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Italy shows signs that coronavirus pandemic is slowing down with hopeful new figures

In Italy, Europe’s hardest-hit nation, with more recorded deaths than any other nation, there are signs that coronavirus might be loosening its grip. Now, many are asking whether COVID-19 has finally peaked.

The peak of a pandemic in a country is when the number of new infections in a single day reaches its highest point.

Cases now registered in Italy will reflect exposure to the virus around two weeks ago, according to health chiefs.

The increase in new confirmed cases in Italy is at its lowest since the outbreak began – four percent.

This is promising, as it is half as much as four days ago, and a further four times less than two weeks ago.

And, the number of those who have recovered from the virus has reached its highest ever level.

On Monday, this figure stood at 1,590.

In Lombardy – regarded as the worst hit region, in the north of the country – the amount of people testing positive for the virus has dropped sharply.

It fell from 25,392 on Sunday to 25,006 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Despite a move in the right direction, the positive cases rebounded on Tuesday by around 120 people.

Experts were also quick to point out that these figures are only the number of confirmed cases, rather than the real amount of people infected.

The true amount will never be known, with many carrying the virus unknowingly to themselves or the authorities.

The decline in the rise of new infections could also be in part down to the reduced number of tests being administered in the past few days.

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The number of people who died from the virus after testing positive in Italy on Sunday was the lowest daily rise in deaths since Wednesday last week.

Yet, coronavirus proved its uncanny ability to thwart our control, with it bouncing back on Monday and Tuesday, rising by 812, according to the the Civil Protection Agency said, reversing two days of decline.

Last week, the head of Italy’s national health institute said the country had not yet reached its peak.

But, Silvio Brusaferro said there were “signs of a slowdown” in the number of people becoming infected.

This led many to suggest the peak might be closer than what was previously thought.

Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, head of health emergencies at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said there was “hope” that Italy is soon approaching its peak.

This was, he said, as lockdown measures began to prove their worth.

He warned that it was difficult to known when the peak has been reached, however, using Wuhan as an example of how the peak went up and down before it was actually reached.

Mr Ryan also emphasised the importance of not just trying to get past the peak, but testing and isolating cases.

He said: “The question is how do you go down, and going down isn’t just about a lockdown and let go.

“To get down from the numbers, not just stabilise, requires a redoubling of public health efforts to push down.”

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Politics

Coronavirus: More firms now see value of digitalisation, says Iswaran

More businesses are seeing the value of increased digitalisation in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said yesterday.

While the Government has long encouraged companies to intensify the use of digital technology in their processes, the coronavirus has brought into stark relief its relevance and merits at a time when businesses have had to act to minimise disruptions in the face of the virus, he said in an interview on Money FM 89.3.

“Right now, businesses see the value proposition – whether it is working remotely (or) transacting with business partners around the world,” he told co-hosts Elliot Danker and Ryan Huang.

The current situation has also helped employees to understand why digital technologies are both relevant and useful, he added.

Digital technology has also helped the Government manage the crisis, he said, citing the Gov.sg WhatsApp service that has given Singaporeans “reliable information in a timely manner (that) also enables them to navigate all the other information they are receiving on a daily basis”.

“We think these and many other digital sources of information and ways of communicating with our broader population (are a) key part of not just battling the crisis, but also preparing ourselves for the next phase of digital evolution in Singapore’s economy,” he said.

A myth that needs dispelling, he said, is that digitalisation applies only to some, when such technologies cut across every sector. Even traditional businesses in Kampong Glam and Little India are using digital technologies, whether for payments or to interact with their logistics providers, he noted.

Both businesses and workers need to view digitalisation as a journey, not something where one needs to “jump into the deep end in one fell swoop”.

“What you can do is work on it (by) taking incremental steps, but have an overall strategy that takes you to the end point in terms of the kind of capabilities you need.”

Asked about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), which took effect last October, he said Covid-19 has vindicated what the Government said when it introduced the anti-fake news legislation.

It had argued that people today get information from a variety of digital sources, information from digital sources can be very viral and fake information can cause dire consequences.

Pofma “has actually proven to be very effective in the course of Covid-19, although it is very, very unfortunate that people still persist in pervading falsehoods even in these very trying times, and it causes fear and panic in our population”, he said. “So, we have to move swiftly and decisively to deal with such fake news or falsehoods.”

He pointed out that the Government’s promptness in quashing early instances of fake news – such as debunking rumours in January of Woodlands MRT station being closed because of a suspected Covid-19 case – has “had a salutary effect”. “Even in private messaging services… what I find is the instinct now is for people to ask the question, ‘Is this fake? Is this real?’ ” Mr Iswaran said.

This is a very good instinct, he said, “because what it means is people realise they need to question the source, the authenticity of the information and its reliability”.

Newspapers and the media remain an important source of accurate information, he added.

“The media plays a very important role, (and) the mainstream media remains one of the key sources of information people rely on.”

When Singapore enters the general election season, the Government will ensure people get reliable and truthful information for citizens to exercise their vote in a well-informed way, he said.

“The experience in other countries has shown that, in particular, in an (election) hustings period, there is more froth, especially on social media, in the digital realm, and a lot more misinformation starts to spread,” he said. “So, the key is ensuring our citizens are well informed, they understand the facts clearly and we are able to debunk the falsehoods quickly.”

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World News

Grounded cabin crew get hospital training as Sweden battles coronavirus

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Furloughed crew from crisis-hit Scandinavian airline SAS are taking a three-day course in basic hospital duties to help plug gaps in a Swedish healthcare system strained by thousands of coronavirus cases.

The airline, part owned by the governments of Sweden and Denmark, temporarily laid off 10,000 staff – 90% of its workforce – this month to cut costs and ride out a plunge in air travel due the pandemic and related border closures.

With Stockholm’s healthcare system in need of reinforcement as cases rise, Sophiahemmet University Hospital is teaching former cabin crew skills such as sterilizing equipment, making hospital beds and providing information to patients and their relatives.

The first students are due to complete the course on Thursday and the response has been overwhelming.

“We now have a long, long list of healthcare providers that are just waiting for them,” said Johanna Adami, principal at the University. Airlines in Australia, and the U.S. have also enquired about using the training methods for their staff.

She said municipalities, hospitals and nursing homes have all been queuing up to employ the re-trained staff, who will number around 300 in the coming weeks. Adami said airline staff were particularly suited to helping in the healthcare sector.

“They have basic healthcare education from their work. They are also very experienced to be flexible and think about security and also to handle complicated situations,” she said.

Sweden has around 4,500 confirmed cases of the virus and 180 deaths, with the capital especially hard hit. Healthcare officials in Stockholm have scrambled to set up a temporary hospital in a convention center and warned of a lack off staff and safety equipment to meet the crisis.

Malin Ohman, 25, a airline stewardess from northern Sweden was in the first class of students.

“In the a blink of an eye I decided – ‘yes of course, why wouldn’t I’,” she said of her decision to retrain. “I felt that we could just contribute with something,” she added.

The course is free of charge and the companies involved with the training are not seeking to make a profit. Funding, about 7 million Swedish crowns ($698,000) is provided by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation.

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World News

India’s race to build a $650 ventilator

In an 8,000 sq ft (743 sq m) facility in the western Indian city of Pune, a bunch of young engineers are racing against time to develop a low-cost ventilator that could save thousands of lives if the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country’s hospitals.

These engineers – from some of India’s top engineering schools – belong to a two-year-old start-up which makes water-less robots that clean solar plants.

Last year, Nocca Robotics had a modest turnover of 2.7 million rupees ($36,000; £29,000). The average age of the mechanical, electronic and aerospace engineers who work for the firm is 26.

India, by most estimates, only has 48,000 ventilators. Nobody quite knows how many of these breathing assistance machines are working. But it is a fair assumption that all those available are being used in intensive care units on existing patients with other diseases.

About one in six people with Covid-19 gets seriously ill, which can include breathing difficulties. The country faces seeing its hospitals hobbled as others around the world have been, with doctors forced to choose who they try to save.

At least two Indian companies make ventilators at present, mostly from imported components. They cost around 150,000 ($1,987; £1,612) rupees each. One of them, AgVa Healthcare, plans to make 20,000 in a month’s time. India has also ordered 10,000 from China, but that will meet just a fraction of the potential demand.

The invasive ventilator being developed by the engineers at Nocca Robotics will cost 50,000 rupees ($662). Within five days of beginning work, a group of seven engineers at the start-up have three prototypes of a portable machine ready.

They are being tested on artificial lungs, a prosthetic device that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood. By 7 April, they plan to be ready with machines that can be tested on patients after approvals.

“It is most certainly doable,” said Dr Deepak Padmanabhan, a cardiologist at Bangalore’s Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, and a key advisor on this project. “The simulations on artificial lungs have been done and seem to work well.”

Inspiring story

The race to develop this inexpensive, home-grown invasive breathing machine is an inspiring story of swift coordination and speedy action involving public and private institutions, something not common in India.

“The pandemic has brought us all together in ways I could never imagine,” says Amitabha Bandhopadhyay, a professor of biological sciences and bioengineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, and a key mover of the project.

The young engineers mined open source medical supplies groups on the internet to find information on how to make the ventilators. After securing permissions, it took them exactly eight hours to produce the first prototype. Of particular use, say doctors, were some designs by engineers at MIT. With imports stalled, the engineers picked up pressure sensors – a key component of the machine that helps supply oxygen to lungs at a pressure that doesn’t cause injury – from those used in drones and available in the market.

Local authorities helped open firms that stock components – each machine needs 150 to 200 parts – and made sure that a bunch of engineers who had returned home to Nanded after the lockdown were still able to travel 400km (248 miles) back to Pune to work on the machine.

Some leading Indian industrialists, including a major medical device-making company, have offered their factories to manufacture the machines. The plan is to make 30,000 ventilators, at around 150-200 a day, by the middle of May.

Social media influencers joined the effort. Rahul Raj, a lithium battery-maker and an IIT alumnus, crowd-sourced a group called Caring Indians to “pool resources and experience” to cope with the pandemic. Within 24 hours, 1,000 people had signed up. “We tweeted to the local lawmaker and local police in Pune to help the developers, and made contacts with people who would be interested in the project,” Mr Raj said.

‘No-frills machine’

Expat Indian doctors and entrepreneurs who went to the same school – IIT is India’s leading engineering school and alumni include Google chief Sundar Pichai – held Zoom meetings with the young developers, advising them and asking questions about the machine’s development. The head of a US-based company gave them a 90-minute lecture on how to manage production. A former chief of an info-tech company told them how to source the components.

Lastly, a bunch of doctors vetted every development and asked hard questions. In the end, more than a dozen top professionals – pulmonologists, cardiologists, scientists, innovators, venture capitalists – have guided the young team.

Doctors say the goal is to develop a “no-frills” breathing machine tailored to Indian conditions.

Ventilators depend on pressurised oxygen supply from hospital plants. But in a country where piped oxygen is not available in many small towns and villages, developers are seeing whether they can also make the machine run on oxygen cylinders. “In a way we are trying to de-modernise the machine to what it was barely 20 years ago,” says Dr Padmanabhan.

“We are not experienced. But we are very good at making products easily. The robots that we make are much more complex to make. But this is a life-saving machine and carries risk, so we have to be very, very careful that we develop a perfect product which clears all approvals,” said Nikhil Kurele, the 26-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer of Nocca Robotics.

In just a week’s time, India will learn whether they pulled off the feat.

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Health

Coronavirus: Health officials say there are 10 outbreaks in long-term care homes around Ontario

Ontario health officials say there are 10 outbreaks of coronavirus in long-term care homes across the province as facilities work to isolate those infected from healthy residents.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, confirmed the number in a provincial update Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Toronto’s Rekai Centre (Sherbourne Place) confirmed its first death, a man in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

In a statement, the centre said the man was diagnosed on Friday and was immediately put into isolation. He shared a room at the home.

“He had been isolated prior to that because we suspected he might have it due to symptoms, but he passed away last evening which has been devastating for his family and the staff that cared for him,” said Sue Graham-Nutter, CEO of the Rekai Centre.

The centre went on to confirm that there are three more residents who have tested positive and two others with tests pending.

“This virus moves very quickly as public health officials have been telling us and right now they’re all stable, thank god, but the virus does move fast and if they have underlying conditions, it can be very troubling,” Graham-Nutter said, adding the centre only has six private rooms and those are already filled.

She said they have been in discussions with the Ministry of Health about “various solutions” in regards to COVID-19 in long-term care homes, as well as with residents sharing rooms in the facilities.

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“We are well aware of the fact that sharing is not good,” Graham-Nutter said.

At the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., 12 residents and a volunteer have died due to coronavirus.

There have been two deaths and a number of residents confirmed positive at Hillsdale Terraces Long-term Care Home in Oshawa, Ont.

The home confirmed it had 28 residents in isolation, split between three units.

When asked about issues of outbreaks at long-term care homes, Yaffe said there have been new directives put in place that she hopes will help, but warned that these homes house a vulnerable population.

“I know our staff is working with the ministry of long-term care to do more education and training for long-term care staff and retirement home staff and working with public health as well,” Yaffe said.

“I’m hoping with the more aggressive measures that are being put in place and the more aggressive training and support, that hopefully we’ll pick up cases as quickly as possible and that we’ll prevent as much as possible.”

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, echoed Yaffe’s statement and said one of Toronto Public Health’s main objectives has been to “minimize the possibility of COVID-19 entering into long-term care settings.”

The city has said five long-term care homes have seen coronavirus outbreaks.

“Particularly with COVID-19, we’re always working, ensuring that infection protection and control measures are well applied in the long-term care setting because of the vulnerability of residents there,” de Villa continued.

De Villa went on to say that TPH works to ensure that those residents who have COVID-19 are “isolated to the extent they can be.”

“And each home we know has its own unique circumstances, but I can tell you that the team at TPH has been working around the clock with long-term care partners.”

De Villa said that any positive test at a home, whether it be a resident or staff member, is considered “very high priority.”

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford extended the province’s state of emergency to April 13, while Toronto Mayor John Tory cancelled all events in the city through June 30, both in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Ontario had 1,966 total cases of coronavirus. Thirty-three people have died and 534 cases have been resolved.

With files from Matthew Bingley

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World News

Hamilton launches website to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19

The city of Hamilton has launched a website where residents who want to support local businesses can access them, all in one place.

HometownHub.ca is divided into three sections: food, products, and gift cards, with direct links to the websites of Hamilton’s small businesses.

Norm Schleehahn, the city’s director of economic development, said the site, created in partnership with Hamilton Rising and ShopEatPlay, is also helping to bring merchants online if they’re not already selling their products remotely.

“There is no cost for the merchant to participate,” said Schleehahn.

“If the merchant does not offer gift cards at this time, ShopEatPlay will get them up and running with a digital gift card offering at no cost to the business for three months.”

Schleehahn describes the site as a “parallel economy” for brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on walk-up traffic and don’t have that particular revenue source at this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of retailers across Hamilton to close their doors or reduce their operational capacity.

For businesses on Locke Street, which were slowly beginning to recover after months of construction closed the street to traffic, it’s been a major blow.

“Locke Street is just devastated,” said Steven McDuffee, who has been running Pure Home Couture Apothecary on Locke alongside his wife Abby since 2002.

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The road underwent major reconstruction between March and September of 2019, during which it was closed to vehicle traffic. The street re-opened toward the end of September but was still impacted by construction until November.

During that time, McDuffee estimates that about 15 businesses shut their doors permanently and the ones that remained open lost up to 50 per cent of their business.

Pure Home was forced to let its staff go and the store is now being run solely in its online form by Steven, Abby and their son.

One of the products that they’ve started selling online is a homemade sanitizer that started when Abby was making some just for use at home.

“Because our daughter has cerebral palsy and she’s severely challenged … we have to be super careful on this, bringing anything home. So she was making some hand sanitizer because we have all of the ingredients. For our perfumes, diffusers, room sprays, and things that we normally make. And then she thought, why don’t I put a label on this and sell it?”

The hand sanitizer has been one of their most popular items since transitioning to the online-only store, but McDuffee said they now have another challenge: the supply chain.

“Things that you need are not readily available. There’s high demand for hand sanitizer ingredients, bottles and things of that nature. Everybody wants it, so it’s hard to get.”

Other suppliers have shut down and aren’t producing the ingredients they need. As a result, McDuffee said they’re only selling what they have in stock.

“It’s hard to make any promises to anybody because you can only work with what’s in your factory. And beyond that, it’s just kind of roll the dice and see what today brings.”

With the launch of the city’s HometownHub site, McDuffee said he hopes it encourages people to support their local businesses while staying at home.

“To go on Amazon and pull products out of the U.S. right now for whatever reason, if they can be replaced by a Canadian-made product or a locally-made product, I would hope that that’s something that people will gravitate to. Because we all need to help each other right now.”

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Health

N.S. long-term care residents in isolation to prevent spread of COVID-19

All residents and staff at a long-term care facility in Enfield are being tested for COVID-19 after a staff member was tested positive on Sunday, and a second staff member along with two residents were also tested positive on Monday.

“All residents have been tested and we’re just waiting to get the tests back on those,” said Tracey Tulloch, a spokesperson for Rosecrest, which operates three long-term care facilities, including Magnolia.

“We do have one other resident who is symptomatic, but we’re waiting on the test results.”

The two staff are now offsite, self-isolating and dealing with their symptoms. Seven additional staff who worked directly with those who tested positive are also self-isolating.

In the meantime, the facility is receiving some help from the province through VON and other care workers to help replace the staff currently off due to self-isolation requirements.

“They can’t come back until the 14 days has passed,” said Tulloch, “even though they have tested negative at this point.”

Magnolia is currently a home to 82 people, 70 in long-term care and 12 in residential care. Residents are divided up into five cottages which houses 12-15 residents each.

The two residents who have tested positive are in their 80’s and both reside in the same cottage.

Tulloch says they are showing mild symptoms, and are being isolated.

“They are actually coping quite well,” said Tulloch.

The facility has been adhering to guidelines provided by public health officials to limit the spread of the virus. They no longer hold any communal events for residents, with physical distancing measures in place. They are focusing on hand washing and cleaning of high touch surface areas and all staff are wearing personal protective equipment.

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“Like any vulnerable sector, illness hits the elderly and immuno-compromised a little hard, so we want to contain this and flatten the curve within our own environment,” said Tulloch.

Meanwhile two other similar facilities in Nova Scotia have had workers test positive for COVID-19.

An employee who works at Lewis Hall in Dartmouth, part of Shannex’s Parkland at the Lakes retirement living community, has tested positive after being linked to another case in Halifax. The individual last worked on March 22 and has not been in the workplace since.

Lewis Hall in a Shannex Parkland at the Lakes retirement community in Dartmouth has also had staff member test posi… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Senior Vice President of Operations for Shannex, Catherine MacPherson says they have been working closely with Public Health and the 17 residents living in the neighbourhood where the employee worked were immediately put into isolation as a precaution. They were also all tested, and those tests came back negative on Sunday.

A second staff member was also tested after working closely with the individual who tested positive,  and is still waiting results. That member is also self-isolating.

In Antigonish, a staff member at RK MacDonald tested positive. An emailed statement from CEO of the nursing home, Michelle Thompson says they too are following health guidelines.

“We are working closely with Public Health and NSHA Infection Prevention and Control; staff are taking the appropriate infection control measures. This is something we take very seriously in order to protect our residents and our staff.”

Public Health officials are working with all three facilities, and continue to work with long-term care facilities and retirement communities across the province to limit the spread of COVID-19.

A number of measures have already been implemented including restricting access into facilities. Visitors are no longer allowed and residents are not allowed on community excursions.

Any staff who feel sick, or who have traveled must stay home, but Dr. Robert Strang admits it’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely as the staff live in communities.

“It’s concerning but I think we’ve done everything we could do to limit the possibility of introduction, and we do have robust plans in responding, as you’ve seen in the last few days, if we get COVID-19 in long-term care facilities,” said on Tuesday.

Strang says those robust plans are largely based on existing plans and guidelines already in place to deal with outbreaks of respiratory illnesses or influenza each year.

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

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Politics

‘Get Brexit done!’ Boris Johnson told NOT to seek EU delay amid coronavirus outbreak

The overwhelming majority of Express.co.uk readers believe the Prime Minister should not seek an extension to the transition period beyond December 31 amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey of more than 15,000 readers has found almost nine-in-ten people believe the UK and the EU should adhere to the current timetable to agree upon a future trading relationship. The poll conducted on Tuesday March 31 between 8.33am and 10.00pm asked 15,548 people “Should Brexit be delayed due to coronavirus outbreak?”.

A huge 89 percent (13,808) believed there should not be a delay and voted no.

Just 10 percent of participants (1,573) said there should be a delay and voted yes.

Meanwhile one percent (167) readers remained unsure and voted don’t know.

A number of Express.co.uk let their feeling known in the comments section and insisted there has already been too many delays and a further extension would hit UK taxpayers in the pocket.

One user wrote: “There is no advantage to be gained by delay, in fact there is much to be lost including more contributions from UK taxpayers.

“After the present health crisis we need to be looking forward, not looking back or trying to have a foot in both camps.”

A second reader said: “The EU agreed the timetable it’s their problem if they now think it’s not long enough, and guess what if they were given an extension that to wouldn’t be long enough either, all they want is to keep the UK tied to them and of course keep the money coming in.”

A third angry user wrote: “No deals or delays just get Brexit done and dusted no more delays.”

Meanwhile a fourth simply said: “NO, NO, and NO again.”

Downing Street has constantly reiterated the UK would not seek a delay and the legal text state Britain will end the transition period on December 31.

However talks between the UK and Brussels have hit a huge stumbling block as the global health crisis continues to escalate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the latest high profile figure to be been struck down by COVID-19 and has been self-isolating since last Friday.

Britain’s Brexit negotiator David Frost has also had a period of self-isolation, meanwhile EU chief Michel Barnier was also diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

Across Europe there are more than 330,000 infections reported on the continent and nearly 21,000 deaths.

David McAllister, the EU Parliament’s UK trade co-ordinator, said Brussels is ready to extend the transition period.

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He said: “The EU has always been open to extending the transition period. The ball is now clearly in the British court.

“The United Kingdom would have to submit an official request.

“So far, the UK government has constantly rejected such an option. Under the current circumstances, London should carefully re-examine a prolongation.”

On Monday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have shared legal texts and they are the subject of informal discussions between ourselves and the EU commission.

“I would expect those sorts of conversations to be carrying on this week.

“The structure of the negotiations has changed to reflect the current situation with regard to coronavirus, so there are more continuous discussions taking place rather than the set rounds which were originally envisaged.”

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Business

Fiat Chrysler does not see delay in PSA merger, FIOM union says

MILAN (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI) did not mention any possible delay in the merger process with France’s PSA (PEUP.PA) during a call with unions on Tuesday, metal workers’ union FIOM said.

“No delay on the merger with PSA was mentioned to us,” FIOM representative Michele De Palma told Reuters, correcting an earlier FIOM statement which said a delay was “certain” given the current situation.

Union representatives held a conference call on Tuesday with FCA’s Chief Operating Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa Pietro Gorlier to discuss the coronavirus emergency.

De Palma confirmed, however, that FCA said during the meeting that its industrial plan would suffer a delay.

Last week FCA’s controlling shareholder Exor (EXOR.MI) said it expected the merger with PSA would be completed early next year, as initially planned.

FCA was not available for comment.

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Politics

David Cameron’s failures led to Brexit victory says voters

Whilst the nation voted to cut ties with the European bloc in June 2016, it took years to thrash out the details and sever a relationship once and for all. Although the UK and the rest of the world have recently been thrown headlong into a pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has continued to vow he will ‘Get Brexit Done’ by the end of the year. But there still remains debate as to what moment in political history was the most significant in contributing to Brexit victory.

An Express.co.uk poll has revealed, however, that the majority of respondents believe it was former prime minister David Cameron’s botched EU agreement in 2016 that sealed the deal.

The poll offered Express.co.uk readers five momentous moments in history to choose from which may have led to 17.4 million people backing Brexit.

It asked: “Which of these five key moments in history led to Brexit victory?”

The options outlined in the poll were:

– February 1992 – Maastricht Treaty signed
– September 1992 – Black Wednesday
– December 2007 – Lisbon Treaty signed
– 2009 – European debt crisis begins
– February 2016 – David Cameron’s EU reform deal fails

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Out of 2,047 respondents to the poll, an overwhelming 56 percent (1,129) of people believe David Cameron’s failed EU reform deal was responsible for Brexit victory.

This is compared to the 27 percent (558) of people who cite the Maastricht Treaty as the reason Britain turned its back on the European bloc.

13 percent (249) of people attribute Brexit to the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, with five percent (92) believing the 2009 European debt crisis was to blame.

Less than 1 percent of people believed the Black Wednesday crash of 1992 led to Brexit.

The poll ran from 3pm to 9.30pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

And Express.co.uk readers were vocal in elaborating on their belief that Brexit victory was a direct result of David Cameron’s failed EU reform deal in February 2016.

One Express.co.uk reader wrote: “There was already a very large following in support of a referendum on the issue but it was the EU’s treatment of the rather inept David Cameron with his begging bowl that finally convinced people we really needed to get out.

“Those who had hitherto been uninterested in what went on over the Channel, suddenly woke up to the fact that our elected government was no longer in charge of our country.”

Another said: “No fondness for Cameron, but having the EU pat him on the head and treat him like a naughty pet poodle for me at least, puts the last nail in the EU’s coffin.”

And a third remarked: “I think Cameron’s failure clinched it for many.”

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However, looking further back, many laid responsibility at the feet of former Prime Minister John Major, who signed the Maastricht Treaty in February 1992.

One wrote: “Major signing away our sovereignty with the Maastricht Treaty was the beginning of the end.

“If Europe had remained a group of trading countries and not a political bunch led by an unelected commission, things would have been fine and Brexit would never have been needed.”

Another said: “John Major must take a large amount of blame followed by Blair. Cameron never had any intention of doing a deal as he is pro EU.”

But for some, narrowing Brexit down to one reason was too difficult of a task.

An Express.co.uk reader wrote: “It was a mixture of events and a gradual erosion of Sovereignty and our ability to handle our own affairs.

“Namely the loss of our freedom to choose our direction and decide our own future.”

Another said: “ALL of the reasons mentioned contributed to our Brexit vote!

“We have been seething and simmering since Heath lied and took us in.

“It has become progressively worse with EVERY treaty that was signed by our supposedly BRITISH governments.”

And a third remarked: “All of the above, and more!”

The signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 is widely believed to have sowed the seeds of discontent that led to Brexit.

Tory Prime Minister John Major signed the treaty which gave the European Commission more powers and paved the way for the Euro.

It is said to have been the catalyst for a split within the Conservative Party which would last for many years.

Later in the year, Black Wednesday was viewed as a disaster, when Mr Major was forced to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

The Lisbon Treaty in 2007 replaced the rejected EU constitution – it intended to make the EU more transparent, however many were unsatisfied with the powers the bloc was able to wield.

The treaty was shortly followed in 2009 by a European debt crisis.

Most notably, it was Greece which struggled to pay back the money its Government had borrowed, alongside Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain.

The EU was forced to step in to bailout some of the countries, which led to unrest and annoyance within the bloc.

Brexit, however, finally culminated in the announcement of a referendum by former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Cameron campaigned to stay in the European bloc, however was forced to resign when the vote did not go his way.

Mr Johnson has said Britain will exit the European Union with or without a deal by the end of the year.

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