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Coronavirus warning from Italy: Effects of COVID-19 could be worse than first thought | World News

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The long-term effects of COVID-19, even on people who suffered a mild infection, could be far worse than was originally anticipated, according to researchers and doctors in northern Italy.

Psychosis, insomnia, kidney disease, spinal infections, strokes, chronic tiredness and mobility issues are being identified in former coronavirus patients in Lombardy, the worst-affected region in the country.

The doctors warn that some victims may never recover from the illness and that all age groups are vulnerable.



Intensive care ward in hospital in Lombardy, Italy







‘It’s a war, it’s a disaster’ – Lombardy hospital struggles to cope

The virus is a systemic infection that affects all the organs of the body, not, as was previously thought, just a respiratory disease, they say.

Some people may find that their ability to properly work, to concentrate, and even to take part in physical activities will be severely impaired.



Italy: The journey of a coronavirus nation







Italy: The journey of a coronavirus nation

The physicians warn that people who do not consider themselves in a vulnerable group and aren’t concerned at contracting the disease could be putting themselves in danger of life-changing illnesses if they ignore the rules to keep safe.

They stress that the need for social distancing, hand washing, and masks is as important now as it ever was.

The warnings come amid growing concerns in northern Italy that a second wave of the virus could be imminent. Doctors in two of the main hospitals in the region have reported a handful of new cases of severely ill people with respiratory problems.

Dr Roberto Cosentini, head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo
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Dr Roberto Cosentini is head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo

Dr Roberto Cosentini, head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, oversaw the response to the virus that swept through this alpine province claiming the lives of at least 6,000 people.

He gave Sky News unprecedented access to the hospital’s emergency rooms in March when the first shocking effects of the virus were broadcast around the world, changing perceptions of the scale of the problem.

Now he is leading efforts to again send a warning across the globe that COVID-19 is a lethal killer that affects the whole body, and is not going away.



A grandfather and daughter reunite







Italians rejoice as lockdown is lifted

“At first, initially, we thought it was a bad flu, then we thought it was a bad flu with a very bad pneumonia, it was the phase when you came here, but subsequently we discovered that it is a systemic illness with vessel damage in the whole body with renal involvement, cerebral involvement,” he told me in the now silent COVID-19 emergency room that was overwhelmed a few months ago.

“So we are seeing other acute manifestations of renal failure that requested dialysis or stroke, and then acute myocardial infarction, so a lot of complications or other manifestations of the virus.

“And also now we see a significant proportion of the population with chronic damage from the virus,” he said.

One of the few positives emerging from the pandemic that caused havoc to the health service here was the creation of a unique environment where doctors and experts in different fields found themselves working together for months, effectively learning new skills. That cooperation is helping the understanding of the virus.

Dr Emanuela Catenacci is a neurosurgeon at Cremona Hospital
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Dr Emanuela Catenacci is a neurosurgeon at Cremona Hospital

Dr Emanuela Catenacci is a neurosurgeon at Cremona Hospital and when we first met her in March she had been co-opted to work on the intensive care wards during the worst of the outbreak.

She is back on neurology, but crucially, whereas in the past she would have treated patients completely independent of other departments, now she can see the link. That link is COVID-19, and it’s a multi-organ killer.

“In our hospital now we have a practice with immunologists, who are checking these patients, especially the most severe, those with the most severe illnesses, and they are checking not only lungs, but all the systemic manifestations of COVID pathology,” she told me.

“The virus is a systemic infection, some of our apparatus organs have the biggest manifestation, such as lungs as we know, but also brain, skin, and sometimes we have vasculitis, so it’s not [just] high respiratory or low respiratory infection, it’s not finished [at] that,” she said.



Naples is deserted as coronvirus lockdown continues







Drone footage shows four locations in Italy where outside activity is not happening.

The Italian doctors’ findings in their patients mirror a recent study carried out at University College London.

Researchers identified serious neurological complications arising from COVID-19 including delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage in 43 people aged 16 to 85.

Some of the patients had experienced no severe breathing problems at all, with the neurological disorder being the first and only sign that they had coronavirus.

An intensive testing and follow up analysis of all survivors has been launched in Bergamo. Teams of doctors examine those who have recovered on a constant basis, trying to track the changing properties of the virus.

Filippo Alcaini and his wife Caterina Belotti
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Filippo Alcaini, pictured with his wife Caterina Belotti, is one of the survivors

Filippo Alcaini, 65, is one of the survivors being tested.

He was intubated in February after becoming severely ill, but recovered. He has been COVID-19 free for four months but he still has problems breathing and has periods of severe exhaustion. He accepts his ongoing condition, but sends a clear warning to people to take care not to catch the virus under any circumstances.

“To those who don’t respect the rules, I wish they could have a week of what I felt, a week of feeling as bad as I have been,” he told me.

“Perhaps then they understand that they cannot underestimate the many warnings and mandatory rules we have been given.”

The doctors carrying out the follow-up and testing programme say they simply do not know enough about the virus to predict what is going to happen next.

Dr Gianluca Imeri
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Dr Gianluca Imeri warns that COVID-19 changes a patient’s body

“It’s something very different, that changes the body of the patient,” Dr Gianluca Imeri explained to me.

“We’ve also seen forms of asthma develop after coronavirus infections. We for sure know the damage of coronavirus is caused by inflammation, and asthma and other respiratory diseases are inflammatory diseases, and there are also some inflammatory diseases in our body that can be developed and triggered by coronavirus.

“Simple coronavirus pneumonia is something that patients will recover completely from, from a radiological point of view, but probably the biggest change is inflammation – I mean we have seen inflammation in all of their bodies, vascular systems, and respiratory systems, so we think we have to tackle inflammation in these patients even when they recover from the acute phase of the disease,” he said.

Cremona Hospital in Italy
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Cremona Hospital in Italy is quieter since the worst of the pandemic

So little is known of the virus that any long-term planning is guess work.

Doctors believe that even the youngest and mildest infected are at risk of their lives being changed forever, and it could take years to become apparent. Whole work forces could become less productive as a consequence.

The advice from Italy is simple: Don’t get infected.

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Belarus: Europe’s last dictatorship could be about to fall because of three women | World News

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This is not the election that the long-time leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, had planned.

The last five were not hard fought. No need when the entire apparatus of the state is busily engaged engineering a slam-dunk majority for the incumbent.

This Sunday was set to be one more token polling day that would see Mr Lukashenko coasting towards his third decade in power.

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko (C), seen in Moscow, is not used to having his hold on power challenged
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Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (C), seen in Moscow, is not used to having his hold on power challenged

It has not turned out that way.

The remarkable charisma and campaign of his three female challengers may even mean this term turns out to be his last.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova are the wives and campaign manager of three presidential candidates barred from running.

They have taken on the mission their menfolk cannot, uniting their efforts behind Ms Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old mother and housewife, to rally the ever-growing opposition behind one voice.

Ms Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei, is a popular YouTube blogger. Maria’s boss, Victor Babariko, is a banker. Both were jailed during the campaign.

Veronika Tsepkalo’s husband, Valery, fearing arrest, fled to Moscow with the couple’s twin boys
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Veronika Tsepkalo’s husband Valery, fearing arrest, fled to Moscow with the couple’s twin boys

Veronika’s husband, Valery, is a former ambassador to the US and key figure in the Belarusian IT sector.

He has had to flee to Moscow with the couple’s twin boys after they felt the state circling.

“When you receive information from two independent sources about plans to arrest you and to take your kids from you on the false charges that we were bad parents, we decided,” he told me as he took his sons to see the Kremlin for the first time.

The children of opposition candidates have been taken away before and put into state orphanages.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has also had to send her children to Europe to keep them safe.

Nothing is worth that risk.

Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya waves to supporters at a rally in July
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Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at a rally in July

Sky News was refused accreditation to cover the elections so we commissioned a film-maker inside Belarus to document the women’s campaign.

It is a fly-on-the-wall look at the spirit which drives them and which has so captured the hearts of their fellow countrymen.

“So many times in this campaign I was close to quitting,” Ms Tikhanovskaya told a crowd of tens of thousands in the city of Mogilev.

“I’m not a public person and I’m a weak person to face the actions of the government towards me as a mother and a wife.

“But just the belief that you people are together as a nation, you have helped me get through this.”

Supporters of presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya copy the three womns' hand gestures at a rally in the town of Maladzechna
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Supporters of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya copy the campaign’s hand gestures

They have drawn crowds never before seen in post-Soviet Belarus: 60,000 in the capital Minsk last week, tens of thousands in each of the towns and cities they have toured.

It has been a gruelling schedule for political novices and the stress is clear to see.

But it is their emotional candour and resolve which has given hope to the millions in Belarus desperate for change.

“I am just the same, un self-confident person I was,” Ms Tikhanovskaya told Sky News.

“But this is my mission – I have to overcome all these difficulties and bring our country to a free future and become a mother and wife again.

“People say that usually women are weak. Maybe we are. But when there is need, when our duty calls us and we have to be strong, we are.”

Massive crowds, like this one in Minsk in July, have turned out to supporters presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
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Massive crowds, like this one in Minsk in July, have turned out to support presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Their agenda is simple: free the political prisoners and, if Ms Tikhanovskaya wins, hold free and fair elections within six months.

Since early May, the human rights group Viasna estimates about 1,300 people have been detained for protesting against the regime.

Scenes of entirely unjustified police brutality make it clear why Belarus still deserves the name Europe’s last dictatorship.

At a rally in the city of Babrysk, a schoolteacher gave her summary of what it is to live in Belarus.

She had spent a year and a half in detention on false charges, she said, but had no hesitation about speaking out.

“It’s a country of total deception. On TV they say one thing and in reality it’s different,” she said.

“In Babrysk all the factories stopped working, people have no money to live – the hunger will bring them to the streets.

“That’s how we live and we don’t want to live like this.”

(L-R) Veronika Tsepkalo, presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova campaigning in Minsk in July
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(L-R) Veronika Tsepkalo, presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova campaigning in Minsk in July

COVID-19 has exacerbated the discontent.

Mr Lukashenko first denied its existence, advocating vodka and banyas (steam baths) as treatment while his people died, only to admit recently he’d had an asymptomatic case himself.

Civil society has stepped in where the state would not, delivering supplies to hospitals across the country. It has made people realise they can make a difference.

The president appears increasingly desperate.

In a strange incident last week, 33 alleged mercenaries from the Russian private military company Wagner were arrested in a sanatorium outside Minsk.

According to the Belarusian KGB, they had raised suspicions because they were not drinking alcohol as regular Russian tourists would.

Moscow says they were in transit. Mr Lukashenko claims they are part of a plot to foment a colour revolution in Minsk.

He told a Ukrainian journalist on Friday that he would take up arms against “hybrid aggression” if all other options were exhausted.

It is unlikely to come to that. Ms Tikhanovskaya’s team has no desire to provoke unrest.

Alexander Lukashenko (pictured here with Vladimir Putin) is against imposing strict coronavirus measures
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Alexander Lukashenko (pictured here with Vladimir Putin) was against imposing strict coronavirus measures

Moscow has neither the will nor the wherewithal to involve themselves in a power grab in Minsk.

Mr Lukashenko’s imagination seems to be running wild as he realises his popular support has vanished.

But that does not mean a polling defeat. The members of local electoral committees across the country have jobs to keep and families to look after.

Reporting the true voting tally risks all that.

Furthermore, the elites are entrenched in Belarus. They will not allow for this election to end in anything other than a foregone conclusion even if the winds of change are beginning to blow.

The fairytale has a few more hours to run before polls close on Sunday evening.

The people of Belarus recognise there will be no happy ending this time round.

But they know too that something in the stagnant politics of the last two decades has shifted, thanks to three brave women who refuse to let an old school autocrat break their families or their country.

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Policeman tracks down man who shot him in the stomach – 46 years after his escape from prison | World News

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A policeman shot in the stomach in 1971 has tracked down the man who did it – 46 years after he escaped from prison.

Luis Archuleta, 77, was arrested in Espanola, New Mexico on Wednesday – 49 years after he shot police officer Daril Cinquanta in Denver, the FBI said.

Archuleta, also known as Larry Pusateri, shot the officer after he was pulled over to check his ID and the two got into a fight.

Two years later, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and sent to prison, but he escaped from the Colorado Department of Corrections facility in 1974.

A warrant was put out for his arrest in 1977 but he was never found. It expired in 2018.

Mr Cinquanta never stopped investigating – constantly making phone calls and knocking on doors in a bid to trace the man who shot him.

Recently he got a phone call from an anonymous tipster who said: “I’ve thought about it, and I’m gonna tell you where the guy is who shot you”, he told KUSA-TV.

An arrest warrant was put out for Archuleta and police found him living 20 miles from Santa Fe under the name Ramon Montoya – an alias he had been using for about 40 years.

He is now being transferred to a prison back in Colorado, where Mr Cinquanta hopes to meet him.

The former police officer said: “I would love to sit down and talk to him. He may or may not talk to me. Who knows?”

Michael Schneider, FBI Denver special agent, added: “This arrest should send a clear signal to violent offenders everywhere: The FBI will find you, no matter how long it takes or how far you run, and we will bring you to justice.”

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Coronavirus: Vaccine may only be 50% effective, US disease expert warns | World News

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An approved coronavirus vaccine may only end up being effective 50% of the time, the top US infectious diseases expert has warned.

The chances of a COVID-19 vaccine being almost 100% effective are “not great”, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Friday.

“We don’t know yet what the efficacy might be. We don’t know if it will be 50% or 60%. I’d like it to be 75% of more,” he told a Brown University webinar.

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Dr Fauci warned that the “public health approach must never be abandoned”, as it may prove near impossible to develop a vaccine that is as high as 98% effective.

This means Americans should maintain social distancing and wear face coverings in enclosed spaces or large crowds to stop the spread of the virus.

On Friday, the US drugs regulator revealed independent experts would have to review any vaccine before it is approved.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it would organise an outside advisory committee before giving the green light, in an apparent bid to reassure people it will not cut corners in the race to offer immunity.

Dr Fauci also urged states to react as quickly as possible to increases of just 1% or 2% in coronavirus cases.

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Dr Fauci is also urging US states to react quickly to small increases in cases

It comes after the US death toll surpassed 160,000 with 4.91 million cases reported nationwide.

The US accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s virus deaths, in front of Brazil, Mexico and the UK, which have the next highest numbers of fatalities.

States are currently considering whether schools should reopen in the coming weeks.

Several – including California, Texas and Florida – have had to go back into lockdown after large spikes in cases.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was forced to accept his Wisconsin nomination virtually in the latest virus setback to the November election.

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