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Ministers preparing for potential increase of Coronavirus cases | World news

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Ministers are racing to prepare the UK for a potential sudden increase in the spread of the Coronavirus, with officials fearing it could take just 72 hours for an outbreak the size of Italy’s to take hold.

Amid growing concerns around the world about the pace of the spreading, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government would act to launch a mass public information campaign, giving advice on how to react to suspected cases and guard against infection.

Updating MPs in the House of Commons, he cautioned against “overreaction” but acknowledged that the government does expect more cases in the UK.

The rapid expansion of Coronavirus cases in Italy – a key destination for British holidaymakers – has caused concern in recent days and officials are stepping up precautions in case a similar scenario happens in Britain.

The decision to escalate preparations in the UK came as the World Health Organization said that the number of new cases being officially reported outside China had overtaken the number within the country for the first time, with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus describing the steep rise in new cases around the world as “deeply concerning”.

The UK has seen 13 cases of the virus so far, with no deaths. But Italy saw its confirmed cases rocket from just three on Friday to more than 200 by Monday and its total is now 374 with 12 deaths.

On a day of global efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19:

The total number of infections in Italy stood at 322 – a rise of 45 per cent in 24 hours. 11 people have now died in the country. Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into hospital procedures amid claims that an investigation of a so-called ‘super-spreader’ was initially delayed.

Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases linked to the outbreak in Italy. France recorded its second death. The first case was reported in South America.

Live event organisers considered their plans as Italy’s rugby match against Ireland in Dublin was called off and questions were raised over the Venice Biennale.

Around 160 Britons were trapped in a hotel in Tenerife which could stay in lockdown until 10 March.

52 further deaths were reported in China, the lowest number in three weeks.

The WHO warned against using the term “pandemic” which it said falsely indicated that the spread could no longer be contained.

It is understood the government’s public information campaign, due to be launched in the coming days, will broadcast advice about calling 111 if Coronavirus is suspected.

A Whitehall source said: “It’s as much about winning the battle for public confidence as it is about winning the battle against the disease. There will be social media, stuff on TV, poster campaigns. It will be making sure we can reach as many people as possible.

“It’s making sure that people have got the right advice. At the moment it is very much about telling people to ring 111 … It will be about what people can do to help prevent the spread like handwashing and using tissues.”

The government has been publishing more advice to employers, schools, the travel industry and health workers, but there have been complaints about mixed messages from ministers.

Ministers said there was no need to shut schools unless a new case has been confirmed at the premises, but some 40 schools have either closed their doors or sent pupils home, and the oil giant Chevron ordered 300 traders and other staff at its office in Canary Wharf to work from home. The FTSE 100 has also plummeted on fears of the global economic impact.

As well as increasing concern on UK soil, the government was faced with criticism of alleged inaction and pleas for help from around the Britons who remain in lockdown at a Tenerife hotel.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock said that while the government was prepared for a pandemic, it was currently in the “contain” phase and its hope was that all its efforts to contain the virus would prevent that coming to pass.

“The public can be assured that we have a clear plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate, and that we are working methodically through each step to keep the public safe,” he said. He added: “Overreaction has its costs too, economic and social, and so we have to keep the public safe but we also need to act in a way that’s proportionate.”

Amid concern about the rights of workers told to self-isolate, the health secretary said the guidance to employers included instructions that such employees were entitled to sick leave.

“It’s a very important message for employers and for those who can go home and self-isolate as if they were sick because it’s for medical reasons,” he said.

He said that that 7,132 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus. Of these, 13 have tested positive, eight of whom have since been discharged from hospital.

But Public Health England (PHE) announced that it was stepping up testing to ascertain “whether there’s evidence of infection more widespread than we think there is”.

PHE said tests for the virus would be carried out at hospitals as well as 100 surgeries on people who have “severe respiratory symptoms”.

Prof Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said the increased surveillance and testing was welcome.

He said: “Many of us have been worried that the virus might be introduced into the UK under the radar and start to transmit more widely in the community. This concern is borne out by the experiences of other countries such as Italy and Iran that are suffering quite large outbreaks where the source of the virus is unknown.”

In parliament, Hancock said the NHS was looking to extend home testing for coronavirus, which has already been piloted in London.

“Home testing is the safest place to be tested because then you don’t have to go anywhere, and that will allow us to roll out testing to a much larger number of people as well,” he said.


The World Health Organization (WHO) was founded on the 7 April 1948, a date celebrated annually as World Health Day. As an agency of the United Nations, the organisation has developed into an international establishment which involves 150 countries and employs 7,000 people. WHO is responsible for the World Health Report and the World Health Survey. Since its establishment it has played a fundamental role in the eradication of smallpox, and currently prioritises diseases including HIV/AIDs, Ebola, Malaria and Tuberculosis. 

WHO takes a global responsibility for the co-ordinated management and handling of outbreaks of new and dangerous health threats – like the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The current WHO director general is Dr Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus, elected for a five year term in 2017. Prior to his election, Dr Tedros served as Ethiopia’s minister for foreign affairs. He also served as minister of Health for Ethiopia from 2005-2012 where he led extensive reform to the country’s health system.

Grace Mainwaring

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The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.

Justin McCurry

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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Sunday

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The latest:

  • Brazil’s coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000.
  • India records nearly 64,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
  • More than 2,700 active cases in Australia’s Victoria state have no known source.
  • U.K. records more than 1,000 new infections for 1st time since late June.

The United States has now recorded more than five million cases of COVID-19, with more than 162,000 deaths, since identifying its first confirmed case of the new respiratory illness in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials believe the actual number is perhaps 10 times higher, or closer to 50 million, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40 per cent of all those who are infected have no symptoms.

New cases of infection in the U.S. caused by the novel coronavirus run at about 54,000 a day — and while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states.

Figures compiled this week show that five states — California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia — account for more than 40 per cent of infections.

A sign urging people to practice social distancing is seen outside a bar during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., on Sunday. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive actions bypassing Congress to defer payroll taxes for some Americans and extend unemployment benefits after talks on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said Saturday at a news conference at his country club in Bedminster, N.J.

Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.

He also signed a memorandum holding off student loan payments and an executive order extending the freeze on evictions.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 119,451 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 103,728 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,017.

Ontario reported its sixth-straight day of fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19. There were 70 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday and one virus-related death.

In Quebec, the government plans to have students return to classrooms at the end of the month, but some parents want schools to offer an option for online learning.

People wearing face masks attend a mass remember the victims of the explosion in Beirut on Sunday in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 35 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 182 — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 15 new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases over the weekend, and Nova Scotia hasn’t seen a new case in a week. Both N.L. and N.S. have one active case each.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 19.7 million and more than 728,000 people have died. The United States has had the most cases, with more than 5 million, followed by Brazil with more than 3 million and India with more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, Greek authorities have announced a record daily number of 203 new coronavirus cases. Beginning Monday and ending Aug. 31, everyone must wear a mask in all retail places, as well as all modes of transport other than private cars, the government has decided. People attending church must also do so, though priests are not required to wear masks in church.

Britain recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections in a day for the first time since late June. Britain has seen a gradual rise in coronavirus infections since it began lifting lockdown restrictions in mid-June. The government has put the next stage of reopening, which had been due to take effect Aug. 1, on hold for at least two weeks.

A cyclist carrying an ad displaying advice on how to slow the spread COVID-19 rides through the streets of Halifax, U.K., on Sunday. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

In Asia-Pacific, the premier of Australia’s Victoria state said more than 2,700 active cases have no known source and remain the primary concern of health authorities. Premier Daniel Andrews said confirmed cases also include almost 1,000 health-care workers. The city of Melbourne has been under tough restrictions since a week ago, including an overnight curfew and mandatory wearing of masks, but officials won’t see the results of their efforts for another one to two weeks.

The Indian Medical Association said 196 doctors have died of COVID-19 so far and, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested adequate care for physicians and their families. The Health Ministry on Sunday recorded nearly 64,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,153,010. At least 628,747 patients are still undergoing treatment. India also recorded 861 fatalities, driving the death toll to 43,379.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment performs a COVID-19 test on a person in New Delhi on Sunday. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Americas, Brazil has surpassed a grim milestone — 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. And five months after the first reported case, the country is showing no signs of crushing the disease.

The country of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May, and 905 were recorded in the latest 24-hour period to put Brazil above 100,000. The Health Ministry also said there have been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections. The totals are second only to the United States. And experts believe both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

The Archbishop of the City of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Joao Tempesta wearing a mask during a mass to honour victims COVID-19 at the Christ the Redeemer statue on Sunday. (Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa’s number of confirmed coronavirus deaths has surpassed 10,000. The Health Department said the country with the world’s fifth-largest caseload now has 553,188 cases and 10,210 deaths.

South Africa makes up more than half the infections on the African continent, where the total number of cases this past week surpassed one million. Experts say the actual number of cases is several times that amount, given the shortage of testing materials and people can have the virus without symptoms.



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Virtual Preparation Allows Miss Nicaragua Amid Pandemic | World News

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For four months, everything was virtual: the modeling and speech classes, the make-up courses and the emotional support session via videoconference. And when eight contestants vying to be Miss Nicaragua did finally start in-person practices, they did so with masks covering their faces.

“We managed to organize the event under the pandemic with masks, social distancing and little money, (but) with talent and creativity,” said Karen Celebertti, who has been running the pageant for two decades in Nicaragua.

On Saturday night, 23-year-old Ana Marcelo, an agroindustrial engineer from Estelí, was crowned Miss Nicaragua in front of a limited audience (two people per contestant spaced safely) plus a production crew of 85. The masks were off the contestants, but the judges wore them and were spaced at a safe distance.

There were portable handwashing stations and doctors taking temperatures.

Celebertti, herself a former local beauty queen, said they had to “reinvent” themselves to pull it off. The novel coronavirus arrived in March just days after they had selected the contestants. It was delayed from May to August to develop protocols that would allow them to compete safely.

“We had trials and classes through Zoom, supervised by me from home,” Celebertti said. “The girls had a speech coach, an image consultant and stylists online who taught them how to do their hair and put on makeup alone. There was no other option.”

In July, they had their first in-person practices, walks down the runway wearing masks. “Each session was supervised by doctors and no one got infected,” she said.

Unlike the massive religious and sporting events allowed and even promoted by the government during the pandemic, the pageant decided to do without the usual boisterous audience cheering their support for the women.

“Some criticized me for doing this event, but we were very careful to be able to do it,” Celebertti said. “The truth is that the people need to see some good news, be entertained.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Lebanon information minister quits in first cabinet resignation | Beirut explosion

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Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, has quit in the first government resignation since an explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said on Sunday in a statement , apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church called on the entire government to step down over the explosion, widely seen as proof of the rot at the core of the state.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

The Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi joined the chorus of people pressing the prime minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over the explosion which he said could be “described as a crime against humanity”.

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi asked the cabinet to step down. Photograph: Reuters

He echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls – a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, asking for the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt. At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

The Maronite patriarch also joined world leaders, international organisations and the Lebanese public in pressing for an international inquiry into the explosion, which, authorities say, was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, rejected calls on Friday for an international investigation which, he said, would “dilute the truth”.

Under pressure from the public and foreign partners who are exasperated by the Lebanese leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is looking increasingly unstable.

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