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As COVID-19 cases in the remote Pacific climb, it turns out that even natural isolation is no match against this pandemic.

The United States on Friday surpassed more than 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, doubling the number of known infections counted just three days ago.

Data from Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the global spread of the disease, shows 101,657 people have been diagnosed in the U.S. as of Friday evening. More than 1,560 people have died.

As the death toll of the global coronavirus epidemic continues to rise, Pope Francis celebrated an extraordinary ritual Friday evening at the Vatican.

The pope prayed for an end of the epidemic and delivered his homily against the dramatic backdrop of an empty St. Peter's Square, glistening in the rain.

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Widespread testing and contact tracing has allowed China to begin to relax its social distancing measures, and testing is credited with helping South Korea flatten its curve.

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Dozens of people have been injured in Kenya, as paramilitary police tear gassed and beat passengers trying to board a ferry in order to make a curfew imposed by authorities to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

According to witnesses, passengers were trying to get on the ferry on Friday in Mombasa before the 7 p.m. curfew. Because the ferry was closing early and was running at a lower capacity to encourage social distancing, a huge crowd built up at the dock. As passengers crowded toward the ferry, security forces dispersed them with tear gas and force.

Jordan has sealed off its second biggest city and the surrounding province after dozens of guests at a wedding held two weeks ago tested positive for the coronavirus.

Army vehicles drove through the streets of Irbid, about 60 miles north of Amman, Thursday night telling people their city of 2 million was now effectively under military control and not to leave their homes.

Singapore, one of the first countries in the world to report cases of the coronavirus outside China, has so far managed to keep its numbers in the hundreds even as confirmed cases in the U.S., Italy and elsewhere have exploded into the tens of thousands. For that, the small island country has won international praise — but the victory hasn't come easily for residents, nor is it complete.

Sweden's prime minister announced Friday that public gatherings of more than 50 people will be banned as of Sunday, with violators subject to fines or even imprisonment.

The ban is much tighter than the country's previous restriction on groups over 500, but looser than limits imposed elsewhere in Europe. It amounts to a major crackdown in a country that has otherwise become known for its lenient approach to coronavirus management.

A spate of mysterious second-time infections is calling into question the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnostic tools even as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. It's also raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases.

The coronavirus appears to be much more lethal in some countries than in others.

In Italy, about 10% of people known to be infected have died. In Iran and Spain, the case fatality rate is higher than 7%. But in South Korea and the U.S. it's less than 1.5%. And in Germany, the figure is close to 0.5%.

So what gives?

The answer involves how many people are tested, the age of an infected population and factors such as whether the health care system is overwhelmed, scientists say.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, he announced Friday. In a video announcement, Johnson said he has "mild symptoms" of COVID-19, including a fever and "a persistent cough."

Johnson is the first world leader found to be infected with the coronavirus. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under self-quarantine after her doctor tested positive for the virus. She has undergone two tests that yielded negative results; a third test is scheduled for early next week.

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus. Here he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed the global response to the novel coronavirus in a phone call in which the two reportedly discussed easing tensions and pledged cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

The leaders spoke after an extraordinary virtual G-20 meeting that was necessitated by social distancing protocols put in place to limit the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

South Africa started a three-week nationwide lockdown on Friday as the country reported its first deaths from COVID-19 and the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus there neared 1,000, the highest on the continent.

At midnight Thursday, police and the military began enforcing an order forbidding all but essential movement. Before the deadline, there were long lines at supermarkets as people stocked up on supplies, according to the BBC.

Iran is dealing with one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus in the world, with a death toll surpassing 2,200 people. But getting help into the country is hindered both by a truculent Iranian leadership and strong U.S. sanctions.

"We are at war with a virus that threatens to tear us apart," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told world leaders Thursday, in a special virtual summit on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadly coronavirus, Tedros said, "is the defining health crisis of our time."

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There is a little bit of good news about the coronavirus. Researchers say that as it spreads across the world, it's changing its genetic makeup only slightly. NPR's Pien Huang explains.

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As COVID-19 spreads through Israeli and Palestinian communities, Israelis and Palestinians now have a common enemy to battle — and reason to lean on each other.

The coronavirus has infected more than 2,000 Israelis and killed at least eight, including a man who survived the Holocaust. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it has infected more than 70 Palestinians and killed a Palestinian woman. At least nine Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are infected with the virus, too. Everyone is under increasingly stringent lockdowns.

In a first for Europe, 20 critically ill coronavirus patients were evacuated aboard a fully medicalized, high-speed train.

The patients were transferred from the hard-hit eastern region of France, where hospitals are operating at overcapacity, to the western Loire Valley, where facilities still have plenty of beds.

Takayuki Ueno looks out over an empty field along the coast in Fukushima, Japan, and points toward the ocean.

"There used to be houses here, and trees," he says, and then points in another direction. "And over there, too."

The wind whips across the open space. A small, new graveyard sits in an adjacent plot. Those houses were where his neighbors once lived.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Three weeks ago, Washington, D.C., resident Rebecca Read Medrano started feeling unwell. She had a dry cough, fatigue, nausea and terrible stomach pains that had her bending over.

There was one more symptom, and it was a bit odd. Medrano had largely lost her sense of taste. "My cousin was cooking, and everything he made tasted weird," she recalls.

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At this point, we have all heard how important it is to wash our hands. But what about people who don't have clean water? Tens of millions of people in Mexico are in that very position. NPR's Carrie Kahn is there, and she brought us this.

Nurses and midwives in Australia say they've had to take extraordinary measures to stop people from stealing personal protective equipment, such as sanitizer and masks, and that some of them have even become targets of violence.

In a statement on its website, the New South Wales Nurses & Midwives' Association issued a plea to the community as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country exceeded 2,800, with eight deaths, as of Thursday morning.

Not enough toilets – and the ones there are often dirty. Beds crammed together. The only way to shower is with water from a bucket that everyone has to share. No soap or hand sanitizer.

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