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Italy Issues Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown Amid Panic and Prison Riots

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  • On Sunday, Italy extended quarantine measures to 14 northern provinces in the country, locking 16 million people—a quarter of Italy’s population—in the region. 
  • Inmates at more than two dozen Italian prisons rioted in protest of overcrowded conditions as the country deals with a massive coronavirus outbreak.
  • Some prisoners escaped while six others died after they broke into an infirmary and overdosed.
  • By Monday, the Italian government announced it would further expand travel restrictions to the entire country of 60 million people.

Italy Quarantines 16 Million People

The Italian government has imposed a massive quarantine measure affecting all of Italy and its 60 million residents.

Monday, it announced that the country’s travel restrictions would be expanded across all of Italy. On Sunday, Italy issued a similar quarantine in 14 northern provinces on Sunday, preventing 16 million people—a quarter of the country’s population—from leaving the region.

The decree, which will not be lifted until April 3rd, also shuts down movie theaters, gyms, bars as well as public and private events. Those private events even include weddings and funerals. 

Italy faces one of the worst outbreaks in the world, with 7,300 cases as of Monday morning. It now compares to South Korea which also has recorded 7,300 cases, but only 50 people have died.

In Italy, the death rate has been much higher, with the death toll jumping from 233 to 366 between Saturday and Sunday. 

Notably, most of those deaths have occurred in the northern region of Lombardy. 

With an increasingly worsening situation, the Italian government planned to close the region on Sunday, but on Saturday, an Italian newspaper leaked a draft of the decree that extended Italy’s “red-zone” quarantine to 14 northern provinces. 

That leak then prompted people to flee the region in buses and trains before the lockdown was imposed. Many have even described the measure as “draconian,” because even though China issued a similar lockdown, it is a communist nation while Italy is a democracy. 

If caught leaving one of the red zones, people can be fined or even face jail time. 

Italian Prison Riots

In prisons, the situation escalated, with prisoners in more than two dozen facilities protesting overcrowded conditions and fearing that the coronavirus could easily spread among cells.

Reportedly, those protests quickly turned into riots with several prisoners escaping from one facility. Other prisoners at a different facility also escaped prison walls and climbed onto the roof, holding up a painted sheet that read, “Indulto,” the Italian word for “pardon.”

In one prison, six inmates died on Monday after they broke into an infirmary and overdoses on drugs. 

Outside of prisons, inmates’ families protested on the streets, some clashing with police. Part of the reason why those inmates’ families showed up is that in addition to overcrowded conditions, prisons have stopped allowing visitors to see inmates to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Health Officials Say U.S. Is Past the Point of Containment

In the United States, the number of cases has also climbed, with nearly 550 cases reported Monday morning. Of those, 22 people are dead, and 19 of those deaths are from Washington state alone.

Washington’s outbreak began after several patients at a nursing home came down with the coronavirus. 

Several health officials have also indicated that the U.S. is past the point of containment. Now the goal is to try to protect as many people from catching the virus as possible. 

“Initially, we had a posture of containment so that we could give people time to prepare for where we are right now,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN. “Now, we’re shifting into a mitigation phase, which means that we’re helping communities understand you’re going to see more cases. Unfortunately, you’re going to see more deaths, but that doesn’t mean that we should panic.” 

Adams went on to say that communities need to decide whether or not to close schools, have employees work from home, and cancel large gatherings. As the outbreak in the U.S. continues, many schools have already shut their doors. Some cities have even started canceling large music events such as  Ultra Music Fest and South by Southwest.

Adams, however, did note that he believes the virus is contained in certain parts of the country. 

Democrats Blame Trump Administration for “Mixed Messages”

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus aid package. Though Trump originally proposed a $2.5 billion plan, this bill easily passed through the House, and later, the Senate.

It will now fund prevention efforts, medical supplies, and vaccine research. 

After signing that bill, Trump then visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, where he held a press conference with CDC officials. 

“It will end,” he told reporters. “People have to remain calm.” 

When asked whether or not Americans should start canceling their travel plans, Trump said it was important to look at where they are traveling before making the decision.

“I think it’s fine if they want to do it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an overreaction. But I wouldn’t be generally inclined to do it. I really wouldn’t be.” 

One of the big takeaways from Trump’s press conference stemmed from confusion over who could be tested if they think they may have the virus.

“Anybody, right now and yesterday, anybody who needs a test gets a test. They’re there,” Trump said on Friday after CDC officials announced four million tests would be mobilized by the end of this week.

On Thursday, however, Vice President Mike Pence said that though the government would provide testing for people it believes have been exposed or are showing symptoms, it doesn’t “have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”

On Saturday, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the Trump Administration on MSNBC, saying it was sending “mixed messages” in regard to if every American could be tested.

Cuomo’s message is not unfamiliar from that of other Democratic governors in states with outbreaks of the coronavirus. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom also called the U.S.’s testing capacity, quote, “simply inadequate.”

A couple of weeks ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee also criticized the Trump Administration, saying that Washington’s “work would be more successful if the Trump Administration stuck to the science and told the truth.”

At his CDC press conference Friday, Trump retaliated against Inslee, calling him a “snake” and saying, “If you’re nice to him, he will take advantage.”

Sunday night, Trump also directly responded to Cuomo on Twitter. There are no mixed messages, only political weaponization by people like you…”

This morning, he added, “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Reuters) (CNBC)

International

200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing 

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The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16. 


Children Missing From Hotels

There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.

When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.

In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.

Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.

Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”

Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing. 

However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.”  The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.” 

Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline. 

The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)

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100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History

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Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”


The NHS Grinds to a Halt

Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.

The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.

Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.

When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.

In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”

Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.

The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.

During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.

Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament

Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.

“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”

“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”

Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”

Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”

“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”

While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.

Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.

If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.

Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)

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International

Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”

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One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.


Epic Games Sued 

A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.

The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years. 

If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case. 

Epic Games Responds

“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.” 

Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.

The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children. 

“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.” 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Washington Post) (Deadline

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