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Ceasefire Between Israel and Hamas Takes Effect; WHO Europe: Authorized Vaccines Work Against Variants; Investigation Finds BBC Journalist Used "Deceitful" Methods to Secure Landmark Interview with Diana; Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Appears to be Holding; E.U. Reaches Agreement on COVID Vaccine Passports; Interview with PM of Estonia Kaja Kallas; Nigerian Army Investigating Reported Death of Boko Haram Leader; Argentina Sets Stricter Lockdown as Cases Surge; Organizers to Speak amid Pressure to call Games Off; The Dark Side of China's Mystery Box Craze. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 21, 2021 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. Hello. I'm John Vause and you're watching CNN NEWSROOOM, live from CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.
Coming up this hour: Relief in Gaza. After days of punishing airstrikes, Hamas and Israel agree to a cease-fire.
Europe finally agrees on how vaccine passports will work, allowing travel within the bloc. But beyond that, health officials say you should think twice about where you go.
And she may still be alive today. The scathing response from Princes Harry and William after inquiry reveals a cover-up and deceit surrounding that BBC interview with their mother.
VAUSE: There has been calm over Gaza and Israel for the past six hours after an unconditional cease fire took effect at 2:00 a.m. local time. Both sides agree to and 11 days of fighting in a deal borne of pressure from the United States and mediation by Europe.
And that is a live scene there in Gaza, just one minute past 8:00 in the morning.
With Israeli airstrikes on hold, many took to the streets in Gaza to celebrate. The Gaza health ministry run by Hamas reports 233 Palestinian were killed since the escalation last week. Well, the number of dead Israelis numbers 12, double the civilian death toll from the last confrontation seven years ago.
While Israel's security cabinet unanimously approved a cease-fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the military offensive would resume if Hamas violates the deal. The turning point seems to be an uptick in U.S. involvement earlier
this week. And on Thursday, President Biden warned there is still much to be done to avoid another major confrontation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my conversation with President Netanyahu, I commended him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close within less than 11 days. The United States is committed to working with the United Nations and we remain committed to working with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and marshal international support for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts.
We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, the authority, in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Elliott Gotkine is an Ashdod, Israel, this hour.
I guess there is calm there? There is no sound of air raid sirens or rockets being fired from Gaza. It must be a very different scene compared to the last 11 days?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Very much so, John. The frequency of rocket fire overall over the last few days has waned from Hamas, perhaps as it was biding its time in case it was in for a prolonged campaign and had to economize in terms of the number of rockets it was sending, but because of the huge speed at which it was firing rockets into Israel in the beginning. But, yeah, there have not been sirens since about 7 or 8 minutes before this mutually un -- mutual, unconditional cease-fire came into effects.
And the people of Gaza, as you have been saying, can now -- safely move around. And Israeli, is in particular those in the communities just around the Gaza Strip further to the south, will bear the brunt of the rocket barrages and can go about their business as usual, rather than hunkering down in bomb shelters as they had done so many times over the past 11 days.
VAUSE: In terms of the death toll of Palestinian's within Gaza, it's interesting to compare what happened in 2014 over 50 days, 2,300 dead, over 11 days there's 230 dead, about a 10. Clearly, many people would argue and they have a right to say that any number of civilians killed is too many. But 230 is a lot less than more than 2,000 last time.
Does it suggest that Israel is getting better at these targeted hits, or that Hamas is getting better at protecting their own people?
What's the theory out there? GOTKINE: I think one of the big differences is, of course, this time
around, there was no ground incursion. That was something felt they need to do back in 2014 in order to try and take out some of the infrastructure from Hamas, especially tunnels and the like where it could hide weapons and hide fighters from which it could launch rockets as well.
This time around, there was no ground incursion. So, I think that partly explains some of the reduced death toll in the Gaza Strip. Clearly, Israel's capabilities have also improved. It feels it has a lot more weaponry that can target things like tunnels that in the past it would have had to go in with ground troops in order to achieve. So, that's one reason why I think the toll is lower.
From Hamas's perspective, its capabilities have also improved, but so has the Iron Dome aerial defense system. So, at the same time, the both sides capabilities have been improving, Israel also maintains that it takes the greatest care possible to reduce the possibility of civilian casualties. But they are inevitable in such a densely packed place as the Gaza Strip. So that could explain some of the reduction.
But I don't think, certainly from Hamas's perspective, given the number of rockets we saw fired indiscriminately towards Israel cities, I don't think it was trying to reduce the number of casualties here. As I say, the idea of maintains that it tries to do its best to minimize civilian casualties. The idea of says that among the deaths are 200 militants.
Now, obviously, those figures don't quite corroborate if you clear the fact that some 60 odd children in the Gaza strip have been killed. But those are the figures that each side is putting forward. But as you say, and a civilian death is too many.
VAUSE: Elliott, thank you. Elliott Gotkine there in Ashdod. We appreciate the update.
Well, as long as the ceasefire holds, it will be a chance for many in Gaza to count the dead and wounded and assess the full extent of the damage. But the same issues and disagreements that led to this latest round of hostilities remain.
CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from the West Bank.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the 10th of May, the god of war has smiled down upon this blighted land. Airstrikes and rocket barrages, artillery and mortar fire. Hundreds of people dead and more than 2,000 wounded, tens of thousands made homeless.
The current round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel, this too shall pass. Which will not pass for the reasons for this conflict, played out in places like here Al-Bireh and other villages, towns, and cities in the West Bank, places like Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, and indeed in Gaza itself.
Going back more than a decade, Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families faced forced eviction, has been a constant flash point in Jerusalem, even more so today.
In Jerusalem, Palestinian residents, nearly 40 percent of the population, pay taxes, carry Israeli identification cards, but among other things can't vote in national elections.
A new wave of protest has broken out on the West Bank, where millions of Palestinians live in limbo, crammed into an archipelago of pseudo- autonomy is enclaves, ultimately under Israeli military rule.
WEDEMAN: Since hostilities began, Israel has pummeled Gaza with hundreds of airstrikes, while Hamas and other factions have fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel.
Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, but has maintained, along with Egypt, an effective blockade since 2007, when Hamas took over. Israel controls the birth registry, the airspace, maritime access, and much more.
This war will change not of that.
TAWFEEQ HADDAD, JERUSALEM RESIDENT: Just like in South Africa, this has to end. Palestinians will not be second-class citizens in their homeland or kicked out of their place.
WEDEMAN: When relative calm returns and the world's attention moves on, the petty pace of this conflict will resume from day to day until once more unto the breach.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, al-Bireh, on the West Bank.
VAUSE: The ceasefire has been welcomed by the U.N. secretary-general, but Antonio Guterres says much more needs to be done. He wants Israel and the Palestinian's to resume peace negotiations, as well as robust humanitarian aid to rebuild Gaza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: The fighting has left thousands of Palestinian's almost, and forced them to leave their homes and seek shelters in schools, mosques, and other places with little access to food, water, hygiene, or health services. I was horrified by reports that nine members of one family killed in the al- Shati refugee camp. If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Matthias Schmale is the Gaza director of operations for the U.N.'s Relief and Works Agency.
And we welcome you being with us, sir. Thank you for your time.
Do you have an idea of how extensive damage is to Gaza's infrastructure? I know you've only been there for two years, but is there a way to compare to how much damage was done in 2014, which lasted 50 days?
MATTHIAS SCHMALE, GAZA DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, UNRWA: Good morning to you.
We do not have a clear sense yet of the damage. I've been out two or three times here in Gaza City when it was safe enough to do so. And damage looks extensively. There are several high-rise buildings that have been pummeled to the ground, and that's one reason why thousands are now homeless.
Now that there is a cease-fire, one of the next important steps is indeed to do a proper damage assessment and see where we take it from there. I was not here in 2014, but I had heard from many of my Palestinian colleagues, most of the staff here are Palestinians themselves, who lived through the nightmare, that they felt this time it was worse, not necessarily in terms of lives lost, but the psychological damage that has been done to them, the severity of the strikes, the noise accompanying that has been dramatic.
And as one Palestinian colleague put it to me, this is an attack on our soul.
VAUSE: Yeah, especially it seems for children in Gaza. We know how many died, but not a lot beyond that. What will be the mid to long- term impact on people who have now lived through a fourth major conflict in just over 12 or 13 years now?
SCHMALE: I'm not an expert in child psychology, I have children myself and I can only imagine that it must be very difficult and traumatic to cope with this and to move on from this. I think there needs to be two things. One is competent and professional psychological support. That would be one of the areas we will also seek to invest in as we are building on what we already have.
But then, secondly, I think equally important, there needs to be a perspective from these children of a more dignified peaceful life, and that's critical. There is a lot of depression here, and a sense of hopelessness and despair. So, as our secretary general said, there needs to be now a serious process of peace-building so these children won't have to live through this a fifth time.
VAUSE: Well, let's hear from the un secretary general about the road ahead. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUTERRES: I think it will be very important to establish this. It will be very important to have a robust program of humanitarian aid and recovery for Gaza, and I think it will be very important to revitalize the peace process, restart the peace process, in order to achieve the two-state solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: There is a lot of that statement of just 21 seconds. But just focusing on the practicalities here, recovery, how do you convince countries to come up once again with billions of dollars to rebuild Gaza when there's every chance of another escalation and violence and whatever is going to happen, whatever is rebuilt is likely to be destroyed again?
SCHMALE: Yeah, I think the key entry point for that kind of discussion is the civilians, is people. I appreciate that this may not look like a stable environment to invest into for reconstruction, but we have to think of the people. There are thousands of people homeless, and we cannot say let's leave them homeless because we fear that any houses we rebuild may be destroyed again.
We have to think of the people first, those without a home or severely damaged homes. That's the main argument, and I hope that donors will appreciate this and be generous yet again.
VAUSE: Yeah, we hope, and we will see what happens.
Matthias Schmale there from the U.N., we appreciate your help -- your help there, and we appreciate you being with us, sir. Thank you.
SCHMALE: Thank you very much.
VAUSE: There is promising news in the race between the virus and the vaccines. The World Health Organization in Europe says authorized coronavirus vaccines appear to be effective against known variants.
The agency's regional director says COVID cases are declining across much of Europe, but he warns now is not the time to relax or be complacent. He says they are still learning about the variant first identified in India, a more transmittable strain has been detected in countries all around the world. The regional director urging people to avoid international travel, saying the variant could pose a threat to the progress that's been made so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANS KLUGE, W.H.O. REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE: Vaccines may have been a light at the end of the tunnel, but you cannot be blinded by that light. The new variant of concern, B.1.617, first identified in India, has now been identified in at least 26 countries out of the 53 in the WHO European Region. From Austria to Greece, Israel to Kyrgyzstan, most cases have been linked to international travel, but onwards transmission is occurring.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Health experts believe the variant has fueled India's surging number of cases. There's 26 million confirmed cases overall in India after reporting a daily increase of nearly 260,000.
Add black fungus now to the list of challenges facing the country. Health authorities say cases of the rare infection are now mounting in coronavirus patients. Several Indian states are also facing shortages of the drugs used to treat it.
For more now, Vedika Sud live in New Delhi.
So, they are short on oxygen. They're short on medications for COVID- 19. And now, they're short on medication for black fungus.
VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the situation as far as the oxygen supply is concerned has improved over the last few weeks since there has been a lot of global aid that has come in. There have been oxygen plants that have been supplying oxygen across India. But this is a huge new challenge the Indian Medical Association really is facing. Medical experts are worried about what is called mucormycosis in medical terms, but is commonly known as the black fungus infection.
Now, this has been seen and a lot of patients, not all, but a lot of patients across India who have recovered or are still recovering from COVID-19. It can enter the body through the spores in the, air fungal spores, are also through a cut that someone has experienced. What this does is it can lead to someone losing their eye or part of their jaw, if this is not caught in time.
So, this is really worrying. Three states have already gone ahead and said this is a worrying situation. One of them has also called an epidemic.
In the state of Maharashtra, Mumbai is the capital city of that state. There's at least 800 patients currently suffering, and 19 deaths have been caused by this.
Here is what medical experts have to say about the fatality rate of the black fungus infection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HERMANT THACKER, BREACH CANDY HOSPITAL: So, this is a pretty serious infection, which if not controlled, not treated, can have a mortality of anything from 20 percent to 50 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUD: And the medicine used for this is in shortage across India and the government of India has come and said, they are ramping up the supply for this, truly a worrying situation.
VAUSE: Yeah. Vedika, thank you. Vedika Sud live in New Delhi, thank you.
SUD: Thank you. VAUSE: We have this just in to CNN, South Korea has now granted
conditional approval for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. The company still has to submit a final report on clinical trials, but anyone 18 or older is now eligible to receive the vaccine, which is South Korea's fourth COVID vaccine, which has been approved for use.
Still to come, vaccine passports are a step closer to reality in Europe, allowing and restricted travel within the bloc. The good old days would soon be back.
Also ahead, British royals really speak out, and yet that's exactly what Prince William is doing right now, slamming the BBC after inquiring said it used deceitful methods to secure a very famous interview with his mother.
VAUSE: It seems Princes William and Harry have unleashed more than 25 years of pent-up rage and fury over that BBC interview with their mother, where Princess Diana reveal to relationship with Prince Charles had broken down. And independent inquiry found journalist Martin Bashir used deceitful methods to secure that landmark television interview, and the BBC covered it up.
The report says Bashir had shown fake bank statements to Diana's brother, leading him to arrange a meeting with Diana. The BBC offered an unconditional apology.
More now from someone who was part of the BBC board of governors in 1995.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIR RICHARD EYRE, FORMER BBC GOVERNOR: We can see now that the forged bank statements were in a sense the lever that opened the doors to access to Diana. If we had known at the time, there is no question that this would have been ruthlessly investigated, because there were a lot of sense of propriety in the organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Martin Bashir says in part, it's a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago and again more recently.
Prince William is also now lashing out at the BBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE WILLIAM: It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview is a major contribution to making my parents relationship worse, and has since hurt countless others. It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia, and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And this statement from his brother, Prince Harry.
To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning. It was deeply concerns me is that practices like these and even worse are still widespread today. Then and now, it's bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication.
For more now, Sandro Monetti, royal expert and trustee of the Royal Society of St. George is with us. He's in Los Angeles.
And it's been a while, Sandro. So, thank you for coming in.
SANDRO MONETTI, ROYAL EXPERT: Well, thank you, John.
And what a story. Red faces at the BBC, fury at the palace, the most dramatic television interview of all time continues to make headlines more than 25 years on, and very embarrassing headlines they are to some.
VAUSE: So, explain to me, though, what the deal was? How did the forged bank statements convince Diana's brother to set up this interview for Bashir? That's sort of an area which is a bit of a gray area at the moment.
MONETTI: Well, here's how Diana and her brother were duped. There was lots of suspicion around the time, so many negative headlines. Diana didn't know who to trust, especially those in the royal family. If she said something to someone, would it appear on the front cover of a tabloid the next day?
So, Bashir, and here is where the deception is, presents bank statements showing members of the royal staff receiving payments from news organizations and the British Secret Service. And this confirms the worst fears that the Spencers had and played a part, according to the report, in making her give the okay to the interview.
Martin Bashir at the time, 33 years old, not a famous journalist at all. It was thought that if Diana would give an interview, it would be to a more famous broadcaster, maybe the British equivalent of Oprah, at the time, if you will.
But he landed the big one, and now we've learned he landed it through deception.
VAUSE: Yeah. You know, there is the old saying, never the crime, always the cover-up. In this case, the crime was pretty bad in the cover-up was even worse.
And Prince William really highlighted that. Here he is. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRINCE WILLIAM: What saddens me most is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders of the BBC who look the other way, rather than asking the tough questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And in a statement, we have Prince Harry who is pretty blunt.
Our mother lost her life because of this.
It's incredible to think of the consequences for so many people because of the actions of one man, Martin Bashir.
MONETTI: As the report shows, the internal inquiry was extremely forward. Who did they get to do the investigation, Inspector Clouseau? I mean, they didn't even speak to Earl Spencer, who is clearly the star witness and all of this because he had been shown the bank statements.
So, it was almost brushed under the carpet, not investigated back at the time, and now, the consequences of that, you know, have been shown. The awards won returned, letters of apology written, and a huge embarrassment for the Beeb and they're proud tradition and history.
VAUSE: Sorry to interrupt you, Sandro, but, you know, I want to get to this. The day after the interview went to where, Tony Hall, who was the chief of news and current affairs at the BBC wrote to Bashir.
Dear Martin, you should be very proud of your scoop. It was the interview of the decade if not our generation. But equally importantly, you handle it with skill, sensitivity, and excellent judgment. I also think you've carried yourself during this whole episode and absolutely the appropriate fashion.
And, you know, you mentioned this. At the time, people were asking how did this guy -- this 32-year-old guy who nobody has ever heard of, how did he get this interview? Well, we know why now, but what seems inexplicable as why senior management at the BBC didn't have similar questions and then act on it.
MONETTI: And let's pay credit here to the wonderful, non-rogue, but really dogged professional reporters who didn't let this story go after it had been dismissed. They continued to chase it. They kept up the pressure.
And now, years later, they got the evidence that forced the report and these results. Yes, we are talking today about one rogue reporter, to quote Prince William, but so much work by other great reporters to uncover the cover-up and what went on behind the scenes of the most dynamic interview in television history.
VAUSE: What will be the impact on the BBC, its credibility from the findings of this inquiry? MONETTI: The BBC has a proud and well-deserved tradition of integrity
and honesty, which is shattered by the huge high profile goof and mistake. But it's perhaps more important because the BBC is a public broadcaster, a public service broadcaster, paid for by the U.K. public. It has always had the confidence of the public.
Now that confidence is shattered. So, there's a lot of rebuilding work to do. The first consequence, I don't think they will ever repeat this interview.
VAUSE: Yeah, absolutely. It seems like you would get it from the tabloids, not the BBC, but there you have it.
Sandro, it's been a long time and it's good to see you. We appreciate you being with us.
MONETTI: God save the Queen.
Straight ahead, more countries are now taking to vaccine passports to try to return to normalcy. But there is a patchwork proof of travel documents around the world, no one standard. So, what does that actually mean? We'll have more in a moment.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for staying with us. Hello everyone. I'm John Vause.
Well, it's just after 8:30 in the morning in Gaza, as well as Israel. And this Friday might just be the first day in more than a week without Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire. An unconditional ceasefire took effect 2:00 a.m. local time and appears to be holding.
The Israeli prime minister agreed to the ceasefire late Thursday after the military hit targets in Gaza for 11 days. Israel says it will honor the ceasefire as long as Hamas does the same.
Here is what one Hamas official said once the ceasefire had been announced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EZZAT EL-RESHIQ, HAMAS POLITICAL BUREAU (through translator): I say that today this battle stops truly. But Netanyahu and the world should know that our hands are on the trigger and that we will continue to build up the capabilities of this resistance. And we tell Netanyahu and his army, if you come back we will come back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, for more on the fragile agreement here is CNN's Nic Robertson in southern Israel reporting from Ashdod. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Under intense international pressure, Israel's security cabinet agreeing to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire; Hamas signing up to. End of hostilities -- 2:00 a.m. local.
But in a tweet, Israel's defense minister warning "The reality on the ground will determine whether we resume operations."
But in the minutes prior to the agreement Israeli warplanes still hitting targets in Gaza.
(on camera): So we're going to going to try and get ourselves to a safer place here.
(voice over): Hamas rockets, still targeting Israel.
And not everyone happy with Netanyahu's decision.
(on camera): Right now, the government is having a security cabinet meeting. What are you hoping is going to come out of that meeting?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to stop. I think if we started, we have to end it and go to the end.
ROBERTSON: Earlier in the day, Hamas rockets hitting right outside our broadcast location. Also in the nearby town of Ashkelon and Beersheba, more than 340 rockets fired according to Israeli's defense forces since an overnight pause by Hamas.
Israeli airstrikes continued in Gaza too, targeting they said, Hamas tunnels, rocket launchers, commanders, and weapons stores.
U.N. officials in Gaza say more than 70,000 Palestinians have been displaced during the 11 days of fighting and are calling for $38 million in immediate aid to help with essentials.
Hundreds of millions more needed they say if the ceasefire takes hold. The situation, according to the U.N. Secretary General, is dire.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: If there is hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today.
ROBERTSON: Even before an end to the attacks, Palestinian leaders describing the violence of occupation that has no end in sight.
MOHAMMED SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER: This occupation should end and the sufferings of our people in Gaza, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, in the refugee camps of Lebanon should also stop immediately. Otherwise, it's a cycle of violence.
ROBERTSON: Earlier in the day, several European foreign ministers taken to see the sight of a Hamas rocket attack. Their visit, not just as friends of Israel but adding to the drumbeat for durable peace.
Into the night, not yet clear if the ceasefire that came into effect at 2:00 a.m. local can actually hold.
Nic Robertson, CNN -- Ashdod, Israel.
VAUSE: Get used to them (ph). Vaccine passports appear to be with us for the foreseeable future. It could be the key to reviving international travel and allowing other mass attendance events.
The European Union says it will start using COVID vaccine certificates in July. That will allowing unrestricted travel within the block. Those certificates will display either a vaccination, a recent negative test, or if someone has immunity based on recovery from COVID-19.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN FERNANDO LOPEZ AGUILAR, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEGOTIATOR: You are vaccinated in a member state of the European Union, so the health system of your member state will provide you with the certificate. That is the new rule of the game. And that certificate will do.
That certificate means that you don't have to PCR (ph) every week. Hey listen, I'm vaccinated. This certificate says so. I was vaccinated, so please, let me in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And England expected to use its own vaccine passport version next week. That will be through the National Health Service app.
And while some countries are now preparing to launch these vaccine certificates, Estonia is way ahead of the game. Launching a digital platform called Vaccine Guard at the end of April. Certificates are issued through the National Patient Portal and sent to a mobile phone which will contain a QR code.
While Estonia did not wait for the E.U. their certificates will comply with the E.U. program.
The Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas joins us now. And we thank you very much, Prime Minister, for being with us. What would have the cost be to Estonia of waiting for the E.U. to issue their vaccine travel documents? And plus, more importantly, how did Estonia with just 1.5 million people get it done so quickly?
KAJA KALLAS, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are the E country. So we have a lot of IT workers who worked on the certificate already. So yes, it is running -- up and running since the middle of April and just showing whether you are vaccinated or not. But those 2 items have to be added to the certificate which proves that you have, you know, recovered from the disease or you have a negative test as well.
But the issue on the European level, is that many, many countries have prepared already for the green certificates. So they have to be interoperable and also usable in other E.U. member states.
VAUSE: You know, most degree that this will be needed, this proof of vaccination, if you want to travel internationally. But beyond that there's little agreement on, you know, what that -- how it should actually work.
They had a technology review reporting this. Outside of Europe, the picture is even more mixed. Israel, launched its green pass in February, Singapore's Trace Together app can now show proof of vaccination.
In the U.S., officials have said they will not develop a federal app so various states and private companies are creating a patchwork of approaches. Private and non private initiatives are also working on their own systems and protocols.
China for example, would not allow entry for anyone who is not receiving Chinese made vaccine. So, is it possible to reach agreement on how all of this should work? And what are the consequences if we don't?
KALLAS: Yes. This all shows that we need a global response. And actually the organization to do it is the World Health Organization that should provide this global trust network. So basically you have vaccination certificates in different countries. But, how -- you know, there is this trust network that proves that this certificate is valid.
So it doesn't say that this big databases that says who is vaccinated and who is not. but it just says that this, you know, country has issued a vaccination certificate saying that this person is vaccinated. And if the World Health Organization says that, you know, this institution is right to issue such certificate and it should work globally as well.
I think we all have the same issue, everybody wants to travel, and not only in Europe but globally. So, we should make this happen.
VAUSE: We have this recommendation from the U.N. Truth and Ethics Committee. It says COVID-19 certificates for international travel must be free, universally available and nondiscriminatory. The world is increasingly now divided into the vaccinated and the non vaccinated.
How do you work a situation where a vaccine passport makes that sort of an official, dystopian reality where the vaccinated are free to do pretty much whatever they want. The unvaccinated are not allowed to travel or enter shops or restaurants?
KALLAS: No. It can't be used that way. I mean the basis is still that there can't be -- no discrimination. So, how it would work is that everybody will have the same rights, however, if you have a vaccination certificate, or you can prove that you are sort of safe, it is a fast lane to traveling.
[01:39:55] KALLAS: So, you know, you just get things faster. Otherwise, you have to do this test to prove that you are negative but you can still travel. When you have the vaccination certificate, it is just more convenient.
VAUSE: Compared to your neighbors, Estonia is doing relatively well with the rollout of vaccinations. In fact the head of your Infection Control Department says a record supply of AstraZeneca is arriving this month and next. And age groups are now being reassessed, to see who will actually get these shots, and whether or not the eligibility will be lowered in terms of age.
Given what is happening in places like Nepal, like Bangladesh and India, would Estonia consider, you know, holding off vaccinating those who are least at risk and maybe donating part of that supply? Maybe a small number, relatively speaking, but it will still save lives.
KALLAS: Yes. We've just had this discussion in the government yesterday. That, you know, in order to move on, we are not safe if globally, over 70 percent of people are not vaccinated. So, we need to help those who are behind.
And that is why, we also agreed to donate some of our vaccines to some of the regions like eastern partnership regions -- Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, that are also behind in vaccinations.
VAUSE: Kaja Kallas, prime minister of Estonia, the first woman to hold that position -- we thank you for being with us. Thank you for your time.
KALLAS: Thank you.
VAUSE: Take care.
Well, the Nigerian army is investigating reports the leader of Boko Haram has died of suicide. But exactly what happened and whether those reports are true, it's just not clear right now.
CNN's Stephanie Busari reports.
STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN.COM SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: The Nigerian army says it's investigated reports that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has died after blowing himself up to avoid being captured by a rival group.
Shekau, the long term leader of the extremist group, has waged an insurgency in northeast Nigeria for more than a decade. There were multiple reports across Nigerian media claiming he has died by suicide rather than be taken alive following clashes with a rival group.
Other reports by international news outlets suggested he was either dead or badly wounded. It is not the first time, however, that Shekau had been declared dead. The Nigerian army has previously announced his death only for him to resurface later in videos. A Nigerian spokesperson told CNN that the military is still investigating Shekau's reported death. A source close to Boko Haram told CNN, he learned Shekau died on Wednesday evening, after detonating a suicide vest.
The source told CNN, that Shekau was traced to his Sambisa forest hideout and asked to surrender and plead allegiance to a group known as Islamic State West Africa Province or ISWAP. This group broke away from Boko Haram in 2016 to align with ISIS.
Nigeria's secret service former officer, told CNN that Shekau's death would signal the end of Boko Haram, a group that's gained notoriety in 2014 after kidnapping more than 276 school girls in Chibok's Borno State. More than a hundred of those girls remain missing to this day.
Stephanie Busari, CNN.
VAUSE: Well, with Argentina recording some of its highest daily COVID numbers since the pandemic began, stricter lockdown measures are on their way. And we will tell you what they are when we come back.
VAUSE: Strict lockdown measures are being imposed in Argentina to try and slow a surging outbreak of the coronavirus. From Saturday -- schools, nonessential businesses and places of worship will close for about a week.
President Alberto Fernandez says the nation is quote, "living the worst moment since the pandemic began".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO FERNANDEZ, ARGENTINE PRESIDENT (through translator): I am very conscious, fully aware that these restrictions cause difficulties. In this reality, there is no choice but to choose the preservation of life. I'm not going to accept the normalization of this number of infections or deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The 7-day average of new COVID cases is at a record high, nearly 30,000. ICUs in Buenos Aires are being overwhelmed.
And Rafael Romo looks now at one hospital that's just struggling to keep patients alive.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There is no time to waste. The patients lungs are about to collapse and he needs to undergo surgery immediately. After the lifesaving procedure -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gracias.
ROMO: -- a heart-filled hug to say thanks. One more life has been saved in the intensive care unit at the Hospital Universidad de Austral in Buenos Aires.
"It's been an intense morning already, but we must be ready for anything," this ICU doctor says.
While the northern hemisphere is gaining ground in the fight against COVID-19, this week Argentina had consecutive days of record breaking numbers of cases.
Argentina, together with other South American countries like Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, is among the countries with the highest COVID-19 deaths per capital in the world.
Few understand the current health crisis better than this team of doctors and nurses who fight this battle one patient at a time.
"Every patient is somebody's child, somebody's parent," Dr. Pablo Pratesi (ph) says with tears in his eyes. "I feel their pain."
The day goes on with moments of life or death challenges interspersed with small victories -- like celebrating that a patient's skin is not irritated, even though he's been unable to move on his own for 48 hours which gives a lot of credit to the nursing staff.
And then there is the joy of saving a life or seeing patients walk out of the hospital on their own.
Mattias Lorasci (ph) who credits this ICU staff with saving his life, wrote a letter to express his gratitude, calling the team his guardian angels who risked their lives and those of their families to do their job.
Today part of the team is seeing their patient for the first time since he left the ICU, but on a video message. He calls them heroes, and ask them not to give up because the country depends on them. A message the staff hears with tears in their eyes.
"The day we lose the ability to cry for a patient will be the day we will stop being doctors and nurses," Dr. Pratesi said.
Another 12 hour shift is coming to a close. It's time for the next team to get to the front lines of Argentina's greatest challenge in a generation.
Rafael Romo, CNN.
VAUSE: Calls are growing louder to call off the Tokyo Olympics because of the pandemic. And now organizers are pushing back. In a few hours from now, we'll have details about how they plan to keep the games safe. Back in a moment.
VAUSE: Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are pushing back against growing calls to cancel the games. Many, including doctors and health experts, believe it will be a gold medal super spreader event. And so in a few hours from now Olympic organizers and officials will have an update on preparations to keep the Tokyo Olympics safe during this pandemic.
For more, live now to Blake Essig who is in Tokyo. So do we have an idea of exactly what these wonderful super safe measures will be to stop everyone from getting COVID-19?
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, what we've heard to this point John, is just testing, you know, monitoring athletes, but we haven't heard a whole lot of what measures will go in place to protect the Japanese population.
Now, a three-day meeting of Olympic organizers wraps up later today. And at the start of the meeting, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach once again said that the Olympic and Paralympic games will be held in a safe way. And officials say that the point of this meeting was to focus on the protection of athletes and the public.
Though as I just mentioned, is not a lot of focus has been on the idea of how you're going to protect the Japanese population.
While organizers do remain confident that they can deliver a safe and secure Olympics, medical professionals and a large majority of the Japanese public aren't so sure as calls for the games to be canceled or postponed have been getting louder by the day.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MASATUMI HONDA, OFFICE PARKING LOT STAFF: I'm against holding the Olympics, because we are under the COVID-19 pandemic and it's too big of a risk to hold the Olympics where many people will gather in venues.
KAZUHIRO MIURA, CLINIC DOCTOR: The biggest issue to holding the games is manpower of medical staff. We cannot stop regular medical examinations at local clinics like mine. If we do, the medical system will collapse. So we need to protect the hospitals and local clinics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ESSIG: Well, a big part of that anti-Olympic sentiment stems from the feeling that sport, politics, and money is being placed ahead of the health, wellness, and safety of the Japanese people. Now that is again, one of the things that we hear over and over again, John.
VAUSE: What's interesting is that, in many ways, these Olympic games could sort of go ahead if the country hypothetically had a very high rate of vaccinations. If they are, you know, heading towards something like the United States where, you know, more than half the country has received two doses. What's the vaccination rate there in Japan right now?
ESSIG: It's not even close to what's going on in the United States, United Kingdom, and several other countries. In fact only about 2 percent of the entire population here in Japan that is fully vaccinated.
Now, those numbers are expected to increase starting next week when mass vaccination centers open up in Tokyo and Osaka. Officials say that they hope to be able to deliver about 15,000 doses between the 2 sites.
Now, currently, only medical workers and people over 65 years old are eligible. And we did have some more good news today. You know, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines were recently approved for use, though medical professionals say that the supply is not the problem here. Instead, they say it's a lack of man power and a chaotic reservation and distribution system that's to blame for the slow vaccine rollout.
Now, while Japan is still dealing with a four wave of infections, some more good news nationwide, COVID-19 cases have been going down the past several days.
The bad news, several cases -- excuse me -- severe cases have been going up and once again we have set another new record here in Japan. And Hospitals in several prefectures, including Tokyo, are nearly out of bed space. All of this, John, with just about two months to go before these Olympic games are set to take place.
VAUSE: It's going to be great. Blake thank you. Blake Essig there in Tokyo.
Well, in China, a new trend is causing outrage not just among animal lovers but it seems everyone. Dubbed the mystery box craze, consumers blindly order a box that comes with a surprise, anything from a toy to maybe a luxury item. But some businesses have taken it a step further including pets and that often ends in tragedy.
VAUSE: CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports -- a warning to our viewers here this piece contains some graphic images.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Their howls are heartbreaking, but it's the still, silent boxes that are most tragic. Dead puppies and kittens in crates, innocent animals, victims of a new craze in China, mystery boxes. CHEN YUNLIAN, FOUNDER, LOVE HOME ANIMALS RESCUE CENTER: I told the
young man selling animal mystery boxes that he was making money at the cost of the lives of those animals.
STOUT: Most mystery boxes are innocent too. Consumers make a purchase at a reduced price, not knowing what they are going to get. Usually, it's a small toy, sometimes a limited edition model which can be worth much more than the box price.
But increasingly, live pets are being advertised. Buy a cheap breed, you may get a pedigree.
PEI SU, DIRECTOR, ACTASIA FUND OF CBCGDF: People do not understand the fundamental thing is these animals are not products, they're not objects. They have feelings.
STOUT: These animals, the survivors of a raid by animal rights group Love Home Animal Rescue Center, on a truck owned by China-based distribution company ZTO Express. The company apologized to the public, media, and customers, and promised to suspend the brand and ban live animal shipments.
Authorities in the southwestern city of Chung Do suspended the distribution branch and handed down a fine of $12,000. But days later, state media reported more animals shipped by ZTO were found dead in Sujo (ph), a city more than 1,000 miles away.
Animal rights activists say it shows how widespread the problem is.
SU: From the central government to the local government and to this day (INAUDIBLE) we need to work as a team to address these issues to, you know, tighten the regulations and also punish the people who still carry out to do such a business as well.
STOUT: Nobody wants a dead animal in a box turning up at their door, but animal rights campaigners say Chinese consumers need to be better educated and ecommerce Websites need to ban the trade of live animals from their platforms.
Until then, compassionate carers in China are left to look after these mistreated animals. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.
VAUSE: John Vause and I will be back with more CNN NEWSROOM after a short break.