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India Expected To Top 20 Million Cases Soon; Nepal's New Cases Hit Record High; Inside The Dangerous World Of Human Smuggling; Indian Doctor: I Cannot Explain, We Are Dying Inside; Blinken: U.S. Hopes North Korea Will Engage Diplomatically. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 4, 2021 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): New, more deadly and highly contagious variants, reopening too soon, Delhi preparing for a second wave. India's perfect COVID storm, leading to a humanitarian crisis which is only set to get worse with the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus about to hit 20 million.

Coming to America, a CNN exclusive report, images rarely seen from the point of view of two migrants, who paid human smugglers to get them across the southern border with Mexico. Big business for cartels and organized crime, a life threatening crossing for tens for thousands, desperate to live in the U.S.

Hello, I'm John Vause, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

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VAUSE: India continues to descend into COVID hell, with the surge in new cases not seen anywhere else in the world, pushing the total number of infected with the coronavirus to just shy of 20 million; 7 million new cases recorded just last month.

For the 12th straight day, more than 300,000 new cases were reported on Monday. That's according to government officials and to treat so many patients, exams for training doctors and nurses have been postponed. They are now being sent to overwhelmed hospitals in a health care system, which has crumbled under the strain.

And the chair of "The Lancet's" COVID task force in India says, even if this outbreak peaks soon, the death toll will likely stay high for the rest of the month. The government has now deployed medical personnel from the navy to hospitals across the country. Despite an outpouring of international help, oxygen remains in critical short supply.

CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward reports now from a hospital in Uttar Pradesh. And a warning: some viewers will find the details and the images in her report disturbing. But it's important to know the families CNN spoke with want the world to see and hear about the realities of this crisis. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the next room, more than 20 patients are packed in tightly.

This is what now passes for the intensive care unit. Family members have taken on the role of primary carers, where medical staff are simply unavailable. This man complains, no one will change his wife's soiled bedding.

Suddenly, there is a commotion.

"Will someone please call the doctor?" This man shouts.

His mother, 55-year-old Rashvalla (ph), appears to be slipping away. Her sons work furiously to revive her.

A doctor comes in and tells him to stop crowding her. The family is inconsolable.

"We've been here for six days and, only today, we got the ventilator for my mother," he tells us. "The oxygen is out. We had to bring an oxygen cylinder."

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VAUSE: We'll have a lot more from Clarissa Ward next hour. Please stay with us here on CNN.

The only way out of this crisis for India is to vaccinate, according to many experts. Pfizer is discussing expedited approval of its vaccine for India but right now other vaccine supplies are running, low daily shots have falling sharply from last month's high. CNN's Ivan Watson following developments in Hong Kong.

So Ivan it's incredible to think that there is a vaccination problem right now, given that India is the pharmacy of the world.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines and yet it is suffering from shortages a year into this once-in-a-century pandemic.

India dramatically expedited eligibility for vaccines on May 1st, allowing anybody over the age of 18 to be eligible. Since then, it says it has administered about 404,000 vaccines but there have clearly been some major stumbles in India's vaccination program.

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WATSON (voice-over): It was billed as the world's biggest vaccination drive, a COVID-19 vaccine program, launched in mid-January celebrated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

We are minutes away from India initiating the world's biggest vaccination drive. But 3.5 months later, India is in the grips of a deadly second wave of COVID infections. Its healthcare system completely overwhelmed. Meanwhile, the vaccination drive has been a disappointment.

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WATSON (voice-over): India lags far behind other countries for a percentage of its population inoculated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We vaccinated only two percent of our population right now. We lost two crucial months where we could have ramped up our, you know, vaccines.

WATSON (voice-over): India is the world's largest vaccine maker as it launched the first phase of its vaccination program domestically.

NARENDRA MODI, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: India is humbled that made-in- India vaccines are going around the world.

WATSON (voice-over): The government also embarked on vaccine diplomacy overseas. Since January, the vaccine made three program or vaccine friendship shipped more than 66 million doses to foreign countries. But at home experts say fewer eligible Indian signed up for shots, in part because, by February, the COVID threat appeared to be receding.

SHAHID JAMEEL, VIROLOGIST: Unfortunately, that also created a dilemma in the minds of some people that we are done with this outbreak.

So what's the point of getting a vaccine?

WATSON (voice-over): By March daily infection rates were growing. Meanwhile, vaccine supply was becoming a problem.

On April 16, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturing company, addressed this tweet to the U.S. president, asking him to lift an embargo on vaccine component exports. Soon after India began asking for more foreign help.

HARSH VARDHAN SHRINGLA, INDIAN FOREIGN SECRETARY: Obviously, if we can source vaccines, we will do it. Whether it's from the United States, whether it's from Russia, whether it's from other countries.

WATSON (voice-over): But that hasn't fixed the supply problem. On April 30th, this man says he lined up with his family at 4:00 am for vaccine shots at this location in Mumbai. They left hours later, unvaccinated.

UDAY BHAN YADAV, MUMBAI RESIDENT (through translator): At 9:00 am when the vaccinations were meant to begin, the authorities told us they had orders from above to shut down all vaccinations.

WATSON (voice-over): On May 1st, India was supposed to expand vaccine eligibility to anyone over 18. But at least seven states and territories postponed the launch, citing a shortage of supplies.

(on camera): You have the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer that's now facing a shortage in the midst of a pandemic, which is quite a contradiction, isn't it?

JAMEEL: Yes, it is. I really feel that it is poor planning and poor execution that has led to this.

WATSON (voice-over): With thousands of Indians dying of COVID each day. Russia has now shipped at least 150,000 doses of its Sputnik vaccine to help India immunize its vulnerable population.

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WATSON: Now, John, several of the public health experts I have spoken with, they are puzzled as to why the COVID-19 vaccine program has been organized very differently from other vaccine programs in India, that the states are in charge of distributing and acquiring a supply of vaccine, unlike for example, programs to vaccinate for polio, tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis B, meningitis.

In those cases, these were centralized government -- the central government that was in charge of sourcing and then distributing the vaccines. They say that that has created additional problems in logistics.

Another factor here is that a lot of people that have to get the vaccines have to pay for them the equivalent of perhaps $1 or $3. But for significant portions of the Indian population, those kinds of costs are prohibitive -- John.

VAUSE: Ivan Watson, thank you very much.

COVID's rapid spread across India is not stopping at national borders. Nepal has reported an alarming spike. COVID cases have increased twelvefold in just the last few weeks. Now to CNN's Paula Hancocks who is following developments for us.

Paula, this virus does not respect lines on a map.

So is there a direct line which can be drawn from the crisis in India to the surge in cases in Nepal?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, that's certainly the way that Nepal is seeing it at this point and they're acting accordingly. There's a fear what we're seeing now in India we could see in Nepal as well, considering does not have a very sophisticated health care infrastructure.

We do see a televised program by the prime minister, saying they're going to ban international flights for at least a week and also they've already banned domestic flights from midnight on Monday again up to May 14th.

There are of course, many land borders with India. At this point, they're not closing them completely. They say Nepalese citizens can come Back into the country, no foreigners at this point, though. But they do have to have -- or test negative for COVID at the land border itself.

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HANCOCKS: There is a quarantine going in, so what they're trying to do is restrict the number of people going into Nepal. But of course, the concern is that this variant, first identified in India, is already inside Nepal. They say they have identified certain cases.

When we look at the numbers, you can see that the average per capita infection in Nepal right now is where India was less than two weeks ago. There are serious concerns about how they will cope.

They also called back retired medical workers, saying that they have to work now for at least a year. They've banned exports of oxygen, making sure that there is enough within the country as well.

Also converting private hospitals into COVID specialized hospitals. They're going to have sporting arenas, schools, which will be quarantine centers. There has been a lot announced by the prime minister. There is the hope that this will help the surge but certainly the concerns are there that what we're seeing, now this catastrophic incident in India, could spill over into Nepal, John.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you for the update, Paula Hancocks live for us there in Seoul.

India and Brazil accounted for more than half of global cases last week, WHO also warns many other countries are also facing a precarious position.

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DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: More cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally in the past 2 weeks than during the first 6 months of the pandemic.

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VAUSE: WHO Is now raising funds for oxygen and other much-needed supplies globally. They're urging everyone, even the vaccinated, to follow public health guidelines.

The acting head of the U.S. Food and Drug agency says the pandemic is turning the world into a Petri dish that will result in new deadly variants. Turkey has imposed a new lockdown to cut its soaring number of new infections.

Argentina's new wave is putting restraint on hospitals. Uruguay has more than 200,000 cases with a population of only 3.5 million.

Almost 30 percent of the world's population said they would opt out of the vaccine last, year according to a new Gallup poll, 3 percent say they didn't know. Experts say 70 percent to 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity.

In the meantime, the U.S. currently leads in the numbers of fully vaccinated people at more than 105 million. The number of new cases heading down in most European countries. The E.U. is moving to revive that battered tourism industry. Plans are underway to ease restrictions to allow for summer travel. Here's Cyril Vanier.

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CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the last 10, months nonessential travel to the European Union has been forbidden. But now as we head into a second pandemic summer, European countries are keen to welcome visitors again, provided they've been vaccinated.

The European Commission laid out its plan on Monday, the plans for the 27 member states the E.U. to allow in travelers from outside the European Union, who have received one of the vaccines approved in Europe at least 2 weeks before traveling.

So for potential travelers, this list of E.U. approved vaccines is Pfizer BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. The Chinese and Russian vaccines, for instance, have not been authorized by the European Medicines Agency.

This plan comes from the commission and ultimately each country controls its own borders. So implementation may vary. But there is momentum behind this. Europeans are starting to feel the benefits of their vaccination campaigns and they want to revive their battered economies.

Tourist destinations like Greece have already reopened their borders to foreign tourists.

But while Europe wants to open up, will foreign travelers want to go there?

The most visited country in the world pre pandemic, France, is still battling a third wave of the coronavirus -- Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.

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VAUSE: When we come back, from boasting to crisis, we'll look at the political fallout for India's government as well as a lack of contrition.

Also migrants pay human smugglers thousands of dollars and risk their lives to cross the border into United States, a CNN exclusive you won't see anywhere else, a point of view from those who are being smuggled across that border.

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VAUSE: The latest numbers from the U.S. show arrests have fallen dramatically on the border with Mexico, down 60 percent, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. While the number of illegal crossings has sharply increased to levels

not seen in decades. While those numbers are staggering, what they don't tell us is why, why so many are willing to risk almost everything to pay thousands of dollars to professional smugglers to enter the United States.

CNN correspondent Matt Rivers met with the so-called polleros or human smugglers, capturing the moment when two migrants were smuggled into the United States. In video rarely seen from the migrants' point of view, Matt Rivers filed this report from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As long as there's been a border wall, people have tried to climb it, up from Mexico down to the U.S., hoping for something better on the other side.

Today, one such attempt starts here in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We watched from afar as to men carry a makeshift ladder toward a car, lashing it to the side.

These are polleros or human smugglers who help cross migrants who pay them to get into the United States. Today, the smugglers had told us to be in this neighborhood at a certain time. If they had migrants to cross, they told us we could follow them but would not tell us exactly when or where this would take place.

After we arrive though, we're told they would indeed try to cross two migrants currently in the backseat of that car. And so, the car takes off driving just a stone's throw from the border wall and El Paso, Texas, on the other side. Further up the road the car slows and a minute later, the trio heads toward the wall as we follow behind.

This smuggler has never allowed cameras to trail him before. After months of repeated requests, he agreed to have only myself and a local producer following only recording on our cell phones, knowing our presence could increase his chances of getting caught. Trying to cross the wall here is extremely dangerous.

RIVERS: So right now, they're just making their way slowly towards the wall. They're crawling clearly trying to avoid anyone who might be on the border dragging us to go up and over the wall. This is a difficult track here, no question.

RIVERS (voice-over): It's slow progress on their hands and knees and a bit further on they catch their breath. So we had about 30 seconds to talk with the migrants. They allowed CNN to record them only if we hid their identities, a young man and woman 18 and 20 years old.

Originally from Ecuador, they say they paid various smugglers thousands of dollars each to bring them to this point. They told us they're hoping to eventually find work in South Texas.

This is the last step of the journey tens of thousands of people make every year risking their lives and their freedom migrating to the U.S. with the help of smugglers. Smugglers who are often accused of everything from sexual abuse to extortion, some taking terrible advantage of the vulnerable migrants they purport to help.

And some of those migrants are children as record numbers of unaccompanied minors have been headed north recently many from Central America. Some make it to the U.S. and others get caught by Mexican officials and end up in government run shelters like this one. Either way, it's likely their families paid smugglers to bring them here.

Officials at this shelter say about three quarters of the kids here were smuggled a horrifically dangerous trip.

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RIVERS (voice-over): The shelter psychologist says, "They can be raped, they can be robbed, they can be extorted, they can die on the journey."

This 14-year-old girl says she was smuggled from Guatemala and that, along the journey, passed from smuggler to smuggler, the threat of rape was always there, at times crowded into a van with many others. She felt like she couldn't get enough air.

"We couldn't make any noise," she says. "They would only open up these little windows for a bit and then they would close them. It felt like you were choking."

Human smuggling like this is often run by loosely organized groups but sometimes and especially in Mexico, experts say there is a big role played by organized crime.

RIVERS: The cartels that operate so freely here, smugglers bringing people North either worked directly for those cartels or they work independently but they have to pay the cartels for the right to move through certain territories.

VICTOR MANJARREZ, FORMER BORDER PATROL EL PASO SECTOR CHIEF: Human smuggling is a multi-million dollar industry. And I would venture to guess that it's approaching a billion dollar industry.

RIVERS (voice-over): Former Border Patrol El Paso sector chief Victor Manjarrez says some cartels have used that money to create wide reaching sophisticated smuggling networks.

MANJARREZ: And it's almost like a Fortune 500 company dealing with their supply chain.

RIVERS (voice-over): And at the very end of that chain, smugglers like these, the men that we would later follow to the wall. They say they work for La Linea, an armed wing of the Juarez cartel.

Each migrant they cross pays the cartel roughly $2,000, a staggering sum for most migrants that often leaves them penniless. The smugglers say the cartel gives them a small cut for performing what they call a service. "We try to help them," he says. "People come and ask for help, kids, women, men. We support them."

But this isn't some selfless act. They get paid for this. And they are part of a system where rape, extortion, kidnapping and even murder are rampant.

"We don't do that," he says, "we're all humans, they want to arrive safely. We don't harm them. We give them food and water and help them cross, other people may hurt them. But we don't."

We, of course, have no way to know if he's telling the truth. But he says for him, this is a family affair. He works with his brother and even his 14-year-old nephew, they all smuggle people. The 14-year-old shows me one of the ladders they use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERS (voice-over): Now when he crosses these kids over the wall, some his own age or even younger, he does it another way.

He says, "I tie a thick rope around their bellies and lower them down so they don't fall."

His uncle says without them, two migrants, like the ones that we follow through the desert who want to get to the U.S., wouldn't be able to. We watch as they hook their ladder over the border wall fence.

The young man goes first. Once he's down, he runs. And the young woman then follows. Once up and over, she hits the ground and races off as well. We can't watch where she goes because the smuggler tells us we've got to go.

RIVERS: I have to run back from the fence, obviously, because the smugglers were still afraid of getting caught. But for him, it was a successful mission.

RIVERS (voice-over): But for the two people that just crossed, their journey is far from over. It's mainly desert on that side of the wall. And they didn't really seem to have a plan. The smuggler told us he had no idea what happened to them after they went over. Those two migrants managed to get in. But for many, that's not the case.

A few days later, we were filming something else on the border when we notice something.

(Speaking Spanish).

RIVERS (voice-over): More people desperate to cross. A woman and three young children make a break for the wall.

Here, though, the actual border is just the Rio Grande; more of a stream, really. One by one, holding hands, they make their way and, once they've crossed, they're in the U.S. But then comes the wall, a towering steel presence between them and where they want to be. Border Patrol detain them a few minutes later.

RIVERS: Actually, when we went to the smugglers' house for the first time to try and interview them, we were not able to because when we arrived, there were three different law enforcement vehicles out front, one from the municipal police, one from the federal police and another from the country's national guard.

Checking in with the smugglers later, they told us that all three of those different law enforcement entities were there to collect what the smugglers called their semi regular bribe.

Basically, it's a bribe that the smugglers say they pay to law enforcement, to allow them to continue to do what they do. We reached out to all those different law enforcement agencies, asking them about these allegations. They told us, uniformly, that bribery was not acceptable.

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RIVERS: But, look, the reality is that corruption has been a problem for decades here in Mexico and it continues to be a problem today -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

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VAUSE: Heartbroken and overwhelmed: inside an Indian hospital, mourning for colleagues lost to the pandemic, wondering who will be next. That story, in a moment. You're on CNN.

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VAUSE: Just moments ago, India reported 20 million confirmed coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, a reminder that the crisis there is nowhere near subsiding. And most experts are warning that these numbers, these official numbers, are likely underreported.

Monday marked the 12th straight day, with more than 300,000 new cases, hospitals facing severe shortages, some patients are dying in waiting rooms or outside in overflow clinics.

A big criticism has been a failure by India's central government and to prepare for the inevitable second wave. During an ebb in new cases, there was no stockpiling of PPE, ventilators or medical supplies, especially oxygen. CNN's Sam Kiley, reporting now from a New Delhi hospital, where a dozen patients died within hours after oxygen supplies ran out.

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SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tears for a much-loved colleague. Dr. R.K. Himthani, killed by COVID-19 in the same hospital where he'd spent a year treating other victims of the coronavirus.

Grief and the inevitable silent question, who's next?

He died here in this intensive care unit because the Batra Hospital, where he worked, ran out of the most basic necessity: oxygen.

He was not alone. The medical director of the hospital, SCL Gupta, gave the mid-afternoon casualty figures in this war against the virus.

DR. SCL GUPTA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BATRA HOSPITAL: Eight patients died today.

KILEY: Eight?

SCL GUPTA: Died just now and five, they are under resuscitation, may or may not survive, just because in the capital city of Delhi and because of want of oxygen, which is the lifeline.

KILEY: He knew the chances of reviving the five were slim.

When you heard this morning that you had just a few hours of oxygen and then eight patients died, what does that do to you to the soul of a doctor?

SCL GUPTA: I cannot explain to them my feelings. We are dying inside, we are the saviors, not the murderers. And we cannot express our feelings. I cannot express my feelings because how I'm feeling inside.

KILEY: Is it destroying you?

SCL GUPTA: Yes.

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I cannot express my feelings to you, sir, how I am feeling inside.

KILEY: Is it destroying you?

SCL GUPTA: Yes.

KILEY: How long have you been a doctor?

SCL GUPTA: What, sir?

KILEY: How long have you been a doctor?

SCL GUPTA: For forty-five years.

KILEY: It must be soul-destroying. I can't imagine what it must be like for you, I'm sorry.

SCL GUPTA: I'm sorry, sir.

KILEY (voice-over): Over the next hour, four of the five resuscitation patients died. SCL GUPTA: In a space of about two hours where the oxygen ran out, 12

people died in this hospital, which in every other respect, is a first-world facility. They simply asphyxiated.

KILEY: The hospital copes by advising patients to source their own supplies of oxygen, to cover its erratic supplies. Local and international efforts to get enough of the gas into India's capital are still failing.

India's central and national governments, have been unable to explain the oxygen shortages, and as the numbers of people infected with COVID-19 soar in India, along with the daily death toll, Batra Hospital, like many others, will admit no more patients. There's no point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not take more admissions, because we don't want people to die in front of us, so they can go to other hospitals where the oxygens are available.

KILEY: Dr. Kishore Chawala runs a Hindu temple charity. He pulled through COVID before the oxygen started to run out.

KISHORE CHAWALA, CEO OF CHATTARPUR MANDIR: From housekeeping, even the nursing staff, the supervisors all are working very hard.

KILEY: Fair enough, but the Indian government's failure to ensure basic supplies to hospitals in the face of a long-term pandemic is simply not going to wash.

Sam Kiley, CNN, New Delhi.

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VAUSE: CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has a personal connection with India.

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DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is very hard to look at these images in India, with everything that we have known and learned about this virus, and seen the impact of the viral spread and in gatherings like this.

It's -- it's just really, really dispiriting to see that, at a time when, you know, many parts of the world are starting to see some improvements. We're starting to see improvements here in the United States, in terms of cases going down and hospitalizations and deaths.

And then I talk to my family that live in New Delhi, and they're scared. I think for maybe the first time, really, throughout this, they are scared. And it's a bit of whiplash for them, because just a month ago again, they were told that it's the endgame.

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VAUSE: Zakka Jacob is the managing editor of CNN-News 18 in India. He is with us this hour from New Delhi.

Zakka, thank you for being with us and taking the time. We'll get to the big picture in a moment. But can you describe what it's like right now to be living in the midst of this crisis? Have -- how have you been impacted by the pandemic? Because a lot people describe a feeling of being totally helpless.

ZAKKA JACOB, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN-NEWS 18: Well, it has been a bit of a nightmare situation, particularly here in the capital, here in Delhi. (INAUDIBLE) no one in my immediate family has been affected. But at work, we've lost two colleagues last week.

And one of them (INAUDIBLE). One of them was in his mid-thirties. The other was in his early forties. But we couldn't save them. One of them, we tried quite hard to find a hospital bed.

And I think one of the things about this virus, the people who have been affected in the second wave are, you know, the middle class. They're the new rich. They're affluent, influential and well- connected.

And despite all of that, these folks have not been able to find them a bed, and that's a big problem. Normally in India, you know, if you are reasonably wealthy, or you know doctors, know people who know doctors, you can get by. You can get a hospital bed, or if you can afford to pay for one, you can get it.

But this time around, no matter how influential or wealthy, rich, or well-connected you are, people are still not able to find beds. They're not able to get oxygen cylinders. Oxygen has been a particularly difficult problem.

And one of the ironies here has been the fact that India is one of the largest producers of industrial-grade oxygen in the world. the problem is not the manufacturer or the lack of oxygen. The problem is in its transport. And there, there have been problems aplenty.

So yes, a lot of people have been affected. Everybody within my circle knows somebody or another who has been affected by this. So it has been -- it has been crushing these last few weeks.

VAUSE: Yes, back in January, during a speech at the World Economic Forum, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, was boasting about the government's success at controlling the pandemic. It was sort of a "mission accomplished" moment.

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He's now facing a lot of criticism. His party suffered big losses in weekend state elections. But he continues to refuse to support a nationwide lockdown. And among other experts, we're hearing from the White House medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told "The Indian Express," "An 'immediate' shutdown for a 'few weeks' could put an end to the cycle of transmission in India that will provide a window to take critical 'immediate, intermediate, and long-range' steps." He goes on. So why is Modi so reluctant? It seems like this is one of the few

options that they have left to play.

JACOB: You're right, John. The prime minister, in fact, the last time he spoke to the nation at large, by televised address, a couple of weeks ago. And one of the things he said in that was, as much as we need to guard against the virus, we also need to guard against a lockdown. The exact words state governments, local governments use the lockdown as a measure of last resort.

And I guess the reluctance to imposing a nationwide lockdown this time around is because of the experience of what happened last year. If you'll remember, in March of 2020, just when, you know, we were getting the first case of corona in India, Modi went on television to impose a lockdown, very (INAUDIBLE), nationwide lockdown, within about four hours of this. And it was one of the strongest, strictest lockdowns anywhere in the world.

We have these rather tragic pictures of millions of migrant workers from big cities like Delhi and Dubai (ph), because there was no public transport during the lockdown, simply walking by foot tens of thousands of miles to their home provinces in another part of the country and in far-flung areas. That was tragic.

And B, there was a real economic cost of that lockdown. The entire Indian economy for the last year, last financial year, even though we don't have the officials (ph), because government did not speak (ph) up and say India will drop by a 10th of its GDP.

So I think the reluctance to impose a national lockdown is because of that experience of last year, a classic case of once bitten, twice shy. But having said that, various state governments opposed some form of lockdown or the other. In Delhi, where I am right now, the local government here of Delhi has imposed a lockdown for the last two weeks. But another week, this lockdown will go.

And the assessment is, I think the (INAUDIBLE) hasn't gone down, we would probably be in a lockdown for a month (INAUDIBLE).

VAUSE: Zakka, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much for being with us, and we wish you and everyone there all the very best. Thank you.

JACOB: Thanks. Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, the numbers are staggering, the images are heartbreaking, but there are ways that you can help the people in India. Go to CNN.com/impact. There you can find out how.

Well, the U.S. says North Korea needs to decide if it wants to engage diplomatically. That from the U.S. secretary of state as he attends the G-7 meeting in London. We'll have details in a moment.

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VAUSE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just hours now to form a new government. His mandate from the president expires midnight, local time. So far, he's been unable to form a working coalition, and so now comes this extraordinary offer.

He will hand over leadership to the prime minister's office for one year, to longtime right-wing rival, his former chief of staff Naftali Bennett. This is a last-ditch effort to try and secure power and end Israel's political gridlock.

Bennett appeared to dismiss the offer as political spin. A lot more on this developing story next hour here on CNN.

And in the coming hours, foreign ministers from the G-7 will be gathering for in-person meetings, the first time in two years. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is among those in London. On Monday, he spoke about the crisis of the ongoing diplomatic stand-off with North Korea. CNN's Kylie Atwood has details.

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KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the Biden administration hopes that North Korea engages diplomatically with the U.S. to see if they can move towards the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Now, he said this as he confirmed the Biden administration has concluded their North Korea policy review. And it's noteworthy that they rolled this out, and they said that the diplomacy is at the center of how they -- how they plan to approach North Korea. They did not rule out any new sanctions today.

Now Blinken said that what they will be watching to see is how North Korean responds and what actions they take in the coming days and months.

Now, it should be noted, however, that the Biden ministration reached out privately to North Korea earlier this year and didn't receive a direct response.

Now Secretary Blinken is also meeting with other foreign ministers in the U.K. this week for the G-7 meeting. He met with his Indian counterpart. And one of the things, of course, that they discussed was the COVID crisis, the coronavirus outbreak crisis in India and the support that the U.S. is providing India.

They also spoke about deepening the U.S.-India comprehensive strategic partnership, indicating that the Biden ministration wants to move closer with India over the coming years.

Kiley Atwood, CNN, the State Department.

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VAUSE: Before we go, future holidays in Rome will likely be a little different. Visitors will have a chance to stand where the gladiators, and Russell Crowe, once fought.

The Italian government announced a plan to restore the floor of the Coliseum. It was removed hundreds of years ago to reveal underground passageways. An engineering firm in Milan won the contract with the concept for a new floor made from rotating wooden slats, expected to be completed in two years.

Hopefully, there won't be a pandemic.

And he has lift-off. That's one of Britain's Royal Marines, testing a jet suit developed by Gravity Industries, teamed up with the Royal Marines to test its product for use in maritime boarding operations.

They tried out the jet suit off the U.K. south coast. The jet suit would make it faster and easier for marines to board a boat, compared to roping down from a helicopter.

The company says this isn't just limited to use by the Royal Marines. The jet seat is also being tested by paramedics to quickly access those in distress in England's remote Lake District region.

Meet George Jetson.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us. I'm John Vause. In the meantime, Patrick Snell is up next with WORLD SPORT.

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