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India's Holiest City Seeing More COVID Deaths; COVID Cases in Southeast Asian Rising; ICU Beds and Hospitalization Spike in Japan; European Countries Pushing Back on Patent Waiver; Hartlepool's Election Added Leverage to Boris Johnson; France and U.K. Fight Over Fishing Rights; China Intimidated by Australia's Cold War Mentality; India's COVID Crisis, Nation Reports Almost 4,000 Deaths In Past 24 Hours; Nine Days Of Violent Protests Leave 25 People Killed; COVID-19 Ravaging Latin America Countries; Lebanon's Painful Ramadan; Space Debris Crashing Onto Earth Soon; Out Of This World Vintage. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 7, 2021 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.

Ahead here on CNN Newsroom, the holiest city for India's Hindus suffering through the pandemic's second wave. Sacred waters that have cleansed the dead for centuries overwhelmed by COVID's wrath.

An election night shocker in the U.K. A seat held for nearly 50 years changes hands. We're live in London with the details. And what this means for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

And after more than a week of violent protests in Colombia why some in the government say that it's time for a change.

Welcome, everyone.

And we begin the program in India where a deadly and more contagious variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the region. For the second day in a row the health ministry in India reporting more than 400,000 new cases.

U.S. health officials are also worried and have called this mutation a, quote, "variant of interest." Well so far, India has reported more than 21 million cases of their COVID since the pandemic began. But that figure is double what it was just two months ago and may in reality be far higher. A lot of undercounting is thought to have taken place.

About 70 percent of India's 1.3 billion people live outside the major cities. Now it's in the smaller cities, the towns and villages where the virus is now spreading. Hospital so overwhelmed that patients are being treated outdoors. Now for a sense of what this 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 is her report now from Varanasi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The cremations start before dawn as workers still in a way 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 the coronavirus ripping through the country.

As day breaks, Machu Chaldari (Ph) waits for the rush to begin. His family has worked in the crematorium for generations. But he says they've never seen anything like this.

UNKNOWN: About 100, 140, 150 body per day.

WARD: And what would you --

UNKNOWN: Every -- every 5, 10-minute after ambulance bring the body.

WARD: Officially, the government says that 8 to 10 people are dying here of coronavirus every day. But 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. We get 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 rights. But there is no way of sanitizing the deep sense of loss.

During the two hours we spend here, seven bodies are brought in. Critics say that the government has been negligent in its mishandling of this crisis. That many lives could have been saved.

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

Has the government done enough to stop this second wave?

UNKNOWN: No. Not enough.

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

[03:05:07]

The situation in the city has become so bad that shortages have been reported of wood needed for the funeral pyres. Merchant Deepak Chalderi (Ph) says 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 of the River Ganges will help their souls receive moksha, liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. But the staggering toll of the scourge has shocked everyone.

DEEPIKA, LOST FATHER TO COVID-19: It's a very bad situation right now and every household -- every household is facing this. I don't think there's been any family that has been spared.

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

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Varanasi, India.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (on camera): Now as the crisis continues, there are many ways you can help people in India cope with this COVID outbreak. Go to cnn.com/impact and you will find resources there.

And we've been talking about how India's crisis is spilling across borders. Well neighboring Nepal particularly hard hit with under- resourced hospitals, now overloaded with patients.

Our Kristie Lu Stout with more on how COVID's impact there and across Southeast 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 Southeast Asia says this. Quote, "The deadly new surge in Southeast 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 mimic the catastrophe in India.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also reporting rising caseloads. This week in Lahore thousands of people, many not wearing a mask 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 announce 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 from May the 7th to the 20th. Now 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.

HOLMES: Now Japan's government will soon decide if the state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas will be extended. This comes as doctors fear the medical system could be pushed beyond its breaking point. Hospital beds in Tokyo and Osaka are filling up, as the country faces a fourth wave of the virus.

And all of this is unfolding of course less than three months before the Olympic games are expected to kick off in the nation's capital.

CNN's Blake Essig joins me now live from Tokyo. A real struggle to keep up with the caseloads. What is the latest there?

[03:10:03]

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, nationwide the case count here in Japan has been going down and of course that's the good news. The bad news is that the case count for the number of serious patients has been going up. It's been setting a new record nearly every single day this week.

In Osaka and Hyogo that really right now is the epicenter of the COVID outbreak here in Japan. In western Japan, doctors that I've spoken with over the past several days have said that the medical system has completely collapsed. And the reason behind that is because people are dying at home.

There are thousands of people who can't get into a medical care facility, whether that's a hospital or a hotel to get them or get themselves away from their family, a place where they can receive some sort of care. And so, when you factor all of that in, and the idea is they're just simply aren't enough beds. There's not enough staff to care for these people. When you combine all that information it really leads to the idea that the medical system has completely failed.

Again, at this point in western Japan, and really, it's driven by this U.K. variant which has taken hold across Hyogo and specifically Osaka. Doctors that I've talked to have said that they are seeing patients who are a lot younger in their 30s and 40s getting sick and violently sick to the point where they are needing to be on a respirator, whereas when you looked at the waves of infection before this point there were a lot of older people who were needing to be hospitalized who were showing the severe symptoms.

So, things are changing. And because of that, you have Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and a bunch of other prefectures which are in the process of requesting an extension of a state of emergency order because there is concern that this U.K. variant has the potential to spread to other prefectures and cause the same problems that they are seeing in Osaka elsewhere in this country.

So, there's a big concern especially with the Olympics just three months away. The idea is that we've got to get this virus and this outbreak under control. Put an end to this fourth wave of infection before the Olympics take place, like I said, less than three months. Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. Incredible. Blake, thank you. Blake Essig in Tokyo there.

Now, many wealthy nations are resisting calls to lift patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines. But there are now two big exceptions. The Biden administration now says it supports waving the patents under pressure from Democrats on Capitol Hill. And the French president, Emmanuel Macron says he is fully in favor of waving those intellectual property rights.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us now live from London to discuss. I guess, Scott, with the talk of lifting vaccine patents to get vaccines to the world quicker which is the idea. What has been the reaction to that idea in Europe more broadly?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Michael. Yes. So, as you mentioned, U.S. President Joe Biden set off this whole debate when he said that his country was open to waiving temporarily those patent rights in order to boost global supplies. This also came after pressure from countries like India and South Africa and it was also a campaign process that he had made by the way.

It's not a done deal though. There still needs to be a consensus reached among countries at the World Trade Organization.

The reaction in Europe has been pretty mixed. As you said, French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday said that he was fully in favor of waving these patent rights. Germany on the other hand says waving the patent rights isn't the problem. Or that it wouldn't help increase the supply. The problem right now is high quality production capacity, and it also says the patent right, intellectual property rights they are a source of innovation and it wants to protect that.

On the other hand, E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was a little bit tougher to decipher exactly what she was saying but I'll let you listen for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The European Union is also ready to discuss any proposal that addresses the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner. And that's why we are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for waiver on intellectual property protection for COVID vaccines could help achieve that objective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN (on camera): So, open to a discussion but not making a -- not making a clear stance either way. Obviously, the argument for this, Michael, is that these vaccines, many of them were produced using public taxpayer dollars and they ought to be made as widely available as possible.

On the other hand, for instance, the founder of BioNTech, the creator of Pfizer/BioNTech shot told CNN just yesterday that she believes that waiving these patent rights would only increase the level of chaos in production.

[03:15:03]

It wouldn't actually increase production output and that's because making vaccines is a very precise biological process. It's not easy to replicate in just any lab. It really does take a certain level of expertise and experience to do right, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, it's a complicated question. Scott, thank you. Scott McLean in London there.

Now with negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal going nowhere fast, sources say the Biden administration is weighing whether to unfreeze $1 billion of Iran's own money to be used for humanitarian aid. Now the move would be something of a sweetener as nuclear talks in a month too with no sign of a breakthrough as of yet.

Iran has been demanding sanctions relief in exchange for its compliance with that 2015 deal. But the U.S. State Department says reports about releasing Iranian funds are not true. And that any substantial move by the U.S. would have to be part of a process in which both sides take action.

Time for a quick break here on CNN Newsroom. When we come back, China accusing Australia of having a cold war mindset. We'll talk about what they are threatening.

Also, Britain and France engulfed in a feud over fishing rights around the Island of Jersey, but the U.K. says the situation is resolved, for now, anyway. We'll have those stories coming up after the break.

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HOLMES (on camera): Now we've been getting the first results from Thursday's elections in the U.K. And one big win for Boris Johnson's conservative party. The opposition Labour Party conceding defeat in the Hartlepool election with the shadow transport secretary telling U.K. media that his party, quote, "hasn't got over the line." That's one way of putting it. Keep in mind though, this is a constituency that has voted Labour for

almost 50 years. That's a hugely encouraging sign for the prime minister and his party who have been under some pressure over their handling of the pandemic.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is with me now from London to talk about this. I mean, the thing is, Bianca, that new British opposition leader took over the Labour Party saying he could stand the electoral bleeding and here we are with a safe Labour defeat gone.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's very bad news because Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party as it stands at the moment. Keir Starmer took over last April. Now he would say that he simply hasn't had enough time to rebuild the trust that the Labour Party had lost with the electorate. But the fact that the conservatives have picked up this critical seat of Hartlepool, and I know an election that everyone is talking about bellwethers and particularly important places to watch.

[03:20:01]

But this is really it. As you mentioned, the Labour Party have held on to the seat since it was created back in 1974. It's also a historic labor heartland of the country. So, the fact that Boris Johnson's party has not just managed to win it, Michael, but he's managed to win it with a 16 percent swing from the opposition, when the conservative party have been in power for 11 years.

I mean, I know you watch these things very carefully. That's almost unprecedented at this point in an electoral cycle to have the incumbents take a seat after 11 years in power.

So this is a very, very good morning for Boris Johnson here in Britain especially as what we've been watching for is whether or not all these scandals that have been swirling around Boris Johnson are going to make an impact electorally, and if this first result is anything to go by, they haven't.

And Boris Johnson will be happy to see that, especially because in terms of Johnson support in the country, and definitely within his own party in Westminster it's very transactional. He doesn't have a deep groundswell of support for people. But the people who support him think of him as a winner. And he's delivering on that again today in spade.

So, it does appear to really reinforce his position while it's throwing the position of the opposition Labour leader into disarray. It's a huge test for Keir Starmer which he appears to have failed at this point, Michael.

But it's very early days. It's a peculiar election in the United Kingdom. It was called super Thursday yesterday because it's two years of elections rolled into one. So, we're looking at this by-election. We're looking at over 5,000 seats in the United Kingdom, in local councils. In Scotland which we have to keep an eye on because it could tell us so much about the future of an independent Scotland. And then we have elections in Wales as well. So, there's plenty of

things to stay very vigilant about at this point. And we will get answers when it comes to the future Boris Johnson, which is looking rosy. The future of Keir Starmer which is looking a lot more challenging and the future of the union, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. As you say, losing a seat like that to an incumbent party is just, it is stunning. And you touched on this. It's really an unprecedented number of seats up for grabs in this cycle. What else should we be looking for? And you mentioned Scottish election too, significance for independence?

NOBILO: Yes, so that's a hugely significant part of this election. And in fact, until the last week where Boris Johnson seemed to unexpectedly have a great resurgence in the polls that was really one of the only stories that people were talking about in the United Kingdom.

So, the Scottish National Party is hoping to win a majority in Scotland. And that would give it a fresh mandate to push again for a referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom. Now this is even more than an interesting flash point when you consider that many polls recently had put independence in the lead.

So, now could be the time for Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party to be able to achieve that goal which since the unification with the rest of the U.K. in 1707 has been the hope, the dream of those who push for Scottish independence.

So, the magic number to watch for in Scotland is 65. That's the number that the Scottish National Party needs to secure a majority. At the moment they are on course to obtain that, Michael. So, as I said, it's a huge day, it's a huge couple of days when it comes to the future of the union, and the future of Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. Important stuff. Bianca Nobilo in London, good to see you, my friend. Thanks for that.

Now an ancient rivalry rekindled as tensions fled between the U.K. and France over fishing rights around Jersey. Under new post-Brexit rules Jersey gets to decide what E.U. boats can fish in its waters. The island is self-governing that is defended and internationally represented by the U.K.

So far, it's only given around 40 licenses to France. But for decades French fishermen had pretty much free access to the waters around the island. Now they say that their rights are being unfairly restricted. Escalating tensions led to the U.K. and France both deploying naval vessels after dozens of French fishermen set up a blockade.

CNN's Saskya Vandoorne joins me now live from Carteret in France. Tell us more about this. I mean, the immediate tensions seem to have cooled. But this issue still is there. Right?

[03:24:58] SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER(on camera): Yes, the issue is definitely still here. As you say, Michael, the situation is calmer but I wouldn't say that tensions have eased. Now this is where the French boats, you know, took off yesterday, made their way to St. Helier, they then came back, they then left again this morning but only to go fishing.

We actually mange to speak to a young French fisherman who had taken part in the protest yesterday. He said that he had gone to peacefully protest, but to also voice his frustration. His anger towards Jersey after they issued these fishing licenses last week that he says makes it impossible for him and his colleagues to do their jobs. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO MUZARD, FRENCH FISHERMAN (through translator): If we have to, we'll come back. In any case, we'll do everything in our power, we will fight until the end. We cannot give up. We all have boats to pay for, families, houses, this is about our lives, we'll fight until the end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANDOORNE (on camera): So, roughly 2,000 families depend on that industry to survive. And they say that these restrictions just don't allow them to do their jobs. For example, they now need to historically prove that they have fished in the waters. Certain size boats are only allowed to fish are certain times.

One fisherman told us that he received a license for 170 days. Another for seven days, which he says just he couldn't survive with those number of days. Now you said, Michael, that 40 fishing licenses were handed out. That's 40 out of 350 boats. So, you can understand that anger.

Now thee Elysee weighed in yesterday and it said that it would continue to protect its fishermen, and that these new restrictions were not part of that initial trade deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Michael?

HOLMES: All right. Fascinating stuff. Saskya Vandoorne there in France on the coast there. I appreciate that. Good to see you.

Now Beijing lashing out against to Australia saying they are suspending the activities under the country's strategic economic dialogue, it's a largely symbolic face slap. But China is Australia's biggest trading partner and things are getting more and more tense between the countries for the last few years.

David Culver explains why.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yet another blow to what has been a downward spiral in relations between China and Australia. Over the past year plus a lot of focus has been on the relationship between the U.S. and China, and a deteriorating relationship at that. Well, Australia, not much better off.

In fact, just on Thursday, China decided to suspend what they call their China-Australia strategic economic dialogue, that essentially is a partnership that allows for at the ministry level conversation about investment and business decisions going forward, so they are halting that.

But it comes amidst what has been a really tumultuous year plus between China and Australia, especially when it comes to Australia's exports. In fact, China going back to last year after Australia decided to call for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, questioning Beijing's initial handling of that outbreak.

Well, China responded by putting a lot of limitations and restrictions on everything, from wine to barley to beef, and it's having a major impact on Australia's economy. It is significant and that this continues to be a trend. And China does not seem to be wanting to lighten up on this in any way.

And the reason that they decided to suspend this partnership according to the foreign ministry is because of reasons of a cold war mentality that they say Australia has been more moving forward with. In fact, they call it ideological discrimination that Australia has been utilizing in creating this what they consider as provoking measures against China.

Now Australia for its part responded through its government saying that they are disappointed that this partnership has been suspended. And that they hope at some point to move forward with dialogue.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.

HOLMES: As India marks another record setting day of COVID deaths and new cases, a British plane is set to deliver hundreds of pieces of critical lifesaving equipment. We'll have details when we come back.

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[03:30:00]

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HOLMES (on camera): And welcome back to CNN Newsroom everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. India's health ministry has reported almost 4,000 COVID deaths over the past 24 hours. A staggering figure and a 1oth day in a row that COVID deaths have top 3,000. Many of those fatalities blamed on chronic shortages of oxygen. While the U.K. sending hundreds of pieces of critical equipment with a plane set up to take off moments from now.

That equipment can arrive fast enough as India's new cases spiral out of control the official number of deaths has now surpassed 230,000. But the unofficial told believed to be far, far higher.

CNN's Ivan Watson tracking the developments for us from Hong Kong. You know, is there any sign that they're talking about a fourth wave and they're not even done with the third. I mean, is there any sign that the government has any strategy to get on top of this?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes -- sorry its third wave that we are being warned about.

HOLMES: Third, yes.

WATSON: We're in this deadly second wave, Michael. But the numbers are staggering and it is understandable. We have India breaking its daily record as a country with more than 440,000 cases across the country, and if you just want to highlight the challenges that the country is facing, CNN has just spoken with the health minister of Goa, that's on the southwest side, the former Portuguese colony of India.

And that health minister is reporting a 51 percent positivity rate for COVID-19. To give you a sense of just how enormous the challenges are, more than 50 percent of the people getting tested for the coronavirus are coming up positive. And that health minister saying that they had more than 3,800 cases in a single day yesterday, the highest yet for that region.

And that for now, the chief minister, the highest ranked official in Goa what is considering, considering so far, a lockdown. Now we have a growing number of state administrations across India that have either imposed curfews or lockdowns, or now extending them but this is not a nationwide policy yet. Though there are some voices that are saying hey, this crisis is so acute, it should be a nationwide policy right now.

There are still shortages of oxygen being reported. The health minister in Goa said that they faced that problem. Shortages in the past. We have the Supreme Court, which is demanding that the government supply up to 800 metric tons of oxygen a day for the city of Delhi.

And a top official there saying that they are only receiving half of that daily allotment thus far. So the challenges are still enormous, and we don't yet see the peak of this deadly second wave of COVID-19 in India yet. Michael.

[03:35:04]

HOLMES (on camera): All right, Ivan Watson there in Hong Kong with the very latest. Thanks so much.

Now, Brazil has topped more than 15 million COVID cases since the pandemic began. The health ministry reporting more than 73,000 new cases on Thursday alone. Almost 417,000 people in the country have been killed by the disease.

Now much needed help on the way. Brazil buying 100 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine. That is on top of the hundred million doses it already agreed to buy which started arriving last week.

Demonstrations have been going on for more than a week now across Columbia. That's even though the government pulled the tax reform plan that started it all. Protesters now making broader demands, urging the government to tackle poverty and police brutality. Over the past nine days at least 25 people are being killed. Hundreds have been injured. The mayor of the country's capital spoke to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAUDIA LOPEZ HERNANDEZ, BOGOTA, COLUMBIA MAYOR: A social movement in Bogota and Columbia are so powerful, they march, they raise their voice. I've been part of that social movement. I was also you know young 30 years ago and I was part of the student movement in Columbia. We claimed peace, we claim inclusion. It's mostly a pacific movement, but unfortunately you know, some (inaudible), some riots, that in us -- and imbalance.

Last year in September, we have a very critical situation in Bogota, in which, because of a George Floyd type of abuse in Bogota there were riots, extremely violent, and police officers indiscriminately shooting people in my city. Ten young members of my city were killed. More than 300 were wounded. So, I denounce this nationally, internationally, I confronted both the police, which is a national police, we don't have local police in Bogota, and the president.

We were able as a city to enforce some agreements to reduce violence, to prevent police abuse and violence and my city. Unfortunately enough that has been, you know, useful for these times. Nobody has been killed in Bogota in the eight these days of protests, but unfortunately 24 people in my country has been killed.

What do young people want? They want inclusion. At this moment they have high levels of poverty. High levels of unemployment. This is an extreme and equal society. And they want to be heard. They want to be at the table with the president. Not only with political parties or other social forces. But young themselves, they want to be in power and heard, and their voice has to be heard at the national level and the national government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (on camera): Now the mayor also says her country needs an economic new deal to fix many of the inequalities that protesters are speaking out against.

And joining me now is Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow at the Chatham House, and lecturer at Columbia University. Good to have you with us. In a regional sense, how damaging has the COVID situation been? I mean, both in a health sense, but also in a stability sense as we have been seeing a lot of protests, but also a lot of mismanagement and a lot of death, of course.

CHRISTOPHER SABATINI, SENIOR FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE, LECTURER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY (on camera): Well, COVID has hit Latin America hardest of all the regions in the world both in terms of infection rates, despite a population of about 8 percent of the global population it is overwhelmingly represented the number of cases and deaths across regions in the world. And then economically, in 2020 Latin America's economic growth

contracted by negative 7.7 percent. And in the Caribbean alone that was negative 20 percent hit by the lack of remittances and lack of tourism. So, they are really facing a double whammy here and to add to that in 2019, there are a wave of protests across many countries in Latin America. The Dominican Republic, and Chile, and in Columbia.

Now you are facing sort of the opening of these economies at a time when there's economic contraction, economic and political discontent has been festering for over a year now and of course you have infection rates and the fact that we are seeing increasingly that simply health care systems, unemployment insurance, were not sufficient to cover the impact of both the health and economic fallout of the pandemic.

HOLMES: You touched on a very important statistic there. I mean, last week Latin America had 35 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the world and as you said, just 8 percent of the global population. What does that portend globally though? I mean, what happens in one region of course has global implications.

[03:40:07]

SABATINI: That's a good question, Michael. And impart those numbers are a reflection of the sort of the dual nature of the Latin American economies and societies. On the one hand, you have very modernized economies. Some of the leading corporations in the world. You have a very globalized population. In fact that's where transmission came originally, from people in Brazil who traveled to Italy and came back and started to infect the population.

So you have a very interconnected region, but at the same time, you have underneath that, sort of rudimentary economies. You have over 50 percent of the working class -- working population in these countries exist in the informal sector. Sort of not registered businesses. Petty vendors on the streets. So, you have this dual dynamic and so consequently getting the infection rates under control in Latin America is important because it's not just going to spill over within the region. It's going to spillover outside because of the globalized nature of their economies and their societies.

HOLMES: Yes. I'm curious about your thoughts about, you know, how much responsibility Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, bears. I mean, he consistently played down the virus -- actively fought mitigation efforts. And now his neighbors suffer from the Brazil variant as it spreads across borders. How do you read the regional implications of his behaviors and inaction?

SABATINI: Well, that's a good question, Michael. It's difficult to place too much blame on Bolsonaro. He mocked the entire infection rate early on, he called it a messily flu, he refused to wear mask, he engages in campaign rallies, hugging people. He in fact caught himself, caught the pandemic himself, the infection himself.

But then he changed health minister three times, his government has been reluctant to release statistics an infection rates and death rates and because of all of this lag time he's also been slow and off the mark in getting vaccines, buying vaccines from Pfizer, your announcement mentioned, it's been very, very slow, whereas other countries like Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Columbia have been far more effective in getting into the market and buying those vaccine.

So not only was he responsible for the raging infection rates we see now, he's also responsible for the lack of response in containing it. As you mention, the Brazil variant is now a much more infectious variant and spreading within the region, but of course globally as well.

HOLMES: Yes. Great point. I mean, I want to ask you this too because, it is sort of throughout Latin America or an issue inequality. I mean it is its long-standing scourge, it had been in some countries easing before the pandemic but now it's widening once again. Obviously that has the potential to fuel unrest more broadly.

SABATINI: That goes exactly to your question and the point earlier about the social protest. In the early 2000, Latin America grew a very rapid rates, because of demand for its basic commodities, Agricultural, mining, or hydrocarbons, that is -- because of that growth, that has produced really an emerging middle class. More than 50 million people of the region of over 650 million people joined the middle class from the ranks of the poor. That has now shrunk.

More than 20 million people have joined the ranks with the poor since COVID hit. You are seeing inequality dramatically increase. You're seeing almost 40 million people have lost jobs. So, as a result, that dramatic expansion of class and social mobility has now contracted. And that's really precedent. Not just for Latin America but for the world to see so much of a black sliding at this time at moment of rising expectations it really could be a very powerful moment in the region in terms of social protest and social discontent.

HOLMES: Yes. A great analysis as always. Christopher Sabatini in London. Thanks so much for joining us.

SABATINI: Thank. You

LEMON: With salaries eroding and expenses rising sharply it is a painful Ramadan for many people in Lebanon. How they are coping, coming up in a report with Ben Wedeman.

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[03:45:0]

HOLMES (on camera): Right now, Lebanon is in a world of hurt, and the pandemic has added fuel to already dire conditions. While coronavirus cases have fallen of late, the political deadlock there shows no sign of debating and the economy is near collapse. And for many that is making Ramadan really difficult. CNN's Ben Wedeman explains from Beirut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over):

Abder Hahkman gets in his taxi and cruises the streets of Beirut for customers. But the quest for his daily bread comes up empty. It's the holy month of Ramadan when families break the daily fast at sunset.

With corona and rising prices, this is the most difficult Ramadan of my life says Abder Hahkman. Every one of his families had coronavirus, Abder Hahkman, twice. He's 94 year old father, Bader is still bedridden from the disease. Making ends meet has never been harder for many people here. The economy is in free fall. Food inflation is running at up to 400 percent and the currency the Lira has lost around 80 percent of its value against the dollar.

This Ramadan, there are no suites says Humbra, his mother. Tonight's meal is supplemented by food donated by others. Even her 10-year-old granddaughter Tiya, is able to list Lebanon's many woes. Corona, the revolution, the port blast inflation and the dollar she says.

Mona Hallak, runs the American University of Beirut's neighborhood initiative. Focusing on helping the needy in the capital's Los Beirut district, one of the cities wealthiest, even here times are getting tougher.

MONA HALLAK, DIRECTOR AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT'S NEIGHBORHOOD INITIATIVE: People are not helping as much because everybody has their own problems now. So we don't even dare go and look out for more, because we will find more. We will find many, many more families.

WEDEMAN: Just a few blocks away, Hadisha puts together the makings of a simple salad for the evening meal (inaudible). The rest of the food, leftovers, from residents of her building where her husband Ali works as a concierge. Before the economy collapsed, his monthly salary of 400,000 Lira was more than $260. Now just over $30. Little more than $1 a day.

Before we could buy oil, medicine, yogurt, meat, chicken and milk for my kids, and have something leftover, now says Hadisha, we can barely afford anything.

But Ramadan is even more difficult for Ali, the Syrian from Aleppo who fled during his third year of law school. He comes through the rubbish for plastic and metal to sell and food. Today he found a bag of bread for his wife and two daughters.

Every year Ali says is more difficult. It's a holy month but for Lebanon, a hard one as well. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES (on camera): Meanwhile we are keeping an eye out for space debris, expected to crash into earth, soon when we come back we will ask an expert how big a deal this is and about the tons of other space junk flying around our orbit right now. We'll be right back.

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HOLMES: Chance of debris from a large Chinese rocket expected to crash down in to earth in the coming days. You can see it there in red tracking around the earth on his trajectory. Experts say it will reenter the earth's atmosphere sometime over the weekend. We've got video to show you of the actual launch. A chunk of that is heading back to earth.

Right now, the rocket's empty core stage barreling around the planet at about 28,000 kilometers an hour. U.S. Officials say they are not planning to shoot it down. That's good to know. But they do add that it's too early to make a decision since they don't know exactly where the debris might land until the rocket gets closer to earth. The good news. This isn't the first manmade object to fall from space. Far from it. And experts say, the rocket poses very little threat to our safety.

Ted Muelhaupt is the principal Director of the Center for Orbital and Re-entry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corporation. He joins me now from Albuquerque, New Mexico. You are just the man to talk to about this. We'll move on to the big picture of space junk in a moment because I think it is fascinating. But briefly, how big a deal is this piece of debris?

TED MUELHAUPT, PRINCIPAL DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ORBITAL AND RE-ENTRY DEBRIS STUDIES, AEROSPACE CORPORATION (on camera): This is an unusually big piece of debris. It's really one of the two largest in the last 15 years or so. And one of the largest to come in uncontrolled. The only other one this big in recent memory was the earlier launch of this, and that landed in eastern Africa earlier this year.

So, we're talking about 22 tons, metric tons of material, of which we expect about nine of that to survive and reach the ground. So this is a very large rocket coming in, and controlled, with a random reentry.

HOLMES: Nine tons. I mean, I'm just trying to get my head around that. Space debris has, as you say, it's crashed in to earth on a number of occasions, last year as well. But just give people an idea of how much space junk is out there.

MUELHAUPT: Well, mankind has been launching stuff for over 60 years. And there are currently we are up to the high 40 thousands in objects we can catalog. Those are just objects that are big enough for us to catalog. We've launched nearly 10,000 of payloads of various kinds. Many of them are still in orbit. Recently, the (inaudible) launches and the OneWeb launches. There's been an explosion in launches recently.

And so, what we are going to see is, stuff that goes up, does eventually come down and so we are going to see a lot more reentries. This particular one is unusual. But we will see more and more of these as time goes on.

HOLMES: Ted Muelhaupt, thanks so much. I really appreciate it. MUELHAUPT: Thank you.

HOLMES: Alright. Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam, what are you seeing when you look at it? I mean, we're not going to have to put hard hats on, probably not.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): No, this is not a doomsday scenario at least according to the research that we have done but this is the best way that we can put it into perspective. Even if it dodges the over 70 percent of the ocean that encompasses our planet, there's only 10 percent of our land mass that remains -- that is occupied by humans.

[03:55:12]

So, that puts it at a very small percentile of it actually impacting us. Nonetheless, here is the projected time for it to re-enter our earth's atmosphere. Landfall location unknown and that is the big question mark here. Where will this thing end up? You are looking at what is the orbital path as this circumnavigates our entire planet.

Remember this thing is traveling very fast. Nearly 30,000 kilometers per hour or 18,000 miles per hour. So it's orbiting the earth every 15 times in one day. That's in a 24-hour period, so any small variation in that angle of approach, as it approaches the earth's atmosphere will lead to a significant variation in where the object actually lands.

So estimates for where it will land will only going to come in in those final minutes and hours just before reentry. But it's really got the international communities attention because of its sheer size. We're talking 20 tons. Five meters in diameter, and 32 meters in length. This is the dimension of the core stage of the Chinese rocket.

So this is the largest rocket to fall towards earth. You heard the gentleman talking about it since 1991. It's equivalent, by the way, to 15 sedans. There's a lot of space junk that is floating around our low earth orbit. It's called space debris. There's satellites. There's all kinds of junk here.

And this is significant because a lot of these satellites, this is coming as a personal note, are being impacted by the space debris because the active satellite still track weather, they still track environment, they give us telecommunications, and any of the space debris that happens to take that down can obviously impact that.

They are estimating over 9,000 tons currently floating around lower earth orbit right now. That's equivalent to get this Michael 720 school buses. That's a lot of junk. Michael.

HOLMES: It is a peculiar American thing that school buses are used for a lot of comparative weight measurements.

VAN DAM: They're big and they are yellow.

HOLMES: They're big and they are yellow. I love it. All right no hiding. Don't go to your basement. It's going to be all right. Derek Van Dam, to good to see you my friend. Fascinating.

And here's to a happy hour that is out of this world. A bottle of Bordeaux that was aged for 14 months on the International Space Station is now up for sale. The Petrus 2,000 is expected to fetch wait for this, 1 million dollars at Christie's auction house. The bottle comes with a decanter glasses and a corkscrew made from a meteorite. Well, that makes it worthwhile. Doesn't it?

I'm Michael Holmes, thanks for spending part of your day with me. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @holmesCNN. Kim Brunhuber, who is probably going to buy that bottle of wine has more CNN Newsroom after a short break.

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