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Israeli Police Clash with Palestinians at Jerusalem Mosque; State of Goa Tests 51 Percent Positive; Delhi's COVID Warrior; Nepal Sees 1,200 Percent Increase in COVID-19; Interview with Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli on His Country's Sweeping COVID-19 Crisis; India Crisis Threatens Rebel-Held Syria Vaccine Effort; Early Results Favor Boris Johnson; Chinese Rocket Expected to Fall Back to Earth. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired May 8, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Violent clashes at the holiest site in Jerusalem. Hundreds injured, as tensions mount over the possible eviction of Palestinians.

India, pushed to the limit, coronavirus ravaging the country and crossing the border. We speak to Nepal's prime minister.

And a 10-story rocket, plunging out of control back to Earth. Experts say China should never have let it happen.

Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I am Michael Holmes.


HOLMES: We start with those ugly scenes in Jerusalem Friday, as Israeli police clashed with Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque.


HOLMES (voice-over): Police in riot gear, firing stun grenades and rubber coated bullets, leaving more than 200 Palestinians injured. Police say Palestinians were throwing rocks and other objects and at least 6 of their officers were injured. The violence comes amid weeks of rising anger in the city. CNN's Hadas Gold reports.



HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've seen some dramatic footage of police using stun grenades, trying to clear the area, including some of those stun grenades landing inside of the mosque.

Police say they move in after people started throwing rocks and other objects at them. At one point, the imam of the mosque was even calling for people there to calm down.

Some Palestinians say cautions began after worshippers, in large numbers, were prevented from entering the mosque. They attempted to move away police barricades but none of this is happening in a vacuum. Tensions have been boiling in Jerusalem for several weeks now. Two weeks ago there were clashes in front the Damascus gate entrance to the Old City, where police prevented Palestinians from gathering there, a popular thing to do during Ramadan.

That same evening, some of the biggest nights of clashes in front of the gate, there was a march of several hundred Jewish extremists, who were openly chanting, "Death to Arabs," inflaming a lot of tensions in the city.

There have been one-off incidents of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Recently, there have been some clashes in a Jerusalem neighborhood called Sheikh Jarrah over the possible evictions of some Palestinian families living there.

All of these events, contributing to a very tense time in the city. We have to be mindful, we are approaching the end of Ramadan and, also, Monday could be a flashpoint, which is when Israel marks the day it took control of the Western Wall -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOLMES: COVID-19 is raging through India at a pace never seen anywhere before. Confirmed daily infections shattering global records, topping 400,000 for each of the past 3 days, that's more than 1.2 million people.

For the first time, India reporting over 4,000 deaths in the past 24 hours. Despite fears of a 3rd wave before the second is even done, markets and mosques are packed as the nation's Muslims prepare for next week's Eid festival.

International aid is coming in but too late for many. All along the sacred Ganges River, the dead being cremated at makeshift sites, such as this one, where bodies are being trucked in around the clock. CNN's Paula Hancocks, tracking the latest developments for, us from Seoul.

Paula, the Indian state of Goa reporting a positive test rate of 51 percent, that is just staggering.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Michael. The fact is officials say that that could be quite a conservative figure. It is the highest positivity rate in the country. But is still the only positivity rate of those who've come forward and been tested.

So, they fear the reality is even worse than that. This is a southwestern state of Goa and the issue it had since the beginning of the year is the fact that it's a tourist destination, not just for people coming from overseas but for Indians within the country as well coming to the beaches of Goa.

That is something that they have struggled with. Up until now, they still haven't put a lockdown in place, which we are seeing in some states elsewhere in the country. Officials say they are seriously considering one, but they are building more ICU facilities and they are building more infrastructure to deal with this outbreak.


HANCOCKS: They are also asking medical students and interns to leave college and come to work, to take the pressure off the medical staff. The main issue, according to Goa's health minister, has been the fact that so many tourists have visited.


VISHWAJIT RANE, GOA STATE MINISTER FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: Without any restrictions in December, it has led to this situation in the state of Goa. The positivity rate of around 51 percent and above is the highest in the country as we speak. This has to be brought under control, the mortality has to be brought under control.


HANCOCKS: Experts taking a look at what's happening in India blame it on a couple of things. They say there is a problem with complacency and the fact that many restrictions were lifted at the beginning of the year and were not put back in place quickly enough. Goa still considering whether or not to bring a lockdown into place.

But, Michael, when you look at the figures, we are still seeing the new daily cases number rising. We are seeing the death toll rising, as we said, more than 4,000 on one day alone, in the last 24 hours. This is the first time it has been over 4,000 and it means things are still getting worse, that the positivity rate is still very high and that this problem has not plateaued yet.

So there is a concern going forward as to how much worse it could get -- Michael.

HOLMES: With those soaring case numbers, deaths lag case numbers, so the future, looking quite bleak in the next few weeks. Paula, thank, you Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

Regular people in India have little recourse, as they struggle to care for sick family members. But a loose network of volunteers is doing whatever it can. CNN's Vedika Sud, following 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.


SUD (voice-over): 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.

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: Coronavirus uncertainty in rebel held Syria. When we come back, how the crisis in India leaves future vaccine shipments to the war-torn region in doubt. We will be right back.




HOLMES: India's COVID crisis is spilling across its borders with its neighbor, Nepal, suffering a 1,200 percent rise in cases. Friday's record new case count is almost 9,200, according to the health ministry.

And for the fourth day in a row 50 or more people there have died from the virus. Hospitals in Nepal mountainous country rapidly running out of beds and oxygen. Crematoriums and temples at full capacity, leaving residents of the capital to cremate bodies of coronavirus victims out in the open.

The prime minister this week pleaded to the international community for help.


K.P. SHARMA OLI, NEPALI PRIME MINISTER: A pandemic like this serves no one and no one is safe. It is in this vein I would like to request our neighbors, friendly countries and international organizations to help us with vaccines, diagnostic equipment and kits, oxygen therapy, critical care medicines and critical care furniture to support our ongoing efforts combat the pandemic.


HOLMES: A month ago Nepal was reporting about 100 cases a day.


HOLMES: Right now, 2 out of 5 people testing for COVID are coming out positive.


HOLMES: And I am joined now by K.P. Sharma Oli, Nepal's prime minister, who comes to us live from the capital, Kathmandu.

Prime Minister, thank you for your time now, condolences to your nation for losses to this virus. As to the numbers on Friday, Nepal, a record new number of cases.

How is your country placed to handle the surge in terms of resources and medical infrastructure?

OLI: Thank you very much, Michael, to the neighbors, the international countries and organizers for help, for the COVID vaccines. Right now, the pandemic is in Nepal, like some of the countries in our neighbors.

The situation in Nepal is under control now. We have 129 active cases. That is now 68.6 percent. And after we started 3,500 lost their lives, a very huge number. And we are very aware of this and we are trying to control which is 9.5 percent of total cases, less than 1 percent of our modern cases now and we are taking very serious measures to supply oxygen in the situation, to supply base, to supply ICU and other thing, ambulances in the city.

HOLMES: Right.

OLI: And we are trying to control, and we are concentrating on preventing disease. And we are continuing to a lot of the people and to combat this or any type of pandemic, protecting people from being transmitted.

HOLMES: Right.


HOLMES: If I can ask, the numbers are really worrying. A month ago, Nepal had 100 cases a day. Friday, more than 9,000. I mean last week -- and I think 44 percent of Nepal's COVID tests came back positive.

What went wrong and what can you do to reverse this?

OLI: Last year, we were able to control the pandemic. And it spread. And we controlled the mortality rate. For this region again, contamination, the transmission from one to the other, it took, again, a second wave of the pandemic. So we are now concentrating our efforts to make the people aware and protect people from being transmitted.




HOLMES: -- I understand. One thing I wanted to ask you, because I know your time is limited, many big public events went ahead last month. There are festivals scheduled for this month that have not been canceled.

Do you think that is a mistake?


HOLMES: There were many festivals and events that were held last month.

Do you think it was a mistake to have allowed those to go ahead?


HOLMES: Religious festivals and gatherings of people, large gatherings?


OLI: Yes, there were those sorts of things and we tried to create -- in my opinion, nobody should try to use such a pandemic situation like an opportunity to use against the (INAUDIBLE). This should not be a political issue.

But I think we have a common enemy. And we are fighting. Due to that, there were some mistakes from the political side and from the other side of it. So that is an opportunity to increase again.

HOLMES: Prime minister Sharma Oli, thank you so much in Kathmandu, Nepal. We wish you well in battling this virus. Thank you so much.

OLI: Thank you so much. Again, I want to recall if you mention, the government and organizers to support vaccines to Nepal, to combat against this very dangerous pandemic. Thank you.


HOLMES: Prime Minister, thank you so much, we appreciate your time.


HOLMES: All right, some good news for holiday travelers in England starting May 17th. People will be allowed to visit 12 countries on the government's so-called green list without having to quarantine when they get back. Countries like Portugal, Australia, Israel are some of the destinations that made the list.

Other countries are considered red or amber, based on their infection and vaccination rates and will require some sort of quarantine. Now on the other hand, France is adding to its quarantine list. Travelers from 7 new countries -- Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, the UAE and Qatar -- need to go into quarantine for 10 days when they arrive from those places. A number of countries already on that list.

France says it, quote, "cannot take the risk of new variants lightly."

Coronavirus is a growing threat in wartorn Syria but efforts to stamp it out with vaccines are in jeopardy due to the crisis in India. Rebel-held areas have only received one small shipment and it's not clear when or if another will arrive. Arwa Damon reports.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Opposition held Northwest Syria is according to doctors at the start of its second COVID-19 wave. Not that you would know that to look in the streets where social distancing doesn't seem to exist, and masks are barely visible.

Compliance with public health recommendations has been one of the biggest challenges here. A bombed-out region whose population is mostly the displaced too accustomed to trying to outrun death to take an invisible threat seriously.

DR. YASSER NAJIB, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: This is Carlton Hospital. It was affected by air strike.

DAMON (voice-over): And that light at the end of the tunnel, that relief that vaccination is meant to provide it's petering out.

NAJIB: Of course, situation in India regarding COVID will affect all the war as India is a biggest source of vaccine in the world.

DAMON (voice-over): And is the source of the AstraZeneca vaccine that just arrived here. Dr. Yasser Najib, an infectious disease specialist in Idlib, heads out to oversee the rollout of the initial doses. This first batch is only enough for around 1 percent of the total population here to get the two-dose regimen.

NAJIB: What happened in India, unfortunately, maybe makes doubtful about the program of offering the vaccine to the countries in need. We hope the next shipment will not be delayed.

DAMON (voice-over): In all likelihood, it will be. These vaccines were provided by COVAX, a global initiative to militate against vaccine inequality that sources or rather was sourcing most of its vaccines to be distributed to low income countries from India home to the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.

The COVAX initiative was already struggling to provide for some of the most vulnerable as withdrew nations for limited vaccine supplies.


DAMON (voice-over): With India now crushed by its own rampant devastating COVID-19 crisis, vaccine exports from there have understandably now ground to a halt.

So where does that leave war torn places like this and other people in need of production?

NAJIB: Each country wants to afford the vaccine for their own population and the poor countries unfortunately, will receive the vaccine but with delay and this will make the number of cases and the deaths will be increased.

DAMON (voice-over): And so, for now, they make do with what they have. There is no other choice -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Violent protests rock Colombia for a 10th straight day.


HOLMES (voice-over): This, even though the government dropped the controversial proposal that started it all. Why many are calling for dramatic change. We will be right back.





HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. More than a week of violent demonstrations in Colombia left at least 27 people dead and hundreds more injured. Protesters toppled the statue of a Spanish conquistador in Bogota.

What began as protest against a tax reform proposal, now expanded into demands for fundamental change. CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Bogota.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well into week 2 of these anti-government protests and the voices of Colombians only seem to grow louder. There are unified calls for the elimination of economic inequality as well as asking for the government to address what they are describing as heavy-handed response to some of these demonstrations.

Their message is, you not only hear them throughout the cities, including in Bogota but also you can see them, as they are graffitied on many walls, including this monument here, the statue of Simon Bolivar.

Graffiti painted on the statue itself, saying that they are murderers, likely a reference to allegations we hear on the ground, where many of these protesters are concerned, saying, police officers, security forces, have opened fire on peaceful protesters.

So, they are demanding that the Colombian government actually investigate this. It is something we've already heard from the international community, feeling alarmed, also looking into these reports of possible human rights violations.

We do understand President Duque is calling, right now, for unity and more dialogue. In fact, on Monday, he is scheduled to meet with not just protest leaders but members of various workers' unions as well. These are the organizations that actually took issue with the tax reform initiative introduced 1.5 weeks ago. That initiative, later, actually withdrawn by the president. But by

now, obviously, the damage had already been done and the frustrations seemed to be boiling through all of Colombia, as they continue to call on the Colombian government to take action, even on the president to resign -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, Bogota, Colombia.


HOLMES: Thursday's elections in the U.K. were a symbolic referendum of sorts on prime minister Boris Johnson. Here is Bianca Nobilo.


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 Hartlepool's (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: Welcome back.

All eyes will be on the skies this weekend when officials believe part of an uncontrolled Chinese rocket, uncontrolled being the operative word, will be crashing to Earth. The Chinese Long March 5B, roughly the size of a 10-story building,

could crash down as early as Saturday. The U.S. military says that they are projecting Turkmenistan. Place your bets because it's hard to say exactly where, because it is an uncontrolled reentry. Chinese officials have been downplaying the risk of damage or injury.


HOLMES: Jonathan McDowell is an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He joins me now from Somerville, Massachusetts. He's also a space historian.

So, the perfect man for this. Let's start with this.


HOLMES: What is your best guess for where this thing will land?

And if it hits land, what will it look like in terms of impact?

JONATHAN MCDOWELL, ASTROPHYSICIST: Well, the trouble is we still don't know. The latest predictions from the European Space Tracking Network have a 12-hour window that it could reenter in. And that is still enough for it to go around the world a dozen times.

And so, we are not going to be able to narrow it down until much nearer reentry or maybe even afterwards.

What it would look like is that this 30-meter long rocket stage is going to get really hot as it reenters the atmosphere. It is going to melt and break up into pieces. Some of those pieces are still pretty big chunks of metal. They are going to slam into the Earth at a couple hundred miles an hour, probably spread out over a couple hundred-mile track.

And so, you're going to get one piece coming down here, another piece coming down maybe 20 miles further on. And so, it's like javelins being thrown at the Earth at a fair amount of speed over a wide area. So, it's pretty nasty.

HOLMES: Hopefully, let's keep things across the ocean than rather landing. I want to ask you this. It's important.

Did China handle this badly?

Did this have to happen this way in terms of planning and execution of this rocket?

Why is this an uncontrolled reentry?

MCDOWELL: Right, it absolutely did not have to happen this way. 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: To that point what are the rules of space?

Are there rules on space junk, who leaves what where?

There's no space police up there saying, do not do it.

MCDOWELL: That is right. There is an outer space treaty that defines this whole area of space law. There is actually a liability convention that says, if your space junk bumps me on the head, then I can get compensation.

But there is no sort of preventative rule that says you shouldn't leave something this big up this high. So that is what is lacking right now. And so, I hope that organizations like the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space of the United Nations will sort of take this up and see if we can do better in the future.

HOLMES: There are so many satellites these days. I was reading that Starlink, for example, is going to be putting up, eventually down the road, something like 42,000 small satellites for broadband coverage. And on top of that, there is apparently millions of bits of space junk up there. It's getting crowded.

How much of an issue is that?

MCDOWELL: That is a huge issue. It's not so much an issue for, oh, this stuff is going to come down on our heads. But if you are a satellite operator, you have to spend too much time nowadays dodging other satellites that might be coming too close.

And so, we really need to do a better job on air traffic control of space.

And the trouble is space is intrinsically in international arena, right?

All the different countries, satellites are going past each other. And so, you really need -- you cannot just do it on a national law basis. You really need to negotiate rules of the road between different countries.

HOLMES: Excellent, Jonathan McDowell, thank you so much, really appreciate it.

MCDOWELL: Thank you.




HOLMES: And congratulations are in order for a new mother in Morocco. Congratulations 9 times over. The 25-year-old woman from Mali giving birth to 9 babies earlier this week. Nine. CNN's Saskya Vandoorne has the details.


SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): It was a medical miracle. 25-year-old Halima Cisse from Mali delivered 9 babies, 5 girls and 4 boys, at this Moroccan clinic prematurely on Tuesday. The machine surrounding their tiny bodies issued a course of beeping and blinking in green and blue.

YOUSSEF ALAOUI, AIN BORJA CLINIC (through translator): We managed to avoid a hysterectomy for this lady. Currently, thank God, she is in good health and out of danger. In regard to the preterm infants, their condition is stable under artificial respiration. And there are those who have been put on oxygen. Their weight ranges from 500 grams to 1000 grams.

VANDOORNE (voice-over): Since they had been expecting 7 babies -- two were not detected in ultrasound -- and it took 18 nurses to help deliver the nonuplets, who were placed immediately into intensive care and incubators, Alaoui told CNN in a phone interview.

And she suffered a hemorrhage during the operation, but doctors moved quickly to stop the bleeding, saving her life.

ALAOUI (through translator): This is the very first case in Morocco and it's very rare in the world to have a person who gives birth to 9 children. In this clinic we've witnessed multiple births, but never 9.

VANDOORNE (voice-over): Cisse is now in a stable condition, according to the clinic. Her husband, who is currently in Timbuktu, told CNN that the whole country was delighted at the news of her successful delivery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am ready for anything. For us it's not a problem. God decided this. So we are ready to welcome these children. I got called from everyone, even the president of the republic. He called me as soon as he learned the news and congratulated me.


VANDOORNE (voice-over): Cisse could break the Guinness world record for delivering the most children in a single birth to survive, first set by an American woman who gave birth to octuplets in 2009.

The priority for the doctors now is to get the babies breathing and feeding on their own. They will have to stay under medical supervision at the clinic for a minimum of 3 months alongside their mother, according to a spokesperson for the clinic. He added, doctors say the next few days and weeks will be decisive to their survival -- Saskya Vandoorne, CNN, Paris.


HOLMES: "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is up next. I will see you in 15 minutes.