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WHO: Global Cases Rise for Sixth Straight Week; Canada Facing "Very Serious" Third Wave; WHO: Benefits of AstraZeneca Vaccine Outweigh Risks; Customers Watch Chauvin Trial at Cup Foods; Russia Denies Navalny's Health Is at Risk; Jordan Bans Social Media Posts about Royal Squabble; WHO: COVID-19 Shows Health Inequalities Around World; IMF: Uneven COVID-19 Recovery May Leave Nations Behind; Houthi Rebels Step Up Attacks on Saudi Arabia; McConnell: Corporations are 'Stupid' to Criticize Georgia Election Law; Biden Directs States to Make Every American Adult Eligible for COVID Vaccine by April 19. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired April 7, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Avlon.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Japan worries a fourth wave is beginning to build as it gears up for the Olympic Games.

Another blow for the beleaguered AstraZeneca, pediatric trials halted in the U.K.

The Kremlin says the prominent critic Alexei Navalny will get no special treatment in jail, despite his declining health.


AVLON: The World Health Organization says the coronavirus cases are up for the 6th consecutive week, more than 4 million new cases have been reported in the past week alone with Argentina and Bangladesh, reporting record infections. Southeast Asia are seeing the highest rise in cases, a 46 percent surge in deaths. CNN's Blake Essig is live this hour in Tokyo. Blake?

In Japan there are a fear of a fourth wave of infections, why the latest increase in cases?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really twofold, John, Japanese health officials are concerned that the more transmissible variants are driving increase that we're seeing really across the country here in Japan. But it's also springtime, cherry blossoms were blooming over the last 2 weeks. A lot of people are gathering, the state of emergency was lifted on March 21st.

And so more people were out and since then, 39 out of 47 prefectures across the country have seen increases in their daily coronavirus cases. Specifically, 20 of those prefectures have seen significant increases, with Hyogo, Miyagi and Osaka prefectures really leading the pack.

AVLON: With these cases on the rise, the Olympics, of course, set to start in less than 4 months.

So how is COVID impacting the preparation?

ESSIG: I mean, it's created all sorts of problems, John. You have test events, Olympic qualifiers that are constantly being postponed or canceled. The water polo test event was postponed. It was supposed to take place this weekend.

Earlier this, week the international swimming federation announced they will be canceling several events that were supposed to be held here in Japan, going on to actually criticize the Japanese government and Olympic organizers, saying that they failed to provide an adequate plan to protect the safety and health of participants.

Now we also are in the midst of the torch relay, starting in Fukushima about 2 weeks ago, supposed to run through Osaka. The Osaka governor has asked for that event to be canceled because of the increase in cases there in Osaka.

Again, no decision expected to be made by the 2020 Olympic organizing committee and whether they will cancel that part of the torch relay, perhaps move it to behind closed doors so the public can attend. A lot of things that are supposed to take place in preparation for these games that aren't happening.

AVLON: The eyes of the world will be watching and coming to Tokyo, Blake Essig, thank you very much.

Brazil has confirmed a record number of new COVID-19 deaths, almost 4,200 on Tuesday alone. The World Health Organization says Brazil now has the highest weekly death toll in the Americas. Sao Paulo is getting hit the hardest, reporting nearly 1,400 dead on Tuesday, a new record for any Brazilian state.

Its intensive care units on the verge of collapse, now more than 90 percent full.

France is hoping more lockdown and an accelerated vaccine campaign can bring its latest wave of infections under control. The health ministry reports more than 30,000 people are now hospitalized. That's the highest rate since November. ICU numbers passed last April's peak. They're administering shots in the national stadium north of Paris.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau says his country is facing a very serious 3rd wave of coronavirus, with patients filling up hospitals and intensive care units. CNN's Paula Newton is falling all the developments from Atlanta.

Paula, oh, Canada. Canada has been doing so well during this pandemic, in so many respects and now it seems to be falling behind, particularly with regard to vaccinations,

What's going?


PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Variants continue to spread through Canada and vaccinations have just not been picking up pace. Why?

John because there is a lack of doses in Canada.


NEWTON: You can see that unfortunate Canada remains quite a hot spot in North America because variants, primarily the one from the U.K., but now there are troubling signs the Brazilian variant is also spreading, especially through western Canada.

John, the conversations I've had with emergency room physicians and those running COVID wards in Canadian hospitals have been absolutely chilling. Why?

Because those variants are now spreading to younger and younger Canadians. You are talking to doctors that have patients coming in, who feel fine, are short of breath and have decided to go to a hospital and 12 hours later they are in ICU.

ICU is now at capacity in so many of these hotspots throughout the country. Let's take a look at what's going on with a third wave though. When you look at the actual waves, the second one was incredibly dramatic for Canada. We had again those peaks in those ICUs and again record hospitalizations.

I can tell you right now, that third curve there is terrifying authorities. Because of that John, we could be dealing in just a matter of 24 hours with another stay-at-home order in the province of Ontario, Canada's largest province, home to Toronto.

When you say that they had been doing relatively, Toronto has been in some form of lockdown now since the end of November. The issue here is the variants mean that what everyone has been doing, is just not good enough anymore. Because there are no doses of vaccines, Canada is behind on vaccines.

They purchased more than any other country, they say, but we do not make the vaccine in Canada. So we are behind the United States, even Europe, in terms of getting those doses. Only about 15 percent of Canadians so far received one dose.

AVLON: What you're saying is the theme of the race between the variants and the vaccinations. It was so stunning to many of us in United States, when we saw that Ontario was locked down again.

Despite the issue of manufacturing, is that really the reason why the uptick on vaccinations are lagging so far behind?

NEWTON: Absolutely it is, I mean John I only want to tell you the frantic rush to try and get vaccines in Canada. A lot of people are questioning why those vaccines weren't distributed in hotspots.

Specifically in places like Toronto and places in the suburbs where the variants are really spreading right now. Authorities are taking another look, at it but we have to go back to step one. What is step one?

Everybody stay home, that's all Canada has right now. As well as expanding those ICU beds and those hospitals, certainly officials believe that they can cope. But it's not going to happen unless everyone stays home, for yet another 4 to 6 weeks.

And you know John, unfortunately, it was going to happen, that when you compare Canada to what's going on where we are sitting right now in the United States, it is dramatic. You know the connections between the Canada and the United States, deep family and business connections. Life is one thing here in the United States and it's quite another in Canada still in the depths of this pandemic.

AVLON: Paula Newton, thank you very much as always.

All right, vaccination rates are rising quickly around the world but Oxford AstraZeneca has hit another roadblock. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz explains.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Oxford University has paused the trials of the vaccine in children pending investigation by the U.K. medicines regulator, one of the members of the Oxford University tribe saying there is no concerns about the trial itself but that they are awaiting the review from the U.K. medicines regulator.

Now the Oxford University AstraZeneca vaccine has been a matter of controversy between the E.U. and the U.K., with some nations in the E.U., banning its use in certain age groups. This all comes down to concerns, that there may be links between the blood clots, severe blood clots in rare cases. And this Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine.

Just a few days ago the U.K. confirmed that there had been 30 people out of 18 million vaccinated up to March 24th that had exhibited signs of these blood clots. Unfortunately, seven people died, that was what was confirmed by health officials to local. Media

Also the Europeans medicines agency was investigating this. They said that there is a possible but not proven link. So all of this ramping up now, but again Oxford University saying there are no concerns about the trial among children, a few hundred, children, who are part of this trial. There is no concerns about the trial themselves but they are awaiting review from the U.K. right now -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


AVLON: We're expecting an announcement from the European Medicines Agency about its latest review of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine but the World Health Organization's regulatory director repeated what experts keep saying.


AVLON: That the vaccine is safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the time, being there is no evidence that the benefit risk assessment for the vaccine needs to be changed. And we know from the data coming from countries like the U.K. and others that the benefits are really important in terms of reduction of the mortality, of populations that have been vaccinated.


AVLON: AstraZeneca said the incidents of blood clots is lower in people who got the vaccine, than the general population.

It was a day of dramatic testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of killing George Floyd. The police instructor who trained to Chauvin in use of force restraints testified. He told the jury that officers in service are not trained in leg neck restraints.


STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: In addition to the classroom training, you actually teach officer Chauvin how to physically do the sort of neck restraints?


SCHLEICHER: At this time, I like to republish exhibit 17.

Sir, is this an MPD trained for restraint?



AVLON: Under cross examination, the police trainer admitted that putting your body weight on a suspect is not an improper move but the position is meant to end once the suspect is under control. Here is more that back and forth


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: When you arrested people, have you had people plead with you not to arrest them?


NELSON: Have you had people say they were having a medical emergency?


NELSON: Have you had people say I can't breathe?


NELSON: And were there circumstances during the course of your career as a patrol officer, where you didn't believe that that person was having a medical emergency?



AVLON: Meanwhile, customers at Cup Foods, the store Floyd was in when police were called, have been watching the trial in the store. They told CNN's Sara Sidner that life for them never be the same for them after the trial.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few are watching the trial more closely than the folks in the neighborhood where George Floyd took his last breaths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody that comes in takes a look at the trial.

SIDNER (voice-over): Inside Cup Foods, the place where Floyd allegedly paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20.00 bill, every day the television is set to the trial of the former officer accused of killing him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the training that you received.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the training that --

TRACIE COWERS, MINNEAPOLIS RESIDENT: It is sad. It's so sad and it's really sad to watch it in the raw.

SIDNER (voice-over): Minneapolis resident, Tracie Cowers came in for her breakfast with her dog, Ador. Cowers reveals what everyone around here already knows. The strongest of emotions are just under the surface here.

One scratch, this time in the form of a question and sorrow flows out.

SIDNER (on camera): How hard is it to watch this trial?

COWERS: It is mind boggling how somebody is here to serve and protect and they are the very ones who harm you. Not all, but some.

SIDNER (voice-over): She says she can't look away even though it hurts to watch.

The store owner say they have received both love and hate, especially after their former cashier testified he was the one who took the alleged fake bill from Floyd.

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, WITNESS: The policy was that if you took a counterfeit bill, you'd have to pay for it out of your money, or your paycheck.

SIDNER (voice-over): Christopher Martin, a teenager, tried rectifying it with Floyd. That didn't work and police were called.

Martin now regrets that.

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

SIDNER (voice-over): The store owner, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh says the store has received dozens of fake bills over time.

MAHMOUD ABUMAYYALEH, OWNER CUP FOODS, MINNEAPOLIS: When employees do take counterfeit bills, part of our training is we tell them that they're going to be responsible to pay for it, just as a deterrent. We've never made an employee pay for a counterfeit bill.

SIDNER (voice-over): The store has also received threats. But most people are sending support via stacks of mail for Christopher Martin and phone calls from all over the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via phone): I just thought I would make a call to you, to see if there was something we could do.

SIDNER (voice-over): We happened to be there during one of those calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His mother has obviously done a wonderful job in raising him and this is what we need to do in society.

SIDNER (on camera): Outside the Cup Foods store, there is not just a memorial to George Floyd anymore, it's more of a community center. There is community gatherings that happen at the former gas station and there's a community garden that all of the people help plant and take care of.


SIDNER (voice-over): On any given day, Jay Webb, a former professional basketball player is in the square planting hope and beauty.

Feet away Floyd took his last breaths last year. Then in March this year, another man's body lay dying outside the store. He was shot and killed by a resident.

Neighbors, business owners and activists are battling back violence and arguing over the barriers that have closed off the streets to traffic to the Square for nearly a year now.

But there is still love and light being shared here.

JAY WEBB, FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER: This is our response. Do your worst and we'll do our best. This is his. This is his -- every direction, peace and love.


AVLON: Sara Sidner reporting from Minneapolis.

In Russia, two very different stories are emerging about the health and treatment of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, we'll have an update.

Plus, Iran says efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal are off to a good start but there's a long way to go before agreeing with the U.S. can be reached. We've got details, ahead.




AVLON: Russia says Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny won't get any special treatment in prison. Any health issues will have to be addressed according to prison policy. Navalny complained of several symptoms, including a fever and bad cough. Human rights group Amnesty International warns his life may be in danger. Here is Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From inside this grim penal colony where Alexei Navalny is languishing, reports are emerging of the Russian opposition figure's failing health.

The latest from Navalny, unconfirmed by authorities, is he is coughing hard, running a high temperature and has been moved to a sick ward on the prison grounds. A group of sympathetic doctors has even gathered at the gates, demanding access to the jailed Kremlin critic, who has complained of a tuberculosis outbreak behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am troubled about his health and about what could happen tomorrow with his health. And I understand very clearly about some symptoms that he has now, that it can lead to a very severe condition and even death.

CHANCE (voice-over): But those in power are pushing back on the claims he is at death's door. This closed circuit television footage purports to show Navalny in his prison dorm after complaining of a bad back and lack of sensitivity in his legs.

You can see him walking across the room and chatting to a prison guard, suggesting his poor health may have been exaggerated.

There is also this, broadcast on Russian state media, silent video of Navalny fast asleep in bed.


CHANCE (voice-over): Recorded by a prison employee during a prison inspection. The opposition figure has described being woken every hour by guards, tantamount to torture by sleep deprivation, he says.

There has also been extraordinary access granted to this woman, Maria Butina, once a high-profile prisoner in U.S. jail after being convicted of conspiracy to be a foreign agent. Now a reporter on Russian television, comparing Navalny's prison conditions with her own.

"You should spend time in an American jail," she screams. "At least here, it's clean."

It was, of course, Navalny who was taken suddenly ill on a flight from Siberia last year, suspected nerve agent poisoning. Amid concerns of neurological damage, the opposition leader, who was jailed after recovering and returning to Russia in January, says he is on hunger strike until he gets proper medical care.

But Russian officials are showing no sign of relenting. Navalny's wife says she just got this letter from the penal colony, requesting her husband's passport. Without it, the letter says, he cannot be treated in hospital.

Russia's stubborn bureaucracy now threatening the health of its beleaguered opposition leader -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Pokrov, Russia.


AVLON: Israel's president has asked Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form the next government and break an ongoing deadlock. The prime minister will have up to 6 weeks to build a coalition in the new parliament which was sworn in on Tuesday but he still doesn't have enough support from lawmakers. And the president is not sure if he will succeed. Hadas Gold has more.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a televised speech and in a series of tweets, Rivlin was not shy about his reluctance in doing so. He laid out why had to do so, saying Netanyahu simply had the highest number of endorsements from the Israeli parliament at 52. That's not enough for a 61 seat majority but he said he simply had the numbers and needed to give Netanyahu the mandate.

He said in a tweet the results of the consultations that were open to all lead me to believe no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset. If the law would allow me to do so, I would give the decision back to the Knesset.

He also noted that it's somewhat problematic to have a candidate who is currently facing a corruption trial. Rivlin said the supreme court has already decided that a prime minister can continue serving despite being indicted. You could really feel the reluctance in the decision.

He tweeted also this is not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the state of Israel is not to be taken for granted and I fear for my country. (END VIDEOTAPE)

AVLON: Somewhat problematic.

If Mr. Netanyahu fails to build a coalition, the president can give the task to a different candidate or ask parliament to choose one. If the stalemate continues, Israel could see its fifth election since 2019.

Officials from the U.S. and Iran are holding indirect talks in Vienna to see if there is a way to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran says the first session on Tuesday was constructive and another meeting is scheduled for Friday. Fred Pleitgen reports there's still a long way to go before an agreement is reached.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Talks are underway in the Austrian capital of Vienna to try to salvage the Iran nuclear agreement. The first day of negotiations was described by the Iranian chief negotiator, the deputy foreign minister, as being constructive, according to Iranian state media.

All sides agree making headway is going to be very difficult. A reason is these were not direct talks but indirect talks where negotiators from the United States and Iran not seeing each other face to face.

Instead, the Iranians for the most part are negotiating with the remaining nations in the Iran nuclear agreement and keeping the United States abreast of what progress is being made and what could possibly happen in the not too distant future.

The two sides are still quite far apart as to what exactly they expect from one another. Iranians are saying if the United States wants to return to the Iran nuclear agreement, they must abide by it immediately, meaning immediate sanctions relief.

The U.S., for its part, says, before it will take steps, it wants to see the Iranians come back into compliance with all of the protocols of the Iran nuclear agreement. Only then will there be sanctions relief on the part of the U.S.

There are still deep gulfs between these 2 countries. However, one of the things that they can agree on is they both want to salvage the Iran nuclear agreement and try to move forward -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Vienna, Austria.


AVLON: Jordan has banned the publication of any stories, images or social media posts about a rift in the royal family.


AVLON: It started over the weekend when the former crown prince released a video criticizing Jordan's leadership. He has since published a letter pledging allegiance to his half brother King Abdullah following mediation.

There has been a surge of social media posts supporting him, leading the government to ban any online discussion of the royal family's troubles.

They save lives and give hope but there is a sharp divide between those who do and don't have access to COVID-19 vaccines. The divide doesn't just impact human health but it impacts the economic health as well. Vaccine economics coming up.




AVLON: Wednesday is World Health, Day ad global organizations are using it to highlight inequalities in health care. One men of stashis (ph), unequal affects (ph) like lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and a CNN analysis suggests the U.S. is administering doses nearly 5 times faster than the global average.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know what we have to do, we have to ramp up a whole of government approach that rallies the whole country, put us on a war footing to truly beat this virus.

And that's what we've been doing, getting enough vaccine supply, mobilizing more vaccinators, creating more places to get vaccinated and we are now administering an average of 3 million shots per day, over 20 million shots a week.


AVLON: The U.N. says most vaccinations have been confined to a few wealthy countries or those producing the shots. These statistics show where the vaccines are, where they're not reaching the population. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Haiti aren't even on the list. Presumably yet because they haven't received any vaccines.

Hundreds of angry Bosnians took to the streets to demand better response from their organizations and governments. The World Health Organization had strong words about the vaccine disparities.


DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major part to ending the acute state of this pandemic. It is a travesty that, in some countries, health workers and those at risk groups remain completely unvaccinated.


AVLON: Dr. Carlos del Rio joins me now, he is the executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at the Grady Health System.

Dr. del Rio, thank you for joining us as always. So under President Biden, vaccinations have skyrocketed in the United States but we see this yawning gap, in particular these countries, Haiti and Bosnia.

So what is the responsibility of wealthier nations to poorer nations that are having a hard time seeing their vaccinations reach their citizens?


CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well John, you know, a lot of things have gone wrong in this pandemic, and a lot of things have gone wrong in the U.S. But one thing that has gone right is actually the vaccine rollout.

And we're doing very well, and in fact, we're doing much better than Europe, for example. France, Germany, they're not doing a good job at all in their vaccine rollout. So the U.S. is not only outpacing, you know, poorer nations, but also wealthier nations like Europe.

So a lot of the -- a lot of the world is quite frankly in trouble because of a poor vaccine rollout. The U.S. has a global leadership role, a global health leadership role to play. We've done it before with other things like HIV. We need to do it here. It's really imperative that we do whatever we can to facilitate access to vaccine in low- and middle-income countries, and I'm talking about Latin America, talking about Brazil right now, which is having a horrendous epidemic. I'm talking about India, which is having a rapidly expanding epidemic. And we're talking also about Africa, especially South Africa is having a major epidemic.

So we really need to prioritize them. We need to really try to stop transmission in those countries that are having really bad epidemics that are totally out of control.

AVLON: Dr. Del Rio, you raise such an important point. What accounts for the uneven distribution of vaccines around the world, as well as the operational hurdles that some wealthier nations have found in their attempt to get shots in arms?

DEL RIO: Well, you know, I think getting shots into arms is not easy. It requires planning. It requires almost, you know, military position. I think the Biden administration has done a very good job setting up mass vaccination sites, getting it out to partners like drug stores, you know, CVS, Walgreens, getting it out to other places. They're talking now about, you know, working with -- with multiple others like Walmart, etc. So you've got to get it to where people are present.

Biden has said that he wants to make sure that 90 percent of Americans who are eligible for vaccination, and that 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a vaccination site. That's one thing.

The second thing, I think, is in countries that simply don't have vaccines. This country, we're going rapidly from a problem of scarcity to a problem of optic. We -- demand may not be as high as we would like it to be over the next several weeks. Because, you know, there's still a lot of hesitancy out there.

But in many countries, there are still enormous hesitancy. For example, Mexico has only vaccinated three percent of their population. So in these countries that are having big epidemics, like Brazil, like Mexico, like India, we're seeing not only cases go up, but we're seeing also deaths go up.

AVLON: So what's the right mechanism for this so-called vaccine diplomacy? At what point when you're still trying to get your whole population vaccinated, do you start pushing off some vaccines for countries that really are in crisis?

DEL RIO: I think you do it now. I think you do it by working with companies to -- to liberalize patents, I think you -- you know, you have to work with countries that can produce vaccines like India, like Brazil, like Argentina, like Mexico, and try to get, you know, vaccine production up and going in those countries.

And then you have to get back vaccine to them, and you have to share some of your vaccines, because the reality is, you know, I think about, for example, Mexico on our southern border. If we don't help Mexico get vaccinated, and Mexico has only vaccinated about 3 percent of their population. If we don't help Mexico get vaccinated, you know, people travel back and forth. We're going to have problems with this country so -- for that. So it's, in a way, this is not charity. It's really in our best interest to -- to do this process.

AVLON: This is enlightened self-interest. This is not charity; this is solidarity. And what is the -- what is the cost if we don't start really stepping up?

DEL RIO: Well, there's two costs. You know, 1 is the human lives cost. You know, people will continue to die, and we're seeing countries like India, like Brazil, like Mexico, mortality keeps on going up. Here in this country, we're seeing, even though cases are going up, deaths are still coming down. That's because we vaccinated the most vulnerable people.

So we need to really deploy people so the most vulnerable in this country don't die. So human lives are the first cost.

But the second cost is a diplomatic one. As we don't step into that arena, Russia with their vaccine, China with their vaccine, are stepping into that void. And if the U.S. leaves that void, than that void in diplomacy is filled up by Russia, it's filled up by China. And you know, I have nothing against those countries personally, but the U.S. Has typically played a bigger role in global health and global diplomacy. So leaving a void is not in our best interests in the long run.

AVLON: No question about it. Dr. Carlos de Rio, thank you much for joining us on CNN.

DEL RIO: So glad to be with you.

AVLON: The COVID clouds hovering over the global economy may be starting to lift. The International Monetary Fund raised its 20/20 on global forecasts significantly during its latest meetings to 6 percent.

Now, that projection is largely off the back of U.S. President Joe Biden's massive stimulus plan.


But the rising tide may not lift all boats. As the vaccine rollout around the world remains uneven, the countries where COVID persists are just being left behind. CNN's Clare Sebastian breaks down the vaccine economics for us.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The vaccine really is the key determinant of how quickly they're going to rebound from this.

Those who perhaps aren't going to see such a quick roll-out are going to perhaps see more lockdowns, more restrictions, and that in turn, hampers economic growth and slows down the whole process.

They say that, while some developed economies receive -- for example, the acceleration in the U.S. -- are going to see a good amount of people, a sort of majority of people vaccinated by the summer, many in the developing world and some in Europe are perhaps going to have to wait until the end of 2022.

So you see this real divergence in outcomes there, and this is something that the IMF is calling very dangerous. They're very worried that the pandemic is going to widen a chasm that we see between both rich and poor countries and even within those countries, between higher-income and lower-income people. And that's what we're really getting as a tone from these virtual spring meetings, a call to arms to try to fix that.

Then again, in an event just this lunchtime, saying I think it's their responsibility of the developed countries to make sure that decades of progress in fighting poverty globally and trying to close income gaps between rich and poor countries, that that is the responsibility of developed countries.

Of course, a stark contrast to the kind of turn that we heard from the previous U.S. administration. But we really get a sense that -- that the IMF meetings are trying to bring these countries together and create a more equal recovery than the one we're currently seeing.


AVLON: When we come back, Yemen Houthi rebels stepping up attacks on Saudi Arabia. Why U.S. diplomacy and a new cease-fire plan aren't getting much traction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) AVLON: Saudi state television reports coalition forces have intercepted a Houthi drone laden with explosives fired from Yemen. Cross-border attacks have become a fairly regular occurrence in the past few weeks, despite a Saudi proposal for a cease-fire in Yemen.

CNN's Nic Robertson explains.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia have escalated. More than a dozen attacks using drones and ballistic missiles over the past two months.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen.

ROBERTSON: The significant uptick, six years since the Saudi coalition intervened, began days after President Biden switched military support for Saudi forces, backing Yemen's internationally-recognized government for diplomacy against Houthi insurgents.

In an op-ed last week, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London called for international pressure on the Houthis.

PRINCE KHALID BIN BANDAR, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO U.K.: What we see and what we feel is that for them, the military advantage they gained seems to be more important than the humanitarian cost.


ROBERTSON: The Houthis' latest targets of choice, mostly Saudi oil and airport facilities, retaliations, they say, for Saudi airstrikes killing civilians that the U.N. and NGOs repeatedly cite as a significant cause of civilian death.

BRIG. GEN. YAHYA SAREE, HOUTHI SPOKESPERSON (through translator): We have firm that our operations are continuing and will expand more and more, as long as the aggression and siege on our country continues.

ROBERTSON: Three years ago, Saudi officials gave CNN access to Houthi missiles they said were made in Iran. Fired by Houthis, almost 1,000 kilometers away at the capitol Riyadh.

(on camera): It's the positioning of these valves on the side of the missile that convinced the Saudis this is Iranian manufactured.

(voice-over): They sent samples to the U.N. The U.N. verified the missiles contained Iranian-manufactured components and warned against their use. Attacks slowly waned.

Now they've spiked again.

Houthis proudly promote an arsenal of weapons they claim are made in Yemen, from sea mines to bomb-carrying drones, to long-range ballistic missiles. Five weeks ago, a ballistic missile similar to these was shot down by

Saudi air defense over Riyadh. With each attack, the risk of significant civilian casualty grows and, with it, potential escalation.

On Yemen's battlefield, too, Houthi attacks stepped up following Biden's diplomacy reset. Most recently trying to take the strategic Yemeni government city Marib.

"So now, bravado, not diplomacy, is king. We will not hold off. We have a promise to God to not withdraw from what we have started," this Houthi fighter shouts.

That Biden's Yemen reset is already facing a significant challenge not a surprise for the Saudis.

BANDAR: They've tried. We've seen the result, and now we're trying to figure out how to move forward otherwise. And I think that's partly why we launched such a significant and public peace initiative.

ROBERTSON: The Saudis' new cease-fire proposal, that includes conditionally restoring vital oil supplies through Hodeidah port, is still a work in progress. Deep differences remain, not least, Houthi claims the Saudis are blocking desperately-needed oil supplies, fueling what the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

MOHAMMED ALI AL-HOUTHI, SENIOR HOUTHI OFFICIAL: They are suffering because of the shortage of water, shortage of medication, the shortage of food, and they're suffering from the suffocating and restricting blockade.

ROBERTSON: Despite disagreement, Saudis are still hopeful their cease- fire offer can get traction.

BANDAR: It was positive on one side -- one side, because they didn't say no, and they didn't reject it. They rejected the linking between opening the port and a cease-fire, but they didn't reject the idea.

ROBERTSON (on camera): But by virtue of maintaining this control over the data and limiting, ahead of a cease-fire, you are by default worsening the humanitarian situation?

BANDAR: If it is so important to the Houthis, why don't they stop fighting?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Poles (ph) apart still, as attacks continue. Still, far too soon to know if diplomacy can take hold.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


AVLON: Thanks for watching CNN. I'm John Avlon. I'll be back with more NEWSROOM in around 15 minutes, but WORLD SPORT is next.