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Supply Shortages Fuel Asian COVID-19 Surge; Israel-Hamas Ceasefire; Volcanic Eruptions Subside, Goma Activates Evacuation Plan; Doctors Raise Alarm Over Black Fungus Disease; Former BBC Journalist Won't Admit He Harmed Diana; China's Mars Rover Drives On Planet's Surface. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 23, 2021 - 04:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome to all of our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So ahead on CNN, a fragile cease-fire holds but tensions still run high across the Middle East as Israel and Hamas claim victory. We're live in Jerusalem with the latest.

You can add black fungus to the challenges facing India. This rare and potentially fatal infection is mounting among coronavirus patients.

And then a volcano erupting in the Democratic Republic of Congo forces thousands of people to get out of their homes, more on these incredible pictures next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Thanks for joining me this hour. It is now 11:00 am in Israel and Gaza and day three of a cease-fire that has restored calm to Israelis and Palestinians. A cabinet minister is warning, if any rocket is fired towards Israel, the Israeli leader will target the leader in Gaza.

Hamas militants paraded the street to show they are in control. Israel's foreign ministry is calling on the national community to condemn and disarm the militants. Much of Gaza's basic infrastructure was crippled in the conflict. The U.N. citing Hamas figures say more than 250 buildings were destroyed and more than 760 shops and homes are now unusable.

Nearly half of Gaza's 2 million people are without ready access to water. Elliott Gotkine brings us the latest on this cease-fire, which is still holding.

What is the mood? ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Israel, the mood is generally relief, I suppose, that things can go back to normal. For example, schools will be reopening in Tel Aviv and other towns, where they have been closed as a result of the fighting.

There is some anger on the part of some communities, who perhaps would have liked to have seen the job finished so they wouldn't have to be concerned about future rocket fire coming into Israel. As you say, the cease-fire is holding.

But I think that anyone you speak to here would be of the view that, yes, it's holding but for how long?

Because inevitably there will be another flare-up at some point in time. How long that will be is, I guess, the only thing that's open to doubt.

CURNOW: And as you look forward, what are the next tensions, the next concerns that have people worried?

GOTKINE: There's always something unfortunately. But we saw that one of the sparks that led to the latest round of violence and escalations was this court case. The supreme court was due to hear an appeal by Palestinian families regarding the possible eviction from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in a case brought by a Jewish group that claims that it owned the land before it was -- before it was won by Jordan in 1948.

That could potentially be another spark when that hearing, which was postponed, comes around again. There are obviously other things that can cause escalation. There's always the potential for other factions in the Gaza Strip to potentially fire rockets at Israel.

There's even the possibility, Hamas has said, that lightning might set off some of these rocket launches, which has happened in the past. So that is something that Israel would obviously not take kindly to and would respond to.

So I think in this kind of febrile atmosphere, where there isn't any ongoing formal conversations between Israelis and the Palestinians, and when the prospects for this two-state solution do look so dim, there is always the possibility of more clashes.

We saw some by Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem on Friday as well. So there's every possibility that something could set off another round of fighting.

Again, the question is, what will that be and when will that happen?


GOTKINE: But no one seriously believes there won't be another round of fighting at some point in time.

CURNOW: I want you to break down the Israeli reaction to the U.N. Security Council statement, which thanked Egypt for its role in this cease-fire.

GOTKINE: Israel responding, saying that it was very unfortunate, in its words, from the foreign ministry to see the Security Council, in its statement, had ignored the launching of over 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians from populated areas in Gaza.

To be fair to the U.N. Security Council, it didn't specifically mention Israeli airstrikes as being responsible for the humanitarian conditions or the destruction, either. But Israel is always very sensitive to criticism, especially from U.N. bodies, which, to a degree and certainly depending which ones, such as the U.N. Human Rights Council seem to take a much tougher line or more critical line against Israel than every other country.

Israel is always sensitive to that. But Israel also thanked the Biden administration for its support and so no real surprises, I would say, that Israel wasn't too happy with the U.N. Security Council statement.

CURNOW: OK. Elliott Gotkine, thank you very much for joining us.

So the people of Gaza are burdened with trying to recover from these 11 days of airstrikes. Ben Wedeman is there on the ground in Gaza City, Ben.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Depending on where you are in Gaza, life seems to be getting back to normal. Here in Gaza City's main square, children play in the evening pool. But just one block away, the extent of the damage from the hostilities becomes clear.

Hundreds of housing units have been destroyed, and Israeli air strikes have pushed the already creaking infrastructure to the brink. The U.N. says that around 800,000 people now lack access to running water, and that's out of a population of around 2 million people.

The U.N. also says more than 50 schools were damaged, impacting the education of around 600,000 children. On top of that, 17 hospitals have been damaged including Gaza's only COVID testing center.

And then there's unemployment running at almost 50 percent. Life here after the cease-fire is getting back to normal, but there's nothing normal about life here.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Gaza City.


CURNOW: "The New York Times" reporter Ronen Bergman joins us now from Tel Aviv. He's the author of "Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations."

Ronen, hi, good to see you. We've just seen from Ben Wedeman's report there how this two-week operation devastated Gaza. From the Israeli military perspective, particularly from the generals

in the IDF, how are they quantifying if all of that damage and destruction was a strategic success?

RONEN BERGMAN, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think this is quite an odd situation where both sides, Hamas and Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces, can frankly say we have won and believing that, if one tried to compare the targets of the both sides at the beginning of the conflict to what they have achieved, both can declare some kind of winning.

But of course, the people who lost, the people who lost their house, the lives, the misery, the blood, the ongoing war and the ongoing cycles of hostility, from the point of view of the Israeli generals, at least most of them, they have declared before, this round of hostility, that Hamas rule will not be toppled.

That the only way to take down Hamas regime in Gaza is to conquer the Gaza Strip, something I think even the ultra right in Israel is not supporting now.

The public opinion in Israel is extremely, extremely sensitive toward the loss of life, especially the loss of life of soldiers. And I think no one there, to think of ground invasion.

So when this is off, the only thing that the IDF is left with is bombing aerial campaign, based on as much intelligence as they are able to collect, and trying to inflict as much damage to Hamas -- and they claim that they are being able to destroy 30 percent of the underground tunnels.


BERGMAN: The ones used for shelter Hamas and for their systems of control and command and for maneuvering of arms. They claim that they took out something like 15 percent to 20 percent of their reserves of Hamas rockets, while admitting that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad still have in their possession 8,000 rockets that would be sufficient for another two rounds of hostilities.

They claim that they killed 20-25 senior members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that they were able to stop all the strategic surprises, that they are being called, the intents of Hamas to send drones, to send unmanned suicide submarine to take tunnels into Israel.

All the things that embarrass Israel significantly in the previous round in 2014, the IDF claim they were able to stop. What they were not able to stop, of course, is the ability of Hamas to send rockets to Israel.

And I think this is probably the main lesson they will take with them to the next round. The bottom line from the Israeli military perspective is they say this was our victory or our success. But it will be full only if the government would allow us to react with fierce military force, if Hamas violate the cease-fire agreement even marginally.

So if Hamas sends a balloon, a birding balloon or if Hamas send another rocket or violent demonstration on defense, Israeli military will support, will recommend that the government to react with massive force in order to, as they believe, demonstrate Hamas that Israel will not tolerate any kind of violation of the cease-fire.

CURNOW: And we've already heard that as well, saying they will target specifically the leader of Hamas in Gaza. So you've laid out a comprehensively sort of the way the IDF generals view this from a military perspective. Of course, many questions have been raised over the military responses and how proportionate it was.

In many ways, the last two weeks have galvanized Palestinians behind Hamas.

How will the further marginalizing of the Palestinian Authority play into Israeli political narratives?

BERGMAN: Well, I think that prime minister Netanyahu enjoys the situation of a weak Palestinian Authority, that does not put him in a position where he needs to negotiate the permanent solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

And I would say Hamas ruling Gaza, with the help of Qatari money, that Israel allows Qatar to send to Hamas in Gaza and in this kind of dancing (ph) allows prime minister Netanyahu not to address the core questions and the core problems of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

CURNOW: And the underlying causes of this?

BERGMAN: Yes, of course and this, in a way politically, this serves Netanyahu. And politically the last round of hostility and demonstration and violence will serve him very much because this was the end probably of the ability of the other parts of the parliament to use this time in order to establish a new coalition.

And, of course, it just brings Israel back to the two deadlocks, a political deadlock on who is the next prime minister and, as things are seeing now, we are going to a fifth election, which are the direct result of the last round of hostility, and another deadlock, which is the Israeli Palestinian dispute, that many Israelis thought, for a long time during the Trump administration years, that it's vanished, that there's no policy dispute. There's no problem. That it's, you know, disappeared, vaporized.

And I think this was a painful recall to many Israelis to say this is not going anywhere. There will be a day, I hope soon, that Israel will need to deal with the core issue of what Israel is going to do with the blockade on Gaza.


BERGMAN: There are already recommendations from the IDF to give many reliefs, one stopping the Qatar refinance and direct that to the Palestinian Authority so to empower the authority and give the authority the power to decide where and when and to whom goes the money.

And I just hope that maybe, I'm not sure I'm optimistic about that but I'm hoping the end of, when this specific round of hostility came on Friday will be the beginning of some kind of new strategic thinking in Israel.

CURNOW: Ronen Bergman, always good to speak to you. Thank you for laying out the military and political implication, the view there from Tel Aviv, thank you very much.

BERGMAN: Thank you so much.

CURNOW: Well, as summer approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, the U.S. is reopening. The number of new COVID infections week over week has been falling across most of the country and, after more than a year in lockdown, many people are now venturing out again. They're going back to school, workplaces and hangouts that were just off limits a short time ago. And vaccination rates have fallen from their peak in April.

But high inoculation levels are still having an impact. That's good news as the Memorial Day holiday approaches and brings the unofficial start of summer. But even though people are happy and safe enough to emerge from lockdown, many are saying they prefer to take it slow. Here's Natasha Chen with that.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sun's out, masks off. All across America, more and more people are seeing each other's faces for the first time in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a long time coming.

CHEN (voice-over): More than 45 percent of people in the U.S. aged 12 or older are now fully vaccinated and three states -- Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have fully vaccinated at least half of their total population.

For the first time since March of 2020, San Francisco General Hospital reported zero COVID patients, the seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. is below 30,000 for the first time in almost a year.

With this progress comes relaxation of rules. New York venues are expanding capacity limits just in time for the Knicks to start their first playoff game with 15,000 seats already sold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what we've been waiting for New York, to bring the culture back, to bring the spirit back to New York.

CHEN (voice-over): And California will drop capacity limits and social distancing requirements when the state fully reopens on June 15.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is about time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think we've been ready for a while. CHEN (voice-over): Entertainers are preparing for in-person events, even if there will be a few adjustments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've been vaccinated. I mean, obviously you would like for everybody to go and get vaccinated. Yes, I think it's going to be a little different, you know, because we used to reaching out, touching so many people. I think that'll be a little bit scarce, if not fist bump. But I mean, you know, we'll find other ways to feed off the energy of the crowd.

CHEN (voice-over): But some people aren't ready to bounce back to pre- COVID habits.

Personal trainer, Dave Nassick is seeing a lasting shift in how he sees some of his clients.

DAVE NASSICK, PERSONAL TRAINER: They don't want to go back into the gym environment. You know, they feel more comfortable just being one- on-one in their own homes. So it's been actually good for me with my in-home business.

CHEN (voice-over): On a sunny day in Atlanta, these stunt performers were practicing in a group after more than a year of training alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, I still kind of feel iffy about it. Like, I'm still sketched out about being out here. But -- but, yes, I can't like stay at home all the time.

CHEN (voice-over): Health experts worry about what happens when hot weather drives people indoors this summer, especially in some states where vaccination rates are lower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd still wear a mask at work, just because I work with public. So even though I'm fully vaccinated, I feel like, I don't know if they are or not. So I feel like it's still good to have it on --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your whole store got hit, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we -- my whole work caught it back in December, so that was great. It was a terrible experience having it.

CHEN (voice-over): And he is not able to ask customers if they've been vaccinated. Even with an honor system that is far from foolproof, there is a sense the country has turned a corner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a hopeful moment -- a very hopeful moment in a year, like the past couple of years, it's been like a lot of really bad news.

CHEN: A new study by Public Health England shows that two doses of either the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine or the Pfizer vaccine are highly effective against the variant first found in India.

Dr. Anthony Fauci also said he's preparing for the possibility that people who are getting vaccinated may need a booster shot but health experts are unsure if and when that may happen -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.


CURNOW: Thanks, Natasha for that.


CURNOW: A volcano eruption sends people running from their homes. We'll hear from someone who lived through it and go live to the region for the latest.

Also, as if being devastated by COVID wasn't bad enough, now doctors are in India are alarmed by the rise of a new biological threat.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're panicked because we've just seen the entire city covered in light that isn't from electricity, lamps or torches. People fleeing from all areas of the city are telling us that the volcano is erupting and we've just seen the signs.

There's no information, even on the national channel. People are panicking and we don't know if we should stay in the house or flee.


CURNOW: A resident there of the Democratic Republic of Congo after a volcanic eruption on Saturday. It happened near the city of Goma and that volcano has a history of deadly eruptions. The latest sent panicked residents fleeing, many actually towards Rwanda.

Hot lava burning a number of homes and other structures in its path, as you can see from these devastating images. Thankfully, those eruptions subsided later in the evening and the lava flow stopped.


CURNOW: Larry Madowo joins me from Amber City Park (ph) in Kenya with more on what's happening with this volcano.

Certainly devastating images. Good to see you.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Devastating images, Robyn, one government official telling us the lava seems to stop outside of the city of Goma, a highly populated of about 2 million. Many of them evacuated last night local time, where the Rwanda emergency ministry said about 3,500 people were there, though they have started to make their way back into where they live to assess the damage. This volcanic eruption is not the first time. There were two others in

2002 and in 1977. People who watch the volcano have been saying it's been showing some activity similar to what happened those previous two times, when 250 people and 600 people died and this is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the entire African continent, probably in the entire world.

And also because it's one of the few volcanoes that has an active lava lake there, when it does flow, it does leave a lot of destruction in its wake.

CURNOW: Thank you very much for joining us, Larry Madowo, appreciate it.

Still ahead on CNN, we'll meet this young girl and her family, whose lives have been forever changed by the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Plus, how supply shortages are fueling the spread of coronavirus in countries across Asia.





CURNOW: Welcome back to all of our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It's 29 minutes past the hour. I'm Robyn Curnow. You are watching CNN.

So this is day three of a cease-fire that has restored calm for the people of Israel and Gaza. The Israeli official -- an Israeli official there warnings, if there are any more rockets, Israel will eliminate the Hamas leader in Gaza.

Meanwhile, 11 days after Israeli shelling and airstrikes has left much of Gaza in shambles. The U.S. saying more than 250 buildings were destroyed and 760 shops and homes are unusable. Nearly half of Gaza's 2 million people are without ready access to water and more than 50 schools were damaged and are closed.

Palestinian officials report about 70 children have died in the conflict. Arwa Damon introduces us to one of the many children injured after being caught in the crossfire. Arwa.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sarah has injuries to her skull, lungs, arm and leg. But doctors say the worst are the multiple pieces of shrapnel lodged in her spine and spinal cord.

"She can't feel her legs," Sarah's mom says. And doctors fear she may never again, especially not if she stays here.

The family says there was no advanced warning before the strike. They had no idea what was coming.

"Susu," that's what her older brother, Omar, calls her, "she needs an advanced neurosurgical center. We don't have those in Gaza."

"The doctor said there is hope that she will be able to stand on her feet," her father says.

He's begging for help. He wants his little girl to have her life back; a life filled with gleeful cries of joy, a life where she can stand on her own.

"She's struggling psychologically," her father says.

"She keeps asking me, 'Why, Daddy? Why did they have to do this to me?'" -- Arwa Damon, CNN.


CURNOW: And we are getting new details on just how desperate the coronavirus situation is in India. The country has topped more than 26 million cases and officials in Delhi are extending the region's lockdown until May.

Officials say they will halt vaccinations for people between the ages of 18 and 44 due to a shortage of vaccines. And even though cases have been falling, on average recently, earlier today, India reported more than 240,000 new cases.

And then doctors are also raising the alarm about black fungus. It's a serious infection caused by a strain of mold. And infections generally occur in people who already have a compromised immune system.

It can affect the sinuses, brain, lungs and skin, causing fever, black lesions and shortness of breath. The mold can live on wet surfaces and can be transmitted by touch. I want to go to Dr. Padma Srivastava, the head of neurology at the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences and she joins me from New Delhi.

Thank you very much for joining us. Obviously, India devastated under this coronavirus wave but at the same time, you're also having to deal with black fungus, which is also in many ways becoming an epidemic. Tell us how bad it is.

DR. PADMA SRIVASTAVA, HEAD OF NEUROLOGY, ALL INDIA INSTITUTES OF MEDICAL SCIENCES: It is bad. As I understand, last night, the figures were close to 9,000 and counting. So that's humongous in terms of the whole country, seeing nearly 9,000 cases in just last two to three weeks.

And in this second wave, there seems to be a double whammy for the country dealing with pandemic and notifiable diseases in several states across the country already. We're trying to see why this is happening, specifically in this part of the world, and besides these -- the low hanging hypothesis, like diabetes, control of sugars and use of steroids indiscriminately, there seems to be some more factors that need to be seen into. So yes, this is really, really a humongous problem currently.


CURNOW: For our viewers who don't actually know what happens when you get black fungus, obviously this is a devastating and potentially fatal infection.

SRIVASTAVA: Correct. So it essentially is not a new disease. It's been there in the world. We do see periodically and probably much more often in this part of the world simply because of the dubious distinction of being the diabetes capital of the world.

Besides that, affecting the system commonly is what is called as rhino-ocular-cerebral mucormycosis. Rhine means sinus, ocular is the eye and NCS is the brain. So that's the most common part. It affects both the sinuses and the eye but it is fatal when it affects the brain, which carries with it up to 80 percent of mortality.

When people may have just a sinus infection, a blocked nose, it would be a nuance of headaches, pain and, then around the eye, there is eye swelling, there is ptosis and there would be drooping of the eyelid. They lose the vision, there's swelling of the face and quickly, if it affects the brain it goes on to altered sensorium.

They go into encephalopathy or coma, deficits and seizures. And the rest of the spectrum, which then turns out to be fatal.

CURNOW: And so when you talk about this black fungus and the focus on India and why so many people have it there, there is also, besides the diabetes issues, which you've brought up, there's also, I think, some research that it could be about the overuse of steroids.

Why would that happen and why is that playing into the coronavirus epidemic as well?

SRIVASTAVA: That's right. So since we don't have a magic bullet here for the treatment of corona and the only medication, which is approved all across the world, is an actual usage of steroids at the right time, in the right dosage and for the right period of time. That's the algorithm probably which got misused across the country, as it seems.

This -- the medication which was available over the counter and people probably started taking from the counter as soon as they turned positive -- and probably there's been a little bit of a miscommunication as to the dosage, also like six milligrams is equal to 22 gram and 40 million grams of prednisone. There were massive doses given for a long period of time.

But said that, though, I must also say that besides steroids and besides the diabetes, it was probably not much of emphasis given on the control of sugars. And we know now that corona impacts the pancreatic islets, that will give this glycemic problem. And, of course, hygiene hypothesis and then, of course, I have a feeling even the corona variant by itself, that's got something to do with this time in the second wave. And some regional practices which certainly need to be looked into in much more details, like rampant use of antibiotics, there's been analysis of 210 cases just got, you know, sort of in the public domain last night.

And it's been said in these 210 cases that diabetics were most common but 20 percent were not diabetic. And yes, steroid usage was most common and 15 percent did not use steroids but one-third were all young people. And a lot of them are in isolation.

So what was common was that 100 percent used antibiotics for a long time and there's also regional things that may be indiscriminate, even steam inhalations. You know, this micro burns in the nasal mucosa sometimes may be the nidus for the (INAUDIBLE) together.

So we need to look at more factors as to why this wave is turning out to be so deadly.

CURNOW: And why this specific side effect is hitting people so hard in India. Dr. Padma Srivastava, thank you very much for joining us and giving us your expertise there. Thank you.

SRIVASTAVA: Thank you.

CURNOW: And then India isn't alone in battling this latest devastating wave of new COVID infections. Countries all across Asia have seen their cases -- case numbers spike as well, as you can see from this map. Let's get more on this. Let's go to Will Ripley in Taipei, Taiwan.

You're following how the region is really struggling under this latest wave. Hi, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. India, of course, is the worst case example of what happening now.


RIPLEY: But across the Indo-Pacific region countries that thought they had COVID contained and under control are now facing some of their worst outbreaks ever. That's certainly the case here in Taiwan, where the virus snuck in through the airports.

In Thailand, they're dealing with overcrowded prisons and the virus spreading like wildfire. Then of course, in India, it is the hospitals, especially rural hospitals, that are struggling to treat an influx of patients in sometimes deplorable conditions.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Pigs root in filth and water outside this hospital in Bihar state in India. It looks like no place for healing with its broken walls, abandoned ambulances. But patients are still being treated here, many for coronavirus. The sick as well as the staff must trudge through dismal conditions to get inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The hospital will be 100 years old in 4 years. It was the only big hospital here several years ago. Due to the low-lying area, there is an issue of waterlogging at the hospital. There is filth all over.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Cases across India decreasing, down from more than 400,000 new cases reported in a day in early May to nearly 260,000. Still, the country's health care system is overwhelmed in places. And there is a shortage of vaccines. Delhi becoming the latest state to halted vaccinations in adults under the age of 45.

Some help is slowly coming in from Russia, with shipments of its Sputnik V vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the end of May, about 3 million votes will be supplied in bulk (ph).

RIPLEY (voice-over): The plan then is for India to begin producing the Russian vaccine with a goal of making more than 815 million doses. The Sputnik V is a two-dose regimen.

The coronavirus is also taking its toll in other parts of Asia. Some streets in Taiwan look like a ghost town. It, too, is suffering from a surge of coronavirus cases and a lack of vaccines. Taiwan's health minister, asking the U.S. for help and getting the critical supplies.

Cases are soaring in Thailand, too, where clusters of COVID-19 infections have emerged in the country's overcrowded prisons. Bangkok began a vaccination drive, doling out shots of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine and, AstraZeneca to inmates.

The shortage and, at times, dismal conditions across parts of Asia making this wave of the coronavirus that much more difficult to contain.


RIPLEY: There is an urgent need for vaccines across the Indo-Pacific region. Here in Taiwan, they're asking the United States for help. They have fewer than a million doses, less than 1 percent of the population vaccinated and that is across the region, with the exception of Singapore, nearly every country is in the low single- digits when it comes to vaccination rates.

And given that it is the variants that started in the U.K. and the Indian variants that are spreading through here, Robyn, that means the virus is spreading more quickly and, in many cases, it's far more severe. So it really is an urgent, urgent need to get vaccines out here as soon as possible.

CURNOW: It certainly is, Will Ripley, thanks so much, great report.

The journalist who obtained that BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, is speaking out and what he has to say about her and what he also said to her sons. That's next. (MUSIC PLAYING)




CURNOW: So the former BBC journalist who sat down with Diana, Princess of Wales, for a major interview in 1995 has a message for her sons, William and Harry. He says he is deeply sorry.

Martin Bashir says he never wanted to harm Diana and doesn't think he did. An inquiry came out, saying he had used deceitful methods to obtain that interview. Prince William claims this worsened Diana's paranoia. Isa Soares is standing by for more on this story.

Certainly picking up traction there in London, isn't it?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, good morning, Robyn and I expect this will continue for some time as, of course, people try to get answers to what exactly happened and who knew about it within the BBC and why they covered it up.

This is the first time as you clearly stated that we are hearing from Martin Bashir, the reporter behind that bombshell interview with Princess Diana half a century ago. It's the first time we're hearing from him since a report came out last week, which really reveals that Bashir used deceitful behavior to secure that interview.

I'll just show you this, "Broken man who can't quite admit he wronged Diana," he does say he was truly, deeply sorry for what he did but in a statement, part of this interview, this is what he says. I can bring it up so our viewers can see.

"I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don't believe we did," he says. "Everything we did in terms of the interview was when she wanted from when she wanted to alert the palace to when it was broadcast to its contents and my family and I loved her."

As further proof, Robyn, of that relationship with her, the fact that really it was on her terms, he put a photo out as well to the newspaper, of that, Princess Diana with Martin Bashir's wife, as she had the third kid, her child, Princess Diana went to hospital to visit his wife.

So to try to prove, really, of that bond of that friendship and that there was no bad intention from his part. He does admit, he does say sorry that he faked the documents that many are saying perhaps influenced Princess Diana's brother to try to secure the interview.

But he doesn't really bring himself, he can't quite bring himself to admit that really that he duped her. Yes, there is regret throughout this interview but he doesn't believe that what he did had any bearing on the interview or how he got the interview. He also rejects the claims by Prince William that you heard, that

scathing criticism from Prince William this week, that the way the interview was secured led to or fueled his mother's paranoia as well as her isolation.

So Martin Bashir pretty much rejecting that altogether. So the way to read this interview is really a sense of defiance from Bashir and some go further to suggest an arrogance.


SOARES: What is clear, what happened 25 years ago, that is still unfolding here today and is still -- really the fallout's still spreading in the last 24 hours. Tony Hall, Lord Hall, the head of BBC at the time, who hired Bashir, who worked with Bashir, the man who apparently knew the deceitful behavior by Martin Bashir, he resigned, stepped back as the chairman of the National Gallery.

Of course, perhaps in a delicate situation for Tony Hall, given that Prince Charles is patron of the National Gallery. In a statement, he did say that he did apologize once again for what he did those years ago.

But this goes very much to the heart of the crisis, the heart of BBC, which is really honesty and transparency. But still so many questions need to be answered; in particular why was Martin Bashir hired after this interview was concluded?

And also who knew within the BBC and why did they cover it up, Robyn?

CURNOW: Isa Soares, thank you for that update there.

You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.





CURNOW: So China's Mars rover has set foot on the Red Planet. The rover will be there for three months, patrolling and exploring as part of its mission. Michael Holmes has the details.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fresh tracks on the Red Planet mean new inroads for China in the latest space race. The Zhurong rover went out for a drive on Saturday, making China the second country after the United States to land and operate such a vehicle on Mars.

The probe carrying Zhurong touched down on Mars on May 15th. China's top space official says it's a huge leap forward for the program. China's rover will now tread across the Martian terrain to learn what it can about the planet, in hopes that humans can one day land there, too.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: The Chinese rover that has now landed on Mars --

HOLMES (voice-over): NASA's administrator Bill Nelson, sworn in earlier this month, congratulated China's space agency but also warned Congress that China has ambitious plans for both Mars and the moon.

NELSON: They are going to be landing humans on the moon. That should tell us something about our need to get off our duff.

HOLMES (voice-over): China is one of 3 countries that launched missions to the Red Planet last summer, with NASA's Perseverance landing on Mars in February. The Hope spacecraft by the UAE is orbiting the planet but not designed to land.

In addition, NASA's Curiosity rover has been on the ground since 2012, making for a lot of competition in this next frontier -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


CURNOW: And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Robyn Curnow. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @RobynCurnowCNN. I'll be back in just a moment.