Teri Schultz

Updated August 30, 2021 at 5:04 PM ET

RUDNINKAI, Lithuania — The group of people walks tentatively forward, escorted by Belorussian guards dressed in riot gear. Then the guards yell "Go!" physically pushing those who seem reluctant to take further steps.

"I am not safe," reads a cellphone text to NPR from a former Afghan government official. "I don't know what will happen with me."

They requested not to publish their identity or location for their safety. They have heard the Taliban assigned a hit squad to find them, following previous death threats.

Americans are now able to visit the European Union again, vaccinated or not.

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Most international travel destinations are off-limits to Americans at the moment because of the United States' high rate of coronavirus infections and its own restrictions on incoming visitors. Ireland, however, has decided to let Americans in.

Even so, U.S. travelers heading to Ireland may not get the traditional Irish greeting of a "hundred-thousand welcomes." There's a perception that Americans are resistant to wearing masks and are refusing to follow Ireland's rule to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

The games some people have been playing on social media — choosing who they'd want to be quarantined with — have become real life in Belgium.

Under strict lockdown since March 16, including home confinement except for essential journeys, Belgium's controls have been some of the tightest in Europe. But it's worked — after hitting one of the highest death rates in the world, the nation's infection rate and death toll have dropped steadily since a peak in early April.

With restaurants closed in Belgium until at least June 8 due to the country's COVID-19 lockdown, piles of potatoes that would have been deep-fried and topped with a glop of mayo have nowhere to go.

Some 750,000 tons of spuds intended for the free market that remain unsold — and those under contract but unable to be processed due to the glut — will only remain edible until the end of June. Meanwhile, the price for such potatoes has plummeted.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


In a recent news briefing, President Trump pointed to a bar chart that showed one country's coronavirus death toll per capita stretched out distinctively beyond all the others. It was not Italy or Spain, the countries with the highest total fatalities in Europe — but Belgium.

Meanwhile, the graph placed the U.S. rate below six European nations.