World News

Coronavirus: San Jose Sharks could be affected by California county’s ban of large gatherings

The status of three San Jose Sharks hockey games, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Stanford University and one MLS game are in doubt after Santa Clara County announced a ban of all large gatherings of at least 1,000 people for the rest of the month in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement Monday came hours after the public health department announced the first death in the county from COVID-19. A woman in her 60s had been hospitalized for several weeks with the virus before dying.

Six more cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Santa Clara County on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 43.

“Today’s order and new recommendations will reduce the number of people who develop severe illness and will help prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County health officer.

“This is critically important for anyone with healthcare needs, not just those most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

The Sharks have home games scheduled for March 19 against Montreal, March 21 against Boston and March 29 against Arizona.

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Mum left housebound for week by flooding transforms ‘time warp’ kitchen for £68

A mum from Shrewsbury has managed to completely revamp her 'time wap' kitchen for just £68.

Sam Waters, 29, was left housebound for more than a week by flooding, and decided to do the job herself after being quoted more than £10,000 to get a new kitchen installed.

So – with a little help from husband Will their three-year-old son Artie – she got to work using bargains from eBay and Wilko along with some inspiration from Facebook to complete the transformation.

"The house was built in the 60s and it's only had one owner since then so it hadn't changed at all – it was just like a time warp," Sam, originally from South Wales, said.

"We had to do lots of work on it and decorated the bedrooms first because they were quite easy to do."

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But they paused when it came to the kitchen.

"We were quoted £7,000 to £10,000 – we didn't really have the money for that so I just gave up on the idea and thought we'd never be able to redo the kitchen," Sam explained.

"But I've been housebound from all the flooding in Shrewsbury so I decided to do about two or three hours on the kitchen every day, in between looking after my son Artie."

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Sam said that it was the biggest job she'd taken on so far herself.

"I've done a bit of DIY before in carpentry as a hobby over Christmas but I've never done anything on my own home before," she explained.

"My dad made sure he taught me how to put up shelves and change a tyre when I was younger – I like to think I'm quite handy!

"I joined a DIY group on Facebook where I got lots of inspiration from people who were literally just giving cupboards a lick of paint, and it changed the whole room, so I thought I'd give it a go myself.

"I also enjoy going around show homes and getting inspiration, and I referred to lots of pictures before I went to Wilkos to get some paint.

"With a little painting help from Will and Artie, it took me about six half-days to complete."

  • Thrifty mum-of-three transformed scrubland into garden – and it looks amazing

After gutting and cleaning the kitchen to create a fresh canvas, Sam first took all the cupboards off and sanded them down ready for paint, as before they had a high-gloss finish.

She then used sugar soap to rid the cupboards of a thick yellow layer of nicotine, as the previous owner was a smoker, and painted them all with a pot of grey paint from Wilko, costing £12.

Sam bought all the new cupboard handles for just £18 on eBay , and screwed them to each of the ten cupboards and drawers after the paint had dried.

  • Mum transforms tired old kitchen into vintage dream for a bargain £85

To whitewash the once yellow tinged walls and tiles, she used a tin of £8 paint from Wilko, and some white wood paint for the kitchen window.

The tiled area around the cooker was created with a £10 roll of vinyl from B&Q, which she also used to wrap recycled shelves from the original kitchen.

But her main task was finding a use for a particularly strange built-in cupboard, which is placed inside the wall across from the main kitchen units.

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Teacher Sam said: "There's a cupboard where the old boiler vent used to be, no one could figure out what it was for when we moved in.

"It's the reason why the professional quotes were so high because if we had it knocked down there would need to be a strong structure put in place to brace the ceiling.

"So I just thought, why don't we turn it into a kitchen cupboard?

"I sanded and painted the inside, whitewashed the brick effect wall and added two shelves inside which cost £20 – it now stores all our pots on and pans.

"Recycling old stuff from your house is easier to do than you think!"

Overall, Sam spent just £68 on the transformation, and has received rave reviews from her family and others online, after posting it on Facebook.

  • Mum saves £1,100 on new bathroom using eBay and Amazon bargains

Sam added: "I did a big reveal of the kitchen for my mum and she was gobsmacked.

"I can't believe how popular the Facebook post became – it just makes me feel proud of my work.

"People keep asking me where I got the tiles from but they're just the old ones that have been painted over.

"I absolutely love the kitchen now and don't feel the need to pay any more money on it.

"My next project will be the kitchen floor, which I will probably use vinyl on.

"If the weather was good, I would have been re-doing the garden, but being stuck in my house meant that I managed to transform my kitchen because of the floods!"

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Oil jumps 10% after rout on stimulus hopes, Russian signal on OPEC talks

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices jumped by around 10% on Tuesday a day after the biggest rout in nearly 30 years as investors eyed the possibility of economic stimulus and Russia signalled that talks with OPEC remained possible.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he will be taking “major” steps to gird the U.S. economy against the impact of the spreading coronavirus outbreak, while Japan’s government plans to spend more than $4 billion in a second package of steps to cope with the virus.

Brent crude futures were up $3.36, nearly 10%, to $37.72 a barrel by 1041 GMT, after hitting a session high of $37.75 a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained $3.14, or around 10%, to $34.27 a barrel, after hitting a high of $34.42.

Both benchmarks plunged 25% on Monday, dropping to their lowest levels since February 2016 and recording their biggest one-day percentage declines since Jan. 17, 1991, when oil prices fell at the outset of the first Gulf War.

(Graphic: Oil prices bounce back from epic trouncing on stimulus hopes – here)

Trading volumes in the front-month for both contracts hit record highs in the previous session after three years of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia and other major oil producers to limit supply fell apart on Friday, triggering a price war for market share.

Saudi, the world’s biggest oil exporter, escalated tensions with plans to supply 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, well above current production levels of 9.7 million bpd, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on Tuesday.

April’s crude supply will be “300,000 barrels per day over the company’s maximum sustained capacity of 12 million bpd,” Nasser said in a statement received by Reuters.

Price pared gains by over a $1 on the news.

Russian oil minister Alexander Novak said he did not rule out joint measures with OPEC to stabilise the market, adding that the next OPEC+ meeting was planned for May-June.

But in response, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister told Reuters he did not see a need to hold an OPEC+ meeting in May-June if there was no agreement on what measures should be taken to deal with the impact of the coronavirus on oil demand and prices.

“I fail to see the wisdom for holding meetings in May-June that would only demonstrate our failure in attending to what we should have done in a crisis like this and taking the necessary measures,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.

“Price wars and pandemics are nothing new to the commodity markets, but both occurring simultaneously is something we have yet to witness in our careers,” RBC analysts said in a note.

“Such action will test the market’s self-balancing mechanism absent the backstop of OPEC, a mechanism that has not been tested since the U.S. shale boom was in its infancy,” they added.

Sentiment was also lifted after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, for the first time since the epidemic began, and as the spread of the virus in mainland China slows sharply.

China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, is trying to get people in hard-hit Hubei province back to work by using a mobile phone-based monitoring system that will allow people to travel within the province.

Crude was also supported by hopes for a settlement to the price war and potential U.S. output cuts, although analysts warned gains may be temporary as oil demand continues to be hit by the virus outbreak, which has spread beyond China and prompted Italy to implement a nationwide lockdown.

U.S. shale producers rushed to deepen spending cuts and could reduce production after OPEC’s decision to pump full bore into a global market hit by shrinking demand.

“When you look at the leverage the industry is in, at prices of around $30, it’s not profitable,” said Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer Probis Group.

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Boris Johnson’s response to the coronavirus is a huge political gamble

Boris Johnson, a man not known for his sense of responsibility, is now discovering the hard way the responsibilities which come with leadership.

The Government’s gradualist approach to tackling coronavirus  may be based on the best medical and scientific advice but it risks looking complacent when compared with the drastic action taken by the Italian government.

This is a huge gamble by Johnson.  

He can say he was guided by the experts but if, and it is a big if, this course of action proves unsatisfactory then the blame will lie at his door.

So much is unknown. 

We have no idea yet how much disruption coronavirus will cause to people’s lives or the economy. 

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries told Sky News this morning  that we will see many thousands of people in the UK infected .

In the worst case scenario we could have to follow Italy by imposing restrictions on public transport, cancelling major events  and introducing curfews.

Officials are already looking at shutting parts of the London underground if we reach the pandemic stage.

The financial shock  could be as great as that witnessed in 2008.

In which case many will start to question whether Johnson should be pursuing a hard Brexit that will only add to the economic uncertainty.

Johnson’s fate will in part be dictated by his ability to lead the people through the crisis. 

At his press conference yesterday he called for people to “pull together” in a “national effort” to defeat the outbreak.

Will the public respond to this cod Churchillian appeal or will they resent being ordered to invoke the Blitz spirit by someone who took more than a month to visit the victims of the floods?

One consolation for Johnson is he cannot have handled the situation as badly as Donald Trump.

The US president still appears to be in denial about the scale of the Covid-19 threat in a country where 28million people are without health care, sickness benefits are a luxury and a quarter of workers are not entitled to sick leave.

One of the legacies of this crisis is the restoration of public faith in experts and civic structures.

In this context the  revolt by Tory MPs tonight over Huawei  seems almost trivial.

A hard core of around 30 Conservatives, the White House continuity front, could rebel over the decision to allow the Chinese firm to build the 5G infrastructure.

With a majority of 80 Johnson can soak up a rebellion on this scale but it is a warning that the next few years are unlikely to be plain sailing for a Tory Party already fatigued by a decade in power.

Today's agenda:

9.15am – Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill is quizzed by the Public Accounts Committee.

10.30am – Business select committee takes evidence on Horizon and post offices.

11.30am – Health and Social Care questions in the Commons.

2.15pm – Foreign Affairs select committee takes evidence on climate diplomacy.

4.30pm – Stephen Kinnock holds Westminster Hall debate on the steel industry.

What I am reading:

Evening Standard interview with “skater girl” Rebecca Long-Bailey

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World News

British Airways cancels all flights to and from Italy as 60 routes grounded

British Airways has announced it has cancelled all its flights to and from Italy today after the country was placed on lockdown.

The major airline has axed all 60 of its routes to the Mediterranean country due to the coronavirus outbreak gripping the nation.

Italy is the worst affected country by the virus in Europe with nearly 500 deaths and 10,000 cases – and the numbers are growing.

Other major airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair are also cancelling many flights to and from Italy.

BA said in a statement: "In light of the Italian government's announcement and the UK government's official travel advice, we have contacted all customers who are due to travel today (10 March)."

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The drastic move comes after Italy's Prime Minister put the entire country on lockdown in a bid to contain the deadly virus.

For at least the next three weeks, people in the country have been told to move around only for reasons of work, for health needs or emergencies or else stay at home.

Anyone travelling will have to fill in a document declaring their reasons and carry it with them.

Large gatherings and outdoor events, including sports, have been banned, while bars and restaurants will have to close from 6pm.

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Schools and universities will remain closed until April 3.

"The whole of Italy is closed now," was the headline in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

After the unprecedented move was announced last night, shoppers in Rome rushed to late-night supermarkets to stock up on food and basic necessities, promoting the government to declare that supplies would be guaranteed and urging people not to panic buy.

Shops are allowed to remain open as long as customers maintain a minimum distance of a metre between them.

  • Coronavirus will infect 'thousands of people in UK', warns UK top medic

The measures came after the latest data showed the coronavirus outbreak continuing to rise, with 9,172 positive cases recorded as of Monday and 463 deaths, the second highest-level in the world after China.

Meanwhile the developments came as the death toll in the UK from coronavirus rose to five.

The latest victims were two men in their 70s who had long-standing health issues.

Meanwhile the number of cases in the UK has soared to 319, while all the fatalities have involved people with underlying health conditions.

  • Coronavirus crisis 'to force Government to stockpile body bags'

As the deaths were confirmed, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday appealed for people not to panic buy or hoard goods.

But today it was also announced the UK is likely to see thousands more cases of the coronavirus.

And England's chief medical officer said anyone with cold, flu or fever symptoms is likely to be asked to stay at home in self-isolation in the near future.

Mr Johnson told reporters on Monday the UK will almost certainly move to the delay phase of tackling coronavirus,.

  • British Airways

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Stock markets and oil markets bounce after brutal flooring

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil and equity markets staged solid rebounds on Tuesday after the previous day’s pummelling, with signs of co-ordinated action by the world’s biggest economies to cushion the economic impact of coronavirus helping pull investors out of panic mode.

Most benchmark government bond yields also rose from record lows hit the previous day, as hopes for stimulus to support global growth in the face of epidemic boosted risk sentiment.

European stocks wasted little time in recouping 3% of the 7% they had slumped on Monday [.EU], one of their worst days on record. The oil and gas and mining sectors led gains as oil regained its footing after plunging 25% following the breakdown of a crucial global oil pact. [O/R]

Yields on benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury debt more than doubled to 0.70% and those on German Bunds jumped around 20 basis points as investors pared some safe-haven holdings. [GVD/EUR]

Supporting the mood was a pledge from U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday to take “major” steps to protect the economy and float the idea of a payroll tax cut with congressional Republicans.

Japan said it would spend another 430.8 billion yen ($4.1 billion) to ease the effects of the coronavirus outbreak and Italy’s deputy economy minister announced that mortgage payments would be suspended as the country deals with the second highest number of cases outside China.

Some of the biggest global investment banks, including JP Morgan, Citi and Barclays, now expect the Federal Reserve to cut U.S. interest rates to zero in the coming months as part of a mass global move to provide some ballast and liquidity to the financial system.

“As of today, we believe that markets have gone from being overly complacent to overly pessimistic,” the chief investment officers of Europe’s largest asset manager Amundi wrote in a note to clients.

“Our central case, instead, is one of a temporary setback, although more prolonged compared to what we were expecting a month ago, followed by a recovery,” they added.

Oil suffered its sharpest drop since the 1991 Gulf war and global stocks plunged on Monday after Saudi Arabia launched a crude price war with Russia, further rattling investors already anxious about the spread of coronavirus.

U.S. markets were expected to follow the European and Asian lead, with major stock futures trading up around 4%. [.N]

Japan’s Nikkei had ended the day up 0.85%, after earlier touching its lowest level since April 2017. [.T]

Australia’s index closed up 3.1% as some went hunting for bargains in beaten down stocks.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index traded 2.1% higher as new domestic coronavirus cases tumbled and President Xi Jinping’s visit to the epicentre of the epidemic lifted sentiment.

The news continued to be negative elsewhere, however, with Italy ordering its citizens not to move around other than for work and emergencies and banning all public gatherings.

“Although uncertainty is very high, we now expect similar restrictions will be put in place across Europe in the coming weeks,” warned economists at JPMorgan.

“We are now expecting a rolling H1 2020 global growth contraction and a powerful global disinflationary wave to take hold,” they added. “We expect the Fed to cut to zero at or before its March 18 meeting.”


Oil rallied around 5% to claw back some of its massive losses from Monday, offering hope that markets had found a floor despite still-fragile sentiment.

Benchmark Brent crude futures bounced by $2 to $36.40 a barrel by 0930 GMT, paring back earlier gains that saw prices touch a session-high of $37.38 a barrel.

Gold prices fell 1%, retreating from the last session’s jump above the key $1,700 level, as safe-haven demand waned a little amid speculation about global stimulus measures. [GOL/]

“In times of turmoil, nothing is more important in restoring confidence than the government appearing calm and in control of the situation, (however) tenuous that control may be,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at broker OANDA, said in a note.

(Graphic: Plunging oil, coronavirus stoke credit concerns – here)

Such has been the conflagration of market wealth that analysts assumed policymakers would have to react aggressively to prevent an economic crisis.

The U.S. Fed on Monday sharply stepped up the size of its fund injections into markets to head off stress.

Having delivered an emergency rate cut only last week, investors are fully pricing an easing of at least 75 basis points at the next Fed meeting on March 18, while a cut to near zero was now seen as likely by April. <0#FF:>

Britain’s finance minister is due to deliver his annual budget on Wednesday and there is much talk of coordinated stimulus with the Bank of England.

The European Central Bank meets on Thursday and will be under intense pressure to act, even though euro zone rates are already deeply negative.

“Italy’s decision to quarantine the whole country will affect 15% of Europe’s GDP, putting the ECB at the forefront of efforts to cushion the escalating economic deterioration,” said Brian Martin, a senior international economist at ANZ.

Bonds had charged ahead of the central banks to essentially price in a global recession of unknown length.

Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries dipped to as little as 0.318% on Monday — a level unthinkable just a week ago — but rose back to be last at 0.6818% on Tuesday amid the stimulus chatter.

That in turn helped the dollar recoup some of its recent hefty losses to reach 104.70 yen, edging away from Monday’s three-year trough around 101.17.

The euro eased back to $1.1350, after climbing 1.4% on Monday to its highest in over 13 months at $1.1492. [/FRX]

(Graphic: The U.S. dollar and 10-Year U.S real yields – here)

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World News

Coronavirus death rates SOAR in France and Spain – graph shows major hike

In France the infected rate now sits at 1,412, with 30 deaths and only 12 recoveries. In Spain the infected rate has jumped to 1,231, with 30 deaths and only 32 recoveries so far. The contagion has seen a massive up-soar in rates of infection since the beginning of March, with Italy hit heaviest, but France and Spain seeing a great increase.

Causing anxiety is the fact that in France the recovery rate has now plummeted below the death rate.

The opposite has been seen in South Korea and in China the death rate has sank far below the recovery rate.

Although Professor John Oxford, virologist at the Queen Mary, University of London, said: “The greater death rate compared to the recovery rate in Spain and France may be due to the greater length of time it takes to register people as being fully recovered, compared to those that have died.”

The Professor added that people should not fixate on graphs and be hopeful that the Spring with more UV light and fresh air and outdoor activity will reduce the contagions chances of jumping from person to person. 

more to follow…

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World News

Met Office snow warnings: New alerts as UK facing barrage of snow and ice tomorrow

The Met Office has issued warnigs for snow and ice for Wednesday and Thursday predicting up to an inch (2cm) of snow to fall in parts of the country. Large swathes of the country are facing dangerous ice on surfaces and snowfall causing travel chaos.

The Met Office issued two yellow weather warnings on Tuesday, the first for snow and ice and the second for ice.

The snow and ice weather warning is in effect from 9pm on Wednesday to 10am on Thursday.

The warning reads: “Ice and snow may bring some travel disruption from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.”

The weather forecaster advises: “Showers are expected across the northwest of the UK from Wednesday evening onwards, these falling as sleet and snow even to low levels at times away from exposed coasts.

“Some accumulations of snow are expected, mostly above around 150m where more than 2cm is likely in places.

“In addition an area of rain will move across parts of southern Scotland and northern England on Wednesday evening, again with some snow possible but this mostly above 200m.

“Surfaces will remain wet from this rain and the showers with icy stretches expected to form.”

The snow and ice is expected to cause delays on roads and railways and could lead to injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces.

Additionally, ice patches on untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths could pose a risk.


  • Universal Credit: Cold Weather Payment triggered – affected postcodes

Predominantly, Scotland and northern England will see the snow and ice on Wednesday night through to Thursday morning.

The affected regions will be:

Central Tayside & Fife

  • Angus
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Perth and Kinross
  • Stirling
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Moray
  • Highland
  • Darlington
  • Durham
  • Gateshead
  • Hartlepool
  • Middlesbrough
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • North Tyneside
  • Northumberland
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • South Tyneside
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Sunderland
  • Cumbria
  • Lancashire
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • East Lothian
  • Edinburgh
  • Midlothian Council
  • Scottish Borders
  • West Lothian
  • Argyll and Bute
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Glasgow
  • Inverclyde
  • North Ayrshire
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • North Yorkshire
  • West Yorkshire
  • York

The Met Office’s second warning for ice covers all of Northern Ireland.

The warning advises of icy stretches which may lead to some travel disruption from Wednesday evening through to Thursday morning.

The weather forecaster’s warning reads: “Some rain is expected over the east of Northern Ireland on Wednesday evening before showers in the west spread across the country.

“These will leave surfaces wet with icy stretches likely to form overnight.

“Some sleet and snow is likely in the showers as well though any accumulations are expected to be small.”

UK snow forecast: Shock map shows heavy snow to hit Britain [INSIGHT]
Met Office warnings: MONTH’S worth of rainfall in a DAY [FORECAST]
London snow: When will it snow in London? Will it snow near me? [EXPLAINER]


  • UK storm warning: Britain SMASHED by heavy rain and powerful winds

Weather forecaster Netweather’s snow risk map reveals large swathes of the UK facing a high risk of snow from 9pm on Wednesday through to 3am on Thursday. 

The shocking map shows Northern Ireland, Scotland and northern parts of England facing an almost 100 percent chance of snow.

Other regions such as Wales and the Midlands have up to a 80 percent risk of snow.

According to, over the course of the next three days, parts of the Scottish Highlands could see up to 15.5 inches (39.4cm) of snowfall.

Parts of northern England could see up to 5.5 inches (14cm) worth of new snow.

However, WX Charts believes the Scottish Highlands is more likely to see around 5.1 inches (13cm) by the early hours of Thursday.

Northern parts of England will meanwhile see around half an inch (1cm) of snowfall on Thursday morning.

The snow this week will not be the last of the snow either according to the Met Office.

The weather forecaster’s prediction for March 14 to 23 reads: “Staying unsettled at first with longer spells of rain and scattered showers interspersed with bright or sunny interludes.

“Across the north, some sleet or snow at times especially over higher ground. It will often be windy with a risk of gales in the west and northwest, and along coastlines.

“Through the period, the south may see a gradual change to more settled conditions with longer periods of drier and brighter weather, though some rain is still possible.

“Further north, the wet and windy weather looks more likely to continue. Temperatures should be around normal or slightly below, especially in the north.

“If more settled conditions develop, there may be an increased risk of frost forming overnight.”

However, the Met Office forecasts the weather conditions to settle towards the end of March with longer and brighter spells hitting, especially in the south.

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World News

Crime Beat podcast: The Brentwood five massacre

On this episode of the Global News podcast Crime Beat, crime reporter Nancy Hixt looks at the Brentwood five massacre.

On April 14, 2014, a group of friends had a small get-together at their home near the University of Calgary campus in the northwest neighbourhood of Brentwood.

Five young people shared a small, grey-and-blue split-level house on a quiet block on Butler Crescent.

The house was a well-known rental for university students that many affectionately called the “Butler Mansion.”

It was a relatively small gathering, with many of those invited having gone to junior high or high school together. The rest knew each other from university. 

It was an amazing group of young people that included an accomplished dancer, an aspiring urban planner, two talented musicians, and a young man who was well on his way to becoming a humanitarian.

For the most part, the mood of the party was laid-back and relaxed.

No one could have predicted the terrifying turn the night would take and how quickly it would all unravel.

It was a day that left a scar on the soul of the city — the biggest mass killing in Calgary’s history. 

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World News

Call center workers, Zumba dance teachers among new South Korea coronavirus cases

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea was on alert on Tuesday for coronavirus infections in small clusters such as workplaces and dance classes, as a downward trend in new cases raised hopes that Asia’s biggest outbreak outside mainland China may be slowing.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 35 new coronavirus cases, down from the peak of 909 on Feb. 29. The new data brought the national tally to 7,513, and the death toll rose by three to 54. The numbers are expected to be updated later on Tuesday.

The daily rate of new infections in South Korea fell to its lowest level in 11 days on Monday as most of the roughly 200,000 followers of a fringe Christian church at the center of the nation’s epidemic have been tested.

“The rate of increase is declining but there are still many new cases”, Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy at the health ministry, told a briefing.

“We need to pay attention to crowded workplaces including call centers. The cooperation of business owners is essential as they shouldn’t let employees come in if they show symptoms like fever.”

New cases over the past few days include about 40 call-center workers for an insurance company in Seoul, prompting the city government to launch a probe into other similar offices.

“This is the largest case of mass infections happening in Seoul,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon told a briefing. “We will urgently check companies where many people work in the same space like call centers.”

More than 90 out of 102 cases in the central province of South Chungcheong were traced to a workshop for Zumba dance teachers, attended by 29 people of which at least eight were confirmed to have contracted the flu-like virus.

President Moon Jae-in expressed guarded hope for the fight against the virus on Monday, saying the downward trend in new infections could lead to a phase of stability, while warning that it was too early to be optimistic.

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