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Coronavirus: Inside Bergamo – the epicentre of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world | World News

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The bridge takes you across the Po river and into Lombardy, another hour or so through the now deserted streets of the fashion and industry power house of Milan, and on to the medieval city of Bergamo.

It is an easy drive on deserted roads.

Just one thing niggles on your brain and makes you twitch as you touch your face or sanitise your hands – you are driving in to the epicentre of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world at the moment where more people have died than anywhere else, even in China.

The initial outbreak here wasn’t understood and wasn’t controlled.



Mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori







Italian mayor’s warning to UK over COVID-19

What is less clear is why so many people are dying. It is probably because they have an old population and a culture of close contact.

But as a punter driving into the storm that isn’t exactly science. It’s more a feeling. It’s definitely not awfully comforting.

I’ve been tasked with trying to see how this country, this region, this city is dealing with this deadly pandemic.

In Bergamo, the sound of ambulance and emergency vehicle sirens is a constant.

The city has been in lockdown for days as the number dead continues to rise
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The city has been in lockdown for days as the number dead continues to rise

The drivers and the medics are always in full hazmat suits.

There is a lockdown, there are no traffic accidents or day to day injuries to speak of, the emergencies are all to do with the outbreak.

They are rushing to pick up the latest victims and to rush them to already over flowing hospitals to try and save lives.

It is often a losing battle.

The old walled city of Bergamo is one of the most beautiful of the many I have visited in northern Italy.

But the virus swept through here in days.

Bergamo
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Residents in masks in Bergamo

The ancient narrow roads are absolutely empty. It probably looks very much as it did when the plague visited this region centuries ago. It feels like the plague, or how I always imagined it would, as a history student decades ago.

Few people venture outside. They do to buy essential supplies. Mainly they stay at home.

Everyone here knows someone who has died or is ill. Everyone is scared.

I called out to Francesca Cassinelli as she scuttled towards her home, nervous, tired and strung-out.

The region has a large older population
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The region has a large older population

She told me that the lockdown was hard but that everyone accepted it had to take place. Like so many people here she said she had seen the TV and asked why people in Britain are not doing the same as her and indeed all of Italy.

She was cheerful and stoic until I asked her if she knew people who were ill.



Sky's Stuart Ramsay was invited in to the scale of the crisis







Sky News goes to the town at the centre of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy.

“Unfortunately yes, it is painful you cannot say goodbye. It is painful that they are on their own. I feel very sad. There is sadness everywhere,” she paused, apologising, as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Seeing friends and relatives dying slowly, seeing people that are doing such an important job saving peoples’ lives, and seeing that they cannot be saved anyway, it’s heartbreaking,” she told me before continuing on her way to continue self-isolation.

Here they believe that the only way to stop the speed of the virus is to close everything down. Only essential shops are open. All acknowledge it is hard but it is, according to the experts here, the only solution.

Mayor of Bergamo, Georgio Gori has been tasked with dealing with the crisis
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Mayor of Bergamo Giorgio Gori has been tasked with dealing with the crisis

The man tasked with dealing with this crisis, while protecting his family and leading his community, is the Mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori.

He paused to speak to me in the central courtyard of one the cities magnificent public buildings.

He is handsome and dignified – and exhausted.

 
In Bergamo, the sound of ambulance and emergency vehicle sirens is a constant.
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In Bergamo, the sound of ambulance and emergency vehicle sirens is a constant.

He imposed the lockdown and stands by it.

He told me he wants the world to see what has happened here and to learn from it.

They do not want to be guinea pigs of experience learned. But they accept that they are.

What he is in absolute incredulous exasperation about is the failure of countries, and he singles out Britain, for failing to use the time they have had to see what has happened in Bergamo and put in all the measures necessary to make sure it isn’t replicated again.

“I have two daughters, they are studying in England, one in Taunton in college and the other in Canterbury, she’s doing a Masters,” he told me.

“And when I saw what the English government was thinking about this problem, I decided to bring them back because I think that even if we are at the centre of the epidemic probably they are more secure here than in England, because I don’t understand why the government didn’t decide in time to protect their citizens.”

The vast majority of those dying here are in the high risk elderly group.

We bought one of the local papers and turned to the obituaries page. Usually it’s barely a page. Now the obituaries fill over 10 pages of single photograph portraits. And that is every day.



Obituaries in a Local Paper Show the Huge Increase in Deaths in Northern Italy







Italy: Obituaries show huge surge in virus deaths

Getting some sun having ventured out for the first time in days, I met a couple both aged 73, Serena and Michele. They never leave each other and they meet no-one.

They told me to step away as I approached, but were prepared to tell me of their fears. I asked if they were scared.

“Still now,” said Serena.

“Because we are in a place where the infection and deaths are increasing at the moment.”

Michele added: “We are trying not to panic.”

We asked them for a still photograph. Standing a metre apart they posed for us.

“It is so odd not being able to touch my husband,” Serena said smiling.

The number of dead here continues to rise. The authorities do not believe they have reached the peak yet.

At the city cemetery, times are strictly allocated for the funerals of loved ones to take place. There is a huge backlog.

We watched as a family gathered, most in masks, waiting to be allowed inside. They walked behind a hearse into the burial gardens watched on by staff all in masks and wearing gloves. They are allowed to break the curfew to pay their last respects.

I couldn’t help but think that this is a family and a funeral we know nothing about. But many of us will likely experience what they are going through as well, and very soon.

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Coronavirus: ‘She took her last breath in my arms’ – A personal tragedy as US COVID-19 deaths hit 100,000 | US News

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In a matter of months, 100,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in the United States – nearly triple that of any other country.

America never wanted to lead the world this way. The unfathomable milestone is one of this country’s most tragic and indelible.

Each death took away unique experiences and stories: some well told; most unsung.

Leilani Jordan
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Leilani Jordan was just 27 when she died

People have died in every state and from every walk of life.

Leilani Jordan was a 27-year-old supermarket worker who put her heart and soul into her job. Coronavirus only strengthened her resolve to help those in need.

Her mum, Zenobia Shepherd, says her daughter, who loved butterflies, had an inbuilt instinct to help people.

“She said to me, ‘Mommy, nobody is showing up for work. I have to help the senior citizens, the elderlies’.”

Ms Shepherd added: “Many of them can barely walk – leaning over shopping carts. And although (Leilani) had her own disabilities, she would go out of her way to help them to get and find what they needed.

“Because she knew sign language she could even talk to and help those that could not talk. So she loved helping and being needed by others.”

Zenobia Shepherd says she would do anything to have her daughter back
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Zenobia Shepherd says she would do anything to have her daughter back

Leilani kept going until the day she could no longer breathe. Unlike the thousands robbed of proper goodbyes, Leilani was in her mother’s arms when she passed away.

“I would do anything in this world if I could have my baby back,” Ms Shepherd said.

“My butterfly is gone. She’s flown away to heaven. I have to wait until my time to go see her.”

She added: “I was there when she went to CCU. She took her last breath in my arms. My hands, my last touch, touching her body, as it was warm… It was her last breath.”

Ms Shepherd is now living on memories of her daughter’s singing, her love of the beach and all things purple.

She has some comfort in Leilani’s support dog and best friend, Angel, who now sleeps at the front door, waiting for Leilani to return.

Zenobia was able to visit Leilani in hospital
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Ms Shepherd was able to visit Leilani in hospital

Ms Shepherd has two young daughters who make a video for their sister each day – telling her how much they love her.

Deaths in America have been disproportionately high in black communities, revealing long standing health and socio-economic disparities.

Ms Shepherd is now focusing her grief on the urgent need for protections for essential workers like her daughter.

“I want to help other people that aren’t being helped,” she said. “The situation is we’ve got to do a better job, a better job of protecting – protecting and keeping them safe.”

Leilani's younger sisters at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery
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Leilani’s younger sisters at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery

After Leilani’s death, she received her daughter’s final paycheck in the post. The amount was a gut punch: $20.63.

“I think that families, people that have certain front line jobs need to get paid more money,” she said. “They need to have bonuses during this time.”

Like every American, Ms Shepherd is desperate for this situation to end: “I wish this whole thing would go away. Just go to space and leave us alone.

“If only (we) could have been ahead of it a little bit. The death toll may not have been so high and growing.”

Leilani Jordan
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Leilani loved to help people, her mum says

As the daughter of a military family, Leilani shares her final resting place with fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.

Coronavirus has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

Those lives lost in past battles are marked by the seemingly endless symmetry of white headstones. Ms Shepherd knows that is where she will come on every occasion Leilani loved so much: Christmas and Halloween, and each birthday she would have celebrated with her usual joy.

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So much death has largely been unseen. For a nation living in isolation it is perhaps harder to share a collective sense of grief – even harder to tune out of the ongoing political noise of this crisis.

But make no mistake: America is engulfed in tragedy, and with no cure or vaccine, this is not the end.

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Historic US space launch that would have been visible from UK aborted | Science & Tech News

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An historic US space flight that would have been visible from the UK was aborted shortly before launch due to bad weather.

NASA announced the decision on safety grounds just minutes before lift-off on Wednesday – with the flight now not happening until at least the weekend.

The mission had been planned in conjunction with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX – and it would have been the first private involvement in taking astronauts to the International Space Station.

The massive Vehicle Assembly Building is shrouded in fog as stormy weather greeted launch day at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 27, 2020. - A new era in space begins Wednesday with the launch by SpaceX of two NASA astronauts into space, a capability that for six decades symbolized the power of a handful of states, and which the United States itself had been deprived of for nine years.If the bad weather clears, at 4:33 pm (20:33 GMT) a SpaceX rocket with the new Crew Dragon capsule on
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Weather conditions forced NASA to postpone the SpaceX launch

The US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron had forecast between a 40% and 60% chance of favourable conditions at the launch site in Florida.

Throughout the day weather conditions became worse, with a tropical storm initially threatening the launch before a tornado warning was issued.

NASA has stringent rules about the conditions in which the Falcon 9 can fly, and said one of these rules was being violated just minutes before the launch.

The earliest the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft could now launch is this weekend, with potential windows available on both Saturday and Sunday.

Falcon 9 rockets are not allowed to launch for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within 10 nautical miles of the launch pad and flight path.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain praised the SpaceX and NASA teams for “making the tough call” to postpone the mission.

“We all wanted a launch, but keeping our friends safe while we do it is a no-fail mission,” Ms McClain said, adding: “See you again Saturday.”

President Trump flew to Florida to watch the launch
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President Trump flew to Florida to watch the launch

Although Donald Trump flew down to Florida to watch the launch, it being postponed means that the last president to be present at a NASA launch was Bill Clinton.

Barack Obama had flown to the Kennedy Space Centre for a space shuttle launch in 2010, but that launch was scrubbed due to a technical problem.

He didn’t return for the rescheduled launch a number of weeks later.

It isn’t clear whether Mr Trump will be back in Florida on Saturday.

There are 15 names on the Space Mirror Memorial. Pic: John Owen
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There are 15 names on the Space Mirror Memorial. Pic: John Owen

Just a few miles away from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Centre there is a Space Mirror Memorial.

It commemorates the 15 NASA astronauts who lost their lives while in service to the agency during a spaceflight.

No names will be added to that memorial due to decisions made today.

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Russian fighter jets ‘unsafely’ intercept US plane over Mediterranean Sea | World News

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The US has accused two Russian fighter jets of “unsafely” intercepting one of its patrol planes over the Mediterranean Sea.

Two Russian SU-35 jets flew alongside the P-8A Poseidon for one hour and four minutes on Tuesday, the US defence department said.

The jets stopped the US 6th Fleet plane from being able to manoeuvre properly, making the intercept “unsafe and unprofessional”, it added.

It is the second time in three months the US has complained of unwanted interceptions by Russian planes in the same area.

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A defence department spokesman said that while the intercept happened in international airspace, Russia’s behaviour was “irresponsible”.

A statement said: “Actions‎ like these increase the potential for midair collisions.”

Russia has not yet commented.

The US 6th Fleet is headquartered in Naples, Italy, where it works to “advance US national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa”.

Russia deploys military fighter aircraft to Libya. Pic: U.S. Africa Command
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Satellite images appeared to a show a Russian plane in Libya. Pic: US Africa Command

It comes after the US also accused Russia of sending fighter jets to Libya to support Russian mercenaries there, after satellite images showed a Russian Mig-29 on an airfield near Tripoli.

It is believed they were providing air support to forces led by General Haftar in their fight against the internationally recognised Government of National Accord.

Haftar’s forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), are being supported by The Wagner Group, a Russian-backed mercenary outfit.

Although those images have been circling for days, the US has now said it is confident the jet is Russian and can only have come on the orders of Moscow.

The Kremlin has again not commented on the issue.

It was also reported this week by Russian media that the country had begun construction of its first prototype stealth bomber aircraft.

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