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Coronavirus Live Updates: New York Declares Emergency as Northern Italy Faces Possible Lockdown



Italy’s government is considering the extraordinary step of locking down entire sections of the country’s north, restricting movement for a quarter of the population in a sweeping effort to fight the coronavirus not seen outside of China.

The Italian outbreak, already the worst in Europe and the worst outside of Asia, has already inflicted serious damage on one of the Continent’s most fragile economies and triggered the closing of Italy’s schools.

A Lombardy official confirmed that the measures being discussed would essentially close down the northern region of Lombardy, Italy’s largest and most productive, accounting for a fifth of Italy’s GDP, and would come into force on Sunday and last until April 3. Media have reported they would also ban weddings, funerals, sporting and cultural events, and criminalize bars that did not enforce strict rules about patrons keeping distance.

Italy’s cases more than doubled this week from about 2,500 infections on Wednesday to more than 5,800 on Saturday, according to Italian authorities and the World Health Organization. Deaths rose by 36 to 233.

Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of Italy’s governing coalition’s Democratic Party, announced that he was now a patient. “Well, it’s arrived,” he said in a Facebook video from his home. He said he would follow all the protocols suggested by the authorities, who have urged infected people to self-quarantine.

France is also now one of the main centers of the epidemic in Europe. Health authorities on Saturday reported two more deaths, both in northern France, and 103 new infections, since Friday. France now has a total of 949 cases, including a member of the French Parliament.

France, Germany and other countries have imposed limits on the export of protective medical equipment, some of which is badly needed but in short supply.

In Spain, about 470 people have the virus, and fatalities reached 10 on Saturday. Barcelona officials have called off a marathon scheduled for March 15, but a big street rally on Sunday in Madrid for International Women’s Day will go ahead as planned.

The smallest E.U. nation, Malta, reported its first confirmed case on Saturday: a 12-year-old girl recently returned from a vacation in northern Italy. Her condition was described as good.

The police in London said they had arrested two teenagers in connection with a racially aggravated assault, days after a 23-year-old student from Singapore said he was attacked by a group of men, one of whom shouted “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York on Saturday as the state’s number of confirmed cases rose to 76, 11 of them in New York City, the latest of which is an Uber driver.

The declaration of emergency will allow the state to speed up the purchasing of supplies and the hiring of workers to assist local health departments that have been handling the monitoring of thousands of quarantined patients, Mr. Cuomo said.

“Somebody has to go knock on their door, once a day,” he said during a midday briefing in the state Capitol. “This is labor intensive.”

The epicenter of the cases in New York continued to be just north of the city, in Westchester County, where there were 57 in total, the governor said. These cases were mostly, if not all, related to a cluster in Westchester that first came to the authorities’ attention after a New Rochelle resident, a 50-year-old lawyer, was confirmed as New York’s second coronavirus patient.

But there were also signs of wider spread, including a pair of cases in Saratoga County, north of the state capital of Albany — the first such confirmed cases outside of the New York City region.

The Uber driver, 33, walked into St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in the Far Rockaway section of Queens on Tuesday and reported flulike symptoms. He went home and returned later when his symptoms worsened, an official said.

He tested positive on Friday night, prompting more than 40 doctors, nurses and other workers at the hospital where he has been isolated to go into self-quarantine and seek testing, officials said on Saturday.

A spokesman for Uber said the driver was licensed to drop off passengers in the city, but not to pick them up in the five boroughs or city airports.

Washington State raised its count of cases to more than 100 on Saturday and added two more deaths, bringing the state’s toll to 16 and the nation’s to 19.

New cases were also announced in Florida, Arizona, Oregon and other states, but most caseloads remain in the single digits.

California, which, after Washington State, has the country’s most confirmed cases, announced one new case in Madera County that health officials said was tied to the Grand Princess cruise ship.


Oregon health officials said four more people had tested positive, bringing the total number of people being treated there to six. In Georgia, three people in three separate counties were confirmed to have the virus, doubling the state’s positive cases.

Officials in Arizona announced that two people who lived in the same household of a previously confirmed case also tested positive for the virus, bringing the state’s total to five, and Florida reported its eighth case. Florida also announced the East Coast’s first deaths on Friday, those of two people who had traveled internationally.

On Friday night Starbucks reported that one of its employees in downtown Seattle had tested positive. The company said the store has been closed for cleaning.

Also in the Seattle area, two Microsoft employees were being treated for the coronavirus, a company spokesman said on Friday. Microsoft did not close its campus, but it had already advised employees to work from home if possible.

“I’m ready to get the hell off this ship,” Cookie Clark said by telephone on Saturday from her cabin on the Grand Princess, as it waited 50 miles off the coast of California. “Floating around is getting very stressful.”

Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that the ship, with more than 3,500 people on board, would come ashore at a noncommercial port but did not say when or where.

Early Saturday, a critically ill passenger was evacuated from the ship by Coast Guard cutter, in a case unrelated to coronavirus, the cruise ship company said in a statement. The Coast Guard delivered protective equipment, including gloves and face masks to the ship by helicopter on Friday evening.

Ms. Clark, 76, and her husband, Joe Clark, Mr. Clark, 81, of Oakdale, Calif., said they had been watching the news constantly and were angry when they heard President Trump say on Friday that he preferred the ship did not dock in the United States because that would push up the number of American cases.

“As American citizens we have a right to be back on U.S. soil,” Mr. Clark said.

Ms. Clark, a retired realtor, said she was appalled. “We’re just numbers to him,” she said.

All the passengers have been ordered to stay in their cabins. Crew members leave meals in front of their door.

The couple have been on well over 20 cruises, but “this is probably the last,” Ms. Clark said.

Michele Smith, another passenger on the ship, shared a copy of a notice sent by Princess Cruises to passengers offering mental health counseling.

“We realize that some of you may be having a difficult time dealing with this unforeseen situation,” the notice said. It advised passengers to “work on career projects or personal planning” while in their rooms. Or they could learn a second language or meditate, the notice said.

As businesses have encouraged employees to work from home in the Seattle area, institutions have canceled blood drives. Seniors, among the highest-frequency donors, have been urged to stay home. Residents are practicing social distancing that might keep them from a donation site.

That confluence of factors “has the potential to become extremely dangerous,” warned Curt Bailey, who leads the nonprofit Bloodworks Northwest, which supplies some 90 hospitals in the Pacific Northwest.

Mr. Bailey said that his organization has scrambled to keep an overall blood supply of about four days, and that supplies of O-negative blood are already down to just two days’ worth.

A national network of blood banks could help support the Northwest, Mr. Bailey said, but as coronavirus spreads, he worries that they will face their own resource strains.

While blood is vital to those needing surgery or fighting cancer, Mr. Bailey said coronavirus patients themselves who end up in critical care may also need blood support.

At Stanford University, officials announced late Friday that classes would not meet in person as of Monday, and that any looming exams would be changed to a take-home format.

The University of Washington, with 50,000 students, said that it would cancel in-person classes from Monday through at least March 20, and have students take classes and final exams remotely.

Seattle University, with about 7,300 students, also said it would move to online classes for the rest of the winter quarter, and Northeastern University in Boston will do the same for students on its Seattle campus.

A hotel in Fujian Province in China where officials had placed people who might have had contact with coronavirus patients collapsed on Saturday night, trapping scores in the rubble, according to officials and local news outlets.

The toll was not immediately clear, but at least 35 people were pulled from the rubble and a total of about 70 people may have been buried under the building, officials said. More than 140 emergency responders were involved, they said.

Early reports did not give a reason for the collapse of the Xinjia Hotel, which is in Quanzhou, roughly 60 miles northeast of the city of Xiamen. A statement from Quanzhou City officials confirmed the collapse.

The hotel, which opened in June 2018, had been designated as a medical observation and quarantine site for people who had been in contact with others potentially infected with the coronavirus, The People’s Daily and other news media said.

That would make it part of an extensive network of quarantine zones and buildings set up by China since January, when the coronavirus outbreak spread from the central Chinese city of Wuhan to the rest of the country and then the world.

The rate of new infections and deaths in China has dropped and is now lower than in other hotspots like Italy. That, and praise from officials at the World Health Organization, has bolstered Chinese officials’ campaign to portray the country as the world’s leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

If you’re returning from an area that’s had a coronavirus outbreak, or if you’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive, you may be asked to isolate yourself at home for two weeks, the presumed incubation period for the coronavirus.

It’s not easy to lock yourself away from your family and friends. These are the basics.

Isolation If you are infected or have been exposed to the coronavirus, you must seclude yourself from your partner, your housemates, your children, your older aunt and even your pets. If you don’t have your own room, one should be designated for your exclusive use. No visitors unless it’s absolutely essential. Don’t take the bus, subway or even a taxi.

Masks If you must be around other people — in your home, or in a car, because you’re on your way to see a doctor (and only after you’ve called first) — wear a mask. Everyone else should, too.

Hygiene Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue to cough or sneeze, and discard it in a lined trash can. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use sanitizer, but soap and water are preferred. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, if you haven’t just washed them.

Disinfecting Don’t share dishes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels or bedding. Wash these items after you use them. Use a household cleaner to wipe down countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, bathrooms fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. That also goes for any surfaces that may be contaminated by bodily fluids.

A church group from Alabama is among dozens of guests and workers who have been quarantined at a hotel outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem, after a Greek tourist who had stayed there came down with the coronavirus.

All told, some 40 people, most of them Palestinians, are being quarantined at the Angel Hotel, officials said, with Palestinian security officers in masks standing guard outside on Saturday.

The 13-member Alabama group, which includes pastors, other church workers and several spouses, arrived in Beit Jala on Monday and visited Bethlehem and Jerusalem before checking out on Thursday morning and heading to the West Bank, expecting to continue on to the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and Petra.

But they were summoned back to their hotel by the authorities, said the Rev. Chris Bell, the lead pastor of 3Circle Church in Fairhope, Ala.

The group was tested for the virus on Friday but had not been told the results as of midday on Saturday, he said in an interview.

“We’re heartbroken in a million different ways,” he said.

Japan announced that a man from Hong Kong who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship died of the coronavirus on Friday, making it the eighth death associated with the vessel that was quarantined off Yokohama for two weeks in February.

On Saturday, another cruise ship, the Costa Fortuna, became the latest luxury liner to be kept at sea over coronavirus fears, after Malaysia and Thailand denied it entry for fear that 64 passengers from Italy could have brought the virus on board. The operator of the Costa Fortuna, Costa Cruises, said none of the ship’s passengers were suspected of having Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.

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Reporting and research were contributed by David Halbfinger, Mohammed Najib, Jason Horowitz, Claire Fu, Eric Schmitt, Margaret Ho, Eliza Shapiro, Katie Rogers, Roni Caryn Rabin, Keith Bradsher, Thomas Fuller, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Sarah Mervosh, Tim Arango, Jenny Gross, Ben Sisario, Julia Jacobs, Amy Qin, Sopan Deb and Marc Stein.

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Coronavirus strain from Spain accounts for most UK cases – study | World news




A study suggesting a coronavirus variant originating in Spain now accounts for most UK cases has highlighted the weakness of the government’s travel policies over the summer, experts have said.

New research from scientists in Switzerland, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, has revealed that a new variant of the coronavirus, known as 20A.EU1, appears to have cropped up in Spain over the summer and has since spread to multiple European countries, including the UK.

“In Wales and Scotland the variant was at 80% in mid-September, whereas frequencies in Switzerland and England were around 50% at that time,” the authors said.

The variant first appeared in the UK in the middle of July when quarantine-free travel to Spain was allowed for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, the new variant of the virus is now common in countries across Europe, meaning travellers to and from many countries could since have brought it back to the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Basel and lead author of the study, stressed there was no sign as yet that the strain was more dangerous that other variants, or that it would hamper the development of a vaccine. “It’s not very different from the variants that circulated in spring,” she said.

Earlier this year experts and members of the public alike raised a number of concerns around international travel, with reports of crowding at airports, a lack of quarantine information, and few checks on test-and-trace forms.

Prof Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, said there were flaws in the UK government’s approach to travel over the summer. “Numbers were really low and that was our chance to keep them low,” she said. “The virus moves when people move.”

Sridhar said there were two approaches to managing the virus when it came to travel: either keeping borders largely open, as occurred in the UK, but adopting harsh restrictions to try to combat community transmission; or having very tight border controls, as has been the case in Taiwan and New Zealand, but few restrictions on everyday life.

“I feel like in Europe we want it all, we want to be able to go on holiday, we want to have bars open, pubs open, clubs open – but with such an infectious virus and [the] associated hospitalisation rate, it is pretty much an impossible ask,” said Sridhar.

She said the seeding of infections by travellers not only kicked off the epidemic in the UK, but that reseeding by such means was likely to be a recurrent problem. “The biggest mistake actually that the world did early on was not to use travel restrictions more to control the spread – the countries that did have done better,” she said.

Prof John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the crucial issue at present was that there could be close to 100,000 new coronavirus infections every day in the UK – something he said was far more concerning than the number of cases imported from abroad.

Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “The UK, along with some European countries, have been very much reactive in the Covid-19 response rather than proactive. This has included reactive approaches around international travel, only implementing recommendations for quarantine of returning travellers when rates are high, rather than beforehand.”

And the outlook remains concerning. “With a poor quality test-and-trace system in place, low compliance from those in isolation, and low levels of trust in the government, the UK is poorly placed heading into the winter,” he said.

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Coronavirus live news: Europe leaders told to ‘act urgently’; US nears 9m cases | World news






The British government will close the furlough scheme this weekend, with redundancies rising at the fastest rate on record and the second wave of Covid-19 pushing Britain’s economy to the brink of a double-dip recession, according to a Guardian analysis.

As the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, prepares to end the multibillion-pound coronavirus job retention scheme and launch a less generous replacement programme, early warning indicators show business activity faltering as local lockdowns take effect. The number of people losing their jobs is rising much faster than during the 2008 financial crisis, while the economic fightback from the March lockdown is gradually fading:

Record 17m guns bought this year in the US

Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.

Gun sales across the United States first jumped in the spring, driven by fears about the coronavirus pandemic, and spiked even higher in the summer, during massive racial justice protests across the country, prompted by police killings of black Americans.

Helen Sullivan

A record 17 million guns bought this year in the US

15,000 Americans have been killed by other people

20,000 have killed themselves

October 30, 2020

“By August, we had exceeded last year’s total. By September, we exceeded the highest total ever,” said Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely-cited estimates of US gun sales.

The estimated number of guns sold in the US through the end of September 2020 is “not only more than last year, it’s more than any full year in the last 20 years we have records for”, Brauer said:

First US vaccine doses could be available to some Americans in late December – Dr Fauci

Australian active cases lowest in four months

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New Zealand votes to legalize euthanasia but not marijuana | World News




WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealanders voted to legalize euthanasia in a binding referendum, but preliminary results released Friday showed they likely would not legalize marijuana.

With about 83% of votes counted, New Zealanders emphatically endorsed the euthanasia measure with 65% voting in favour and 34% voting against.

The “No” vote on marijuana was much closer, with 53% voting against legalizing the drug for recreational use and 46% voting in favour. That left open a slight chance the measure could still pass once all special votes were counted next week, although it would require a huge swing.

In past elections, special votes — which include those cast by overseas voters — have tended to be more liberal than general votes, giving proponents of marijuana legalization some hope the measure could still pass.

Proponents of marijuana legalization were frustrated that popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wouldn’t reveal how she intended to vote ahead the Oct. 17 ballot, saying she wanted to leave the decision to New Zealanders. Ardern said Friday after the results were released that she had voted in favour of both referendums.

Conservative lawmaker Nick Smith, from the opposition National Party, welcomed the preliminary marijuana result.

“This is a victory for common sense. Research shows cannabis causes mental health problems, reduced motivation and educational achievement, and increased road and workplace deaths,” he said. “New Zealanders have rightly concluded that legalizing recreational cannabis would normalize it, make it more available, increase its use and cause more harm.”

But liberal lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick, from the Green Party, said they had long assumed the vote would be close and they needed to wait until the specials were counted.

“We have said from the outset that this would always come down to voter turnout. We’ve had record numbers of special votes, so I remain optimistic,” she said. “New Zealand has had a really mature and ever-evolving conversation about drug laws in this country and we’ve come really far in the last three years.”

The euthanasia measure, which would also allow assisted suicide and takes effect in November 2021, would apply to adults who have terminal illnesses, are likely to die within six months, and are enduring “unbearable” suffering. Other countries that allow some form of euthanasia include The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Belgium and Colombia.

The marijuana measure would allow people to buy up to 14 grams (0.5 ounce) a day and grow two plants. It was a non-binding vote, so if voters approved it, legislation would have to be passed to implement it. Ardern had promised to respect the outcome and bring forward the legislation, if it was necessary.

Other countries that have legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana include Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, Georgia plus a number of U.S. states.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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