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U.S. Seeing More Daily COVID Infections; Infrastructure Bill on Its Way to Congress; Greeks Waiting for Aid; Heat Wave Can Trigger More Wildfires in Western U.S.; U.N. Report Warns People of Worse to Come. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Rosemary CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, in the U.S., politics, the pandemic, and the start of school are on a collision course. And medical experts are sounding the alarm.

Thousands in Greece flee their homes, as more than 500 wildfires burn across the country. The president calling those fires a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions.

And the U.N. issues a stark warning to the world. The window to limit catastrophic climate change is closing fast.

Good to have you with us.

The battle over mask mandates rages on in the United States. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold salaries of officials like school superintendents if they violate his order banning school mask mandates.

And as you can see here, Florida is just one of several states that have passed measures banning mask mandates in schools. And the timing could not be worse.

Lucy Kafanov shows us how the pandemic numbers are suddenly, trending in the wrong direction in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As children across the nation head back to school, COVID-19 cases are surging. Hospitalizations and deaths have nearly doubled over the last two weeks. The U.S. is now averaging more than 109,000 new COVID cases each day and more than 500 deaths per day.

Florida reported more COVID-19 cases last week than any other seven- day period during the pandemic. Fifty Florida children admitted to the hospital on Friday alone as many districts return to class this week. A Jacksonville church saw six members die from COVID-19 in the past 10 days alone.

GEORGE DAVIS, SENIOR PASTOR, IMPACT CHURCH: Four of them were under the age of 35, all of them were healthy and the only thing they had in common is that they were not vaccinated.

KAFANOV: Now the church is pushing to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Texas cases and hospitalizations have doubled in the last two weeks.

UNKNOWN: It's OK.

KAFANOV: An 11-month-old baby girl battering COVID-19 had to be airlifted because there were no more beds available in any of the pediatric hospitals in Houston.

ESTEFANI LOPEZ, 11-MONTH OLD DAUGHTER HAS COVID-19: It gets me kind of mad that like everybody is taking COVID as a joke and it's not a joke. Like, it's very, very serious. Our babies are in danger.

KAFANOV: Louisiana also seeing the sharpest rate of increases in new COVID-19 cases. The head physician of a New Orleans Children's Hospital concerned about a surge in young patients.

MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL IN NEW ORLEANS: We are hospitalizing record numbers of children. Half of the children in our hospital today are under two years of age. And most of the others are between five and 10 years of age. So, they are too young to be vaccinated just yet.

KAFANOV: Health experts are worried about the impact of the Delta variant on children.

FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I certainly I'm hearing from pediatricians that they are concerned that this time the kids who are in the hospital are both not only more numerous and more seriously ill. This is a virus that's not only more contagious but potentially more lethal.

KAFANOV: Experts say vaccinations are key to protect against future variants that could be even more problematic.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you give the virus a chance to continue to change, you are leading to a vulnerability that we may get a worse variant. And then that will impact not only the unvaccinated that will impact the vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAFANOV (on camera): Vaccine advisers for the CDC will meet on Friday to discuss COVID-19 booster doses. This, as health experts urge more Americans to get vaccinated.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Denver. CHURCH: And Dr. Scott Miscovich is a family physician and a national

consultant for COVID-19 testing. He joins me now from Hawaii. Good to have you with us.

SCOTT MISCOVICH, NATIONAL CONSULTANT FOR COVID-19 TESTING: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So, Florida's Governor DeSantis is threatening to withhold salaries of school officials who violate his order to ban mask mandates in schools, essentially punishing officials for trying to protect children from COVID-19. What is your reaction to this intrusion of politics into public health policy?

[03:04:57]

MISCOVICH: It is just amazing to all of us because, you know, we sit and we get together every day as we strategize how do we deal with this contagious Delta variant? And you know, we keep looking at things that we know work. Number one is the masks. And the appropriate fitting mask is the number one thing that works.

And then the school age children where we are saying that CDC puts children three feet apart and this Delta variant is so contagious, we are going to have the entire classrooms taken out. So, it is going to lead to the hospitals being further pushed to the brink as we saw in the prior piece where we are having children airlifted or the children in ICU now are just overwhelming the health system.

CHURCH: And of course, the Pentagon is expected to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all active duty military by mid-September. And we are also seeing some private companies mandating both vaccines and masks. Is that what needs to happen across the board if we are to stop this virus in its tracks?

MISCOVICH: Yes. I mean, vaccination is the only single way we will stop this virus in its tracks. And I had a major discussion with colleagues across the country today and we are all preparing for the FDA approval of the vaccine because that's when we believe there is going to be a massive surge of employers and state and counties that will finally be pushing to turn the switch to mandate.

I totally believe that it is coming to that because the health risk to everyone, whether it's a church or a school, the number of people who will die if you are not responsible enough to get a vaccine is now just too much to come.

CHURCH: And I think so many of us are still scratching our heads why it is taking the FDA so long to give that full approval to the COVID vaccines considering hundreds of millions of people, certainly in this country have and elsewhere across the globe have received that shot.

MISCOVICH: Yes, exactly. We are looking at this right now, the data is very clear. Remember, people ask me all the time what is the FDA approval? Well, what they do is they are taking those hundreds of millions of shots, and then as a medical provider we are required by law to put in every single adverse effect or any question about that virus. They take that data then they study it. And then they look at the root cause.

And you know what, Rosemary? For us in the field it's crystal clear. These vaccines are safe. The amount of data that we now have is enormous and the safety is beyond what we could ever have dreamed about.

CHURCH: Yes. And as you say, the sooner they can get that done, the more likely more people will actually start to get the vaccine. And I want to ask you about that, because of course we know that more than 99.9 percent of fully vaccinated people have not experienced a severe breakthrough case according to CDC data.

So, these vaccines, they are clearly they are working. And yet the message is not getting through to about 25 percent of the population. What needs to be done about that?

MISCOVICH: Well, you know, I think that if you really look at it you are going to see that there is, the stats are very clear. Twelve to 17 percent depending on the state you are in are saying they will never get the vaccine no matter what. So, that group is going to be very hard. You know, we've crossed over 50 percent. There is 35 percent. There is 30 percent we should be able to convince to get this.

And so, I do believe there are going to be more pushes to get mandates but again, I'm also a strong believer in education. And from my standpoint, it's really surprising to me that more people aren't stepping over because of the first degree and separation. Everyone knows someone who is either contracted severe COVID or who has died. And you would think that would be enough to push them over the edge.

CHURCH: Yes. And if they don't now, they will very soon, sadly. Dr. Scott Miscovich, thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise.

MISCOVICH: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: For the first time since the pandemic started, Canada's border is now open to U.S. travelers. But they must be fully vaccinated to enter. Long delays were reported at the border on Monday after the ban was lifted. At least one crossing reported a seven-hour wait. All of this comes as the Delta variant drives up new COVID cases here in the United States.

And the U.S. Senate expected to hold a final vote on a critical infrastructure bill in the coming hours. After months of negotiations the bipartisan package is worth an estimated $1.2 trillion dollars and could potentially reshaped the country. The spending reaches everything from modernizing roads, bridges, and rail to rebuilding the electric grid, expanding broadband internet access, and replacing lead pipes in water systems.

[03:10:04]

The bill's passage would be a major victory for the Biden administration. Both parties could in fact claim a win. But as Manu Raju reports it's not a done deal just yet. MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After it passes the

Senate the question will be how does it move through the House? Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker has made it very clear that she will not move on this package unless the Senate first moves on a $3.5 trillion Democratic only package that includes a wide range of priorities by their party. Whether it is expanding health care, whether it's expanding immigration provisions to deal with the undocumented workers, as well as dealing with the climate change.

A major Democratic priority and wide ranging provisions in that. But moderates in the House are pushing back. They want an immediate vote on this infrastructure proposal. And that's something that she is going to have to navigate in the weeks ahead. A very narrow majority and she can't afford with many defections.

CHURCH: Manu Raju with that report.

Well, more than 500 wildfires are raging across Greece. Crews are doing all they can to battle the flames, but the prime minister says even the best efforts have not been enough. The latest in a live report.

Plus a code red for humanity. A new U.N. report explains how climate change is making wildfires, floods, and heat waves even worse. And we may be past the point of no return.

[03:15:00]

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CHURCH (on camera): Climate change and strong winds are fueling fires in South America. In Bolivia's eastern Santa Cruz region flames have consumed some 150,000 hectares so far this year. And according to a recent government statement more than 830 fires have broken out just in August.

Greece is -- Greece's prime minister calls a dozen disaster of unprecedented proportions. Flames forcing thousands to evacuate their homes and everything they own. Wildfires continue to spread throughout Greece after a week of firefighting efforts.

Protesters gathered in Athens on Monday saying that the government isn't giving enough financial support for firefighting resources or doing enough to protect the environment. The prime minister has apologized for any weaknesses and the country's response to the fires, saying their best efforts simply have not been enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It is obvious that the climate crisis is now knocking on the door of the entire planet with fires at last weeks. This is the reason but it is not an excuse nor an alibi. And I will say it clearly. We may have done whatever is humanly possible but in many cases, this does not appear to be enough in the unequal battle with nature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH (on camera): And some of the most devastating wildfires are now burning on the island of Evia. And that is where CNN's Eleni Giokos is standing by live. She joins us now.

So, Eleni, the images are horrifying. What are you seeing on the ground there, and what is the latest on these firefighters?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, we saw some horrific fires yesterday. This morning when we woke up emergency services said there were no active fires but the big fear was rekindling. And we are now in the town in the village of (Inaudible) in Evia and we have seen fire trucks moving towards mountain villages have been out of the balconies telling us that it's being a big risk this entire time but the fires have now move back in.

And we also have been following the Slovenian firefighting crew. They arrived this morning in Evia to assist local authorities. And they are also now on route to try and put out the new fire that has just restarted.

I want you to take a look at this landscape, Rosemary, I can't even describe how thick the air is. My eyes are watering. You have ash in the air and of course the smoke that it's so -- it's so difficult to breathe in Evia and in all parts of Evia in fact.

We heard from the Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that there have been issues and weaknesses in their response. And the locals here have told us that for so many days they did not receive the needed assistance and that is why fires in Evia carried on for over seven days. Almost half of the Evia and we're talking about virgin forest has been burned to the ground. Homes have been lost. Hundreds of people have been evacuated.

And of course, now emergency systems from international countries from other countries, foreign countries have arrived in Evia. We've also been seeing many pickup trucks driving past with water for assistance. Volunteers, local -- locals men women coming together putting out fires with branches and those are the kinds of scenes that we have been witnessing.

But importantly here, Rosemary, you also have this big worry about what's to come when you have so much forest and so many people's livelihoods being destroyed. The question is what happens next? And the government many people say should be doing a lot more to try and get this under control.

CHURCH: Very tragic. And of course, the government says they've done all they can. But Eleni Giokos keeping a very close eye on those fires there in Evia, Greece, Many thanks.

Well the wildfire season here in the U.S. is already shaping up to be one of the worst yet. There have been nearly 40,000 wildfires so far this year, well above average for early August. The fires have burned through more than three and a half million acres of land. Roughly three times the size of the Grand Canyon. And right now, more than 100 active fires are burning in the U.S. largely fueled by hot and dry conditions in the west.

So for more, we are joined by meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, what are the conditions looking like right now? What it's going to take to contain these fires?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: My goodness, Rosemary, you know, I'm here to tell you things are about to change and for the worst across part of the Western United States.

[03:20:00]

The latest models here are suggesting a tremendous heat wave we've kind of seen this over the last several days as it develops. And now it looks almost certain that we are going to see another historic heat wave across the portions of the western United States.

And you noted, upwards of 108 large active fires across 15 U.S. states. This is all on the backdrop of this heat wave developing and the National Weather Service is taking this quite seriously across Washington State where nearly the entirety of the state underneath excessive heat watches. Work your way into Oregon, excessive heat warnings. Portions of northern California dealing with warnings and the watches in place as well.

And high pressure beginning to gradually build, it will really peak here between Wednesday and Saturday around the Western United States. And temperatures this time of year should be around 79 degrees in Seattle. They are close to it on Tuesday. Notice what happens by Thursday and Friday. The century mark yet again back in the view there across portions of the northwest. While in Portland it should be 84 degrees this time of year. They will be aiming for around 107 degrees in parts of town come Thursday into Friday.

So this incredible heat wave where temperatures around 25 to 30 degrees above average for some are once again back in store. Now of course we know we have this second largest fire in state history in California, the Dixie Fire some 753 square miles of land consumed or about two and a half times the size of New York City.

Take these fires, look at them and notice that six of the top seven have all happened since August of 2020 for the state of California. So really, again, it speaks to what has been happening in the current state of affairs across parts of the western U.S.

But across the Atlantic Ocean it is beginning to approach peak season here for tropical activity and we do have a potential tropical cyclone. This is poised to become tropical storm Fred sometime later on today. They do have tropical storm watches and warnings around the Caribbean on into portions of the island of Hispaniola. The storm system again, at this point, it looks like it will interact with land quite a bit here on its journey as it approaches portions of Hispaniola, Cuba, and eventually this weekend possibly South Florida.

So, we'll follow this carefully. Again, that land interaction, Rosemary, it looks like it will weaken the storm system on approach towards the United States. We don't expect this to be a major player but it is getting going here across the Atlantic.

CHURCH: Unbelievable what we're seeing on the weather front. Many thanks to you, Pedram, for keeping a very close eye on all of this.

Well, it's not just wildfires. Heat waves, droughts, storms, and floods are all happening more often and with more intensity because of climate change. A major new U.N. report warns the crisis is threatening life as we know it not in the distant future but right now.

The U.N. secretary general calls it a code red for humanity. The report says some of the effects are irreversible but deep cuts to carbon emissions are necessary to slow this trend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETTERI TAALAS, SECRETARY-GENERAL, WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION: Have we have lost the hope? No one is. According to this report, we are still having a chance to stop the negative planet trend in the midst of this century by specially limiting the use of fossil fuels and by stopping deforestation. Some centuries, will continue for centuries or even thousands of years like sea level rise, melting of glaciers, and shrinking of the arctic sea ice and snow cover.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Shyla Raghav joins me now. She is the vice president for Climate Change and Conservation International. Thank you so much for talking with us.

SHYLA RAGHAV, VICE PRESIDENT, CLIMATE CHANGE CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: So, this IPCC assessment report represents a wakeup call with a code red for humanity. What are the main points raise in this report that you want global leaders to focus on right now, and what action should they be taking?

RAGHAV: Yes. In my opinion in this report will probably be seen as one of the most scientific documents ever produced. Its reference to more than 14,000 studies, it's the first of its kind since 2013. It integrates advancements in science and comes really at a critical moment when so many of us are personally experiencing the impacts of climate change like fires, droughts, and extreme storms.

There is nothing particularly surprising to those of us that work on climate change but it does tell us a few things with more accuracy, urgency, and reconfirms why this must be the decade of action.

So, three points, the first is that this report speaks about the certainty on the responsibility that human activity has had on rising temperatures. It's really unequivocal that human influences warm temperatures in our ocean, land, and atmosphere, and this is because of the higher precision that we have in understanding climate sensitivity. The second is that this past decade was most likely the hottest than

any period in the last 125,000 years. We also know the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation have raised the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere higher than there been in two million years.

[03:25:09]

So, there is a certain degree of warming that we are now committed to and we will keep seeing extreme impact with more severity if we continue on the course we are now. And how worse it gets is in our hands and it depends on what we do about it.

CHURCH: Well, of course it is important to note that despite extreme weather conditions across the planet with wildfires in some parts of the world and flooding in others, there are still world leaders and individuals who don't accept that humans have played a role in climate change. And as a result, they choose not to take any action at all. What would your message be to them?

RAGHAV: Yes. I think it's getting harder to deny the scientific consensus and the scientific fact that our planet is warming. And the evidence is all around us. And we are seeing these impacts affecting all communities from all walks of life but it's those on the front lines of climate change that are bearing the brunt of the most severe impact.

I would say at the cost of inaction we have already begun to see. And it will just accelerate unless we act on climate change. The cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action.

CHURCH: So, let's look at solutions then. What do all nations and individuals need to be doing right now to save this planet?

RAGHAV: Yes. So, the most important thing is lowering our emissions. It's reducing and eliminating our reliance dependence on the sources of fossil -- of greenhouse gas emissions which is the combustion of fossil fuels. It also means stopping deforestation. We know that one of the largest sources of emissions is the burning and clearing of natural ecosystems.

So, we need to get serious about transitioning to zero or no carbon energy. We have to get serious about resolving and fixing unsustainable models of growth that infinite levels of consumption will be compatible or possible in the future. It means promoting renewable and re-generative materials and economies.

And most importantly, unleashing the talent of human innovation of our creativity and ingenuity to retool the rules and how our economy is designed.

CHURCH: And are we as doomed as this report suggests?

RAGHAV: So, the findings are dire. We have committed warming probably until the middle of the century until 2050. We know that heat waves and fires are going to become a new normal. Flooding, sea level rise, we've already locked in a certain degree of those impacts.

But it is in our control to prevent or avoid some of the most catastrophic tipping points that are expected which would completely potentially displace millions of people, cause ecosystem collapse, avoiding those severe impacts still is within our reach and it's still possible.

CHURCH: All right. Let's hope that everyone can do their part. Shyla Raghav, thank you so much for talking with us. We do appreciate it.

RAGHAV: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: Afghans are fleeing the fighting in their country but they are running out of safe places to go. The latest on the Taliban offensive. That's ahead.

And will Barcelona legend Lionel Messi be moving to Paris? We are live at the PSG Stadium where fans and media are anxiously awaiting an update. Back in just a moment.

[03:30:00]

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: The Taliban now controls six provincial capitals in Afghanistan. A local officials said the entire northern city of Aybak has fallen. With Afghan forces under siege across the country, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan will meet with other regional officials to try to formulate an international response. Civilians, desperate to escape the Taliban's offensive in the provinces had abandon tier homes to reach the relative safety in Kabul.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has reported from inside Afghanistan for many years and he joins us now from London. Good to see you, Nick. So, what is the latest on these Taliban advances? And of course, the implications for the Afghan government and troops?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We are now at a total of six provincial capitals that have fallen to the Taliban, since Friday. The town of Aybak in Samangan province is now quiet. It appears, now the insurgency has moved in. Ghazni, a key city that was it seems greatly under threat yesterday by another Taliban offensive that is quieter, according to a witness inside that city this morning, suggesting that security forces are at least holding their positions.

But it is extraordinary how the urban map of Afghanistan has changed over the weekend. And also, I have to say, extraordinary how the U.S. is responding to this crisis. Yes, they did said yesterday, there would be a use of drones, an AC-130 gunships over the country. That is consistent with their desire to continue using air power to assist the Afghan security forces, at least for the next three weeks.

But diplomatically, they have dispatched Zalmay Khalilzad, their special envoy negotiator with the Taliban in the peace process, back to the capital of Qatar, Doha, for three days for of consultation with the Taliban, to try and press upon them for a need for a cease-fire. The need for them to slow down their offensive.

But I think this brings to mind, again, the slight disconnect of the U.S.-backed peace process here. It has been something that they initiated with Afghan governments disapproval, then tried to push the Afghan government into. Now the Afghan government are theoretically part of it, but it appears, frankly, to have stalled and its digital worth, the paper that is currently written on.

It is extraordinary that it is a diplomatic response we are seeing, from the U.S. quite so starkly to essentially beseech the Taliban, resting on a longer held belief in some U.S. diplomat minds, that the Taliban, essentially want to be internationally recognized, as they get their hands on the leagues of power in the country. And they don't want to repeat their position of the 90s, of being an international pariah hid by sanctions.

That does not appear to be having any impact on the Taliban's desire for a military victory on the ground. There is a younger generation, the sons, frankly of the older leaders, leading a lot of this fight on the ground, and they do appear to be hungry for victory.

[03:35:06]

So we will see how that plays out in the next few days on the ground, territorially. There are cities under threat, there are Afghan security forces, who just recently found themselves putting a new general in charge of a key division.

A lot, I think of assessment happening within the Afghan military's higher ranks as to how they go ahead and confront this constant series of changing fires that need putting out around the country and how that essentially begins to erode their capacity to respond and enables that Taliban sense of momentum to grow. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alright. Nick Paton Walsh, bringing us the very latest from his vantage point there in London. I appreciate it.

Well, a senior Afghan official says, the government forces need close air support, as he put it, things are getting nasty. But, U.S. President Joe Biden has said he won't consign another generation of Americans to the 20-year war. And the Pentagon is firm, it's Afghanistan's battle to fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADMIN. JOHN KIRBY, (RET.) CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We don't have forces on the ground in partnership with them. We can't. We will certainly support from the air, where, and when feasible, but that's no substitute for leadership on the ground. It's no substitute for political leadership in Kabul. It is no substitute for using the capabilities and capacity that we know they have. They have an air force, the Taliban doesn't. They have modern weaponry, an organizational skills, the Taliban doesn't. They have superior numbers to the Taliban. And so, again, they have the advantage. Advantages. And it's really now their time to use those advantages. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Kirby added there, isn't much the U.S. can do if the Afghan forces don't put up much of a fight.

Well, meanwhile, Canada has begun re-settling Afghan nationals who provided support to Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan. The government, said it was working with urgency to resettle Afghans who put themselves at risk, to support Canadian soldiers. Officials said, the first group of refugees has already beginning a new life there. Canada is not releasing any more information about the resettlement to ensure the safety of the refugees.

Well, the Belarusian president is denouncing a new wave of sanctions, slapped on his regime by the U.K., the U.S. and Canada. The coordinated sanctions are a response to his crackdown on dissent. There was time to coincide with the anniversary of his election, which many believe was rigged. During a news conference in Minsk, Alexander Lukashenko lashed out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You can choke with those sanctions there in the U.K., we haven't had even a faintest idea for millennia about this Great Britain. And we don't want to have your America's lapdog.

Listen, you would start a third world war. Is that something you are pushing us and the Russians? Do you want to win in this war? There will be no winners. If there are ones, it will not be you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: President Lukashenko went on to say, he is open to negotiations.

Well, Paris Saint-Germain, fans are hoping to gain one of the game's all-time greatest. That is after Barcelona legend, Lionel Messi said, it is possible he will sign with PSG. Capturing the crown jewel from the Champions League rival would be quite a coup, of course, but can the Parisian Club afford him?

Senior producer, Saskya Vandoorne is live at their stadium. She joins us now. So, what are you learning about whether Messi will head to Paris?

SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER (on camera): Well, Rosemary, what I can tell you is that the long wait for Lionel Messi continues. And many other PSG fans, who have been hoping to catch a glimpse of Messi, ever since yesterday. Some of them were lined up at the (inaudible) airport, just north of Paris. When Messi's private jet could land, others who are here at the (inaudible) pass the PSG stadium.

Some were even in front of the American hospital in Paris, where PSG players get their medicals done. Now we were on the (inaudible) and we were able to speak to some of the fans that are right in front of the PSG store, and they now had high hopes for the Champions League. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: I think it is very good news for the PSG, because I think it is the greatest player in the world.

UNKNOWN: I think that this is very important thing for the city of Paris. And for the football in Paris. Because it's the next level for these (inaudible) and I think that now, it is time for PSG to win the Champions League, because, yes, it's starting to be a lot. Sergei Ramos, Messi, (inaudible). I think that now it's time. It's time to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:40:17]

VANDOORNE: So, as you can hear the anticipation, that excitement, it has been building ever since those reports that PSG had offered Messi a two-year contract. And we will just have to keep waiting, until Messi arrives. You will see behind me the police presence. We spoke to the police, they told us that they had set up this safety perimeter for the fans that are expected to come back today, but they could come back tomorrow, and they will be here until Messi arrives. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alright. We will see what happens. Saskya Vandoorne, joining us live from Paris, many thanks.

And just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, the world is watching as China races to contain its most severe coronavirus outbreak since last year. Plus, a Chinese court has rejected a Canadian's appeal against a death sentence for drug smuggling. A live report, from Beijing, that is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Officials in China are trying to contain a growing number of COVID cases with 15 high-risk areas now reported in 13 provinces. Some cities are conducting several rounds of mass testing, as new local infections continue to rise.

Journalist Manisha Tank, joins us now from Singapore. Good to see you, Manisha. So, China is using all the tools available, vaccines, masks, lockdowns, so why can't they contain these cases.

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST (on camera): Well, Rosemary, we are dealing with a very difficult variant, aren't we? The Delta variant, which is highly infectious and that has a number of officials in countries across the Asia Pacific. Talking about the fact that it is going to be difficult to deliver zero COVID, that has definitely the experienced you have right here in Singapore.

[03:45:05] But picking up on the China story, people in Beijing have been told

that they cannot leave their city to travel to these places, where these cases have been reported. They only can -- an emergency of some kind and those who have traveled are being monitored. And all of this, of course, six months before the Beijing Winter Olympics are due to happen. And I'm sure that no doubt, organizers of that will be keeping a close watch on cases, but it's a really serious situation across the region.

If we swoop on into Thailand, for example, really ominous numbers coming from the country here in Southeast Asia. A record number of deaths reported, 235. That's in the last day or so, alone. Meanwhile, over in Australia, you have got local authorities there, talking about how they were thankful that it's been several weeks of lockdown, because the case numbers could had been even worse. There you have new cases being reported in New South Wales, 356 new ones, and in the capital of Sydney, that is where both of them are coming from.

But what is very much under discussion in this part of the world is vaccination rates. Australia's vaccination rate, running at 22 -- just over 22.5 percent, which is still too low, really. The government is saying, to open up a country that was able to shut its borders. And this is the problem that many countries that did shut their borders are grappling with is how long is that actually sustainable, when you have got a variant on the loose that is as infectious as it is.

Elsewhere, Vietnam, this was a country that was hailed as being such a success in the beginning of this pandemic, in terms of keeping numbers low, caseload low. Well now, new numbers, 9,700, just under that number, of new cases. More than a third of them, coming from the country's largest city, Ho Chi Minh City. 8.2 percent of people in Vietnam, being vaccinated at that very much is becoming a focus. How to get that rollout moving in countries where these case numbers just keep going up and up. Rosemary?

CHURCH: yes, it is just dreadful, isn't it? Manisha Tank, bringing us the very latest on what's happening in China, from her vantage point there in Singapore, I appreciate it.

Well, a Chinese court has upheld the death sentence for a Canadian man, convicted of drug smuggling. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was initially sentenced to death in 2019 by a lower court. He says, he is innocent.

CNN's Steven Jiang is following this case, and he joins us now live from Beijing. Good to see you Steven. So, what is the next legal avenue available to Schellenberg, and what is the background of this?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): Well now, Rosemary, his case calls for fight of review by the supreme people's court, at before any execution could be carried out. But this case attracting global attention, because of the geopolitical implications. Now the Canadian government has condemned this latest court decision, but also vowing to continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest level to a request clemency for him. Before many of Beijing's critics, of course, this case is another

example of China's so-called hostage diplomacy. That is something, obviously, the Chinese government has strongly denied, but it is worth taking a look at this cases timeline. Now Schellenberg was first tried as an accessory to the smuggling of more than 200 kilos of Met, back on November 28th, 2018. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but decided to appeal.

Now, that date was important, because a few days later, on December 1st, Meng Wanzhou, a very high profile executive from China's tech giant, Huawei, was arrested at the Vancouver airport by Canadian authorities, on behalf of the U.S. government, for her alleged role in dodging U.S. sanctions against Iran.

That move, by Canada infuriated the leadership here, with the Chinese officials promising unspecified, but serious consequences for Canada. And within weeks, Schellenberg was ordered to face retrial, and it was due in that proceeding, the prosecution claimed they had uncovered new evidence. So, they decided to try him as a principle to the case and then convicted him and sentenced him to death in January of 2019.

Of course, he decided to appeal again. But as we now, he lost that appeal. But the timing of today's announcement is also interesting, because Meng's case in Canada, has also entered as crucial phase of final arguments. So, a lot of this is really being connected as related to not just legal proceedings, but international relations and politics. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alright. We will keep an eye on what happens next. Steven Jiang, joining us live from Beijing, many thanks.

One of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims is now suing Prince Andrew, saying she was sexually abused by the Duke of York. Virginia Roberts Giuffre says he forced himself on her when she was 17 years old. In her lawsuit, she claims that it happened multiple times at Epstein's home in New York and his private island and at his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell's home in London.

[03:50:06]

Prince Andrew has said, that he has never met Giuffre, despite this photo of the two of them. CNN has reached out to the prince's representatives for comment on the suit. Buckingham palace has previously denied these allegations.

Well, still to come, a London landmark gets locked in place and social media can't stop laughing.

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CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, London's Tower Bridge isn't falling down, but it wouldn't come down on Monday. The bridge was raised to let a vote pass through, and then it got stuck.

As CNN's Jeanne Moos reports, many on social media breached the gap with jokes. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When London's Tower Bridge got stuck in up position, vehicular traffic came to a halt, but social media traffic jumped. As posters made sarcastic suggestions, have you tried wd-40? And created Godzilla memes.

I think I see the problem here, Tower Bridge.

[03:55:00]

The much documented Tower Bridge lift occurs about 800 times a year. The buttons are pushed.

UNKNOWN: Standby (inaudible).

MOOS: The joystick is pulled. On Monday, it was to let a wooden tall ship, called the Tenacious, pass. But, the bridge itself became tenacious, when it was time to lower the roadway. The famous landmark had to endure puns. Tower Bridge just seemed a bit stuck up. And lots of commenters, rewrote the lyrics to a giddy about another London Bridge.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.

MOOS: The lyrics were changed to tower bridge ain't falling down. And Tower Bridge has broken down. As well as, London Bridge is stuck upright, no one is moving. The landmarks movable roadways were portrayed as pinball flappers. The Tower Bridge lift has been memorialized in movies like Spice World.

UNKNOWN: Hold on to your (inaudible).

MOOS: The Bridge seems to bring out classic lines, like John Wayne in Brannigan, exclaiming --

John Wayne made the leap. Crashing into a dumpster. When something this famous gets stuck in the upright position, prepare for mockery. Ah, Tower Bridge is having a Viagra moment. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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CHURCH: Thank you so much for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church, I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Do stay with us.

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