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Boris Johnson admits he is concerned by Leicester outbreak as lockdown looks set to remain in the city



There has been more than one million cases of Covid-19 in the 22 countries of the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean region, the WHO confirmed on Sunday.

As of 11:00 on Sunday, 1,025,478 cases and 23,461 deaths have been recorded from the region, which spans from Morocco to Pakistan.

While cases in Europe have been largely declining, several countries in the region have been seeing increases in the number of cases and deaths. Countries recently reporting increases in cases include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, occupied Palestinian territory and Oman.

The WHO said it is especially concerned about the spread of the virus in war-torn countries such as Syria, Yemen and Libya due to poor infrastructure and fragile health systems vastly weakened by conflict. In all countries, it said, there is still a clear need for expansion of testing and more accurate reporting of cases and deaths to inform targeted responses.

Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO’s regional director for the region, said: “This is a very concerning milestone. As shops, restaurants, mosques, businesses, airports and other public places begin to open up, we need to be more vigilant and cautious than ever before. One million people have been infected, tens of thousands have died, and many more are still at risk in our region.

“We cannot relax our efforts. In fact, many countries lifting restrictions are seeing marked increases in cases, which signifies the need to accelerate public health response measures. Communities must remain vigilant and play a key role in keeping themselves and their countries safe.”





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Justin Trudeau ‘shocked’ by video of indigenous chief being punched by police in Canada



Justin Trudeau has called for an independent investigation after a “shocking” video showing the arrest of an indigenous chief by federal police in Canada.

The video, filmed and released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, shows an officer rushing at Chief Allan Adam on March 10 during an encounter over an expired licence plate. The officer tackles Mr Adam and punches him in the face.

“We’ve all now seen the shocking video of Chief Adam’s arrest and we must get to the bottom of this,” the Canadian Prime Minister told a daily briefing.

“Like many people I have serious questions about what happened,” Mr Trudeau said. “The independent investigation must be transparent and be carried out so that we get answers.”

In the dashcam video (below) broadcast by several Canadian media, Mr Adam has a heated exchange with a police officer outside a casino in the province of Alberta.



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How do coronavirus home antibody tests work, and how do I get one?



The Elecsys laboratory-based test requires a blood sample to be taken by a health professional. Blood serums are obtained, to which reagents are added, and then examined in machines known as cobas e analysers, already widely installed in NHS labs across the country.

The development of an accurate antibody test is seen as key to helping Britain get back to work.

Scientists believe people who produce antibodies after having coronavirus may develop immunity to catching the virus again, making them safe to return to work.

Dr Ron Daniels, a consultant in critical care at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, says: “If you test positive for antibodies, it’s likely you have a degree of immunity. We’re not sure for how long, and how much, so you shouldn’t stop [social] distancing, but best guess it is likely to be partially protective for at least a few months.”

The Government had previously hoped to roll out millions of antibody tests, but supplies from China failed to pass sensitivity and specificity tests. 

Ministers will attempt to recoup taxpayers’ money spent on the fingerprick tests after an Oxford University trial found they returned inaccurate results.

That failure was a significant setback because it had been hoped the antibody tests would show who had already built up immunity, therefore offering a swifter route out of lockdown.

In April, however, Professor Karol Sikora, a private oncologist and Dean of Medicine at the University of Buckingham, validated a test kit using samples from staff at his clinics, which were then verified by a private lab.

Around 6 per cent of staff were found to have had the virus but, crucially, under-40s who had tested positive came back negative, suggesting the test may not be useful for the wider population. 

Siemens Healthineers, a German diagnostics and medical imaging firm, also announced on April 23 that it was producing an antibody blood test to identify past coronavirus infections.

The blood tests were expected to be available to large labs by late May, the company said, adding that it would be able to provide more than 25 million tests per month from June thanks to an upgrade to its manufacturing site in Massachusetts.

Another antibody test being pioneered by Oxford University could be available by the end of May, according to Professor John Newton, the UK’s national testing co-ordinator.

What is an antigen test?

An antigen test detects the presence (or absence) of an antigen, not antibodies. An antigen is a structure within a virus that triggers the immune system’s response to fight off the infection. It can be detected in blood before antibodies are made.

An antigen test is effective because it can take a few days for the immune system to build enough antibodies to be detected in a test, however, antigens can be detected almost immediately after infection. So, in theory, the test can tell much sooner whether someone has the virus.

Antigen tests are used to diagnose HIV, malaria and flu. 



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Donald Trump clashes with reporters



A group of California prisoners tried to infect themselves in a futile bid to win freedom, a senior police official said on Monday.

Inmates at a facility in Castaic, north of Los Angeles, were filmed sharing a disposable cup and sniffing a used face mask while crowded together.

“Somehow, there was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive, that there was a way to force our hand and somehow release more inmates out of our jail environment – and that’s not going to happen,” said county sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Some 21 prisoners tested positive in the prison section where the video was shot “as a result of the behaviour”, he added.

The activity came to light as prison officials investigated a broader spike in Covid-19 cases behind bars, with nearly 40 percent of those incarcerated in Los Angeles County now in quarantine.





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UK deaths soar past 8,000 as 866 recorded in last 24 hours in England alone



The Philippines has banned doctors, nurses and other health workers from leaving the country to work overseas in a bid to throw more resources at its own coronavirus outbreak, reports Patrick Sawer.

With the pandemic threatening to overwhelm Phillipine’s fragile healthcare system the Government says it requires all available medics and support staff to remain in the country.

Thousands of health professionals leave the Phillipine to work overseas, many travelling to the UK to work in NHS and private hospitals and in social care.

More than 30,000 doctors, nurses and medical technicians left the Philippines in 2010, according to the latest available data.

But the country has one of the lowest ratios of doctors per population in the region, leaving it ill prepared to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has now barred healthcare professionals travelling to work abroad for the duration of the nation’s state of emergency.

The ban covers 14 jobs defined as “mission critical”, including doctors, nurses, microbiologists and pharmacists.

It also includes hospital equipment repair technicians, nursing assistants and laboratory technicians, all of whose skills “reflect the primary function of the organization without which mission critical work cannot be completed and which skills are internally developed and require extensive training, thus, not easily replaceable,” states the order.

The Philippines had 4,076 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, with deaths reaching 203. More than 200 health workers have been infected, with at least a dozen dying from the virus.

According to the World Health Organization there are only six doctors for every 10,000 people in the Philippines, compared to Singapore’s ratio of almost 23 and Malaysia at 15.36.





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7.5 magnitude earthquake triggers tsunami warning for Russia



A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Russia’s far eastern Kuril Islands on Wednesday, prompting a tsunami warning for the closest shores.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck 136 miles south-southeast of Severo on the Kuril chain north of Japan. It was 37 miles deep.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said hazardous tsunami waves were possible within 620 miles of the quake’s epicenter.

It said earthquakes of this strength in the past have caused tsunamis far from the epicentre, and the US National Tsunami Warning Centre was analysing the event to determine the level of danger.

The US National Tsunami Warning Centre also still was analyzing the event to determine the level of danger for Alaska and the US West Coast.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake was a stronger 7.8 magnitude and may cause a slight change of sea levels around Japanese coasts.





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Our pick of the 10 best ETFs for passive investors who want low-cost funds



3. SPDR S&P UK Dividend Aristocrats

The British stock market is one of the best in the world for dividends and this ETF aims to exploit this for income investors. It follows an S&P index that includes 39 companies. However, stocks must have increased or maintained dividends for at least seven years. This offers some protection from potential dividend cuts. It has a good record of matching market returns while yielding 4.1pc.

Ongoing charge: 0.3pc a year

4. Vanguard FTSE 250

This fund gives investors a chance to own Britain’s smaller but often faster-growing companies at a fraction of the cost of actively managed funds. It tracks the FTSE 250 index and has a great performance record, while its £2.6bn size means it is easy to trade.

Ongoing charge: 0.1pc a year

5. iShares Core S&P 500

This is the biggest ETF listed on the London market, with nearly £29bn in assets. The fund mimics the S&P 500 index, which covers around 80pc of the American stock market. 

Ms Hutchinson said the fund tended to return more than the index, thanks to tax arrangements. Because of its size it is incredibly cheap to own – it costs just 7p a year for every £100 invested.

Ongoing charge: 0.07pc a year

6. HSBC MSCI World

This is one of the cheapest ways for investors to get broad exposure to more than 1,500 companies across 23 different countries. It has more than £1bn in assets and is easy to buy. The fund is also very good at tracking the MSCI World index and occasionally returns more than the benchmark.

The fund excludes stocks involved in selling weapons banned by international treaties.

Ongoing charge: 0.15pc a year

7. SPDR S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats

Like its peer for British companies, this ETF owns stocks that have grown dividends in a sustainable and consistent way. Its criteria are stricter, with stocks having to show a 10-year record. 

The fund currently owns 98 companies and can choose from more than 46 countries. It yields 3.5pc but has returned less than the vanilla MSCI World index, owing to a lower allocation to the American market.

Ongoing charge: 0.45pc a year





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The best family board games for Christmas 2019



Peter Jenkinson is the UK’s leading board games journalist. His job takes him all over the world, attending toy fairs and board game expos. His expertise and ability to absorb rule books means that board game publishers often seek his input for their next potential best-seller.

No longer something you drag out of a dusty cupboard to banish Boxing Day boredom, board games are enjoying a mainstream renaissance. This year, we are truly spoilt for choice thanks to continued growth among smaller independent publishers and major innovation from more established board game makers.

Having attended a number of worldwide events devoted to board games over the past 12 months, it’s evident that an entirely new category has arrived on the scene too – shelf-worthy. These board games are so beautifully crafted, you’ll want to keep them on display even when they’re not being played. 

So here’s our new favourite games of 2019 – not too taxing on the grey matter but challenging enough to ensure they deliver on fun. Whether you’re looking for something high-tech, fast-paced or family-friendly, you’ll find it here. 

1. Bank Attack

 £20, Argos





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The genius who began Manchester United’s remarkable 4000-game streak of academy excellence 



Every one of the 279 youth team players that have been part of Manchester United’s matchday squad over the past 82 years has their own story to tell, and plenty of those will be regaled this weekend as the club prepares to reach an extraordinary milestone. 

Take Billy Garton, for example. His big break came one September night in 1984 in a League Cup tie against Burnley. Still only 19 and without a car, the former defender took his usual route to Old Trafford via the No. 58 bus from Ordsall Lane to Trafford Bar as he had done so often as a fan, sneaking in to watch the last 20 minutes of games when the gates were opened in the hope of a glimpse of his hero Martin Buchan.

Little could the man sat on that bus reading a newspaper carrying the back page headline, “Billy the Kid”, in reference to Garton’s promotion, have known that the subject of that story was looking eagerly over his shoulder and on the cusp of realising a lifelong dream. Boots stuffed in a plastic bag, Garton crossed the forecourt at Old Trafford unrecognised before slipping into the players’ entrance. He celebrated a 4-0 win with a pint in the Jubilee Pub on the Salford council estate where he had been raised. 

Everton’s visit to Old Trafford on Sunday will mark the 4000th consecutive game in which at least one youth team graduate has been included in United’s first team squad, a run that predates the outbreak of the Second World War and one of which a club arguably more synonymous with youth production than any other are justifiably proud.

It is a storied history and culture, one of the most fabled in sports, a tale of constant renewal and an uncrushable spirit encapsulated by the way they rebuilt in the aftermath of Munich in 1958 when a plane crash destroyed a team of precious homegrown talents destined for greatness.





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Israel set for unprecedented third election amid political gridlock



Israel is heading towards an unprecedented third election in one year after both Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival failed to form a government and were unable to agree a deal for a unity coalition.

As a midnight deadline passed, there was no last-minute deal between the two sides and MPs instead voted through a bill to send Israelis to the polls for a third time in 11 months on March 2, 2020.

By a vote of 94 in favour to none opposed, lawmakers approved a motion dissolving parliament and setting the new election date.

Mr Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue & White party, blamed each other for what has become the worst stalemate in Israeli political history.

Mr Gantz said the prime minister was dragging the country into new elections to try to win a Right-wing majority which would grant him immunity from the criminal corruption charges he faces. He denies wrongdoing. 

“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Mr Gantz said. 

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Gantz and his allies had never seriously entered into negotiations on a unity government.

“It’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government,” he said. 





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