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COVID Cases Rising in Japan as Competition Gets Underway; At Least 12 Dead as Rain and Floods Hit Henan Province; Iraq Market Bombing: Death Toll Climbs to 309, At Least 50 Wounded; Delta Variant Surging Through Southeast Asia; U.K. PM's ex-Adviser Accuses Him of Callous Approach; Bezos' Historic Flight; COVID Taking Much of the Fun Out of the Games. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired July 21, 2021 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[01:00:19]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause.

And coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM:

Let the COVID games begin. Olympic competition underway now even as games organizers warned cancellation is still possible.

India's COVID death toll has long been considered way under reported, but now comes word the actual number of dead could be in the millions.

And now, a journey to the very edge of space has changed the way the world's richest man sees the Planet Earth.

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VAUSE: The already tarnished 2020 Olympics is facing renewed uncertainty just two days before the opening ceremony. The head of the Tokyo Organizing Committee is not ruling out a last minute cancellation. Any decision will depend on the number of COVID infections within the so-called Olympic bubble.

The number of daily infections is on the rise across Japan, and Tokyo remains under a state of emergency order.

And a sign of what is yet to come perhaps, official competition has started with Japan beating Australia in the opening round of the softball. They played in Fukushima where a stadium built for a capacity of 30,000 spectators was empty. And recorded crowd noise could be heard from loud speakers.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo begins our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days before the Olympics are set to begin, details about the opening ceremony remain shrouded in mystery. It's already known, no regular spectators will be in attendance. Just how many athletes will participate, what's sponsors and dignitaries will attend, all remain open questions.

This as COVID-19 cases are surging in Tokyo, sparking the jaw-dropping statement by the head of the Tokyo Organizing Committee that a last minute cancellation of the games themselves is still an option.

TOSHIRO MUTO, CEO, TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS (through translator): We cannot predict what the epidemic will look like in the future. So, for what to do should there be any surge of positive cases, we will discuss accordingly if that happens.

RIPLEY: Infections are already creeping up among athletes and those connected to the Olympics. That includes Kara Eaker, and alternate for the U.S. gymnastics team. Her dad told "NEW DAY" she feels okay and does not have any symptoms.

MARK EAKER, KARA EAKER'S DAD: It's definitely a disappointment for her and heartbreaking for us.

RIPLEY: Eaker will return to the U.S. after 10 days isolation.

Despite all the restrictions, the so-called bubble of the Olympic village has been punctured, with several positive COVID cases detected among the South African soccer team. Tokyo officials insist the village is still safe.

MASA TAKAYA, TOKYO 2020 SPOKESMAN: The IOC and Tokyo 2020 are absolutely clear that the Olympic village is a safe place to stay.

RIPLEY: Health experts say the wider strategy of keeping the visiting foreigners away from locals is failing.

DR. KENJI SHIBUYA, PRESIDENT, JAPAN INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL HEALTH: It's obvious that the policies kind of broken. There is interaction between guests and visitors and those local people.

RIPLEY: Tokyo officials insist they are containing the situation, with only a few dozen cases among some 22,000 foreigners who've arrived to the games so far.

BRIAN MCCLOSKEY, OLYMPIC GAMES LEADING HEALTH ADVISER: If I thought all the tests we were going to do would be negative, we wouldn't do them in the first place. The numbers we are seeing are actually extremely low, probably lower than we expected to see, if anything.

RIPLEY: But with more transmissible variants like the delta, and more than 11,000 athletes descending on Japan for more than 200 countries, fears are growing about the risk to those visiting Tokyo, and the local population.

[01:05:07]

And apprehension on the rise as more athletes test positive, knocking them out of contention on whether the games will actually be a true representation of Olympic greatness.

Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Live now to Tokyo, and Blake Essig.

So, Blake, let me talk about this possible last-minute cancellation. Is there any idea of what that threshold might be, how many cases is too many cases for the organizing committee? Is there a number there? Is there a sense of that they are serious as this could be a possibility?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, I mean, look. I guess it's anybody's guess, but a comment like that seems very political knowing how unpopular these games are. Cases in Tokyo are surging, and Olympic related cases continue to pile up. As of today, 79 people involved with the games have tested positive for COVID-19 here in Japan, five have been confirmed from inside the Olympic Village.

Now, these are numbers that are better than what was expected considering that so far, about 22,000 people have arrived from overseas. Now, here in Tokyo, just yesterday, the case count reached its highest daily increase since January, and even though the opening ceremony is only two days away, again, how it seems incredibly unlikely that Tokyo 2020 chief did say that they're not ruling out canceling the games at the last minute.

Now, although Olympic organizers maintain at the Olympic Village is a safe place to stay, and the World Health Organization has backed the game saying that the world needs a celebration of hope, at least one public health expert says there's no way to track the movement of the people, and then it's clear that the Olympic Village bubble is not working. He says that the interaction between these guests, visitors, and local people who were supposed to be separated in a bubble, just isn't working.

Now, it's no secret that the Olympics have been incredibly unpopular with the majority of the people in Japan, and as a result, you know, of those health and safety concerns. Now, especially when you consider that still, only about 22 percent of the country has been fully vaccinated.

It's a reality that isn't lost on IOC president Thomas Bach, who recently acknowledged the skepticism surrounding these games, but said that he hopes that the mood will change once the games start.

And as you mention, John, while the opening ceremony is set for Friday, Olympic competition is now underway. Softball in football matches start today in Fukushima, and just a few hours ago, Japan took the field against Australia for the first softball game.

So, we will see whether the sour mood surrounding these games starts to change in the days to come -- John.

VAUSE: Yeah, good luck to them.

And, Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there in Tokyo. In the U.S., slowing vaccinations and a highly contagious variant are

one to punch driving a sharp increase in COVID cases. The CDC now says the delta variant accounts for more than 83 percent of COVID cases, about 22 percent of the U.S. population live in counties with high COVID transmission.

As the summit goes on, a debate rages over whether school should mandate masks in the next few weeks. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that more than 23,000 American children caught COVID in the past week.

And a new Axios/Ipsos poll finds that despite those numbers, a majority of unvaccinated Americans say they are unlikely to get a COVID shot. That means, the U.S. president is now pleading with them to go out and get vaccinated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The safest thing to do is to get vaccinated. Get vaccinated. That's why we are focusing on our next phase in getting the unvaccinated vaccinated. I know it seems like a constant uphill climb, but it's gradually making progress. But we've got way to go yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Dr. Jorge Rodriguez specializes in internal medicine as well as bio research. He is with us this hour from Los Angeles.

Dr. Rodriguez, it's good to have you with us.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Likewise, John. Very good to be here.

VAUSE: OK. I want you to listen to the head of CDC speaking before Congress on Tuesday about the delta variant. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Areas with limited vaccine coverage are allowing for the emergence and rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant. CDC has released estimates of variants across the country, and predicted the delta variant now, represents 83 percent of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase from up 50 percent of the week of July 3rd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, it's pretty quickly, and among those who have been affected, 23,000 were children. So, why so many? And give hospital admissions of children, how did it really risen -- how much of a concern is this?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, it's a big concern, John, because the virus needs to find a host. It basically is a parasite. So, it's going to try and bounce around and the people that are vaccinated. If they get it, are not going to get sick. They're not going to really spread it.

[01:10:02]

So, it's going to land and it's going to replicate with those people who are unvaccinated, which are those people that choose to be unvaccinated, and children under the age of 12, which right now do not qualify for vaccination.

So, this is going to be the population that is going to proportionally increase with infections. It is simple mathematics.

VAUSE: And one of the reasons why there are significant number of people who have not been vaccinated, it's disinformation, and whether that is coming from Republicans in the U.S., claiming that government vaccine inspectors will be going door to door, when it's actually community-based, spread word about vaccine benefits, or if it's in Africa, where "Nature" reported last month, vaccine hesitancy in Africa is not being driven by people's fears alone.

According to Richard Mihigo with the WHO, international groups are fueling vaccine tendencies that had not been seen in Africa before COVID-19. Add Russia into the mix, and how big is this problem and what is the solution?

RODRIGUEZ: Wow, that's a huge -- huge problem and a huge question for someone like me to solve. But just let me give you my two cents worth.

In this age of the internet, you can find whatever information you want, in order to justify your beliefs. So, there is a group of people that are probably not going to ever change their minds, because they have justified it, even if it is just one person justifying their beliefs.

The problem is -- and this is horrible to say, is that reality of this infection, of this disease is not seen by many people, because the people that gets sick die alone. So, the relatives cannot see them sort of suffocating in their own phlegm and come out and testify and say, yes, this is horrible. To a lot of people, this infection is in theory only. So, it's really easy to be brave, until you get infected.

How do you change people's minds? I guess they have to experience it. And for people that do it politically in the United States, I think they are being used as pawns because the leaders of certain parties have all been vaccinated, man, when Trump cut sick, a helicopter came, he came to Walter Reed, he got everything except the bill.

So, the people that are following certain political figures, they're just sort of being bruised. So, I don't know --

VAUSE: That brings us to this heated change exchange between U.S. Senator Rand Paul and White House medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Paul accused Fauci of lying. You know, they had testimony before Congress when he died that the National Institutes of Health had funded some controversial research in China to make pathogens more contagious. That's the context here.

Listen to the part of the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement.

And, Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.

Those viruses are molecularly impossible to result in SARS-CoV-2.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): No one is saying they are. No one is saying those viruses caused the pandemic.

FAUCI: You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individual. I totally resent that.

PAUL: It could have been. And it could have been.

FAUCI: And if anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

VAUSE: It's incredible to think that a public servant like Fauci, who's advised presidents since Reagan has now got to this point of, you know, the exasperations and yelling at a senator and calling him out for lying.

RODRIGUEZ: Let me tell you, John, I've seen this and repeat all day. I loved it. I loved it, because I know that Anthony Fauci is a good man, who has worked diligently, like you said, through many presidents. You know what? And you can only take so much criticism.

And when Rand Paul basically accuses him, you know, with the NIH of funding research that made viruses more viable, and almost causing the pandemic, and enough is enough. So, I think people do need to stand up to this misinformation. Rand Paul I think has a political agenda. I don't think that Anthony Fauci has a political agenda. He has a scientific and medical agenda to try to help people.

So, when I saw this I thought -- yes, it's about time because I think Doctor Fauci has been holding back his tongue. He's a good soldier. He's been trying to go, you know, with the flow, but, man, you could only take so much. And he said it like it is.

VAUSE: Yeah, it's a shame it's come to that really, though. It should've never reached this point in the first place. But, yeah, Fauci pushed back.

Dr. Rodriguez, good to see you. Thank you, sir.

RODRIGUEZ: Likewise, John.

VAUSE: At least 12 people are dead after heavy rain and flooding in Central China. Officials say the dead were found in flooded subway stations. Video posted on social media shows passengers trapped in subway cars as murky water floods in. There's been a years-worth of rain in 3 days in the capital of Henan province.

[01:15:03]

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

Just another example of the climate is changing and it's not for the better.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, and we're just -- looking at this absolutely extraordinary and devastating images to come out of China's central Henan province, with its capital Zhengzhou utterly drenched with record breaking rain.

Zhengzhou is a city of 12 million people. It's situated on the banks of the Yellow River. And authorities there say it has received a year's worth of rain in the last 3 days.

State media reporting at least 12 people are dead so far, and nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated to safe zones.

And it's not just Zhengzhou. These scenes are playing out in nearly a dozen cities across Central China. I mean, devastating images of completely flooded roads, power lines down, flooded subway stations, especially in the Henan provincial capital of Zhengzhou where we see passengers trapped in subway cars with rushing water entering the station.

I want you to listen to this sound from a passenger who was trapped inside one of these flooded cars as the water was rising. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZHANG, PASSENGER AFFECTED BY FLOODED SUBWAY (through translator): The flood was so strong, and many people were carried away by that. The remaining few of us, including, akin were so tired, that we nearly gave up. We kept holding on tight to the railing, and that's why you can see so many bruises on my arms. These are all bruises. This is one, two, this included too. If you don't hold on tight to the railing, it's very easy to get washed away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Authorities in Zhengzhou say that about 500 people who were trapped in those flooded subways have been rescued, but 12 were found dead -- John.

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

Let's stay with this story for a little longer. Let's go to Karen Maginnis, CNN meteorologist, with the very latest on the forecast -- Karen. KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, we have seen days and days

of rainfall. But one particular day was just heavy rainfall volume occurring. In just one, hour more than 200 million leaders of rainfall. Here you can see images of people trying to get their lives back together but have been so disrupted by this heavy flooding, that this has disrupted just about every aspect of live in Zhengzhou City.

Now, the entire province has about 94 million people. This particular city which is surrounded by canals and other rivers, would be very prone to flooding but to see it so exceptional in some areas, they're reporting in excess of 600 millimeters of rainfall. That's just about what they would typically see in one year.

What s producing this? It's (INAUDIBLE) rain, this is a seasonal event full of rainfall. They're used to seeing this in a city where there are so many people compacted, and we have a lot of rivers. It sits right around the Yellow River.

Other places impacted as well with heavy rainfall.

Let's talk about the tropical storm. This one move to the south of Hong Kong, move near Hainan island. It's expected to move back out into the South China Sea, and as it does, it could be gain some strength initially, and then it will weaken by the 96 our time period.

So, we are going to see some heavy rainfall across some of these areas, maybe some damaging winds. But beyond that, 36 and 72 hour time period, we're going to see considerable weakening.

All right. Then we've got In-Fa. In-Fa is going to moves between Okinawa and northern sections of Taiwan. Taiwan needs the rainfall, perhaps not with the strong winds associated with In-Fa, with 175- kilometer per hour winds.

Then it is expected to move across the central coast of China, coming up over the next couple of days. But we'll keep you updated on that.

John, back to you.

VAUSE: Karen, thank you. Karen Maginnis there with the very latest, thank you.

And still to come here, why Iraqi officials fear a deadly bombing at a Baghdad market may just be a preview of much worse to come.

Also ahead, two weeks after Haiti's presidential assassination, a new leader is sworn. More on the enormous challenges he now faces.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:20:51]

VAUSE: The death toll from extreme flooding in Germany and Belgium is now close to 200.

German chancellor Angela Merkel made a second visit to the flood zone on Tuesday. Cleanup and rebuilding will take months, if not years, and cost billions of dollars.

We have more now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Folks are trying to pick up the pieces here in the areas that were so affected by the floods in Germany and of course, in parts of Belgium as well.

We're in the town of Bad Munstereifel which is an absolutely beautiful, very historic town, a medieval town that normally would see a lot of tourists this time of year.

And what happened here is that the river that you see here, the Erft, as the rain was coming down, it just went and rose very, very quickly and simply obliterated a lot of the things that were in its path.

One of the things that we see here, like in so many towns, is that the solidarity between people is just absolutely enormous. There's folks coming from all over Germany to just lend a helping hand.

Now, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she also visited this town today. And she said she wanted to assure the folks here and in all of the affected areas that the German government would help.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The point here is that on the one side, aid is immediately paid out and bureaucratically, together with the state. The state will decide this on Thursday, the state premier told me.

And then, we will together do everything we can so that the money quickly reaches people who often are left without nothing other than what they are wearing, and who are there for dependent on the support.

PLEITGEN: When you speak to people here, one of the interesting things that they keep saying is that they understand that with global warming, with climate change, with the world's climate emergency, they might have to rebuild their town differently than they have before.

They say they understand that natural disasters like the one that they saw here, it could become more frequent. And that's certainly one of the things that they say they're going to think about when they rebuild this tower and try to make sure that if there is an event like the one that we saw last week here in Germany, that the town would be prepared and the infrastructure would be in place to hopefully cope with it as well.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN Bad Munstereifel, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: French newspaper "Le Monde" reports Emmanuel Macron is the latest public figure targeted by hackers in a Pegasus spyware scandal. According to "Le Monde", Macron's phone number was added to attacks by the North Korean government. It's unclear if Macron's phone was breached. The newspaper says 15 other Frenchman ministers were also the target.

The North Korean government, though, denying these allegations, calling them baseless. CNN cannot independently verify any of the findings of the Pegasus project investigation.

Well, the death toll has climbed to 30 in an ISIS suicide bombing at a crowded market in Baghdad. Iraq's president and prime minister condemned that attacks and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

We have more now from CNN's Arwa Damon and her group report contains some graphic video.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Parent should have been clutching bags overflowing with purchases for Eid al-Adha, not screaming for help.

Children should have been skipping with excitement and anticipation, at the sticky sweets and gifts to come. They lie among the dead and wounded. Some too young to even know what the years when this sort of violence was Iraq's ugly norm.

For those who do remember, this is not just another bombing, it's the cruel shattering of hope. The throat grabbing fear of the realization of what sort of tragedies could lie ahead.

It permeates households across the country. For just about every person in this nation has known the pain of violent loss.

And just about every person craves a life, or simple actions aren't a death sentence. Iraq over the years has seen fleeting glimpses of that, only to be brutally reminded that stability is often little more than an illusion.

ISIS claimed responsibility for this explosion, that hit a predominantly Shia Muslim neighborhood saying, it was the suicide bomber.

[01:25:00]

Iraqi authorities say they are investigating.

But no matter who actually set the bomb, this is the byproduct of years of failed U.S. policy, either by ignorance or by design. Success of Iraqi government's obsessed with their own power plays and plagued with corruption. Iran's toxic meddling, and so much more.

Once again, flickers of happiness and joy replaced by grief.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Islam.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Another Eid event has been marred by violence with interim president of Mali narrowly escaping a stabbing attack at a prayer service. Two men were taking away by security forces. At least one of them attempted to stab Assimi Goita. The motive remains unknown. Hours after the attack, Goita appeared on television showing he was not hurt, saying, quote, it's all part of being a leader.

Two weeks after Haiti's president was assassinated in this home, the nation has a new leader and a delicate and difficult path ahead. Ariel Henry was sworn in on Tuesday as Haiti's new prime minister. It comes after days of fighting over who would lead the country, following the killing of President Jovenel Moise.

As for exactly what comes next, that is unclear.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Haiti has a new leader, at least in the short term after now former prime minister in Claude Joseph is officially seated that role to 71-year-old Ariel Henry. Henry was sworn in to his new position as acting prime minister on Tuesday here in Port-au-Prince after a power-sharing agreement was reached between basically two competing factions within Haiti's federal government.

Now, Henry told Haitians during his swearing in ceremony that now is the time for unity and stability. Henry had actually been appointed to the position of prime minister, by assassinated president Jovenel Moise, just a few days before Moise died. That didn't give Henry enough time to act should be sworn into that position, which meant that the time Moise died, Claude Joseph was still serving as prime minister.

Joseph held on to that role for about two weeks after Moise died, which prompted a lot of criticism that Joseph staff was basically just engaging in a naked power grab, trying to hold on to that role. But eventually, after a few weeks of negotiation, Joseph decided to step down returning to a previous role as foreign minister, allowing Henry to assume the role of acting prime minister. He certainly has a lot of work cut out from here, given the level of violence that we have seen here in Haiti recently.

There are calls -- a lot of people want new elections here in Haiti that were originally scheduled for the end of September. But there's also a lot of people on the island saying now is not the time to do those elections because of the violence, because of the instability on the island. There are some who believe you can have free and fair elections in Haiti right now. Henry says he does want to have elections as soon as possible. So we will have to see exactly how he moves forward in that regard.

Meanwhile, funeral events for President Moise officially kicked off here in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday. They will ship north to the place where he was born, the city in the northern part of Haiti later in the week, with the official funeral coming on Friday.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: In Columbia, protests have once again broken out over attempts by the government to raise income taxes. The plan went to Congress on Tuesday, which is also the country's independence day. This plan though does not include the controversial clauses which set off deadly protests back in April, but demonstrators still have other demand.

Stefano Pozzebon reports now Bogota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: Demonstrators are back into the streets of Bogota this Tuesday after more than 80 days of continues nationwide unrest in Colombia.

That was first began now for a tax reform that the government has since canceled, but has now embraced a variety of issues, including chronic inequality and police violence in repressing the protesters.

And the people here that taking to the streets on Tuesday, which is Colombia's Independence Day, a sign that the changes proposed by Ivan Duque and his government, including a police reform and a new tax reform are not enough, and that the government has to change for the rest of the country to really change.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, the delta variant is driving up COVID cases around the world, and in Southeast Asia in particular. Ahead, the region's worst shape countries and the new pandemic epicenter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:32:09]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

While COVID cases are rising worldwide Southeast Asia is being especially hit hard by the Delta variant. Infections peaked across Asia a few months ago, started to decline but are once again are ticking back up.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout shows us where the virus is surging and how countries are now responding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Southeast Asia is being slammed by a spike in COVID-19 as the Delta variant sweeps through the region. Health experts say that Indonesia has overtaken India to become Asia's new pandemic epicenter.

Since June, the country has seen a rise in cases. In fact on Monday, it reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths. And the peak is likely yet to come with Eid-al-Adha celebrations this week.

The government's COVID-19 task force has issued a holiday week directive that restricts travel tourism and religious activities. And on the eve of Eid, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo addressed the nation.

JOKO WIDODO, INDONESIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In the midst of the current pandemic, we need to be willing to sacrifice even more. Sacrificing personal interests and putting the interests of the community and others first.

STOUT: Thailand is also suffering its worst outbreak of the pandemic. To rein in the virus, the government on Sunday announced plans for a tighter lockdown in Bangkok and high-risk provinces. It's also suspending most domestic flights and expanding curfew areas.

Vietnam has also tightened restrictions as COVID-19 clusters spread there. In the capital Hanoi all non essential services have been ordered to stop. Residents have been urged to stay at home.

The country's health minister says this, quote, "This outbreak is not the same as the previous ones. We are preparing and standing ready for worse and worse scenarios." Meanwhile in Myanmar, the official COVID-19 death toll has risen 50 percent this month to 5,000. Social welfare groups fear that the actual situation has become far worse since the military coup in February. Many of those suffering symptoms are choosing to remain at home because they don't trust military-run hospitals. Others say people have been turned away from overwhelmed facilities.

Malaysia has set new records in daily COVID-19 deaths amid a surge in infections. The surge comes even as Malaysia ramped up its vaccination program and imposed stricter lockdown measures over the past month.

And as people struggle to cope during a prolonged lockdown in Malaysia. Some have resorted to hanging white flags in their windows in a desperate plea for help.

Even Singapore is being slammed by the virus. On Sunday, the country reported its highest daily caseload since August last year as infections emerge from an outbreak linked to karaoke bars and a fishery port. Singapore is strongly advising unvaccinated people, especially the elderly, to stay at home.

[01:35:00]

STOUT: Although its daily cases are only a fraction of the number being reported by its Southeast Asian neighbors, the spike in cases is a setback for a country that has long been cited as a pandemic success story.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN -- Hong Kong. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: There has been little doubt the actual number of coronavirus deaths in India, one of the epicenters of the pandemic, is much higher than the official count. But now a new study finds the disparity in those numbers could be in the millions.

The U.S.-based Center for Global Development believes India's death toll could be up to 10 times the official number. That would be close to five million people.

CNN's Vedika Sud joins us now live from New Delhi. That is quite a disparity and why is that number -- why is it so big?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Staggering numbers indeed in estimates of excess (ph) deaths reported by the U.S. center here. But let me just very quickly tell you, at the very outset, the authors of the study have mentioned that the estimates have limitations. They've also gone ahead to say that not all deaths recorded and reported by them through the estimates of excess deaths are COVID-19 deaths.

Now, very quickly, the three different estimates they have which is varying from 3.4 million to 4.9 million and this is a study that has covered the phase of January 2020 to June of 2021. Until June there are about 400,000 official deaths reported by the Indian government here in India.

So the first estimate is 3.4 which is based on civil registry numbers, which are basically numbers of the births and deaths that take place in several districts of India that is collated by the authorities here in India.

The second is based on seroprevalence which also talks about the COVID-19 antibodies, which are found in people through surveys in India. That excess death estimate is 4 million.

The third is 4.9, which is based on a survey conducted in India with about 800,000 individuals. So the varying death estimates are from 3.4 to 4.9.

However, the Indian government, when asked yesterday, in fact, it was the health minister in parliament who was asked a question on whether deaths are being under reported in India, his reply was "not at all".

He went on to say that the center gets the numbers from different states. That's what they collate and put out so it's upon states really to come out with numbers. They just go ahead and publish it.

He also went on to say that there is no understanding by the central government or authorities to underreport the deaths.

Interestingly, there's another serosurvey that's come out. This is by the ICMR which medical research institute that comes under the Indian health minister. Now that serosurvey has gone to say that 68 percent of India above the age of 6 have COVID-19 antibodies present in them. There's a previous ICMR survey, you can just about imagine how many people from India's 1.3 billion population have been infected by COVID-19 at least once.

The survey goes on to also talk about how 400 million people still remain vulnerable to COVID-19 in the coming days, especially with the third wave which experts say is imminent, John.

VAUSE: Vedika, thank you. Vedika Sud there, live for us in Delhi.

Well, the COVID pass which can prove either full vaccination or a negative test is now required in France for any recreation events involving more than 50 people. It's part of the government's response to the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

And starting next month, the pass will be required in most public venues as well as travel hubs. Violators could face some heavy fines or serve up to a year in jail.

Well, he was once the chief advisor to the British Prime Minister but now after a spectacular falling out, Dominic Cummings has very publicly turned on his old boss.

During an interview with the BBC, he said Boris Johnson put his own political interest ahead of lives and was willing to allow COVID wash through the country rather than allow the economy to fail because he believed the only people dying were over 80 and less politically active.

Cummings also said earlier in the pandemic Johnson was determined to keep his weekly audience with the Queen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINIC CUMMINGS, FORMER CHIEF ADVISER TO BORIS JOHNSON: You might have coronavirus. Or I might have coronavirus. You can't go and see the Queen. What if you give -- what if you go and see her and then give the Queen coronavirus? Obviously don't go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you persuade him not to do it?

CUMMINGS: I just said if you go and you give her coronavirus and she dies, what are you going to -- you can't do that. You can't risk that. It's completely insane.

And he said he basically just hadn't thought it through. Then he said, yes (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I can't go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The British Prime Minister was hospitalized and was in intensive care with the virus. Cummings resigned last year after an internal palace struggle.

[01:39:54] VAUSE: Downing Street denies his accusations and says since the start of the pandemic, the prime minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.

The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.

Well, an historic flight and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos becomes the latest billionaire to reach the edge of space.

Coming up, what he now says about the future of space travel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: It seems a 10-minute joyride to the very edge of space just isn't enough. Billionaire Jeff Bezos now talking about his next space adventure and his plans to make space travel more affordable and (INAUDIBLE) save the planet.

Here is CNN's Kristin Fisher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: Ever since I was five years old, I've been passionate about space --

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Jeff Bezos grew up spending summers at his grandparents ranch in Texas. Dreaming of a day when he too could go into space.

He also spent his time as a kid obsessed with "Star Trek". Even later in life, secretly buying land in Texas using a character's name for the purchase.

It took him about half a century, but today, on the 52nd anniversary of that first lunar landing, Bezos made his dreams can true in the same skies over the Lone Star State.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it everything you thought it would be?

FISHER: Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk, and 18-year- old student Oliver Daemen enjoyed about three minutes of weightlessness, tossing balls and Skittles and doing somersaults.

But rockets aren't cheap. In order to afford being able to pour billions into Blue Origin, he first needed to found the company that made him the wealthiest man in the world.

At Amazon, Jeff Bezos turned an online bookstore he created out of his garage 27 years ago into a delivery juggernaut using their own jets and even drones to deliver to customers.

But he never lost sight of those childhood dreams.

BEZOS: If I could do anything, I would like to go help explore space.

FISHER: Now Bezos along with fellow billionaire Elon Musk are trying to disrupt space travel, the same way they transformed their respective industries here on earth.

BEZOS: What we are doing is the first step of something big. And I know what that feels like. I did it three decades ago, almost three decades ago with Amazon. But you can tell, you can tell when you are on to something.

FISHER: That something is creating a road to space. Bezos says Blue Origin is working towards a world where heavy industries on earth are moved into space to preserve the planet and protect humanity. He believes it is a natural evolution for humankind.

BEZOS: Zero G (INAUDIBLE) may have been one of the biggest surprises because it felt so normal. It felt like -- almost like we were as humans involved to be in that environment.

[01:44:52]

FISHER: But back on planet earth, many people believe it's not normal for there to be billionaires.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal tweeting once the crew landed, "Welcome back to earth where the richest 0.1 percent of Americans hold nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of American families combined."

On the day before lift off, Bezos said he gets it when people accuse him and Richard Branson of using these flights to space as joy rides for the wealthy instead of spending their fortune solving problems here on earth.

BEZOS: Well, I think they are largely right. We have to do both. You know, we have -- we have lots of problems in the here and now on earth, and we need to work on those. And we always need to look to the future.

FISHER (on camera): The future for Blue Origin is two more crewed flights of its New Shepard later this year. So it's still unclear exactly how much those seats are going to go for. New Shepard, named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and then late next year, the company is hoping to launch a much bigger rocket, New Glenn, named after John Glenn. And like its namesake, this rocket is supposed to go all the way into orbit.

Kristin Fischer, CNN -- Launch Site One in Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Joining us now is Donald Wuebbles, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. Professor, thank you for being with us.

DONALD WUEBBLES, PROFESSOR OF ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS: Happy to meet you AND be here.

VAUSE: Great. Thank you.

Now, after his joyride to the very edge of space, billionaire Jeff Bezos had an epiphany. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEZOS: We are these tiny little things and the planet, the atmosphere is so big. But when you get up above it, what you see is it's actually incredibly thin. It's this tiny, little fragile thing. And as we move above the planet, we are damaging it. And you know, so that is -- you know, that's very profound. It's one thing to recognize that intellectually, It's another thing to actually see with your own eyes how fragile it really is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That's a great thing for Mr. Bezos, but where has he been living for the past few years? You know, in Washington State, where Bezos has a 20,000 square-foot mansion, there are at least major wildfires burning right now.

Next door in neighboring Oregon, the biggest wildfire in the nation. It is so big it's creating its own weather patterns.

Unpredictable winds, fire clouds that spawn lightning and flames that leap over fire breaks compounding efforts to fight the blaze, according to "The New York Times".

And yet, to almost everyone else on this planet, the impact of the climate crisis is not an intellectual exercise. It's real and it's here right now. Isn't it?

WUEBBLES: Well, it certainly is. You could go much further than what you just did by talking about what's going on in the flooding in Germany and Belgium. The extreme rainfall resulting in flooding in India.

And the heat waves and the wildfires that are occurring in Siberia? So much of the world is seeing climate extremes and those extreme weather events, we now can clearly connect with the changes that are occurring in climate.

VAUSE: And for the most part, everything which the scientists had warned would happen is happening.

But as CNN reported on Tuesday, scientists are worried by how fast the climate crisis has amplified extreme weather.

And that seems to be because even now computers are not able to protect the impact and intensity of extreme individual events. I think I've got that right. And it seems that that sort of information would be crucial to know what we actually have to prepare for.

WUEBBLES: Yes. If anything, we seem to be under-predicting what is occurring. And so that's the surprising part for the scientists. It's telling us that we do still need to improve our capabilities and modeling of physics and chemistry and biology that's driving our climate system, but what it's also telling us is that it's not because we are overstating the concerns. It's that we perhaps are understating.

VAUSE: To continue that -- essentially some kind of stupid computer like, ones that the European build during the 60s so that, you know, for nuclear research. Is that the kind of thing that we are talking about here to do this modeling?

WUEBBLES: No, we're talking about the very fastest computers in the world is what we used to try to analyze what's going on with the earth's climate system.

And we learned a lot from those models, but we also realize that we are underestimating some of those changes.

VAUSE: You know, the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was in London on Tuesday. And he said that the past 30 years were a failure in terms of our response to climate change. I think he means the political response too. And that fairly continues.

There was a watered down climate bill which passed the French parliament on Tuesday. And then there is this difficult relationship between Washington and Beijing. And here is what Kerry had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE: On climate cooperation, it is the only way to break free in the world's current mutual suicide pact.

President Biden and President Xi have both stated unequivocally that each will cooperate on climate, despite other consequential differences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:50:04]

VAUSE: And that cooperation will be crucial, because calling it a suicide pact does not seem to be an exaggeration. If anything, it could be called, you know, the largest murder suicide of all time if you look at the loss of animal life as well.

WUEBBLES: Biodiversity is also important. The two issues are clearly connected. At the same time, Sir David King, who was the science adviser to two recent U.K. prime ministers stated a few years ago that climate change is not just the biggest challenge of our time. It may be the biggest challenge of all time.

And I think that clearly says that we are not taking this issue seriously enough as we look at what that means to our children and grandchildren and how we prepare for their future. VAUSE: Yes. Professor, we are out of time, but it does make you wonder

how much chaos, how much destruction there has to be before we actually take this all seriously and make some serious changes.

But good to see you. Thank you for being with us, Professor Wuebbles.

WUEBBLES: Certainly. Happy to.

VAUSE: Well, still to come here. No fans, no frivolity, no fooling around. Welcome to the COVID games.

How pandemic restrictions are taking the fun out of the Summer Olympics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back.

When the curtain goes up on the opening ceremony in Tokyo, it will be the official start of an Olympics like no other. These games will be the first in the modern era with a ban on spectators, no parties in the Olympic village, no hookups. Alcohol is allowed in the village, but in your room and on your own. The list goes on.

Here's CNN's Blake Essig.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to day one in Tokyo. It was such a perfect day today.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With just a few days to go before the games begin, the Olympic Village is starting to come alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very quiet, not many athletes but we (INAUDIBLE) always really good.

ESSIG: A transformation captured on video by a member of the Australian swim team.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mostly that little car is driving by itself. Like no one is on the wheel with it. That's kind of cool.

ESSIG: Under normal circumstances, the Olympics create a festival like atmosphere. But COVID fears at these games have created a unique situation.

97 percent of events taking place will be held without spectators. And for all events, the sale of alcohol has been banned and fans are not allowed to cheer.

Back in the Olympic village, organizers say athletes can only consume alcohol alone in their room and must avoid hugs, handshakes, high fives, and apparently sex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In today's episode of fake news at the Olympic Games, the beds are meant to be anti sex.

ESSIG: Recently some media reports and athlete tweets came out saying the beds, made of recycled materials, were anti sex and would collapse under the weight of more than one person or celebrations. A claim that Olympic organizers say isn't not true. And one that was ever so elegantly disproven by Irish gymnast Rhys McClanahan.

RHYS MCCLANAHAN, IRISH GYYNAS: Apparently, they might wreck at any sudden movements. It's fake. Fake news.

ESSIG: Over the past several decades. The Olympic village has developed a bit of a reputation. That reputation involves hundreds of thousands of condoms and a lot of people using them.

[01:54:57]

MAKI HIRAYAMA, SOCIOLOGIST, MEIJI UNIVERSITY: All the top athletes of the Olympics had extreme concentration for long years and they cannot live only with concentration and we need release.

ESSIG: That release for athletes, according to Maki Hirayama, a sociologist who studies sexuality, often happens in the form of sexual activity.

HIRAYAMA: After the competition, they need a deep relaxation. And I believe to have sex is the biggest relaxation.

ESSIG: While Olympic organizers didn't include any specifics about sex in the playbook outlining COVID-19 countermeasures, they are in a way making it more difficult.

Condoms are typically distributed to athletes when they arrive at the Olympic village. This time around roughly 150,000 condoms will still be distributed, but only at check out.

A number that Kunihiko Okamoto, vice president of the Okamoto Industries who supplied some of the condoms being distributed at the games, says those were reduced because of COVID-19.

KUNIHIKO OKAMOTO, VICE PRESIDENT, OKAMOTO INDUSTRIES (through translator): Before the pandemic, we thought the Olympics would be a great opportunity to showcase our products. It's important to raise awareness around STDs.

But during the pandemic, and given the situation, we feel there are more important things in the world than talking about the importance of condoms.

ESSIG: But whether condoms are readily available to athletes, Hirayama believes sex in the village is going to happen more than ever before.

She says despite the restrictions put in place after dealing with the pandemic, a delayed Olympics, and a lifetime of training and restrictions, the big release for athletes is inevitable.

Blake Essig, CNN -- Tokyo. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Two days to go.

Thank you for watching. I'm John Vause.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with Kim Brunhuber, after a very short break.

Stay with us please. You are watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Coming up this hour. Amid all the doom and gloom hanging over the Tokyo Olympics there is some hope the first competitions have begun and the games are getting a vote of confidence from the head of the WHO.

Extreme flooding hits central China in what's being described as a one in a thousand years event. The situation was so dangerous, hundreds of people were trapped underground in subways.

[01:59:57]

BRUNHUBER: And after a historic launch into space, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos talks with CNN about the experience and his hopes for the future of space travel.