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President Biden Announces Limited Gun Restrictions; Experts Testifies In Derek Chauvin's Murder Trial; South Korean Tanker Freed; COVID-19 Deaths Spike In Brazil; St. Vincent Volcano Eruption Imminent; Unexpected customer in 7-11 Thailand, A Giant Monitor Lizard; People in Myanmar Want Their Democracy Back; Protesters Calling Out Coup to Stop; E.U. Looking Ahead to Achieving Their Herd Immunity; India's COVID Cases Hit Another Record High; Dark Web Taking Advantage of the Global Crisis. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 9, 2021 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some people from the balcony just crashed three fingers at me, that's the hunger game salute which has become emblematic of this comprising. I'm speaking very quietly because I don't want our minders to know what they just did.


HOLMES (on camera): CNN takes you inside Myanmar with an exclusive look at the military takeover of the country, and the brave people fighting back.

Also, hospitals beyond collapse and deaths higher than ever, Brazil's coronavirus crisis continues to get worst. My guest says that there is a disconnect with science and politics. That and more coming up.

Welcome, everyone.

Myanmar's military has killed at least 600 people in its crackdown on pro-democracy protests. That's according to a monitoring group. Six hundred civilians, including dozens of children gunned down since the February 1st coup. And the group says the actual number is likely much higher.

Now the violence and repression in Myanmar is horrifying, but sadly isn't new. Civilians lived under military rule for some 50 years after the country gained independence, it's only been in the past decade that they've tasted democracy, and now they are not willing to give it up.

Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward has just returned from Myanmar where she exclusively documented the tensions there firsthand. She joins me now from London. Extraordinary reporting, the bravery of those you met, but also the tight controls you faced. Tell us what you saw.

WARD (on camera): That's right, Michael. I mean, we were just in awe, honestly, of the courage that we saw on display from these people. We went there to confront the military junta about this bloodbath, about the death of some 614 civilians, dozens of children. But while we were there, what we were really struck by was the courage of ordinary people. Take a look.


WARD (voice over): By day, the junta continues its brutal crackdown -- killing pro-democracy protesters who refused to submit to military rule. At night, the raids begin as soldiers roundup activists and drag away the dead. Their bodies, evidence of the military's shoot to kill tactics.

Two months after overthrowing Myanmar's democratically elected government in a coup, the junta has been unapologetic in its ruthlessness, and silent in the face of international outrage. Fearless local journalists and activists have risked everything to show the world what is happening, while outside access to the country has been blocked.

But now, the military has granted CNN the first access to visit Myanmar. From the moment we arrive, our movements are tightly controlled. It gives you a sense of the intense level of security with us, one, two, three, another three over there, six trucks, full of soldiers, accompanying our every move.

At township offices across Yangon, alleged victims of the protest movement dutifully await us. They tell us they have been beaten and threatened and humiliated by the violators, a pejorative term the military uses for the pro-democracy protesters.

In a north Okkalapa township, the local administrator complains that the demonstrators were noisy, and broke the law by gathering in groups of more than five.

Are you seriously comparing these infractions to more than 500 people being killed, among them children? Are you saying that these are equal? Our minders are perturbed by the question, and it goes unanswered. They take us to a shopping center, one of two attacked by arsonists overnight.

Like many businesses in Myanmar, they are partially owned by the military. The strong implication from our minders is that the protesters are to blame. It's a similar story at several burned up factories.

[03:04:59] This is the third factory that the military wanted to show us. They say, it's clear proof that the protesters are violent, that they have been setting fire to businesses like this, but the protesters say, they had nothing to do with it at all, and the factory owners who we have spoken to say, they simply don't know who is responsible.

Sandra's Chinese owned garment factory was completely destroyed. She asked we not show her face. Do you have any sense of what you will do now?

UNKNOWN: Waiting for the government to give me some helping. Yes.

WARD: Who is the government right now in Myanmar? Sorry, is that a hard question?

UNKNOWN: Yes, I don't know.

Every moment of our visit is carefully choreographed. When protesters begin posting about our movements on social media, the military cuts off Wi-Fi across the country. Still, from the window of our convoy, we catch glimpses of reality.

Some people from the balcony just flashed three fingers at me. That's the hunger game salute which has become emblematic of this surprising. I'm speaking very quietly because I don't want our minders to know what they just did because honestly, it can be a very dangerous situation for them.

We pass a small protest rejecting Myanmar's return to more than a half century of repressive military rule. Their banner calls for a spring revolution. Our minders won't let us stop.

Finally, after days of pushing, we are allowed to visit a public space -- an open market. We avoid approaching anyone, mindful of the fact that we are surrounded by security forces. But within minutes, one brave man flashes the three-finger salute.

I saw that you made a sign.


WARD: Tell me what you mean by making that sign? No, we don't Just stand back, OK?

UNKNOWN: Justice, justice, we want justice.

WARD: You want justice?


WARD: Moments later, another man approaches.

UNKNOWN: Not scared.

WARD: Now scared.

UNKNOWN: Not weapons. We don't have no weapons. No scared. But every day, fighting. Every day, just like that, just like this.

WARD: As word of our presence spreads, we hear an unmistakable sound. Banging pots and pans is a tradition to get rid of evil spirits, but it has become the signature sound of resistance. This young teacher says she ran to talk to us when she heard the noise.

You want democracy?

UNKNOWN: We want democracy. We don't want military coup.

WARD: You know we are surrounded by military? Like this guy?

UNKNOWN: I don't, I am not afraid at all. If we are afraid, we people around here would not hit the bang and the pan.

WARD: Like many young people she sees her future being ripped away.

UNKNOWN: We don't want to go back to the dark age. We lost our voice and we had -- we had democracy only for 10 years. We don't have weapons. We don't have guns. Just only we have voice.

WARD: But even words can be punished here. Not wanting the situation to escalate, we decide to leave the market as people honk their horns in support of the protest movement.

The junta has grossly underestimated the determination of its people, and the growing hatred for the military. In the capital Nay Pyi Taw, we finally have the opportunity to confront Myanmar's senior military leadership.

ZAW MIN TUN, MYANMAR MILITARY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): I will tell you the reason why we have to crack down. The protests were peaceful from February 1st to the 8th. The reason for the crackdown was because they blocked civil servants. The security forces are giving warnings. Firstly, shouting to break the crowds, and then shooting in the air. And the crowds are throwing stones and using slingshots.

WARD: Are you seriously comparing stones and slingshots to assault rifles? The military is using weapons against its own people that really only belong on the battlefield.

MIN TUN (through translator): The main thing is, they are not only using stones and slingshots. We have evidence they used gasoline and Molotov cocktails. You have to add those, too. For the security forces, they use crackdown weapons for riots. There will be deaths when they are cracking down the riots, but we are shooting without discipline with the rifles we use for the front lines.


WARD: So, this is CCTV footage of 17-year-old Kwa Min La (Ph) going past a police convoy, and you can see the police shoot him on the spot. His autopsy later said that he suffered a brain injury as a result of a cycling accident, which I think we can all see that's not a cycling accident. How do you explain this? MIN TUN (through translator): If that kind of thing has occurred, we

will have investigations for it. We will investigate if it's true or not. There may be some videos which looks suspicious, but for our forces, we don't have any intention to shoot at innocent people.

WARD: So, this 14-year-old Tsun-tsun Ong (Ph) who was killed by your forces, what do you say to his mother? You say that he was a violent protester? Or what would you say to the father of this 13-year-old Tun Mat Win (Ph) also shot dead by your forces?

MIN TUN (through translator): We have heard about the deaths of children, too. There is no reason we will shoot children. This is only the terrorists that are trying to make us look bad.

WARD: But the lies are paper thin. According to the U.N., as of March 31st, at least 44 children have been killed.

Back in Yangon, our minders take us to another market in a military area. Keen to show they have popular support. But the ploy backfires.

UNKNOWN: We want democracy.

WARD: I understand.

A man just told me, "we want democracy" as he walked past, but he was too scared to stop and talk. Others are more bold.

UNKNOWN: Please save our country.

WARD: Save your country.

These people are not activists -- they are ordinary citizens, and they live in fear of the military. You have goose bumps. You are like shivering.

They are not human.

UNKNOWN: They are not human?

WARD: Yes. They are not human.


WARD: They are desperate for the outside world to know their pain. One girl approaches us shaking. I feel like you are very nervous. Are you OK?

UNKNOWN: Yes, yes. We are not safe anymore. Even in the night. There are shooters and the shooters shoot the children.

WARD: I don't want you to get in trouble, I don't want you to get arrested, OK?

UNKNOWN: Yes. Thank you.

WARD: All right. She knows her bravery will certainly be punished, but this is a resistance movement built on small acts of great courage.


WARD (on camera): Michael, unfortunately that woman was arrested just after she talked with us along with at least seven other people that CNN has been able to confirmed, all of them arrested, their only crime talking to CNN, wanting a better future, shouting out for justice.

Fortunately, after a couple of days, all eight of them that CNN is aware of have been released. But really this goes to show you that the military is so threatened by this popular movement. It knows that it does not have the support of the people, and also just underscoring again, the extraordinary courage of these ordinary people who are willing to put their own safety on the line to tell the story of what's happening in their country, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. They knew exactly what they were doing, and they were prepared to take that risk.

Clarissa Ward in London, thanks to you and the entire team for that reporting, we appreciate it.

And there is in fact much more from Clarissa's team at, breaking down what Myanmar's military says to justify their brutal crackdown and whether it matches reality.

Meanwhile, the British government is working to ensure Myanmar's ambassador to the U.K. is able to continue living there. This comes as Myanmar's military is cracking down on dissent abroad. The ambassador was locked down at the country's London embassy on Wednesday, he describes it as a coup. The British foreign secretary condemning the military's move.

CNN's Cyril Vanier with the details from outside that London embassy.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Protesters have gathered here in central London at the Myanmar embassy against the military dictatorship and killing of civilians and in support of the ambassador who has been locked out of the building since Wednesday evening.

Sources tell us tensions have been simmering between the ambassador who had taken the public stand against the junta and other high- ranking members of the embassy including the number two and the military attache who stood in support of the military crackdown in Myanmar. So much so that the ambassador had locked put on the doors so the embassy in recent days to prevent a takeover. Yet, that is exactly what happened.


When he came out on Wednesday night, the door stayed closed. He had been locked out of the building. Members of Myanmar's military has since to all intents and purposes taken over. The ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn was here a short while ago and he called on British authorities to remove those that have taken over the embassy. He addressed the pro-democracy protesters here, holding up three fingers in the air, a sign of civil disobedience and resistance to the military junta in Myanmar.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.

HOLMES: We will take a quick break. When we come back, Europe sluggish coronavirus vaccine rollout has been picking up some speed. Ahead, how the region could reach herd immunity sooner than expected.

And coronavirus infections are spreading as fast as ever in India. We'll be live in Delhi to check what measures are being put in place.


HOLMES (on camera): For the seventh straight night there have bene clashes in the streets of Belfast in Northern Ireland. The White House joined Northern Irish, British, and Irish officials in calling for calm. Tensions between pro-Irish nationalists and pro-British loyalists have been on the rise again due to several factors post- Brexit trade barriers. And there was also a funeral of a nationalist leaders that apparently broke COVID restrictions, but did not result in any arrests.

Now the clashes are an unsettling reminder of the deadly sectarian violence that rocked Northern Ireland for decades until that landmark peace deal in 1998.

Now, the European Union's vaccine chief says the region could achieve herd immunity from the coronavirus by mid-July. Meaning, 70 percent of the population should be vaccinated by then.


Well, right now, most of Europe is in that 4 to 16 percent range, and far from being fully vaccinated. This big push to speed things up comes after the World Health Organization said the E.U.'s vaccine rollout had been unacceptably slow.


THIERRY BRETON, E.U. VACCINE CHIEF: We are now 53 factories working seven days a week, 24/24, and yes, I could tell you today that we will deliver the number of doses which would be necessary to achieve 70 percent of the adult population being vaccinated by mid-July. In other words, it will now be in the hands of the members states to make sure that in every single country of the E.U. the vaccination campaign will accelerate.


HOLMES (on camera): CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris for us. So, herd immunity by mid-July. Well, given the woeful rollout so far, is that optimistic or do they think it could happen?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is two levels of this, of course, in Europe and so that extra level of complexity because there is what, Europe, Brussels and people like Thierry Breton that you just heard from there are responsible for. And that has been so far the procurement of vaccines and their distribution to member states.

Then as he just reminded us, it is about the member states' ability to get those vaccines delivered. And we have seen member states countries like France and Germany really trying to ramp up their efforts, Michael, to get injections into arms these last few days.

Here in France, for instance, since the 1st of April, more than two million doses have been administered with a record set yesterday of more than 400,000 in a single day. Germany, as well, seeing a record this week of 600,000 injections given in a single day.

So, countries have been looking to improve that access for people to vaccines. Here in France the Stade de France has been turned into a giant vaccination center where they intend to give out 10,000 injections a week. So those efforts appearing to bear their fruit.

But of course, it has been a problem of catching up with those faulty deliveries so far that has so hampered the member states' ability to get those injections in arms. That does appear now to be improving. And this is in a situation where in some countries, specifically those that have tightened restrictions since mid-March, and I'm thinking here of France and Italy, there is now, Michael, a very slight improvement in the figures that this stabilization.

In Germany, however, the numbers continue to remain worrying in both the ICU occupancy and the number of new cases continue to rise with calls there that there should be a harmonization of the measures that are in place that are done state by state and the tightening of the restrictions.

But on the whole, those countries that have seen restrictions brought in early things are looking slightly better than they were, Michael.

HOLMES: Fingers crossed. Melissa Bell in Paris, thank you so much.

Now, India breaking its record for daily confirmed coronavirus infections. Again, the ministry of health reporting Friday nearly 132,000 new cases. Now that means the country has crossed 13 million confirmed cases. The current spread is as rapid as the peak of India's first wave in September.

Let's go to New Delhi now where CNN's Vedika Sud is standing by. Another record-breaking day in cases there. How is the government attempting to control the situation?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Good to be with you, Michael. Another day, another grim figure here from India. And for our viewers, yes, it's the third consecutive day that India is reporting more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19. Because of which the Indian prime minister yesterday held a virtual conference with the state chief minister, he's talking to them about the situation, assessing the situation in every state and every territory in India.

He did reiterate the need to track, test, and treat. Those are three key words he keeps reemphasizing when he speaks to people, as well as to the chief ministers. However, there are five states in India that have already crossed the first wave figures when it was at its peak last year, so that remains worrying.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did speak to the chief ministers and pushed for 100 percent vaccinations of people who are above 45 years of age. Currently, here is what he had to say.


NARENDRA MODI, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA (through translator): I believe this is a matter of concern for all of us. This time people can be more complacent compared to last year. In most states the administration has also relaxed.


SUD (on camera): You know the interesting bit also is, Michael, on one hand the prime minister and the government keeps talking about keeping the safe distance about wearing masks, or going to get vaccines.

But on the other hand, you also have state elections on, you have the Kumbh Mela on which is one of the biggest religious festivals across India where millions are gathering over the month. There lies the irony, really.


Also, you have the Indian Premier League which is the richest club base league in the world that commences today. You'll have about 18 playing. You'll have cricketers from abroad who have already joined the teams, then the strict bio-bubble. And this will go on, the matches will go on for the next seven weeks behind closed doors in various stadiums. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes. I wanted to ask you about reports that some of the states are complaining about shortages of vaccine supplies. How is that looking?

SUD: Well that's a good question you ask. So, there are states who have been complaining about having a shortage of vaccine supplies. Interestingly, the richest state in India, Maharashtra and the state government there which is not part of the Modi government and his party, so it's another party altogether that's leading that state, has gone ahead and complained about shortages of vaccines.

Because of which many districts and within the state of Maharashtra have actually stopped vaccinating people. They claim they don't have enough supplies. Along with the state of Maharashtra other states have complained of the same as well.

But India's health minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has tweeted to say that these allegations are not true, these reports and statements that are made by the states are not true, and we have enough vaccines to vaccinate our population currently. We have enough stocks and there are more in the pipeline.

But, yes, there are some centers that we know in India's financial capital Mumbai, which lies in the state of Maharashtra that are not currently vaccinating people. A lot of states have also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the last week saying, remove the age restriction, let us decide how we want to vaccinate the people.

So, while I wait for my vaccine, still, I believe you've got a second shot as well.

HOLMES: Yes. Well, I hope they speed it up and you can get one too. Yes, I got my second today. So at least that's working here.

SUD: Thank you.

HOLMES (on camera): Thank you, Vedika. Nice to see you, my friend. Vedika Sud there in Delhi.

Now, the wait for coronavirus vaccines can feel agonizingly long, but no matter how desperate you are to get your shot don't try buying one online. Can't believe I have to tell you that.

As Anna Stewart explains, criminals are active during times of crisis.


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice over): Available now, satisfaction 100 percent guaranteed. Adverts claiming to sell authentic COVID-19 vaccines found on the dark web.

DEREK MIDDLEMISS, EMEA HEAD OF SECURITY SOLUTIONS ENGINEERING, CHECK POINT: We can see there are three times more vaccines that were on offer in three months, so it's constantly going up.

STEWART: Cybersecurity firm Check Point has been investigating COVID- related ads on the dark web for months.

MIDDLEMISS: So, initially it was the medicines how to treat it, then we found the vaccines, and then more and more. This (Inaudible) and what we then found later on was, as they became more interested and society is starting to unlock and move forward, we then found more are interested in being able to buy negative tests. And also, now with the vaccine is rolling out, we're finding vaccine passports as well.

STEWART: So, this is the marketplace you have initially found, we're seeing Moderna, Pfizer?

MIDDLEMISS: The latest one we have here is a single dose from Johnson and Johnson, and we can see there that's just an example of an advert.

STEWART: Check Point try to buy a Sinovac vaccine on the dark web in back in January for $750 worth of bitcoin, nothing ever arrived.

MIDDLEMISS: We don't have any evidence that anyone has bought successfully and got a vaccine and had it delivered.

STEWART: These products aren't just appearing online. Interpol issued a global alert last year, warning that organized crime networks would take advantage of the pandemic. JURGEN STOCK, SECRETARY-GENERAL, INTERPOL: Criminals are using it any

opportunity with these fake certificates concerning COVID-19 vaccination or test. We have even been seen in some parts of the world that the criminals are getting physically close to the borders, and they are offering these kinds of services providing people who desperately like to cross the border, for instance, to see their relatives, providing them at the border with a fake certificate concerning a negative test result, or even a vaccination.

STEWART: Last month, a fake vaccine distribution ring operating across two continents was dismantled.

STOCK: That led to more than 80 arrests in both countries and all of these thousands of doses of fake vaccines could be taken away from the market before they, again, they put harm to people.

STEWART: Both Interpol and Check Point stress you cannot legitimately buy a COVID-19 vaccine online. You may never receive a vial, but if you do, you don't know what's in it.

MIDDLEMISS: If something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. This is what's preyed on, you know, this feeling this desperation is the reason why this exist. But my advice 100 percent would be, you know, it's just, it's not going to happen.

STEWART: Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


HOLMES (on camera): Shame people have to be told that really, doesn't it?

Now we are going to take a quick break. When we come back on CNN Newsroom, a South Korean tanker seized by Iranian authorities is now free.

Paula Hancocks will bring us a live report.

Also, perhaps the most compelling witness yet in former police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial.



MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGY EXPERT: A healthy person subject to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died.


HOLMES: We'll have more from that medical expert on George Floyd's deadly arrest. We will be right back.


HOLMES (on camera): And welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, you're watching CNN Newsroom. Now, President Biden has unveiled executive actions aimed at curving America's gun violence epidemic which he called an international embarrassment. The new orders include restrictions on weapons known as ghost guns which can be built using parts and instructions purchased online. Simple as that. Mr. Biden also have sharp words for Congress and challenged lawmakers to take action.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Whether Congress acts or not, I'm going to use all the resources at my disposal as president to keep the American people safe from gun violence. That there is much more that Congress can do to help that effort. And they can do it right now. They've offered plenty of thoughts and prayers the members of Congress, but they passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. Enough prayers, time for some action.


HOLMES (on camera): Now the president also announced he is nominating gun control advocate, David Shipment, to lead the bureau of alcohol tobacco firearms and explosives which hasn't had a permanent director in place since 2015.

Prosecutors at the Derek Chauvin trial have shifted into a new phase of their case and they are focusing on the medical analysis of George Floyd's cause of death. A renowned medical expert was called to take the stand and offered key testimony on Floyd's final breaths. CNN Sarah Sidner with the details.


TOBIN: That is a moment the light goes out of his body.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today the prosecutor's expert medical witness did not hold back.

TOBIN: Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. And this caused damage to his brain that we see and has also caused a PEA arrhythmia that cause his heart to stop.

SIDNER: the world renowned expert on breathing and lungs, Dr. Martin Tobin pointed to the officer's action saying George Floyd died because the officers created a scenario in which Floyd's lungs were put into a vise-like grip.


TOBIN: This is almost to the effect as if the surgeon had gone in and remove the lung. Not quite. But along those lines.

SIDNER: Doctor Tobin said four things cause Floyd to stop breathing including Floyd's position on the concrete, allowing no room for his lungs to expand. JERRY BLACKWELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: You mentioned

the several reasons Mr. Floyd's low oxygen, you mentioned one, handcuffs and the street, right?

TOBIN: Correct.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned, knee on the neck?


BLACKWELL: Prone position.


BLACKWELL: And then the knee on the back, arm inside. Are those the four?

TOBIN: Yes, those are the four.

SIDNER: The doctor also testified about whether drugs were the culprit that killed George Floyd. As former officer Derek Chauvin's attorney has suggested to that Dr. Tobin said Floyd had not taken a proper breath for nine minutes and 50 seconds, when paramedics finally got a breathing tube in him, and by that point, carbon dioxide in Floyd's body had reached lethal levels.

BLACKWELL: What's the punchline?

TOBIN: The significance of all of that is, it is the second reason why you know fentanyl is not causing the depression of his respiration. So, we explained by what you would expect to happen in somebody who doesn't have any ventilation given to him for nine minutes and 50 seconds.

SIDNER: On cross examination, Chauvin's attorney pushed Dr. Tobin on two main issues, the potential effect of drugs on Floyd's body and his breathing and his heart disease.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: That is going to affect blood flow in a person, right? It's going to make the bodywork a little harder to get the blood through the body.

TOBIN: No, not really. It's not going to do that.

NELSON: How does that affect a persons respiratory?

TOBIN: You would expect that he would be complaining of chest pain and you would expect that he would be demonstrating a very rapid respiratory rate. We don't see either.

SIDNER: The last witness of the day also a doctor. Back up Dr. Tobin's testimony that drugs did not cause Floyd's death.

UNKNOWN: When you watch those videos and we go through them, what is his respiration? He is breathing. He is talking. He is not snoring. He is saying, you know, please, please get off of me. I want to breathe. I can't breathe. That is not a fentanyl overdose that is somebody begging to breathe.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.


HOLMES (on camera): Now Iran had released the South Korean tanker it seized back in January. South Korea's foreign ministry says the captain and crew are healthy, the cargo is sound. Iran had seized the chemical tank near the Strait of Hormuz of Oman, accusing it of polluting the waters. CNN's Paula Hancocks is following this developing story for us. So, what more do we know about why now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Michael, as you said at the time, the Iranian officials said that the reason that they had commandeered that vessel was for environmental concerns. It wasn't believed at the time by many analysts and clearly the fact that they have now decided to release both the vessel and the captain and crew would back that up.

The fact is, we know that there are an estimated $7 billion in Iranian assets that are frozen in South Korean banks due to the unilateral sanctions that the previous U.S. administration, under President Donald Trump brought in a couple of years ago.

Now South Korea and Iran have been consulting to try and release those funds without falling foul of the sanctions. But we understand from the ministry of foreign affairs in Seoul that they are making some progress now. The fact is that they are deciding to potentially have a U.S.-backed Swiss humanitarian deal in order to release the funds. $30 million of humanitarian goods has already been released to Iran and even may be paying off some of Iran's overdue U.N. fees.

It is a way of trying to get this money back to Iran without actually falling foul of those sanctions. So really it did put South Korea in a tricky position at that time. They did have Iran as a fairly close business partner certainly there was a lot of oil that was being imported from Iran to South Korea. That had to stop when those sanctions were brought in in September of 2019, is when they had to stop the import of oil.

And South Korea is certainly not the only country around the world that has struggled not to fall foul of those unilateral sanctions. But it does appear now with the release of this vessel, with the release of the captain, the crew was actually allowed to leave back in February but many of them stayed on board and stayed with the captain. So they are all now being released.


And it appears as though there is a diplomatic way out of this crisis. Of course at the time Iran said that the two issues, the seizing of this vessel and the billions of dollars in frozen assets were not connected but it's very clear now that they were. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes. It does doesn't it. Paula, thanks. Paula Hancocks in Bangkok. Now when we come back the coronavirus in Brazil is deteriorating even

further. The country had just posted yet another record number of daily deaths. Coming up, how the country is struggling to cope with the surge. We will be right back.


HOLMES (on camera): Now the Pan American health organization this week said, nowhere are COVID infections more troubling than in South America. Country after country, smashing all the wrong records. This week Chile and Uruguay, both reporting their highest ever numbers of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

And in Peru, the virus claimed more than 300 lives on Wednesday alone, the most in a single day. And that brings Peru's overall death toll to almost 54,000.

Now Brazil remains in a world of hurt once again breaking its record for daily COVID deaths. More than 4,200 on Thursday. Top U.S. expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging Brazilian authorities to seriously consider imposing additional restrictions. But as Rafael Romo reports the Brazilian president is not on board.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice over): Brazil has well over 13 million confirmed cases and the number of COVID-19 deaths is now more than 340,000. March was the deadliest month for the South American country since the pandemic began and things seem to be getting worse instead of better.

Also the Brazilian variant known as P-1 has been found in 18 out of 26 states throughout the country and as we have reported has also been detected in neighboring countries like Uruguay. So what is President Jair Bolsonaro saying about these health crisis? Once again, he downplayed the alarming situation, Wednesday, saying there is no point crying over spilled milk. That was the very same day that Brazil posted 3,829 new deaths raising the total nationwide death toll to 340,776 according to government data.

You may remember that Bolsonaro raised eyebrows a few months ago when he said COVID-19 was just a (inaudible), a little cold and dismissed warnings about the disease. He would later test positive to the coronavirus. Brazil remains the country with the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world after the United States. It also accounted for approximately one third about 28 percent of the total global deaths since March 21, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.



HOLMES (on camera): Dr. Margareth Dalcolmo, is a clinical researcher and respiratory physician at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, known as FIOCRUZ. She joins me now from Rio de Janeiro. Doctor, thanks so much. I mean, Thursday, another daily death record in Brazil. How do you see the current trajectory of the virus where you are in Brazil?

MARGARETH DALCOLMO, CLINICAL RESEARCHER AND RESPIRATORY PHYSICIAN, OSWALDO CRUZ FOUNDATION, FIOCRUZ (on camera): Good evening, Michael. Thanks, to invite me to join you. Well actually we are living in the worst moment of the pandemic in Brazil. We are having records of death and there prognostic is not good for this April. And I'm using this to say that we are going -- we just lived through the saddest March of our lives and we are going to have it again and a worse, and worse April, I would say. It's not April, it's not a happy one, it's very unhappy.

HOLMES: It gets worse and worse in the country. I mean, this week we heard the president Jair Bolsonaro. I mean, basically he was mocking, you know, those who have criticized his approach to the virus. And the dead. I mean, basically he said when it comes to the death toll, we won't cry over spilled milk. Which is a stunning thing for a leader to say. How much as he responsible? Is politics responsible for what we are seeing in Brazil?

DALCOLMO: Well, we cannot deny that since the very beginning of the pandemic in Brazil, Michael, we missed a sort of -- a central coordination, a harmonizing discourse between the government, the officials, I would say rhetoric and the scientific community one. We never had since the very beginning.

So, we always lived it under this tension between someone or some authority that denied the severity of the disease. That very prognostic that we announced it since the beginning because we know epidemics. And so it has been very -- I would say bad for the country as a whole. So, in terms of outcome of the pandemic control, it's a kind of disaster because we tend to the minister of health for a time and now finally we have another doctor heading to ministry of health.

And so, we are sort of starting a new kind of conversation, hoping that we can cope with the sort of common measures, common actions and a more harmonize discourse. But it has been very difficult so far.

HOLMES: And the impact globally too, even the top U.S. expert, Dr. Fauci is saying that what is happening in Brazil, he says it is -- quote, a serious situation spreading to other countries in south America and has impacts around the world. Because even as western nations vaccinate what happens in other countries in terms of spread and the emergence of variants ultimately impacts the whole world. Right?

DALCOLMO: Absolutely. I fully agree with Dr. Fauci. Fully agree. And of course the scientific community in Brazil fully agrees as well. You know, of course we sort of threat, because we have been very isolated. The number of international flights have completely stopped and you know, we don't have the rollout of the vaccination in Brazil, only to provide you an example has been very you know, slower than it should be.

Because we just don't have enough vaccines. And in a paradoxical way, Michael, you have to figure out that Brazil has a very good expertise in vaccination. We always every year, we do vaccinate 80, 8-0, 80 million Brazilians against influenza virus every year. So, we know how to vaccinate. We have a very, with the national health problem, we have a good expertise. But, you know, we don't have vaccines enough to provide and to apply in our population.

HOLMES: It's a real tragedy. I want to get your thoughts too more broadly because sadly it's not just Brazil. The region has a staggering death toll. Latin America accounts for around a quarter of global COVID-19 deaths, but is home to only 8 percent of the world's population. How worrying is it in a regional sense?

DALCOLMO: Well, it's bad. Because for instance, if we look at Peru for instance, it's the second problem in Latin America so far. And today, Argentina also had a record in cases, 23 I guess, new cases in one day. And so in Brazil we are having 80,000 new cases a day. And so the situation in Latin America is something that is really worries us about.


Because as you know, we are neighbors and we have borders completely closed. The Brazilian borders and the neighboring countries are completely closed as well.

HOLMES: It's very worrying. And hopefully, you know, you -- experts like you can get past this sort of -- where politics and science have intersected. Dr. Margareth Dalcolmo, thank you so much.

DALCOLMO: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Now a new poll from Kings College London and the University of Bristol gauges people in the U.K.'s beliefs and misperceptions about vaccinations. Now, amongst some of the findings, nearly 40 percent think those who are not vaccinated will face discrimination. A third are not sure and less than a third say it is false.

The survey also showed 25 percent suspect so-called vaccination passports that would presumably allow vaccinated people to travel will reduce civil liberties. A quarter, not sure, half say that is false.

St. Vincent is on red alert. The Caribbean Island waiting for a volcano to erupt and that could happen at any moment. We will have a live report from our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, when we come back.


HOLMES: Now the Caribbean Island of St. Vincent is on red alert as emergency officials warn that this volcano could erupt at any time now. They say, the dome has heightened significantly in the past day. And all indications are that molten lava is pushing towards the surface. And they ordered some 7,000 people to evacuate. Cruise ships are in fact on their way to St. Vincent to get people off the island. Let's bring in meteorologist, Derek Van Dam. What are you seeing? I mean, how imminent is this?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Well, you know, those indicators that the magma is getting closer to the surface of the volcano is actually from the seismic activity that they detected in and around this volcano. So, there has been long duration seismic events within the past few days that have led scientists and volcanologists to believe that a volcanic eruption is imminent.

So, let me just give you a geographical perspective. This is known as the Windward Islands, it's in the Caribbean ocean and St. Vincent Island has one lone active volcano. It's on the northern side of this particular island and what has been occurring over the past 24 hours is called in an effusive volcanic eruption.


That means that the lava has just evenly spread out from this particular volcano. The difference though however is that authorities are worried with all of the seismic activity I just mentioned is that they may see what is called an explosive volcanic activity or eruption. And that would allow for volcanic ash to be thrown into the upper levels of the atmosphere and obviously be spread out in many directions and impact a very large, large area.

So, that is why they are going through this effort to try and remove as many people from this particular island as possible. You can see some of the venting that has occurred in and around the crater. You can see some of the -- basically the molten lava trying to reach the surface of the cone of the volcano.

This is an interesting graphic we came across from marine All of these are passenger vessels but notice the larger vessels there are approaching the St. Vincent region that is because these particular cruise liners, Carnival for instance all are giving their boats as options for evacuation routes for the individuals on this particular island.

And think about the logistical nightmare. You are on an island in the middle of the ocean with an active volcano. Where do you go for safety? Well, some of the authorities have actually identified some locations in the island that would be safer than others. Particularly in the south eastern portion of the island.

A town known as Kingston would actually be away from the general wind direction that would allow for the ash to actually be blown away from that particular population area. So, they have identified that area as one of the more safer areas on the island. Michael?

HOLMES (on camera): Yes, unbelievable. We wish them well and hope it all turns out. Well, Derek Van Dam good to see you. Thanks, Derek.

Now depending on how you feel about reptiles you might love this next video or it might make your skin crawl.


UNKNOWN: (Inaudible).

HOLMES (voice over): Now this is in a 7-11 store in Thailand and as you can hear the customers are a little bit surprised, horrified, terrified, to see this gigantic Monitor Lizard scrambling up the shelves, knocking over a few things on the way. Now we did some research about Monitor Lizards, so you didn't have to. The encyclopedia Britannica says they can get up to nine feet long. They are carnivores, they eat insects, spiders and small mammals but not big once. So humans are pretty safe.


HOLMES (on camera): But to be honest that's what you get if you put his favorite stuff on the top shelves. He is not very tall, so he had to get up there, didn't he? Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes, you will be pleased to know that CNN Newsroom continues with Paula Newton up next. I will see you tomorrow.