France records highest daily death toll with 833 covid-19 fatalities

France records its highest daily death toll with 833 coronavirus fatalities in the last 24 hours – takings its grim tally to 8,911

  • France, which had recorded several days of improvements, was setback today 
  • It had recorded 357 new deaths on Sunday and 441 fatalities on Saturday
  • But the previous record of 588 on Friday was exceeded by 245 today 
  • ‘We have not reached the end of the ascent,’ Health Minster Olivier Veran said

France on Monday reported that 833 more people had died of COVID-19 in hospitals and nursing homes over the previous 24 hours, its highest daily toll since the epidemic began.

‘We have not reached the end of the ascent of this epidemic,’ Health Minster Olivier Veran told reporters, as he announced the new toll which brought the total number killed in the coronavirus epidemic in France to 8,911. Only Italy (16,523) and Spain (13,169) have suffered more in Europe.

The figures were a reminder to France – which has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the virus – of the long road ahead after several days where key data had improved somewhat.

On Sunday it reported 357 new deaths and the day before that 441, as compared with its previous record for daily fatalities (588) which was recorded on Friday.   

A patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is treated at the intensive care unit at the Institut Mutualiste Montsouris (IMM) hospital in Paris on Monday

A woman walks on the deserted Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel Tower during nationwide confinement measures to counter the covid-19

France is now giving a daily combined toll of deaths in hospitals and nursing homes. Previously it had only given the hospital toll on a daily basis. 

Of the new deaths, 605 were registered in hospitals, Veran said.

‘It is not over. Far from that. The path is long. The figures that I have announced show this,’ he said. ‘Stay at home and continue this confinement effort,’ he added.

Veran said that 478 more people had gone into intensive care over the last 24 hours, a higher figure than in previous days.

The total number of cases, combining hospital and nursing home statistics, increased by 5,171 over the last 24 hours to 98,010, meaning France will likely become the fifth country, after Italy, Spain, the United States and Germany, to cross the 100,000 threshold on Tuesday. 

But in more positive news, he said that counting patients who had left intensive care, there were just a net total of 94 more patients in intensive care, the lowest such figure since the confinement began.

View of the deserted Opera avenue during nationwide confinement measures to counter counter the Covid-19, in Paris

‘We see that the confinement has a palpable impact. In France we are beginning to feel it.’

Veran said that the latest figures from statistical modelling showed that the reproduction rate (R0) – the number of people an average infected person infects – was falling in France.

If the number is under 1.0 it means the average victim infects less than one person, giving hope that the epidemic will end.

French Police officer checks the authorization at ‘Saint Michel near Notre Dame during a nationwide confinement to counter the Covid-19, in Paris, Monday

‘Thanks to the confinement, this R0 is around 1.0 and probably a little under and in some regions clearly under.

‘In other regions it is above 1.0 so this is why we must stay at home.’

Veran said that in nursing homes – where a total of 2,417 people have died since the start of the epidemic – a ‘vast operation’ of testing would begin to better protect residents.

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Ex-detective walks free despite conviction for exploiting four women

Detective walks free from court despite conviction for exploiting four women to feed his sexual desires after judge hears his wife is a key worker and he must look after their children during lockdown

  • A former detective constable who exploited women has walked free this week 
  • Stuart Lunt admitted inappropriate contact with the four vulnerable women 
  • The married father-of-two has been deemed needed to take care of his children 
  • Lunt’s wife is a key worker amid the Covid-19 crisis and is needed at her work
  • A presiding judge told Lunt: ‘I am satisfied your conduct was akin to grooming’ 

A former detective constable who exploited four women to feed his sexual desires has walked free from court after a judge heard no-one else could care for his one-year-old child during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Stuart Lunt, 36, from Appley Bridge, Wigan, admitted inappropriate contact with the vulnerable women who he met in the course of his duties with Lancashire Police as either complainants or witnesses.

The married father-of-two gained their trust and used it to his advantage as he attempted to engage in sexual relations with them, and was able to do so with one of his victims, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Laura Nash, defending, asked Judge David Aubrey QC to consider ‘exceptional circumstances’ in suspending a custodial sentence in what she said were ‘exceptional times’.

Former detective constable Stuart Lunt, who exploited four women to feed his sexual desires, has walked free from court after an unusual ruling

The 36-year-old admitted inappropriate contact with the vulnerable women who he met in the course of his duties with Lancashire Police as either complainants or witnesses, one of which he went on to engage in sexual activity with

Miss Nash explained that Lunt’s wife was a designated key worker who was employed as a deputy manager at a pre-school nursery.

The couple were still living together with their children, aged six and one, but Lunt had been staying at home with the younger child, she said.

Immediate members of the Lunt family were also unable to offer assistance during the movement restrictions because they were in the vulnerable category range, the court was told.

Miss Nash also pointed out as a first-time offender and police officer that the Prison Service faced an ‘incredibly difficulty’ in managing him in a custodial setting through the coronavirus pandemic.

Sentencing Lunt, of Greaves Close, received 18 months in jail, suspended for two years, Judge Aubrey said: ‘In the particular circumstances of this case, and at a time of deep concern, in the judgment of the court the balance weighs just in favour of suspending the custodial sentence.’

Lunt must also perform 250 hours of unpaid work.

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to misconduct in a public office.

Lunt stooped his head as he left Liverpool Crown Court on Monday, after the judge ruled a sentence of 18 months in jail, suspended for two years

The defendant, who was based at Chorley and joined Lancashire Police in June 2015 after 12 years of service at Greater Manchester Police, resigned from the force last week.

David Toal, prosecuting, said Lunt approached the women separately on various dates between 2017 and 2019.

He first met one of the women as part of an investigation when he issued her with a personal safety warning that her life could be under threat, said the prosecutor.

Soon after he engaged in ‘flirty banter’ in phone messages and told the single mother she was ‘a pretty girl’.

He later asked her out for a coffee before she blocked all contact, the court was told.

Lunt became flirtatious with a second woman, a domestic violence sufferer, and tried to chat her up during a visit to her home where he stayed for up to three hours while on duty.

She too declined his advances but then the defendant moved on to his next victim, a witness in a criminal investigation, who accepted she was ‘flattered’ by his attention.

They went on to exchange sexually explicit messages, said Mr Toal, and at one point Lunt challenged the woman whether ‘she had the bottle’ to meet up for sex.

The woman, who suffers from anxiety and depression, said later she felt ‘humiliated and ’embarrassed’ by her involvement with Lunt.

Lunt told a fourth woman, another complainant, that his marriage was in difficulties and there was ‘no fire’ between him and his wife.

The defendant made an excuse to his wife that he was popping out to get some petrol and drove to a secluded spot where he met the complainant who performed oral sex on him.

The woman later said she had told Lunt she wanted a relationship but that he was only interested in sex.

Mr Toal said: ‘She described him as someone desperate for attention and gratification.’

Miss Nash said Lunt had a history of mental health difficulties and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2017.

He was genuinely remorseful for his actions, she added, and that numerous character references spoke of his good work in the community.

Judge Aubrey told Lunt: ‘You gained the trust of vulnerable women and utilised that trust for your own sexual advantages and desires.

‘You crossed the boundaries of your duties as a police officer and did so knowingly.

‘All of the women were vulnerable to exploitation and that is precisely what you did.

‘I am satisfied your conduct was akin to grooming.’

In reaching his judgment, he said he also noted the defendant’s ‘strong personal mitigation’, his realistic prospect of rehabilitation and the impact to others caused if he was jailed immediately.

 

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Cat attacks owner's microphone on headset while she works from home

Cat called Pumpkin causes a nuisance as she attacks her owner’s microphone on her headset while she tries to work from home

  • Leandra Lynn, 32, was taking work calls at her home in Washington DC
  • At first Leandra shook her head at her but Pumpkin kept hitting the headset
  • She laughed and repeated ‘Pumpkin, stop’ but the cat continued to distract her 

A cat attacked her owner’s headset while she was sitting on video calls as she worked from home.  

Leandra Lynn, 32, was taking work calls at her home in Washington DC when Pumpkin, her cat, started batting the mouth piece of her headset. 

Pumpkin reaches up for the headset a few times but Leandra dodges her and shakes her head.

The seven-year-old cat hits the headset with her paw and brings it closer to her head while Leandra backs away carefully. 

She strokes the cat’s head and kisses the top of it before trying to go back to work. 

Pumpkin goes for the microphone twice more with Leandra catching her paw each time and telling her, ‘Pumpkin, stop’.  

It doesn’t stop Pumpkin though which makes Leandra laugh as she continues trying to work from home.   

Leandra Lynn, 32, was taking work calls at her home in Washington DC when Pumpkin, her cat, started batting the mouth piece of her headset 

She strokes the cat’s head and kisses the top of it before trying to go back to work 

While working from home during the coronavirus lockdown, Leandra says that Pumpkin and her other cat Turnip have been causing a nuisance. 

She said: ‘I love my cats and tolerate a lot of their nonsense.’ 

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, thousands of people have shared pictures of their pets getting in the way of them working from home. 

Pets sat on their owner’s keyboard or in front of their screen among other techniques to distract them from their work.  

Pumpkin goes for the microphone twice more with Leandra catching her paw each time and telling her, ‘Pumpkin, stop’

While working from home during the coronavirus lockdown, Leandra says that Pumpkin and her other cat Turnip have been causing a nuisance

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Andrew Cuomo raises fine for not social distancing to $1,000

ALBANY — New Yorkers must maintain social-distancing discipline until the coronavirus is defeated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday — or face a fine now doubled to $1,000.

“Frankly, there has been a laxness on social-distancing, especially over this past weekend,” said Cuomo told reporters during his daily press briefing at the state Capitol. “That is just wholly unacceptable.”

A visibly-irked Cuomo went off as spring weather has tempted cooped up New Yorkers out of self-imposed isolation — to the risk of themselves and their neighbors.

“If you get infected [or] you infect someone else [or] you go to an emergency room, you put a burden on all sorts of other people who you don’t know and who, frankly, you don’t have the right to burden with your irresponsibility,” he said.

“Now is not the time to be lax, and it is a mistake,” said Cuomo, even as the rate of deaths in the state appears to be leveling off.

Asked about funerals in Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County — which have drawn hundreds of people in defiance of social-distancing orders — Cuomo said that there was no justification for flouting the rules.

“Now is not the time to be playing Frisbee with your friends in the park. Now’s not the time to go to a funeral with 200 people,” he said. “I understand grieving, and I understand how the religious services can help with the grieving process.

“But, as a society, the risk is too great.”

With so many New Yorkers still not getting it, Cuomo announced that he was raising the maximum potential fine for not social-distancing from $500 to $1,000.

“It’s not really about the fine. Nobody wants the money,” he insisted. “We want the compliance. We are serious.

“It’s not about your life; you don’t have the right to risk someone else’s life.”

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Coronavirus second wave fears as 20,000 tourists cram into Chinese park after officials offered free entry – The Sun

FEARS of a second wave of the coronavirus have grown after 20,000 tourists crammed into a Chinese park as officials offered free entry.

Huangshan National Park in China's eastern province of Anhui shut on 25 January as the virus spread throughout the country, but is now open for free in a bid to boost the region's tourism industry.

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Video footage shows visitors flocking to the scenic park – also known as the Yellow Mountains- with huge queues clogging up pathways.

Many are seen not observing the two metre social distancing guideline still in place to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

The park usually charges 190 RMB – about £21- for entrance but got rid of the fee for residents of Anhui province in a bid to revive the region's tourism industry after weeks of stagnation.

After a whopping 20,000 visitors made it into the park, it was forced to close its gates and turn tourists away.

It had been ferrying 5,300 tourists to its ticket gates every hour using 120 shuttle buses, before it started encouraging people to visit other sites nearby after it hit 80 percent capacity at 9.22am that day.

The national park’s official Weibo social media account issued a number of statements over the long weekend as China marked Qingming Festival, also known as tomb-sweeping day, on Saturday April 4.

Huangshan is rated as a 5A tourist site, and was later forced to apologise to large crowds who didn't make it in and asked them to visit another tourist destination.

Everyone visiting had to present their health status and also undergo temperature tests and anyone with coronavirus symptoms was immediately turned away.

The park reopened on February 21.

Other famous tourist sites in China including The Great Wall have also reopened, as the country fears it that its annual income loss from tourism could hit 1.2 trillion yuan (US$169 billion) this year.

LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN

The news comes after China has begun to ease restrictions in many areas after months of strict lockdown.

In the region of Hubei, where the virus is believed to have originated in the 'wet markets' of Wuhan city,

For two months, the country was the epicentre of the virus but has recently seen its cases plummet.

As of April 6, there were over 80,000 cases confirmed in China and 3,331 reported deaths.

The majority of the country's new cases have been imported, as residents celebrated the lifting of the lockdown in Hubei.

 

Fearing a new wave of infections from imported cases, authorities have ramped up quarantine and screening measures in other major cities including Beijing, where any travellers arriving from overseas must submit to centralised quarantine.

There have been only six deaths in Anhui province, which borders Hubei, according to official government figures.

The last infection recorded was on February 27.




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When will UK lockdown end? Three things that need to happen before self-isolation rules relax – The Sun

THE coronavirus lockdown has forced Brits to adapt to a completely new way of life.

Social distancing is vital to protecting the NHS and saving lives, experts say – but it is keeping most people away from their friends, family and loved ones.

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So what needs to happen before the Government can justify relaxing measures? And how long will it take?

When will the lockdown end?

When Boris Johnson addressed the nation on March 23 and announced the unprecedented lockdown, he told Brits it would be in place for an initial three weeks.

It's understood after Easter weekend, the PM and his team of advisers will consider whether to extend or relax measures that are in place.

These measures are aimed at protecting the NHS and saving lives.

It is part of the Government's "delay" phase, which hopes to reduce the peak of infections – and extend the time over which cases happen – to reduce pressure on the NHS.

It's unlikely lockdown measures will be relaxed until it becomes clear that infections are reducing and the death toll starts to slow.

Experts have suggested lockdown might last between three weeks and six months, while others fear some measures will be in place longer.

A vaccine for Covid-19 is the ultimate goal but is likely to take at least six months to a year before it's made available.

Meanwhile, testing is of the utmost importance – with hopes being pinned on the antibody test, which can tell if a person has had the disease and is immune to it.

So what needs to happen before lockdown can be lifted?

1. Mass testing

Mass testing is believed to be Britain's exit strategy for beating coronavirus and lifting the lockdown.

According to University College London's Professor Anthony Costello, the lockdown could be lifted in six to eight weeks if the Government follows in the footsteps of South Korea – who have carried out 400,000 tests and got Covid-19 relatively under control.

Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson, whose team at Imperial College London has been advising the Government, hinted that current restrictions would "almost certainly" be lifted once testing is ramped up.

He told the BBC: “We want case numbers to get to a low point where we can start substituting other measures for the most intrusive and economically costly aspects of the current lockdown and almost certainly these additional measures will involve massively ramped up testing going back to trying to identify contacts of cases and stopping chains of transmission.

“That can only feasibly be done when we have many fewer cases per day than we have at the moment.”

The government has rolled out plans to bump up mass testing over the next month.

In his April 2 press briefing, Health and Social Secretary Matt Hancock said that the UK hopes to be testing 100,000 people a day by the end of the month.

Other countries such as China and Germany have used mass testing to great effect to identify those most at risk and isolate areas where there are hotspots.

The NHS is currently working on a contact tracing app which would notify people if they have come into close contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.

It will allow people to quickly self-isolate before spreading it to too many people.

The strategy was successful in other countries including South Korea, where just 186 people have died from Covid-19.

2. Social distancing

The second strategy is social distancing – and the Government's rules are to stay at home and only leave the house if you absolutely have to.

Officials say the only reason you should be leaving your house are:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, including food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • One form of exercise a day, for example, a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

These reasons are exceptions – but even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home.

You must also ensure you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

If you have even mild or seemingly unrelated symptoms then you must self isolate until days after they pass or you will infect others and that has a knock-on effect.

Those who are at very high risk of coronavirus, such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions, have been asked to rigorously follow "shielding" measures in order to keep themselves safe.

This group of highly vulnerable people have been written to by the NHS and advised to stay at home at all times.

3. Containment and tracking

While the UK is past the containment stage, tracking is still important and will continue to be even once cases peak.

Iceland, with a relatively small population of around 364,000, has been using detectives to track down potential contact cases and testing aggressively since the outset to isolate everyone, including those who are remotely at risk but show no symptoms.

This draconian action, led by scientists and civil servants instead of politicians, has lead to them becoming one of the only countries in the world not to enforce lockdown measures.

Similar measures were used at the beginning of the outbreak in the UK, but weren't as effective and the country moved to the "delay" phase.

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Germany's coronavirus outbreak peaked at fewer than 1,500 deaths

As Germany’s coronavirus outbreak appears to peak at fewer than 1,500 deaths – why HAS it performed so much better than most of Europe?

  • German officials recorded 92 deaths in one day, the fewest fatalities in a week
  • Italy’s death toll at its ‘peak’ was 9,140 compared to Germany’s 1,434
  • That’s despite both countries reporting over 6,000 cases on their worst days 
  • The UK, France, Sweden and Denmark all seem to either be nearing their peak
  • Currently the UK’s daily death doll is doubling around every two to three days 

Germany today saw a sharp drop in its daily death and case toll count, sparking hope that the unprecedented coronavirus lockdown is working.

Health officials recorded just 3,677 new cases – the lowest total since March 22 – and 92 deaths, the fewest single day of fatalities in a week.  

But Germany, which has recorded fewer than 1,500 deaths, is not the only European country whose outbreak has appeared to have flattened.

Data collated by the World Health Organization shows Italy’s outbreak of the deadly virus is slowing down or at least stabilising. 

But Italy’s cumulative death toll by the time it appeared to reach its ‘peak’ was more than six times that of Germany, at 9,140.

Spain, Belgium, Norway and Austria all also appear to have hit their peak cases and deaths in the past fortnight.

Despite the promising improvements, the possibility of a new record daily increase cannot be ruled out because the pandemic is not over.  

Elsewhere in Europe, the UK, France, Sweden and Denmark all seem to either be within their peak, or nearing it. 

Currently the UK’s daily death doll is doubling around every two to three days. But cases and deaths do appear to be growing at a slower rate. 

How many cases European countries are recording per day: Some appear to be coming out the other side of their outbreak, including Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands

Germany’s daily death toll today dropped to just 92. Its dramatic drop in daily deaths comes nine days after its peak in cases on March 28, suggesting the worst of its outbreak has passed. Spain and Italy are also reporting lower deaths by day

Germany’s daily death toll today dropped to just 92, just 24 hours after the country reported its highest daily death toll of 184. 

New infections also fell for the fourth day running to 3,677, raising hopes that the coronavirus lockdown is working.  

Its dramatic drop in daily deaths comes nine days after its peak in cases on March 28, suggesting the worst of its outbreak has passed.

Germany

Peak of cases: March 28, 6,294 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: April 5, 184 new deaths recorded

Italy

Peak of cases: March 22, 6,557 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: March 28, 971 new deaths recorded

Spain

Peak of cases: April 1, 9,222 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: April 3, 950 new deaths recorded

Netherlands

Peak of cases: March 28, 1,172 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: April 1, 175 new deaths recorded

Belgium

Peak of cases: March 29, 1,850 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: April 1, 192 new deaths recorded

Norway

Peak of cases: March 28, 425 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: April 3, 10 new deaths recorded

Austria

Peak of cases: March 27, 1,141 new cases recorded

Peak of deaths: March 21, 22 new deaths recorded

Data shows the death rate lags behind cases by around four to seven days, which is why for a period of time cases appear to be slowing while deaths continue to rise. 

Italy’s outbreak shows a similar pattern – the highest jump in new cases was recorded on March 22. Eight days later, on April 5, its daily death toll was at an all-time high.

The country has recorded consistently lower figures every day for longer than a week – around 4,500 new cases and 700 new deaths – giving hope that it’s finally out of the dark.

Both countries had the same ballpark figure for new daily cases during its peak – 6,300 for Germany and 6,560 for Italy. But Germany was testing far more people.

Their total cases are also not far from each other, with Italy reporting 124,632 as of today, and Germany 95,391. 

But the two nation’s mortality counts differ dramatically. On Italy’s worst day for recorded deaths, it already had a total of 9,136 deaths, compared to Germany’s 1,434. 

Spain also had more than 10,000 total deaths on its bleakest day so far – on April 3, when it reported 950 deaths in 24 hours.

Italy continues to unwillingly take the lead for coronavirus deaths, with 15,362 altogether.   

Figures suggest the UK’s peak is looming, with officials predicting it to be six to nine days away, possibly on Easter Sunday.

Last week, NHS England was announcing new daily death highs, reaching a pinnacle of 708 on Saturday.

For the past two days, it has dropped to 621 and 403. The statistics are a glimmer of hope as the increase in death numbers today is the lowest it has been since March 31, when it was 381. 

However, yesterday cases soared by 5,903 – the highest yet. With the death toll lagging some days behind, it may be too early to say the brunt of the outbreak is over. 

Yesterday, the UK’s cases soared by 5,903 – the highest yet. With the death toll lagging some days behind, it may be pre-empt to feel hopeful the peak of the outbreak is behind us

HAS GERMANY ESCAPED LIGHTLY? 

Germany has appeared to escape the global pandemic lightly in comparison to its neighbouring countries. 

Although its cases aren’t far behind Spain and Italy, its mortality rate is considerably lower – at around 1.6 per cent, when dividing reported cases by deaths.  

Germany’s daily death toll today dropped to just 92, just 24 hours after the country reported its highest daily death toll of 184. 

New infections also fell for the fourth day running to 3,677 amid hope that coronavirus lockdown is working. 

But Dr Derek Gatherer, an infectious disease expert, said it was too early for Germany to be victorious over its figures.

He said: ‘Today is a Monday, and if there is less testing over the weekend, there are always lower numbers on a Monday, so we should watch Germany tomorrow to see if this applies there too.’ 

Here’s why Germany’s death toll may be lower:  

Testing 

This has been put down to Germany’s  decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected as having the coronavirus. 

Some 500,000 citizens are being tested a week, according to Professor Christian Drosten, the virologist in charge of the country’s response.

Germany is seemingly able to acquire tests from domestic manufacturers while Britain is having to import them.

Germany is home to a strong network of biotech and pharmaceutical companies, including Landt, which has made and helped distribute four million COVID-19 tests, Bloomberg reports.

It’s believed Germany will also lead the way with the highly sought-after antibody testing, which can see if a person has already had the virus and built immunity. 

Such checks could potentially allow people to be issued with certificates saying they are safe to go back to work, allowing the economy to get started again.  

Private labs nationwide have been free to offer tests. But in the UK, Public Health England have been reluctant to expand testing facilities outside its own 12 centralised labs. 

Germany had already established testing by mid-February, epidemiology professor Nathan Grubaugh, at Yale School of Public Health, told Business Insider.

As of April 2, private labs in Germany had already helped the country test one million people for COVID-19. 

The age of infected people 

The average age of its patients is lower than in countries like Italy, which has a particularly old population, meaning they are less likely to die.

The majority – 80 per cent – of all people infected in Germany are younger than 60, official figures from Robert Koch Institute show. 

There is speculation the first cluster of cases stemmed from ‘super spreaders’ who returned from skiing trips in Austria and Italy, who may have been fitter and younger. 

The robust healthcare system 

Hospitals in Germany have been better prepared, Wired reports.

The country had the most intensive care beds per person than any country in Europe.

A study in 2011 found it had 29.2 intensive care beds per 100,000 people – considerably more than the 12.5 per 100,000 in Italy, 9.7 in Spain or just 6.6 in the UK.  

Officials say Germany’s hospitals were already in shape to cope with an epidemic, with enough intensive care beds and ventilators. Meanwhile, Italy’s hospitals have been overwhelmed and there are fears the UK’s health system will buckle under the pressure. 

How the country reports deaths

Dr Gatherer said that every country reports its deaths differently, which may be behind the varying mortality rates.

‘It’s really difficult to know why different countries in Europe have different death totals,’ he said. ‘It may be something to do with the way that deaths are recorded, for instance a distinction might possibly be made between deaths with COVID-19 and deaths from COVID-19.’  

France, Sweden and Denmark are in a similar position, having seen a leap in daily cases the past few days.

At such an early stage in the pandemic, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions on how countries are coping in comparison to each other.

It’s also worth noting that the figures don’t adjust for a reporting delay, which is the time between a death occurring, and it being announced. Reporting-delay is not necessarily the same in each country.

But there is an evident link between a countries response to the pandemic, and the scale of its outbreak so far.

Germany has been praised for its handling of the unprecedented situation, and the UK government ridiculed for not following its lead. 

Its low death rate – around 1.6 per cent – has been attributed for the most part due to its rigorous testing regime, tracing anyone who has had contact with a positive case. 

Around half a million people are being tested per week. In comparison, the UK’s testing capacity is around 70,000 a week. 

This is due to a number of reasons, including Germany being able to scale up its testing capacity domestically. 

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology, University of Warwick, noted that Germany’s testing isn’t provided by one central authority – like Public Health England – but by approximately 400 public health offices.

This allows for labs to be stretched out across the nation which act largely autonomously of central control. As of April 2, private labs had already tested an astonishing one million people, Business Insider reports. 

Professor Young told MailOnline: ‘Robust surveillance (testing) to find, isolate, trace, and treat every case is what’s happened in Germany and South Korea. 

‘German public health services have also helped with 400 public health offices run by municipal and rural district administrations throughout the Federal republic.

‘But also the fact that the Robert Koch Institute in Germany is supporting these public health offices and facilitated engagement with the German biotech industry to produce a test in mid-January and then rolled it out across the country. 

‘Germany also has more virologists who were mobilised early and responded quickly to work together with industry to produce the diagnostic test.’

Official figures from Robert Koch Institute shows the majority of infected people in Germany are under the age of 60, which may explain why less people are dying. 

Italy has a particularly old population, which experts believe explains its higher mortality rate – 12 per cent when dividing reported cases by deaths.

Dr Derek Gatherer, an infectious disease expert, said it was too early for Germany to be victorious over its figures.

He said: ‘Today is a Monday, and if there is less testing over the weekend, there are always lower numbers on a Monday, so we should watch Germany tomorrow to see if this applies there too.

‘I think we’ll probably be revising these figures for a while to come. However, a consistent drop off in number of deaths, however they are recorded, in any country, will be one of the signals that lockdown could be eased.’ 

Figures suggest Belgium and the Netherlands have come out the other side, reporting a total of 1,283 and 1,651 deaths respectively.

At their peak, on April 1, they each reported between 150-200 deaths per day, fairly unscathed compared to their European neighbours.

Even further behind are Austria and Norway, who reported 22 and 10 deaths respectively on their worst days. They have 186 and 50 total deaths respectively.

Both countries imposed lockdowns when the number of cases were under 3,000.

In comparison, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shut Britain down on March 24, when there were already 6,650 cases and 335 deaths. 

Their testing capacity is also unparallelled in Europe – authorities test between 12,000 and 19,000 per million inhabitants every day.

The UK’s testing regime, reaching a fraction of people in hospital, has been criticised heavily because it has failed to paint an accurate picture of how many people are infected.

Imperial College London mapped how each country responded to the pandemic 

HOW DO EACH COUNTRY’S MEASURES COMPARE? 

UK

Lockdown imposed: March 24

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 6,650/335

Testing: 2,895 per 1million

Germany

Lockdown imposed: March 22

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 21,463/67

Testing: 11,046 per 1million

Italy

Lockdown imposed: March 11

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 10,149/631

Testing: 10,896 per 1million

Spain

Lockdown imposed: March 14

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 4,231/120

Testing: 7,596 per 1million

Austria

Lockdown imposed: March 16

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 959/1

Testing: 12,502 per 1million

France

Lockdown imposed: March 17

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 6,573/148

Testing: 3,346 per 1million

Belgium

Lockdown imposed: March 18

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 1,486/14

Testing: 1,594 per 1million

Denmark

Lockdown imposed: March 18

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 977/4

Testing: 8,306 per 1million

Switzerland

Lockdown imposed: March 20

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 3,863/33

Testing: 17,904 per 1million

Norway

Lockdown imposed: March 24

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 2,371/8

Testing: 19,000 per 1million

Netherlands

Lockdown imposed: March 15

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 959/12

Testing: 4,328 per 1million

Sweden

Lockdown imposed: Hasn’t imposed a lockdown

Cases and deaths currently: 6,443/373

Testing: 4,306 per 1million

How Europe is planning to lift the lockdown: Austria will open small shops next week, Denmark wants ‘staggered’ return to work and Germany could re-open schools if infection rate stays low 

By Tim Stickings

As Britain and America start to draw up plans for life after the lockdown, they may look for inspiration from European countries where the coronavirus crisis has already showed signs of peaking.  

Austria today became the first country to set out detailed plans for ending the standstill, with smaller shops re-opening on April 14 and larger ones on May 1. 

Denmark also plans to start lifting restrictions after Easter, but wants people to ‘work in a more staggered way’ to avoid crowding into trains and buses. 

Meanwhile Germany is willing to re-open schools on a regional basis and allow a limited number of people into restaurants if the infection rate stays sufficiently low.  

In Italy, which has been under lockdown longer than any other European country, officials are talking about a ‘phase two’ where society learns to ‘live with the virus’ by wearing masks and carrying out more tests. 

Italy and Germany are among the countries looking at smartphone tracking, which could allow them to jump on new outbreaks without sending everyone back inside.

All of those countries, along with Spain, have seen signs of improvement in their recent figures which offer hope that the crisis is past its peak. That moment is still to come for Britain and America, which are bracing for one of their bleakest weeks. 

However, health officials across Europe warn that life cannot go back ‘from 0 to 100’ immediately and many lockdown measures will remain in place for several more weeks at least.  

Spain plans more tests and a partial return to work 

135,032 confirmed cases, 13,055 deaths  

Spain has been in lockdown since March 14 as it battles one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with the total caseload now higher than in Italy. 

However, the rate of new infections has fallen to a record low, offering hope that the measures are working.  

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez has said that some economic restrictions could be lifted after Easter, allowing some people in non-essential jobs to return to work.  

However, shops, bars and restaurants will remain closed, and many lockdown measures are likely to last beyond their current deadline of April 26. 

Nadia Calvino, the economy minister in Sanchez’s government, told El Pais that ministers have begun discussing a way out of the lockdown.

‘We will have to establish measures and conditions that minimise the risk of having an extended contagion, which will allow us to keep the virus at bay. It cannot be a 0 to 100 process in one day,’ she said. 

Calvino declined to answer whether workers would have to return to their jobs wearing masks and gloves.  

The government says one million testing kits were due to arrive in Spain on Sunday and Monday, and would act as ‘rapid screening’ in places such as hospitals and nursing homes.    

Spain’s daily infection count has fallen sharply from its peak, and today’s rise of 3.3 per cent is the smallest yet 

This chart shows the daily number of deaths in Spain, which has similarly shown signs of coming down from a peak recently

Austria will re-open shops but keep public gatherings banned  

12,008 cases, 220 deaths

Small shops such as these in a Viennese market are set to re-open next week in Austria  

Austria’s chancellor Sebastian Kurz today became the first European leader to provide specific dates for the end of lockdown measures.  

Kurz said the aim was to let smaller shops re-open as soon as April 14, with larger ones and shopping malls opening on May 1 if all goes well. 

‘The aim is that from April 14… smaller shops up to a size of 400 square metres, as well as hardware and garden stores can open again, under strict security conditions of course,’ Kurz said at a press conference. 

Customers will be required to wear masks when shops re-open, extending a requirement which already applies to supermarkets. Masks will also be compulsory on public transport.  

Hotels and restaurants could start to re-open in mid-May, with a decision later this month. Schools will remain closed until mid-May and public events will remain banned until the end of June, Kurz said. 

Austria’s health ministry says the rate of new infections has fallen significantly, and Kurz wants to ‘gradually and cautiously return to normality after Easter’ as long as ‘we all remain disciplined during Easter week’.

If the numbers get worse again, the government ‘always has the possibility to hit the emergency brake’ and re-introduce restrictions, he said.   

Denmark wants ‘staggered’ return to work as restrictions ease after Easter 

4,647 cases, 179 deaths 

Denmark wants to avoid overcrowding on trains such as the Copenhagen metro service (pictured) 

Denmark has been in lockdown since March 11, but wants to start lifting the measures after Easter if there is no surge in new cases.  

In an interview with DK last night, prime minister Mette Frederiksen said the government was hoping for a ‘gradual, controlled and quiet reopening of Denmark’.  

She suggested that people could go to work ‘in a more staggered way’ in order to avoid excessive crowds on public transport. 

The PM did not provide details of what a ‘staggered’ return to work might look like.  

However, she warned that ‘we will not return to Denmark as it was’ when the first restrictions are lifted.  

‘We are not going to be able to squeeze up close together in trains, buses and subways in the way we have become accustomed to,’ she said. 

‘Or stand very close together with a whole lot of other people and have a good party together.’   

Italy plans to ‘live with the virus’ using more masks and dedicated hospitals 

128,948 confirmed cases, 15,887 deaths  

Italy is openly talking about a ‘phase two’ in which society will have to ‘create the conditions to live with the virus’ until a vaccine is developed. 

Health minister Roberto Speranza says more testing and a beefed-up local health system would be necessary to allow an easing of the lockdown. 

He said social distancing would have to remain in place, with more widespread use of personal protective equipment such as face masks.

Testing and ‘contact tracing’ would be extended, including with the use of smartphone apps, in order to contain new outbreaks. 

A network of hospitals would also be set up which are specifically dedicated to virus patients, after doctors on existing wards described having to make life-or-death decisions over access to intensive care. 

‘There are difficult months ahead. Our task is to create the conditions to live with the virus,’ at least until a vaccine is developed, the health minister told La Repubblica newspaper.

The national lockdown, strictly limiting people’s movements and freezing all non-essential economic activity, will officially last until at least April 13 but it is widely expected to be extended.  

Italy’s daily infection count reached a peak of 6,557 on March 21, but has not been above 5,000 in recent days 

Italy recorded 969 deaths in one day on March 27, but the figure has fallen since then, as shown on this graph 

Germany plans to open schools, shops and restaurants if infection rate stays low 

95,391 cases, 1,434 deaths

Germany has set out plans to lift restrictions as long as the infection rate remains below 1. That means each patient is infecting less than one other person on average.

If that is achieved, schools could be re-opened on a regional basis, shops could open their doors and restaurants could open with a limit on the number of people in closed rooms. 

The plans were set out in an interior ministry document which also says that masks may become compulsory in any public building or on trains and buses. 

The ministry announced plans today to put all arriving travellers in quarantine for 14 days, though not including health workers who live nearby. 

Germany is also among the countries to suggest that antibody tests could signal a way out of the lockdown, by allowing people with immunity to leave home.  

These so-called ‘immunity passports’ could allow people to return to work and travel around Germany without fear that they will spread the virus. 

Christian Drosten, the head of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, says the tests could also ease the supply of medical equipment, because doctors who are immune would need less protective gear. ‘These tests are the only practical way to get things back to normal,’ he told an NDR podcast recently.   

Ministers are also looking to South Korea as a model for how to use smartphone tracking, despite the tough privacy laws in Germany where surveillance is a sensitive subject. 

One German institute is developing an app that would enable the proximity and duration of contact between people to be saved for two weeks on phones anonymously and without the use of location data. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will recommend the use of tracking apps if tests on them prove successful.  

Germany’s biggest jump in cases so far was the 6,294 which were announced on March 28, but today’s figure is only 3,677  

Germany’s daily death toll fell sharply to 92 today after previously showing signs of peaking by flattening around 140 a day 

France says lockdown cannot happen ‘in one go and for everyone’ 

70,478 cases, 8,078 deaths

France appears less close to ending the lockdown, with the figures improving less clearly than in Italy or Spain. 

Deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez has warned that ‘the end of confinement is not yet on the cards, a deadline has not been set’.   

‘I remind you of the rule… one goes out only when it is strictly necessary,’ he said. 

Questioned about the subject last week, prime minister Edouard Philippe warned that the lockdown could not be lifted in one stroke. 

‘It is likely that we are not heading towards a general deconfinement in one go and for everyone,’ he told parliament by video link. 

Philippe said the government is ‘fighting hour by hour’ to ward off shortages of essential drugs used to keep patients alive in intensive care. 

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Sri Lanka bombings – what happened on Easter Sunday in 2019?

A COORDINATED bomb attack on Easter Sunday saw explosions ripping through five-star hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, slaughtering more than 270 people.

It was the worst Islamist terror attack the country had ever seen. Now, one year later, BBC Two revisits the atrocity, with its investigative documentary 'Terror in Paradise'.

What happened during the Easter Sunday attack?

The first reports of attacks came about 8.45am and six blasts happened within a short space of time.

Three were at churches – carried out as Christians attended Easter mass – and three were at luxury hotels.

Worshippers were ruthlessly targeted in the Kochchikade district of the capital, Colombo, in Negombo, to the north of the capital, and in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

Sri Lanka's Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in Colombo were also attacked.

Those blasts are thought to have been carried out by suicide bombers including one who studied in the UK.

Police said at least nine members of two little-known local Islamist outfits, the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim, carried out the bombings.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked in 2018 to the destruction of Buddhist statues.

Hours after the first six bomb attacks were reported, there were two more fatal blasts in the city – an explosion at a hotel in Dehiwala and another in flats in Dematagoda.

In addition, a six-foot pipe bomb was intercepted and destroyed by the Air Force on the way to Colombo International Airport.

The atrocities came ten days after Sri Lanka's police chief issued alert on possible attacks.

This key intelligence was not passed on to the Sri Lankan government just days before the attacks.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan prime minister, acknowledged that “information was there” about possible attacks.

Two days after the attacks, ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings and released a picture of the terror mastermind and seven henchmen responsible.

The death cult's Amaq news agency claimed that the terrorists involved in the attacks were "fighters of the Islamic State."

What was the death toll?

The suicide bombs being triggered in churches and luxury hotels across Sri Lanka killed more than 270 people.

Over 500 people were injured in the blasts.

Among the dead were 35 foreigners, from the UK, America, the Netherlands, China, Turkey and Portugal.

Among the dead were British lawyer Anita Nicholson, 42, and her son Alex, 15 and daughter Annabel, who were queuing for breakfast at the Shangri-La hotel when a suicide bomber detonated a device at 8.30am.

Anita’s husband Ben survived the attack and frantically searched the wreckage for his family.

Daniel Linsey, 19, and Amelie Linsey, 15, were killed after escaping a suicide bomber in the Shangri-La hotel – only to run into a deadly second blast.

Lorraine Campbell, 55, from Manchester, was named the last of eight British victims killed in the Easter Sunday massacre.

Three children of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen also died in the blasts.

Who were the suicide bombers?

One of the sick bombers, Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, studied aerospace engineering at Kingston University between 2006 and 2007, according to The Daily Telegraph.

He was responsible for the smaller suicide blast at the Dehiwala hotel in southern Colombo hours after the later explosions.

Officials revealed that the twisted ISIS extremist also studied for a post-graduate degree in Australia.

Ilham Ibrahim, 36, the son of a millionaire spice tycoon, was understood to have set off the first bomb at the Shangri-La hotel.

An unverified video posted to social media claimed an ISIS-affiliated group was behind the attacks.

Seconds later YouTube Islamist ranter Zahran Hashim detonated a second device at the luxury hotel which left five Brits dead.

Police sources later confirmed Ilham’s 38-year-old brother Inshaf was the suicide bomber who blew up the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo.

Their warped family of hate is at the centre of the series of horrifying attacks in Sri Lanka.

The brothers' wealthy dad, Yoonis, who is also a trustee at the local mosque, was among more than 40 suspected jihadis in custody.

Police revealed that Ibrahim’s pregnant burka-clad wife Fatima was a key player in the bomb plot.

And when armed SWAT teams arrived at the couple’s home she killed herself, her three young sons, her unborn child and three cops with a suicide vest.

The video, purportedly from Al Ghuraba Media, run by supporters of the terror group, featured the chilling message: “This bloody day is our reward to you."

It also showed photos of three of the alleged suicide bombers.

The men were named as Abul Barra, Abul Mukhtar and Abu Ubaida and appeared in front of a black ISIS flag giving a one-finger salute.

Which hotels and churches were affected?

Hotels frequented by tourists, the luxury Shangri-La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand and The Kingsbury Colombo, were targeted in the deadly series of blasts.

Worshippers were also attacked, with those at an Easter mass targeted at St Anthony's Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochchikade, Colombo.

Blasts were also reported at St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa – where more than 300 people are thought to have been injured.

  • BBC Two's 'Terror in Paradise' airs tonight, April 6, at 9pm

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Son, 14, electrocuted cleaning house while virus-stricken mum was in hospital – The Sun

A TRAGIC teenager has died after being electrocuted as he cleaned the family home while his mum was in hospital with the coronavirus.

Juan Eduardo, 14, decided to stay and look after the family home after his mother Adriana, 37, was taken to hospital with breathing difficulties in the municipality of Ecatepec, in the central Mexican state of Mexico.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates


The mother had been diagnosed with Covid-19 several days before and her son had reportedly been looking after her until her condition worsened.

After she was taken to hospital Adriana sent her children, Juan Eduardo, a 15-year-old daughter and two twins whose names are not reported, to live with their relatives, but Juan Eduardo decided to stay home to look after it and wait for his mother's return.

Reports state a heavy rainstorm hit the area and water went into the home, with the teenager then turning on a pump to remove it as he cleaned the house.

However, there was a short circuit and the youngster was electrocuted, according to reports.

His mother told local media: “My son told me ‘I will stay with you, if you die, what am I going to do? No, mum, I will die with you, we will die together.”

She said she will always be grateful for the care he gave her when she fell ill.

The teenager had recently celebrated his birthday, with local lawyer Carlos Mota from the Delots Foundation hearing he was looking after his mother and sending them cake and food.

After hearing of the tragic death, Mota said on social media that the mother had been harassed and threatened by neighbours after they found out she was infected with coronavirus.

Adriana reportedly suspects she may have contracted the virus in the last week of February but she is not certain.

According to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has registered 2,143 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 94 deaths and 633 recovered.



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Black and ethnic minorities more vulnerable to coronavirus, NHS data

Coronavirus warning for people from black and minority backgrounds as NHS data suggests they are at more risk of life-threatening complications

  • Third of patients who fall critically ill in the UK are black, Asian or ethnic minority
  • That’s despite minorities making up just 13 per cent of the British population
  • Finding revealed in Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre report

Coronavirus patients from black and ethnic minority backgrounds may be at higher risk of suffering deadly complications of the disease, an NHS report suggests.

Despite making up just 13 per cent of the UK population, a third of patients who fall critically ill with COVID-19 are from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BME) groups.

The report, by the  Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre, found 14 per cent were Asian, 14 per cent black and 7 per cent described themselves as other. 

The study of 2,249 patients has raised fears non-white communities could suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths during the pandemic. 

Ethnic minorities tend to be poorer than the rest of society and are often hit the hardest by disease. 

Coronavirus patients from black and ethnic minority backgrounds may be at higher risk of suffering deadly complications of the disease, an NHS report suggests

Those living in poverty smoke and drink alcohol more and are more likely to be obese – all of which increase the likelihood of chronic health conditions.

Patients with pre-existing health troubles struggle to fight off COVID-19 before it causes deadly complications such as pneumonia. 

Poor people are also more likely to use public transport more often and live in crowded houses – driving up their chance of catching and spreading the virus.   

Anecdotal evidence has also suggested that ethnic minorities are more likely to fall seriously ill with the coronavirus. 

Professors Kamlesh Khunti and Wasim Hanif, from the charity South Asian Health Foundation (SAHF), say doctors have been reporting a disproportionate number of South Asian patients in ICU.  

Khunti, a professor in primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at the University of Leicester, said: ‘We have been concerned about this issue based on anecdotal reports and now this data is showing a signal regarding what we have been saying. 

‘This is a signal but at this stage, that’s all it is. We now need more data, so we are therefore embarking on a mission to learn more through research.’ 

Two-thirds of coronavirus patients in the UK who need to be hooked up to a ventilator will die from the illness, official NHS data suggests. Graph also shows the likelihood of critically ill COVID-19 patients surviving based on their age, BMI and whether they have health woes

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS IN THE UK? 

Average age of admission: 64

Sex

Men: 139 (70.9%)

Woman: 57 (29.1%)

BMI

<18.5

18.5-25

25-30

30-40

>40 

1 (0.6%)

49 (27.7%)

56 (31.6%)

58 (32.8%)

13 (7.3%) 

Dependency level

Independent

Some assistance

Total assistance 

155 (87.1%)

23 (12.9%)

0(0%)

No clear details were given about the breakdown of what other conditions the patients had, such as asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes. 

Fears there will be a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities suffering deadly symptoms of coronavirus are also being echoed in the US. 

Dr Ashwin Vasan, a public health expert and assistant professor at Columbia University in New York City, said the virus was going to be felt most ‘by the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and obviously that falls down in this country on communities of color.’ 

Dr Vasan told USA Today it wasn’t that minorities are more vulnerable to getting the virus, but they are more susceptible to suffering severe consequences which can kill them. 

He said in blacks, Latinos and Native American suffer from the very diseases that COVID-19 presents a problem for and have less access to healthcare. 

People of color could also be more at risk because of their professions, according to Shaomeng Jia, an economics professor at Alabama State University’s College of Business Administration.  

Those working in retail and construction – who cannot work from home – are still mingling and risking infection even as the outbreak peaks, she said. 

Meanwhile, health care jobs, including personal care aides and practitioners, are among the top 10 jobs with a high concentration of African Americans, she told USA Today. 

The ICNARC report came from data reported into the Case Mix Programme.  This programme represents all NHS adult, general intensive care and combined intensive care, high dependency units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as some specialist and non-NHS critical care units.

At the time of the last census in 2011, 13 per cent of the UK population, equivalent to around 8.1 million people, identified themselves as black, Asian or minority ethnic. 

Meanwhile official NHS data suggests two-thirds of coronavirus patients in the UK who need to be hooked up to a ventilator will die from the illness.

A separate report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Center (ICNARC) found ventilated patients succumb to the virus 66.3 per cent of the time.

That is double the mortality rate of non-virus patients who were put on breathing support between 2017 and 2019, before the outbreak.

The NHS is still 22,000 ventilators short of the estimated 30,000 it will need during the peak of this crisis, which has infected almost 34,000 Britons.

The high death rate has led some doctors to question whether some critically ill COVID-19 patients are being put on ventilation ‘for the sake of it’, when the machine could be spared for a healthy person with a higher chance of survival.  

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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