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Four States Report Adverse Reactions To J&J Vaccine; U.S. Reports One-Day Vaccination Record Of 4.6 Million Shots; Remembering Prince Philip; Over 80 Killed In Myanmar On Friday; Brazil COVID-19 Variant Spreads In South America; Police Break Up Secret Party At Paris Restaurant; Japanese Perform First Living Donor Lung Transplant To A COVID-19 Patient; U.S. Defense Secretary Tours Israel, Allied Nations; Ash, Sulfur From La Soufriere Volcano Covers St. Vincent Island. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 11, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for joining me this hour. Coming up, America's new COVID surge, where the virus is raging and how officials are trying to get it under control.

Plus honoring a prince. People around the world are remembering Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip. We have new information about the royal funeral.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want democracy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want democracy. We don't want military coup.

CURNOW (voice-over): CNN gets exclusive access inside Myanmar. We'll show you what's really happening there.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Michigan's alarming spike in COVID cases has the governor pleading for more vaccines to be rushed to her state. Take a look at the rise in cases. On Saturday alone, the state reported nearly 7,000 new cases.

And as hospitalizations increase, some health providers in Michigan are delaying nonemergency procedures on a case-by-case basis. Meantime, at least four U.S. states are now reporting adverse reactions to Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine.

But the CDC says states should continue to administer the vaccine and has not found any reason for concern. Evan McMorris-Santoro has the latest on America's fight against the virus.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): The second we let our guard down, it comes roaring back

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As COVID-19 cases soar to alarming levels in Michigan, a warning:

DR. JONEIGH KHALDUN, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We are on track to potentially see a surge in cases that's even greater than the one we saw in the fall.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The state's positivity rate is up to 18 percent and hospitalizations are climbing. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is asking high schools to go remote, youth sports to pause and encouraging citizens to skip indoor dining for the next two weeks.

WHITMER: To be very clear, these are not orders, mandates or requirements. A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort. We have to do this together.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Vaccinations in the state continue but not fast enough. The governor is pleading for more vaccines from the federal government, as the disruption of the supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines continues to take a toll across the U.S.

WHITMER: We really should be surging vaccines to states that are experiencing serious outbreaks.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Response says the Federal government will offer states with outbreaks additional testing and personnel. But as of now, will not increase the number of vaccines.

JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: The virus is unpredictable. We don't know where the next increase in cases could occur. We're not even halfway through our vaccination program, so now is not the time to change course on vaccine allocation.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): This, as the CDC is aware of four states that have reported some adverse reactions to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Several states even halting distribution of that vaccine.

The CDC is not recommending health department's stop administering Johnson & Johnson shots at this time and at least one county in North Carolina, plans on resuming doses as soon as Monday.

SYRA MADAD, SPECIAL PATHOGENS PROGRAM, NYC HEALTH AND HOSPITALS: Right now, the benefits certainly outweigh the risk but more information hopefully will come out to the general public. MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And what could be promising news, drug maker Pfizer asking the FDA for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine to expand to children ages 12 to 15 in the U.S. Currently, it's approved for people 16 and up only.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I'm very optimistic about this. We need them to get the benefit of the vaccine but also it will help us to reach herd immunity a lot faster.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And vaccine requirements are becoming part of the new normal. Analysis by CNN finds 16 colleges and universities and counting -- the latest, Duke University -- will require students to show proof of full vaccination before returning to on-campus classes this fall -- Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.



CURNOW: Dr. Robert Wachter is the chair of the department of medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us. Good to see you.

Pfizer is applying for permission.

How soon do you think it will be that U.S. children over the age of 12 will be eligible to be vaccinated?

DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO: A few weeks, might be a month. But it looks like it's safe and effective. They're using the same dose as an adult. It was a matter of trying it in the kids, which they didn't do in the original trial.

It takes a few weeks to go through the process but I imagine within a month.

CURNOW: That's pretty significant, not just for parents but also for schools.

WACHTER: Yes. It's a big deal. It's significant for schools. I think it will make parents feel safer. All the -- we hear about the kids are so safe and the kids don't spread the virus; that's mostly kids under 12.

Kids 12 to 15, 12 to 16, actually do spread the virus pretty much like adults, so making sure the kids are safe not only for themselves but less capable of catching the virus and spreading it to others, I think, is going to make everybody feel a lot better.

CURNOW: This has been an extraordinary few weeks, reporting for a year on the dire state of the U.S. death rate, now we're seeing this extraordinary rollout of vaccines. It's almost mindboggling.

How much credit does the Biden administration take? WACHTER: A lot. I give the Trump administration very little credit.


WACHTER: But I have to say the Operation Warp Speed worked very well. They got the vaccine produced.

But the rollout was going quite poorly and when the Biden administration took over, it really picked up speed and it now -- it's humming on all cylinders, 3 million doses or so a day, probably the second in the world after England, after the U.K., in terms of large countries getting the vaccine out. It's quite impressive now.

CURNOW: It certainly is.

And what are the risks involved in what Dr. Fauci has called this high plateau?

What does that mean?

And how is the vaccine uptake and vaccine hesitancy canceling things out?

WACHTER: Yes. It's not so much vaccine hesitancy, because there are still more people who want them than don't want them. But we're beginning to see in the South that point where there's more vaccine available than people that want to take it.

In the rest of the country, the demand is still very high. The plateau isn't for hesitancy. It is from the downward pressure from vaccination. A lot of people are vaccinated and they are not getting COVID and they're not getting sick.

But on the other hand, for the unvaccinated, it may the most dangerous time of all, because the variants are here. They're more infectious, they're more serious and people are beginning to let their guard down. If you are unvaccinated and you hear things are doing better, unfortunately, states are letting things open a little too fast.

And people are hearing the message that it's safe. If you're unvaccinated, it's not any safer than it was for the last year and, if anything, a little bit less safe because of the variants. Vaccinated people are doing very well, unvaccinated people doing less well. So it looks flat.

CURNOW: The U.K. variant is more dominant, right?

WACHTER: The U.K. variant is now the dominant type of SARS-CoV-2 we have in the United States. It is 60 percent more infectious, 60 percent more serious. The vaccines work perfectly well on the U.K. variant. If you were vaccinated, you're in good shape. We're seeing cases plummet among the vaccinated.

The problem is in Michigan, to some extent, New York and New Jersey, we're seeing rising case rates in the unvaccinated. Those two things cancel each other out. The hope is, as more people get vaccinated, the downward pressure on the curve will continue. But for now it's really two different populations. And the

unvaccinated, I really hope they get vaccinated because life is better if you're vaccinated. You're not going to get sick, you're not going to get COVID and it is the right thing to do.

CURNOW: You mentioned Michigan.

Is that a real concern for you?

WACHTER: It's a real concern if you're in Michigan. It doesn't seem to be spreading that much. I'm in California, where the cases are plummeting. It's remarkable how little COVID we have here, where I am in San Francisco.

But Michigan is skyrocketing, a high number of cases, a fair number of people coming into the hospitals. And it looks like the surge that they saw in the winter. We know that is possible. There are not enough people who are vaccinated to prevent a possible surge, particularly given the variants.

In Michigan, they have a lot of the B.1.1.7, the so-called U.K. variant. The worry is if too many people are unvaccinated or we let our guard down. It's still a little bit of a contest.

CURNOW: Thank you for joining us and sharing your expertise with us. Thank you.

WACHTER: My pleasure.



CURNOW: People have been laying flowers outside Windsor Castle in England to remember Prince Philip, who died peacefully on Friday at the age of 99. And we are learning more about the funeral and burial arrangements for Queen Elizabeth's husband.

The ceremonial royal funeral service will take place on Saturday, April 17th, and be low-key in line with his wishes and COVID guidelines, which allow for, at most, 30 people to attend. We know that Prince Harry will fly over from California, although his wife, Meghan, who's pregnant with their second child, will not attend. Isa Soares joins us now from England.

What's the mood like at the moment?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Robyn. It's been a somber mood but it has changed somewhat from shock. Most people now reflecting on the duke's legacy really and his service to queen and country.

So many of the people I've spoken to, Robyn, have said he was always present, he was always there, he was always a few steps behind the queen when he was obviously in public. But inside, we know he was her confidant, her friend, her rock,

really, her strength and stay, as the queen has said before. So many people I've spoken to have really caught on that and also mentioned how painful, how hard it must be for the queen in this moment of grief.

Of course, the queen has been incredibly busy, Robyn, as you can imagine. She has gone through the plan, funeral plan for the Duke of Edinburgh. She's the one who gave the final approval for that plan. And like you said, it's going to be small, intimate and a bit low-key because he's the sort of person he didn't want much fuss over his funeral.


SOARES: He wanted something simple. And what we'll see is a very intimate funeral on the 17th of April, only 30 members of the public, of the royal family attending. We know Harry will be one of those. And there will be a small procession. But everything will be kept within the grounds of Windsor Castle, Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you very much, Isa Soares in Windsor.

And much more ahead this hour, CNN is the first Western TV network to be allowed inside Myanmar since the military coup. We'll get a look at the crisis as the death toll continues to climb.

And cooler weather could be bad news for South American countries struggling with the coronavirus. What governments are doing to combat a tide of new infections. That's also ahead. You're watching CNN.




CURNOW: New video shows Myanmar police raiding homes north of Yangon. These images show armed officers converging and moving through a residential area on Friday. That's where, the same day, a monitoring group says security forces killed at least 82 people.


CURNOW: The military claims it was attacked by protesters; however, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners report troops used rifles, hand grenades and even rocket propelled grenades on people's homes.

The group says the military has killed more than 700 people since the coup in February but estimates the actual death toll is likely much, much higher.

CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward has just returned from Myanmar, where she and her team were the first Western TV journalists allowed into the country since the coup. They were under military escort, their every movement carefully controlled. Yet they still had a chance to see what is really happening on the ground.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By day, the junta continues its brutal crackdown, killing pro-democracy protesters who refuse to submit to military rule. At night, the raids begin as soldiers round up activists and drag away the dead their body's evidence of the military 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 arrived, our movements are tightly controlled.

WARD (on camera): Gives you a sense of the intense level of security with us 123, another three over there six trucks full of soldiers accompanying our every move.

WARD (voice-over): 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 of pejorative term the military uses for the pro-democracy protesters.

In North or -- the local administrator complains that the demonstrators were noisy. It broke the law by gathering in groups of more than five.

WARD (on camera): Are you seriously comparing these infractions to more than 500 people being killed among them children? Are you saying that these are equal?

WARD (voice-over): 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 out factories. This is the third factory that the military wanted to show us. They say it's a 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've spoken to say they simply don't know who's responsible. Sandra's Chinese own garment factory was completely destroyed. She asked we not show her face.

WARD (on camera): Do you have any sense of what you will do now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Working for the government give me some sense heavy.

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


WARD (voice-over): 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 Games" salute, which has become emblematic of this uprising. I'm speaking very quietly because I don't want our minders to know what they just did because, honestly, it could be a very dangerous situation.

We pass a small protest, rejecting Myanmar's returned to more than half a 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.


WARD (on camera): I saw that you made a sign.


WARD (on camera): Tell me what you mean by making that sign?


WARD (on camera): We don't want -- you just stand back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice, justice -- we want the justice.

WARD (on camera): You want the justice?


WARD (voice-over): Moments later, another man approaches.


WARD (on camera): No scare?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing. We don't have a -- not scared. But every day, every day, just like this.

WARD (voice-over): 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.

WARD (on camera): You want democracy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want democracy. We don't want military coup.

WARD (voice-over): You know we're surrounded by a military like this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't, I'm not afraid at all. If we are afraid we people around to we're not hit the bands in the pan.

WARD (voice-over): Like many young people, she sees her future being ripped away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want to go back to the Dark Age. We lost our voice and we had democracy only for 10 years. We don't have weapons. We don't have guns. Just only we have voice.

WARD (voice-over): 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, Naypyidaw, we finally have the opportunity to confront Myanmar's senior military leadership.

MAJOR GENERAL 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 (on camera): Are you seriously comparing stones and slingshots to assault rifles?

The military is using weapons against its own people. They really only belong on the battlefield.

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 need 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 not shooting without discipline with the rifles we use for the front lines.

WARD: So this is CCTV footage of 17-year-old Kwa Min Lah (ph).

Going past, what do you say to his mother?

You say that he was a violent protester?

Or what would you say to the father of 13-year-old, Tun Mak Nguyen (ph), also shot dead by your forces?

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

WARD (voice-over): 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want democracy.

WARD (on camera): I understand.

A man just told me, "We want democracy" as he walked past. But he was too scared to stop and talk.

WARD (voice-over): Others are more bold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please save our country.

WARD (on camera): Save your country?

WARD (voice-over): These people are not activists.


WARD (voice-over): They are ordinary citizens and they live in fear of the military.

WARD (on camera): You have goose bumps. You're like, shivering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not -- they are not human.

WARD: Yes. They're not human?


WARD (voice-over): They are desperate for the outside world to know their pain. One girl approaches us, shaking.

WARD (on camera): I feel like you're very nervous. Are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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?


WARD: All right. WARD (voice-over): She knows her bravery will certainly be punished, but this is a resistance movement built on small acts of great courage -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, Myanmar.


CURNOW: And that woman was arrested just as she was running away from the market. Ten others were also arrested for talking to CNN. Thankfully, they were all released after a couple of days.

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

And coming up, the Paris elite are helping themselves to an extra serving of controversy. Coming up, police bust another party full of dinner guests defying COVID rules. We'll have a live report when we return.

Plus President Biden prepares to push ahead with his enormous infrastructure plan. The latest from Washington. That's also next.





CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. It's 29 minutes past the hour. You're watching CNN, of course.

So a surge in new COVID infections is devastating several countries in South America. This comes as the Southern Hemisphere moves toward cooler temperatures, conditions where the virus thrives. Paula Newton takes a look at how governments are responding.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 100 days since coronavirus vaccinations began in South America, a deadly COVID resurgence is striking the region.

"As a state, we have failed," said the Peruvian president Friday, apologizing to all who have lost loved ones in the pandemic.

Peru was among the countries suffering a second wave of infections, as hospitals struggle to keep up. The past week saw more dying, each day, than any, other time this year.

Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, also seeing fatalities rise to record levels. In Brazil, more than 4,000 losing their life, in 24 hours, as the country's outbreak spirals out of control. During his weekly streaming address, president Jair Bolsonaro said the

situation was very complicated. Despite surging deaths, the right wing leader continues railing against local governments that try to impose lockdowns or COVID restrictions. He's, also, deflected criticism for a sputtering vaccine rollout.

While, little over 10 percent of the population has received their first dose, it was in Brazil, where a coronavirus variant was first discovered, which experts now, partially, blame for the region's COVID resurgence.

Several countries have restricted flights and closed their borders with Brazil, as they renew efforts to fight rising cases at home, like neighboring, Colombia. It's curbed movement to and from Brazil and extended its coronavirus measures across the nation.

In Argentina, a nighttime curfew began this weekend, until April 30th. It was announced by the president, from his official residence, where he's self-isolating while he, himself, is infected.

Other countries, like Chile, are also reimposing measures, as previous hopes of an easing pandemic dissolve. Still, despite a grim outlook, right across the region, those who look can find small victories.

Hospital staff in northern Colombia cheered this 104-year-old woman, who recovered from coronavirus for the second time. She was discharged after a 21-day stay. One of the lucky to survive, her miraculous story, a rare moment of hope, as South America continues a grueling battle with COVID-19 -- Paula Newton, CNN.


CURNOW: Health experts in Germany warn of a crisis at intensive care units. They say they've run out of all available ICU beds. The uptick in patients is also putting a strain on health care workers and leading to staffing shortages.

New COVID infections have spiked in Germany this month. Today, earlier, German officials reported more than 17,000 new cases over a 24-hour period.

And then in France, more than 100 people are facing fines for defying COVID restrictions at a Paris restaurant. Prosecutors are investigating after police broke up a secret party on Friday.

The news comes right after France began a new lockdown. And similar events were already driving controversy. Let's go straight to Jim Bittermann just outside Paris.

Tell us about this incident.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. In fact it's become something of the norm here, in fact. There's been a number of these incidents, maybe not quite as large as the one you mentioned. But in fact a number of restaurants have been busted. We saw over the weekend, for example, our colleagues at the sister

network here, BFM, were taken along with the police as they raided a restaurant elsewhere in Paris. A few people were given fines and they came in and basically took a lot of names and handed out the fines to the folks that were there.

The police have let it be known, they're not going to be showing any mercy this weekend particularly, because this is the first weekend of school vacations here. They're going to be out and about they say on the highways, making sure people obey the restrictions, on moving from one region to the next.

But all of these have really not had the kind of impact the government would like in the sense the numbers keep going up. The ICU beds are well over 100 percent occupied by COVID patients.

They had to make more ICU capacity because of that. And so as a consequence now, they've announced measures to accelerate and expand the COVID vaccination campaign.


BITTERMANN: And starting tomorrow, people over the age of 55 here, no matter what their underlying health conditions, will be able to get vaccinated against COVID. They're also going to be getting Johnson & Johnson vaccines online here.

And they're also going to delay the time between the first and second shots of the other mRNA vaccines from 4 weeks to 6 weeks, the idea being that that will give them more vaccines to hand out for a first dose for people around the country.

They're running around almost 11 million now people that have been vaccinated with at least the first dose in France. That's about a sixth of the population.

That campaign also takes on a kind of new kind of publicity. Over the weekend, we saw on the Instagram site of President Macron a kind of hip approach, maybe to attract young people. Here, have a look at what we saw.



BITTERMANN (voice-over): So you can kind of see that "vaccinate, vaccinate" is the watchword of the hour now, as the government tries to get people to get out there and get vaccinated and tries to come back with the vaccine hesitancy.


CURNOW: So some good news for COVID stir-crazy Californians. They'll soon be able to go back to live events, including concerts, plays and sports. But there are still some limits. Paul Vercammen shows us how venues are preparing for people to return. Take a look at this. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A massive gamechanger in California, live events are coming back with people in the stands. This is Staples Center. This is where the basketball teams, the Clippers and the Lakers, play along with hockey's Kings.

The word is now we're going to see the first fans come into the stands at a Lakers game. That's on Thursday. And then down the road we may see full capacity.

Throughout the Los Angeles area, throughout California, iconic venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, saying that they're excited but they're panicking because they have to rehire their employees.

So jobs will be open again in California for these live events and also something going by the wayside, for at least the near future, that printed-out ticket stub.


VERCAMMEN: How many jobs does that mean here at Staples alone?

DAN BECKERMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, AEG: It's thousands -- it's thousands of part-time staff. When you think of, on any given night, there are hundreds and hundreds of people, from security officers, ushers, ticket takers, concession workers that are working throughout the venue.

So on any given night, there will be hundreds of staff here. And we start back up next week.

One of the lessons learned about how things are going to change. We think about things like air purification, we think about a touchless environment. We think about paperless tickets, we think about cashless payments.

These are the things that our fans have told us that they need to see and sense in order to build up that trust and confidence to come back to live events. So we want to make sure that we create the safest possible environment for them.


VERCAMMEN: AEG owns Staples Center and, on Thursday, they're going to welcome fans back into the stands. They'll be here for a Lakers game. It'll be the first time Lakers fans have seen their team in person since the Lakers won the world championship -- reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.


CURNOW: Thanks, Paul.

So Japanese doctors say they have successfully performed the first- ever lung transplant to a COVID patient from a living donor. Will Ripley explains why this is totally a game changer.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For patients with severe cases of COVID-19, the simple act of breathing is a battle, a losing battle for a Kyoto University Hospital patient, identified only as a woman from Kansai in Western Japan.

COVID-19 destroyed her lungs, leaving her trapped on life support after the virus was gone. Her only hope, a lung tissue transplant. Doctors say the procedure has worked for COVID-19 patients in the U.S., China and Europe, all using donors who were brain dead.

Those donors are so rare, in Japan, most will die waiting. Kyoto University doctors wondered, why not use living donors, a more realistic option in Japan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Until now, lung transplants from living donors were not an option.

RIPLEY (voice-over): They did not have to look far. The woman's husband donated part of his left lung; her son, part of his right lung. A team of 30 took nearly 11 hours.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Successfully completing what doctors call the world's first transplant of lung tissue from living donors to a COVID patient.

Giving hope for others with severe lung damage, doctors say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We think it is a hopeful treatment measure for patients in the sense that they now have this new option.

RIPLEY (voice-over): In about two months doctors expect their patient to be able to leave the hospital. Soon after that, back to normal life, husband and son by her side, each breath almost stolen by COVID- 19, a second chance at life -- Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


CURNOW: Next on CNN, the hellish smell of sulfur and heavy ash are spreading throughout the island of St. Vincent, all from that erupting volcano. We'll bring you the latest later on in the show.

Plus President Biden has a very busy week ahead, including pushing ahead with his over $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The details next.



(MUSIC PLAYING) CURNOW: The U.S. Defense Secretary is in Israel this hour. Lloyd Austin is on a tour, visiting allies, and is expected to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's defense minister, Benny Gantz.

This is an important trip.

What is the message?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, right now we're expecting any minute Secretary Austin to receive a ceremonial honor guard welcome. He arrived in Israel in just the last few hours.

And it's a significant visit not only because it's the first cabinet level visit from a Biden administration official to Israel but also because it comes at a time of rising tensions in Israel, especially in regard to Iran.

The U.S., of course, is trying to renegotiate the Iran deal that the Trump administration pulled out of. The Israelis are vehemently against returning to the 2015 deal and actually prime minister Netanyahu, in a speech on Wednesday seemed to be sending a message to the Americans on this.


GOLD: Saying, "A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us."

U.S. officials traveling with Austin told reporters on the way to Israel that the Biden administration is committed to consult with the Israelis over Iran, they have mutual interests over this. I'm sure this will be discussed a lot today in the meetings.

These U.S. officials told reporters that President Biden has been very clear, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. We will not allow Iran's kind of bad regional behavior to go unnoticed and unchecked.

Now some of that bad regional behavior may be referring to some reported skirmishes at sea between Israel and Iran. Defense experts here do not think these skirmishes are a major escalation but it's definitely notching up the tensions a bit.

U.S. officials did address those positive skirmishes, saying they support Israel's right to defend itself and they also believe in a stable and secure Middle East, which, they have seen the Iranians undermining left and right.

I should also note, Robyn, this is significant week for Austin to be visiting Israel. And I think it's symbolically important scheduling wise because this is the week Israel celebrates both Memorial Day and its Independence Day. There's no question, of course, there's a reason why Austin is visiting Israel during this week.

CURNOW: And just so our viewers know, as you started talking, this is in Tel Aviv. This looks like the arrival of perhaps Lloyd Austin receiving an honor guard there, welcome in Israel.

Certainly an interesting time. You talk about the symbolism, also an interesting time politically for Benjamin Netanyahu. And as you're talking, if you can, talk us through these pictures that we're seeing.

GOLD: So right now we're seeing -- this might be the arrival of the Defense Secretary or other officials. He will be receiving an honor guard. He will be meeting with various officials in Israel, of course, before he continues on with this trip.

But you're right, this is an interesting type politically for him to be visiting because prime minister Netanyahu is in the middle of trying to form the next government. This comes just a few weeks after -- rather an election that really gave Israelis no clear answer on which party, which person could cobble together a majority in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Right now Netanyahu is in talks with various other parties, trying to cobble together this majority coalition, to get to that magic 61 seat number he needs. But really it's not clear if he'll be able to get it.

But even if he can't get to it within the next month or so he has to do so, whether anybody else, any other candidate could possibly get to that majority. And, of course, if no one can get to that majority, could cobble together that coalition, the Israelis could be facing an unprecedented fifth election in just a few months.

CURNOW: Hadas Gold, thanks so much for that, in Jerusalem, monitoring this trip by the U.S. Defense Secretary. Thank you.

U.S. President Joe Biden is preparing to push ahead with his infrastructure plan next week after meetings with his top advisers this weekend. And there's another big, big topic on the agenda, too: climate change. Arlette Saenz has the details on that.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Biden spent Saturday meeting with senior members of his team here, at the White House. And one of those meetings focused on climate issues.

Vice President Kamala Harris was, also, in attendance for that meeting. And secretary of state, Tony Blinken, and the special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, were also seen arriving here, at the White House, on Saturday afternoon.

Now this meeting comes, as the president is preparing to host a virtual climate summit, with world leaders, later this month. He has invited about 40 world leaders to attend, virtually, this summit, including, China and Russia, though, the final attendee list has yet to be finalized and released.

Now on top of the president's meetings here, at the White House, on Saturday, his immediate focus is infrastructure, as he's preparing to host a bipartisan group of lawmakers here, at the White House, on Monday to talk about that massive, $2.25 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal.

The White House has said he will have more meetings, in the coming weeks, as he is starting to launch those negotiations to try to get this package passed -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


CURNOW: Volcanic ash now stretches over the entire length of St. Vincent in the Caribbean and the air reeks of sulfur. After the break, our Derek Van Dam will bring us the latest on the island's erupting volcano.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, look at that. Look at that.

CURNOW (voice-over): Wow, indeed. Ankur Singh sent this incredible view of a waterspout near Panama City Beach on Florida on Saturday. The huge funnel cloud was swirling over the Gulf of Mexico, as you can see here. Singh tweeted it was, quote, "a fierce tornado, glad we are heading back now."

And emergency officials in St. Vincent say an extremely heavy ash fall and the smell of sulfur are now blanketing the entire 20 mile length of the island. It's coming from the La Soufriere volcano in the north, all the way to the capital, Kingstown, in the south.

Officials say the volcano erupted at least three times on Friday and it could keep on erupting for weeks.



CURNOW: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Robyn Curnow. Another hour of CNN is next with my colleague, Paula Newton.