No new coronavirus cases Friday as City of Peterborough considers declaring state of emergency

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported Friday as Peterborough city and county officials encouraged unity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Peterborough Public Health’s medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra was joined by Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien and Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones for the daily media conference.

To date there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 200 people tested under the health unit’s jurisdiction (Peterborough, Peterborough County, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation):

  • Case 1: A man who had travelled to Europe. He is associated with Trent University’s Peterborough campus.
  • Case 2: One of 12 people considered a “close contact” of the first case.
  • Case 3: A woman in her 70s who had recently travelled to Florida. There are five “close contacts” in this case.

Other statistics:

  • Confirmed negative: 99
  • Under investigation: 103
  • Deceased: 0
  • Hospitalized cases: 0
  • Current status of hospitalized cases and unusual cases: n/a

“Please stay home if you have any symptoms,” said Salvaterra. “It’s just common sense.”

“Stay at home for at least 24 hours after your symptoms are gone,” she added.

Salvaterra noted the health unit received about 70 additional test swabs on Thursday after earlier in the week reporting a shortage.

She also thanked businesses that have already closed in an effort to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus or have implemented measures to encourage social distancing and reduce crowds.

Meanwhile Therrien said the pandemic is having a “huge economic” impact on the community and across the province.

She says the city has discussed declaring a state of emergency but no decision has been made yet. Further discussion will be held later Friday, she said.

The mayor also noted the city is not considering any additional building for a COVID-19 assessment centre. Peterborough Regional Health Centre is operating a centre inside its emergency department.

Therrien encouraged teamwork for all residents to continue to practise vigilant social distancing and refrain from bulk buying food and other items such as toilet paper.

“We are all in this together,” she said. “Stay home. Be kind. Use common sense. And take care of each other.”

She noted transit services are now free with a number of changes for passengers; however, she said to only use transit if required.

Therrien also addressed concerns from the public about businesses such as Lansdowne Place mall remaining open.

“That is not up to the city, that comes from the province,” she noted.

She also addressed inquiries about the city’s marginalized people after the One Roof Community Centre closed and reduced its meals — which are now being served outside the building at 1 p.m. — from twice daily to once a day.

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Coronavirus plans for GCSE and A-Level exams released as schools close

GCSE and A-level students will be given grades based on teacher assessments, after exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government said it is aiming for the calculated grades – which will also take into account their previous achievements – to be awarded to pupils in England by the end of July.

Making the announcement on Friday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said these are "extraordinary times" and that exam boards would be working closely with teachers to implement the new approach.

Students will also have the option to sit an exam early in the next academic year – which starts in September – if they want to, can appeal if they are not satisfied that their calculated grade reflects their performance, and can choose to sit exams in summer 2021.

The new guidance states that exam boards will be asking teachers to submit judgments about the grades they think their students would have received if exams had gone ahead.

Live updates on COVID-19 cases near you

England: 3,269

  • London: 1,221
  • South East: 340
  • Midlands: 282
  • North East and Yorkshire: 194
  • North West: 220
  • East of England: 147
  • South West: 140

Scotland: 266

Wales: 170

Northern Ireland: 177

Teachers will have to take into account "a range of evidence and data", such as mock exam results and other school work, the department said.

This will be combined with information from "other relevant data", such as pupils' previous attainment, to calculate their grades.

The calculated grades will be "a best assessment" of the work students have put in, the Government said.

A-level and GCSE grades are usually published in mid-August.

Mr Williamson said: "Cancelling exams is something no Education Secretary would ever want to do, however these are extraordinary times and this measure is a vital but unprecedented step in the country's efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"My priority now is to ensure no young person faces a barrier when it comes to moving onto the next stage of their lives – whether that's further or higher education, an apprenticeship or a job.

"I have asked exam boards to work closely with the teachers who know their pupils best to ensure their hard work and dedication is rewarded and fairly recognised."

The department said this year's grades will be "indistinguishable from those provided in other years" and would aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to previous years, so affected students do not face a "systematic disadvantage".

It also outlined various options for students and parents who may not be happy with the approach or their calculated grades.

The department said: "If they do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis.

"In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again.

"Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021."

  • Students
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All UK Wetherspoons pubs to stay open says boss as 1,600 staff in isolation

All Wetherspoons pubs across the UK will stay open, its boss has insisted, despite hundreds of its own staff being struck down with coronavirus symptoms.

The major Brit boozer chain is keeping all its 867 venues across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland open as the Covid-19 crisis sweeps the country.

Its boss Tim Martin has said that closing the pubs would be “over the top”, despite the government urging Brits not to visit bars and to stay indoors.

He described the global pandemic that has killed 144 people in the UK as a “health scare”, even though 1,600 of his 43,000 staff are also self-isolating as a result of the virus.

In an interview on Sky News, he said pubs should instead implement "social distancing" measures, like no standing at the bar.

He told the programme: "Our aim is for pubs open for the duration. This could go on for a long time.

"I think that once you shut them down it's very difficult.

"Supermarkets are very, very crowded. Pubs are much less crowded. There's hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs and I think it's over the top to shut them.

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"That's a commercial view but also a common sense view."

When asked if he would be OK catching the virus himself, Martin – who is an ex-smoker and has had an operation for cancer – said: “Yes, if someone offered the opportunity to have it now I would probably take it.”

The boss admitted, however, that – as well staff self-isolating – there has been a significant hit to their sales and profits already.

"We now anticipate profits being below market expectations, so long as the current health scare continues," he said.

  • Coronavirus: First person arrested in British Isles for 'failing to self-isolate'

But he also said he is confident his chain will survive.

"As a result of these actions, combined with the Government's proposals on business rates relief and credit guarantee facilities, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to maintain operations at a substantially lower level of sales," he said.

"Wetherspoon, like our peers, will be working closely with all parties, including employees, banks, landlords and suppliers, in order to emerge from the situation in the best shape."

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Germans warned: Keep your distance or face a curfew

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany may enforce a nationwide curfew if the country’s 83 million people fail to keep their distance from each other this weekend to curb the spread of coronavirus, government and health leaders said on Friday.

Angela Merkel’s spokesman said the German chancellor would hold talks with regional leaders on Sunday to judge whether the nation had complied with official guidance to stay at home and avoid crowds.

“They will carry out a ruthless analysis of the situation,” Stefan Seibert told a news conference. “How the public behaves on Saturday will be decisive.”

Germany has suffered just 31 fatalities from COVID-19 thanks to early testing for the flu-like illness, so far avoiding the fate of countries that have been harder hit such Italy, which now has the highest death toll in the world.

But with the number of German cases jumping overnight by 2,958 to 13,957, the pandemic has now entered an exponential phase that, if unchecked, could infect as many as 10 million people within three months, health officials say.

Under Germany’s federal system, Merkel can’t impose a nationwide curfew as this would be a matter for state and local government.

Pre-empting Sunday’s crisis meeting, Bavaria, Germany’s biggest state covering about a fifth of the country, said on Friday it would impose general restrictions on going out for two weeks from midnight.

“We aren’t shutting Bavaria down. We aren’t locking Bavaria in. But we are bringing public life in Bavaria to a complete halt,” Chief Minister Markus Soeder said in a TV address.

‘KEEP YOUR DISTANCE’

The southwestern city of Freiburg has announced that it would impose a curfew from the weekend, while North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, may follow suit.

“If people don’t show the necessary commitment, then we can take this decision,” Chief Minister Armin Laschet said.

Germany has already closed schools, shops and restaurants and appealed to the good sense of people to take responsibility for slowing the spread of the disease.

But compliance has been patchy, with crowds gathering in parks, playgrounds and street cafes in towns and cities across the country over the past week.

“We can only slow this epidemic if we stick to the rules of the game. Keep your distance!” said Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, the agency coordinating efforts to slow the pandemic.

Merkel urged Germans to take the coronavirus crisis seriously in an address to the nation on Wednesday that was widely seen as preparing the country for tougher measures.

The German Epidemiology Society said it supported the measures taken so far but urged that they be subject to critical, ongoing review.

“There is a short window of opportunity to choose between containing and slowing the spread of this infection without overburdening our health system,” it said. “In both cases, rigorous enforcement will be needed for a long period of time.”

Stefan Kluge, head of intensive medicine at the Hamburg University Hospital, called for an immediate curfew.

“We have to reduce the number of new infections – that’s why I am in favor of a rigorous and immediate curfew,” Kluge told ARD public television.

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Coronavirus: More than 10,000 people have now died from COVID-19 worldwide

The number of people who have died worldwide after testing positive for coronavirus has passed 10,000.

The figures – collated by Johns Hopkins University – show more than 3,000 fatalities in Italy, and over 3,100 in China.

In the UK, 144 people have died, according to figures from the Department of Health.

Iran said its number of fatalities rose by 149 to 1,433 on Friday, while confirmed infections increased by 1,237 to 19,644.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he would use “all state power” to tackle COVID-19.

Rapid testing has been launched in the country, where 60 new cases were reported on Friday, taking the total to 369, with 32 fatalities.

Malaysia, which has the biggest number of infections in South East Asia, reported 130 new cases on Friday, taking its tally to 1,030.

Singapore reported 40 new cases on Friday, increasing its total to 385.

Tasmania has quarantined itself from the rest of Australia to control the spread of coronavirus.

The island state has declared a state of emergency, with premier Peter Gutwein promising the “toughest border restrictions in Australia”.

“We’ve got a moat, and we’re not afraid to use it,” said the front page of Tasmania’s The Mercury newspaper.

The island off the southeast coast of Australia had 10 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and no fatalities. Nationally, there have been 785 cases and seven deaths.

In India, anyone suspected of having COVID-19 is having their hand stamped and being tracked using their mobile phone to enforce quarantine measures.

Officials have reported multiple cases of people flouting quarantine rules. More than 200 people have been infected in India, and four people have died.

South Africa’s central bank has announced a series of emergency liquidity measures.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Friday that the number of cases had risen by 52 to 202.

While the virus has spread more slowly in Africa than in Asia or Europe, infections have started to rise rapidly in South Africa in recent days.

In Taiwan, there were 27 new cases on Friday, and a second death was reported.

Brazil, the hardest hit country in South America, reported 621 confirmed cases on Thursday – more than doubling in two days.

Hong Kong reported a one-day record of 48 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, taking the total to 256.

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Prisons should release inmates from jail to stop coronavirus spread

Calls are mounting for prisoners to get early release after three UK inmates tested positive for the coronavirus.

Low-risk inmates should be released from prison to avoid them becoming "incubators" for coronavirus, a former chief inspector of prisons has said.

Nick Hardwick suggested prisoners with only a short amount of their sentence left to serve could be freed to help ease the pressure on the prison system.

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme on Thursday, he said: "If you're talking about low risk prisoners coming to the end of their sentences, it's perfectly possible to manage them in the community safely."

He added: "No-one is saying you're going to let out huge numbers of dangerous people, but you can reduce pressure on the system by letting out a bit early people who maybe have got a month or two longer to serve."

Mr Hardwick warned that "hundreds" of prison staff were off work and self-isolating.

"There's undoubtedly more prisoners have the virus than have been tested and found to have it," he said.

He said a typical prison cell was "a bit wider than my outstretched arms, maybe twice as long, there would be two men in it, a toilet, and they're going to be there 24 hours a day".

Mr Hardwick added: "Now people may not be sympathetic to that, but be clear, people doing short sentences are going to be released back into the community and if we allow prisons to be incubators for the disease that's a problem for us all."

His comments come after the charity APPEAL called for a section of the total prison population to be set free to avoid exposure to the virus, but also a potential risk of suicide amid greater segregation within jails and lack of contact with relatives.

On Wednesday, the first case of an inmate being infected with Covid-19 was confirmed at HMP Manchester.

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Two inmates at HMP Kilmarnock in Scotland have also tested positive for the virus, it was revealed on Thursday.

"People are coming into the system, so if you don't let people out and you keep pushing people in, the system simply won't be able to cope," Mr Hardwick said.

He said the prison system in the UK was "better organised" than in Italy, where riots were sparked by strict lockdown measures and restrictions on visits.

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Indian state to close shops, offices in financial capital Mumbai

BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s westerly state of Maharashtra on Friday decided to close all shops and offices except those providing essential services in India’s financial capital Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur until March 31 in an attempt to restrict the spread of coronavirus, the chief minister of the state said.

The state, which has recorded the highest number of confirmed cases in India, has excluded banks and shops that are selling essential commodities were excluded from the restriction, Uddhav Thackeray said.

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UPDATE 1-Indonesia raises crisis protocol status, warns risk of no GDP growth

* GDP growth seen at above 4% but could fall to 0%-2.5%

* Rupiah down nearly 2% to lowest since 1998

* Finance minister pledges measures for stabilisation (Adds direct quote, context)

By Tabita Diela and Maikel Jefriando

JAKARTA, March 20 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s finance minister on Friday raised the country’s crisis management protocol level to one notch below “crisis” and warned that if the COVID-19 outbreak persisted, economic growth could fall to between 0%-2.5%.

Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said her baseline scenario was for GDP growth at above 4%, but that if the coronavirus outbreak lasted three to six months, global trade slumped, and Indonesia went into lockdown, the result could be no growth.

Indonesia’s GDP grew 5.02% last year.

The central bank’s growth outlook for 2020 is 4.2%-4.6%. President Joko Widodo said this week he wasn’t considering any kind of lockdown.

Indrawati’s comment came as the rupiah fell as much as 1.9% to 16,200 a dollar, its weakest since June 1998 when the Asian financial crisis forced Suharto to step down.

The main stock index also touched its lowest in nearly seven years, while bond yields jumped.

“We’re raising the (crisis management protocol) level from ‘alert’ to ‘standby’, so we can adjust our response,” Indrawati told an online news conference, referring to a protocol to reduce market volatility.

“We will conduct a number of actions to maintain financial market stability, despite heavy pressure,” she said, adding the measures would be the same as during the 2008 global financial crisis, though with some modification.

She did not explain what authorities might do. But the protocol covers authorities’ response to swings in government bond yields, the rupiah exchange rate, the main equity index and the proportion of foreign ownership in bonds, according to a finance ministry monthly newsletter in March.

The article said the government may start buying back bonds from the secondary market or postponing auctions, with the protocol’s ‘standby’ level the second to highest, just below ‘crisis’.

Bank Indonesia (BI) Governor Perry Warjiyo told the same news conference the central bank had pumped 300 trillion rupiah ($18.58 billion) into the money market and the banking system.

BI cut its benchmark rate for a second time on Thursday and announced market operations to help soften the blow on Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The number of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 has spiked in Indonesia less than three weeks since it reported its first patients. As of Friday, it had 369 reported cases and 32 deaths, according to a health ministry official.

A total of 62.3 trillion rupiah ($3.85 billion) in government spending will be shifted to finance the country’s COVID-19 response, Indrawati said, up from 17.17 trillion rupiah previously announced. ($1 = 16,175.0000 rupiah) (Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Tattersall)

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‘Battling coronavirus so devastating my body was on fire but my teeth chattered’

A film producer who overcame the coronavirus has laid bare his harrowing account of how he was left “devastated” by the disease.

New Yorker Leon Chase, 47, took to Quora – a knowledge-sharing platform – to reveal his symptoms in a bid to warn people about the virus’s potentially damaging complications.

Speaking frankly about his experience, Mr Chase said he was likely exposed to COVID-19 on March 3, but didn’t start showing symptoms about a week later.

On March 17, he was officially diagnosed with the life-threatening disease.

Mr Chase said of the disease: “Coronavirus feels like the most devastating flu I have ever had.

“Intense bouts of fever, alternating with the kind of chills that, even with three sweaters on, make your teeth chatter uncontrollably.”

He added: “I’m ‘lucky’, relatively speaking because my temperature never went higher than 38.8.C, but even then, it felt like my body was burning up.

“Plus, a general feeling in my head that I can only describe as “heavy” or “flush” that makes every movement and activity feel like a massive chore.”

Mr Chase continued to describe the symptoms, which concerned Brits can compare here if they fear to have been exposed to coronavirus.

  • Coronavirus: Gym-goer, 39, struggles to breathe in hospital bed as she issues warning

The video editor, who claims to have no preexisting conditions and described himself as being in “decent physical shape”, added: “A few days later, I developed a very annoying dry cough.

“But again, I am lucky because there have been no chest pain or breathing problems, which would be a reason to be hospitalised.”

The survivor continued: “My appetite has been nearly nonexistent – I am normally a big eater, and it’s only been in the past couple days that I’ve been able to make myself eat anything.

“Even then it feels very gross, and I can only consume very small amounts.”

Mr Chase then made an urgent plea to people not to go outside.

His warning comes as the death toll from coronavirus pass 10,000 and cases across the globe near 250,000.

The New Yorker said: “Trust me, people. This virus is real. You do not want it. And you do not want to be the one who gave it to someone else.

“Chances are, many of you are carrying it already, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Stay home, and wash your damn hands.”

If you are unsure how to correctly wash your hands in order to best protect yourself from coronavirus, follow this link (see link 2)

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Britain's Heathrow to shrink operations during coronavirus

LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) – Britain’s Heathrow Airport said it would shrink its operation as part of a plan to keep open for some cargo and passenger flights during the coronavirus crisis, which has brought most air travel to a standstill.

Heathrow, which is usually Europe’s busiest airport, said it would cut costs to preserve cash as it warned its financial performance would be severely affected by the current situation.

Owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, the Qatar Investment Authority, China Investment Corp and others, Heathrow said it had a 12-month liquidity horizon through cash and committed facilities of 3.3 billion pounds available.

Airlines and airports are expecting a range of government support measured to be announced in the coming days. (Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton)

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