Health

The European Commission on Monday announced an additional €232 million in aid toward fighting the novel coronavirus.

The infusion of cash was planned ahead of the growing outbreak in Italy over the weekend, officials said a press conference Monday. The country reported five deaths as of this afternoon.

Most of the cash — €114 million — will go toward the World Health Organizations appeal to fight the disease, known as COVID-19, worldwide. Another €15 million will go toward Africa to boost the continents diagnostic abilities.

A public-private partnership for pharmaceutical development could also see up to €90 million, with funding split evenly between the Commission and the industry. The Innovative Medicines Initiative is launching a fast-track call for new proposals next month to fight the coronavirus.

While projects to develop new treatments and diagnostics could be eligible, vaccines will be specifically excluded from the effort, according to IMI.

Another €10 million is earmarked for grants related to research on prevention, treatment and containment, while €3 million will go toward the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to bring EU citizens back from Wuhan, China.

Amid an “evolving” situation, Kyriakides said, “we need to be extremely vigilant, but on the other hand base our decisions on risk assessment and scientific advice.”

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) updated its risk assessment late on Sunday, saying that the risk elsewhere in Europe of the occurrence of clusters similar to the Italian one “is currently considered to be moderate to high.”

A WHO-ECDC mission will head to Italy on Tuesday, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. The EUs

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Health

US President Donald Trumps two-day visit to India may be a matter of pageantry over policy, but it served the domestic agendas of both leaders and, more importantly, the interests of Trumps family business and Modis backers among the Indian diaspora in America.

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Two years ago, when the US presidents eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., arrived in India, newspapers featured full front-page ads of the Trump princeling with all-cap headers screaming, “TRUMP HAS ARRIVED. HAVE YOU?” and “TRUMP IS HERE. ARE YOU INVITED?”

The all-important invitation was for a champagne dinner with the US presidents son, which could be snagged by anyone putting down a $39,000 deposit for a luxury apartment in the latest Trump Tower project located in a suburb of the capital, New Delhi.

India has the most Trump-branded projects outside the United States and the relationship between the American billionaire-president and affluent, aspirational Indians – and Americans of Indian origin – has been a special one.

Weeks before his victory in the November 2016 election, Trump addressed a “Bollywood-style” campaign rally hosted by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, New Jersey. Following opening acts featuring dancing stars, the Republican candidate proclaimed his love for the wealthiest immigrant group in the United States. “I am a big fan of Hindu,” said Trump. “Big, big fan.”

Trumps mix-up of religion and country could not have bothered the 5,000-odd guests at the event. Hindu hardliners have reciprocated Trumps fandom; their vision of a Hindu rashtra – or Hindu nation – which marginalises Indias Muslims and migrants, dovetails neatly with Trumps tough stance on Muslim immigration.

Then there are the usual areas of US-India policy overlap, which will be repeated during Trumps two-day visit.

Relations between the worlds two largest democracies have been historically shaped by a shared alarm over a rising, increasingly assertive China.

Health

The World Health Organization on Monday said the new coronavirus epidemic had "peaked" in China but warned that a surge in cases elsewhere was "deeply concerning" and that all countries should prepare for a possible pandemic.

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WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the peak in China occurred between January 23 and February 2 and the number of new cases there "has been declining steadily since then”.

"This virus can be contained," he told reporters in Geneva, praising China for helping to prevent an even bigger spread of the disease through unprecedented lockdowns and quarantines in or near the outbreak's epicentre.

“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, yes,” Tedros added, but “for the moment we're not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus.”

An acceleration of cases in other parts of the world has prompted countries to adopt drastic measures similar to Chinas. Italy has locked down 11 towns and South Korea ordered the entire 2.5 million residents of the city of Daegu to remain indoors.

The virus's spread has also caused steep falls in several European stock markets – with Milan plunging 5.4 percent – and a boost for safe-haven gold amid fears the epidemic could hit a global economic recovery.

The spread of the disease – officially known as COVID-19 – continued unabated with Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman announcing their first cases on Monday.

Health

A law allowing parents to terminate pregnancies where the foetus has Down's syndrome at any time up until its birth should be changed, campaigners say.

They have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying all non-fatal disabilities should be subject to the standard 24-week abortion limit.

Heidi Crowter, who has the condition, said the law was "deeply offensive".

The government said any decision to terminate "must rest on the judgement of the woman and her doctors".

'Unloved and unwanted'

The Down's Syndrome Association estimates about 40,000 people in the UK live with the condition – which is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in a baby's cells.

Ms Crowter told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme the current law, contained within the 1967 Abortion Act, made her feel "unloved and unwanted".

She said her life was as valuable as someone who does not have Down's syndrome.

Her mother, Liz Crowter, called for the law to be updated to recognise "all babies in the womb are treated the same".

Cheryl Bilsborrow, whose two-year-old son Hector has Down's syndrome, described the present law as "downright discrimination".

She said, as an older mother, she had felt pushed into taking a test to detect if her baby would likely have the condition.

Health

The UK is "well prepared" to deal with coronavirus cases and the risk to individuals "remains low", the government has said.

Downing Street said 99% of those tested in the UK had come back negative.

The total number of cases in the UK has risen to 13 after four cruise ship passengers flown back to Britain on Saturday tested positive for the virus.

It comes amid growing fears the outbreak could reach pandemic scale as more cases emerge around the world.

A total of 6,536 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the UK as of 14:00 GMT on Monday, with 6,527 returning as negative, the Department of Health said.

Italy has the largest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, currently 165, and has reported its fifth death from the virus.

It has taken tough measures to try and contain the outbreak, including enforcing a lockdown in several small towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions.

Asked whether similar measures could be imposed in the UK, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "We will be led by the advice from public health and medical experts and will take steps which they feel are required to best protect the British public."

The risk to individuals "remains low" and 99% of those tested in the UK had come back negative, the spokesman added.

He said: "We are well prepared for UK cases, we are using tried and tested procedures to prevent further spread and the NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections."

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China on Monday declared an immediate and “comprehensive” ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals, a practice believed responsible for the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

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The countrys top legislative committee approved a proposal “prohibiting the illegal wildlife trade, abolishing the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protecting the lives and health of the people,” state television reported.

Previous temporary bans have been put in place, including after the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 and was also traced to wild animal consumption.

That prohibition was short-lived, however, and conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a cruel trade in wild animals as exotic menu items or for use in traditional medicines whose efficacy is not confirmed by science.

The decision was made by the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress (NPC), which oversees the countrys rubber-stamp legislature.

The coronavirus epidemic had highlighted “the prominent problem of excessive consumption of wild animals, and the huge hidden dangers to public health and safety,” said the report by China Central Television (CCTV).

Chinese health officials have said the virus likely emerged from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals as food.

Health

South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the president called for “unprecedented, powerful” steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread.

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The 161 new cases bring South Koreas total to 763 cases, and two more deaths raise its toll to seven.

China also Monday reported 409 new cases, raising the mainlands total to 77,150 after a zigzag pattern of increases in recent days. The 150 new deaths from the COVID-19 illness raised Chinas total to 2,592 and showed a spike after hovering around 100 for four days. All but one death were in Hubei province, where the outbreak emerged in December.

Significant jumps in cases outside China have raised concern of the outbreak getting out of control. South Korea has the third-highest national total behind China and Japan, and cases have rapidly increased in Italy and Iran in just a few days.

Most of Japans cases were from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where nearly one-fifth of its 3,711 passengers and crew became infected.

More than 140 of South Koreas new cases were in and near Daegu, the city of 2.5 million people where most of the countrys infections have occurred. Five of the seven deaths were linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, where a slew of infections were confirmed among patients in a mental ward.

While officials have expressed hope they could contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, some experts noted signs of the virus circulating nationwide, pointing to a number of cases in the capital, Seoul, and elsewhere that werent immediately traceable.

“In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility [that the illness] spreads nationwide,” South Korean Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing, saying that the government aims to stabilize Daegus situation in four weeks.

Health

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Togo President Faure Gnassingbe has won a fourth term in power, the national electoral commission declared on Monday, as his main rival accused authorities of fraud.

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The incumbent leader took 72 percent of the vote share in the first round of the presidential election, the commission said, far ahead of former prime minister Agbeyome Kodjo, with 18 percent.

The widely expected win extends more than a half century of dynastic rule over the former French colony by Gnassingbe's family despite broad disillusionment over its failure to drag many out of poverty.

Gnassingbe has led the country of eight million people since taking over in 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.

In May, he oversaw an overhaul of the constitution that allowed him to run this year — and potentially remain in office until 2030.

Gilbert Barawa, minister of public functions and a strong supporter of the president, described the result as "an unprecedented score" for the president, who was elected with 58 percent of the vote five years ago.

"Faure Gnassingbe has made a great breakthrough in formerly difficult areas," he said.

Health

Frances disgraced conservative former prime minister François Fillon goes on trial Monday over the fake-jobs scandal dubbed PenelopeGate after his wife, who was paid handsomely for work as her husbands parliamentary assistant, which she allegedly never performed. The scandal sunk Fillons 2017 presidential bid.

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Penelope Fillon and the prime ministers former parliamentary aide, Marc Joulaud, are co-defendants in the case.

François Fillons aspirations to win the 2017 election were destroyed after Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical weekly known for its investigative journalism and political scoops, reported that his wife had been paid hundreds of thousands of euros for doing little work, though she had been employed as his parliamentary assistant for several years.

The paper went on to report that Fillon had also employed two of his five children as parliamentary assistants while he was a senator, earning them a total of €84,000 between 2005 and 2007.

The trial, beginning Monday at the Paris criminal court, is scheduled to run until March 11.

Fillon, 65, is charged with misusing public funds, conspiracy and failing to report the details of his financial situation to a French watchdog. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of €1 million. His Welsh-born wife is being charged with concealing the misuse of public funds.The couple has already been asked to reimburse the National Assembly (lower house of parliament) €1 million in damages.

Prime minister from 2007 to 2012 under then president Nicolas Sarkozy, Fillon was a favorite to win the Élysée Palace when the story broke. He quickly denounced the revelations as a campaign of political dirty tricks, and resisted pressure from within his party, Les Républicains, to pull out of the race.

PenelopeGate was all the more destructive for Fillon, and subsequently for his party, since he had presented himself during the primary as the candidate unsullied by the scandals that surrounded Sarkozy, his rival and former boss.

Health

Four cruise ship passengers flown to Britain on Saturday have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 13.

They were among 30 repatriated Britons and two Irish citizens beginning a 14-day quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.

The four UK nationals caught the virus on the Diamond Princess liner in Japan, England's chief medical officer said.

They have now been transferred to specialist NHS infection centres.

Two patients are in the Royal Hallamshire in Sheffield, one is in the Royal in Liverpool and a fourth was transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, NHS England said.

Prof Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director for coronavirus said: "These specialist centres are well prepared to deal with cases and earlier this year the Newcastle unit successfully treated and discharged two patients who had contracted the virus."

Prof Willett added there had been a "calm response" to confirmed cases of coronavirus so far, "which will continue to be important as more of us might need to self-isolate for a time, to protect ourselves, our families and the community".

Prof Keith Neal, emeritus professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said the four new cases were not surprising and would present no risk to the public.

The Department of Health said a "full infectious disease risk assessment" was done before Saturday's repatriation flight from Japan, adding that no-one who boarded the flight had displayed any symptoms of the virus.

Any more passengers who test positive will immediately be taken into specialist NHS care, the department said.