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700 Afghans Allies To Be Evacuated To U.S. In Coming Weeks; Afghan Translators Make Urgent Pleas To Get Out Of Country; China's Threatening New Outbreak; Mixed Reactions To Vaccine Passports In Europe. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A chilling warning about how easily the Delta variant is spread. What we are learning from an internal CDC document. While some people refused to even get one shot of the COVID vaccine, Israel, now offering a third.

And all of the Olympic action in Tokyo, including how the home team is racking up the gold.

We are now getting a much clearer idea of just how alarmed the U.S. government has grown over the Delta variant of COVID-19. First identified in India back in February. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now says the Delta variant is as contagious as measles and chickenpox and it can make you much sicker.

"The Washington Post," was the first to report the story under the headline, "The War Has Changed. The document strikes an urgent note revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold."

Now some of the findings are very unsettling. Investigations, of breakthrough cases found that vaccinated people can carry and spread as much virus as unvaccinated people. The data provides some insight into why vaccinated people were told by the CDC this week to start wearing masks again indoors.

Here is what the CDC Director told CNN, quote, "I think people need to understand, we are not crying wolf here. This is serious. It is one of the most transmissible viruses we know about, measles, chickenpox, this -- they're all up there."

Now the Delta variant is the dominant strain worldwide now and new infections in the U.S. are once again rising quickly. But less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. And so, President Biden is taking steps to boost vaccinations among government workers, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Last month the study showed that over 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths have been among the unvaccinated, 99 percent. This is an American tragedy. People are dying and will die, who don't have to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: As the U.S. struggles to encourage Americans to roll up their sleeves for a COVID vaccine, Israel will soon become one of the first countries in the world to offer a third dose. People over 60 who are fully vaccinated will be eligible if it's five months since their last dose. It's Israel's latest effort to ramp up defense against the extremely transmissible Delta variant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI EDUCATION MINISTER: The decision was based on considerable research and analysis, as well as the rise in risk of the Delta variant wave. Israel has already vaccinated 2,000 immunosuppressed people with the third dose with no severe adverse events. And now, we are rolling out a national third dose campaign. We'll share with all -- all the information we have with the rest of the global community, as we make progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Elliott Gotkine, joins me now from Jerusalem. Elliot, good to see you. So, OK, what prompted the government to reach this decision to go for the over 60's?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST (on camera): Michael, there are a few bits of data that the government has based it. They're basing this decision on, I supposed first and foremost is that the caseload driven by the Delta variant has been spiking. Cause you're mind back a month or two ago, we are seeing fewer than 10 cases every day. The last few days, we've seen more than 2,000 every single day.

So, it is very concerned to see that caseload rising, the number of serious cases still around 150, relatively low, but it doesn't want to see that going higher and it doesn't want to take any chances. So, based on that couple of data points, we saw one research paper showing that out of two-thirds of dialysis patients that received a third dose -- sorry, two-thirds of them showed high levels of antibodies.

[02:04:58]

We also had data from Pfizer this week, showing that a third dose, in its words, would -- could strongly boost the amounts of protection for those receiving it among 18 to 55-year-olds, the antibodies in them rose more than fivefold; in 65 to 85-year-olds, it rose more than 11 fold. And of course the other thing to bear in mind, and remember, Michael,

is that Israel is among the first countries to start vaccinating its population. So I supposed it all follows that the effect will begin to wear off sooner than perhaps in other countries.

HOLMES: Yeah. Good point. I mean, you touched on this. I mean, things had almost gone back to normal in Israel, but some restrictions now being reintroduced.

GOTKINE: Very much though, Michael. You know, I travel to -- for my first trip in 18 months to Paris in the last month into London. It's like going back in time. Israel has been almost in this bubble where life has pretty much gone back to exactly the way that it was before. You didn't even have to wear masks indoors anymore. Events -- large events are taking place again, with no restrictions. They've even showed the so-called Green Pass System, whereby you would have to show your vaccination certificate, or a negative PCR tests to gain entry.

Now, that Green Pass System, as of this week, has come back into effect. So, if you want to go to cultural events or to restaurants, or to gyms, conferences, and the like, you need to show your proof of vaccination, or a negative PCR test. But I should say, that against that backdrop, things are still pretty normal. Things are still open. And I supposed Israel still remains in an enviable situation compared with a situation in other countries. Of course, that could change. But -- and there are concerns at rising cases. But for now, Israel is still in a pretty good position vis-a-vis the pandemic and life being relatively normal.

HOLMES: Alright. It's going to be interesting to see how that data plays out. Elliott Gotkine, in Jerusalem. I appreciate it, thanks.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is a board certified internal medicine specialist, and viral researcher. He joins me now from Los Angeles. And it is great to have you again, doctor. First of all, what do you make of this new reporting about just how contagious the Delta variant is, it cause more severe illness, spreads as easily as chickenpox, including between vaccinated people. How worrying is all of that?

JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST (on camera): Well, there is no doubt that it is much more contagious, almost 110 times more contagious, and it creates a herd of 1,000 times where I saw more virus in an individual. So, am I worried about it? Absolutely is, especially since I have witnessed myself, tens of friends that had been vaccinated but had come down with COVID. Not as severe as needing to go to the hospital, but still, they've lost their sense of smell, they had coughs, fevers, chills. So yes, I am very concerned about it.

HOLMES: Yeah. It is extremely worrying. One of the doctors saying today, there's not many diseases with a contagion rate like this one. What are your thoughts then on the growing mask mandates? Also this, you know, private corporations, even the federal government requiring workers to be vaccinated, or face restrictions. Good ideas? Are they risking coercion versus persuasion?

RODRIGUEZ: I think it's a very good idea. And persuasion is always better than coercion. But there does come a point which I think we are now. Perhaps we had already passed it. What we really need to stop pussyfooting about this virus. I think we have given the U.S. Public, and maybe the world public, this false idea that is something that is going to be contained, and it's going to go away in a few months. It is not.

Therefore, I think, first of, every private corporation, every private entity has the right to require of their employees certain requirement. I as a doctor, I'm required to be vaccinated against hepatitis a, hepatitis b, the hospital requires, f I don't gave tuberculosis. So, therefore, I think it is very, a very good policy. For definitely private corporations to require this. And the government I think has gone and it's actually very benevolent, because not only are they going to require it, but if you don't want to take it or giving you option as opposed to firing people.

HOLMES: Yeah. I think that the plan is to make it difficult, but nobody gets fired. There are surges, of course, all around the world. We got Japanese doctors, warning of a collapse in the health system. And Israel, now looking to offer a third shot to older people. What is your broad read on boosters, given the data?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I am a booster, booster. I am very pro booster. For the fact that we are seeing breakthroughs. And I think, you know, Pfizer has come out, and you can doubt the reason that they're giving this data. Some skeptic are going to say, well they want more vaccine sold. But the truth is, they are already seeing a decrease in antibodies in the people that have been vaccinated that are on studies. That is all well and good.

[02:10:03]

But what is more important to me is the actual data. Because -- for example, I tested my antibodies, they've drop from 157 to 87. But what does that mean? So when Israel gives you real world data that says that perhaps, anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the people who have been vaccinated, are not protected and are going to get COVID, that is very important. And when you get a third booster, it appears that that's going to increase tremendously. So, yeah, I definitely think we need to start being very serious about boosters.

HOLMES: I got literally a minute left, but I wanted to ask you now, the spotlight on this whole debate in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. There are individual freedoms versus the collective good. You know, we do have laws on no smoking indoors, seatbelt laws, and so on. But why this resistance on masks and vaccines with a health implications, you know, that not being vaccinated post to all of this?

RODRIGUEZ: Michael, I don't know. But I think that freedom as it is spoken now is very misinterpreted. There is no freedom without responsibility in a society. And we are all responsible for each other. That's why we have laws. And if you read the Declaration of Independence of the United States, it gives us all life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And the most important of which is life, which means health. Without that, there is no freedom. And that's what people really need to focus on. That health is freedom and without that we have nothing.

HOLMES: Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, always great to have your expertise, thank you, sir.

Day seven of the Tokyo Olympics with athletes competing for gold in 29 sports. Now outside their bubble, Japan's largest doctors association, warning the medical system will collapse if the spread of COVID-19 continues the way it is. Tokyo reporting nearly 4,000 new infections, in a third day in a row of record cases. Japan, as a whole topping 10,000 infections for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the host nation among the gold medal leaders, the first day of qualifying underway in athletics, including track, discus and hurdles. CNN World Sport anchor, Patrick Snell, standing by with news on the latest medal winners. But let's begin with Blake Essig, who is joining me now live from Tokyo. Let's talk about the infections, Blake, continuing to rise, state of emergency widening, the doctors fearing a system collapse. As an Olympics (inaudible), what is the sense of the situation there?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yeah, you know, Michael, sadly, COVID-19 is dominating headlines here in Japan. COVID-19 cases across Japan, absolutely soaring nationwide. More than 10,000 cases reported yesterday in Tokyo. More than 3,800 cases reported. That is up nearly 100 percent from last week. And just today, 27 new cases linked to the Olympics were also announced all of these figures, record highs.

Now, here in the capital, according to the National Institution of Infectious Disease, the Delta variant is responsible for about 70 percent of cases, as the fifth wave of infection continues to swell across the country. Public broadcaster, "NHK," is reporting that several prefectures have asked the central government to declare a state of emergency, in an effort to contain the spread of infection. Now those requests are expected to be approved by Japan's Prime Minister, later this evening.

But with a state of emergency already in place here in Tokyo, Japan's Medical Association fears that if the surge of infection continues, the medical system will collapse. A concern echoed by Japan's top coronavirus adviser yesterday, who says that the greatest danger is the fact that the general public does not share a sense of crisis.

Although Olympic related cases do remain relatively low, Michael. A public health expert tells CNN that the Olympic bubble has already burst and that the more transmission outside amongst the general population, the more opportunity for those within the bubble to get infected.

HOLMES: Yeah. You make a good point. I mean, is there a feeling that, you know, after being against the Olympics, the embrace of the games and the atmosphere by locals has perhaps added to the rise?

ESSIG: You know, I mean, I think that it is hard to argue that it hasn't. I mean just last week, during the -- you know, in the buildup to the opening ceremony, you know, I personally saw tens of thousands of people streaming just to get a glimpse of the national stadium. Take a picture with it to experience that Olympic atmosphere.

And so, when you have that many people all coming together, given the circumstances surrounding the Delta variant. You know, essentially dominating cases here in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine that, at least, in some capacity that the Olympics have added to what is, already, you know, an unprecedented number of cases here in Tokyo. Now, in the days that had followed, you know, a sense of the games had begun, Japan's success really has only added to the excitement. Now I want you to take a listen to this.

[02:15:13]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYOKO YOSHIOKA, OLYMPICS FAN (through translator): I moved. I cry every time when I see our athletes winning. It's as if my own kids are out there they're doing their best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ESSIG: And well, Michael, you've got, you know people that obviously, you know, very excited about these games is based on the success on the field of play for the Japanese athletes. You know, since the games have begun, you know, we have seen the curiosity peek from people in person, but on the T.V. side of things, I will see officials say 87 percent of the entire nations, 126 million people have watched the games at some point to witness Japan's gold rush. And so far, they've won 15 golds, Michael. That is just one shy of the record set in 2004 where they won 60. We are not even halfway through competition. So, a lot of time to break a record.

HOLMES: Yeah, the host nation boost. Blake, good to see you. Thanks for that. Blake Essig, I appreciate it. OK. Well, competitors are aiming for gold in more than a dozen sports on day seven. CNN "World Sports," Patrick Snell, live with more on the medals from the pool. Fill us in.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS REPORTER (on camera): Yup. Michael, yeah, absolutely. Twenty-one gold medals up for grabs today. Let's start in the Aquatic Center this Friday, we're another stellar performance from South African star, Tatjana Schoenmaker, a day to remember for her. Not only winning gold in the women's 200 meter breaststroke earlier, but also, this is really very impressive. Breaking the world record at a time 0f 2:18:95, the 24-year-old from Johannesburg, overcome with real emotion afterwards. Upon realizing just what she had accomplished.

The USA's Lilly King, she was actually leading until around the 150 meter turn. But that is when the South African just surge forward, powering her way to a famous victory, King, in the end with silver.

Meantime, the Russian Olympic Committee is getting relived his fine summer games continuing this Friday, the 24-year-old, now the first win or not representing the United States to win a gold medal in the men's 200 meter backstroke at the Olympic since 1992. Would you believe? His winning time, 1:53:27, a new Olympic mark for him. Remember early in the week, he's already won the 100 meter backstroke gold medal. The American, Ryan Murphy in 2nd. Still the place finish for him.

I want to tell you tell us about the BMX biking today, Michael, defending gold medalist from the USA, Connor Fields involved in a crash, earlier (Inaudible) failed to finish during the third round of the men's semifinal. Fields was taken away in an ambulance, and we do have an update now at this hour, we've learned the 28-year-old, now awake and awaiting further medical evaluation. The final itself was won by, Niek Kimmann of the Netherlands, despite the fact he may have suffered a fractured knee, on route to his gold medal there. Wishing Fields all the very best of course at this time.

And there was also another crash in BMX racing earlier. This is the third run of the first women's semi. The Australian competitor, Saya Sakakibara stretched off after being involved in the crash. He was leading in the time. She didn't finish the run. According to Team Australia, she did initially show signs of a mild concussion, but have since been medically cleared.

And, a great story for Team Great Britain's, Bethany Shriever. She would go on to take gold, the 22-year-old, actually needed crowd funding to get to Japan in the first place. Holding off two-time Olympic gold medalist, Mariana Pajon of Columbia to win gold by the finest of margins. So, really a special moment for him, especially for her, especially when you consider the back story. And all she needed, Michael, to even get to these games. Back to you.

HOLMES: Yeah. I was actually messaging with Blake Essig, who finally got his accreditation. He is off to the track to see an event at last. Which brings me to that, the track events are underway and anyone you have got your eye on, Pat?

SNELL: Yeah, this is going to be really fascinating to see what happens. I interviewed the young Swede, an American born Swede, I should say. Mondo Duplantis, he is tipped for great things, Michael, at these Olympics. Pole vaulting, a world record holder. That gets underway Saturday in Japan. There will be so much focus, of course, on Duplantis. Just 21 years of age. He is actually though Michael, been reacting to news on Thursday, that American athlete and an indeed rival, Sam Kendricks, has been ruled out of Tokyo 2020, due to a positive COVID-19 test. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONDO DUPLANTIS, SWEDISH POLE VAULTER: It is hard to react to, because it still doesn't really feel real right now. Because I mean, as far as an hour ago, I was still preparing myself for a, you know, a big battle with Sam. Because, you know, I feel like coming to hear that he is, of course, one of my main rivals. Something that is definitely going to -- most going to push me on the entire final and (inaudible). But -- yeah, it's hard to explain the feelings today. I'm kind of shocked. I still kind of still didn't believe it really.

[02:20:02] It still feels like somehow, someway, he's going to be able to

compete, but you know, as far as I know, I guess it's not looking that good for him. So, I mean, I don't know, it's hard to say really. It still doesn't really feel like it is actually the way it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: Mondo Duplantis there speaking earlier, Michael. And I'm back with another update for you, next hour. Back to you.

HOLMES: Alright. Looking forward to seeing you there my friend, Patrick Snell, thank you so much. And we will take a quick break here on the program. When we come back, China stepping up diplomacy with the Taliban, as U.S. troops move out of Afghanistan. What Beijing gains from friendlier ties with the Islamic group? That is still to come.

Also, Afghan interpreters, are at least, a few of them are going to be evacuated to the U.S. Thousands will remain living in fear as threats intensify. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: A new report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan shows an increase in violence by the Taliban since America began to withdraw its troops. Perhaps, not a surprise, really. But according to the country's ministry for peace affairs, the insurgent group has conducted 22,000 attacks in the past four months.

More than 2,500 civilians had been killed, 3,000 wounded during that time and thousands more being displaced. The Taliban continues to make massive territorial gains across Afghanistan, as Americans and other international forces pull out of the country.

Meanwhile, we are seeing some signs of warming relations between China and the Taliban. After the two sides met to discuss the future of Afghanistan. Now, this very significant meeting, held in northern China on Wednesday, is the latest move by Beijing to strengthen its ties with the Islamist group.

CNN's Nic Robinson, with the latest on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): So, this meeting is not just significant because Chinese officials are meeting with Taliban officials. This is the Taliban's top negotiated meeting with China's top diplomats. This is the foreign minister and the Deputy foreign minister.

And I think, significantly for the Taliban, what they've heard from the Chinese officials was that, you know, the future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people. That is a recognition there. That the Taliban do have a voice and do have a place in the future political makeup of Afghanistan. That's one take away from the meeting, but I think the other

significant takeaway and this is the one that the Chinese will have been looking for. The Taliban saying that they talked about the economy, politics, the situation -- the current situation in the country, but also they say they gave Chinese officials a guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for launch attacks against China, or Chinese interest. It's the same promised that the Taliban gave to the United States.

[02:25:01]

It's a similar promise to what they have given Iranian officials, as what they had given to officials in Moscow, in Russia, and other regional countries. The Taliban are trying to send a message that they are not a threat to other regional players.

What China is concerned about is that there are groups that have their bases inside Afghanistan. That not only threatened China's interests, but have attacked them in Pakistan, for example, Baloch Nationalist Groups based in Afghanistan, have attacked Chinese interests in Pakistan.

And also, there are groups that in Jihadi groups, if you will, inside Afghanistan that have said that they will attack China and Chinese interests for their role in cracking down on Uyghur Muslims. That is a threat that China wants to see nipped in the bud. So they will be looking to the Taliban to control and manage those groups inside Afghanistan. But this is just the first meeting that we are aware of, but it is significant.

Nic Robinson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Now, around 700 Afghan interpreters who worked alongside American troops are set to arrive in the U.S. in the coming weeks. But that number is just a fraction of the roughly 20,000 Afghan nationals, who are in the special visa immigrant pipeline. And only about half of those and that half of those are in the very beginning stages of what can be a long and brutal process.

An initial group of those Afghan interpreters will arrive in Virginia in a few hours. Part of President Joe Biden's vow, not to abandon those who helped in America's longest war. But many feel exactly that way, abandoned. Thousands of Afghans are still waiting their turn, having to deal with bureaucracy that feels like quicksand. As every day they fear deadly retribution from the Taliban. CNN's Kylie Atwood, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNKNOWN: If I don't go out of Afghanistan, I'm counting down my end of life.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Every day that the Taliban control surges in Afghanistan, the situation grows more deadly for Afghan interpreters who are trying to flee the country after working alongside U.S. troops and diplomats.

Three interpreters who have applied for Special Immigrant Visas in the United States, or SIVs spoke to CNN and described just how urgently they must get out of the country. Because, after years of putting their lives on a line next to U.S. soldiers, the Taliban are hunting them down.

UNKNOWN: Absolutely we need to E. TRUMP: out of the country. They are looking after us.

UNKNOWN: Our future will be dark. They're going to cut our heads too.

ATWOOD: He's referring to a recent report of the Taliban, beheading Afghans who worked alongside U.S. troops. These Afghans fear for their families, as well as themselves. CNN is concealing their identities to keep them safe. One of them, Naieb (ph) is particularly concerned about what will happen to his daughters, if the Taliban takeover.

UNKNOWN: They will destroy the schools and they will prevent girls to go to school.

ATWOOD: All three men we spoke with had faced terrifying threats. One of them, Ramish, explained what happened to him earlier this month, when the Taliban knocked on his door.

UNKNOWN: My family hides me and told them, Ramish was gone somewhere. Then the searched our house and I was hide inside the oven in my yard. They burned my house. And nothing remained to us. All our materials burned by them.

ATWOOD: They burned your house?

UNKNOWN: Yes. They burned my house.

ATWOOD: After that, Ramish snuck out of his hometown in the middle of the night. Embarking on a dangerous journey to Kabul, where the Taliban are not in control. Army Captain, Sayre Paine, work with Ramish in Afghanistan and encouraged him to flee to Kabul, under the cloak of darkness.

SAYRE PAINE, (RET.) U.S. ARMY: Today, it is the comrade in arms and the indelible duty to not portray them. You put these people on the tier with your own family.

ATWOOD: Paine says the United States could not have done the job on the ground without the interpreters by their side. He feels angry thinking about the ones who may not make it out.

PAINE: To allow and fully know all of these people signing up for this promise to come, literally to the promised land and to just let it go, is a betrayal for those people.

ATWOOD: About 20,000 Afghans have applied for SIVs, 700 of them will fly into the United States in the coming weeks and wait at a U.S. Military base while their visas are finalized. Yet the total processing time can take years. President Biden has promised -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will stand with you just as you stood with us.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: But the United States government has not yet laid out a comprehensive plan to get these Afghans out of the country before the complete U.S. troop withdrawal next month. Due to the urgent and vast nature of this challenge, many individuals like Payne have taken it upon themselves to contribute.

Janis Shinwari, former Afghan interpreter living in Virginia, set up a nonprofit to help SIVs based on his own experience.

JANIS SHINWARI, FORMER AFGHAN TRANSLATOR: When I came here at the airport, I realized that that government is not taking care of us and I was on my own and from that time I thought that I have to build something to help these SIVs when they are coming to United States, and they don't know anybody.

ATWOOD: Earlier this month he waited at the airport to welcome an Afghan SIV recipient and his family to the United States. Janis' nonprofit paid for their flights. It's an emotional and hopeful scene, but a glance at his phone offers a reality check. Hundreds of messages, all Afghans pleading with him to help them get out.

Each of these Afghan SIV applicants that I spoke with has children, one of them has five children and I tell you that to underscore the fact that it's not just these 20,000 SIV applicants are trying to get here because they feel their lives are in jeopardy. It's also their larger families. Kylie Atwood, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Take a quick break here on the program when we come back despite being the first country to succumb to the Coronavirus, China has since managed to contain flare ups, but its latest outbreak poses a new threat. We'll have that more after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN Newsroom. Now parts of the Chinese capital under lockdown after two new COVID cases cropped up this week, Beijing's first in nearly six months. Now that as the city of Nanjing wrestles with a much larger outbreak, and authorities say they know where it originated.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now live from Hong Kong. So this Nanjing cluster spreading, what is the latest on that?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this highly contagious Delta variant is spreading across China. Earlier this week on Wednesday, Beijing reported its first case of COVID-19 in six months and right now some 40,000 residents in the Chinese Capitol are on lockdown This as Chinese authorities are scrambling to contain this outbreak linked to an international airport in Nanjing and we learned earlier today, Nanjing CDC is reporting that they know the origin of this Delta outbreak.

[02:35:00]

It comes from an Air China flight from Russia. Now on Thursday, China reported 64 new cases of COVID 19, of which 21 are local cases. The numbers seem low. What's really worrying is the fact that the virus has been detected in at least eight different provinces across China. This latest outbreak emerged last week linked to an infection among airport cleaning workers in Nanjing. And since then travelers from Nanjing flew across the country bringing the virus along with them.

It has been detected across China in the southwest is Sichuan province, in the south and Guangdong Province, even in the northeast and Liaoning Province as well. We're also monitoring reports of a secondary infection cluster in Hunan Province, the cluster in Beijing, infections there linked to the Hunan cluster.

This is turning out to be a very big test for China and its virus suppression tactics. China, as you know, is well known for taking a zero tolerance approach to the virus with its mass testing and contact tracing campaigns. This is also a big test for China's massive vaccination rollout program and the efficacy of China's vaccines.

So far, China has administered some 1.5 billion vaccines, back to you.

HOLMES: All right, Kristie, appreciate it. Kristie Lu Stout there live in Hong Kong for us. Now the United Kingdom seeing a slight uptick in COVID cases after a recent drop off in new infections. More than 31,000 new cases were reported Thursday, but that's far from its July peak. Health officials say it's too early to know if cases will continue to rise.

Now in Portugal with more than half of the population now vaccinated. The government is ready to lift its nighttime curfew starting Sunday, and restaurants will no longer have limited hours of operation. As vaccination efforts push ahead across Europe. Some nations are taking steps to impose vaccine passports and mandates in an effort to protect their citizens from the more transmissible variants but it's not everyone's on board. CNN's Fred Pleitgen with details on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unrest on the streets of Paris. The crowd protesting new vaccine mandates put in place in an effort to stop a surge in Coronavirus infections. But despite the mayhem, France's President says he won't budge and that he's had it with people refusing vaccination.

What is your freedom worth if you say to me, I don't want to be vaccinated but if tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or me, he says. France just passed a law mandating so called virus passes or Green Passes for visits to restaurants and for domestic travel. One reason why the government remains steadfast in the face of often violent protests, the vast majority in France endorses the stricter measures experts say.

MICHAEL WIEVIORKA, SOCIOLOGIST, EHESS: These people speak only in their own private name. They don't take into account the collectivity, the fact that protecting oneself is also protecting the whole society.

PLEITGEN: As that Delta variant of the Coronavirus spreads fast countries across Europe are turning to Green passes, and in some cases vaccination mandates to get people protected. Starting in early August, Italy will require Green passes for all indoor hospitality. The passes provide proof that people have either been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours.

Germany, Austria, Denmark, Portugal and others are already using varying forms of Green passes for access to dining and other aspects of public life. Here in Germany, for instance, we have what's called the digital vaccination certificate, it looks like this and people who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection just have a lot less hassle getting into bars and restaurants and even traveling around Europe.

More and more countries are turning to Green passes, and while 1000s recently protested against vaccination requirements outside the Greek parliament in Athens, at restaurants nearby diners were enjoying dinner, but only for those who are fully vaccinated. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now the dangerous Delta variant has led many big businesses to insist that their workers get the COVID-19 vaccine or find another job. Facebook, Google Netflix just among some of the companies requiring employees in their workplaces to have had the shots. Our Richard Quest with the latest from New York.

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RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: It is the increasing COVID cases from the Delta variant that is causing the greatest alarm. So from Silicon Valley to Hollywood to hospitality to Wall Street, executives and HR departments are now telling people get vaccinated or face the consequences and those consequences could include strict testing, unpaid quarantines, even being fired, termination.

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Some business leaders are giving their workers the ultimatum get vaxed or get out. Danny Meyer runs Union Square hospitality, a major presence in New York City's restaurant scene. And he says his restaurant staff must be vaccinated in 45 days or they'll lose their jobs. And the customers aren't getting off scot free. If you're not vaccinated, find somewhere else to eat.

DANNY MEYER, FOUNDER & CEO, UNION SQUARE HOSPITALITY GROUP: Look in a city that's got 26,000 restaurants. If you really want to smoke, you're welcome to do that somewhere else. And I would say the exact same thing here. If you really want to go unvaccinated, you can dine somewhere else. And you can also go work somewhere else. I really hope that the small number of our employees who have yet to be vaccinated will say I actually like this place even better because they cared about me.

QUEST: As the artificial date for many people returning to offices gets ever closer, the beginning of September. So this is an issue that's going to become ever more present as workers are told vaccinate or face the consequences. Richard Quest, CNN, New York.

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HOLMES: Coming up here on the program. 18 year old Sunisa Lee overcame hardship, personal tragedy and pain on her way to Olympic gold. We'll tell you all about it. Coming up also a major meltdown in Greenland, literally. Find out how much ice turned to liquid just this week. We'll be right back.

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HOLMES: Yes, what you hear there is the sound of pure and utter joy. Family and friends of U.S. Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee reacting as she snags gold in the women's all round event. The 18 year old gymnast the fifth consecutive American to win the event. But her victory means more than just another U.S. medal.

For Lee's family and for the Hmong community back in Minnesota, it's a reflection of their resilience in overcoming hardship and tragedy. Sunisa Lee's road to gold was far from easy. Will Ripley tells us about it.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From a family of Southeast Asian refugees to Olympic gold for Teen USA.

SUNISA LEE, U.S. GYMNAST: It's like it doesn't even feel real.

RIPLEY: 18-year old Sunisa Lee, the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast stepping up when Simone Biles stepped back, taking women's individual all-around gold, win number six in the event for Team USA, tying the former Soviet Union's record.

LEE: This medal would not be possible without my coaches, the medical team, my parents, and it's just so surreal and I haven't even let it sink in yet.

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RIPLEY: Nearly 6000 miles away in Oakdale, Minnesota, the small Hmong refugee community celebrating big time. Lee's parents fled Laos for the U.S. Her dad says winning gold is the greatest achievement of any Hmong American.

JOHN LEE, SUNISA LEE'S FATHER: All that hard work, all that broken bones, all that time you missed vacation with us. It paid off. RIPLEY: Lee's road to gold tougher than most. In 2019, her father fell

from a ladder, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. In 2020, her aunt and uncle died of COVID-19.

LEE: - because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit and I just didn't think I would ever get here including injuries and stuff. So there are definitely a lot of emotions, but I'm super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself.

RIPLEY: And now Suni Lee making Olympic history. Will Ripley CNN, Tokyo.

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HOLMES: Good for her. Now this as Olympics are being held during the hottest time of year in Japan and forecasters say there is no relief anytime soon from the searing temperatures. The International Olympic Committee says it's working to take precaution. CNN's Selina Wang with more on that.

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SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sweaty, hot and humid. That's the Tokyo summer. Before the pandemic, heatstroke was the biggest health risk for the Tokyo Games held during the hottest time of year in Japan. Natsue Koikawa knows the risks of heatstroke all too well. A former professional runner, she passed out during a 1995 marathon in Japan and almost died.

It took her more than a year and a half to recover, and she never returned to a major marathon race again. Now a Professor and track coach at Juntendo University, she's been researching the dangers of competing in the heat.

NATSUE KOIKAWA, FORMER MARATHON RUNNER (through translator): Heatstroke can happen to anyone and it's a very common cause of death. It may be extremely difficult for athletes to give up competing in the middle of the game because the athletes are representing their country on the stage of their dreams.

But I tell athletes that having the courage to quit is the best way to prevent heat stroke.

WANG: Back in 1964, the Tokyo games were actually held in October in order to beat the heat, and it's only gotten hotter since then. According to a report from the British Association for Sustainable Sport, temperatures in Japan have increased three times as fast as the world average since 1900.

MAKOTO YOKOHARI, PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENT, UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO: When you're taking into account not only the temperature but also humidity, I will say that a Tokyo summer is the worst in the history of the Olympic Games.

WANG: In a statement to CNN the IOC said it provides shade and water supplies at venues because the health of athletes is 'at the heart of our concerns.' Still, we have already seen athletes struggle under the sun during these games. with Russian Archer Svetlana Gomboeva being treated for heat exhaustion.

KIT MCCONNELL, SPORTS DIRECTOR, INTL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Lot of the competition schedule has been built where possible depending on the on the sport to accommodate the - avoid the hottest part of the day, but that's not possible with every sport.

WANG: On Wednesday, Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev was visibly struggling when the umpire asked if he could continue. He replied, I'm a fighter. I will finish the match but I can die. Later and comments posted by Tokyo 2020 he added I couldn't breathe properly. I think that was the most humid day we have had so far.

Later that day, Spain's Paula Badosa retired from her match with heatstroke. She had to be escorted off the court in a wheelchair. In response the International Tennis Federation said that matches will now begin later in the day due to these weather conditions. But Yokohari says that isn't enough.

YOKOHARI: Having Olympic Games in midsummer in Tokyo is not something that you should do. And we should postpone it until like October or November.

WANG: But in the future, it might not just be Tokyo. According to a commentary published in The Lancet by 2085, the number of large cities that would be considered low risk to hold the Olympics in summer months would be extremely limited. In the meantime, Koikawa says athletes must stop if they feel the onset of heatstroke as it's better to put their Olympic dreams rather than their lives on the line. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.

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HOLMES: At least four people are dead from forest fires sweeping through southern Turkey. They've also killed more than 2000 farm animals. Officials say there have been nearly 16 new wildfires in just two days, 20 are still burning. Dozens of villages have been ordered to evacuate along the Mediterranean coast.

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Now Greenland is enduring a major meltdown this week literally. Tuesday alone was the biggest ice loss of the year. It lost enough to cover the whole state of Florida with five centimeters of water just to give you an idea. And what's alarming experts is the size of the ice sheet that is melting. Let's bring in CNN Meteorologist Jean Norman. Extremely worrying amount of ice melt. Tell us about it and put it in context.

GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Michael, good to join you and certainly are concerned about this problem, because although this is the time of year, when we do expect to see melting in Greenland, we're seeing more and more episodes that are very, very large. And that, of course, is putting more water into the global water system, so to speak, and causing or contributing to sea level rise. Again, normal melting seasons, between June and August, we had a

record melt in 2019 and 532 billion tons, that follows other reason melts in 2007, 2010 and 2012. But take a look at these interesting pictures from satellite from the Copernicus satellite. You see all that brown there, this is the melt pushing sediment off of the ice sheet, there.

A clear indication that there is a significant amount of melting going on. And this all occurred because of recent high temperatures. This week, we looked at temperatures 23,19 degrees, that's five to 10 degrees above the normal for this time of year. So the high Greenland ice melt that we have been watching this week, let's turn the clock back to the beginning or the end of May, and then compare it to what's been going on this week.

18.4 billion tonnes lost this week alone. Now Tuesday's melt, as you mentioned of 8.6 billion could cover Florida with about five centimeters of water. So when we look at the normal trend for the melt, that's indicated by that black line, but look at the blue line. That's what's going on this year. And that's why it's a real problem because when Greenland loses its ice sheet, that contributes to the sea level rise, and that's a problem of course everybody living across coastal areas.

In fact, the sea level has risen 3.1 centimeters an average each decade over the past several decades. So Michael a definitely a warring situation and what we'll continue to monitor.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Yes, what's going on around the world? Gene, thanks for being with us on the program and filling us in. Appreciate it. Gene Norman there. Now 1000s of migrants hoping to reach the U.S. gets stranded in a town in Colombia, but they still keep coming even as the mayor says, the town can't handle it anymore. We're going to have that story coming up.

Also some drama in orbit, a bumpy ride for a Russian module and the International Space Station. That's when we come back.

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HOLMES: Columbia's Capitol saw new clashes between Police and protesters on Wednesday. Police say six officers were injured in Bogota, while 10 people were arrested including three minors. Colombia was rattled by massive anti-government protests that began in April. Human rights groups say dozens of protesters have been killed by security forces since then by Colombian officials who skipped those numbers. Those rallies were suspended last month.

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And 1000s of migrants in a desperate search for a better life are stranded in Colombia. They are in the town of Necocli, which is northwest of Bogota. The migrants were hoping to reach the U.S. before the Panama border closed but as Stefano Pozzebon reports, now they have no place to go.

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STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: More than 10,000 migrants are currently stuck in the northern Colombian town of Necocli, a situation that is causing a humanitarian crisis and a public health emergency. The local authorities have said the group is formed mainly by Haitian and African migrants so who are travelling north towards Panama and North America but a border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic has created a bottleneck on the northern Colombian coastline, according to the Colombian Migration Agency.

Necocli is known for being a mandatory transit point for migrants who are prone to the crossing of the Darien Gap while the stretch of jungle that separates Colombia from Panama. According to Colombian authorities, up to 25,000 migrants have already crossed through the town in the year so far. All the health system, public and food services have collapsed in the small town of 20,000.

The local authorities have warned and the Colombian government has called for an emergency roundtable to provide assistance and aid before the situation escalates. even further. For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.

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HOLMES: The U.S. space agency NASA says there was an hour long spacecraft emergency on Thursday in low Earth orbit.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the side is in the center, the crosshairs are aligned, copy.

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HOLMES: Now what happened is a Russian space module apparently misfired Its thrusters during docking, pushing the International Space Station out of position in a kind of tug of war kind of situation. Communications went down for 11 minutes between the ground and the ISS.

The U.S. and Russian space agencies are investigating NASA downplaying the incident calling it a pretty exciting hour. So with this one, thanks for spending part of your day, I'm Michael Holmes. I'll be back with more CNN Newsroom in just a moment.

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