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Voting underway in Hong Kong by-election

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Thousands of people in Hong Kong cast their votes on Sunday in a legislative by-election in which seven candidates are vying for a seat vacated by a prominent pro-democracy lawmaker.

More than 81,400 residents of Hong Kong’s New Territories East constituency voted in the first four hours of polling.

Voting began at 7.30 a.m. and will end at 10.30 p.m., EFE news reported.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong in June 2015 following the government’s failed attempt at electoral reform.

As people cast their ballots, the seven candidates in the race were making last-ditch efforts to win over voters with final campaign rallies.

Among those canvassing for last-minute votes was Edward Leung Tin-kei, a pro-Hong Kong independence candidate from the Hong Kong Indigenous Party who shot to prominence after being arrested early this month for his role in a riot that took place on the first day of the Lunar New Year.

The by-election is being widely viewed as a litmus test for voter attitudes in Hong Kong ahead of the citywide legislative elections in September.

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Coronavirus latest: Trump considering quarantine on New York

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Donald Trump MSNBC

New York, March 29 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has said that he is considering ordering a quarantine of the New York City area, which is the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic.

He said on Sunday that at the request of other states that don’t have much coronavirus infection, he was looking at a quarantine of parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut states.

“And it will be for a short period of time, if we do it at all,” he said.

He said, “We’re talking about (people) leaving New York. Leaving New York. They go to Florida, and a lot of people don’t want that. So we’ll see what happens. We’re going to make a decision.”

He ruled out the use of military to enforce the quarantine, if it is imposed.

“The people of New York, they understand it better than anybody, and they’ll be great,” Trump said.

Trump spoke to reporters before leaving for Norfolk Navy base to see off a hospital ship with 1,000 beds that he was sending to New York to augment its medical facilities.

He also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to build field hospitals in the state with a capacity of 4,000 beds, in addition to the four he had sanctioned earlier with 4,000 beds.

New York Governor Andre Cuomo, who has been issuing dire warnings about the spread of coronavirus in the state, said he did not think a quarantine could be legally enforced.

“I don’t even like the sound of it,” he said.

The Trump administration has already asked people travelling from New York area to self-isolate themselves for 14 days.

Of the 115,547 cases in the US, reported on Saturday afternoon, 53,216 are in New York State with 29,158 in the city and 15,199 in surrounding areas within the state.

Neighbouring New Jersey had 11,124 cases and Connecticut 1,291.

States like Texas and Florida have imposed 14-day quarantine on visitors flying in from the New York area.

Rhode Island has gone further with state police troopers stopping cars with New York licence plates and having plans for National Guard and police to run house-to-house searches to ensure people who have come from New York were observing self-quarantine.

If Trump imposes a quarantine on New York area, it could be a prelude to his plans to open the less hard-hit parts of the country for business.

He has said that some parts of the US could ease the 15-day guideline he had suggested, which ends on Monday, and restart the economy bruised by the social distancing precautions that closed most businesses across the country.

His proposal has met with criticism from some doctors, scientists and politicians, and parts of the media.

A selective easing of restrictions on less affected areas, while tightening them on the most affected areas to prevent transmission from them may be part of his strategy.

He and doctors on his Coronavirus Task Force have emphasised the uneven spread of COVID-19.

Of the 50 US states, six sparsely populated states have reported less than 100 cases and six others less than 150.

Even if Trump loosens his guidelines, it will be up to the state governors and local authorities to follow them or impose their own restrictions.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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Coronavirus information – Spain suffers its deadliest day

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According to government figures, 832 people died in Spain in the past 24 hours after contracting coronavirus, taking the total to 5,690 — a 17 per cent daily increase. The country has the second highest number of deaths in the world after Italy.

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But confirmed cases of Covid-19 rose at a lower rate than in recent days, reaching 72,248, a 13 per cent increase on Friday’s totals.

This compares with daily increases of 25 per cent or more at previous high points in the outbreak. The total number of people who have needed intensive care rose 10 per cent to 4,575, while the number of people who have recovered surged more than 30 per cent to 12,285.

Spanish government officials expressed hope that coming days will mark the peak of the spread of coronavirus, while cautioning that the peak in the deaths is likely to come later.

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Adviser runs out after UK PM tests COVID-19 positive

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Boris Johnson

London, March 28 (IANS) Dominic Cummings, a senior adviser to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was seen running out of Downing Street after the latter announced that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, it was reported.

In a clip widely shared on social media, Cummings was seen running out of the back gate of Downing Street carrying a bag, the London-based Metro newspaper said in a report on Friday.

The camera zooms in on Cummings’ face as he looks away from the press and then makes a swift exit clutching the bag.

Cummings, seen as the Prime Minister’s key aide, was reported to have been behind the government’s initial strategy of “herd immunity”, to deal with the pandemic, the report further said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Johnson announced that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus but would continue to discharge his duties from self-isolation.

He became the second high-profile British leader to test positive for coronavirus in recent days after Prince Charles, the heir to the the throne.

Some ministers in the Johnson government and MPs have also tested positive for COVID-19, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock whose announcement came shortly after the Prime Minister’s.The UK has so far reported 14,751 confirmed coronavirus cases with 761 deaths.

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