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Growing Calls to Cancel Tokyo Olympics; Wuhan Lab Theory; Belarusian Terror Tactics against Journalists and Activists; Palestinian Human Rights Campaigner's View; Taiwan Reports Record COVID Deaths as Cases Surge; Black Fungus Cases in India Rise as Drug Supplies Run Low; Dozens of Politicians Killed Ahead of June 6 Elections. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 27, 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, with growing calls to cancel or postpone organizers announce new plans to prevent the spread of the coronavirus for the Olympics. Maybe this one will include face masks for athletes and officials.

The lab leak theory as the origin of COVID-19 now under review by U.S. intelligence but what could we learn 18 months into this pandemic and with China continuing to stonewall?

One activist jailed in his opposition to the Belarusian president is raising concerns for the life of another high-profile dissident, Roman Protasevich arrested when his flight was forced to land in Belarus.


VAUSE: The curtain goes up on what would be the biggest global event during the era of the COVID pandemic. Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics seem determined to push on despite growing opposition within Japan and calls to cancel the games.

And an increasing number of health experts, doctors and athletes around the world who fear a potential superspreader event. Union officials who represent doctors in Japan are expected to urge the games be scrapped during a news conference scheduled this hour. On Tuesday, high-profile public health experts in the U.S. call for improved safety measures beyond temperature checks and face coverings. Olympic organizers promised a revised plan by next month.

All of this happening against a surge of COVID infections across Japan which seem to be driving opinion polls as well, showing most people in Japan want the games either postponed or canceled. Blake Essig is live again for us this hour in Tokyo. To be fair, there have been big sporting events held in other

countries but those countries have high vaccination rates for the most part and their COVID rate of infection is falling. And that's not happening in Japan.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. In Japan, it's about 2 percent of the entire population has been fully vaccinated. It's a tough comparison to make when you talk about other sporting events taking place, comparing it to the Olympics. When you have the equivalent of 27 tournaments or competitions taking place in one area, one small period of time. John, a fourth wave of infection shows no signs of slowing down as COVID-19 cases across the country remain high.

The number of severe cases once again set a new record on Wednesday. That's been the case every day as the U.K. variant, which is now considered more contagious and dominant here in Japan, is not only taking shape in western Japan but it's here in Tokyo and moving north as well.

As a result, the hospital bed capacity in many areas is beyond capacity and leaders in Tokyo are calling for a second extension to the current state of emergency. Under the state of emergency, the government is asking bars and restaurants to close by 8 pm and not serve alcohol or face a onetime fine of a couple thousand dollars.

Residents also being asked to avoid travel and work from home if possible. To this, point the current state of emergency order, which started at the end of April, has had little impact on slowing the current spread.

A possible extension is expected to be announced tomorrow and could last until June 20th, about a month before the Olympic Games are set to begin.

Despite the course of calls for the games to be canceled or postponed, citing concern for the health and safety of the athletes and Japanese public, organizers remain confident the anti virus measures they've put in place, repeatedly saying the games will be held on schedule this summer and will provide a safe experience for the athletes and public.

But Dr. Michael Osterholm is willing to give the games a chance, though he says urgent action must be taken to improve the anti virus measures currently put in place we.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY INSTITUTE: I think we all want the good news of the Olympics. I think no one at this point wouldn't want to have that torchlight and to see us come back together.


OSTERHOLM: But I think the approach they are taking right now is virtually a dangerous one, if they don't change many of the recommendations they have and for how they're going to protect athletes with their support members. It's a real challenge.


ESSIG: He says there's no planning for how to safely move people around in buses, protect athletes and their shared rooms and while eating. They noted each country has been asked to bring their own masks. With less than 2 months to go before the Olympics, John, there's a lot of unanswered questions.

VAUSE: Indeed. Especially about bringing your own mask. Blake Essig in Tokyo.

The U.S. president has ordered intelligence agencies to review the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and they have 90 days to do it. This comes after recent intelligence found several researchers in Wuhan became ill in November of 2019 and were treated in hospital. Steven Jiang live for us in Beijing, covering the story from that part of the world.

This is something the Chinese government would not welcome. Has there been a response so far?

Is there any kind of cooperation to be expected with Washington?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: So far, the government here has not officially or specifically responded to Mr. Biden's latest remarks. For anyone who's been following the story, especially in the past few days, which increasingly clear what they are going to say, very likely in a few hours, at the ministry's daily press briefing, they have categorically denied the latest allegations as well as the intelligence report from Washington, saying it's another sign of a U.S.-led smear campaign against China.

Also a public diversion tactic to cover Washington's own mishandling of the global pandemic. As part of their narrative, of course, they've been trying very hard to push out the so-called multiple origin theory that is this virus could have emerged from various locations around the world at the same time.

They basically say, look, China did its part to help the WHO's origin tracing effort, now it's time to investigate other countries, especially the United States without providing any concrete evidence.

I think this explains why this government is frustrated and angry at anyone who demands or suggests further investigations in this country. Their line of arguments or counterattacks, if you will, is not resonating with the rest of the world.

Of, course what a growing number of experts and scientists are saying is based on the evidence they have seen so far. They can't rule out this lab leak theory. At the same, time they're saying they're not ruling out other possibilities either, including this virus may have jumped from bats to humans. That is considered the most likely scenario by this WHO team that did

go to the Wuhan lab early this year. That team said it was extremely unlikely the virus was leaked from a lab. But they are finding, of course, based on conversations with the, staff not based on any direct access to any raw complete data or samples, that's where that conclusion has not been very convincing to many people around the world, who are calling on China, the government, to open the labs again.

And they say transparency is Beijing's best friend. At this, point, given how politicized it's gotten, it's increasingly unlikely if not impossible.

VAUSE: Steven Jiang, live for us as always in Beijing.

Jamie Metzl is a senior fellow at the Atlanta council. Served as a national security adviser during the Clinton administration. He is with us this hour from New York. Welcome back.


VAUSE: When it comes to trying to find the origins of the pandemic, the U.S. president acknowledged the failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the COVID-19.

It's been a year since COVID-19 emerged as a serious threat and with China unlikely to cooperate anytime soon, is it close now to a cold case?

What do you expect U.S. intelligence will find?

METZL: I don't think it's a cold case. It's colder than it would have been had we, the United States, the international community, been able to look into the origins from the earliest days.

From day one, China began its cover-up, began destroying samples, hiding records, imprisoning Chinese citizen journalists asking basic questions and established a universal gag order preventing scientists from speaking or writing anything about COVID origins of that government approval. It's tougher now but it's not impossible.

VAUSE: This has been a slow burn, it's taken some time to get to this point. Here's a timeline of how it shifted from the theory being the wet market to an accidental lab leak.

The first suggestion China had created this virus came in a tweet, as early as January last year. That same month Chinese researchers found 13 of 41 infections had no link to the wet market. The next month, a molecular researcher claimed the killer coronavirus probably originated from a lab in Wuhan.


VAUSE: By March the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency updated their assessment to claim a possible accidental leak from a lab. In May, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo went public with a leak

theory. We next month, you write in "The Wall Street Journal," suggesting an outbreak of a deadly bat coronavirus coincidently in the only level 4 virology institute in all of China strains credulity.

In November, a research paper says the genetic structure of SARS-CoV-2 does not rule out a laboratory origin. And then this, year the WHO refuses to rule out a lab leak theory.

This is what's driving the speculation here and growing demands for this kind of inquiry.

METZL: That's how I got involved in this. I was sitting at this chair in January of last year. At that time, I saw those studies, those reports coming out of China about the wet market origin and I saw the study in "The Lancet," showing a little less than 40 percent of the first cases had nothing to do, no contact with the wet market.

Why was the Chinese government lying?

That's what started me on this journey, asking these tough questions and we should all have been asking these questions. There has been a lot of circumstantial evidence supporting the lab leak hypothesis.

That doesn't mean it's proven, it could mean it happened. That's why we need a full investigation. I'm quite thrilled that, finally, after a year of people like me and others being called conspiracy theorist for asking the most basic questions about how this crisis began. Finally we can have a full process and conversation.

VAUSE: Dr. Fauci is among the recent converts to an investigation into the lab leak theory and this is why.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: We feel strongly, all of, us that we should continue with the investigation and go to the next phase of the investigation the WHO has done, because we don't know 100 percent what's the origin is. It's imperative we look and do an investigation. We that's how we feel right now.


VAUSE: Seems reasonable enough but here's how the "Global Times" responded in an editorial.

Because of the anti-China stance U.S. elites foster further immorality. Even figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci have echoed their opinion warning against China. He knows he's finding a huge lie against China in terms of expertise and influence American experts such as Fauci can hardly match Chinese top experts. Many people losing their halo with the real mediocre quality being exposed.

All that may be true, none may be, true but it doesn't address why the concerns of the cover-up in China. METZL: Language like that, as I was saying, it's an insult to the

millions and billions of people who are suffering around the world as a result of this fully avoidable crisis. I'm not saying this is some kind of bio weapon. I'm not saying this is a designed leak.

What I'm saying is I think it's the most likely origin that there was some kind of lab incident, we don't know for sure, and that was followed by a criminal cover-up by the Chinese authorities that continue, to this day.

And all of the baloney and all of the propaganda the Chinese propaganda organs are spewing is not convincing anybody. I think the world opinion is shifting and it's not that we know this absolutely comes from a lab. But we do know that's one of the possibilities.

And everybody on Earth should demand a full investigation and, if China doesn't allow, it there should be real cost for that.

VAUSE: Jamie Metzl, good to see you, thanks for being with, us we appreciate it.

METZL: Anytime.

VAUSE: The leader of Belarus is trying to defend what so many have described as indefensible. On Wednesday, Alexander Lukashenko made his first comments since a fighter jet landed at Minsk airport, followed by the arrest of a dissident journalist, Roman Protasevich.

Lukashenko said the landing was necessary and legal. It also sparked international outrage and condemnation.


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): As we forecast inside the country and outside the country have changed their tactics in terms of attacking Belarus as a state.

They have crossed many red lines and transgressed common sense and morality. This is a hybrid modern war. We have to do our best in order to avoid this becoming a war.


VAUSE: The exiled leader of the opposition in Belarus is calling for the release of Roman Protasevich and urging Europe to remain united.



SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: Now I call on the European Parliament to make sure the reaction of the international community is not limited to the flight incident.

They must address the situation in Belarus in its entirety or we will -- such situations in the future, as Lukashenko is turning my country into a North Korea of Europe. No transparency, unpredictable and dangerous.


VAUSE: There is now growing concern for Roman Protasevich's safety after the death of another activist, a death which suggests physical abuse. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has an exclusive report. First, a warning, the images in the reporting might be disturbing some viewers.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The plane hijacking may rage above but daily abuse in Belarus look like this. This day's doddering figure is opposition activist Witold Ashurok.

He falls into the toilet, it seems, without anyone touching him in this edited surveillance footage from last week. Supplied by the Belarusian authorities who are eager to show they helped a 50-year-old prisoner.

But here again, they show him bandaged and he, again, seems too weak to stand. His relative say they met Witold healthy just weeks earlier, but they were initially told he died of a cardiac arrest.

But here is his body at his funeral Wednesday, his head bandaged. It doesn't look just like natural causes.

Outside they gather, the family burying him without being able to get an independent examination. The truth stolen from them even in death.

ANTON ASHUROK, BROTHER OF WITOLD ASHUROK (via translator): As a human being I don't believe that a man's heart just stopped that he fell and killed himself. I really want to get to the bottom of it. In these conditions, it seems impossible to have an independent examination.

WALSH: He was arrested in August protest against the fraudulent electoral victory declared by President Alexander Lukashenko. In January, he was sentenced to five years for allegedly organizing protests and attacking the police officer.

Jubilant here in court, the crowd chanting shame.

TIKHANOVSKAYA: The reaction of the international community --

WALSH: The opposition's leader in exile called for a new stage in the protest movement today meeting European officials. And earlier expressed her admiration for Ashurok.

TIKHANOVSKAYA (via translator): I say admire his strength of spirit and faith in the correctness of his choice. But I am very hurt by the fact that he paid with his life. Now that we have woken up, it has become our duty to bring the matter to an end.

WALSH: When Roman Protasevich feared for his life for leaving the plane falls down in Minsk is perhaps Ashurok's fate and these scenes from a police station last year that he had in mind. Brutality in custody is commonplace in the aftermath of protests. Demonstrators forced to face the wall, beaten, they said here, one left motionless on the floor.

For more actual deaths have been rare so far, the death penalty remains in force. And the fate of Witold Ashurok, something Belarus's police perhaps hoped would pass without notice, now held up as a warning to the opposition not to act, but also to the international community that it must -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Well, still to come, after working to strengthen a delicate cease-fire, America's most senior diplomat was wheels up from the Middle East. Secretary of state leaving the region in just a few days. A Palestinian activist in the West Bank shows CNN how he feels hemmed in.





VAUSE: The American secretary of state will leave Jordan in a few. Hours after a 3-day trip to try to create a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza. Antony Blinken met with King Abdullah and its foreign minister. The king said that he welcomed the U.S. move to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem to improve outreach to Palestinians.

After an earlier meeting with the different presidents in Cairo, he called Egypt a real and effective partner in deescalating the 11-day conflict. The latter focus of his trip was to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders but he also spent time with some representatives of Palestine civil society.

Among them, a human rights campaigner in the West Bank, who spoke with Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: While in the Middle East, Antony Blinken reached round politicians for an unvarnished view. Meetings, State Department selected Palestinian activists.

ISSA AMRO, PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: See, listen, to me. And I felt from his body language that he knows enough about here, so, I moved to tell him what can we expect from the American administration.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): One of those he met was Isso Amro, whose constant criticism of Israel is strongly disputed by Israel. Officials

AMRO: We want to get rid of the Israeli apartheid. So the siege on Gaza, has to be ended. And we need support for our political and human rights.

ROBERTSON: Did Blinken tell you anything that makes you think that he understands that or is going to change that situation?

AMRO: He said that we are working to reverse Trump administration decisions. And we want to start communication with the Palestinian people and it is not a switch button.

Everyone walks in the field.

ROBERTSON: Through your neighbor's garden?

And this is the only way you can move around here now?

AMRO: This is the only way that you move around here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Amro lives next to an Israeli settlement, he says that America's timely help is vital for Palestinians.

AMRO: This used to be the main entrance.

ROBERTSON: The reason this is blocked now?

AMRO: Because of the settlement (ph).

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He says that in recent years, roads to his and his neighbors' houses have been cut.

ROBERTSON: It's a, maze, an absolute warren of gardens.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And worries, without U.S. involvement, this settlement will grow more.

AMRO: (INAUDIBLE) the post on the house.

ROBERTSON: Right on the House.

AMRO: Yes.

ROBERTSON: So families still live here?

AMRO: Yes, they still live here.

ROBERTSON: Out on the road again, from here. A soldier at the checkpoint here just came to check which channel we are filming for. We told him CNN and I think he's OK with it.

AMRO: So the main road used to be from here too --


AMRO: And me to my, house used to be to the left. Left to right, I had to move out to visit them.

ROBERTSON: Because they're within the settlement area?

AMRO: Yes.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Further down the street, another control on his life.

AMRO: This is one of the main checkpoints here. You get into your house, to your neighborhood, you should pass --

ROBERTSON: This is where you come into the outside?

AMRO: Yes. When I come in from the shopping area, I walk out from. Here

ROBERTSON: And if you want to bring any friends to your house?

AMRO: I need a special coordination.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): We walk on past a row of Palestinian shops, shuttered for almost 2 decades.

AMRO: This is a Palestinian entrance.

ROBERTSON: This one. Their families left?

AMRO: Yes.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Then we reached the limit, half a mile from his house.

AMRO: From here, to here.

ROBERTSON: And why there?

Why this, line why only to here?

AMRO: Because they don't want us to continue.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): President Biden's help, he says, cannot come soon enough.

AMRO: Biden's administration should start from where Obama's administration ended, to make the Israeli settlements illegal. Then make the aid to Israel conditional.


AMRO: If Israel does not respect the principle of freedom, equality and justice for all, they should not get any dollar (ph) from the American people.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His most radical suggestion to Blinken, encourage Hamas, which the U.S. designates a terrorist organization, and whose rockets he does not support, to become part of the political landscape.

AMRO: This is why I talk to Mr. Blinken, to do a presidential waiver, to include Hamas in the political -- (CROSSTALK)

ROBERTSON: To include Hamas?

AMRO: Yes, exactly. We want to bring Hamas and old Palestinian parties, to the PLO, according to international law.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He says he spoke with Blinken for about 20 minutes. The clock now ticking on his and Palestinians' expectations.

ROBERTSON: How long do you give them?

AMRO: I think we will wait another let me say, 6 months. Or -- you know, another year.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nic Robertson, CNN, Hebron, the West Bank.


VAUSE: The U.S. president is calling for a cease-fire and unimpeded humanitarian access to India and the Tigray region. Joe Biden released a statement saying that I'm deeply concerned by the escalating violence. The harming of regional and ethnic divisions, in Ethiopia. The widescale of human rights abuses taking place in Tigray, widespread sexual violence, it's unacceptable and must end.

U.S. recently imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ethiopia and Eritrean officials. Witnesses tell CNN that in those temporary camps, people are being forced from their homes, hundreds of young men have been rounded up by soldiers, reportedly shouting, "We will see if America will save you now."

Still to come, what was once hailed a COVID success story is now facing a COVID outbreak like never before. We will tell you who it is accusing of blocking much-needed vaccines to the island.




VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause.

In Taiwan it is a race between the virus and vaccinations; 11 COVID deaths were reported Wednesday. In Taiwan that is a new daily record. Now in Taipei, they are waiting for more vaccine but are accusing China of blocking access to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. CNN's Will Ripley live for us with more on this.

Will, they are blocking that Pfizer vaccine but there is plenty of the Chinese version available, right?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but Taiwan law doesn't allow for Chinese pharmaceuticals to be used on humans. That is something that has been in place for decades and the Taiwanese government says China, while making statements publicly, has not made any efforts behind the scenes to prove to Taiwan that their vaccines are actually safe.

In fact here, they believe the evidence to the contrary that those vaccines are not nearly as effective at those already authorized for emergency use on this island. But the vaccine back and forth is just one struggle.


There are also hundreds of missing cases, people with COVID-19 who police have not been able to find. There are concerns of community transmission spreading very quickly here.

The Taiwanese government is in the process of distributing hundreds of thousands of additional doses, but there is much more needed to get Taiwan back in the clear.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Once a poster child for pandemic success, now a cautionary tale. Taiwan had zero local cases of COVID-19 for 255 straight days last year. This year, local cases surging.

"The pandemic is worsening," says this nurse in Taipei, "so I came for the vaccine."

Vaccines are in desperately short supply here. Only around 1 percent of Taiwan's population has their first dose. Millions of doses are set to arrive by the end of August. Not soon enough, says opposition lawmaker Lai Sheng Li (ph).

"Our people are worried," she says. "We lack adequate protection if we still don't have enough vaccines."

Former vice president and leading epidemiologist Dr. Chen Chien-jen says the only way out of this crisis is getting the public vaccinated.

CHEN CHIEN-JEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN: I do have the confidence once we receive adequate vaccines that the people in Taiwan, they will come out to get the immunization.

RIPLEY: Getting those vaccines is proving to be a huge struggle for Taiwan's government. Foreign shipments face delay after delay. Leaders in Taipei blame global supply shortages and interference by Beijing.

China claims the self-governing island as its own, stepping up military activity near Taiwan, even during the outbreak.

(on camera): Do you believe that Beijing has slowed down the arrival vaccines here?

CHEN: Sometimes we've got these obstacles.

RIPLEY: Obstacles including political pressure from China, something the mainland denies. Taipei blames Beijing for its exclusion from the World Health

Organization. Taiwanese law bans the import of Chinese pharmaceuticals for human use, the island rejecting repeated Chinese offers to send its own vaccines, instead asking the U.S., which plans to donate tens of millions of doses around the world.

The mainland calls Taiwan's move pointless political manipulation.

CHEN: Politics are never a consideration for us to import any vaccine into Taiwan. The only thing we are really concerned about is the safety and efficacy.

RIPLEY: Doctor Chen says evidence suggests Chinese vaccines are less effective than Moderna and AstraZeneca, both authorized for emergency use in Taiwan.

President Tsai Ing-wen says locally-produced vaccines could be ready by late July, frighteningly far away for those trying to do what's spelled out in the lights of this iconic hotel: stay safe.


RIPLEY: When you look at the numbers, you can see why people on this island are concerned. A 36-fold increase in total cases is just in the last two weeks from 135 to more than 4,900.

Some lawmakers here are calling for vaccines to be given out for free to the Taiwanese people, but of course, they need to arrive here first. And as we've just shown you, that is proving to be a challenge.

There's also a relief package of more than 7 and a half billion U.S. dollars being announced to help the restaurants and other service sector industries, who have been just completely obliterated by this now, going on two weeks of health crisis with many more weeks, it seems, yet to come, John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Will, thank you. Will Ripley there in Taipei. Appreciate that.

Well, in the coming hours, the Australian state of Victoria will once again be under lockdown. Health officials in the country's second most popular state made that decision after a fresh cluster of infections were detected in Melbourne.

For the next week, people must stay home except for essential business.

Well, as India tops 27 million COVID cases, it's facing a new challenge. That's black fungus. The daily infection is spreading on COVID patients, and officials say the number of cases has surpassed 10,000. Patients are struggling to find one drug in particular which is used to treat the fungus.

CNN's Vedika Sud reports the relatives of black fungus patients, desperate.


BHAVYA REDDY, DAUGHTER OF BLACK FUNGUS PATIENT: So they had to take them out, take out this part of the palate, of the jaw. They -- they had to take that out. He has to be fed through food pipe for a month.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-four- year-old Bhavya Reddy thought the worst was over when her father, Mosry (ph) Reddy, was recovering from COVID-19 in Hyderabad in south India. But he then developed a swelling across his face.

REDDY: Initially we thought it's some reaction because of all the doses that were given. But after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scan, we know that he was infected with black fungus.

SUD: Mucormycosis, or black fungus, is a rare life-threatening infection. If not detected and treated in time, it could lead to loss of eyesight, or as in Reddy's case, part of the jaw, and even death.

DR. HEMANT THACKER, CONSULTANT PHYSICIAN: If you take the treatment properly --

Dr. Hemant Thacker, a consultant physician at a top hospital in Mumbai, says black fungus is increasingly being detected in COVID-19 patients who are immunocompromised.

THACKER: The fungus starts invading the nasal septum, the palette, the sinus membranes, and here it also invades the blood vessels, and it rapidly grows.

SUD: The Indian government has ramped up production of the anti-fungal drug, but many states are reporting an acute shortage.

Twenty-nine-year-old software engineer Amardeep Shewalkar recently underwent surgery to remove black fungus from his face and nose. Extremely weak after suffering from both COVID-19 and the fungal infection, he still needs vials (ph) for a full recovery.


SUD: Amardeep says he still needs 24 injections and has been to almost all pharmacies across Hyderabad to look for them. They're not available.

Bhavya Reddy recently graduated with a degree in fashion management, with a father in hospital and a highly diabetic mother, she's now the family's primary caretaker.

REDDY: And we're still looking for the vials, because it's not available, and the dosage has increased. Everything is becoming an issue, because we're spending so much, and we're not getting anything in return. And my father is the only one who's earning in the family. But the neighbors are helping us out.

SUD: With the country still reeling from a brutal second wave of COVID-19, the pressure on India's stretched healthcare system is only increasing.

Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


VAUSE: A shocking number of Mexican politicians have been killed ahead of next month's elections. And in a country where political violence is common. This year, though, is among the worst. Our report just ahead from Mexico City.


VAUSE: In Northwest Nigeria, more than 100 people are missing and feared dead after a passenger ship capsized in the Niger River Wednesday morning.

Officials say the ship was overloaded about 180 passengers on board. So far, at least 20 have been rescued and the remains of four victims recovered.


Voters in Mexico head to the polls next month for mid-term elections, but this election year has been especially deadly for candidates taking a stand against crime. More now from CNN's Matt Rivers in Mexico City.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is Abel Murrieta, a candidate for local office in the Mexican municipality of Cajeme. Crime was his No. 1 issue.


GRAPHIC: Enough of the drugs that steal our kids and destroy our families. I'm a man of the law. I'll law down the law. My hand isn't shaking. I'm not afraid.

RIVERS: But just one day after filming this ad, he was dead. Shot and killed May 13 in broad daylight on a busy street while handing out campaign fliers.

State authorities say Murrieta was deliberately targeted but don't know by whom. Suspects or not, though, it's just further proof that in Mexico, politics can be deadly.

From September of last year through May 25, at least 88 politicians or candidates have been killed, according to Mexican consulting from Etellekt Consultores. They're a part of the more than 565 politicians or candidates overall that have been targeted by some sort of crime, ranging from murder to assault to threats, the firm says.

The government says it believes both numbers are actually far lower, though they don't say how they tallied their numbers, but still, it admits there's a problem. "It's a difficult time for these campaigns," says Mexico's president.

"We're going to keep protecting them."

Though Mexico has consistently failed to protect its candidates. Political assassinations have been a problems for decades, but this year is particularly bad.

ANA MARIA SALAZAR, PUBLIC SECURITY EXPERT: I do think that this is going to be considered one of the most violent elections in Mexican history.

RIVERS: Security experts like Ana Maria Salazar says politicians are killed for a number of reasons, but it most often involves organized crime. In many cases, she says criminal groups want their preferred candidate in office, and so they might target others they don't like, especially candidates who made crime a centerpiece of their campaigns.

SALAZAR: Candidates that talk the way Abel Murrieta speak clearly are going to run bigger risks.

RIVERA: Murrieta was known for challenging criminal groups and drug cartels. As a private lawyer, he was also representing the LeBarons, an outspoken family with dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship that lost nine of its members when they were murdered by suspected cartel members in Mexico in late 2019.

Adrian LeBaron tweeted shortly after Murrieta was killed, saying in part, quote, "They have killed my defender. What do we call this, the rule of law?"

(on camera): Do you think he was killed because of his opposition to the cartels?

ADRIAN LEBARON, FAMILY KILLED IN MEXICO: Yes. He was always exposing them. To me, he -- he died a martyr.

RIVERS (voice-over): Authorities have not identified any suspects or motive in Murrieta's murder, but the victims seem to know he was at risk, saying this a few days before he died.


GRAPHIC: I am serious and going in with no fear. To do this, you have to be very conscious of what you're doing to do and not be scared.

RIVERS: He went on to say the streets belong to the people, not to criminals. And some of those people turned up here to his funeral in Cajeme. They gave him a standing ovation as his coffin was led out.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching. I'm John Vause. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. In the meantime, WORLD SPORT is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)