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Ethiopian Soldiers Withdraw from Tigray's Capital; Delta Variant Sparking New Lockdowns; 11 Dead as Search Intensifies for 150 Still Missing; China Celebrates Ruling Party's 100th Anniversary; Singapore Lays Out Plan to "Live Normally with COVID-19"; Wimbledon Returns with COVID-19 Adjustments; Retaliation on the Iraq-Syria Border; Taliban Grabbing Territory as U.S., NATO Withdraw; Historic Heat Wave Hits Western U.S. and Canada. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 29, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause.


A sudden pullback, a cease-fire and evidence of a cover-up of a massacre. A sudden withdrawal by Ethiopian forces had spared an all- out military offensive on the capital of the troubled Tigray region. But, CNN has new evidence of an attempted cover-up of a massacre.

New warnings and lockdowns as the more transmissible and more vaccine- resistant Delta variant spreads across the globe.

And even as much of the Pacific Northwest is gripped by record breaking heat wave in the U.S., climate change deniers continue to try and deflect and confuse. Why?


VAUSE: The regional government of Tigray says its forces have broken the back of the Ethiopian army. It comes after the Ethiopian military, suddenly, withdrew from Tigray's capital. And the Ethiopian government has now declared a unilateral ceasefire until September. The Ethiopian army, with help from Eritrea, has been fighting the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front.

It's been a brutal war. It's killed thousands of civilians and, forced millions from their homes, has left many in dire need of food.

Last, week seeing one of the deadliest attacks during the 8-month long brawl, when an airstrike on a market killed at least 30 people.

A CNN investigation, back in April, in collaboration with Amnesty International, exposed the massacre perpetrated by the Ethiopian soldiers, in the mountains of Tigray region, where government troops have been battling regional forces. Now, CNN has obtained and verified new evidence and curving the identity of their victims but the army unit of the perpetrators. We have to warn you, the images you'll about to see are disturbing,

but they are important, painting a picture of extraordinary impunity.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one, they enter the church, carrying in sacks all that's left of loved ones executed by Ethiopian shoulder soldiers. Villagers risking their lives to retrieve these remains.

But, this is not just about closure. This is fresh evidence of genuine massacre. Throughout the months-long conflict in its Tigray region, Ethiopia has promised to hold all who break the law accountable, but they haven't.

We must warn you, what you're about to see and hear is horrifying. This is how many saw their loved ones for the first time, some beheaded. Others burned beyond recognition.

For six months, families have been denied access to execution sites by Ethiopian soldiers. The remains tell a grim story, corroborating CNN's original investigation, in collaboration with Amnesty International.

This is the old footage of the massacre first broadcast in April. We can't show you the moment of execution, but in the aftermath, this soldier tosses a jacket. Notice the black and gray color scheme, and the bloodstain. It's the same jacket, the same bloodstain.

The man who took this picture confirmed this jacket belong to his brother, which he found at the massacre site. This video of bullet casings was also found at the site, last week, by family members, and sent to CNN. We asked forensic experts to analyze the casings, they confirmed they were in line with bullets of Ethiopian soldiers would use.

The video also reveals the location, the same location, as the execution site.

Notice the distinctive ridge in this new footage? And now, in the footage, shocked by shoulders joining the execution.

We also verified the digital footprint. It's a match.

Crucially, locals say that they have collected 36 ID cards from the scene, but there are 37 more people who remain missing. Indicating, the massacre could have been much larger than previously suspected. They believe that the desecration of the bodies was a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence in the aftermath of our investigation. And more video has emerged to shed light on the perpetrators.

Given to CNN by a pro-Tigray organization based in the U.S., it reveals that the nickname of the whistleblower, but more importantly, the, rank and division, of the unit committing these crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): As you can see, we have killed them.

ELBAGIR: That's the voice of the Ethiopian soldier turned whistleblower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): I am the one who is recording and filming this video for you. My name is Fafi.


ELBAGIR: He names himself in the video twice and names his unit and division. Enough evidence for the Ethiopian government to pursue an investigation, but none has been confirmed.

The whistleblower gives his phone to another soldier, so that he can also be filmed carrying out an execution.

With this level of detail, now revealed, we ask the Ethiopian government whether they have investigated, and punished, the perpetrators? We received no response.

After the ceremony at the church, the families gathered to bury the dead in a mass grave. Their grief, they say, inflamed by that government's actions. The identities of the victims are known.

The division of the perpetrators is known, hard to imagine how that inaction can be justified.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


VAUSE: From Australia, to South Africa, to Germany, and beyond. The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, forcing many countries to reinforce lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions, with health officials warning that even those who have been vaccinated or risk of being affected.

Los Angeles County public health officials are strongly recommending face masks be worn in indoor public places regardless of vaccination status.

On Monday, Moscow and St. Petersburg say new daily records for coronavirus deaths.

More than 10 million Australians, more than a third of the entire population will be soon under a lockdown, with authorities issuing stay-at-home orders before the eight capital cities.

Meantime, in Europe, cases of fallen dramatically, but are slowly on the rise in the U.K., with most new cases linked to the Delta variant. Despite the rising number of infections, authorities expect the final restrictions for Britain will be lifted in three weeks.

The WHO says that the new virus, as it continues to spread, as it continues to mutate, and forms into a new variant, means that even those who are vaccinated remain at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, CHIEF SCIENTIST, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Everyone should recognize this pandemic is not over. The virus hasn't gone, and is in fact, looking for opportunities to spread, and to change itself, and mutate, to develop new variants. So, I think this is the time for caution. It is not that nobody can travel, or do anything, but this is really not the time for us to encourage a lot of social mixing, and to encourage mask events, especially without precautions.


VAUSE: After the initial outbreak in Sydney, new coronavirus infections linked the highly contagious delta variant have been across Australia, but they have been ordered for Perth in the West, as well as Townsville, and Magnetic Island in the north. Another has been extended to Darwin.

Officials worry that lockdowns may not be as effective against this new strain. But a slow vaccine rollout has also left the country especially vulnerable.

CNN producer Angus Watson live outside of a vaccination hub in Sydney.

And, you know, it was an island of Australia. They cut themselves off from the rest of the world. They seem to have everything in check, but the Delta variant may have actually breached those defenses.

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Fortress Australia, it was known as, John. Those barriers that the government set up, they were so successful. They meant that people here in Australia, for the most part, have lived without the virus, for months, if not almost the whole year. People here in Sydney haven't had a lockdown in over a year. Now, the Delta variant, as you mentioned, is creeping through those blockades.

So, people here at this vaccination hub doing what they can as individuals to try to get themselves protected against the COVID-19 virus, and get themselves out of lockdown.

But, John, I must say, it is reminiscent of the beginning of the pandemic, when people were glued to their television sets, learning what their fate would be, as press conferences from state leaders war on, informing them of cases of the day, and whether or not they'll be in lockdown by that evening. That's what's happening now in Queensland.

As you mentioned, the premier there announcing fresh lockdown, lockdowns here in New South Wales, the northern territories as well, and western Australia. But people here they know that they need to vaccinate their way out of that.

This is what a family said to me here on this vaccination hub earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how privilege she is, in relationship to the population.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Especially with my age, I know people will wait a while, but I'll be okay.


WATSON: So, Australia, as you mentioned, is a dangerously low vaccination rate. Under 5 percent of this country is fully vaccinated, and that's why these lockdowns have to go on people's safety, is at risk from this Delta variant. The government wants to try now to supercharge that vaccine rollout, that is hampered by supply issues, and hesitancy issues.

That AstraZeneca blood clot risk, that very rare risk, meaning that people only the age of 60, up until now, are able to get it. Now, the government saying that should be available to all people, health permitting, and those people need to talk to their GP, and ensure it is safe. But, the vaccination rollout needs to kick-start, and get into those higher gears -- John.

VAUSE: Angus, thank you. Angus Watson live from Sydney, with the very latest.

A two-week long nationwide lockdown is now in place in South Africa, which is facing a 3rd wave of the coronavirus. The government has responded with its toughest pandemic restrictions so far, including bans on the sale of alcohol. Gatherings are not allowed except for funerals.

We get more now from CNN's David McKenzie.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These lockdown measures are some of the most strict since the beginning of pandemic here in South Africa. And they reflect the urgency that public health officials say that the country needs to combat the Delta variant, which scientists, say are driving infections in South Africa, and, in fact, the WHO says, in large parts of the continent.

One of the key reasons, other than people not adhering to public health advisories in this country, is also just a lack of vaccine rollout, which isn't having much impact on the spread of this wave, say scientists.

Here is the president of South Africa who painted a bleak picture.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: Once again, we find ourselves at a defining moment, in our fight against this disease. Let us call on every bit of strength we have. Let us summon our reserves of courage, and hold firm, until this wave, too, passes over.

MCKENZIE: The lockdown in South Africa will last at least two weeks, and it's clear saying that the WHO that the Delta variant is also behind a surge of infections across the continent. With at least 14 countries identifying this variant, but perhaps many more. They also say that a lack of social distancing, and masking, is to blame for this surge.

But, predominantly, what they say is needed now, is vaccines, and vaccines on a huge scale.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


VAUSE: For more now on the coronavirus, and the Delta variant, we're joined by Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, a board certified internal medicine specialist, as well as a viral researcher.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, it's good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. So, when it comes to highly contagious, and the Delta variant, there is this new research from Australia. It's based on CCTV footage. Health officials suspect, it is transmitted in scarily fleeting encounters, of roughly 5 to 10 seconds, between people, walking past each other, in an indoor shopping area, in Sydney, at least in two instances.

They've been described as the gold medalist for transmission. It is also, what, 100 percent infection rate, and it's being introduced.

So, given all of that, are you confident that these non-pharmaceutical measures, these lockdowns, social distancing, wearing masks, can be effective now, as they were one year ago?

RODRIGUEZ: No. I don't believe that they will be as effective now, as they were a year ago. This data that you gave is actually incredible. I was reading about it today. It seems that there is proof that even 30 minutes, after someone passed the same area that someone had been through, that had it, they got infected.

At the end of the day, the message we've been talking about, for a year and a half, stays the same. The more infections there are, the more mutations will happen. And the mutations that will survive are the ones that are the fittest and the most infectious. And, this Delta variant is the case in point.

So, nobody seems to say this, so let me say this. If you have access to a vaccine, and you choose not to take a vaccine, you are part of the problem. You are what is causing spread, and what is causing mutations. I can't be any clearer than that.

VAUSE: Yeah, it's a very clear point, and it's worth saying as bluntly as that, too.

It should also be noted that at the end of April, the WHO seemed to quietly revise its guidance regarding transmission for the coronavirus, saying it is, in fact, airborne. And the main way that it spreads.

Isn't that sort of information crucial? There is a lot more information than a slight tweak on the website, especially with how contagious the Delta variant might just be?

RODRIGUEZ: I agree 100 percent. I think at the beginning, and I have been guilty of that, we thought that it wasn't airborne, because the information wasn't there. And even on our medical building, there was one that says, well, those data showing it's airborne, so we got new filters and everything.

People need to realize that this is airborne, and that the viruses that are going to survive are the ones that are more infectious, airborne, like what's happening in Australia, and in Russia, and in Israel. So, we need to be aware, that even if vaccinated, we still need precautions, including masks, in large gatherings.


VAUSE: I want to listen to the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki. She's talking about donations of U.S. vaccines globally. Here she is.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will begin to shift to Peru, from the United States, and 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will ship to Pakistan. Over the weekend, we announced we are sending 1.5 million doses of Moderna to Honduras, and over this week, we'll be announced more places that the United States will be sending our doses.


VAUSE: Admittedly, it is much more than any other country is doing right now, but is it enough? There is sort of a race between vaccine and variant. And the variant appears to be pulling ahead.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. You know, in the best of all possible words, no, it is not enough. But, in this world, it will have to do for now. I think it is a wonderful thing that's happening. More countries need to start doing this.

Listen, a million here, a millionaire, in a world with billions of people, it doesn't seem to be a lot. But, if you give those vaccines to areas that are exploding, that are going to spread it, then it is eventually going to make a difference. The U.S., I think, promised 500 million doses over the next two years. I wish it was over the next year, but, you know, other country needs to step up.

Is it the big bucket to pull out the fire? No. But, right now, it's better than nothing.

VAUSE: And very quickly, if the vaccines aren't there, and we have those non-pharmaceutical measures, we would all agree, many have agreed, may not be as effective, but they are the only option now, right? If there is no vaccine, it's the social distancing and lockdowns?

RODRIGUEZ: Correct. That's always been -- that's always been the case. I wish more people realize that. That the biggest thing we can do is to not spread it.

And, really, it's one of my pet peeves when people say, well, we survived it. Well, if you had, it and survived it, you probably created a mutation, and may have spread it. So, selfishly, you survived. But when you look at the world as a whole, you have made matters worse. So, we need to distance and we need to continue wearing masks.

VAUSE: Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. It is good to see, it's been a while. Thank you very much, sir.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM: Coming to terms with COVID-19. Singapore laying out a post-pandemic plan to live normally with the virus.

Also, these photos taken just 36 hours before the collapse of a south Florida high-rise might help explain what caused the disaster, these details, next, on CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: The death toll in the South Florida building collapse is now at 11, 150 people remained missing. Hundreds of rescuers continued to work 12-hour shifts around the clock, but they acknowledge hopes of finding survivors are fading.

"The Miami Herald" has publishing these photos of a low level part of the building, taken by a pool contractor 36 hours before the collapse. He says, he saw cracks in the concrete, and standing water in the parking area, under the pool deck.


"The Herald" reports the photos are not part of the building that fell, but, experts say, if other parts of the structure looked similar, it could have contributed to the collapse. Questions on the minds of family members facing the loss of loved ones is that the collapses how could this all happen?

But experts warn it could take months to find an exact cause.

More now, from CNN's Boris Sanchez.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We do, obviously, need to identify why this happened.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Urging patients, officials in Surfside, Florida, vowing to get answers tonight.

DESANTIS: It is something that's going to be very thorough, and it is something that is not going to happen in a day or two. This is going to take a long time. That's the time horizon they work on. SANCHEZ: As rescue crews raced to save lives, investigators, and

engineers studying the potential causes of Thursday's collapse. A report done three years ago by a consulting company hired by the condo association is raising serious questions. An engineer, describing major structural damage to the concrete slab, under the entrance drive, and the pool.

The report said, quote, the waterproofing below the pool deck, and entrance drive, as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond its useful life, and therefore, must all be completely removed, and replaced.

The 2018 survey, called for quick repairs, to prevent bigger problems, warning, quote, failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand, exponentially.

Documents, obtained by CNN showed condo owners were facing assessments for $15 million in repairs. Payments are supposed to begin just days after the building collapsed.

The report was sent to the Surfside building official, Rosendo Prieto, who two days later assured residents that the tower was in very good shape, according to meeting minutes obtained by CNN.

The engineering firm, Morabito Consultants, said that it had been retained this month by the condo association for the building's massive repair project. The company says, roof repairs were taking place at the time of the collapse, but concrete restoration had not yet started.

Residents also voiced concerns about water leaking and cracked concrete in the garage, with the tower, frequently, shaking amid construction next door. Prieto who no longer works for the city of Surfside has no yet responded to CNN's request for comment.

Though, James Cohen, an engineer who has studied these kinds of collapses for 40 years says that the report did not include key details about the buildings foundation, and didn't indicate any immediate danger.

JAMES COHEN, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: There was nothing I saw that would suggest that people needed to vacate the building. The inspection did not include the foundations, which would be covered by a slab, and it may have been prudent to open the slab to see how things were doing, the lower one could see.


SANCHEZ (on camera): A note on those assessments, for $15 million in repairs. The condo owners actually approved that plan back in April. And they were set to start making payments on it on July 1st, exactly one week after the building came crashing down.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, Surfside, Florida. VAUSE: Pablo Rodriguez is missing both his mother and grandmother,

after the Thursday's disaster. He spoke with CNN's Erin Burnett about how he is coping with the uncertainty.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: How are you handling that, just not knowing? I know your 6-year-old son, having to deal with him not knowing. How are you pacing yourself through this?

PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER MISSING: It is extremely difficult, Erin. We are trying to keep it together for him, he keeps asking us where is, grandma, where is (INAUDIBLE), when are they are coming over? Why don't we FaceTimed them? When we call the people looking for them? Maybe they can find them? And they can come over now?

And we just don't have anything to tell them. We have no news. It's been very difficult.

I passed by, this is the first day that I am on site, in this area, where I can see the building even. And I got out of the car, and that completely broke down. The guardrail wasn't there, and I would've end up on the floor crying. It was completely overwhelming.


VAUSE: Amid the tragedy and the loss, there is also hope for survival.

CNN's Rafael Romo spoke with one couple who escaped moments before the building collapsed.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The building collapse here in Surfside, Florida, has been very hard for many people, not only because of those that have died and the ones that are still messing, but also because many people lost everything in an instant.

Earlier, I spoke with a couple who narrowly escaped the collapse. Christopher Afonso, and Grey Alcantara say they were suddenly awakened by loud noises early Thursday morning. Then, they heard a loud crash, and had to run for their lives.

CHRISTOPHER AFONSO, SURVIVOR: It wasn't until, I believe, the first part started to collapse, which is when we woke up, desperately. We started to feel the building shake left to right for about 10 or 15 seconds.


ROMO: So, what was the first thing you noticed? Was that the shaking?

AFONSO: It was a big noise at first. ROMO: They told me, that's when they decided to get out of the

building, taking the emergency stairs, and helping an elderly resident, who is having trouble getting down. They, finally, managed to get to the garage, but the emergency exit was blocked by the debris, and the whole place was very dark.

GREY ALCANTARA, SURVIVOR (through translator): We were literally in the wolf's mouth down there. We were trapped. And, then he kept on looking, and made a turn, and found a crack in the wall.

ROMO: And that's how they escaped, through the cracks on the wall. Once outside, they recorded these images. Some of the first taken after the collapse.


ROMO: As you can hear, they were still quite shocked after what they had gone through, and so for hundreds of people, who also managed to escape, by running to the beach.

Now, they say they feel blessed for two reasons. First, they survived the collapse, and Alcantara's 9-year-old daughter happen to be sleeping elsewhere that night.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


VAUSE: Well, coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, it's a Communist Party party. (INAUDIBLE) across the nation celebrating a century since the founding of the CCP. A live report, when we come back.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM with me. I'm John Vause.

A celebration, one century in the making, in China. Despite the history of overseeing famine, which left millions dead, purges and crackdowns, as well as human rights abuses, it's party time for the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party.

President Xi Jinping has been on hand for fireworks and another big displays, all leading up to the official anniversary on Thursday.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now live in Hong Kong with more.

Even though the actual founding of the party was July 23rd, that doesn't seem to matter. What is interesting is that they keep everything so tightly under wraps for the big day on Thursday, July 1st. But, we have been, with our reports at least, that there will be no military parade, unlike, you know, other big events.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is that element of micromanagement taking place, which we have seen, many times before, on Thursday, that will be the official celebration, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese communist party. But, it looks like the celebrations have already begun.


On Monday, there were light shows taking place across multiple cities in China. Also on Monday, at the national stadium, otherwise known as the Bird's Nest, there was an art performance there with tens of thousands of people in attendance. Of course, that was a building that was a centerpiece site built for the Beijing Olympics.

And earlier today, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, has been handing out July 1st awards to outstanding members of the Chinese Communist Party.

He gave a speech, earlier today, just a few hours ago at the Great Hall of the People, in which he praised the communist party members for their humility and their selflessness.

But it's a big event, it's happening this week, Thursday, July 1st and China is not taking any chances. Already, we know from our colleagues in Beijing that road blockades have been set up, hundreds of police are out in force, in order to shut down traffic.

Also, they have been ramping up surveillance, and security ahead of Thursday. Covert rehearsals have been underway. We have seen this type of micromanagement before for other big anniversaries, for example in 2019 on National Day, October 1 the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

But this is different. This is the centennial of the Chinese Communist Party. This is a very sensitive moment for China on the domestic stage.

Listen to this from Graeme Smith, of the Australian National University.


GRAEME SMITH, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: How do you prove that you are the legitimate government of China? You do so by putting on an enormous show to remind people of what you have given them.

So you have lifted them out of poverty. You've given them economic growth. And you've restored China to its central place in the world.


STOUT: And the messaging is virtually everywhere, not just in the real world in China in the forms of slogans and banners, but also in the virtual world. According to our colleagues inside China, if you fire up an app, even a Web site, even a shopping platform online in China, you will be inundated with banners praising centennial -- 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party.

Also of note outside of Mainland China as well, the big push to the big day is taking place here in Hong Kong. We've seen the rollout of banners, slogans, even red signage on the city's iconic Ding Ding trams praising 100 years of the Communist Party. And then the president in sight (ph) something we have never seen before, John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It really is sort of an example of it is Xi's party now, if you like. If you look at what is happening in terms of the itinerary list.

STOUT: Oh, absolutely. I mean this is all about Xi. There's a discussion about the rewriting of the Chronicles of the Communist Party in Xi Jinping's name is being mentioned more times than Mao Zedong's name and he is in a platform of strength.

China has rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic, in terms of its economy, expected to post modest growth, but growth nonetheless, at 6 percent GDP this year. It is managed to -- in the large part -- rein in the coronavirus outbreak, though there are flare-ups in different parts of the country.

Xi is commanding a domestic audience at a time of strength while also carefully filtering out, and rewriting the history of the Chinese Communist Party, praising the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party, praising those who visit red sights or have red genes in their blood and trying to remind people in China of what China has achieved under the party, of lifting hundreds of millions outside of poverty.

Back to you.

VAUSE: And to be fair, there has been great achievements and there's been some great disasters along the way as well. But I guess, it's their party.

Kristie thank you. Kristie Lu Stout there, live for us in Hong Kong.

Singapore appears to be coming to terms with the coronavirus, releasing a post-pandemic plan to quote, "live normally with COVID- 19".

Manisha Tank has the details now, live from Singapore. So exactly how do they plan to live with COVID?

MANISHA TANK, CNN REPORTER: Well John, it's by presenting a road map really to Singapore's people, though the residents of Singapore using the word "endemic". It's basically saying that COVID-19 is something that we should treat in the same way that we treat the flu, for example.

It's an endemic disease. It's something that we live with every day. And we have measures around it to help us get through it.

So, for example, one of the indicators that went out in this op-ed which came the co-chairs of the multi ministry task force here on COVID-19, was that we would see booster jabs, for example, being part of a health program that would, basically, ensure that people would have some protection from COVID-19.

But also the emphasis needs to move away from just logging the number of cases to the number of people that actually get serious complications as a result of having this disease. So there's a real mindset shift going on here in terms of the people who have been leading the charge against COVID-19, and handling this pandemic here.


TANK: But it compares very interestingly with what we've seen in other financial hubs here in Asia like Hong Kong, for example where there seems to be a COVID-19 eradication policy.

Singapore is saying something completely different. It's saying we can't necessarily get rid of this, we're going to have to live with this, and there's a number of ways that we're going to do it which is what we've seen in this op-ed, with vaccination and ramping it up, being right at the top of the list.

VAUSE: Manisha, thank you. Manisha Tank, live for us in Singapore.

Well, the number of COVID cases in the United Kingdom has been rising in recent days but the government is pushing ahead, with plans to lift its final restrictions.

That's despite the growing spread of the dangerous delta variant. They expect COVID measures to be removed in the next three weeks.

The newly-appointed health secretary says the government will ramp up vaccinations so they can meet that deadline.


SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: The more people that are getting vaccinated, we are seeing clear evidence that we are breaking the link -- and this is absolutely crucial -- We are breaking the link between people getting infected by COVID-19 so the number of cases versus those that are actually ending up in hospital.


VAUSE: British tennis player, Johanna Konta was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The 30-year-old was set to play Tuesday, but will now be required to spend the next 10 days in isolation. Organizers are adapting the Grand Slam for pandemic after canceling it last year.

CNN's Scott McLean reports on how Wimbledon is making the adjustments for the pandemic.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wimbledon is all about tradition. The white outfits on the courts, the strawberries and cream, and of course, the rain are all still here. But the famous queue of tens of people camped out buy day-of tickets has moved online. Capacity is down to 50 percent on the main courts. The all-England Club has though convinced the government, as part of a pilot project, to have full capacity stands for the weekend of the finals.

Fans have to show up with a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination but don't have to wear face masks or social distance once they are sitting in their seats. The fans we met, earlier didn't seem concerned about the virus. They were just happy to have the players back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually think it's probably one of the safest places to be. It's all quite nice in terms of scanning and downloading the NHS app. And I think here today, you know, you could be around people that's pretty safe and secure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be different, I'm sure. This thing is also going to make a big difference. But yes, I'm really excited.

MCLEAN (on camera): Does it feel like a normal year?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, this bit does. I mean queuing, getting on the train, getting here. Once you get inside, (INAUDIBLE), I think the noise, the people being back, will make it what it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of extra checks, but a lot of health as well, so it's all been pretty straightforward.

MCLEAN: Worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely worth it. Yes, it's great to be back.

MCLEAN: Who are you in for?

(on camera): Players though will not have nearly the freedoms that fans do. Typically, many of them rent out some luxurious homes near the courts with their families, but this year they have to stay in a bio-secure bubble in a central London hotel and shuttle back and forth.

Not ideal. That is how defending men's champ Novak Djokovic described the arrangement. He won his first run match today. He is chasing his 20th grand slam victory, which would tie him with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, who has opted to skip Wimbledon this year.

World women's number two Naomi Osaka has also opting out of the tournament this year. And the top British seed on the women's side, Johanna Konta will also be absent because a member of her bubble tested positive for COVID forcing her to isolate and drop out.

Because of all the restrictions and the decrease in the number of fans allowed the total prize money for this year's tournament is down about 5 percent from 2019. Though the top men and women will still take home $2.3 million each.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Well, coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, retaliation on the border between Iraq and Syria. How Iranian-backed militias are responding just hours after U.S. airstrikes.



VAUSE: U.S. forces came under rocket fire in eastern Syria on Monday. A U.S. Defense official says the rockets were likely launched by Iranian-backed militias operating in eastern Syria near Deir Ezzor.

There were no injuries among U.S. troops. The attack came just hours after U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militia groups in the region. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended those airstrikes, he was speaking on Monday.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We took necessary, appropriate, deliberate action that is designed to limit the risk of escalation, but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.


VAUSE: And video from a pro-militia social media channel allegedly shows the aftermath of the U.S. airstrikes. An Iraqi military group says four of its fighters were killed.

CNN's Arwa Damon has more now on the growing risk of escalation in the region.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. said that it carried out these strikes as a defensive measure, two in Syria, one in Iraq going after the unmanned aerial vehicle, in other words, drone capabilities of these Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias.

Now, there has been a regular for years ongoing low level tit-for-tat between the U.S. and these Iranian-backed Shia militias where the militias will fire mortars or rockets towards U.S. bases. U.S. forces and the U.S. will respond with some sort of a strike on a facility of theirs.

But right now we are seeing something of an escalation in the rhetoric and quite potentially in this situation. The militia, one of them at least, is vowing that America will see death after these strikes.

The Iranians have said that this is detrimental to security in the region, the fact that the U.S. carried out these airstrikes. Syria is calling it a blatant act of aggression. And Iraq, that is pretty much struck in the middle of this battle between the U.S. and Iran, is calling it a blatant violation of its sovereignty. Iraq for quite some time now has been begging both sides, the U.S. and Iran, to take their fight somewhere else because Iraq can't handle this kind of instability, and it is stuck in something of an impossible position because on the one hand it does have a very healthy relationship with the United States. It does want to see continuous U.S. military support, training and other technological capabilities that the Americans have to offer.

And on the other hand there is the reality of the fact that Iraq shares a very long border with Iran. There are these economic ties. But then there's also this ongoing situation of these Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias, some of whom do not necessarily fall under the command and control of the Iraqi security forces.

And so when this type of situation escalates between the U.S. and Iran within Iraqi territory, the country that ends up usually paying the biggest price, well that ends up being Iraq itself.

Arwa Damon, CNN -- Istanbul.


VAUSE: Violence in Afghanistan is surging as the Taliban takes more territory beyond its southern stronghold. The attack comes as peace talks in Qatar have stalled and U.S. and NATO forces plan to fully withdrawn by September 11th.

Nic Robertson reports on the Taliban offensive. And a warning, some of the images in his report are disturbing.



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Days after seizing the strategic border town Shir Khan Bandar straddling the only highway linking Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the Taliban have reopened it.

Although CNN cannot independently verify the video, the loss is not disputed by the government and is a major first for the Taliban since losing power in 2001.

The Afghan border guards given sanctuary in Tajikistan, effectively becoming the first refugees of the Taliban's northern offensive.

For weeks a steady stream of unverified victories is being pushed by the Taliban. This purports to be in Parwan Province central Afghanistan.

The district was under siege for two days now, the commander says, checking his watch as if every second counts. Over the past week the Taliban claiming to have taken 27 more districts, totaling 117 since May, a figure disputed by the U.N., the Afghan government, and the U.S. military.

Videos often highlight seizure of U.S.-made military hardware, Humvees and trucks.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending. It is going to be sustained.

ROBERTSON: At a meeting with Afghan leaders last week, President Biden promised ongoing military support, but no change to the U.S. drawdown. Not an easy adjustment for the Afghans.

ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: It has made everybody recalculate and reconsider. We are here to respect it and support it.

ROBERTSON: The Taliban's recalculation appears to be fight first, talk later. Even so the government still pushing for peace.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, CHAIRMAN, AFGHANISTAN HIGH COUNCIL FOR RECONCILIATION: I think that we shouldn't shut the doors unless it is completely shut by the Taliban.

ROBERTSON: Glimmers of hope Taliban gains can be quickly reversed are rare. This video, government officials say, is a Taliban surrender. 130 gunmen handing over their weapons, is disputed by the Taliban claiming the fighters were a local militia, not their loyal followers.

What the Taliban don't dispute is that their fighters are getting killed. Their spokesman calling out government forces for the poor treatment of their dead in this pro-government video. The bodies desecrated. No sign of any calming in the near term.

Nic Robertson, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Still to come here, record high temperatures scorching major cities in the western United States as well as parts of Canada. The very latest on the intense heat next and what it means for climate change.


VAUSE: In the past week, record high temperatures that stood for more than a century are tumbling in parts of the western United States, as well as Canada, as well as Russia and Eastern Europe.

Monday brought all-time highs to major cities, including Seattle, Washington where temperatures reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

More than 20 million people in the western U.S. are under excessive heat warnings or advisories, stretching from the Mexico border all the way to Canada.

Let's go to Pedram Javaheri for more on what's actually was causing it. How long this heat wave will be around for. And what's this summer going to look like if this is the early stages.

[01:49:56] PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's the very early stages of summer, and you know, John, just in the past couple of weeks, the U.S. has set upwards of 6,000 record high temperatures that was leading us into the summer season. And of course, hundreds are now coming in across the western U.S. in the first full week of summer.

And here's what we were looking at. The all-time hottest temperature ever observed in Washington State in the city of Seattle happens to be not too far north of Dallesport. And you notice, And observations here are pushing close to 50 degrees Celsius, 48 the official high -- tying the all-time hottest mark we've ever seen across the state.

And then as you noted we get into portions of British Columbia, high temperatures there, hottest all-time for Canada and that climbs them up to about 47.5 degrees on Monday.

Just by comparison I brought in Baghdad to show you what a remarkable setup this is. Of course when you think about the Pacific Northwest into the areas of B.C. very lush landscapes, plenty of trees, plenty of foliage, all of this helps absorb a lot of that solar insulation and radiation and it doesn't a lot of those temperatures usually to get this hot but when you get it to a desert landscape, the landscape there is conducive to see rapid heating temperatures. And that is what is the case across that region this time of year.

But this remarkable heat wave, of course, has really altered the landscape across this region when it comes to excessive heat and another 300 records possible in the coming several days.

Notice places such as Quillayute, Washington which is just about 10 miles away from the Pacific Ocean averages 18 degrees this time of year. They climbed up to 44 degrees. The previous hottest temperature a day earlier 42 degrees. And kind of shows you this incredible heat wave that has lasted for at least three days now around the western United States.

And you'll notice, when it does cool off, it still stays above the average of the lower twenties over the next seven days. And the same in Portland, we'll expect to climb up to 36 degrees, just shy of 100. Climatologically, that happens about once or twice a year. It's going to happen yet again here on Tuesday and then cool off -- by cool off I mean 7 to 8 degrees above average for much of this upcoming week, John.

VAUSE: Pedram, thank you. Pedram Javaheri there with (INAUDIBLE) all the details on the weather. We appreciate that.

Now as the U.S. and Canada face some extreme heat, the European Union has approved a landmark law to try and tackle climate change. The law's (ph) 27 nations will now be obligated to collectively cut greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent by the end of the decade, that's from 1990 levels. And to eliminated emissions altogether by 2050.

For more, we're joined now by Jess Phoenix, volcanologist, geologist, executive director and a cofounder of Blueprint Earth. And you're in Los Angeles. Good to see you. JESS PHOENIX, VOLCANOLOGIST: Yes, good to see you too, John.

VAUSE: And like the rest of the West Coast just sweltering through an another unprecedented heat wave or as the "L.A. Times" put it, record setting heat wave shows that climate change is creating hell on earth.

Would you say we're still a long way from hell in terms of how bad this climate crisis is likely to get? And most of us at this moment are sort of like passengers in a great big gas guzzling SUV, we're just going along for the ride?

PHOENIX: It's pretty dire right now, and obviously we are nowhere near done. And that is the thing that worries me and most of my scientific colleagues.

We are just starting the rollercoaster ride and extreme weather events like this drought, like this intense heat wave, they're only going to get worse and they're only going to become more widespread.

I think the geographic distribution is actually one of the most difficult things we are going to have to deal with. Our infrastructure can't withstand this.

VAUSE: You know, the Web site IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers reports this. "To reverse climate change, even partially we need to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to a safer threshold of 300 parts per million on Earth Day 2021. That figure stood at 417 ppm.

We estimate that meeting that target will require removing on the order of 2,000 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere over the next century.

It then goes on to talk about the need for this removal of carbon to get to a carbon negative society. No one is talking about that. The E.U. at best wants to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030, net zero emissions by 2050. You know, it seems carbon neutral all on its own will be a stretch. How do we get to carbon negative?

PHOENIX: We're going to have to make huge investments in carbon capture technology and essentially removing all of the energy that right now is in the climate system.

So we have heard of the principal matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed, that's science -- basic science in a lot of cases.

Well, when we burn fossil fuels we release energy and it goes into our weather and climate cycle. So we have to make sure that we are finding ways to capture the carbon that we do emit and the other greenhouse gases that we do emit so that we can actually put that back into a form where it won't be impacting us like it is today.

VAUSE: You talk about, you know, the impact around the country and there's still no official word on cause of the collapse of that residential high-rise in Florida. But what if climate change did in fact, play a role here?

Because that will have some very serious and some very widespread repercussions, wouldn't it?


PHOENIX: I think that one of the biggest threats we as society, a global society, are going to face, is how do we reckon with the widespread type of damage that we see from climate change. It's not just a lack of heating or cooling in certain areas, it's what we have seen in the Pacific Northwest in the last few days.

Roads are buckling, tempered glass is shattering. These materials aren't designed to withstand the extremes that we're going to put them to. And I as somebody who works around disasters frequently, I can only say that we have got to prepare, we have to plan, and then we've got to invest where we can make a difference.

VAUSE: Well, you know, those who are on the other side of this argument, the few who are left, at first it was climate change isn't real. Then you know, when it couldn't be denied, it was natural, a part of a cycle, had nothing to do with man-made actions.

Then it became the whole thing is too expensive to do anything about anyway. And now there is a tweet from some Fox News anchor. If you're really worried about climate change please explain your plans to convince the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

You know, this is just so stupid because in 2018, per capita, the U.S. ranked fourth in the world, emitting 16.5 tons of CO2. China ranked 13th, just over 17 tons per capita.

So you know, put these arguments to one side. Yes China does more emissions than the United States per capita it (INAUDIBLE).

How much harm do these asinine arguments actually do in the long run?

PHOENIX: They are setting us back. Every day they are setting us back by, you know, inches, meters, kilometers. It's really impossible to quantify the amount of harm unless we do it in lives lost. And that extends not just to human lives that will become victim or have become victim to extreme weather events brought on by climate change, but also animal species, plant species, the ability to grow food and to distribute it to people who need that food.

These are all very real, very measurable costs. But I think like a lot of issues these days, unless it impacts the people in charge enough they are not going to sway their thinking.

And it also has to make financial sense. So that's why we need governments to incentivize and to propel and really basically take this next step in the evolution of the global society.

VAUSE: Yes. Is it that level of a government fix, international government fix, otherwise, you know, it's not actually going to work. and that's what the people want. I guess, you know, we have to wait and see if they can do it.

Jess, we are out of time. Always good to see you. Thank you so much.

PHOENIX: You, too. Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. After a short break my colleague and friend Rosemary Church takes over.

See you tomorrow.