Spain's coronavirus deaths tops 20,000

Spain’s coronavirus death toll tops 20,000 but parents and regional leaders still call to ‘free our children!’ after five-week confinement

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Spain’s death toll from coronavirus has passed the 20,000 mark but parents and regional government leaders are still calling for youngsters to be let out of confinement in a growing ‘Free our children!’ campaign.

Communities such as Catalonia and the Basque Country are leading the plea to the Spanish Government, saying the mental health of families is being put in danger because of the strict curfew rules which were imposed on March 14th.

They want children to be allowed to play or exercise outside, even if they have to wear masks and abide to strict ‘time slots’ for a limited amount of time and space.

Spain’s death toll from coronavirus has passed the 20,000 mark but parents and regional government leaders are still calling for youngsters to be let out of confinement in a growing ‘Free our children!’ campaign

The call is being backed by the acting Spanish Ombudsman, Francisco Fernández Marugán and will be put to Spain’s Prime Minister in the next few days.

The communities involved want the ban on children to be lifted when the next phase of the State of Emergency comes to a close on April 26th. Pedro Sanchez has already indicated that the order is likely to be extended until May 10th.

Catalonia wants children to be able to play with limited time slots but they would have to wear masks.

Ombudsman Marugán agrees some kind of easement should be put in place for children, with space and time limits and in a controlled manner as is already happening in other countries.

‘This would be a positive move provided there are no technical objections,’ he said.

Minister of Health, Salvador Illa said he recognised the sacrifice that it means for children to stay at home and not go out but says it is necessary to act with the ‘maximum prudence’ and that when there is a decision in this regard, the Executive will announce it.

The ‘Free our Children’ plea comes as the Spanish Government admitted ‘inconsistencies’ in the daily report of the number of coronavirus deaths, new infections and recoveries.

The Ministry of Health says there is going to be strange flunctuations for a few days as a result of a new way of counting the figures.

The discrepancies came to light on Friday when the government said there had been 585 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours and gave the total so far as 19,478. Taking into account Thursday’s figures, the total should have been 19,715 but the Ministry said there had been adjustments and laid a lot of the blame on the data provided by Catalonia.

The Spanish Government has made an order to ‘unify the criteria’ after being lambasted for the ‘nonsense figures’ which also affected the reported level of new positive cases and recoveries.

An announcement is awaited on today’s figures but global sources are putting the number at 20,002.

Minister of Health, Salvador Illa said the new statistics in days to come would include the number of people who had died of coronavirus in nursing homes.

The Government is also studying how the so-called transition or lack of confidence period will be dealt with, which, according to various experts, could begin from May 11. However, emergency committee spokesman Fernando Simón said people over 70 years of age – the most vulnerable to the coronavirus – will in all probability have to continue in isolation until at least the summer.

If the pandemic gets under control, Spain anticipates a total resumption of work activity in two phases, as Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz confirmed: one that will cover the productive sectors until the summer and another, which will last until the end of the year, and which would affect tourism, culture or leisure.

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Goodfellas mobster who masterminded the Lufthansa heist to be released

Goodfellas mobster, 85, who was acquitted of masterminding the 1978 Lufthansa heist – but convicted on road rage arson charges -is released from jail due to virus fears

  • Vincent Asaro was released from prison in Missouri on Friday over fears he could contract coronavirus due to poor health after suffering a stroke last year
  • Asaro was sentenced to eight years in prison for road rage and arson in 2017
  • The sentence was more than double what federal guidelines set out as punishment for the 2012 car torching 
  • Asaro had a motorist’s car torched by Bonanno crime family associates after the driver cut him off in traffic
  • The mobster was acquitted in 2015 for the infamous 1978 heist at the Lufthansa cargo terminal at JFK airport, a robbery retold in the 1990 hit film Goodfellas
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A reputed mobster whose legendary airport robbery was recounted in the movie ‘Goodfellas’ has been released over fears he could contract coronavirus while serving his eight-year prison sentence. 

Vinny Asaro, 85, was jailed in 2017 on arson charges following a 2012 road-rage incident. 

But on Friday, he was granted compassionate release from prison over concerns he could possibly die should he catch the contagious disease.  

Asaro suffered a stroke last year which potentially would place him at risk of COVID-19.

Vincent Asaro was released from prison in Missouri on Friday over fears he could contract coronavirus due to poor health and suffering a stroke last year. He is pictures here in 2015

Vincent Asaro is pictured leaving court in 2015. On Friday, he was granted compassionate release from prison over concerns he could possibly die should he catch coronavirus 

‘If Asaro were to contract COVID-19, given his age and current state, it is not unlikely that the consequences would be dire,’ Brooklyn federal Judge Allyne Ross wrote in a 16-page ruling.   

Ross is the same judge who presided over his 2015 trial in which Asaro was cleared on charges that he took part in the Lufthansa job as well as the 1969 gangland murder of associate Paul Katz according to the New York Post.

Asaro was being held at a medical prison in Springfield, Missouri.

Although there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the facility, the disease has been spreading throughout the state.   

The US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn has said prosecutors are reviewing Judge Ross’ ruling and are weighing legal options.

At his sentencing in 2017, Asaro called his jailing ‘a death sentence.’

The sentence was more than double what federal guidelines set out as punishment for the 2012 car torching, which prosecutors said resulted when Asaro directed Bonanno crime family associates to track down and set afire the car of a motorist he believed had cut him off.

Asaro, speaking before the announcement of the sentence, said he was ‘terribly sorry’.

‘I was on my way home,’ he said. ‘It happened. It just got out of hand.’

At the time, judge Ross said she had ‘no illusion’ that prison will result in Asaro’s rehabilitation or bring an end to his ‘lifelong career as a member of the Mafia’.

The prison term resulted from a road rage encounter between Asaro and a motorist who became ’embroiled in a high-speed chase at the hands of an enraged Asaro,’ the FBI said

She said she was mindful of Asaro’s 2015 acquittal in the infamous 1978 heist at the Lufthansa cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a robbery retold in the 1990 hit film ‘Goodfellas,’ starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci.

His prison term resulted from a road rage encounter between Asaro and a motorist who became ’embroiled in a high-speed chase at the hands of an enraged Asaro,’ the FBI said.

Asaro contacted an associate with access to a local law enforcement database, identified the license plate information of the car and triggered a plan to burn the car in front of the motorist’s home, said the head of New York’s FBI office, William F. Sweeney Jr.

Acting US Attorney Bridget M. Rohde said Asaro’s sentence was ‘for a lifetime of violent criminal activity’.

At his 2017 sentencing, the judge said she was mindful of Asaro’s 2015 acquittal in the infamous 1978 heist at the Lufthansa cargo terminal at JFK Airport, a robbery retold in the 1990 hit film ‘Goodfellas,’ starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta (right) and Joe Pesci (left)

The mobster-turned-FBI informant portrayed by Liotta in the movie, Henry Hill (seen right in 2018), is said to have told an author that Asaro ‘had no involvement’ in the Lufthansa heist 

Robert Di Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci starred in the 1990 film Goodfellas. It portrayed the Lufthansa heist where in the early hours of December 11, 1978, half a dozen armed men wearing ski masks broke into the vault inside the Lufthansa Cargo building at John F Kennedy Airport, New York

Assistant US Attorney Nicole Argentieri called Asaro a ‘one-man crime wave’ and said he was a hero in his Queens neighborhood after he was acquitted at trial.

‘It’s time to send a message, to break the cycle,’ she said.

Interestingly enough, the mobster-turned-FBI informant portrayed by Ray Liotta in the Goodfellas film, Henry Hill, is said to have told an author that Asaro ‘had no involvement’ in the Lufthansa heist. 

Nonetheless, Asaro remains the only individual connected to the mob who was ever formally charged in connection to the robbery. 

A police car is parked beside a stolen black van discovered in Brooklyn. The government used opportunistic Mafia turncoats to make its case against aging mobster Vincent Asaro in the decades-old airport heist

This photo shows a stolen black van discovered in Brooklyn that police suspected was the van used by thieves who escaped with more than $6 million in cash and jewels from JFK in 1978

The mastermind of the robbery was James ‘Jimmy the Gent’ Burke (seen left after his arrest in 1979), the Irish mobster with the Bonanno crime organization. He was portrayed in the film by De Niro (right). The federal government says Burke and Asaro were close associates

The judge said she reviewed evidence from the trial she had presided over and cited proof Asaro had participated in a 1969 murder and had admitted his role and obtained jewelry from the armed robbery of more than $6 million in cash and jewelry from the Lufthansa terminal.

In 2015, Asaro’s son, Jerome Asaro (above), was sentenced to 7 and a half years in prison

‘He remains dangerous to the public,’ she said.

The 1969 murder which the judge referred to was that of Paul Katz.

According to the New York Post, Katz was an associate of both Asaro and James ‘Jimmy the Gent’ Burke.

Burke was the Irish mobster who was portrayed in the Scorsese classic by De Niro.

He was also the mastermind of the Lufthansa heist. 

Federal prosecutors have long maintained that Burke and Asaro killed Katz because Burke suspected that he was secretly cooperating with the FBI.

Katz, who was strangled to death with a dog chain, was then buried underneath Burke’s home in Ozone Park, Queens. 

There they found some of Katz’s remains that Jerome Asaro failed to remove. 

In March 2015, Jerome Asaro was sentenced to 7 and a half years in federal prison. 

The US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn has said prosecutors are reviewing Judge Ross’ ruling and weighing legal options. Asaro is pictured here in 2014

How the Lufthansa heist went down

In the early hours of December 11, 1978, half a dozen armed men wearing ski masks broke into the vault inside the Lufthansa Cargo building at John F Kennedy Airport, New York.

In just 64 minutes, they stole $5million in cash and $1million in jewels – a total of $21million in today’s money – making it the biggest heist in American history at the time.

A police car is parked beside a stolen black van discovered in Brooklyn. The government used opportunistic Mafia turncoats to make its case against aging mobster Vincent Asaro in the decades-old airport heist

Preparation for the crime began months earlier when cargo agent Louis Werner, who worked at the vault, tipped mobsters off about piles of untraceable cash being held in the building.

The cash arrived by jet, and was sometimes stored overnight, before being taken and deposited in banks all over the city.

Werner tipped off Henry Hill, a mobster from the Lucchese family, who passed the information along to Burke, who allegedly planned the robbery.

At around 3am on December 11, the robbers pulled into the Lufthansa cargo hold’s loading platform in a black van.

According to Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, a security guard who went to investigate was hit over the head with a handgun, before being forced to deactivate a silent alarm on the property.

Werner had already given the men a blueprint of the building’s complicated system of corridors and alarms, allowing them to move inside at speed.

Werner had also given them the names of each employee and details about their lives so they could threaten to have their families ‘taken care of’ if anybody got out of line.

They quickly rounded up the rest of the staff in a lunch room, duct-taped their mouths shut and forced them to call their manager upstairs.

Once he arrived, the masked men forced him to open the vault, again threatening to kill his family if he resisted, before taking the cash and jewels inside.

The men had been expecting to take less than half of the total they eventually got away with, and so afterwards began to go on a spending spree with their new riches.

That made Burke, the organizer of the heist, nervous of drawing police attention, so he began killing off his co-conspirators one at a time in order to ensure their silence.

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Mike Pence says EVERY state has enough coronavirus tests to enter phase one of reopening… but only if governor decides – The Sun

VICE President Mike Pence said all the states have enough coronavirus tests to enter phase one of reopening – but it's up to the governors.

Pence made the comments during a COVID-19 press briefing Friday, saying "states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one, if they choose to do so."

As of Thursday, the US has done more than 3.78 million tests – with over 1.2 million tests reported just in the last week – according to the White House Coronavirus task force.

Echoing Pence's statement, President Trump said governors should take responsibility and slammed "false reporting" on the testing situation.

"Everything is perfect," he declared. "It’s going to be up to the states to use that capability."

"Certain states are going to come online and start the early stages of the puzzle we’re putting together.

"At some point, in the not too distant future, we’re going to get our country back."

Dr Deborah Birx and Dr Anthony Fauci explained the difference between being tested for currently having the infection versus antibody testing, while emphasizing the need for contact tracing in stopping the spread.

Despite Trump's push to reopen the country and restart the economy, some governors are reluctant to lift their emergency orders.

Hours before the press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the federal government shouldn't "pass the buck without passing the bucks."

Senator Chuck Schumer – who wants $30 billion more for testing – said "Trump needs to get testing under control NOW" on Twitter during the president's address.

As testing ramps up around the country, protests exploded in at least nine different states as people decry strict stay-home measures and COVID deaths overwhelm medical facilities.

But Trump said he wasn't concerned about health and safety issues in these larges crowds in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, and Minnesota.

“These are people expressing their views. I see who they are," Trump said.

"They seem to be very responsible people to me, but it's clear they've been treated a little bit rough.”

The president presented his "Opening Up America Again" guidelines yesterday.

If certain states meet 14-day "gating" criteria with declining patients, confirmed cases, and hospital readiness, they can start the phased process.

Phase One retains social distancing, allows no gatherings of more than 10 people, and avoiding unnecessary travel.

In Phase Two, regions  – that have twice met the criteria with no "rebound” in infections – implement limited social distancing, avoid large gatherings but non-essential travel is allowed.

After meeting the criteria three times, vulnerable people will be allowed to go out in public, bars, gym, restaurants, and movie theaters, while churches and sports venues will reopen at a reduced capacity.

There have been 686,991 infections as the death toll surged to 36,721.

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Britain has raised £50million – but not one penny can go on PPE

Britain gave £50million to one magnificent NHS charity – but not one penny can go on crucial and scarce protective gear… so how CAN the colossal sum be spent?

  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

For the doctors and nurses battling to save the lives of desperately ill coronavirus patients, the end of a 12-hour shift finds some too exhausted to even drive home. 

Others are hungry and dehydrated – once fully masked and gowned, it’s simply too time-consuming to remove their protective equipment to look after their own needs. 

Then there’s the mental toll. Trained to save lives, the medics are dealing with a disease whose impact is depressingly relentless. 

As never before, it is the carers who need caring for. Thankfully, across the country, help is at hand. In hospitals across Gloucestershire, for example, ‘wobble rooms’ have been set up where staff can find sanctuary. 

99-year-old war veteran Captain Tom Moore, with (left to right) grandson Benji, daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and granddaughter Georgia, at his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, after he achieved his goal of 100 laps of his garden

‘Talk about it, don’t talk about it, shout out loud, sit quietly, say ‘I don’t know’, have a cry, smile,’ reads a poster in one of the specially fitted-out rooms. 

For those overcome by exhaustion, there are pullout beds and ‘boost bags’ full of highenergy snacks, fruit and drinks. 

In Wiltshire, hundreds of care packages filled with tea, coffee, treats and toiletries are given out each day to medics selflessly staying in hotels in order to prevent spreading the virus to their families. 

Meanwhile, in Hertfordshire, 250 iPads have been bought to allow isolated patients to communicate with relatives banned from visiting wards. Small touches, perhaps, but all aiming to make the lives of the people on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19 that little bit more bearable.

And all funded by the generosity of the great British public and a small charity that until now few had ever heard of. Based in Warwick, NHS Charities Together has a full-time staff of three, with its most recent accounts showing an annual income of just £270,000. 

This year, that figure could exceed £100million. Indeed, given the speed in which cash is pouring into its coffers – Hugh Grosvenor, The Duke of Westminster, Prince George’s godfather, donated £12.5 million from his personal fortune – there’s every chance that in the space of a month it could be transformed into one of the best-funded charities in the country. 

Because it seems that everyone – from OAPs to peers of the realm – want to help it. For starters, who hasn’t heard of the heroic efforts of 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore? The World War II veteran set out to raise £1,000 by walking 100 lengths of his garden to mark his 100th birthday. 

By last night nearly a million well-wishers across the world had donated around a staggering £20million. The Duke of Westminster’s donation followed a similar sum from Julia and Hans Rausing, the Tetrapak billionaire and his wife. 

Others to donate include Premiership footballers and betting companies – £2.6million in losing bets from a ‘virtual’ Grand National were donated to the cause. As for individual contributions from ordinary members of the public, the sums are equally eyewatering. 

On the online platform Virgin Money Giving almost £28million had last night been pledged to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Taken together, it means that the charity’s fundraising effort has already raised £67million. 

Hugh Grosvenor The Duke of Westminster who donated £12.5million to the NHS

Great news, of course, for the NHS staff and patients who will benefit from it. But at the same time, with such success comes great responsibility – and a number of pressing questions. 

How will it get the money to the frontline? Why isn’t the cash being used to buy PPE for medics? And could some of the funds raised go to ensure that others – such as staff working in care homes or charities pushed to the brink by the lockdown – benefit from the nation’s generosity? 

‘You can never have ‘too much’ but I think there is an issue about thinking very carefully about priorities,’ Sir Stephen Bubb, director of the Oxford Institute of Charity, told The Daily Mail last night. 

‘There will be a big emphasis on the NHS charity to ensure the money is used effectively and is not used to prop-up parts of the NHS that the Government should be funding.’ 

Turn the clock back 75 years, and many hospitals were still funded by charitable donations. That all changed in 1948 with the establishment of the NHS – set up in part because of a belief that healthcare was a right that should be universally available, not something to be gifted by charities. 

But to this day, charity continues to play an important role in the funding of hospitals. Around the country, there are several hundred so-called NHS charities linked to specific hospitals or hospital trusts. 

Hans Rausing (L) and Julia Delves Broughton attend The Serpentine Summer Party co-hosted by Tommy Hilfiger on July 6, 2016 in London, England. They have donated £16.5million

They are the legal way in which each trust can raise, manage and distribute charitable funds. The rules are clear that money raised for NHS charities cannot be spent on ‘core’ clinical services, such as paying nurses and doctors. Instead it is used to help hospitals to ‘do more’. 

This may take the form of donating state-of-the art equipment, supporting research and development or just brightening up the hospital environment with a coat of fresh paint or an outside seating area. 

To help support their work, the Association of NHS Charities was founded 20 years ago. Itself a charity, the umbrella organisation now counts 170 individual NHS charities from all over the UK as its members. 

These include well-known names such as Great Ormond Street children’s charity, which had an income of £87.5million in 2019, as well as smaller organisations such as the Health Tree Foundation, which raised £780,00 last year for hospitals in Scunthorpe. 

Collectively, the members raised over £470million in 2018 – making the group one of an elite handful of so-called ‘super-major’ charities along with the likes of Save The Children, Oxfam and Macmillan Cancer Research. 

The Association of NHS Charities’ main aim over the years has been simply to help these charities by running conferences, training courses and offering advice. Its 2018 accounts reveal that it had three employees with none being paid more than £60,000 before pension contributions. 

It also has an 11-strong council made up of individuals drawn from the member charities. In July 2018, the association hired a new chief executive, Ellie Orton. She had previously run a small charity in Coventry helping vulnerable and sexually exploited women in the city. 

According to a biography on the charity’s website she loves ‘beaches, running and her family, including the dog’ and ‘is passionate about social change and the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which literally translates to ‘humanity’.

One of her first tasks on joining the charity was to change its name to NHS Charities Together, the aim being to raise its profile with the general public. Then came the coronavirus crisis and the launch of its Covid-19 Urgent Appeal on March 23. 

According to Mrs Orton the appeal has three aims: ‘Funds are going straight to the frontline to support NHS staff, volunteers and patients impacted by Covid-19. They’re also resourcing those vital care partnerships around the hospital that enable patients to leave hospital quickly and safely and to remain out of hospital. 

‘Then, finally, they will also be spent on the long-term mental health recovery of NHS staff and their families who have been caring for Covid-19 patients.’ What it very specifically will not cover is the purchase of masks, gloves and gowns – personal protective equipment, or PPE – worn by clinicians. 

‘PPE is part of the core operation of the NHS and is funded by government,’ the charity explains on its website.  

‘The focus of our member charities is on responding to the immediate and long-term needs of staff and volunteers outside of the core care and treatment they are providing to patients, including setting up comfortable places where they can take a much-needed rest, giving them nutritious meals and drinks, offering mental health support, and helping staff and the patients themselves to stay in touch with their loved ones.’ 

The funds raised by the appeal were initially focused on the 170 member charities. At the end of March each was invited to bid for a grant of up to £5,000. But as the money poured in, that cap was lifted and a decision was taken – in consultation with the Charity Commission – to give £35,000 to each member charity. 

While amounting to some £6million, that is still a fraction of the total sum at its disposal. NHS Charities Together says further money is now being made available to deal with the continuing needs of frontline staff. 

The sums to be handed out will be based on the number of NHS employees within each corresponding trust or health board, to ensure it is shared out fairly. ‘Next week we will be giving another £15million, so by next week we will have distributed £20million,’ said Mrs Orton, 46. 

The charity is also working to ensure that hospitals whose charities are not members of the organisation can receive funds. Money is also to be spent outside of the hospital setting – something Sir Stephen says is crucial, given the strain on other charities caused by a collapse in donations due to the coronavirus crisis. 

Hospices are, he says, at ‘breaking point’ due to the closure of their high street shops and the cancellation of fund-raising events, while those working with the elderly in the community are also under enormous strain. 

Mrs Orton said: ‘Some of the funding will also go towards helping the vital care partnerships outside hospitals, such as hospices, community healthcare and social care.’ Finally, some of the donations will be used for the wellbeing of NHS workers dealing with coronavirus over the longer term. 

The money from the Duke of Westminster, for example, is earmarked to set up a ‘family fund’ to provide respite, rehabilitation and mental health assistance to NHS staff and their families. 

‘NHS staff and key workers don’t work in isolation,’ the Duke explained. ‘They have children and families whose health and wellbeing will also be highly impacted by this crisis. 

As they keep us safe, I want to help provide as much support to them and their families as we can.’ These funds will help pay for counselling services and other support services for NHS staff and others affected by the coronavirus crisis. 

Many of these will be provided by other charities. Again, it will be left to the individual NHS charities to oversee that. NHS Charities Together acknowledges that there is likely to be a delay before all the money pledged online can be passed on. 

Pledges made through donation platforms can take up to a week or more to appear as cleared funds. Grants are then authorised weekly, which triggers a payment of funds into each NHS member charity bank account, with the bank transfers taking two working days. 

The charity has taken on extra staff to handle the financial side of things and it is also receiving extensive fundraising and administrative support from its members. ‘We now have £67million in funds that are committed,’ says Mrs Orton. 

‘We have done this in less than four weeks. Did I think we would be at nearly £70million in that time? Honestly? No. We didn’t set a target when we started because we knew that most of the country didn’t know about NHS charities. 

In fact we did research in 2018 that showed that two out of three people didn’t even understand what an NHS charity was.’ 

Thanks to Captain Tom and others like him, it is safe to say that they do now.

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One of Britain's smallest twin boys dies aged nine months

One of Britain’s smallest twin boys who were born at just 23 weeks and weighed less than a tin of beans dies in his mother’s arms aged nine months after a battle with chronic lung disease

  • Talia Keates, 33, gave birth to twin brothers Ashley and Joe in April last year
  • She went into labour 17 weeks early before welcoming the premature boys
  • But tragically, Ashley was diagnosed with incurable pulmonary hypertension 
  • He passed away in January from the chronic disease, in the arms of his mother

One of Britain’s smallest twins boys who was born at just 23 weeks and weighed less than a tin of beans has died in his mother’s arms aged nine months after a battle with a chronic lung disease.

Talia Keates, 33, who was already a mother-of-four, gave birth to twin brothers Ashley and Joe in April last year.

Talia, from Wiltshire, went into labour 17 weeks early, before welcoming the boys, who were so premature their eyes were still fused shut. 

Talia Keates, 33, pictured with twin brothers Ashley and Joe (left) and Ashley, pictured right. He passed away in his mother’s arms aged nine months after battling a chronic lung disease

They spent 129 days in intensive care with Ashley, born at 14.2oz (0.9lb) and Joe, born at 15.1oz (0.95lb), slightly larger in 0-3 month babygrows.

At the time, Talia and her husband Oliver, 35, were warned their babies might not survive.

They seemed to have beaten the odds when they returned to their home in Trowbridge at four-and-a-half months old. 

But tragically, Ashley was diagnosed with incurable pulmonary hypertension in November 2019, as a result of a chronic lung disease that both twins suffered due to their prematurity. 

He passed away in January of this year in the arms of his mother, who said: ‘It just doesn’t seem fair. They’d already been through so much and beaten the odds as a pair.

‘At the time Ashley passed away, Joe woke up screaming in his cot at home. It breaks my heart they won’t get to grow up side by side.’

Twins Ashley and Joe pictured when they were in hospital. Talia went into labour 17 weeks early before welcoming the boys, who were so premature their eyes were still fused shut

Talia and Oliver, a business owner, found out they were having twins in November 2018.

They ‘already had their hands full’ with four children at home – Imogen, eight, Jacob, seven, Theo, six, and Sebastian, aged three – but were excited to expand their happy family.

When they discovered they were twin boys at a later scan, they decided to name them Joe and Ashley, and set about buying matching baby grows for the pair.

But Talia began to bleed heavily at 17 weeks and was rushed to Royal United Hospital in Bath, Somerset.

Doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong so sent her home – but just three weeks later Talia’s waters broke in one of the amniotic sacs which contained Joe.

Although a termination was suggested, Talia held on until 23 weeks, when she finally went into labour and was warned that Joe, the larger of the two twins, would not survive.

Despite the odds, Joe and Ashley were delivered safely on April 16th 2019, at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, weighing just 403g and 429g respectively – each less than an iPad.

Both were rushed into critical care where they remained for a few months – and Talia couldn’t even touch her newborns until they were five-weeks-old.

Talia with her son, left, and her husband Oliver, right, pictured with Ashley. Talia and Oliver, a business owner, found out they were having twins in November 2018

Talia said: ‘They were taken straight to the neonatal unit. It was awful, you never know if you are going to get a call to say they haven’t made it – if they are going to survive.

‘Their skin was so fragile that our touch could have broken in – and their little eyes were fused shut as they were so underdeveloped.’

The babies spent 129 days in the unit, battling sepsis and various other complications, before being transferred to Royal United Hospital Bath, and then finally being allowed home in August 2019 when they were four-and-a-half months old.

The pair remained on oxygen as both had been diagnosed with chronic lung disease due to their prematurity and under-developed organs.

But doctors assured that as the twins got bigger, their lungs would grow and they should beat the disease.

Talia added: ‘Joe was such a placid little baby, while Ashley had more of a temper.

‘But the pair of them were like two peas in a pod, and it was magical to watch them and have them home.’

The family thought they were ‘out of the woods’ and on the way to a full recovery – but sadly that was not the case.

Talia and Oliver began to worry about Ashley, as he wasn’t putting on as much weight as Joe and had always needed more oxygen than his brother.

They took him to Bristol Children’s Hospital in November 2019 and were given the devastating news that Ashley had pulmonary hypertension – a serious condition that can damage the heart and lead to heart failure.

It had been caused by the chronic lung disease the twins had had since birth, and the family were told it was incurable.

Ashley, pictured. The twin brothers remained on oxygen as both had been diagnosed with chronic lung disease due to their prematurity and under-developed organs

Just a short while later, Ashley was ventilated, until January 16th when doctors took the parents aside and told them that Ashley wasn’t going to make it.

His lungs were too weak and they were told he would never breathe on his own. That night, a nurse switched off the ventilator and placed Ashley in Talia’s arms.

‘Oliver and I sobbed uncontrollably as we told Ashley how much we loved him,’ Talia said.

‘We cuddled him for 40 minutes, before our tiny boy passed away in my arms. He was only nine months old, and I will never get over the heartbreak.’

Talia’s mum, Linzey, 56, had stayed with their other children that night, and said that Joe had ‘felt it’ when Ashley passed away.

Talia added: ‘Mum told us that at the exact time Ashley left us, Joe had woken up in his cot, screaming. He knew his brother was gone.’

The family held Ashley’s funeral on February 14 at their local church and carried him in a white coffin draped in white flowers.

‘The pain of losing him is with me every day, but I’m glad Ashley is no longer suffering,’ Talia said.

Ashley and Joe pictured in their matching baby grows. The family thought they were ‘out of the woods’ and on the way to a full recovery – but unfortunately that was not quite the case

‘It feels so cruel – most of his life he was traumatised by invasive procedures, and for what?

‘It’s horrible to say, but sometimes I wonder if it would have been better for him to have died at birth or for us to have gone ahead with the termination – but then we would have lost Joe too.

‘You can’t let those decisions get you down though – we made them all for the right reasons.’

Joe is now one and weighs 11lb and is finally big enough to fit into the babygrow that Talia bought before he was born.

Talia keeps Ashley’s outfit safely in a memory box given to her by a friend, which the family are filling with keepsakes for Joe to open when he turns 18 in memory of his lost twin.

‘I know he misses his twin – we all do,’ said Talia.

‘They both fought so hard, and I will always be proud of that. Ashley may have lost his battle, but he will always be in our hearts.’

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Andrew Cuomo issues seething response to Trump demand for appreciation

‘Thank you Mr. President – for doing YOUR JOB!’ Andrew Cuomo launches total war on Donald Trump as president demands gratitude for helping New York, scorns his knowledge of the constitution and says: ‘Maybe he should get up and go to work’

  • The New York governor gave a relentless lecture to the president during his Friday news conference
  • Trump accused Cuomo of ‘complaining’ and said people ‘never hear you say thanks’
  • Cuomo responded by thanking Trump for his efforts to set up a hospital at the Javits Center and dispatch the USNS Comfort
  • But he said Trump was just ‘doing your job’
  • ‘How any times do you want me to say thank you?’
  • ‘Read your own report next time before you criticize it’ 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave a seething rebuttal to Donald Trump after the president demanded he say ‘thank you’ for federal help building out New York’s hospital capacity to confront the coronavirus crisis.

Cuomo, who has called for a measured focus on data rather than opinion in many of his briefings, lit into the president after Trump took to twitter to accuse Cuomo of ‘complaining’ – and suggested Cuomo failed to take advantage of federal help. 

‘We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn’t need or use,’ Trump fumed – in a morning and afternoon period where the president also tried to stoke opposition to stay-home orders with tweets like one saying ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN!’

Andrew Cuomo tore into President Donald Trump, telling him ‘thank you for doing your job’ after Trump demanded he show appreciation

‘How any times do you want me to say thank you? I’m saying ‘thank you’ for doing your job,’ Cuomo said in an extended monologue during his daily press conference.

‘This was your role as president, okay?’ he said.   

‘You want me to say thank you? Thank you for doing your job in helping fill Javits [convention center] … Thank you for participating in a modicum of federal responsibility in a national crisis – which you know is a national crisis because he declared a federal emergency,’ Cuomo said, speaking as if directly to the president.

‘Thank you again Mr. President for the Javits. Thank you for the U.S. Navy ship Comfort – which by the way is just doing your job as president. It’s not really “thank you” like you wrote a check yourself. But thank you for that,’ he said. 

Cuomo was referencing the USNS Comfort, which has taken on a limited number of patients. 

Cuomo also blasted Trump’s new guidelines on reopening. The president urged Cuomo to ‘stop complaining’


Trump hit Cuomo after the New York governor accused him of ‘passing the buck’

Then he took on Trump’s contention that the federal help wasn’t needed, by pointing to dire warnings from the Centers for Disease Control dating to March. New York has since become the global epicenter of coronavirus cases, although the worst projections about hospital bed shortages and ventilator capacity have not come to pass.

‘Read your own report next time before you criticize it,’ he said pointing to a CDC projection from March 13 that 2.4 million to 21 million Americans could need hospitalization. 

‘You were ready with your stockpile? Didn’t you read your own CDC projection? Didn’t you read your own coronavirus projection?’ Cuomo asked. 

Trump tweeted Friday: ‘Governor Cuomo should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining’. Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking! We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn’t need or use, gave large numbers of Ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with … testing that you should be doing,’ Trump said.

‘We have given New York far more money, help and equipment than any other state, by far, & these great men & women who did the job never hear you say thanks. Your numbers are not good. Less talk and more action!’ wrote Trump, a Queens native who launched his political career as a New York celebrity real estate developer. 

Cuomo also didn’t give much credit to Trump’s new three-phase guidelines for reopening the country, which have already been criticized for leaving out clarity on which places would open and war, and appears to be a retreat from Trump’s earlier claim he has ‘total authority’ to reopen the country.

 ‘He didn’t announce anything. He said it’s up to the states. That’s what he said,’ Cuomo said. ‘He’s doing nothing. He said it’s up to the states.’

Cuomo appeared to set off the president by saying earlier in his televised news conference that the ”federal government is passing the buck but not passing the bucks.’

‘If you want to point fingers, we built more beds than we needed,’ Cuomo told Trump. ‘Our only mistake was then believing your numbers and believing your projections’ – a shot at both Trump and his health advisors.

‘If that was a mistake then I’m guilty,’ he continued. ‘I thought New York State relying on what you said would have been a safe assumption. I won’t make that mistake again,’ he said disparagingly.

Cuomo has joined calls by national Democrats to prioritize funding for cash-strapped states and localities – a key holdup for getting money out the door to small businesses. Cuomo accused Trump of catering to big businesses first. 

‘Show as much consideration to your states as much as to your big business and to you airlines,’ he said.  



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Nancy Pelosi, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy deadlocked on small-business bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy remain at odds over the next round of stimulus spending, with her demanding more cash for hospitals and state governments, while he wants a clean passage of the $250 billion Paycheck Protection Program.

The pair traded barbs at press conferences Thursday, with Pelosi (D-Calif.) asserting that front-line medical workers need more help.

“The hospitals, state and local governments are on the front lines of this crisis. They’re running out — have been running out of money and desperately need emergency infusion of additional funds to care for patients and prevent greater spread and death,” she said.

“They also need the PPE, the personal protective equipment, in order to protect themselves, to save their lives, as they save other lives.”

She said Democrats backed the second phase of the PPP after the initial money ran out, but wanted another $250 million for other priorities added on.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) ripped the speaker’s demands, citing soaring unemployment caused by the coronavirus crisis and the need to get money to those who are out of a job.

“I cannot understand after watching another 5 million get unemployed how Speaker Pelosi continues to say no,” McCarthy said in a press call with reporters, Fox News reported.

Republicans said other priorities could be funded in the weeks ahead, but the small-business loan program required immediate action.

Asked by a reporter about just giving Pelosi a fig leaf for the additional $250 million to get the business program replenished, McCarthy scoffed: “The question should really be to Nancy Pelosi. Can’t you give a fig leaf to America and just say, yes.”

The deadlock apparently means there will be no vote in the House anytime soon, as the program runs out of cash.

“The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” the Small Business Administration said Thursday. “Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.”

The GOP effort had already failed in the Senate last week as Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the additional $250 million to help hospitals and state and local governments and include changes to the small-business program to help disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses and others left out.

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'Amazing' nurse, 68, is first Marie Curie worker to die from Covid-19

‘Amazing’ nurse, 68, becomes the first Marie Curie worker to die from coronavirus after more than 40 years caring for people at the end of their lives

  • Barbara Sage lost her battle with the killer bug in intensive care on Sunday
  • Grandmother was as a senior healthcare assistant in Bromley, south-east London
  • She held hands of dying patients but her own family were denied such an option 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A nurse who spent more than four decades caring for those at the end of their lives has died from coronavirus.

Barbara Sage, 68, became the first Marie Curie worker to fall victim to the killer big when she lost her battle in intensive care on Sunday.

While the mother-of-two had held the hands of her dying patients over the years, her own family were denied this option in her final moments.  

She was employed as a senior healthcare assistant in Bromley, south-east London, and had worked for Marie Curie for the last 14 years after joining in 2006.

Barbara Sage, 68, pictured, became the first Marie Curie worker to fall victim to the killer big when she lost her battle in intensive care on Sunday

Her daughter, named only as Donna, said: ‘Mum always said her job wasn’t about the getting paid, it was about being there for people when they need it.

‘It was about being caring and kind and giving people your time.

‘She wouldn’t just get up and leave at the end of her shift.

‘She’d stay on to support the families or wait for the coroner if needs be.’

Barbara, who was also a grandmother, was described as a ‘very warm person’ and had started out her career as an ambulance driver in London, aged 18.

‘She was dedicated to caring for people,’ her daughter added.

Barbara’s manager Adebusola has spoken about the kind of nurse Barbara was.

She said: ‘If ever Barbara was off and we needed cover for a shift, she’d say ‘if the patients need me, I’ll be there’.

‘That was Barbara all over, patients first. There was one time that has always stuck with me that showed how loving and dedicated she was.

‘There was a patient who was dying in Bromley. His wife, who was his main carer, was taken ill and had to go into hospital. They also had a disabled son with Downs syndrome living with them.

‘Barbara was incredible. She made some calls and got the patient into the local hospice so he could be well looked after. 

‘She waited with him to be taken in – because she was worried what would happen if the son was left alone with his dying father.

‘Then she stayed at home with the son, cooked him breakfast and looked after him and comforted him until the social worker arrived.

‘She’d started her shift at 10pm the night before, and she left the family’s house at 1pm the next day.

‘She hadn’t slept, she was amazing and if that’s not kindness and dedication then I don’t know what is.’

‘Barbara’s family couldn’t hug her goodbye’

Matthew Reed, chief executive of Marie Curie said: ‘Barbara’s death is a devastating loss for the whole Marie Curie team, and I know everyone who worked with Barbara over the last 14 years can attest to her professionalism and commitment.

‘I know she will be very greatly missed.

‘I’ve spoken to Donna who told me how her mother had spent all her life as a palliative care nurse, holding the hands of dying people and hugging their loved ones.

‘She told me how she and the rest of the family couldn’t hold Barbara’s hand as she was dying. They couldn’t hug her goodbye.

‘This pain is something that so many families are having to go through right now.

‘My thoughts are with Barbara’s family and friends, as well as everyone who is grieving a loved one in these incredibly difficult times.’

Barbara’s partner Gerald, her children Donna and Aaron, and her five grandchildren plan to celebrate Barbara’s life at a memorial later in the year, Marie Curie has said.

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Do face masks work in preventing coronavirus spread? – The Sun

WHETHER or not people should be wearing face masks has become one of the fiercest debates of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Many countries have made it mandatory to wear them in public – with experts claiming they help stop those with Covid-19 from spreading it.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

However, ministers have dismissed the idea here – until recently – saying masks give little protection and a false sense of security.

Some experts have warned there is an increased risk of infection if people do not use face masks correctly or take care when removing them.

Dr Hilary Jones, one of the UK's most trusted GPs, told The Sun that for people who are well and just going out, there is no evidence masks are of any benefit.

He added: "Only high-quality ones are worth having anyway — and because people put their hands to their face more often when wearing ineffective masks they can do more harm than good."

Despite this, droves of doctors and scientists say face masks can protect people from catching the virus and stop infected people from passing it on.

Prof Benjamin Cowling, from Hong Kong University, said: “If face masks are used on a lot of people in crowded areas, I think it would have some effect on public transmission, and at the moment we’re looking for every small measure we can to reduce transmission – it adds up.”

Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says only people who are showing symptoms or caring for coronavirus patients should wear them.

However, WHO's main adviser David Heymann recently said he believes "wearing a mask is equally effective or more effective than distancing."

Brits could soon be ordered to wear a face mask in public after new evidence prompted officials to consider a major U-turn.

And a review is under way after "persuasive" evidence emerged that they help stop those with the virus spreading it.


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Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty last night confirmed that discussions about public use of face masks were a "very live issue."

He added: "What we are really trying to do is to work out under what circumstances, if any, should we extend the advice."

According to the Daily Mail, one idea favoured by the government for when Britain begins to lift its lockdown is the use of protective equipment at work.

Those working indoors – including office and factory workers – could be ordered to socially distance and to wear face masks and gloves, the paper says.

It comes as London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for Londoners to wear face masks outside – including on public transport.

Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4: "The point I'm making to Government experts and to Government is i think advice should change."

"Advice should change so in those circumstances where it's not possible to keep social distancing – think of public transport, think of when you' re in a shop – we should use non medical facial covering like bandanas, like scarves, like reusable masks."

Mr Khan stressed wearing masks should not replace social distancing, but should be used where people are still having to leave home to go to work.

He added medical grade personal protective equipment should be reserved for health professionals, because "if used wrongly it can be counter-productive."

He said: "If you wear a non-medical facial covering, it doesn't necessary limit your chance of catching the virus, but if you, yourself, are pre-symptomatic, or asymptomatic, it reduces the change of you giving the virus to someone else."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned last week that members of the public wearing masks risked increasing shortages for NHS staff
on the front line.

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Professor Whitty said he remained concerned that advising the public to wear masks could lead to shortages.

NHS heroes fighting on the frontline against coronavirus say they've been forced to buy their own protective equipment from DIY stores.

And data from the NHSppe app, created to track shortages of PPE, found that 52 per cent of doctors lacked the correct gowns for high risk procedures.

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Nurses are threatened with the sack after refusing to treat COVID-19

Private nurses are threatened with the sack after refusing to treat coronavirus patients because they don’t have enough gowns, aprons and face masks

  • Bosses at Nuffield Health’s Cheltenham Hospital warned they had ‘little choice’ 
  • The drastic action was in response to medics refusing to help on the frontline
  • It comes as a survey reveals half of staff have felt pressure to carry on without adequate PPE, as shortages continue to be a problem across the UK
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Private nurses have been threatened with the sack after refusing to treat coronavirus patients because they didn’t have enough PPE.

Bosses at Nuffield Health’s Cheltenham Hospital warned they had ‘little choice’ but to take drastic action in an email. 

Medics across the UK have repeatedly said they are having to share equipment and use items like aprons, masks, and eye visors multiple times, despite them designed to be used only once to limit the spread of a disease.  

Workers on the coronavirus pandemic frontline have been encouraged by unions to stop working if they don’t feel protected.

However, they could face criminal consequences as a result if there was evidence of negligence to a patient.  

Nurses at Nuffield Health’s Cheltenham Hospital have been threatened with disciplinary action after refusing to treat coronavirus patients because they didn’t have enough PPE

Source at Nuffield Health – who have been roped into to help the NHS with the surge in patients – say there have been concerns around working without PPE.

An email sent from a senior matron, seen by the HSJ, said: ‘I’m hoping to get another undisturbed day as I’m going to have to formally take on everyone who won’t help on the C19 side.

‘Unfortunately, it will be a disciplinary matter and referral to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. I really don’t want to go down that route but they’re giving me little choice.’ 

Following the email leak, a spokesman for Nuffield Health said: ‘The health and safety of our people, patients and wider communities is our first priority. Our Cheltenham hospital team is proud to be working with the NHS to care for COVID-19 patients in effort the national effort against the pandemic.

‘We can categorically state that we have been provided with a full supply of PPE from the local NHS trust so that all members of the team are protected when they treat Covid-19 patients. The team has also been given the appropriate training to ensure they can carry out their roles safely.’ 

Last week, the British Medical Association, Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) and the RCN put out guidance for doctors and nurses respectively which said they can refuse to treat patients if their PPE is inadequate.

The RCS ‘urges our members not to risk their health’ after a survey of 1,978 members found a third do not believe they have an adequate supply of PPE. 

The RCN recommendations state: ‘Ultimately, if you have exhausted all other measures to reduce your risk and you have not been given appropriate PPE… you are entitled to refuse to work.’ 

Pictured, medics wearing PPE at Aintree University Hospital, Liverpool


An NHS hospital boss working in southern England has asked British fashion brands to make more personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gowns for his staff.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous claimed staff at his hospital had ran out of gowns over the weekend.

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed hospitals had enough PPE to go around.

The hospital boss slammed these claims and insisted Mr Hancock’s theory was a ‘fantasy’.

 The man, who wished to remain anonymous, phoned the BBC’s business reporter Simon Browning and asked for the factory phone number of Burberry, which has turned over its production to make PPE for healthcare workers.

Burberry is among a list of labels including Barbour, Louis Vuitton and Philip Treacy to have pledged to manufacture equipment crucial to fighting Covid-19.

Browning said such gear was being made efficiently but was not reaching the front line quickly enough, with manufacturers telling him they have been receiving ‘upsetting’ phone calls from NHS staff about to run out of equipment.

Earlier this week Barbour switched from making wax jackets to creating medical gowns.

NHS workers have already thanked the luxury clothing brand for turning its factory into a production line for PPE and delivering gowns to North East hospitals.

The RCN said it would provide legal assistance to those making what it acknowledged was an ‘enormously difficult decision’.

It warned nurses that they could face criminal prosecution for corporate manslaughter in ‘very rare’ cases for walking away. 

But fears among frontline workers have only been exacerbated by the deaths of colleagues.

The government says there have been 27 verified deaths of NHS staff during the pandemic, but the media have reported more. 

Not all the workers have been confirmed to have tested positive for the virus, but they were hospitalised with symptoms before their deaths.  

Some of the victims complained of a lack of PPE before their death, including Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, 53, who died at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, east London, on April 8. 

The consultant urologist had pleased for ‘appropriate PPE to protect ourselves and our families’ just five days before he was admitted to hospital with the killer infection.   

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said he ‘would love to be able to wave a magic wand’ to increase supply of PPE when talking about the proposed reuse of materials. 

During a virtual meeting with the Health and Social Care Committee, Mr Hancock said: ‘In some cases, the reuse of PPE is advised by clinicians, so again I come back to the point that this has to be a clinical decision.

‘I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky in large quantities and be able to answer your question about when shortages will be resolved. 

‘But given that we have a global situation in which there is less PPE in the world than the world needs, obviously it’s going to be a huge pressure point.’ 

He added: ‘There’s nothing that I can say at this select committee that will take away the fact that we have a global challenge and we’re doing everything we can to resolve it to get that PPE to the front line.’   

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