Why football is cancelled, but fighting isn’t

Football, basketball, baseball – all cancelled because of coronavirus. But when it comes to wrestling, must the show go on?

Wrestlemania is the Super Bowl of wrestling, attracting thousands of fans a year and watched on television by many more.

This year, the event was broadcast over the weekend of 4-5 April from the World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) training facility in Florida. Fifty-three performers appeared across 18 matches, including one match with five wrestlers and one referee in the ring at once.

And another segment saw around 10 people – including recently-signed former NFL star Rob Gronkowski – in a brawl. Not to mention the camera operators and crew.

This despite Florida governor Ron DeSantis issuing a state-wide stay-at-home order against a backdrop of more than 14,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida and 283 deaths.

As all other mainstream sports in the US have been either cancelled or postponed, WWE faced calls to cancel the event. Critics pointed to Roman Reigns, one of its most prominent wrestlers, who said he “made a choice” to pull out of the main event.

Reigns has had leukaemia – a type of cancer – and returned to wrestling when it went into remission in 2019.

WWE officials say they did make changes to try and limit the number of people at the event. The organisation said “only essential personnel were on the closed set”, and it was broadcast without an audience, instead of the usual throng of fans.

In its defence, many of the performers took to social media ahead of the event to argue that the show must go on not despite Covid-19, but because of it.

‘Diversion during hard times’

Wrestlemania isn’t the only fighting sport that plans to go ahead.

Mixed martial arts showcase UFC 249 is still slated to go ahead on 14 April.

In late March, UFC president Dana White came under fire for comments he made about coronavirus to Yahoo Sports, when he said UFC 249 would be continuing as planned in April.

“The question becomes, how long are we going to do this,” he asked. “How long are we going to stay in our houses and hide?

“Whether you’re a coronavirus expert or not, it’s like hiding from cancer,” White elaborated.

“I’ve had a great run. If the coronavirus is what’s going to get me, I’m ready. Bring it, corona.”

His comments have been echoed by WWE personnel – “people need to be entertained”.

Wrestlemania opened with Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer of WWE and daughter of owner Vince McMahon, saying that she hoped the show would provide a “diversion during these hard times”.

“It is our commitment to… deliver a sense of hope, determination and perseverance,” she said.

“And most of all, to entertain you and your family.”

As far as everyone involved in the production is concerned, their purpose is to distract from the coronavirus pandemic. But it is hard to marry up that sentiment with the action in the ring.

Wrestlemania could have minimised contact between performers. Matches could have been limited to a maximum of two people in the ring, with static cameras to eliminate the need for manual camera operators.

Instead, Wrestlemania went far in the other direction with various multi-person matches, and even a bout between Edge and Randy Orton which saw the wrestlers fighting throughout the backstage area and coming into close physical contact with many people in the production crew.

As fans were quick to point out on social media, it would seem WWE is not operating a social distancing policy even for its support staff.

It is clear that Wrestlemania was not broadcast live. It is not clear when the matches were recorded, though we can assume from Roman Reigns’ last minute decision to drop out that they were still being filmed up until a few days before the event.

The company’s decision to go ahead with the show is yet another in a long history of controversial calls for WWE programming to go ahead no matter what.

In 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack at ringside whilst commentating on a broadcast of Monday Night Raw. He was transported to hospital and his co-commentator Michael Cole continued calling the action in the ring, which was not halted. Lawler ultimately recovered.

Five years earlier, Monday Night Raw was broadcast mere hours after it was reported that Chris Benoit, one of the company’s leading wrestlers, was found dead at his home with his wife and seven-year-old son. Over the course of the programme, news outlets began reporting that the deaths were a murder-suicide perpetrated by Benoit. The show continued regardless.

But nothing shows WWE’s belief that the show must go on no matter what clearer than a pay-per-view in May 1999. Owen Hart, 33, was being lowered into the ring for a stunt entrance. Something went wrong, and he plunged 50 feet into the ring. He was given CPR in front of the 16,000 fans in attendance, and was ultimately pronounced dead at a hospital.

WWE decided to continue with its Over the Edge pay-per-view event despite the tragic death of one of its wrestlers.

Compare this to a similar event in a different sport, in a different country, when Fabrice Muamba collapsed during a football match between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur in the UK. The match was abandoned – and Bolton’s next fixture was postponed. Muamba ultimately recovered.

If the deaths of its own wrestlers were not enough to stop WWE from broadcasting a show, it is perhaps not surprising that the company did not pull its biggest event of the year.

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Third of critically ill COVID-19 UK patients from BME backgrounds

Release of figures comes amid wider concerns coronavirus is exacerbating health inequalities in the country.

London, United Kingdom – A third of critically ill COVID-19 patients in the United Kingdom are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, according to new data.

Of the 2,249 critical patients registered in the UK up to April 3, 13.8 percent were recorded as “Asian”, 13.6 percent as “Black” and 6.6 percent as “Other”, a report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) said on Saturday.

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As of Tuesday, the UK had confirmed 52,290 coronavirus infections and 5,373 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

As well as the cases of six frontline doctors from BME backgrounds who died after contracting COVID-19, the ICNARC findings have sparked concerns among BME communities, who represent about 13 percent of the population.

Wasim Hanif, a professor specialising in diabetes at the University Hospital Birmingham and a trustee of the South Asian Health Foundation UK, said anecdotal accounts from colleagues of a disproportionate number of South Asian patients in intensive care, appeared to be reflected in the data.

But he cautioned: “We need to ask for more ethnicity data so that we know a little more about these patients; whether these are younger patients, what their underlying conditions are, and what the other factors are. That is what needs to be looked into.”

Health inequalities

The data has been released amid other concerns the coronavirus is exacerbating health inequalities in the UK.

“The reality is nobody is immune from the health and economic impacts from COVID-19. But existing structural inequalities mean that some groups will bear the brunt of COVID-19 more than others,” said Zubaida Haque, deputy director of the race equality think tank Runnymede Trust.

A 2017 report by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust on race and poverty found that the UK poverty rate was twice as high for BME communities than for white groups, citing rising levels of unemployment amongst African, mixed-race and Caribbean groups especially, and low-paid work as driving factors.

“BME groups in the UK are amongst the poorest of socioeconomic groups. There are extremely high rates of child poverty and they’re much more likely to be employed in low-paid, precarious work. They’re also much more likely to be living in multigenerational households, which makes BME elderly people more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” Haque said.

“BME women are particularly vulnerable as they are more likely to be in precarious work than their white counterparts,” she added.

‘Biological racism’

Omar Khan, the director of Runnymede Trust, also urged caution when interpreting the data in order not to erase the intersection of poverty and race in health inequalities.

“There’s a biological racism in this kind of assuming that ethnic minorities are inherently more likely to have diabetes,” he said.

“Even things like heart disease and diabetes have social and economic determinants – things like diet, exercise, discrimination and poverty.”

Salman Waqar, a doctor, said the findings invited more questions than answers, though they appeared to correlate with the experiences of frontline intensive care unit staff.

“BAME patients are vastly under-represented in health research and there many things we simply do not know. Urgent action is needed to understand why they may be experiencing this disease burden from COVID-19 and take appropriate action to prevent further deaths.”


Inside Story

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Israel makes masks in public compulsory as Passover lockdown begins

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli government issued orders on Tuesday requiring citizens to wear face masks in public to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus as the country enters a lockdown for the Jewish Passover holiday.

The government also approved a timeline for tightened travel restrictions throughout much of the week-long festival, which begins on Wednesday when Jewish families gather for a meal commemorating the Biblical exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Israel has introduced the tougher measures in the hope the coronavirus will have been sufficiently contained once the April 8-15 festival is over to begin a gradual easing of restrictions.

But national leaders have made clear a recovery will take time.

“We will return to full routines within a year,” Defence Minister Naftali Bennett told Army Radio on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week urged Israelis to wear masks in public, a measure the government said would become compulsory on Sunday.

Children under six, the mentally disabled or those alone in vehicles or workplaces are exempt. The government said masks could be homemade.

A ban on unnecessary out-of-town travel began on Tuesday evening and will last until Friday morning, effectively preventing large gatherings for Passover.

Food shopping within towns will be forbidden from 3 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours before the meal begins, until the following morning.

The government said the holiday shopping ban would not apply to non-Jewish minorities. Around a fifth of Israeli citizens are Arabs, mostly Muslims, Druze and Christians.

Israel has more than 9,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. At least 60 people have died.

Ahead of the holiday, Israel’s military distributed some 50 tons of fruit and vegetables to residents of an ultra-Orthodox town that has been hit hard by the coronavirus and was sealed off last week, the military said on Tuesday.

Bnei Brak, a town of some 200,000 near Tel Aviv, was declared a restricted zone on Thursday and police have restricted access.

Around one third of Bnei Brak residents who were tested for the virus were found to have it, Israeli media have reported, citing health ministry data.

Many of the town’s residents are poor and some have heeded rabbis who, distrusting the state, spurned anti-virus measures.

In a broadcast Passover benediction on Tuesday, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar sought to reassure the country.

“May the Lord lift the dark and heavy cloud of this pestilence from over us,” he said.

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Swedish government to put forward bill granting it wider powers in pandemic fight

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The Swedish government will put forward a bill granting it wider powers to quickly take steps such as closing transport hubs or restaurants if needed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected thousands across the country.

The bill, which was widely expected to be pass parliament in the coming days after several opposition parties voiced their support, primarily cuts the time needed for the minority government to close many public venues.

While parliament can still reverse measures in a subsequent vote, but does not need to be consulted for prior approval.

“Today, we have decided on a bill to give us the tools to be able to act quickly with more measures if needed,” Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin told a news conference after the government had held talks with opposition parties.

“This proposal applies only to actions associated with the coronavirus and for a limited time only.”

Sweden, where nearly 600 COVID-19 patients have died, has taken a more liberal and low-key approach toward fighting the virus than most other European countries, relying primarily on voluntary measures and common sense than outright bans.

While schools, restaurants and most businesses have remained open, the government has banned public gatherings of over 50 people and shut universities, while authorities have also advised those who can to work from home.

The increased powers to impose restrictions without prior approval by parliament would be valid for up to three months.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that while most measures were not bans he still expected all Swedes to comply.

“The advise from the authorities are not just little hints,” he said. “It is expected that we follow them every day, every minute.”

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Coronavirus: New York death rate highest among globally comparable regions

New York has the highest death rate from coronavirus when analysed against comparable regions around the world, Sky News can reveal.

Sky News analysis looked at most affected regions in countries with the highest number of deaths including Italy, Spain, France, UK and China.

The chart above illustrates the exponential deaths from COVID-19.

Spain’s Catalonia and Madrid regions were seeing the second and third highest number of deaths, according to data sourced from the country’s ministry of health.

At the current rate, both regions will see their total death toll double over the next eight to 10 days.

The Lombardy region in Italy, the country with the highest death toll in the world from coronavirus currently, over the past three days has marginally overtaken Madrid in the rate of new deaths.

At the time of this report, the number of people dying from coronavirus in London doubles every five days with the Midlands following an identical trajectory.

The Sky News analysis looked at regions in countries worst hit by COVID-19 starting from the day of the 50th fatality for at least seven consecutive days.

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Other regions considered in our analysis includes Emilia-Romagna in Italy and Ticiano, the Italian-speaking region of southern Switzerland.

New Jersey, the second worst hit state in the US, has also become a region with one of the highest coronavirus fatality rates in the world after United States became the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Donald Trump earlier warned that the US will reach a “horrific point” in terms of death rates after one of the country’s top doctors said the nation should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.

It comes as nearly half the world’s population is under some form restriction as governments try to stop the spread of coronavirus and “flatten the curve” seen in the graphs above.

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Colorado’s marijuana businesses can remain open during pandemic, but they say they’re still struggling

As the coronavirus fueled changes in regulation for Colorado’s cannabis industry, leaders at LivWell Enlightened Health knew they needed to make dramatic moves to keep the business and its workers thriving. And fast.

On March 30, 18 company executives and department heads agreed to suspend their compensation for three months to avoid making cuts elsewhere, including personnel.

The company employs 690 people between its cultivation sites, business administration and 18 dispensaries in Colorado and Oregon. Most are what Executive Director Dean Heizer calls “heartbeat” employees, namely, those on the front lines serving customers in marijuana dispensaries and working in its grow facilities sites to ensure there’s product to sell.

“Our employees in retail and cultivation are the heartbeat of our company. We don’t survive if they aren’t happy and healthy,” he said.

Heizer declined to comment on the exact amount of money made available by deferred compensation, but said it’s enough to “keep our promise” to provide two weeks of paid sick leave and continued health insurance coverage for employees.

“This and other cost-cutting measures put us in a good position to weather the storm,” Heizer said. “So long as the storm lasts 90 days.”

Cannabis is one of the select industries deemed “critical” and allowed to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, but despite brief, panic-induced surges in business, many contend the industry is still struggling as Coloradans stay home and job losses mount in a crashing economy.

The industry’s not alone. A recent survey conducted by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce found about a third of businesses have laid off or furloughed workers, including many in industries considered essential during a public health crisis.

But those hardships are compounded by the fact that marijuana companies and ancillary businesses that service the industry do not qualify for federal stimulus relief. Still, cannabis companies are taking measures to keep their workers from joining the growing ranks of the unemployed.

The circumstances have forced some, like LivWell, to get creative financially. Others, like Green Dragon, are trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy until they can find viable long-term solutions, said co-owner Alex Levine. The company operates 14 dispensaries, including several in mountain towns like Aspen and Telluride, where ski resort closures and a lack of tourists caused sales to drop.

Green Dragon does not currently plan to lay off approximately 250 workers — in fact, it’s hiring to replace personnel that can’t risk working because of the potential for exposure to the coronavirus, Levine said. But the absence of financial aid and a federal tax “burden” that prohibits cannabis companies from deducting businesses expenses from taxable income make planning for the future difficult, he said.

“We’re trying to take it day by day, and trying to keep everything running as normal as possible,” Levine said. “Some are saying this a recession-proof product. That is certainly not the case.”

The pandemic is not only causing havoc for plant-touching companies, or those that work directly with marijuana. Brian Vicente, founding partner of Vicente Sederberg, which specializes in cannabis law, believes his company will not benefit from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act because of its affiliation with cannabis. The ramifications, he said, could be “damaging.”

“Law firms like mine, accounting firms and software firms that simply service marijuana industry… now we and folks like us are in a pretty precarious financial position,” Vicente said, adding he’s considered furloughs and pay reductions for his roughly 90-person firm.

A group of senators recently called on lawmakers to include cannabis businesses in eligibility for Small Business Administration loans and other federal funds, but Ashley Picillo, founder and CEO of Denver-based Point Seven Group, is still concerned. Her consulting firm helps new canna-businesses with licensing, compliance and facility design, among other upstart issues. Exclusion from the CARES Act puts her staff of 14 at risk and puts mounting pressure on her to collect from clients who are also experiencing hardship.

“I took a pay cut and intend to stay off payroll until we see this shake out,” Picillo said. “I have a contingency plan to say, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do before I start to let go of any of my people.’ ”

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.

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Pakistan doctors treating coronavirus patients jailed for protesting lack of equipment

The Pakistani military promised Tuesday that dozens of doctors who were briefly jailed for taking to the streets in southwestern Baluchistan province to protest the lack of protective equipment to treat the growing number of coronavirus cases will get the equipment they need.

The 47 doctors protested in Quetta, the provincial capital, on Monday, when they were detained. They were released later the same day, according to provincial spokesman Liaquat Shahwani.

An army statement on Tuesday said the “emergency supplies of medical equipment, including PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are being dispatched to Quetta.”

However, some of the doctors said they were maltreated by the police and that some of their colleagues were beaten. The physicians declined to give their names, fearing reprisals.

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Two doctors have died after contracting the new virus in Pakistan, which has recorded 4,004 cases and 54 deaths. Many of the cases have been traced to pilgrims returning from neighbouring Iran. Pakistani authorities have imposed a countrywide lockdown until April 14.

Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that with active screening of such cases, there are expectations the virus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, can be brought under control by mid-May.

“With this step, we will go after people without symptoms,” said Namaki, adding this would require a large number of tests. He didn’t elaborate. The health ministry said searching for asymptomatic cases would be combined with restrictions on both city and intercity travel and quarantine.

Iran is facing the worst outbreak in the region. Iran’s state TV said Tuesday the new coronavirus has killed another 133 people, pushing the country’s death toll to 3,872 amid 62,589 confirmed cases.

The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition.

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Coronavirus lockdown is nothing new for some Moscow residents

MOSCOW (Reuters) – For some elderly Moscow residents, the coronavirus lockdown has a familiar feel – they lived through something like it during a dramatic Soviet-era smallpox outbreak six decades ago.

That crisis, in 1960, was accompanied by emergency measures that were at times more draconian than this time round.

Moscow’s rail, road and air links with the rest of the country were partially suspended, and anyone who came into contact with an infected person was traced and quarantined.

“Immediately in Moscow a special headquarters was set up, which led the hunt for people who had been exposed,” Victor Zuev, 90, a laboratory worker at the time, told Reuters.

“Thousands of people were isolated … they were taken off trains, brought back from abroad,” said Zuev.

This time round, authorities are also tracing and quarantining people.

Smallpox, vanquished worldwide thanks to a vaccine, is a highly infectious disease with a mortality rate of 30%. The Soviet Union officially eradicated it in 1936, but a traveller brought it back to Moscow from India in the final days of 1959.

Self-isolating at home in Moscow now, Vladimir Petrosyan, son-in-law of the traveller who was patient zero, remembers the smallpox emergency.

Petrosyan, 80 and now a professor of chemistry, spent two months in compulsory isolation after contracting the disease.

He was quarantined in Moscow’s Infectious Diseases Hospital N.2. Today it is one of the city’s few centres where patients with the new coronavirus are isolated and treated.

“It was one enormous hall … beds were lined up one after another,” Petrosyan recalled. The hospital was surrounded by a police cordon.

Some Russians question official coronavirus data now. But back then, with Nikita Khrushchev in charge, there was no information.

“There were no announcements in the press, nor on the radio. As always, the government kept people in the dark,” Vladimir Golyakhovskiy, then a doctor at Moscow’s Botkin hospital, wrote in a 2006 memoir.

“So rumours spread around Moscow, each scarier than the last,” he added.

This time, with the official number of coronavirus cases in Moscow still relatively low compared to other European capitals, at 5,181, rumours of unreported cases have swirled online, prompting authorities to introduce penalties for spreading false information.

And whereas in 1960 life in Moscow continued much as normal, this time mayor Sergei Sobyanin has imposed a strict quarantine, shutting cafes and bars and telling residents to remain at home.

PATIENT ZERO

Smallpox was brought to Moscow in December 1959 by a sole carrier, а renowned painter of Soviet propaganda posters, Alexei Kokorekin. He had contracted it in India after visiting a city where funeral pyres were held, including of people who had died of the disease.

Petrosyan, who later married Kokorekin’s daughter, said he and his wife were at the artist’s bedside when he died that month.

“He was buried in a lead coffin, because they suspected he had some sort of infectious disease, but they did not know what,” Petrosyan recalled.

Petrosyan and Zuev told Reuters that Moscow’s way of dealing with the new coronavirus, focused on isolating patients and suspected carriers, echoed what was done in 1960.

But with one crucial difference: there was a vaccine against smallpox but there is none yet against COVID-19.

Within weeks of Kokorekin’s death, smallpox vaccines were shipped to Moscow from across the Soviet Union.

“The mass vaccination of 7 million who live or work in Moscow … was carried out in one week,” an article in the New York Times archive, from Feb. 3, 1960, reads.

Moscow’s 1960 smallpox outbreak caused three deaths. The capital’s new coronavirus outbreak has, according to official figures, led to 31, a figure that increases daily.

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UK PM Johnson in intensive care, needed oxygen after COVID-19 symptoms worsened

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in intensive care on Tuesday after receiving oxygen support for serious COVID-19 complications while his foreign minister took over the helm of government as the outbreak accelerated.

The upheaval of Johnson’s personal battle with the virus has shaken the government just as the United Kingdom enters what scientists say will be the most deadly phase of the pandemic, which has killed 5,373 people in Britain and 70,000 worldwide.

Johnson, 55, was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital across the River Thames from the House of Commons late on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature and a cough, for more than 10 days.

But his condition rapidly deteriorated over the next 24 hours, and he was on Monday moved to an intensive care unit, where the most serious cases are treated, in case he needed to be put on a ventilator. He was still conscious, his office said.

“He’s not on a ventilator, no,” Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told LBC radio on Tuesday. “The prime minister has received some oxygen support and he is kept under, of course, close supervision.”

“The prime minister is in intensive care,” Gove said. “He’s a man of great zest and appetite for life.”

But the absence of Johnson, the first leader of a major power to be hospitalised after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, at such a crucial time raised questions about who was truly in charge of the world’s fifth largest economy.

While Britain has no formal succession plan should a prime minister become incapacitated, Johnson asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, 46, to deputise for him “where necessary,” Downing Street said.

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WHO LEADS?

Raab on Tuesday chaired the government’s COVID-19 emergency response meeting, though ministers refused to say who had ultimate control the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons – a role held by the prime minister.

“There are well developed protocols which are in place,” said Gove, who himself went into self isolation on Tuesday after a family member displayed symptoms.

Before he was rushed to intensive care, Johnson had said that he was in good spirits and Raab had told a news conference that Johnson was still running the government, although Raab also said he had not spoken to him directly since Saturday.

British leaders do not traditionally publicise the results of their medical examinations as some U.S. presidents including Donald Trump have.

Raab, the son of a Czech-born Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in 1938, takes the helm at a pivotal time. Government scientists see the death toll rising until at least April 12 and Britain must ultimately decide when to lift the lockdown.

“The government’s business will continue,” said Raab, a staunch Brexit supporter who has served as foreign minister for less than a year.

Johnson’s move to intensive care added to the sense of upheaval that the coronavirus crisis has wrought after its spread caused widespread panic, sowed chaos through financial markets and prompted the virtual shutdown of the global economy.

The United Kingdom is in a state of virtual lockdown, a situation due to be reviewed early next week, and some ministers have suggested it might need to be extended because some people were flouting the strict rules.

The pound dipped in Asian trading on news of Johnson’s intensive care treatment but then rallied in London trading. Against the dollar, sterling traded to a high of $1.2349, up 0.9% on the session.

BORIS

Even before coronavirus, Johnson had had a tumultuous year.

He won the top job in July 2019, renegotiated a Brexit deal with the European Union, fought a snap election in December which he won resoundingly and then led the United Kingdom out of the European Union on Jan 31 – promising to seal a Brexit trade deal by the end of this year.

The government has said it is not planning to seek an extension to that deadline in light of the epidemic.

Johnson has faced criticism for initially approving a much more modest response to the novel coronavirus outbreak than other major European leaders, though he then imposed a lockdown as projections showed half a million people could die.

He tested positive for the virus on March 26.

After 10 days of isolation in an apartment at Downing Street, he was admitted to hospital. He was last seen in a video message posted on Twitter on Friday when he looked weary.

Downing Street said repeatedly on Monday that Johnson remained in charge and was reading documents, but the move to intensive care revealed the gravity of his condition.

James Gill, a doctor and a clinical lecturer at Warwick Medical School, said the news of Johnson’s admission to intensive care was “worrying” but not completely out of line with other people suffering complications.

“So far we have seen a deterioration in line with other cases of COVID-19 infections,” he said. “Admission to ITU is worrying news, (but) this is not all together uncommon with this disease, and may be looked at from a positive that the PM is getting the very best care that the NHS has to offer.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said all Americans were praying for his recovery, and other world leaders sent messages of support.

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Storm Harold warning: Met Office warns of ‘strongest cyclone since 2016’ – Latest path

The Met Office is tacking storm Harold through the South Pacific, which, according to the agency promises to be one of the most “powerful” in years. A tweet from the forecasters revealed it could rival storm Winston, which battered the island in 2016.

The tweet read: “#Harold is moving away from #Vanuatu and is now the strongest cyclone in the South Pacific since Winston in 2016. Now heading towards #Fiji, but is expected to pass just south of the islands by midweek.”

According to the Met Office, Storm Harold is currently moving away from Vanuatu, a country in Indonesia.

There, the powerful cyclone smashed the island nation with 155mph wind speeds.

Harold hit the island of Espiritu Santo on Monday and moved towards the south through the rest of the day.

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Winds strengthened to 167mph, with maximum gusts of 186mph by the time it rounded on the southeastern island of Pentecost.

The speeds mean the storm is approaching a category five system, which the NOAA classes as a “major” hurricane”.

The last major storm to batter the island was cyclone Winston, which made landfall as a tropical disturbance in 2016.

Then, the cyclone commanded gale-force winds and pounded the island with 108mph winds.

Eventually, the storm developed into a category five and smashed Fiji’s Lau archipelago with maximum wind gusts of 190mph.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US, Harold could leave lasting power outages and falling debris.

Pictures shared by the Asia Pacific Office of the Red Cross showed devastation on the island, including falling trees and flooding.

Officials expect the storm will weaken over Tuesday, as confirmed by the Met Office.

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They said the storm is now heading towards Fiji but would miss the islands, passing south of the area.

However, the southern island of Viti Levu may experience hurricane-force winds on Wednesday.

The storm previously tore through the Solomon Islands, killing 27 people in the sea nearby the country.

Vanuatu is currently in a state of emergency, due primarily to the coronavirus pandemic.

The nation suspended outbound and incoming flights on March 26, and the last international flight departed on March 21.

While no cases have emerged, experts fear the small nation is not prepared to handle a full-blown epidemic.

The state of emergency prohibits gatherings of more than five people in public, and all shops, bars and restaurants need to close by 7.30pm.

Public transport also shuts down relatively early, with trips finished by 9pm.

Authorities briefly lifted the restrictions while the storm made landfall, allowing people to seek refuge at safe houses and evacuation centres.

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