Merkel left red faced as Italian MPs mention Nazi reparations in coronavirus support row

Angela Merkel was asked to consider the colossal debts racked up by Adolf Hitler’s evil war efforts some 81 years ago today. Rome has become infuriated with the German Chancellor after she helped block the creation of so-called “coronabonds”, a shared Eurozone debt mechanism to help prop up economies worst-affected by the global pandemic. In an open letter to the veteran leader, 12 Italian politicians, including the mayors of Venice and Bergamo, called on Mrs Merkel to reconsider her position.

“Currently the Netherlands are leading a group of countries, though, which resist this strategy, and Germany also seems to want to follow this group,” they wrote.

“The Netherlands are the one state, which has been evading taxes of the important European countries with its tax system for years. Our public budgets and the socially weak in our countries who have to pay the price for this. Those who are most affected by the crisis.

“The Dutch attitude is in every aspect an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity. But it was solidarity which was shown to you Germans after the war and until reunification by many European countries.”

The group were keen to remind Mrs Merkel that Hitler’s war machine run up debts of over €15 billion, in the Germany’s original deutsche mark currency.

They accused her of ignoring the generosity of Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, who have all voiced support for the creation of coronabonds, in halving the German debt in 1953.

“After 1945 the German debt had reached the amount of what was 29.7 billion deutsche mark,” the group wrote.

“Germany would never have been able to pay back the accumulated debt. In 1953 in London, 21 countries allowed for cutting the debt in half and the deferment of payments of the rest of the debt.

“This way German was able to avoid state bankruptcy. Italy is still proud and convinced of the correctness of the decision back then. And we repeat: with the eurobonds for the fight against coronavirus old debts are neither cancelled, nor shared.”

Despite the growing support for a joint Eurozone debt instrument, the single currency bloc’s bailout chief has warned it could take years to set up.

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Klaus Reglung, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, said any short-term lending programmes would have to come from existing structures.

He said if the goal is to cover short-term lending to bolster healthcare or support businesses “then I think the only way is to use existing institutions with existing instruments”.

He told the Financial Times it was possible to create a new bespoke EU institution if there were political agreement between European capitals.

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However, he added: “It would take one, two or three years, and member states have to come up with capital or guarantees, or assign future revenue.

“One cannot create bonds out of nothing.”

Eurogroup finance ministers are currently debating the plans, which are expected to be returned to leaders in the coming weeks.

Last week EU heads of state refused to sanction coronabonds and instead told officials to work on new plans to prop up the bloc’s ailing economy. 

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Fidel Castro’s shock Che Guevara confession exposed: ‘He’s a fool!’

Castro and Guevara met in Mexico City in July 1955, one a young Cuban exile and the other an unknown Argentine doctor. The two immediately connected and spent over ten hours talking and sharing their revolutionary ideas that very evening. It was the beginning of an era-defining relationship as the two went on to lead the Cuban Revolution, overthrowing Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Writing in his memoir about their first encounter, Guevara recalled: “I talked all night with Fidel.

“And in the morning I had become the doctor of his new expedition.

“To tell the truth, after my experience across Latin America I didn’t need much more to enlist for a revolution against a tyrant.

“But I was particularly impressed with Fidel. I shared his optimism.

“We needed to act, to struggle, to materialise our beliefs.

“Stop whining and fighting.”

Castro, it seems, was equally taken by his new friend.

During the Cuban Revolution, he described him as intelligent, daring and an exemplary leader who “had a great moral authority over his troops”.

However, he did confess worries about Guevara’s characteristics as he noted his habit of taking take too many risks, even claiming he had a “tendency towards foolhardiness”.

Nevertheless, their bond remained strong and went on to shape not only Cuba’s history but the world’s.

Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara oversaw military tribunals, spearheaded the national literacy campaign and represented the country as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism.

He was a key player in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs invasion and brought Soviet nuclear missiles to the Caribbean, which preceded the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Guevara was also a prolific writer and penned Guerrilla Warfare – which went on to be a seminal manual for revolutionary movements around the world.

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He left Cuba in 1965 to spearhead revolutions abroad.

In 1967, he was captured and executed by the CIA while assisting Guerrilla fighters in Bolivia.

He remains a hugely significant historical figure and a symbol of resistance against tyranny.

Castro’s regime, still strong today despite his death in 2016, continues to use Guevara’s martyrdom today.

The iconic photograph of Guevara in full Guerrilla attire became one of the most recognisable images of the 20th century.

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Rebecca Long-Bailey says Labour leadership contest to end in ‘bizarre’ way

The shadow business secretary said the move was to “deal with these strange times” following lockdown measures in the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak. Ms Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir Starmer are the three remaining candidates, with the successor to Jeremy Corbyn due to be announced on April 4. She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I think it’s trying to deal with these strange times and have an announcement on the leadership contest that our members and the public can view from their homes really.

“It’s logistically quite challenging and I think we’ve all been asked to do this victory speech so that it can be send out over the airwaves as quickly as possible after we win.

“I haven’t done mine yet, by the way.”

Asked if she would feel awkward recording the video ahead of the result, Ms Long-Bailey said: “It’s going to be a bit bizarre.”

Ms Long-Bailey did not rule out potentially joining a national unity government if elected as the next Labour leader.

Asked if she would be prepared to join such a government, she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme: “I’ve already been collaborating with the government and urging them to listen to my advice and the advice of my colleagues in tackling this crisis, because we want to be as helpful as possible.”

She added: “We are not criticising the government when we are offering our suggestions as to how this crisis can be better dealt with.

“We’re trying to help and that’s what I’ll do as leader, and that’s what I’ll do if I’m not leader, if I’m supporting a new leader.”

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Coronavirus Russia: Hackers loyal to Putin may be behind WHO cyberattack, says expert

Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic yesterday told hackers were targeting the WHO in multiple ways, including vishing [voice phishing], email phishing, WhatsApp phishing and social media scams. The Geneva-based health body is critical to the worldwide effort to halt the spread of the disease – and so anything which slows down its operation will, ultimately, endanger lives. So far the identity of the culprits remains unclear.

Mark Mulready, of cybersecurity specialists Irdeto told “Attribution is one of the most challenging aspects of cyberattacks.

“Known ransomware operators have stated that they will not target health and medical organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“However there have already been reports that a hospital in the UK has been hit by Maze ransomware.”

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The most likely scenario would be a state sponsored attack

Mark Mulready

Nevertheless, Mr Mulready added: “The most likely scenario would be a state sponsored attack.

“There have been numerous reports that Russia is linked to running a disinformation campaign around COVID-19.

“EU observers of Russian media have observed a significant amount of articles which contain false and misleading information regarding the coronavirus pandemic designed to incite unrest in the West.

“No doubt there will be detailed investigations ongoing regarding attribution for this attack on the WHO and we may hear more on this in due course.”

In such an uncertain climate, Mr Mulready drew a parallel with efforts to prevent transmission of coronavirus himself among people, using a phrase popularised by Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general.

Mr Mulready explained: “Global organisations need to behave just like humans to prevent attacks.

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“They need to increase their cyber hygiene levels.

“Don’t rely on systems with outdated and vulnerable software.

“Patch, patch, patch and test, test, test.

“Ensure you have a secure backup (which would not be automatically be impacted in case of a ransomware attack and test it) and have robust anti-phishing measures since most ransomware infections start with a mouse click by an employee.”

Russian hackers are widely blamed for having targeted the 2016 US Presidential election with a campaign of misinformation.

A report published by Microsoft in October blamed Fancy Bear, the Russian-sponsored hacker group, which Microsoft has named internally as Strontium, for “significant cyberattacks” on 16 national and international sports and anti-doping organizations, including the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of customer security and trust, wrote: “The methods used in the most recent attacks are similar to those routinely used by Strontium to target governments, militaries, think tanks, law firms, human rights organizations, financial firms and universities around the world.

“Strontium’s methods include spear-phishing, password spray, exploiting internet-connected devices and the use of both open-source and custom malware.”

Speaking in 2017, Mr Putin said: “Artists may act on behalf of their country, they wake up in good mood and paint things.

“Same with hackers, they woke up today, read something about the state-to-state relations.

“If they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right, to fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”

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EU unmasked: Yanis Varoufakis reveals EVERYTHING wrong with bloc’s coronavirus strategy

The European Union is scrambling to find tools to offset the massive economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis – which could require a global effort. Last week, the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “This global health crisis has a severe effect on our economies. “It is time to support our economies with determination. We need to focus on investing whatever is necessary to have the economy going on further.”

During a videoconference last Monday, eurozone finance ministers tasked the bloc’s bailout fund – the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) worth €410billion (£381billion) and set up after the 2008-09 financial crisis – to consider ways of tackling the economic fallout of the outbreak.

The President of the eurogroup Mario Centeno said after the six-hour online meeting: “We will do whatever it takes and more to restore confidence and support a recovery.

“We will protect our citizens and our currency. Come what may and with everything we have got.”

Ministers have, for now, stayed clear of specifically calling for ESM to have a role in dealing with the crisis, though.

The use of the EU’s rescue fund could be premature, some argue, and could only aggravate the crisis.

As uncertainty continues and the crisis deepens, leading economist and former Greek Financial Minister Yanis Varoufakis brilliantly explained everything wrong with the EU’s economic response to the pandemic.

In a video posted on his YouTube channel DiEM25 last week, he said: “The other day there was a eurogroup meeting.

“The meeting of the European Union’s finance ministers of the countries that are using the euro.

“They decided that coronavirus poses a clear and present danger of a massive recession in Europe.

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“They said it is a highly significant threat to European economies.

“So much so that the urgency was so great that they decided to do absolutely nothing.

“They decided they are going to monitor the situation and watch.”

Mr Varoufakis noted: “The eurogroup, the EU and in particular the eurozone are terribly structured.

“They are on autopilot.

“They simply follow particular rules that cannot be followed without racking our economies. It is a reflection of a system that has been created in order to prevent governments from acting on behalf of society.

“That is if you want the ‘neo-liberal kernel inside Europe’.”

Mr Varoufakis added: “They are talking about doing whatever it takes within the fiscal compact, which means nothing because the fiscal compact is like an iron cage austerity from which you then cannot escape.

“And you need to escape from an iron cage of austerity if you are going to do anything about the green transition or about dealing with with the wholesale recession that the coronavirus is going to bring again to Europe.

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“A Europe that has fallen behind the rest of the world as a result of such stringent austerity package that increased in 2010 and spread out like a cancer out of control throughout the European Union.”

In an interview on Sky News this morning, the former Governor of the Bank of England Lord Mervyn King echoed Mr Varoufakis’ claims and noted that Britain should be very grateful it is not in the eurozone right now.

He said: “What we can take comfort from here I think is that the Bank of England and the Government are working very closely together.

“I think you can see that around the world nations are responding to this. People have to accept that tremendous sacrifices are made for other people. And the community in which we do that most naturally is the nation state.

“That is not something they have created in the euro area.

“They failed to create a fiscal union.

“Now, someone will hope that the crisis we are facing will lead them to do that but they have not got the political legitimacy to do that.

“We should be really grateful that we are not in the euro area and that we can coordinate our responses directly between Central Bank and Government here in Britain.”

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Gibraltar in TOTAL social lockdown over coronavirus as Picardo warns ‘the time has come!’

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo announced the extraordinary measures, which he described as the hardest decision of his career, today, in the face of spiking numbers of cases in Spain, and ten in Gibraltar itself, and which include a ban on associating outdoors with anyone not living in the same household. And, following on from his remarks yesterday, when he criticised “idiotic” young people for continuing to socialise, he warned officers would be empowered to act against anyone failing to comply with the order to avoid congregating in groups and other infringements. Mr Picardo told reporters: “The time has come.

“We have reached another difficult moment in our work to slow down coronavirus COVID-19.

“The Director of Public Health has now advised that as the virus is in the population, the best way to achieve the social distancing required is to slow the disease to move to a total social lockdown.”

Regulations under the Civil Contingencies Act have therefore been signed by the Minister to provide for the lockdown.”

Mr Picardo said the new regulations would come into force at midnight on Tuesday, “in order to give people and businesses time to adjust.

He said the new rules were in addition to existing rules for over 70s, which remain unchanged.

He added: “Agreeing to the making of these regulations has undoubtedly been the hardest decision I have had to make in my political career so far.”

We will not hesitate to do what we have to do in order to slow the spread of the virus.”

The measures include:

  • Closure of schools for all except the children of key workers
  • Closure of all shops except supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies and chemists
  • Closure of all restaurants except as takeaway outlets
  • Closure of all commercial gyms

In an acknowledgement of the unique difficulties Gibraltar, which has more than 8,500 residents square mile, faces, Mr Picardo said: “Our demographic circumstances are different to most other nations.

“And our rules are designed to take those aspects of life in Gibraltar into consideration.

“Where necessary, we will review the rules in coming days.”

“Please let us keep focused on slowing down this virus.

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“Let us remember that failure is not the growth of the number of detected infections.”

Failure is an unnecessary increase in the number of deaths.”

Mr Picardo added: “To each and every one of my fellow Gibraltarians, I say at this time, even if you can do something under these rules, ask yourself if you should.

“You are permitted to go to work, but can you work thematically instead?

“You are permitted to go out for a purpose, but can you can manage in a different way?

“Tomorrow, start using your common sense.

“An invisible killer lurks amongst us and you can do your bit to slow its passage through our city by observing these rules.

“As from Tuesday morning, I am very sorry to say, the Royal Gibraltar Police will have power to enforce these regulations.

“We realise the heavy burden that will impose on our officers.

“Please help them by not knowingly contradicting rules that we are putting in place to protect you and your loved ones.

“This is about enhancing social distancing.”

There will be power to enforce these regulations by police officers for these purposes.”

The stringent rules would be reviewed in 30 days’ time, Mr Picardo said, and would be reconfirmed every 48 hours.

He added: “It’s time to brace for the worst and hope or pray for the best.

“These are measures we take with a heavy heart but for very good reason.

“So help us throughout this process.”

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UK weather forecast: Britain faces icy Mother’s Day weekend as temperatures PLUNGE again

The Met Office warned that some areas of the UK will wake to a bitter frost on Saturday morning which could see temperatures fall to -2C (28.4F). Strong gusts are also likely to make temperatures feels even cooler in some areas. Scotland, especially Glasgow, will experience temperatures of -2C (28.4F).

Met Office meteorologist Clare Nasir said: “Let’s start in Scotland where it’s a fine and very cold beginning to the day.

“As you can see blues there representing the frost and a bit of patchy cloud towards the east.

“Brighter skies further west and patchy clouds for Northern Ireland.

“Northern England seeing some fine weather but cold along this east coast and also some clouds for Wales as well as the West Country.”

However, for the Home Counties in the southeast and the midlands as well as East Anglia there will be a bright, dry start with lots of sunshine.

But Ms Nasir warned that the wind will pose a problem for some areas.

She said: “Notice the direction of the wind coming in from a very cold North Sea.

“Sea surface temperature at the moment around 6C (42.8F) or 7C (44.6F).

“Further west in the shelter it will feel quite spring-like despite the brisk breeze and then later on hazy sunshine for the west as a veil of high cloud extends from the Atlantic.

“Everywhere will be dry, and in shelter temperatures will be 10C (50F) or 11C (51.8F) but cold along the east coast.”

Saturday evening and overnight the frost will return.

It will be dry for many parts of the UK apart from the western isles where Ms Nasir said there “could be some rain”.

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Frost will be fairly widespread overnight in the north as well as the west which means it will be a particularly bitter start to Sunday.

Ms Nasir added: “So another frosty beginning to Sunday.

“The morning will dawn bright with some sunshine and again quite a cold wind along this east coast down towards the channel as well as fresh wind here coming along from the east.

“So through Sunday, it will be bright with some sunshine everywhere.

“It will be dry away from the far northwest where there will be a few showers.

“Elsewhere the sun will come out and it will be a fine afternoon and temperatures in shelter will rise quite nicely though the afternoon.

“We could see 11C (51.8F) or 12C (53.6F) in some area but along the east coast only 6C (42.8F) or 7C (44.6F).”

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Italian hospital makes heartbreaking decision not to intubate anyone over the age of 60

The dire situation has been highlighted by junior health minister Nadine Dorries, who is herself recovering from COVID-19, the illness coronavirus causes, and whose own 84-year-old mother likewise contracted the disease. Italy is the worst-hit country in Europe in terms of COVID-19, with 35,713 cases – and the death toll there – 3,405 – now exceeds that of China, where the disease emerged towards the end of last year. One Milanese doctor, who identified herself as Martina, told ITV: “There are a lot of young people in our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) – our youngest is a 38-year-old who had had no comorbidities (underlying health problems).

“A lot of patients need help with breathing but there are not enough ventilators.

“They’ve told us that starting from now we’ll have to choose who to intubate – priority will go to the young or those without comorbidities.

“At Niguarda, the other big hospital in Milan, they are not intubating anyone over 60, which is really, really young.”

She added: “This virus is so infectious that the only way to avoid a ‘massacre’ is to have the least number possible getting infected over the longest possible timescale.

“Right now, if we get 10,000 people in Italy in need of ventilators – when we only have 3,000 in the country – 7,000 people will die.

“Rome right now is like where Milan was 10 days ago.

“In 10 days there has been an incredible escalation.”

In a message which should resonate with younger people generally, Martina also emphasised the importance of keeping children away from the elderly, saying: “We’ve had no critical cases among children but with children, viruses are much less aggressive – think chickenpox or measles.

“But the very young are crazy carriers.

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“A child with no symptoms will go to visit its grandparents, and basically kill them. So it’s essential to avoid contact between them”.

Another doctor, who works at Nigurdia hospital, said: “We have closed down entire wards, and reduced the number of beds in traditional wards.

“The number of ICU beds has been tripled. There was even pressure to take over our Cardiac ICU.”

They’re having to triage, deciding who to intubate and who to let die

Italian doctor

Chillingly, he added: “All the resuscitation bays are full. They’re having to triage, deciding who to intubate and who to let die.”

Ms Dorries, 62, Tory MP for mid-Bedfordshire MP, who yesterday tweeted her anger at “selfish” Londoners heading to cafes to work in the face of office closures, later added: “Sobering Italy has stopped intubating patients over 60.

“All ICU patients on ventilators are below 60 and not one has been weaned back off to breathe independently.

“We must follow the advice on social distancing if we are to crack this.”

The Government published guidance on social distancing aimed at “protecting older people and vulnerable adults”.

This states: “We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible, particularly if you are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant.”

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End in sight? Huge coronavirus boost as ZERO new cases reported in Wuhan

However, experts have warned there can be no relaxation in stringent measures being imposed worldwide to contain the disease, with one stressing mankind “cannot coexist” with the virus in the same way as influenza. As the pandemic escalates in Europe, where more than 400 additional deaths were recorded in Italy alone yesterday, countries are gearing up for a worst-case scenario in which COVID-19 remains in circulation for at least a year. However, medical advisers in China believe tough containment measures will ensure the outbreak can be brought under complete control, at least in their own country, within weeks.

They remain concerned at the possibility of “importing” cases from overseas, but say China should be capable of eliminating COVID-19 in the same way it eliminated Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

SARS was contained after the government imposed strict screening and quarantine measures.

Cao Wei, deputy director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said: “For me, a second outbreak of coronavirus, a domestic outbreak in China, wouldn’t be a great concern.”

Speaking at a briefing on Monday, she explained while China needed another month to make a final judgment, existing prevention and control measures would likely enough to bring the epidemic to an end domestically.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the coronavirus hit its peak in China around late February.

Zhong Nanshan, a senior government adviser involved in the fight against SARS 17 years ago, said it “could be over by June” provided other countries took the necessary steps.

On Wednesday, there were no new domestic cases in Wuhan for the first time since the outbreak began, although “imported” infections reached a record 34, the fifth straight day they have outnumbered domestic transmissions.

Ian Henderson, director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, said China’s actions to contain the virus have been “extraordinary”, although he warned of the risk of a second wave, this time imported.

He added: “What remains possible is that as controls around isolation are relaxed in China, with a population that is still susceptible, then the virus may resurge if it has not been eradicated elsewhere.”

One vital – and unknown – factor is the length of time a previously infected patient remains immune.

Mr Henderson added: “The number one point to get across is that in terms of the behaviour of this virus we are still very much in the dark.

“The issue around protective immunity is difficult to answer because we simply do not have sufficient information.”

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It absolutely cannot be allowed to co-exist with humans in the same way as the influenza virus

Gao Zhengliang

Some experts have referred to the infection patterns of the devastating 1918-19 influenza epidemic that killed more than 50 million people during three different waves, with the second the deadliest.

However, Mr Henderson said it was important to recognise the current virus was different from influenza.

Gao Zhengliang, vice-director of the China Cell Biology Institute told the official Youth Daily newspaper that the country had now completed “99 out of 100 steps” required to defeat the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, he stressed if global infections spiralled out of control, “the costs and sacrifices China has made will be downgraded.”

He said: “The resolute curbs on the coronavirus must be continued, it absolutely cannot be allowed to co-exist with humans in the same way as the influenza virus.”

Global inter-connectedness means instead of coming in waves, new viruses are now more likely to spread and circulate until they mutate or until a certain level of immunity is reached.

Some experts have raised the possibility that COVID-19 could become an entrenched seasonal illness along with ordinary influenza.

Meanwhile, initial studies have suggested a possible correlation between the epidemic and climate patterns.

A paper produced by researchers in Europe this week said the coronavirus preferred cool and dry conditions which could lead to seasonal global outbreaks “much like other respiratory diseases”.

However, there have still been cases in warmer and more humid climates in southeast Asian countries, including Thailand and Singapore.

US President Donald Trump famously suggested COVID-19 could “go away” of its own accord as temperatures rise in the northern hemisphere.

However, Marc Lipsitch, a communicable disease expert at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said while hotter, warmer climates weather would likely reduce the contagiousness of the coronavirus, “it is not reasonable to expect those declines alone to slow transmission enough to make a big dent.”

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