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Coronavirus: UK doubles intensive care beds on Falkland islands | World News

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Britain is sending military medics and specialist kit to double the intensive care capacity on the Falkland Islands because of the global coronavirus pandemic, Sky News can reveal.

The six-strong team, with equipment for two intensive care beds, is expected to arrive on the British overseas territory on Tuesday.

Other medical supplies are also being dispatched as a precaution on the 8,000-mile journey from the UK to the South Atlantic archipelago, including additional oxygen, face masks and medication.

“We are making sure our people are looked after wherever they are in the world,” a source with knowledge of the plan said.

The Falkland Islands, home to around 3,000 islanders and a base for about 1,300 British forces, has not yet had a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

However, a number of islanders are displaying suspected symptoms, including a child who is in one of just two existing intensive care beds at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in the islands’ capital Stanley – the only hospital on the Falklands. It is here that the new medical team and intensive care beds will be based.

Around 1,300 British military personnel are stationed at Mount Pleasant
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Around 1,300 British military personnel are stationed at Mount Pleasant

Sky News understands that some 25 people – a combination of military personnel and family members – are also suffering possible coronavirus symptoms at Mount Pleasant, a large British base on East Falkland, set up after the 1982 war with Argentina.

They have been put in isolation as a precaution, though an initial batch of coronavirus tests came back as negative.

Major-General Julian Thompson, who played a leading role in repelling Argentine forces from the Falklands almost 40 years ago, said Britain’s defences could be compromised by a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the military.

“If you get it badly you are going to end up with a lot of guys ill and not fit to defend the place,” he said.

British troops going into combat during the 1982 Falklands War
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British troops going into combat during the 1982 Falklands War

The military is looking to fly some service personnel, civil servants and contractors, who are deemed particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, back to Britain to reduce the burden on the limited medical capacity at the base should an outbreak occur.

A small number of islanders may also choose to use the Royal Air Force airbridge that runs twice-weekly between Mount Pleasant and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Alongside the 1,300 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Royal Marines stationed at Mount Pleasant are hundreds of contractors and a contingent of civil servants.

The base houses a detachment of fast jets, along with their airborne refuelling tanker, able to scramble at any time in response to any threat. It also has a Radar array that has to be constantly manned.

A contingent of four 4 RAF FGR4 Typhoons are stationed at Mount Pleasant
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A contingent of four 4 RAF FGR4 Typhoons are stationed at Mount Pleasant

As part of military planning for COVID-19, the Ministry of Defence has signalled that special precautions will be taken to ensure service personnel conducting critical security tasks in the UK and around the world are able to work.

This includes either putting people in isolation to reduce their chances of falling sick or – for those moving into or out of a country – to spend a fortnight in quarantine on either side.

Major-General Thompson believes Argentina may still try to take advantage of the global health crisis to score points against Britain over the territory.

He said: “They might try and exploit it in perhaps in a subtle way – ‘isn’t it better for you to be close to us? We can help you. We can take you into our hospitals, it’s much easier. We are only 300 miles away instead of 8,000 miles away. We can send our doctors across to you. Wouldn’t it be much better if you cuddle up to us instead of belonging to those people 8,000 miles away’.”

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Argentina did offer support last week, telling Britain’s ambassador to Buenos Aires that it was ready to send food, medical supplies and coronavirus test kits to the Falklands.

A diplomatic source described the gesture as more “political” than humanitarian.

The Falkland Islands government has imposed strict new measures on islanders to try to stop any spread of the disease in case coronavirus is confirmed.

All schools and nurseries closed on Friday until at least the start of the new term in May and everyone, except those deemed critical workers, has been told to stay at home.

About a sixth of the population is classed as high-risk, mainly those over 70 with underlying health conditions.

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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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