Coronavirus: Daily COVID-19 deaths in Spain, France and Italy continue to fall

The number of coronavirus deaths in Spain has fallen for the third day in a row – a glimmer of hope in the hard-hit country where more than 12,400 have died.

The fall is part of a pattern in other European countries which imposed a stringent lockdown several weeks ago, with France and parts of Italy also seeing falls in the number of daily deaths.

France on Saturday saw its daily death toll fall to 441 from 588 on Friday.

Italy, on the same day, registered 681 deaths having reported 766 deaths the day before.

Sky’s Alex Rossi, in Madrid, said there was “muted optimism” as a result of the Spanish figures.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the nation on Saturday: “We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The number who have died in Spain now has reached 12,418. The number reported as having died in Italy on Saturday was 15,362 with 7,560 in France.

Despite the lockdown appearing to reduce the number of deaths, authorities have made it clear they have no immediate intention of lifting the restrictions.

Mr Sanchez said on Saturday he would ask parliament to extend his country’s lockdown by 15 days until 26 April.

He added a team of experts was also studying how restrictions could be gradual loosened to reactive the country’s economy.

Meanwhile, Italy’s virus-ravaged Lombardy region is now requiring residents to wear a protective mask when they go outside.

It follows similar orders in recent days in two other northern regions, hard-hit Veneto and Alto Adige, which require protective masks for residents if they go shopping in stores and markets.

All of Italy is under a nationwide lockdown and Lombardy has passed particularly tight restrictions on movement and business operations.

It comes amid a growing appreciation that the official death toll may be masking the true number dying.

Interviews by Reuters with families, doctors and nurses in Lombardy indicate that scores are dying at home as symptoms go unchecked and medical professionals are unable to visit the sick before they pass away.

In Bergamo province, where Sky News witnessed horrific scenes in the main hospital and where the mayor told Stuart Ramsay he was convinced the death toll was higher than that being reported, a recent study of death records found the true number could be more than double the official tally of 2,060, which only tracks hospital fatalities.

In France, the centralised state has allowed authorities to take extraordinary measures in an attempt to save lives.

Europe’s biggest food market, in Rungis, south of Paris, is being transformed into a morgue.

The country’s high-speed train network has been whooshing critically ill COVID-19 patients and the breathing machines to locations where they can be looked after better.

TGV trains are just one part of France’s nationwide mobilisation of trains, helicopters, jets and even a warship, to relieve congested hospitals.

Nearly 7,000 patients are in intensive care in France, pushing hospitals to their limit and beyond.

In Germany, which has been reporting a lower fatality rate than other European countries, the official toll rose by 184 to 1,342.

But, health authorities reported that the number of new infections rose by 5,936 in the past 24 hours to
91,714 on Sunday, the third straight drop in the daily rate of new cases.

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Coronavirus POLL: Would you support a government of national emergency? VOTE HERE

Sir Keir was yesterday confirmed as Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement after seeing off the twin challenges of Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, taking 56.2 percent of the vote. Angela Rayner was elected as his deputy. Analysts have suggested he will need to strike a balance between backing efforts to minimise the impact of the pandemic and holding the Government to account. The 57-year-old, writing in the Sunday Times, struck a conciliatory tone in keeping with his previous remarks, suggesting a possible accommodation could be reached.

Coronavirus is a national emergency. It is also a global emergency

Sir Keir Starmer

He said: “There will be many times when, and there are many issues upon which, I will fundamentally disagree with the Prime Minister.

“However, there will also be times when Labour can – and must – engage constructively with the Government.

“Now is such a time. Coronavirus is a national emergency. It is also a global emergency.

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“Everyone is anxious about what the next few months will bring, but we know we must be resolute in our determination to see this virus defeated, as it will be.

“I want to see the Government succeed in this: to save lives and protect livelihoods.

“This is a national effort and all of us should be asking what more we can do.”

Sir Keir said Labour would “do our bit to offer solutions” but also vowed to “speak for those who have been ignored”, and expose mistakes “to ensure that they are rectified as soon as possible”.

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He added: “And let’s be honest, serious mistakes have been made.

“The public is placing an enormous trust in the Government at the moment: it is vital that that trust is met with openness and transparency about those mistakes and the decisions that have been made.”

Repeating calls for more widespread testing and more readily available PPE, Sir Keir urged the Government to build vaccination centres in towns and cities across the UK to ensure “the minute a vaccine becomes available, we can begin to protect the entire population”.

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He also called for the Government to publish an exit strategy from the measures to defeat coronavirus.

He stressed: “There will be many more difficult days ahead. Great sacrifices must be made because of a crisis that was unimaginable only a few months ago. But Britain is a great country and we will get through this.”

Speaking before the result was announced, Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, told Express.co.uk it was hard to envisage Sir Keir not being involved on some level.

He explained: “You know that the Government is going to find it very hard not to involve him, as William Hague is suggested today, in at least explain to him what they’re doing candidly.

“And he’s the kind of person who I think, given he was DPP and held the high public office, the Government and security officials would trust to do that – which I suspect they probably wouldn’t have done with Jeremy Corbyn.”

“Most Conservatives don’t want a national unity government, I don’t think, but there might be a sort of halfway house option whereby they invite the new leader of the opposition in to see what’s going on.”

Ladbrokes rates Mr Starmer’s chances of joining Mr Johnson in an unlikely alliance by the end of 2020 at just 3-1, with spokesman Jessica O’Reilly saying: “Starmer’s been appointed to bring the Labour Party back together.

“However, it’s not out of the realms of possibility he joins a National Unity Government this year and causes even more friction within the party.”

National Governments are unusual in an UK context, but not unheard of.

As Prime Ministers, Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George in World War 1 and Winston Churchill in World War 2 led all-party coalitions which were sometimes referred to as such, although more usually as coalition Governments.

In addition Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, led a national Government comprising members of his own party plus the Conservative Party, Liberals, Liberal Nationals and National Labour, between 1931 and 1935.

Stanley Baldwin (1935-37) and Neville Chamberlain (1937-39) presided over similar coalitions.

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Melania and Donald Trump clash over coronavirus masks as crisis intensifies

The First Lady is urging the public to follow the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation for face masks to be worn in public. It came after her husband said that they were not mandatory and he would not be wearing one.

Melania tweeted to her followers that anyone who could should use the equipment when in public.

She wrote on Friday: “As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously.

“COVID-19 is a virus that can spread to anyone.

“We can stop this together”.

The CDC issued their recommendation of face mask usage on Friday.

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The First Lady is urging the public to follow the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation for face masks to be worn in public. It came after her husband said that they were not mandatory and he would not be wearing one.

Melania tweeted to her followers that anyone who could should use the equipment when in public.

She wrote on Friday: “As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously.

“COVID-19 is a virus that can spread to anyone.

“We can stop this together”.

The CDC issued their recommendation of face mask usage on Friday.

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Her tweet came shortly after President Trump announced that his administration was recommending Americans wear homemade masks or face coverings.

He emphasized that the measures are “voluntary” and has said he won’t wear them, undercutting his wife and the CDC.

Trump said: “From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood.

“I just don’t want to do it myself.

“Sitting in the Oval Office… I somehow don’t see it for myself.”

Americans are now advised to use clean cloth or fabric to cover their faces whilst in public.

Public use of masks can primarily help by preventing asymptomatic patients from unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

The World Health Organization previously advised that ordinary face masks are only effective if combined with careful hand-washing and social distancing.

Masks may also help lower the risk of individuals catching the virus through the droplets from another person’s sneeze or a cough.

Officials have stressed that medical masks remain in short supply, and should be left for healthcare workers.

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Officials have also cautioned that face masks should not be viewed as an “artificial sense of protection”.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said this week: “The most important thing is the social distancing and washing your hands.

“We don’t want people to get an artificial sense of protection because they’re behind a mask. Because if they’re touching things — remember your eyes are not in the mask.

“So if you’re touching things and then touching your eyes you’re exposing yourself in the same way.”

The guidance comes after worldwide coronavirus cases have reached 1,201,476.

The US has the highest number of these cases, it has seen 311,357 since the outbreak began.

As of Sunday morning, it’s death toll from the virus has reached 8,452.

Government officials have warned that the next two weeks will be critical, likely seeing a sharp rise in cases and deaths.

Her tweet came shortly after President Trump announced that his administration was recommending Americans wear homemade masks or face coverings.

He emphasized that the measures are “voluntary” and has said he won’t wear them, undercutting his wife and the CDC.

Trump said: “From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood.

“I just don’t want to do it myself.

“Sitting in the Oval Office… I somehow don’t see it for myself.”

Americans are now advised to use clean cloth or fabric to cover their faces whilst in public.

Public use of masks can primarily help by preventing asymptomatic patients from unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

The World Health Organization previously advised that ordinary face masks are only effective if combined with careful hand-washing and social distancing.

Masks may also help lower the risk of individuals catching the virus through the droplets from another person’s sneeze or a cough.

Officials have stressed that medical masks remain in short supply, and should be left for healthcare workers.

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Officials have also cautioned that face masks should not be viewed as an “artificial sense of protection”.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said this week: “The most important thing is the social distancing and washing your hands.

“We don’t want people to get an artificial sense of protection because they’re behind a mask. Because if they’re touching things — remember your eyes are not in the mask.

“So if you’re touching things and then touching your eyes you’re exposing yourself in the same way.”

The guidance comes after worldwide coronavirus cases have reached 1,201,476.

The US has the highest number of these cases, it has seen 311,357 since the outbreak began.

As of Sunday morning, it’s death toll from the virus has reached 8,452.

Government officials have warned that the next two weeks will be critical, likely seeing a sharp rise in cases and deaths.

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Investing in an apocalypse

The narrow, worn track in West Virginia, close to the foothills of the Appalachians, leads to a camp set back in the woods. There, a group of US survivalists have been preparing for the collapse of civilisation long before the arrival of the new coronavirus that has brought so much of the world to a halt.

Boxes full of family-size tins of food, bags of freeze-dried provisions that can last up to 25 years, rice, flour – the survivalists did not wait for the wave of panic buying that has emptied shelves across the United States. Their provisions were already neatly stacked up in a bunker made of reinforced concrete and dug 1m into the ground.

Ever ready, they even have ample supplies of two of the most sought-after commodities in the jittery country: toilet paper and face masks.

“It’s worth a lot of money now,” joked Mr Steve Rene, presenting the 40ha site that he manages as though it were a holiday camp – which it kind of is.

The Fortitude Ranch’s motto embraces both end times and more normal times: “Prepare for the worst… enjoy the present.” Members have up to two weeks each year to revel in this rural retreat, enjoying nature, hiking or trout fishing in the appropriately named Lost River.

Friendly and clear-headed, Mr Rene, the manager of the West Virginia site – there is another branch in Colorado – tries from the outset to sweep away the cliches surrounding survivalists, also known as “preppers” for their constant doomsday preparations.

“It’s not a bunch of crazy people with this idea that tomorrow, the world ends,” he said.

“We’re not militaristic. We have no ties with militias, anything like that,” he insisted, although his past military service – he served in Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf in 1991 – is evident from the impeccably ironed brown shirt he wears.

Nevertheless, there are lookout posts in all four corners of the property, and there is a high-calibre rifle, capable of stopping an armoured vehicle, in the ranch’s living room to convince would-be recruits of just how seriously the members take this enterprise.

“Desperate people do desperate things,” said the manager, standing among the bare early spring trees.

More than foreign invaders, the survivalists view their main threat as fellow Americans rushing out to steal their provisions if public order collapses as a result of a nuclear or biological weapons strike, an economic implosion, a political uprising, a pandemic or a mix of any of the above.

“Obviously, that’s not very likely, but the possibility exists,” said Mr Rene. “If you’re not prepared in some way, you have just nowhere to go, nothing to do. Everybody scrambles and lots of things get out of hand.”

A committee of five people, including Mr Rene, would decide in an emergency whether to declare a “catastrophe scenario”, in which case all the members would be invited to retire to the barricaded camp, after which entry would be permitted only upon production of a password.

In the case of an epidemic, the temperature of each new arrival would be monitored with a no-contact thermometer before they can enter to enjoy free access to a self-sustaining ecosystem that includes wells, solar panels, radio equipment, greenhouses, locally sourced chickens, goats and cows, and a ditch where possible contaminated bodies can be incinerated.

The creator of the Fortitude Ranch franchise, Mr Drew Miller, is a former military intelligence expert and Harvard graduate who hopes to establish a dozen such retreats across the United States.

As opposed to “luxury bunkers” that the super rich are building themselves, the entrepreneur is aiming clearly at the middle-class market.

People pay at least US$1,000 (S$1,430) per year, per person, for the basic package: a berth in a bunker dormitory. “It’s like a life insurance policy that actually protects your life, rather than a life insurance policy that pays to bury you,” said Mr Rene.

His site has the capacity to house up to 500 people in different buildings spread across the property, which is about a two-hour drive from Washington.

Disaster, it seems, is good business. Mr Rene has been getting more and more inquiries and e-mails as the coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19, spread across the country.

Worried people who already had the idea of survivalism “at the back of their minds” are now seeing “there can be a need”, the former soldier said.

A laptop open next to him shows an online map displaying the spread of the virus in real time. There are no red dots in the vicinity of the survivalists’ ranch so far.

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N.L. minister out of cabinet after being served with warrant, premier says

The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed Saturday he had removed a member of his cabinet after the minister revealed she had been served with a police warrant alleging a breach of trust involving cabinet confidences.

Premier Dwight Ball told a news conference that Sherry Gambin-Walsh’s role in cabinet as the minister responsible for Service NL would be assumed by Finance Minister Tom Osborne.

The Liberal premier did not disclose the nature of the allegations against Gambin-Walsh, but he confirmed her actions were under investigation by the RCMP.

Ball said Gambin-Walsh will continue to represent Placentia—St. Mary’s in the provincial legislature and he confirmed she had not been removed from the Liberal caucus.

The premier said he learned about the RCMP’s general warrant on Friday when he received a call from Gambin-Walsh.

Ball admitted he felt frustrated having to deal with removing a cabinet minister at a time when the country is facing a health-care crisis.

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Coronavirus: New Labour leader Starmer pledges to work ‘constructively’ with government over COVID-19

New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to work “constructively” with the government over the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir Keir, who was elected Jeremy Corbyn’s successor on Saturday, has accepted an offer from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend a COVID-19 briefing next week.

The pair spoke on the phone earlier.

A spokesperson for the Labour leader said: “Keir offered to work constructively with the government on how best to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, accepted the prime minister’s offer to meet next week and agreed arrangements for Privy Council briefings and discussions.”

In his victory speech, Sir Keir said Labour had a “shared purpose” with the government in getting the country through the coronavirus pandemic.

He added: “Under my leadership, we will engage constructively with the government, not opposition for opposition’s sake. Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands.

“But with the courage to support where that’s the right thing to do.

“But we will test the arguments that are put forward.

“We will shine a torch on critical issues and where we see mistakes or faltering government or things not happening as quickly as they should we’ll challenge that and call that out.

“Our purpose when we do that is the same as the government’s, to save lives and to protect our country, a shared purpose.”

Mr Johnson wrote on Twitter: “I have just spoken to @Keir_Starmer & congratulated him on becoming Labour leader.

“We agreed on the importance of all party leaders continuing to work constructively together through this national emergency.

“I have invited him and other opposition leaders to a briefing next week.”

The PM has written to opposition party leaders, telling them “we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency”.

The letter states: “Therefore, I would like to invite all leaders of opposition parties in parliament to a briefing with myself, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser next week.

“I want to listen to your views and update you on the measures we have taken so far, such as rapidly expanding testing and providing economic support to businesses and individuals across the country.

“The government I lead will act in the national interest at all times and be guided by the best scientific evidence, and of course we will continue to engage constructively with all political parties on the national effort to defeat this pandemic.

“I have no doubt that – as we have so many times in the past – the people of the United Kingdom will rise to this current challenge, and we will beat coronavirus together.”

Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “At this moment of national crisis, the role of all opposition parties must be to support measures to tackle the coronavirus, whilst also standing up for the most vulnerable by properly scrutinising the government.

“I look forward to working with Keir Starmer on that task.”

The UK has been in lockdown for more than 10 days, after the government announced stringent measures to try and limit the spread of COVID-19.

A leading scientist and government adviser has said social distancing measures could be relaxed within weeks if there are signs the epidemic is slowing.

Imperial College London Professor Neil Ferguson said the UK’s epidemic was expected to plateau in the next week to 10 days, but said people’s behaviour was critical to determining what happens next.

The Department of Health and Social Care said on Saturday that 708 more people had died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total deaths in the UK to 4,313.

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UPDATE 4-Five Canadian banks cut credit card interest rates to ease coronavirus impact

(Adds details of Scotiabank rate reduction)

TORONTO, April 4 (Reuters) – Bank of Nova Scotia, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, National Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said on Friday they are cutting interest rates on credit cards to provide relief to customers affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

Late on Friday, Scotiabank said it would reduce credit card interest rates to 10.99% for personal and small business clients who have been approved for, or seek, payment deferrals.

Earlier, in separate statements, TD Bank said it will cut credit card interest rates by 50% for customers experiencing hardship, and Royal Bank said it will reduce the charges by the same extent for clients receiving minimum payment deferrals.

National Bank will allow credit card customers to defer minimum payments for up to 90 days and reduce annual interest rates to 10.9% for these clients, it said.

CIBC too will reduce interest rates to 10.99% on personal credit cards for users who request to skip a payment, Canada’s fifth-largest lender said. (reut.rs/3aHZM9Q)

Most Royal Bank, TAD, Scotiabank and CIBC credit cards charge 19.99% interest on purchases. Most National Bank cards charge 20.99%.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government had urged banks to help alleviate the burden credit card interest rates placed on Canadians. Friday’s moves are the latest in a raft of measures announced by the banks to ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on customers.

Canada’s six biggest banks unveiled a mortgage-relief plan two weeks ago to allow homeowners to defer or skip mortgage payments for up to six months as businesses come to a grinding halt due to the pandemic.

National Bank said it will refund additional interest accrued on the deferred mortgage payments. The lender will also waive fees for transfers and stop payments on checks and pre-authorized debts, and will not charge overdraft fees on checking and high-interest savings accounts, it said.

Since the mortgage-relief plan was announced, the banks have received nearly half a million requests that have been completed or were being processed. (Reporting by Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru and Nichola Saminather in Toronto Editing by Matthew Lewis, Cynthia Osterman, Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)

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Alberta RCMP searching for man believed to have fired shots into home filled with people

Police are asking for help locating a man accused of firing shots into a home on the Louis Bull First Nation in the early morning hours of Jan. 26, 2020.

In a news release Friday, RCMP said 19-year-old Travis Roasting is believed to be one of two suspects identified and charged connected to the incident.

“None of the residents were hit, but multiple people including children were inside the home at the time,” said police.

According to the release, “Roasting has been evading police since the shooting.” He is believed to be in the Maskwacis area.

Roasting is described as 6-feet-tall with black hair and brown eyes and weighs between 160 to 170 pounds.

Anyone with information is warned not to approach Roasting but rather contact their local police department.

The Maskwacis RCMP can be reached at 780-585-3767. Anonymous tips can be made through Crime Stoppers online or by phone at 1-800-222-8477.

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France knife attack leaves two dead

Two people have been killed and at least four others wounded in a knife attack in south-east France, officials have said.

Initial reports said the attacker entered a tobacconist in the town of Romans-sur-Isère, near Grenoble, and stabbed the owners and a customer.

He then went to a nearby butcher’s shop and attacked more people.

Police said a suspect had been arrested. The motive for the attack is not clear.

Anti-terror police have not taken over the investigation, but said they are monitoring developments.

The suspect is a 33-year-old man who told police he was born in Sudan.

One of the wounded is said to be in a critical condition.

Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “My thoughts are with the victims of the Romans-sur-Isère attack – the injured, their families.”

He promised light would be shed on “this odious act”.

France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner will reportedly travel to the town later today, arriving at around 16:00 local time.

France is currently in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. People are only allowed out to buy basic necessities or for exercise.

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Trump fires official who triggered impeachment

US President Donald Trump has fired a senior official who first alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint that led to his impeachment trial.

Mr Trump said he no longer had confidence in Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community.

Democrats said the president was settling scores during a national emergency caused by the coronavirus.

They also accused him of trying to undermine the intelligence community.

Last year, Mr Atkinson informed Congress of the complaint that President Trump had allegedly abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

In letters to Congress, Mr Atkinson described the complaint as “urgent” and “credible”.

The Democratic-majority House of Representatives voted to impeach the president, but a trial in the Republican-led Senate later acquitted him of all charges.

On Friday, Mr Trump notified Congress that Mr Atkinson would be removed from his post within 30 days. Sources told the Associated Press the official had been placed on administrative leave and would not serve out his 30 days.

“It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Mr Trump wrote. “This is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”

He said he would name a successor “at a later date”. Officials quoted by Reuters said Thomas Monheim, a career intelligence professional, would serve as acting inspector general in the meantime.

Democrats reacted angrily to the move.

“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the president is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another intelligence official simply for doing his job,” said Senator Mark Warner, the most senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Adam Schiff, who chaired the House impeachment hearings, said “the president’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk.”

“President Trump’s decision to fire intelligence community inspector General Michael Atkinson is yet another blatant attempt by the president to gut the independence of the intelligence community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing,” he said.

Last month President Trump replaced his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who was perceived to have implicated the president in the impeachment inquiry with an off-the-cuff remark at the White House podium.

Mr Trump has recently come under fire for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the US which has so far claimed more than 7,000 lives.

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