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Asian Nations Tighten Restrictions as Delta Spreads; China's Nanjing COVID Outbreak Spreads to 11 Provinces; Incentives Offered to Encourage Vaccinations in Georgia; U.S. Confident Iran Responsible for Oil Tanker Attack; Top Israeli Court to Rule on Sheikh Jarrah Eviction Case; Simone Biles to Compete in Olympic Balance Beam Final; Katie Ledecky Talks About Becoming an Olympic Legend; 19-Year-Old Woman Aims to Set Aviation Records. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 2, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: In Asia, some parts of India, and China are struggling to contain a surge in COVID cases. The Indian state of Kerala imposed a lockdown over the weekend after experiencing an alarming rise in infections. On Sunday alone Kerala reported over 20,000 new COVID cases and at least 56 deaths. And in China officials are trying to contain a COVID outbreak that started in Nanjing airport that has now spread to 11 provinces and 26 cities.

CNN Steven Jiang joining us now from Beijing. Good to see you, Stephen. So, what is China doing to contain this outbreak?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, the central leadership has sent a vice premier to Nanjing to supervisor the local response to this outbreak. And this is the same senior official they dispatched to Wuhan in that city during the peak of the city's outbreak in the beginning of the pandemic. That's how seriously concerned they feel about the spread of this cluster. Release showing no sign of abating.

As you mentioned, this virus has now spread across the country impacting not just airport staff but also airline crews and school children, tourists, and doctors and nurses, as well. On Sunday they recorded 99 new locally confirmed cases. This number may pale in comparison to what we are seeing in many parts of the world, including the U.S. But in this country, they haven't seen this level of infection for months. That's why increasingly we're seeing local authorities reimpose draconian measures we haven't seen for a long time. And that means millions of Chinese people again being confined to their homes as the government has designated more than hundred so- called high or medium risk areas.

And all of this, of course, is happening in the middle of the peak summer travel season, which hasn't helped things as well. So, now you're seeing a growing number of tourist attractions as well as airports being shut down as local officials, including those here in Beijing, advising local residents not to leave town. And here in the Chinese capital, they have also greatly tightened entry requirements. Basically, banning anyone from the high or media risk areas from entering the city by cutting off all transportation links to those places.

And as of now, there's little indication that leadership here is going to change their current approach, which is zero tolerance towards these locally transmitted cases. So do expect to see more lockdowns and the sharp decline in domestic travel here in China -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Steven Jiang bringing us the very latest from Beijing, many thanks.

Well, COVID lockdown restrictions in Australia's state of Queensland are being extended another week.


Initial stay at home orders were meant to run through Monday but the state's deputy premier said the initial lockdown was insufficient. And this comes as the delta variant is spreading significantly along the country's east coast states. Sydney, Australia's most popular city, reported 209 cases Monday despite continued restrictions.

And here in the United States, Los Angeles County is reporting an alarming COVID trend. For the first time since March, more than a thousand people are hospitalized there with the virus. Officials say that number has been climbing for the past few weeks. And the county's public health director says COVID is now the leading cause of death there. Almost 25,000 people have died at the virus in L.A.

Well, a new school year is getting underway right here in Georgia, and one school has already quarantined more than 100 students for exposure to COVID-19. CNN's Natasha Chen has the latest.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As some school districts prepare to bring students back to class, parents and educators are divided on how to do that safely. The Drew Charter School in Atlanta began their school year last Tuesday and already within a couple of days more than 100 students have had to quarantine. That school now has more than a dozen positive test cases.

And among the employees who tested positive, only one was vaccinated. That's prompted conversations about whether to mandate vaccines among employees at that school. Meanwhile, officials in school districts and local governments are pushing more people to get vaccinated. Here in DeKalb County, a vaccination event on Saturday drew 230 people partly because of $50 prepaid debit cards being given out. I talked to the first person in line about data from CDC internal documents showing the higher likelihood of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 among the unvaccinated.

CHEN: If you're unvaccinated, you're 25 times more likely to end up in the hospital or die from COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, right. I've been listening to all of that but, really, like I said, the money is what got me here. You know, bottom line. Because I know eventually, they're going to have to go up. Because some people will only come for an incentive. You know, they just don't care or are scared of the vaccine or whatever. But you throw an incentive behind it, and you know, people will do it.

CHEN: Georgia along with the rest of the country is seeing vaccination rates picking up. The current seven-day average of new vaccine doses administered in the U.S. is more than 660,000 doses per day. That's the highest average we've seen in more than three weeks.

Natasha Chen, CNN, DeKalb County, Georgia.


CHURCH: And some parents are wondering if they should pull their healthy kids from schools that don't have mask requirements. Here's what the dean of Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha is advising.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: If you're in a hot zone with a lot of infections happening, I would be pushing your school district in your governor to allow you to do masking. I think if the kid is healthy and made other accommodations like good ventilation, windows open, I think schools can be very safe for kids, even without mask mandates. I don't think I would be pulling healthy kids out of the school for context.


CHURCH: Dr. Jha also discussed whether kids as young as 12 should get vaccinated now that they're able to. He says that while younger people do face a small risk from the vaccine, the benefits of getting it clearly outweigh any potential dangers.

Well, Israel's top court could rule soon on a controversial eviction case in Jerusalem. The latest on the Sheikh Jarrah legal battle coming up.



CHURCH: The U.S. is confident Iran is responsible for a deadly drone attack on an oil tanker last week. Britain and Israel agree. Romanian and Britain were killed in the incident off the coast of Oman. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was no justification for the attack on the Israeli-managed tanker. Iran denies any involvement.

Our Nic Robertson is in London. He joins us now live. Good to see you, Nic. So, what more are you learning about this attack and what evidence is there to support this claim that Iran was responsible?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the British Foreign Office is saying that the attack was deliberate and targeted. That they believe that it was highly likely that Iran was responsible. They point to three previous incidents of Israeli linked vessels that have been targeted. They believe, in drone attacks by Iran since February of this year.

There does seems to be some photographic evidence available that does point to, you know, an explosion or an impact of an explosive device on board the vessel. I mean, it's not clear, you know, when you look at that to say who was actually responsible. But the preponderance of evidence that both the United States believe exists. They are saying that they're confident that Iran was behind this. They've had U.S. military personnel on board the ship. So, they've been able to inspect and see what's happen and make an analysis based on that.

Israel firmly believes that Iran was responsible for this attack. So there does seems to be enough evidence, at least for the United States and the U.K. to say from their perspective that this is Iran, and that Iran must insist this is a ship in international waters and it should be allowed to go about the business lawfully. So, they are saying -- the State Department is saying that there will be a forthcoming response. It doesn't say what the response will be.

As you say, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman has made it clear that Iran is not responsible. Although that does seem to be counter to what one of their news media was reporting over the weekend, which said that Iran had done this in response for an Israeli air strike on a military base inside Syria. So, where it seems to be headed at the moment is an escalation of diplomatic conversations at the moment when a new hardline president is about to be sworn in in Iran -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Nic Robertson joining us live from London. Many thanks.

And still to come, CNN talks to record-breaking swimmer Katie Ledecky about her journey to becoming an Olympic legend. Back with that in just a moment.



CHURCH: A ruling in the deeply contentious case of Palestinian families facing the threat of forced evictions in Jerusalem could happen soon. It's a long-running legal battle over the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. And Israel's supreme court is expected to rule if it will hear arguments in an appeal. CNN's Hadas Gold joins me now from Jerusalem with the latest. So Hadas, the threat of Palestinian evictions has had the city on edge before and now, again, of course, what is likely to happen here?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I'm outside of the supreme court where you can probably see behind me protesters on both sides of this issues have been demonstrating outside of the court now. The hearing is underway in the building behind me at the supreme court. I just want to lay out why this is such an important case. It goes beyond, really, the threat of evictions for these Palestinian families and east Jerusalem. It's become a rallying cry for many Palestinians and for their cause. And the tensions in this neighborhood, the tensions around the situation is what helped spark that bloody 11-day conflict in May between Hamas led militants in Gaza and Israel.


So, I want to lay out what this case is about. Now lower courts have ruled that Jews owned land in this neighborhood, and East Jerusalem prior to the state of Israel being founded and the war of independence in 1948. But Jordan took control of East Jerusalem after that war and settled Palestinian refugees who had lost their homes into this -- on to this land. When Israel took control in 1967 of East Jerusalem, they soon after passed a law saying that Israeli Jews could try to reclaim property that they say they lost in 1948.

But Palestinians say these restitution laws are inherently unfair because they say Palestinians don't have the same recourse to try to claim back land that they say they lost in what is now the state of Israel. Now this has been a long running legal battle but it's especially in the last few years causing increased tensions in the neighborhood. And essentially no matter what happens today, this will continue to be an ongoing issue. There are other threats of eviction in East Jerusalem, as well.

And even if the supreme court decides against hearing this appeal, essentially saying that the lower court rulings on the evictions can stand, Israeli media is reporting that the government, the state might not carry through these evictions citing a 1991 decision by the Attorney General saying that police do not have to carry out evictions for the fear of making the situation worse, for the fear of violence. Essentially because of the very sensitive political situation surrounding these possible evictions. But no matter what happens, there is a lot of tension, a lot of nerves around this issue. Many eyes are on the supreme court today because people are still reeling from the violence in May -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Hadas Gold joining us live from Jerusalem. We'll continue to monitor the story, of course.

And this just in. It looks like we will get to see Simone Biles compete again in the Olympics. USA gymnastics tweeted, we are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes at the balance beam final tomorrow -- Sun Suni Lee and Simone Biles. Can't wait to watch you both.

Simone Biles withdrew from the last few gymnastic events she was up for. She has said she's been suffering from what gymnasts call the "twisties," a disorienting mental block.

And we have an update on an Olympic story we told you about earlier. Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanovskaya has entered the polish embassy in Tokyo after requesting asylum. This is according to Reuters. The 24-year-old sprinter says she was forced to withdrawal from the Olympics by Belarusian authorities on Sunday. This came after she criticized sports officials in her country on social media. She says they told her to pack her bags and they took her to the airport to put her on a plane to Minsk. She reached out to Japanese police saying she was afraid she will be jailed in Belarus.

And just checking the updated medal count for the Tokyo Olympics, China leads the gold medal count with 24. But the U.S. has the most medals overall with 60. There are still tons more up for grabs with another week left of competition.

Well, one of those medal winners is American swimmer Katie Ledecky, who added two golds and two silvers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. CNN's Coy Wire asked her about that historic moment.


KATIE LEDECKY, 10-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: It's an amazing feeling to be bringing home two golds and two silvers here and competed in my third Olympics. Something I never would have imagined when I first started swimming.


LEDECKY: Healthy.

WIRE: Health, but after years of sacrifice and discipline, a celebratory meal. And how are you just going to relax now that this is over?

LEDECKY: Oh, I had a hamburger after I was done. That tasted good. But yes, I'm just going enjoy spending time with my family and friends and telling them all the stories. I can't wait to get back to the U.S. and just giving them a big hug.

WIRE: Simone Biles made an incredible impact on these games. I think we're seeing how powerful the mind is. There are not many people in the world that could say they navigated what you have in your career. When you felt those sorts of moments, what got you through them? How did you navigate those situations?

LEDECKY: I try to just stay focused on my own goals and try not to the let external expectations get to me too much. Swimming is not the only thing I enjoy doing. I'm passionate about other things, as well. And so, I'm really happy that I just finished my degree at Stanford and just had a great time there, as well. So, there's so much more to life than swimming and the Olympics and the people around me remind me of that.


CHURCH: Well done to her.

Well, a 19-year-old pilot could soon become the youngest woman to make a solo fight around the world. Zara Rutherford wants to inspire girls to reach for the sky and pursue their interest, especially in aviation.


If her flight is successful, Rutherford would also be the youngest person to circle the globe in a microlight aircraft. And I spoke with her last hour about the challenges of such a monumental trip. Here is part of that conversation.


ZARA RUTHERFORD, AIMS TO BECOME YOUNGEST WOMAN TO FLY SOLO AROUND THE WORLD: When I finally was able to finish school, I had this year where I could actually do something crazy. Something completely crazy. So, I started off preparing and now here I am, I find a little hope.

CHURCH: And how confident are you that you can pull this off? And what do you think will be the biggest challenges ahead?

RUTHERFORD I've got a great team supporting me. So, I'm pretty confident lucky all-around. And I think the biggest challenge will be, you know, there's some unexpected stuff that can come up or, you know, I'll be flying in places like Iraq. There are many people that live there says that if anything were to happen, I would have a bit of a problem. But I'm really excited. Again. I've got a great team supporting me, so nothing bad could happen.


CHURCH (on camera): Isn't she fantastic. Zara Rutherford starts her trip around the world on August 11th. And we wish her the best of luck and safe travels.

And thank you for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Be sure to connect with me on Twitter @rosemaryCNN. "EARLY START" with Laura Jarrett and Amara Walker is up next. You're watching CNN. Have a wonderful day.