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Haiti Assassination Suspects Arrested; Biden Defends U.S. Withdrawal Despite Taliban Gains; COVID Overwhelms South Africa Hospital; Spectators Barred from Tokyo Events as COVID Cases Rise; Haiti: Two Men Claim to Be Country's Prime Minister; WeChat Deletes Dozens of LGBTQ & Feminist Accounts; Singapore Eyes Ring-Fencing Strategy as Variants Spread. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired July 9, 2021 - 01:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM:

Seventeen foreigners under arrest, and Haiti is on the hunt for more suspects involved in the assassination of the president.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have patients who are dying while they are waiting to be seen, while they are awaiting to get to the ward, because the resources are just overwhelmed by an onslaught of patients.


NEWTON: A senior doctor at a Johannesburg hospital reveals COVID devastating toll, in a CNN exclusive.

Plus, Joe Biden makes his case for pulling American troops out of Afghanistan, despite the ongoing violence in the country.


NEWTON: In Haiti, manhunts, a gun battle, and arrests after the presidents assassination. Haiti's police chief, saying there is 28 suspects, two of them Haitian American, and the vast majority, Colombian.

A little while ago, the Colombian government vowed to help get to the bottom of this.


DIEGO MOLANO, COLOMBIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We, the national government, our police, and our army, have given instructions for the immediate collaboration in the development of the investigation into the clarification of this act. The complete cooperation of our forces, with our fellow republic of Haiti.


NEWTON: At least 17 of the alleged attackers are in custody, and they were paraded out earlier. You see them there. But CNN hasn't spoken with them, or their lawyers. We're told security forces are hunting for eight others and seven suspects are dead.

Now, video posted online claims to show the intense shout-out between authorities and the attackers. But CNN cannot confirm whether these dramatic images you are about to see are authentic.


NEWTON: Now, we want to get more details on the suspects from Colombia.

Journalist Stefano Pozzebon has his report from Bogota. .


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: The Colombian defense ministry announced on Thursday that at least six retired members with the Colombian forces are believed to have been involved in the assassination of Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise. The Colombian national police chief, General Jorge Luis Vargas, said that two of the alleged attackers who were killed in an operation by the Haitian police were retired officers of the army, while four men believed to be involved in the assassination and more currently detained by the Haiti police had served as soldiers.

The announcement came shortly after Haiti police chief Leon Charles said that at least 26 Colombian citizens were involved in the assassination, as well as two Haitian Americans. The Haiti Police has said that they have conquered 17 members of the attack as of Thursday night while the investigations are still ongoing.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


NEWTON: In the meantime, Haiti is dealing with martial law, fear on the streets, and two men now claiming the mantle of leadership.

CNN's Melissa Bell explains.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Haiti is a country on the edge of crisis. The assassination of President Jovenel Moise has pushed the country from the peril of weak government to what is now a major power vacuum. Immediately following the president's death, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph assumed leadership. He announced a nationwide state of siege, declared martial law, and closed Haiti's borders, saying he did not want the country to plunge into chaos.

But some would argue the country is already chaos. The president of the Supreme Court would normally be next in line and become interim president but he recently died of COVDI-19.


Joseph was never confirmed by parliament which is, effectively, defunct. Not having been in session since last year.

On Monday, President Moise had appointed neurosurgeons Ariel Henry to replace Joseph, but Moise was killed before he could be sworn in. Now, Henry is also claiming to be Haiti's rightful prime minister, adding to the uncertainty, as if, or when, Haiti will hold elections.

A constitutional referendum postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic still has not taking place. But acting Prime Minister Joseph tells CNN he still plans to hold elections.

CLAUDE JOSEPH, ACTING PRIME MINISTER OF HAITI: I am not in command for a long time. The constitution is clear. I have to organize elections, and actually pass the power to someone else who is elected.

BELL: Haiti's political turmoil comes out of time of deepening economic and humanitarian woes, brought on partly by the coronavirus pandemic. COVID infections continue to rise and no vaccines are yet available.

Gang violence in recent weeks has displaced thousands of people, according to the United Nations. High inflation has fueled food insecurity, with 60 percent of the country living in poverty, according to the world bank.

AMY WILENTZ, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NATION: Haiti has been under siege for two years, at least, with total chaos, a lack of government, a lack of responsibility, a lack of force of order, kidnappings, murders. It's just been a crazy time for Haiti.

It's the latest chapter for a country with a turbulent history. The impoverished Caribbean nation faces a host of problems, two men claimed to be in power, yet it remains to be seen whether anyone has control.

Melissa Bell, CNN.


NEWTON: Now, earlier, I spoke with Ryan C. Berg, a senior fellow in the America's program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who says Moise's assassination is a tragic reminder of Haiti's unraveling democracy.


RYAN C. BERG, SENIOR FELLOW, AMERICAS PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The overall backdrop to the situation, of course, is a weak, fragile situation, weak democratic institutions, a Haiti that has been struggling for a long time to get on a sort of positive political trajectory. And, quite frankly, those institutions are not going to be a very much used in my opinion and being able to pick up the pieces from this really tragic situation.

NEWTON: You know, it will sound trite, I know, but do you think sometimes, we should say to ourselves, never waste a good crisis? Look, it is an embarrassment to all of us, frankly, that this country in the Western hemisphere, literally, so close to the shores of the United States, and we have seen in capable of helping them the way we should? Do you think this will allow for some kind of opening? So that there is some kind of transformative change there

BERG: Well, I think that's what we can all hope for, Paula, in the long run. But in the short run, I think the emphasis have to be on the security situation, on the day to day, as I note in the piece. One of the things that's been most troubling Haiti is actually the rise of a very predatory violent gangs in recent years, that have taken over entire neighborhoods within Port-au-Prince, the capital of the country. They control wide swath of territory.

So the vacuum of power here after the assassination of a sitting politically leader is of great concern, I think, to the overall direction of the country. So, that emphasis, in a short term as opposed to that transformation, which you talked about just happened in the long term, the emphasis in the short term should really be on the day to day maintenance of stability and security in the country.


NEWTON: And that was Ryan C. Berg there for us.

Now, to Afghanistan where Joe Biden says the decision to withdraw all U.S. troops is long overdue. But as NATO and American forces, the Taliban are gaining ground, prompting some to question the U.S. strategy.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden delivering an impassioned case to end America's longest war.

BIDEN: The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago.

ZELENY: The president vowing to remove all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of August, despite resurgent Taliban forces gaining territory, moving closer to Kabul.

BIDEN: For those who have argued that we should stay just six more months, or just one more year, I asked them to consider the lessons of recent history.

ZELENY: In a defensive and defiant appearance in the East Room of the White House, the president making good on a campaign promise and a long-held belief that Afghanistan must control its own destiny.


BIDEN: One more year fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution but a recipe for being there indefinitely. It is up to the Afghans to make the decision about the future of their country.

ZELENY: In his biggest decision yet as commander in chief, Biden insisted a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was not inevitable. He pointed to 300,000 Afghan troops trained and equipped by the U.S. that are in place to secure the country.

But he grew testy when asked whether he trusts the Taliban.

BIDEN: No, I do not trust the Taliban. It's a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No, but I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more -- more confident in terms of conducting war.

ZELENY: Biden is the fourth American president to contend with the intractable conflict of Afghanistan. He brushed aside criticism from what even some military leaders have suggested is a dangerously swift exit.

BIDEN: So, let me ask those who want us to stay, how many more? How many thousands more Americans daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay? Already, we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan, 20 years ago. Would you send their children and their grandchildren as well? Would you send your own son or daughter?

ZELENY: The president said he was committed to finding safe passage for thousands of Afghan interpreters, whose lives are in grave danger.

BIDEN: Our message to those women and men is clear: there is a home for you in the United States if you choose and we'll stand with you, just as you stood with us.

ZELENY: Biden who argued against the troop surge as vice president during the Obama administration spoke with an air of confidence, but with the somber tone at the cost of the long war.

BIDEN: No, there's no mission accomplished. The mission was accomplished in that we got Osama bin Laden and terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world.


ZELENY (on camera): President Biden did brush aside any criticism that these moves are being made hastily. He said this is something that he has thought about for a great deal of time. Of course, he's long been a critic of this war. And he said, the bottom line is, the U.S. has admitted to overriding

objectives, that was rooting out Osama bin Laden and crushing the al Qaeda terrorists that attacked the U.S. on 9/11. Of course, the next five weeks are critical before the full withdrawal on August 31st. Many decisions having to be made of a drone strikes, would they will be permitted, and how will the airport be protected?

But President Biden for his part, he said, quite frankly, this decision long overdue.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

NEWTON: Now, meantime, peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are underway right now in Qatar and CNN got a chance to speak with the women's rights activists whose part of the Afghan negotiating team.

Listen to what she had to say about President Biden's remarks.


FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN PEACE NEGOTIATOR: The people of Afghanistan knew that NATO soldiers would get out of Afghanistan one day. All we wanted was to achieve peace first, to achieve a political settlement, for all Afghans first. That's all we wanted. We didn't want to detain anyone, or keep anyone, in our country. No country wants to have another soldiers in their soil. It was out of necessity.

The whole thing was just because of Osama bin Laden? Tens of thousands of Afghan, staying every week, just because of that? It is very, very heartbreaking for me.

Look, I don't think ever any country, any nation will trust the Americans anymore. I'm trying to say, again, we didn't want to detain them. We wanted them to go, but all we wanted to achieve peace first.


NEWTON: Now, in the meantime, the head of the British armed forces is warning that Afghanistan could be on the brink of collapse without international troops there. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it all this country's troops assigned to the NATO mission are returning home. The defense ministry says that a small number will stay behind to protect diplomats.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I hope that no one will lead to the false conclusion that the withdrawal of our forces somehow means the end of Britain's commitment to Afghanistan. We are not about to turn away, nor are under any illusions about the perils of today's situation and what may lie ahead.


NEWTON: CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger, joins me now. He is also a White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times" and the author of the book "The Perfect Weapon".

Good to see you, David. Quite the defense, as you write, about the Afghanistan involvement. Biden's comments were blunt and he really tried to use them to blunt the criticism, right?


I'm curious as to your thought, especially since it seemed to be quite a bold acceptance of the fact of the last decade in the Afghanistan was a waste of time. And they weren't trying to nation-build.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It sure was. You know, over the years, we've seen many evolving objectives for the war in Afghanistan, Paula, and, you know, it started with ousting al Qaeda and Biden said that was a perfectly reasonable objective. It included going after bin Laden, but he was killed 10 years ago.

So, basically, at some point, in the course of the speech, President Biden said that this was long overdue and that we have achieved those objectives a long time, in fact, more than 10 years ago. So, he was suggesting that the last 10 years was just about nation-building, and was a waste of time. And at one point was so direct as to basically say, who here would send their sons or daughters into risk their lives for a vague objective where we won't accomplish anymore in the next year than we did in the previous one, and went back over all those times that he had called in the past for a much reduced presence.

NEWTON: And yet, perhaps, he feels he has more credibility on the issue because of all the times he had been to Afghanistan, and not to be too subtle about it, but being the father of a veteran, albeit, not -- I mean, it seemed to me that the passion with which he spoke would have been a bit curious to veterans from Afghanistan. What do you think?

SANGER: Yeah. You know, the thing about Joe Biden is that he is not usually an extraordinarily passionate speaker, right? You know, his superpower is that he sort of knows how to sound calm and sometimes even boring about issues of government policy, and that's quite deliberate in the post-Trump era.

But in this case, he has really deep felt views. He's made them known for a long time, back when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And then, as vice president. You remember than when President Obama did the Afghan-Pakistan review in 2009, Joe Biden was alone in saying that the force level should be shrunk. President Obama ended up actually doing the surge and then bringing the numbers down.

So, now, he finally has the authority, and the position, to get everyone out. The problem he is running into, Paula, is that he really has two messages here. A message for the Americans that we're getting and the message for the Afghans that we're always with you. And where that runs into trouble is when you ask him, as I did in the press conference last week and you heard it again today, what do you do if you believe that Kabul is going to fall, and that the Afghan government is going to get wiped up by the Taliban? And he doesn't have a ready answer for that question, other than to say, it's up to the Afghans.

NEWTON: Yeah, and other than to say, it's not going to be like Vietnam, we won't be taking Americans off the rooftop. That was a bit of a shocking statement, I found, as well.

David Sanger, we're going to have to leave it there. Appreciate your time.

SANGER: Thank you.

NEWTON: South Africa's hospitals struggled to keep up with the fast growing delta COVID variant. Still ahead, an exclusive report about grim conditions on the front lines of that battle.

And a little later, how a new COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo could make for a surreal site at the Olympics, athletes competing with almost no one in the stands.



NEWTON: Surging coronavirus numbers are causing Seoul, South Korea, to raise distancing measures to its highest level. Beginning on Monday, private gatherings of more than two people would be allowed after 6:00 p.m. Most public events will be banned, and weddings and funerals may only be attended by close family members.

Now, South Korean officials say the delta variant could become the dominant strain there by August.

And Sidney, Australia, is also tightening measures as the delta variant spreads there. People must now shop for essential alones and cannot travel more than 10 kilometers from their home unless absolutely necessary.

Now to a concerning development from Pfizer about the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine. Now, the company says it's ramping up efforts for a booster dose after seeing waning immunity for its shot. It says a third dose could be beneficial within six to 12 months after the second.

But CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, says the vaccine is still incredibly effective in critical areas. Take a listen.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: But I would like to stress is that what Pfizer has said is that the efficacy of their vaccine, for preventing serious illness, and death, still remains extraordinarily high. I think a lot of their recent push for a booster, comes out of the recent Israeli data suggesting that the efficacy for preventing asymptomatic, or symptomatic infection, had dropped to about 64 percent. But I'll say there's other data that also had recently come out of the United Kingdom where the efficacy was 88 percent, Scotland, 79 percent, Canada, 87 percent.

So, while the efficacy against infection seems to be lower than the original wild type, which was 95 percent of the original clinical trial, you know, the -- I think, Pfizer really is reacting to this real world Israeli data, but again, that showed an efficacy of about 93 percent for preventing serious illness. Most of us have thought, at some point, we would need boosters. And now, Pfizer is moving towards that. They're going to submit an EUA in August for that, not a big surprise, and this really shouldn't cause the markets to crash.


NEWTON: As Dr. Reiner mentioned there, Pfizer announced Thursday it will soon seek emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that booster shot. But just hours later, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint statement saying vaccinated Americans do not need a booster, at least not right now.

Pfizer's announcement came as the virus spreads a record pace in Africa, the continent saw more than a quarter million new cases during the week that ended this past Sunday. That's a 20 percent increase over the week before.

And according to the WHO, last week was the worst one for Africa since the pandemic began. Concerns are now growing about the delta variant, which is present in at least 10 African countries. So, the WHO says things will likely get much worse before they get better.


DR. MATSHIDISO MOETI, AFRICA DIRECTOR, W.H.O.: For the Africa, the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed, and new ground in countries. The challenge is that as this variant spreads to more and more countries geographically, they will also take off in terms of the speed of the increase, in the number of cases. I think we are in for some weeks of a very difficult situation, offering an increase in the number of cases, and a third wave which by now has already overtaken what we saw previously in the region.


NEWTON: Now, take a look at this map. It explains one important reason why Africa isn't such a tough spot. The countries in green like Canada and much of Europe have secured enough vaccines to inoculate each person, at least four times over.


But those in red, including all of Africa, I think, at this point, you can vaccinate only a fraction of their populations.

Some impacts of the delta variant have a largely hidden from view in South Africa. But CNN has obtained exclusive access to video from inside a hospital in Johannesburg and spoke to its employees.

And as David McKenzie reports, some hospitals have been pushed to their breaking point.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They hoped it would be better, hoped that COVID-19 had done its worst. But 16 months in, and Mohammed Patel and his paramedic team are in a new more dangerous fight.

What has the Delta variant done to COVID-19 here?

MOHAMMED PATEL, PARAMEDIC: It has caused a lot of chaos. There's a whole lot of patients that are suffering. Their oxygen levels are dropping drastically daily.

MCKENZIE: South African scientists tracking Delta saw it dominate new infections in just weeks. Patel takes us into a home south of the city.

PATEL: Hello, good morning.

MCKENZIE: Where Delta is tearing through families, ripping through the country's largely unvaccinated population. Less than 1 percent of South Africans have been fully vaccinated.

The 67-year-old patient has critically low oxygen levels.

PATEL: We're going to get you through, OK? There's patients that are suffering at home because they aren't able to get hospital beds. There is no spaces in hospital. There's no ventilators available. It's completely a chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third wave has really been far more devastating and far more overwhelming.

MCKENZIE: For months now, CNN has requested access to hospitals, but we were denied. So the true impact of this brutal Delta wave has been largely hidden from view. But CNN obtained this disturbing video from the emergency room at a Johannesburg hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patients are waiting on stretchers. They're in cubicles. Doctors are overwhelmed. Nurses are overwhelmed.

MCKENZIE: Not enough beds, and what does that result in, in these waiting areas of the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- it's chaos.

MCKENZIE: The senior doctor wanted to speak out, reveal what they call war zone-like conditions. We agreed to hide their identity because they were afraid of reprisals from the government. In recent days, they said the bodies couldn't be wrapped fast enough to make space for the sick. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are patients who are dying while they're awaiting to be seen, while they're awaiting to go to the ward because the resources are just being overwhelmed by the onslaught of patients.

MCKENZIE: How does that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sense of helplessness, but then also almost a blunting, a desensitization that we're doing everything we can, but it's still not enough.

MCKENZIE: Patel's team is often diverted from hospitals with critically ill patients. They search for hours to find a bed. So a charity called gift of the givers constructed this 20-bed field clinic staffed with volunteer doctors and nurses in less than five days.

Every single bed could give a sick patient a chance.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


NEWTON: Now, doctors who spoke to stressed that some patients arrive at hospitals too sick to be helped, even when there are plenty of beds. We asked the South African Department of Health about the conditions inside of the hospital, but they didn't answer our specific questions.

They sent us presentations that, they say, show their new strategy for increasing the number of hospital beds. Now, scientists say the best protection against the delta variant is, in fact, widespread vaccinations. And after a slow start, South Africa is finally ramping up its efforts.

Now, with just two weeks to go, organizers are telling thousands of fans to stay home. Coming up, we'll break down the new ban on spectators. A live report from Tokyo, that's straight ahead. Plus, we hear one of the men who claims to be the new president of Haiti, after the president's assassination.


[01:31 41]

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: The Olympic Games are set to kick off in Japan just two weeks from now. But this year many stands will be empty as fans will not be allowed to attend events held in Tokyo and three nearby prefectures. Organizers say they have no choice but to hold the games in a limited way.

The decision came after Japan's prime minister declared a fourth state of emergency in the capital due to a spike in COVID cases.

For more, CNN's Will Ripley joins me now live from Tokyo. And Will, you know, you were in Japan at the beginning of this pandemic. And it is really so interesting to see after all the guessing games that we have gone through that we are still in the middle of this pandemic. And the Olympics you reported on so often now will be held without fans.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And yet there are still a lot of people who are coming here to Tokyo in the coming days and weeks, Paula. You're talking about athletes from hundreds of countries and their respective trainers, delegations. You have foreign dignitaries. You have Olympic committee members all converging on the Japanese capital.

And we wanted to document what the process is like for people coming from other countries. Countries in some cases with active cases of the Delta variant. How is Japan trying to keep all of this mix of people safe?


RIPLEY (voice over): The first thing people ask when I say I'm going to the Summer Olympics: is that still happening? The second thing they ask: is it safe?

My team and I are traveling to Tokyo to find out. Our journey begins four days before we fly. Two tests for COVID-19 -- 96 and 72 hours before departure.

(on camera): Already there has been tons of paperwork to fill out. Lines to wait in just to get to this point.

(voice over): We can only go to testing centers approved by the Japanese government.

(on camera): This is by far the most documentation I've needed just to get on a flight.

(voice over): Processing my pile of paperwork takes nearly an hour at the airport.

(on camera): This is the moment of truth. They're checking my documents. I think I've prepared them correctly. They have now brought in a man Ino Yukata (ph).


(voice over): He tells me I need to download an app. Fill out an online health questionnaire.

(on camera): I have never been more grateful to get a boarding pass.

(voice over): Only a few dozen passengers on my trip from Taipei to Tokyo, many airlines are canceling empty flights or suspending service altogether.

Athletes from Fiji have to fly on a cargo plane that usually hauls frozen fish. I'm just grateful to have a window seat.

This is my first trip back to Japan since the start of the pandemic. Tokyo's Haneda Airport eerily quiet.

(on camera): As you can see I don't have much company.

(voice over): A handful of passengers, a small army of health workers poring over my paperwork, scanning my QR code, ordering me to spit in a cup.

(on camera): So gross.

(voice over): The first of many daily COVID tests.

Social distancing? Not a problem, as I wait for my results.

(on camera): Negative.


RIPLEY (voice over): Being here for the Olympics feels surreal and sad. Japan invested billions to host the games, banking on a tourism boom. This is not what anyone had in mind.

The pandemic makes you appreciate life's little victories like the moment I get my Olympic credentials.

(on camera): Wow. There it is. It's official.

(voice over): I clear customs and see an old friend. Our longtime Tokyo euro driver, Mr. Okano.

(on camera): Mr. Okano was the very first face I met in Tokyo.

(voice over): As we leave the airport and head to the hotel, it finally feels real. We made it to Japan.

The process? Surprisingly smooth overall. Even as the Japanese capital fights a fresh surge in COVID cases.


And on Monday, Tokyo's fourth state of emergency since the start of the pandemic goes into effect. Restaurants won't be serving alcohol. These stands will be empty at the Olympic aside for a handful VIPs and then the challenge begins.

They've screened everybody as we've come in, but is it going to be safe to hold the games at all with athletes? Maybe the daily testing will be enough, maybe it won't. And we just don't know what's going to happen here, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, especially with that Delta variant now spreading around the globe. I hadn't realized this was your first time back since the start of that pandemic.

And we'll certainly all of us be keeping an eye on those COVID numbers. Hopefully they will be well enough that we can also pay attention to what's going on in the games. Will, a fastening package there. Appreciate you bringing it to us.

And for more on this, we are joined by World Sport's Patrick Snell.

What is this going to be like, Patrick, do you think for the athletes themselves? I mean this is a difficult Olympics and I know that in speaking to many athletes for the last year, really ever since the Olympics were formally canceled, that a lot of them have ambivalence about going to games when Tokyo and Japan might be struggling with COVID patients.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Yes. And you do wonder, Paula, you're spot on. You do wonder about the mindset as well, the mental health aspect to this all.

It really is going to be fascinating to see how this all plays out. You know, what's it going to be like for the TV viewers as well watching back home? You know, are we going to get things like fan video awards or enhanced audio sound like we saw for example during last year's U.S. tennis open in New York City when they would actually interview family members or players, you know, to enhance the experience as well?

But you know, Paula, athletes need fans to be energized. There's no question about that. I have this belief that they really do raise their levels of performance. It's adrenaline that really does drive them to new heights.

It's going to be fascinating to see how this unfolds. But you know, they will have been mentally prepared for this because they knew this was on the cards. They knew this was coming. So that will have been factored in to their preparations. There's no question about that.

But I want to tap in to what athletes have been reacting to this because this is news -- this development about no fans at all has swayed the decision of some, and one in particular, about actually going to Tokyo.

I want to tap into a tweet from the Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios. Listen to what he had to say. "Hey guys, I just want to let you know that I've decided to withdraw from the Olympics. It's a decision I didn't make lightly. It's been my dream to represent Australia at the Olympics. And I know I may never get the opportunity again. But I also know myself. The thought of playing in front of an empty stadium just doesn't sit right with me. It never has. I also wouldn't want to take an opportunity away from a healthy Aussie athlete ready to represent the country. I will also take all the time I need to get my body right. Good luck to all the Aussies competing and I will see you back on the court real soon."

Now Kyrgios coming back from injury, hopefully. But you know, that's a situation it's fascinating we're staying across it every step of the way, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes. The other day though, you brought us those images from Britain principally. We had all those people in the stands at Wimbledon. Tens of thousands of people at Wembley for the Euro 2020. I mean the split screen is not to be believed, really. SNELL: Yes, I mean, just a stark contrast, isn't it? We've got these

huge sporting occasions coming up on this weekend. We've got today, Friday -- we've got the men's semifinals at Wimbledon. Saturday we've got the women's final at the all England club.

But Wimbledon, you know, we are going to be seeing, they are up to capacity there on the famed center court. Some 15,000 fans are going to be inside for the entertainment and the wonderful tennis I'm sure they're going to see on center court there in SW19. And they went up to capacity for the quarterfinals onwards at the all England club.

And then you look at the Euro 2020 final on Sunday between England, the three Lions and Italy.


SNELL: This past week we've had two semifinals at Wembley Stadium, the national stadium there in England, with around 60,000 fans inside for the semifinals onward.

You know, that's got to be a concern as well because you look at the potential spike in COVID cases after that, something to be keeping a close eye on as well. It's a huge weekend ahead. But it might not be without ramifications, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes. And we'll see, especially since Britain does have COVID cases on the rise right now.

Patrick, thanks for the update. Appreciate that.

And now Haitian authorities are rounding up suspects after the brazen assassination of their president. We will have the latest on the investigation.


NEWTON: The investigation into the assassination of Haiti's president is intensifying. Police say 17 of the more than two dozen suspects are now in custody. Most of the alleged attackers they say are Colombian and two are actually Haitian-American.

CNN has not been able to speak with them or their lawyers. Both the Colombian and U.S. governments are pledging cooperation.

Now, this video posted online claims to show a shoot out between police and the attackers. But CNN cannot confirm its authenticity. We are told some of the suspects were killed in a gun battle. Two days after the murder of President Jovenel Moise, the motive is still a mystery and Haiti remains under a form of martial law.

Now two men are claiming to be Haiti's prime minister and in charge. One of them Ariel Henry was named just before President Jovenel Moise was assassinated, but hadn't actually been sworn in.

CNN's Eleni Giokos spoke with the man who was in that office and is now in an acting role. He has assumed power for now and that is interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph. Take a listen.


CLAUDE JOSEPH, HAITIAN ACTING PRIME MINISTER: I was a longtime member of President Moise's cabinet. And then his prime minister at interim. Actually yes, a new prime minister was appointed but never -- actually had never sworn in. And I was the acting prime minister.

And this tragedy happened. I had to actually act. I had to work with all the ministers to ensure security in the country. and this is exactly what I'm doing now.

Everyone is working together right now. All Haitians -- regardless of where you stand politically; regardless of where you stand ideologically. So we need to work together to right (ph) justice to the Haitian president, President Jovenel Moise, who was strongly committed to democracy, to the people, to the well-being of the Haitian people.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST: Mr. Prime Minister are you going to be calling for elections soon? Right now you only have 10 senators out of the 30 that are officially elected. We are talking about a power vacuum right now.

So how do you plan to deal with it and do you have plans to stay on?

JOSEPH: I'm going to -- I'm going to continue with the process. We have election calendar.

We have council (INAUDIBLE) -- as you call in France and Haiti -- so electoral council that is working on getting some political parties to actually have them in elections.

So I'm currently working with the electoral council. So we need to continue with the process. We cannot stop because this is what Jovenel Moise started.

But also, we are talking to members of the opposition. We believe that together we can accomplish great things.

GIOKOS: So Mr. Prime Minister, you know, you say that President Moise was an advocate for democracy and fought for the people. But I guess the bigger question has always been, why was he dragging his feet in terms of elections? Because that is one of the criticisms of his presidency.

JOSEPH: Listen, he -- Jovenel Moise found this -- he tried his utmost to have elections, to hold elections. But it's not only his responsibility. We have -- this is one of branch of the power. We are also all branches that had to do their own work. And they failed to do their own work.

But this is not a time to blame anyone. This is a time to actually reconcile the nation with itself and this is exactly what I'm trying to do.

Let's move the country forward, regardless of your position, regardless of your wealth, regardless of your political parties. Let's work together.

And we have to hold elections. This is what our democracy asks to actually elect our leaders. This is what we need to do.


NEWTON: That was Haiti's Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaking with CNN's Eleni Giokos.

Now, outrage in China, several LGBTQ and feminist groups are calling out a popular app for believing their social media accounts earlier this week.

CNN's David Culver has the story.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A sweeping crackdown on China's popular social media and messaging app WeChat. The target? LGBTQ and feminist college groups.

Dozens of organizations say their public pages were banned Tuesday, now labeled as "untitled accounts". An outcry online from some of those impacted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I living in 2021?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm LGBT. I just want to know whom have I bothered for just living my life?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am shaking. Why did they do this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody is free until everybody is free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll be lying if I said I wasn't sad.

CULVER: CNN connected with one LGBTQ group member from a Beijing university, whose organization's WeChat page got banned -- all it's past content erased.

CATHY, LGBTQ GROUP MEMBER IN CHINA: In recent years, our goal is to simply survive, to continue to be able to serve LGBT students and provide them with work. We basically don't engage in any radical advocating anymore.

CULVER: She asked we call her Cathy and not use her real name, fearful of facing retaliation for adding her voice to this story.

Online, a nationalistic narrative and backlash already surfacing, some basically claiming that the groups pages got shut down because they were infiltrated by foreign forces. CATHY: The LGBT community has long existed in China not because of any

influence from so-called foreign forces. It's completely ridiculous. Just saying that do not understand that LGBT community as all. They have no intention to know about it.

CULVER: Publicly, China has portrayed a tolerant image of LGBTQ rights, expressing to the United Nations an opposition to discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

But at home, a different story.

DARIUS LONGARINO, SENIOR FELLOW, PAUL TSAI CHINA CENTER, YALE LAW SCHOOL: What we have instead is an increasing tightening of this space for the LGBT community and LGBT advocates.

CULVER: CNN has reported on China's crackdown on LGBTQ rights in recent years -- from censoring gay content, seen as abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors on streaming platforms and TV shows to bringing an abrupt end last year to the longest running annual celebration of sexual minorities, Shanghai Pride.


CULVER: And now a closing of this social safe space in China's cyberspace.

LONGARINO: It's sad to see them de-platformed in that way because they often can be a real lifeline to other LGBT students.

CULVER: WeChat sent this message to those pages shut down. After receiving relevant complaints all content has been blocked and the account has been put out of service. But those impacted wanted more clarity on the exact violation.

CNN reached out to Tencent, WeChat's parent company, we have not yet heard back. Cathy still hopeful her organization's work can find a new way to reach young people.

CATHY: I think the future LGBT movement in colleges is very important. Many people may suffer depression because of their gender identity confusion. So I always think to educate a multigender identities in college is important.

CULVER (on camera): While some sex marriage is not legal in China there are no laws against homosexuality here. In 2001, Chinese authorities removed it from the official list of mental disorders. But experts and activists say LGBTQ people still face persistent discrimination, and prejudice is here.

It's yet another possible human rights-related issue that will haunt China as they work to improve their international image, and host another Olympics next year.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


NEWTON: Now, while some countries are bringing back restrictions because of the Delta variant, Singapore is looking to get rid of lockdowns and become a model for the rest of the world.

You will see why with Singapore's minister for trade and industry, next.


NEWTON: It's been almost 16 months since the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. And now many countries are carrying on with plans to try and return to some kind of normal.

Now, England is supposed to lift most of its restrictions in less than two weeks. For starters, restaurants and pubs should have near normal service again. But that will have to be confirmed on July 12th depending on what the data looks like.

Nightclubs in France meantime will reopen Friday night. It's the first time since the pandemic took hold in Europe.

And New York which at one point was reporting more cases per day than some countries, is about to shut down three mass vaccination sites. Officials say it's because more than 68 percent of adults in New York City now have at least one shot.

Singapore is in the process of drawing a new roadmap for its new normal. Officials say COVID-19 may never go away so they're trying to focus on ways to prevent large clusters from forming, instead of aiming for zero cases. Here's what's Singapore's minister for trade and industry Gah Kim Yong told me a short time ago.


GAN KIM YONG, SINGAPORE MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY: From Singapore's perspective, I think vaccination will play a very important role in our opening up of the economy and restoring many of the community activities.

Vaccines we know may not provide 100 percent protection. Our data also shows that Pfizer vaccine provides about 65 to 70 percent of protection against infection.

But the vaccine is very effective to protect for protection against severe diseases and mortality. And that is what we are going after. Because we do want to keep our people safe, even if they are infected, it's important for us to prevent them from getting seriously ill or in worst-case dying.


GAN: So I think if the vaccine is able to protect our people against serious disease or mortality that will go a long way in providing a protective cover (ph) for our population.

NEWTON: Ok. But what --

GAN: And progress in our vaccination program as well.

NEWTON: Ok. But what does that mean? Does that mean you'll be mandating vaccines in first instance and then what does it mean for things like testing, quarantining? And in terms of the kinds of vaccines that you believe you are going to sanction which ones can you use?

GAN: So far we are focusing on Pfizer and Moderna. These are the two key vaccines that have been approved. We are deploying them in the whole of Singapore.

To date we have already provided for the first dose to about -- more than two-thirds of our population. And we hope to be able to provide the second dose for the two-thirds of our population by 9th of August which is happen to be our national day.

And our aim is really to complete two-dose vaccination for up to 75 percent of our population by the end of September or early October.

Again, this will provide a very important protection for our population. But we will continue with our testing and our contact tracing and to also be very targeted in our isolation strategy to prevent an outbreak of big clusters.

As you mentioned I think we will not be able to bring the cases to zero because we just have to learn to live with COVID-19 but we must do what we can to prevent a major outbreak of gigantic clusters which would then lead to stretch our health care system as well as high mortality rates and serious outcomes.

I think that's our strategy going forward in dealing with COVID-19 in Singapore.

NEWTON: This virus though in its progression has been so unpredictable. I don't have a lot of time left but you do appreciate the debate, right that people are wondering what does normal look like?

Does that mean that you would be willing to put up with a certain amount of infection even hospitalizations to make sure that the economy just goes forward after so long?

GAN: Absolutely. Because we have come to the conclusion the we have to strike a very careful balance between saving lives as well as preserving livelihood. So we want to make sure that we have sufficient protective cover for the population, to minimize severe outcomes. But at the same time to allow the economy to be restored. Economic activities to proceed and to continue to reestablish connections with the rest of the world.

I think these are our strategies going forward.

NEWTON: Gan Kim Yong, Singapore's trade minister, I appreciate you giving us your perspective there on exactly how you intend to go forward with the economy. Appreciate your time.

GAN: Thank you very much.


NEWTON: And I am Paula Newton.

Michael Holmes will be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.