Julie McCarthy

In Southeast Asia, the coronavirus is gathering pace, with dangerous new outbreaks in Malaysia and Vietnam. Both these countries had managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic in 2020.

In Malaysia, the surge in cases follows exponential growth that began in early April. Cases have risen by more than 60% in the past 14 days.

Friday alone saw more than 8,200 confirmed new cases of infection, pushing the country's tally to more than 603,100, a five-fold increase since the start of the year.

Eighty-year-old Nardo Samson, a retired policeman, lay dying in the back of a makeshift ambulance. It was nearly Easter. A surge in coronavirus cases triggered yet another lockdown in the capital Manila, where a confusing patchwork of quarantines to contain the virus persists.

Anger at restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic swept into the streets of Europe on Saturday.

German police used water cannons, pepper spray and clubs on protesters rallying over the coronavirus lockdown in the town of Kassel in central Germany where demonstrators numbered some 20,000. Protests against government measures to rein in the pandemic were also reported in Austria, Britain, Finland, Romania and Switzerland.

Conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts are mourning the case of six lions that have been found dead and dismembered in what is a suspected to be a poisoning in one of Uganda's most renowned national parks.

Dead vultures provided a clue.

In a statement, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said the big cats were found Friday evening with "most of their bodies parts missing" in Queen Elizabeth National Park, their carcasses surrounded by the lifeless scavengers, "which points to possible poisoning of the lions."

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Willy Pulia, who turned 58 this week, is scared of getting COVID-19 – and for good reason. He's a nursing assistant at a hospital in Manila, which means he inevitably comes in contact with patients who've contracted the virus. He lives with his 96-year-old father. And he's not been vaccinated.

President-elect Joe Biden said Monday the United States must align itself with other democracies so that they write the rules governing global trade — and not China.

He was replying to a reporter's question on whether the U.S. should join a major trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, that 15 Asia-Pacific countries signed on Sunday.

RCEP unites China, Japan and South Korea in a trade deal for the first time and includes 10 Southeast Asian countries plus Australia and New Zealand.

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The strongest storm of the year has hit the Philippines, leaving at least 16 people dead and tens of thousands homeless. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on the aftermath of Typhoon Goni.

If there is such a thing as a model citizen, Quimberly "Kym" Villamer might qualify.

She's a dynamo in a five-foot-one-inch frame.

"Excited," she says, to vote in her first U.S. presidential election, Villamer is part of the huge diaspora from the Philippines who have moved abroad for a chance at a more prosperous life.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has granted "an absolute pardon" to U.S. Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton convicted of killing a transgender woman in 2014.

The surprise move to free the 25-year-old American Marine comes just days after the president's office said it would intervene to block his early release.

The pardon has angered Philippine nationalists who resent the U.S., and gay and transgender groups who fear the decision encourages hate crimes against them.

Updated at 5:12 p.m. ET

Petitions have piled up at the Philippines' Supreme Court to overturn a new anti-terrorism law championed by President Rodrigo Duterte, which could jail suspects without charge for weeks.

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In the Philippines, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte says a new law is needed to fight terrorists. His opponents say that law could be used to suppress activists and ordinary citizens. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

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In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, this weekend's Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan will involve mass travel, raising concerns about the effect it may have on the country's COVID-19 infection rates.

As COVID-19 sweeps through many of the world's prisons and jails, the Philippine Supreme Court has ordered the release of nearly 10,000 inmates in one of the world's most congested prison systems.

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta said in the order, released over the weekend, that granting bail and releasing indigent prisoners on "recognizance" would help staunch the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected both prisoners and staff.

With many countries reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand is proving a model of recovery and is lifting part of its strict lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has applied her trademark empathy to rally her country of 5 million to attempt what few states have tried: eradicate, not just mitigate, the novel coronavirus.

In the Philippines, doctors who have treated patients with COVID-19 are dying in alarming numbers. Fourteen physicians who died tested positive for the virus and four more are suspected of succumbing to it, according to the Philippine Medical Association.

As the pandemic sweeps through the Philippines, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are rising by the hundreds each day. On Friday, 385 new cases were reported, and 29 deaths, the highest for a single day. Total confirmed cases have crossed the 3,000 mark, with 136 total deaths.

In the Philippines, Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte special temporary powers on Tuesday to manage the COVID-19 crisis that continues to surge in the country of 110 million people.

To date, there are 552 confirmed cases, and 35 deaths.

The measure granting Duterte the new powers was the first to be approved by Philippine lawmakers using Zoom, the remote teleconferencing service, and puts the country under a "state of national emergency."

The world's fourth most populous country is bracing for a spike in cases of coronavirus infection, after health experts say a sluggish government response has masked the serious of the outbreak.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

At the direction of President Rodrigo Duterte, a fierce critic of the United States, the Philippines announced Tuesday that it would scrap a security pact that allows American forces to train there.

Duterte's foreign secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., tweeted Tuesday that the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. would be terminated — a move that could have consequences for a counterinsurgency against Islamist extremists in the country's south.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

A volcano that has thrown a blanket of ash over much of the Philippines' main island of Luzon in recent days is somewhat quieter, but tremors continued and authorities warned people that a deadly new eruption was still possible.

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A brief period of calm in Hong Kong is over.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

INSKEEP: Demonstrators protested in major malls, scuffling with police and members of the public. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on how Hong Kong's year is ending.

Fires are laying waste to wide swathes of land across Australia on scales that are tough to comprehend. In the southeastern state of New South Wales alone, where about 60 fires remain ablaze, the infernos have consumed some 4,000 square miles of land — or an area roughly eight times the size of Los Angeles.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It looks like things are getting worse in Hong Kong. A fiery standoff at one of the city's major universities culminated with police storming the barricades before dawn this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUMPING, CLANGING)

Violence erupted this weekend around a besieged Hong Kong university, as protesters threw petrol bombs and fired arrows at police in an attempt to keep control of the campus.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET

Chaotic scenes overtook the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, as protesters and police engaged in running street battles in a march billed as a rally against global totalitarianism. It also launched the 17th week of pro-democracy demonstrations aimed at China's tightening grip on the territory.

Hong Kong is bracing for more rallies and unrest this weekend as two important anniversaries loom, sparking fears that anti-government protests might once again boil over into violence on the streets.

Saturday marks five years since the start of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement that unsuccessfully sought free and open elections in Hong Kong, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese control in 1997.

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