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Death toll from coronavirus in Italy raises to 7, WHO warns of ‘potential pandemic’

David Roe with RFI - 24/02/2020

A seventh person has died in Italy after being infected with the new coronavirus, bringing the number of deaths recorded on Monday to four and to seven the number of deaths reported in the peninsula, Ansa news agency has reported on Monday.

It reported that the latest death concerns an 80-year-old man hospitalized last week after a heart attack. His doctors believe he was infected in the hospital by another patient.

This as the World Health Organization chief said Monday the world should be working harder to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus, and should be preparing for a "potential pandemic".

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that so far, the WHO does not consider the outbreak that has killed more than 2,600 people a pandemic, but said countries should be "doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic."

Elsewhere, Bruce Aylward, leader of a joint WHO-China mission of experts, said the world can learn from the nation's approach to restraining the virus.

"The single biggest lesson is speed. Speed is everything and what worries me most is, has the rest of the world learned the lesson of speed?" Aylward said at a press conference presenting the mission's findings.

"We have outbreaks in multiple countries right now, increasing at exponential growth rates," he said.

China has quarantined the central city of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province for a month while also imposing drastic restrictions on movement in other parts of the country.

The epidemic has killed nearly 2,600 people and infected some 77,000 people in China, with new cases and fatalities emerging in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in recent days.

Aylward said Beijing's "bold approach" had "changed the course" of the epidemic, adding that the measures have "probably prevented... hundreds of thousands of cases of COVID-19 here in China."

Still 'grim'

The number of cases of infection in the country have been generally declining over recent weeks -- although questions have been raised about the credibility of official data as the local authorities have changed their reporting method and revised figures several times.

Aylward said that although there have been "challenges with the statistics that have come out of China sometimes", he believed the "trends have been incredibly clear".

He called on China to start lifting some of the restrictions, including travel curbs and tourism shutdowns.

"Obviously they want to get society back to a more normal semblance of what probably is the new normal, because this virus may be around... for months," he said.

However, National Health Commission official Liang Wannian warned that the situation in Wuhan was still "grim".

Aylward praised China's success so far in containing the virus but maintained that the main risk for any government was being too complacent.

"Thinking you've beaten this virus is the single biggest risk," he said.

The spread of COVID-19 in other parts of the world has accelerated over the past week, with Iran, South Korea and Italy emerging as the worst new hotspots.

Deaths were reported in each of those countries on Monday, while Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait also announced their first cases of the virus.

Bus passengers from Italy blocked in France over coronavirus scare

RFI - 24/02/2020

Passengers who arrived by bus in Lyon in southeast France on Monday from Milan in Italy were kept onboard after the driver was hospitalized with symptoms similar to those caused by the new coronavirus, security sources said.

Passengers who arrived by bus in Lyon in on Monday from Milan in Italy were kept onboard after the driver was hospitalized with symptoms similar to those caused by the new coronavirus, security sources said.

Police erected a security cordon around the bus at Lyon's Perrache station and ordered the passengers to remain onboard, a spokeswoman for the Lyon area's public security department said. The number of passengers on board was not announced.

Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region, which is at the centre of Europe's biggest outbreak of the coronavirus that has killed nearly 2,600 people worldwide.

Five people have died from the disease in Italy, where villages in Lombardy have been put under lockdown.

Low-cost operator FlixBus said the bus had stopped off in the Italian city of Turin and the French city of Grenoble on the way to Lyon.


Coronavirus: France steps up epidemic preparations after deaths in Italy

The Local - 24 February 2020 

After dozens of reported cases of coronavirus - and five deaths - in neighboring Italy, French ministers on Sunday held an emergency meeting to step up preparations in France.

Italy now has more than 150 confirmed cases of coronavirus in six regions - by far the largest outbreak in Europe so far. Five people have died of the illness, the first deaths of people who had contracted the virus in Europe (an 80-year-old man who died of the illness in France on February 14th was a tourist who had travelled from China before developing symptoms).

Eleven Italian towns are now in lockdown as officials struggle to contain the spread of the virus.

Faced with this situation just over the border, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe convened an emergency meeting of ministers - including newly appointed health minister Olivier Véran - on Sunday night to increase France's readiness.


An extra 70 hospitals are now prepared to receive and treat coronavirus patients.

Previously people with diagnosed or suspected coronavirus had all been sent to one of 38 university or specialist hospitals. Now a total of 108 hospitals - with at least one in each mainland department of France - have been prepared to receive, isolate and treat coronavirus cases.


Extra resources have been allocated for testing for potential cases of coronavirus and the testing capacity has been multiplied by three.

Health minister Olivier Véran said: "I have called the head of the University Hospital Institute of Infectious Diseases in Marseille, it is able to perform 1,000 tests per day in the area of Marseille alone. In the hospitals of Paris we are at 400 tests per day. We are going to be able to amplify the screening to be able to answer all the requests at that scale across France."


An order has been placed for tens of millions of protective masks for health workers. The first case of coronavirus contracted in France was a health worker who had been treating an infected person. France is therefore ordering high quality protective masks for all health workers who are in close contact with patients.

In the early days of the outbreak pharmacies across France reported selling out of surgical masks, but former health minister Agnès Buzyn said these are not effective in protecting people from the virus.


The border between France and Italy will not be closed, ministers announced.  "It doesn't make much sense," said Jérôme Salomon, Director General of Health. "Not to mention that you can travel by land, sea and air, or go through Italy and Austria."

France had earlier in the outbreak ruled out temperature screening at airports, pointing out that the virus' long incubation period - up to 14 days - makes it ineffective. However there will now be additional information distributed to all passengers arriving from Italy about the symptoms to look out for and the procedure to follow in France.


Italy has placed 11 towns on lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus and imposed a range of curfews. When asked if France could do the same in case of a mass outbreak, Jérôme Salomon said it was "not impossible" and provisions are already in place for such measures under France's existing plans for pandemic flu.

However the minister added that there have been no new cases of coronavirus detected in the last week.

Véran said: "We are acting quickly, we are taking strong action to deal with the epidemic threat and we are taking all the measures necessary to ensure the safety of the French people."

He stressed the "very evolving" nature of the situation and added that he had spoken with his Italian and German counterparts. "We have agreed to meet again with several EU Health Ministers probably next week to discuss together how to deal with the risk of an epidemic."

The most recent cases in France all centered around the ski resort of Contamines-Montjoie, where a British man infected a group of people who stayed in the same chalet.

In total France has had 12 confirmed cases - one French healthworker, six people in Contamines-Montjoie and five people who had recently travelled from China.

One the patients - an 80-year-old Chinese tourist - died of the illness while the others all made a full recovery and all but one have now been released from hospital.

According to the WHO, more than 80 percent of patients infected with the virus have mild disease and recover, while 14 percent have severe diseases such as pneumonia. Only five percent of cases are considered critical.

Anyone who believes they may have the symptoms of the illness - which include cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing - should not go to hospital, instead health authorities are asking people to call an ambulance and tell the operator it is a suspected case of coronavirus. The ambulance number in France is 15.


Paris braces for tourism hit as virus keeps Chinese at home
AFP This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - 24 February 2020

The new coronavirus outbreak is depriving Paris hotels, restaurants and retailers of big-spending Chinese visitors, the latest challenge for a French tourism industry facing headwinds from homegrown protests and Brexit, officials said Monday.

"For now, airline forecasts suggest a 60 percent drop in Chinese visitors for February, March and April compared with the same period last year," said Valerie Pecresse, president of the Ile-de-France region that encompasses the French capital.

"Yet Asian clients are absolutely crucial for us," she said while presenting 2019 tourism figures for the region.

Around 950,000 Chinese visited Paris last year, making them the fifth-largest source of tourists by nationality, according to the CRT regional tourism committee.

But they were the second-biggest spenders overall, shelling out one billion euros on hotel rooms, restaurants, museum visits and shopping sprees.

The GNC hotels association has already warned of a surge in cancellations by Chinese clients, especially by tour groups, whose cancellation rates reached 80 percent in January and nearly 100 percent for February.

Pecresse compared the current virus scare to the SRAS outbreak, "which had a very strong impact on Asian tourist travel, with 300,000 fewer visitors in 2003 from 2002."

If an epidemic is declared in other Asian countries or in Europe, "the situation would become even more alarming," she said.

Last year, Paris and its surrounding region chalked up 50 million visitors, up slightly from 2018, while overall spending was stable at nearly 22 billion euros, the CRT said.

"The uncertainties linked to Brexit, the protests in France, the weaker economic climate in Europe and global trade tensions dissuaded some groups, notably from Britain, China, and the Middle East," it said.


Rush: Coronavirus Being Used by Media To Tank Trump's Economy

By Carmine Sabia
Published February 24, 2020 at 3:39pm

The media wants a recession and they want it to happen before the 2020 presidential election takes place in November.

They want a recession so much that they are doing their best to make it happen by reporting every time the stock market dips as if it is the crash of 1929, and by reporting stories designed to do damage to the market.

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They did that again on Monday when the market began to fall over fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus and, as conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh pointed out, the media seized on the panic.

“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus,” Limbaugh said on his radio show, according to a transcript on his website.

“Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks,” the nationally syndicated conservative radio host said.

“The Drive-By Media hype of this thing as a pandemic, as the Andromeda strain, as, ‘Oh, my God. If you get it, you’re dead,’ do you know what the — I think the survival rate is 98 percent.

“Ninety-eight percent of people get the coronavirus survive. It’s a respiratory system virus. It probably is a ChiCom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponized,” Limbaugh said.

He went on to talk about how nations weaponize diseases to create biological weapons as, he said, Russia did with fentanyl.

But another kind of weaponization is happening, Limbaugh said — a weaponization of the virus to damage the economy with the goal of hurting Trump’s chances at victory in November.

“The stock market’s down like 900 points right now. The survival rate of this is 98 percent! You have to read very deeply to find that number, that 2 percent of the people get the coronavirus die.

“That’s less than the flu, folks. That is a far lower death statistic than any form of influenza, which is an annual thing that everybody gets shots for.

“There’s nothing unusual about the coronavirus. In fact, coronavirus is not something new. There are all kinds of viruses that have that name. Now, do not misunderstand. I’m not trying to get you to let your guard down,” he assured his audience before veering off into Russia and fentanyl again.

But he quickly came back to the topic at hand: how the media is using fear to take aim at Trump.

“I believe the way it’s being weaponized is by virtue of the media, and I think that it is an effort to bring down Trump, and one of the ways it’s being used to do this is to scare the investors, to scare people in business,” Rush said.

“It’s to scare people into not buying Treasury bills at auctions. It’s to scare people into leaving, cashing out of the stock market — and sure enough, as the show began today, the stock market — the Dow Jones Industrial Average — was down about 900 points, supposedly because of the latest news about the spread of the coronavirus.

“And if you go deeper into China, you will see that all of the high-tech Silicon Valley firms are said to be terribly exposed. ‘They could be suffering a disastrous year. Why, you may not be able to buy a new iPhone of any model this whole year! Do you know that? Because the coronavirus is so bad that the factories may never open — and if they do, they may not be anywhere near full capacity.’

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“So Apple may not be able to release any new product. You think that’s not gonna panic investors? It most certainly is.

“So Apple is trying to do what they can to suggest that these rumors are not true. They got new products coming this year. But the tech media hates Apple. They love anti-Apple stories. They love anything that will let them report that Apple’s on its last legs. Of course, that’s not true.

“I think the coronavirus is an effort to get Trump. It’s not gonna work. It’s one of the latest in a long line of efforts that the Drive-By Media’s making to somehow say that Trump and capitalism are destroying America and destroying the world. Just keep in mind where the coronavirus came from.

“It came from a country that Bernie Sanders wants to turn the United States into a mirror image of: communist China. That’s where it came from. It didn’t come from an American lab. It didn’t escape from an American research lab. It hasn’t been spread by Americans. It starts out in a communist country. Its tentacles spread all across the world in numbers that are not big and not huge, but they’re being reported as just the opposite.

“Just trying to keep it all in perspective.”


Four French light aircraft crashes in one week leave 11 dead

The Local - 24 February 2020      

The crash of a small plane in central France brings to 11 the number of people killed in similar crashes in just over a week.

Both the pilot and the passenger died when a light aircraft crashed in the central France département of Puy-de-Drôme on Sunday afternoon.

The vintage aircraft, a Ryan PT-22 A Recruit, had taken off from nearby Clermont-Ferrand airport before it crashed into a field at around 2pm. The men on board - both French nationals - were found dead in the cockpit.

An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the crash.

It brings to 11 the number of people killed in similar crashes in French territory since February 16th.

Four people were reported missing after a plane crashed on February 16th off the coast of the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. Local authorities say they have no expectation of finding the missing pilot and passengers alive.

The next day a small plane of the same model - a Piper PA28 - crashed in Creissels in Aveyron in southern France, close to the famous Millau Viaduct. All four people on board died.

On February 18th a small four-seater plane disappeared off the coast of Fécamp in Normandy.

Only the pilot - a regular flier at the nearby Evreux/Saint-André-de-l'Eure airport - was on board.


France doubles free school breakfasts and €1 meals

Connexion - 24 Feb 2020

Free school breakfasts and canteen lunches costing just €1 are to be rolled out to 200,000 pupils across France this year, almost double the number who received them last year, the government has said.

In 2019, 110,000 maternelle (reception) and primary school pupils in underprivileged areas received the meals. The government is aiming for the scheme to cover almost twice that this year.

In 2020, the budget for the free breakfast scheme will be €12 million - twice that of 2019.

To qualify, schools must be located in an eligible area - including in a priority education area (une zone REP (réseau d'éducation prioritaire), or in a given rural area.

The “canteen meals for €1” scheme will also be extended to maternelle pupils, with a budget of €5 million.

The scheme means the State will help to pay for school canteen lunchtime meals, if the commune helps out by putting a three-tier payment system in place - with the lowest tier costing a maximum of €1 per meal per child.


That’s LifeStyle 74 News From The Papers on Tuesday, Feb 25th


Shocking News from the UK…

Judge rules Bible 'incompatible with human dignity'

Decision puts alternative sexual lifestyle choices ahead of faith

WND - October 3, 2019

An Employment Tribunal in the United Kingdom has ruled that the biblical doctrine that people are created male and female is "incompatible with human dignity" and those who follow it can be fired from their jobs on that basis.

The stunning decision came in a doctor's challenge to his dismissal for failing to use female pronouns for a man.

David Mackereth, age 56, argued he "holds to the principles of the Great Reformation of the 16th Century including a commitment to the supremacy of the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God as his final authority in all matters of faith and practice."

He said he believed in the truth of Genesis 1:27, which says human beings are born male and female.

The panel, however, ruled that "belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals."

Mackereth, represented by the Christian Legal Center, lost his position with the Department for Work and Pensions after refusing to use transgender pronouns.

He appealed to the nation's Employment Tribunal.

The Christian Legal Center said the judgment "will have serious ramifications for Christian professionals and indeed all medical professionals, as the judgment dictates the language that professionals must use in the workplace."

"The judgment is also contrary to scientific reality and is likely to undermine freedom of speech in the workplace."

Michael Phillips, the Christian Legal Center's counsel for Mackereth, said the doctor was discriminated against because of his faith.

"His belief in the truth of the Bible, and in particular, the truth of Genesis 1:27: 'So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.'

It follows that every person is created by God as either male or female. A person cannot change their sex/gender at will. Any attempt at, or pretense of, doing so, is pointless, self-destructive, and sinful."

The panel ruled the Bible is "mere opinion."

Phillips said the panel put "transgender rights" ahead of Christian freedoms "and in effect forces Christians to use compelled speech in order to not offend those who believe in gender-fluidity."

"The ruling will have profound ramifications, excluding foundational Christian beliefs from the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination law. The ruling puts a belief in the Bible on a par with the racist and neo-Nazi ideologies which have been held to be 'not worthy of respect in democratic society' in earlier judicial decisions."

Mackereth presented evidence to the court that he did not resign his position and "was the victim of direct discrimination and harassment."

Too bad, the panel said.

The doctor said the ruling will disturb many National Health Service staff members, because "they see their own freedom of thought and speech being undermined by the judges' ruling."

He said no doctor, researcher or philosopher "can demonstrate or prove that a person can change sex."

"Without intellectual and moral integrity, medicine cannot function and my 30 years as a doctor are now considered irrelevant compared to the risk that someone else might be offended."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, said: "This is an astonishing judgment and one that if upheld will have seismic consequences not just for the NHS and for Christians, but anyone in the work place who is prepared to believe and say that we are created male and female.

"It is deeply disturbing that this is the first time in the history of English law that a judge has ruled that free citizens must engage in compelled speech. Here Judge Perry has ruled that Christianity is not protected by the Equality Act or the ECHR, unless it is a version of Christianity which recognizes transgenderism and rejects a belief in Genesis 1:27."

An appeal is planned.

WND - Published February 23, 2020 at 12:58pm

A Wisconsin school district's policy of allowing students of any age to transition to a different gender and use a different name while at school without parental notice or consent has drawn a lawsuit from angry parents.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and the Alliance Defending Freedom are representing 14 individual parents from eight families who contend the policy violates constitutionally protected parental rights.

"This is a life-altering decision that educators have no business making," said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks.

Brooks cited an affidavit from Stephen B. Levine, a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

"As Dr. Levine explains based on decades of experience and extensive scientific literature, putting children on a pathway to puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones can have devastating effects across a lifetime," Brooks said. "That should serve as a wake-up call to parents and all Americans: When schools cast aside biological reality in favor of gender identity ideology, it’s children who are hurt the most."

Levine wrote: "For a child to live radically different identities at home and at school, and to conceal what he or she perceives to be his or her true identity from parents, is psychologically unhealthy in itself, and could readily lead to additional psychological problems."

The psychiatrist said that "[e]xtended secrecy and a 'double life' concealed from the parents is rarely the path to psychological health."

"For this reason at least, schools should not support deceit of parents," he said. " ... Most children are both legally and developmentally incapable of giving informed consent to such a life-altering intervention. And parents, of course, cannot give informed consent if the fact of their child’s wish to assume a transgender identity is concealed from them."

Levine headed a committee that crafted a pioneering set of standards of care for individuals suffering from gender dysphoria. He was a senior editor for three editions of the "Handbook of Clinical Sexuality for Mental Health Professionals."

He also founded a gender identity clinic in 1974, which he continues to lead as co-director.

The legal teams are asking the Circuit Court in Dane County for a temporary order to halt the policy.

The district policy, ADF said, "instructs school teachers and staff to assist and encourage children of any age in the adoption of transgender identities without parental consent or even notice. The policy even instructs district employees to deceive parents about the gender identity their son or daughter has adopted at school."

The lawyers explained: "In addition to pressing for school officials to hold to principles of basic honesty and transparency when dealing with parents—which is also needed to meet standards of informed consent—Levine’s 50-page affidavit also discusses the massive outcome differences between the available approaches for treating children who show signs of discomfort with their biological sex.

"For example, multiple studies have reported that among children who experience gender dysphoria or transgender identification but do not socially transition, 80% to 98% 'desisted,' or became comfortable with their biological sex, by young adulthood. By contrast, recent data suggests that among boys 'who engaged in a partial or complete social transition before puberty,' fewer than 20% had desisted when surveyed at age 15 or older."

The court filing warns that the district's actions "enable children, of any age, to transition to a different gender identity at school," and then it orders staff to "actively deceive parents."

The policy "may do substantial harm to plaintiffs or their children while this lawsuit is pending for which plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law," the motion said.

The policy specifically notes that regardless of the name and gender listed in a student's official records, a student can "still use their affirmed name and pronouns in MMSD without parent/legal guardian permission."

In a training session, teachers were told the student can make any such decisions "without changes in [the official records] or family permission."

The teachers were told, "It is crucial not to disclose any information about [a student] to family without their permission."

The motion asks the court to instruct the school district to stop "deceiving parents."


Persecuted Christians need Bibles!

Change a life today by giving a Bible.

Despite the increasing persecution in countries on the World Watch List, like North Korea, Syria and Nigeria, we see God at work in a powerful way.

Thousands are coming to Christ and the Church stands strong!

In many of these countries it is illegal to convert to Christianity and getting a Bible is almost impossible. When someone is seeking to know about Jesus or a new believer is facing intense persecution, they come to us in search of a Bible to strengthen their faith.

Please send as many Bibles and discipleship materials as you can to people who desperately need them. Your gift goes so much further than just a Bible. It shows your church family that they're not alone—providing needed discipleship materials and support to stand strong in their faith.

Thank you for standing with your persecuted family in places where it costs the most.

Dr. David Curry
President/CEO, Open Doors USA


LifeStyle 74 Weather

Winter weather returns this week. Skies covering this morning from the West. By late morning expect rain along the Jura, extending eastward to the entire country by afternoon. The snow line at 1000 meters, lowering to 800 meters by this evening.   5 to 10 cm of snow, locally 15 cm, above 1000 meters elevation.

Snow flurries as low as 600 meters, more frequent in the mountains. Perhaps some lightning and thunder with fine hail. 15 to 25 cm of snow fall above 600 meters. Min temp at dawn 2° C. on the plain, Maximum 5° C., -10° C at 2000 meters. Moderate to strong SW winds on the plain, moderate to strong W in the mountains.

Mostly Cloudy. Some precipitation. The snow line rising to 1000 to 1200 meters North of the Alps. Remaining at low elevations in the Alps. Max Temps 4° to 6° C. Westerly winds, sometimes strong.

Mostly cloudy. Some rain. The snow line rising to 1600 meters, but remaining low in Valais. Max Temp 9° C. Westerly winds, sometimes strong.

Cloudy. Some rain. The snow line plunging from 1600 meters down to 600 meters. Max Temp 11° C. Westerly winds, sometimes strong.

Sunday & Monday
Unstable and cold with snow flurries at low altitude.

That’s the weather forecast, produced by Meteo Suisse, the official Swiss weather service... Comprehensive, Accurate, Reliable. Weather matters! 

Listen to the weather in English frequently broadcast on LifeStyle 74 radio, and read it on our website.

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