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Coronavirus outbreak: Why the number of COVID-19 cases has suddenly shot up | World News

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Overnight, the number of people confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus in China rose by a third.

More than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 were added, bringing the total to over 60,000, with more than 1,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins CSSE.

The word out of China was that the spread of the coronavirus had not suddenly accelerated – but that technical advances had made spotting it more effective.

The surge was the result of adopting a new testing process, according to the Chinese authorities, using more sophisticated equipment to help spot when a suspected case was real.

But it is understood that health authorities in the centre of the outbreak – in Hubei – have also started to use a wider range of symptoms as a basis for deciding who is a confirmed case.

Initially, the focus was said to be on those who showed signs of pneumonia. Now, it is understood those who show other symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are also being included.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: “It is our current understanding that the new case definition widens the net, and includes not only lab-confirmed cases but also clinically diagnosed cases based on symptoms and exposure.”

He added that the Geneva-based United Nations health agency was seeking “further clarity” from China about recent updates to the way it defines cases.

The disease was first identified after a number of people mysteriously began to fall ill with pneumonia, in the Hubei city of Wuhan.

But, before pneumonia occurs, and in people who are symptomatic but may not develop pneumonia, COVID-19 can often cause a fever, a dry cough and other effects.

Problems with the availability of testing equipment required to identify coronavirus emerged soon after the outbreak began to mushroom.

Science publications have reported on shortages of testing kits, with manufacturers failing to keep pace with the rocketing numbers of cases. It has also been suggested that Hubei suffers from a lack of laboratory staff trained to use them.

A boy wears a cardboard box on his head at the Shanghai Railway station
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A boy wears a cardboard box on his head at the Shanghai Railway station

Professor Choi Jae-wook, from the Korea Medical Association, said: “The reason the Chinese health authorities decided to change the diagnostic procedure by including the clinical diagnosis, I assume, is because they lack diagnostic kits, delaying treatment of those with symptoms.

“And since only a few companies are making these testing kits in such a short period of time, the authorities cannot rely on their quality.

“I don’t think the move was long overdue. We are still in the early stage of the epidemic.”

The tests kits allow technicians to look for tiny snippets of genetic material in bodily fluids taken during swabs that are the signature features of the coronavirus.

But they only work if the disease is sufficiently advanced in a patient.

So far, scientists do not know the number of infected people who display no symptoms.

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said the sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases was as a result of a new, quicker diagnostic method using computerised tomography (CT) scans.

The NHC said it had diagnosed 13,332 of the new infections using the new equipment.

CT scanners, which are often used in the UK to check for cancer, had revealed lung infections, the Hubei health commission said, and enabled confirmation and faster isolation of new virus cases.

Hubei’s authorities had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by the RNA tests, which can take days to process.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is a type of genetic material similar to DNA, and exists in all organisms like viruses.

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Coronavirus: Britain beware – Israel living the consequences of trying to return to normal | World News

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I live in Israel.

It is a country praised for the way it handled the coronavirus outbreak in March. There was clear guidance and a swift, hard, lockdown.

But it is now a place living the consequences of trying to return to normal.

People wear masks on a train in central Jerusalem
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People wearing masks on a train in central Jerusalem

In the UK, Boris Johnson says “we are very much through the worst” of the pandemic.

While we all dearly hope he is right, there are salutary lessons to learn by looking at the experiences of others battling this global virus.

Is Israel’s curve on the graph a warning for us all? Cases here are now at their highest-ever level.

It’s just over a month since Israelis were allowed back to bars, restaurants, beaches and shops.

I remember the euphoria clearly, and I shared it.

Our favourite restaurants were open once again and the beach our kids love was accessible at last.

Friends back in the UK were envious of our freedom: “You’re going camping?!”

I remember too the mixed emotions as I drove down a packed Tel Aviv promenade. It was great to see so many people out again. Normality. But what would this mean for the virus? Its habitat had returned.



Restaurants have opened in Jerusalem using social distancing measures







How to social distance in a cafe

There were regulations in an attempt to block the virus. Masks were made mandatory in all public places: inside and out. The washing of hands, the two-metre rule and restrictions for large gatherings were all central to the Israeli armour.

On the morning bars and cafes were allowed to reopen we visited a Jerusalem coffee shop and were impressed by the way they were sticking to the regulations.

But as the days passed, human nature set in. Masks were routinely round the chin, not the face. Two metres quickly turned into one, then half. And as the weather turned hotter, the beaches became even more crowded.

We’ve already seen the images of packed English beaches. This weekend’s images of pints being pulled in packed pubs will for many be very comforting; normality returning.



TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - APRIL 19: Israelis light flash lights as they protest at a rally in Rabin Square on April 19, 2020 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Thousands of Israelis gather at an Anti-Corruption rally under coronavirus restrictions, decrying proposed unity government talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz.  (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)







Israeli protesters follow strict social distancing

But beware, the UK is a few weeks behind Israel. At the beginning of this week, Israel (a country of only 8.6m people) had 450 new cases.

By Thursday night it was recording 1,000 new cases – the most it has ever recorded in a single day. The peak now is higher than the first one.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement to the nation on Thursday evening was blunt.

“Citizens of Israel, the corona crisis is continuing to hit the world,” he said.

“There were those here who took this lightly. They said that the virus would go away on its own, but it has not gone away. They said, ‘In summer, the heat will eliminate the virus’. However, reality has proven this assumption to be baseless. Summer is here and so is the virus in a big way, unfortunately.”

In the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, a full five-day total lockdown has now been re-imposed.

Across Israel, new local lockdowns are being put in place.

As I write, most cases are mild but serious cases seem to be doubling every few days. Hospital overload is the fear.

Benjamin Netanyahu
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Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the virus ‘has not gone away’

Mr Netanyahu said: “I want to tell you, citizens of Israel: The easiest thing to do would be to leave the situation as is, everything open, everyone apparently satisfied, but if we do this, we will very quickly lose control because the rate is exponential, geometric.

“What seems to you reasonable now would become thousands and tens of thousands of new cases. We cannot go there. If we do not take action, in another week we will have a record number of cases that includes more and more severe cases – and I do not want to reach the same hermetic shutdown that we were in.”

As countries globally tackle their own crises and prepare their own responses, the tendency is to look only inward and not around us.

But this is a global crisis. We are all in it together. There is huge benefit, surely, in sharing our experiences and learning from others.

In Israel, the lockdown was rightly lifted. But then the armour against the virus fell away fast: the masks slipped down, the distancing got smaller, the gatherings grew larger.

We are suffering the consequences now.

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Carbon monoxide ‘likely’ to have affected New Year’s Eve crash pilot | World News

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A pilot whose seaplane crashed in 2017 killing five Britons is likely to have had his ability to fly impaired by carbon monoxide, according to investigators.

British businessman Richard Cousins, the chief executive of the world’s largest contract catering company Compass, was killed along with his two sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, his fiancee Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter Heather, during a New Year’s Eve sightseeing trip near Sydney which ended in tragedy.

The de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, piloted by Canadian Gareth Morgan, who also died, plunged into the Hawkesbury River off Jerusalem Bay, 25 miles north of Sydney, after picking the family group up from an exclusive restaurant.

Richard Cousins, Will Cousins, Ed Cousins, Emma and Heather Bowden
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Richard Cousins (top left), Edward Cousins (top right), Will Cousins (bottom left) and Emma and Heather Bowden

Releasing an update on the investigation, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said blood tests indicated the pilot and two of the passengers had elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

The bureau’s chief commissioner Greg Hood said: “From … consultation with medical experts, and research into the effects of carbon monoxide on aircraft operations, the ATSB considers the levels of carbon monoxide were likely to have adversely affected the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft.”

A preliminary report from 2018 said the plane came down away from the expected and standard flight path, crashing in a near-vertical position.

At the time, Aaron Shaw, chief executive of operator Sydney Seaplanes, said the aircraft “simply should not have been where it was” and that the manoeuvres prior to the crash were “inexplicable”.

As part of the ATSB investigation, the aircraft has been examined and there have been attempts to replicate the potential source of carbon monoxide and its entry into the aircraft cabin.

They found pre-existing cracking of part of the engine exhaust, which could lead to leakage into the engine bay.

Mr Hood added: “This investigation is ongoing, and our final report, which will contain specific findings, is anticipated to be released in coming months, so we are limited in discussing specific details.

“However, if at any time during an investigation, should the ATSB identify issues that are critical to safety, we will immediately notify relevant stakeholders so proactive safety action can be taken to help prevent similar occurrences.”

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France: Jean Castex named new prime minister as Emmanuel Macron seeks to win back voters | World News

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France’s new prime minister has been named as Jean Castex following the resignation of Edouard Philippe, triggering a government reshuffle.

Speculation had been growing that a shake-up at the Elysee Palace was imminent – with French President Emmanuel Macron seeking to boost his green credentials and win back disillusioned voters.

Mr Philippe had actually seen his popularity increase significantly in recent weeks – despite French authorities facing criticism over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Edouard Philippe
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Edouard Philippe had served as prime minister since 2017

Nonetheless, rumours over his future had swirled since mid-June, when Mr Macron declared he wanted to “reinvent” his presidency.

In French government reshuffles, the prime minister tenders his or her resignation ahead of cabinet appointments, but can still be renamed to the position.

However, the Elysee Palace has announced the relatively low-profile Mr Castex, who coordinated France‘s COVID-19 reopening strategy, as the new officer-holder.

It will be a big political gamble for Mr Macron to replace Mr Philippe, who is more popular with the public than the
president.

More from Emmanuel Macron

His resignation could create a potential rival for Mr Macron, who is seeking to be re-elected in 2022.

Mr Macron has paid tribute to Mr Phillippe’s “outstanding work” in the past three years.

Mr Macron's party was defeated in major cities during Sunday's local election
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Mr Macron’s party was defeated in major cities during Sunday’s local election

The president is seeking to open a new chapter for the two remaining years of his term that will focus on efforts to relaunch the French economy deeply hit by COVID-19.

In local elections on Sunday, Mr Macron’s young centrist party faced defeat in France’s biggest cities as a green wave swept over the country.

In an interview given to several local newspapers on Thursday, Mr Macron, said he was seeking a “new path” to rebuild the country during the rest of his term.

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