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Venezuela announces terrorism charges against alleged US ‘spy’ | World news

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Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has announced charges of terrorism and weapons trafficking against an alleged US “spy” who was detained last week in the South American country.

The man, named as Matthew John Heath, was plotting attacks against the country’s oil industry and electricity system, Tarek William Saab, chief prosecutor, said on state television on Monday.

Saab showed pictures of equipment allegedly seized from the group, including a grenade launcher, plastic explosives, a satellite phone and a bag of US dollars.

Saab added that three Venezuelan citizens, including one member of the military, were arrested and charged with treason as part of the alleged plot.

“They tried to fill the country with blood,” Saab said. “The Venezuelan state has managed to neutralize the plans to attack the oil industry and national electric system.”

Authorities said cellphones taken from the men when they were arrested last week include images of a large bridge in Zulia state and dilapidated oil refineries in Falcón state.

“Everything here could qualifies as a lethal weapon designed to cause harm and to promote assassinations, crimes against the people of Venezuela,” said Saab, who also accused the US man of planning to open a drug trafficking route through Venezuela.

The president, Nicolás Maduro, announced on Friday that a suspected US spy had been captured.

US authorities have not commented on the case.

The arrest surfaced as Venezuela, once wealthy from oil, has been gripped by a deep gasoline shortage that has sparked mile-long lines to fuel up, even in the capital of Caracas. The country also struggles to provide electricity to residents, especially in Zulia state, once a major hub of the nation’s vast oil production.

Saab said Heath was not carrying a passport and had entered illegally via the Colombian border, but that authorities found a passport photocopy hidden in one of his shoes.

Saab said Heath had worked as a mercenary in Iraq from 2006 to 2016 for MVM Inc, a Virginia-based private security contracting company. The firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The arrest follows a failed beach incursion in early May that landed two ex-Green Beret soldiers in a Venezuelan jail for allegedly participating in a failed attempt to overthrow the socialist government.

The two former US special forces soldiers were arrested along with more than 80 rebel Venezuelan fighters who staged a failed beach attack called Operation Gideon aimed at arresting Maduro.

The operation, which left several rebels dead, was orchestrated by Jordan Goudreau, an American citizen who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two ex-Green Berets in Goudreau’s force – Luke Denman and Airan Berry – have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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Can the UK avoid 50,000 Covid-19 cases a day? | World news

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One one point, everyone agrees: the UK is at a turning point.

After a summer of crowded beaches and pubs reopening, followed by children returning to school and employees going back to the workplace, new cases of Covid-19 are definitely on the rise.

In the starkest scenario, laid out by professors Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty on Monday, the UK could be headed for almost 50,000 cases a day in less than a month, leading to more than 200 deaths a day by mid-November.

Their calculation is a simple one: there were 3,105 new cases on 15 September. If cases were to rise exponentially – leading to four “doublings” between now and mid-October – there would be 49,680 new cases on 13 October. This would put the UK among the worst countries in the world – alongside India, the US and Brazil – for reports of new cases of the virus.

A version of a slide from this morning’s briefing by chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty which shows that, were a doubling of cases to occur every seven days, there would be 50,000 cases by 13 October

But can we trust these figures – are 50,000 cases a day plausible?

This is hotly contested.

One of the biggest challenges in assessing the prevalence of the virus is testing. As was the case during the first wave, without a comprehensive and timely testing regime we have no clear way of knowing how many new cases there are.

While a range of possible interventions means it isn’t inevitable the UK will see 50,000 cases by mid-October, there are a number of indications that things are heading the wrong way.

Hospital admissions are now doubling every eight to nine days. And even though we are starting at a low base (there were 205 new Covid admissions on Friday in England compared with 3,099 new patients admitted in just one day at the peak on 1 April) this is data with an inevitable outcome: more hospitalisations leads to more deaths.

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 in England have been doubling roughly every eight days since the start of September

We can also learn from what is happening elsewhere. In Spain and France an increase in cases has led to a rise in deaths. Spain’s seven-day average case rate is currently 26 per 100,000, while in France the figure is 15 per 100,000, both higher than the UK, where the seven-day average is five per 100,000.

In Spain and France a rise in cases has led to an increase in hospital admissions and deaths.

We also know from the first wave cases can rise quickly, take time to fall and, even with sweeping interventions, stemming the spread of the virus takes time.

When the lockdown was introduced on 23 March there were 967 cases and 206 deaths in the UK. However, the increase in new cases continued until mid-April, when the seven-day average peaked at 5,195, and given limited testing capacity at the time that figure could have been far higher.

Ten days later the daily death toll hit 1,000, marking the start of a 22-day run of more than a thousand deaths per day.

However some experts think it is unlikely that the UK will reach the 50,000 figure. Dr Daniel Lawson, senior lecturer in statistical science in the school of mathematics at the University of Bristol, said the simple extrapolation from the current reproductive rate of Covid-19 was not likely to be accurate over a timescale of weeks.

“The number is plausible if the UK as a whole does not respond to the outbreak, but an increase in compliance and risk avoidance will make it unlikely to come about as predicted. Additional local or national interventions will also reduce the infections.”

“In other words, the scenario is unlikely to come about – but we do need to pay attention to it anyway, because the public do need to take action to lower the infection rate and only some of this is achieved by policy; the rest is done by us. If we ignore this scenario, it could yet come about, or worse restrictions put in place instead.”

The latest seven-day average shows there were 3,679 new cases a day in the UK. One in five people – almost 14 million – in the UK currently face some kind of restrictions or will from 22 September. What we choose to do in the coming days and weeks will have an amplified impact in months ahead.

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Swiss Report 1,095 New Coronavirus Cases | World News

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ZURICH (Reuters) – The number of people tested positive for infections with the new coronavirus has risen by 1,095, data from Switzerland’s public health agency showed on Monday.

It has now reported 50,378 cases, up from 49,283 on Friday. The death toll increased to 1,770 from 1,765 people. The agency has stopped reporting new cases on weekends.

The country reported its first confirmed case in late February. New cases peaked at 1,464 on March 23 and had dwindled to as few as three on June 1.

(Reporting by John Revill; editing by Thomas Seythal)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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