Peter Kenyon

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Turkey has a serious coronavirus problem. So why has the country donated 50 planeloads of medical equipment abroad? Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon.

The bad coronavirus news continues for Iran, but officials are hoping a modest downturn in the growth of new cases will become a trend.

Iranian state television reported Thursday that 1,030 new cases had been confirmed and 90 people had died since Wednesday. That brought the total number of fatalities in Iran to 5,481, continuing Iran's status as the Middle Eastern country hardest hit by the virus. But the new daily case numbers are lower than previous days, raising hopes that Iran may be turning the corner in its fight against the virus.

Workers in protective gear are handing out boxes of free medical masks on the street. Bakery trucks roam neighborhoods, delivering bread. Turkish officials plainly grasp the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, at home and abroad: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government has sent medical equipment and supplies to 34 other countries so far.

But some worry that the government may be putting lives at risk.

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered shops and battered financial markets around the world. In Turkey, where COVID-19 has so far killed two people and infected nearly 200, schools, universities and many businesses are closed, and large gatherings such as Friday prayers at mosques have been suspended.

Even so, one sector is experiencing a boom. Sales of Turkish-made cologne are skyrocketing. And it's not because people are worried about how they smell.

The woman had had enough. She turned and stormed out of Dr. Rodmanish Pharmacy, before NPR could ask her name.

"No masks, no gloves," she fumed. "They don't have anything here!"

Similar scenes have played out in pharmacies across Iran's capital of Tehran. The outbreak of the new coronavirus has sent Iranians scrambling to avoid becoming another statistic in a country with more deaths from the disease than any besides China.

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Iran's government is struggling to shut down widespread protests that started after a rise in fuel prices.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

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Turkish troops invaded northern Syria after President Trump moved U.S. forces out of their way. And Turkey says it might now send Syrians back over the border into the so-called safe zone it captured. Many of them, though, don't want to go.

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The United States military and Kurdish militias were allies for five years fighting against ISIS. Now that has changed. President Trump unexpectedly pulled U.S. troops from near the Syria-Turkey border, and the Kurds were left to fend for themselves.

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Turkey pounded northern Syria with airstrikes and ground troops today.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)

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Turkey is preparing to move into northern Syria, while the United States is stepping aside. And this represents a key policy shift by the White House.

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