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CNN INTERNATIONAL: AstraZeneca's New Vaccine Being Approved For Emergency Use; Experts Predict More Than 80,000 Americans Will Die Of COVID-19 In The Next Three Weeks; Senior Citizens In Florida Lining Up For Hours To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine; Japan Is Considering Declaring A State Of Emergency If The Spread Of COVID-19 Continues To Worsen. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 31, 2020 - 09:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Stay away muted New Year's celebrations around the world. Officials say don't party and stay home.

And backing, Britain and the E.U. go separate ways tonight officially. It's the end of the transition period as the trade deal is signed, sealed, and delivered and blown away.

Congratulations, as Formula 1's world champion becomes Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm Hala Gorani, this is CNN Newsroom.

Welcome to the final day of 2020 as the work embarks a somber end to a mostly grim year. New Zealand rang in 2021 three hours ago as a poster child on how to handle the pandemic.

New Zealanders have much to celebrate. People in Auckland were able to get together and watch the show. We all envy them, of course.

Australia followed. The fireworks were familiar but the parties were different and Sydney police were doing spot checks to enforce health rules there. But they did get fireworks. It is not the case in every city.

In the U.S. officials are appealing for New Year's festivities to stay low key. In New York Times Square celebrations will be closed to the public for the first time since 1904. The message from the New York police chief was very clear today.


TERENCE A. MONAHAN, CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT, NY POLICE DEPARTMENT: Don't come. Do not come to the area. If you think you're going to be able to stand there and watch the ball, you're mistaken. Don't come. Watch it on home, it'll be a spectacular television show.

Next year we'll all gather together and we'll fill Times Square. But this year don't even attempt to come down there to watch it. (END VIDEO)

GORANI: All right. Across Europe public celebrations have been cancelled out right with millions of people now under the strictest COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began.

Matthew Chance is in London and joins me now live. Well, Happy New Year. We have a few more hours left in 2020. I presume you'll be sitting at home as I will be as millions of other people will be across the continent.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think I will be as well with my -- with my household only, not mixing with -- with anyone else. Certainly won't be attending any large scale firework displays. But this is the situation; we're at the end of 2020.

Britain in particular is got -- it's in a very dangerous situation, according to officials who are offering their assessment of the situation. We've had a huge surge in the number of COVID-19 cases over the course of the past 24, 36 hours. More than 50,000 new cases.

Nearly 1,000 people died in the past 24 hour period that was measured. That's the highest number tragically since the height of the pandemic back in April here in this country.

And so officials here extremely concerned about what to do. They've put many areas of the country -- the vast majority of the country under the strictest tiered system, under the strictest lockdown that they've got running at the moment. Tier four it's called here.

Schools are being told they're not going to go back, in England at least for the -- for the next couple of weeks and possibly longer. That will be reviewed. And the message generally is even though it's New Year's Eve, do not party. Take a listen to Steven Powis who's the director of the NHS here in England, the National Health Service. Listen to what he had to say.


STEVEN POWIS, NATL. MEDICAL DIRECTOR, NHS ENGLAND: Stay at home. Mark the new year with just nearest and dearest within the rules. This action will reduce infections, relieve pressures on hospitals and that's how everybody could help to save a life. COVID loves a crowd. So please leave the parties for later in the year.


CHANCE: Well, leave it till later in the year, echoing what the authorities in New York were saying as well. Now later in the year, Hala, as you know; there is some hope that we're going to come out of this, particularly here in Britain because over the past 24 hours or so they've given approval to a new cheap, easily stored vaccine that's been produced by Oxford University along with a big pharmaceutical firm, AstraZeneca.


That's been approved for use. Now, the first shots of that vaccine are going to be given, we're told, early next month, early in January, possibly the 4th of January.

But they're opening all the infrastructure up as much as possible, trying to bolster their ability, the authorities here, to get as many people as possible vaccinated to bring an early -- as early end as possible this -- this pandemic. Hala.

HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: OK, Matthew Chance, thanks very much. Well, the outlook for January is alarming, especially in the United States. Experts predict more than 80,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 in the next three weeks. The number of people in hospital has surpassed 125,000 for the first time. While getting vaccines out quickly remains a major challenge still.

CNN's Paul Vercammen shows us the stark reality as the U.S. closes out a tough year.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN REPORTER : The United States sees its deadliest day since the pandemic began. More than 3,700 Americans reported dead on Wednesday from the coronavirus and more than 125,000 are currently hospitalized, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

The CDC now projects as many as 424,000 Americans will die from the virus by January 23. In California the state identified its first case of the coronavirus variant after Colorado reported one confirmed case and one suspected case on Tuesday.

The case involves a 30-year-old man in San Diego who had no recent travel history and had very few social interactions in the days before becoming symptomatic.


NATHAN FLETCHER, SUPERVISOR SAN DIEGO COUNTY: We believe this is not an isolated case in San Diego County and there are probably other strains -- other cases of this same strain in San Diego County.


VERCAMMEN: Doctor Anthony Fauci is not surprised that this variant has been found in the United States and believes the vaccine will likely protect against this new strain.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF NIAID: The transmissibility of this mutant is more efficient than the transmissibility of the standard virus.


VERCAMMEN: This new COVID variant comes as California is still struggling to get the pandemic under control. In L.A. County one person is dying every 10 minutes from coronavirus.

The county just surpassed 10,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are still overwhelmed in the state and ICU capacity is at zero percent in much of the state.

Meanwhile, some of the nation's top health officials are now admitting the pace of the vaccine rollout is lagging behind expectations.


DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, HEAD OF OPERATION WARP SPEED: We agree that that number is lower than what we hoped for. We know that it should be better.


VERCAMMEN: The United States has distributed 12.4 million doses and administered only 2.7 million vaccines. The Administration had promised 20 million vaccinations by the end of the year.


DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's overpromising in the first place, it's also not having a national strategy, but instead throwing up our hands and basically saying it's now the Federal Government has done their job, it's just with the production and initially distribution to the states.


VERCAMMEN: In Florida this is what demand for the vaccine looks like, senior citizens lining up for hours, many are arriving in the middle of the night and sitting in lawn chairs. Florida's first come first serve policy for elderly residents leading to a scramble for a limited number of doses.

GORANI: And that was Paul Vercammen reporting. And those looking to see Pope Francis deliver a message of hope to begin the New Year will be disappointed. The Pope will not be leading mass today or on New Year's Day, because according to the Vatican he has sciatic pain.

John Allen joins me now from Rome. He's a CNN Senior Vatican Analyst and Editor of Crux, a website that covers Catholicism and this was announced just -- just a few hours ago, so I was a -- pretty abrupt, John.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: That's right Hala. First of all, Happy New Year to you. It is turning out to be a somewhat bittersweet holiday season for Pope Francis.

Yesterday, of course, he awoke to learn of the watershed decision in his home country of Argentina to legalize abortion and today he has been forced to pull out of the Vatican's traditional New Year's Eve and New Year's Day event.

Tonight he was scheduled to provide over a vesper service that features the Tadan (ph), this great hymn of thanksgiving to God for the year. Tomorrow he was scheduled to lead a mass in honor of Mary the mother of God.

January 1, is also the Vatican designated World Day of Peace, but the Vatican announced today in a surprise move, one that we were not expecting, that because of this bout of sciatica the Pope will not be leading those two events. Instead they will be designated to other Cardinals here in the Vatican.

Now, we have known for a long time that the Pope suffered from sciatica, he disclosed that in 2013.


We learned in 2017 he was receiving treatment over the summer for it, but there had been no indication until this morning really that it was flaring up again. We should add, however Hala, that there was absolutely no indication that this is life threatening, that it marks a serious illness and the Vatican has indicated that the Pope will reside over his traditional Sunday noon time Angelus address.

So, while it is inconvenient for the Pope, no health crisis here, Hala.

GORANI: All right, John Allen, thanks very much and Happy New Year to you too. There are other stories making headlines around the world. Let's bring those to you now.

Japan is considering declaring a state of emergency if the spread of COVID-19 continues to worsen. Tokyo's governor says the city is facing a third coronavirus wave of unprecedented scale. Japan continues to see record breaking rates of new infections with hospitals coming under ever greater strain.

By the way, Japan rings in the New Year next hour.

The Chinese Government is giving the thumbs up to a COVID vaccine produced by state-controlled firm Sinopharm. It is the first vaccine Chinas approved for us on the general public. Beijing hopes to inoculate 50 million people over the next few weeks. China also announcing today that it has discovered its first case of the new COVID variant that is thought to be more easily transmissible.

And the Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is back in custody after a judge reversed an earlier decision to keep him under house arrest. Lai, a supporter of democracy for Hong Kong has been charged with colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security.

Coming up after the break.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF U.K.: We'll be able to do things different, but we will simultaneously have access to that E.U. market.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GORANI: Legally it happened nearly a year ago, practically it begins tonight. Britain bows out of the European Union. We'll have views from both sides of the English Channel next.





JOHNSON: The treaty that I've -- I've just signed is -- is not the end. It is -- it is a new beginning.


GORANI: A new beginning as the British Prime Minister said and the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. His signature on a post-Brexit trade deal, this was yesterday, and it marks the end of that transition process that started at the beginning of the year and the entire process that began nearly five years ago.

The Brexit referendum of 2016 bitterly divided the country, taking down two Prime Ministers, pitting those who wanted more control of their country's laws against those wanting to remain within the trading block.


Just over half of voters backed leaving the E.U. in that referendum as we now know. In less than nine hours this current transition period, which has kept things largely unchanged comes to an end and the new deal kicks in. So, while Brexit legally took place 11 months ago, it is only tonight that all of this is going to be put into practice.

We have reporters covering all the angles of this story. Salma Abdelaziz is in London, Cyril Vanier is standing by in Paris. And Salma, let's start with you, practically what changes for people on this side of the channel?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: You're right Hala, it's no longer a theory, this is happening now and there's going to be a lot of restrictions, a lot of rules for people to get their minds around. If you're wondering if this is going to be better or worse for Britain's, well jury's out on that.

If you ask the Prime Minister, of course, he'll say this is a triumph. It allows them to gain back their own sovereignty over their country, but there's always a lot of critics of this deal. This now means a sad day for some who were against Brexit. You can no longer just pick up and move to Spain or decide to study Italian in Rome for a year. Those are no longer options.

But, let's just run through a scenario. Say, I'm a British citizen, I'm not, I'm American, but say I'm a British citizen and me and my family want to travel with our pet, we want to go spend a few months in Spain.

So, what are the new rules? Well, first of all I'm going to have to stand in the non-E.U. line, my passport will have go through that immigration scan, those immigration checks. What about my dog? What about my pet? Well, E.U. pet passports will now expire, so I'll need health checks for my pet as well.

What if I want to drive into Europe? Well, now there's new restrictions around vehicles. You have to have insurance inside the E.U. as well as travel insurance inside of the E.U. potentially. That could take you weeks to get.

And I'm just giving you here one example of one family trying to go on holiday somewhere in the E.U., which used to be the simplest thing in the world, so a lot of restrictions.

But, imagine what it would be like for a business or an industry, there's a reason why the criticism has been that this deal is thin. For example, it has very little on the service industry, which is about 80 percent of the British economy, so yes, in some ways this trade deal resolves some of those outstanding sticking points, like the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, that's not going to be a hard border.

We just heard this hour about Gibraltar also in agreement in principle with Spain not to have a hard border there. You know, working out fishing rights so that there's a five and half year transition period. Yes, it's a no-tariffs, no-quotas deal, but the Prime Minister is saying it will be frictionless, barrierless, that's simply not true.

There's going to be a lot more red tape, a lot more bureaucracy, a lot of things for the average person and for a business to figure out and ultimately, ultimately the litmus test of this deal will be the economy.

We cannot know how well it will do until we see what the economic impact is, particularly at a time when the country is dealing with a recession it hasn't seen in three centuries and a job crisis and a pandemic, Hala.

GORANI: Absolutely. Wow, that's a lot. Cyril Vanier in Paris, I know Brexit on the continent is talked about less than it is in the U.K., but what will change for E.U. countries post-Brexit?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Hala, you know, I was -- it's interesting, I was listening to everything Salma said and she took the words right out of my mouth, because it's a -- it's a mirror effect, right. Everything the Brits can no longer do in the E.U., Europeans can no longer do in the U.K.

So, I don't want to take through the whole list again, but among the headlines is students from the Erasmus Program starting next academic year can no longer go and study at a British university. So many European students did that and they're going to miss that.

People, especially young professionals who want to up and leave and go and, you know, benefit from the dynamic economy in London and start their lives there won't be able to do that anymore.

So, restrictions on travel, where you can study, where you can work. Restrictions also for business, because for businesses wanting to export now to the U.K., there's going to have to be certification.

No tariffs, no quotas as per the trade deal that was struck between the U.K. and the E.U., but there is still, now that the customs are back, there still are going to have to be customs checks.

If it's for food products there's going to have to be extra certifications, if it's live animals extra certifications. France has hired at least 600 extra customs agents. They've hired border police officers, they have hired veterinarians. So, there's quite a lot of paperwork that is going -- to go into this on top of the travel restrictions, Hala.

GORANI: Cyril Vanier, thanks very much. And Salma in London, we'll be speaking next hour.

Quentin Peel is an Associate Fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House and Happy New Year to you. He's also a commentator for "The Financial Times." He joins me via Skype.


So, it's a new world, it's a new dawn for the relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. and it's going to be a much more complicated relationship.

QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW WITH EUROPE PROGRAMME AT CHATHAM HOUSE: It is indeed and it's one of these very strange occasions where usually when you hear about trade negotiations it's all about reducing the barriers. Well, this is, for the first time, a trade negotiation that is actually going to increase the barriers and it's going to make life more difficult for a whole range of people, not just at the borders. Clearly free movement too.

Up till now we've had an amazing system of the mutual recognition of qualifications, if you're a lawyer or an accountant or an architect, you would be recognized in other European countries as allowed to practice. Now, that can't be taken for granted. You've got to go through all the hoops. So, it's not a very popular deal.

There was an opinion poll in the last 48 hours which said only 17 percent of Brits think it's actually a good deal.

GORANI: That's -- that's remarkable actually, because I mean I do wonder -- I mean, those who -- who opposed Brexit believe that every time there is an example of Brexit economically hurting the U.K. that people will change their minds. But, I wonder overall in the country is there still support for the idea of Brexit, even though they believe the deal isn't perfect and even though we don't have a deal, for instance, for the services industries?

PEEL: That basically opinions haven't changed a huge amount. I think roughly at the moment they say it's now 51 percent who would have preferred to remain against 40 percent who actually think it's a good idea to leave. But, this was an emotional decision by the leavers and therefore economic pain is not really their -- their worry. They are prepared to take a certain amount of economic pain for this idea that we get our sovereignty back.

GORANI: By the way, the Prime Minister's father, Stanley Johnson, has reportedly said that he is in the process of applying for a French passport so that he can maintain his ties to mainland Europe. What do you make of that?

PEEL: Well, Stanley Johnson has always been a bit of a chancer and he's obviously taking his opportunities. He has a villa in Greece and he obviously wants to keep traveling without any restrictions. And the truth is that Stanley the father of Boris the son just seem to think that the rules don't really apply to them when they apply to everybody else.

There is another thing that I think one needs to underline here, this vote really split the British electorate partly between the younger generation and the older generation. It was old people of my age who essentially voted for Brexit and the younger generation are really not happy with it.

And the second part of that is, the Scots and the Irish, the northern Irish also voted to remain in the European Union and I think this whole exercise is going to put a lot strain on the unity of the United Kingdom. You never know, we may see an independent Scotland or a united Ireland sometime in the next 10 years.

GORANI: All right, so this divorce between the U.K. and the E.U. could lead perhaps to further divorces. Thank you very much Quentin Peel as always and I hope you have a happy New Year. It's going to be an odd one probably at home for most of us. Thanks for joining us.

Coming up, a year unlike any other on Wall Street. Stocks are set to close out 2020 with double-digit gains even amid a global pandemic and even amid higher unemployment and economic misery for ordinary people. If you were holding stocks or you're in a corporation you might not be doing to badly. We'll be right back.