Europe And India See New Surge In New Coronavirus Cases : Consider This from NPR India is poised to overtake the U.S. as the country with the most COVID-19 cases. This week the Taj Mahal reopened to tourists for the first time in more than six months. NPR correspondent Lauren Frayer reports on how that's not an indication that the pandemic there has subsided.

Across Europe, countries are also seeing cases surge. NPR correspondents Frank Langfitt, Eleanor Beardsley, and Rob Schmitz discuss the rise in cases, new restrictions and how people are coping in the U.K., France and Germany.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment that will help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

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How Countries Around The World Are Coping With New Surge In Coronavirus Cases

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How Countries Around The World Are Coping With New Surge In Coronavirus Cases

How Countries Around The World Are Coping With New Surge In Coronavirus Cases

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When the U.S. finally approves a vaccine, it will be because science says it's safe and effective. That's what U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn...


STEPHEN HAHN: Good morning, Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Mary and members of the committee.

CORNISH: ...Told a Senate committee on Wednesday.


HAHN: Decisions to authorize or approve any such vaccine or therapeutic will be made by the dedicated career staff at FDA through our thorough review processes. And science will guide our decisions. FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that.

CORNISH: He's said that before. What's new this week is that the FDA is reportedly working on updating its guidelines for vaccine evaluation, looking to make them more strict. And while Hahn said only the FDA would greenlight a vaccine, here's what the president said about those new guidelines.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're looking at that. And that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move because when you have Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, these great companies coming up with these vaccines and they've done testing and everything else, I would say, why would they have to be, you know, adding great length to the process?

CORNISH: That's President Trump suggesting his own administration's FDA may slow down vaccine development because of politics. It's the latest example of the president's second-guessing, even undercutting federal public health experts. As for that guidance being considered by the FDA? Reportedly, it would require vaccine makers to follow patients for two months after receiving their second dose of a vaccine. And that would give regulators more confidence in the vaccine's effectiveness and safety. It would also make it even less likely that a vaccine would be available, even for limited emergency use, before Election Day.


TRUMP: We're going to take a look at it. Ultimately, the White House has to approve it. And maybe we will, maybe we won't...

CORNISH: Consider this - winter is coming. And with coronavirus cases surging around the world, the U.S. isn't the only country desperate for a vaccine. From NPR, I'm Audie Cornish. It's Thursday, September 24.


CORNISH: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Someday soon, the number will be 1 million - 1 million people killed around the world by coronavirus in less than a year. That's with all the efforts to slow its spread in countries everywhere. Here in the U.S., more than half of states are reporting a rise in cases.


ROBERT REDFIELD: A majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population remains susceptible.

CORNISH: CDC Director Robert Redfield said on Wednesday the agency will soon issue findings on how many of us have been infected. He said that, depending on what state you live in, that could be less than 1% of people.


REDFIELD: To some that have more than 15, 20 and one as high as 24%, we'll have that finalized and probably published in the next week or so. But it does show that a majority of Americans are still susceptible to this virus.

CORNISH: The country that's had more cases of COVID-19 than any other is the U.S., nearly 7 million cases according to Johns Hopkins University. The country with the second most is India, approaching 6 million cases. This week the Taj Mahal reopened to tourists for the first time in more than six months, but that's not an indication that the pandemic there has subsided. Here's NPR's Lauren Frayer.


LAUREN FRAYER: Thousands of shoppers crowd the streets of Mumbai's famous Dadar Flower Market. Vendors hawk garlands of marigolds, and people shove past each other - no social distancing.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Check your health status before leaving for the metro station. And if you are feeling unwell, do not travel.

FRAYER: Public transit is back up and running. Most schools are closed, but almost everything else - gyms, temples, malls and restaurants - are all back open. And the coronavirus is surging.


UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: Now let's turn to COVID-19. And the fastest spreading outbreak in the world at the moment is in India.

FRAYER: India is on track to soon surpass the U.S. in terms of reported cases. It's not that India didn't take this seriously. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore a mask in public very early on. Back in March, he imposed the biggest coronavirus lockdown in the world.


PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "You are not allowed out of your home starting at midnight," Modi told the nation at the time. It was sudden, and it was severe, recalls Dr. Sonali Vaid, a public health expert.

SONALI VAID: The lockdown was announced with a four-hour notice, so imagine people are just stuck where they are, which led to a complete breakdown of trust, especially among the poorer populations.

FRAYER: In India, that's hundreds of millions of people. At the time, coronavirus deaths were in the single digits. So it was the lockdown itself - with factories closed, wages lost, food supply chains disrupted - that put people's lives in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: This migrant worker got stranded at her workplace, unable to reach her 2-year-old son. He's crying. He says, Mommy, come home. I can't live without him, she wailed. Countless Indians starved to death as they trekked to their home villages. With scenes like this playing out all spring, the Indian government reversed course and in May began lifting its lockdown.


MODI: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "The coronavirus is here to stay," Modi addressed the nation again. "So we have to learn to live with it," he said. Since then, things have been gradually opening up. And the virus has reached almost every corner of the country, even Indigenous tribes on the remote Andaman Islands. At first, it overwhelmed the big cities. Urban elites had trouble finding hospital beds. People were dying in parking lots outside. Now the virus is spreading in poor rural areas, where literacy is low, health care is scant and misinformation can fly.

RANJANA DWIVEDI: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "People here say there's no such thing as the virus, that it's all nonsense," says Ranjana Dwivedi, a community health worker NPR reached by phone in a small village in central India. This week in Parliament, India's health minister scolded citizens.


HARSH VARDHAN: Irresponsible behavior. (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "We lifted the lockdown, people relaxed, and they got irresponsible," he says. Still, there are reasons to be hopeful, says Dr. John Victor Peter. He runs a hospital chain in South India. He notes - the fatality rate appears to be low, likely because of India's young demographics. And the country is now doing a million COVID tests today, yielding a more accurate picture of just how far this virus has spread.

JOHN VICTOR PETER: The raw numbers frighten people, but we may be fast approaching herd immunity.

FRAYER: And herd immunity, if achieved, he says, may help India until a vaccine is ready.


FRAYER: NPR's Lauren Frayer.

In the northern hemisphere, the big concern is winter. Colder temperatures, shorter days will mean more of us inside for longer, where we know the virus spreads more easily. And in Europe, cases are already rising sharply in many countries. NPR has a team of reporters spread across the continent reporting on those outbreaks and how people are coping - NPR's Frank Langfitt in London, Rob Schmitz in Berlin and Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. They spoke to my colleague Sacha Pfeiffer.


SACHA PFEIFFER: Hi to all of you.




PFEIFFER: Frank, let's start with you because new restrictions are going into effect in Scotland today I believe and in England tomorrow. What are these new measures, and what prompted them?

LANGFITT: Yeah. So in Scotland, they're saying households can't mix anymore, which is a big change. And then by the end of the week in both England and Scotland, pubs, restaurants and places like that will have to close by 10. And the other thing they're saying in England - Boris Johnson said this yesterday - is people who don't have to go to work should be working from home. And the reason for this is we've seen cases rise really quickly. I think the estimates from one government agency are around 6,000 a day. And the estimate from scientists who advise the government is we could be up to 50,000 a day by mid-October if nothing else is done.

PFEIFFER: Positive cases.

LANGFITT: Exactly. And so we had a summer that was really relaxed here. You could do a lot. It almost felt not exactly normal but a lot better than it was. And now we just - we're sort of feeling that, frankly, the virus is starting to close in.

PFEIFFER: So, Rob, what's going on in Germany in terms of restrictions?

SCHMITZ: Right. You know, the government here in Germany was about to loosen restrictions a month ago, but then coronavirus cases started to spike. And we're still looking at between 1,500 to 2,000 new cases a day. So it's not as dire as the U.K., nor France, really. But it's enough to alarm officials here in Germany. Deaths, though, are remaining low. So that tells us that most of these new cases are among young people, and many of them are schoolchildren. Germany's government is committed to ensuring that children are physically inside their classrooms.

And part of the push for that is purely economic - to make sure that parents have time to work and contribute to what is now a flailing economy. And I can tell you, as the father of two school-aged kids, that, you know, we are seeing children and teachers testing positive on a fairly regular basis. But when that happens, there's a protocol involved, when an entire class is then immediately sent home, tested and quarantined. And so far, this appears to be working.

PFEIFFER: And, Eleanor, I understand that the plan in France is that kids are in school and even if the kids test positive, they'll remain in school. Can you tell us about that and what the thinking is there?

LANGFITT: Yeah, that's right. First of all, there's about 10,000 new cases a day here every day, so it's rising very quickly. It is, for now, among young people. And deaths have been low. But emergency ICU units are starting to fill up in some areas of the country. The new protocols have actually been loosened in schools because one of the main strategies of the government, also for economic reasons, is to keep the schools open, to keep kids in schools.

So for preschool and primary school, if you have COVID, you still go to school because the thinking is you're not going to spread it very much. They only shut a class if there are three separate cases. And for, you know, starting in middle school and high school, teachers and students are wearing masks. So the thinking is same thing. They do not shut a class with just one case. There have to be three and separate cases for them to close a class down.

PFEIFFER: And, Rob, in Germany, how compliant or obedient are people? You know, this is a place that has - is viewed as having handled the pandemic better than most countries. Is that still true, and are people generally following the rules?

SCHMITZ: It depends. You know, compared to France, Germany's rules are actually pretty lax. There are only mask requirements if you are indoors. And out on the street here in Berlin, hardly anybody is wearing a mask. But despite these lenient restrictions, there are still people - young adults especially - who continue to ignore these rules. And Chancellor Angela Merkel has issued many warnings for them to be more disciplined about all of this.

PFEIFFER: And then finally, Frank and Rob and Eleanor, I'd like to hear from each of you what life is like six months into the pandemic in the countries where you are as they face winter and the coming flu season. How much is it back to normal? How nervous are people about what's coming? Frank, would you start us off, tell us about London?

LANGFITT: Yeah, sure. I think that it's never gotten quite back to normal. And people have done what they've done in the States, I think, in big cities is they stayed home. But right now I feel like we're in an inflection point. And everybody - there's anxiety that we're in for a second wave that's going to be even worse in some ways than the first one. And in our home, my wife just went out and got a big freezer - it's like 5 feet tall - because we expect that - we don't know what food's going to be like in terms of access.

And we're preparing for a long winter. We've been talking to scientists throughout this. And this is the kind of advice that we're getting. People are really anxious now. And I almost feel like - this feels like - how should I put this? I mean, I feel like I've seen this movie. And I feel like we're heading back into another tough time. And the government isn't maybe moving quickly enough.

PFEIFFER: And, Eleanor in France, how's life there?

BEARDSLEY: People are tired of it, and they're steeling themselves for what's to come. But, you know, a friend of mine in New York described New York the other day as felt like post-World War II Europe with all the closed shops. And I thought, wow, everything is still open here. When you walk out on the streets, it's still Paris. And it's still functioning. The difference is only that everyone is wearing a mask.

PFEIFFER: And, Rob, Germany?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, the same. You know, life does seem like it's sort of returned to normal here. You know, but there is this sense of impending doom when you look at how the numbers of infected are creeping up, not only in Germany but across the border and other countries surrounding Germany. And as, you know, the winter season pushes everyone indoors, I think it also adds to that anxiety.


CORNISH: Rob Schmitz in Berlin, Frank Langfitt in London and Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. I'm Audie Cornish.

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