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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for the greater Tokyo region, as alarm at rapidly increasing coronavirus case numbers overtook concerns about economic losses. The emergency will take effect Friday, and last until Feb. 7.

As with an earlier state of emergency last April, which was expanded nationwide, the latest restrictions entail no punishments for violators. Residents will simply be asked to avoid nonessential outings, especially at night.

From France to Germany to The Netherlands, Europeans are venting frustration over the pace of their COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The European Union began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 27 — two weeks after the United States and almost a month after the United Kingdom, which recently left the EU.

The Netherlands only just started Wednesday. A former senior health official there, Roel Coutinho, called the Dutch strategy "shameful" and warned it was "going to cost lives," according to the BBC.

An Afghan woman stands over her granddaughter in a Kabul hospital ward for malnourished children. Parvana, just 18 months old, keeps vomiting, but she's too weak to move on her cot. So the vomit dribbles down her neck and pools into the hem of her worn velvet tracksuit.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

The European Union is preparing to distribute the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to all its member countries, after the European Commission granted conditional authorization of the vaccine.

The EU acted hours after the European Medicines Agency endorsed the vaccine, in a move that will add another 160 million doses to its large-scale vaccination effort. Europeans have been receiving shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine since it was approved last month. And officials note that more vaccines are in the pipeline.

Here in the U.S., communities see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. With the vaccinations now occurring across the country, health officials are optimistic that the outbreak could be under control by the end of this year.

But the pandemic won't be over. Across the globe, the virus will still be circulating widely, even surging, in many countries.

In early December, Christine Ghati Alfons taught a menstrual hygiene class to a group of girls, 10 to 15 years old, in the ethnic Kuria community in Migori County, an impoverished, rural area in southwest Kenya. Normally, she says, the class has 25 students. On this day, only 17 girls showed up.

How many steps do you walk each day?

If you live in the U.S. and can claim more than 4,774 steps daily, you're exceeding the average American's total. Comparable figures from England and Japan are 5,444 and 6,010 daily steps, respectively — with this info derived from cellphone data.

Beijing says it inoculated more than 73,000 people in the first two days after China's first domestic COVID-19 vaccine was approved for commercial use.

China's capital has set up 220 vaccination centers around the city to dole out the two-step vaccine. The elderly and front-line medical workers will receive the first doses.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

India's drug regulators gave the country a gift on New Year's Day: a vaccine against the coronavirus.

An Indian minister confirmed reports that an expert panel had authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use in India on Friday, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to be authorized in India.

"Last year began with corona, but this year is beginning with a vaccine," Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters Saturday.

When lockdown went into effect earlier this year, many people turned to TikTok to pass the time.

Like, a lot of people: the short-video platform has now hit over 2.6 billion downloads globally and was the most downloaded app of 2020, according to mobile app analytics firm App Annie.

The pandemic is part of the reason for surging TikTok popularity.

Florida is the third U.S. state to announce it has a case of the more contagious coronavirus strain that first emerged in the United Kingdom.

A man in his 20s, with no history of travel, tested positive for the mutated coronavirus. The state Department of Health said he is in Martin County.

Israel has vaccinated a larger share of its population against COVID-19 than any other country, and is aiming to achieve "herd immunity" from the virus by the end of spring or midsummer, the Israeli Health Ministry told NPR.

More than 800,000 of Israel's population of about 9 million have received COVID-19 vaccination shots. The country aims to vaccinate 25% of Israelis by the end of January.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Exactly one year ago today, the World Health Organization first learned of a cluster of a few dozen pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China of "unknown" origin. The cause, of course, would turn out to be the coronavirus behind the current pandemic. Here's a by-the-numbers summary of the toll the virus has taken on countries across the globe since that fateful day.

This past year was like no other. The world suffered deeply from the novel coronavirus and many endured difficult sacrifices. But other news never stopped in 2020.

Tensions escalated with Iran after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general. Britain made an arduous exit from the European Union. China enacted tough new authority over Hong Kong. The racial justice movement in the United States set off solidarity protests in many other countries. And that was just in the first half of the year.

China's medical products agency has given market approval to the country's first COVID-19 vaccine, made by state-owned Sinopharm. The conglomerate says its vaccine has a 79% efficacy rate — surpassing the widely accepted standard of 50% efficacy.

As a kid, Sarita Bhise was the fastest runner in her Indian village of Dhuldev. And she got plenty of practice. Half the year, her family roamed the grasslands as they grazed their goats, covering hundreds of miles.

When she was 10, she was spotted by talent scouts from a local project that uses sports to provide opportunities to rural kids, especially girls. They thought she'd be a good candidate for a government-run sports hostel where young athletes live, train and get an education for free.

With more than 10 million coronavirus cases, India has the second-highest infection load in the world after the United States. Nearly 150,000 people have died in India after testing positive for the virus, the third-highest death toll in the world after the U.S. and Brazil.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It seemed like there was only one global health story this year: the pandemic.

But that wasn't the only topic that grabbed our audience's attention. According to NPR's data on page views, readers were attracted to all kinds of Goats and Soda stories in 2020.

The mix of content might surprise you. A 2019 story about how to teach kids to control their anger made a huge comeback. Readers loved our commentary on the Netflix reality show Indian Matchmaking — and an explainer on locusts. And photos of our beautiful planet made a big impression.

The last Sunday of 2020 was ushered in with both promise and apprehension on the global pandemic front.

The European Union began immunizing residents with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. "We are starting to turn the page on a difficult year," said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in a video posted on Twitter. The E.U. she added has "secured enough doses for our whole population of 450 million people."

On March 15, Patrick Phiri was ready to take his global romance to the next level.

Patrick, 32, lives in Malawi. His girlfriend, Fiona ten Have, is Dutch. And he was on his way to see her after nearly three months apart.

He was relieved as he waited for his plane to take off from the airport in Lilongwe, Malawi's capital. It'd taken months to prepare his visa application.

And he was nervous about meeting her parents. Fiona, 27, was nervous too.

A new variant of the coronavirus is sweeping through England. At the same time, the country is reporting a record-high number of COVID-19 cases – nearly 40,000 on Wednesday — as well as surges in hospitalizations and deaths. In London last week, an estimated 2% of people in private households tested positive for the coronavirus, The Independent reported.

So the big question is: Are these events connected? Is the new variant causing this surge?

In Brazil's jungle metropolis of Manaus, nurse Francinete Simões thought she had seen the last COVID-19 death at the urgent care center where she works in July. Hospitals finally had space to take critical patients again after a violent initial wave of the virus left many of the city's dead in mass graves.

But in recent weeks, Simões says, hospitals are "filling up, and I'm seeing people die again." The state government has now ordered non-essential businesses to close between December 26 and January 10 as a virus containment measure for this city of 2.2 million.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned the success of his country's COVID-19 vaccine into a matter of personal pride — and national prestige.

It was a big year for comics journalism at NPR.

During the coronavirus crisis, our team has created and published original comics to offer COVID-19 advice and information and to tell stories about people whose lives have been affected by the pandemic.

One of the most popular was a printable zine targeted to children with tips on how to explain it all to them. It was translated into many languages, from Chinese to Spanish to Arabic.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's district sweeps from the beaches of Santa Monica to the San Fernando Valley. Among the two million people she represents are Latino communities hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Many essential workers, many market and pharmacy and food service and restaurant and hotel workers and a lot of health care workers," she said. "So a lot of people just had to go to work."

"Losing my child while I am watching is breaking my heart," Mohammed Yousuf says as he tries to calm his crying son. "I feel so worried for my son. I won't rest until my son is completely healed."

Yousuf lives in Yemen. His 1-year-old son, Abdullah, has been at a health facility in Sanaa, the capital, where doctors are feeding him reconstituted milk from powder formulated for children with malnutrition to keep him alive.

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