tv Dateline London BBC News January 8, 2022 11:30am-12:01pm GMT
hello, this is bbc news. the headlines... tennis star novak djokovic had a vaccine exemption to enter australia because he had covid in december, according to court documents. the us questions kazakhstan�*s decision to bring in russian troops to quell the violent unrest. flat owners in the uk won't have to pay to remove dangerous cladding from lower—height buildings under new government plans, the bbc understands. three white men who murdered ahmaud arbery in the us state of georgia are given life sentences — his family say they never lost faith in justice. now on bbc news, it's time for dateline london.
hello, and welcome to a new year of 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, pragmatism versus extremism in faith, politics and health. joining us — jef mcallister, us broadcaster and international lawyer. ashis ray, who's been explaining the british to indians for almost half a century now. and in the studio, damian grammaticus, who's been based in delhi, beijing and brussels for the bbc, and who's now at westminster. welcome to you all and happy new year. now, covid pragmatism — is that the news year resolution adopted by some world leaders? in the uk, faced with the highly infectious variant of covid,
omicron, borisjohnson has resisted imposing fresh restrictions in england. this despite a wave of staff absences, including one hospital — derriford in devon — which had 500 of its employees absent on a single day. instead, 100,000 key workers in sectors such as energy will be required to self—test every day. keeping the lights on. in australia, it seems to be a case of protecting key sporting events. or so it seemed a few days ago. novak djokovic, something of a vaccine sceptic, was told, after all, he could defend his title at tennis�*s australian open. but then there was outrage at the medical exemption he had been granted and now, as we speak, he is in hotel quarantine facing the prospect of deportation unless his legal challenge is successful. china, of course, goes its own way. yuzhou, in the central province of henan, a city of 1.1 million people, has been locked down. three people there are infected.
damian, china notwithstanding, is 2022 looking like the year we are going to learn to live with covid? it might be very early to say that, actually, i'm sorry to start the new year off on a low note. what we are seeing in the uk at the minute is this sort of lowered tiers of restrictions at the minute, which were brought in just before christmas for this 0micron wave, this highly transmissible variant, and the government here is resisting going further than that. partly, ithink, because, ideologically, it does not want to impose restrictions if it does not have to, but also, politically, borisjohnson had problems before christmas just bringing in the work—from—home rules and the covid pass you now need to get into big events through his own party. so he is holding back, and what you've seen is a health service under real pressure here. this wave might pass but what is the next
wave going to look like? and, crucially, if talking about a bigger global picture, this is in a population in the uk which is highly vaccinated already, has a large degree of protection. the real question for living with covid is all those other countries around the world that do not have that vaccine protection at the minute and need vaccines spread around the world to reduce the level of covid circulating, and therefore, also, the chances of new variants coming back again. about that question of vaccination — because it has not gone away in over a year since we have talked about it. jef, staying with the uk for the moment, one in 15, according to the office for national statistics, are thought to have been affected about a week ago with covid. are we getting to the point, whether we like it or not, partly because vaccination has been so successful, where we see herd immunity as a way out of this pandemic? at least for this country. it's too early to be that hopeful.
you need to get to, i think, 80% or so of combined previously infected and vaccination to be able to get to a kind of herd immunity. the fact that this new omicron variant has been so successful in spreading, though not so successful in killing, indicates that whatever herd is in existence really is not that effective. it does vary — the nice thing about it, and i think there is some thought among virologists, is that viruses tend to become more transmissible and less lethal as more variants go on. that isjust not an inevitable, but it is a frequently seen trend, and so i think we have to hope that this is all going to be around us but not so debilitating both to human beings and to economies, and that seems to be what is happening. it is not as bad as it was a year ago.
let's pick up what damian was saying about the problem being, it's all very well for us in north america, in parts of europe and some of the wealthy parts of the middle east and so on to say, "i'm all right, jack," but the reality is, everybody has told us from the beginning of this that if you don't vaccinate everyone, then no—one is really truthfully protected. the serum institute in india was one of those places where vaccine production took off and vaccine numbers have been good in india, notwithstanding its enormous population. do you see any hope of that for the developing world? i think the situation is really desperate in africa. - in india, given its vast population, i think it's a major challenge. - so, india is still in the process of completing its second - dose of the vaccine. it still has, ithink, _
about 50% of its population to be given the second vaccine, l so that, i think, does pose a challenge, the sheerj size of the population, but i think the problem is greater in the lower income countries. i and that's where i think some kind of equality needs to be achieved . because the first world having it and the third world not having . it is not a solution. there has to be some kind of equality, otherwise this| menace will not go away. there is, of course, - this race to find a vaccine which is possibly durable for at least one year, - and so that you don't have - to administer a vaccine every six months, and that is important. so it's either going to be such a vaccine like a flu vaccine, i or maybe a medicine which would be a definitive cure. _ jef, both the british and the united states seem to be
struggling with a shortage of testing equipment and particularly for the self—administered lateral flow tests, probably the test people are most familiar with. what is the biden administration trying to do about that? it has announced that it is buying 500 million and will be disturbing them, but they were obviously caught a little by surprise by the failure of the vaccine to do as much of a job as they anticipated and biden complained that trump had not done a very good job of tests and they look like they have not done a greatjob either. the contracts are now being let. apparently there are a dozen new tests, lateral flow—type quick tests, now available for production and it is ramping up. the people who are on biden's transition team have said they need a lot more than 500 million and that they also need vaccine passports and they need
to have a closer link between reports of getting infected and getting the antiviral drugs for the people most likely to go into the hospital. and that combined will be enough, but even the people who were sympathetic to biden are worried that public health efforts are kind of ragged and need a boost and he will have to listen to that or he is going to bear the political brunt and the health brunt and economic brunt. how much damage do you think the novak djokovic row and now the row involving a second player, who is saying she is pretty much giving up and is going home, how much is this damaging australia do you think? and particularly the australian government, which seems to have taken a contradictory view on this before — the public row kicked up, it appeared to be quite relaxed about him coming. first of all, i think djokovic. is a marvellous tennis player and my money would be on him to go | past roger federer and rafael nadal|
to take 21 grand slam titles — they are all level on 20, - as you know. but having said that, - i think it's important to say that i do not sympathise i with his stance on vaccines. now, there is of course - a confusion — the confusion being, from what i can make out, a circular that was sent out - by the australian open authorities i to say that anyone who has had covid in the past six months — - in other words, from the 31st ofjuly onwards — - was exempt in terms of taking a vaccine. and then, of course, when he arrives in australia, he is stopped _ because the authorities feel that he should have - taken his vaccinations. this will not be resolved, i dare say, until monday, but it's unpleasant. | i don't think it shows australia in particularly consistent light,
but at the same time, _ i do not sympathise with djokovic. he has not set a very good example since the outbreak of covid. - damian, that brings us to china, which, of course, has an international sporting occasion arguably bigger than the australian open coming up. they seem to have taken what one might call the old austrian approach, which is lock down the moment you see any sign of anything. the chinese approach is zero covid. has it been effective? it has been in china. it's now 11 months since china have recorded a death from covid within china. and very, very low cases, but that comes at a very high cost, and the cost we are seeing is these lockdowns that china imposes on as soon as there is a can of an outbreak and there is mass testing going on to spot it. so this week have the city of yuzhou — 1.1 million people —
three cases, asymptomatic people identified through testing, the whole city in lockdown. in the city of xian, as big london, 13 million, has been in lockdown since before christmas and that is 13 million people confined to their homes. again, for a small number of cases. there it is the biggest outbreak they have had since wuhan, about 100 a day, 1800 cases or so the minute plus 111,000 people moved the quarantine. but it's costly. in xian, the difficulty now is the ability of the local government to keep the people fed and people needing to get out and get medical treatment — there was a case just in the last few days of a woman trying to get to hospital, the hospital staff would not let her in because she did not have a negative covid test that was valid on herself — she had a miscarriage and lost her baby. that's circulated on social media. and an elderly man, too, did not get
to hospital in time and died and there is now criticism circulating of, what is the cost of this lockdown when there are very few deaths? the pressures is starting to mount there and, i think, can china continue this? particularly with the omicron variant now. this was worked with the less transmissible variant, the difficulty for china is, if the more transmissible one gets in and starts to spread, because the chinese vaccines, the testing at the minute seems to show that the chinese vaccines that they've used on the chinese population may not be very effective against the omicron variant, it's not the new type of vaccine and that could be a real difficulty. thank you very much. on christmas day, the bbc reported the reopening of a church in india—administered kashmir shut since violence in the muslim—majority state more than 30 years ago. as worshippers said their prayers in haryana, a state controlled by the bjp, the hindu nationalist party, which also provides india's government, a life—size statute ofjesus was desecrated. it was not an isolated incident. some even accused christians of using santa claus and the distribution of presents to children as a tool of conversion. hostility towards muslim indians has
become depressingly routine in the country's public life. congress, the main opposition party which supposedly believes and stands for a non—sectarian democracy, is too enfeebled to raise much protest. can you give us examples of the sort of things indian christians are having to endure at the moment, and is there any indication that this is kind of state—sponsored or state—influenced in any way? i what i will say is that the state i has been silent and if that means that they condone it, - then that's what it means. they certainly have been very rarely condemning these acts. _ these have been steadily happening for quite some time. _ in one state alone, there have been 40 such attacks - on christians in 2021 alone. so, overand above, there is this spate of legislation _ in the ruling party, _ bjp—run states, such as the one
you mentioned — - haryana — and others, where these legislations, so—called anti—conversion laws, are aimed at christians. - in other words, it's- a matter of containment, it's a matter of intimidation, - and that's exactly what is going on. there's been this spewing of hate and intolerance by the ruling - bjp, with narendra modi, unfortunately, being - the fountainhead of this kind of sentiment. - and this has not only affected muslims, but it has also - affected christians. indeed, it affects - liberal hindus, socially discriminated hindus as well. but these attacks have been mounted
deliberately around christmas - | in order to make christians feel| insecure and they have certainly achieved their objective. there is one other thing that - i should mention, which is this — that the nobel prize winner, i mother teresa's missionaries of charity, they used to receive | funding from all over the world because it's been doing - extraordinary work with the poor, needy and destitute in india. but that funding has been stopped by the modi government, - so that gives you a picture of what is really going - on in india at the moment. jef, that might be one of the reasons why the us commission on international religious freedom recommended putting india on a list of some countries that commit serious
violations of religious freedom. it is not least because there is a big indian diaspora in the us. is this becoming a political issue there? i don't think it's become a central issue, and the state department has not taken this advice from this non—official but officially constituted body to put india on the red list, because, of course, india has a lot of important other issues with the us — geopolitical, economic — and the biden administration has, understandably, been skittish about taking them on in this way. but there really isn't any doubt that these are extremely serious issues for india, and for a country like the us, which believes in religious freedom and is supposed to be founded on it, there is going to be a point where it becomes a public issue for the biden administration, too. we may not of gotten it yet, but i think we are heading in that direction.
damian, narendra modi is involved with the pope visiting india — with this kind of backdrop, that could make for a quite an interesting visit, assuming he accepts the invitation. but there will be some christians who will say, hang on a minute, the vatican has not covered itself in glory when one thinks of china, where christianity was suppressed for so long and a deal was done, a deal that not everybody thinks was a terribly good one. yes, so this is four years ago now. so you have the chinese communist party, xijinping, who tolerate religion. religious freedoms are still violated in china, and if you try and practise outside state control, there is serious control and repression there. but tolerated. . .the state wants to try and co—opt and tolerate some religions... and is quite keen to control the choice of bishops and things like that. exactly, and the pope
has a different view, which is that the church alone should decide. so the two did this deal four years ago, where they would sort of effectively agree to compromise and choose bishops together. the pope wanted to do so as an attempt to sort of have a dialogue with china. the difficulty with that, i think, is that it's only two bishops or a couple of bishops have been agreed and appointed. there are several dozen that they need to, so there's not been actually very much progress and the criticism has been that that ties the catholic church's hands because it has then felt unable to criticise where there has been violations of religious freedom and violations of other religions' religious freedoms in china as well. so, muslims, uighurs, or tibetan buddhists or the treatment of non—sanctioned churches, where often
the churches will be raised, bulldozed in china and the pastors will be arrested and pressure put on people. so does that limit the catholic church's room to speak out about those things? let me ask one brief thing if i may — is part of this because of the arrival of evangelical christianity, a greater desire to proselytize and convert? because that seems to be one of the fears at least you hear a lot about from those who are involved in these anti—christian protests, that they say it is not as much about anti—christianity but anti—christians trying to convert us and others. that is a very good question. i think over the centuries, . we find that weaker sections and tribal people, people who have been discriminated against by- higher—class hindus, _ have ventured towards christianity, have converted to christianity. but i do not see any credible - or widespread evidence that says that this is being donel in a systematic manner
by the churches in india. so it could happen in the odd case, i but it is certainly not widespread i and certainly not systematic. and therefore, this - is an allegation, i know, on the part of the hindu rightj in india, but it's an allegation which i believe is baseless. thank you very much. now, from extremism of faith to the polarisation of politics, if you thought the last us election was rough, you ain't seen nothing yet. on thursday, the anniversary of the capitol riot in washington dc, presidentjoe biden accused his predecessor, donald trump, of creating a web of lies about the november 2020 election and onjanuary 6th last year, a president, he said, who rallied the mob to attack. this sort of language may be
catnip to democrats, and an effective way for a president with very poor voter approval to rally the party ahead of midterm elections, with the democrats in sore danger of losing control of congress. it may have been good politics, but was this wise, never mind statesman—like? i think you have to look at this in a way that is hard for us to look at in the normal fashion of politics. this is, i have to say, a five—alarm fire, and we are so used to it, it's been there for such a long time now in america because of trump, that we tend to think it's just politics as usual. one of the tricky things about talking about trump has been, really, how different he has been from other presidents. the 20,000 lies he told, according to the washington post counter, the fact that he would talk about grabbing women's genitalia, that he would cosy
up to vladimir putin, that he told people to take bleach to solve their problems with covid. those were strange, but the truly most unusual thing he did was try to mount a coup to keep himself in power. he is the only president in history of the republic who ever did this. and this is serious, it has continual consequences. 68% of republicans think that he should be the president, that biden is not a legitimate president. and that is very, very difficult and worrisome for democracy. that big lie, i would posit, is similar to the big lie told by the right in germany after the first world war, that the reason they lost the war is that they were stabbed in the back by the socialists and the jews. that gives people a chance to rev up and feel betrayed, and republicans are feeling betrayed because trump is still leading them. he is going to run for president.
he is going to be the candidate of the republican party again — there is no—one in a position to stand up to him and they won't stand up to him for anything. and so we are actually facing a grave constitutional crisis in the united states. biden is going to be 82 years old at the next election. he is not doing great. if he does not do well in the midterms, there will not be any legislation at all coming out of washington in those two years leading up. things are going to get worse, more broken. and so, to ignore this giant elephant in the room and say things are just sort of 0k, he has got to push for voting reform. the republicans are trying to make it harder for democrats to vote in the states they control. they're doing a pretty good job of it. for federal legislation to counteract this, biden has to get at least a couple of senators to vote against the filibuster. maybe he's making some progress by making a big deal about this election.
i think we should all be concerned, notjustjoe biden, people who care about the united states, who think it's imperfect, but people who think at least it's a gravitational centre of the world order, need to be concerned about the future of the state of american democracy and i'm glad joe biden is raising it. brief last thought, if i may. that was all true a year ago. he has not used quite this language until now. there is going to be a suspicion that this is electoral politics, it's about strengthening his base — a base that, let's face it, might well be having quite a lot of doubts about whether he should even be their candidate in three years' time. i certainly see this - as a change of tactics, because for one year, he ignored trump and - trump has not gone away. so therefore i think he has decided to be more aggressive and see - if more aggression works. and certainly, when it comes
to the pro—biden media - in the us, they have welcomed this aggressive approach. - he has decided to take him on. but at the end of the day, - a couple of things are important. one is that the economy needs to turn around and the second i is that his social and climate - agenda needs be pushed forward. thank you all very much and lovely to have your company. thank you very much for your company as well. that's it for dateline: london for this week. we're back next week at the same time. goodbye. hello. it certainly wasn't the prettiest of starts to the weekend for many, with some very wet
and windy weather around. big area of low pressure in the north atlantic has been driving things. that's pushing towards iceland, but it's throwing these weather fronts across us. notice, though, on this cold front, we will see some of the heaviest rain behind it, some cooler air pushes back in, but also some brighter weather, so, the north and west, in particular, will see a little bit more sunshine developed through the afternoon, whereas to the south and east we've got the rain turning even heavierfor a time. in fact, there could be some lively gusts of wind, with the heaviest of the rain still pushing through parts of the midlands and southern england as we go through the afternoon, but towards the south—west, wales, northern england, should see sunshine develop, and sunny spells and a few showers across scotland and northern ireland through the rest of today. those showers turning increasingly wintry. it will be a gusty day, and the winds could make you feel cool once again across the north and the west, even though the sunshine comes out, temperatures actually drop through the afternoon to 3—5 degrees, just about holding to around 8—10 celsius, east anglia and the south—east cornerfor a time. but as that rain clears this evening, temperatures will drop once again. with the clearer skies across eastern areas, in particular, chance of frost. wintry showers out there in the west, the most frequent across parts of western scotland,
and that could lead to some icy conditions, with temperatures at or above, only just above freezing as we start tomorrow morning. but, at least for sunday morning, if you've got cloud and rain today, eastern areas, in particular, much, much brighter day to come. east anglia and the south—east, especially, but we will see plenty of showers across central and southern scotland through the morning, northern ireland, too. they will transfer into northern england, north midlands and north wales for the second half of the day, and a weather front pushing towards the south—west will bring cloud, patchy rain, but for a fair few of you, many will stay dry and sunny. as we go through into monday, high pressure starting to build up from iberia, but some weather fronts on the chart here, another weather system, but nowhere near as active as the one we have got today. it will bring some heavier rain to the north of scotland. elsewhere, patchy rain or drizzle, extensive low cloud in the west, some hazy sunshine in eastern areas after a bit of a chilly start, but many to the south and east will stay largely dry, just a few spots of light rain possible.
the biggest thing, i think, to notice, are the temperatures starting to creep back to double figures across southern and western areas. they will creep up a little bit further into this coming week. some showers around on england and wales on tuesday, but for much of the time, away from the far north, it will be a dry week but with some overnight frost and fog. see you soon.
this is bbc news. these are the latest headlines in the uk and around the world: tennis star novak djokovic had a vaccine exemption to enter australia because he had covid in december, according to court documents. gunfire. days after violent and deadly protests erupted in kazakhstan, the former domestic intelligence agency chief is detained on suspicion of high treason. at least 21 people have died in north—eastern pakistan after heavy snowfall trapped them in their vehicles. three white men who murdered ahmaud arbery in the us state of georgia are given life sentences — his family say they never lost faith in justice. flat owners in the uk won't have to pay to remove dangerous cladding from lower height buildings under