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Concern Over Delta Variant Spread in Low Vaccination Areas; Olympic Organizers Weighing Whether to Allow Japanese Spectators; Voting Underway in What Government Calls First Free Election; Bennett Calls Raisi "Hangman of Tehran"; Black Fungus Cases Ravage India after COVID-19 Surge; Learning to Adapt to a Future with COVID-19; U.S. Preparing Sanctions Against Russia for Navalny Poisoning; suspect Charged with Murder of American Student in Russia; First U.S. Trial Cruise Launches to Test COVID Measures; China Sends First Astronauts to Help Construct New Space Station; Tropical Depression Claudette. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 01:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: The COVID Delta variant is on the rise as vaccination rates struggle to keep up. Why experts fear it will become the dominant variant.

Ethiopia heads to the polls in what's being billed as its first free and fair election. But the country is still grappling with the humanitarian crisis in its Tigray region.

And the triple weather threat in the United States. We'll go live to the CNN weather center for all the details.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world, I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: The delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the world, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates or where vaccines are yet to reach, according to the World Health Organization it has now surfaced in at least 18 countries. Health officials particularly concerned since the Delta variant is more transmissible and can cause more serious illness.

In the U.S., a worrying twist is declining vaccination rates, leading to health authorities sounding the alarm about the increase in cases caused by the delta variant.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: It doesn't, necessarily, appear more pathogenic, or more dangerous, but it's infecting people more easily, and it's starting to become more prevalent in the U.K., and communities that are unvaccinated. Kids, for example, young people, seem to be the population that's spreading in the United Kingdom. When we look across the United States, we see wide variance in terms of vaccination rates. Some states, like Vermont, or Connecticut, have very high vaccination rates above 80 percent. Other states are struggling to get to 50 percent.


HOLMES: Now, populations with a heavy vaccine skepticism, or a lack of access to the shots, our cause is especially concerning to global health experts. A delta variant is spreading fast through these communities, as health officials are pulling out all stops in an effort to control it.


HOLMES (voice-over): Aggressive, and infectious. That's the way Moscow's mayor describes a coronavirus variant spreading through the city. Health officials, in Moscow, reporting more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The highest daily figure for the city since the pandemic began. That, from the city's mayor, who says that the delta variant first identified in India is responsible for nearly 90 percent of new infections.

SERGEI SOBYANIN, MOSCOW MAYOR (through translator): The situation in Moscow, with the spread of COVID-19 disease, is rapidly deteriorating, and the dynamics are quite unexpected since more than 60 percent of Muscovites are either been ill, or vaccinated.

HOLMES: The Kremlin says vaccinations are critical to protect against the variant spread, but many Russians are still hesitant to get the Sputnik vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are afraid of getting sick, but we do not get vaccinated, because we are also afraid of that.

HOLMES: The WHO says Moscow is just one of several places where the Delta variant is thriving. And with so many people across the world still unvaccinated, there's plenty of opportunity for it to circulate even more. .

SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, W.H.O. CHIEF SCIENTIST: The delta variant is well on its way to becoming the dominant variant globally, because of its significantly increased transmissibility.

HOLMES: One WHO official says Africa is particularly vulnerable because of the lack of vaccines. The Delta variant is being detected in at least 14 countries on the continent.

But, even countries that have had successes vaccination programs are being inundated with new cases. More than 46 percent of the population in the U.K. is fully vaccinated, but COVID-19 infections are increasing there, once again, the delta fueling the rise. A similar spike in Indonesia more authorities in one district giving live chickens as an incentive to older residents to get the shots. Countries, around the world, trying everything they can to catch up to this fast-moving virus. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES (on camera): At least 38 people connected to a flight from Johannesburg to the Chinese city of Shenzhen have the highly transmissible delta variant. That's according to Chinese officials. That flight arrived on June the 10th. Shenzhen also found two locally transmitted cases on Thursday, one of which was a vaccinated restaurant at the airport.

More than 400 flights from Shenzhen were canceled on Monday, but officials won't confirm to CNN the cause of the mass cancellations.

All of this coming the day after China announced that it has administered one billion vaccine doses and counting.

Let's bring in CNN's Steven Jiang, in Beijing.


Good to see you, Steven.

I guess unlike other countries, China's one-party system doesn't give people much of a choice, but, pretty remarkable anyway.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's really a large part of the answer to why they are able to achieve this remarkable milestone.

Now, remember, technically, vaccinations are still voluntary, but if you are in any way associated with the Chinese government, whether or not you work for government agency, or one of thousands of state-owned countries, or public institutions here, you're pretty much are compelled to take the shots. And we have learned from talking people on the ground, or after state media, and social media, in some cases, local authorities have been exerting pressure, not only on people themselves, but also through their families.

For instance, some parents have been told that if they don't get vaccinated, their children risk not being able to go to the school. Yet, in other cases, authorities in others can offer incentives, like in other countries, handing out freebies from cooking oil to a chance to win an iPhone. So, it's really a combination of tactics here.

But when you look at the one billion milestone, it is very interesting to note the context. That is China actually has a stuttering start in terms of vaccination rollout, and reached in first million mark in March, two weeks behind the U.S. So, since then, the pace has really picking up significantly. Its last 100 million doses, was completed within just 5 days.

So, the government here, really, has been using all of these to showcase, and highlight, the so-called advantages, or benefits, of their political system. But given the population size of more than 1.4 billion people, even some experts have they've been quoted as saying the China needs to administer at least 2 billion doses before they can't talk about herd immunity. So, they still have a long way to go, and that's not going to be an easy task given the lingering vaccine hesitation among many people here as well -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, good point. Bring us up to date on this situation there, in terms of variant spread, and other outbreaks.

JIANG: That's right. You mentioned the cases in Shenzhen, that's really part of this wave -- new wave in the province of Guangdong, that begin about a month ago.

Now, the new daily cases of locally transmitted cases, it's still relatively small. Usually in single digits, or low double digits. But this is tried and many officials still adopted a zero tolerance policy. That's why you see them take a page from their familiar playbook, multiple rounds of mass testing, extensive contact tracing, and targeted lockdowns in the case of Shenzhen, because one of the patients was an airport worker.

You have seen, not only, flight cancellations but also see the new rule of requiring passengers, departing passengers to show a negative test result done within 40 hours of departure. So, all of this -- most of these new cases have been the delta variant, and also they link most of the local cases to the imported cases. That's why officials are vowing to not let their guard down in terms of detecting, and handling new cases involving international or arriving passengers -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Steven Jiang, in Beijing, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Now, Tokyo Olympic organizers are facing more hurdles with just 32 days to go until opening ceremony. On Saturday, a Ugandan Olympic coach, becoming one of the first to test positive for COVID after landing in Japan. Officials, say the coach is not showing symptoms, but it all underscores the widespread concern about a rebound in COVID cases, amid the influx of foreign visitors.

Now, while overseas fans have already been ruled out, a decision on allowing Japanese spectators is expected in the next few hours.

And CNN's Blake Essig joins me now from Tokyo, to talk more about that.

And as you've reported in recent weeks, pretty much all of the experts are saying that this is a bad idea. Don't have spectators, and where does all stand right now?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You know, Michael, that sentiment has not changed from the medical community. They don't recommend that spectators attend the Olympics.

Now, a 5-part meeting of Olympic organizers is scheduled for this afternoon as you mentioned where they will decide whether or not local fans will be allowed to attend the games in, if they are allowed, how many will be allowed to attend?

Now, just last week, Japan's top coronavirus advisor said that staging the Olympics without spectators is desirable, and the best option to limit the spread of infection, but around the same time, the government said that, as a general rule, 10,000 spectators would be allowed to attend sporting events, but only in areas where a state of emergency isn't in effect.

And currently, there is a quasi-state of emergency effect in Tokyo, and several other prefectures. Now, if there is a state of emergency in place, the number of fans allowed would be reduced to 5,000, or about half that number of the capacity, whichever is lower for each particular venue.

Despite the possibility for a reduced number of fans, infectious disease experts have talked about continuing to warn that any domestic spectators to attend the Olympics will lead to a spike in cases, and recently, there were projections released by Kyoto University, and the National Institute of Infectious Disease, that show that Tokyo could see an additional 10,000 COVID-19 cases if the games are held with spectators, versus none at all.


And because of the pandemic, over the weekend, Tokyo's governor also announced that all live Olympic public viewing events will be canceled. That includes six potential locations that were planned to hold these public viewings. Those sites will instead be used for vaccinations. While the vaccination rate here in Japan is speeding up, Michael, still only about 7 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

HOLMES: Yeah, which is a worry. One other thing we've been talking about is how unpopular in Japan the games have been among ordinary Japanese people, but we've got 32 days to go, Olympic teams are showing up.

Has that sentiment changed at all?

ESSIG: You know, Michael, one of the things that has changed is the acceptance, the acceptance that whether or not they like it or not, the games are looking hyped and they are going to happen. I mean, we continued to hear the same thing from Olympic organizations and Japanese government over and over and over again. And really the calls from the public, medical experts, infectious disease specialists to cancel and postpone, not hold the games with fans, it has really fallen on deaf ears.

So with the health and safety concern remains is a big reason at these games have remained so deeply unpopular here in Japan. But the reality is these games are looking like they are going to happen and the general population is just starting to accept that reality.

HOLMES: Yeah, resigned to it. Blake Essig in Tokyo, always appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Now those teams arriving in Japan are going to fin in an Olympic village set up with plenty of COVID precautions in mind. Plexiglass barriers, mask requirements, a fever clinic, whatever that is, all signs of an Olympics like no other. CNN's Selina Wang is in Tokyo with a closer look.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Olympic village, a city within a city, built for the world's best athletes for the Tokyo games, thousands of Olympians for more than 200 countries will be living here, preparing for the defining moment of their sporting careers. Normally a place for partying and celebration, this year, it's going to be an antisocial sanitized bubble, full of COVID testing, health centers and staying for apart from one another.

At the athletes village plaza, there's everything the Olympians will need, cafe, internet, hair salons, and much, much more. The only place for athletes to hang out, mix and mingle. Instead, there are signs everywhere reminding people to wear their masks and socially distance themselves.

But the majority in Japan still don't want the Olympics to happen. Actually, a protest is ongoing right behind me as they are debuting the Olympic village to the press.

There are 3,800 hundred rooms in these 21 buildings to house the athletes.

This is a replica of the athletes' room. Athletes have to share the room, which some public health experts say it increases the risk of spreading COVID. The Olympians are going to be sleeping on beds made out of cardboard. Recyclable, but don't worry, they are extremely sturdy and can hold more than 400 pounds.

Athletes are contact traced and tested for COVID every day. If they test positive for COVID, they have to come to this fever clinic to get tested again. If that COVID test comes back positive yet again, they have to take dedicated transport to an isolation facility outside of this Olympic village and they then lose their chance to compete.

They are only allowing two-thirds of capacity here at the dining hall, and normally a place for meeting and chatting. Instead athletes are asked to dine alone, separated by plastic barriers and to leave as soon as they're finished eating after wiping on their seats.

And the athletes gym, where they have to keep their masks on at all times and will be separated by these barriers. Athletes can only arrive five days before the competition and have to leave within two. Now, condoms will still be passed out per tradition, but they're only given as athletes are leaving the village.

It cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build all this. After the games, they'll be turned into residential apartments. But before that, this is going to house athletes for the Olympics like no other.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: Meanwhile, in Italy, more signs of progress in the battle against COVID-19. Starting today all but one of Italy's region can drop most of their coronavirus restrictions.

They are now designated as white zones, since cases are falling and the areas are continued at low risk.

Now, let's have a closer look at Italy's progress. Infections spike last November. You see it there on the graph. But the 7-day average of new cases has fallen dramatically according to John's Hopkins data.


And starting today, Italy will require all travelers from the United Kingdom to take a COVID test and quarantine for 5 days, which will put a dent in the vacation time. The move comes amid concerns of the spread of the delta variant in the U.K.

Hundreds of red roses have been placed along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro to pay tribute to the more than 500,000 people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Brazil. Many Brazilians blame the COVID crisis on President Jair Bolsonaro's management of the pandemic or mismanagement, as well as his efforts to downplay its severity.


ANTONIO CARLOS COSTA, PRESIDENT, NGO RIO DE PAZ (through translator): At the head of the republic, there is a president who violated all sanitary norms from the beginning of the pandemic. He underestimated the lethal power of the virus. He participated in anti-democratic public demonstrations, stimulating the agglomeration. Today, we are a country that has no mass vaccinations, deepening the economic crisis and causing unemployment that reaches countless families.


HOLMES: Brazil is just the 2nd country in the world to top 500,000 COVID deaths behind only the U.S.

Well, it is a new political era for Iran. Coming up, the major issues confronting the incoming hard-line president, including the next steps on nuclear talks.

Also still to come, voting underway in what Ethiopia's government calls the country's first free and fair election. But with parts of the country ravaged by war and people unable to vote, any skeptics have their doubts about free and fair.


Welcome back.

Voting is underway in Ethiopia for what the government calls the country's first free and fair elections after decades of repressive rule. But, many skeptics have their doubts, due to Ethiopia's economic disparity, and the ongoing war in the Tigray region. Take a look at the scene there, in the capital Addis Ababa. Now, some

major parties are boycotting the election over alleged intimidation by security forces. More than a fifth of constituency say, they are delaying voting, for various reasons, including voter registration issues, simmering ethnic violence, and the conflict in Tigray. A 2nd round of voting will take place in September.

Now, Ethiopia's electoral board says that more candidates are running this time, than any previous election. Voters casting their ballots in both regional, and general elections, electing 547 members of parliament, choosing from 46 parties.

Now, the 109 million citizens in Ethiopia, only about 37 million, are actually registered voters. Members of opposition parties, having been jailed, making Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a leading candidate in the field of, mostly, smaller, ethnically based parties.


Now, as I mentioned, that election is also marred by violence in the country's Tigray region. No date has been set for when they'll be able to vote their. The United Nations has said, some 350,000 people face famine in Tigray. And the U.N. warning against any potential violence around Ethiopia's elections, a spokesman, released a statement that the challenging political, and security environment saying, quote, the secretary general calls on all stakeholders to refrain from any acts of violence, or incitement.

The secretary general encourages leaders and participants in the election, to promote social cohesion, and reject hate speech. Now, it goes on to stress that any electoral dispute should be resolve through dialogue and establish a legal challenge.

Iran's incoming president will hold his first a news conference in the next few hours. Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August, signaling a hard turn to the right after an election that most reformed minded Iranians might have skipped voting.

Fred Pleitgen reports Raisi's election comes at a critical moment for Iran, both at home, and abroad.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The transition of power, here in Iran, already seems to be starting in the presidential election which, of course, is one that many people say is very important, and possibly, pivotal for this country. Moving Iran on a trajectory far more towards the conservative powers here, in this country. And the president-elect, the very conservative, Ebrahim Raisi, he said to hold his first international press conference on Monday.

Now, he is expected to take questions both from Iranian journalists, and international journalist as well, and he's also expected to outline some of the agenda, both domestic and in foreign policy. As far as the policy for Iran is concerned, of course, by far, the biggest issue is the struggling economy of the country. Of course, Iran is still very much suffering from crippling sanctions, mostly put in place by the Trump administration.

And a lot of people are looking for economic reprieve. Raisi in the past has favored what the Iranian power structures calls a resistance economy, which means making Iran as self sufficient as possible and not dependent on foreign direct investment. The other big question, of course, is going to be what are the foreign policy initiatives going to be.

So far, at least as far as relations with the U.S. is concerned, Ebrahim Raisi has always been for a very tough line, a strong stance towards Washington, and the other big question is going to be, what about the Iran nuclear agreement?

Now, we've heard from a senior member of Iran's governing elite that the Iran nuclear agreement, it's something that the supreme leader of the country, who is, of course, the main authority here in Iran, he signed on to that and he wants the Iran nuclear agreement to come back into full force and the U.S. to get back into the agreement and for Iran to come back into full compliance. Of course, those negotiations are still very much ongoing.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


HOLMES: Now, the Iran nuclear deal remains a key concern for Israeli's new government. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has a warning for the leaders before they negotiate with Iran's new president.

Hadas Gold with that.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Naftali Bennett spent his first part of his cabinet meeting as prime minister on Sunday, warning world leaders against Ebrahim Raisi, calling him the hangman of Tehran, a reference to Raisi's role in a bloody crackdown on dissidents in Iran. Although there is a new government in Israel, most mainstream politicians agree when it comes to Iran on any sort of return to the Iranian nuclear deal.

Although this new government may choose to go about displaying their disagreements slightly differently than former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was famous for his very public display of disagreement with the Iranian nuclear deal, especially when it came to the United States position on it. Naftali Bennett on Sunday saying in the cabinet meeting that this is the last chance for the world powers to wake up before turning to the nuclear agreement and to understand who they are doing business with. These guys are murderers, mass murderers.

So what if anything will change between Israel and Iran now that Israel has a new government and Iran has a new president? Well, for one thing analysts think there may be a rush to try to complete Iranian nuclear deal before Raisi formerly takes position as president, the government is very much against.

On the other hand, having a new hard-line president with such belligerent rhetoric could actually serve in Israel's interest as Israel tries to mobilize the international community against Iran, essentially giving the -- Israeli ability to say to other world leaders who cannot negotiate with these guys, you cannot really trust them, especially when it comes to nuclear agreements or mean able to obtain a nuclear weapon.

So, essentially while there is a new government in Israel and a new president in Iran, don't expect much to change between the two countries.


Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, international negotiators in the Vienna report they are closer to an agreement with Iranian officials to restore the nuclear deal. But, it has not been reached yet, a sixth round of talks, wrapping up on Sunday. Russia's representative saying, there was a chance of arrival at a final point and discussions by mid July. Negotiators will now consult with their capitals, ahead of the next round.

After surviving wars, a pandemic, and so many other disasters, Lebanon now faces yet another crisis. It is running out of gas, and electricity.

And, as Ben Wedeman reports, the famous Lebanese ability to get by is being tested more than ever.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As if Lebanon didn't have enough problems already, along comes another -- a petrol shortage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suddenly, the whole country is destroyed, only within a few months. It's just too much to bear.

WEDEMAN: Lebanon's currency has lost 90 percent of its value in less than two years, inflation is soaring. A massive blast in the Beirut port, killed more than 200 people last year, coronavirus killed thousands more. And, the country hasn't been able to form a proper government in almost a year.

Taken all together, it's grim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to hell.

WEDEMAN: These long lines at gas stations are a manifestation of a much bigger problem of a government that's bankrupt, that's broke, that doesn't have enough hard currency to import fuel to keep the lights on.

Also in short supply, fuel, to run the country's decrepit power plants. The normal, lengthy power outages are even getting longer. The electric grid is antiquated.

Those who can afford it, depending on private generators to make up for the difference.


WEDEMAN: Lebanon's caretaker, energy minister, Raymond Ghajar, warns that as bad as things are now, worse may be yet to come.

GHAJAR: The blackout will be a true blackout. Not public electricity blackout, but a complete darkness. I think this is, you know, a calamity. It's not a scenario that's livable.

WEDEMAN: Iraq has reportedly promised to provide cut rate fuel, but it hasn't arrived yet, and meanwhile, Lebanon's squabbling politicians do nothing to fix the country's many problems.

MARC AYOUB, ISSAM FARES INSTITUTE, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT: So, we are just buying time, we are kicking the can down the road, without reform, without a complete solution for sector.

WEDEMAN: And Lebanon is running out of time, fuel, and it seems, everything else.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.


HOLMES: We'll take a quick break.

When we come back against cases decrease in India, the country is struggling with post-COVID illnesses. We'll take a look at how doctors are scrambling to treat these new infections.

Also, fighting the forever virus. I speak with an expert about with the world needs to do about a threat that might not ever go away.

We'll be right back.



HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world.

I'm Michael Holmes.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Now India appears to be emerging from its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sunday the country posted its lowest daily rise in cases in nearly three months, but it is also dealing with a host of post- COVID infections that have left patients scrambling for treatment. And that includes black fungus and multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

CNN's Sam Kiley visited two 2 hospitals to see how patients are coping with these infections.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Srinavast (ph) is 41, a COVID-19 survivor, his doctors are telling him that he is facing another life-threatening illness.

Black fungus, mucormycosis, has invaded his face. He is being prepared for a third round of surgery to remove it before it spreads to his brain. 71 other patients have battled this rare infection at St. John's Hospital in Bangalore since April. A surge in the disease has been seen across India among patients who are either already diabetic or when the coronavirus triggered diabetes.

St. John's normally treats about 30 black fungus patients a year. This year, 12 have already died. And the survival of others will often depend on access to Amphotericin B, a rare and expensive drug.

Srinavast became diabetic after his bout with COVID. He's lost the feeling on one side of his face and may lose his eye to the fungus that infected nearly 12,000 other Indians already this year.

DR. SOUMYA MS, ENT SURGEON: The disease has progressed and the eye is also looking very bad.

KILEY: His CT scan reveals that the fungus has spread.

(on camera): The key at this stage is for the surgeons to try to save the eye but also to clear the area around the eye of the dead flesh because this is a fungus that feeds on dead flesh and sugar. And they're trying to prevent it from getting into his brain.

(voice over): It's already cost around $6,000 just for his drugs. Medical debt will be devastating to this driver. He's got two small kids to support.

DR. MS: It goes through the blood vessels. It erodes the bones. And it has also entered the lower part of the sinus of the cheek.

KILEY (on camera): So if he doesn't get Amphotericin, what will happen to him?

DR. MS: The fungus will continue to spread. It will enter into the brain. It will start engulfing all the blood vessels within the brain.

KILEY (voice over): The Delta variant of COVID has spread from India fast. British experts say maybe 60 percent more infectious than others. India's second wave may be past its peak, but ICUs are still busy with COVID patients who now may face black fungus or mucor (ph) as a secondary illness. DR. SANJIV LEWIN, CHIEF OF MEDICAL SERVICES, ST. JOHN'S HOSPITAL: What

is blatantly staring us in the face after the second wave, which was a huge surge compared to the first wave was, of course, mucor --

KILEY: Shortages of Amphotericin B have forced doctors into deciding who gets it and may live and who may not.

DR. LEWIN: It has been extremely tough.

KILEY: But it's not just adults who are short of life-saving drugs. Dozens of children at the Rainbow Hospital in Bangalore have been admitted with multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MISC. It's another post-COVID illness caused when the body's own immune system turns on itself. The best treatment is an imported and expensive drug called intravenous immunoglobulin IVIG.


KILEY: Hadap Samir (ph) is 9. He had mild COVID, recovered, and then his antibodies attacked his own organs, including his heart causing MISC. He is on the mend now.

GEETHA SURESH, PATIENTS AUNT: We were totally shattered. We were so scared, very scary, very scary.

KILEY: The hospital has seen 32 MISC cases in two weeks. And by the end of this month they will expect to pass 100, keeping these kids alive will depend on sourcing IVIG.

DR. PAKSHAY SHETTY, HEAD OF PEDIATRIC INTENSIVE CASE, RAINBOW CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: It's a biological drug, as such it's in short supply and if we think that we're going to have a lot MISC cases, we might land-up with short supply of this drug.

KILEY: Black fungus and MISC are still rare in India, but even a small percentage of 1.36 billion people adds up to thousands who may discover that beating COVID isn't the end, but the start of renewed suffering when survival depends on access to scarce and expensive drugs.

Sam Kiley, CNN -- Bangalore.


HOLMES: Well, COVID-19 has earned the nickname the forever virus. Some experts say there is not a way to completely get rid of it due to shortage of the vaccines, new super variants emerging and, of course, vaccine hesitancy playing a role. And if things do not change, the world runs the risk of living 2020 all over again on.

Now to discuss this, I'm joined by Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine with Scripps Research. Good to see you again, doctor.

Let's talk about this. You know, some parts of the world returning to a semblance of normality but is it fair to say that in the months and years ahead we're just going to have to accept COVID is something the world has to manage rather than defeat?

DR. ERIC TOPOL, PROFESSOR OF MOLECULAR MEDICINE, SCRIPPS RESEARCH: Right, Michael. Well, good to be with you again. It is true that we are looking at the so-called endemic status. That is, we're going to have this virus around for years to come.

But the good thing is we know we can contain it. We know we can get it down to less than one case per 100,000 people throughout the world. We have the tools to do that, we just have to execute and hopefully over the next year, year-and-a-half we will get this under global containment, not just in specific countries.

HOLMES: Yes. Do you think there are changes in government and medical thinking and strategy which have to happen going forward in terms of adapting to what the virus will become for the world? Does it need to be treated tactically like say polio or smallpox in terms of management.

DR. TOPOL: Yes, I think that's a really important point and question, Michael because we haven't really done that. That is, we have not been getting the vaccines to the places in greatest need.

And also the types of vaccine are not all created equal. They're all very good at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths. But some of them are far better in blocking transmission chains, which is what you want to turn to when you start to see a major outbreak in a country.

So for example, right now in South America, COVID is raging unlike any other part of the world. But we are not doing what we should be doing in getting very effective vaccines to the places in need.

So it's nice that we are trying -- that vaccines are distributed more and have less nationalism. But we have to be more directive about where they are needed so we can basically put out fires like we have seen done very effectively in certain countries already.

HOLMES: Yes. That's such an important point. I mean many of these low and middle income countries, you know, according to some estimates they won't have enough vaccines to inoculate even their at-risk populations until 2023 which is pretty stunning.

I mean you think there's enough of an understanding of the fact that low vaccination rates and poor pace of distribution around the world, particularly those poorer nations is an issue not just for those countries but for every country?

DR. TOPOL: Absolutely. Your point can't be emphasized enough. But we are not using all our tools. Like for example, if we could get rapid antigen tests, which should cost pennies, you know, these paper strips that people could tell whether they're infectious and get that distributed throughout the world freely, this would help people to know not to mix, you know, not to go to places where they could actually promote spread.

So we have things in the tool box that we are not using. But we have to face the issue that you are highlighting, which is we are not near the end here. This Delta variant is not the last variant we are going to see unless we achieve containment and we are not even close on a global basis.

HOLMES: Yes. Great point. Well put I wanted to get this in too, you know -- as you know well, before COVID-19 emerged there were many who sounded the alarm about the risk of a pandemic, how unprepared the world was and, of course, we've seen what's happened.

Are you worried at all that as normality returns of sorts, lessons about preparedness and response won't have been learned -- that mistakes borne of complacency could be made again?


DR. TOPOL: Yes, I'm so glad you asked that too because we have a problem whereby our public health, as emphasized in that foreign affairs article you alluded to, we have a problem where our public health resources are not matching up to the needs.

So once you achieve containment like we are starting to get to in the U.S., this is a time to have contact tracing really get done right. Get testing done so that you find where an outbreak is just getting started somewhere.

So you don't have any room for complacency. You actually want to get more aggressive and, you know, track everything. Our genomic surveillance in most of the world with few country exceptions is subpar, in fact, grossly inadequate.

So all these things that we can do to get our arms around it, so that when we get to a point when where we are starting to get containment that we keep it that way. It's not good if it only lasts for a week or two.

We have seen now countries that are achieving long-term containment, weeks or months after having been in rough shape. So it can be done. But we have to really work at it.

HOLMES: Great points. Always good to speak to you, Doctor. Dr. Eric Topol, thanks so much.

DR. TOPOL: Thank you.

HOLMES: Now, the U.S. Is getting ready to slam Russia with new sanctions over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

Coming up, how this could affect an already fragile relationship between the two countries.

Plus an American student studying in Russia is found dead, a suspect now charged with her murder. The very latest after the break.


HOLMES: The United States and Russia are taking another small step aimed at improving relations between the two countries. The Russian ambassador, for example, has just returned to Washington. And the U.S. Ambassador is expected to be back in Moscow in the coming days.

President Biden and Putin agreed to send both ambassadors back to their posts during that meeting they had last week in Geneva.

Although that summit was an effort to thaw frosty relations, the Biden administration is already preparing to hit Russia with more sanctions over the poisoning of imprisoned opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.

CNN's Arlette Saenz with the details.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is preparing a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia as it looks to take a stronger response to the country in the wake of the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

This would be the second round of sanctions the U.S. has imposed after back in March the U.S. and European Union worked together on that first wave of sanctions against Russia.

And the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan previewed a bit of the thinking behind this next upcoming wave of sanctions. Take a listen.


JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case as well. We have shown all along the way that we are not going to pull our punches, whether it's on Solar Winds or election interference or Navalny when it comes to responding to Russia's harmful activities.

SAENZ: Now, this comes just days after President Biden sat down face to face with Russia's president Vladimir Putin, and he warns there would be dire consequences for Russia if Navalny were to die while in prison.

Now, there is no timeline for when this next wave of sanctions will actually take place, but the president is facing pressure, even from Democratic lawmakers to act soon.

Arlette Saenz, CNN -- the White House.


HOLMES: Now, Russian authorities have charged the suspect in the murder of an American student, the 34-year-old former marine went missing last week, her body found on Saturday.

Salma Abdelaziz with more from London.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Horrific new details are coming to light about the murder of an American student in Russia.

The victim is 34-year-old Catherine Serou. She was studying at a state university in Russia and according to a local city court that is investigating Serou's murder, the suspect, a man who's been charged with her murder, picked Serou up at about 7:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday June 15th.

The were in that vehicle for about an hour when the man stopped in a wooded area and that suspect identified only as P by this local city court.

He began to repeatedly hit Serou with his fist. He stabbed her at least twice with the knife he was carrying. Serou tragically died of her injuries at the scene.

We also understand from Russian officials that the suspect did have a previous record; He'd been convicted repeatedly of grave crimes. The U.S. embassy also confirming Serou's death extending their condolences to her family.

U.S. Embassy officials say they're doing everything they can to support the investigation by local authorities. The last person Serou was in touch with was her mother. Again, that is according to Russia's main investigative committee.

They say Serou texted her mother on Tuesday evening about getting in that unidentified vehicle with that unknown man. What happened next is that Serou was reported missing and days later were her body tragically found in that wooded area.

Absolutely horrific news particularly for him mom back home in the United States. Her mother Becky Serou has spoken to the "Daily Beast". She says her daughter was a tough woman. She had served as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. She survived combat.

She said her daughter was creative, kind, intelligent. She said her daughter enjoyed studying in Russia. That she sold her apartment in California in 2019 to fund for studies in study and Russia. And that her daughter's plan had been to come back to the United States and work as an immigration lawyer.

Now of course, her life tragically cut short and her mother searching for answers.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN -- London.


HOLMES: Quick break. When we come back, parts of the U.S. Southeast are getting slammed right now by tropical depression "Claudette". A closer look when we come back.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Ready to set sail and return to normal, kind of. Just hours ago a Royal Caribbean cruise ship began a voyage to test new safety measures. It is the first crew ship to leave from a U.S. port since the pandemic began.


CNN's Leyla Santiago with more from Miami.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About 600 passengers on board The Freedom of the Seas for a simulated voyage. It's basically kind of a trial run for Royal Caribbean to test its safety protocols. That's a requirement from the CDC if the cruise line wants to avoid requiring 95 percent of passengers to be vaccinated.

Now, we all know the cruise industry has had a bit of a tough year. For about 15 months they have been on pause and it's a big deal here in Florida because the cruise industry pumps $8.5 billion into the economy here and supports 154,000 jobs.

So for this simulated voyage, Royal Caribbean is turning to its employees. So everyone on board has been fully vaccinated, and works for Royal Caribbean. I had a chance to talk to a few of them. And we talked about why they decided to get on board. And some of their concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I needed to get out. I'm vaccinated. I haven't -- you know, I have been very healthy. I am very healthy, thank God. And I just need to get out and see my friends, and see my work family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm feeling very excited overall. I mean a little -- just apprehensive, not because of the cruise, just because I haven't packed for a trip in a long time. So I kind of forgot.

SANTIAGO: And a bit of a development, remember back in April, Governor Ron DeSantis sued CDC over its requirements and on Friday a judge ruled that come July 18th the CDC cannot require cruise lines to follow their new rules.

So you have the ports, the cruise line, as well as the industry as a whole reading through the 124 page decision and trying to make sense of what that means for a future voyages and passengers.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Miami.


HOLMES: The International Space Station is getting a power boost -- a team of French and American astronauts working on the installation of some new solar panels on Sunday as you see there. Now, NASA says the spacewalk lasted 6 hours and 28 minutes. And those new solar arrays will upgrade previous panel which have been in place for 20 years.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER FICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake about it. We are in a space race today. Just as we were in the 1960s. And the stakes are even higher.


HOLMES: Now, that was former vice president Mike Pence in 2019 predicting the accelerating space race with China, which entered a new phase this past week.

CNN's David Culver has that story from Shanghai.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Three astronauts bound for the Heavenly Palace, that is China's space station still under construction.

From a launch pad in the Gobi Desert, the rocket ship dubbed the "Divine Vessel" blasting off. Designed to arrive at its destination in just six-and-a-half hours.

But at a total length of 55 feet and a living space of just 50 cubic meters, these astronauts are going into orbit in a capsule a bit larger than a city bus. Any claustrophobic thoughts surely forgotten when the men do two planned spacewalks to install equipment on the exterior of the space station.

Inside? They will test the tech in the living area and run experiments. Two more laboratory modules expected to be launched in upcoming missions with the aim to have the space station fully operational by the end of next year.

China wants its own because the U.S. government barred it from participating in the International Space Station project. China says their Heavenly Palace will be truly international.

ZHOU JIANPING, CHIEF DESIGNER, CHINA MANNED SPACE AGENCY: Foreign astronauts are certainly going to enter the Chinese space station one day. There are a number of countries that have expressed a desire to do that, and we will be open to that in the future.

CULVER: In just the past seven months, China has put a rover on the moon and one on mars, becoming the second country in history after the U.S. to land a rover on the red planet. They also plan to send humans to the moon in the 2030s, but for now these three men will spend three months building the foundation of the space station.

NIE HAISHENG, COMMANDER, SHENZHOU-12 SPACEFLIGHT: We will obey orders and instructions and to keep calm while meticulously carrying out the mission.

CULVER: Chinese experts, likewise confident in this mission and its safe return to earth as the vessel carries precious cargo along with the pride of a nation rapidly advancing its work in this new frontier.

David Culver, CNN -- Shanghai.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [01:54:42]

HOLMES: Tropical depression "Claudette" is drenching the southeastern U.S. right now lashing North Carolina, expected to strengthen into a tropical storm once again according to the National Hurricane Center. Flash flooding will be a primary threat in the hours to come. And on the western side of the U.S. a heat wave raising drought and fire concerns.

Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, lots of record heat in the west.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Michael, you know, upwards of 300 record temperatures set. And incredible to think that just two hours ago, Michael, as the official start of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, so summer two hours old.

These records have been set over the past week -- incredible, reaching up to 124 Fahrenheit or 51 degrees Celsius.

Look at Palm Springs, that's a 49 degree Celsius afternoon or 119 Fahrenheit in the state capitol there in Sacramento coming in with high temperatures at 110 -- that's about 43 degrees Celsius.

Incredible heat widespread across the region. Not just in California, but even as far north as the state of Oregon, state of Washington, high temperatures into the middle 90s Fahrenheit range which sits at around 36, 37 degrees Celsius.

But the trend going to change here for the southwest, in fact it cools off just a little bit and by cool off I mean dropping down into the lower forties.

It is across the northwest where initially it cools off and then goes right back the other way, potential record heat once again and still for the first full week of the summer season.

So whatever you are looking at, well, the 7-day forecast kind of a trend here over the next 7 days at least shows you the above average conditions on the western periphery of the United States.

And how about these highs? In Seattle, Washington climbing up to 33 degrees -- well 11 about 11 degrees above seasonal averages for this time of year.

Now, on the eastern U.S. like what you were talking about, what is left of "Claudette", the tropical depression at this point but all signs indicate once this moves over open waters it could re-energize back into a tropical storm.

You will notice upwards of a foot or 30 centimeters of rainfall has come down a little past 48 hours along the Gulf Coast region of the United States.

Then the system now picks up a little bit of steam here. Quickly moves on towards the Canadian Maritimes. We think winds will get up to about 75 kilometers per hour. Not only a concern in the wind department, but a storm surge on the immediate coast there of the Carolinas, as high as three feet or so and let's keep this area unsettled for at least the first few hours of Monday and possibly even into Tuesday as it heads off the north eastern U.S. coastline, Michael. Lots of weather on both coasts.

HOLMES: Indeed it is. I don't know about your plans but I won't need to water mine plants for a while after that storm passed through.

JAVAHERI: I agree. All is said and done for a few days.

HOLMES: Exactly. Pedram, thanks so much. Pedram Javaheri there.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN.

Do stay with us though. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Robyn Curnow after a short break.