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India's Hospitals in Desperate Need; Delhi's COVID Warrior; Chinese Rocket Expected to Fall Back to Earth. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired May 8, 2021 - 00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. We'll take you right to our top story.

COVID-19, raging through India's population at a pace never seen anywhere before. Confirmed daily infections are shattering global records, topping 400,000 for the past 2 days. The inevitable rising death toll now approaching 4,000 a day.

We will show you a map, the red areas show the vastness of the human calamity. On the western coast, the tiny state of Goa has reported a shocking 50 percent positivity rate among those who have been tested.

The need for oxygen and hospital supplies beyond critical and numerous countries have been sending in aid. The urgency even prompting the Indian military to send its own aircraft to neighboring countries to pick up equipment.

But for many, help will not arrive in time. Ordinary people in India have very little recourse as they battle the pandemic within their own homes. Now a loose network of volunteers is doing whatever it can to save lives. CNN's Vedika Sud followed one COVID warrior, as he and his team work nonstop to answer desperate pleas for help.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grieving daughter says her final goodbye before her father's body burns to ash in this electric crematorium. The daughter who asked for her identity to remain private during this emotional time says she'll never forget how he collapsed in arms the night before.

Suffering from COVID-19 her father's oxygen levels started falling. After frantic calls, a colleague reached out to Srinivas B.V., who leads the youth wing of an opposition political party, for what most of Delhi has been desperately looking for an oxygen cylinder, which was soon delivered by his team to her house.

But later that night, when the cylinder ran out of oxygen, her father ran out of breath. PRASHANT MUKHERJEE, COLLEAGUE: We could have saved the father easily.

He would have got oxygen he could have got a bed. He would have got an ICU bed. We could have saved a father easily.

SUD (voice-over): Alone, fragile and COVID-19 positive she asked Srinivas to help cremate his body and he willingly did along with his team, while an unwell mother and an inconsolable brother who lives overseas looked on.

Srinivas has barely slept. The phone doesn't stop ringing. Desperate relatives beg for help with beds, medicines and oxygen. People call through the night at 2 am at 3 am begging for a small oxygen cylinder, he says.

But he must soldier on, despite criticism from an Indian government official that this is all a public relations ploy but at a time where the government is still getting its act together thousands in social media reaching out to this group for help.

Srinivas says he often cries at night.

"I can't sleep at night. We've seen so many heartbreaking cases. Parents have left behind young children. Who will take care of them?" he asks.

His support staffs back in the war room help prioritize pleas through social media, which is then forwarded to teams in Delhi and states across India.

"We segregate bed plasma medicine and ICU requests here and forward it to our teams," says Srinivas.

A desperate plea for help interrupts our conversation.

A father begs for an oxygen cylinder for his three-year-old son. Team Srinivas set off with a cylinder.

A visibly weak college professor Alok Kumar (ph) waits outside his house for his son's lifeline. He asks us to keep some distance. He's COVID positive.


SUD (voice-over): He can't thank Srinivas enough. The boy's father says Srinivas' service is service to humanity.

"He did not ask me which political party I support or caste I belong to. This is how people should help."

Inside his home, his toddler bundled under covers with a pulse oximeter clipped to his toe, breathes shallowly through an oxygen mask. Every day is a new challenge for these people. Their resources are limited, but expectations are not.

"I have seen three people from the same family die before my eyes. Many patients are not treated in time that breaks my heart," he says. With a heavy heart but a determined mind, Srinivas goes back to work -- Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


HOLMES: Now neighboring Nepal reporting another record rise in daily COVID infections on Friday, more than 9,100 in just 24 hours. That compares to about 100 a day just a month ago.

Nepal is one of the world's poorest nations, with a fragile health system and fewer doctors per capita than India next door. As case numbers have escalated, Nepal has tightened its borders and imposed lockdowns in the worst hit regions, including the capital, Kathmandu.

After months of tough travel restrictions in England, there is some good news for holidaymakers wanting to go abroad. Travelers can visit 12 green list countries starting May 17th without having to quarantine upon return.

We're talking about places like Portugal, Australia, Israel, which are some of the destinations that have made the list. Other countries are considered red or amber based on their infection and vaccination rates and will require some form of quarantine. Thursday's elections in the U.K. were a symbolic referendum of sorts on prime minister Boris Johnson. Even though results are still coming in, it appears he can chalk this one up as a victory. Another focus is Scotland, where separatists hope to pick up more seats. CNN's Bianca Nobilo reports.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Friday saw the first results trickle in from what we call the super Thursday elections in the United Kingdom. So-called because over 5,000 seats were up for grabs, including an important by-election. Critical elections in Scotland and mayoral elections, including the mayor of London.

The first big result to be announced came Friday morning with a constituency of Hartley polls (ph). The Conservative Party stormed to a triumphant and unexpected victory in a seat that had been Labour since it was created back in 1974. This was great news for the prime minister Boris Johnson but a severe blow and test to the leadership of Keir Starmer.

Then the focus shifted up north to Scotland. The SNP, the Scottish National Party, is hoping to obtain a majority of 65 of the 129 seats available in the Scottish parliament. This, they would argue, would refresh their mandate to push again for a referendum on Scottish independence.

That is a question that Boris Johnson and his government does not want to put to the Scottish people again. They argue they have already done so within this generation and they should not need to do so now.

But Nicola Sturgeon and her party say that after Brexit and the political geography of the United Kingdom shifting, now is the time to put that question to the Scottish people once more.

So, these elections that we are seeing unfold now are important, not just for the leadership of Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer but for the future of the union itself. Bianca Nobilo, CNN, outside London.


HOLMES: Around 200 Palestinians have been injured after clashes broke out at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Israeli police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up the crowds, who police say were throwing rocks and other objects.

Palestinians say the violence was triggered after some of them were prevented from entering the mosque to pray. Tensions are high in East Jerusalem amid growing anger from Palestinians, who face the threat of eviction from homes claimed by Jewish settlers. We will have more on that in the hours ahead.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the skies this weekend. That is when officials believe part of an uncontrolled Chinese rocket will be crashing to Earth. The 22-ton Chinese Long March 5B rocket, roughly the size of a 10-story building, could crash down as early as Saturday. A lot of it will break up on the way and burn up as well but some won't.


HOLMES: The U.S. military told CNN they are projecting Turkmenistan. It's hard to say exactly, though, since it is an uncontrolled re- entry. Chinese officials have been downplaying the risk of damage or injury. Earlier I spoke to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who was critical of China's approach.


JONATHAN MCDOWELL, ASTROPHYSICIST: For 30 years, rocket designers have been going to great lengths to avoid this kind of thing happening by designing the stage of the rocket so that it does not end up in orbit around the Earth when it launches a big payload.

China, for some reason, decided not to bother with all that. They just said, well, we are going to leave our upper stage in orbit. It's going to fall down. Probably it will hit the ocean so we will just take the risk, because we cannot be bothered to do it the fancy way.

And so, it's really a little disappointing. And I hope that they make some modifications before the next flight to avoid this.


HOLMES: My full interview with Jonathan McDowell is coming up around 2 hours or so from now.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, I'm Michael Holmes. We appreciate your company. I'll see you back here in a bit. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is coming up.