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Rebels Reject Ethiopian Government's Ceasefire Offer; Delta Variant Fueling Spikes in Cases Worldwide; At Least 233 Deaths In Canada Amid Historic Heat Wave; Delta Variant Becoming Dominant Across the U.S.; Mexico Races to Vaccinate Population as Variants Emerge; North Korean Officials Fired after "Grave" COVID Incident; Former South African President Zuma Sentenced to Prison; England Reach Quarterfinals with 2-0 Win over Germany. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 30, 2021 - 01:00   ET



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

Coming up this hour on CNN NEWSROOM:

A one-sided ceasefire in Ethiopia after rebel fighters refused to lay down their weapons in the troubled Tigray region saying the government's declaration of an end into the fighting is a joke.

Soaring temperatures meet soaring death tolls. Hundreds dead in western Canada after days of record heat.

And when and where to wear face masks? Health officials in the U.S. sending mixed messages, sowing confusion amid concerns over the highly contagious Delta variation.


VAUSE: Any of optimism sparked by the announcement of a cease-fire in Ethiopia's Tigray region is now giving way to uncertainty. After a surprise withdrawal of Ethiopian army troops from Tigray's capital, the government announced a cease-fire. But it can't really be a cease- fire if only one side stops fighting.

Tigray rebels are refusing to lay down their weapons and vowed to keep fighting until the Ethiopian military and its allies leave the region.

Thousands have died in this 8-month long civil war. Millions have fled, many are facing potential famine. What is happening now on the ground is unclear, because telephone and Internet services are down.

CNN's Nima Elbagir has our report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is growing global concern over the situation in Ethiopia's Tigray region, as a days long communications blackout obscures the region, obscures the reality on the ground from the eyes of the world. This comes after Tigrayan forces forced the withdrawal of the oath the open government forces from the regional capital of Mekele. The Ethiopian government subsequently announced a cease-fire, but now the United Nations has said that escalating fighting of the ground is hampering aid efforts, in a region that cannot afford anymore hunger.

The Tigrayan forces rejected the unilateral ceasefire. It's really hard to get a sense of what is happening because of that communications blackout. The United Nations Security Council is due to meet on Friday to discuss Ethiopia, as part of a request put forth by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Thomas Linda Thomas-Greenfield, supported by Ireland and the United Kingdom. There was jubilation on the streets of Mekele when the Tigrayans forces first came in.

But now, many in the Diaspora, around the world are reaching out to say that they are very worried about what may be happening to their families and loved ones inside the region. And for now, nobody really can't say for certain.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


VAUSE: With us now from Brussels is journalist Simon Marks who until last month was based in Ethiopia. He'd been there since 2019 reporting for "The New York Times" and other publications, that is until he was summoned by government officials, drove into the airport, detained for eight hours, and put on a plane and expelled.

Simon, thanks for being with us.

Just correct me if these details are not accurate. I think we got it right.

SIMON MARKS, JOURNALIST: Yes, absolutely right.

VAUSE: OK, thank you.

What have you been able to learn about this sort of one-sided cease- fire right now? You have any information or insight into why the government decided to withdraw forces and declare, you know, this cease-fire?

MARKS: Well, yes, it's important to note that in the past 7 to 10 days, the forces on the Tigray side of the dispute have really escalated their offensive. They went from conducting a guerrilla style war where they were making sporadic attacks on Ethiopia and Eritrean forces in rural areas to conducting an offensive against key divisions that the Ethiopian had present in the Tigray region.

And this seems to have quite huge impacts on the state of the conflict. Whereby Tigrayans gained a lot of territory, they claim to have taken a fair amount of heavy machinery, mechanized equipment and a very, very quickly in the days following Ethiopia's national election on the 21st of June, they managed to actually come back into the regional capital of Mekelle which fell on November 28th.

VAUSE: So, basically, the momentum was with the Tigrayans forces. This is also at the moment a slow-moving humanitarian crisis in that region.


I want you to listen to the assessment we're getting from the World Health Organization. Here it is.


TARIK JASAREVIC, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SPOKESMAN: The risk of communicable and vaccine preventable diseases is spreading to the lack of food, clean water, save shelter, and access to health care. It's very real. All of these factors combine literally a recipe for larger epidemics.


VAUSE: Is there best-case, worst-case scenario here? Is it simply the only scenario is just the worst? What do you think it will happen?

MARKS: Well, you know, the hunger situation, the risk of the spread of disease is very real in the Tigray region. It's been 8 months since the conflict began. And, you know, the Tigray region has not produced enough food by itself to feed its population. We are now entering the rainy season where farmers plan. It's absolutely key, they need to get crops into the ground.

So, we know the USAID, the Agency for International Development has said there's nearly 1 million people in a state of famine. The U.N. put that figure slightly lower. You know, 350,000 but it's very clear to people on the ground and from reporters I spoken to, U.N. officials, that there's severe malnutrition and widespread. That is widespread.

And, you know, the humanitarian actors haven't really had that access to get in off the main roads into villages, and supply the food that's needed. So, it's -- we've been saying it for months. But, you know, people are dying of starvation, as we speak.

VAUSE: This is shaping up to be the world's worst famine. I was reading since Somalia about a decade ago. How much worse has it been made by the use of starvation as a weapon of war?

MARKS: Well, this is extremely sensitive as an issue. You know, the Ethiopian government completely denies this framing, right, that's been used as a weapon of war. They say they have sent many tons of food aid, they organized vehicle and convoys, they claimed that there's been three rounds, they say, that has supposedly reached the Tigray region.

There is a lack of evidence that this food has reached the millions that the Ethiopian government claimed to have been fed. You know, I do think the Ethiopian government have some effort put into it, on the conditions of the ground with the military, the existence of Eritrean troops, militia manning checkpoints, just not letting convoys through, has just impeded this effort.

And the Ethiopian government, I imagine, know that. And, you know, yesterday where the day before whenever they put the statement out, did recognize that for the first time, you know, in eight months, that access the aid workers and food distribution is difficult and that was the reasoning they gave for their cease-fire.

VAUSE: Well, senior official with the U.S. Department of State was taking questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and here this morning for Ethiopia and Eritrea. Here it is.


ROBERT GODEC, ACTING U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OIF STATE OF AFRICAN AFFAIRS: The government's announcement does not result in improvements and the situation continues to worsen. Ethiopia and Eritrea should anticipate further actions.


VAUSE: Okay. So, what precisely could the U.S. queue that would be the most successive course of action here?

MARKS: Well, they've already implemented a series of sanctions, you know, both economic and travel sanctions against key officials. They could escalate those. There could be more economic sanctions against Eritrea, and they could target specific businesses, specific people.

There is a lot of funding for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank that Ethiopia's waiting for as part of their programs, which is also linked to their debt relief, actually, at an international level.

So all of these things could be prevented from coming to Ethiopia, which could squeeze them economically, and those levers remain both in the U.S., and Europe. And in other countries are being urged to implement their own sanctions if things don't change quickly.

I mean, one thing just to add that, very quickly, the cease-fire is very edgy right now. And the Tigrayans announced, senior officials I spoke to yesterday did say that they would continue to mock up, as they said, the remnants of the enemy. They would go after Ethiopian units and Eritreans still based in the Tigray region.

And there's a whole issue of huge swath of the region being annexed to the neighboring Amhara region.


And it remains to be seen if the conflict would continue as the Tigrayans continue their offensive, to regain land, to push out the Eritreans.

So, you know, we are going to see this in the coming days whether violence continues or not.

VAUSE: Very quickly I'm curious. I want to finish up on your child, because I read when you are forced to leave and expelled to that plane, you do not get a chance to see each other. What's the latest on that?

MARKS: Yeah, no, indeed. I had to leave Ethiopia quite quickly, and so, to 5 hours.

I leave him there with my partner, who's also a journalist in Ethiopia. I'm currently moving to Kenya. And I'm doing a quick stop here actually in Brussels. I managed to get my kids back with me temporarily, actually.

So, yeah, we're (INAUDIBLE).

VAUSE: Well, that is a bit of good news. Simon, thank you.

Almost a year and a half into the pandemic, coronavirus cases continue to surge around the world, due to the spread of the highly delta variant, which is moving faster than the rate of vaccinations.

Latin America and Africa are getting hit hard. Cases are rising in Russia, record deaths there. And in Australia, much of the country's under lockdown.

Indonesia is now struggling with shortages of oxygen.

The Indian medical association has announced almost 800 doctors have died during India's brutal second wave of the virus. India has recorded almost 400,000 COVID deaths so far.

And Europe is still seeing flare-ups although case numbers are falling in most countries there. France is said to ease more COVID restrictions in the coming hours with most indoor businesses going back to full capacity.

New COVID outbreak around Sydney has now grown to more than 160 cases. Australia's largest city is under a 2-week lockdown to try to slow the spread, and five of eight states find cases of the Delta variant.

CNN producer Angus Watson live in Sydney with us right now.

So, Angus, I guess the question is, it's down for two weeks. Is that likely to be hard and fast two weeks or could this be extended?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Well, the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the leader of this state where I am, New South Wales, where Sydney is the capital, she said this morning if these numbers stay steady, then hopefully, we might not have to extend those two weeks.

But people know that with this Delta variant passing through the community, the lockdown is necessary, and they have to do what it takes to keep the numbers down. And Australia is in a privileged situation at the moment, John. I must

say one person in ICU. So, these lockdowns across the country now are really an effort to keep the vulnerable safe and keep people out of those ICUs. We are seeing cases now in New South Wales, extra cases today, Queensland, West Australia, South Australia. The effort is on, the fight to keep those cases at bay, John.

VAUSE: Angus, thank you. Angus Watson live in Sydney, we appreciate that.

Well, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent warning Indonesia is on the brink of a COVID catastrophe. The surge of new cases has been dominated by the delta variant. Which was first identified in India. Indonesia has been reporting record case numbers in recent days, with the number of new infections reaching 20,000.

Hospitals are now being forced to turn patients away. There are reports some have died waiting to be admitted at a hospital in the capital of Jakarta, where isolation beds are at 90 percent occupancy. Public panic has sent the demand for oxygen to skyrocket with prices nearly tripling in parts, putting even more strain on hospitals. It's causing some oxygen supplies to now worry about shortages.


ERVAN KAUTSAR, OXYGEN SHOP OWNER (through translator): Oxygen cylinders are getting harder to find since distributor is running out of stock. The oxygen supplies at the moment are still fine, but it's been restricted as demand keeps increasing. I'm afraid if he keeps in high demand, we will be running out of oxygen, too.


VAUSE: And the government there is counting on vaccinations to slow the outbreak. So far, less than 5 percent of the country is fully vaccinated.

Well, COVID cases in Japan may be down overall. But Tokyo reporting a new surge in infections, officials are also concerned about the delta variant of the virus, warning it shows signs of spreading in Tokyo. All this while the Olympic Games are set to begin their less than a month.

Blake Essig is in Tokyo live now.

So, I guess the situation is that they know the spread is coming. It's almost a point of pride with the government at least that they can control this, they can have these Olympics, and that they can control the spread of the virus at the same time.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. You know, at the same time the government, IOC officials maintain the games will be held on time. Whether that is a point of pride or a legal obligation at this point, it is the people here that are really dealing with -- I don't want to say they're struggling.


But they are suffering. I mean, businesses have been impacted. We've been living under a state of emergency since April. And that's continuing. We are still under a quasi state of emergency and a little more than a week, when we the full emergency, state of emergency was lifted, since that point, COVID cases have started to rebound. People are out and about. And that could have a big impact on these Olympic Games which were set to begin in just 23 days.

Despite still being under a quasi-state of emergency order for the 10th in a row, cases have increased here in Tokyo compared to the week before the current 7-day average, since nearly 500 cases up, almost 22 percent from the previous week. A panel of experts advising Tokyo's metropolitan government, warning the Delta variant first detected in India is showing signs of spreading here in Tokyo, and suggested that it could soon become the dominant strain here.

Now, currently, only about 11 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated. Government officials say infections are spreading, most among the young and middle aged groups that still haven't been vaccinated. Now, at this time, Olympic organizers do plan to allow more than 10 -- no more than 10,000 local spectators at events, or half the venue's capacity, whichever figure is lower.

But just last week, Japan's prime minister said the Tokyo Olympics could be held without spectators if the COVID-19 situation worsens, and a state of emergency order is in effect during the games. Now, in an effort to limit the spread of infection, Tokyo government officials have decided that the first 8 days of the torch relay segment scheduled here in Japan's capital city, which is scheduled to start next week, will for the most part be held off public roads. Instead of ceremonies, instead they will hold ceremonies for a limited number of people -- John.

VAUSE: Yeah, all part of the no fun games, cheering, distance stadiums, go straight home after the games are done.

Yeah, Blake, thank you. Blake Essig in Tokyo for us.

Russia was the first to declare they had a COVID vaccine which was approved for use. It was made in record time. But now, vaccination rates are continuing to remain low. Only about 11 percent.

And it reports its worst COVID death numbers so far, and that has the Kremlin issuing strict guidelines.

And more now on that from CNN's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT): Russia is, of course, witnessing a powerful third wave of coronavirus infections with daily death rates across the country reaching record highs.

More than 650 people dying of COVID over the past 24 hours, according to official figures. Russia is of course the country that was the first to register a COVID vaccine for public use back in August last year.

Recent data from the manufacturers about the efficacy of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V indicates that it's less effective against the new Delta variants of the virus, which was first identified in India.

But the bigger problem is that vaccination rates among skeptical Russians have been stubbornly low, just 11 percent or so of the population have had a job so far, fueling that worrying increase in infections, now running at the highest levels since the pandemic began.

With a low rates of vaccination have now forced the Russian government to introduce strict new guidelines, making vaccination mandatory for some categories of workers. Anyone for instance, in public facing jobs like hospitality or transport, or catering. Have been told they must be vaccinated by the middle of July.

Vaccination, the Kremlin insists, is still voluntary in Russia. But Russians who refused the jab may now lose their jobs.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


VAUSE: Well, searching for life, but only finding the dead in the rubble in the south Florida high-rise. And just ahead, the new danger that's now threatening the rescue workers there.

Also, a deadly and dangerous heat wave in western Canada. The country marks another day record breaking temperatures. A meteorologist will tell us how long all of this will last.



VAUSE: The body of another victim has been pulled from the rubble of the Champlain Towers in South Florida, bringing the death toll to 12, 149 others are still unaccounted for. Workers are navigating dangerous conditions, that includes falling debris from the top of the building which is still standing.

One Israeli expert on the scene says they're looking in the areas we're bedrooms could be. But they are buried under 4 or maybe 5 meters concrete.

We have more from CNN's Ryan Young reporting in from Surfside, Florida.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, rescue teams are still searching through the debris of the deadly south Florida condo collapse for a sixth day.

The search getting dangerous for rescue teams as debris started to fall from the building that is still standing.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Those first responders are breaking their back. Trying to find anybody they can and they are going to continue to do that.

YOUNG: More than 800 responders from 60 agencies are on the ground assisting with the search and rescue efforts.

ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE CHIEF: You're talking about 12 stories, subterranean garages, all within the same footprint. I'm trying to emphasize the magnitude of what we're encountering, what we're seeing, and we still keep pushing forward.

YOUNG: Officials say more than 3 million pounds of concrete have already been removed from the debris site. Heavy machinery continues to be brought in to help remove debris, dozens of dogs are on site to do what humans cannot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will search for the person that they can't see.

YOUNG: And the rescue team are the ones who come across the personal effects.

JIMMY PATRONIS, FLORIDA STATE FIRE MARSHAL: One of the first responders who found a birthday card. Nobody is going to let that get lost. It's so raw. Families are going through such an unnatural set of experiences.

YOUNG: Dozens of frustrated and distraught family members still waiting for updates on their loved ones. At the community center where families are gathered to wait for news, dozens of resources have been set up for them, even therapy dogs on site to comfort families.

DEBBIE TAYLOR, THERAPY DOG HANDLER: And he's just provided a soft coat to cry into or to hug or to say nothing at all, which is really what's best about them is that they just sit there and you don't need a conversation.

YOUNG: Daylight waning for the day, but these rescuers will continue on through the night non-stop as they have for the last six days.

LT. DOUGLAS DUARTE, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: We're trying our hardest 24 hours a day and we hope to bring closure one way or the other, you know. Either by finding their lost relatives or, you know, finding hopefully a live victim.


YOUNG (on camera): We are really seeing that human toll sort of multiply itself all the way out with the story. We talked to Nicole Ortiz, she was telling us about what you will remember about her family. This has been very difficult, but she was thinking about the other families who were involved in this because she wants them to have the peace of knowing where the loved ones are. We've seen first responders breaking down and reacting in pain because of all the work they are doing, as well.

This has been very difficult. It's something that we will all have to continue to watch, especially with no big breakthroughs over the last 24 hours or so.

Reporting from Surfside, Ryan Young, CNN.

VAUSE: Officials in Canada are linking a historic heat wave to a southern spike in deaths. More than 200 people have died in British Columbia and the past five days, a far higher toll than normal.


Canada shattered its all-time record high for a 3rd straight day on Tuesday. And a village of the countries west, temperatures reached 121 degrees Fahrenheit, over 49 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures are also soaring in Alberta, where the scorching heat is hitting vulnerable residents especially hard.

Paige Parsons from CBC News has the story from Edmonton.


PAIGE PARSONS, EDMONTON BASE REPORTER, CBC NEWS (voice over): Handing out water and bananas in central Edmonton, this outreach worker took a day off her job to try to help those who have no place to shelter from the heat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's going to be a lot of people are ending up in the hospital. And being really, really sick from this. Because they don't, some of them don't know how to look after themselves.

PARSONS: With temperatures in the high 30s across many parts of the province, Alberta is Canada's hot spot today. Putting pressure on the vulnerable, the elderly and the very young. Many Edmonton homes don't have air conditioners. Leaving parents scrambling to find ways to keep kids cool.

DIANNE CARILLO, MOTHER: We hibernate in the basement because it's a little cooler down there. And we are trying to survive with our stand fan.

PARSONS: This mom has been driving all over the city looking for a fan for her son with no luck. She stays up during the night, trying to keep him cool with cold towels.

SYDNEY GRAY, MOTHER: There's only so much I can do to try to keep him cool because we don't have central air. We don't have ac. And we certainly don't have any fans.

PARSONS: In a rural Alberta farmers are feeling the heat as their crops are pushed into survival mode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what it means in the long run is, is a yield that is not going to be up to our average. In fact it would be way below the average. In a lot of areas.

PARSONS: Livestock are having trouble keeping cool as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So pigs on sweat. So we need to really make sure they have a lot of mud. And it's actually a natural sunscreen.

PARSONS: The warnings to hydrate, cover-up with sunscreen, and hats, and seek shade are expected to last through the week. Alberta is expected to break more high temperature records before finally getting some relief Friday.

Paige Parsons, CBC News, Edmonton.


VAUSE: Let's go to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Did you know pigs in sweat? I had no idea.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, it's been a pretty remarkable run when it comes to how hot it's been. And what people are dealing with in this region, John.

Of course, when you look at these temperatures we know how persistent the heat has been. Three consecutive days, we talk about these temperatures into the middle and upper forties, and three hottest days on record for Canada. The second honestly was yesterday. The third hottest day was the day before that. Of course, on Tuesday, we come in the hottest and 49.5 degrees Celsius.

And you notice how this lines up. I looked at the top 10 august temperatures on our planet, John, nine of them, all located across the Middle East, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, and guess where number 10 was? Right in British Columbia, the 49.9 observation, that's 129 degree. This 121 degree Fahrenheit temperature there.

So pretty impressive run of heat and you will notice from Sunday into Monday, even outside of Canada, you can work your way into parts of the northwestern U.S., dozens of all-time records. Not just your usual record high temps. But the all-time ever observed taking place.

Now, this massive dome of high pressures force the jet stream that brings with it storms and cooler air to essentially take a ride up and over it. The push it well north of Canada. That's where the cooler has been limited to it. Heat warnings touching the Arctic Circle.

We're beginning to see the pattern breakdown just a little bit. So, the heat will want to shift further towards the east. Really important to note, plenty of studies have been done on heat. Of course, the incredible toll it can take on people.

We know the deadliest of all weather elements in the U.S., much the case around the world as well. It kind of meets up with these numbers. This is the number of fatalities per year in the U.S.

And, of course, studies have been done on heat and how agitation levels increase and people. Crime rates in cities increase. Domestic violence increases. In fact, they put people in rooms, with temperatures at 40 degrees Celsius, 30 degrees Celsius, 20 Celsius, put them through certain experiments. Guess which people got the most agitated, most quickly? The ones closer to 40 degrees, the once in the 20-degree range room were fine and dandy being pushed around a little bit.

So, really, a lot of bad comes with extreme heat the last several days. In this case up to a week in some areas -- John.

VAUSE: Yeah, I can actually sympathize with the agitation, the frustration of 40 degree heat. It's very unpleasant.

Pedram, thank you. Pedram Javaheri there, appreciate it.

Well, it's back. The old debate, to wear or not to wear a face mask? And once again, the medical experts just can't seem to agree. So, we'll try to get a direct answer in a moment.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

The White House medical adviser has warned the pandemic may soon lead to two Americas. In one vaccination rates will be high. In the other there will be astonishing lows, with possibly just 35 percent vaccinated.

And it's those areas that will be most susceptible to the highly contagious Delta variant. You can see U.S. vaccination rates have been dropping from their peaks in April.

Lucy Kafanov picks up the story from here.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Across the nation, a growing threat. The more transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant has spread to nearly every state.

DR. ASHISH JHA, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Delta variant is here. It's going to be the dominant variant across America in the next few weeks.

KAFANOV: Los Angeles County taking no chances. Health officials urging everyone to wear masks indoors even if they've been fully vaccinated.

In four states -- Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Wyoming less than half of adults have had at least one vaccination dose. The most at risk? Communities with low vaccination rates.

With more than half of the U.S. population still not fully vaccinated, health experts worry about another surge fueled by the Delta variant.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: We have parts of the United States where we don't have a lot of vaccination and we also don't have a lot of prior infection. Those are going to be the more vulnerable parts of this country.

KAFANOV: The World Health Organization urging vigilance.

DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, CHIEF SCIENTIEST, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Everyone should recognize this pandemic is not over. This is really not the time for us to encourage a lot of social mixing, to encourage mass events especially without precautions.

KAFANOV: But across the nation, a summer of normal activities back in full swing. The number of people traveling by air hit a new pandemic era record Sunday. The TSA says it screened 2.1 million people at airports, a number likely to be dwarfed this fourth of July weekend.

And a cautionary tale out of Illinois where health officials say a COVID outbreak at a summer camp where there were no masks required or vaccination checks has been linked to at least 85 cases.

TARA BEALOR, ADAMS COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT PUBLIC HEALTH NURSE: The people that were there, we can -- it can be stopped if they would quarantine like we've requested that they do.

KAFANOV: Meanwhile, the COVID surge leading to new lockdowns around the globe including areas in Australia and Bangkok, Thailand.

(on camera): And that Delta variant is also a growing concern here in Colorado. First identified in April, health officials say it now accounts for up to 40 percent of all new infections in the state.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN -- Denver.


VAUSE: To San Francisco now and Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, an internal medicine physician at the California Pacific Medical Center. Shoshana, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

You know, there seems to be this very important distinction to make when we're talking about people who've been vaccinated and also infected with this Delta variant, right.


VAUSE: That doesn't mean they were gravely ill. Infection does not mean they're admitted to a hospital and died. These are what are known as breakthrough infections. They have mild symptoms, if any.

And the vaccines kind of did their job. They're effective at keeping them out of hospital and keeping these symptoms fairly moderate, right?


You know, it's important to point out, you know, that we have good evidence in the setting of this Delta variant that we are talking about that the Pfizer vaccine and likely the Moderna as well as the AstraZeneca vaccines do work against this variant, meaning that they do protect people from becoming seriously ill and dying of COVID.

So for example, almost all the Delta cases seen in the U.K. and in India are among the unvaccinated especially children or they're impartially (ph) vaccinated people. So the cases that are being identified among vaccinated as you said the breakthroughs really are mostly mild.

But I do think it's important to point out that if you've only received one dose of the vaccine, this is partial vaccination and you are significantly less protected specifically against this Delta variant. So it's critical that everyone complete their full vaccine regiment no matter where you live.

VAUSE: Israel is a stand out here because about half of the adults infected in an outbreak of the Delta variant had been fully immunized with the Pfizer vaccine. How important will be to watch what happens in Israel in the coming weeks? And what would you be looking for there?

DR. UNGERLEIDER: Yes. I think it'll be very important. And I do think getting back to that initial question of whether or not these were in fact mild cases which we suspect that they were in fully-vaccinated people. We need to see how this unfolds.

I mean the Delta variant has only been around for, you know, a handful of weeks. It's certainly spreading like wildfire across the United States. So we need to proceed with caution here especially in those locales where they have low vaccination rates.

VAUSE: So we have a situation where the vaccines are effective at keeping people healthy, not so effective at preventing the spread. That brings us to this strong recommendation to wear a mask.

So from Los Angeles County to Ireland, this is what's happening. The L.A. head of public health explains why in a statement. "While COVID- 19 vaccines provide very effective protection preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the Delta variant, the strain is proving to be more transmissible and is expected to become more prevalent.

Mask wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person."

Inhalation through aerosols seems to be a pretty big deal here because up until April or May, the WHO is focusing on droplets as one of the main forms of transmission. And now we're looking at aerosols, which you know, is essentially an admission that this is airborne, right?

DR. UNGERLEIDER: Well, you know, aerosols are smaller particles than droplets. And we do know that that is in fact the way that this virus is transmitted. And we know that this Delta variant compared to the wild type or compared to alpha, for example, is 60 percent more contagious. It spreads just much more easily.

And so out of an abundance of caution, L.A. County for example is recommending that everyone wear masks indoors. And this is really to protect the unvaccinated, since we are less worried about severe illness from the Delta variant in fully-vaccinated.

But you know, by all of us doing what we can to stop this spread, we can protect our most vulnerable, our children, people who are immunocompromised and certainly people across the world who have not yet had the opportunity to get a vaccine.

VAUSE: Yes. But then there's this message which we are hearing from the White House medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE MEDICAL ADVISER: We know from experience now that the vaccines that we're using in this country do very well against the Delta variant. You have to take that variant seriously. It's nothing to just pooh-pooh because it spreads more rapidly than the original virus. And it can cause more serious disease.

But for now, the CDC recommendations stand that if in fact you are vaccinated -- fully vaccinated -- you are protected and you do not need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors.


VAUSE: I get -- if you are listening very closely and follow it, it's not really very different to what everyone else is saying.

But you know, when it comes to mask-wearing, you don't have to wear it, you do have to wear it. It's recommended, you know, you don't need to.

Surely something as crucial as this, state and federal officials should at least be on the same page?

DR. UNGERLEIDER: Well John, I personally agree with you. But like almost everything with this pandemic, you know, there's still so much that we don't know for certain and officials are definitely not all in agreement about policy.

So we don't yet know if Delta is more deadly, for example. Whether breakthrough infections of vaccinated people cause long COVID symptoms down the road. We don't yet know how long natural immunity for infection protects against Delta.

[01:39:48] DR. UNGERLEIDER: We are learning more as time goes on. I suspect it will take time to see how the spread of Delta plays out in this country. What we do know is these vaccines are effective. I certainly agree about that.

So if you aren't yet fully-vaccinated, it's so important to do it right away and encourage everyone you know to do the same. If you can, avoid areas this summer with low vaccination rates.

And certainly if you can't get vaccinated, if you have a high risk of condition, there is no question. Wear a mask indoors and avoid crowded places.

VAUSE: Yes. But if you have access to a vaccine, if you can get vaccinated, just do it.

Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, thank you so much. It's been a while. We appreciate you being with us.

DR. UNGERLEIDER: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: Pleasure.

Well, Mexico reported nearly 6,000 confirmed cases on Tuesday. The country is racing to vaccinate its population as more transmissible variants emerge threatening to wipe out progress which has been made.

CNN's Rafael Romo has details now reporting in from Mexico City.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, these Mexicans are attending a concert.

And even though some say it's very cool, the reality is that this is far from normal. For starters, it's a drive-in concert and everybody must stay in their designated area. And while not everyone is in compliance, masks are required.

"This is liberating. Safety measures are such that I feel comfortable and I'm very excited because if there is something I missed during the pandemic, it was going to concerts," this woman says. Adding that she's already vaccinated and so are all her friends.

Drive-in concerts are part of Mexico's new reality, an attempt to revive the economy.

ARMANDO CALVILLO, CONCERT PROMOTER: We will open more venues, more facilities because government is doing the right things now that the vaccines are doing good. There is a good rhythm of vaccines every day.

ROMO: Mexico's health department announced last week so far the country has received more than 51 million vaccine doses to date. But so far only around 20 percent of people who are eligible have been fully vaccinated in the nation of 127 million. The capital with a more capable health system than rural Mexico has

been significantly better than the rest of the country at getting people vaccinated.

(on camera): Here in Mexico City, roughly a third of the eligible population, meaning people 18 and older, is fully vaccinated according to figures from the local health department.

After vaccinating health care and essential workers, authorities implemented a vaccination schedule by age, starting with the elderly.

(voice over): The challenge is that new variants of the virus could pose a serious risk especially for the unvaccinated.

Mexico's COVID czar reported a 9 percent weekly increase in cases, but said it's too early to tell whether this is the beginning of a trend.

(on camera): When do you expect to reach herd immunity here in Mexico?

(voice over): "By the end of the year, more or less, we expect to be close to 70 percent of people vaccinated which would give us some guarantee of reaching herd immunity," this local health official says.

Asked how Mexico has done in terms of dealing with the pandemic? Some people back at the concert give an unequivocal thumbs down. And yet, for the first time in many months, they have the option of getting out. And that, by itself, is reason enough to dance with joy.

Rafael Romo, CNN -- Mexico City.


VAUSE: Several high ranking officials in North Korea have been fired by Kim Jong-un after a, quote, "grave incident related to COVID-19". State media reports Kim accused the officials of neglecting pandemic duties and creating a crisis for the country.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Taiwan, joins us for more on that live. Will, you are no stranger to North Korea. So from what you can tell and from your experience there, what's going on?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have no way to really know what's going on. It's all assumptions at this point because the North Korean state media report was perhaps deliberately vague about what crisis was triggered by this alleged negligence on the part of these officials that Kim Jong-un called ignorant, incompetent, and irresponsible.

We don't know if there was an outbreak of the virus inside the country or something else related to not following quarantine procedures. But I do know that COVID-19 is a matter of national security for North Korea because they have a medical infrastructure that is decades behind much of the rest of the world. They're just not equipped to handle a COVID-19 outbreak. And it could be catastrophic for that country of more than 25 million people.


RIPLEY: So if indeed there is a COVID crisis, and North Korea is now speaking publicly about it after saying for more than a year that they had avoided the virus by shutting down their borders, stopping trade with China which has just devastated their economy to the lowest level in decades in 2020 and 2021, not expected to be any better.

Then this could be a very significant public acknowledgment that North Korea now is dealing with a COVID-19 situation at a time that they reportedly had not received a single dose of foreign vaccines from COVAX and because they have claimed no cases, they have not been high in the priority list.

Maybe this is an effort to try to change that, John.

VAUSE: Ok. So that's one theory here. There's always a theory that this is some kind of shakeup, that there's, you know, leadership challenges that need to be purged, and the pandemic could be, you know, an excuse for that. Is that possible?

RIPLEY: It's absolutely possible. When Kim Jong-un uses such strong critical language when speaking about party officials, and then they are reportedly "fired".

Getting fired can mean many different things in North Korea. It could mean that they are sent to a reeducation camp. It could mean that they are sent to a firing squad.

All of those things can happen when there is considered to be a serious violation that puts the security of the nation and the security of Kim Jong-un's leadership in jeopardy.

And any sort of COVID-19 outbreak or crisis is a very big threat for Kim Jong-un because of the fact that his country is so vulnerable. But again, we have no way to know. And there are so few foreign diplomats in the country right now because of the border closures, food shortages and food crisis, storage of medical supplies.

Again we are just at this stage guessing until we hear more from North Korean state media.

VAUSE: Ok. We will keep watching. Will, thank you. Will Ripley, live in Taipei.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, former South African president Jacob Zuma has been given five days to report to his local police station.


VAUSE: America's longest ever war could be over much sooner than planned. A number of officials say the U.S. could finish withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in a matter of days.

That's well ahead of the September 11th deadline. We're told as many as a thousand U.S. troops may remain in Afghanistan to help with security at the U.S. embassy as well as at the airport in Kabul. This comes amid concerns over the security situation as military officials warn Afghanistan might just end up in a civil war once again.

The Pentagon says more than 30 rockets were fired at U.S. forces in Syria on Monday. U.S. officials say they're working under the assumption that Iranian-backed militias are responsible.

The attack, one of the largest barrage of rockets aimed at U.S. troops in the region in recent months. Officials say the rockets fired at the base near Deir Ezzor were a more powerful, longer range version of those more commonly used by the Iranian-backed militias.

There were no injuries among U.S. troops but the Pentagon says two buildings were damaged.

The rocket fire came about a day after the U.S. launched airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.


VAUSE: Well, in a landmark move in South Africa, the country's highest court has sent its former president Jacob Zuma to prison for contempt of court after he did not appear at an earlier corruption inquiry.

CNN's David McKenzie has details now reporting from Johannesburg.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a highly significant moment in South Africa's fight against alleged corruption.

This constitutional court ruling put out on Tuesday in which former president Jacob Zuma was found in contempt of the highest court in the land and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Now, this stems from him not showing up at a long running corruption commission where it is centered on the presidency of Zuma and the eye- watering (ph) allegations of graft during his time in power.

Now, throughout this legal process, Zuma and his supporters have said he's a victim of politics, have cast him a victim in fact. The court was having none of it.

JUSTICE SISI KHAMPEPE, SOUTH AFRICAN JUDGE: An act of defiance in respect of a direct judicial order has the potential to precipitate a constitutional crisis. If with impunity, litigants are allowed to decide which orders they wish to obey and which they wish to ignore, then our constitution is not worth the paper upon which it is written.

MCKENZIE: This is a key test of South Africa's constitutional order and the justices admitted as much in their ruling.

What happens next? Well, Zuma has to present himself at a police station either at his rural home in Nkandla or here in Johannesburg. The key question is what he does next? David McKenzie, CNN -- Johannesburg.


VAUSE: Well, England's chief medical officer has fallen victim to two clowns who thought harassment would be fun. Cell phone video shows the man grabbing and laughing at Chris Whitty near a London park. Strong criticism after appearing on social media on Monday.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted this. "I'm shocked at seeing the despicable harassment of chief medical officer Chris Whitty. I condemn the behavior of these thugs. Our hardworking public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it.

Whitty also faced verbal abuse earlier this year in another incident that was also caught on video. He's been instrumental in England's COVID response. The latest incident is now under investigation.

After the break, the curse broken. England's long drought against Germany comes to an end at the Euro 2020 tournament.


VAUSE: Well, Spain is now at the center of Europe's debate over LGBTQ rights. The Spanish government has approved a draft bill to allow anyone over 14 to legally change their gender without hormone therapy or psychological assessment.

Hundreds gathered in Madrid ahead of Tuesday's announcement to support the trans community. The bill next goes to a public hearing before lawmakers will pass a vote. The bill puts Spain on a very different path from Hungary which recently passed an anti LGBTQ law banning schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality. The new law has been met with protests and condemnation from E.U. leaders.


VAUSE: Ukraine has booked a ticket to the Euro 2020 quarterfinals with a two-one extra time win over Sweden. That sets up a showdown with England, finally broke their decades long curse against Germany.

CNN World Sport contributor Darren Lewis has the details.


DARREN LEWIS, CNN WORLD SPORT CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, the wait is over. England have ended their last big psychological hoodoo (ph)_ by beating the Germans. They've lost on four previous occasions stretching back to 1966 but goals from Rahim Sterling (ph) and Harry Kane (ph) have put them into the quarterfinal.

And also left a very, very joyous nation with the firm belief that they can go all the way in this European championship.

The German fans have been magnanimous in defeat. The English are now firmly of the belief that football is coming home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Elated, it's a great victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very sad day. But we will keep on going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just didn't look like losing. It was an amazing performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit devastated, to be honest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never thought I'd see such an emotional night as tonight. It's wonderful to have the fans back in the stadium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After this? Next time we win again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing. We beat Germany for once. For once we beat Germany. My wife, how did you feel about it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not going to sleep on the sofa tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you're sleeping in the garden.

LEWIS: Yes. The fans are optimistic but the England's head coach Gareth Southgate very keen to play down expectations. He wants his players to focus on just one match at a time.

Fortunately he has men within his ranks used to doing just that, which is why there are so many Champions League, Premier League and Europa League winners at his disposal.

And here's a stat for you. England have kept clean sheets in each of their opening four games at this European championship. The last time they did it at a major tournament they went on to win it in 1966.

Could this be another of those occasions?

Darren Lewis, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: The Cuban born screenwriter Delia Fiallo who is considered the mother of the Latin America soap opera has died. She was 96 years old.

A source close to the legendary writer told CNN she passed away early Tuesday morning. She was a prolific writer with more than radio- television works including as "Crystal" (ph) and "Esmeralda". Her novels were adapted throughout two continents spanning from United States to Argentina.

Well, thank you for watching this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. The news continues right here on CNN.

I will be back after a very short break. See you soon.