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Pfizer Pushing for a Third Booster; Hard Headed People Putting Everyone at Risk; Haitian Authorities Arrest Suspects in Moise's Assassination; Pulling U.S. Troops is the Right Move; Afghan Interpreter Fear for His Life; Africa Suffers Worst Week Since Outbreak Began; South Africa's Health System Pushed To The Breaking Point; Sydney Toughens Lockdown As Delta Variant Spreads; Seoul To Raise Distancing Measures To Highest Level; Tokyo Olympics Spectators Barred From Events; Florida Condo Recovery Mission; Texas Republican Push For Voting Restriction Bill; New BTS Permission To Dance Single; Naomi Osaka Speaks Out In Time Magazine Op-Ed. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 9, 2021 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, Pfizer says it is seeing waning immunity from its COVID-19 vaccine. We'll tell you what it's seeking and why two key U.S. federal agencies don't seem to agree.

Plus, a fragile nation on edge after its president is assassinated inside his own home. We'll have new details on the suspects.

And it's up to them. President Biden's stern message to Afghanistan as he faces increasing criticism about the speed of America's exit.

Welcome, everyone.

COVID-19 fears ramping up all over again as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads across the United States and abroad. The World Health Organization says the variant has now been detected in 100 countries. And in the U.S., it now accounts for more than half of all new infections. That could be because the nation is still far from reaching herd immunity with less than half of the population fully vaccinated.

And on top of all of that, Pfizer now saying it is seeing waning community from its COVID-19 vaccine. The company tells CNN it will seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a booster shot. But on Thursday, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unusual joint statement saying Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot right now. Meanwhile, there's growing concern that low vaccination rates across

the U.S. could potentially wipe out much of the progress the nation has made in fighting the virus.

CNN's Athena Jones with the latest.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): America's COVID-19 crisis isn't over. Infection rates rising in almost half the states, driven in part by the more contagious Delta variant. Low vaccination rates putting the country's progress fighting the virus at risk.

LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: The more unvaccinated people there are, the longer this pandemic is going to be. This is not just about the individual. This is about our society.

JONES: A Georgetown University analysis showing five clusters of counties with low vaccination rates and significant population sizes, stretching from Georgia to Texas to Missouri. Places that could become breeding grounds for more deadly COVID variants.

JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST & VIRAL RESEARCHER: A stronger mutation will surface, and it will become predominant unless we get vaccinated.

JONES: New cases jumping more than 50 percent week over week in Louisiana where just 35 percent are fully vaccinated, and Tennessee, where it's about 38 percent.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Simply put, in areas of low vaccination coverage, hospitalizations are up.

JONES: With less than half the population fully vaccinated nationwide, the White House ramping up outreach to pediatricians, at workplaces and on school campuses.

JEFF ZIENTS, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE: Our job is to keep doing all we can to reach Americans where they are, to answer their questions, and to make it as easy as possible for them to get a shot as soon as they are ready.

JONES: And efforts to have doctors and religious and community leaders going door to door to answer questions for the vaccine hesitant.

ZIENTS: For those individuals or organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives, and help end this pandemic. JONES: Data show that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines

are effective, including against the Delta variant, which now accounts for more than half of all new cases.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Please get vaccinated. It will protect you against the surging of the Delta variant.

JONES: In Maryland, every person who died of COVID in June was unvaccinated. And as entertainers like the rapper Juvenile try to appeal to young people, experts are hoping full approval for vaccines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will encourage more people to get the shot.

Right now, the shots only have emergency use authorization. Meanwhile, mask mandates are back in California's state capital after an outbreak of cases among COVID employees as COVID fears ramp up all over again.



JONES (on camera): With this more transmissible Delta variant spreading rapidly around the country, some experts say it may be important to start testing even vaccinated people to make sure this variant isn't evading the vaccines. In fact, Pfizer said Thursday it's seeing waning immunity from its COVID vaccine and is picking up its efforts to develop booster shots to help protect people from the variants.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

HOLMES: California is set to require that all public schools offer a remote learning operation for students this fall. That's thanks to a bill passed Thursday in order to accommodate students and parents still hesitant about returning to the classroom. The measure will apply to this upcoming school year only.

Now, a concerning new study shows the Delta variant may be resistant to some monoclonal antibodies. Dr. Murtaza Akhter is an emergency physician at Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He joins me now live from Miami.

Doctor, good to see you, and thanks so much.

What do you make of this study that was published in the journal Nature? It shows the virus variants can evade these monoclonal antibodies and also that one dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is way less effective than two doses. What does all that tell you?

MURTAZA AKHTER, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, VALLEYWISE HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER: Yes, no, I think it's a fascinating basic science study that honestly actually jives with what we're seeing clinically. Well, monoclonal antibodies were fine. But really what's important at beating this disease is vaccination. And so, this study suggested that one dose isn't nearly as effective

as two. But the full vaccination dose requires two doses. You know what's even worse than one or two doses of vaccine is natural infection and the immunity that that presumable provides. So, vaccination is just definitely the better route to go, better than natural immunity, better than one dose. Two full doses provide quite a bit of protection.

HOLMES: And to that point, I mean, half of the U.S. is not fully vaccinated. I mean, the problem is that the unvaccinated seem to be clustered primarily in Republican states and areas, and more than 80 percent of unvaccinated Republicans do not trust the federal government on COVID. Speak to the problem of vaccinations being a political rather than health decision apparently for so many people and how to fix that.

AKHTER: Yes. I don't know how the world came to this. I mean, I wouldn't ever have an accountant take out an appendix. They do great accounting, but I don't think anybody would want an operation from them. I don't know why people think they should get their medical management advice from politicians rather than physicians. It didn't used to be that way just a few years ago.

Clearly, things have changed a lot. Everybody supposedly has become an expert. Listen, we don't make any money off of giving any information. We're just trying to help people. That's our job. When public health experts and physicians say that vaccination is the best treatment, it really is.

If you're a hermit in one of those red states, that's fine. But clearly, people aren't hermits. They're interacting with each other, and that's why we're seeing the virus spread so rapidly. It is among the unvaccinated. Those are the people I see in the hospital.

HOLMES: And, you know, people can't just look at those clusters and say, well, that's them. I'm vaccinated, right? I mean, the unvaccinated, as one doctor put it, are factories for variants, which could put even the vaccinated at risk, right?

AKHTER: I mean that's right. We're all in this together as you can see based on what's happening globally, what with the Olympics and all sorts of events, is that when people aren't vaccinated, variants spread. And right now, the vaccinated have a decent amount of protection. But we shouldn't be taking a dominos approach to this.

Clearly, the more unvaccinated people that remain, the more variants that will be created. That will lead to more misery for everyone.

HOLMES: It's interesting that Pfizer know talking about this booster dose to protect against variants. Do you see down the line COVID shots being like flu shots in the future, as sort of an annual event?

AKHTER: Well, it is a possibility. I do know this. The coronavirus will be back. Whether it will be this much of a pandemic or not is of course yet to be told. Do I think it will be as common as the flu? As of now, probably not. But, again, this is -- these are -- these are new grounds. Nobody really knows the answer to that.

Currently, the CDC and the FDA say that the two shots are sufficient protection, and indeed that seems to be the case. Will that continue to be the case for COVID-19 remains to be determined, and in particular, will there be COVIDs that aren't COVID-19 but COVID-22, for example. That also is yet to be determined.

HOLMES: Great analysis. Good to see you, doctor. Dr. Murtaza Akhter, thanks so much.

AKHTER: Thank you for having me. Stay safe.

HOLMES: Now, in Haiti, manhunts, arrests, and a gun battle after the president's assassination.


This video posted online claims to show a shoot-out between security forces and the attackers. CNN cannot confirm its authenticity. Haiti's police chief tells Reuters that three suspects have been killed in all. At least 17 of the 28 alleged attackers are in custody and were paraded out earlier. You see them there.

CNN has not spoken with them nor their lawyers. Most of the suspects are Colombian. Two are Haitian-American.

Meanwhile, Haiti remains under a state of siege as people demand answers.

CNN's Matt Rivers reports from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a very ongoing investigation here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we recently got some new information from Haitian authorities about just who they believe are involved in this assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Interestingly, a lot of the suspects identified by authorities are foreign nationals.


RIVERS (voice over): Arrests on the street of Port-au-Prince Thursday after an army police operation against heavily armed mercenaries. Mercenaries that authorities say are responsible for the brazen assassination of Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise, early Wednesday.

Haitian police say they have detained at least 15 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans suspected to have been involved in the attack. Police say the men who posed as U.S. DEA agents to gain entry to the private presidential residence included foreign nationals.

UNKNOWN: DEA operation. Everybody, stand down.

RIVERS: This audio circulating on social media purported to be of the time of the assassination, with men shouting they are Drug Enforcement agents in English, but the audio cannot be authenticated by CNN. Police seeming to acknowledge the rising tide of anger in the wake of the attack are urging citizens not to take the law into their own hands.

LEON CHARLES, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL POLICE (through translator): We have the obligation to protect the people we have caught. We cannot practice self-justice.

RIVERS: Still, many in the Haitian capital are asking just how such a bold attack could have been allowed to happen.

UNKNOWN: Where did it come from? What country sent them? Who brought them over there? How the guns got transferred here? How do they got all these ammos?

RIVERS: In an interview with CNN, Haiti's acting prime minister did allude to the context surrounding the assassination but stopped short of outlining a motive.

CLAUDE JOSEPH, ACTING HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: We all know that President Moise was really committed to some -- I will say some actions against the oligarchs in Haiti. So, we know that in the last days, he spoke about the consequences that those actions can have on his own life.

RIVERS: Already a nation rife with political instability, gang violence, and a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, fears from neighboring nations that the presidential assassination may push Haiti over the edge. But Haiti's interim prime minister insists that upcoming elections will still take place despite the nation's upheaval.

JOSEPH: The Constitution is clear. I have to organize elections and actually pass the power to someone else who is elected.

RIVERS: But with so much uncertainty in the wake of a coordinated hit on the president and so many questions left to be answered about just who is responsible, whether or not Haitian officials can keep the nation on track for a peaceful transfer of power remains an open question.


RIVERS (on camera): And of course, there remains a ton of political instability right now here in Haiti. And you have to think that what happens over the next few days here in Port-au-Prince, in the country overall, will not only have a big impact in the short term here in Haiti, but could also have a huge impact on long-term implications for this country as well.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

HOLMES: Just ahead on the program, defending the withdrawal. Joe Biden explains why he thinks the decision to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is long overdue. We'll be right back.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES (on camera): Welcome back. U.S. President Joe Biden is defending his decision to pull all U.S. forces from Afghanistan despite military gains by the Taliban. According to the Long War Journal, which reports on the war on terror, the Taliban control 204 out of 407 districts in the country while the government controls just 74. The journal reports 120 districts, those in red there on that map, are contested. CNN has not independently confirmed those details.

Our Kaitlan Collins now with more from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the Taliban surging as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, President Biden is vowing to press ahead.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The military in mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st.

COLLINS: Biden defending his decision to withdraw and saying he had no other option after his predecessor struck a deal with the Taliban to pull troops out by May.

BIDEN: That's what I inherited. Once that agreement with the Taliban had been made, staying with the bare minimum force was no longer possible.

COLLINS: Reports of violence on the ground are growing more dire by the day as the Taliban gains more territory.

BIDEN: I made the decision with clear eyes. I'm briefed daily on the battlefield updates. But for those who have argued that we should stay just six more months or just one more year, I ask them to consider the lessons of recent history.

COLLINS: The president arguing that America's longest war could not be won militarily as was proven by his predecessors.

BIDEN: We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.

COLLINS: It's one of the most significant decisions of his presidency and a drawdown he advocated for long before becoming commander in chief. Biden making clear he doesn't view this as a mission- accomplished moment.


BIDEN: There's no mission accomplished.

COLLINS: The president also telling reporters that the decision to withdraw was the right one and long overdue.

Given the amount of money that has been spent and the number of lives that have been lost, in your view with making this decision, were the last 20 years worth it? BIDEN: You know my record. I can tell by the way you asked the

question. I opposed permanently having American forces in Afghanistan. No nation has ever unified Afghanistan. No nation. Empires have gone there and not done it.

COLLINS: Biden also promising to evacuate thousands of Afghan nationals now targeted by the Taliban for working closely alongside U.S. troops.

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

COLLINS: But it's still not clear how many the U.S. will evacuate or which countries they'll go to while awaiting decisions on U.S. visa applications.

BIDEN: I think the whole process has to be speeded up, period, in terms of being able to get these visas.


COLLINS: And the president was defiant in his defense of why he thinks that now is the time to withdraw, saying that he cannot justify staying. And he said, quote, "I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome."

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

HOLMES: Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are under way right now in Qatar, and CNN got a chance to speak with a women's rights activist who is part of the Afghan negotiating team. Listen to what she had to say about the president's remarks.


FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN PEACE NEGOTIATOR: The people of Afghanistan knew that the NATO soldiers will get out of Afghanistan one day. All we wanted was to achieve peace first, 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 other soldiers in their soil. It was out of necessity.

The whole thing was just because of Osama bin Laden? Tens of thousands of Afghans are dying 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 want them to go. But all we wanted to achieve, peace first.


HOLMES (on camera): The head of British armed forces is warning that Afghanistan could be on the brink of collapse without international troops there. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson says all of his country's troops assigned to the NATO mission are now returning home. The defense ministry says a small number will stay behind to protect diplomats.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I hope that no one will leap 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 we under any illusions about the perils of today's situation and what may lie ahead.


HOLMES (on camera): Time is running out, meanwhile, for translators, thousands of them who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan. They risk being hunted down by the Taliban unless the U.S. can relocate them. Some of them already have been killed. One translator made it to the U.S. years ago but now faces deportation all because of a piece of bread.

CNN's Omar Jimenez were his story.


ZALMAY NIAZY, FORMER AFGHAN INTERPRETER: You have engaged in a terrorist activity.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's a short sentence that could end up being a death sentence.

How did that make you feel?

NIAZY: It blow my mind. How can they say that? You should have told me that you don't deserve to live in this great country.

JIMENEZ: Zalmay Niazy or Z as he's known, worked as an Afghan interpreter for the U.S. military for roughly two years starting in 2007 and came to the United States in 2014, making a home for himself in Iowa.

NIAZY: I just want to be alive.

JIMENEZ: But his story started much earlier when the 33-year-old was just nine. And he says he and other kids were forced by the Taliban to get them bread.

NIAZY: A motorcycle stopped right by our house, and there was five, six of us, and said, every one of you are going home and bring a piece of bread. Otherwise, we will burn this house, and we will do this.


And I was scared. I had to. I thought I was a hero. I protected my family, and the bread was not bigger than a cell phone.

JIMENEZ: Z told that story during his asylum interview with U.S. officials. And now the United States says he engaged in terrorist activity. Niazy suspects they are referring to the bread incident.

NIAZY: I applied for political asylum. It's my right. I want to be alive.

JIMENEZ: His future in the U.S. is in question. Years after that interview, the Homeland Security Department sent him this document saying, this is not a denial of your asylum application. But your asylum application has been referred to an immigration judge for adjudication and removal proceedings. The immigration judge will evaluate your asylum claim independently and is not required to follow the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services evaluation that Niazy had engaged in terrorist activity.

HEITH HERTING, PARTNER, HERTING LAW: What they do is instead say rather than decide whether or not you meet all the statutory requirements for an asylum, we're going to say that you weren't eligible to walk into the country in the first place.

JIMENEZ: Back in Afghanistan, Z says the Taliban still threatens his family. They killed his uncle.

NIAZY: I couldn't see that picture. It was always a shock for me.

JIMENEZ: Now he fears he may suffer the same fate if the Biden administration deports him back to Afghanistan.

NIAZY: By the U.S. government, I got tagged a terrorist. By the Taliban, I got tagged the U.S. spy. I am human too. I want to be alive.

JIMENEZ: If you were sitting across from President Biden right now, what would you say to him?

NIAZY: You're the leader, and promises made, but the promises have to be kept.

JIMENEZ: Now President Biden has said that Afghan interpreters who risked their lives for the U.S. are welcome here. Separately, when we asked United States Citizen and Immigration Services about Niazy's case, they told us asylum applications are confidential, and they don't discuss what's inside them.

Moving forward, Niazy awaits a court date with an immigration judge. But his attorney says even if they lose, they'll appeal because at their core, they believe his life is worth more than a piece of bread.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


HOLMES: Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, some South African hospitals struggle to keep up with the Delta COVID variant. We'll have an exclusive report about the battle with the virus inside hospital wards.

Plus, bad news for fans hoping to attend the Olympics in Japan. The organizers are tightening restrictions as COVID cases surge in the capital. We'll be live in Tokyo after the break.




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

Now, health officials are describing the Delta COVID variant as a ticking time bomb in Africa. The continent saw more than a quarter million new cases last week, which was, according to the World Health Organization, the worst week for Africa since the pandemic began.

The variant is now present in at least 10 countries while vaccination rates are still low. So the WHO says the outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better.

For more, David McKenzie joins me now from Johannesburg, really worrying developments there, David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): That's right. I'm here at a vaccination center in Johannesburg where increasingly people are keen to get their vaccines because South Africa is living through a hideous wave of this virus. Many months after this pandemic started, sometimes people feel fatigued by this. They feel that really they don't want to hear about COVID anymore. But the African continent and particularly this region is being hammered by the Delta variant, and it's at breaking point.


MCKENZIE (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.

UNKNOWN: 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.

UNKNOWN: Patients are awaiting 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?

UNKNOWN: 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.

UNKNOWN: 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?

UNKNOWN: 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.



MCKENZIE (on camera): Now, doctors stressed, Michael, that sometimes patients arrive so sick, they will unfortunately die no matter what the situation is at that hospital. We put the specific questions to the Department of Health about hospitals being overwhelmed and patients dying. They told us -- they don't specifically answer those questions, they sent us presentations showing an increase in beds in anticipation of this third wave.

Finally, it's important to note that scientists say the real protection against Delta is, of course, wearing a mask, public safety measures, but getting vaccinated. And after a very slow start, South Africa is picking up significantly in the last few days. The hope is that it will be soon enough and not too late for this awful wave.

HOLMES: Yeah. Real worrying their situation. David, thanks so much. David McKenzie in Johannesburg.

Now, Sydney, Australia are also tightening measures as the Delta variant spreads there. People must now shop for essentials alone and cannot travel more than a short distance from their home unless absolutely necessary. The lockdown will remain in effect until at least the 16th of this month.

Journalist Angus Watson joins me now live from Sydney with more. And I guess, Angus, Thursday was the highest number of community infections of this outbreak. The lockdown doesn't seem to be working as well as other ones have in Australia.

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): That's right, Michael. Australia has had a lot of success with short, sharp lockdowns to keep on top of community transmission as soon as it eventuates. This time the state of New South Wales didn't want to lock down the largest city in the country, so it introduced smaller restrictions.

But the contact tracers here said that the Delta variant was getting away from them. And on the 26th of June, the government here decided to lock Sydney down. Now we're seeing that those cases are persisting, 44 cases, as you say, detected yesterday, the highest day of the pandemic. So new restrictions here as you mentioned and a much greater police presence on the ground here in Sydney to enforce those new restrictions.

Now, 44 cases a day might not sound like very much to people elsewhere in the world, but the Australian government is pursuing an elimination strategy while it doesn't have the COVID-19 vaccine doses to go around. Here's what the New South Wales chief health officer said about that on Friday.


KERRY CHANT, NEW SOUTH WALES CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER: People are looking at countries overseas where they're seeing people go about their work and pleasure in a sort of semi-normal way. And I think that is really important to highlight. That's because those countries have got vaccination coverages for their adult population, and in some cases down in the childhood population. That is very different from our situation.


WATSON: Australia has fully vaccinated just over 10 percent of its population. That's one of the lowest in the world for countries that are as wealthy as Australia, Michael. The problem is both a supply issue and a hesitancy one. Australia had bet big on the AstraZeneca vaccine. It's the only vaccine that's being produced domestically here, but that has that very rare risk of blood clots for patients that receive it. That means that that vaccine has been only available to people over

60. The rest are meant to rely on the Pfizer vaccine, but supplies of that have been very low. The government says that it's getting new shipments in very shortly and hopes to be vaccinating up to a million people a week by August. That might give everyone the opportunity to get offered a vaccine by the end of the year. Still much slower than the rest of the world, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, and indeed it is. (Inaudible) late. Angus, thanks. Angus Watson in Sydney, there.

Surging coronavirus numbers causing Seoul, South Korea, to raise distancing measures to the highest level. Beginning on Monday, private gatherings of more than two people will not be allowed after 6:00 p.m. Most public events will be banned, and weddings and funerals may only be attended by immediate family members. South Korean officials say the Delta variant could become the dominant strain by August.

And a major setback for the Tokyo Olympics, which are now just two weeks away. Fans will no longer be allowed to attend events held in and around Tokyo as well as three nearby prefectures. Organizers say they have no choice but to hold the games in a limited way. The decision coming after Japan's Prime Minister declared a fourth state of emergency in the capital due to a spike in COVID cases.


CNN's Will Ripley joins me now live from Tokyo. So saying no to fans at events, a new state of emergency. It's all about numbers heading the wrong way, right?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes. You know, they needed the number of cases to go down in order for the number of spectators potentially to be at, well, capped at 50 percent or up to 10,000. That was the plan. That's why Tokyo went after its third state of emergency into a quasi-state of emergency that would have made it feasible for Olympics organizers to at least get some people, some ticket holders who had entered a lottery just to spend in some cases more than $1,000 U.S. to get these seats.

And now that's all out the window because this fourth state of emergency, which goes into effect on Monday, requires that restaurants stop serving alcohol. People are encouraged to work from home if possible. And just the optics and the science of packing thousands of people into a venue, even with social distancing measures, just too much of a risk for the organizers to take even though it was an extremely difficult decision.

Although they didn't go far enough according to some members, many members of the Japanese public, who still are saying that the games should be canceled altogether. They think it's too dangerous considering Japan's vaccination rate is only around 15 percent to have people, thousands of people coming in from hundreds of countries around the world.

HOLMES: And Will, you mentioned the vaccination rate, 15 percent of the population fully vaccinated. What is the holdup, and what is the latest on the rollout?

RIPLEY: Japan's vaccination rollout much like their pandemic response was incredibly slow and really chained by bureaucracy. I mean, this is the country that was using fax machines and official stamps and hand filled out forms to pass along test results in the first months of the pandemic. And similarly, they had a lot of bureaucratic red tape just in terms of finding people to give vaccine doses because it's not a matter of having the money for it. Japan's been donating doses to other countries.

But if only doctors and nurses were allowed to actually give the jabs and there were no exceptions to that, you actually didn't have enough people to even administer the doses. So, Japan has just now gotten to about a million people a day vaccination level, but it took them a very long time to get that.

And that's why -- that's why the numbers of people who have gotten their first or second dose remain very low here, putting the country at risk if there were a new variant to emerge at Tokyo 2020, which of course is everybody's nightmare scenario given the Delta variant and people coming from countries all over the world with lots of variants at play.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, indeed. Will Ripley, good to have you there on the spot there in Tokyo for us.

And we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, teams search through rubble in Florida hoping to bring closure to families whose loved ones are still missing. The latest from the Surfside condo collapse coming up.

Also another U.S. State working on a voter rights overhaul. And some voters are asking the White House to step in. We'll explain.



HOLMES (on camera): Officials say four more victims were recovered from the collapsed condo in Surfside, Florida, raising the confirmed death toll to 64, 76 people still classified as unaccounted for. Search teams paused for a moment of silence on Wednesday just after the painful decision to shift search efforts from rescue to recovery. Crews are working around the clock, continuing to try to find every last victim.

Meanwhile, CNN has obtained a document that shows how badly the Surfside condo needed repairs and how little money there was to actually do it. Leyla Santiago with the details.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A new report, an independent review of Champlain Towers south's budget. The review, done just over a year before the building collapsed, wasn't a good one. The 99-page report underscores the building's anemic financial reserves combined with the need for structural repairs.

The review included a diligent visual inspection of the building incorporated with an engineering analysis done prior to the reserve report. It shows that several components of the building had zero years of remaining useful life, including the entrance deck and garage where some experts have said concrete spalling may have contributed to the fatal collapse. News like this for the families whose loved ones haven't been recovered, not easy to hear.

PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER STILL UNACCOUNTED FOR: I don't understand how that happens with a building that collects so much maintenance fees every single year over 40 years. How does that even happen?

SANTIAGO: Also significantly detailed in the report was the fact that the facade and balconies of the building had concrete deterioration, and if left untreated, small problems can develop into major issues over a relatively short amount of time.

ROBERT NORDLUND, FOUNDER AND CEO OF ASSOCIATION RESERVES: The amount of deterioration that we saw at Champlain Towers south made me wonder how much of that was visible five, 10, 15, or 20 years ago.

SANTIAGO: Robert Nordlund, the CEO of Association Reserves, which prepared the budget report for the condo association, says a gap in funds is not unheard of.

NORDLUND: About three out of 10 associations across the country are in a weak financial state with respect to reserves.

SANTIAGO: The Champlain Towers south association was projected to have a little over $706,000 in its reserves as of January 2021 according to the report, while association reserves recommends its stockpile nearly $10.3 million to account for necessary repairs. Just 6.9 percent of the funds it should have had. Nordlund says that he believed his company's report was a wake-up call for the condo board, spurring the assessment residents were levied in April of this year, totaling $15 million.

RODRIGUEZ: My mom was very strong-willed as we talked about, and she would be yelling at the top of her lungs to make sure that anybody that was responsible for this is held accountable.

SANTIAGO: A spokesperson for the Champlain Towers south condo association did not provide comment about the budget report. Attorney Peter Sachs specializes in condominium law in Florida.

PETER SACHS, ATTORNEY: Buildings need to be maintained on a regular basis. They need to be checked. They need to be fixed. They need to be brought up to standard. And that's best done over the course of time in a planned-out manner with funds on hand.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And records show that the association struggled to get loans. It was denied by two lenders. Now, they cited that the association was considered high-risk, at least in part because of the low funds in the reserves. They eventually did secure a $12 million loan for repairs, but that didn't come without those complications, at least in part due to the reserves.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Surfside, Florida.



HOLMES (on camera): Now, the Texas legislature has started a special session aimed at debating and passing a new restrictive voter bill. Democrats say it will make it harder for people to vote. Republicans say it will make it harder to cheat even though there is little, if any, evidence of cheating so far. Texas is one of several Republican- led states that are considering or have already passed election reform laws.

Proposed new Texas legislation takes aim at, among other practices, 24-hour voting and drive-through voting, convenient things. Voting rights activists are pressuring the White House to do something. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke on the importance of voting rights while visiting her alma mater, Howard University, a historically black school.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is the fight of our lifetime. This is the fight of our lifetime. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. We will always remember our history. We also bare understand their legacy and that we are a part of that.


HOLMES (on camera): And we'll be right back after the break.



HOLMES: One of the biggest names in k-pop is back. The highly anticipated single from the South Korean boy band BTS is finally out. That's from the trailer for permission to dance, released earlier this week. The already trending song was co-penned by British singer and songwriter Ed Sheeran. Permission to dance will be included in the band's upcoming four-track CD along with their popular single butter, which currently is in its sixth week atop the billboard hot 100. The CD will be released later today.

And the Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka is speaking out about her controversial exit from the French Open and is calling for changes to address athletes' mental health. In an op-ed in Time Magazine, the world number two defended her decision to skip press conferences at Roland Garros citing great anxiety. She also urge officials to adjust the rules and allow athletes to occasionally skip what she called media scrutiny for the sake of their well-being.

She ended her letter by encouraging people to discuss the issue more openly, writing, quote, I do hope that people can relate and understand that it's OK to not be OK, and it's OK to talk about it. It certainly is.

I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @HolmesCNN. Kim Brunhuber will be here with more CNN Newsroom in just a moment.