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CDC, FDA Say No Booster Yet; Delta Variant Causing COVID-19 Surge across Asia; Haiti in Crisis; War in Afghanistan; U.S. Capitol Insurrection Riot Footage; North Korea Refusing AZ Shot; American Tourists Back in Paris; United Ireland Prospect Edges Closer; Excessive Heat in Western U.S. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 10, 2021 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ending the mixed messages: we'll bring you the latest in the debate over COVID booster shots as the Delta variant spreads even further.

Haiti's government pleads for help, amid a manhunt following the assassination of its president.

And terrifying new video from the attack on the U.S. Capitol as the Justice Department warns of the potential for new violence.

Welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: Well, the last thing anyone in the U.S. needs is more confusion over coronavirus shots. According to the CDC, less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

The confusion is what we're getting after Pfizer announced it's seeing waning immunity from its shots. It announced it will try to get emergency authorization for a booster shot. Well, that caught U.S. health agencies off guard.

The CDC and the FDA put out a rare joint statement reassuring Americans that the coronavirus shots are working they way they're supposed to by stopping serious illness. And Dr. Anthony Fauci is offering his own clarifications.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Nothing has changed with regard to the CDC's recommendations. So we respect what the pharmaceutical company is doing but the American public should take their advice from the CDC and the FDA.

The CDC and the FDA say if you have been fully vaccinated at this point in time, you do not need a booster shot. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: The world's top health agencies also agree with Dr. Fauci. Athena Jones has more on that and the worrisome spread of the Delta variant across the U.S.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Confusion and concern as Pfizer announces it's seeing waning immunity from its vaccine and plans to seek emergency use authorization for a booster shot next month.

The company citing a statement from the Israeli government to back up its claims but not releasing any new data of its own.

Within hours, the CDC and the FDA saying in a rare joint statement, "Fully vaccinated people do not need a booster shot at this time," adding, "FDA, CDC and the National Institutes of Health are engaged in a science-based rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary."

DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It's troubling there's a lack of coordination on communication between the companies and the federal government.

JONES (voice-over): The World Health Organization also saying there's not yet enough data to say if boosters will be needed.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The Israel data conflicts with some of the other data that actually show that immunity may last for years.

JONES (voice-over): All this amid new warning signs in America's battle against COVID-19.

DR. ERIC TOPOL, CARDIOLOGIST: This is a diffuse beginning of a wave.

JONES (voice-over): Twenty-nine states now seeing rising case numbers. New infections per capita particularly high in states where fewer people are vaccinated, like Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The seven-day average of new cases per day up 11 percent nationwide; hospitalizations up 7 percent.

Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation, now seeing exponential growth in COVID cases, up 165 percent over the past week, as the more contagious Delta variant becomes the dominant strain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple of weeks, we started to see a trickling in of coronavirus patients but in the last week, I've seen a significant rise.

JONES (voice-over): The surging case numbers also come as the CDC releases updated guidance for schools, emphasizing in-person learning as a priority while also promoting masking, physical distancing and vaccinations for those available. Still, California, which has seen a 50 percent jump in COVID cases

week over week, passed a bill, requiring public schools to offer remote learning options this fall.

JONES: And despite new concerns about rising case numbers in New York and in many other states, we're here outside the Javits Convention Center, one of three state mass vaccination sites that shut down on Friday.

It's part of the state's plan to allow for greater focus on local vaccination efforts in areas where the vaccination rates are below the state average -- Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


BRUNHUBER: So as the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain in the U.S., the nation is looking at other countries to get a sense of what may be in store. In Israel, daily cases have doubled since the variant was first detected. But its death rate has remained relatively low.


BRUNHUBER: And while both cases and deaths have increased in the U.K., infections there have climbed exponentially faster than deaths. Experts say vaccines are critical in preventing the worst outcome. Both countries have inoculated more than 50 percent of their populations.

And as the discussion about possible boosters intensifies, the European Medicines Agency is weighing in. For more on that, Cyril Vanier joins me live from London.

Cyril, what are they saying in the booster debate?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, short answer, the EMA, the European Medicines Agency, is saying it doesn't have enough data at the moment to decide whether a booster jab is needed.

Look, this makes sense; Pfizer is the vaccine creator and the innovator in this space. They were also the first to market a vaccine in the Western world. So they are the first to have six months of real-world data that they can look at and draw conclusions from.

The regulators, be it in the U.S. or in Europe, of course, come downstream from that. Once Pfizer submits data to them and applies for authorization to roll out a booster jab, then that is when they start considering it.

For now, the European Medicines Agency says it simply does not have enough real-world data. And it's not going to make a decision based solely on data prevented from Pfizer or from Israel. They're going to want to take as wide a look as they can.

And as we said, we've just arrived now at a stage where we have six months' of real-world data from the most advanced countries in the world, that's to say the countries that began vaccinating earliest. That is Israel and that is the U.K.

So the regulators are just not there yet, where they can side with Pfizer in this. They're going to need to look at more real-world information.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Just quickly in terms of reopening in the U.K., we've talked about the growing pressure on Boris Johnson not to drop all restrictions as planned on July 19th. I understand the final decision will be made on Monday.

What's the latest there?

VANIER: The U.K. government and the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, have not deviated one iota from the course that they have charted. So it does look that, even though the final decision will be announced on Monday, it does look like they are going to reopen everything July 19th, eight, nine days from now.

You know, the prime minister has been listening to his libertarian instincts on this. Even though infections are surging, hospitalizations and deaths, which he says are what matters, are not increasing in a way that is proportionate with the number of infections.

So it looks like indeed things like wearing face masks and social distancing, starting July 19th, will no longer be a legal requirement, Kim. They'll be up to each person's individual choice and responsibility.

BRUNHUBER: Really appreciate the update, Cyril Vanier in London, thanks so much.

The search for the masterminds and motive behind the assassination of Haiti's president Jovenel Moise is ramping up.

Haiti's government is asking the United States and the United Nations to help with the investigation and to send troops to secure oil terminals and ports of entry. The White House says officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security will head to Haiti as soon as possible.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more now from Port-au-Prince.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Haitian police wasting no time as the countrywide manhunt for the final suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise intensifies.

Less than 48 hours after his murder, authorities released details about the suspect, some of whom they came are in this video.

Police say there are a total of 28 people involved in the attack. Three have been killed, 17 are in custody and now they're looking for the final eight.

Authorities also say 26 of them are Colombians and two are Haiti- Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DEA operation, everybody stand down.

RIVERS (voice-over): This audio recording that CNN has not been able to independently verify allegedly captures the moment the assassins gained access to the private presidential residence the night of the attack. Officials say the men posed as U.S. Drug Enforcement agents to get in.

As police cleaned up the scene of the shootout they had with some of the assassins, all that remains, burned out cars, bullet holes and bloodstains.

So this is all that's left of one of the cars that officials say suspects in this assassination were using when they engaged in a shootout with police. This car as well was involved and you can see a bullet hole here that was left over as a result of that shootout.

The aftermath of that night shaking the country's already fragile political state. Confusion abounds over who is actually in charge.

In the hours after Moise's murder, Haiti's interim prime minster, Claude Joseph, assumed power --


RIVERS (voice-over): -- and took command of the police and military, declaring a, quote, state of siege, temporarily putting the country under martial law. Experts say it's not clear if he can do that.

But Moise appointed a new prime minster just days before he died, Ariel Henry, who was supposed to be sworn in this week. Henry says he should be the one leading the mourning nation right now, though it looks unlikely Joseph will step aside.

CLAUDE JOSEPH, ACTING HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: The constitution is clear -- I have to organize elections and actually pass the power to someone else who is elected.

RIVERS (voice-over): Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


BRUNHUBER: Joining me from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is activist and journalist Monique Clesca.

Thank you so much for joining us. I understand this attack took place not far from your home. There's a growing sense of distress in Port- au-Prince. We have people gathering outside of the embassy with suitcases. People want to leave the country. We've seen unrest in the streets.

Give us a sense of the mood in the wake of what you called a nightmare.

MONIQUE CLESCA, ACTIVIST AND JOURNALIST: Well, there is a sense of distress but what I can say is it is a continuing distress because we have been living pretty much under a state of siege, even though it was not declared, for the last three years.

There have been a huge, a protest movement and it really is a kind of social upheaval that has been going on in Haiti since the huge riots that were held in the -- July -- exactly three years ago, July 2018, when youths just took over the streets, asking for jobs, asking for better health care, asking for more investments in the social issues.


BRUNHUBER: But, surely, what just happened now, I mean, it's taking it to a new level. I know you wrote that a lot of the fear comes from not knowing who's behind the coup.

So as we're learning more about the identities of the perpetrators, what does it tell you about who might be behind this attack and why?

CLESCA: I have no idea who's behind this attack nor why because bottom line, the Haitian constitution does not recognize the death penalty. It is totally unconstitutional. So what happened is unconscionable.

And whatever issues, political issues, one has with someone -- or even personal issues, they're not to be resolved by violence. So that is, I think, the first issue.

And if we want to build a more morally just country, we really need to put aside the violence.

Now having said this, I believe that the president, Jovenel Moise, was one of the most unloved presidents, unloved political leader in Haiti's history or certainly recent history because of his policies, because of the actions, even his language, because he actually called himself after God, because he actually said after God he was the only person who had the most power.

So I have no idea. He probably made a lot of enemies. I do not know. I know that, politically, he had a lot of adversaries.

Was this is a personal issue or was this is a political issue, I do not know --

BRUNHUBER: But now --



BRUNHUBER: -- sorry, I just wanted to jump in there because we want to -- I want to get to a number of issues here.

But the -- in terms of the international community and what they can do, I mean, the Haitian elections minister told CNN he would like U.S. troops to come protect vital infrastructure. The acting prime minister has asked the U.N. to deploy troops.

You've called for a Haitian solution but also criticized the U.S. for basically washing its hands of Haiti.

Do you want U.S. boots on the ground here?

What would you like to see the U.S. -- ?

CLESCA: Absolutely --

BRUNHUBER: -- and other nations --

CLESCA: -- absolutely not. Absolutely not. We do not want U.S. troops, U.S. boots, U.S. uniforms, none of that because Haiti -- Haitians have been traumatized by the occupation of the country during 34 years by the United States.


CLESCA: We do not want U.S. intervention or troops or anything. And the international community is complicit in what is going on in Haiti because it has not heard our cries, has not provided a certain amount of solidarity to the point that, sometimes, I have asked, do Haitians' lives matter to anyone?

BRUNHUBER: If you don't want troops to be here, I mean, we're seeing growing violence; we've seen the violent gangs. Their power was growing and growing. I was in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake and reported on how gangs were stepping into the power vacuum back then.

Is there a danger that this will happen to an even greater extent now?

CLESCA: This has happened. And I think we have to be very careful about how we look at this. The gangs were tolerated, perhaps even armed and perhaps even financed by the government.

Now there are several reports by the U.N. itself, showing government, a government complicity in this. I believe that the United States has taken measures against three people that were named in the reports, not only the U.N. but Haitian human rights organizations. So this was -- the gangs were also like the mercenaries of the government. They worked in tandem.

BRUNHUBER: And, unfortunately, we'll have to leave it there. But thank you so much for being with us, Monique Clesca, I really appreciate your insights into this situation.

CLESCA: And thank you very much. But really, no boots on the ground. We don't want it. We want a Haitian solution. Thank you very much.


BRUNHUBER: Police say several of the alleged members of the assassination group are Colombian military veterans. Stefano Pozzebon is in Bogota with the latest on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least 13 retired members of the Colombian army traveled from Bogota to the Dominican Republic and then on to Haiti, where they were allegedly involved in the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise, the Colombian national police announced on Friday.

Two of them traveled to Port-au-Prince in early May. While the bulk of the group appear to have arrived months later, said the police chief, General Jorge Barrias (ph), who identified the 13 men in a televised presser.

Their ranks range from lieutenant colonel to soldier and all left active duty over a year ago, Colombian army chief General Luis (INAUDIBLE) Navarro said, also, on Friday.

But there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the motives and actions that led to Moise's assassination. The Haitian police announced on Friday that they are still looking for five suspects involved in the assassination.

And there are discrepancies between the number of Colombian nationals that have been arrested in Haiti and those that have been confirmed from the Colombian national police here in Bogota.

And while this is happening, Colombian president Duque ordered the Colombian national intelligence chief to travel to Haiti to follow the investigations -- on location for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


BRUNHUBER: More and more of Afghanistan is being seized by the Taliban. We'll show you their latest moves now that the U.S. forces are mostly gone.

Plus the U.S. Justice Department makes a clear link between Donald Trump's rhetoric and the potential for more violence. We'll explain what prosecutors are warning that the former president's words could lead to next. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: The Taliban are seizing territory more rapidly in Afghanistan now that U.S. troops are almost all gone. Two strategic border crossings are now under Taliban control. Anna Coren reports on the latest developments from Kabul.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban continues to make sweeping gains across Afghanistan, seizing one of the country's main trading gateways with Iran. The militants took control of the dry port of Islam Qala in the western province of Herat, where millions of dollars worth of fuel and supplies cross.

The Taliban also claimed another border crossing bordering Turkmenistan. The government says security forces are attempting to recapture these key areas. It comes after President Biden vigorously defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces and end America's 20- year war in Afghanistan.

He said the decision was overdue that America did not come here to nation build and that it was up to the Afghan government and its security forces to defend its people.

Meantime, a delegation from the Taliban meeting with the Russian government in Moscow gave a press conference, stating that it had claimed 85 percent of Afghan territory, a figure denied by the government.

It also said that humanitarian groups should keep operating, that schools and hospitals must stay open and that the border crossings and customs offices which have been seized will remain operational.

But attempts to portray the extreme Islamist group as an alternate governing body is not convincing anyone. The fighting continues to rage on the battlefield, with tens of thousands of people being displaced, while those who can plan for an exit strategy out of this country -- Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.


BRUNHUBER: Well, we want to share with you some video of the U.S. Capitol insurrection that's just been released after CNN and other media outlets sued for access.

The police body camera footage shows the moment three officers waded out into the mob in an effort to save pro-Trump rioter who had been trampled. And a warning, the video is graphic and disturbing.






BRUNHUBER: That's just horrific as you can see. And things got worse seconds later as the attacking mob started to drag the officers.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fuck you. Fucking traitor. (INAUDIBLE) --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him go. Hey, no. (INAUDIBLE) --





BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The officer you see there was hospitalized and needed staples in his head to stop the bleeding. The medical examiner said the rioter the police tried to help died of an accidental drug overdose.


BRUNHUBER: Federal prosecutors handling the Capitol riot cases say former president Donald Trump's latest false claims could cause even more violence. They say that's a reason why some defendants charged in the insurrection should continue to be monitored. Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An ominous warning from the Justice Department, that former President Donald Trump's delusion about being reinstated to office in August and his continuing lies that the election was stolen, could fuel more violence.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The election was incredible. What we did in this election was incredible and it's a shame what happened.

TODD: The warning from justice comes from a court filing in the case of alleged Capitol rioter Alex Harkrider, a former Marine who prosecutors say wore a ballistic vest and carried a tomahawk axe when he forced his way into the Capitol. Harkrider has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers say the axe was for self-protection.

In a motion to prevent Harkrider from being release from electronic monitoring, prosecutors said in court papers, quote, "Former President Trump continues to make false claims about the election, insinuates that he may be reinstalled in the future as president without another election and minimize the violent attack on the Capitol.

"The defendant in this case is not a good candidate to be out in the community without electronic monitoring to ensure the safety of the community and the safety of democracy in the current environment."

MARY MCCORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL ADVOCACY AND PROTECTION: If I were in government, I also would be very cautious and concerned about the continuing false narrative being spun by former President Trump.

The fear is that they bought into a false narrative once and they did so by reacting violently. And the same could happen again.

TRUMP: -- the right thing, we win the election.

TODD: This isn't the first time Trump's lies about a stolen election or his delusion of reinstatement have come up in the case of rioters.

Since January 6th, federal judges and prosecutors cited Trump's rhetoric during detention hearings. And Trump's comments have made it difficult for some alleged rioters to argue that they could safely be released from jail.

This latest warning comes as the temporary fencing around the Capitol comes down and the House and Senate still can't agree on a funding package designed to boost Capitol security in the wake of January 6th.

Experts worry about the Capitol still being a symbolic target for extremists.

JOHN SCOTT-RAILTON, SENIOR RESEARCHER, THE CITIZEN LAB, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: We have to think very clearly about what it means to have these groups and individuals out there obsessing about the Capitol, probing its security and thinking about what a round two might look like.

TODD: Regarding Trump being reinstated in August, former top Justice Department official Mary McCord tells us she's not only worried about the Capitol possibly being targeted when Trump's reinstatement doesn't happen but also that state capitals around the country, in states where election audits have been called for, could be targeted -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, parts of Asia were once the model for how to deal with COVID. Now the virus is surging once again in countries across the region. We'll explain why just ahead.

And it wasn't long ago that most travel destinations were off limits for Americans. Well, now, that's a thing of the past. Some have made it to Paris and have the whole city virtually to themselves. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

Asia and the South Pacific are being hit particularly hard by the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Countries that were once success stories at containing COVID are now struggling to cope with escalating infections. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has that.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Asia, the Delta variant is fueling a growing wave of new COVID-19 cases. In Thailand, coronavirus deaths are climbing.

The country has ordered new restrictions in the capital Bangkok and surrounding provinces starting on Monday, including mall closures as well as limits on travel and social gatherings.

Cases are also spiking in Vietnam. Both the capital, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh city have tightened restrictions to contain the virus.

Indonesia has reported a record number of deaths fueled by the Delta variant. Save the Children is warning that many more children will die there.

Its humanitarian Chief in Indonesia says this, "The health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are already being overwhelmed. Oxygen supplies are running out and health services in Java and Bali are woefully ill-equipped to handle this surge in critically ill patients."

South Korea is raising its pandemic restrictions to the highest level in and around the capital, Seoul, from Monday. Health ministry officials said that the country is in a "dire situation," with the Delta variant detected at an increasingly fast pace in the greater Seoul area. Only 11 percent of the country's population is fully vaccinated.

Japan has also been hit with a sharp rise in infection. Following a new state of emergency in Tokyo, Olympic organizers on Thursday said that they would ban all spectators from Olympic venues in and around the city. Just over 15 percent of Japan's population is fully vaccinated.

China has reported its highest daily tally of infection since January, with all local cases from Ruili. It's a city in Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar. Parts of the city are in full lockdown. According to local officials, some patients were infected with the Delta variant.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases this year. The outbreak began with an unvaccinated driver catching the Delta variant from a flight crew member. Just over 9 percent of the population in New South Wales has been fully vaccinated.


STOUT: The Delta variant is also ravaging the Pacific island nation of Fiji. The mortuary in Fiji's main hospital is already filled to capacity. Earlier on, countries across Asia have managed the coronavirus with some success.

But the highly contagious Delta strain, along with the slow pace of vaccination in countries like South Korea, Australia, and Indonesia, have given rise to a devastating new wave of the pandemic -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


BRUNHUBER: North Korea won't be using the AstraZeneca vaccine reportedly over the fear of side effects. According to South Korean intelligence, the country has rejected the vaccine and isn't importing it. Instead, it's asking Russia to supply its vaccine at no cost. According to Russian state news agency, Tass, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow is prepared to help and is willing to supply North Korea with the vaccines and medical equipment.

The Olympic torch relay has kicked off in Tokyo with the games now less than two weeks away but much of the event has been scaled down due to COVID-19 concerns. The rise in cases also have led organizers to ban fans from venues in the Japanese capital and surrounding areas. Blake Essig is in Tokyo.

Blake, explain more about what banning spectators will mean for the Olympics.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kim, just some breaking news, Fukushima, there's softball, baseball, that was supposed to be held there. It will be held there but it will also be held there without spectators, we learned moments ago.

For months, we've talked about how unpopular the games have been with the general public and medical professionals. And while holding them without spectators is seen as a good move, the fact they're still being held, given the circumstances, ongoing pandemic, remains a point of contention.

Now Tokyo has been living under a constant quasi- or full state of emergency, since April. There's frustration that people are being forced to make sacrifices yet the Olympic and Paralympic Games are still being held.

Of course, on Thursday, the prime minister declared a fourth state of emergency for the capital lasting until August 22nd. This is coming at a time when Tokyo is experiencing another surge in cases, largely the Delta variant.

This week cases reached its highest number since mid May and the vaccine rollout is still moving incredibly slow. Only about 17 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated.

As a result, organizers announced that events in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures will be held without any spectators and that includes the torch relay, currently taking place behind closed doors here in Tokyo.

Now the spectator ban also covers competitions being held in Fukushima. And likely Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, where the marathon, race walk and football races will be held.

At this time only a handful of events taking place in Miyagi, in Shizuoka, where state of emergency orders are not in effect, will allow venues to be filled up to 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

Essentially, at this point these events have turned into a made-for-TV event. The buzz and excitement that typically comes with the Olympics doesn't exist here in the buildup to the games. It's hard to imagine that anything is going to change with no spectators.

Perhaps the biggest impact will be felt by the fans who were excited to see the games in person. And for the athletes, hoping to feed off the crowd's energy. Financially, the impact is minimal. Revenue from the ticket sales would really only -- have totaled about $800 million. The big profits come from broadcast rights and sponsorships.

In fact, 75 percent of the IOC budget comes from media rights. So it should come as no surprise, Kim, to anyone, with billions of dollars on the line, that these games will be held, despite those health and safety concerns.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much for the update, Blake Essig in Tokyo. Appreciate it.

American tourists are finally back in Paris. Well, even between lockdowns, which started more than a year ago, few travelers could make it to France, a disaster for the country's tourism industry. Our Melissa Bell shows us how it's trying to bounce back. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Versailles, the home of French kings until the revolution and, until the pandemic, a favorite destination for American tourists, once again open for business.

"Historically for us," says the president of the chateau, "Americans have always been the most important foreign tourists. In 2019, they represented 16 percent of the tourists who came to Versailles, just behind the French."

BELL: In 2019, American tourists spent $4 billion here in France.


BELL: But then for more than a year, from the start of the first French lockdown in March of 2020 until June 18th, when Americans vaccinated or not were allowed back in the country, the splendors of France were much, much quieter than usual.

BELL (voice-over): In fact, for six months over the winter, they were entirely closed. Inside the Louvre, you could have heard a pin drop.

But even in between lockdowns, the streets of Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world, were hard to recognize without the foreigners, a disaster for France's tourism industry, which represented more than 7 percent of the country's GDP as of 2018. Now with Americans allowed back in, there is at least hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are about 25 percent of our passengers at the moment so which is very encouraging because we didn't expect Americans to be so early back in Paris.

BELL (voice-over): But many have rushed over, making the most of the opportunity to travel abroad. And with places like the Champs-Elysees still much quieter than usual.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So beautiful. Like I'm enjoying everything about. It's so different than the United States. So we're like we're enjoying it to the boys (ph). It's so breathtaking.

BELL (voice-over): The Eiffel Tower reopens a week from now. American tourists are back already.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's the first time we've been on a plane in over a year. And the flight was great though the flight was full, which was interesting. It took about an hour to get through the airport, just to get out of the airport. But yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you're in, you're in.

BELL (voice-over): With a chance to see Paris as few tourists ever get to see it, without too many other tourists around -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BRUNHUBER: Northern Ireland recently marked 100 years since its creation. And only time will tell how much longer it will last. We'll explain why a united Ireland could become a reality. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Loyalists in Northern Ireland are about to celebrate what they regard as a great battlefield victory over Catholics in the 17th century.

Gigantic bonfires will kick off those annual celebrations and many Catholics see it as a provocation. As Nic Robertson reports, it all comes as a united Ireland suddenly seems almost within reach.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Passions among pro-British Loyalists are up, many readying for a weekend, traditionally primed for confrontation.

Massive bonfires commemorating centuries of protestant domination over Irish Catholics soon to be ignited amidst fears the historic hegemony is fading.

JAMIE BRYSON, LOYALIST ACTIVIST: When you feel as if pushing class citizens around the country, we feel under siege. And when you push and push people into a corner, people are going to kick back.

ROBERTSON: These soon-to-be towering infernos are an annual honoring of ties to the U.K. And they're this year bigger than ever, a statement signifying a raging anger in these pro-British Loyalist communities that Brexit is making them feel less British.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For a few, Brexit's new customs controls, known as Northern Ireland protocols across the Irish Sea to mainland Great Britain, are an existential threat.

BRYSON: The Unionists and Loyalists (INAUDIBLE) Northern Ireland see that's almost as the last big battle. This is on the window ledge of the union so I have never seen anger like it in my lifetime.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): More moderate pro-British Unionists are feeling the pain of the protocols, too, the biggest party, the most divided it's been in decades and losing support.

SIR JEFFREY DONALDSON, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY LEADER: I think that talk of a united Ireland, talk of a border police divisive. It is unsettling. It's destabilizing at a time when we need none of those things.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Donaldson is his party's third leader in two months, is vowing to remove the so-called Irish Sea border.

DONALDSON: The decisions the prime minister took on Brexit and his support for the protocol have created a very significant problem, have resulted in instability here and harm to our economy and our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In recent days, the so-called sausage wars over E.U. controls of jelled meat moving from the U.K. to Northern Ireland have eased temporarily. But some businesses have already shifted supply chains toward a more economically united island of Ireland.

JAMES DOHERTY, DOHERTY'S MEATS: There is no doubt about it. It's much easier to source materials from the south of Ireland for Northern Ireland business than it is from GB. So -- and, again, that's something that the protocol has introduced.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): At sandwich makers Deli Lites, protocols have sped a natural evolution to source locally. And they are making new sales because of it.

BRIAN REID, FOUNDER, DELI LITES: We have access to the European market. We have, also, access back into the U.K. So there's a huge opportunity here to be able to produce a product here and have access to both markets.

ROBERTSON: And just down the road from Deli Lites, more changes coming. The Irish government funding a new bridge from Ireland over the river to the north, improving, increasing those connections.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Connections, Loyalists fear, that Brexit is irrevocably forging. Their fire and fury now firmly focused on torching the protocols -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Northern Ireland.


BRUNHUBER: Police in Bangladesh are investigating an enormous fire on Thursday that officials say killed at least 52 people. The flames broke out at a juice factory near the capital. Firefighters finally got it under control the next day.

State-run media said that the building contained flammable substances, like clarified butter, which made the fire harder to fight. Some victims died as they jumped off the roof, trying to escape. Many factories in the region don't meet adequate fire and building safety standards.

Well, another unrelenting heat wave is threatening parts of the U.S. We'll ask our star expert what he can expect from these dangerous temperatures -- next. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: More than 30 million people across the western U.S. are under heat alerts. The region is bracing for another record-breaking heat wave this weekend as temperatures are again poised to reach well into the triple digits Fahrenheit.

And to make matters worse, the area is parched because of the historic drought, a perfect recipe for wildfires. Already the scorching heat has aggravated many large fires in Northern California.



BRUNHUBER: One very expensive way to beat the heat, billionaire Richard Branson has set his sights on a sky-high goal. On Sunday, he'll try to fly to the edge of space in this plane, built by his company, Virgin Galactic. So if everything goes well, Branson will win what some people are calling the billionaire space race, meaning he'll beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who's set to launch his Blue Origin company's rocket nine days later.

Branson, who denies he's racing with Bezos, tweeted these pictures of himself with fellow crew members.

I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment. Please do stay with us.