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Donald Trump FINALLY admits he will change one thing in presidential U-turn

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The US president said on Wednesday that “I think masks are good” in an interview with Fox Business, and claimed that if he were in “a tight situation with people” then he would “absolutely” wear a face mask or covering.

He added that when he had put masks on previously – presumably in private – that he “liked the way I looked”.

Trump said that the reason he doesn’t wear a mask in public appearances is because he maintains an appropriate distance from other people.

He also claimed that people are tested for Covid-19 before they are allowed to see him.

The president’s change in tone was echoed by senior Republican figures, too.

Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, said that wearing a face mask is “the single easiest thing we can do” to “protect ourselves and others”.

The president’s remarks are a far cry from previous comments he’s made during the pandemic.

In May, for instance, he criticised Reuters journalist Jeff Mason for wearing a face covering, claiming that doing so is “politically correct”.

In any case, it’s likely that Trump’s recent U-turn on masks is a reflection on mounting pressure as he embarks on a reelection campaign.

Americans are due to go to the polls this November as they vote for who should sit in the White House next.

READ: Queen phones Donald Trump just hours after president’s attacks on female leaders

The leading Democratic nominee is Joe Biden, who has been sliding ahead in the polls in recent weeks.

Tennessee Republican senator Lamar Alexander warned that the debate over wearing masks could prove harmful to Trump’s reputation in the lead-up to the election.

He said in a Senate hearing that “the stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump anti-Trump mask to continue”, according to ABC.

And he added that he has “suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask”.

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Sen. Alexander highlighted Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advice, which states that: “Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.

“Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants).”

One of the most high-profile incidents in which Trump refused to wear a mask – and faced backlash – was during a tour of carmaker Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Michigan.

At one stage of the tour the president stopped to talk to reporters, who asked him why he was not wearing a mask at that time despite Ford executives – who were standing nearby and in view of the camera – wearing them.

Trump said that wearing a mask was “not necessary”, and claimed that “everybody’s been tested”.

However, he said that he did have a mask on in another part of the tour where officials asked him to.

Trump has been at pains to avoid being photographed or seen in public wearing a face mask or covering.

However, NBC News tweeted a photo from an anonymous source on May 22 that appeared to show Trump wearing a dark face mask with a presidential emblem on the side during one part of the Ford plant tour.

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Politics

PMQs LIVE: Boris faces Starmer grilling after Laura Kuenssberg raises AWKWARD issue for PM

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With pubs, restaurants, cafes and other businesses set to reopen at the weekend, the UK was stunned this week when Leicester re-entered full lockdown after a surge in cases. Schools and non-essential shops have closed again in a bid to contain the outbreak, and fears are growing more towns and cities could follow suit.

This lunchtime’s showdown also comes after BBC politics editor Laura Kuenssberg put the pressure on Mr Johnson to deliver on a promise to the people of Hong Kong following the overnight passing of a controversial new Chinese security law.

Ms Kuenssberg said on Twitter: “This is what the PM promised Hong Kong last month – to ‘allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the UK for a renewable period of 12 months + be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship’.

“IF China brought in its new security laws in Hong Kong – that’s now happening, so will the Foreign Secretary stick to this pledge today? Commons statement from Raab expected after PMQs.”

Mr Johnson will likely also be confronted over the passing of last night’s deadline to request a Brexit transition period extention.

The UK and EU must now agree a deal before the end of the year, with the likelihood of a no-deal exit surging.

This is a liveblog. Please see below for the latest updates and check back soon.

11am update: Keir to pressure PM over schools

A hint at things to come later? Last night Sir Keir posted a Tweet demanding schools reopen with safe, temporary classrooms.

He said: “I want all our children safely back in school as soon as possible.

“All schools could be open had there been a plan and leadership from the Prime Minister.

“If we can build Nightingale Hospitals, we can build temporary classrooms.”

Sir Keir may also pressure Mr Johnson on the method of measuring coronavirus cases in the UK, afrer a report by the Financial Times. 

It has emerged figures released by the Government as part of its regular updates include only hospital-based or private laboratory-tested cases of coronavirus. 

A second metric, dubbed ‘pillar 2’, including the testing of the public at drive-through facilities, for example, are not included in total released figures. 

More to follow…

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World News

World War 3: China face Indian retaliation after invading disputed land and drawing flag

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Tensions between the two nations have ignited over recent weeks following the deadly dispute in Galwan Valley where at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed. Now China faces a furious backlash after mocking India.

In satellite imagery, the Mandarin characters meaning ‘China’ are seen written near the shore of Pangong Lake, an area located on the Line of Actual Control.

Troops appeared to have drawn a map of the Communist nation on the remote area in the disputed Himalayan region.

The area is close to the site of the bloody clashes between the two militaries back in May.

Pangong Lake has been divided into ‘fingers’ by Indian and Chinese forces.

India claims ownership of the shoreline from ‘finger one’ to ‘finger eight’.

But recently, China was accused of impeding an Indian patrol as it staked a claim for territory from ‘finger eight’ to ‘finger four’.

China has also built at least 186 huts along the disputed shoreline.

Images show construction has taken place on the tip of ‘finger four’ as well as two fast water crafts on ‘finger five’.

Last month, the dispute in Galwan Valley, in Ladakh, marked the first bloody altercation between the two countries in 45 years.

Reports said both sides had agreed to disarm while confronting each other last month.

However, fights broke out on the highly contested border and all the casualties were from the use of batons, knives and falls from the steep land.

Although the number of Chinese soldiers who died was not revealed, American Intelligence claimed there was at least 35 deaths including a senior officer.

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Following the dispute, calls were made for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to retaliate against the Communist Nation.

The leader of the opposition Congress Party Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “Why is the Prime Minister silent? Why is he hiding?

“Enough is enough. We need to know what has happened.

“How dare China kill our soldiers? How dare they take our land?”

Protests erupted across India as Chinese flags and products were burnt in the streets.

Since the altercation, fears of a World War 3 outbreak have ignited around the globe.

This week, the deputy speaker of Tibet’s India-based exile parliament said India must be “bolder” in its stance on the region.

Tibet has historically served as a buffer between the two nations but has grown increasingly under Chinese influence.

Over the last three decades, several rounds of talks have been held attempting to resolve the dispute, with no success.

The tensions have stretched back further in time, with 2017 seeing the two counties clash over China attempting to extend a border road through a disputed plateau.

Only once has outright war been fought between the two: 1962 saw India suffer a devastating defeat to China.

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World News

Varadkar panic: Irish deputy admits being in EU WON’T HELP as devastating crisis looms

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Lockdown restrictions are being eased across the world and governments are starting to face up to the economic impact of the pandemic. Mr Varadkar warned of a “coming economic crisis” that could be “very divisive” for the country.  And he admitting Ireland was now wresting with a dilemma over international travel.

One real risk for us is that the virus could come back into the country from America, Britain, France

Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar, who has been relegated from taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland) to tanaiste (deputy prime minister) following the creation of a new government, said: “The worry now is international travel.

“Even though we’re part of the European Union we’re also an island, we’re not part of the Schengen area and we have border controls at our ports and airports.

“We’re a little bit concerned about restoring international travel.”

He continued: “We’re a connected country. We want people to be able to travel again for business and holidays.

“But one real risk for us is that the virus could come back into the country from America, Britain, France other places where it isn’t under control the way it is here.”

Speaking during a virtual event hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, Mr Varadkar said Ireland had been hard hit by COVID-19 but had now got the number of new cases to below ten on most days.

But a looming economic crisis created by the pandemic is causing serious concern for the new government Dublin.

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Mr Varadkar said: “For us the economic situation is very worrying.

“If you include subsidised employment and government schemes and so on, we’re well over 20 percent unemployment now.

“We had full employment in February so it’s a very serious economic crisis and one that’s very unequal.

“It’s the private sector workers who have lost their jobs whereas the public sector did not.

“And maybe younger people and migrants in precarious employment lost their jobs, whereas people working for big companies, multinationals, in the professions, in the public service, have been largely unaffected financially.

“The country was very united during the pandemic.

“The economic crisis that is coming could be very divisive.”

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Mr Varadkar, whose new post as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Business makes him responsible for job creation, said Ireland supported the EU-wide coronavirus recovery fund.

But he said measures taken by member states to restore their economies will be mostly unilateral.

He said: “We had a budget surplus for the last two years, but this year we’ll have a deficit in the region of 10 percent of our GDP.

“We had to do that, to put in a social safety net, so people don’t fall into poverty, and now to get our businesses open again and growing again.

“But the fear is always there of a second wave that could set us back.”

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Kim Jong-Un fury over bizarre depiction of North Korean Dictator’s wife

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Information of this frustration comes from Russia’s top envoy in the hermit kingdom. Over the last few weeks, Pyongyang has been issuing a series of vitriolic condemnations over anti-North leaflets. They are believed to have been sent by defectors based in South Korea who sends them across the militarized border, usually attached to balloons or floated bottles.

The campaigns have long been a point of contention between the two Koreas, but this time, Pyongyang upped the pressure, blowing up a liaison office and threatening military measures.

This was seen as a tipping point in breaking down communications between the two powers.

The liaison office had originally been built in 2018 in order for both countries to hold peace talks and work on progressing their relationship.

However, the attack on the building, on top of aggressive rhetoric coming from the Kim regime has only regressed matters.

It seems as though defectors have found a new way to ‘annoy’ Pyongyang.

A recent anti-propaganda poster included provocative imagery of the North’s First Lady Ri Sol Ju.

The image has clearly sparked “serious outrage” in North Korea, according to Russian ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora.

READ MORE:Kim Jong-un dealt MAJOR blow as North Korea halts propaganda leafle…

Mr Matsegora is one of Russia’s longest serving ambassadors in the North and Russia is also seen to be a key ally to the isolated state.

“The leaflets bore a special kind of dirty, insulting propaganda, aimed at the leader’s spouse,” Matsegora told Russia’s TASS news agency on Monday.

They were photoshopped “in such a low-grade way”, he added, and served as “the last straw” for the North.

Since the collapse of the summit between Kim Jong-Un and President Donald Trump, Inter-Korean relations have been slightly frosty.

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The summit itself was about what North Korea (nuclear power) would be willing to give up in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.

But instead of lashing out against Washington, North Korea focused it’s anger on it’s Southern neighbour instead.

Despite the fact North Korea leader and South Korea President, Moon Jae-in had taken part in three summits to help improve relations.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, was also responsible for brokering the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.

The impoverished country is subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.

The Russian diplomat also dismissed speculation that Kim’s younger sister was being trained as the next leader of North Korea.

Despite her “serious political and foreign policy experience”, Matsegora said Kim Yo Jong was “rather young”.

“There is absolutely no reason to say that she is being trained” to take the helm, Matsegora said.

“No one dares to call themselves number two in the country,” he added.

“I think that if you asked comrade Kim Yo Jong whether she was number two, she would answer with a strong ‘no’.”

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China vs India breakthrough? Military commanders make surprising move after border clash

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Commander of the Indian Army’s 14 Corps, Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, and Major Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region, met on Tuesday as both sides continued to mass troops on either side of the line. After the meetings took place, the two sides agreed to try to ease tensions inflamed by a deadly clash on June 15. The two sides had previously met just over a week before the fatal skirmish, again on the Chinese side.

During the incident in the Galwan Valley, 20 Indian soldiers were killed and the Chinese suffered casualties, however, they have not yet disclosed the number.

The two countries have a long-running border dispute and even the Line of Actual Control that separates the territory held by each side is undefined, raising the risk of flashpoints.

The incident has fired nationalist sentiment in both countries, which may make it harder to reach a settlement.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said Tuesday’s talks were held slightly earlier than expected, which suggested that last week’s meeting did not end on a positive note.

“The political leadership is not cooling down, and not much has happened in terms of disengagement. Instead, there’s been a massive mobilisation on both sides,” he said.

Following the talks between military leaders, Kondapalli said diplomats from both sides had taken “surprisingly stiff” positions.

Sun Weidong, China’s ambassador to New Delhi, has said India’s troops were to blame for crossing into Chinese territory, telling the Press Trust of India news agency that “the onus is not on China”.

READ MORE: China vs India: China conducts war games in South China Sea

Meanwhile, India’s ambassador Vikram Misri warned of “ripples and repercussions” for the countries’ relationship.

He said it was “entirely the responsibility of China” to decide how it wanted ties between the countries to develop.

Calls for a boycott of Chinese goods are growing across India, and businesses have started to report that imports are being delayed at Indian ports.

The Indian government this week has also banned a total of 59 Chinese apps.

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This includes the popular video-sharing platforms TikTok, Baidu Maps and WeChat.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the loss of the soldiers.

“A self-reliant India would be a tribute to our martyrs in the truest, deepest sense.”

Wang Dehua, a South Asia specialist at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said the clash had given a platform to those in India who favoured a hardline approach towards China.

This retaliation added to the difficulty of resolving the dispute.

“Modi has overcommitted himself to an aggressive stance on China, and anti-China sentiment in India is on the rise,” he said.

“It’s impossible to say what they will talk about at the meeting today, but it hopefully will be a slow process of alternating discussion and de-escalation.”

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Democracy under attack! Hong Kong reveals details of China’s new security law

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These new rules will also be overseen and enforced by a new mainland agency with the powers of the state behind it. The idea is that with these new powers, the agency would be able to take over some cases and operate in the city without falling under local jurisdiction. Released late on Tuesday night was a six-chapter (66 articles) full draft of the controversial legislation.

The full text was released only after it became effective in the city amid widespread concerns about its implications, despite official reassurances that only a small minority would be targeted.

It lists four categories of offences:

Secession – breaking away from the country
Subversion – undermining the power or authority of the central government
Terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people
Collusion with foreign or external forces or external elements to endanger national security.

Although the suggested sentence for some minor offences is less than three years’ in jail, the maximum penalty for each crime is life imprisonment.

However, some suspects can also be extradited to mainland China, but only for cases that involve “complicated situations”.

This is usually to do with interference by foreign forces; cases in which the local government cannot effectively enforce the law and ones where national security is under “serious and realistic threats”.

For those cases in which Beijing exercises jurisdiction, a mainland agency that will be established in Hong Kong to enforce national security will carry out investigations and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate will assign authorities to lead the prosecution.

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The Supreme People’s Court will assign courts to hear those cases.

Article 54 in the 66 article text, states the new agency, alongside the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong and the local government, must adopt measures to “strengthen the management” of foreign non-governmental organisations and media agencies.

Furthermore, any details about a new national security commission and its operation will not be disclosed and its decisions are not subject to any judicial review.

If departments or local administration refused to cooperate with the new mainland agency, then severe questions will be raised.

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The law also grants wide powers to mainland agents stationed in Hong Kong.

Under Article 60, the officers and the vehicles they use to carry out their duties are not subject to checks by local law enforcement.

Professor Fu Hualing, law dean at the University of Hong Kong, said the provisions concerning Beijing’s jurisdictions over “very few cases” allowed for a large degree of discretion, which remained to be clearly defined.

“Once the central government takes over [jurisdiction], it takes away everything,” Fu said.

“There is a ‘nationalisation’ of certain crimes.”

“For the first time, national laws on criminal matters apply in Hong Kong and there is a built-in rendition.”

Critics across the world are viewing these developments as further attempts for China’s Communist Party (CCP) to enforce their laws on the people of Hong Kong and remove their autonomy and democratic right to freedom of expression.

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South China Sea latest: US sent warning as Beijing rapidly preparing for conflict

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The South China Sea is a heavily contested region where it faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. But the US has extended its military power in the area.

China is believed to be rapidly increasing its preparations to defend the region should it perceive the US to overstretch its interventions in the region.

Last month, Independence-class US Navy littoral combat ships were spotted patrolling the much-disputed region.

The US Air Force and Marines were also seen conducting training exercises in the area with three submarines joining ships and aircraft in the nearby Philippine Sea.

The actions were thought to be a reaction to Chinese harassment of ships drilling for resources in nearby waters.

But Mark J Valencia, senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea studies, says the reason for the US military presence is to ensure its readiness in a number of contingencies.

In his column in the South China Morning Post, he said: “This is probably the real reason for the US military presence there – to maintain its regional hegemony.

“China believes the US wants to constrain its rightful rise and thereby continue its hegemony in the region.

“The South China Sea is at the cruz of their strategic contest.

“For China, it is a historically vulnerable underbelly that must be turned into a ‘natural shield for its national security’.

“It hosts its vital sea lanes of communication that Beijing believes the US could and would disrupt in a conflict.”

Mr Valencia went on to argue how the communist nation is not ready for armed conflict with the US and its allies.

But he warned Beijing is building up its capabilities to combat US intelligence and surveillance.

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He said: “Some of the hundreds of US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) probes in the South China Sea each year focus on detecting, tracking and, if necessary, targeting China’s nuclear submarines.

“Given what it perceives to be the growing US threat to its nuclear submarines, Beijing is building up capabilities on some of the features it occupies to neutralise these US operations and enhance the survivability of its nuclear submarines in the early stages of a conflict.”

Several nations including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore have expressed concerns about the growing military presence in the area.

Mr Valencia believes the situation in South China Sea will only get worse before it gets better.

He finishes: “In the end, the US will have to directly or indirectly share power with China, and China will have to share the resources and their management.

“These are big asks, and it may take another generation and even localised conflict to realise that this is the only way for a stable and lasting peace to take hold in the South China Sea.”

Tensions in the area heightened over recent weeks after Taiwan deployed marines to the Pratas Islands amid reports China will conduct military drills in the area.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported last month how the People’s Liberation Army of China were scheduling large-scale beach landings on the Pratas Islands.

It is argued the landing trainings were to simulate the takeover of the region.

The Pratas Islands are considered to be a strategic crossroads for Beijing as Chinese warships would pass it when travelling to the Pacific.

China has also constructed bunkers on some of the atolls points in the area which sparks concerns about a potential conflict.

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Merkel and Macron seize control: Leaders warn EU to back €750bn bailout or face disaster

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood firm behind the proposal put forward by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The blueprint calls for the EU to collectively raise €750 billion on the international markets before distributing €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans to pandemic-stricken regions and industries across the bloc. But the recovery fund – dubbed “Next Generation EU” – has received considerable opposition from the fiscally conservative states, such as Sweden, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The so-called Frugal Four want the money distributed with strings attached, meaning countries could be forced to sign up to austerity measures in order to access the cash.

They have also called for the fund to be smaller and more of the cash to be distributed in the form of low-cost loans.

Mrs von der Leyen’s proposal is based largely on a Franco-German model that was released by Paris and Berlin earlier in the year.

EU leaders are due to discuss the plans to save the virus-ravaged bloc on July 17 and 18 at a summit in Brussels.

In preparation for the showdown, Mrs Merkel hosted Mr Macron in Meseberg, Germany, in order to strike up a joint position.

She told reporters: “Talks won’t fail because of us.

“But there will be no new proposal.”

Mr Macron added: “We have reached a moment of truth for Europe.

“With this resolute Franco-German commitment, we can turn it into a moment of success.”

The bloc is set to be hit by the deepest recession in Europe since the Second World War.

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Mr Macron said: “We hope we can find a solution, even if there is still a long way to go.”

The EU aid package would offer support to the bloc’s hardest-hit economies like Spain, Italy and Greece.

Their economies are all forecast to shrink by at least 10 percent this year.

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These southern countries have maintained consistently high public debt levels while their neighbours in the north have taken a more fiscally conservative attitude to spending.

This has prompted fears that funds could be misused by Madrid, Rome and Athens.

Italy, Spain and Poland would be the biggest beneficiaries from the grants under the initial proposals put forward by the European Commission.

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New flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ discovered in China – ‘Should NOT ignore it’

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Infectious disease expert Doctor Dena Grayson tweeted: “Researchers warn of a new flu strain in China that is similar to the 2009 H1N1 swine and has the potential to become a pandemic. It primarily infects pigs but can infect humans. It’s not an if, it is a when the next pandemic virus will emerge.”

The virus has been discovered in the countries pig stocks and scientists have announced it can infect humans.

It was first detected in humans who became ill who had worked in abattoirs that dealt with China’s swine industry.

The current flu vaccines do not offer protection to the new virus, but work is being carried out to see if the current inoculations can be adapted.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Kin-Chow Chang of Nottingham University said: “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so.

“But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

While this new virus is not an immediate problem the scientist said: “We should not ignore it”.

The fear now is that it may mutate further and become airborne giving it the ability to spread exponentially causing an outbreak.

The new strain has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans.

This has led to scientists in China to study the virus closely.

Because the virus is so new, humanity will likely have not have built up an immunity to it.

This new strain of flu that has been detected in China is similar to 2009 swine flu, but it may develop attributes that could make it much more deadly.

The virus has been given a name, researchers call it G4 EA H1N1.

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It can propagate in cells that line the human airways.

In 2019 the Chinese pork industry took a huge hit after millions of pigs were slaughtered because they had contracted African swine fever.

If this new pathogen spreads then China’s swine industry could be hit again when it is just trying to recover.

Swine flu viruses are exceedingly hardy.

They survive being cooked and processed and will endure in frozen meat for a number of years.

Pork accounts for some 35 percent of protein consumption within China.

The average Chinese person eats 30kg of pork per year.

It comes as the globe is currently fighting the coronavirus pandemic thought to have originated in Wuhan in China.
The deadly virus has spread right across the globe, forcing countries into lockdown, and killing around 500,000 and infection 10 million so far.

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