The initial test of Merkel’s coronavirus was negative: spokesperson

German Chancellor Angela Merkel releases a media statement on the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 22 March 2020. Michel Kappeler / Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) – Angela Merkel’s initial test for coronavirus has turned negative again, a government spokesman said Monday, adding that the German chancellor will be subjected to further testing.

Merkel, 65, entered quarantine on Sunday after contacting an infected doctor. German Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that Merkel was healthy but worked from home.

“The test was negative,” said the government spokesman. “Further tests will follow.”

On Friday afternoon, Merkel received a pneumococcal, pneumonia-causing bacterium from the doctor and entered quarantine after learning about her positive test result.

On Sunday, Merkel’s chief of staff said the clerk had only a brief contact with the doctor who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Merkel has already said that she will not seek a fifth term as chancellor in the federal elections scheduled for October 2021.

It has loomed on the European scene since 2005, helping to guide the EU through the eurozone debt crisis and opening Germany’s doors to migrants fleeing the war in the Middle East in 2015, a move that still divides the blockade and its country.

Last year, Merkel suffered several episodes of unrest at public events, sparking speculation about her health.

“I am aware of the responsibility of my office,” he told reporters last July after the tremor episodes. “I behave appropriately regarding my health … I take care of my health.”

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Written by Michelle Martin; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Alison Williams

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The death toll from coronavirus in Italian Lombardy jumps by 546 in one day

ROME (Reuters) – The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italian contagion, increased by 546 in a day to 3,095, officials said Saturday.

It is the highest daily increase since the outbreak emerged.

The head of the Lombard pension fund, Giulio Gallera, said that the number of cases in the region, which includes the Italian financial capital Milan, increased from 3,251 to 25,515.

On Friday the death toll in Italy was 4,032, the highest in the world.

Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; editing by Jason Neely

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Three mushers in the Alaska sled race were rescued by helicopter shortly before arrival

Three Mushers of the Iditarod dog sled race are rescued by a crew of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter of the Alaskan Army National Guard about 25 miles east of Nome, Alaska, March 20, 2020. The musher Norwegian Thomas Waerner won the race on March 18. Alaska National Guard / Handout via REUTER.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Three competitors dragging themselves on the last stretch of the famous Iditarod sleigh course in Alaska two days after the winner crossed the finish line were rescued by helicopter on Friday from floods caused by an unusually hot climate, they said the authorities.

The mushers were close to the final checkpoint, just 22 miles from the finish line in Nome, when they came across deep waters and extremely strong winds, according to representatives of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The three activated their emergency signals and were ripped off the submerged runway by a team of Alaskan National Guard helicopters, with the help of state soldiers and other search and rescue personnel, officials said. The dogs, all responsible, were collected on the site and transported separately to Nome, where they were checked by veterinarians, a spokesman for the breed said.

The rescued mushers flew to Nome – Sean Underwood, Tom Knolmayer and Matthew Failor – were evaluated in a hospital and released, race officials said.

A series of storms brought howling southern winds and temperatures above zero to the Nome region, creating insidious conditions near the end of the Iditarod path.

Norwegian competitor Thomas Waerner won the Iditarod early Wednesday morning, winning Nome for a first place shown as evidenced by a much smaller crowd than the one that usually marks the finish line. City officials had canceled all Iditarod-related celebrations and asked out-of-town fans to stay away as a public health precaution against coronavirus transmission.

Even Waerner’s wife has seen the finish line from afar. She had returned to Norway to avoid being stuck in Alaska by travel restrictions.

Ten mushers were still on the track on their way to Nome at the end of Friday. The race committee said it was working to repair the track in the flooded section of the course.

Fifty-seven mushers and their teams started the 48th race in Anchorage on March 7. Twenty-three, including the three who were saved on Friday, have left the race so far.

Reporting Yereth Rosen to Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Utah’s strongest earthquake in 28 years has halted Salt Lake City airport

(Reuters) – The most powerful earthquake that hit Utah in 28 years shut down Salt Lake City airport, eliminated a direct coronavirus line and forced the evacuation of a refinery on Wednesday, officials said.

FILE PHOTOS: the top of the Mormon temple is shown in Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, January 10, 2018. REUTERS / Mike Blake / File Photo

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The 5.7-magnitude morning tremor, centered in north-central Utah, has been the strongest that the state has experienced since 1992, when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the St. George area in the south corner – western Utah, according to Utah Emergency Management.

The earthquake damaged the statue of Angel Moroni on top of the Salt Lake temple, the largest of the Mormon church, which knocked a trumpet from the angel’s hand. A church spokesman also said that some of the temple’s smaller spire stones have been moved, according to the Deseret News.

Utah has a large Mormon population and occupies a special place in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In Herriman, just south of the capital Salt Lake City, the bricks of the facade of the Silver Crest Elementary School fell in front of the main entrance.

Cracks appeared on the brick facade of a Salt Lake City bank building and rubble appeared on the sidewalk in front of an unoccupied building under construction, as shown by social media images.

Governor Gary Herbert said the state poison control center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City was evacuated as officials assessed the damage and said the coronavirus hotline was inactive.

“Please stay away from the center while the crews assess the damage. Unless you work in public security or are an essential employee, stay at home or telecommute, “wrote the governor on Twitter.

The Utah Department of Health said it had set up a temporary hotline for coronavirus information.

The quake struck 7:09 am MDT (1309 GMT) about 6 km northeast of Magna, Utah, at a depth of 11.7 km (7.7 km), according to reports from the US Geological Survey followed by a series of small aftershocks.

Magna is located just west of Salt Lake City.

“The road to the airport has been closed. Please don’t come to the airport, ”the Salt Lake City airport posted on Twitter.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had evacuated the air traffic control tower at Salt Lake City international airport and had stopped flights, diverting arriving aircraft to other airports.

The FAA Salt Lake air traffic control center, which is housed separately from the airport’s control tower, is handling all air traffic in the area, the agency said.

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Salt Lake City is the 23rd busiest airport in the United States and a hub for Delta Air Lines.

Marathon Petroleum Corp said that the Salt Lake City refinery in Utah, 61,000 barrels per day, was evacuated after the earthquake.

“All employees and contractors are accounted for and the earthquake has had no impact on operations,” said the company.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta and David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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The 6.4 magnitude earthquake hits southern Bali, Indonesia: EMSC

(Reuters) – A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Bali, Indonesia, the European European Seismological Center (EMSC) reported Wednesday.

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers, EMSC said, adding that there was no direct damage and no tsunami expected.

Indonesia, located on the seismically active “Ring of Fire” of the Pacific, often suffers from terrible earthquakes and tsunamis.

Reporting of Bhargav Acharya in Bangalore; Curated by Chris Reese and Andrea Ricci

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Underwater? Banks play the house loan lottery while insurers save

SYDNEY / LONDON (Reuters) – Just a year after losing their home from flooding in parts of Queensland’s northeastern coast of Australia, people are moving to new homes built on or near the same plots.

FILE PHOTO: Soldiers sit on a beach among burnt trees where people had previously taken refuge during a fire on New Year’s Eve in Mallacoota, Australia, on January 10, 2020. REUTERS / Tracey Nearmy / File Photo

But while banks have been too willing to offer long-term loans at rates in line with the national average, insurance companies have suffered insured losses of $ 1.24 billion ($ 820 million) following the Townsville floods. , are more cautious.

A trader who bought a new home in Townsville after moving away from his water-damaged home 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) away, said the insurance premium increased 350%, a price that was not available. to pay to protect from another flood.

“Locals call this place” Brownsville “, that’s how dry this place was. So it’s unfair for insurers to react so extreme after just one event. It was a one-time flood every 500 years, it won’t come. more in my life, “said the trader, who would only be identified by his surname Cullen.

Banks seem to have a similar view, with long-term financing still widely available for new and existing housing, while insurers are more demanding.

Allianz, for example, has become more selective in writing new policies in Townsville, brokers said, while others including Suncorp and QBE have stopped covering large housing units after the Queensland floods.

Insurers agree that floods were previously a 1 in 500 year event, but say that climate change has made these events more frequent.

This divergence echoes the regions of developed countries that have been affected by floods, forest fires or other extreme weather events related to climate change and worries regulators and industry leaders.

They fear that banks are building long-term loan portfolios against construction, infrastructure and real estate projects that are becoming uninsurable.

The extreme weather could depress property prices and leave banks exposed to defaults on property loans or large commercial projects. Without insurance, owners may not be able to bear the costs of maintaining their properties.

Among the most worried is Larry Fink, head of the world’s largest investor, BlackRock, who in January warned in his annual letter to the board of directors about the risks for banks if the insurance dried out. Fink said that banks may no longer be able to offer thirty-year mortgages, which he called “a key element of finance” if fire or flood insurance is not available.

In Italy, insurers refuse to provide flood protection in Venice, where floods are frequent and worsening due to climate change.

During the floods of Townsville, the blow to the banks was less marked and, as insurers leave, new residential buildings continue to rise, supported by the main banks in the country.

“As a banker we have a presumption with our customers that insurance will generally be available and affordable. This is changing, “said Mathew Murphy, head of social and environmental risk at the Australian and New Zealand banking group.

“What has changed is the awareness and emergence of potentially more severe climate damage, whether it be storm, fire or other climate hazards,” he added.


The potentially dangerous divergence between the approach adopted by banks and insurers on housing and climate change has been reported at the highest financial levels.

As banks around the world are starting to do more to understand the risks, the pace of change is slow.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is among those who push financial services companies to better understand and be more transparent about climate risk and plan to mitigate it.

While banks have done better than many other sectors in some areas on how climate risk affects their activities, a 2019 assessment by the Task Force on climate related financial information (TCFD found that only 20% reported on resilience of their strategy.

For details of the 2019 TCFD Status Report, click here and here To read the full report, click here

Insurers are ahead when it comes to modeling risk, with teams of scientists and hundreds of years of data to turn to, but climate change represents unexplored waters.

Australia is following the example of the BoE with plans to stress banks and insurers on climate risk, as regulators worry that rare natural disasters will become commonplace.

“We are discussing it with the banks. But do we still have a solution? That’s where things get complicated, “said one person directly involved in discussions between Australian banks and insurers.

While developing markets have always suffered from lack of insurance, the problem is expanding into developed ones.

In California, which has suffered devastating fires in recent years, the regulator said that areas affected in 2015 and 2017 saw a 10% increase in non-renewal insurance in 2018.

The regulator issued a mandatory one-year moratorium for insurers who fail to renew policies in the fire disaster areas in December 2019. And to raise funds to protect properties from climate risk, the state plans to launch a resilience bond.

Although some US banks are now more cautious about over-exposure to areas affected by climate change, they have not moved away from flood-prone states such as Florida or California.

But in hurricane-prone states like Texas and Florida, investors are betting on the U.S. bond market for residential mortgages because they claim that outdated flood maps mean that insufficient homeowners are buying insurance against floods.

“I can no longer trust my story: the weather conditions have changed dramatically,” said Zurich Insurance Group chief risk officer Peter Giger in January.


One year after the Townsville disaster, one of the reasons banks are happy to lend is that while the percentage of customers more than 30 days late on the mortgage has increased from 2% to 2.3% after the floods , soon returned to 1.9%.

Banks have also been helped by local and federal government support and are often willing to postpone some repayments to help borrowers get back on their feet.

While these measures have worked so far, policy makers are concerned about the potential for persistent floods and fires to stimulate large-scale migration, triggering an increase in bad debts.

Deadly fires in parts of New South Wales in late December underscored the scale of the Australian problem.

The number of overdue loans is expected to increase rapidly when hell breaks the peak of the holiday season, hitting consumer spending, destroying thousands of homes and killing 33 people. Rating agency Moody warned that more frequent and severe natural disasters have highlighted growing credit quality risks for the $ 1.8 trillion Australian residential mortgage portfolio, the nation’s main source of revenue for banks . And the fires cost insurers over A $ 5 billion.

Mortgage brokers in the state of Queensland have said that banks may insist on more documentation in high-risk postal codes, including evidence of insurance before agreeing on a loan, but the rigor with which they apply the rules is irregular.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the major mortgage lender, declined to comment. The National Australia Bank claimed to focus primarily on a borrower’s ability to lend and repay a loan, while Westpac claimed to have “standard credit checks”.

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Everyone refused to say whether or not they had reduced their loan portfolio in high-risk areas because of the losses.

Long-term forecasts for Australia are not good, with the insurer IAG predicting that climate change could “start making existing housing stocks insecure.”

($ 1 = 1.5115 Australian dollars)

Additional reports from Maya Nikolaeva in Paris, Lauren LaCapra and Suzanne Barlyn in New York and Nina Chestney in London; Alexander Smith editorial staff

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Two Sydney schools close as coronavirus cases in Australia skip

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Two Sydney high schools closed on Monday after three students tested positive for COVID-19 while health authorities accelerated preparations for a larger outbreak with more than 80 infections in Australia.

FILE PHOTO: Epping Boys High School, the site of the first school ordered in Australia after a 16-year-old pupil tested positive for coronavirus, is pictured in Sydney, Australia on March 6, 2020. REUTERS / Jaimi Joy

St Patrick’s Marist College Dundas in north-west of the city will remain closed on Tuesday after two 10-year-old students are diagnosed with coronavirus. Willoughby Girls High School in northern Sydney also closed on Monday after a 7-year-old pupil proved positive.

“Obviously, when you have new cases in a school, it’s cause for concern, because we want to make sure that we move as quickly as possible to request the isolation of others who may have had contact with confirmed cases,” New South Wales minister for health Brad Hazzard told the media Monday.

The announcements come only a few days after the closure of another high school in Sydney, when a 16-year-old student tested positive.

Epping Boys High School was reopened on Monday although nearly 70 students and staff who had close contact with the infected student remained in solitary confinement.

Globally, the coronavirus killed around 3,600 and infected 107,000 when the epidemic reached multiple countries and caused severe economic massacres and stock market losses, prompting central banks to loosen monetary policies. Three people died in Australia.

Victoria also experienced an increase in the number of cases after two people who recently traveled to the United States and one who returned from Iran were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“This is an unprecedented public health emergency that our nation and the entire global community are facing,” Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos said during a televised briefing.

“We expect this probable pandemic to have a significant impact on our healthcare system. This was my absolute goal, making sure our system was ready to respond.”

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters in Melbourne that the overwhelming majority of cases in Australia were return travelers, with only one case being transmitted by the community.

“At the moment, we are focusing very aggressively on finding and isolating contacts, because all the evidence suggests that the best way to temper, delay and reduce the size of any outbreak in Australia is to contain it,” he said.

Murphy said the health authorities contacted general practitioners, getting more masks and setting up special clinics in preparation for a possible pandemic.

“Australia remains extremely well prepared for the further growth of this virus,” he added.

Reporting of Swati Pandey; Editing by Sam Holmes

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Ten die at collapsed China quarantine hotel; ex-Wuhan spread slows virus

SHANGHAI / BEIJING (Reuters) – Ten people have died and 23 remain trapped after the collapse of a hotel that was being used to quarantine people under observation for the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Quanzhou, authorities said on Sunday.

Rescue workers are seen on the site where a hotel being used for the novel coronavirus quarantine collapsed in the southeast Chinese port city of Quanzhou, Fujian province, China March 7, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS.

More than 70 people were believed to have been initially trapped in the seven storey building, which collapsed on Saturday evening.

As of 16:00 Beijing time on Sunday, authorities had retrieved 48 individuals from the site of the collapse, with 38 of them sent to hospitals, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

Pictures from the site showed rescue workers clad in hard hats, goggles and face masks carrying injured people away to waiting medical staff in white overalls and surgical masks.

A rescue force of over 1,000 people, including firefighters, police forces, and other emergency responders, arrived at the site on Saturday night, authorities told a media conference organized by the Quanzhou government on Sunday.

Of the 71 people inside the hotel at the time of the collapse, 58 had been under quarantine, they added.

According to state media outlet Xinhua, the owner of the building, a man surnamed Yang, has been summoned by police.

The building’s first floor had been under renovation at the time of the collapse, the news agency said.

News of the collapse comes as the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow in China.

According to data from China’s National Health Commission (NHC), cases fell by roughly one half on Saturday from the day prior.

The agency confirmed 44 new cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus as at the end of March 7, a decline from 99 the previous day.

Chinese cities are gradually relaxing quarantine measures put in place over a month ago, while authorities keep a close watch on the virus’ spread overseas.

Of the 44 new confirmed cases, 41 were discovered in Wuhan, the origin of the virus’ outbreak and its hotbed.

The remaining three were cases imported from outside mainland China.

This marks the second consecutive day in which all of China’s newly confirmed cases outside the city of Wuhan originated from overseas. The three cases bring China’s total imported case count to 63.

FILE PHOTO: A community worker in protective suit disinfects a residential compound in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China March 6, 2020. REUTERS / Stringer

According to the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, two of the cases found in Beijing originated in Italy and Spain.

As the virus slows its spread in Wuhan, the center of the epidemic, authorities have reacted by halting operations of hospitals built specifically to house its patients.

State television reported on Sunday that operations of 11 makeshift hospitals had been suspended and the remaining ones would be out of service by around March 10, although they could be used again depending on the virus situation.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz, Huizhong Wu and Kevin Yao; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Elaine Hardcastle

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The coronavirus epidemic in Italy affects 51 people, killing two

MILAN (Reuters) – An outbreak of the new coronavirus killed two people and infected 51 others in northern Italy, forcing authorities to ban public events and companies to tell workers in the affected areas to stay home.

A 77-year-old woman who was found dead at her home 50 km south of Milan on Thursday tested positive for coronavirus, a city councilor said Saturday after a 78-year-old man died from the infection near Padua at night.

The man’s wife and daughter are among the 12 people infected with the coronavirus in Veneto. Italy is the most affected country in Europe, with most cases concentrated in Lombardy, the country’s financial and industrial heart.

Regional welfare councilor Giulio Gallera told reporters that the center of the epidemic was Codogno, a small town south-west of Milan where the first infected patient in Lombardy was treated.

That patient was a 38-year-old man who fell ill after meeting a friend who had visited China. His condition has stabilized, authorities said.

“All those who have tested positive are people who from 18 to 19 February had contact with the emergency room and the Codogno hospital,” said Gallera, adding that 259 people have been screened in the area in the past two days. and 35 tested positive.

“A 13% infection rate is strong enough,” he said.

About 50,000 residents in Codogno and neighboring towns have been advised to stay indoors. Public meetings, including Sunday masses and football matches, have been suspended and schools and shops have been closed.

Similar measures have been taken in the small Venetian town of Vo Euganeo, where the male victim lived and beyond the most affected areas.

The regional governor Luca Zaia said that the administration is considering whether to suspend the events of the Venice Carnival.

So far there are no confirmed cases in Milan, said Gallera.

On Saturday, MIDO’s board of directors said that the coronavirus emergency pushed him to postpone the world’s largest eyewear fair to be held in Milan in a week in late May.

Italy was the first euro-zone country to stop all direct flights to and from China, after two Chinese tourists from Wuhan proved positive in Rome in late January.

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Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday that the government was ready to consider further measures.

Chinese tourists and an Italian citizen repatriated from Wuhan were the only three cases in Italy until Friday.

The southern region of Calabria also reported a suspected case, saying that he had hospitalized a 26-year-old woman who had returned from Venice with a temperature after attending a conference with a colleague who had come into contact with the man of Codogno.

Reporting of Valentina Za in Milan and Riccardo Bastianello in Padua; Edited by William Maclean, Ros Russell

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