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Roundup: What The Coronavirus Response Looks Like In France, Kenya And Brazil


The coronavirus is a global pandemic. But the response to the virus can look really different depending on where in the world you live - in France, a lockdown with no end in sight; Brazil, a leader deeply skeptical of his own health ministers; and in Kenya, social distancing for the socially privileged. That's a snapshot. Now we're going to dig a little bit deeper with NPR correspondents based in each of these places. Eyder Peralta is in Nairobi, Eleanor Beardsley in Paris and Philip Reeves in Rio de Janeiro.

Welcome all three of you.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Thank you, Mary Louise.


EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right. So we're going to start with a quick spin down - just what it looks like, what it feels like where you are today - Eyder, you first.

PERALTA: So I mean, let me tell you about one facet of it. Nairobi is notorious for its traffic, but right now, you can zoom across town because there is no traffic. But the thing that has really captured people's imagination is this picture -Osman Siddiqi took it out of his seventh-story balcony, and it is of Mount Kenya, snowcapped, super sharp because there's so little pollution. And people, when he posted this on social media, thought he had Photoshopped it. And you know, he says that he actually sees it often from his balcony. I have never seen it, and I've lived here for almost four years. But he says maybe people are just too busy to look. Let's listen.

OSMAN SIDDIQI: The hustle of Nairobi prevents people from looking up - right? - broadly. And, like, the slowing down is not there. It's - and also, people can't afford to slow down. I mean, there's also that reality. It's like you kind of have to hustle.

PERALTA: So he says he hopes that Nairobians will start looking.

KELLY: Eleanor, I'm guessing you can't see Mount Kenya from Paris, but...


KELLY: ...What can you see? What's it look like?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah. Well, Mary Louise, the weird thing is we've had the most incredible spring so far. It's been, like, 80 degrees and sunny every day. And yesterday was Easter. And there was a thunderstorm in the middle of the day, and it just rained. And I was actually happy because when the weather's that beautiful, it just makes it more stark that you're locked inside, and the city is empty.

And I have to say it's been very tough. It's been one month. You cannot even come out anymore to exercise - individual exercise, like go jogging - during the day between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. You can only come out for essential things during those hours - grocery store, doctor. You have to bring a paper signed on your oath where you're going, why you're going. And you don't go out without it.

People are complying. They support this, but it is very difficult in a city where most people don't have gardens, yards. You know, the most you would have is a balcony, and many people don't have that, like myself.

KELLY: So pretty complete lockdown there in Paris. Phil, what about Brazil? What's the status in Rio?

REEVES: Well, this city has been transformed. As you know, it's a really boisterous city, always full of decibels, full of music. It's very strange now. It's much, much quieter. Brazilians are being told to stay inside, and those orders to stay home are coming from governors and city mayors and the health ministry. I know - you know, a lot of people are following them, but there are signs that the kind of quarantine is beginning to slip because one person who's not following those instructions is actually the president, Jair Bolsonaro.

KELLY: Yeah. And what's he saying?

REEVES: He's saying these shutdowns are causing terrible economic devastation and that he cleaves to the cure-is-worse-than-the-disease argument. So he's subverting the instructions that are coming from governors and his own health ministry. He's been on the streets, shaking hands with supporters, posing for selfies, not wearing a mask.

KELLY: Still - this is all - this is current.

REEVES: Yeah. In the last few days - in fact, there was one really grim scene where he wipes his nose on the back of his arm and then shakes the hand of an old lady. Now, this is in the country that has, by far, the highest number of cases in Latin America. And it - and those numbers are rising rapidly.

KELLY: What you said about the numbers there intrigues me, Phil - that they are ramping up there. Eleanor, let me spin us back to Europe because in France, the numbers are maybe leveling off a little. Do we know whether that means lockdown and quarantine may be eased in the coming days, weeks, months? What's the latest?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Mary Louise, the latest is some fresh news. President Macron just spoke tonight. Here he is addressing the nation.



BEARDSLEY: So basically, he said he knows - he says what we're living is, of course, unprecedented. He says it is starting to work. They're seeing fewer patients in critical condition. But France is not out of the woods yet. You know, it's the No. 4 country in infections after the U.S., Spain and Italy. So he announced tonight that France is going to be locked down until May 11. That is another month. I know. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that.

KELLY: Yeah.

BEARDSLEY: He said, after that, we will see. He said that's the date when the hospitals should start to recover, have, you know, free space because in the Paris region and then the east, they've just been overwhelmed. Health care workers will maybe start to be able to rest. And he said on May 11, we will begin a new phase, and we may - may - be able to start opening schools and jobs.

KELLY: All right. Eyder, in Kenya, what is the government message? And are people listening?

PERALTA: The Kenyan government keeps telling people that this is a life-or-death situation, and they've tried to send this message with force. Police have killed several people, enforcing some of these social distancing measures. And right now, police have set up roadblocks to arrest anyone who is not wearing a mask.

But what you really notice here - it's the division between rich and poor. In the rich areas of town, you're seeing people working from home, keeping a social distance. In the poor areas, in the big slums, people have continued living. They are out trying to sell things. They are headed to work on buses. All schools are suspended, so I have seen a lot of kids playing outside as they normally would on a weekend. And many will tell you that they simply can't afford to stay home.

KELLY: If I may bring us to a close and ask each of you to give us hope and share a little bit of what is bringing you joy or hope right now - Phil Reeves.

REEVES: It doesn't matter what religion you are or whether you are religious at all. Everyone knows this city of Rio de Janeiro's emblem is Christ the Redeemer, the hundred-foot-high statue that looms over the city from a mountaintop. Last night, he was wearing a white doctor's coat. It was part of a light show honoring medical professionals worldwide. The national flags of affected nations were screened onto the statue, and so were the word thanks in various languages and hope and, finally, everything will be all right.

KELLY: That's beautiful. What a lovely image. Eyder, what about from Nairobi?

PERALTA: So I will get more personal - carrot cake. My wife, who has this old Houston Chronicle recipe, made this carrot cake for the first time in many, many years, and we had it in the garden. Our girls went Easter egg hunting. The roses, the day lilies, the African tulip trees - they are all in bloom right now. And that carrot cake with cream cheese frosting just tasted delicious.

KELLY: Oh, I can picture that. I think I can almost taste it. I love it. Eleanor, closing thought - you get the last word from Paris.

BEARDSLEY: For me, without a doubt, there's one moment that just gets me through the day, and it's at 8 o'clock. And this is what - this is from outside my window tonight.


BEARDSLEY: Heads and people come out of those windows and onto the balconies and just cheer. And you finally realize, you know, you're not alone. Everyone's going through this. We're going through it together. And that kind of gets me through the day. And I'm always there for that 8 o'clock cheer.

KELLY: Parting scenes there from Eleanor Beardsley reporting in Paris, Philip Reeves in Rio de Janeiro and Eyder Peralta in Nairobi.

Thanks so much to you all.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you, Mary Louise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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