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Oxford University Pauses Pediatric Trials; Vaccine Supply Challenges E.U.'s Vaccination Program; Iran Says Take It or Leave It; Experts Testified Against Derek Chauvin; No Special Treatment for Alexei Navalny in Jail; Jordan Bans All Media Coverage on Royal Family; Dutch Cargo Ship Adrift After Rescue; Possible Fourth Wave Coronavirus in Japan. Aired 3-3:45a ET
Aired April 7, 2021 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton at CNN center in Atlanta.
Coming up on CNN Newsroom, another blow to Europe's vaccination program. AstraZeneca pauses its pediatric trials in the U.K. We are live in London and Paris with the latest.
A constructive first round of nuclear talks between the United States and Iran, but negotiators says there's still a long way to go before new agreement can be reached.
And while Japan's Olympic preps are in full swing, health officials there warn variants could be driving a fourth wave of COVID-19.
Now while many European countries are still racing to ramp up their vaccination efforts, Oxford's AstraZeneca vaccine is facing yet another major setback. The university is pausing its pediatric trial in the U.K. as regulators there review a possible link to blood clots in adults who have been inoculated.
Now it comes despite the World Health Organization continuing to stress that the vaccine's benefits do outweigh the risks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGERIO PINTO DE SA GASPAR, DIRECTOR OF REGULATION AND PREQUALIFICATION, WHO: 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 are being vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON (on camera): OK. To be clear, European regulators are also reviewing the blood clot issue. They are expected to announce their findings soon. Meantime, several European countries have suspended their use of the shot. Even as vaccine shortages continue to plague the entire block. Only five countries in Europe hit their target of vaccinating 80 percent of the elderly and healthcare workers by the end of March.
Now we will have more on all of that for you right now live. Melissa Bell is standing by in Paris. But first, we want to go to Salma Abdelaziz in London. Salma, a much-anticipated update from European regulators soon on that AstraZeneca vaccine. And yet, has it already been compromised? Reputationally, if not materially. I mean, what are officials now saying that could possibly change that?
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): It's very difficult because, Paula, because it does seem to be bad news constantly coming from this Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine. And while we are speaking about very rare blood clots this dies seem to be hitting the headlines.
Just a few days ago, again, U.K. health confirming that 30 people -- 30 people out of 18 million has exhibited these very rare blood clots and that seven of them had unfortunately died. Again, hearing from the European Medicines regulator just a short time ago, just a few days ago, they had said that there is a possible but not proven link.
So, you are constantly seeing these headlines. But as you said, the prime minister himself yesterday trying to reassure people that even though this pediatric trial has been halted -- that the process behind it is still working. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think that the best thing people should do is look at what the HRA say our independent regulators. That's why we have them. That's why they are there, they're independent. And their advice to people is to keep going out there and get your jab. Get your second jab.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Now you hear the prime minister there saying just let the regulators do their work. Let the experts do their work. Let's not jump the gun. But we've already seen countries like Germany banned the use of this vaccine in certain age groups. And that's again, because of this blood clot risk.
And while Oxford University itself has said there is no concerns about this specific pediatric trial, this few hundred children and teenagers where this vaccine was being tested. Overall, experts say that this link, if there is a link between clotting and vaccine it would be more prevalent among the younger people because it is an autoimmune response potentially. So, if you're younger you are more likely to caught, and therefore it could be more dangerous.
That's why you see a country like Germany saying no use of this vaccine in under 65. But a lot of people tuning in here, Paula, and listening in because this is not the only vaccine out there. And that's why people are concerned about this risk benefit ratio.
NEWTON: Yes. And given the slow rollout of the vaccine, though, it is a vaccine anyone -- everyone needs.
Melissa Bell, you're there in Paris, France knows this. Europe knows it. They need the vaccine given how slow the pace has been so far. I mean, how does Europe hope to make up for lost ground here?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's trying all kinds of very imaginative things. Here in France, say the Stade de France has been turned into a massive vaccination center where they intend to give 10,000 injections a week. Vaporetto in Venice is now being used to try and get vaccines to those elderly people who might be in remote part of the city of the lagoon.
So, individual member states are doing their best to try and get people vaccinated. But in the end, there has been this issue of supply. So first of all, on the messaging of AstraZeneca, clearly this has been a catastrophe from start to finish.
You've seen European member state after European member state, first of all, announce from the very beginning against the advice of the European Medicines Agency, Paula, that it could only be given to younger people in a number of countries. Now that has changed full circle. It can only be given to older populations.
So, you've had this changing advice but the pause of course in the middle of a number of countries when they suspended its delivery altogether and then there is the question of the shortfalls. Thierry Breton, who is the man in charge of the E.U. vaccine task force, Paula, went so far on Sunday in an interview to say that there would have been no problem at all had AstraZeneca lived up to its contractual obligations.
I think that's probably a little farfetched since in many member states, what you've seen beyond the problem of supply is initially problems of logistics. You'll remember back in the very beginning, Paula, in Spain, there weren't enough trained nurses. Here in France, there was too much paperwork. There were problems getting the vaccine campaigns up and running in individual member states.
That was then made worse of course by the vaccine shortfalls. Hence, this target that was missed in all but five of the 27 E.U. member states that 80 percent of elderly people and those frontline workers needed to be vaccinated by March. Well, that hasn't happened in the vast majority of European countries.
The European commission healthcare spokesman acknowledged that that was a problem partly to do with supplies. One hundred seven million doses delivered in the first quarter to the E.U., less than had been promised as part of the contracts. What he said was that they were expecting 360 million doses in the second quarter which he said he hoped could help the E.U. to achieve its overall target of getting 70 percent of all adults vaccinated by the summer. But from here, Paula, that looks a fair way off.
NEWTON: It's just staggering when you consider the hand that Europe has had in creating these vaccines. And at this point, they are still far behind.
OK. Melissa Bell for us in Paris, and Salma Abdelaziz in London. Thank you to both of you.
We want to turn now to Sterghios Moschos. He is an associate professor of molecular virology at Northumbria University. He joins me now from Newcastle upon Tyne in England.
And I'm really glad you're here to help us parse this. You know this is top of mind for anyone who is perhaps being asked to take AstraZeneca or may in the future. This is been quite a drama from the start. There have been missteps even with the trials. What do you say as someone who's looking at the science?
STERGHIOS MOSCHOS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR IN CELLULAR & MOLECULAR SCIENCES, NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY: So, I think you're right to say that would have a lot of problems in this vaccine development program, as well as the post-emergency approval situation. The fact remains that we manage to get through the full set of testing required to get this vaccine into people in less than a year. That's unprecedented.
And I have to emphasize that there are no corners that have been cut in the process of reviewing to date on testing the vaccine adequately before getting it out there. The second thing I need to point out is the risk of blood clots from somebody -- for somebody who has actually contracted COVID and that's about 2 percent, depending on which country or study (Inaudible).
Let's contrast that with the frequency of clots in the general population, and that's 0.0002 percent. If you look at the frequency of blood clots amongst people vaccinated with AstraZeneca, again, that is 0.0002 percent. The difference therefore here is not how frequent the clot occurred. They occurred just the same frequency as everyone else. But this sort of characteristic of the clotting being unusual compared to the general statistics.
So, what we need to work out now is whether or not there is an elevated risk or not. But you know, roughly 18 million people have been vaccinated. It looks like that risk is very, very small. And you compared to the risk of getting a clot if you get a COVID, which is 10,000 times higher. Now which one is worse? It's a simple answer to that mathematical question. And I think the answer if you get COVID you get a much higher chance of getting a stroke. So, let's put things into perspective here.
NEWTON: What you say is completely rational and based on science. But here is the problem. We are about to hear from the E.U. regulators. I've been listening to regulators about AstraZeneca for months now. They continually flip-flop. And many of these countries they say one thing which is based on the science you just put forth in an incredibly clear and in the concise way, and yet they change their mind. Can you see how the public in Europe and elsewhere would be hesitant about AstraZeneca right now?
MOSCHOS: Yes, totally appreciate that. Frankly, anything that is dilly-dallied or, you know, you do one thing then you do another, actually it doesn't help with confidence. It's totally normal. On the other hand, you have also to sort of step in to these people's shoes and also the politicians' shoes and you have to remember that the first reaction in situations of crisis is we have to be seen to be doing something.
And in this respect, in my personal opinion, and this is all exist, this is exactly what we are witnessing. We have to be seen to be doing something. It's interesting to note that from what (Inaudible) happened whether Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine as well, but we are not hearing much about it. They've got the same frequency as the AstraZeneca one.
So, I welcome the transparency. I welcome the communication of the numbers because I think it's important for people to hear the facts themselves and sit down and go, am I listening to conspiracy theories or am I looking at the numbers and the data. And we've, you know, this is the 21st century. We're not dealing with I'm waiting anymore. We're doing with data. And this is about lives. It's not about who is somebody trying to do something nefarious. This is the reality of the situation.
NEWTON: And given that, we now await the E.U. regulators see what they have to say about this. Thanks so much for your input. I really appreciate it.
MOSCHOS: You're very welcome.
NEWTON (on camera): Now COVID-19 cases are spiking all across Latin America and forcing countries to adapt. Chile has postponed all elections for five weeks, which also pushes back the drafting of its new Constitution until case numbers fall. You'll remember how controversial that was.
And at the same time, Brazil reported its deadliest day of the pandemic so far. The country's health ministry recorded more than 4,000 COVID deaths in a single day. We really have to pause there. Think about that, 4,000 in a single day.
Meantime, working conditions are so bad in Peru that doctors and nurses took to the streets to demand more supplies to help the sick. They are asking for essential items like hospital beds and vaccinations after Peru's deadliest month of the pandemic.
A new study meantime, finds that one in three people who had COVID-19 may suffer longer term brain disease. Now researchers writing in the Lancet psychiatry journal say 34 percent of COVID survivors received a neurological or psychological diagnosis within six months of infection. Anxiety and mood disorders were the two most diagnosed. Conditions were more severe in hospitalized patients but common in outpatients too. A study examined electronic health records of more than 230,000
patients making it one of the largest data sets.
Now a stream of police officers testified against Derek Chauvin, their former colleague accused of murdering George Floyd. The testimony was especially powerful from a police instructor who had trained Chauvin about how to restrain a suspect.
CNN's Omar Jimenez has the details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: What is proportional force?
JOHNNY MERCIL, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE USE-OF-FORCE INSTRUCTOR: Well, you want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than 20 witnesses have been called in the trial of Derek Chauvin, many of them officers.
NICOLE MACKENZIE, POLICE OFFICER, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: If you don't have a pulse in a person, you will immediately start CPR. Just because they are speaking, doesn't mean they are breathing adequately.
JIMENEZ: But week two of testimony has largely focused on training. Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil is a use-of-force instructor with the raining division at the Minneapolis Police Department.
UNKNOWN: Sir, is this an MPD trained neck restraint?
MERCIL: No, sir.
JIMENEZ: Mercil admittedly though, there are scenarios where a knee on the neck does happen in times of aggressive resistance. But.
UNKNOWN: For example, the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?
MERCIL: I would say no.
JIMENEZ: The defense for Derek Chauvin, pushing the lieutenant to their central argument.
GEORGE FLOYD, POLICE BRITALITY VICTIM: I can't breathe.
JIMENEZ: That George Floyd died largely from drugs in his medical history. Asking about drugs and adrenaline, which the lieutenant said can speed up the process of going unconscious from a neck restraint.
MERCIL: The higher your blood rate and respiration and heart rate is, generally the faster a neck restraint affects somebody.
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE LAWYER: And how long, based on your training and experience, does it typically take to render a person unconscious using a neck restraint?
MERCIL: My experience is under seconds
NELSON: Under 10 seconds?
MERCIL: Yes, sir.
JIMENEZ: Lieutenant Mercil is among multiple senior level officers at the Minneapolis Police Department to testify in recent days on topics like use-of-force in crisis intervention. The court Tuesday also focused on Chauvin's exact knee placement, which the offense argued was more on Floyd's back at the points.
UNKNOWN: Does this appear to be a prone hold that an officer may apply with his knee?
JIMENEZ: While prosecutors argued the exact placement matters less than what they argue it led to. Especially since Floyd was already under control.
STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: You talked about the prone position in and of itself being something that can lead to positional asphyxia. Is that right?
MERCIL: Yes, sir.
SCHLEICHER: Would that risk be increased by the addition of body weight?
MERCIL: Yes, sir.
JIMENEZ: And later in the day, the defense returned to one of their central arguments, that a loud crowd was a distraction for Chauvin.
NELSON: Does it make it more difficult to assess a patient?
MACKENZIE: It does.
NELSON: Does it make it more likely that you may miss signs that a patient is experiencing something?
NELSON: OK, and so the distraction can actually harm the potential care of this patient?
JIMENEZ: The defense plans to bring officer Nicole Mackenzie back as a witness. Among those, the defense also wants to call Morries Hall, who was in the car with Floyd prior to his arrest. The defense wants to ask him about allegations that he supplied Floyd's with drug and that counterfeit 20-dollar bill. But Hall's attorney says he'll invoke his fifth amendment rights against self- incrimination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ (on camera): The final witness called over the course of Tuesday was a police sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department and he was testifying as a use-of-force expert. But court ended pretty abruptly in the middle of his testimony after a sidebar discussion. So that's where testimony will pick back up when court gets back into session Wednesday morning.
Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.
NEWTON: Now U.S. and Iran are searching for common ground. Is there a chance to revive the 2015 nuclear pact? Negotiators are meeting this week in Vienna. And CNN is there with a live report. That's next.
NEWTON (on camera): Iran's chief negotiator is describing the first talks about salvaging the international nuclear deal as constructive. Negotiators from several major powers Iran and the E.U. are meeting this week in Vienna. Now the talks are the Biden administration's first effort aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear pact. But no one is expecting them to go easily.
Iran is demanding that the U.S. first drop all sanctions the Trump administration reimpose before Iran will return to its nuclear commitments.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live for us in Vienna.
I mean, this has been billed as progress, and of course, they got to a certain point of progress because, let's face it, Fred, you and I both know they would never have sat down if they didn't think they could get at least this far. I guess my question for you is what are the stumbling blocks going forward?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, there's still a lot of stumbling block going forward. And really, it really comes down to the question that has been posed from the beginning. Who actually will move first? And you're absolutely right. The U.S. called the talks constructive. Yesterday, the Iranians called the talks constructive the first day of them.
The European Union's negotiator said the talks were constructive. But all of them acknowledge that there is still a very long way to go. Now the U.S. for its part said that it was not going to take any unilateral action to entice Iran to come back to full implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Whilst the Iranians are saying they are not interested in a step by step approach to get back to the agreement. In fact, the chief negotiator Abbas Araghchi, who is also the country's deputy foreign minister he came out yesterday and he said look, they believe that Iran is actually the reason why this deal still exists because while there are some provisions that they're not implementing anymore, the Iranians, they are by and large still in the nuclear agreement. Let's listen in to what Abbas Araghchi had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBAS ARAGHCHI, IRANIAN CHIEF NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR: We are quite serious. No one can question Iran's goodwill. The PCPOA is alive because of Iran, and yet paid a heavy price for that. Our people have suffered from the sanctions imposed by the United States, and now if they want to revive JCPOA, if they want to come back to the JCPPOA they should lift all sanctions at once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (on camera): What Abbas Araghchi there is talking about is of course the Trump administration's policy of maximum pressure that's very crippling sanctions on Iran's economy and also on other fields in Iran as well. And the Iranians are saying, by and large, they are still in the agreement.
Of course, they are enriching more uranium and they are allowed to under the terms of the agreement and also enriching it to a higher grade, also conducting some research as well. But the Iranians are saying they are at least still inside that agreement. And essentially saying, if the U.S. wants to join again all those sanctions need to be dropped.
Now the big question, Paula, is how to get there. And the way that the Europeans are doing this and the other countries that are still part of the agreement is they are compartmentalizing all of this into two major working groups. One deals with sanctions issue and the other deals with nuclear issues on how to get Iran back into compliance.
The sanctions group is obviously speaking first and foremost to the United States, trying to find ways of what sanctions the U.S. would be able to drop. And then the other group is talking to the Iranians to see how to get them back to implementation.
And essentially, what they hope will happen is that at some point they want to marry those two positions and then get back to the deal all at once. But they all acknowledged that it is still pretty far down the road, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes. And to bring two blocks together there needs to be compromised. And as you say, that has been the problem all along even the original deal wasn't perfect.
Fred Pleitgen for us with that update. I really appreciate it.
We want to bring in now Fawaz Gerges, he is a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. And I have to say really good to see you. It has been a moment. And I can think of no better time to bring you into this discussion.
We cannot rewind the clock back six years, right. That deal was imperfect. Right now, there is no deal. So, what do you see as being the critical parameters for any new deal going forward?
FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: You know, Paul, get rid of the noise both sides. What we have seen in the past few days is an initial breakthrough. A broad roadmap to rescue, to salvage the Iran nuclear deal. They have given themselves two months to deal with the technical questions.
Think of what everyone has said yesterday, Paula. The Americans said it's a healthy step in the right direction. The Europeans said constructive, ambitious. There was unity. The Iranians were very happy with it. Other participants said successful.
So why the pessimism? Look, in international relations, we call it basically both sides want to face save -- to save face. They also want to shield themselves from domestic politics at home. Think of the opposition that President Biden is going to face not just by Republicans but even within the Democratic Party. The Iranians have also their domestic politics.
And thirdly, the reason why this is complicated because the technical questions are very complicated. And that's why it's going to take given themselves two months. Intense talks have already started. My take on it, I don't really believe what the Americans and the Iranians are saying. They are not talking to each other.
My take on it is that probably there is a back channel happening between the two sides or through a third party because the head of the American team still remains in Vienna, Robert Malley.
And the Iranian side my take on it is that they are trying to really touch base and see how to proceed in the future.
NEWTON: And when we talk about proceeding here, you know, you and I both remember the fact that even when the Obama administration put in the first deal, that was a hard sell back at home for them. And they had to continually defend that deal.
And yet now in the interim, Fawaz, you know, Iran has become even more of a menacing actor really on the international stage. Think of all that has happened. Do you think that will be a problem going forward in negotiations, especially for the Biden administration?
GERGES: Well, I mean, I think you have really touched on a sensitive, critical question. In fact, time is running out or to really rescue the 2015 nuclear deal. Some European, European participants say the deal is that really there is a need for a new deal. The Biden administration's priority is basically transformational domestic.
The Biden administration does not really want to divide their attention from its domestic agenda, and that's why it has been reluctant to really take some active steps on the nuclear deal. But here is the puzzle, Paula. According to American intelligence, Iran is less in a year -- less than a year it's a breakout time to build to acquire nuclear capacity. If a deal is not signed in the next few months, Iran will likely have nuclear capacity.
The alternative to a deal, Paula, is war. Does the Biden administration want war? No. Do the Iranians want war? No. Probably some regional players want whether Israel or other regional players they prefer war to really rescuing the deal.
At the end of the day, my take on it is that both sides, even though there are complicated questions, Iran's regional activities, the Americans are deeply suspicious, and the regional players, and also Iran does not really have any trust in the Americans, given the fact that President Trump he was the one to really exit to leave the deal.
But both sides have vested interests in compromising.
GERGES: Because the alternative to a compromise is war. And who wants war now given what's happened in the Middle East in the past 20 years?
NEWTON: Yes. Fawaz, a lot to mull over there, especially when you consider that Iran really wants all of those sanctions lifted in order to go anywhere on this.
Really good to see you. Thanks for parsing it for us.
GERGES: Thanks for the invitation.
NEWTON: Now coming up, two very different stories are emerging from Russia about the health and treatment of imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny. We'll have an update coming up.
NEWTON (on camera): Russia says Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny won't get any special treatment in prison, so any health issues he might have will be addressed according to prison policy. Navalny says he is on a hunger strike and has complained of several symptoms including a fever and bad cough. Now, Amnesty International warns his life may be in danger.
Here is CNN's 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 the authorities, that he is coughing a hard, running a high temperature and 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.
ANASTASIYA VASILYEVA, DOCTOR AND NAVALNY ALLY: I'm in great trouble about his health, about what could happen tomorrow with his health. I understand very clearly about some symptoms that he has now that can lead to a very severe condition and even death.
CHANCE (voice-over): But those in power are pushing back on the claims he's 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, recorded by a prison employee during an inspection. The opposition figure has described being woken every hour by guards, tantamount to torture by sleep deprivation, he says.
There's also been an extraordinary access granted to this woman, Maria Butina is her name, 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 and comparing Navalny's prison conditions with her own.
"You should spend time in an American jail," she screams at him off camera. At least here, it's clean, she says. 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 can't be treated in hospital. Russia's stubborn bureaucracy now threatening the health of its beleaguered opposition leader. Matthew Chance, CNN, in Pokrov, Russia.
NEWTON (on camera): To Jordan now where that country has banned the publication of any stories, images, or social media posts about the rift in the royal family. Now, a conflict is between King Abdullah and his half-brother, former Crown Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein. It started over the weekend when Prince Hamzah released video criticizing Jordan's leadership. He has since published a letter apparently pledging allegiance to the king.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is tracking the royal turmoil live from Beirut. We should point out you are not in Jordan because right now the reaction has been that they should censor everything that goes on in Jordan, everything said about the royal rift. Can this really have any -- the kind of effect that the royal kingdom wants, which is for everyone to just stop talking about this? BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That would be
very difficult, Paula. Fact of the matter is, the cat is out of the bag. Even though the media in Jordan is fairly mum on the subject given the restrictions that are in place, social media is a much harder beast to tame.
And in this case, the information videos of the prince, for instance, putting out various statements, have flown all over the place. So it's a little too late as far as this tactic is concerned. But it does indicate just how nervous the government and the royal court is over this story.
And the source of the nervousness is basically the problems that Prince Hamzah pointed out, incompetence, corruption, and in his initial statement from Saturday evening, he did point out that the incompetence and corruption goes back 15, 20 years. And of course, King Abdullah II has been in power since 1999, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes. It doesn't take much to see where all of that is coming from. It was incredibly blunt and you and I discussed how bizarre the video was. And yet, what is the princess's situation at this hour. Apparently, he signed this reconciliation letter, but clearly the government and the king himself see his behavior as treacherous, dangerous.
WEDEMAN: Yes. Those statements that he made released via his lawyer in Arabic and in English are very incendiary. But as you said, he did sign this letter. His uncle, Prince Hassan bin Talal who himself was a thwarted crown prince. For 34 years, he was the crown prince of Jordan.
And in his final days, King Hussein switched that to Abdullah and therefore, you know, this is a situation in a sense Jordan has been in before where you've had thwarted crown princes. Nonetheless, it does appear that Prince Hamzah signed that letter after Prince Hassan's intercession.
But to the best of our knowledge, Prince Hamzah is still under effective house arrest, still unable to communicate publicly, as well as other people involved in this incident shall we call it, who are still incommunicado at this point. So, there are still a lot of questions, even though at least on the surface, it appears that the waters have calmed, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, for now. Thanks for the update, Ben. Really appreciate it. Now, a dramatic water rescue in stormy weather has left a cargo ship abandoned and drift. The crew of the Dutch ship was evacuated off the coast of Norway after the main engine lost power.
Now, the footage from the Norwegian Rescue Coordination Center and you see it here shows some crew members jumping overboard and then being rescued as you can see, by helicopter. The ship is at risk, though, of spilling hundreds of tons of oil from its tanks. A salvage company is mobilizing a team to try and secure the ship later Tuesday. Now, a rise in COVID-19 variants has japan worried about a new wave of
COVID-19. Could it set back an already delayed summer Olympics? We are live in Tokyo after a short break.
NEWTON: Japanese health officials are worried that COVID variants are driving a possible fourth wave infections throughout the country. It comes as preparations for the Tokyo Olympics are in full swing. Now, the torch relay passed through Aichi Prefecture, but Osaka's government has asked that it be rerouted now around his city, which is struggling with a spike in new cases.
We head straight to Tokyo now and CNN's Blake Essig, and you know, I'm always stunned to hear this, but the vaccination rates in Japan right now remain miniscule, practically. How are officials dealing with what could really be a potentially deadly fourth wave?
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Paula, the vaccination rates in many countries here in the Asia Pacific region remain extremely, extremely low, and Japan is no different. They have less than two-tenths of a percent of its population vaccinated at this point. And that's compared to about 20 percent of the population in the United States that has already been fully vaccinated.
But when you talk about this fourth wave, there are a couple of different factors playing a role according to Japanese health officials. It's those more transmissible variants, which they believe are a cause of this recent rise in infection.
But you also have to look back to what happened a couple weeks ago. The last state of emergency order was lifted. Cherry blossoms are blooming. People are out and about. Restaurants are allowed to stay open later.
And then now, we're looking at 39 out of 47 prefectures across the country which are seeing increases in infection with about 20 of those prefectures seeing significant increases, including Osaka, Miyagi, and Hyogo.
As you mentioned, Osaka, where the torch relay is expected to pass through this time next week, the governor has earlier this week asked for it to be canceled and they're trying to figure out or expecting a decision today what is going to happen, whether it's cancelled, rerouted, held behind closed doors. That decision is expected shortly.
NEWTON: A torch relay. The point is that issue here is the entire Olympic Games set to start in less than four months now. I mean, is this -- is Japan really going to be able to pull this off especially given the fact that most people arriving from all over the world, even though there won't be spectators, they're going to be unvaccinated.
ESSIG: That's a great question. And look, I mean, you look at the idea of 60,000 plus people coming from 200 countries. There is no vaccination requirements, no official quarantine at this point -- how long, you know, 14 days, which currently is in place if you travel to Japan.
That's not going to be something that these people coming in will have to do. And so the big question is, how are you going to keep the population here in Japan safe, and that is one of the big reasons why these Olympic Games remain deeply unpopular here in Japan. The fear of what could happen when this Olympic-sized superspreader event potentially takes place here and less than four months, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, a lot to overcome there before these games get underway. Blake Essig for us in Tokyo. Really appreciate the update. And that does it here for us on "CNN Newsroom." I'm Paula Newton and I will be back in 15 minutes with more news.
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