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India's COVID-19 Crisis; Fractured Republican Party; Biden Selling $4 Trillion Economic Agenda; Nearly Half of Republicans Won't Get Vaccine; SpaceX Astronauts Return. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 2, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers, here, in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, India sets, yet, another record in its deadly COVID surge.

Israel's day of mourning. Some are demanding to know who is to blame for the deadly stampede that killed 45 people.

And SpaceX splashdown: the astronauts on the Crew Dragon are about to begin reentry any minute now. And they are scheduled to splash down within the hour.


HOLMES: And we begin in India, where a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 threatens to collapse that nation's health care system. More than 390,000 new cases were reported, in just the last 24 hours along with nearly 3,700 deaths. It is the 11th straight day of infections, infections soaring past 300,000.

Hospitals are overflowing with patients and have run out of just about everything they need to keep them alive, especially oxygen. So it was a welcome sight as about 100 tons of liquid oxygen rolled into a city south of the capital.

But it will just provide some short-term relief. Far more is needed. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now from Hong Kong.

And -- and, certainly, things aren't improving. They're, in fact, getting worse.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It is getting worse. The world's worst COVID-19 outbreak continues to surge in India, with India posting 3,689 deaths as a result of the coronavirus. That's the highest daily rise so far. It has now marked 11 consecutive days of over 300,000 cases of the coronavirus. And experts continue to point out that number likely to be

underreported, given the cremations taking place, as well as the inadequate supply of COVID-19 testing kits across India.

And these grim statistics translate into countless stories of just heartbreaking tragedy on the ground in India, with family members, with desperate health care workers, literally begging and pleading for basic supplies like oxygen, medicine and available intensive care beds.

Experts continue to point out that the best hope for India is inoculation, is the COVID-19 vaccine. And even though India's vaccine drive started in January, it has been woefully slow. Only 2.1 percent of a country with a population of 1.3 billion have been inoculated.

Over the weekend, they widened the inoculation drive to include adults over the age of 18. But many states and territories across India say they do not have enough supplies. And we have also learned earlier today that less than 85,000 adults, on Saturday, in India received their first COVID-19 vaccine. This, coming from India, the world's largest maker of COVID-19 vaccines -- Michael.

HOLMES: That -- I mean, that really is the irony, isn't it?

The biggest vaccine maker in the world is short of them.

I mean, how -- how is the world responding to India's needs, in terms of aid?

STOUT: Yes. So the world must respond, because India's so desperate for these lifesaving and life-giving supplies. Number of countries are stepping up to offer critical aid.

We know, from Europe, you have the U.K., Germany, France, offering aid. Russia, also the UAE, neighboring Pakistan has pledges for aid as well as solidarity with India.

We know the United States is in the process of sending over $100 million worth of aid for India to fight this disastrous second wave of COVID-19 infection. In that aid package, you know, including 15 million N95 masks, including 1 million COVID testing kits, including oxygen cylinders as well as the materials needed for India to manufacture AstraZeneca vaccines.

We have also learned China's president, Xi Jinping, reached out to Narendra Modi to offer condolences and to offer aid as well. But it was last week when Chinese foreign minister met with India's neighbors, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, et cetera, to set up a relief emergency reserve. But India was not part of that meeting. Michael.



HOLMES: Unbelievable situation. Kristie Lu Stout there in Hong Kong for us. People in India have incredibly been having to turn to social media to

get help finding hospital beds, medical supplies, things like oxygen. And they are using social media as well to tell their own stories.

Have a look at this tweet.


HOLMES (voice-over): This doctor went viral on Twitter, posting photos of himself in full protective gear for work and then, on the right, drenched in sweat when he's taken that PPE off.

He's added the message, "Proud to serve the nation."

As you can see there, in his thread the doctor wrote that health care workers are obviously working hard, they're away from their families and at risk from being so close to COVID patients.

He also said getting a vaccination is the only solution, adding at the end of his message, "Stay safe."


HOLMES: California House Democrat Ro Khanna represents a district in the Bay Area. He is also Indian American and he counts many Indian Americans among his constituency. Khanna talked about his city's reaction to the crisis in India.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It is personal for me. I have family there. Fortunately, they are safe. But every day, I am hearing stories of someone who is getting COVID, who can't go to the hospital, who is sick.

In some cases, we have heard people who have passed away a few days because they don't have oxygen. They don't have medical care. It's really devastating.

And there's not an Indian American family in my district who I have talked to, who isn't affected, who doesn't know someone who has had COVID, who has not been able to get into the hospital. It's a humanitarian crisis.


HOLMES: Well, here, in the United States, fresh signs of the pandemic perhaps getting under control. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day moving average of daily cases just dipped below 50,000 for the first time since early October. Some good news there. More than 243 million vaccine doses have now given.

Natasha Chen has more for us on the progress made and, importantly, what still needs to be done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as global daily coronavirus cases reached a new peak pushed by the crisis in India and South America, the United States curve is flattening.

The improvement in numbers is helped in part by the more than 100 million people in the U.S., close to one-third of the population who are now fully vaccinated.

TIM SMITH, FEMA VACCINATION CENTER LEADER: I'm seeing a shift I think, towards that underserved population, so the ones that are maybe on the fence and are thinking about it, we have to do a little bit more effort to get the knowledge to them and to help them make the correct decision to get vaccinated.

JIM REDICK, NORFOLK, Virginia, EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE DIRECTOR: By the time they leave, they have smiles on their faces and then they share with us the reasons why they are getting vaccinated and they share them, they post them on the wall.

And it's all about doing it for not only themselves but most of the time for their family, friends and other loved ones.

CHEN (voice-over): Now the focus turns to vaccinating younger teens once they're eligible, many of whom have also missed routine vaccinations for things like the flu this past year because of the pandemic.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It's going to take a truly coordinated effort to achieve both the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents and a rapid catch up of routine vaccinations.

CHEN (voice-over): Pfizer has applied for an emergency use authorization to allow 12 to 15-year-olds to receive its COVID-19 vaccine. President Biden says school should probably all be open in the fall.

This vision of almost normal is tantalizing. New York City will allow 75 percent capacity for indoor dining starting Friday.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: I think "The Daily News" has it right. Here. This is going to be the summer of New York City.

CHEN (voice-over): The restaurant reservation website Open Table shows the number of customers dining out is around 20 percent below pre- pandemic levels.

Disneyland Resort in California, the only one of the global Disney parks left closed since last March reopened with restrictions to California residents on Friday.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky says falling case rates and rising vaccination rates mean a full reopening of businesses by July 1st is a reasonable target, though she also warns the virus has tricked us before and the U.S. has not reached herd immunity. Oregon governor Kate Brown on Friday designated 15 counties entering extreme risk level with harsher restrictions as the state recorded five straight weeks of at least 20 percent increases in new cases and a near doubling of hospitalizations in the past week, particularly among younger people.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): Economic relief is something I can do as your governor to help Oregonians impacted by this fourth surge. What I can't do is bring back someone's life lost to this virus.

CHEN (voice-over): With similar caution in mind, the Biden administration will restrict travel from India for non-U.S. citizens starting Tuesday with some exceptions.


CHEN (voice-over): So with much to celebrate on the cusp of normalcy, there's also the reminder of what can happen with too much too soon -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Norfolk, Virginia.


HOLMES: Israel is observing a national day of mourning for the dozens of people killed in a stampede on Friday at a religious festival. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking people to pray for the well- being of the wounded from Mt. Meron.

Mr. Netanyahu says an investigation will be conducted to ensure a disaster like this doesn't happen again. Let's bring in journalist Elliot Gotkine in Jerusalem for us.

Good to see you, Elliot.

How is the day being marked there now that Sabbath is over?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, as you say, a day of national mourning here. Flags, as perhaps you can see, here, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, flying at half mast. And many more funerals set to take place here on Sunday.

All of the 45 bodies have been identified. Many have already been released for burial, in accordance with Jewish tradition, which requires burial as quickly as possible. There are still a dozen people ill, in hospital. Two of them, seriously.

And we also understand, at CNN, that five of the dead are, in fact, U.S. citizens, as well. So a lot of sorrow, lot of sadness, here, in Israel. And questions being asked, of course, as to how this could have happened.

HOLMES: Yes. And when it comes to the investigation,

I mean, how -- how much of an issue is the fact that there were so many warnings over the years, that exactly this sort of tragedy could easily happen?

And, of course, now it has. I mean, this wasn't a mystery to a lot of people.

GOTKINE: Indeed. It seems, to all intents and purposes, that it was an accident waiting to happen. I mean, take this comment from the former head of the regional council, where this event takes place in northern Israel. He described it as a ticking time bomb, saying even on one occasion, he issued a warrant to have it shut down.

But that, because of political pressure, that warrant was unenforceable. And so, there were two formal inquiries that have been launched so far. One is the internal police inquiry. One is by the attorney general, looking into possible criminal negligence on the part of the police and its management of the crowds there at Mt. Meron.

But amid the sadness and recriminations, there are also growing calls for a full state inquiry into the events up to and including the tragedy which took place in the early hours of Friday morning.

Now we also heard from Amir Rohanna (ph), the state security minister. He is an ally of prime minister Netanyahu. And in his purview is the police. Now he says he accepts responsibility but that's not the same as accepting blame.

And in an apparent echo of those ticking time bomb comments, said that, look, this could have happened in the past, including years, where informed estimates suggest there were as many as 400,000 people taking part in this event and it just happened to happen this year.

So Michael, it really does seem that was an accident waiting to happen, looking to ensure that it can never happen again but at the same time, trying to find out who was responsible for maintaining security and safety at this site which, unfortunately, resulted in this tragedy in the early hours of Friday morning -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. So many questions. Elliot Gotkine, thank you so much. Appreciate your reporting there.

In Wisconsin, witnesses described the scene at a casino as, quote, "chaos," after hearing gunshots and seeing people running for their lives. It's not clear yet how many injuries or perhaps fatalities there might have been. We are actually still waiting for official confirmation.

The Oneida casino says the shooting took place at a Radisson Inn hotel connected to the casino, just outside the city of Green Bay. In a tweet, Wisconsin's attorney general says the scene is contained and there is no longer a threat to the community. We will have more on this developing story as it becomes available.

And when we come back, U.S. President Joe Biden has started to sell his $4 trillion economic agenda. But some on Capitol Hill have some unanswered questions.

And check this out, unbelievable live pictures. They spent five months in space. They'll be back on Earth within the hour. We will be going live to the Florida coast for the return of the SpaceX Crew One. What a good picture that is, incredible. We'll be right back.






SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I don't hide the fact that I wasn't a fan of our last president's character issues and I'm also no fan --

HOLMES (voice-over): Senator Mitt Romney there, being booed Saturday by fellow Republicans at a party convention in Utah just as he mentioned his relationship with Donald Trump.


HOLMES: Romney has often had a strained relationship with hardcore Republican activists in his state. Now despite the catcalls, a resolution to censure Romney for his votes in the Senate to convict Trump on the impeachment trial failed. Romney often criticized Trump throughout his presidency.

Joe Biden officially passed his symbolically important first 100 days as the U.S. President. And now he has some big proposals to sell, ones worth about $4 trillion. He is pitching a huge legislative agenda this week and, as Arlette Saenz reports, he will need the support of American voters to make it a reality.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Biden is revving up Air Force One again next week as he is taking his sales pitch for his sweeping economic proposals out directly into the country.

The president is hoping he can earn support for his measures from voters across the United States, who he hopes will then, in turn, urge their lawmakers up on Capitol Hill to get on board with these plans. On Monday, the president will travel to Virginia, along with the first lady.


SAENZ: The two of them will be visiting schools as they are looking to promote that American Families Plan that focuses on child care, education and paid family leave.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the vice president heads to Wisconsin and Rhode Island. And then President Biden will travel down south to Louisiana on Thursday, with stops in New Orleans and Lake Charles, a community that was devastated by Hurricane Laura back last summer.

The president, these trips are following on his visits this past week to Georgia and also Pennsylvania, where he made a direct pitch for his infrastructure proposal at an Amtrak station and argued that these investments will help keep America competitive with the rest of the world. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country. And transit is part of the infrastructure. And like the rest of our infrastructure, we're way behind the rest of the world right now. We need to remember, we're in competition with the rest of the world. People come here and set up businesses. People stay here. People grow because of the ability to access; access transportation, access all the infrastructure. It's what allows us to compete.


SAENZ: Now as he makes this pitch out on the road, the president must also court lawmakers back in Washington. But Republicans and some moderate Democrats have expressed some hesitancy with the price tag and pay-fors in this plan.

The president has said he is willing to sit down with Republicans to hear their ideas. And one of those senators that he has already had a direct conversation with is senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican of West Virginia.

The president has invited her and other Republicans to meet with him at the White House to hammer out some of the details of these proposals. And the president must also keep his Democratic coalition together, as he is hoping to get these measures passed -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president in Wilmington, Delaware.



HOLMES: Larry Sabato the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, joins me now.

Good to see you, sir. Let's start with this. The president's first 100 days are up.

Is he on track to get done what he needs to get done in terms of his agenda?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, let's remember, there are 1,500 almost days to a presidential term, just one term. So 100 days is interesting.

But it doesn't necessarily reveal what's yet to come. But I would say, for the most part, Biden has done very well and he has stuck to the major programs he felt he needed to push and that he promised he would push, maybe with the exception of immigration. And it's been a good 100 days for him. It's put America back on track.

HOLMES: When you look at things like the infrastructure plan and, even now today, moves to make community college free, universal preschool, how bold is all of it when you put it together?

And what is the political upside versus risk of going full on?

SABATO: It's very bold. It really is. In fact, the early part of the presidency, while his people are pointing to Franklin D. Roosevelt, I'd be more inclined to say Lyndon Johnson.

Johnson had the same kind of ambitious outlook on his presidency and always told people, when they said to him, you're going too far, you're doing too much, he would say, "Well, what's the presidency for?"

I think Biden has a similar attitude.

What's the presidency for?

It's doing these things, meeting the country's needs. People could argue about whether too much is being spent. But on the whole, this has been a very aggressive program and it makes sense because, at any given moment on any given day, the Senate could revert to the Republicans if there's a Democratic vacancy.

HOLMES: That's a good point. And I was actually going to ask you about that; because of the peculiarities of American politics, the president has the issue of the 2022 midterm elections to deal with. Historically, the incumbent loses seats and, in this case, perhaps control of House and/or Senate.

How much does that deadline play into Biden's sense of urgency on his agenda?

SABATO: Well, publicly, of course, Biden and everybody around him insists that they're going to keep the Senate and keep the House. Privately, they know that the odds are against them. It's going to be a miracle if they're able to hold both houses. It may be a minor miracle, maybe a major miracle if they hold even one house.

So if you're talking about a legislative presidency -- and that's Biden's expertise after all those years in the U.S. Senate -- you've got to make every day count until that midterm election.

And as you get closer to the midterm, senators and House members from your own party don't want to be in Washington and they don't want to be taking controversial votes.

HOLMES: And real quick before I let you go, the GOP, of course, dealing with the ghost of Trump, rifts in the party.


HOLMES: With the whole Liz Cheney versus many other colleagues saying, Mitt Romney being booed at a party event Sunday.

Yet none of that seems to be hurting the party in terms support from the faithful; 70 percent of Republicans think Biden didn't win. SABATO: That's utterly absurd. Just completely absurd and frightening

that people can be misled to this extent and ignore the obvious facts. I mean, 7 million votes, Biden's lead in the election, is no minor thing.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, though, here's what makes it worse. It isn't just that they're going after the well-known established figures in their party; they're treating Romney just like John McCain was treated before his death.

And there are many others, Liz Cheney -- and we could go through the long list, ones who've been censured by their party. It's that Donald Trump continues to try to be center stage.

Now because he isn't on Twitter he's not succeeding as much as he did at least and he isn't giving big speeches because of the pandemic. He's all but said, if he has the opportunity, he's going to run again in 2024. And he's frozen at least part of the Republican field.

So if Republicans thought that the ghost of Donald Trump would go elsewhere before the midterm elections or before 2024, they're sadly mistaken. And I think they realize it now.

HOLMES: Fascinating. Larry, thank you. Larry Sabato, really appreciate it.

SABATO: Thank you, Michael.


HOLMES: There is much more to come here on CNN, including aid from India, rolling in from around the globe. We will also be talking to a medical expert about the situation on the ground.

And SpaceX Crew One scheduled to return to Earth in the next half hour or so. We'll have more on their record-setting mission, coming up.





HOLMES: And we've been hearing now that India's eastern Odisha state has announced a two-week complete lockdown from May the 5th, complete shutdown. This comes, as the country, today, reported the highest increase in daily deaths of the pandemic so far, nearly 3,700 in a 24- hour period.

Officials also reported more than 392,000 new infections on Sunday. India's new case numbers have now topped 300,000 for 11 days in a row.

Aid is rolling in from around the world. Medical equipment from France arriving a few hours ago, including eight oxygen generators, which should be operational within days. CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward has more now for us from New Delhi. We do warn you, her report contains some graphic content.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Delhi now, you are never far from heartbreak. Almost everyone in this city has been visited by grief.

At this crematorium, the loss weighs heavily in the smoldering air and the dead are piling up.

WARD: There are bodies literally everywhere you turn here. I've honestly never seen anything quite like it. And the organizers say that, pre-COVID, they might cremate 7 or 8 people in a day. Today alone, they have already cremated 55 bodies. And it's not even lunchtime.

WARD (voice-over): Just months ago, India's leadership boasted that the country had effectively defeated COVID. Now it has set global records for new cases as a terrifying second wave ravages the country.

Jatinder Singh Shunti (ph) says he and his men don't even stop to take breaks. And still they can barely cope with the flow.

A volunteer approaches. They have run out of tables for the bodies, he says, then adds that his mother died from COVID the night before.

WARD: You must be tired?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Very. But this time is not for the rest.

WARD: Do you believe the government figures, the death tolls, the COVID figures that they're giving?

Or do you think the real figures are much higher?

WARD (voice-over): The numbers that you're seeing on television are the numbers of people who are dying in hospitals, he says. They are not factoring in the people who died at home in isolation. If those numbers are added, the actual number will go up by 3 times.

To keep up with those mounting numbers, the crematorium has been forced to expand, creating an overflow area in a neighboring car park.

Shiam Sharma (ph) is saying goodbye to his 45 year old younger brother.

SHIAM SHARMA (PH), BROTHER OF COVID-19 VICTIM: Last night I was thinking that his health is improving last night but suddenly the phone of doctor came on my mobile phone that your brother has expired.

WARD: Do you think his death could've been prevented?

SHARMA (PH): Yes, yes, I think we can save him in a better health hospital.

WARD (voice-over): India's health care system is at a breaking point; unable to cope with the scale of the crisis, its people to fend for themselves. This crowd has been waiting for 6 hours for the chance to get some oxygen. They can't rely on the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): My mother.

WARD: Your mother?

How old is she?


WARD: is her oxygen very low?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): She's in very critical condition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions) -- and we are trying since morning but we are not getting the oxygen anywhere.

WARD: How many places have you been to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): 19.

WARD: 19?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since morning, since 6:00 am.

WARD: Have you tried taking her to the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no beds.

WARD: There are no beds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Before four days we have tried so much but we didn't get any beds.

WARD (voice-over): Pria Shavastiva (ph) was lucky enough to find her mother a place in a hospital, only to find out there was no oxygen.

PRIA SHAVASTIVA (PH), DAUGHTER OF COVID-19 PATIENT: (INAUDIBLE) and I am so scared whenever I think of my mom.


WARD: Are you angry?

SHAVASTIVA (PH) (from captions): I am so angry because of the disorganization. Our government is so careless, they even don't care about what public is suffering. They don't know what India is suffering. And there are so many people who are standing over there and fighting for this thing. WARD (voice-over): Her mother is now in critical condition. Like many

here, she feels completely overwhelmed.

For those who can't source their own oxygen, this is the only option, a drive-in oxygen center by the side of the road. A woman arrives unconscious in a rickshaw. Several hospitals have already turned her away. They simply didn't have the beds. Now she is relying on the kindness of strangers. Her sons work desperately to try to revive her.

WARD: This isn't a hospital or even a clinic. It's a Sikh temple. But for these people who have already been turned away from so many hospitals, this is their last chance at survival.

The leader of the Sikh charity that runs this facility says it gets no support at all from the government. He says he already had COVID twice. But he and his volunteers continue to work 24 hours a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): We want to save their lives. This is our heart's voice.

WARD: It must hurt your heart to see the way your people are suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Yes, madame, many times we cry also. What is going on?

WARD (voice-over): It is impossible to escape the tragedy of this vicious second wave. Coronavirus is ravaging the old but it has not spared India's young. The prime minister has announced that everyone over the age of 18 can get the vaccine. But with less than 2 percent of the country inoculated, that offers only a distant hope. So India's capital continues to burn. Suffocated by the rampant spread of this deadly virus, the city and a country brought to its knees, praying for respite -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, New Delhi.



HOLMES: Joining me now is Professor K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India and member of the Indian Council of Medical Research COVID-19 Task Force. He joins me now from near New Delhi.

Professor, really appreciate your time. I mean, only about 26 million people have been fully vaccinated in India, out of a population of 1.4 billion.

How concerned are you about those numbers?

What does it mean for the situation there?

K. SRINATH REDDY, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC HEALTH FOUNDATION OF INDIA: I'm really concerned that only 11 percent have been vaccinated with one dose. It's only close to 2 percent who have been vaccinated with both the doses. And I believe it's absolutely important, with whatever vaccine stocks

we have, we still prioritize the group above age of 45. And those with associated health conditions on the grounds of their higher vulnerability to (INAUDIBLE) infection and death.

I believe, yes, we should start vaccinating even younger people but that becomes a later priority, when our vaccine stocks build up. I don't think we can really spread ourselves very thin at this point in time.

HOLMES: Dr. Fauci said India should consider a temporary shutdown, a full national lockdown to handle this crisis and the spread.

Do you -- do you think that's realistic?

Or could happen, politically, if nothing else?

REDDY: Well, previously, I think the government was reluctant and left it to the state governments. And many of the state governments have started moving in that direction. We have seen some of them already in lockdown. And some of them, not in lockdown, starting soon.

But even if there is not full lockdown, which might actually pose some difficulties for people moving around, getting medical supplies, home care and so on, at least we can go what we call section 144, where not more than five people are allowed to gather in any public place.

But we do need a lot more support, even for homecare, because there are several people who could do well at home with some support.


REDDY: And who do not need to rush to the hospital and crowd -- crowd out other people who actually need that (INAUDIBLE) because they are very sick. So some of these measures do need to be taken very urgently.

HOLMES: Right. India is home to 18 percent of the world's population. We have seen the Indian variant spread to 17 or -- or perhaps even more -- other countries. Speak to the fact that what happens in India matters for the rest of the world. The virus doesn't respect borders.

And even, countries doing well now, they could suffer from what is happening in India, right?

REDDY: Very much so. Like, we did, too. I mean, the B.1.1.7. It's well established now in Punjab. It's the dominant virus here.

But the two Indian variants that have come up in recent months. One is the B1.617, which is called the double mutant in Malashtra (ph) as well as the B.1.618, which is called the triple mutant in West Bengal. They are also spreading to neighboring states.

And the so-called double mutant, B.1.617, has now been detected in 21 countries. So certainly, I believe all countries who are exchanging the mutant and the variants are going to be really posing a global threat wherever the virus is from (ph). But we need to control the pandemic in every single country.

HOLMES: Absolutely, yes, and that's where vaccinations come in.

What -- what -- what did, Professor, the authorities do wrong?

I mean, it seems staggering that things, like political rallies and massive religious festivals continue to take place. And with the government's approval.

What -- what -- what happened wrong -- what went wrong?

REDDY: Well, we turned our back on the virus but it did not turn its back on us. And the reason why this happened was that there was a widespread feeling, that was perpetuated even by some scientists in January, that we have had herd immunity which has spread across the country and is going to protect us from a second wave.

It is a totally erroneous impression but it gained ground. And for those people who wanted to open up the society fully, put the economy back on rails, restart normal life, this appear to be news to believe. And unfortunately, what the policymakers and the public were badly misled into making the mistake that the pandemic had run away. It had not.

HOLMES: Politics versus health care. Really, there should only be one in a situation like this. Professor, got to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time, sir.

REDDY: Most welcome.


HOLMES: When it comes to willingness to get a COVID vaccine in the U.S., political attitudes seem to play a pretty big role. We are going to have a look at who is more likely than others to turn down the jab.

And it is NASA's first night-time splashdown in 50 years. We will go live to the Florida coast for the return of the SpaceX Crew One, just ahead.





HOLMES: More than 146 million Americans have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. That's about 44 percent of the population. But vaccination rates have been slowing, recently. And there are fears about just how many more people will be willing to get the jab.

Have a look at this. A CNN poll, conducted by SSRS, indicates politics may be playing a role. No real surprise there, really; 44 percent of Republicans say they won't get a vaccine. Just 8 percent of Democrats feel the same way.

So why are some people so dead-set against getting vaccinated?

Many of them appear to be supporters, again, no surprise, of former president Donald Trump, criticized for repeatedly playing down the pandemic. CNN correspondent, Donie O'Sullivan talked to some of the COVID-19 antivaxers.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Are you going to get vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need a vaccine. I had COVID last march. Sick for all of five hours. I don't need a vaccine for that.

O'SULLIVAN: The CDC recommends you should be vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they can recommend.

O'SULLIVAN: It has emergency approval.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who determine the emergency approval?

O'SULLIVAN: Do you think Trump is wrong on this one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know the situation but I know we're not wrong and we're the independent freedom people of America and we make our own decisions.

O'SULLIVAN: You're not getting vaccinated?


O'SULLIVAN: Even if it is the Trump vaccine?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't matter whose vaccine it is. President Biden got it. President Trump was still in office. So, yes. It is the Trump vaccine. I have no intention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't blindly follow what President Trump did or didn't do. It's the fact that he promoted individual freedom and your ability to excel. It was a movement. He just happened to come along at the right time to help.


HOLMES: Several Republican lawmakers, who are also doctors, meanwhile, have released a video hoping to change some of those minds.


REP. GREG MURPHY (R): It's obvious, to me, from a medical standpoint, the only way to protect ourselves and your loved ones. REP. LARRY BUCSHON (R): And to end the government's restrictions on

our freedoms is to take action and get the vaccine.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): I look forward to the freedom that I, along with my loved ones, will regain once the vast majority of Americans are vaccinated.


HOLMES: CNN spoke with one of the Republican senators leading that effort, Roger Marshall of Kansas. He offered some advice for people with questions about the vaccines.


SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): Talk to your doctor. Don't listen to Tucker Carlson and don't listen to the CDC. Go talk to your own doctor. Talk to your own pharmacist. Talk to them about the risks and the benefits, the pros and the cons. And if you want to live as free as you did once before, we need to go get the vaccine.


HOLMES: All right. We are going to take a quick break. SpaceX Crew One coming home after a record-setting mission. We will go live to the Florida coast, where they're expected to splash down, in the coming minutes. That's just ahead.





HOLMES: What an extraordinary moment. NASA hasn't done anything like this in more than 50 years. You're looking there at live pictures of the SpaceX Crew One, which is about to splash down off the coast of Panama City Beach in Florida. What you see there are the parachutes being deployed.

When the reentry began, they were doing something like 17.5 thousand miles an hour. By the time they touch the water, they're going to be doing about 16 miles per hour. Two parachutes there being deployed. This is infrared image coming to us from the NASA feed. Absolutely extraordinary to get to see this in real time.

These astronauts, there's three of them, three Americans, one Japanese, spent five months in the International Space Station in that orbiting laboratory. You can see another release there.

The time they spent up there was the longest time spent in space by a crew launched aboard an American-built spacecraft, absolutely extraordinary pictures there. Off the coast of Panama City wasn't the only location this capsule can splash down. There are a number of alternative sites as well, just in case. But the parachutes being deployed now.



HOLMES: I think last I heard they're about 500 meters from splashdown. There's a number of SpaceX ships -- recovery ships that are out there, keeping an eye on all of this. And the plan was once it has touched down they would hope to get to the Resilience capsule within an hour of splashdown.

And then begins the process of getting them out of the capsule and getting them on board; 200 meters now to splashdown. Actually NASA is planning to hold a news conference in about two hours, so they're going to move pretty quick.

Can we listen in here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seconds away from splashdown. Everything nominal aboard Crew Dragon Resilience returning to Earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there are the boats, starting to chase after Dragon, to begin their recovery operations as soon as Dragon lands.


HOLMES: You can hear the applause. The capsule has landed.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. My colleague, Kim Brunhuber, will continue our SpaceX splashdown coverage with more in just a moment.