Coronavirus warning: Why scientists are telling cat owners to keep their pets indoors

The British Veterinary Association said “owners should not worry” about any risk of infection from their pets. But current evidence suggests cats may be able to catch the virus from other cats.

Dr Angel Almendros, from City University in Hong Kong, told BBC News: “There isn’t a single case of a pet dog or cat infecting a human with COVID-19.”

To prevent any risk of pets carrying the virus from owners’ hands in their fur, British Veterinary Association (BVA), president Daniella Dos Santos encouraged owners to take “sensible precautions”.

She said: “Practise good hand hygiene, try and keep cats indoors.

“Avoid unnecessary contact with your pets, such a hugging or allowing them to lick your face, and do not touch other people’s dogs when on walks.”

Dr Angel Almendros, in a recent paper on the subject, cited the case of a 17-year-old pet dog in Hong Kong that tested positive for COVID-19.

Thought to be infected by its owner, the dog was later released from testing after being cleared of the virus.

Shortly after its release, the dog tragically passed away, likely as a result of the stress induced from the testing process, vets in Hong Kong claimed.

Dr Almendros said: “But even where we have these positive results, the animals are not becoming sick.

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“As in the previous Sars-Cov outbreak in Hong Kong, in 2003, where a number of pets were infected but never became sick, there is no evidence that dogs or cats could become sick or infect people.”

More research is being undertaken, looking into how the virus might spread from humans to animals.

It appears cats may be susceptible to infection from respiratory droplets – the particles that shoot out when people cough, sneeze or breath out.

Following a case in Belgium where a cat tested positive about a week after its owner showed symptoms associated with the virus, Chinese scientists carried out tests that provided evidence of infected cats transmitting the virus to other cats.


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More recently was news that tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York had contracted the virus from a worker who was carrying the virus but was asymptomatic.

“It is interesting to note in the experimental evidence that cats can become infected, alongside the apparent infection of a tiger,” Prof Bryan Charleston, director of the UK’s Pirbright Institute, which specialises in the study of infectious disease, said.

All of this has led the “evidence on the transmissibility” building up a solid case.

Moreover, there is also evidence humans can transmit respiratory infections to wild great apes.

This makes the global spread of the virus a particular concern for conservationists working to protect endangered wildlife around the world.

In all of the mentioned cases, infected humans are the animal that pose the biggest threat to other species.

Prof Charleston said: “We know that the virus did make the jump from an animal into humans (at the beginning of this crisis) but that appears to be because people were eating those infected animals.”

Relating the information back to cats, the British Veterinary Association draws attention to how an animal’s fur could carry the virus for a time “if a pet were to have come into contact with someone who was sick”.

Thus the advice to keep pets indoors for the foreseeable future.

Dr Almendros advised: “Treat pets like other people in your household.

“So if you’re feeling sick, it’s better not to interact with them.”

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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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How to see the world without leaving your home

Airlines around the world have grounded their flights. Countries have shut their borders, and ordered everyone indoors.

The age of coronavirus has restricted our movement in every way, but it doesn’t have to restrict our imagination. Here are 10 ways you can still see the world – all through the wonder of the webcam.

1) Elephants in South Africa

This live feed comes from a watering hole at the Tembe Elephant Park, close to South Africa’s border with Mozambique. Most of the time, there will be at least a few elephants milling about – and the ones living her are reportedly the world’s largest.

Every now and then, you might catch leopards, lions, rhinos and buffalo popping in for a drink. And those small antelope you see are called sunis.

(Random fact: Elephants can’t jump.)

2) Times Square, New York City

Perhaps one of the busiest places in the world in normal times, now the heart of Manhattan is eerily quiet as the city deals with close to 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The bright adverts in Times Square now promote shows no-one can attend, clothes no-one can buy and cities no-one can visit.

3) Lapland

This might win a prize for the most remote live-stream of all – the 360-degree footage comes from the deep snow of northern Finland, above the Arctic Circle.

Normally, the small forested village of Köngäs would host tourists lapping up the mythology of northern Finland, and its mysterious elves.

But these days, it’s even more peaceful than usual.

4) A Thai beach

This is the feed to watch if you want to relax with a spectacular sunset every day.

The feed comes from a secluded white beach on the island of Koh Samui, in Thailand, were people appear to be practising social distancing in a really satisfying way.

The sun sets there at about 18:30 local time (12:30BST) these days.

5) The northern lights

Coronavirus might be nature acting at its most aggressive, but this is nature at its most peaceful.

This live feed comes in from Manitoba province, in Canada. If you visit it while it’s night-time there, you’ll see the aurora borealis in full flow, as our planet’s magnetic field interact with charged particles from the Sun.

We’re just out of the prime northern lights season at the moment, but it’s still pretty spectacular. There were swirls of green in the sky when we checked on Thursday.

(Random fact: other planets including Neptune and Saturn also have auroras.)

6) Venice

One of the world’s most beautiful and most visited cities is shut.

Italy has seen the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, and no country has reported as many deaths. As a result, Venice and the rest of the country has been under strict lockdown measures for weeks.

As the live feed of various sites in Venice shows, the paved streets are quiet and the canals calm. So calm, in fact, that they are clearer than ever.

7) Gorillas in Africa

This feed – which operates day and night – shows gorillas doing what gorillas do best, at the GRACE gorilla conservation centre in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This is where about 300 eastern lowland gorillas live – about 8% of the world’s total – and it won’t take long to see one on camera. This live stream is one of many maintained by

(Random fact: Gorillas share 98% of humans’ genetic code.)

8) Tokyo

Much like New York’s Times Square, the Shibuya crossing in Japan’s capital would normally be one of the busiest junctions in the world. It’s quieter at the minute, but not deserted. And as this feed shows, people are doing a good job of keeping their distance from one another.

9) Norway by train

OK, this is not technically a live stream – it’s a series of long pre-recorded videos spliced together, showing a scenic train journey between Bergen and Oslo.

It doesn’t matter. As the train snakes past fjords, lakes and forests in the snow, it’s incredibly calming.

10) Space!

This is maybe the most spectacular live stream of them all. It comes from the International Space Station, which is travelling at about 17,000mph (27,300km/h) above our heads (and which you may have seen on a clear night).

You’ll witness a sunrise or sunset roughly every 45 minutes, and play a guessing game of “which country is that I’m flying over?”

The live feed is available only when the space station is in contact with Earth – there’s an occasional loss of signal, but they’re not that common.

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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 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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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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Melania Trump encourages young Americans to keep in touch with isolated grandparents

It was one of several tweets the First Lady made on Saturday. The one aimed towards children was the first. Mrs Trump wrote: “Many elderly people are unable to receive visitors right now & while this will all be temporary I encourage children to create colourful cards or pictures & show them to their loved ones via FaceTime.

“The thought would mean a lot & bring a smile to many faces!”


This tweet was accompanied with another retweet from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

That tweet read: “Don’t put family at risk for #COVID19 by visiting them in person.

“Call grandparents or invite them to a video chat. Keep your loved ones safe by staying connected while physically distant.”

Later, Mrs Trump tweeted again: “On behalf of the entire nation – thank you to all of the front line responders – especially nurses, doctors & volunteers- we thank & salute you for all that you are doing in these trying times. We will get through this as one country united!”

Her final intervention added: “As the #USNSComfort hospital ships off to New York today, we are reminded of the selfless acts of courage our @USNavy medical personnel & crew are doing to ensure all Americans stay healthy & safe as we fight the spread of #COVID19.

“Thank you to everyone in the military for your every day courage!”

The USNS Comfort is a naval hospital.

It is manned by naval officers from the Medical, Dental, Medical Service, Nurse and Chaplain Corps.

It only carries weapons for self defence.

The ship left Norfolk, Virginia for New York City.

The state of New York has 52,000 coronavirus cases.


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This is around half of the entire caseload in the United States.

Mrs Trump’s husband, President Donald Trump, earlier mooted the idea of quarantining the state.

This brought him into direct conflict with state governor Andrew Cuomo who said: “If you said we were geographically restricted from leaving, that would be a lockdown.

“Then we would be Wuhan, China, and that wouldn’t make any sense.

“You would paralyse the financial sector.”

According to South China Morning Post, Trump has concluded for now, the lockdown of the state is unnecessary.

The same applies to New Jersey and Connecticut.

Mr Cuomo claimed he spoke with Trump over the phone, but quarantine measures had not been discussed.

He insisted: “I haven’t had those conversations.”

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EU chief fumes at European leaders over handling of coronavirus ‘Show real leadership!’

With the Eurozone’s economy on the brink of collapse, the European Parliament’s president warned Brussels lacks the tools to keep it afloat. David Sassoli called on the bloc’s leaders to reach an agreement on a series of new fiscal measures that can help support countries through the economic upheaval caused by the global pandemic. He said: “The instruments we have available now are not enough.

“A profound crisis will impact our economy, our structure and our very social model.

“It is not enough for the European Council to just open up debate – we need real leadership.”

European capitals have begun negotiations over so-called “coronabonds”, a joint eurozone debt initiative to help prop up its economies hit hardest by COVID-19.

While at least nine member states are pushing for the measure, Germany and the Netherlands have presented themselves as staunch opponents.

In a joint letter to European Council president Charles Michel, leaders from the nine countries insisted the EU needed “to work on common debt instrument issued by a European institution to raise funds on the market on the basis and to benefits of all member states”.

France’s Emmanuel Macron, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and Spain’s Pedro Sanchez have all argued that the fight against coronavirus is a special case that could trigger economic shocks that impact all countries.

The letter said: “We are collectively accountable for an effect and united European response, they wrote in the letter, with the joint support of the leaders of Ireland, Greece, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Belgium.

“This common debt instrument should have sufficient size and long maturity to be fully efficient and avoid roll-over risks now as in the future.

“The funds collected will be targeted to finance in all member states the necessary investments in the healthcare system.”

Opposition member states, which also include Austria, Denmark and Finland, argue that the bloc shouldn’t deploy such drastic measures until absolutely necessary.

One EU diplomat said: “We have national measures. We have the Commission’s instruments, as a second fallback. We have the European Investment Bank, and other investment instruments.

“The problem is that we’ve been asked to jump immediately to the last resort mechanism while not having exhausted all the options on the road to that last resort.”

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Another source added: “We shouldn’t use up all our instruments this week because we don’t know how deep this crisis will be. There must always be spare ammunition to fall back on if need be.

“My country will not agree to corona bonds, that’s quite clear. We don’t think this is the right solution to the crisis at this time,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.”

Eurogroup finance ministers have already failed to reach a consensus for the planned measure, instead leaving leaders to make a final decision.

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The new joint credit lines are reminiscent of the eurobonds that were discussed as part of the rescue package after the end of the EU debt crisis.

During tense negotiations, the bloc’s debtors proposed the EU “mutualise’ debt through a joint debt instrument.

But German economy minister Peter Altmaier said the discussion over the measure was a “phantom debate”.

“I urge caution when supposedly new, ingenious concepts are presented which often enough are just long discarded ideas coming back from the dead,” he fumed.

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Coronavirus latest: Scientists claim new drug cured 95 PER CENT of critically ill patients

Chinese doctors gave a drug called Tocilizumab, marketed as Actemrao 20 patients during the peak of the country’s epidemic. Scientists now claim that 19 of them were discharged from hospital within two weeks.

Health officials in China have now approved Actemra to treat coronavirus patients with serious lung damage as a result of high inflammation.

This is often the body’s response to the coronavirus.

Doctors in China trialed the drug to prevent an overreaction of the immune system “called a ‘cytokine storm” seen in some coronavirus patients.

This is where the body’s immune response goes into overdrive and produces inflammation.

The overreaction of the immune system is considered a major factor behind catastrophic organ failure and death in some coronavirus patients.

However, it is not yet clear whether severe pneumonia symptoms seen in critically ill COVID-19 patients are due to the virus.

Patients, who were given routine therapies along with the drug, were diagnosed as severe or critical.

They were being treated at two separate hospitals in the eastern province of Anhui in China – The First Affiliated Hospital of University of Science and Technology of China and Anhui Fuyang Second People’s Hospital.

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Within a few days, patients’ fever returned to normal and all other symptoms improved remarkably, Dr Xiaoling Xu and colleagues report.

Because tocilizumab is already an existing drug, this could be fast tracked into experiments by regulators.

The news brings hope as countries across the world race to develop a vaccine for the disease.

There are currently 471,036 cases across the globe with 21,284 recorded deaths.

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At the time of writing there are 9,574 cases in the UK and 465 deaths.

No patients in the UK are thought to have taken the drug yet, in trials or clinical care.

The drug has been green-lighted by the FDA for trials on patients in the US, reports revealed yesterday.

However, the use of Tocilizumab remains highly controversial.

Experts said the FDA should immediately consider evidence that Actemra can lead to a number of alarming complications.

According to State news reports, these include heart failure, pancreatitis, heart attacks, strokes, and interstitial lung disease, a sometimes-fatal scarring of lung tissue.

The drug is normally used to treat adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

However, it an also treat certain types of childhood arthritis.

It is typically marketed under the names of RoActemra and Actemra, produced by the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche.

Karsten Kleine, a spokesperson for Roche, told NBC News that the drug company “is in active discussions with the FDA, as well as government bodies and institutions around the world, to initiate clinical trials that evaluate the safety and efficacy of Actemra (tocilizumab) for the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients.”

The prescription medicine works by reducing levels of IL-6 protein in the body.

The protein is what people with rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune conditions have too much of.

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