Trump shifts focus to mining the moon as US coronavirus cases rise over 400,000

According to documents released by the White House, Donald Trump paused his efforts around the growing coronavirus crisis to sign an executive order. This order will leave the US free to mine the moon for resources.

The document says the order rejects the 1979 global agreement known as the Moon Treaty .

This treaty says any activity in space should conform with international law.

The order states: “Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space.

“Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons.”

The order was entirely in keeping with the Trump administration’s stance on domestic mining.

The administration has sought to encourage domestic mining by scaling back on a series of environmental protections despite widespread condemnation.

It also continues the president’s interest in space.

Last December, he launched Space Force as a branch of the US military, saying “space is the world’s new war-fighting domain”.

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However, the move has been condemned by Russia.

There have been suggestions that America may be trying to “privatise space”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “any kind of attempt to privatise space in one form or another – and I find it difficult to say now whether this can be seen as an attempt to privatise space – would be unacceptable”.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos has also hit out at president Trump following the move.

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Roscosmos accused Mr Trump of creating a basis to take over other planets.

“Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries (on course for) fruitful cooperation,” it said in a statement.

However, US officials say the 1979 treaty was only signed by 17 of 95 member states on the relevant United Nations committee.

Scott Pace, from the National Space Council, said in a statement on behalf of the White House: “As America prepares to return humans to the moon and journey on to Mars, this Executive Order establishes US policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space.”

The news comes after President Donald Trump accepted Moscow’s offer of help with medical supplies last week.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Trump “accepted with gratitude this aid of humanitarian nature” in a phone call with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

The US is grappling with the coronavirus epidemic with the total number of cases climbing to 434,114 and a death toll of 14,762.

Mr Trump made a reference to Russian aid for the first time during a press conference last Monday.

He said: “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things”.

However, the US President is yet to elaborate on details of the supplies.

Reports of the US administration accepting aid from Russia have caused concerns that Moscow could be using the coronavirus crisis to get the US to ease some of the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia.

Footage released by the Russian Defence Ministry showed a military plane full of cardboard boxes taking off from an airfield outside Moscow late on Tuesday night.

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China cover-up: Chilling purge of hundreds who spoke out against Xi – terrifying report

Beijing is cracking down on those who challenged the official propaganda that president Xi Jinping had handled the outbreak with transparency and expertise. Many people from Wuhan have expressed their anger at the central government’s negligence, especially after the death of the doctor who originally broke the news of the virus in December. Dr Li Wenliang was officially reprimanded and the news was “covered up”. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) community in a report this week said: “Human rights violations surged in China for the reason that Chinese authorities started implementing draconian measures in response to COVID-19.

“This embraces deleting crucial info on-line, censoring the media, punishing whistleblowing docs, detaining and disappearing impartial journalists and authorities critics, and kicking out international reporters.”

Since the end of the outbreak in China, police have eliminated 5,111 circumstances of “fabricating and intentionally disseminating false and dangerous information” according to Chinese state media.

CHRD said it has documented 897 cases between January.

In March, Chinese internet users were penalized by police for their online speech or information-sharing about the coronavirus epidemic, based on official information in the public domain.

The cases were spread across almost every province, region and municipality in China, CHRD said, adding that 467 people were sanctioned in February alone.

The CHRD report said: “The punishments handed out by police fall largely into several types: administrative detention, criminal detention, enforced disappearance, fines, warnings/interrogations, forced confessions and ‘educational reprimand”

China have begun a war of propaganda to change the narritive on Covid 19.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, wrote on Twitter: “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.

“Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

It was unclear whether the spokesman’s suggestion that the US was behind the outbreak in China represented the view of the Beijing government but state broadcaster CGTN tweeted Mr Zhao’s allegations.

That the US, rather than China, is responsible for the crisis, and even owes China an explanation for its muted response to the outbreak, is a concept that has steadily gathered momentum in Chinese media over the past few weeks.

As new cases of the virus plummet in China and surge in the US and Europe, Chinese media and several Twitter-active diplomats are shifting the narrative away and blaming Washington.

Chinese news media has lit up with stories about the dangers of foreigners importing the virus from outside of China and how it is now Chinese experts who are swooping in to rescue Europe’s besieged cities.

Most striking have been the promotion of conspiracy theories and attacks on the veracity of US case numbers.

The sluggish response from the Trump administration is often drawn in stark comparison with the success of China’s sweeping quarantine of hundreds of millions of people.

Mr Zhao wrote in a separate Twitter post: “US should try to find a way to curb the outbreak!

“China has implemented measures for 2 months, allowing time and offering experience for US to learn from it, but US has hardly done anything.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took to Twitter also to criticise the CDC’s counting method, ending her post with: “It is absolutely WRONG and INAPPROPRIATE to call this the Chinese coronavirus.”

Despite being banned in China, a number of Chinese diplomats have recently taken to Twitter to counter criticism of China.

Mr Zhao has been prolific in his combative tweeting and was recently appointed to a senior position with the foreign ministry.

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Zoom security fear: FBI issue terrifying Zoombombing warning as hackers hijack video calls

The FBI has warned users to be aware of weaknesses in the security of their Zoom video calls, amid a growing hacking controversy over the popular app. In an alarming message, the FBI has warned pranksters and hackers that they face serious legal consequences for carrying out Zoombombing – where hackers hijack Zoom video call sessions and take over the screen, sometimes showing pornography or other objectionable material. This follows reports of a both public and private meetings that have been “invaded” by trolls who broadcast shock videos, pornography, and other disruptive content.

Children’s online school classes, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, church services and private business calls have all been hijacked so far.

In one incident, an elderly woman in recovery was interrupted from sharing her experiences during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Zoom by trolls playing graphic pornography.

Several schools classes being taught remotely via Zoom were interrupted by trolls, with one swearing and revealing the teacher’s home address while another showed an individual with Nazi swastika tattoos.

In another incident, a worship service in the US was interrupted by a series of trolls posting “racist and homophobic” content, which forced the pastor to end the meeting. 

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Security researchers have warned that there are many ways that attackers can infiltrate a call on Zoom.

This has largely been blamed on the lack of end-to-end encryption on the app and the fear malicious parties can access webcams.

In response, Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan has apologised to users and insisted the video-call company was making drastic changes to prevent this abuse.

From 5th April, Zoom will require passwords to enter all calls via Meeting ID.

At the same time, Zoom will change virtual waiting rooms to be on by default so hosts have to manually admit attendees before they join a call.

The use of Zoom has skyrocketed in recent weeks during the coronavirus pandemic, after governments around the world ordered nationwide lockdowns.  

The growing problem of Zoombombing has even prompted action from federal prosecutors and the FBI, who are warning of serious legal consequences for hackers.

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Prosecutors have confirmed they will pursue charges for Zoombombing, including “disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmit ting threatening communications.”

Matthew Schneider, the US Attorney for the Eastern Michigan district, revealed that some of these charges include fines and possible imprisonment.

He added: “You think Zoom bombing is funny? Let’s see how funny it is after you get arrested.

“If you interfere with a teleconference or public meeting in Michigan, you could have federal, state, or local law enforcement knocking at your door.”

The security concerns surrounding Zoom has even prompted tech entrepeneur Elon Musk to ban its use for SpaceX meetings. 

The UK Government was criticised recently for carrying out cabinet meetings remotely via Zoom. 

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French medics need bodyguards for 300 metre commute after spike in violent attacks

Medics at the Lariboisière Hospital in the 10th arrondissement of Paris require protection in the evenings after they have finished their shifts. Photos taken by Newsflash show a female hospital employee wearing a mask and rubber gloves walking alongside a bodyguard, who is also donning a mask. Another snap shows a minder standing in the city’s famous Gare du Nord train station holding a sign which says: “Accompanied departure for Lariboisiere”.

The capital’s iconic station is just 300 meters from the hospital yet employees do not feel safe enough to make the journey on foot alone between the hours of 6pm and 10pm.

France has 59,105 confirmed cases of the virus and 5,387 deaths have been reported.

The epidemic has given way to a surge in violent incidents against hospital workers.

Local news reports suggest medics have been insulted and harassed by people as they make their way to and from the hospital, which is in an area under lockdown.

One hospital nurse told local media: “It’s true that we are often approached for money and things like that.

“We don’t feel safe.”

A bodyguard recently hired by the hospital said he took pride in his work to protect those treating patients during the nationwide coronavirus outbreak.

He said: “They do not come to work to go through this kind of thing after a hard shift.

“It’s a pleasure for us to help others while they work to help the sick.”

A second nurse said: “I think it’s kind of reassuring to have somebody with us.”

Another hospital worker was quoted as saying the area had experienced a rise in attempted muggings recently.

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One person who claims to live near the hospital said the neighbourhood has quickly descended into a place of chaos and has fallen under the control of drug dealers.

They said elderly residents are afraid to leave their homes due to the rise in violence.

“I live in that area,” they wrote on social media.

“Older people are terrified. They don’t go out anymore.

“Dealers control the neighbourhood.”

French police are cracking down on holidaymakers trying to break the country’s lockdown.

Officers ramped up checks at train stations and motorways on Friday to stop people breaking the rules ahead of school holidays this weekend.

The coronavirus outbreak has put the country’s health system under significant pressure and overwhelmed hospitals in the Paris and eastern regions.

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Coronavirus crisis sparks RECORD job losses in ‘paralysed’ Spain

Social security data has revealed Spain has lost jobs at a record pace since the country went into the coronavirus lockdown. The eurozone’s fourth largest economy, which has recorded 10,003 fatalities and has lost 898,822 jobs since March including 613,000 fixed term workers. The huge figure does not include the people who have been forced to take temporary leave or have had their contracts suspended, which is estimated at 620,000

The country now has a staggering 3.5 million people out of work.

Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva said: “This data is extraordinary, it is unprecedented.

“It reflects a real disruption to normal activity.”

Spain started its lockdown on March 14 and since this time, people have only been allowed to leave home for essential trips.

The country lost 900,000 jobs during the 2008/9 financial crisis, but it happened over 20 weeks rather than three.

Unai Sordo, the leader of Spain’s biggest labour union CCOO, told broadcaster TVE, said: “The country is practically paralysed as a result of the health emergency.”

The Spanish Government has said that the country would focus on the economy after they had beaten the pandemic.

Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos said: “We will have to work on relaunching the economy once we can get control of the epidemic.”

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Pepe Álvarez, leader of the UGT union, Spain’s second-biggest union, said: “The destruction of jobs is extraordinarily heavy for women, young people and the most precarious work sectors, especially the hotel and restaurant sector and construction workers.”

The job losses have mainly been seen in construction, hospitality, admin, education and transport.

The worst affected regions are Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Murcia and Valencia.

Spain has seen the world’s second highest death toll after Italy.

The Health Minister has said that the curve is being flattened in the country and fatalities should slow down.

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Health Minister Salvador Illa said: “The data shows that the curve has stabilised – we have reached the highest point and things are slowing down.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“A glimpse of hope: the curve has stabilised.

“The peak of the curve and we have started the slowdown phase.”

The country has announced a €200 billion package to help companies and protect workers affected by the crisis.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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Andrew Neil questions praise for Germany’s ‘low’ coronavirus death toll

A chart released by Sky News’ economics editor, Ed Conway, shows how Germany reached its 100th death at a much later date than other European countries including the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy. Germany has 81,728 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 997 deaths. This nation’s overall death toll from the viral disease is significantly lower than other countries which have similar numbers of infections.

For example, China has 81,589 cases but more than three times the amount of deaths than Germany.

And the contrast is also very stark in neighbouring Belgium.

The country has a fifth of the amount of cases recorded in Germany but its death toll has surged past 1,000.

The statistics coming out of Germany have caused many analysts to ponder why Angela Merkel’s country appears to be handling the virus better than others.

But the BBC’s Andrew Neil raised an important point about the trajectory portrayed in the Sky News chart.

Mr Neil noted how Germany appears to be on a very similar path to other countries experiencing major outbreaks.

The graph shows how the death rate in Germany has increased at nearly the same speed as that in the UK, Spain, France and Italy after the 100th coronavirus victim was confirmed in each nation.

Mr Neil tweeted: “Despite all the praise for Germany’s testing regime it doesn’t have a lower death toll than UK at equivalent points in the post-100 deaths cycle.”

Sky News’ Mr Conway shared the chart, noting how deaths in Britain are rising faster than Italy and France.

He said: “Bad news: UK line nonetheless steeper than Italy & France at similar stage in outbreak.”

He added: “These lines represent thousands of families losing loved ones.

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“And the worry for us in the UK is that by this stage in their outbreaks Italy, France and to some extent Spain had managed to flatten their curves.

“UK’s line not flattening. Deaths still doubling every three days.”

On Thursday the UK’s death toll surged by 569 and hit 2,921.

It marks the highest increase in 24 hours since the epidemic began in Britain.

The statistics come as a new poll showed more than half of Britons believe the government’s response to the crisis was too slow.

The Ipsos MORI poll, carried out online between March 27 and 30, showed 56 percent of respondents believed the government’s enforcement of social distancing measures was too late, compared with just four percent who felt it was too soon.

Boris Johnson is also facing criticism about a slow roll-out of testing for COVID-19.

The Ipsos MORI poll showed 79 percent of respondents said they were avoiding leaving their homes, up from 50 percent before the government’s lockdown.

Ipsos MORI said it interviewed 1,072 British adults aged 18-75.

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Coronavirus and hurricane season: What COVID-19 could mean for 2020 hurricane response

El Nino is the name given to an abnormal weather pattern caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, just off the coast of South America. The sun warms the water near the equator, which creates more cloud and consequentially, more rain. Normally there are trade winds which blow the warm water west, but during El Nino, those winds weaken or even reverse, which lets the warm water normally found in the western Pacific remain or flow east.

This warm water displaces the cooler water that is normally found near the surface of the eastern Pacific, setting off atmospheric changes that affect weather patterns in numerous areas of the world.

A temperature increase of at least 0.5C needs to occur in the water of the eastern Pacific Ocean for it to be classified as an El Nino year.

Although it doesn’t come about in a perfect pattern, El Nino seems to recur every 2-7 years. Following an El Nino, an opposite phenomenon occurs, named La Nina.

During La Nina, the eastern Pacific Ocean experiences cooler than normal temperatures around the equator.

Early climate readings are currently forecasting that El Nino will not take place this year. However, the Atlantic hurricane season will arrive on June 1.

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Hurricanes are a low priority on people’s lists, as the coronavirus continues to turn the world on its head.

As social distancing becomes a household term, it remains at the top priority for medical experts who recommend people stay two metres apart.

However, as a number of tornadoes struck America’s plains and the Southern states, a rare tornado emergency was declared in Alabama.

With the likelihood of more storms to come as hurricane season looms on the horizon, many are considering a last-ditch effort to seek safety in a community storm cellar.

Some states have said that COVID-19 should not stop you from going to a community shelter.

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The Alabama Department of Public Health along with National Weather Services, issued a joint statement to guide residents.

It read: “The decision to seek shelter in a community storm shelter is certainly made more difficult by the consideration for COVID-19.

“At this time, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is recommending that your first priority should be to protect yourself from a potential tornado.”

The statement also notes that if a warning is issued near you, you’re more likely to die of a hurricane or tornado than the coronavirus.

Meteorologists are aware that March is a tricky time for predictions with Earth in the throes of seasonal change, but everything points to a neutral or La Nina pattern in the summer.

El Nino is not expected to arrive for this year’s hurricane season.

The prediction was reinforced this week with updates in the European (ECMWF) and American Global Forecast System (GFS), which show calling over the next several months in the Pacific ocean near the equator, similar to a La Nina pattern.

Chief meteorologist for IBM’s The Weather Company, Todd Crawford said: “I think we have a pretty high confidence that we are not going to have an El Nino.

“We’ve had a slight El Nino conditions a couple of years now so it’s time to slosh back here toward La Nina given the natural oscillation. It’s kind of due.”

Last year, a weak El Nino gave up in August, which was an unexpected and dangerous twist to an already explosive hurricane season.

The season ended with 18 named storms, including six hurricanes, three of which were major reaching Category 3 or higher – compared to a yearly average of 12 named storms.

The 2019 season was also marked by Hurricane Dorian, a brutal Category 5 hurricane that ravaged the northern Bahamas.

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China rejects claims Beijing downplayed true horror of deadly coronavirus crisis

Nearly one million people have been infected by the new coronavirus and nearly 46,000 have died since it first emerged in central China late last year, according to an AFP tally. Beijing “did not” under-report the total number of cases and deaths it suffered from the novel coronavirus, China’s ambassador to France Lu Shaye said on Tuesday, amid suggestions the country downplayed the scale of its outbreak. Mr Lu told Europe 1 radio: “We did not under-estimate (the death toll), it is precise,” as he brushed off claims China’s public reporting on coronavirus cases and deaths was inaccurate.

The flu-like infection has killed around 3,300 people in China, “including 2,535 in Wuhan,” ground zero for the pandemic, he insisted.

Doubts emerged over China’s death toll after thousands of urns were spotted in the central Chinese city last week.

Photos obtained by the Caixin media outlet and circulated on social media showed long lines of relatives waiting outside funeral homes to pick up the remains of their loved ones, prompting questions about the true scale of casualties.  

Trucks shipped in some 2,500 urns to one funeral home on both Wednesday and Thursday, according to Caixin media. One picture showed some 3,500 urns stacked on the ground inside, though whether they had all been filled remains unclear.

But, while Wuhan funeral homes have refused to share data, some families said they had been forced to wait several hours to pick up their urn.  

However, Mr Lu said the stacks of urns also included the remains of “thousands” of people whose deaths were “not linked” to the epidemic.  

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, for her part, told reporters in Beijing on Thursday that China had been open and transparent about the coronavirus epidemic and blasted those casting doubt on the government’s narrative.

She said: “The comments by those US politicians are just shameless and morally repulsive.

“They should abandon such politicising of public health issues.”

Earlier, Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused Beijing of hiding the true number of those impacted.

He said he had called for the State Department to investigate China’s “initial cover up and subsequent actions regarding this pandemic”.

US President Donald Trump, for his part, told a daily press briefing that he had not received an intelligence report on China’s data, but added: “The numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side – and I am being nice when I say that – relative to what we witnessed and what was reported.”

China, meanwhile, appears to have won its battle against the virus, announcing that widespread lockdowns in place since January were being gradually lifted.

The novel coronavirus first emerged in China in late 2019, but Beijing has reported fewer cases and deaths than the United States, which now has the world’s largest outbreak with 214,000 confirmed infections.

It has also reported fewer cases and deaths than Italy and Spain, the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

Over 900,000 people have been infected by the virus across more than 200 countries and regions and nearly 46,000 have died, according to an AFP tally.

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Coronavirus mystery: Medics baffled by Lombardy village with NO cases

Baffled medics said Ferrera Erbognone, the village of a thousand inhabitants in the province of Pavia, appears immune to the COVID-19 virus. They are now hoping to carrying out a series of tests on residents to try to find out why.

We chose Ferrera because it is a community in which no cases of coronavirus infection have occurred

Livio Tronconi

Mayor Giovanni Fassina has told all families that until April 2, they can book for blood tests in a laboratory in the nearby town of Sannazzaro de ‘Burgundi.

The tests will be voluntary and citizens who are unable to make th journey to Sannazzaro de ‘Burgundi will have the opportunity to take a blood test at home.

Mr Fassini said: “We have had more than 150 bookings and many from entire families which would increase the number of examinations.

“I believe our zero cases is not due to genetics. We are like everyone else.

“It is only a contingent situation because apparently the population has respected the precautions of the ordinances.

“But Ferrera could be a good laboratory but this initiative cannot assume any diagnostic or prognostic significance, in order to avoid generating false myths and unfounded expectations in the population.

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“The goal for us is to develop a method to know if the antibody is sufficient to tell if a population is immune.

“I am convinced that many people have come into contact with the virus and have developed infection in an asymptomatic form.

“We could establish the percentage of the population that is immune”.

Lombardy is at the epicentre of Italy’s contagion with 6,360 deaths and more than 41,000 confirmed cases but Ferrera Erbognone has so far been spared.

The investigation aims to clarify whether antibodies capable of fighting coronavirus are present in the population of Ferrera Erbognone.

Researchers from Pavia’s Mondino Institute are hoping to trace something in the immune system of the small population which may explain why no one has been affected and potentially provide data which could help stop the pandemic.

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Mondino Institute boss Livio Tronconi said: “We chose Ferrera because it is a community in which no cases of coronavirus infection have occurred.

“Consequently the population study could provide us with results of a certain relevance that will then be shared with virologists of the Policlinico San Matteo and with the scientific committee of the Lombardy Region.”

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has now reached 10,779.

The number of fatalities, by far the highest of any country in the world, account for more than a third of all deaths from the infectious virus worldwide.

More than 662,700 people have been infected by coronavirus across the world and 30,751 have died.

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)

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BBC Weather: Carol Kirkwood issues UK snow warning after dramatic temperature drop

The UK is set for a significant drop in temperatures and even an outbreak of snowfall, according to Carol Kirkwood’s latest BBC weather forecast. She warned viewers today that snow will blanket parts of the country when a new cold weather front sweeps down the UK from Wednesday. This comes after a shock appearance of snow, sleet and rain yesterday across parts of the country.

Kirkwood told BBC Breakfast viewers that Wednesday “will see one big difference”.

She said: “As me move into April, we have a weather front coming in across the north of Scotland and that will introduce some rain.

“Cold air comes in from behind this weather front, so we will see some snow.

“For Thursday, that weather front sinks southwards across the UK.”

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She continued: “It is a cold front so temperatures will drop. The tops of the hills and mountains will turn wintry and there will be more rain and snow.”

Kirkwood said that Monday and Tuesday will continue to be “chilly” before the temperatures drop further.

The BBC weather presenter said: “Overnight there has been showers in the north of the country, some of them have turned wintry.

“Those showers are set to continue this morning, some of them again turning wintry.

“The high pressure we had over the weekend remains, but it has moved a bit so the wind is coming from the Atlantic, rather than the Arctic, which means it won’t be as cold as it has been.

“Not a lot of the country is immune to the showers today. You’ll see them across the north-west of England and Scotland.

“This moves down to Wales and southern England this afternoon. The Midlands, East Anglia and Kent will also be impacted.”

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Kirkwood warned that temperatures will continue to be lower than expected for this time of year.

She added that temperatures could be around 8C to 9C but will “feel much colder because of the wind chill”.

WX charts also forecast a plunge in temperatures, with parts of the country dropping to freezing lows of -4C.

This follows a wintry start to British Summer Time on the weekend, where snow was spotted from Surrey to Scotland.

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