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Israel's Assault on Gaza; Monster Cyclone Disrupts Testing, Vaccinations in India; Taiwan Fighting Its Most Severe Pandemic Outbreak; Protesters Call for Olympic Games to be Canceled; Biden: U.S. to Share Millions More Vaccines with World; U.K. Reopens International Travel to Limited Destinations. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 18, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Israeli airstrikes light up the night sky as pressure grows for a cease-fire.



VAUSE (voice-over): The divide continues to grow between the COVID vaccine haves and the have-nots, even as the U.S. donates millions of excess supply to the rest of the world.

And, a natural disaster, colliding with a man-made crisis. A powerful cyclone slamming into the west coast of India, a country already struggling with the worst COVID outbreak in the world.


VAUSE: Calls for a cease-fire have done little to slow the pace of Israel's military offensive on militants in Gaza. Israel claimed to hit more military targets in the past week than all of last year.


VAUSE (voice-over): Overnight, Israel claimed airstrikes destroyed a network of Hamas tunnels and rocket installations, as well as the homes of Hamas commanders. A senior commander, of Islamic Jihad was also targeted by Israelis.

The Gaza health ministry reports 212 people have been killed since last Monday, including 61 children. Israel says Hamas is to blame for the high death toll, for placing rocket launchers and military equipment in residential neighborhoods, close to schools and hospitals. Meanwhile, Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory have claimed at

least 10 civilian lives since the fighting began. The Red Cross says three people were hurt when a missile hit a residential building in Ashdod.


VAUSE: To the north, the IDF responded with artillery fire, after six rockets were fired from Lebanon, falling short of Israeli territory. The U.S. President, Joe Biden, spoke by phone, again on Monday, with the Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu. This time, voicing support for a cease-fire.

Our coverage begins with senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, reporting from Jerusalem.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Destruction, again, in Gaza City. Israeli firepower, destroying the top floors of this building in a neighborhood. The Israelis say, the targets were militants from Hamas.

The Israeli strike, blowing out the windows of a health clinic across the street, a key coronavirus testing center, according to officials in Gaza.

"The Palestinian situation is devastated and in crisis, for 15 years. Now the crisis is worse and suffering has increased," says this Gaza resident.

Meanwhile, just a few miles north, the Israeli military continues with their artillery assault.

Monday evening, the Israeli military claimed airstrikes had rendered 100 kilometers of tunnel, inoperable. Taking out the network of underground passageways, beneath Gaza, where Israel says fighters take shelter and store weapons, a major objective in Israel's campaign.

Another priority, degrading rock Hamas' rocket building capability; 80 to 90 percent of the capacity, now destroyed, say the Israeli military.

For Israelis in towns like Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva, it's a message they need to hear.

"Two days, it fell next to my house and did massive damage," this resident says, "this time, it went into the building."

Several times a day, the alarms ring out and they run for cover.

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

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Short thrift for those demanding an immediate cease-fire -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: Elliott Gotkine live this hour in southern Israel, in the city of Ashdod where it is just past 7 am.

You are about 6 kilometers, just over 3 miles or 4 miles, from Gaza.

Is there concern there about how much longer this military offensive will last or it there support for the Israeli government to continue until the job is done, as they say?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think most Israelis you speak to want to see this campaign meet one of its objectives, which is to reduce Hamas' capabilities to fire rockets on Israel and cause mayhem, as we've seen, in cities in and around the Gaza Strip but also, in central Israel, such as Tel Aviv.

I should say, last night was the quietest night in Israel since the latest outbreak of hostilities, just over one week ago.


GOTKINE: No rockets fired, according to the IDF, from the Gaza Strip into Israel, between 11:15 pm last night and 5:30 this morning. After, which there were more rockets fired and airstrikes are continuing as well.

I wouldn't infer too much into this (sic). It doesn't necessarily mean that Hamas' will to cause mayhem in Israel is any more diminished more than its capabilities of firing rockets have been reduced. As Ben was just reporting, the IDF does say that Hamas' manufacturing capabilities for rockets have been degraded to the tune of 80 percent to 90 percent.

So in that respect, the Israelis in the towns and the cities around the Gaza Strip, under almost constant rocket fire, will be relieved to see that. But I don't think that they will see that as something that they can expect to continue going forward.

VAUSE: So far, if you look at the number of rockets which have been fired since this escalated a week ago, more than 3,000, is there any idea within Israeli intelligence about the size of Hamas' stockpile?

How many rockets did they have?

How close are they to being depleted is what many people would like to know.

GOTKINE: There were reports that there were around 13,000 rockets that they had in their arsenal. So if you do the math, that would mean there's around 10,000 or so remaining. This isn't something the IDF likes to put out. This is something that is reported coming from the Israeli intelligence services.

I think, for now, Israel is working on the assumption that Hamas continues to have the capability to fire rockets into Israel. Part of the objectives of this current campaign is to diminish that capability.

And as prime minister Netanyahu is saying, to also get Hamas to be less inclined to do so, because the consequences are just too great, that the risk and reward from firing into Israel will not be worth it.

I don't think we are at this point yet and it's debatable as to whether we will get to that point, just from airstrikes, right now.

At the same time, as you say, the diplomatic channels are open and there are still attempts from various countries, around the world, led by the United States, to try to achieve some kind of cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas around Gaza Strip.

VAUSE: Elliott, thank you, Elliott Gotkine live in Ashdod. Appreciate it.

With us now from Washington, Aaron David Miller, a CNN global affairs analyst and former Middle East peace negotiator at the U.S. State Department.

Aaron, it's been a while, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: I want you to listen to the U.S. secretary of state, on Monday, actually saying the word cease-fire.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Palestinians and Israelis, like people everywhere, have the right to live in safety and security. So we have been working, intensively, behind the scenes, to end the conflict.

We are ready to lend support if the parties seek a cease-fire. We will continue to conduct intensive diplomacy to bring this current cycle of violence to an end.


VAUSE: And, according to the White House statement, the U.S. President said that he supported a cease-fire during a phone conversation with the Israeli prime minister. But all of this just seems a little tepid.

As of Sunday, the U.S. has blocked a resolution at the U.N. Security Council 3 times now, that would condemn the Israel military response or call for a cease-fire. It doesn't seem to add up.

MILLER: Well, if you are Joe Biden and you preside over the greatest challenge, domestically a national recovery since Franklin Roosevelt and you don't have Roosevelt's vast majorities in the House and Senate, you pick your foreign policy slots carefully.

Israel is a fraught issue. When it comes to Israel and Hamas, that is a highly politicized issue.

I think, plus, John, the reality is that, the last 3 confrontations, the United States played a role. But the reality was, when Israel and Hamas reached a point where they accomplished everything they wanted to do and, essentially, they risked losing some of their games, then they were open largely to an Egyptian brokered a cease-fire.

No matter what Joe Biden wants, in this particular issue but politically, strategically and from the standpoint of a negotiation, clearly, he has bought the notion that he needs to give the Israelis time and space to do what the IDF needs to be done.

I suspect, he has some sort of timeline from Netanyahu. But next week, if this is going on one week from now and Palestinian casualties continue to rise and electricity, water, not only sporadic but nonexistent in Gaza, I suspect that Biden will have no choice but to ramp up pressure.

VAUSE: So a week, another 200 people dead in Gaza while the Egyptians try to broker a cease-fire.


VAUSE: According to one source, Hamas is demanding an end to, what it calls Israeli provocations at the Al-Aqsa mosque and a resolution of the Sheikh Jarrah eviction threat, reference to the 6 Palestinian families living in Jerusalem, being forced from their homes.

On the other side of this, Israeli insistence that Hamas cease-fire begins first, at least 3 hours before Israel and they would follow, it's flatly rejected by Hamas.

In the diplomatic negotiations, these don't seem to be intransigent obstacles here.

These aren't really big, deals are they?

MILLER: If you're in a traditional mediation situation and if the United States was a putative broker and the United States was able to work with both sides, then, you could look at this and say, OK, there are ways to fix these problems.

It's not what's happening here. The U.S.' influence over one of the parties and both sides, simply, aren't ready, it seems to me, to stand down. The danger in letting this drift is obvious.

You really do run the risk of mass casualty attacks or an incident. The Israeli joint artillery shell, finding a large collection of Palestinians or a Hamas rocket, the same within Israel and then it takes a cruel twist and turn.

VAUSE: Over the years, especially around the Palestinians, the U.S. has lost its credibility, if you like, playing the role of the honest broker between these 2 sides. The past 4 years of the Trump administration didn't help a lot. With that in mind, here's the Palestinian Authority prime minister.


MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are following what is happening, every single second. We call on the international community to intervene, to stop the aggression. But Israel, so far, has not responded to anyone.


VAUSE: At the end of the day, the international community, will it replace the role of the United States?

It seems like, as you said, the only center that has influence over Israel is the United States. Unless it is willing to get involved and make these demands of Israel, Israel will keep going. The international community can't make Israel's stop.

MILLER: No, the vaunted international community, if you take a look at the other crises, has been in a series of classic examples. In the end I come back to my original point of departure. The 2 protagonists here, Israel and Hamas, are controlling the pace of this battle.

Until it becomes unmistakably clear to one of the other, that they've accomplished what they set out to do and they risk losing some of the gains they have made, I think it will be extremely difficult for anyone, the international community, the United Nations, essentially, to intercede in this. And Joe Biden, again, simply isn't ready or willing or able to, essentially, demand that the Israelis stand down.

VAUSE: We'll have to wrap up here. But this death toll continues to mount on both sides. That is the tragedy here. Sooner, rather than later would be good. Thank you, good to see you.

MILLER: Take care.


VAUSE: The number of daily new COVID cases in India appears to be falling but health experts worry, it's a result of inadequate testing in rural areas, where the virus is spreading. It is unlikely to be a sign that the outbreak has peaked.

Overall, the total number of confirmed cases, passing 25 million. second only to the United States. Now vaccination efforts are slowing, because of supply shortages. The Delhi government says that it has just four days with the vaccines left.

And now, the massive cyclone that is pummeling India's west coast is disrupting both testing and vaccination efforts in that region. Joining us now, with the latest, CNN's Anna Coren, live, in Hong Kong.

Anna, let's start with you. This massive storm, one of the biggest in a long time, not helping the efforts of vaccinations. ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. The

biggest in 2 decades to hit this part of India. As you mentioned, the state Maharashtra as well as Gujarat has had to suspend its vaccination program, as the storm barreled up the west coast.

These are 2 states where cases have been declining over the past few days. The concern, obviously, is that, with this cyclone now hitting and making landfall, the rain, the wind that comes with it, it is setting the states back. And, that is the concern.

More than 150,000 people, having to be evacuated from low lying areas, many of those people, crammed now, together, in these evacuation facilities. So obviously, the concern, once again, is that this virus is going to spread. COVID patients in hospitals had to also be removed from the coastal areas.


COREN: Once again, the concern, that clusters are going to spread. This really just setting back India, those 2 states where we had seen a decline in cases.

John, I should also mention that the Indian Medical Association has just announced that 244 doctors have died during the second wave, 50 on Sunday, a staggering number, taking it to a total of 1,000 doctors that have died during the pandemic in India, just proving that frontline workers are paying the ultimate price.

VAUSE: Just right now off the coast of Mumbai, there is a Navy search and rescue operation, what do we know?

COREN: Yes, absolutely. There are 3 Navy vessels out there, looking for workers from this barge. They were at an oil field off the coast of Mumbai, 146 people have been rescued, they are still searching for 127 that are missing.

Search and rescue operation, it is ongoing; however, conditions as you can see extremely poor. They cannot send helicopters up until conditions improve, John.


VAUSE: Thank you for the update and also Anna Coren in Hong Kong for the very latest there, thank you.

When we come back, a familiar story, from pandemic success story to massive outbreak and lockdown. Taiwan is now dealing with its worst outbreak of COVID so far.

How did it all go so badly?

A live report from Taipei is next. Plus, it was meant to be a moment of national pride but now many in Japan want the Tokyo Olympics canceled. A live report from Tokyo, coming up.




VAUSE: Welcome back everyone.

A temporary ban on international visitors to Taiwan will begin Wednesday, as authorities face the most severe COVID outbreak so far. Taiwan reported 335 cases Monday, a record single day rise. Just a few days ago, reported fewer than 2,000 cases for the entire pandemic.

The schools are closed in two cities, restrictions are in effect also in the capital of Taipei. That is where Will Ripley is right, now.

So Will, this is such a stunning turnaround for an island, a place where authorities have had such a good handle on the pandemic from the get-go.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is stunning, it's happened so quickly, John, to think about the fact that, on Friday, restaurants were full, night markets were packed, people were out with their families and friends, enjoying a normal quality of life.

Then boom, Saturday, Sunday, streets here in Taipei, New Taipei City are essentially deserted. People now have to wear masks; outside, it's mandatory. That's not been the case throughout much of this pandemic.

Taiwan is an island that, at the onset of COVID-19, they shut down their borders very quickly, very decisively and essentially eliminated local transmission for months and months on end.

As a result, people here live life as if it was normal. It was a rare oasis as much of the world with dealing with lockdowns. The restrictions in place today are the most severe restrictions that Taiwan has seen for the entire pandemic.

The problem when you have 23 million people largely immune from the pandemic, now that you have this and numbers expected to keep going up every single day, because there was not widespread social distancing, people had that complacency, you have a population that is no herd immunity.

You have a vaccine shortage to the point where people can't get vaccinated even if they want to, because there just aren't enough supplies.

Getting vaccines in challenging for a number of reasons, one of those reasons is believed to be the complicated relationship between Mainland China and Taiwan. Regional distributors who may be loyal to Beijing reluctant to sell to Taiwan.

Also Taiwan was hoping to get the Pfizer vaccine. They won't be able to for quite some time. So a critical vaccine shortage, no herd immunity, a nation very unnerved at the moment at the possibility of a big outbreak, the biggest seen yet. That psychological impact of the number now going over 2,000 cases.

It seems like a small number for most anywhere else, they had just a dozen deaths here but people have seen what has happened in other countries, albeit months ago where those small numbers became very large numbers quickly.

At this stage, Taiwan, there's a lot of questions, John, about whether they can handle a large-scale outbreak. At least for the time being, people seem to be respecting the government guidelines. They are staying, in socially distant and they're hoping that they can ride this out without things getting a whole lot worse here.

VAUSE: Absolutely, Will Ripley live for us in Taipei.

Demands for the cancellation of the Tokyo Summer Olympics have now turned to protests, amid a surge of COVID infections. One poll by a Japanese newspaper has found widespread opposition to the games, with 43 percent in favor of canceling the Olympics altogether.

Despite that opposition, pregame events are underway, that includes the torch relay, Monday passing through Hiroshima's Peace Park. The opening ceremony is just over 2 months away. For more let's head to Tokyo, CNN's Blake Essig is live with more on this.


VAUSE: It just seems that there's 2 distinct camps here. The people don't want and organizers who say it's going to happen whether you like it or not.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, you know, John, COVID-19 continues to cause problems for Olympic organizers. That's unlikely to change. With that the voices that are opposing the games, is likely to continue to grow.

The torch relay set for today in Hiroshima, has been moved off public roads. This was an event international Olympic community president Thomas Bach was scheduled to be at before postponing because of the virus.

In Tokyo last night, protesters chanted and marched to send the message that the games should be canceled. At least 45 towns and Olympic teams abandoned plans to hold training camps, participate in the host town program.

There is also a petition with over 350,000 signatures, which is recently submitted to the Tokyo metropolitan government called the games to be canceled. A recent poll which you mentioned, conducted by a major Japanese newspaper which showed more than 80 percent of people believe the games should either be canceled or postponed again.

It's worth noting that protests in Japan are uncommon, democracy doesn't have a long history and people are traditionally quiet politically. That athletes, medical professionals and industry leaders are speaking out publicly against games even in small numbers is significant. It's clear that the anti Olympic movement is growing, a part of the

reason, Japan is still battling a fourth wave of infection. The strain on the medical system continues, a big concern from the public and medical professionals has to do with what could happen, when tens of thousands of athletes and support staff enter Japan for the Olympics.

Now especially given that the reality of the situation here is still only 1 percent of Japan's population that has been fully vaccinated, John?

VAUSE: OK, Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there in Tokyo with the very latest.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, the U.S. decided to share millions of doses of COVID vaccine with the rest the world. Hey, what took so long?

Why wealthy countries have already vaccinated the most vulnerable have been slow to share their stockpiles.




VAUSE: Welcome back everybody, thanks for staying with us, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause with more now our lead story.

The Israeli military says its latest run of airstrikes in Gaza has targeted homes and infrastructure of Hamas, including of homes of senior Hamas commanders, as well as a senior commander from another militant group, Islamic Jihad.

Hamas says a health clinic in Gaza was damaged in one airstrike and the Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas, says its clinic is one of its main testing centers for the coronavirus.


The ministry puts the Palestinian death toll in Gaza at more than 200 since the conflict escalated last week. According to the Red Cross, three people were hurt -- were hit when Hamas rocket-fire hit a residential building in Ashdod in southern Israel.

The IDF counts at least 10 dead Israelis who have been killed in fighting since it began.

With international pressure going for a cease-fire, U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed his support for a pause in hostilities in his latest phone call with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Well, the U.S. has agreed to share more of its massive coronavirus stockpile with other countries. On Monday, President Joe Biden vowed to donate at least 20 million doses of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the end of next month. That's in addition to 60 million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca, which the U.S. has already promised to donate.

This is a big boost for the COVAX global initiative, which is falling way short of delivery goals. Its partner, UNICEF, says COVAX was hoping to receive 170 million doses to low-income countries this week, but it's now facing more than 100 million-dose shortfall. And ahead of the World Health Organization put the vast inequities in vaccine research in very stark terms.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The world is in vaccine apartheid. As you know, high- income countries account for 15 percent of the world's population but have 45 percent of the world's vaccines. And low -- and low- and middle-income countries account for almost half of the world's population that have received just 17 percent of the world's vaccines. So the gap is really huge.


VAUSE: To Washington now and Dennis Carroll, an infectious disease expert and former head of the emerging pandemic threats program at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Dennis, it's been a while. Thanks for coming in. Good to see you.


OK, I want to listen to a little more from the U.S. president on how this extra supply of vaccines compares to global contributions from countries like China and Russia. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas. That represents 13 percent of the vaccines produced by the United States by the end of June. This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date, five times more than any other country. More than Russia, China, which have donated 15 million doses.


VAUSE: Shortly after this announcement, the director of the World Health Organization tweeted his appreciation for Biden's -- what he said was a "commitment to global health."

But here's the reality. The world needs billions of doses of vaccines. Eighty million doses, while better than nothing, is there a drop in the ocean? How much of an impact will this have?

CARROLL: Well, first off, let's be very clear. Eighty million doses is a significant number of vaccines. But compared to the need, it is a drop in the ocean. And it really reflects, I think, a larger question about how the global community, the United States and other member states understand the true nature of this pandemic. It is a global event, and it's really challenging everyone to look at

beyond their borders to understand that, if we're going to bring the pandemic under control, we can't simply think of it as a national issue.

And 80 million doses, again, welcomed, but there are 8 billion people that need to be vaccinated. And there's a long way we have to go, so there needs to be a fundamental change in how we collectively think about prioritizing who gets the vaccine and how do we make sure it gets to those that need it the most.

VAUSE: The head of UNICEF, with that in mind, called out other countries which have cornered the market on these vaccines, these wealthy countries. In a statement reading, "G-7 nations and European Union member states could donate around 153 million vaccine doses if they shared just 20 percent of their available supply over June, July and August."

Also adding, "Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now."

And added into all this seems to be somewhat an added layer of urgency, given that India has paused export of vaccines to the COVAX program?

CARROLL: Well, I mean, let's be very clear in India right now, is in an extraordinary situation. And they were committed to provide sizeable doses of the vaccine to COVAX.

But clearly, the first priority for India is vaccinating their own very hard-hit population, and how you make up that shortfall is really going to be a challenge.


The real story is that there's far too few vaccines available. And we have to be a lot smarter in how we prioritize who gets them and where. And the European Union, as the case of the United States, they're prioritizing vaccination, vaccinating populations that are at very low risk.

Teenagers, or young adults, compared to populations in Africa, Latin America and Asia that are elderly and very vulnerable and very high- risk. Well, in some way, we really need to have a serious discussion about how we use vaccines to save lives. That's the critical purpose of vaccines, and we need to be serious about how we approach this question.

VAUSE: And there's also this sort of question of the inequity in all of this. And there are countries where people would walk over cut glass to get vaccinated. But in the United States and countries in Europe, there are those who have this luxury of refusing to be vaccinated for all sorts of reasons. None of them seem very credible.

CARROLL: Well, unfortunately, you know, the issue about vaccine hesitation is undermining of the ability to really bring the kind of full protective effect of the vaccines.

And as we've seen throughout this pandemic, misinformation has really been the major driver behind how the communities at large are responding, not just about vaccines. We've seen it with face masks and social distancing.

So it's clear that people are not, one, getting the best information, and two, quite frankly, people are not listening in a way that allows them to really understand the benefits of a vaccine versus the risk of getting infected and potentially dying from a virus.

We know the -- the virus is real, and if you don't get vaccinated, you have the potential of dying. If you get a vaccine, you are very well- protected against any threat that the virus might pose.

So we need to do a better job in helping people make smart decisions about their lives and their family lives.

VAUSE: Yes, especially those who have the ability to get vaccinated. It is there. It's free. It's provided by the government. It seems very odd that there's this reluctance. But as you say, people aren't getting the right information many times.

Dennis Carroll, it's good to see you. It's been a long time. Thank you.

CARROLL: It's good to see you, as well.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break, but when we come back, with the rollback of pandemic restrictions in Britain, cue Sixties pop legend Cliff Richard. We're all going on a summer holiday, no more worries for a week or two. Well, maybe not quite that carefree. So what are the options this year for holiday makers? We'll take a look in a moment.



VAUSE: It's not quite a return to business as usual, but it is a return to business for many tourist spots in Europe. As pandemic restrictions ease, a nation-wide curfew will remain in Italy, but it's been extended for another hour. So 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. for lights out.

And England, Wales, and much of Scotland, they're all heading -- or at least many of them -- to the pubs. Here's how things look across the continent. The Netherlands will reopen outdoor dining and entertainment venues this week.

France also easing some of its measures, though the number of new cases there has ticked up once again.

Many in Britain hoping for a holiday getaway, when they can start traveling overseas again. The British government has approved 12 destinations for so-called green list, which will not require travelers to quarantine once they return home.

CNN's Anna Stewart caught up with passengers on Monday's first flight out of Sussex.


ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After nearly four months of a travel ban, holiday makers finally allowed to take off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's been canceled, booked, canceled, booked several times, yes. So finally going. Really can't wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We've not been there since December. So it's going to be --

STEWART (on camera): On the first flight out this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Wasn't missing that!

STEWART (voice-over): These travelers are heading to Portugal, one of a select few destinations on the U.K.'s green list, which means no quarantine needed when they return.

JOHAN LUNDGREN, CEO, EASYJET: So from today, you're allowed to travel, which is a big step. Now, of course, we would like to see that the -- the green list would have considered -- consisted of more destinations and countries, we believe with the latest data that it's available that that green list can and should be expanded.

STEWART (on camera): Moving in the right direction, but how costly has the pandemic been for EasyJet in terms of the cash flow.

LUNDGREN: Of course, this has taken an immense toll on the whole of the industry, and EasyJet is not an exception on that. And we're always going to do what it need to take to manage the situation and come out strong on this. And today is the big first step on that journey.

STEWART (voice-over): COVID testing requirements may hamper airlines' recovery. Those traveling to countries on the U.K.'s green list still need to take two PCR tests when they return. And some destinations require further tests. It all adds up to an expensive holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three times the cost of the flight.

STEWART (on camera): That's how much the tests cost? Three times the cost of the flight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was anxious-making, because you're not sure what you're getting is what you should have.

STEWART (voice-over): There are also worries extra checks at the border could lead to long queues.

STEWART WINGATE, CEO, GATWICK AIRPORT: As passengers travel out of the airport, we've got a high degree of confidence that we got the right capacity in place to offer really good levels of service, for passengers traveling through the airport.

Probably our one area of concern, which I'm sure will not surprise you, is the border where passengers return back into the U.K. So we'll certainly be asking for the passengers' tolerance, but that may take longer than it ordinarily would.

STEWART: It's wheels up for airlines and airports as the travel ban lifts. But it will take time for the recovery to gain altitude.

Anna Stewart, CNN, Gatwick Airport, England.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next, and then I will back at the top of the hour. We're just getting started.