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Iran's New President Tough Approach to U.S.; North Korea Mocked U.S. Optimism for Talks; Ethiopians Voting After Years of Oppression; Taliban Group Taking Hold of Afghan Districts; WHO Ramping Up Efforts to Deliver Vaccines to Vulnerable Countries; Johannesburg Health Care in Dire Need of Medical Supplies; 500,000 Plus COVID-19 Deaths Reported In Brazil; Colombia's COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 100,000; At Least 140 Cases Confirmed At Copa America; COVID Long-Haulers Fighting For Visibility And Action; Hong Kong's Apple Daily Newspaper May Have To Shut Down. Olympic Organizers Will Allow Up To 10,000 Fans In Venues; Weightlifter To Become First Transgender Olympian; Great Barrier Reef Battle; Shock Test On U.S. Aircraft Carrier. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hi. Welcome to all of our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta.

So just ahead on CNN, Ethiopia holds its first multi-party election in 16 years. A vote overshadowed by war and famine in the country's Tigray region.

Plus, Africa's COVID crisis. Hospitals are running out of supplies, and doctors are growing impatient.

And we'll hear the heartbreaking story of a COVID long-hauler. What her husband hopes for others who are suffering.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Thanks for joining me this hour.

Iran's incoming hard-line president backs talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. But he is ruling out a meeting with President Joe Biden. Ebrahim Raisi held his first news conference on Monday, a day after a 6th round of indirect nuclear talks wrapped up in Vienna. Another round is expected to resume in the coming days. And Raisi is clear on the terms Tehran will accept.

Fred Pleitgen is there.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A new president-elect here of Iran, the hardliner Ebrahim Raisi he held his first press conference for domestic and international media here in Tehran on Monday. And one of the things that I think surprise many people is that the new incoming administration already does seem to have a very clear formulated idea of foreign policy.

It's certainly one that the U.S. won't necessarily like, because it really seems as though things are going to be quite tough for the U.S. here in this region with this new administration. The new President- elect Ebrahim Raisi was asked whether or not he would ever sit down with President Biden and he flat out said, no. I was able to ask him whether he would at least think about negotiating with the Biden administration, and what about a possible expanded nuclear agreement that sould also encompass Iran's ballistic missile program. Here is what he had to say.


PLEITGEN: You've already told us how you feel about a direct meeting with President Biden, but would you be willing to talk to and negotiate with the Biden administration? Would your administration be willing to do that? What do expect of the Biden administration? How do you feel about the U.S. proposal for a possible expanded nuclear agreement that would also cover Iran's ballistic missiles and also regional issues, as well?

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: My serious proposal to the United States government is that it's for them to return in an expedient manner to their commitments and do away with sanctions. In doing so, they would prove their sincerity. Regional and municipal issues are not up for negotiations.


PLEITGEN: On the whole, this incoming administration in Iran has vowed what they called an active and dynamic foreign policy. And they say that that foreign policy is of course going to be a global one, but it's also going to focus here on the region.

One of the other interesting things that Raisi said is that he is not against better relations with Saudi Arabia, and continuing negotiations with Saudi Arabia, to try and get those relations back on track.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

CURNOW: Thank you for that. So, I want to take a look at some of these key points in this deal. Iran agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent just enough to power a nuclear reactor, to reduce its number of centrifuges from about 19,000 to 6,100, to reduce its current stockpile of uranium from about 10,000 to 300 kilograms. And Iran agreed to convert its facilities at Fordow in Iraq, and only enrich uranium at Natanz.

While the IAEA would have regular access to all of Iran's nuclear facilities, in return sanctions were lifted with the caveat that anytime Iran violates the deal the sanctions would snap back into place. We'll continue to monitor that story. Meanwhile, North Korea seems to be mocking U.S. optimism for talks. Kim Jong-un's sister has released a statement saying the U.S. will face a greater disappointment if it intercepts recent comments from Kim as a way to seek comfort.

Last Friday, Kim said North Korea should be prepared for both dialogue and confrontation with the U.S. The U.S. national security adviser called that earlier statement an interesting signal.

Well, Paula Hancocks is in Seoul with the latest on that. What's happening here? What is the message that are being shot across the bar here?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, it's quite often these days that you hear any bad news coming from North Korea coming from Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong.


We have heard it back in March saying to the Biden administration that if they wanted any sleep over the next four years then they had to refrain from causing a stink at the first step. So, we've heard this from the sister before telling effectively the U.S. to end the optimism that they appear to be feeling at this point, that dialogue could happen.

Now, it does stem from comments that Kim Jong-un made last week at a Workers Party meeting, saying that North Korea had to prepare for both confrontation and also dialogue. Not giving any indication as to whether he was leaning towards one or the other.

But as you say, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser for the Biden administration did tell ABC News that it was an interesting line, also saying that the Biden administration is waiting to have a clear signal from Pyongyang as to whether or not that they do want to sit down for talks.

So, what we're really hearing from North Korea is a pulling back of any optimism that the U.S. might be feeling. We know from the U.S. president himself, that they have made overtures to Pyongyang, and we heard from his special envoy to North Korea, Sung Kim who is here in Seoul at the moment having meetings that he is ready to meet with North Korean officials anytime anywhere.

So, they have made it abundantly clear that they're ready for dialogue. North Korea, however does not appear to be so far. They haven't directly replied to the Biden administration according to officials within that administration, instead, preferring to publicly belittle and mock some of the optimism that Washington is feeling. It's not something that we should play too much into, or we should put too much focus on. It is this back and forth that we often see with North Korea and the U.S. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that there, Paula Hancocks.

Well local officials in northern Afghanistan say Taliban militants have now taken over dozens of districts across several provinces. On Monday, one official said nine districts fell to the Taliban in just one week, most without even a fight. Still, clashes are being reported in several districts.

This is all coming just months ahead of a September 11th pull out, the date when the U.S. troops and their NATO allies planned to be out of Afghanistan, ending America's longest war.

Our Nic Robertson joins me now from London with more on this. Certainly, Nic, hi. Good to see you. So, these are very worrying signs in terms of Taliban encroachment in some critical areas.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: One of those critical areas says the border with Afghanistan, it does seem a border with Tajikistan, rather, in the very north of Afghanistan. It does seem from accounts from local officials in Kunduz province that the Taliban have taken control of one of the strategic towns right on the border. Controls, in essence, that border crossing into Tajikistan.

Tajik officials were worried about how this escalating Taliban campaign in the north of Afghanistan might impact them on that connection to the country, clearly there will likely be some impact today. But what we are seeing more broadly at the moment is the Taliban trying to take control of district centers, and even arriving very close to some of the provincial capitals like Mazar-i-Sharif and Balkh, and Kunduz and Kunduz province, being able to take small district centers.

But it's not just these district centers that they've taken in these past couple of days and weeks. It is the weapons, it is the ammunition. It is the vehicles, including Up-Armored, U.S.-made Humvee vehicles that formally belong to the Afghan National Army and now falling into the hands of the Taliban as they try to consolidate some control in the north of the country.

We understand from the Taliban hat one of their local commanders, they call him a local commander was killed in what they described as an airstrike on his vehicle, killing two other Taliban. The Afghan government claimed to have killed in the past 24 hours hundreds of Taliban. The Taliban say, that is not correct and dispute those figures. The figures do seem to be very, very high that the Afghan government is talking about.

This is a worrying development and does seem to be that the Taliban feel enabled because there is less coalition forces, NATO, U.S. forces supporting the Afghan troops on the ground.

CURNOW (on camera): Nic Robertson there in London, thank you for that update.

So earlier on, I spoke with Carter Malkasian, he was a senior adviser to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, he is also the author of "The American War in Afghanistan: A History." I ask him about the latest Taliban gains and how much of a tipping point this could be. This is what he told me.



CARTER MALKASIAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think it is a worrisome moment, but I think we may still be a ways away from an actual tipping point. And I would say this because the Taliban haven't yet taken a provincial capital, let alone taken in one, and held one. And nor are they getting close to Kabul yet.

So, I think that we probably aren't quite at one yet, although some of those events that I mentioned happened, then I would be much more concerned.

CURNOW: With many of these districts the Taliban have essentially just walked in. People are scattered leaf arms. There is no air cover. While you say, perhaps this is not at that tipping point right now, it certainly doesn't bode well for the coming weeks and days ahead of the U.S. withdrawal. And that is the concern. That what we are seeing in these districts could be amplified on a larger scale even, for example, in Kabul.

MALKASIAN: Yes. I think that you make an excellent point there on that this doesn't bode well. And so, as our withdrawal continues and as we see the Afghans breaking in some areas being (AUDIO GAP), unwilling to fight, some places (Inaudible), some places turning their posts over, it's concerning.

Now we've seen some of this before, but what's perhaps more concerning right now is just how it's happened quickly. And that's a bit of a concern there. The Afghan forces, they have suffered a lot of punishment over the last few years and our departure comes as a bit of a shock, even if perhaps they should've expected it.

They depended on our air power, and air power is going to be gone, they've had regular advising from our forces, and those devices aren't going to be there to kind of share in the pains of combat with them. Though they will still be getting monetary support from us and assistance to allow them to be equipped, and allow them to have pay, but that doesn't mean that there isn't going to be a shock to our departure.


CURNOW (on camera): Our thanks there to Carter Malkasian for his perspective.

Now votes are being counted in Ethiopia's first multiparty election in 16 years, one that's already been marred by an opposition boycott, jailed opponents, and the ongoing war in Tigray. Preliminary results are expected in some regions later on this week. Many who were able to vote on Monday waited in long lines for hours. But in some areas voting is delayed until September.

Thousands of displaced Ethiopians don't know when they'll be able to vote, and the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Tigray has force many to flee to refugee camps like this one in Sudan.

Well, I want to bring in Larry Madowo who joins us now live from Addis Ababa. This is certainly a pivotal election.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Robyn. A pivotal election and many agree the first time that Ethiopia has tried to conduct a truly free and fair election, even if that has a footnote that is still flawed in some ways. Twenty percent of constituents are not participating either because of insecurity or logistical challenges.

And in Tigray, like you mentioned, there is no elections yet and no data as to when that election will happen. We are also hearing that in at least one region voting has been extended today because they were just not able to get voting materials on time. And some opposition candidates have complained that in another region, some of their agents were intimidated and harassed, which is the backdrop for an Ethiopian election for a country where there is ethnic divisions and often, conflict along those lines.

CURNOW: And what are Ethiopians telling you? They're certainly been waiting in long lines, as you've been reporting. There been some amazing scenes of patience. How is the mood there?

MADOWO: Ethiopians who are participating in this election see its significance, that they are having a chance to have a duly elected government. And Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who came into euphoria in 2018 even won the Nobel Peace Prize because of some of these reforms. There's been some disappointment in some quarters, and you see 47 political parties contesting this election.

The people I spoke to yesterday who were in lines waiting for hours felt that this was their duty as Ethiopians, they were very proud of an independent country, the only one African that's never colonized, and they think this allows it to be a true democracy.

And I asked one opposition candidate, Berhanu Nega, what he thinks about contesting an election where some opposition candidates boycotted it or were in jail. This is what he told me.


BERHANU NEGA, ETHIOPIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: We believe the most important thing about this election is that it is credible. No matter who wins, no matter how many votes one gets, no matter how many parliamentary seats one wins, at the end of the day, the whole country would win. If the election is considered credible then at the end of September, we will have an elected, legitimate government.


MADOWO (on camera): There seems to be general support for the national elections board of Ethiopia, Robyn. The woman who is leading it used to be Ethiopia's most famous political prisoner. She was in jail because of the previous regime and now she's trying to deliver this imperfect election but the best she can get.


She says don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

CURNOW (on camera): In Addis Ababa, thank you so much, Larry Madowo there. I appreciate it.

So new developments in Nicaragua where Mexico and Argentina have called their ambassadors home in light of the arrest of a 5th presidential candidate. Miguel Mora Barberena is a member of the country's Democratic Restoration Party. He is the 15th overall opposition leader arrested on charges of vague national security threats.

President -- critics of President Daniel Ortega say the round of his critics is eroding democracy in Nicaragua. The president is campaigning for a fourth consecutive term in office with an election set for November.

And, in Sweden's political future hangs in the balance after the prime minister lost a no-confidence vote in parliament there. Stefan Lofven has held the office since 2014 after building a fragile minority coalition. He has a week to decide whether to call a snap election or to resign or ask the parliament speaker to find a new government. The prime minister lost his support of the left party of his plans for rent controls on new apartments. He is the first Swedish prime minister to lose a no- confidence vote put forth by opposition members of parliament.


STEFAN LOFVEN, SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Regardless of what happens now, my party and I with others will together be available to shoulder the responsibility to lead the country. My primary focus has always been, is, and will always be, to do what is best for Sweden.


CURNOW (on camera): Well the prime minister says Sweden's general election in September of next year will continue as planned.

And then voters in France will go to the polls again on Sunday after push showings for President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader, Marine Le Pen's parties. Her national rally party won 19 percent of the vote in the first round of regional contests. That's lower than expected. Mr. Macron's party won just under 11 percent.

Political analysts say it's hard to draw any conclusions about next year's presidential race, and some unprecedented 68 percent of the population didn't vote.


UNKNOWN (through translator): I came to have lunch and I wasn't aware that there were elections today. I don't think I will go and vote. UNKNOWN (through translator): I really don't know who to vote for. Maybe I'll abstain? But well, normally, I don't believe in abstaining because it is not taken into account, but there is not much choice. That's why I'm hesitating.


CURNOW (on camera): It turn out it hasn't been this low since 1958. COVID restrictions kept public campaigning to a minimum, and analysts say many voters chose to warm summery weather to meet family and friends over actually going to the polls.

You're watching CNN. Still to come, we'll find out how the World Health Organization is taking steps to make COVID vaccines more available in Africa.



CURNOW (on camera): Welcome back. So, the World Health Organization is painting a dire picture of vaccine equity, and criticizing the lack of doses available to the world's vulnerable populations.


MICHAEL RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: We have a very, very short window of time together our most vulnerable protected. And, we haven't done it. We have not used the vaccines available globally to provide global protection to the most vulnerable.


CURNOW (on camera): WHO officials say that more than half of the poorer countries receiving doses through the COVAX sharing program don't have enough supplies to continue, and some have completely run out.

And the World Health Organization is also working to address the problem especially in Africa. Officials announced plans to work with the group of companies to manufacture vaccines in South Africa. The country's president says it is the right move.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: It has been shown now that we just cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa because they never come. They never arrive on time. And people continue to die. And we therefore called on the waiver (Ph) as I've spoken about, but also technology transfer.


CURNOW (on camera): Those vaccines could potentially be available in about nine months' time to one year. Well let's go straight to Joburg, David McKenzie is standing by. Tell us more about this. Hi, David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. You know, it's a really important move, this transfer of technology. It's been talked about for years, and essentially what it is, is the messenger RNA vaccine technology that famously has been behind the Moderna and Pfizer COVID- 19 vaccines, is seen as a critical way to produce vaccines now and in the future for COVID-19 and for future pandemics.

So, this move, really, is to combine biomedical companies in the continent, initially here in South Africa with the know-how of other companies that have tried and tested mRNA technology to manufacture vaccines right here on the continent because the need is dire. But as you said there, these vaccines would only come off the pipeline at best in a year and the need is right now. Robyn?

CURNOW: Certainly, is as we both know. You know, I used to live in Johannesburg, my family is all still there. There are certainly a devastating new wave coming through where you are. Vaccines are needed now. And it's not just about Joburg, it's across the continent. So, what's the plan in the next year?

MCKENZIE (on camera): Well, the plan is really difficult to imagine. Although the Biden administration and other countries have started to talk about donating excess vaccines in the millions, and certainly that will have an impact, the need is massive. So, in that same press conference, the WHO was talking about the fact that the strategy has really, in the words of the head of the emergency program, been a catastrophic moral failure.

Because you have the circumstances, and we've been talking about this for months now that young healthy people in the global north are being vaccinated, and those most vulnerable are not being vaccinated in places like the African continent.

And yes. I mean, where I'm sitting right now, we are dealing with a very strong third wave, I've been speaking to clinicians in the last few days saying that hospitals are at maximum capacity. You also have waves in Namibia, Uganda, and other parts of the continent. And there is no real prospect for that ending. I put the question to the head of the emergency division of the WHO on what can be done. Here is his answer.


RYAN: We have a very, very short window of time to get our most vulnerable protected. And we haven't done it. We have not used the vaccines available globally to provide global protection to the most vulnerable.


MCKENZIE (on camera): And that there is because he says that the Delta variant, in particular, though not very present here in South Africa, is a very dangerous prospect. Calling it the most efficient variant yet, and in his words, could pick off the most vulnerable.

So, what they are calling for is not excess doses but just current available doses to be shared in the short term, while manufacturing capacity is increased. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that, live in Johannesburg, David McKenzie. Thanks, David.

Well, I want to stick here with Johannesburg and turn now to Dr. Sheri Fanaroff. She is a family physician practicing on Johannesburg and she joins me on the phone.

Doctor, hi. Good to see you -- good to hear you.

What is the situation right now? I know that you have repeatedly sent out messages to many of your patients, saying that beds are not available in Johannesburg, which is the economic center of the continent.


SHERI FANAROFF, FAMILY PHYSICIAN IN JOHANNESBURG: Johannesburg is under tremendous pressure at the moment. The numbers, case numbers in the Gauteng, which is the smallest province in South Africa have escalated dramatically. And a lot of it is focus in Johannesburg, which is the most populated area. And we are really struggling to find both private and public aid for our patients.

We are running out of ICU space and ventilators, and there are not enough high care beds, there are not enough ward space. And what that means really that there are not enough spaces, there are no staff and the equipment to man the beds. And as such, a lot of the patients who should be in hospital are being treated at home.

CURNOW: And that's where family doctors like you are essentially managing a lot of people at home who should be in hospital. How are you, and your fellow physicians managing this? Particularly when it comes to oxygen, for example?

FANAROFF: Family practitioners are under tremendous pressure. I have personally at the moment. I have between 40 and 50 patients on my own that I'm managing at home. Some of my colleagues have up to hundreds of patients. All of these patients need (Inaudible) taken of oxygen levels on an oximeter heart rate, we need to talk to them on a video call to see their breathing.

Many of these patients need blood to see where their inflammatory markers are high, whether they need extra coagulant. If their saturation drops, we have to try and organize oxygen at home. We have been challenged to find enough oxygen currently. We kind of just holding, but if our numbers go up much further, there will be a critical oxygen supply out of the hospital.

CURNOW: Has the health care system, or is the health care failing in Johannesburg and Gauteng, which is, as I say, is the economic center of the African continent. FANAROFF: I think in some areas they have tried really hard, and I said both public and private. There are a lot of failings of the system, one of our main academic hospitals, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Johannesburg had a fire a few weeks ago. It's been closed for five weeks. And that essentially could have between 3 and 500 COVID beds.

And you had both patients being diverted to other hospitals, which are at capacity. You know, private hospitals have really tried over the last week to open more COVID wards, but that does mean that they can't accommodate other patients. That has enough when we take patients who have heart problems or who need surgery not being able to get what they need because they don't have enough beds even for non-COVID patients.

CURNOW: So, essentially, what you are saying, what do we also know about ambulances turning or being turned away or waiting at the entrances to E.R.s?

FANAROFF: So, in the last week, it has been common to have patients arriving as casualties, to queue up private casualties for hours to get into casualties. They are sometimes three or four ambulances waiting to get their patients into casualties. Patients can then enter the casualty, they will get help in casualty, they can generally get oxygen there, but from casualty, the hospitals need to turn around, to try and find a bed for patients. And particularly, the high (Inaudible) ICU beds needed is really a challenge to find those beds at the moment.

CURNOW: Dr. Sheri Fanaroff in Johannesburg, on the dire situation in Johannesburg at the moment. Thank you very much, doctor, for all the work and all of your colleagues are doing right now.

FANAROFF: Thank you for highlighting Johannesburg.

CURNOW: Well still to come on CNN, COVID cases are surging in Brazil right now, as well, and it's claiming the lives of children at an alarming rate.

And the fight to recovery is a tough road for long-haulers with lasting symptoms. For one family, action really didn't come quick enough to save a loved one. We have this very powerful story. That's next.





ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Little Sarah Gois was born January in Brazil in the midst of a ravishing pandemic. Her 22- year-old mother, naturally besought with her precious princess. But, even an abundance of love was not enough to stop her daughter from contracting COVID-19.

SAMEQUE GOIS, MOTHER OF CHILD WHO DIED OF COVID-19 (through translator): I thought it was something I had done, maybe I passed on the virus. I didn't know what was happening around me, and I knew that the only thing I could do was to get on my knees, and pray.

SOARES: Despite all of her pleas, little Sarah died. She was only five months old.

GOIS: When she died, when they gave us the news, I was able to hold her. I was able to feel her one last time.

SOARES: It is a loss that has gotten much more often in Brazil, than in many other countries. While the Brazilian health ministry says 1,122 children under the age of 10 have died since the start of the pandemic, one research group argues, the death toll is actually closer to 3,000. This year alone, more than 1,000 have lost their lives. And doctors tell us that the gamma, or P-one variant, first identified in Brazil, may not be to blame.

ANA LUIZA BIERRENBACK, EPIDEMIOLOGIST AT VITAL STRATEGIES: Kids have been dying, more in Brazil, since the original variant was here. So, it was not the addition of the P-one variable that makes kids die even more than in other countries.

SOARES: Despite the rising numbers, baby Sarah was only tested for COVID-19, 12 days after she developed first symptoms. Her mother, tells the doctors assume she had something else, a common misconception in Brazil, tells the pediatrician Andre Laranjeira.

ANDRE LARANJEIRA, PEDIATRICIAN: A lot of pediatricians have a certain resistance when it comes to requesting COVID-19 test for children when they are exhibiting those typical symptoms on the respiratory tract. Runny nose, cough, fever, practically all children have those symptoms this time of the year.

SOARES: But, Doctor Laranjeira says this alone doesn't explain the higher death rate across Brazil. Outside the (inaudible) hospital, on the outskirts of Sau Paulo, one family is counting their blessings.

Her 9-year-old daughter, Manuela is finally out of ICU after some five days on the ventilator, having contracted COVID-19. Back at home, her parents revealed their ordeal.

CAROLINA BASTO, MANUELA'S MOTHER (through translator): Her kidney was no longer functioning. Her heart was beating irregularly. It was the end of the line for me.


UNKNOWN: We were desperate, our world had collapsed.

SOARES: They say it took four doctors to diagnose Manuela, but in the end, she was admitted to an ICU, and got the best possible treatment. But, not all in Brazil can have access, to this type of health care. LARANJEIRA: When you take the fatalities within the pediatric age

group, more than 60 percent are from vulnerable socioeconomic groups. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to that.

SOARES: Here, this disparity can be the difference between life, and death, between a family that gets to celebrate, and one that is forced to mourn.

Isa Soares, CNN.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): The president of Colombia is warning COVID will be around a lot longer than we'd like. It comes of the country's death toll from the virus on the rise, and it has now surpassed the sobering milestone.

Stefano Pozzebon has more from Bogota.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice over): The COVID-19 death toll in Colombia reached the somber mark on Monday of 100,000 victims, according to figures released by the Colombian health ministry. As the country reported, 648 COVID related new deaths, in 24 hours. And this comes as Colombia is struggling to contain a prolonged third wave of the pandemic, which has brought sustained increases in new deaths and new cases across the last three months.

But speaking in Bogota, the Colombian president Ivan Duque warned that the end of the tunnel is nowhere near for the COVID hate nation. Duque was speaking, attending a holy mass in the honor of the COVID victims. Here is what he said.

IVAN DUQUE, COLUMBIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The virus has not gone away. And probably, it will stay here for longer than we would like to think. We must get used to the idea that COVID-19 will stay with us through 2021, and even 2022.

POZZEBON: And one of the reasons for that is that, even with these dramatic numbers coming out of intensive care units and hospitals, the country, is pretty much still open with only limited restrictions in place on trade and travel, and no national lockdown imposed. This leaves the virus to spread virtually unchecked. And with an economy in tatters, there really is no easy way out for Colombia and its people. For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


CURNOW (on camera): The pandemic has caused significant disruption to the sporting world, and the Copa America Football tournament in Brazil is among the major events affected right now. The health ministry there says at least 140 positive cases have been detected among players, members of delegations, and service providers. And, remember, Brazil is hosting the tournament, even though its COVID cases are surging. Well, some experts are calling COVID the forever virus, saying, it

won't disappear because of its changing nature. For many former COVID patients, the same is true about symptoms and side effects caused by the virus. They are called long haulers, and they've been left with medical issues, long after their initial COVID infection.

One long hauler was Heidi Ferrer, a mother and a Hollywood screenwriter, after fighting the virus and its lasting effects for more than a year. She became bedridden due to constant pain, neurological tremors and other symptoms. In late May, she died by suicide, survived by her son and husband, Nick Guthe.

Nick Guthe joins me now from California. Nick, hi. I am so sorry for your loss. How are you doing?

NICK GUTHE, WRITER AND DIRECTOR (on camera): Well, as I say, ask me that 24 times a day, I'll give you 24 answers. It really depends on the hour.

CURNOW: And she wrote very powerfully on her blog just how she felt there was no end in sight, that the pain was just too much. That long COVID is really seemed, absolutely, unfathomable.

GUTHE: Yes, I mean, for her, it was multiple syndromes. She had, the equivalent of excruciating diabetic neuropathy, nerve pain in her feet there was virtually 24 hours a day. She said it felt like she was being stung by bees all day long. She had a lot of pain as well in her intestinal tract, digesting food was extremely painful. She had neurological tremors in her upper body and the vibrations within her chest, caused by the neurological issues that kept her from sleeping at night.

She said, it felt like my chest is vibrating, and I've got like a fizzing feeling in my veins. And it was extremely distracting. And then, when you add on just the discomfort of not sleeping. We all know what that feels like to get a bad night sleep. Will get a three bad night sleeps in a row, and see how you feel with everything else.


CURNOW: But after more than a year of this, she also wrote that she wasn't suicidal, it was just the choice about a quality of life. Such powerful words in many ways, isn't it?

GUTHE: Yes. She really, unfortunately, took a turn for the worst in the last three to four weeks. With the neurological tremors started then, and there were really scary. There were almost like Parkinsonian tremors, they came out of nowhere, and they would hit her and her upper torso would be convulsing, and she really, I think, she really saw herself is only getting worse. So, I think you know, she said to me at times, you know, I think I'm going to end up in a wheelchair, and not be able to bathe myself, not being able to do anything, leave our house, and you know.

I said to her, quite specifically, you on the couch is enough for us. You here, is enough for us. And I really was -- I really was trying to impart in her that I felt that medical science, you know, could catch up. But, I think, she felt very much like abandoned by the system, and that, you know a lot of doctors weren't taking her seriously. And that nobody was doing anything about long COVID, really.

CURNOW: And let's talk about that. I mean, her body took a very specific beating, but she is not the only one, and there is sort of so many unanswered questions about how this eats away at your body, in different ways. There is a community of long haulers here, but still, not a lot of answers.

GUTHE: No. I mean, she said, specifically, in the last few weeks, I feel like a robot that is malfunctioning like all of her systems were collapsing, everything. She would talk about an intense brain fog that was descending on her, a swelling in the brain and inability to read a book, and that might have been the turning point for her because she lost everything else, but she loved reading. She had 500 books on her Kindle, at least, and she couldn't even read a book, and retain information.

And there are a lot of long haulers out there who are very similar to her, feeling desperate. I have connected with them after her passing on the Facebook groups there on, and I spoke to one of her best friends today on the group who told me, she received 15 messages, or calls, in the last 24 hours from other people like Heidi, who felt suicidal.

I mean, these people need help. They need mental help, they need support for that, and they need the government to start putting money behind research, to help them come up with physical answers to these problems. I mean, my wife didn't kill herself because she was depressed, she killed herself because she was an excruciating pain that she could not endure anymore. And that she somehow felt that death was a better choice than living is where we are.

CURNOW: Are you angry? And who are you angry at?

GUTHE: I'm not angry. I'm not angry. I'm just asking - I'm asking for our government to pay attention to this, and to put resources behind it, so other people don't have to live with what I'm going to live with for the rest of my life, and my son will live with it for the rest of my life. She's you know, there is not two minutes in each day that I don't think about her. Not two minutes go by. That is every day.

CURNOW: Nick, lots of love, thank you very, very much.

GUTHE: Thank you.

CURNOW: If you, or someone you know needs help, the international association for suicide prevention, or befrienders worldwide, can show you resources in your area. Both websites are there on your screen. You're watching CNN, we will be right back.


[03:45:00] CURNOW: Apple Daily says it may be forced to shut down by the end of

the week. It comes after a sweeping police raid last week where hundreds of officers searched the papers headquarters, seized journalist devices, and arrested five executives in charges of breaking Hong Kong strict national security law. Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, says the police operation against Apple Daily had nothing to do with journalism, but was handling a threat to national security. And Steven Jiang, joins me from Beijing. What is this language coming from Carrie Lam remind you of, Steven, you there, in Beijing?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Thanks, Robyn. It's both very telling and chilling to hear her defend alleged assault, government assault on press freedom using expressions that I have often heard from officials here in Beijing. That is reporters should not use press freedom as, quote unquote, a shield, to violate the law.

She of course, also push back hard at the U.S. Government's condemnation of the Hong Kong police raid of the Apple Daily Newsroom, warning foreign governments, again, in her words, not beautify acts that endanger China's national security. Not surprising to hear these remarks from her, but it is just another sign of Hong Kong officials, increasingly, marching in lockstep with their bosses, sitting here in Beijing.

Now, the cold reality for the newspaper, of course, is because the Hong Kong government has frozen it's more than 2.3 million U.S. dollars' worth of assets. It's going to be soon unable to make payments to both employees and vendors, forcing it to shut operations by this coming weekend. This, really is a watershed moment in the city, because even after Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, for quite a number of years, the city did enjoy a high degree of autonomy under this one country, two systems formula, including a vibrant press.

And that, of course, included Apple Daily, one of the most defiant voices, if you will, often criticizing sharply government policies coming from both Hong Kong and Beijing. That, of course has made the newspaper a perpetual thorn in the side of both governments and with the enactment of that controversial national security law, many had predicted that newspaper's days were numbered.

And because we have often heard from both officials and state media, that the newspaper was the so-called, Black Hand behind the cities growing protest movement to under the government's authority and legitimacy with many of them openly calling for the newspaper to shut down. All of this, obviously, culminating in the arrest of editors and executives last week. Because they allegedly colluded with foreign powers by running articles, calling out other governments to impose sanctions to Hong Kong, because of the erosion of freedoms and human rights.

But, the irony in all of this Robyn, of course, is Carrie Lam insisted they were doing this to ensure the long term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. But one of the most important things behind a free economy and a global financial hub, of course, is the free flow of information. That is something, many critics say, Hong Kong just simply doesn't have any more. Robyn?

CURNOW: You make an excellent point. Thanks so much, Steven Jiang there, live in Beijing.

Well, fans will be in the stands during the Tokyo Olympics, but don't expect to see any roaring crowds. On Monday, organizers agreed to allow up to 10,000 domestic spectators at these Olympic venues.

And there's Selina Wang now reports. They will be expected to follow strict COVID rules.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Olympic organizers, finally, announced that spectators will be allowed at the Tokyo games, setting a cap of 50 percent on venues, up to a maximum of 10,000 people. But this decision goes against the advice of Japan's top COVID-19 adviser, who recommended the Olympics be held without spectators.

Organizers say that this decision could change the spectator cap could be reduced, spectators could still be banned, depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves in Japan. Now even though overseas fans are banned from these games, the medical community and the public here are worried that the games could lead to a rebound of COVID-19 cases and overwhelm the medical system.


Olympic organizers have also acknowledged that the delta variant poses a major risk to these games. But for any spectators that can attend these games, it's not going to be the usual celebration. They are asked to go directly from their homes, to Olympic venues and back, no shouting, or cheering at the games, and to wear their mask at all times.

And Japan, also isn't going to get the economic boost it was hoping for from these games. Japan has sold about 4.5 million tickets, domestically in Japan, but because of the spectator caps, they are going to hold a lottery, to reduce that number to about 2.7 million. The CEO of Tokyo 2020, also said that they are expecting revenue to be less than half of the projected $820 million. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


CURNOW: A weightlifter from New Zealand is taking a big step forward for trans athletes worldwide. Laurel Hubbard will become the first openly transgender athlete, to ever compete in the Olympics. She qualified for the Tokyo games in May after a rules change, and was selected from New Zealand's national team on Monday. The company's Olympic committee says it is committed to supporting all eligible athletes and ensuring that their mental and physical well-being is met.

Still to come, why Australia's government is outraged over a port poisoning concerns about the Great Barrier Reef. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CURNOW: A battle is certainly brewing over one of the world's great natural wonders and one of its most delicate and diverse ecosystems. A UNESCO committee is recommending that the Great Barrier Reef be listed as endangered, due to climate change. But, Australia is strongly opposing that. Saying, it's already spent billions to protect the reef. And the country is appealing that recommendation.

This goes straight to Ivan Watson. Ivan, has extensively covered the Great Barrier Reef, with some excellent reports over the years. So, Ivan, just give me some sense of why the Australians are pushing back against this UNESCO suggestion?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Australia's environment minister has accused UNESCO of a backflip here of essentially ambushing the Australian government by declaring the Great Barrier Reef an endangered site on the world heritage list. And there doesn't seem to be any dispute that it is in danger.

I mean, this incredible, diverse, marine habitat, it's enormous. Some 350,000 square kilometers of reefs and atolls, and islands, with just thousands of different species of marine life that we were able to report on, face to face, in 2018 has been dying off. The coral reefs have been, well, you can describe them as cooking, because the temperatures of the ocean have been rising as climate change affects the world's temperatures.

And they have been killing off massive amounts of the reef in 2016, in2017 and 2020 as well. Prompting, more than a year ago, UNESCO to say that the health of the reef had gone from poor to very poor, and now it is proposing to say that this place is endangered.

Australia's environment minister, disagree so much that she and the foreign minister of Australia, called the Director General of UNESCO, to try to stop this. Going on to say, in a statement, quote, I made it clear that we will contest this flawed approach, one that has been taken without adequate consultation. I agree that global climate change is the single biggest threat to the world's reefs, but it is wrong, in our view, to single out the best manage reef in the world for an endanger listing.

She is arguing that every other reef in the world and other natural habitats, should also, arguably be added to the list if the Great Barrier Reef is now going to be formally described as endangered. Robyn.


CURNOW: And if the Australians -- the Australian government is reacting like this, what are environmentalists have to say?

WATSON: Well, some of them are welcoming this move by UNESCO. We have heard statements like that from Greenpeace, from the climate council, because they are very critical of the Australian government, and the fact that it isn't going further, to pledge to reduce carbon emissions. And this comes to one of the real tensions that Australia has, as a government.

Yes, it is the custodian of this incredible environmental treasure, but at the same time, it's one of the world's biggest exporters of coal, which, of course, contributes to the world's carbon emissions. UNESCO is saying, OK, Australia has invested in its reef, it has taken steps to clean up the water, and agricultural runoff that pollutes the oceans off of its coast, but, it is still contributing to carbon emissions.

Australia, defends its coal industry saying, this is essential to jobs, and to the country's economy while in the same breath saying that the Great Barrier Reef, which is endangered now, also, contributes to the country's economy, and to tens of thousands of jobs. It's a real tension and I don't think Australia has found a way to resolve these two conflicting currents. Robyn?

CURNOW: Thank you so much, Ivan Watson there, in Hong Kong. Thank you Ivan.

So, a navy aircraft, named after former U.S. President, Gerald Ford is proving it can take a hit.


CURNOW (voice over): The navy set up a huge undersea explosion near the carrier, to make sure it can withstand a shock of battle conditions. It is called a full ship shock trial, it took place last week off the coast of Florida. The explosion, registering is a 3.9 magnitude earthquake. The carrier is scheduled to undergo maintenance and modernization, before it is deployed.


CURNOW (on camera): Well, thanks for joining me, I am Robyn Curnow, I will be back with another hour after this.