Erdogan says Turkey will overcome coronavirus in two-three weeks through measures

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak in two to three weeks through good measures, with as little damage as possible, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, adding that he expected patience, understanding and support from Turks in the process.

“We have preparations for every scenario,” Erdogan told a televised address to the nation. “By breaking the speed of the virus’ spread in two to three weeks, we will get through this period as soon as possible with as little damage as possible.”

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Italy: Punishment in the time of coronavirus

Those found guilty of breaking the new regulations face a three-month prison sentence or a fine of 206 euros.

Rome, Italy – Italians entering their third day of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Thursday struggled to adjust to their new reality, with national news outlets reporting 161 individuals had been sanctioned by police in a single day for violating a decree. 

Those found guilty face a three-month prison sentence or a fine of 206 euros ($230) as authorities sought to enforce the new rules.

More:

  • Italy’s south, with weaker infrastructure, fears virus outbreak

  • Juventus footballer Daniele Rugani tests positive for coronavirus

  • Italy tightens lockdown after coronavirus death toll soars

Many of these were unambiguous violations, such as holding a funeral procession, keeping establishments open past the 6pm curfew, or moving between towns without carrying an “auto-certifying” form allowing the holder to travel for a pre-approved reason.

Other breaches, however, were less clear-cut.

On Wednesday, news outlets reported that police sanctioned a 51-year-old Peruvian man in Rome, a group of five men in Mantova, and 17-year-old who was travelling in Milan to see his girlfriend on charges of “being on the streets unnecessarily” and “moving around without a valid reason”.

On the same day, a video of police in Naples shouting at an elderly man sitting alone on a bench to go home was widely circulated online. Bemused viewers noted the decree did not impose a blanket ban on going outside, and expressly allowed people to leave their houses for exercise provided they maintained a one-metre distance from others.

Lucas Mennella, a history teacher in Rome, said he and his girlfriend were walking near the Colosseum on Wednesday when they were stopped by a policewoman who told them they had to return home because “the situation was not good”.

“We said it wasn’t true that we couldn’t be outside [as it wasn’t at the time], that we were limited to the comune but were going for a walk, but then we just gave up and walked back the other way,” he told Al Jazeera.

As similar stories proliferated throughout the internet, online comment boards and social media accounts across the country erupted in confusion, with users questioning why parks, bars, and restaurants were being kept open if people were not allowed to use them.

In a speech delivered on Wednesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte addressed some of their questions by announcing all establishments except for grocery stores and pharmacies were to close until March 25, but said parks would remain open for sports and activities.

At the same time, however, updated guidance from the Interior Ministry stipulated all Italian residents must now carry the “auto-certification” form to leave their homes, with the only valid reasons for going outside being to fulfil essential work requirements, for health needs, or for other strict necessities.

The seemingly conflicting instructions left news outlets scrambling to come up with their own interpretation of the rules.

On Thursday morning, the national daily Corriere della Sera ran an article headlined “Walks Not Allowed” at the same time as the newspaper La Reppublica declared “Going For A Walk Is Not Banned”, citing unnamed sources from the Interior Ministry.

“I would like to know, unequivocally, whether or not I can go for a walk to stretch my legs. Does that count as sport? And if I do not have sportswear on, could an overzealous policeman sanction me?” Federico Anghele, a Genoa-based campaigner for the non-profit organisation The Good Lobby, asked Al Jazeera.

When contacted, a spokesperson from the Interior Ministry press office confirmed people are permitted to go for a walk outside by themselves in the vicinity of their home, or take their dog for a walk, provided they bring their “auto-certification” form with them, checking the “reasons of necessity” box.

Police could not confirm the media reports that 161 people had been sanctioned by the time of publication.


Inside Story

Should countries follow Italy’s coronavirus quarantine?

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Poland shuts all schools, museums, cinemas for two weeks due to coronavirus

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland is closing all schools, universities, cinemas, theaters and museums for two weeks from Thursday to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, government representatives said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a joint conference following a special meeting on coronavirus, the ministers said that pre-schools and schools would stop teaching on Thursday, but limited care would still be provided this week to the youngest children.

Universities, museums, theaters and cinemas will also close on Thursday for two weeks, the officials said.

Poland has confirmed 26 cases of coronavirus, but looking at how fast the virus spreads in some other European countries, the government decided to take the preventive action, they also said.

“We are in a very difficult situation, but we see on the example of Italy that this position may be much more difficult,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the news conference.

“There is no epidemiological threat in schools, we are just trying to prevent (the virus from spreading),” Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski told the same conference.

He said that children should stay at home and refrain from using public transport.

On Tuesday Poland’s development minister said 2020 economic growth could be 0.5 to 1.3 percentage points lower than previously expected.

The state budget assumes gross domestic product growth at 3.7% this year.

“There is no danger that the general government deficit will exceed 3% of GDP this year,” a Finance Ministry spokesman said.

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Explainer: Why is Israel holding its third election in a year?

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israelis head to the polls on Monday with a sense of deja vu after trying and failing twice in the past year to break the country’s political deadlock.

WHY SO MANY ELECTIONS?

In late 2018, Benjamin Netanyahu, veteran leader of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party, seemed to be at the peak of his powers.

The dominant political figure of his generation, Netanyahu was about to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

But he had a precarious one-seat majority in parliament, and called a snap election for April 9, 2019.

The immediate reason given was the vulnerability of his ruling coalition after the resignation of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. More hawkish than even Netanyahu, Lieberman quit, accusing the prime minister of being too soft on Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But many Israelis saw it as a ploy by Netanyahu to gain a renewed public mandate to ward off prosecutors who were then in the final stages of drafting charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against him.

Once re-elected, the theory went, Netanyahu could say an indictment was not in the national interest. He denies wrongdoing, accusing his enemies of a witch-hunt.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

If that was the plan, it backfired. No single party in Israel has ever won an outright majority in parliament, and Netanyahu failed to get enough seats.

He struggled for weeks to put together a government. Then, rather than let his principal rival – former armed forces chief Benny Gantz – have a chance to form a government, Netanyahu triggered another election, on Sept. 17.

WHAT HAPPENED IN ELECTION NUMBER TWO?

Again Netanyahu fell short. Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party ended in a virtual tie.

That left Lieberman a king-maker. But Lieberman cited policy differences with both men to avoid anointing either.

After months of horse-trading in which Netanyahu and Gantz both failed to win enough support, the outcome, much to the dismay of the jaded Israeli electorate, was Monday’s election.

IS THIS TIME ANY DIFFERENT?

Yes. Since the previous election, formal criminal charges have been filed against Netanyahu. Prosecution is now a reality, not a possibility. His trial is due to open on March 17, just two weeks after the election.

Also, both previous elections were fought without the electorate knowing the contents of U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-delayed Middle East peace plan.

That was published in January, and would grant U.S. recognition to Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians were furious, saying it gives away land they seek for a future state. Netanyahu pledged to annex the settlements after the election.

COULD NETANYAHU WIN THIS TIME?

Yes. But Netanyahu will need to win support from other parties if he is to form a coalition government with at least 61 of the parliament’s 120 seats.

The court hearings will prompt rivals to demand that he resign, even before sentencing. A verdict is likely to be months away, and the appeals process could take years.

COULD NETANYAHU LOSE TO GANTZ?

Opinion polls have shown Liked and Blue and White virtually neck and neck, with Netanyahu’s party edging slightly ahead in the final stages of the campaign.

Netanyahu is a known quantity. But Gantz also has problems – barring an unexpected surge in centrist voters he would have to bring together rightists and those representing Israel’s Arab minority, which are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

COULD THERE BE A FOURTH ELECTION?

Yes, if Monday’s prolongs the deadlock. But some Israeli politicians regard this as unacceptable. Aside from political instability, it would mean further fiscal paralysis for Israel under a continuing caretaker government.

That could lead to the defection of some former Likud partners to a Gantz-led coalition.

WHAT ABOUT A “NATIONAL UNITY” GOVERNMENT?

Many Israelis would like Netanyahu and Gantz to unite, to end the bickering. But Gantz says he will not partner with Netanyahu now that an indictment has been filed.

(GRAPHIC-Israel’s 2019 snap elections: here)

(GRAPHIC- Trump’s Middle East plan: here)

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UK PM Theresa May vows to quit if Brexit deal approved

MPs vote against eight alternative Brexit plans after prime minister pledges to step down if parliament passes her deal.

    Britain’s prime minister has said she will step down if her Brexit deal is approved by Parliament, as legislators rejected a series of alternative approaches to the agreement negotiated by Theresa May with the European Union.

    In a meeting with legislators from her Conservative party on Wednesday, May said she would quit if her twice-defeated divorce deal passes at a third vote, which the government hopes to hold later this week.

    “We need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit,” the prime minister said, according to a statement released by her office. “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

    It is the first time the embattled leader has acknowledged she is prepared to resign in order to secure the votes for her Brexit deal to pass. The prime minister did not set a date for her departure, but a leadership contest is likely to take place after May 22, her office said.

    “I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that,” May said.

    Later on Wednesday, MPs voted on eight possible alternative approaches to the prime minister’s Brexit deal, but none of the options won majority support.

    A motion which called for a confirmatory public vote to approve a Brexit deal was backed by 268 MPs, while 295 legislators voted against it.

    A plan to stay in a customs union with the EU after Brexit received 264 votes in favour, while 272 MPs voted against it.

    The opposition Labour party’s plan, calling for a customs union and close alignment with the EU’s single market was defeated by 307-237.

    The legislator behind Wednesday’s indicative votes said he was disappointed parliamentarians had failed to find a majority for the alternative approaches to Brexit.

    “It is of course a very great disappointment that the House (of Commons) has not chosen to find a majority for any proposition,” Oliver Letwin said, adding it was what he had expected to happen.

    “If on Monday the House is able to reach a majority view I think that would be in the interests of our constituents.”

    Signs of support for May’s deal

    Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29 but has been granted a delay until April 12, after Parliament overwhelmingly rejected May’s agreement on two occasions. If Parliament votes to approve her deal before April 12, the country will be granted an extension until May 22 to leave the European bloc.

    Several MPs who previously voted against the deal have suggested they could now support it, if May produces a timetable for her resignation, allowing a new leader to take over negotiations over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

    Speaking after May’s announcement, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Brexiteer in the Conservative party, said he would back the prime minister’s deal if the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that props up the government abstains on the issue.

    Rees-Mogg had previously said he would vote for the deal if the DUP also joins him in voting for May’s divorce deal with the EU.

    “If the DUP abstained I would feel entitled to back it,” he told reporters. “If the DUP was still against it I would not feel able to back it.”

    However, the Northern Irish party later said it would not support May’s deal and rejected media reports that it might abstain.

    “We will not be supporting the government if they table a fresh meaningful vote,” the party said in a statement.

    Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan said the prime minister’s pledge to step down appeared to have won over some legislators who had previously rejected her agreement.

    “It seems that the sands are shifting,” he said. “There are several Brexiteer Tory MPs who now appear more willing to support the prime minister’s deal than they previously were.”

    “That said, there is a hard core of the European Research Group (ERG), these really purist Brexiteers, who are still not budging. There is an estimate of around 30 of those MPs who are standing firm that they won’t vote for the prime minister’s deal under any circumstances.”

    The prime minister did not set a date for her departure, but a leadership contest is likely to take place after May 22, her office said in a statement to Conservative Party legislators.

    The timetable would be set by the party and May would remain as prime minister until her successor was elected, it said, according to the Reuters news agency.

    “This is about providing new leadership for phase 2 (of the negotiations to leave the EU), but we have to get through phase 1 first and leave,” the statement said.

    Tom Hamilton, associate director at MHP Communications, told Al Jazeera that the shape of Brexit could change significantly under a new prime minister.

    “If Tory MPs are prepared to back the deal, I think it tells us a couple of things. It tells us that Tory MPs never had that principled of an objection to the deal in the first place, if they are prepared to back it in return for getting a new prime minister. Secondly, it tells us that they think that a new prime minister might give them what they want compared to what Theresa May might have.”

    ‘Not about public interest’

    Britain’s main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister’s offer to step down showed her Brexit talks were “about party management, not … the public interest”.

    “May’s pledge to Tory MPs to stand down if they vote for her deal shows once and for all that, her chaotic Brexit negotiations have been about party management, not principles or the public interest,” he said on Twitter.

    “A change of government can’t be a Tory stitch-up, the people must decide.”

    Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the deal was “so bad that the prime minister has to promise to resign to get it through”, adding that May’s promise would “make an already bad project even worse”.

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    Ireland's Sinn Fein demands place in government at Dublin rally

    DUBLIN (Reuters) – Irish left-wing nationalists Sinn Fein demanded a place in Ireland’s next government on Tuesday at a packed rally in Dublin, saying the country’s two dominant centre-right parties were trying block voters’ demand for change.

    Sinn Fein shocked the Irish political establishment in an election earlier this month by securing more votes than any other party for the first time, almost doubling its vote to 24.5% on a vow to fix the country’s housing and health systems.

    But it has been frozen out of government talks by centre-right rivals, Fianna Fail and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael, who have both refused to contemplate sharing power due to policy differences and Sinn Fein’s history as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

    The two parties, who have alternated in power for 100 years, on Tuesday held talks about possibly sharing power for the first time.

    “They are doing everything they can to keep people who voted for us out of government,” Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told a packed hall of 500 people, with a couple of hundred more waiting in freezing wind outside. “Sinn Fein wants to be in government and we want to deliver.”

    “To the parties that have decided they do not want to speak to us, I say this: We respect your mandate. Now it is time that you respect ours,” she said.

    Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Sinn Fein does not operate to the same democratic standards held to by every other party and that McDonald had praised units of the IRA.

    McDonald, who took over from Gerry Adams in 2018 and has no direct link to the IRA’s role in the three decades of violence in Northern Ireland that ended in 1998, rejected the statement and said Martin was “exuding bile.”

    Varadkar has described the series of rallies Sinn Fein is holding across the country as part of a “campaign of intimidation and bullying,” a statement ridiculed by the party.

    Asked if Sinn Fein planned to take their fight to the streets, McDonald said her focus was on talks with other parties. “The numbers will stand or fall within the Dail (parliament),” she said.

    Fine Gael won 35 seats in the 160-seat house to the 37 each held by Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.

    Sinn Fein’s best chance of entering government appeared to be a tie-up with Fianna Fail, whose opposition has been slightly softer than that of Fine Gael, but Martin has repeatedly ruled that out. Most observers agree a government between Sinn Fein and several smaller left parties and independent members of parliament is unrealistic.

    All sides predict it will take several weeks to form a government with the risk of a second election if talks fail, with analysts predicting Sinn Fein would be best placed to increase their seat numbers.

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    EU fury: Why coronavirus plan was blasted by Germany for ‘not making sense’

    Ally of Angela Merkel – Jens Spahn – hit out at the EU’s policy that individual members states act independently in dealing with the crisis because it meant many would continue allowing freedom of movement. At a meeting of health ministers this month, he called on the EU to “take responsibility” and provide a plan for the bloc. He said: “I would also like the World Health Organisation’s request for financial aid to not only be answered by countries, but also that the EU takes on some responsibility with its own budgetary resources.”

    He added: “It makes no sense that a single country takes measures on a continent with border-free travel between most nations.”

    Despite the spread of the coronavirus leading to deaths in Italy, the EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has rejected the idea that coronavirus fears warrant restrictions on travel or trade.

    She said today: “For the moment WHO has not advised imposing restrictions on either travel or trade.”

    Her message clearly did not reach those in Austria, as the country’s government stopped a train arriving into the country yesterday evening from Italy.

    At least 152 people have been infected with coronavirus in Italy with four people dying in the last two days. Some towns in the Lombardy region – located in the north of the country – are in a state of lockdown as lawmakers attempt to stop the virus spreading.

    Some politicians in Rome are also turning on EU law in their calls for suspension of the Schengen Convention, which permits free movement between the 26 european member states.

    Matteo Salvini has argued that the conditions of the agreement should be abandoned until the coronavirus is contained.

    However, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pushed back against the demand on Saturday, saying: “I don’t think the conditions for such a move exist at this point.”

    The situation is northern Italy is particularly concerning given the sheer pace of the spread.

    There had been fewer than five known cases in Italy before last Thursday, and now that figure has multiplied 15 times following the weekend.

    EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic has warned economic hits could also follow the outbreak.

    It comes as the World Health Organisation announced they would be sending a mission to northern Italy due to a jump in cases there.

    Brussels has also pledged £195million for efforts to contain the virus and prevent a pandemic.

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    Mr Lenarcic said: “There should be no doubt left – this is a global challenge. It requires the operation of the entire international community.

    “Our goal is to contain the outbreak at a global level.

    “With more than 2,600 lives lost already and the epidemics affecting already 28 countries worldwide, the spread of Covid-19 demands our full attention. It is the time for us to act as a Union.”

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    Morgan Stanley to get $375 million termination fee if E*Trade walks away from deal

    (Reuters) – Morgan Stanley (MS.N) will receive a $375 million breakup fee if E*Trade Financial Corp (ETFC.O) walks away from its $13 billion deal for the discount brokerage, the U.S. bank said on Friday.

    On Thursday, Morgan Stanley entered into a deal to buy E*Trade, the biggest acquisition by a major Wall Street bank since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

    E*Trade has been the subject of M&A speculation for some time, especially after Charles Schwab Corp (SCHW.N) said it would buy TD Ameritrade Holding Corp (AMTD.O) last year.

    If Morgan Stanley terminates the deal due to antitrust issues, E*Trade would receive $525 million, Morgan Stanley said in a regulatory filing www.sec.gov/ix?doc=/Archives/edgar/data/895421/000095010320003111/dp121716_8k.htm.

    The bank expects to complete the deal by the fourth quarter, and executives expressed confidence that it would meet regulatory approvals.

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    Better recruiting, training the focus for Edmonton police after LGBTQ consultation

    The Edmonton Police Service said it will focus on recruiting and training following months of consultation with the LGBTQ community.

    As part of its reconciliation efforts, the EPS consulted with members of the LGBTQ community from July to October 2019. The consultations included one-on-one interviews, small group interviews, focus groups, online surveys and social media engagement.

    Chief Dale McFee said the EPS received very valuable feedback from the community and its own officers on how the service can do better. The feedback identified several gaps, with recruiting and training being the two main areas of focus.

    “This is where our priorities are right now with a number of short-term goals, some of which have already been implemented and are being worked on,” McFee said.

    The EPS said it will build on its current inclusivity and bias training by developing a new LGBTQ2S+ Recruit Training Module that will centre around historic trauma, understanding marginalization and connecting with people’s experiences.

    The training will be mandatory for both sworn and civilian members of the EPS and include members of the LGBTQ community. The training will be piloted with the next recruit training class, the EPS said in a media release Friday.

    The EPS said it will also work with its recruitment unit to build a more specific inclusivity strategy, following feedback that the LGBTQ community would like to see their community better reflected within the police service.

    In May 2019, shortly after taking over as the city’s top cop, McFee issued a formal apology on behalf of the entire police force, saying historically, the service has failed the LGBTQ community.

    “Our actions caused pain. They eroded trust. They created fear,” McFee said at the time.

    “They caused members of the public and our service alike to feel unsafe on their own streets, in their workplaces and even their homes.”

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    Exclusive: Aramco to win unconditional EU clearance for $69 billion SABIC deal – sources

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – World No. 1 oil producer Saudi Aramco (2222.SE) is set to gain unconditional EU antitrust approval for its $69 billion buy of a 70% stake in petrochemicals group Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) (2010.SE), people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

    Aramco announced the deal to acquire the controlling stake from sovereign investor Public Investment Fund (PIF) in March last year, a move key to its diversification into refining and petrochemicals.

    Riyadh-headquartered SABIC, the world’s fourth largest petrochemicals group, has operations in over 50 countries.

    The European Commission, which is scheduled to decide on the case by Feb. 27, declined to comment.

    Competition watchdogs in India and a number of other countries have already given the green light without demanding concessions.

    Aramco’s downstream expansion strategy tracks rivals such as Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), BP (BP.L), Total (TOTF.PA) and Shell (RDSa.L), which have over the years transformed themselves from merely oil companies to energy companies with extensive upstream and downstream operations.

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