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European Nations See A Rise In COVID-19 Cases


The World Health Organization has declared Europe as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. The three countries bearing the brunt of it recorded their highest death tolls for a single day yesterday. NPR's Rob Schmitz is tracking this from Berlin and joins us now. Good morning, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So yesterday came this very grim metric. Can you...


MARTIN: ...Start off by just walking us through those numbers?

SCHMITZ: Yeah. This was a terrible day for health care systems in Italy that have already been pushed beyond their limits. Three hundred and sixty-eight people died yesterday, a 25% increase in 24 hours in Italy. Nearly 25,000 coronavirus cases there, now making it the secondmost-affected country in the world after China. In Spain, 97 people died yesterday. In France, 29 more deaths. Europe is now bearing the brunt of this pandemic right now.

MARTIN: So what are countries in Europe trying to do at this moment to contain the virus?

SCHMITZ: Well, as we know, Italy is on complete lockdown. So is Spain. In France, the government will try this week to lock down Paris. But good luck - many Parisians ignored warnings this weekend and went outside to enjoy city parks. President Emmanuel Macron was furious about this. And he's now serious about a lockdown there. Here in Berlin, I went for a run on Saturday, the only time I ever really get to leave the house. And I was surprised to see thousands of people at the park near my home.

You know, people don't seem to be taking this very seriously here, but the German government is starting to. This morning, it partially closed its land borders with five of its neighbors - France, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark - to try and contain this virus. That is the first time these borders were closed since World War II.

MARTIN: Wow. OK. So in the midst of all of this, a German newspaper has published a story that has got a lot of people there quite upset. Tell us what's going on.

SCHMITZ: Yeah. Yesterday, a German newspaper reported that President Trump offered a billion dollars to German company CureVac to secure exclusive rights for a COVID-19 vaccine that it's developing. Germany's government is furious about this. Here's what Health Minister Jens Spahn told broadcaster ZDF.

JENS SPAHN: (Through interpreter) The company has just clarified that any vaccine they're able to develop will be available for the entire world and not exclusively for one country. We've been talking to this company for two weeks now, so Trump's somewhat late to the game.

SCHMITZ: And Rachel, interestingly, the American head of CureVac suddenly left the company last week. And U.S. officials say they've spoken to more than two dozen companies that claim they can help with the vaccine and that the German media report was overblown. But they did stop short of denying it.

MARTIN: NPR's Rob Schmitz reporting from Berlin. We appreciate it, Rob. Thank you.

SCHMITZ: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Shanghai, covering the human stories of China's economic rise and increasing global influence. His reporting on China's impact beyond its borders has taken him to countries such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. Inside China, he's interviewed elderly revolutionaries, young rappers, and live-streaming celebrity farmers who make up the diverse tapestry of one of the most fascinating countries on the planet.
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