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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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Weekend weather: Is it safe to go out in the warm weather amid COVID-19 crisis?

Coronavirus has now killed 3,605 people in Britain marking the largest increase so far with the previous day recording 569 more deaths. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still suffering from a high temperature and has therefore extended his self isolation after testing positive for coronavirus. The PM and the daily news conference urged Britons to stay at home ahead of the weekend, but is it safe to go outside in the warm weather this weekend?

In the last 24 hours, two nurses and two healthcare assistants lost their lives after fighting as part of the frontline against coronavirus.

As of Friday morning, 173,784 people have been tested for the deadly virus.

Speaking from Downing Street on Friday, Matt Hancock urged people to remain at home despite warm weather forecast for the weekend.

He said the UK “absolutely cannot afford to relax social distancing measures”, adding: “If we do people will die.”

He said: “I end with the advice we all know. This advice is not a request, it is an instruction.

“Stay at home, protect lives and then you will be doing your part.”

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On Friday evening and overnight, the Met Office forecasts odd light showers to fade across many areas, with clear spells and patchy frost appearing after.

Southern areas of England may also see some areas of fog later and northern parts of the UK cloudier with some rain and hill snow pushing northwards.

On Saturday any fog in the south clearing then many southern areas turning sunnier and quite warm and further north, rather cloudy with odd light showers, rain slow to clear the far north.

The weather will be bright, warm but breezy for many on Sunday according to the forecaster.

In his latest message published on Friday, Mr Johnson warned people to remain in their homes despite the warm weather forecast for the weekend.

In a video he said: “I just urge you not to do that.

“Please, please stick with the guidance.

“This country has made a huge effort, a huge sacrifice, done absolutely brilliantly well in delaying the spread of the virus. Let’s stick with it now.”

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Is it safe to go outside this weekend?

The UK is still under lockdown which means ypeople are urged to remain at home except to undertake the following:

  • Essential shopping such as medicine and food
  • One form of exercise per day
  • Medical need or to provide care for a vulnerable person
  • Travel to and from work, if you canot work from home.

Temperatures are likely to reach 20C in some parts of the UK on Saturday.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tamp said: “Whatever the weather, we all have a shared responsibility to protect those around us, and the single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Police forces across the country were assessing intelligence and briefing officers on patrol about making sure there was no slippage in the lockdown at the weekend.

When Mr Johnson implemented the lockdown, police officers and other authorities have been endowed with the power to disperse gatherings and impose fines starting at £30.

These fines will increase for repeat offenders.

This week a woman in Newcastle was fined £660 after refusined to give police officers her name, address or reason for travel when she was stopped by police.

Speaking on whether it was safe to go outside over the weekend, Mr Hancock said: “It is incredibly important that people follow the guidelines and I know that it is going to be sunny and it may be tempting.

“But it is staying at home that saves lives and I think we should be absolutely crystal clear about that.

“The guidelines have been set out in terms of people going out for exercise reasons either on their own or with people in their household, people need to stick to those guidelines and we are going to stick with those guidelines.”

Could coronavirus be stopped by warm weather?

Not enough is known about the deadly infection to know whether warmer weather will have a large impact on how prolific the virus is.

Evidence from similar viruses suggests that the virus may transmit less efficiently in the spring and summer months. 

Alongside the temperature, it is thought humidity, differences in human behaviour and the strength of one’s immune system play a role in this pattern.

Scientists believe COVID-19 may find it harder to transmit during the summer months, but not all researchers are in agreement with this and still advise people to continue with the Government’s advice to save lives.

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Pope health fears: Coronavirus outbreak erupts in Vatican as cases surge

Vatican City, the sovereign state in the middle of Rome that has a population of about 618 people, has seen a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days. On Thursday the city’s seventh case was confirmed, which is significant considering the city comprises just 110 acres (44 hectares). The news has prompted fears Pope Francis, aged 83, could be at risk of contracting the virus.

The Vatican has announced its seventh case of coronavirus, after an employee of the Holy See, the office of the Pope, tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee, who has not been named, was already self-isolating after his wife, who works in an Italian hospital, tested positive for the virus.

Matteo Bruni, a spokesman for the Vatican, said in a statement: “To the six cases communicated previously, there is a new case of a Holy See employee, already in isolation since mid-March because of his wife, who had tested positive for COVID-19 after serving in the Italian hospital where she works.”

In response, the Holy See press office has said they, and the Vatican City State, are adhering to strict measures in order to safeguard its staff.

A spokesman for the Holy See said: “The various bodies and departments of the Holy See and the Vatican City State continue only in essential, mandatory and unavoidable activities, clearly adopting, to the maximum extent possible, the appropriate measures already communicated, which include remote work and rostering criteria, in order to safeguard the health of staff.”

Last week it was reported a a clergyman who lives in the same residence as the Pope was hospitalised after testing positive for the virus

The news prompted the head of the Catholic Church to be tested, along with other Vatican residents, local media report.

But the Pope, and other officials who had been swabbed, all tested negative for COVID-19, according to the La Stampa and Il Messagro newspapers.

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After the clergyman was taken ill, Saint Martha’s guest house, where the Pope lives, is being deep cleaned.

A Vatican spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny the reports.

The Pope is also understood to take his meals in his private quarters and uses hand sanitiser before and after meeting any guests.

The pontiff, who was elected as head of the Catholic Church in 2013, is understood to be in good health.

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He suffers from sciatica, a nerve condition that causes hip pain and also had part of his lung removed when he was younger.

On Monday Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with the Pope at the Vatican to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world.

The meeting was described as a private session by the Vatican, who released an official photo of the pair.

Neither the Vatican or the Italian Government have disclosed any details on what was discussed.

Italy has the world’s biggest coronavirus death toll, at 13,915 and over 115,000 confirmed cases.

The epicentre of the virus originated in the north of the country, in the Lombardy region, but has since spread to the south.

It is hoped the country has already reached its peak, and will soon see a decrease in the number of cases.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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Professor warns half of Sweden could be infected with coronavirus in April

Tom Britton, a mathematics professor from Stockholm University, claimed there is a chance that up to a million people are already infected with the virus. Swedish authorities have only confirmed 5,466 cases as of today.

Professor Britton used mathematical models to estimate the figures, which will peak around the middle of the month.

According to his calculations, Sweden will see 5million infections by April 30.

Despite not putting lockdown measures into place, the Swedish government has asked citizens to act “like adults” and take precautions.

Mr Britton said in an interview with Radio Sweden that it is still to early to dictate whether the government’s measures have had any effect in the fight against the pandemic.

He said he based his calculations on death figures, as they are the only accurate data he has.

Death figures are used to calculate an estimated number of infections, but it means looking three weeks back – since that is approximately how long it takes for a patient to worsen and die from the disease.

Sweden’s social distancing measures were only introduced two weeks ago, which means they will not show in the collected data yet.

Without social distancing, the average person is thought to infect 2.5 people.

Social distancing helps decrease the number of infections.

Anything under 1 means the virus starts to dwindle.

Hospitals are estimated to be under peak pressure around two weeks after April 15, as patients begin to develop symptoms.

“China succeeded in [reducing its R value] by very comprehensive measures, and very quickly, so that less than 1 percent will be infected in Wuhan,” he said.

“I am not convinced that we will be as effective in Sweden.”

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Mr Britton admitted that although he is not directly involved in the government’s fight against the outbreak, but he is in contact with mathematicians who advise the authorities.

Last week 2,000 doctors, scientists, and professors signed a petition to demand the government for stricter social distancing measures.

Among the entities who signed was Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, chairman of the Nobel Foundation.

Mr Britton’s warning comes as Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a virus researcher from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, also voiced her concern.

Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose.

“They are leading us to catastrophe.”

According to the World Health Organisation’s Europe branch there were 464,859 confirmed coronavirus infections and a death toll of 30,098 in Europe.

Around 80 percent of those who died from the disease had at least one underlying disease.

Some of the underlying illnesses that proved fatal include cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

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US unemployment figures EXPLODE to 6.6 million in single week – coronavirus breaks record

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits topped six million as more jurisdictions enforced lockdown measures.

COVID-19 cases in the US have surged over recent days as the pandemic spreads at an alarming rate across the country.

The US now has more confirmed cases than any other country at 215,000 – almost double that of Italy on 110,000.

On Wednesday, health authorities said a further 1,049 people had died from the killer virus over the past 24 hours, with the death toll surging by a quarter to 5,102.

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

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New Labour Party leader warned of biggest challenge set to confront them ‘Just difficult’

The new Labour Party leader is to be announced this Saturday after longer than a month and a half of voting among party members. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is expected to emerge the winner after facing off with shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. But former Downing Street adviser Nick Timothy warned Labour will face a huge struggle in winning back voters no matter who is proclaimed their next leader.

Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, Mr Timothy said: “Whoever is leader of the Labour Party will find it difficult to bring together the voters that they have retained who are the new core voters for Labour – public sector workers, urban voters, university towns – and the white working classes that they’ve lost in the regions and in Scotland and Wales.

“Those are big structural problems for Labour and I think it will be difficult for any individual to put that right quickly.”

The former adviser claimed Lisa Nandy was so far the only candidate who had shown an attempt to listen to voters lost since 2016.

He continued: “I think Lisa is the most interesting of the three candidates in the Labour leadership campaign to date.

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“She’s at least shown an interest in trying to get the Labour Party to listen to the voters they’ve lost in the period between the Brexit referendum and the General Election in December.

“Keir Starmer is a competent and intelligent person.”

Voting for the challenge is due to end on April 2, with the results set to be announced on Saturday.

Alongside the new leader, a new deputy leader is also due to be announced because of Tom Watson’s early departure from the job in December.

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Rebecca Long-Bailey confirmed all candidates had been asked to record a victory message so the video could be shared with voters as quickly as possible after the results are announced.

She told Sky News: “I think it’s trying to deal with these strange times and have an announcement on the leadership contest so that our members and the public can view from their homes really.

“It’s logistically quite challenging and I think we’ve all been asked to do this victory speech so that it can be sent out over the airwaves as quickly as possible after we win.”

The latest poll produced by YouGov showed Keir Starmer, who ran on a unity platform in the three-month-long contest, in the lead over Ms Long-Bailey and Ms Nandy.

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Hustings had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak and the conference scheduled to announce the winner of the contest also had to be pulled.

Jeremy Corbyn triggered the contest in December after announcing he would step down following Labour’s disastrous performance in the General Election.

Labour lost more than 50 seats, including some traditional constituencies in northern heartlands that turned for the first time to the Conservative Party.

Voters cited continued uncertainty over the party’s stance on Brexit, as well as Mr Corbyn’s leadership, as key reasons pushing them to turn away from the party.

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Varadkar blow: Leo Varadkar suffers ANOTHER election disaster as plea ignored

The Seanad, consisting of 60 senators, is Ireland’s upper house, with the majority elected by outgoing members, plus TDs (equivalent to MPs in the UK), city and county councillors in what is a complex and much-criticised process. Voters for each party elect their own senators – but Fine Gael voters have failed to elect women to three of five vocational panels counted so far. In doing so, they ignored a letter sent by Mr Varadkar – already under pressure as he oversees Ireland’s fight with COVID-19 – to TDs, Senators and councillors prior to voting, in which he urged them to “consider gender balance” when casting their ballots.

If you are not giving at least four of your 10 first and second preferences to female candidates, there is something wrong

Leo Varadkar

He added: “If you are not giving at least four of your 10 first and second preferences to female candidates, there is something wrong.

“We need more women in our parliamentary party to better reflect real Ireland and we need more women in the Seanad to meet the 40 per cent gender quota for the next Dail election.

“If we don’t have more female candidates there will be even fewer slots for male candidates next time out.”

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His pleas were ignored, just months after he was humbled as his Fine Gael party dropped to third place in the Irish general election.

Talks aimed at forming a new Government have dragged on for weeks.

Rules stipulate that the Seanad – which a 2013 referendum narrowly opted against abolishing – is elected via three separate categories – 43 from panels of candidates representing specified vocational interests, six from university panels and the remaining 11 nominated by the Taoiseach.

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The university panels are elected by 160,000 graduates from Trinity College and the Natinal University of Ireland (NUI), with the other panel voted on by roughly 1,000 ex-Senators, TDs, and councillors.

So far, two of Fine Gael’s four outgoing Senators, Gabrielle McFadden from Westmeath and Maria Byrne from Limerick, have been defeated, with Senator Maura Hopkins standing down for family reasons.

Senator Catherine Noone is hoping to win a place on the Industrial and Commercial panel, votes for which have yet to be counted.

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In addition, TD Kate O’Connell was not selected as a candidate and her sister, Mary Newman Julian, despite being a candidate on the Cultural and Educational panel, did not get elected.

The rejection of female candidates makes it likely Mr Varadkar will nominate a large number of women himself if Fine Gael forms the next Irish Government – although with Ireland currently facing enormous disruption as a result of the coronavirus, the situation remains unclear.

More than half of the 43 Senators on the vocational panels have now been decided upon.

Among their number are at least eight former TDs, including Ministers of State Michael D’Arcy and Sean Kyne, as well as Fianna Fail’s Shane Cassells, Pat Casey, Eugene Murphy, Niall Blaney, Lisa Chambers and Malcolm Byrne.

Ex-Sinn Fein Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan also won a seat.

Meanwhile, speaking yesterday, Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael and Fianna Fail could agree a joint government policy document either this week or next.

He explained: “We believe what’s required is a government that is going to last four to five years, which can deal with this crisis, the recovery, and putting our society and economy back together when we’ve got past this health crisis.”

Such a Government would require the support of a third party, he stressed, a process which could take weeks, while emphasising slowing the spread of COVID-19 remained Ireland’s top priority.

Pressed as to whether he would remain Taoiseach in a new Government, Mr Varadkar said the question was being discussed with Fianna Fail and its leader Micheal Martin.

However, he pointed out Fianna Fail had “slightly more seats”, a fact he said he and his party recognised.

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Coronavirus MUTATION: Scientists discover man who was infectious for 49 DAYS – new strain

A team of researchers led by Dr Li Tan, of the General Hospital of Central Theater Command of PLA in Wuhan, made their announcement on medRxiv, a scientific website on to which medical papers are uploaded prior to being printed and scrutinised by peers. Their report details the case of a middle-aged made suffering from COVID-19 who remained contagious for 49 days, something never previously recorded – and may even have formed a “symbiotic relationship” with the virus. His symptoms were mild during all that time – yet he continued to shed the virus, and was eventually injected with the blood of somebody who had fully recovered, after which he shook the disease off.

The man was diagnosed after going to hospital in Wuhan to be tested on February 8, having run a temperature for a week, but suffering no other symptoms.

Swabs tested positive on days 17, 22, 26, 30, 34, 39, 43 and 49, but negative on Day 47, which could have been an aberration.

The average period of viral shedding – the time a sufferer is infectious – is thought to be 20 days, and the longest previously case lasted 37 days.

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Generally speaking the longer a person is infectious for, the more severe the case – but Dr Tan said it did not appear to true in this instance.

The report explains: “Interestingly, contrary to the conclusions above, we here reported one of the non-severe cases has the longest duration of viral shedding.

“The Case 1 only got moderate fever initially and the body temperature rapidly decreased into normal levels without any respiratory failure.”

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Scientists have previously noted the possible existence of two types of COVID-19, labelled L subtype and S subtype.

L is thought to be more common, making up roughly 70 per cent in all patients and is more likely to spread than S type.

However, there are no guarantees the man featured in the study was suffering from either, but possibly a new mutation of the pathogen, Dr Li and his colleagues warned.

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The study authors said: “We cannot assure that Case 1-associated virus belongs to S type, mutated L type or a new subtype.

“We cannot exclude an original new subtype that was not identified.”

As a result, it was possible ‘chronic’ patients with mild symptoms could continue to spread the infection all the while.

The virus and the host may even form a symbiotic relationship

Scientific report

The report added: “The Case 1 may tend to be a chronic infected case without infusion treatment, the virus and the host may even form a symbiotic relationship.

“We wondered how many patients are involved in this situation. One important question is whether and how long this kind of patients remains infectious.

“The other important question is whether the ‘chronic infected patients’ will infect through new route of transmission, such as sexual transmission.

“Moreover, due to the high mutation rate of retrovirus, we should keep close eyes on the status of this kind of patients and the infective ability.”

As a result, it was possible ‘chronic’ patients with mild symptoms could continue to spread the infection all the while.

A separate study, published by Berlin-based virologist Dr Christian Drosten yesterday in scientific journal Nature, found shedding of the coronavirus which caused COVID-19 in the upper respiratory tract occurs most efficiently early on, when patients still have mild symptoms.

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UK lockdown could be relaxed within WEEKS if EVERYONE plays part

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said that if people stick to official government advice then numbers would fall – relieving pressure on the NHS. Offering a glimmer of hope to worried families he told the BBC: “If we all adhere to the measures then there is reason to believe they will begin to flatten the curve and we could see the evidence coming through that the NHS is being able to cope with the situation as best as possible. If that is the case then there may be the potential to relax measures in a sensible way in accordance with medical advice in the weeks and months that would follow that.”

But he warned that the next two weeks will be “critical” as Britain surges towards the peak of the outbreak.

“It’s likely the numbers will get worse in the coming days before they get better,” Mr Jenrick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Some experts have indicated that the worst period of the COVID-19 epidemic could strike between April 6 and April 20.

This is when most deaths are likely to occur.

And Mr Jenrick said the deaths of a 13-year-old and a 19-year-old with coronavirus is a reminder that the disease affects everyone.

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He told BBC Breakfast: “Every death is a tragedy, but two young people dying is even more sobering.

“It does remind us all that this is a virus that’s indiscriminate.

“It doesn’t just affect the elderly, or those who are extremely vulnerable because of their pre-existing conditions, although those people do need to take particular care.

“It can affect all of us and I think many young people have felt, or some young people have felt, almost invincible, and you saw that in some of the scenes a couple of weeks ago of young people out enjoying themselves when we first started to implement some of the social distancing measures.

“I think now everybody in the country understands and appreciates the seriousness of the situation, and is following the medical advice, which is to stay at home, by doing so protect the NHS and help to save lives.

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