Despite a successful vaccine rollout so far, ICUs in Britain are still bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has charged over 40 pro-democracy activists for violating the national security law. Nigerian police are searching for hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls. And Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu blames Iran for an explosion on a ship in the Gulf of Oman. CBS News foreign correspondent Ian Lee joins from London with today's headlines.
ANN-MARIE GREEN: And more than 20 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the UK. And while the country is working to lay out plays for a gradual-- plans, rather, for a gradual reopening, the nation's health care system is still struggling. Ian Lee is following this story, and other stories, from London. So what's going on there, Ian?
IAN LEE: Good morning, Anne-Marie. The United Kingdom is leading Europe in vaccinations. But despite a drop in cases and deaths, the country isn't out of the woods yet. Intensive care units are still crammed and doctors fight to save lives. The country is now averaging more than 100 deaths a day, down, though, from a peak of more than 1,200 in January.
Over the weekend, British officials celebrated another milestone in the vaccine rollout. Nearly a third of the population has now received a shot. But there is major concern over the new variants from South Africa and Brazil. The country is trying to isolate the strains, as there is growing worry over the effectiveness of the vaccines against them.
Next, we're in Hong Kong, where authorities continue the mass roundup of pro-democracy activists. More than 40 were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the new national security law. If found guilty, they could face life in prison. At this point, every prominent activist is either in jail or in exile. Beijing continued its crackdown last week, as well, tightening election laws so only those viewed as loyal to the Chinese Communist Party can run for office.
In Nigeria, police have launched a search and rescue mission for more than 300 kidnapped schoolgirls. The attack happened Friday morning when gunmen stormed their boarding school. The girls, reported to be between the ages of 12 to 16, were then taken to a nearby forest. And this mission comes after 42 people, including 27 students, kidnapped from a boarding school, in a similar incident last week, were released. Security officials escorted them to safety on Saturday. One student was reportedly killed. And this kind of crime is typical in Nigeria's north, where children are often held for ransom.
Finally, we're in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming Iran for an explosion aboard an Israeli-owned ship last week. The blast ripped a hole on both sides of the hull, just above the waterline. An Israeli official says mines were used as the ship transited through the Gulf of Oman. Iran denies any responsibility.
But in apparent retaliation, Syria accuses Israel of carrying out missile strikes around Damascus. Israel didn't confirm the strikes, but is known to frequently target Iranian forces in the country. This comes, Anne-Marie, as Israel will go to the polls later this month. And Netanyahu faces his greatest challenge yet as former aides have broken off and are challenging his rule. But I have to tell you, I've covered Israel for almost a decade, and there is a reason Netanyahu is the country's longest-serving prime minister.
ANN-MARIE GREEN: Mm-hmm. Ian, thank you very much.