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tv   Dateline London  BBC News  July 19, 2021 3:30am-4:01am BST

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the tokyo olympics get under way this week but there's already a growing number of athletes testing covid positive or being forced to self—isolate. despite the strong public opposition to the games, the governor of tokyo has told the bbc it would have been worse to cancel the games. the german chancellor angela merkel has visited the region of western germany hit by devastating floods. she says the world must hurry in its fight against global warming and pledges aid for rebuilding the area quickly. more heavy rain has caused further flooding in southern germany and austria. nearly all of the coronavirus restrictions in england have been lifted for the first time since march last year. most social distancing rules are relaxed and face coverings are no longer required by law. the uk faces a difficult summer. —— but with infections on the rise, scientists warn the uk faces a difficult summer.
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now on bbc news, dateline london. hello and welcome to the programme which brings together bbc specialists with foreign correspondents who write, blog and broadcast to audiences back home from the dateline london. this week — england gets back its freedom from covid restrictions — that is — but how long will it last? in cuba and south africa, thousands have taken to the the streets protesting at their respective plight. two popular revolutions betrayed? with me this week are stephanie bolzen of germany's die welt, michael goldfarb, whose blog aims to be the first rough draft of history, hence its title. and here in the studio with me, the bbc�*s diplomatic correspondent, james landale. welcome, james. welcome to both of you.
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lovely to see you both again — albeit at a distance for now. now, monday will be what borisjohnson once liked to call �*freedom day�* — the one on which all the legal restrictions imposed on people in this pandemic will be lifted. prime minister boris johnson used to say this final stage of unlocking would be irreversible. now, he's not so sure. globally, covid appears to be on the march again. cases are rising in france, germany, the netherlands and spain. in indonesia, japan and vietnam, it seems rampant. stephanie, first, the dutch government under mark rutte, the prime minister, announced i think three weeks ago or so that restrictions were being lifted and he's now had to reimpose some of them and he's even apologised, saying it was a mistake. how worrying a precedent is that for the uk, do you think? i think this is — i'm afraid — a very much a precedent for the uk. i mean, as you say, mark rutte had to apologise, so politically it has been very difficult for him and i wonder what is next for boris johnson in that sense.
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so if you look at the netherlands — and, of course, the reason for this is the delta mutation, because the delta mutation is far more infectious than the variant we had before. so, in the netherlands, there's a 500% rise in infections and there were a lot of mass gatherings, so there were some music festivals allowed again. and, of course, you can understand, we are all fed up with it, we understand, some want to go outside. but there were one or two big musicalfestivals and 500 new infections. i was covering the euros in wembley in the last weeks and thinking of 65,000 people in wembley and far more people around, people celebrating all over the country. we do not know yet how many infections that will have caused, but this is one thing. and then on monday, opening the floodgates, so to say. i think people are looking to quite a bleak infection scenario in the next weeks in the uk. michael, the british are fortunate in they have not only been able to afford and source quite sufficient
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numbers of vaccine doses — in fact, more than enough over the coming few months and the year we've already seen — but they have a population that, on the whole, has embraced vaccination. that is the argument downing street would doubtless use to say why we are different than the netherlands and elsewhere. but i wonder if there's potentially a risk it has created a false sense of security in the uk? well, i think it has created a false sense of security in the government, and certainly amongst the conservative backbenchers who would probably describe themselves as libertarian. but it really is false. i mean, i saw some polling in the last 48 hours that 57% of the british population were thinking about carrying on with precautions anyway because they are aware that yes, we have a high vaccination rate and that's good, but the younger people — people under 30 — have not really been vaccinated, and this is in distinction
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to a lot — of our, you know, allies. and, you know, you're just going to end up with this delta variation running rampant. i mean, when stephanie was talking about 65,000 people at wembley, you know, you're also talking about tens of thousands in leicester square and in downtown manchester not really observing much social distancing because they're a little bit too drunk to do so and you know, we'll see, i would expect, in 10—14 days, there's going to be an incredible spike. and i'm not the only one — sajid javid, the secretary of health, says so as well. but what's really interesting is, you know, we're talking about a near ally and competitor in the netherlands, but a look at israel. israel had pretty much stuffed this thing down. normal life had pretty much resumed in the middle ofjune in tel aviv and now, they are having, because of the virulence of the delta variation, they're starting to reimpose restrictions.
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and one final point which is it's and has always been clear since january 2020 that some kind of herd immunity, let this thing go wild through the population, and people would develop a natural immunity was a point of view within the cabinet and they're doing it now, but doing it on the backs of children. schoolkids, you know, we are coming to the end of term and many schools have already shutdown. if not officially, a grade here or a year here, because kids have it and it's going to continue to flow through them throughout the summer and it would not be the first time in history that borisjohnson has to backtrack with wiffle and waffle, as some people like to call it, and say, "well,, we have to change again." james, prior to doing the diplomatic beat, you spent some years at westminster, so you have a sense of the political background to this and the kind of thinking.
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do you think the government is making this move notwithstanding what's happened, because, in some ways, at least they can't be blamed for the choices people have made and they would argue, actually, in the end, the pandemic, to some extent, has infantilised people, "we willjust do what the government tells us?" and they want people to take ownership of their own health and their own risk factors? yes, they do, but voters - throughout the world tend not to respond very well - if they are forced to take responsibility for their- actions and if those actions don't necessarily work, they quite often blame| their governments. so they will still get the blame anyway? they still ge the blame anyway, later on. - the government is acting i because it is under pressure politically from its own . backbenchers and also it's under pressure economically from businesses, saying - got to relax it." they've allowed the narrative to become this extraordinary| phrase, "freedom day". and the lesson... to be fair, this is a word of the prime minister used —
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it's not something journalists made up, it was a phrase that he minister was using. and the point is that - the lesson is clearly obvious to everyone around the world is that this pandemic- is something — we are going to have to get used to and we are going to be rolling with it and we _ will have to change. sometimes, we're - going to have our foot on the pedal and increase restrictions, sometimes. we will be able to take it off. and then there'll be - a new variant will come up and a particular vaccination will not deal with it - as effectively as others. so it is about governments learning to balance those i competing pressures of health and economy and politics. - and i think that the risk is that by, sort of, - allowing — the impression to get there that somehow monday clears the decks and it's - freedom from there on in in makes it politically harder. for the government to - reimpose some restrictions on the future, if that's what was required. . let me just bring in both your kind of direct experiences in your home countries, stephanie and michael.
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stephanie first. we obviously heard angela merkel say at one point she didn't want brits coming to the uk, she wanted them all to go to quarantine, then that didn't work, and is not happening now in germany either. what is at the situation in germany in terms of the domestic side? how are the restrictions being eased? because there has been a fair bit of resistance and protests? and how are they looking now in the run—up to this forthcoming general election? well, as you say, i mean, there are still some restrictions in place, but they are very few because the cases have gone down dramatically. i mean, they were very, very low for quite a long time, but now, because of the delta mutation, it is also now dominant in germany, the cases are rising as well. so when merkel actually said she did not want any brits to come to the continent, first of all, there were many countries who resisted that because of the tourism. portugal and spain, for example. but then also the german chancellor also had to understand it did not
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make much sense because the delta variant was already most prevalent in germany, so there wasn't much reason for brits to not come into the country. saying this, of course, it is a very delicate situation because at the end of september, there is a federal election and the government will be in the same situation like the british government — which way do you choose now? and it's a real dilemma. and compared with the uk, i think germans were far more feisty, in a way. and there were a lot of protests and they did not follow the rules and it's also a federal country, so the lander, so the regions decide. so it is a hard task for her, although she is not standing anymore. it'll be for her successor who might be the next chancellor, armin laschet. michael, in the states, joe biden was talking a lot about the importance of the 4th ofjuly. of course, american independence day. the 4th ofjuly has been and gone and the impression from outside is america is a lot more open than it was even a matter of months ago. well, it is open to foreign
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tourists if you have tests and so on. i mean, you can fly in from britain, but you have to fly— from britain to italy, you've got to show recent tests and show you have it and so on. the problem thatjoe biden faces, of course, is like everything in america — except for what time of day it is — and even there it is probably a partisan argument — you know, the — you have large swathes of the south and middle of country where there's such resistance to vaccination and, you know, you have these holidays — and then it happened at memorial day as well. people get together in large bunches and then two weeks later, there's a spike in a given state. so he has his work cut out for him. i mean, there's some very good graphics that people can find out there with the new york times and just on google that shows state by state how
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many people have had double vaccination, or at least a single vaccination, and where there's very low take—up. sojoe biden's work is actually convincing a significant chunk of the population to get at least one shot. so it's a slightly different situation than here in britain, where we were all rushing, waiting for our phones to ping, going back to january, saying, "oh, it's your turn." you know, i'm up the road, jab me. in america, it's entirely different. thank you all very much. we will see. 0nlyjust a few days to go and it will be interesting to see what the reaction is after a few days when we are back with dateline, same time next week. now, one country saw peaceful but revolutionary change. in the other, it was by force of arms. cuba and south africa do have something in common — the political organisation that wrought the change is still in charge. and this week, they've both been consumed by widespread violent protest. james, let's talk about
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south africa first. was the arrest of president zuma, who had been convicted of contempt of court. but there's clearly bigger forces at work here. what is your sense of what is driving these protests? an extraordinary - confluence of events. a power struggle within the ruling anc with all. the latent dissatisfaction of a really bad economic| experience — you know, sort of, massive unemployment, - huge inequality, poverty, plus the ever—presence . of covid, — as we were talking just now. and shocking rates of cases i and very low vaccination rates. so, i mean, let's be clear — the reports coming out - of south africa, _ it's very clear now that there was an attempt by supporters i ofjacob zuma, in various ways, to try and destabilise the government. - so some of it was organised?
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no, no, a lot- of it was organised. you know, it hasn'tjust been. shopping centres that have been attacked and looted, - it's also been specific oil refineries, hospitals, i specific economic routes where lorries have been torched. - so, in other words, - at best, it was an attempt to try and destabilise - cyril ramaphosa's government and maybe force him to release mr zuma.| at worst, i read reports of people talking - about attempted coups. this was an act of insurrection. - it spiralled out of control - and an order of violence that has led to extraordinary- economic hit on south africa's economy. businesses which will be i incredibly hard to restore. huge uncertainty, queues for basic foodstuffs, - vaccination centres have been ripped apart, ambulances- have been targeted. so, in other words, the economy and the battle against covid - have been damaged byl what's happened there. in terms of the situation in south africa, stephanie,
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we think of it as, you know, the great success story in lots of ways of african politics. here was a minority, white, racist regime that defined people purely by the colour of their skin, whether they were black, coloured, white, and everything about their lives determined from that point. still in existence up until, you know, the late 20th century. relatively peaceful transition. that confidence in a constitution that cyril ramaphosa helped to write, because he was one of the mandela team back then, and that looks as though it has not delivered to enough people the quality of life that is even the most basic quality of life and all those promises. it will come, you just have to be patient, all the rest of it — patience seems to have run out. ramaphosa was a figure of hope and if you remember the desmond tutu term of "rainbow nation", bringing people together, and especially talking about,
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and james talked about that before, social and equality. one is poverty and the other is inequality. it drives into the anger and that has really been shown now in durban. i have been reading what colleagues are writing from durban. it's shocking the kind of, the dimension of looting, the violence there. and the fear is, will it spread? and for ramaphosa it is now to prove that he is a figure of hope and he will maintain the rule of law and he will not give in to the protests and the pressure from a wing from the anc. but, of course, as james explains, is it more, is it actually a coup? is it a hidden coup? how can he gain control back? it is a very big country. there is a lot of crime, a lot of layers of history and as you say, it has been
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exacerbated by the pandemic which is not in many places in the world, is bad as it in south africa. michael, some cynics, at very least sceptics, will say revolutions consume themselves. yes, they usually do. maybe not in america. not yet! 250 years late to the buffet table. look, what was interesting about the situation in cuba and in south africa is the simultaneity of something. covid, obviously, has sparked... yes. to see photos of cuba's hospitals, cuba's great revolutionary success was training a generation of doctors who go all over the world, poor countries and in their own country they have excellent health care and to see the condition of the hospitals and covid patients on awful, filthy trolleys in havana hospitals,
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you begin to understand why this broke out. but, i mean, this is, kind of, a biggertheme. it's not just cuba. cuba is a political football in america, you have the miami cubans on the right and the american left who want to support the revolution, which is a totally corrupted one—party, one—family rule. there's nothing to support there. but what's interesting to me is if you think back to when south africa threw off apartheid in the early 905, when you think of iraq today, there is a generation of people who are 30 years old and they probably have started families of their own, who have known nothing but post—dictatorship, pre—democratic, grotesquely corrupt societies. iraq — i mean, we don't talk enough about iraq, and there's demonstrations
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all the time. you know what kind of repression is needed to keep the lid on in egypt. we see what is happening in south africa, we see what's happening in cuba. and i think it is the long—noted demographic bulge. there's so many people, young people who want more, who, through the internet, through intervention by the united states and the g7 powers, been opened up to the idea of democracy, but their daily lives are ground down by horrendous corruption. and covid has given them a spark to come into the streets and say, "no, we will not live like this any more." it is sweeping these parts of the world where we have had a great deal of influence since, i'd say, the early 19905. and yet another reason why this whole question of global
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vaccination matters in our own, kind of, self—interest as well. stephanie, you used to go to cuba relatively regularly. what was your impression of the country then? oh, it was a completely oppressive regime. i used to travel when i was a little bit younger to cuba and, actually, help dissidents, and it felt like... you know many people have been to cuba, it's a beautiful place — and by the way, this is also one of the problems why the protests have started, because the tourists are not coming any more, and tourism, of course, is one of the main income sources for cubans — but it was shocking to meet people who have been fighting, just standing up in cuba just for the most basic rights, just to express their political opinion and to have fair elections, and how they were treated and how they were disappeared and how they were killed at times. that was something, a memory that will always stay with me, especially coming from germany. james, finallyjust on this,
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the relationship between the united states and cuba is a fascinating one. and not least in its peculiarity. joe biden has stuck with the trump sanctions. he has not lifted them and the cubans have used this as an excuse to say, it is a only the american�*s fault, if only they lifted the embargo, we could feed you, and everything would be right again. is it, kind of, a diplomatic mistake, do you think, to keep a country like cuba under this embargo and give them this brilliant excuse? there are a lot of people - who say mr biden should see if he can readopt what mr 0bama i did, particularly by opening up. and relaxing sanctions, . allowing the remittances, all of that money to go . from cubans in america... of which there are a huge number. i am not an expert inl the politics of florida, but i am told that it is a key part of it. l the democratic party are trying to defend themselves in key. races there — they don't want to pick a fight -
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with the powerful cuban - republicans at the moment, etc, etc. and so there's a little bit of politics in this. - at the moment, joe biden is being very specific. - yesterday, himself at the press conferencel with chancellor merkel, he referred to cuba - as a "failed state" - and he said we are not going to shift on remittances. fascinating. and it is one to watch, including the situation in south africa. let me ask each of you in the few minutes we have lest let me ask each of you in the few minutes we have left to tell us about some other things you think we should be watching that have not had enough attention so far. michael first. we'll, there's something going on in america. there's always something going on in america. this is vocal politics — a lot of us here in britain and around the world think, well, joe biden's president and donald trump is making noise down in a mar—a—lago, but he's done. the republican party and the crisis in american democracy is not done. and, earlier this week, the democrats in the texas state legislature fled — a loaded word — but they flew
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to washington so that there would not be a quorum, so no business could be transacted in the texas state legislature. why? because the republican majority wanted to change the rules on voting and to sharply curtail the ability of people to vote, particularly african americans and people from poorer communities. voting day is usually a tuesday — well, you know, a lot of people have jobs where they actually can't take the day off, so there are all kinds of ways, now, you can vote and the texas legislature is trying to cut them all back. it is voter suppression. the democrats are in the minority, they could not hope to stop this bill, so they simply remove themselves so that there would not be a quorum and no business could be conducted. that is where politics is at in america. joe biden is trying to pass a $3 trillion infrastructure bill, a bailout bill,
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all of these things. people should really be paying attention to what's happening in the state houses, particularly the ones controlled by the republican party, which seems to really be making a strong effort to turn america into a one—party state, even though they are not in the majority nationally. stephanie, talking of elections, you mentioned the election in germany already and then this week we had the terrible flooding. yes, of course, and while that is, by the time being, very much in the news everywhere, it is also very political because it is now a challenge for the likely successor in the job of angela merkel. i mean, laschet, who, by the way, is also the prime minister of the land where there are the worst damages are found, he is competing very much with the green party and the green party now has a kind of advantage because they are saying, well, the flooding is a consequence of climate change and the cdu,
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angela merkel�*s party, they always say yes, well, there's climate change but we have to think of our economy. so it is interesting to hear the candidates from the green and the conservatives are showing up at the floods and how they are bringing over their message and this might be a decisive message for who wins the election. thank you. james? afghanistan. the media in the world is good when flags are being pulled . down and armies are pulled out, but then we forget about them. i you know, syria. the spread of the taliban across afghanistan, - the capturing of border posts, the besieging - of provincial capitals. we are seeing in some of these areas all of the stuff we saw - before, women being forced to cloister away in homes, l girls to not go to schools, - men to spend most of their day praying, grow their beards, all of that happening again| and yes, there are discussions taking place at doha _
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and the afghan president was in uzbekistan today, | but the military reality is that there is a real. human cost of this. very brief last word. really brief. 0n afghanistan, the concern is there are several thousand people, contractors, translators who have been working primarily for the americans. they cannot be left behind. there is a real worry because there is not an active plan to get them out. michael, stephanie and james, thank you very much. thank you very much for your company. dateline london back the same time next week.
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hello again. sunday was the hottest day of the year so far in both england and wales. cardiff saw a maximum temperature of 30.2 degrees celsius — the new highest temperature of the year for wales. but it was a bit hotter at london's heathrow airport, at 31.6, and that's the highest temperature we've seen in both england and the uk as a whole in 2021 so far. now, if you're heading outside over the next few hours, chances are you'll come across clear skies. the exception — northern scotland, where we could see an odd spot of rain for the western isles and the highlands, but otherwise it's dry. the other thing i'm sure you'll notice is just how warm a start to the day it's going to be. now, looking at the week ahead, high pressure�*s going to stay dominating the weather picture, and that means lots more of this hot and sunny weather, like it or not. now, there will be one or two isolated thundery showers building through the latter part of the afternoon, and evening time, and after hot weather by day, it will stay very warm
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overnight as well. monday morning, then, sunny, warm start to the day. the exception — northern scotland, where we'll see some patchy cloud, but even here there will be some sunny spells. one or two thunderstorms p°pping up during the afternoon, not many of these. you'll be able to see the clouds from a mile away. but if you're unlucky, you could see a downpour. the highest temperatures — england and wales, high 20s to low 30s. and looking at the jet stream pattern, well, this explains why our weather's not going to change. we've got this blocked pattern. the uk's underneath this ridge, and that is what's causing us the fine weather. this kind of pattern isn't going to change very much day—to—day. and that means tuesday, we'll see more of that fine, sunny, very warm if not hot weather. but again, there could be one or two isolated storms popping up as we go through the afternoon. temperatures again high 20s to the low 30s, the heat wave continues. but it's starting to get a bit hotter again in northern ireland and also into parts of scotland. and that warming trend across these northern areas will continue into the middle part of the week again. so, plenty of sunshine around,
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one or two afternoon storms just about possible. most of you, though, will have another dry day on wednesday. and those temperatures, high 20s to low 30s, cardiff this time seeing some of the hotter weather. 26 in belfast, and 27 there in glasgow. as i say, this weather pattern�*s not going to change very quickly, but eventually low pressure will likely move in to bring some thundery rain. but there's a lot of uncertainty when exactly those cooler conditions will arrive.
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this is bbc news. welcome if you're watching here in the uk or around the globe. i'm david eades. our top stories: as thousands of athletes and staff pour into tokyo for the start of the olympics, more test positive for covid. a major media investigation reports human rights activists, journalists and lawyers all being targeted by authoritarian governments using spyware. water gushes. as further flooding hits western europe, german chancellor angela merkel expresses horror at the scale of the damage. and happy to be home: we've the story of the two—year—old boy smuggled in the back of a lorry finally reunited with his family in honduras.


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