Return to Transcripts main page


India Reports Record 414,000 New Cases in Past 24 Hours; India's COVID Crisis Spill Across the Region; Japan Considers Extending COVID State of Emergency; Violence Escalates in Burkina Faso; Centrist Yair Lapid Traying to Form New Government; COVID Overwhelms India's Holiest City; Germany Resists Calls to Waive COVID- 19 Vaccine Patents; U.S. Considers Unfreezing $1 Billion in Iranian Funds; Fishing Feud in Jersey. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 7, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour:

India's sacred waters where the dead are spiritually cleansed overwhelmed by the pandemic's soaring death toll.

Fish fight. Today, the warships are heading back to Britain and France but the argument over fishing rights off the island of Jerseys is far from over.

And it's never been done before in Israeli politics. Can a centrist opposition leader convince Arab lawmakers and right-wing Jewish nationalist to join his coalition government?


VAUSE: We'll begin again in India where a deadly and more contagious variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly now across much of Asia. For the second day, officials in India have reported more than 400,000 new cases. And so far, 21 million cases of the COVID virus have been recorded since the pandemic began.

That figure though was double what it was 2 months ago and maybe in reality far higher. About 70 percent of India's 1.3 billion people live outside the major cities, in these smaller places where the virus is now spreading. Hospitals have been so overwhelmed, patients are being treated outdoors.

But in the capital, the government seems more focused on a massive construction project, a new parliament building and a new resident for the prime minister.

As hospitals languish and beg for basic supplies, critics are furious at the $1.8 billion price tag for what they are calling the vanity project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For a sense of what the crisis has been like outside India's capital, CNN's Clarissa Ward traveled to India's holiest city on the banks of the Ganges River. Here's her report.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The cremation starts before dawn, as workers are still clean away the embers of the night before.

Nestled on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi is India's holiest city. But it has not been spared by the vicious second wave of coronavirus ripping through the country.

As day breaks, Matro Chaudry (ph) waits for the rush to begin. His family has worked in the crematorium for generations. But he says that they have never seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 100, 140, 150 body per day. Every 5 minutes, 10 minute after ambulance bring the body.

WARD: Officially, the government says that eight to 10 people are dying here from coronavirus every day. The real figure is clearly much, much higher.

Confronted with that reality, authorities have had to improvise.

Varanasi's main crematorium has been so overwhelmed by the number of deaths that the city has had to set up a sort of makeshift crematorium. You can see it up here. This is just for COVID deaths.

A steady flow of bodies is coming in. Yet off the boat to take a closer look.

More ambulances are arriving, bringing the dead and grieving family members in full protective gear. They are sprayed with disinfectant before they can begin the mass rites.

But there is no way of sanitizing deep sense of loss. During the two hours we spend here, seven bodies are brought in. Critics say the government has been negligent in its mishandling of this crisis. That many lives could have been saved.

Nerma Gupta (ph) tells us that he never imagined that he would say goodbye to his father this way.

Has the government done enough to stop this second wave?


WARD: Much more efforts were required he says. Varanasi needed a full lockdown. But the government didn't do it. It was incompetence.

The situation in the city has become so bad that shortages have been reported of wood needed for the funeral fires.


Merchant Deepak Chaudry (ph) says that the demand is four times higher than usual.

As long as I have worked here, I've never seen so many dead bodies coming in, he says. The last month has shocked me.

Is it true that you are running out of wood in some places?

The three main suppliers had run out of wood, he tells us. The local administration had to intervene.

Death has always been part of the fabric of life in Varanasi. For centuries, people have come here to die. The belief is that the sacred waters at the River Ganges will help their souls achieve moksha, liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.

But the staggering toll of the scourge has shocked everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very bad situation right no and every household, every household is facing this. I don't think there's any family that has been spared.

WARD: As the sun sets, the sound of the evening prayer pierces the smoky air. The next wave of the dead is brought in. And the cycle begins again.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Varanasi, India.


VAUSE: Amy Kazmin, South Asia bureau chief of "The Financial Times", based in the capital of New Delhi, also a survivor of COVID-19.

And it's great to have you with us, Amy. Thank you very much for having the time.


VAUSE: You know, as bad as everything is right now in India, the only guarantee it seems is that it will get a lot worse. What does worse look like? And how much more can the public health system take? It seems to hit breaking point weeks ago?

KAZMIN: Look, the health system is undoubtedly under huge pressure. There's massive demand for everything from hospital beds to drug to oxygen, and all of it is in short supply, and people are basically scrambling. Now, some epidemiologists actually believe that the pandemic is going to believe, that the number of new cases is going to hit a peak this month and will gradually start to decline.

Of course the number of cases in India are definitely much higher than the official toll officially counts because testing is rather low. But epidemiologists still feel that their modeling suggests that the peak is coming this month. But the fact is deaths lagged the peak. I mean, new infections result in illness days later, so in the coming weeks, we will expect to see even more people sick, higher numbers of deaths because the deaths lag new infections.

But people are hoping that after this, it may -- some of the pressure may slowly start to ease, especially as many states are imposing lockdowns. But no one really knows for sure because the quality of data in India is very poor. So modelers are really operating in the dark.

VAUSE: Somehow it seems that the Modi government has managed to blow it on every key decision. The first lockdown was affected but it was approved brutal and sudden, of course, the unnecessary economic hardship, according to a lot of people. When infection rates are falling, the government was high fiving and back slapping instead of preparing for the second wave. Vaccine exports continue, while the national vaccination drive stumbled with supply shortages.

Now, the rate of vaccinations is (INAUDIBLE). Two million on Thursday, compared to a daily average of 3.5 million back in March. And now, there is a warning from the government's principal scientific officer. Listen to this.


K. VIJAYRAGHAVAN, PRINCIPAL SCIENTIFIC ADVISOR: Phase three is inevitable. Even the high levels are circulating virus. But it's not clear at what's time scale this phase three will happen. Hopefully, incrementally, but we should prepare for new waves.


VAUSE: OK. So he said this about the second wave and the government didn't listen about it back then. Any idea if there is a plan this time around?

KAZMIN: I would certainly hope so. I would hope that after the experience of this calamity, which is really like a massive humanitarian disaster, but the government would realize that they are declaration of victory over this virus earlier this year was completely premature.

I think that this government and many people in this country sadly have believed that somehow India was special. Indians had maybe some immunological strength that would enable them to, you know, beat the virus that was hurting so many other countries elsewhere in the world, and there really wasn't that much aggressive planning for a second wave. There was a lot of complacency. People thought that the pandemic was over.


The fact that the principal scientific adviser is now publicly talking and acknowledging about the third wave and acknowledging the need to prepare for it is actually progress. I guess the question is going to be, what does the government do to prepare for it because certainly, there is massive things that need to be done. The government wants to vaccinate people but there's an acute scarcity

of vaccines and the pace of the vaccination drive is really slow. So -- I mean and these are not problems that can be solved quickly overnight, scaling up vaccine production should have been -- you know, the preparation for that should have been happening last year so that they could really aggressively vaccinate people.

Unfortunately, there wasn't -- that didn't seem to be on the agenda. So hopefully now with this crisis, people will step up the vaccinations.

VAUSE: On that, note you received your first dose of a vaccine, and then you tested positive for COVID-19. That must have been quite a shock.

KAZMIN: Yeah, it was surprising. But, you know, that after a first dose you don't have full protection. I received a first shot of AstraZeneca on April 3rd, and I tested -- I fell ill on the 13th, 10 days, later, and I tested positive shortly you know after that. It was a shock. It was upsetting to say the least. But, yes, it happened.

VAUSE: And quite a scramble to try to find the right medication. I guess in many instances, you were fortunate, and you have I guess recovered, which is great and we're very pleased to could be with us. Amy, thank you very much.

KAZMIN: Thank you very much for having me.

VAUSE: It's a pleasure. Take care.

And there are ways that you can help India with its COVID outbreak. Please visit our website, for a list of charities you can get in contact with.

Germany resisting efforts to lift global protection efforts for COVID vaccines now that the U.S. says it supports relaxing those rules.

The Biden administration says it favors waiving the patents under pressure by Democrats on Capitol Hill. The move could increase vaccine supply by allowing poor countries to make their own generic versions. But a German spokeswoman says the protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation. The U.S. move could impact vaccine production. South Africans president says that waving the patent rights would give developing countries speedier and more equitable access to the vaccines.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: As a country, we want to manufacture vaccines locally against this pandemic and future pandemics. It's for this reason that South Africa and India proposed the trips waiver at the World Trade Organization, to enable manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries.


VAUSE: The issue is now with the World Trade Organization which has yet to make a decision.

Drugmakers, not surprisingly, are not in favor of waving the patents. The co-founder and chief medical officer of BioNTech explains what might be the real effect on the vaccine supply.


OZLEM TUREC, CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, BIONTECH: Patents are not for limiting factor for the production of, for example, our vaccine. There are a number of important factors in producing vaccines. For example, our manufacturing process involves more than 50,000 steps, all of which have to be executed accurately in order to ensure efficacy and safety vaccine.

It takes experienced personnel. It takes specialized facilities. It takes access to raw materials.

So, patent waivers will not address this. We think that it is even more important to ensure legal administrative and organizational solutions for vaccine manufacturers, and to do this, harmonized and internationally.


VAUSE: BioNTech partnered with Pfizer for the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive approval or at least emergency use authorization, in the U.S.

The Biden administration showing another strong support for the Ukraine. The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says the U.S. is trying to help Ukraine strengthen its defense. That's weeks after a massive Russian troop buildup along the border. Blinken met with Ukraine's president on Thursday, promised that the U.S. is continuing to watch closely.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will continue to strengthen our security partnership and collaboration with you to make sure that Ukraine can defend itself against aggression. We are aware that Russia has withdrawn some forces from the border of Ukraine, but we also see that significant forces remain there. Significant equipment remains there. We're monitoring the situation very, very closely.


VAUSE: Tensions increased in the past few weeks after Russia's military show of force.


But now, the troops have been sent to barracks, this is the region where Ukrainian and Russian forces battled separatist back in 2014.

The negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal are going nowhere. Sources say the Biden administration is weighing whether to unfreeze a billion dollars of Iran's money to be used for humanitarian aid, to be something of a sweetener as Iran's nuclear talks enter a month with no sign of a breakthrough. This is the second month.

Iran has been demanding sanctions relief in exchange for compliance with the 2015 deal.

CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand explains how it could all work.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It is not going to be in cash if this does happen, right? It's going to be put into a mechanism known as the Swiss humanitarian trade arrangement which was set up last year so that countries and institutions that want to provide humanitarian relief to Iran, such as food, medicine, without running afoul of U.S. sanctions can do so.

So it's essentially -- the one line of thought is that it would be a good will, kind of good faith effort by the U.S. to show Iran that they are negotiating in good faith. And that it could prove to Iran that, look, there is an incentive here to come back to the table and negotiate with us. This billion dollars the U.S. actually has up to 2 billion dollars in Iran and Iranian assets right now, is something that the Iranians have wanted for a long time.

This is not coming from U.S. taxpayers. This is Iranian assets that have been frozen accounts in the United States for a very long time.


VAUSE: The U.S. State Department though says that it is not true that there will be no releasing of Iranian funds in any move by the U.S. would have to be part of a process in which both sides take significant action.

Still to come, a centuries old rivalry really now playing out in the English Channel. Britain and France engulfed in a feud over fishing rights on the island of Jersey. The case is the situation is resolved, at least for now.

Also, protests have been escalating across Colombia. The mayor of the country's capital is now among those calling for the changes.


VAUSE: There are troubled waters off the island of Jersey. In a post- Brexit world, Jersey now hands out fishing rights for the waters of its coast. So far, France has been given about 40 licenses and French fishermen say that they've been treated unfairly in not having free access to the waters for decades.

Tensions hit a fever pitch when U.K. and France deployed warships earlier in the week. The island is self-governing, but depends on the United Kingdom for issues of defense and international representation. Britain says that it appears to be resolved at least for now, but we get more details from CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Outside Jersey's tiny St. Helier port, dozens of French fishing boats swarmed the sea. A blockade? Not, say the French. Nothing more menacing than a maritime protest.

LUCOVIC LAZARO, FRENCH FISHERMAN (through translator): We come today because we have always finished in the waters there.


We have always fished here, and then overnight they take away all of our fishing rights. These are agreements we have had for a very long time.

LAURENT BLODEL, FRENCH FISHERMAN (through translator): We're not happy with the license restrictions that they handed out to us. We should've had licenses to fish as we wished without any restrictions. Restrictions on the species.

ROBERTSON: The sudden escalation and tension is the most serious test yet for a post Brexit fishing rights since the deal came into force four months ago. Last week, Jersey authorities issued new licenses to French fishermen. Today's dispute over records proving eligibility.

IAN GORST, JERSEY'S MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL RELATIONS: Well, we saw after we issued the first licenses on Friday, disproportionate threats emanating from a French minister, and then they proposed to blockade Ellis harbor today. To our mind, they were completely disproportionate to the technical issues. We still need to resolve, them we are committed to resolving them.

ROBERTSON: France has been trying to force concessions, threatening to cut power to the near 100,000 people on the tiny island.

ANNICK GIRARDIN, FRENCH MARITIME MINISTER (through translator): You know, in the deal, there are retaliatory measures. Well, we are ready to use them. Europe, France has the means for figuring a deal. In Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables, and so, we have the means and even if it will be regrettable, if we had to do it, we'll do it if we have to.

ROBERTSON: The intimidating threats have come as a shock here. Jersey is a quiet well-heeled haven, more used to welcoming boatloads of tourists, than fending off angry French fishermen.

Gunship diplomacy has begun. The U.K. sending two warships Wednesday. France responding early Thursday with two of its own.

Islanders are venting their frustration. A member of a militia reenactment group firing off a musket. The solitary shot symbolic. The E.U.'s day march to the island to backtrack on the licenses is not, accusing Jersey of not respecting the Brexit deal.

Both sides are calling for calm. The forecast ahead here, unsettled.

Nic Robertson, CNN, St. Helier, Jersey.


VAUSE: At least now 25 people have been killed in Colombia after more than a week of violent demonstrations. Vigil was held Thursday night in honor of those who died during clashes with police. Those clashes of held hundred issued so far. They've been speaking out against police brutality, and now, the mayor of the capital has additional reasons for why so many people are taking to the streets.

Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is in Bogota.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Tensions remain high in Columbia after nine consecutive days of protests. Yet again, this Thursday, protesters took to the street to protest against the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to protest against police brutality.

Here we are at a nighttime vigil to mourn the victims of these marches.

On Thursday, the Colombian interior minister said that at least three police officers were issued warrants for their alleged involvement in the death of three protesters. But when CNN asked them if he would welcome an independent international bodies a chance to being United Nations to look and investigate the actions of the Colombian police which is one of the key points of the demonstrators taking part in the strike, they refused to answer.

And the roots of this conflict run deep in Colombian history and all across Latin America. This is why it's not just demonstrators but government officials as well who are making bold calls to address the inequality that is fueling these protests.

CNN spoke on Thursday with Bogota's mayor, Claudia Lopez, who made this call for action. Take a listen.

CLAUDIA LOPEZ HERNANDEZ, BOGOTA, COLOMBIA MAYOR: We all need to contribute to a national democratic agreement, a kind of New Deal, right? A kind of Marshall Plan. That's what Colombia and I will say Latin American countries need at this moment.

POZZEBON: Even though the fiscal reform that was originally sparkled this outcry has been withdrawn, these protests shown no sign of slowing down. This is a sign how deep the unrest is for many in Colombia.


For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: And in Brazil, at least 25 people have been killed when a police raid turned into a shootout. The gunfight was between police and alleged gun traffickers in Rio Janeiro.

On Thursday, you see the suspects trying to escape on the rooftops, as police were arriving on scene. One officer was killed. Authorities held a news conference showing the arsenal of weapons which was seized during the raid, including 6 assault rifles, 15 handguns, automatic weapons and 14 hand grenades. Human rights groups say it was among the deadliest rates in Rio state's history.

We'll have more to come here on CNN, including the latest on our top story, India's COVID crisis. We look at the impact across Southeast Asia. That's next.


VAUSE: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Well, India continues to break its own records for new infections. On Friday, more than 404,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus. The crisis is now readily spreading beyond India's borders. But India is reporting well over 21 million cases. Experts warn the real number is likely far higher.

Almost 4,000 deaths were also reported Friday, the 10th day in a row in which the daily deaths number as seen been higher than 3,000.

CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson has the latest on the situation in India.

So, Ivan, I guess the question now is, what can they do with this third wave which is said to becoming? Have they got the bandwidth to deal with it much at all?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is hard to imagine given how overwhelmed the health care system has been, the distribution of essential supplies like oxygen. What an enormous challenge it has been thus far. As you pointed out, according to the latest official figures for the last 24 hours, India recording more than 414,000 new cases, breaking its previous record that had been set just on Thursday, and a large number of experts are estimating that these officials statistics are not an accurate representation of what the actual infection numbers are. And even the actual death rates due to COVID-19 really are.

And we had more than 3,900 COVID deaths reported over the course of the last 24 hours. That is also due in part to and overwhelmed health care system.


You could see perhaps steps towards helping -- limit the spread of the crisis with more and more states imposing or extending curfews or lockdowns. That's a sign that the states -- the state governments are taking this very seriously.

The supreme court issuing an order for the central government to supply at least 700 metric tons of oxygen to the capital of Delhi which has been straining under these terrible oxygen shortages, that have resulted in people dying in hospitals because the oxygen literally runs out. The chief minister of that city saying that they're only receiving about half of what they are supposed to be receiving.

We have seen some anecdotal evidence that some of the vaccine hesitancy that had plagued the rollout of the vaccine distribution program since January is lifting one town in the south of the country, showing long lines of people trying to get their vaccines.

Of course, there was supposed to be a dramatic expansion of vaccine eligibility on May 1st to be offered to anybody over the age of 18. And many state governments had to postpone that because they didn't have an enough vaccines. That's all the more contradictory because India is the world's largest manufacturer of a vaccines.

Amid all of this, we again see signs of ordinary Indians trying to step up to help their suffering neighbors and friends.

And let me just show you what one rickshaw driver in Delhi is doing where he is providing a service running his rickshaw as an ambulance for patients and relatives of patients.


RAJ KUMAR, AUTO RICKSHAW AMBULANCE DRIVER (through translator): New Delhi is choking under COVID-19. And I am providing this auto rickshaw ambulance service to help the public. If anyone wants to come and go from the hospital, if any patient who is not getting the ambulance service or the relatives of any patient who wants to go to their home.


WATSON: But finally, as you had mentioned, John, there is that warning that has come from a senior scientific adviser to the Indian government that a third wave for India is going to happen. It is going to be a matter of fact a warning for the government to get ready.

And I think we have clearly seen the facts on the ground have shown that the government was not ready for this crisis, for this deadly second wave that it's is still struggling with. And we don't see a peak yet in sight for this awful second wave, John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ivan, I don't know if this is possible to answer, but do we know if the situation with oxygen, we continually hear from some government officials saying there's no problem. There is enough supply.

There are other excuses being made that it's a distribution issue that there are bottlenecks in the system. Others say there is just not enough oxygen to go around. But then you have, you know, these courts in Delhi which are ordering officials to supply hospitals with enough oxygen and that seems to be working. So, what do we know with regards to oxygen, because this is critical? Do they have enough? Is it a problem that it's not going to the right places at the right time? Or is it just simply the supplies are just too low?

WATSON: It does depend on who you talk to. You've had consistently officials with the central government insisting that there is enough oxygen in the country to meet the demand. And they have been claiming that it is in the distribution that the problems arise.

It may just be a case of bureaucratic chaos and certainly on top of that when you have so many people screaming for oxygen right now and doing it at the absolute grassroots level. Not at the hospital level, but ordinary people sourcing their own oxygen supplies for their sick relatives, who they are, of course, very desperately concerned about.

Let me give you another example that can perhaps kind of symbolize what India is struggling with. The health ministry had to put out a statement denying reports that some of the aid that has been rushed in, and recall we have been getting reports and seeing reports of aid being flooded in from governments around the world that are trying to help out in this moment of crisis. Everything from oxygen generation to ventilators to PPE and so on and so forth.

And the health ministry had to put out a note denying reports that some 3,000 oxygen concentrator's were stuck in a customs warehouse. Insisting that that was not in fact the case, that the oxygen concentrators had come in and then were being sent out for distribution.


WATSON: So we're finding that elements of the Indian bureaucracy are trying to fight back against complaints about shortages, complaints about the pipeline being snarled up, John.

VAUSE: Ivan, thank you. We appreciate that. Ivan Watson live for us in Hong Kong.

Well, India's humanitarian catastrophe might just be a preview of what could be happening in neighboring Nepal where daily cases have hit record highs on Thursday. Under-resourced hospitals are overflowing with too many patients.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has more now on COVID's impact across South East Asia.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The surge is alarming. In its latest weekly COVID-19 update, the World Health Organization points to a marked increase in cases across Asia with India as the epicenter. And UNICEF is sounding the alarm. Its regional director for South Asia says this, quote, "The deadly new surge in South Asia threatens us all. it has the potential to reverse hard-earned global gains against the pandemic if not halted as soon as possible.

Nepal is overwhelmed. It has seen a more than 1,200 percent rise in average weekly COVID-19 cases since mid April. And the Red Cross is warning that the outbreak there could soon to mimic the catastrophe in India.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also reporting rising case loads. This week in Lahore, thousands of people, many not wearing masks took part in a religious procession fanning fears about the spread of the virus.

Another Indian neighbor, Maldives, seen right here on the map, is also posting record high daily cases. The spike comes almost a month after officials announced plans to offer vaccination to tourists on arrival in a bid to draw more visitors.

In Thailand, a new cluster in a Bangkok slum is raising concerns. More than 300 cases have been found in this area since the third wave began in April.

Indonesia continues to battle one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia with about 1.7 million infections since the pandemic began. Despite travel bans, 18 million people, or nearly 7 percent of Indonesia's population, are reportedly planning to travel for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday.

As the virus burns through the region, there are more restrictions. In Malaysia, there is a partial lockdown in the capital Kuala Lumpur for May the 7th to the 20th. Malaysia has also banned flights to and from India.

But Cambodia is ending its lockdown in the capital Phnom Penh despite setting new daily records of COVID-19 cases, a blanket lockdown is now ending.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN -- Hong Kong.


You know, Japan's then prime minister Shinzo Abe declared a pandemic- delayed Olympics will be held as proof of victory of mankind over the virus.

Well, right now with viruses continuing to spread across Japan and with hospitals filling up it seems that it is virus: one, mankind: nothing.

CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo with us for more on this. And seriously, this is now the problem they're facing just what -- less than three months before the Olympics. The case numbers may be falling but there are serious concerns especially around Osaka. BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes it is not looking good really

across all of Japan. There are case numbers that are rising in several prefectures. Nationwide, the case count generally speaking is going down but that's the good news.

The bad news is the number of patients with serious symptoms is climbing. In fact a new record has been set nearly every day this week pushing Japan's medical system to the breaking point enforcing several prefectures including Tokyo to request a month-long extension to the current state of emergency order.


ESSIG (voice over): Infectious disease specialist Dr. Hideaki Oka is making his rounds. For now, it is relatively calm here in the COVID ward at Saitama Medical University, but all that can change in an instant.

DR. HIDEAKI OKA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST (through translator): If two patients enter today, and another two patients are admitted tomorrow and all cases turned out to be severe, the day after tomorrow we will already be in a crisis.

ESSIG: A crisis that has the potential to explode in just a few months when tens of thousands of people from more than 200 countries enter Japan to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympic games.

It is a frightening scenario for chief nurse Kyoka Ioka, who's been treating COVID-19 patients since the beginning.

KYOKA IOKA, CHIEF NURSE, SAITAMA MEDICAL UNIVERSITY: I'm sorry for the athletes, but I'm terrified that the Olympics are

going to happen. Is it really worth it? We are in the middle of a fourth wave and what is the point of having the Olympic Games now.

ESSIG: Despite overwhelming concern from medical professionals and the Japanese public, Olympic organizers remain determined to hold the already once-delayed games this summer pointing to COVID-19 countermeasures outlined in a series of playbooks.

(on camera)It was only just a few months ago that a third wave of infections pushed the Japanese medical system in some spots to the breaking point. Here in Saitama, medical staff say they still haven't recovered.

(voice over): While Japan's medical system as a whole is strained, the U.K. variant has brought the system in western Japan to its knees.


DR. HIROO MATSUO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST (through translator): It's really like a natural disaster hit our hospitals. But it is a disaster that people on the outside can't see.

ESSIG: Unlike previous variants, Dr. Hiroo Matsuo, an infectious disease specialist at Amagasaki General Medical Center in Hyogo says the current virus variant is spreading faster and seriously impacting younger people with nearly 1,800 people waiting to be hospitalized.

MATSUO: Amid this fourth wave, hospitals are finding they can't admit patients or even treat them some of whom are dying at home. We are confronting a situation where we want to take more patients, but we just can't.

ESSIG: The same situation is unfolding in neighboring Osaka. According to the government Web site the hospital bed occupancy rate is maxed out at 103 percent and nearly 3,000 people are waiting to enter a treatment facility. The result, doctors like Yu Kurahara (ph) are left to repeatedly make a heart wrenching choice.

DR. KU KURAHARA, PHYSICIAN: We are forced to make decisions on which lives to choose to save by providing respirator or not.

ESSIG: With hospitals already struggling to cope with the sheer volume of sick patients, lacking enough beds and adequate staff, experts feel the Olympics could take the entire Japanese medical system past its breaking point.

DR. MATSUO: I think if we did allocate help for the Olympics, then our medical system would totally collapse. We are living through a disaster at the moment, so we firstly have to find ways of overcoming this. It is so difficult to be thinking about the Olympics while we are living through this disaster.

ESSIG: A disaster, Dr. Matsuo says, with no end in sight.


ESSIG: Well, the International Olympic Committee is not mandating vaccinations but does encourage it. The IOC says it expects a significant portion of participants to be vaccinated. Some countries like South Korea and Australia have already planned to vaccinate their delegations.

As for Japan, the vaccine rollouts are underway but it's happening very slow. Currently John, less than 1 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there in Tokyo.

Well, still to come, violence blamed on Islamic militants is spiraling out of control in Burkina Faso. And for hundreds of thousands of civilians running from their homes, now is the only option they have.


VAUSE: A former president of Maldives and the current parliamentary speaker is in stable condition after an explosion outside his home in the nation's capital. Mohamed Nasheed suffered shrapnel injuries during the blast. Political leaders have condemned the attack and the current president of the Maldives said an investigation is underway. There have been no claims of responsibility. In 2008 Nasheed became the nation's first democratically-elected leader.


VAUSE: There was a time when Burkina Faso is considered one of the most stable countries in west Africa. But a dramatic increase in attacks by Islamic militants is leaving many there with no other option but to leave.

Here's Cyril Vanier.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What appears to be dozens of masked jihadis riding motorbikes, thundering through Burkina Faso's north western Loroum Province. They are purportedly part of militant Islamist coalition JNIN, which loosely translates to Group that Supported Islam and Muslims.

Local sources estimate that more than a thousand of them could be in the country. Groups like theirs with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic state are seeking more control in Burkina Faso.

Now, once peaceful territories see violence rising. Some civilians narrowly escaping in recent months as armed men pillaged their homes.

HABIBOU SORE, DISPLACED BY VIOLENCE (through translator): We saw them coming with three motorbikes and two people on each motorbike. They went into the neighbor's house. They had already fled and they stole everything. All the cattle.

We wanted to get out as well. I was the first to leave because I was pregnant.

VANIER: On Monday, near Burkina's border with Niger, what could be one of the country's deadliest attacks in a year. According to news reports, dozens of villagers may have been killed after assailants reportedly surrounded their town before going house to house, lighting fires and murdering those inside.

In the same region, just one week before, two Spanish journalist and an Irish conservationist were among those killed during an ambush on an anti-poaching patrol. They had been filming a documentary capturing efforts to protect wildlife in Burkina Faso when officials say terrorists opened fired on their position.

As their bodies were returned home, the deaths of the three Europeans shocked western leaders.

Spain's defense minister vowing to find the perpetrators.

Sadly, in Burkina Faso the attack was tragic but familiar.

OUSSENI TAMBOURA, BURKINA FASO MINISTER OF COMMUNICATION (through translator) : We had traveled to high-risk zones even in the area. Even if you are Burkinabe, you must take precautions, information precautions, precautions of being accompanied by security forces. But this does not spare you from attacks. Even if you are escorted, you will be attacked over. VANIER: Escalating violence in Burkina Faso follows a trend across Africa's Sahel region where attacks, robberies and kidnappings have been rising in recent years.

But the situation in Burkina Faso is particularly dire. Following an insurgency in 2014, research shows militant Islamist violence skyrocketing since the first attack in 2015 to 2020.

Now, experts say violence is intensifying especially in Burkina Faso's rural areas where jihadi's are exploiting local divisions, land conflicts and poor regulation.

In response, the state has called for volunteers to fight militants, which analysts warn is making matters even worse. As the security crisis mounts, thousands have fled from attacks.

But even for those who make it to safety, living in fear has become a way of life.

AMIDOU MAIGA, SCHOOL TEACHER AT DISPLACEMENT CAMP: When we blow the whistle three times a class, the children know there is danger. And when there is danger, they have to throw themselves on the ground. We do not shout, we do not speak, we do not cry. And also, we don't try to run away.

VANIER: The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates more than a million Burkinabe have been uprooted from their homes, with the numbers of those fleeing violence nearly doubling in 2020 alone.

That's put the country at the epicenter of what the U.N. says is the fastest growing displacement crisis in the world as bloodshed worsens in Burkina Faso, begging the world to take notice.

Cyril Vanier, CNN.


VAUSE: Still to come, the only thing they had in common is a bitter animosity for the Israeli prime minister. Will that be enough for political rivals to join a coalition government and bring down Benjamin Netanyahu?



VAUSE: The wheeling and dealing is underway again in Israeli politics with the opposition centrist leader Yair Lapid now tapped to form a new government. He has just four weeks but Lapid needs the support of a key rival who in many ways is his polar opposite.

Meantime, Benjamin Netanyahu who remains in charge of the government until the new one is sworn in is now trying to sabotage Lapid and his efforts to form this coalition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): A dangerous left wing government must not be formed -- Bennett, Shaked, and all Yamina members come back to the right and together will form a strong right wing government for Israel.

This is what you have promised the public. And this is what's your voters and ours expect from you.


VAUSE: Yaakov Katz is editor-in-chief at "The Jerusalem Post", author of "Shadow Strike: Inside Israel's secret mission to eliminate Syrian nuclear power."

He's live this hour in Jerusalem. Thanks for coming back.

Ok. So now Lapid gets a shot, even if he gets the support of Naftali Bennett, his right wing rival, if you like, and his minor party, he's three seats short of the 61 needed for a bare majority.

To form a government, he needs Arab lawmakers, that means the right- wing Jewish nationalists will have to sit in the coalition. That's never happened before.

But is the hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu enough to bring these groups together?

YAAKOV KATZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AT "THE JERUSALEM POST": Well, I think you are 100 percent right, John, that this kaleidoscope or mosaic of a government has never been seen before in Israel, right. We have parties on the right, parties on the left, parties in the center, parties that on a regular day would argue bitterly about the core issues that Israel faces from the conflict with the Palestinians, to how to combat or confront the Biden administration as it races back towards a nuclear deal with the Iranians, economic value and ideals, socialist values and ideals -- you name it. There is reason for this government not to work.

But they have this great glue as you said, which is the need to remove Benjamin Netanyahu and to finally establish a government after more than two years of political upheaval, mudslinging, instability, the lack of a state budget at a time of a great pandemic and economic crisis.

There's a lot going for them to succeed. Can it work? That will take some time to figure out.

VAUSE: Yes, forming the government and making the government work as a coalition is a whole new deal.

Ok. So Lapid has this 28-day window, if he fails the president has -- what -- has the option of three weeks for a member of the Knesset to try his luck an form a coalition. That won't happen.

What are the chances though in 49 days or so, Israel will be looking at general election number five? KATZ: No, it's definitely a possibility, John. I mean you know Israel,

right. We have been through this now already. We thought the second election two years ago was impossible, third one impossible, fourth won -- a 5th is unimaginable but everything is possible now because you have a prime minister who's on trial, Benjamin Netanyahu, for severe corruption charges who is doing everything possible to remain in his seat to remain in power.

At the same time you have this kind of government that is trying to come together of so many competing values and ideals and ideologies that will make it difficult for them to coalesce and to merge into a united coalition. And there's so much that is going against it.

By the way, Netanyahu is doing everything he can to peel away members of Naftali Bennett right wing party which is very much ideologically at least, aligned with the values that Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu's party purports to stand behind.

So, there's a lot going on, there's a lot of effort -- already Bennett has lost one member of his party. This is probably the only time you'll hear his name on CNN, (INAUDIBLE). He's a new member of the Knesset. But this guy has decided he is not voting in favor of this new left-right-center kaleidoscope type of government.

So, there's a lot going against it, and therefore a fifth election is not out of the realm of possibility.


VAUSE: Ok. So, many in Israel now counting down the end of days of Netanyahu's leadership. "The Jerusalem Post", your great paper reported this. Palestinians counting down to the end of the Abbas era as head of the Palestinian Authority. Mostly it goes to the sham or the excuse he made to delay elections again.

You know, a lot needs to happen before both men are actually out of power. But it seems the wheels are now in motion at least.

Is this the sort of big political change, you know, new leadership on both sides, you know, enough to revive peace talks to get them restarted?

KATZ: You know, John, I think it definitely has that potential. It has the potential for new leadership in Israel. We need a reset here. We have been through 12 years plus now of Netanyahu's consecutive terms. You had three years back in the 90s. We've been through this two and a half years now of just this constant mud-slinging, dirty politics that he's on trial.

Israel needs a reset, a new start. The Palestinians need a reset and a new start. Mahmoud Abbas has been at the helm of the Palestinian Authority now, the last time that a parliamentary elections were held was in 2006. The last time the presidential elections were held was 2005, right.

They're supposed to hold elections, it has the potential. It's actually interesting when you look at, it. What's happening in Ramallah, what's happening in Jerusalem, is kind of in parallel realities but moving in two different tracks. But could actually come together and see new leadership.

Although I wouldn't jump too fast to believe that just a change at the top is going to change anything, right? If Naftali Bennett is going to become prime minister, he's on the right. He's not going to run into the arms of a Palestinian leaders even if it is someone more moderate or open to peace negotiations with Israel.

And by the way, this government that Bennett and Lapid are talking about, what they're focusing on is what they call the 70-30 equation. 70 percent of the issues, they agree on; 30 percent of the issues, they don't agree on. So they can work on the 70 percent.

What is in that remaining 30? Issues like the Palestinian conflict, right. Bennett would like to see annexation of the West Bank. Lapid would like to see a two-state solution. They know they are not going to agree so they're going to put that aside for the moment for the better of the country to get us out of this pit that we have been stuck in and be able to move forward.

VAUSE: Yes. This stalemate has gone on long enough, I think most people would agree.

Yaakov Katz, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate.

KATZ: Thank you

VAUSE: Well, debris from that large Chinese rocket expected to crash into earth any moment now. This is what the launch looked like last week. Right now, the rockets empty core state is barreling around earth 18,000 miles an hour. It is expected to re-enter the atmosphere over the weekend.

The good news is it's not the first object to fall into earth. Experts say the rocket poses very little threat to our safety. That is good news, I guess.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

The good news continues, Michael Holmes takes over for me at the top of the hour (ph).

Thanks. See you soon.