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BBC weather forecast: Britons set for mini-heatwave this weekend pushing UK to 21C

BBC Weather meteorologist Matt Taylor said temperatures are expected to exponentially rise at the weekend, reaching a high of 21C (70F) on Sunday. The BBC Weather forecaster however warned an area of low pressure slowly moving in over the UK will clash with the area of high pressure currently in charge, generating potentially biting winds that will tamper with the mini-heatwave. Mr Taylor said: “A fair bit of cloud but as we go through the coming days into the weekend, sunshine will increase and, as I’ve already been telling you, it is set to turn warmer.

“Why so? Well, it’s because of where the area of low pressure we have at this moment shifts.

“High pressure winding around in a clockwise fashion, as that area of high pressure moves out towards the east of us, we’re then starting to drag air in from the south. We will slowly see the temperature rise day by day.

“In fact, by the time we hit Sunday, we’ll see temperatures widely in the high teens, 17C possible in the northwest Highlands of Scotland, 21C (70F) possible in the southeast of England.”

Mr Taylor continued: “Area of high pressure to the east of us, this area of low pressure pushing in but what you’ll notice, as they get closer together, the winds will be strengthening as well.

JUST IN: Mini heatwave UK: What is a mini heatwave? Will there be one this weekend?

“It will bring a lot more sunshine on Sunday, blue skies to start with for many, not so much mist and fog around.

“Cloud amount to increase to the west on Sunday so there will be some showery rain as we go through the second half of the day, most parts though will stay dry for the day.

“But as I said, a windier day on Sunday. Winds touching gale force later but it will the warmer day of the weekend.”

The BBC Weather meteorologist highlighted the “big contrast” between the warm temperatures expected on Sunday and the chillier feel Britons will be waking up to on Friday and Saturday.

READ MORE: Britain to bake in 20C sunshine as temperatures ‘rise quickly’

Mr Taylor continued: “Real contrast, really, with what some of us are going to experience first thing this morning. Frost around much of Scotland, northern and, for some, eastern England.

“Could be a bit icy in one or two spots across Scotland, we have seen some wintry showers continue through the night. Some showers in Northern Ireland, southwest Scotland and western parts of England and Wales. The odd spot of drizzle east as well but many places will be dry.

“Fair bit of cloud around today but we will see an increased amount of sunshine towards the southwest later and still some sunny spells across Scotland, where temperatures have been in single figures.

“In fact, for many away from city centres, single figures is to be expected today.”

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Mr Taylor said skies are expected to clear by Friday evening, with some mist and fog still showing up in the southernmost counties of England.

Saturday is expected to kick off with some outbreaks of rain across Scotland and Northern Ireland but other parts of the UK are set to remain dry for most of the day.

The BBC Weather forecaster added: “Into the weekend we go, we’ve got outbreaks of rain to begin within the far north of Scotland, one or two isolated showers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“West of England and Wales mostly dry, varying amounts of cloud and sunshine in southern and eastern parts of England and, already, temperatures back in double figures, some in the mid-teens by Saturday afternoon.”

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Russia warned NATO remains ready for attack after Putin’s sabre-rattling military drills

The pandemic has forced NATO to cancel some major exercises including the huge US-led Defender Europe 2020 which had been anticipated to be one of the largest US military drills in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which stands accused of waging a mass campaign of disinformation about coronavirus, has been sabre-rattling in drills close to the NATO allies’ borders, including British waters.

Our primary objective is to ensure that this health crisis does not become a security crisis

Jens Stoltenberg

But NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg insisted “operational readiness” had not been affected by the coronavirus crisis and said the alliance’s ability to defend itself had not been weakened.

He told a video news conference: “Our primary objective is to ensure that this health crisis does not become a security crisis.”

Mr Stoltenberg also said NATO’s “core task” to provide security for nearly a billion people would not be impacted by the global crisis.

But he warned the recent Russian war games near NATO ally borders were a stark reminder the alliance must not lose its focus on defending Europe.

Earlier, the US military acknowledged the pandemic was having a major impact on its troop movements across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

A spokesman for US European Command said: “In response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and recent guidance by the Secretary of Defence, we have modified exercise DEFENDER-Europe 2020 in size and scope.

“All movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe has ceased.

“The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians, and family members is our primary concern.”

The exercise had been touted as a sign of US solidarity with Europe and included the movement of some 20,000 troops to the continent.

Several other drills linked to the larger exercise, including Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response have been scrapped.

The spokesman said: “Forces already deployed to Europe for other linked exercises will return to the United States.”

At a news briefing carried via video-conference from Brussels, Mr Stoltenberg said NATO was doing its part to airlift necessary emergency medical equipment.

He said a military cargo aircraft left Turkey yesterday with a consignment of protective gear and other medical equipment for Spain and Italy.

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Mr Stolttenberg said coronavirus was a “common invisible enemy” and a synchronised response from NATO allies was needed.

He said: “Very often, when we face a crisis, it’s a crisis which is only affecting one or two, or a limited number of nations, and then the other nations can provide support.

“This time, the crisis affects us all.”

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Coronavirus horror: Brit clergyman describes ordeal after becoming Washington’s first case

The Rev Timothy Cole had been at a church conference in Louisville, Kentucky, with clergy from all over the USA at the end of February. When he returned home to Washington DC he felt unwell and started to show flu-like symptoms.

Suddenly you get whacked and you find yourself on this really small dark path and you’ve got no choice but to go down it

Rev Timothy Cole

He told Sky News: “I went to bed for three days, the fever broke, I waited another 24 hours and got up, felt fine. I went back to work.”

But despite his brief recovery, Rev Cole was about to become the Washington’s first case.

He continued to deliver sermons before he eventually collapsed and was rushed to hospital where he tested positive for COVID-19.

He said: “You’re just going along the highway of normality and then suddenly you get whacked and you find yourself on this really small dark path and you’ve got no choice but to go down it.”

He was in hospital for three weeks, given oxygen and placed in intensive care.

He said: “The thing about this disease is the doctors really can’t do very much.

“You’re sitting round waiting for your body to get better or worse.”

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Rev Cole was the first patient in Washington DC but cases in New York, California and Texas have also been traced back to the Kentucky church conference.

He later found his church organist and four parishioners were infected with coronavirus.

He said: “I was thinking about the people who got the virus after me and the inconvenience people had to go through.

“The whole congregation was quarantined for two weeks because of me.”

Washington DC now has over 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and city mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a stay-at-home order.

Rev Cole said: “I was the first case in Washington so obviously it wasn’t something that I expected. It was a bit of a shock.”

He and wife Lorraine said they were grateful for the congregation’s reaction to his diagnosis.

He said: “They stood beside us and prayed for us. They have been a tremendous support and lavished us with affection and kindness.”

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Originally from Edinburgh, Reverend Cole moved to the US capital three years when he was appointed rector at Christ Church, Georgetown.

The former British army chaplain will be delivering a virtual reading at Christ Church this Easter.

He said: “It’s so sad this church, which is 200 years old, will be shut for Easter Sunday for the first time.

“Who knows when I’ll stand in the pulpit again.”

Four new states imposed sweeping stay-at-home directives last night, putting more than 80 percent of Americans under lockdown as the number of deaths in the US nearly doubled in three days.

The governors of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada each instituted the strict policies on a day when the death toll from COVID-19 shot up by 925 to more than 4,800 nationwide, with 214,000 confirmed cases.

Donald Trump said he saw no need for the federal government to issue a nationwide decree, with 39 states and the District of Columbia now requiring residents to stay home except for essential outings to the doctor or to shop for essentials.

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EU branded ‘selfish’ after member states furiously row over coronavirus response

Europe’s coronavirus death toll jumped above 30,000 and the EU’s economy has been severely hit by the crisis. However, European leaders have been squabbling over a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint “coronabonds” to help finance an economic stimulus and weather the crisis. “It is clear that the European Union is an egoistic coalition,” Mr Mélenchon, a member of the French parliament and president of the leftist France Unbowed party, told France Info radio.

“Today, Europe does not exist; it is playing no role in this health crisis.

“The bloc is irrelevant and should be left to sleep in a corner.”

His harsh remarks were echoed by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who today called for more solidarity at the EU level to fight the coronavirus pandemic and warned differences between the bloc’s 27 member states were putting everyone at risk.

In a letter published in Italian daily La Repubblica, Ms von der Leyen said too many European countries had focused on their own problems in the first days of the health crisis, which “was harmful and could have been avoided”.

“Only solidarity will allow us to emerge from this crisis,” she continued. “The distance between European nations puts everyone at risk.”

She added the EU executive would allocate up to 100 billion euros (£87.9 billion) to the hardest hit countries, starting with Italy, to make up for reduction in wages and save jobs.

The bloc’s divisions were exposed last week after leaders clashed over how to minimise the economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak, with the poorer south angered by the reluctance of the richer north to offer more support.

Tensions rose after Germany and the Netherlands rejected a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint so-called “coronabonds” to help finance an economic stimulus.

The frugal northern economies said their big-spending southern neighbours could exploit the crisis to push for a pooling of eurozone government debts.

Mr Mélenchon, for his part, slammed their refusal to issue the bonds as “unreasonable” and “petty”.

The union’s richer northern economies “cannot maintain their neo-liberal dogmas when the bloc is in full crisis,” he said.

France on Wednesday reported its highest single-day death toll from Covid-19 – the respiratory illness associated with the virus –, though there were signs that the epidemic could be peaking in Europe.

Italy’s death toll, the highest in the world, climbed past 13,000; while in Spain deaths passed 9,000. The rate of new cases, however, continued to slow, offering the struggling states a glimmer of hope.

More than 900,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and nearly 46,000 have died since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, according to an AFP tally.

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Politics

New Labour Party leader warned of biggest challenge set to confront them ‘Just difficult’

The new Labour Party leader is to be announced this Saturday after longer than a month and a half of voting among party members. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is expected to emerge the winner after facing off with shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. But former Downing Street adviser Nick Timothy warned Labour will face a huge struggle in winning back voters no matter who is proclaimed their next leader.

Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, Mr Timothy said: “Whoever is leader of the Labour Party will find it difficult to bring together the voters that they have retained who are the new core voters for Labour – public sector workers, urban voters, university towns – and the white working classes that they’ve lost in the regions and in Scotland and Wales.

“Those are big structural problems for Labour and I think it will be difficult for any individual to put that right quickly.”

The former adviser claimed Lisa Nandy was so far the only candidate who had shown an attempt to listen to voters lost since 2016.

He continued: “I think Lisa is the most interesting of the three candidates in the Labour leadership campaign to date.

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“She’s at least shown an interest in trying to get the Labour Party to listen to the voters they’ve lost in the period between the Brexit referendum and the General Election in December.

“Keir Starmer is a competent and intelligent person.”

Voting for the challenge is due to end on April 2, with the results set to be announced on Saturday.

Alongside the new leader, a new deputy leader is also due to be announced because of Tom Watson’s early departure from the job in December.

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Rebecca Long-Bailey confirmed all candidates had been asked to record a victory message so the video could be shared with voters as quickly as possible after the results are announced.

She told Sky News: “I think it’s trying to deal with these strange times and have an announcement on the leadership contest so that our members and the public can view from their homes really.

“It’s logistically quite challenging and I think we’ve all been asked to do this victory speech so that it can be sent out over the airwaves as quickly as possible after we win.”

The latest poll produced by YouGov showed Keir Starmer, who ran on a unity platform in the three-month-long contest, in the lead over Ms Long-Bailey and Ms Nandy.

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Hustings had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak and the conference scheduled to announce the winner of the contest also had to be pulled.

Jeremy Corbyn triggered the contest in December after announcing he would step down following Labour’s disastrous performance in the General Election.

Labour lost more than 50 seats, including some traditional constituencies in northern heartlands that turned for the first time to the Conservative Party.

Voters cited continued uncertainty over the party’s stance on Brexit, as well as Mr Corbyn’s leadership, as key reasons pushing them to turn away from the party.

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World News

UK weather warning: Brutal 75mph winds to smash Britain TODAY – latest Met Office forecast

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for wind for Thursday, as a low pressure system sweeps in from the Atlantic. Maps show areas affected by the warnings will mostly be the Shetland Islands, but cold air is likely to also make its way down the rest of the UK. The warnings are in place until 3pm today.

 

The forecaster also warned of lightning caused by sleet falling.

A statement from the Met Office said:” A deep area of low pressure passing close to Shetland will bring very strong, cold northwesterly winds on Thursday morning and early afternoon.

“Gusts of 65-75mph are expected at times, while squally wintry showers with lightning could prove to be additional hazards.”

People who are carrying out essential travel, there are also warnings of disruption to services due to the strong wind.

And some areas may also be affected by power cuts during the day.

The Met Office added the UK will experience wintry conditions until Friday.

It said: “Windy in the far north today, particularly for the Northern Isles, with frequent wintry showers.

“Mostly cloudy elsewhere but dry for most away from the high ground in the west. Cold in the north.

READ MORE: 

Widespread frost in the north and northeast with wintry showers persisting in the far north tonight.

“On Friday, there will be wintry showers in the far north.

“These gradually easing during the day, lasting longest for Shetland where still windy. Otherwise fairly cloudy but mostly dry. Colder than Thursday for most.”

The forecaster added the weekend will see warmer temperatures.

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It said: “Mostly dry through the weekend with sunny spells.

“Becoming warm, but also windy.

“Outbreaks of rain moving east later Sunday and into Monday with sunshine and showers following.”

The UK is expected to see a mini-heatwave this weekend as temperatures are on course to soar to 20C.

 

This is good news for those planning to venture into their gardens to bask in the sunshine amid the lockdown in the UK

Met Office spokeswoman Nicky Maxey said that this weekend temperatures will be “picking up for much of the country”.

The mercury could hit 15C on Saturday and 20C on Sunday in London.

She said: “While today we are looking at 10-11C quite broadly, by the end of the week we could see 20C, so it is quite a big change.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Putin shows military might as Russian warship ‘destroys enemy submarine’ in Mediterranean

Three Black Sea frigates were deployed to the intercontinental waters to seek and “destroy” a notional “enemy” vessel as part of a naval drill. The mission saw three warships – Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen practice tactical techniques of detecting and continuously chasing the submarine. During the aggressive drill, the crew “notionally” employed “torpedo weapons and rocket-propelled bombs” on the target.

The vessels were also joined on the mission by a war helicopter which provided support for the ships as they engaged.

The Russian ships were armed with eight Kalibr-NK cruise missiles which can strike surface, coastal and underwater targets of up to 1,600 miles away.

An AK-630M air defence missile, A-190 100mm universal artillery guns, torpedo tubes and RBU-6000 rocket launchers also form part of the ships arsenal of weapons.

A statement from the Fleet’s press office read: “The Black Sea Fleet’s surface action group comprising the frigates Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen held drills in the Mediterranean Sea to search for and destroy a notional enemy’s submarine.

“The frigates’ crews are currently accomplishing missions as part of the Navy’s permanent taskforce in the distant maritime zone.

“As a result of joint operations by the crews of the frigates and the helicopter, the chase of the submarine ended with its notional destruction.”

The latest drill comes as the Russian Military step up the number of exercises it is conducting in international waters.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg noted a “significant Russian naval presence” in the North Sea and a large military exercise in late March.

The NATO chief insisted he had been reassured by the Russian Military that the drills formed part of an exercise to combat COVID-19.

Mr Stoltenberg said: “Moscow provided a notification that they were going to have a snap exercise, which they said was intended to test their capabilities to provide military support to the civil response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The Russia Defence Ministry said in a statement that the drills, carried out from March 25-28, included medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops.

Earlier today Russian state TV reported a military transport plane took off from Moscow bound for the US carrying medical equipment and masks.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin offered help in the battle against coronavirus following a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid.”

In the US there are more than 187,000 cases of coronavirus – more than any country on Earth and nearly 3,900 deaths.

In Russia, there have been 2,337 confirmed cases with 17 deaths.

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China coronavirus cover-up: Wuhan whistleblower disappears in mysterious circumstances

Dr Ai Fen said she faced “unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded” by bosses at Wuhan Central Hospital after she shared a picture of a patient report labelled “SARS coronavirus”. Dr Ai gave an interview to a Chinese magazine criticising the hospital for dismissing the early coronavirus warnings but has not been seen since, according to 60 Minutes Australia.

The world needs different kinds of voices

Ai Fen

Her rumoured disappearance comes amid growing criticism of the Chinese government which faces claims of lying and covering up key information during its coronavirus response.

Beijing is accused of trying to cover up the outbreak by punishing medics who discovered it, denying it could spread person-to-person and delaying a lockdown of affected regions.

Officials are also alleged to have censored spread disinformation overseas including claims that US troops could have been the initial carriers.

In the interview, Dr Ai said she regretted not speaking out more after four fellow medics contracted coronavirus and died while fighting the outbreak.

She said: “If I had known what would have happened today, I wouldn’t have cared about the reprimand. I would have told whoever and wherever I want.”

The interview was posted on Tuesday but quickly retracted from social media by its publisher.

Dr Ai received a patient’s report labelled “SARS coronavirus” on December 30.

She said she broke out into a cold sweat after reading the lab results several times.

The SARS epidemic 17 years ago infected more than 8,000 people worldwide and killed over 800 people.

The doctor circled the word “SARS” and sent a picture of the report to one of her former classmates and a group chat within her department.

Dr Ai said she alerted hospital authorities about the case.

She told People Magazine: “Later that evening, the stuff was shared all over the place with screenshots of the report bearing my red circle.”

Two days later, she was called in by the head of the hospital’s disciplinary inspection committee.

Dr Ai said she faced “unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded” and was accused of “spreading rumours as a professional”.

Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was among eight people who shared Dr Ai’s picture before being reprimanded by police and accused of spreading fake news for warning the public of “SARS at a Wuhan seafood market” on social media.

The 34-year-old doctor contracted COVID-19 and died last Friday.

Three other doctors who worked alongside Dr Li have also died from the disease.

Before her disappearance, Dr Ai denied being a whistle-blower.

She told People Magazine: “I was the one handing out the whistles.

“This incident has shown that everyone needs to have their own thoughts because someone has to step up to speak the truth.

“The world needs different kinds of voices.”

The original article has now been removed from the magazine’s website.

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‘Concealing the truth’ Chinese whistleblower speaks out on COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan

More than 860,000 people have now been infected with the deadly virus and 42,000 dead, as millions are in lockdown across the world indefinitely. COVID-19 is believed to have originated in Wuhan at a seafood market where wild animals including birds, bats and snakes were traded illegally. The first case of the virus is thought to have been recorded as early as December 1, but China did not report the outbreak to the World Health Organisation (WHO) until December 31.

Speaking on Four Corner’s ‘Secrets behind Coronavirus’ documentary, Centre for Strategic International Studies senior fellow Richard McGregor said the Chinese government sat on this information for weeks.

He said last month: “The key point in this saga is they lost about two weeks, maybe three, just when the virus was at its nascent point, just at a time where they could have traced it, a time when perhaps they could have checked it.

“When a group of doctors began sharing information they had about a strange new virus on WeChat, they were doing what you would expect medical professionals to do.

“But, of course, that’s a dangerous thing to do in China.

The central government adopted the policy of concealing the truth

Dr Wu Qiang

“I think there’s little doubt that local officials in Wuhan did withhold information, the doctors who were talking about it were explicitly told to shut up.”

The communist country arrested anyone “spreading rumours” online, including Dr Li Wenliang, who first raised the alert to his former classmates in a private WeChat group.

Former Tsinghua University politics lecturer, Dr Wu Qiang, told investigators that the Chinese government was concealing the truth, which allowed for the outbreak on such a huge scale.

He said: “I have no doubts that the local government reported the situation to the central government.

“So local government were not accountable to the people at that time.

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“But the central government adopted the policy of concealing the truth from the public, starting to control the epidemic internally.

“This contradiction prevented them from properly mobilising to deal with the spread of the epidemic.

“Although internal controls were in place, the information kept from the public’s eye caused the outbreak of the disaster and the spread of the disease.”

Dr Wu claims he is not alone in the anger towards the government and said there is a growing amount of unrest in the country over the handling.

He added: “More of the 900 million Chinese citizens, who are equipped with smartphones, have become extremely dissatisfied with the virus in the past month or so.

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“From my own observation, this level of dissatisfaction is unprecedented in the past 80 years.

“They have been tremendously dissatisfied with the local government’s ineffectiveness in epidemic and disaster relief the Wuhan people have seen from the city lockdown, the paralysis of the local medical institutions and the huge risk they face.”

On February 11, 34-year-old Dr Wenliang lost his battle with coronavirus, weeks after sounding the alarm over the virus.

Last week, the Wuhan police made an official apology to the family of Dr Li for their “inappropriate handling of the situation” and revoked the letter of reprimand for spreading rumours.

However, Dr Wu claims the people of China are shocked with the handling of the situation.

He added: “The public intellectuals and the public both realised that Dr Li represented the conscience of China.

“He was oppressed from the beginning for telling the truth and could have saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

“But all this was concealed due to the authorities’ suppression of free speech.

“I believe the public expressed their dissatisfaction with the government by commemorating him.”

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Coronavirus horror: Shocking mob violence plunges Italy into chaos – looting turns rampant

Italy is at risk of total social collapse according to experts, following a surge in supermarket raids and robberies in the country’s southern region. Police have been deployed to patrol supermarkets in Sicily after plots organising raids and thefts were discovered online. There is mounting concern that violence could soon break out due to food shortages after the Italian government extended its strict lockdown until Easter. 

In Sicily, a ferry company has stopped shipping vital supplies of food and medicines after going bankrupt – sparking fears of riots. 

There were angry standoffs between supermarket staff and desperate customers in Palermo, the island’s capital. 

In Naples, protesters gathered outside the home of a woman accused of fleeing northern Italy’s lockdown and later testing positive for coronavirus. 

Raffaele Lettieri, the mayor of her home town Acerra, issued a video message on social media, condemning the woman for breaking quarantine and putting lives at risk.

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He said: “This person came down here from Lombardy on 9 March – today it’s the 29th and only now have we discovered they have tested positive.

“If for 20 days this person hasn’t rigorously respected quarantine, for 20 days they have met people who met other people etc then enough.

“One person who doesn’t respect the quarantine is enough for the virus to spread.”

Following this, a furious mob of people gathered outside her home, prompting mask-wearing police to arrive on the scene and turn away the protesters. 

In response, the young woman hit back at the criticism as she broke down in tears. 

She said: “I never let myself leave my room, leave my house, like has been said. The mayor will have to give me an explanation because from the beginning I explained what happened.

“I explained immediately. Therefore, to be defamed like this I find truly shameful.”

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Italy has recorded the most coronavirus deaths in the world, with more than 11,500 people dead.

There are concerns over civil unrest in the country’s south, where there are soaring levels of unemployment and deprivation.

Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando told daily newspaper La Stampa: “We need to act fast, more than fast. Distress could turn into violence.”

On Saturday, the government announced an urgent £355million fund to help people struggling to buy food. 

Luigi d’Angelo from the Italian Civil Protection is hopeful that the lockdown can be lifted sometime in April, with a “return to normality by June”.

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