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CNN International: Japan's Cherry Blossoms Peak Early; Facebook Breach; Russian Military Tests; India's COVID Surge; U.K.'s COVID Restrictions. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 5, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello. I'm Hala Gorani in London. We're waiting for day six in the trial of Derek Chauvin to resume.

The Minneapolis police chief is expected to be back on the stand when court returns from a lunch break. We will bring you that live when it happens.

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, says it is too soon to know whether people in the U.K. will be allowed to travel abroad for their summer vacations. The U.K. government hopes that can happen starting next month as it slowly reopens its economy in phases.

For now, Mr. Johnson advised people to wait before making international travel plans.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I do not wish to give hostages to fortune or to underestimate the difficulties that we're seeing in some of the destination countries that people might want to go to.

We don't want to see the virus being reimported into this country from abroad. Plainly, there is a surge in other parts of the world. And we have to be to be mindful of that and we have to be to be realistic.


GORANI: Well, the prime minister says nonessential international travel will remain banned until at least May 17. Once it does restart, there will be something called a traffic light system that will go into effect.

Travelers from green countries will face no quarantine upon arriving in the U.K., just a negative test result before their flight. People coming from amber countries will require self-isolation once in the U.K. OK, that's clear. And then you have the red list countries. They will be required to follow mandatory quarantine rules in hotels.

Johnson says it's too soon to know which countries will be on which lists once international travel reopens.

Salma Abdelaziz is in London with more.

So, when will we know which country is on which list?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very interesting, this announcement.

There had been a lot expected, a lot anticipated, a lot that we were excited about. To be frank, the resumption of summer holidays seemed like a very good prospect. But what we got actually was a rather cautious and muted statement, a lot of caveats there.

So, the prime minister started by saying, we are ready for phase two of the road map. What that means, essentially, is that, starting on April 12, nonessential retail shops, they can reopen. Restaurants and bars can begin to serve, but only outside.

But the crucial part of this announcement that everybody was waiting for very carefully, as you said, was international travel, but the prime minister now saying that there are concerns that the virus could be reimported, reintroduced to the U.K. through international travel.

And you are looking now at cases in Europe that are surging. You're looking at countries like France and Italy, where further restrictions, tougher restrictions are being put into place. So, the authorities saying, be patient with us. Wait for us, we're looking at the key indicators. We are hoping to resume this by May 17, but we cannot promise it.

The other matter that, again, there's a lot of anticipation around was the COVID status certification. Colloquially, we call this vaccine passports. Again, the prime minister there saying we're still in the early stages of this, still too soon, it could be very divisive, it could be very discriminatory, so we have to be very careful about how we roll this out (AUDIO GAP) -- Hala.

GORANI: OK, but vaccine passports on a government level are one thing, but what about private travel companies, airlines, hotels allowing people to make reservations if they can prove they have received their two jabs?

Is that being discussed?

ABDELAZIZ: That's absolutely being discussed. And that's essentially the core of the government's argument, because the authorities here had sort of promised up and down that vaccine passports were not going to be a thing.


And then, this weekend, a senior government official, Michael Gove, argued in one of the local papers that this is inevitable. As you said, there's going to be governments, there's going to be countries, there's going to be a travel companies that will require proof that you have taken the vaccine.

So, this is what the government official, Michael Gove, was arguing. So, why not use this domestically as well, use these certifications -- they could be digital, they could be a document -- to try to reopen mass events here?

But, again, really controversial. And what's most important, I think, about this announcement is what was not said, which is that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is probably facing some really tough opposition from his own party rolling out these measures -- Hala.

GORANI: Right. Well, you have an economy that needs restarting in the U.K., in Europe. They are so interlinked as well, especially when it comes to tourism. We will see. We will see when we're able to travel from the U.K. to international destinations.

And have you received a jab at all, Salma? You're very, very young. So you're probably not on the -- on any of the priority lists.

ABDELAZIZ: I haven't yet, Hala. So, we are waiting and wishing and hoping and praying that we will soon get one. But we know there's people ahead of us (AUDIO GAP)

GORANI: Well, put yourself on a waiting list. That's how it worked for me. And if they have excess doses at the end of the day, they give you a call. It's worked for many people.

Anyway, that's just one of the -- one of the ways. The objective, of course, is for everyone to be vaccinated, so we can all the way back to normal.

Salma, thank you very much.

India has recorded its highest single-day rise in new COVID-19 cases, more than 100,000 on Monday alone. The country has seen a steady increase in new daily cases every single day since March 10.

CNN's Vedika Sud looks at why the numbers in India are so high.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A record surge in COVID- 19 cases in Mumbai has turned this parking lot into a 400-bed makeshift hospital. India's richest state, Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, reported more than 57,000 new infections Sunday.

With cases rising, the state government has imposed night curfew and complete lockdown on weekends through the end of the month.

DR. RANDEEP GULERIA, INDIAN NATIONAL COVID-19 TASK FORCE: We know that there are large crowding which occurs in certain cities in Maharashtra, for example, Mumbai, Mumbai being the industrial capital, and A lot of movement of people happens in that state, not only from India, but from outside also.

And with crowding and total lack of COVID appropriate behavior, this actually is a classical case for the infection to spread.

SUD: The Health Ministry says the situation across India is worrying. DR. VINOD K. PAUL, NATIONAL INSTITUTION FOR TRANSFORMING INDIA: The

situation is becoming from bad to worse, and is serious cause for concern. In some states in particular, there is a huge cause for worry.

SUD: India reported over 100,000 new cases Monday, surpassing its all-time daily high of almost 98,000 new infections in mid-September last year.

RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: The first wave happened under a significantly stringent lockdown. Right now, much of the economy is open. People are moving around. Transportation is open. So, it's only natural that we will see a much sharper and steeper rise in cases.

SUD: While the government has repeatedly urged citizens to wear masks and social distance, politicians have been busy addressing thousands of supporters in (INAUDIBLE) states.

That's not the only cause for concern. One of the world's biggest festivals called Mela is taking place in India's northern state of Uttarakhand. Tens of millions of devotees are expected to attend the event in the month of April.

GULERIA: Any event where you have a large number of cases, of patients -- a number of people coming together, and when, in such an event there is no COVID-appropriate behavior, people are not wearing masks, can become super-spreading events.

SUD (on camera): Eleven states and union territories have been categorized as states of grave concern by the Indian government. With the daily surge in COVID-19 cases, expect more partial lockdowns in the coming days.

Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


GORANI: Well, still to come tonight: Deep in a remote corner of the world, there are signs that the Russian military is getting ready to test new technologies.

We will tell you how it's taking advantage of climate change to build up its military capabilities. We will bring you that after this.



GORANI: A warming Earth means less Arctic ice. While that's a cause of concern for many, Russia may be seeing it as an opportunity.

You're looking at satellite images of a Russian military base on its Arctic coastline. That's one of several that Russia has built as part of the region is becoming ice-free. Western officials say Russia is eying a shipping route and the

region's natural resources. But it may have another more sinister motive, testing high-tech weapons out of sight of most of the world.

Nick Paton Walsh has exclusive new reporting.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice- over): It's a new frontier, expanding for all the wrong reasons, with pushy neighbors rushing in.

Russia is seeing the Arctic ice melt fast and filling the gap with a military buildup, some of it on Alaska's doorstep, not seen since the Cold War.

Key is a new generation of super-weapons, like the Poseidon, a 120 mile-an-hour nuclear-propelled stealth torpedo. It's designed, say Russian officials, to sneak past U.S. coastal defenses and detonate a warhead, causing a radioactive tsunami to hit the East Coast with contaminated water.

Experts told CNN the weapon is -- quote -- "very real." It'll be tested in the summer near Norway, whose intelligence head said it's not only the ecological damage that could be bad.

VICE ADM. NILS ANDREAS STENSONES, NORWEGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: It is in the testing phase. It's a strategic system, and it's aimed at targets and has an influence far beyond the region in which they test it currently.

But it's a new -- it's something we need to get our hands around and our heads and understand this really means.

WALSH: Some said Russian President Vladimir Putin was fantasizing when he revealed this and other new weapons like the hypersonic Zircon missile in 2018, but continuing development and tests make them very real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia is projecting an image that it is developing new technology. And this, of course, is destabilizing the strategic balance.

HEATHER CONLEY, DIRECTOR, EUROPE PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They are now starting to develop those capabilities that could reach the United States and its NATO allies.

WALSH: That is not all Russia is up to. CNN has obtained satellite images revealing the persistent buildup of Russian bases along its northern coastline, part of what a U.S. State Department official called a military challenge.

Close to Alaska, at Provideniya and Wrangel Island are two new radar stations With, stationed in Anadyr, a quick-reaction alert force of bombers and jets, west in Kotelny, a thin strip of land has seen over seven years the slow growth of a large airstrip. And in Nagurskoye in the northernmost point is another base that

sprung up since 2015, one of several in the Arctic decorated in the colors of the Russian flag.

Nagurskoye and the nearby airfield of Rogachevo are both home to make MiG-31 jets, recent arrivals. And further west, at Olenya Guba, on the Kola Peninsula, over the past four years, experts believe a storage facility has slowly been built up with the Poseidon torpedo.


(on camera): Russia has had its eye on being the Arctic power for years and is now moving to make that happen.

Yes, this is its coastline, for sure, but U.S. officials have expressed concerns to me that this buildup is not just about protecting; it is also about projecting power across the ice, even towards the North Pole.

(voice-over): There are new resources to exploit under the ice, yes, but Russia released this video in January of the first time a freighter got through the ice in the east in the thick winter to sell a new trade route along its northern coast. It's a possible moneymaker for the Kremlin, cutting the current journey time from Asia to Europe through the Suez Canal nearly in half.

CONLEY: The development of the Russian Arctic is absolutely essential to Russia's economic survival. But they do have a really ambitious vision for turning the northern sea route, as President Putin has said, into the next Suez Canal.

WALSH: U.S. officials voiced concern to CNN that Russia is already demanding ships use Russian crews and get permission to cross it.

The U.S. answer to this has been swift, and its allies. B-1 Lancer bombers have flown out of Norway. U.S. Marines are training often in Norway's north.

Yet there is a sudden rush, where, for centuries, there's been only bleak sheets of ice. Who gets there first make the rules they say, an ugly race now, due to the climate crisis, for a place nobody should want to be conquerable.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


GORANI: Russia's Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment, but Moscow has always said that its goals in the Arctic are economic and peaceful.

More evidence now of our changing climate, speaking of melting ice, can be found in Japan. The country's famous cherry blossom season has peaked, but earlier than expected. Experts say this fits into a pattern of early flowering in recent decades and is likely the result of climate change. CNN's Selina Wang has our report.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cherry blossom season is coming to an end in Japan. For thousands of years, these flowers have been revered, celebrated with hanami viewing parties. Even during COVID-19, people have gathered from all around to enjoy these stunning sights.

These blossoms, which only last a few days, are reminder of fleeting beauty, but also of the lasting effects of climate change. Cherry blossoms have bloomed exceptionally early across Japan. Scientists say it's a sign of global warming. In Kyoto, blossoms peaked on March 26. That is the earliest date in more than 1,200 years of records.

Here in Tokyo, flowers reached peak bloom on March 22, the second earliest date on record. Now, these cherry trees are extremely important for climate change studies because of how sensitive they are to temperature change and because of just how far back the data goes.

(voice-over): Yasuyuki Aono, a researcher at Osaka Prefecture University, tells me he's gathered records from Kyoto back to 812 A.D. from historical documents and diaries.

In the last 200 years, the peak blooming day in Kyoto has been getting earlier and earlier, as temperatures rise, he says. Higher temperatures and urbanization contribute to earlier blooming times. This spring has been unusually warm in Japan, he says.

(on camera): Traditionally, sakura season is celebrated with picnics and parties and festivities underneath the trees. But they have been restricted this year because of COVID-19, with signs all over like this one reminding people that parties are not allowed.

Cherry blossoms hold important cultural significance in Japan. They appear throughout Japanese literature and poetry. It's a symbol of life, death and rebirth.

Here in Roppongi, the petals have all fallen, the delicate blossoms replaced with green leaves, reflecting the fragility of nature and of our planet.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


GORANI: Well, still to come tonight: The personal data of half-a- billion Facebook users is posted online. We will have the latest on the massive breach, including the company's response and how this all may affect you.

And the buzz around NFTs continues to build. A closer look at what's powering the crypto craze. And, also, maybe I will finally understand what an NFT is.


GORANI: Some breaking news just into CNN.

We were discussing earlier the rift between Jordan's Prince Hamzah and King Abdullah, his half-brother. Well, Jordan's Prince Hamzah has now signed a letter saying -- quote -- "The interests of the homeland must remain above every consideration. We must all stand behind the king in his efforts to protect Jordan and its national interests."

The letter goes on to say: "I place myself in the hands of the king, stressing that I will remain committed to the Constitution of Jordan. And I will always be of help and support to his majesty the king and his crown prince."

So, Prince Hamzah there trying to put aside any talk that he might have supported any kind of plot to sideline the king or anything more serious than that by releasing this letter. And according to one of the sources I have been speaking to in Jordan, that letter was witnessed. The signing of that letter was witnessed by Prince Hassan, who is the uncle of both King Abdullah and Prince Hamzah.

So, that is the very ladies coming to us from Jordan, an attempt perhaps at patching things up there.

Moving on to this now. In a historic cybersecurity breach, the personal information of more than half-a-billion Facebook users has been found online, including phone numbers, e-mail addresses and locations.

Facebook says it's old data already reported stolen in 2019 and that the issue was fixed back then.

Donie O'Sullivan has more.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS AND TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: So, hackers, in this case, apparently back in 2019, were able to exploit a flaw in Facebook's systems, where they were able to match phone numbers of apparently hundreds of millions of Facebook users with their Facebook accounts.

Now, what that has now resulted is, someone has posted on a hacking forum the details, we are told, of 500 million, half-a-billion, Facebook accounts, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, where people lived, people's names, all of this information really a treasure trove for cyber criminals who might want to engage in identity theft.

Breakdown of the numbers by country, we see 32 million accounts in the U.S., 11 million in the U.K., 28 million in Saudi Arabia, and hundreds of millions more around the world.

Facebook says it has fixed that flaw, that they said they actually fixed the flaw back in 2019. Obviously, this data is still out there. We asked the company if they are going to tell users, if they are

going to tell people who have been affected by this that their information is out there. They said no comment at the moment.


One thing I should also mention is, we were speaking to a cybersecurity expert who now has access to this data. And he was able to quickly pull up the details of two of our CNN colleagues, so a lot of people impacted by this.


GORANI: All right, Donie O'Sullivan, thanks very much for that

A radioactive lizard and a supersized ape are resetting U.S. box office expectations. Gorilla (sic) vs. Kong just enjoyed the biggest opening weekend of the pandemic, raking in $32 million over three days.

The film is a release from Warner Bros., which, like CNN, is owned by Warner Media.

Paul La Monica has seen the movie and is here to discuss.

So, put it in perspective, $32 million over three days. Is Warner Bros. happy with that figure?

PAUL LA MONICA, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you would have to think that Warner Bros. will be happy with that.

It's done also $48.5 million over the five-day holiday period since the movie was released on Wednesday. And, Hala, what's really notable about this, you mentioned that I have seen the movie. I watched it from the comfort of my couch with my older son because it's streamed on HBO Max, of which I'm a subscriber.

So I didn't have to go out and pay anything to see this movie. A lot of people did flock to the theaters, though, for that communal experience of watching a big blockbuster popcorn summer-like movie, even though it's still a little cold there, in -- on the East Coast.

And, obviously, I think that's what people are hoping to see more of, that as we see the studios release their blockbuster summer movies, people are going to go see them in theaters, especially as you have more people getting vaccinated as well.

GORANI: But so what's the business strategy behind releasing both on streaming and in the theaters? Is there not a concern there that you might not make the revenue that you could have made by -- with paying customers in movie theaters by allowing people to watch it on their TVs?

LA MONICA: It's a great question.

I think there are some worries that you could be cannibalizing box office sales. I think, in the case of HBO Max and our parent company, Warner Media, because HBO Max is a new service, having anything that can get more people to subscribe for it, because it's a crowded landscape -- you got Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, et cetera.

Getting people to subscribe is a good thing. My guess is that 2022, with more people being vaccinated, the pandemic hopefully fading in the rearview mirror a little bit, studios probably want to still get people going to theaters, and not watching new releases at home.

But you will see companies experiment. Disney is having "Black Widow," one of its big blockbusters coming later this year, it's going to be on Disney+. But even if you're pure subscriber, you're going to have to pay an additional amount of money just to stream that movie, whereas one of their Pixar movies that's coming out later this summer...


LA MONICA: ... that's going to be available for free, just like they did with "Soul," if you are already a Disney+ subscriber.

GORANI: Right. Those big visual movies, too, they're great in the theater and they work great in the theater, especially for teens and things. They have fun together in there.

Fantastic, Paul La Monica, thanks so much.




GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani.

Stay with CNN. Our coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin continues next.