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CNN NEWSROOM

Casualties Growing as a Result of Israel-Gaza Conflict; International Community Calling for De-escalation in the Middle East; President Biden's First Wave of Challenges; Lifting of Mask Mandate Confused Americans; Indian Variant Threaten Progress in the U.K.; Conflict between Israel and Palestine; COVID Cases Surge in Rural India; Taiwan is Facing Its Worst COVID Outbreak as Cases Spike; Vaccine Tourism from Latin America on the Rise; Opposition for the Tokyo Olympics Grows as Coronavirus Cases Spread. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 17, 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)

ROSEMARY CHURCH CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, a barrage of airstrikes overnight after a deadly weekend along the Israeli Gaza border.

Taiwan was once a hailed a COVID success story now it's battling to contain a sudden surge in new cases of the virus.

And as Japan struggles with a spike of its own a campaign to cancel the Olympics gains ground.

Good to have you with us.

More growing international calls for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza but no signs of an end to the violence. This was the scene in Gaza early Monday. Israel says air strikes destroyed several homes in Gaza that it says belong to Hamas commanders. This follows a Hamas claim of launching rockets into southern Israel. The Israeli military says it also struck a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has carried out 1,500 air strikes in recent days and they will continue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We'll do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet and the security of our people and deterrence. We are trying to degrade Hamas' terrorist abilities and to degrade their will to do this again. So, it will take some time. I hope it won't take long but it's not immediate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH (on camera): Airstrikes destroyed several homes in Gaza Sunday. Palestinian health officials say it was the deadliest day so far with at least 52 people killed on Sunday alone. They say nearly 200 have been killed in the past week including 58 children. The Palestinian authority foreign minister addressed the U.N. Security Council on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIYAD AL-MALIKI, PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Israel keeps telling you put yourself in our shoes. This is what they say all the time. Put yourself in our shoes. But Israel isn't wearing shoes. It is wearing military boots. It is an occupying and colonial power. Any assessment of the situation that fails to take into account this fundamental fact is biased, discredited and unjust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH (on camera): Hadas Gold is in Ashdod, Israel with the very latest. Hadas, we are seeing a growing civilian toll as a result of this escalating violence. What is the latest on the situation?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, we are in Ashdod, we are just about 15 and a half miles north of the Gaza Strip which is behind me or behind the series of towers you can see. All morning we hear jets flying overhead, it's been quiet in the last I would say half hour or hour or so. We've heard jets flying overhead, we've heard explosions in the distance, at one point we even saw a very large plume of black smoke going up over the skyline.

It just goes to show you the situation here is still continuing, although the city has been the city that's had the highest number of red alert sirens that means that incoming rockets could be heading this way compared to the rest of the country after -- since the beginning of this conflict.

But since 9 p.m. last night local time we have not heard a red alert siren. Of course, that can change at any minute here. But that might be an indication of perhaps things are calming down. It's hard to say though because we have been hearing those jets flying overhead. And the Israeli military has confirmed and through this morning they have continue to strike what they said are Hams targets including as you noted the homes what they say were Hamas commanders, but they say they were also storing weapons, as well as continue to target this what -- this tunnel system that the Israeli military is calling essentially the Hamas metro.

They say it's thousands of kilometers of tunnels that they say go all across the Gaza Strip. They say that they have been, they found these tunnels underneath and near kindergartens mosques and other civilian locations. They say they have been targeting and destroyed thousands of kilometers of these tunnels. One of their main targets, militant targets in Gaza including like rocket launchers, the homes of the Hamas commanders and weapon stores.

[03:04:54] But we have seen the violence continues. We have seen what this violence is doing, the distraction the death toll rising on both sides. Yesterday, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza was the deadliest day for Palestinians there in Israel.

Israel says that so far there have been more than 3,100 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel since this conflict began about seven days ago, they say that that's an intensity and a pace at which they have not seen -- and they are also seeing these rockets reach the areas of the country they have not reached before including the far northern edge of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv has also experienced multiple rounds of air raids, multiple air rocket hits and there has been fatalities n the Tel Aviv area. But there's growing international pressure to find some sort of end to this conflict because, as we noted, nearly 200 people in the Gaza have been killed. But so far, the Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said that this will continue, their operation will continue until they reach their military objectives. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Hadas Gold bringing us that live report from Ashdod in Israel, many thanks.

Well, the Biden administration is calling for a de-escalation of the violence in Israel and Gaza and spearheading diplomatic efforts.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has that part of the story from Washington.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: The White House is approaching the situation in Israel with a growing sense of urgency as there's rising concern about the number of civilian casualties in the region, and that urgency was on display as the White House led this diplomatic engagement over the weekend.

President Biden spoke separately on phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, the first conversation that Biden had with him since taking office.

On the ground in Israel, the White House dispatched a top State Department official, Hady Amr, who said in a virtual White House event that he was sent by the president to lead a determined effort to halt the current violence gripping the West Bank and Gaza and to achieve sustainable calm.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken also was working the phones over the weekend having conversations with the foreign ministers of Qatar, Egypt, France, and Saudi Arabia. One thing that this White House is trying to do is lean on partners in the region to try and calm the tensions there.

And there is also concern up on Capitol Hill, a group of more than two dozen Democratic senators released a statement calling for a ceasefire, they wrote to prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories we urge an immediate ceasefire. This is another example of the growing concern back here in Washington

as these hostilities between Israel and Hamas rage on.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: Jessica Levinson is a professor of law at Loyola School, she is also the host of the podcast Passing Judgment, and she joins me now from Los Angeles. Great to have you with us.

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me back.

CHURCH: Let's start with the many crisis facing President Joe Biden right now both in the United States and overseas including pandemic recovery, new inflation numbers, jobs recovery, the Colonial Pipeline hacking, immigration, and of course violence between Israel and Hamas, all testing the president. How tricky will these next few months prove to be and what will likely be the biggest challenge there?

LEVINSON: Very tricky, and I think the problem is that they're really -- he can't say this is the one challenge. He has to focus on all those things at once, and his press secretary said, look, this is a president who was vice president for eight years, he understands that you don't get to pick and choose what you focus on and when, that when you walk into the room you can have a variety of truly pressing issues and I think that's exactly what President Biden has.

Obviously when he walked in the door it was the pandemic, the pandemic, and then the pandemic. And we're certainly not through the worst of it, but we are in such an incredibly fortunate position compared to the vast majority of the world. And I think he largely is keeping things on track with respect to the pandemic. And then it's the economy. He has to focus on the economy both short and long term. The jobs ratings, the new jobs were not as good as he would have hoped.

There's reports that we may be going into a period of inflation, and those were kind of the two pressing things when he walked in the door, and those will continue to be pressing, and he also has a number of, as you just outlined, short and long-term issues, immigration, the surge of migrants at the border now a new, you know, more tension between Israel and Hamas.

[03:09:58]

And also, the idea that, you know, our weak cyber security system and the fact that a number of both government and private companies are subject to hacking is, that's not the end of the story. The idea that that pipeline is back up and running, we have to focus on this or else, you know, it will be -- maybe it won't be next week but it will be next month that you and I are talking about the next crisis when it comes to cyber security.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course that's particularly difficult because we are talking about private companies here, and on the whole Americans don't like the federal government getting involved and so that's a tricky area for him. But also, President Biden on Saturday spoke separately with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the first conversation between Abbas and Biden since he assumed the U.S. presidency.

Now these conversations come amid this heightened concern about civilian casualties on both sides with the violence that's going on right now. What more does President Biden need to be doing to end this violence, because there's lot of people including progressive Democrats who think he is not stepping up with this, he is not doing enough?

LEVINSON: I think that that's exactly right. I think this is going to be a big challenge for President Biden, and I wish I could say I think this will be the first and last moment of tension between Israel and Hamas during his administration, but I think we all know basically it won't be. That it seems to be in the situation a matter of time and until there's another flare-up.

And I think you are exactly right that there is a strong tradition in America of saying Israel is our ally and we support them and we support their ability to exist, and I think there are a lot of particularly progressive Democrats who are saying we have to address the issue of violence, but we can say that the Israeli government is doing things that we don't approve of without saying that Israel doesn't have a right to exist, or without criticizing the Jewish people, and he is going to have to thread that very difficult needle because it increasingly does not look like this is a moment where you can get these two sides to the table.

So, I think what he is hoping for is a short-term cooldown, and then certainly if he could create any sort of lasting peace, that would be an absolutely a crowning achievement for him and for all of us.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, that would be a tough call for sure. But meantime, of course, the GOP removed Liz Cheney from her leadership post Wednesday, in response she told Fox News that Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik are complicit in Donald Trump's election lies. How likely is it that she can win over support from other Republicans not happy with Trump's growing influence over the party, given a CBS News poll reveals 80 percent of Republicans agree with her being removed. Eighty percent.

LEVINSON: That's an incredibly steep hill to climb, obviously. So, Republican ranks are shrinking in America, but President Trump as you said, I mean, he is overwhelmingly popular according to that poll, and that poll says we agree with him, his policies, and they are in favor of getting rid of Liz Cheney, who, let's remember, was ousted not because she said I have a different policy view or I have some different proposals when it comes to tax reform or environmental controls or criminal justice, was ousted because she spoke the truth.

So, what does this mean? I think for Republicans looking at what happened to Liz Cheney, for Republicans wanting to keep their jobs and not be vulnerable with at least their base in the primary, I don't see her having a big following. The Republicans that we hear about saying we have to build a third party or we have to abandon this idea that President Biden isn't the real president, those are largely people who are not currently elected officials. So, at least in the short term it really looks like the Republican Party continues to be the party of Trump.

CHURCH: We'll see where all of this goes. Jessica Levinson, always great to get your analysis. I appreciate it.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

CHURCH: The U.S. is seeing some of the rewards from its vaccination efforts but an abrupt policy change on masks have left many states and businesses confused. What do officials need to do to put the public at ease? We'll have that discussion coming up.

Plus, it's a big day in the U.K. with some major COVID restrictions being lifted. A look at what's reopening and how health officials are still taking a cautious approach with variants of the virus.

[03:15:00]

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CHURCH (on camera): The hills are on fire in portions of Southern California. The Los Angeles County Fire Department says this blaze has scorched more than 1,200 acres with zero percent containment. About 1,000 people have already left their homes. Other residents are being told to stand by for evacuation orders. Conditions in the area are very dry but arson is suspected in this case.

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to speak today about America's fight against the coronavirus and the efforts to get people vaccinated. I want you to take a look at this poll. About two-thirds of Americans either have gotten or say they will get the vaccine as soon as possible. And even more, three quarters say, they have gotten or are likely to get the vaccine.

Both of these were all-time highs in the polling from Ipsos, that's an encouraging sign and providing some optimism here in the United States as the country inches closer toward what it hopes will be herd immunity.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is defending the agency's decision last week to lift mask mandates for fully vaccinated Americans. The policy change brought about widespread confusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:19:58]

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I think that people who were not inclined to wear a mask were not inclined to wear a mask before Thursday.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But some of them were mandated to do so and those mandates are lifting in part because of your new guidelines.

WALENSKY: Yes. So, what we are really asking in those settings is to say, in terms of the honor system, people have to be honest with themselves. You're protected if you're vaccinated, you're not, if you're not vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Dr. Esther Choo is a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. She joins me now from Portland, Oregon.

Thank you, doctor, for talking with us and for all that you do.

ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Good to be with you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So, the CDC says it is relying on an honor system, lifting mask mandates for those who are fully vaccinated, and trusting that those not vaccinated will keep their masks on, but without proof of vaccinations many are concerned not everyone will be honorable and that could put lives at risk. The CDC clarified this point saying the decision should be made at the local level, but now everyone is confused, so what is the safest way to approach this?

CHOO: There will be lots more communication around this and I think there will also be lots of guidance around specific environments, like businesses or schools, day cares, and things like that. I mean, I think that the thing to understand is that this is not a universal sweeping order to lift mask mandates, and that from the first iteration the CDC has said there's lots of environments, including healthcare settings and congregate living facilities and public transportation where mask wearing will not change at all.

And then I think we really think to understand that the pandemic plays out in a very local way. And so, for an individual community where case rates are still high where vaccination rates are still low, that -- that mask wearing may not budge an inch for quite some time, and we need to be respectful of that and not, you know, not say, well, the CDC said it's universally OK. That is absolutely not what they said. They really were talking about in specific situations we can start feeling more comfortable for the risk to ourselves about taking off masks.

CHURCH: So, doctor, how confident are you that 70 percent of Americans will have at least one COVID vaccine shot by July 4th, which, of course is Joe Biden's goal here, and that's of course going by the current progress. Is that achievable? Will a lifting of the mask mandate perhaps convince enough people to get the vaccine?

CHOO: Yes, that's the hope that it is -- that it is kind of an incentive for people to want to go out and get the vaccine. I'm not sure that's really will drive things in such a literal way, where people were like, well now that they have done this, I'm just going to get the vaccine. I think it still rests on people getting their questions and concerns about the vaccine addressed and also having access which -- which, you know, is not such an easy thing for lot of people.

But I do think the Biden administration has made goals that they've exceeded almost every time when it comes to the vaccine, that they've had an incredibly successful program. They are aware that we are now pivoting from mass vaccination sites to really local efforts that are getting to communities that have not been able to have high rates of vaccinations.

So, I'm guessing if they put out a goal with a specific date that they promise to over deliver, and I think we probably will reach that just as we've reached other vaccine milestones here.

CHURCH: So how far away might we be from herd immunity in the United States? Is that even achievable, do you think?

CHOO: Yes, I -- I have really felt like the public health conversation has shifted away from herd immunity. I think that is so difficult to achieve. We are seeing, you know, a lot of different variants out there that seem to have increased transmissibility of COVID over time. So, my guess is that we really have to stop focusing on that that we're really going to talk about getting as many people vaccinated as possible as the rates go up, we will increasingly be able to treat this like a -- just another seasonal virus much like the flu.

And I think that, yes. I'm not -- I am not hearing a lot about eliminations strategy anymore but really talking about making this less serious of a disease and learning to live with COVID for a while.

CHURCH: Dr. Esther Choo, always a pleasure to talk with you, and again, thank you for all that you do. I appreciate it.

CHOO: Thanks for having me on.

CHURCH: Well, much of Britain can now reopen for business starting today. You can grab a pint at the pub, go to the movies or even dine at a restaurant indoors, all under the latest lifting of lockdown measures for England, Scotland and Wales.

[03:29:57]

Meanwhile, the British health secretary says new data shows vaccines may be effective against the Indian variant now the dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

And CNN's Phil Black joins me now from Essex with more on this. Great to see you, Phil.

So, vaccinations are making the easing of COVID restrictions in the U.K. possible, and now of course, this data on the Indian variant sounds very promising. What more are you learning about all of this?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, today is a happy and positive day but it's not a champagne moment because it does reflect the progress that has been made on one hand, the extraordinary progress in driving down infections since this wave crashed down on the U.K. back in January at its peak.

But now there are complications, I think, over the concerns surrounding this new highly contagious variant that was first detected in India, it is here, it is spreading quickly. The numbers are still small but the concern is what it could do if it is found to be significantly more transmissible than the current dominant strain.

The fear is that for all the progress that has been made with the vaccination program 69 percent of the adult populations now has coverage from at least one dose, more than half of that, two doses, and for all that protection there are still lots of people who haven't been vaccinated, and vaccines aren't perfect.

So, the figures the modeling suggest that if this strain 40, 50, 60 percent more transmissible, then you could still once again see a surge in cases and that could once again result in lots of people in hospitals and lots of pressure on the health system.

So, the government is going to be watching what this new variant does in the coming weeks. It is hoping that it can keep infection numbers from this new variant to manageable levels through a combination of aggressive testing, tracing, isolation, while at the same time maintaining its rollout of the vaccine program with a renewed focus on getting a second dose to everyone who is considered to be more vulnerable. Essentially, everyone over 50, everyone who has a clinical reason for being more vulnerable, getting their second dose as quickly as possible.

They are shortening the gap for those people between the first and the second dose, it was 12 weeks, it now going to be eight weeks. The government hopes this will be enough to, as they say, keep those cases at a manageable rate while it continues to rollout the vaccine more broadly in the -- with the aim of reaching its ultimate goal of getting it to every member of the adult population by July, but there's a lot at stake because the U.K. hopes to lift pretty much all remaining vaccine -- pandemic restrictions remaining in just five weeks' time now, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Phil Black joining us live from Essex in England, many thanks.

Well, with the conflict in Gaza showing no sign of slowing down, there are growing concerns about the impact the violence is having across the region. We will have a live report from Lebanon.

Plus, this is what remains after bleachers collapses at a crowded synagogue in the West Bank. Details on the tragedy overshadowing a religious celebration. That's next.

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[03:30:00]

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. Well, there is no sign of a break in the cycle of violence in Israel and Gaza. Smoke could be seen rising above Gaza this morning. Israel carried out more airstrikes there as the conflict entered its second week.

The air force said it struck nine Hamas residences, some of them used to store weapons. The military says it also hit Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza. The strikes followed a Hamas claim of rockets fired at southern Israel.

Well, concerns are growing about the effect this ongoing conflict could have across the region. So let's bring in Salma Abdelazis. She joins us live from Beirut. Good to see you, Salma. So, what is the latest on the growing anger in the region over Israeli strikes on Gaza?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Rosemary, this weekend, we really saw that anger erupt along the Lebanese-Israeli border. It was Nakba Day. That is the day that commemorates the tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousand, rather, of Palestinians that were displaced in the year 1948.

The people there told me that anniversary was compounded with the pain and suffering. They saw that families under Gaza -- in Gaza were suffering. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ADBELAZIZ (voice-over): On a Lebanese hilltop overlooking Israel, they gathered to mark 73 years since what they called the catastrophe. Some commemorated the occasion with selfies for posterity. Others stood for a moment of quiet reflection. But most chose the traditional chants that have echoed through these valleys for decades.

Soon, small groups have man-made their way down to the border fence to take part in another longstanding tradition: stone throwing. Soldiers tried to control the youths' anger but a soul rebel (ph) climbed to the top.

A day earlier, a Lebanese man had died doing the same from wounds sustained by an Israeli rocket. But with the barrier of fear now broken, demonstrators grew bolder.

(On camera): We are seeing protesters throw rocks, sticks, really anything they can get their hands on over this border fence. They've seen Israeli troops on the other side, and we've heard what appears to be the sound of gunfire.

We are throwing stones at the Israelis who have occupied our land, this man tells me. We wish the Lebanese Army would let us cross.

Then a collective effort to scale the nearly 25-foot tall concrete walls began. Those who made it to the top hoisted their flags. Others chose to send a more direct message.

Israel says acts like these threaten its national security. But the mother of one of the man hanging at the top of the observation tower told me this is their resistance. We are in pain, she tells me. This is happening to Jerusalem and the Arab governments are asleep. Where are their morals?

As (INAUDIBLE) capacity was maxing out, teargas canister landed in the crowds, and Lebanese troops could be moved in and disperse the gathering.

The day ended at it began with loud promised to march to Jerusalem from a crowd that knows it can do no such thing.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

[03:35:06]

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Now, we saw very similar scenes play out in Jordan as well, Rosemary, but by and large, there is the sense that the Arab streets are quiet. Probably the demonstrations we saw in London (ph) over the weekend (INAUDIBLE) but they were larger. And why is that? There are couple of reasons.

The first comes down to a talk. We see a lot of human rights groups. They will tell you they simply don't want to see or autocratic government simply don't want to see tens of thousands of people gathered in their streets, particularly in a post Arab spring environment.

But you also have a huge diplomatic shift happening in this region. A lot of countries are signing normalization agreement, four countries so far. That just happened last year. That means a much more muted criticism and it is over seven years since Nakba Day.

The (INAUDIBLE) experience of some of the younger Arabs in this country is one of turning inwards, a focusing on the revolutions of overthrowing their own governments. That is what people were telling me there. They said they feel isolated. They feel alone. They themselves were Palestinian descendants and they are concerned that the Arab governments are simply not representing their interests. Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): Salma Adbelaziz, joining us live from Beirut, many thanks.

At least two people are dead following the collapse of bleachers at a synagogue in the West Bank. We are going to show you the moment it happened. But first, we do want to warn you, you may find this disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CHURCH (voice-over): Israeli Emergency Services say more than 100 people were injured. They were there gathering for a Jewish holiday. These images give you a sense of the wreckage once everyone was able to get out. The bleacher collapse comes just over two weeks after 45 people were killed in a stampede at a religious festival at Israel's Mount Meron.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH (on camera): And still to come, India's daily COVID cases have dropped significantly in the past 24 hours, but rural areas are still seeing a frightening surge. Plus, a shortage of vaccines in Peru means vaccine tourists are flying north. We will have that.

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[03:40:00]

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CHURCH: A powerful tropical cyclone is hurtling towards western India and growing in strength. It has already claimed at least six lives as it moves north toward Gujarat Peninsula. Right now, it is almost as strong as a Category 4 hurricane. High winds, flash flooding, and storm surge are all big concerns. And to make matters worse, COVID vaccination drives in Mumbai and Gujarat have been suspicion during the storm.

Well, there are some positive signs in India's COVID fight. It has reported a significant drop in daily COVID cases with numbers below 300,000 for the first time in nearly a month. The country recorded just over 281,000 news cases on Monday, but the daily death toll is still topping 4,000.

And the Indian government has also announced a plan to contain COVID in rural areas, which are seeing some of the worse surges. It includes equipping health clinics with extra beds and oxygen support.

CNN's Anna Coren is following the story for us from Hong Kong. Anna, I mean, that is encouraging, that the daily COVID cases are falling slightly, but as we pointed out, deaths are still at more 4,000 a day. So much comfort should they be? What do these numbers signal?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, certainly, after the weekend, there is always a dip in daily infections. However, this is a significant drop. As you said, it is the first time in almost a month that it has fallen below 300,000 infections.

So, it's certainly positive, positive that perhaps India has already reached its peak and is now on the other side. That is certainly some of the (INAUDIBLE) that we have seen. Yes, the death toll is still high, it will remain high for the several weeks, but perhaps there is now a downward trajectory.

In the cities, absolutely, in the countryside, we are seeing this surge. We also have to remember that the attention was very much on the cities -- and the chaos in the cities.

We are seeing those workers, migrant workers return to their homes because of the lockdown. Most of India is now in lockdown. So, by returning to their homes, taking the virus with them, and this is where we are seeing the spread. The government has announced that schools, community centers, government buildings were used to treat COVID patients and then rural health clinics, which typically under-resourced, be stocked with beds and oxygen. This is obviously desperately needed to try and contain the surge.

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, India finally saw him last Friday, and he addressed the pandemic. He has been missing in action for more than three weeks. He talks about the government being on this war footing in combatting the pandemic. He said, as the country's servant, that he feels his people's pain.

Interesting, Rosemary, one minute, he was trying to reach out. The government in New Delhi, the capital, had ordered the police to arrest dozens of people who put out posters around the capital over the weekend, saying, Mr. Modi, why did you send away our children's vaccines? We know the government is trying to silence its critics. It seems that it is still focusing very much of its energy on doing just that.

CHURCH: Yeah, understood. Anna Coren, joining us from Hong Kong with the very latest on what is happening in India, appreciate that.

Well, up until a few days ago, Taiwan has seemingly managed to contain the pandemic. It had fewer than 2,000 cases. But now, it is facing its worst outbreak yet. The island is reporting 335 new infections today, a new daily record, and schools in two major cities are closed for the next two weeks to try to get the outbreak under control.

Let us turn to CNN's Will Ripley. He joins us now from Taipei for a look at what is going on. Good to see you, Will. So, it is worth pointing out Taiwan had been doing so well up until now. What went wrong?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, Taiwan was one of the first countries in the world to decisively shut down its borders at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as a result, they effectively eliminated local transmission here for many months and life has felt remarkably normal.

When you compare it to the rest of the world, at the height of the pandemic when countries were locked down, people couldn't even leave their homes, people were gathering in large groups here.

[03:45:02]

RIPLEY: They were going out to dinner, going to night clubs, going to the night markets, and assembling in ways that could have only been in the dreams of most of the other people around the world.

Well, now, that complacency has allowed this new wave of infection to spread and spread quickly. So just within the last hour, you had well over 300 new confirmed daily cases. That is a new pandemic record. Over the last several days, Taiwan has been hitting record after record. And the concern among government officials is that those numbers will continue to spike. There is even talk now that Taiwan will once again shut down its borders in the coming days, effectively stopping all incoming travel because that is what is believed to be the source of this latest outbreak.

Now, the other concern for the Taiwan government is that they have a vaccine shortage right now. People who want to get vaccinated cannot. And frankly, up until a few days ago, when you would walk out on the streets and they were full of people, getting a vaccine was not high on the priority list of the average Taiwanese citizen.

That has now changed but people are finding that unless they are high priority group or first line worker, they will not be able to get their first jab of the limited number of COVID-19 vaccines here.

And getting more vaccines is proving to be a challenge in part because of regional politics. Taiwan and its longstanding complicated relationship with mainland China means that regional vendors that hand out the vaccines that are loyal to the mainland might be reluctant to sell them to the government here in Taiwan. That could mean that for a country that has effectively no herd immunity, more than 23 million here, Rosemary, a very vulnerable population, as the case numbers here continue to take off.

CHURCH (on camera): Yeah, that is a real concern. Will Ripley, joining us live from Taipei, many thanks.

Well, the coronavirus vaccine is rolling out very slowly in much of Latin America. But those who have money and visas are travelling to the United States to get their shot, causing controversy in the states and in their home countries. Rafael Romo reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He leaves before dawn carrying two suitcases for the long trip. After hugging his family, Elber Estella (ph) is off to the airport. The Peruvian business owner from Lima is travelling to Seattle. This is not just any trip, he says, but a life or death decision.

Our political environment means our government is unable to fulfil its duty and that's why I have made this decision, Estella (ph) says. His goal is spending a month in Seattle, just enough time to get both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

His wife, Ursula (ph), who is also traveling to the United States but later, says she only has enough time to get the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine.

The vaccination has been very slow in our country, and we have decided we can't wait any longer. We are seeing many cases around us and the intensive care units are overwhelmed, which means you can die, she said.

Together, they have spent $2,200 to have three members of their family, including their 18-year-old daughter, fly to Seattle for a COVID-19 shot. Elber (ph) arrived first.

This is not about the American dream, he says, upon arriving. This is about the vaccine dream.

(On camera): Just like this Peruvian family, many in Latin America who are tired of waiting and have the means to do it are traveling to the United States to get coronavirus vaccine. Florida imposed ID restrictions in January due to a sharp increase in the number of foreigners seeking a COVID-19 shot in the Sunshine State.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You have people that lived here six months. That is fine. They use the hospitals here. They pay taxes. But to just kind of come in from another country or whatever, you know, we don't support that and we're not going to allow that.

ROMO (voice-over): But Susana Milan (ph), an Argentinian PR specialist who was spending time in Florida, says her country's passport was sufficient identification to get the shot.

They didn't ask for anything else, she said. In fact, so many people from Argentina are traveling to Florida, that according to this travel expert, the price for a ticket from Buenos Aires to Miami rose from an average of $800 in May of 2019 to approximately $2,700 this month.

According to Argentina's state-run carrier, in the first quarter of this year, their four Miami-bound weekly flights were at about half capacity. Now, its six weekly flights are at 70 percent capacity.

In Latin America, traveling to get a shot has become a wedge issue between the haves and the have-nots.

The Peruvian health minister has been critical of those who travel, seeing it reflects his country's inequality.

[03:50:00]

ROMO (voice-over): But Elber Estella (ph) says it is not about money or social class but about taking care of his family.

The minister is not going to feed my children or take care of my business if I'm no longer around, he says.

At long last, Estella (ph) gets his first shot. And now, he says, he anxiously waits for the rest of his family to do the same.

Rafael Romo, CNN.

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CHURCH (on camera): And we will be back in just a moment.

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CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The Tokyo Olympics are approaching fast, but Japan still doesn't have its coronavirus outbreak under control. Many in the country are saying it is too dangerous to host the games now and they are raising their voices to get their message across.

Selina Wang is in Tokyo. She joins us now live. Great to see you, Selina. So, despite the IOC being confident the games will go ahead, many across Japan are calling for the Olympic Games to be cancelled. What is the latest on this?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, that is exactly right. I'm right now standing in the central area of Tokyo where a group of anti-Olympics protesters are going to start gathering in just a few hours.

[03:54:58]

WANG: Now, what this protest really represents is the mounting frustration here in Japan against these games. According to local polls, the majority of people in Japan think these games should be flat-out cancelled. In fact, in just nine days, an online petition received more than 350,000 signatures urging the government to cancel the games.

Japan is currently struggling to deal with the way a wave of COVID-19 cases driven by more contagious variants. Large slash (ph) of the country are under state of emergency and the country has only fully vaccinated about one percent of its population. The medical systems in many parts of the country are on the brink of collapse.

Now, the group of anti-Olympic protesters, the one who organized this protest, they've actually been against these games ever since Japan originally won the bid. Their argument is that it is a costly and wasteful expenditure. At more than $15 billion, these games are set to be the most expensive summer Olympics on record.

They say there are more important causes that that energy and resources should be focused on, for instance, on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as rebuilding the region of Japan that was devastated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Rosemary, I can certainly say that the mood here on the ground does seem to be reaching a sort of inflection point. On top of the general public being against the games, more and more high-profile leaders are speaking out.

In fact, on Friday, I sat for an exclusive interview with the CEO of Rakuten, this is a tech and the converse giant here in Japan, and the CEO told me that hosting the games in Japan would have mount to a suicide mission. And it is not just corporate leaders. It is also the medical community. A group of doctors here in Japan has also urged the government to cancel, saying that it is impossible to host a safe and secure Olympics. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Selina Wang brings us the very latest from Tokyo. We will continue to watch the story. Many thanks.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news in just a moment.

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