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Europeans Facing Their Second Easter Under Lockdowns; UK Considering Vaccine "Passports" To Allow Travel; Chauvin's Supervisor: Use Of Force Should Have Ended Sooner; U.S. "Concerned" With Russian Actions In Eastern Ukraine; H&M, Nike, Other Brands Face Boycott In China; NASA's Mars Helicopter To Fly April 11 At The Earliest. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 2, 2021 - 3:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, I'm Kim Brunhuber. And this is CNN Newsroom. We begin with breaking news out of Taiwan where dozens are dead after a train derailed.

Video from the scene shows rescue teams trying to free - passengers from the damage train cars. The Taiwan Premier says at least 36 people have died dozens more are severely injured. Let's go straight to Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. Ivan, what's the latest?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rescue efforts are still underway. And this is shaping up to be probably one of the deadliest rail disasters in Taiwan's recent history.

You had a train that was heading from north to south on the east side of the island and the derailment occurred as it appeared to be entering a tunnel north of the City of Hualien. It was a train Toroko train that can run up to speeds of 150 kilometers an hour. We don't know if it hit that high speed at that point.

And it appears from footage that is emerged and from statements made, for example by a Railway Labor Union Official that it hits some kind of a vehicle or a trailer that seems to have slid down a steep hillside from a road above the railroad.

And that seems to have caused this terrible accident with dozens of people killed, including the operator of the train and at least 35 passengers with a total death toll of at least 35. And scores of people wounded and the rescue crews trying to rescue additional people that were still in train cars.

And you can just imagine the steep hillside here the remote location and the complicating factor that the rescue crews have to operate inside the train tunnel as well. Now the President of Taiwan has issued a statement on Twitter saying quote in response to a train derailment in Hualien in Taiwan, our emergency services have been fully mobilized to rescue and assist the passengers and railway staff affected.

We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: Yes, what a horrible tragedy there and I understand it was a holiday so what role might have that played here in the in the number of possible victims.

WATSON: This is the beginning of a long weekend the Qingming Tomb- Sweeping holiday. So some of the survivors have said they were either traveling to or from ceremonies there. And some of them describing the very difficult situation by the way, it might add the train had at least 350 passengers on board when the accident occurred.

One pair of survivors describing how they had to break through a window using their luggage to try to escape after the accident had happened. So a terrible and deadly tragedy taking place during what was really supposed to be a holiday. There was another terrible accident in Taiwan's recent history.

2018 at least 18 people died and some 175 injured in another train accident in North Eastern Taiwan. And there will certainly be calls for an investigation into what went wrong here and resulted in the loss of so many lives. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. We'll be following this story throughout the day. Thanks so much Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. Arising third wave of COVID-19 and anemic vaccination rollout to force much of the European Union into lockdown for the Easter holiday most of them went through the same thing a year ago.

Riot police in Belgium had to clear out a park full of springtime revelers in violation of the lockdown there. Several injuries and arrests are reported. The event actually started online as an "April Fool" joke. Nobody was supposed to show up now at least 27 EU members have imposed full or partial lockdowns on their citizens. Some French residents are skeptical about new restrictions there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not confident I have to say seeing all the announcements from the start of this year the problems with vaccines and the pharmaceutical companies. I'm not convinced we don't know where we're headed.


BRUNHUBER: Alright, for more on the situation in Europe, let's go to CNN's Delia Gallagher is standing by in Rome. We're going to begin our coverage with Jim Bittermann who's near Paris. Jim, so Frances' month long nationwide lockdown begins on Saturday. What's the latest there?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact for students this is the last day of in class learning for the next month.


BITTERMANN: Basically schools are going to be closed next week and the students will be working from home. And then that's followed by two weeks of vacation, their normal spring vacation and followed for some students another week of working at home after that.

So for the schools which the government has tried - just with a great deal of difficulty but they've tried against all odds to keep the schools open now that capitulated and said, we have to close down schools, in - because the numbers of infestations of our own students is really on the rise just as much as in the adult population.

A number of things are happening here. In fact, the Health Minister said that the numbers, these exploding numbers are going to continue to go up for the next 7 to 10 days, because they haven't yet reached the peak here, this third epidemic has not reached its peak. And that's one of the things that have forced the government to act.

So as you say, tomorrow onwards, although there's going to be a little bit of relaxation, pointed during the Easter holiday, but certainly by Monday, they're going to start controlling the movements of people all around France, the entire country will be in this partial lockdown. It will be all kinds of restrictions for outdoor gatherings, as well as indoor gatherings.

And alcohol, for example, will be banned from public places. It'll be not so much freedom of movement between the various departments of France or various areas of France. So it's going to be a lockdown, but not exactly the same as we went through in the very first wave of the pandemic. It's going to be strict though, and they don't even know they've got to get these numbers down.

The ICU usage, the ICU beds are over capacity now. And they're talking about trying to double the number of ICU beds from what they had at the beginning of the pandemic. So it's really a difficult situation.

In fact, the Prime Minister is going to be visiting a hospital this morning does just to emphasize the amount of government sensitivity there is about hospitals and the overwhelming burden on, Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much, Jim Bittermann for us in France. Now let's go to Delia Gallagher in Rome where Easter at the Vatican will again be a subdued affair. The only the Pope celebrating now a second Holy Week under COVID restrictions so take us through what this Easter will look like at the Vatican?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look Kim I have to tell you the quiet is noticeable here. Italy is entering tomorrow into a strict national lockdown. As you mentioned, the Vatican as well is going to experience that the Pope will be holding his Easter celebrations.

But without the presence of people and normally this is a time of year when not only do Italians go out and celebrate what we're used to having thousands of tourists come here to the Vatican as well. Strict lockdown nationally for the next three days here in Italy but remember that many regions in Italy have already been living under a strict lockdown.

As two weeks ago, the government declared that for many regions that were seeing a rise in daily cases of Coronavirus. They decided to put them into lockdown. So that means something similar to France, you have a curfew at 10 o'clock. No large gatherings, even families in their own homes.

They're trying to dissuade people from going to each other's homes. Obviously bars and restaurants are closed only allowing takeaway over this Easter weekend. So many Italians are already used to some of these measures can but we are seeing absolute quiet for this Easter weekend.

Now the focus, of course is on the vaccination program. The Prime Minister two weeks ago laying out an ambitious plan to try to get at least 500,000 Italians vaccinated per day. They're not there yet, but that is the plan that they can have all adults vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Interestingly, they have also just put out a decree that any health workers that are working directly with patients must be vaccinated. So any health workers that do not want to get vaccinated, they say will either be transferred, or they may even be suspended without pay.

So the government is really putting in some strict measures to try and bring these numbers down. They are extending their period of restrictions for those regions that are going to be in lockdown through April.

One difference with France is that they will allow schools to continue to operate at least schools up until middle school, the high schools and universities are still doing online learning Kim?

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. All right, thank you so much CNN's Delia Gallagher for us in Italy. Well, the COVID pandemic is forcing Brazil to take some morbid measures. Its biggest city is rushing to empty old graves to make room for COVID 19 fatalities.

Sao Paulo City Hall registered a record number of daily burials this week and the country currently accounts for around a quarter of daily deaths worldwide.


BRUNHUBER: That's more than any other nation. The virus has also taken crushing toll on the economy and on health care workers. Now, things are so bad in Brazil right now that neighboring Bolivia is closing its borders for a week to contain the spread of infections. Shasta Darlington has an update on the crisis from Sao Paulo.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brazil registered the deadliest month yet from the Coronavirus pandemic, with over 66,500 people dying in March more than double the previous record. The crisis shows no sign of letting up with 625 cities warning.

They'll run out of oxygen over the next week and 15 of Brazil's 26 states recording ICU occupancy over 90 percent as a surge of new infections cripples hospitals. While Brazil has started a vaccine program, the rollout has suffered from delays and political infighting.

So far, only 8.4 percent of the population has received a first dose. Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to rage against isolation and lockdown measures. This week, the president announced the biggest cabinet shakeups since taking office amid criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

Six ministers were out on Monday, and on Tuesday, the commanders of three branches of the armed forces were let go the reshuffling an indication of how much pressure Bolsonaro is under as COVID-19 continues to ravage the country Shasta, Darlington CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

BRUNHUBER: Brazil will have another weapon against the virus in its arsenal. Health regulators there have approved the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use. And the Health Ministry has signed a contract with the company for 38 million doses are set to be delivered between August and November. Brazil has now authorized the use of at least four COVID-19 vaccines.

For more on all this let's bring in Dr. Peter Drobac, who's a Global Health Expert at the University of Oxford in England. Thank you so much for joining us, again, really appreciate it. I want to start with some other good news on the vaccine front. Pfizer saying the vaccine seems to offer protection for at least six months. How significant is that? And also, do we expect other vaccines to have similarly long lasting effects?

DR. PETER DROBAC, INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT: Well, thanks, Kim, nice to be with you. This is of course really good news. What we're seeing in the announcement from Pfizer yesterday was an update from the phase three clinical trials now having followed tens of thousands of those initial volunteers out for six months, and what they reported was that they're still over 90 percent protection for those individuals, which is exciting.

You know if we look at other, more common Coronaviruses immunity is sometimes fleeting. So one of those big questions we have is how long immunity from infection or from vaccination will last? And really all signs are pointing towards a really robust antibody response, and we hope a really durable immune response.

So we feel more confident now about protection of six months, it's likely to be true for other vaccines. And it's also likely, of course, so we hope to last much longer, but only time will tell.

BRUNHUBER: So where you are in the UK, Boris Johnson Prime Minister is again talking about COVID passports, the government is getting a report on that on Monday, but they already seem to be talking about using a system like that at an upcoming soccer match.

Everyone who wants to come in will have to show a negative COVID test. Now, you know, I've talked about vaccine passports before I know you're not totally keen on them. But the idea seems to be picking up steam. So is there a way you think that they can do it that it will work?

DR. DROBAC: Well, I think they're coming no matter what. So we're best off trying to prepare for all of the technological and ethical challenges that come from it. You know, the first thing obviously, is continuing to accelerate vaccination campaigns around the world.

Because where it gets really difficult is if you have people who haven't been able to have access to a vaccine yet, who you're now telling, you know, isn't able to go and do things that other people are able to do.

So as we start to progress here in the UK and get to the point where anybody who wants a vaccine can have a vaccine that changes things a little bit. I think there are areas where it's clear that vaccine passports could be really useful. International travel is the most obvious one.

In fact, we already have something like it for yellow fever vaccinations, where those of us who traveled to certain countries around the world carry these cards with us. Second would be kind of large gatherings like sporting events and concerts.

Where I still think it gets complicated is when you're looking at using certificates or passports like this for everyday activities, going to work going to the shops going to a pub, we've got to remember that this is a pandemic of inequalities.

If we're not careful, these passports can actually exacerbate those inequalities and actually discourage people from coming forward and getting vaccinated thrive.

BRUNHUBER: All right. So you know we're a long way from totally turning the corner here but I do want to look ahead and the effects of these - this pandemic that will be felt for months.


BRUNHUBER: In the UK there a recent study found more than 1 million people suffering from long COVID symptoms. You know, we're still trying to deal with the acute effects. But what kind of bill is society looking at paying down the road in terms of dealing with the after effects, assuming everyone eventually is vaccinated?

DR. DROBAC: I'm so glad you raised this because this has been one of the most underreported and underappreciated aspects of this pandemic. Long COVID, this cluster of kind of ill defined symptoms like fatigue, difficulty with concentration, cough, lots of other symptoms that are affecting people for weeks or months after recovering from COVID, including many people who had mild symptoms or no symptoms during their actual infection.

So in the UK, actually, the Office of National Statistics has started to finally track this. And what they found actually was that over the course of February, about one in seven adults reported some symptoms of long COVID 12 weeks after recovering from their infection.

Importantly, they also found this and children about one in 10 children having some long COVID type symptoms 12 weeks after they were infected, as well. We know kids are relatively less affected by infection in the acute phase, but what we don't know is what are these chronic effects?

And of course, it's too early to say how long these things will last for they may dissipate over the course of months. They may persist for years, you know, think back to other, you know, major infectious disease we face like polio where entire generations were actually affected by that.

We haven't really confronted the possible costs of long COVID. It's an area that requires much more study and much more attention.

BRUNHUBER: Well, the good news, though, is there is some evidence that the vaccine itself can offer some relief to those suffering from long COVID. Do we know what might be happening here?

DR. DROBAC: Yes, it's a great point and really exciting news so that some who have experienced infection and recovered but have some long COVID symptoms, who have been vaccinated appear to actually do better and some of those symptoms disappear.

We don't really understand long COVID yet, but it appears to be something related to a kind of irregular immune response. So perhaps something about the immune boost of the vaccine may modulate those symptoms somewhat. I don't think the mechanism has been well described yet. But it's very encouraging news.

BRUNHUBER: And as you say, we need a lot more study on this. It's all the time we have but thank you so much for being with us Dr. Peter Drobac the University of Oxford. Appreciate your time.

DR. DROBAC: Thanks Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Alright. Still to come, prosecutors are questioning Derek Chauvin's use of force against George Floyd last summer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers they could have pinned to the restraint.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up we'll hear the new audio of Chauvin defending his actions to his former supervisor. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



L. CHRIS STEWART, CO-LEAD COUNSEL FOR GEORGE FLOYD FAMILY: Right now the prosecution has their knee on Derek Chauvin's neck just like he had it on George and they're scrambling. Some of the things that they're using to compare a gun battle were good officers actually risking their lives out there to six people in the crowd two kids it's ridiculous.


BRUNHUBER: Strong reaction there from the Co-Lead Counsel for George Floyd's family after another emotional day of testimony in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. The former officers accused of killing Floyd last summer by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.

On Thursday, jurors heard from Chauvin's supervisor who said the use of force should have stopped earlier. The Floyd family attorney spoke earlier with CNN about how much of an impact the retired sergeants' testimony could have.


BEN CRUMP, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: I think is devastating to the defense air and when you hear his sergeant a person who knows the policies and procedures intimately of the Minneapolis Police Department to say him keeping his knee on George Floyd's neck after he was restrained and face down was inappropriate.

It is very important that this is all consistent with our principles of common sense and decency and most of all humanity. You don't treat anybody like that if you have one ounce of humanity. Obviously Derek Chauvin had no humanity. And we believe the jury will see that and come to the conclusion that Brandon is family and everybody in America has seen this video has come to the conclusion. He was killed from an overdose of excessive force.


BRUNHUBER: For the first time we're hearing from the paramedics on scene who tried to save Floyd's life. CNNs Omar Jimenez has details from Minneapolis.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The moments when paramedics arrived and George Floyd appeared unresponsive and May 2020 are coming into clear focus and audio played in court. Derek Chauvin is heard on the phone describing what just happened.

DEREK CHAUVIN, EX-OFFICER: The whole thing guy down who was going crazy at the moment wouldn't go on the back of the spot.

JIMENEZ (voice over): He was talking to the supervising police sergeant on duty at the time David Ploeger.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?


SCHLEICHER: What is it?

PLOEGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint.

SCHLEICHER: And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and the longer resistance.

PLOEGER: Correct.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Paramedic Seth Bravinder and Derek Smith responded to the scene and arrive to an unresponsive Floyd.


JIMENEZ (voice over): Smith seen here checking Floyd for vitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --not to take them off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what his condition appear to be to you overall?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In lay terms, I thought he was dead.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The checking began while now Former Officer Derek Chauvin still had his knee on Floyd's neck before Bravinder stepped in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were you attempting to do at that point in time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just having the officer move.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why did you need the officer to move?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we can move the patient because he, he was - I guess, limp would be the best description.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Bravinder testified a cardiac monitor showed Floyd's heart had flat lined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically tells us your heart isn't really doing anything at that moment.

JIMENEZ (voice over): During cross examination, the defense asked about whether overdose patients can regain consciousness and be aggressive. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you personally seen that happen?


JIMENEZ (voice over): But testimony Thursday also touched on who George Floyd was before May 2020?

COURTENEY ROSS, GEORGE FLOYD'S GIRLFRIEND: Playing sports with it neighborhood kid.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Courteney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend of three years took the stand. The first testimony heard from someone who knew Floyd.

ROSS: We eat a lot because I love to eat a lot. He's a big man and it took you know, it took a lot of energy to keep him going and he loved food. So did I, it was it was fun. It was an inventor always with him.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But while emotional throughout she testified their relationship also included addiction to Opioids.

ROSS: The classic story of how many people get addicted to Opioids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While they have sports injuries that he complained off.

ROSS: Yes, his neck and it went from his neck to shoulder blade and down to his lower back.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense for Derek Chauvin is trying to make the case it was drugs in George Floyd system that killed him, not Chauvin's knee to the neck. So when it was their turn the question Ross, they asked about an emergency trip to the hospital Floyd had just two months before his death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You later learn that that was due to an overdose?

ROSS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you learn what that - what caused that overdose?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that timeframe, did you learn that Mr. Floyd was taking anything other than Opioids?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did not know that he had taken heroin at that time.


JIMENEZ (voice over): She testified days before he died Floyd was using again, but never complained of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had Mr. Floyd been an active person physically?

ROSS: Yes. He is very active.

JIMENEZ (voice over): And over the course of this week with testimony we've had these different puzzle pieces come together to paint a clear picture of what happened on May 25th 2020?

We're expected to pick things back up Friday with a brand new witness and while the identity isn't quite known, we do know at some point in the future current Minneapolis Police Chief in Darya Redondo is expected to testify along with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner even potentially members of George Floyd family.

So that process continues with day five Friday and what is expected to be a shortened day of testimony Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


BRUNHUBER: Obviously holiday weekend is off to a tragic start in Taiwan. We'll bring you the latest as rescue team is trying to reach stranded passengers after a train derailed. And we've gone inside Pfizer's COVID Vaccine Center we'll give you an exclusive look at the new facility of its German partner BioNTech as it ramps up production.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This new technology, you cannot just repurpose vaccine facilities which are there and you can also not to train people very fast.




BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN Newsroom.

All right, here is the latest on our top story. The deadly train derailment in Taiwan at least 41 people have been killed and dozens more have been sent to hospital. Premier Su Tseng-chang says rescue teams are trying to reach eight people who remain trapped the train derailed in a tunnel making the operation more complicated. We will keep you up to date on this story as we learn more.

The UN Security Council has condemned the use of violence against protesters and the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Myanmar, but didn't threaten any sanctions. The UN diplomat tells CNN the statement was watered down to win support from China and Russia.

People took to the streets again in Myanmar's largest city Yangon as they have every day for two months to protest against a military coup. A ferry carrying 1200 people who escaped and Islamist militant attack in Mozambique has arrived in the Port City of Pemba thousands fled the violence after ISIS linked insurgents laid siege to the City of Palma last week.

Those who escaped said there were many people killed in the hundreds still missing. The attack appears to have targeted foreign workers near natural gas projects worth tens of billions of dollars.

The U.S. says it's concerned with aggressive and provocative behavior by Russia in Eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. defense official says the Pentagon is worried by reports of 4000 heavily armed Russian troops moving in Crimea, although that may have been part of a military exercise.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday and the State Department Spokesman had this to say.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: When we talk about the state of the relationship between the United States and Russia, we can't forget Russia's ongoing aggression in Ukraine. And we're absolutely concerned by recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in Eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 2020 ceasefire that led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers on March 26th and injuries to others.


BRUNHUBER: And Russia's Foreign Minister says he hopes Ukraine's politicians won't be incited by the U.S. and its allies.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: They address Ukraine through the lens of geopolitics. Ukraine close to Russia makes Russia great. Russia left without Ukraine is of no global importance.


LAVROV: I am leaving the truthfulness of these ideas on the conscious of people professing them, as well as their ability to appreciate modern Russia. President Putin said not long ago, but the statement is still relevant today that those who had tried to start a new war in - will destroy Ukraine.


BRUNHUBER: The top U.S. General Mark Milley expressed his concerns and calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts this week. Officials in Ontario, Canada say they're fighting a new enemy dangerous fast spreading COVID-19 variant.

The province which includes the country's most populous city, Toronto, as models showing the variants are increasing at alarming rates. And it could be weeks before new cases and hospitalizations ease up. So it's taking emergency action. CNN's Paula Newton has details.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The province of Ontario in Canada is now announcing an emergency breaker shut down for at least the month of April. At issue are menacing variants that continue to spread throughout the province.

And really the concern is the amount of hospitalizations and ICU admissions among younger people. The province already saying that ICU capacity is at a historic high already. At this point they say they cannot afford for cases to continue to increase.

And Canada's top doctor has also indicated that most of Canada is now what they're calling a third resurgence now. Well, about 15 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The vaccine rollout is still far too slow in Canada at this point in time to try and mitigate any of the hospitalizations or ICU admissions that would happen in this so called third wave. Paula Newton, CNN, Atlanta.

BRUNHUBER: Pfizer and its German Partner BioNTech say new data show their Coronavirus vaccine remains more than 91 percent effective for at least six months, although experts say it will likely last longer. These latest clinical trial results are the first look at how long protection for a COVID vaccine lasts.

And they allow the companies to apply for full approval in the U.S., which is a step up from the emergency use authorization that COVID vaccines have now. Pfizer and BioNTech have a global goal of producing 2.5 billion vaccines by the end of this year. And 1 billion of those may come from BioNTech's new plant; Frederik Pleitgen gives us an exclusive look inside.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the heart of BioNTech's production a bio reactor that produces MRNA the building block for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

VALESKA SCHILLING, HEAD OF PRODUCTION, BIONTECH MARBURG: So we started Marburg with manufacturing of the drug substance. This is a biochemical process that happens basically in every cell. But here we have shifted to a bioreactor. And this takes roughly one day one to two days.

PLEITGEN (voice over): Valeska Schilling is the Head of Production at BioNTech's new plant in Marburg, Germany, was just certified by the European Medicines Agency, and she tells me the staff are already ramping up production.

SCHILLING: We all have friends, we have family, we have you know a lot of people that are affected by this pandemic situation, and we all want to come out. So we are very happy that we can actively do something against the situation we live in.

PLEITGEN (voice over): The bio reactor is operated in this special clean room. It might not look huge, but can produce enough MRNA for about 8 million doses every two days BioNTech says. The company hopes to produce a billion doses within a year at this plant alone, vaccine that's badly needed.

Right now there's massive demand for vaccines against the novel Coronavirus, much more than there is supply around the world. That's why it's so important for plants like this one to not only get up and running, but to get up and running at full speed as fast as possible.

While countries like the U.S. the UK and Israel are vaccinating their populations quickly, the EU and much of the rest of the world are suffering from severe vaccine shortages. That's despite the fact that so far BioNTech and Pfizer have exceeded the amount of vaccine they promised to deliver. The company's Co-Founder telling CNN, they are constantly trying to increase production.

OZLEM TURECI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, BIONTECH: This is new technology. You cannot just repurpose vaccine facilities which are there and you can also not to train people very fast. So we are working and turning every stone basically to upscale and roll out our capacities.

PLEITGEN (voice over): And the company hopes to further pick up the pace with sites like this getting into full swing Fred Pleitgen, CNN Marburg, Germany.


BRUNHUBER: COVID-19 cases are surging in India's millions of people come together for a major month long Hindu festival.


BRUNHUBER: During "Kumbh Mela" pilgrims pray on the banks of the River Ganges on days of spiritual significance they take a holy dip in the water. This year, participants must be tested for COVID and show negative results at checkpoints. India has the third highest number of cases in the world according to Johns Hopkins.

All right, coming up on CNN Newsroom, Chinese consumers' vent their outrage at Western apparel brands after they call out alleged forced labor in China's Xinjiang region. Plus, devastating news for the entire planet out of the Amazon, the forests used to observe absorbable greenhouse gases. Now new research indicates that maybe making things worse. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: A study has been launched into expanding the width of the Suez Canal. It comes after a massive container ship clogged the vital trade route for at least a week. The head of the Suez Canal authority says the depth of the waterway doesn't need to be increased. Marsh ships are once again on the move. He says damages from last month's mishap could add up to a billion dollars.

Chinese consumers are boycotting H&M, Nike and other Western brands. Those companies said that they're concerned about allegations of forced labor and China's Xinjiang region. Much of the world says those are human rights violations. China says their lives. Selina Wang reports. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Here goes the H and here goes the M across China. H&M logos and billboards are totally kicked off advertising frames, scratched off the wall and even covered in red cloth amid a sudden consumer boycott. The logo is now a symbol of shame in China.

Its products have also disappeared from Chinese e-commerce platforms. CNN searched for H&M on Alibaba and JD's apps yield no results.


WANG (voice over): Swedish company is just the latest target of Chinese patriotic fury whipped up by the government. It all started after a group linked to the Communist Party reposting a six month old statement from H&M saying it was deeply concerned over reports of forced labor in cotton production in China's far western region of Xinjiang.

The company in September said it would stop sourcing cotton from the region where the U.S. has accused Beijing of committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. These are allegations Beijing has strongly denied.

The Communist Youth League criticized H&M for spreading rumors to boycott Xinjiang cotton while also trying to make profit in China. Posts on China's Twitter like platform Weibo with the #Isupportxinjiangcotton have been viewed more than 7 billion times.

Within hours the fury spread to Nike, Adidas, Burberry, Puma, Converse and others. As social media users and state media dug up their old corporate statements expressing concerns about forced labor reports in Xinjiang. Dozens of Chinese celebrities publicly announced they would cut ties or end promotional partnerships with these foreign brands.

They rushed to defend Beijing's policies in Xinjiang, even several of China's top Uyghur stars. The outrage spread to the streets of Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should boycott them and let them know that China is not a country to be trifled with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll resist any brand that has any bad comments about our motherland.

WANG (voice over): Xinjiang produces 1/5 of the world's cotton and nearly 90 percent of China's cotton annually. In January, the U.S. banned imports of cotton imports from the region over forced labor concerns. Beijing's campaign against foreign retail brands came just days after the U.S., EU and UK sanction several Chinese officials over their alleged role in the crackdown in Xinjiang.

WANG (on camera): Beijing has leveraged the country's massive consumer base for political means in the past. What is the ultimate aim here? JAMES MCGREGOR, CHAIRMAN, APCO GREATER CHINA REGION: I think China's feeling really threatened by all of these sanctions, and is decided just to hit back as strongly as they can to try to get these companies to influence their governments to kind of tone down and back off.

WANG (voice over): But analysts projected the drop in sales will be temporary for the targeted brands with H&M likely suffering the most. Other brands like Nike and Adidas, who sponsor tiny sports teams are still available on Chinese e-commerce.

Here in Japan retail store Muji said that it will continue to source cotton from Xinjiang and that it's conducted due diligence on its supply chain. In fact, it's even advertising products made with Xinjiang cotton on its website.

But experts say it is impossible to conduct accurate due diligence on supply chains in Xinjiang, and that the only way to ensure that a brand is not complicit in forced labor is to cut ties. But not all consumers have the same concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't affect my shopping. I trust Muji's products and quality. My house is filled with their products she tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So as long as they continue to hold this current policy, I might think twice to shop in the stores.

WANG (voice over): As tensions between China and countries around the world intensify brands will increasingly be forced to pick aside. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


BRUNHUBER: The Amazon rain forest turning and we know now to what extent. A new first of its kind of analysis is out and things don't look good. Our meteorologist will fill us in next. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: The world's largest tropical rainforest now emits more greenhouse gases than it absorbs. That's according to a new study published earlier this month. The Amazon has historically been able to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But this new research indicates climate change and deforestation are changing all that.

Let's bring in Meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Derek, when I saw that report. I remember seeing it a couple of weeks ago, it seemed really counterintuitive. So take us through why they think this is happening.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, basically Kim, they're saying are claiming that the Amazon is now a carbon sink or has changed from a carbon sink to a carbon source, meaning that its net emissions of greenhouse gases as a whole, whether it's human caused or natural sources have now tipped from more of a negative to a positive stance. So that net emission is more positive than it was before meaning that there's a carbon source. And I think this is an important time to remind our viewers that we do live on a very living, very breathing planet. Just look at this image from NASA behind me.

This is a 12 month time lapse of the vegetation and how it moves and oscillates across the planet. I think this is just really beautiful to show how dynamic our planet actually is? But when we focus in on the Amazon, it is still a "The lungs of our planet".

This is an area that produces over 20 percent of the world's oxygen. But it's incredible to see what's happening with the deforestation, the drought that is increasing within that area and the rising temperatures. Basically, it's overwhelming the Amazon Basin's ability to absorb the greenhouse gases that it normally actually sinks.

So it's quite at that - it normally emit so this is quite amazing. So tropical rainforest is here regulating global temperatures that is why they are so important. They also house over 50 percent of our land species of the Amazon there, as I mentioned before, produces 20 percent of our oxygen, so it is crucial for our survival.

And it is important for us to maintain it as well. But unfortunately, that's not the case. And that's not what we've been doing from 2002 to 2019. We've deforested or taken down the equivalent of the size of France in terms of square kilometers of deforestation.

Since 2002 the global round Forest that has been destroyed about 50 percent of that has occurred within that Amazon basin itself.


BRUNHUBER: So it's not just the carbon dioxide that gets all the press that gets a lot of the media. It is the ramifications from the deforestation, the agricultural practices that take place there. We're emitting things like nitric oxide as well as methane from these locations, thanks to some of the processes that we're doing.

That is a concern logging is an increasing threat to this area, as is the effects of burning fire to help with the agricultural purposes down there. So this is really a compounding impact. And for this study, to come out and say so boldly that we have now changed from a carbon sink to a carbon source has great ramifications that scientists and environmental meteorologists like me will be studying for decades to come. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: Very depressing news there, Derek Van Dam, thank you so much. U.S. Space Agency, NASA says one of its most eagerly anticipated missions on Mars will take flights no earlier than April 11th. NASA says this is what the Perseverance Rovers' helicopter should look like when it lifts off.

NASA says its mission is to demonstrate the first powered, autonomously controlled flight on another planet which is especially difficult in the thin Martian atmosphere. NASA has already lowered the chopper from the rovers belly and has cameras but no scientific instruments. NASA says it will attempt to five test flights within 30 Martian days. That's 31 Earth days.

While, Federal Judges put a temporary stop to the sales of the so called Satan Shoes Nike claims the business mischief product studio incorporated infringed its trademarks. The customized versions of the Nike Air Max 97 were produced in collaboration with the rapper Lil NAS X they instantly gained notoriety for being devil themed and are said to even contain a drop of blood.

Well, that wraps this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more news. Please do stay with us.