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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Social distancing is now ‘new normal’ with no end in sight – latest coronavirus warning

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted we “have to be honest with ourselves”, adding there is “no simple way” to deal with the outbreak. She said: “That is the new normal. Not having physical contact, socially distancing is, at the very minimum, a way of life for us.

“Because we have to be honest with ourselves – until a vaccine is found, there is no simple way to deal with this issue.”

Ms Berejiklian’s comments come as questions were raised about whether a decision on lifting the UK’s lockdown restrictions would be delayed while the Prime Minister is in hospital with coronavirus.

Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care on Monday evening after being admitted to to St Thomas’ hospital in London on Sunday.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said the decision would not be delayed.

He told Good Morning Britain: “It will be the case that we will take that decision collectively as a Cabinet.

“The person who will chair that Cabinet, the person who will make the final decision of course is, as I mentioned earlier, the Foreign Secretary.

“But I think it’s important to recognise, yeah lockdown is painful, it’s difficult.

“It’s particularly difficult if you’re living in circumstances where you don’t have easy access to green space, you’ve maybe got children at home.

“I don’t underestimate how difficult it is, but the Prime Minister’s condition is a terrible and sad reminder of the fact that this disease spreads rapidly, and has a virulence which is frightening.

“So that’s one of the reasons we have this lockdown, so we can slow the spread of the disease and strengthen the NHS.”

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England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it would be a “mistake” to discuss the UK’s exit strategy from the lockdown because the number of cases has not yet reached its peak.

Speaking during Monday’s Downing Street press conference, he said: “The key thing is to get to the point where we are confident we have reached the peak and this is now beyond the peak, and at that point I think it is possible to have a serious discussion about all the things we need to do step-by-step to move to the next phase of managing this.

“But I think to start having that discussion until we’re confident that that’s where we’ve got to, would I think be a mistake.”

Professor Dame Angela McLean, the Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser, added that decisions could only be made once data had been collected.

She said: “We need a good, long time series of data on all of these stages of infection in order to be able to tell what the impact of the measures that came on March 23 are going to be.

“It’s too early to tell yet, we need people to carry on following those instructions so that we can work out three weeks later what actually happens in hospitals.

“We need to know how well the current restrictions are working before we can say anything sensible about what the next stage might be.”

Asked whether easing the measures could be staggered by region or by type of person, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Obviously we’re very mindful of the challenges businesses are facing, small businesses, all employers and of course the workforce as well.

“But the risk is if we start taking our eye off the ball, of tackling the coronavirus, stopping the spread and getting through the peak, we risk delaying the point at which we could in the future take those decisions on easing restrictions.

“So it is really important right now to keep the over-riding focus on maintaining the discipline that we’ve had, keeping adherence to the guidelines that the Government has set out and making sure that we stop the spread of coronavirus.”

It comes as there have been 55,242 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, with the death toll at 6,159.

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UK long-range weather: Warm temperatures to ‘dominate’ throughout April – charts

Britain faced soring temperatures at the weekend as large parts of the country saw a glimpse of spring sunshine. Those temperatures are set to return for large parts of the UK this month according to the latest graphs, with the Met Office predicting above-average temperatures. Although there will be some brief periods of showers throughout April, the Met Office’s long-range forecast has predicted dry weather will be constant for many.

Reporting on the period between April 11-20, the Met Office said: “Over the rest of the Easter weekend, there should be a good deal of dry, settled weather with sunny spells.

“It will be driest in the south, with the greatest chance of rain and stronger winds in the far north and northwest of the UK.

“Temperatures above normal, and warmest in the south, but with overnight frosts further north.

“Beyond the Easter weekend, this weather pattern is expected to continue with dry weather dominating.”

In graphs from weather forecaster, WX Charts, the UK is set to see temperatures hitting above 20C (68F) for large parts of the country on April 8.

Although the north of England will not see the best of the sunshine, temperatures will still be in the high teens.

That band of hot weather will continue the following day, with WX Charts showing temperatures once again around 20C (68F) on April 9.

In conjunction with the Met Office’s long-range reports, WX Charts also forecasts between April 13-15 temperatures will once again soar to 20C and above (68F).

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The Met Office reported the final 10 days of the month, dry weather is most likely.

They said: “Although confidence is low during this time period, the most probable scenario is that dry weather should dominate, with some interludes of more changeable weather at times.”

Today, many across the country will experience temperatures in the high teens, with London reaching 20C (68F), the Met Office has reported.

This bright and clear weather will remain for most of the day until the evening whereby the north will see some showers.

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Commenting on today’s forecast, Met Office meteorologist said: “There will be a few shallow mist and fog patches across the country on Tuesday morning.

“They’ll soon lift and the temperatures will also rise.”

“Most places will be dry and bright during Tuesday morning but more high cloud across Scotland will turn the sunshine hazy during the afternoon.

“Otherwise for many it’s simply a sunny day feeling warm in the sunshine in the south with temperatures hitting 17 to 20 degrees but the wind will pick up across the north and west of Scotland later on.

“That will make it feel cool and that wind will continue to pick up it will turn cloudy and wet in the far northwest.

“By the end of Tuesday with the wind by this day too reaching gale-force.”

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South China Sea crisis: Beijing SINKS Vietnamese ship and detains crew in shock move

The Vietnamese ship was sunk near the disputed Paracel Islands, an island chain which has been one of the hot points of tension in the area. As well as sinking the vessel, the crew was also detained by the Chinese ship. Reported by the South China Morning Post, a local official from the Quang Ngai province near the centre of the country, Nguyen Van Hai said it was the first time an attack has happened in the region this year.

He said: “This is the first time a Chinese ship has hit and sunk boats in our commune this year.”

The fishing boat was hit on Thursday morning local reports stated.

They were later released on Thursday evening but the event could well spark off tensions in the region once again.

Both the Paracel and Spratly Islands were originally claimed by Vietnam but following the implementation of China’s nine-dash line, the islands soon caused a crisis point between the two states the island chain fell within the new policy. 

Under the policy, China has laid claim to several islands and regions across the South China Sea currently held by countries.

Although the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea ruled China had no territorial claim to the island chain, Beijing has continued to push its presence.

With the coronavirus almost contained in the country, some security analysts have warned Beijing has begun to increase its naval presence as other countries struggle to deal with the contagion.

Indeed, with cases of the virus rising rapidly in the US, China has alleged looked to capitalise on America’s weak status.

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The country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning conducted military drills in the northern territory of the South China Sea.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said: “Under difficult sea conditions in the early spring in the Bohai Strait, multiple J-15 fighter jets took off from the flight deck of the Liaoning and successfully landed several hours later, indicating the success of the technique rehabilitation training for instructors at Naval Aviation University.

“Training for war preparedness will not be stopped even in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the training of carrier-based fighter pilots must continue.”

However, the US also carried out military drills in the region.

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The US Navy also conducted freedom of navigations operation in the western Pacific.

They said: “The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry – DDG 52 launched a missile during a live-fire exercise and conducted combat information centre operations.

“USS Barry is underway conducting operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

In a further development in the region, China has reportedly discovered a rare form of natural gas.

The natural gas may be used to sell to other countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Amid business links between Vietnam and China, President of the former Rodrigo Duterte, has begun to soften ties with Beijing.

Chinese medical teams have also arrived in the country in order to try and support the effort against COVID-19.

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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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Boris Johnson enjoys highest rating as 1st time in a decade UK approves of its government

The results of a recent survey conducted by YouGov also showed the Prime Minister entering No10 in July offered a boost for the Conservative Party. Last June, during the final day of Theresa May’s leadership and when the country was gripped by Brexit deadlock, only 10 percent of Britons approved of the government. Seventy-one percent disapproved of Mrs May and her top team.

But fast forward half a year and the Tory government managed to win the approval of one in three voters (34 percent) in a survey taken after the pre-Christmas general election.

Less than half (46 percent) of respondents said they disapproved of Mr Johnson’s government.

But perhaps the most surprising result to come from YouGov’s political trackers is the fact that the COVID-19 epidemic has propelled the government into its best ratings position in nearly a decade.

For the first time since the early days of the Cameron-Clegg coalition, the government is enjoying a net positive approval rating.

More than half (52 percent) of people think the Government has a good record, according to YouGov’s political tracker on March 28.

Just 26 percent disapprove of its record.

Traditional Labour voters played a huge part in the shifting sands.

Twenty-two percent of people who would vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s party gave a thumbs up to the government’s performance.

However, it is worth noting that such voters did not support the Tories in the December election.

YouGov said the government’s increase in popularity during the outbreak may be down to the “rally round the flag effect”.

But they warned that support may start to fall if those in power are not seen to be doing enough.

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They said tougher questions are being put to Mr Johnson and his Cabinet “about why the government is not doing more to increase coronavirus testing capacity”.

YouGov said: “Our latest polling shows that two thirds (67 percent) think the government has handled this badly, compared to just a quarter (25 percent) who think they have handled it well.

So how things will look coming out of this crisis are yet to be seen.

“But for now at least, the British public are rallying behind their government.”

The survey results come as the UK’s coronavirus death toll rose by 569 in one day.

A total of 2,921 people have now died from the viral disease in Britain.

The government has in recent weeks come under intense pressure to ramp up testing, especially among NHS workers.

On Wednesday it emerged that out of the 1.3 million NHS workforce only 2,000 had been tested for coronavirus.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said 15,000 tests would be carried out daily by the end of the week.

But he admitted that the promised 25,000 tests per day would not come to fruition until mid-April.

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Why didn’t we listen? Scientists issued ‘time bomb’ coronavirus warning 12 YEARS ago

In 2007 researchers in Hong Kong found a direct link between COVID-19 and the SARS virus which had previously killed more than 700 people in China between 2002 and 2003. The study published in the Clinical Microbiology Reviews found the same causative agent found in the SARS outbreak to the novel coronavirus – which has now been officially identified as Sars-Cov-2. The project claims the presence of the killer virus could be carried by bats and transmitted through the consumption of exotic animals.

The study states: “The presence of a large reservoir of Sars-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, along with the tradition of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.”

The deadly coronavirus is thought to have originated from a meat market in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, but the exact cause of the outbreak is yet to be officially known.

In 2008 researchers in Germany also found a link between a pathogen found in coronavirus and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

The SARS pandemic originated in China in 2002 and infected 8,098 people – killing 774.

The virus was eventually brought under control in July 2003 and killed around one in 10 people who were diagnosed with the disease.

The “Ecology and Pathogenesis of SARS” study funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research said the deadly disease could be carried and transmitted by bats.

The study states: “Coronaviruses are distantly related to the pathogen of the lung disease SARS.”

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The SARS outbreak typically infected the lower respiratory tracts such as the lungs, however, the COVID-19 virus is known to also affect the upper respiratory tracts such as the nose, mouth and throat.

Professor Christian Drosten, who led the study, said the deadly virus could also be found in bats living outside of China.

The virologist said: “Our work shows that coronaviruses also exist in bats outside of China.

“And we also found the first indications of how these viruses keep and multiply in bats.”

Around the world, there are more than 700,000 cases of coronavirus with more than 35,000 deaths.

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In the UK the number of people who have died from COVID-19 has increased by 180 in the past 24 hours with the death toll now standing at 1,415.

This afternoon Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, became the latest high profile figure in Westminster to self-isolate after developing symptoms.

He joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, who are all in self-isolation due to COVID-19.

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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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