EU coronavirus crisis: Trucks with vital supplies stuck in traffic jams, warns EU chief

Ursula von der Leyen admitted lorried carrying essential goods and medical supplies are stuck in traffic jams which are lasting longer than 24 hours. The President of the EU Commission released a video on her Twitter addressing the problem as she desperately tries to solve it. Ms von der Leyen noted a queue between the Slovenian-Croatian border has already been resolved.

Ms von der Leyen said: “Some of these measures have stopped people at the borders. At certain borders, we have dozens of kilometres of traffic jams and more than 24 hours of waiting time.

“Many European citizens are still unable to travel back home and trucks carrying medicine, essential and perishable goods such as food, are blocked.

“It is important to solve this now, right at the beginning of the crisis and that’s why I follow the situation closely including thanks to satellite images.

“I’ve had several talks national Governments addressing this topic and there are already some good developments.

“Last weekend we had a huge traffic jam on the Slovenian-Croatian border.

“Now traffic is much more fluid there. People are now able to reach their homes and the lorries stranded in Slovenia could continue to their destination.

“This is a good example of how neighbouring countries can find pragmatic solutions.”

She added there are 20km (12-mile) queues on the border between Romania and Hungary.

It comes as the European Union faces being killed off by eurosceptics if the bloc fails to convince citizens it can respond to the coronavirus crisis, the Italian prime minister has warned.

Giuseppe Conte said nationalist politicians across the continent would soon grow in popularity as voters turn their back on Brussels – unless there is a robust and unified response to the global pandemic.

Italy became the deadliest centre by the viral outbreak after its death toll surpassed China, according to figures released by the Italian Civil Protection Agency.

Deaths in the country reached 3,405 as the total number of cases in Italy rose to 41,035 on Thursday, which included some 5,322 new cases.

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The current number of deaths in China stands at 3,242, according to the World Health Organisation.

With the bloc’s third-largest economy at risk of a complete collapse, Mr Conte called for a united approach.

“Europe must show unity and solidarity, there is no alternative to this,” he told the Financial Times.

“If Europe fails, I fear it will fade away in the conscious of our fellow citizens, giving space to the worst nationalistic instincts. This is a different virus that we need to defeat now.”

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Germany’s crisis lockdown: BBC claim Merkel will shut down EU’s biggest economy by Monday

Germany looks set to impose a lockdown across the entire country, as Angela Merkel battles the spread of coronavirus. The BBC’s Bethany Bell spoke to several senior German officials who said that an emergency meeting led by Chancellor Merkel could extend severe restrictions to the entire country. This would see Europe’s biggest economy join Italy, France and Spain in forcing a nationwide lockdown. 

Bell told the BBC: “We are seeing these restrictions and lockdowns spread across Europe. They are in Italy, Spain, Austria, and in Bavaria.

“Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel will be meeting with regional leaders tomorrow to decide whether those restrictions should be extended to the entire country.

“German health officials claim they are weeks behind the scenes seen in Italy. But they fear the number of deaths will rise.

“Just today, an outbreak at an old persons home in Bavaria has seen at least nine people die.” 

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The German Chancellor is expected to hold a conference call with state premiers in 24 hours. 

If Mrs Merkel decides to impose a lockdown, German citizens could be confined to their homes from Monday onwards. 

On Friday, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun warned that a near-total lockdown – as in force in Italy, Spain and France – could soon be necessary in Germany.

He said: “We will look at the behaviour of the people this weekend. Saturday is a decisive day, and we will keep a close eye on that.”

Mr Braun added that a lockdown would be “extremely heavy” and “we wish to avoid it”.

Germany has also closed chools, kindergartens, bars, nightclubs and non-essential shops in many parts of the country.

Despite these measures, people are still socialising outside, calling such gatherings “corona parties”. 

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Baden-Württemberg premier, Winfried Kretschmann warned: “Unless everyone fundamentally changes their behaviour, we won’t avoid tougher measures and sanction.”

The country’s largest state Bavaria, which is also one of the worst hit German states, enacted a lockdown from midnight on Friday. 

Bavaria decreed a “situation of catastrophe” and its state premier Markus Söder said: “We are not locking Bavarians in but we are winding down public life almost completely.”

Mr Söder added: “We can no longer accept this. We must try to break the wave of erratic infections.”

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Coronavirus: Angry ex-nurse wishes Mr Hancock ‘luck’ getting retired medics back

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for retired doctors and nurses to return to the NHS to help out as things start to become critical.

This came after Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, London, was the first to call a major incident when they became overwhelmed by patients affected by Covid-19 – which has since been stood down.

But his plea was met with criticism from former nurses who didn't hold back in telling him exactly they thought.

Drawing on their own personal experience of working for the NHS their messages back were pretty damning.

Mr Hancock tweeted: "We're calling on nurses and doctors who've recently left the NHS to return.

We need you now as a part of the national effort to fight coronavirus."

Retired nurse, Maggie Jones, responded: "I left the NHS seven years ago. Ten years ago my salary was frozen by your government which still affects my pension.

"Nurses still haven't had a pay rise since then. But good luck getting the poor downtrodden saps to work for you."

And Donna Warburton wrote: "No. I left because we were treated like s**t, barely had time to pee on shift.

"Didn't have a pay rise in five years while you lot carried on getting yours.

"I'm at home now looking after my three children, being responsible, not going out."

And the mother of a former nurse added: "My daughter was treated like a commodity by the NHS.

"Why would she come back and get more of the same. No way."

Meanwhile, a doctor wanted to make sure the Health Secretary was aware of the sacrifice he was making to do his bit in the fight against the killer bug.

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Peechoo Qan wrote: "Mr Hancock. As a consultant I am about to leave my family at home and live in a hotel to protect them from illness as I don’t have the right PPE or option of testing.

"I’m soon going to start doing 2 consultant jobs to keep things running. No talk more action please."

A senior nurse at Northwick Hospital told the Telegraph they needed proper masks, gowns and gloves as she revealed staff were forced to wear clinical waste bags on their heads and feet for protection.

“We had to use our initiative. We had no other choice or we could catch the virus ourselves.”

“We need proper PPE kit now, or nurses and doctors are going to die. It’s as simple as that.

“We’re treating our own colleagues on the ward after they caught the virus from patients. How can that be right?

“There are so many younger people here on ventilation – many with asthma, or diabetes. They can’t stop coughing, they just cough and cough and cough and they can’t help it."

“There’s too many Covid patients coming in to cope with. We put on our brave smiles but inside we’re terrified. I don’t know what will happen next."

  • Coronavirus
  • NHS

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Coronavirus: Loblaws stores place markers to ensure social distancing

As many people around the world practice social distancing, grocery stores remain crowded, as people prepare for a potential quarantine.

One of Canada’s largest grocers, Loblaws, announced Friday that it will begin several precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The executive chairman of the company, Galen Weston, released a video on Twitter saying that Loblaws stores are reducing hours to allow its staff time for extra sanitization and rest.

Weston continued to say that stores will open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the first hour dedicated to seniors and those with disabilities.

Aside from that, Weston is implementing a limit on the number of customers allowed in Loblaws’ busiest stores in an attempt to increase social distancing.

At the two Kingston, Ont., Loblaws locations, staff were seen labelling two-metre markers with blue and duct tape in front of the checkout and telling customers to stand behind each marker.

Global News spoke to several customers inside the Princess Street and Sir. John A. MacDonald location and many were pleased with the health and safety adjustments.

“I think it’s great to see companies take this step and put our health as a priority,” said Cassidy Van Stiphaut as she waited in line to pay for her groceries.

“I think it’s a great idea, and it’s nice to see people on board with it,” said Paul Gornsey.

The feeling, however, wasn’t mutual for one Loblaws shopper.

“I think it’s pointless,” said Andrew Hayes, and when asked why he believes it’s pointless, he answered with, “I don’t think a five-foot gap won’t make any difference.”

Canada’s public health agency defines social distancing as steps to “minimize close contact” with people in the community, such as “quarantine or self-isolation at the individual level,” along with broader steps such as avoiding crowds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to stay two metres from one another as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

In an emailed statement, Weston said when the aisles are jam-packed, giving people the appropriate amount of space is just too difficult. High-volume stores will open every other checkout lane to encourage social distancing.

The stores will also be eliminating loose or bulk items in some locations, and some service departments, such as seafood, will pre-package products.

“Food sampling, removed beauty testers in Shoppers Drug Mart and suspended cosmetic services like makeovers and skincare consultations. We are also encouraging you to use debit or credit as much as possible. In short, the less touching, the better,” said Weston.

Lastly, Loblaws will waive the $0.05 plastic bag fee to discourage the use of reusable bags.

These changes were put in place on Friday, Nov. 20 and will continue until further notice.

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South Korea advises facilities suspension, experts warn of 'long battle' against coronavirus

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea on Saturday advised its public to close facilities and forgo socialising for 15 days, keeping to its policy of voluntary social distancing but warning of consequences if the rules are not followed to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The country reported 147 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, jumping from the previous day’s 87, and experts noted the need to prepare for a “long battle” as concerns of imported cases and new outbreaks around small clusters persisted.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a televised address the government strongly recommended religious, indoor sports and entertainment facilities such as nightclubs suspend operations, and people avoid socialising and travel for the next 15 days.

If facilities do not conform to rules such as mandatory mask wearing for all users, at least 1 meter (3.3 ft) distance between everyone and listing the names and phone numbers of all entrants while operating, the government will order gatherings to disperse.

“In the event of failure to comply with the administrative order, we will actively take all possible measures stipulated by law, including the facilities’ shutdown and indemnity claims,” Chung said.

Saturday’s cases bring the country’s total to 8,799. The number of deaths associated with the virus rose to 104.

LONG BATTLE AHEAD

The tally marked the 10th day in a row the country has posted new infections in the mid-100s or below, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). South Korea has seen a downward trend in new cases from the peak of 909 cases reported on Feb. 29.

Out of 147 new cases, 109 were from South Korea’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, and adjoining North Gyeongsang Province, where 86% of all South Korean cases have been. More than 165 cases in the region were spread in and from hospitals for the elderly, KCDC data showed.

But other regions also saw increases, including 15 new cases in Seoul and six detected in people entering the country from abroad.

“You may feel that the current situation has improved a lot compared to the past, but… we continue to see group infection, inflows from foreign countries, mass outbreaks at workplaces,” Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy, said at a briefing.

Yoon cited experts as saying that more arrangements in structural social distancing and medical systems are needed to “prepare for a long battle” as coronavirus spreads globally, but said South Korea has not considered the extreme forms of travel restrictions that other countries have taken.

President Moon Jae-in and government officials from vice minister and up will return 30% of their paychecks for four months to support those hit by coronavirus, the Prime Minister’s office said.

Prime Minister Chung said earlier on Saturday that up to 3.8 trillion won ($3.03 billion) in disaster management funds may be used for small businesses and disadvantaged people specifically for coronavirus-related difficulties.

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Police catch coronavirus bog roll bandits in van full of stolen toilet paper

Coronavirus fears have, for some bizarre reason, seen UK shoppers go on a toilet roll binge in recent weeks, but it was still a surprise when Essex Police officers stopped a suspicious van and found it full with dozens of stolen packets.

Coppers from the force's Operational Support Group stopped the vehicle last night and soon discovered the rolls in the back.

Three men were arrested on the spot.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "Police officers always get a massive sense of satisfaction when we catch burglars.

"However, we never expected to find this stolen loot in the boot.

"Stolen items recovered and three arrested all within an hour of it being reported. That's how we roll."

And the arresting officers quickly came in for praise, and quite a few puns, on social media.

One responder on Twitter wrote: "Brilliant job! Hope you get to the 'bottom' of why they needed all that loo roll!"

While another added: "You really are on a roll with your results!"

The news comes as police officers across the country have been urgently drafted in to support supermarket security workers in attempts to control crowds of panic buyers.

Reports came in last week of younger shoppers sneaking in to supermarkets during so-called 'silver hours' – time which has been especially set aside for older shoppers amid the Covd-19 outbreak.

And shoppers have also spotted officers protecting important deliveries at peak times to stop worried shoppers from taking things into their own hands and helping themselves to the in-demand goods.

Some councils across the country have also s crapped bin collections due to staff shortages as a result of the pandemic.

Residents are instead asked to take their rubbish to the tip themselves.

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UNODC says to postpone crime congress to be held in Kyoto next month to undetermined date

TOKYO (Reuters) – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said it would postpone a crime congress scheduled be held in Kyoto next month until an undetermined date due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“We regret to announce that, due to the worldwide situation related to COVID-19 and related factors, the 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, scheduled to be held in Kyoto, Japan on 20-27 April 2020, will be postponed to an as yet undetermined later date,” the organization said on its website.

UNODC and Japan, the host country, are in consultation on possible new dates, it said.

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North Korea fires suspected short-range missiles, South Korea says, amid coronavirus

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired two projectiles that appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s military said on Saturday, after what analysts said was a show of confidence during the coronavirus epidemic by announcing an April legislature session.

The launch follows two earlier this month, when North Korea launched short-range missiles and multiple projectiles, according to South Korea’s military, drawing U.S. and Chinese appeals for Pyongyang to return to talks on ending its nuclear and missile programs.

The suspected missiles were fired from North Pyongan province, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The province is above Pyongyang on the northwest corner of the Korean peninsula, bordering China.

Japan’s coast guard said on Saturday that North Korea appeared to have fired a missile, which landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone waters.

Earlier on Saturday, North Korea announced it will hold in April a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, its rubber-stamp legislature, in Pyongyang, which analysts had said would involve gathering almost 700 of the country’s leaders in one spot as the coronavirus spreads worldwide.

“If it goes ahead, it would be the ultimate show of (North Korea’s) confidence in managing the coronavirus situation,” Rachel Minyoung Lee, of the North Korea monitoring website NK News, said on Twitter this week.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the new coronavirus that was first detected in China late last year, though a top U.S. military official said last week he is “fairly certain” there were infections in North Korea.

State media KCNA also said on Saturday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided an artillery fire competition between combined units of the North Korean army on Friday, displaying photos of him watching with high-ranking military officers, all unmasked. It was unclear whether Saturday’s launch was part of the drill.

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China sees zero local coronavirus cases for third day, imported infections rise

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Mainland China reported zero locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus for a third day running, while the daily log of infections involving travellers arriving from other countries continued to rise.

Mainland China had 41 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, the country’s National Health Commission said, all imported from abroad. That brought the total number of imported cases to 269.

High in the charts was Beijing, with 14 new imported cases. Shanghai and six provinces also identified such cases.

That brought the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 81,008, the health authority said in a statement on Saturday.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China reached 3,255 as of the end of Friday, up by seven from the previous day and all from the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak in China.

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Saskatchewan premier signs order enforcing measures protecting against spread of COVID-19

Additional cases of COVID-19 are prompting the Saskatchewan government to take serious action.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe signed an order on Friday pursuant to the provincial state of emergency — demanding all orders of the government and chief medical health officer must be followed.

The order gives law enforcement agencies in Saskatchewan full authority to enforce them. If disobeyed, fines could be issued.

https://t.co/25A9p7KnMb—
Saskatoon Police (@SaskatoonPolice) March 20, 2020

Moe shared his concerns that people returning to Saskatchewan from international travel are not taking part in the recommendation to self-isolate for 14 days.

“I know that the vast majority of Saskatchewan people are taking their personal responsibility seriously and following this order,” Moe said in a press release.

“But a few are not. This is not a suggestion. It is not a guideline. It is the law and it must be followed.”

The government said anyone who travelled internationally must self-isolate for 14 days when arriving back in Canada. This doesn’t apply to health care workers, truckers, rail workers, airline workers required to work to maintain essential services.

People identified by a medical health officer as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days, according to the press release.

While in self-isolation, people who start feeling symptoms of the virus must call HealthLine 811 and follow their instructions, officials said.

In addition, the government said anybody living with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must go into self-isolation and to call HealthLine 811.

The following measures are effective immediately:

  • Public gatherings of over 25 people in one room are prohibited except where two-metre distancing between people can be maintained; workplace and meeting settings where people are distributed into multiple rooms or buildings; and retail locations;
  • Nightclubs, bars, lounges and similar facilities must close. The takeout of alcohol or food products is permitted with two-metre distancing between customers and the delivery of alcohol or food products;
  • In-person classes in all primary and secondary educational institutions both public and private are suspended;
  • Visitors to long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes, and group homes shall be restricted to family visiting for compassionate reasons.

The following measures are effective March 23:

  • The closure of restaurants, food courts, cafeterias, cafes, bistros and similar facilities.  Exceptions are takeout with two-metre distancing between customers during pick-up; drive-through food services; delivery of food products; soup kitchens, not-for-profit community and religious kitchens with two-metre distancing between tables;
  • The closure of all recreational and entertainment facilities including fitness centres, casinos, bingo halls, arenas, curling rinks, swimming pools, galleries, theatres, museums and similar facilities;
  • The closure of all personal service facilities including tattooists, hairdressers, barbers, acupuncturists, acupressurists, cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists, suntanning parlours, relaxation masseuses, facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services;
  • The closure of dental, optometrist, chiropractic, registered massage therapy and podiatry clinics except for non-elective procedures;
  • All daycare facilities are limited to a maximum of eight children unless they can configure the facility so that a maximum of eight children are kept in room and be in accordance with the Saskatchewan child care guidelines for care; and
  • All daycares that are co-located with long-term care or personal care home that meet the above restriction shall be segregated with a private entrance so that there are no shared common areas with the home and no interaction between daycare children and residents of the facility.

The province now has eight cases of COVID-19 confirmed and 18 presumptive cases as of March 20.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

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