until nations surrounding that country decide they don't like it spilling into their borders.

Is that what you are saying?

MATHIESON: I think that's part of it. But I think the real fulcrum of where this is all going inside the country is domestically inside Myanmar. I think the West and international community will continue to look on helplessly until they start finding different ways of putting pressure on India and Thailand and Southeast Asia to put pressure on China and Russia, to speak to the military and convince them to step back from power.

Otherwise trying to find a way to talk to the military will be utterly fruitless. This is really a military that wants to be the slumlord of their own country. They don't really care about international pressure.

Until it finds a way to work so the West needs to take a far more innovative fashion to find ways for pressure. A meeting of the Security Council won't cut it and the people in Myanmar will maintain pressure on the military and there will be continuing crackdowns and mass murder on the street until the military actually finds a way to step down.

CHURCH: Such an unacceptable situation. We will watch to see what the international community does next. David Mathieson, thank you so much for joining. Us we appreciate it.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, stunning and difficult to watch. Prosecutors release new video of George Floyd's deadly arrest, including body cam footage from some of the officers and what witnesses told prosecutors about those moments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What stood out to you about what Mr. Floyd was saying when you saw him on the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he kept saying I can't breathe. (END VIDEO CLIP)





CHURCH: Prosecutors in Minnesota have released more footage showing how George Floyd died at the hands of police last year. One video shows former officer Derek Chauvin, defending his action shortly after the deadly confrontation. CNN's Sara Sidner reports that some of that footage drove one witness to tears.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sixty-one-year- old eyewitness, Charles McMillian took the stand breaking down in sobs after prosecutors played this body camera video of George Floyd interacting with police.

GEORGE FLOYD, VICTIM: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.


FLOYD: Mama. Mama. Mama.

CHARLES MCMILLIAN, WITNESS: I feel helpless. I don't have a mama either and I understand him.

SIDNER (voice-over): McMillian is the man you hear on the video begging Floyd to give in to police before Floyd is taken to the ground.

MCMILLIAN: Just, I have had interaction with officers myself and I understand once you get in the cuffs, you can't win. You're done.

SIDNER (voice-over): McMillian told the jury he regularly walks his neighborhood. In fact, he bumped into Officer Derek Chauvin there five days before Floyd's arrest.

MCMILLIAN: Five days ago, I told you the other day, go home to your family safe, that the next person goes home to their family safe, but today, I got to look at you as a maggot.

SIDNER (voice-over): On this day in court, the jury also saw George Floyd alive, watching not seen before surveillance video from inside the Cup Food Store. Nineteen-year-old former cashier Christopher Martin took the stand to explain what was going on leading up to police arriving.

QUESTION: Do you recall what it was that you sold to him?

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, FORMER CASHIER, CUP FOOD STORE: A pack of cigarettes. He seemed very friendly. Approachable. He was talkative. He seemed to just be having average Memorial Day, just living his life.

SIDNER (voice-over): A scene from everyday life, but the jury knows they are watching a dead man walking. In less than an hour, Floyd will be struggling for his life under then Officer Derek Chauvin's knee.

Martin says Floyd seemed high.

MARTIN: When I asked -- asked him if he played baseball, he went on to respond to that, but it kind of took him a little long, so it would appear that he was high.

SIDNER (voice-over): And paid for cigarettes with an odd looking $20.00 bill.

MARTIN: I assumed that it was fake.

SIDNER (voice-over): He testified the store policy is if a cashier accepts counterfeit money, it comes out of their paycheck.

MARTIN: I took it anyways and I was planning to just put it on my tab, until I second guessed myself and as you can see in the video, I kept jamming it and then I eventually told my manager.

SIDNER (voice-over): The manager of the store asked another employee to call police on Floyd after the teenage employees confronted Floyd at his car twice.

When police eventually detained Floyd, Martin heard a commotion and went outside.

MARTIN: George was motionless, limp and Chauvin seemed very -- he was in a resting state.

QUESTION: What's going through your mind during that time period?

MARTIN: Disbelief, then guilt.

QUESTION: Why guilt?

MARTIN: If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.

SIDNER (voice-over): And for the first time, we hear Chauvin explaining on his body camera why he restrained Floyd.

DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: I am going to control this guy because he is a sizable guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, get in the car.

CHAUVIN: It's like -- it looks like he is probably on something.

SIDNER (voice-over): The jury then saw the excruciatingly close video from several angles, all of it from officers' body cameras. FLOYD: Mama, I love you.

SIDNER (voice-over): It takes several minutes before you hear an officer, just one, question Chauvin's tactics.



LANE: I just worry about the excited delirium of whatever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why we have an ambulance coming.

SIDNER: That is incredibly difficult video to watch. The jurors watched about a half an hour or so of that. And it was from many different angles, showing exactly what it sounded like. And it almost gave you the sense of what it felt like to be George Floyd and those officers during that time. You could hear his labored breathing.


SIDNER: You could hear him begging for his mother. You can hear him begging for his breath. Those are the last words and last images that the jury saw before they went for break, waiting for the next day of testimony -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.


CHURCH: There are still lingering doubts over the AstraZeneca vaccine while several other Western vaccines appear to be thriving. We will have the latest on that, including --


MIKE MCDERMOTT, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL SUPPLY, PFIZER: There's never been a commercial scale mRNA vaccine. So everything you see here is custom designed.

CHURCH (voice-over): We get an exclusive look at the place where millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine are being produced. We are back with that in just a moment.





CHURCH: The U.S. CDC now projects that countries total COVID death toll could hit 585,000 by late April. That would mean roughly 30,000 more deaths in just the next three weeks. Health experts blame the spread of variants for the rise in cases in parts of the U.S. Some believe the strain first found in the U.K. is now dominant across the United States.

Meanwhile, Brazil's spike shows no sign of sewing down. Last month was the deadliest in the country since the pandemic began. The situation is bad in neighboring Peru, which has implemented a total lockdown for Easter Sunday.

India's latest wave of the coronavirus is coming at a challenging time. Huge crowds just celebrated the festival of Holi this week, marking the advent of spring. And a major religious festival is now underway, with millions in attendance. It kicked off the same day India saw its biggest daily spike in new COVID cases since mid- October.

Vedika Sud is live for us from New Delhi. She joins us now.

Of course, apart from these huge crowds we are seeing, what is behind this daily spike in cases driving what appears to be a second wave of infections across India?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER: That's what medical experts are saying, Rosemary. It's the onset of the second wave that India is experiencing. We have numbers out for the day and there are at least 20,000 more cases than yesterday, 72,000, plus cases being reported in the last 24 hours. Nearly 460 deaths, the highest numbers in both categories this year at least.


SUD: A lot of reasons being mentioned behind the spike in cases, especially the weddings that are taking place, because it's wedding season in India, there are election rallies taking place because five states in India are going to pause for elections and that's already underway.

You see a lot of these politicians who are reaching out to the people in these states, trying to get them to vote for them and you see huge crowds gathering to have a look at these politicians and what they have to say.

Also, there are several variants in India of COVID-19 and that's a worry as well according to medical experts. The U.K. variant is one big reason behind the spike in cases India is experiencing. The health ministry is taking this very seriously. It's a second wave India is experiencing.

They do hold a press conference every week and in the last press conference, they said that the situation is going from bad to worse. Let's listen into what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last couple of weeks, few weeks, the situation is becoming from bad to worse, a serious cause for concern. In some states in particular, there is a huge cause for worry. But I think no state and no part of our country nor district should be complacent.


SUD: The Hindu festival of color was celebrated a couple days ago, Rosemary, and despite more states asking people not to gather in public and in the more than groups of 5, you can see the visuals that even we have been talking about, talking to, really, of people gathering on their own, celebrating the festival despite the spike in cases.

A worry is, according to medical experts, that the complacency has set in. And here is a bigger worry. Today, one of the biggest Hindu festivals commences. Millions of people congregating over the next month at this festival.

Despite the guidelines that have been implemented, the worry is, with so many people at this religious gathering, it could turn into a superspreader and that's certainly something India can avoid at this point -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Such a big concern with that. Vedika Sud, bringing us the latest from New Delhi, many thanks.

It's hard to keep track of how many times health experts have recently said that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective and its benefits outweigh any risks. But the World Health Organization said it again on Wednesday after Germany dialed back its use of the vaccine over ongoing concerns about blood clots.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson says it will supply 200 million doses of its one-shot vaccine to Europe this year, which has been struggling with a sluggish rollout.

Moderna has begun a clinical trial for a vaccine designed to protect against the variant identified in South Africa. The U.S. National Institutes of Health says the trial will involve people who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Trial data shows the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing severe illness in children ages 12 to 15. Pfizer announced on Wednesday that it came through with the 120 million COVID vaccine doses it promised the U.S. by the end of March.

Pfizer and BioNTech have a global goal of producing 2.5 billion vaccine doses by year's end. They're already up to 232 million and these are among the places where their vaccine is being administered around the world.

Do you see that on the map.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside the Pfizer factory in Kalamazoo in Michigan and here is his exclusive report.


(MUSIC PLAYING) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One year ago, a process you are watching didn't even exist. And for Mike McDermott, Pfizer's president of global supply, the novel virus meant he needed a novel approach to vaccine manufacturing.

MCDERMOTT: This has been an amazing 12 months, nothing like I've ever experienced in my career.

GUPTA (voice-over): Remember, until the end of last year, no vaccine using mRNA technology had ever been authorized. And now, I'm getting an exclusive look here in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at how Pfizer in partisanship with BioNTech has produced million of these vaccines.

MCDERMOTT: Sixty million doses are surrounding us, hugging us right now. Imagine the impact that this room will have just to those who are sitting here today, on U.S. citizens and patients around the world.


GUPTA: That gives me goose bumps.

While Pfizer has more than doubled its output from a month ago, now producing at least 13 million doses a week, it's still not enough for McDermott.

MCDERMOTT: By the middle this year, at 13 million doses, we'll be at 25 million doses in a couple of months.

GUPTA: So, hundred million a month.

MCDERMOTT: A hundred million a month.

GUPTA: And he's doing that by continuing to look for the novel solution, even seemingly simple ones. They found that their suppliers couldn't provide enough dry ices, so they decided to produce their own.

MCDERMOTT: High visibility jackets so we can see each other, hard hat.

GUPTA: It also means that you are now seeing things that President Biden didn't see when he was here just 5 weeks ago in February.

MCDERMOTT: This is our new formulation suite.

GUPTA: Here's part of how the scale up so fast, these pre-fab formulations suites, they're all built in Texas before being brought here.

MCDERMOTT: If we built it wall by wall onsite, it would have taken us a year. Doing it modularly, we can cut that in half.

If you want to get on one side, I'll get on the other.

GUPTA: And yes as I found, it really is as easy as pushing it into place.

MCDERMOTT: Man, that's amazing.

GUPTA: That was pretty smart.

But for McDermott, it really all came down to this key part of the process.

MCDERMOTT: There's never been a commercial scale mRNA vaccine. So everything you see here is custom design.

GUPTA: Remember, what makes up Pfizer's vaccine is basically mRNA housed in a 4 different lipids, which is really just a fact. This tiny tool, called and impingement jet mixer makes a possible.

Now, this is going to sound too simple, but here goes. On one side, mRNA is pumped in, on the other side lipids. And they are forced together with around 400 pounds of pressure. Outcomes a new livid nanoparticle, which McDermott says is the perfect package to deliver mRNA to yourselves. That's the vaccine.

When you start to really scale it up like, that how confident were you that it is going to work?

MCDERMOTT: So, the first time somebody showed me this impingement jet mixer, I said, you can't be serious. How could you put billions of doses through here? So, my confidence level is actually quite low, not that it could be done. I knew it worked at this scale, but how could you multiply it?

GUPTA: Not only did McDermott cracked that code and is now on his way to producing billions of doses for the world, his life has now come full circle.

MCDERMOTT: As a kid, my dad worked for NASA. He was lucky enough to be in mission control in Houston when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, that amazing moment.

NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: One giant leap for mankind.

MCDERMOTT: And the day that we shipped the first doses out of the site, it rushed over me like that was -- that was our moon shot.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Kalamazoo, Michigan.


CHURCH: It is just so extraordinary, isn't it?

Yemen has received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines as new infections there are on the rise. It includes 360,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Health care workers will be among the first to get their shots.

The country has been pushed to the brink of famine by six years of a Saudi-led military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Aid organizations saying tens of thousands of people have been killed. Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, one of Vladimir Putin's toughest

critics is on a hunger strike. What Alexei Navalny is demanding from prison officials in Russia, that's after the break.





CHURCH: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he is not getting the medical care he needs in prison, so he is going on a hunger strike. Matthew Chance has details from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The plight of this Russian opposition figure continues to draw international attention.

First, he was poisoned with a suspected nerve agent, then he was arrested and jailed. Now Alexei Navalny has announced he's on hunger strike to demand doctors are allowed to visit him at the penal colony, where he's serving 2.5 years behind bars.

"I have the right to call a doctor and get medication; they give me neither," he wrote on an Instagram message, posted by his political team. "The back pain has moved to a leg. Parts of my right leg and now my left leg have lost sensitivity," he added.

Images of a letter sent by Navalny to the head of the penal colony also shared by Navalny's team on social media, in which he said that his hunger strike would continue until he's seen by a doctor from outside.

Navalny, of course, has been a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, focusing attention on allegations of rampant corruption among Russian officials, organizing mass anti-Kremlin protests.

In August, last year he fell seriously sick on a plane from Siberia and was actually brought back to Germany, where he was treated for suspected nerve agent poisoning. Russian officials deny any involvement in that incident.

Navalny returned to Russia earlier this year where he was arrested and convicted on charges he says were politically motivated and sent to prison. Russian prison authorities say Navalny is being given all necessary medical attention and treated just like any other convict -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


CHURCH: Shipping is back to normal in the Suez Canal but Egyptian authorities say losses from the 6-day blockage could reach $1 billion. The head of the canal authority says if the company that owns the ship won't pay, it won't be allowed to leave Egypt.

The Ever Given ran aground last week, blocking more than 400 ships from passing through the canal. It's being inspected right now in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Kim Brunhuber will be here at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. "WORLD SPORT" is next. Have a great day.