Alberta chief medical officer of health to provide update on COVID-19 Thursday afternoon

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is scheduled to provide an update on the province’s current situation regarding the novel coronavirus as well as its public health response.

Hinshaw has been holding daily news conferences to provide updates on the number of confirmed cases in the province and the additional health measures being implemented to protect Albertans, as well as to answer questions.

Global News will livestream the 3:30 p.m. update in this article.

On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said the province’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased by 61 compared to a day earlier, bringing the total to 419.

Hinshaw said 33 of the 419 cases are believed to be community transmissions, adding that of the 20 patients who are currently hospitalized, eight are in intensive care units.

Alberta has recorded two deaths related to the novel coronavirus as of Thursday.

The provincial government amended the procedures regulation under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act on Wednesday to empower law enforcement officers like community peace officers and police officers to issue tickets enforcing public health orders.

Fines for violating an order can now run as high as $1,000 per offence, while courts will also be able to levy fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for “more serious violations.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich

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BBC Weather: Freak SNOWFALL to freeze Europe as ‘big drop’ in temperatures forecast

BBC meteorologist Chris Fawkes noted that quite an intense area of low pressure is affecting Italy at the moment. He told viewers that in the last 24 hours, 113 millimetres of rain had been seen in Sicily. The weather presenter forecast that heavy rain is moving into Calabria where yesterday the area even saw some snow across some of the modest hills in the west.

Mr Fawkes said: “We’ve also seen some snow in Emilia-Romagna further north in Italy as well.

“Now heading into Friday, the heaviest of the rain will turn to the east.

“This could bring some flooding by the way.

“There’ll be more showery conditions here, but at the same time, we’ll see a zone of heavier rain moving into western parts of Greece.”

He continued: “50 millimetres of rain are expected here in places and quite gusty winds.

“Gusts reaching 40 to 50kmph or so.

“There’ll be some rain that will develop in parts of Spain as well.

“It will be a cool day for Madrid with temperatures of 12 degrees.”

The BBC presenter added: “Further north, for France across Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, there’ll be some sunshine expected on Friday.

“For the majority it will stay dry thanks to an area of high pressure.

“Now the weekend will see showers continuing to affect southern areas of Italy.”

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Mr Fawkes also told viewers: “Further outbreaks of rain at times for Greece and increasingly turning wet in western Turkey.

“There’ll be some cooler weather on the way there.

“In Paris and London, we’ve got a significant cool down in the weather on the way.

“By Monday, temperatures will be just nine degrees, which is cool for the time of year.

“In Moscow, there’ll be a big drop in temperatures as well heading in early next week.”

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Chinese arrivals to U.S. plummet in February as coronavirus forces travel curbs

(Reuters) – The number of travelers flying from China to the United States fell 84.1% in February from a year earlier, according to data from an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, as travel curbs were imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Arrival data from the International Trade Administration (ITA) also said the number of Chinese travelers in the first two months of 2020 fell 35.4% to 353,911 from a year earlier.

U.S. airlines started extending China flight cancellations here early in February after the government placed restrictions on travelers who had visited China.

Chinese arrivals accounted for only 1.4% of more than 2.4 million global travelers arriving in the United States in February, according to ITA.

The total number of overseas arrivals through January and February also fell 3.8% to 5.29 million, with Asia accounting for the steepest decline due to the coronavirus outbreak that began in China.

However, the number of Indian arrivals in the same period rose 7.3% to 196,505.

Global airlines have sought relief from the world’s major economies to prevent irreversible damage by the coronavirus crisis, even as the United States government on Wednesday offered $58 billion to its flailing carriers.

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M.I.A. under fire after posting anti-vaccine message amid coronavirus pandemic

M.I.A. is facing a wave of criticism online after revealing she’s an anti-vaxxer as the world grapples with the new coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the British rapper, born Mathangi Arulpragasam, took to Twitter, saying she’d rather “choose death” over “the vaccine or chip.” The comment came as researchers around the world work to develop a vaccination against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 22,000 people as of March 25.

“If I have to choose the vaccine or chip I’m gonna choose death — YALA,” she wrote, referencing her own 2013 hit, Y.A.L.A, which stands for You Always Live Again.

“Have a healthy life,” M.I.A. wrote. “Don’t live in fear!”

The 44-year-old’s comment prompted a major backlash from both fans and haters.

After responses flooded in, M.I.A. came back an hour later, telling people not to panic.

“You are OK. You are not gonna die,” she tweeted.

“You can make it without stressing the medical systems. Just breathe. You are going to be OK,” the Paper Planes singer continued. “You can make it through without jumping in the frying pan. You are fine. All the vaccines you’ve already had is enough to see you through.”

Half an hour later, she returned to Twitter to address some social media users who had suggested she was either “cancelled” or “irrelevant.”

“Cancelling is irrelevant,” she wrote.

In response, one user tweeted: “Anti-vaxxers don’t get cancelled, they die, sis.”

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After being labelled an anti-vaxxer, M.I.A. reportedly responded to a user in a since-deleted tweet claiming that getting her child vaccinated was “the hardest thing” she had ever done.

In another deleted tweet, M.I.A. tried to validate her reasoning for opposing vaccinations altogether.

“As an adult you have choice,” she wrote, according to NME, adding: “By then you’ve built your immune system.”

Here’s what some other Twitter users had to say in response to M.I.A.’s comments:

“M.I.A. being an anti-vaxxer is kind of perfect,” tweeted another social media user. “It’s like her common sense on the subject is… missing in action…”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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'Just one case': fears coronavirus may spread like wildfire in world's refugee camps

(Reuters) – In the world’s largest refugee settlement in Bangladesh, filmmaker Mohammed Arafat has been making public safety videos to warn about the dangers of coronavirus.

The 25-year-old is worried that the disease will devastate the vast, crowded camps that house more than one million Rohingya, members of a mostly Muslim minority who fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar.

“We are living in tiny, crowded shelters, we are sharing toilets,” he told Reuters. “It is very difficult to protect ourselves, it’s too crowded, people can’t breathe well.”

Bangladesh, which has reported 48 cases of the virus and five deaths, imposed a lockdown on Tuesday, the same day it confirmed the first case in Cox’s Bazar, the coastal district where the Rohingya camps are located. A family of four Rohingya have been quarantined after returning from India.

As the coronavirus forces the world’s big cities and wealthiest countries into lockdown, a potential humanitarian catastrophe threatens tens of millions of people crowded into refugee camps and makeshift settlements for displaced people from Bangladesh to Syria and across Africa, where healthcare and clean water is often scarce, sanitation is poor, illnesses are rife and social distancing is almost impossible.

“God forbid, if the virus gets into the camps, it would have a catastrophic effect,” Mahbub Alam Talukder, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told Reuters.

The United Nations says almost 70 million people uprooted by war and persecution around the world are in acute danger.

“We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres this week.

UNHCR, the U.N. agency charged with protecting refugees, is looking to raise $255 million from member states to tackle the problem, part of a wider U.N. response plan seeking $2.01 billion.

To be sure, camps in Bangladesh and elsewhere have experienced outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and other respiratory infections, and the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola epidemics did not lead to large-scale infections or mass deaths of refugees.

However, the latest coronavirus has exceeded all previous outbreaks, infecting almost 600,000 people globally and killing more than 27,000, according to a Reuters tally.

For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

‘JUST ONE CASE’

The mazy hills around Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh are more densely populated than the most crowded cities on earth, with 60,000 to 90,000 people jammed into each square kilometer where as many as a dozen people share single small shelters and many more use the same water well and toilet.

Arafat, who fled violence in Myanmar eight years ago, urges people in his short videos to wash their hands and keep their distance from one another. But he cannot share the videos as mobile networks in the area have been curtailed by the government since last year on unspecified security grounds. As a result, both he and aid workers are struggling to educate the population about the spread of the virus.

In recent days volunteers have been blasting public health messages from radios and loudspeakers, but Arafat said rumors and misinformation persist, with some pinning their hopes on prayer, eating leaves and exposure to heat to ward off the virus.

“It needs just one case and it would be really critical,” said Haiko Magtrayo, a Cox’s Bazar-based aid worker from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Further spread would be “uncontrollable,” he added.

The closest hospital with an intensive care unit is in the town of Cox’s Bazar. The U.N. refugee agency says it is trying to expand the capacity to 10 beds and to improve healthcare services inside the camps, but as rumors spread, some are panicking.

“What is happening!” Mohammed Junaid, 21, said in a message to Reuters. “If something happens, where will we go for treatment?”

MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA AT RISK

Similar fears are spreading in regions torn by war and natural disasters in the Middle East and Africa.

In Syria, where nearly a decade of war has uprooted 6.1 million people and forced some 5.3 million to flee to neighboring states, the coronavirus is a new threat for communities ill-equipped to deal with it.

“We don’t wash our hands much because water is in short supply,” said Nayef al-Ahmad, 33, who has lived for five years in a camp for displaced people on muddy ground near the town of Azaz, which houses about 150 families in grimy tents. “Gloves and masks are not available and if they are available they are very expensive,” said al-Ahmad, who lives with his wife and seven children.

At another camp in nearby Idlib province, families have been moved from several large communal tents into individual tents, an effort to pre-empt the spread of the virus, though no cases have been recorded in the rebel-held northwest yet.

“We’ve split them up as much as we can,” said Ibrahim Sahhari, an administrator at the camp near Maarat Misrin.

Idlib has received around 1,500 coronavirus testing kits in the last few days. Its population is close to 3 million.

“Isolation is so difficult,” said Mohamed Tennari, a doctor and medical coordinator in the Idlib region. “Some people are still living in schools or in mosques. So all of this, if we have corona patients, will help the virus to spread very widely.”

Similar overcrowding worries rage in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees. Lebanon has recorded around 350 cases so far, though none in refugee camps. “Whenever someone breathes, their neighbor can feel it,” said Syrian refugee Hamda Hassan, describing her camp in northern Lebanon.

‘PERFECT STORM’

In Burkina Faso in western Africa, the Barsalogho camp houses about 75,000 people fleeing a jihadist insurgency, many in wood-framed tents covered with straw mats and white tarpaulin, pitched close together. Medical charities warn residents of the dangers of coronavirus, which has already spread across the capital Ouagadougou, infecting over 150 and killing eight.

But shortages of water and sanitary supplies are making it difficult.

Families of up to 10 people share about 20 liters of water a day, or about five gallons, said Manenji Mangundu, who leads operations for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Burkina Faso, well below the 35 liters per person that the NRC says is enough for a proper response to the coronavirus.

“The situation in densely populated camps such as Barsalogho with poor healthcare is the perfect storm for a devastating outbreak. Facilities are shared, shelters are shared. If one case is reported in the site, it can spread like wildfire,” Mangundu said.

Wendkouni Sawadogo, 27, lives at the camp with his family and shares a tent with 10 people.

“I know we should wash our hands all the time and not greet people in the normal way,” he said, adding that he was aware of the growing number of cases from television news reports, but sometimes he has no water.

In central Mozambique, where more than 90,000 victims of last year’s Cyclone Idai are still living in resettlement camps, large families of more than 10 people cram into one tent, with shared water sources and latrines, often open air with only plastic sheets for privacy. In some cases thousands of people share one water source, or they have to walk hours to one used by nearby communities.

Espinola Caribe, the World Food Programme’s head of sub-office in Beira, the port city where the cyclone made landfall and displaced tens of thousands of people, said any virus outbreak would be a disaster for those with immune systems weakened by the effects of extreme poverty.

Hand-washing sites are being installed in the camps and posters printed to raise awareness as aid workers try to spread the message face to face. Many camp residents do not have phones, and when they do, there is no guarantee they have power.

Even when the message gets across, Caribe said conditions make it very difficult for people to comply: tents become unbearably hot in the daytime and families are forced to mix at water points, where there might be a shared bucket for collection, and conditions can be unsanitary.

NOT THE FIRST

In Somalia, where violence and natural disasters have displaced 2.6 million of the country’s 15 million people, tens of thousands of families are dotted around the capital Mogadishu under makeshift tents of rags stretched over a frame of sticks. Lucky ones may have a plastic tarpaulin. The seasonal rains have just begun.

Somali telecom companies are sending text messages about the importance of washing hands. But many have no soap and very little water, so simply use sand and ashes. Many do not have vessels to store water: several families might share one 20-litre container.

“We are already living in bad conditions and if coronavirus visits us, then there is no hope for life,” said Hawa Ali Ibrahim, a 50-year-old mother. She lives with her husband, three children and grandchildren in the capital’s Alafuuto Camp, where there is no soap. “We use sand and ashes to wash our hands.”

Neighboring Kenya is home to nearly half a million registered refugees, about 217,000 of those living in one sprawling camp called Dadaab, near the Somali border, according to the U.N.

UNHCR is training health workers – some of whom are refugee community leaders – and running a multilingual hotline for refugees to report symptoms. They are increasing the distribution of soap and creating more hand-washing stations.

There have been no reported coronavirus cases in East Africa camps, said UNHCR East Africa spokeswoman Dana Hughes.

“These are not the first pandemics that we’ve dealt with,” Hughes told Reuters. “We’ve dealt with Ebola. We’ve dealt with SARS.”

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Russia news: Putin moves warships into Channel while UK is ‘distracted’ by coronavirus

The Royal Navy has been “monitoring every movement” of Russian warships, it has emerged. The decision to dial-up security comes after the vessels displayed unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and North Sea. Former NATO Commander Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry spoke to talkRADIO’s Ian Collins about why Russian leader Vladimir Putin would be making such a move during the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

Dr Parry told listeners: “It’s Putin trying to get in our faces while we’re obviously distracted by the coronavirus issue.

“But, of course, what he hasn’t taken us for is complete fools, I’m glad to say.

“The Navy’s out there doing its job every day, regardless of coronavirus.

“It’s contributing a hospital ship and a lot of other assets and personnel to deal with the primary crisis here in our homeland.”

At this difficult time for frontline doctors and nurses, sign up here to show your support now to our brave NHS Heroes.

He continued: “I know it’s out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doing what it does best and that’s seeing off the Queen’s enemies.

“This particular Russian deployment, I think, has two functions.

“One is to, as I said, get in our face, to show the Russians aren’t being as affected as badly as we are by coronavirus.

“Secondly, I think it’s a normal, training cruise by frigates and two amphibious ships.”

The former NATO Commander added: “They come down into the North Sea, not always this far, but they always come down off the northern fleet.

“Frankly, it’s still icebound up there so they can’t really exercise up there.

“So they come down into less colder climates to exercise.”

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Dr Parry also said: “I think they’ve got a big training mission to get some of their ships back into the frontline.

“The ships that are here are two fairly old amphibious ships, some support ships and five fairly sporty corvettes and frigates actually.”

Lieutenant Nick Ward, HMS Tyne’s executive officer, said of the Russian move: “As the armed forces are helping the NHS save lives in the UK, it’s essential the navy continues to deliver the tasks we have always performed to help keep Britain safe.

“This is very much part of routine business for HMS Tyne and represents one of the many roles our patrol vessels perform in support of the Royal Navy’s commitments.

“This is our core business and represents an enduring commitment to uphold the security of the UK.”

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'Stay home,' Irish PM tells nation in coronavirus battle

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s prime minister ordered citizens to stay home until April 12 to help slow the spread of coronavirus, telling them they can only leave to shop for groceries, for brief individual physical exercise or to make family visits that are essential.

Almost all shops will be shut, all public gatherings outside of household units prohibited completely, and those over the age of 70 or with chronic diseases will be told to stay in their homes completely.

These “radical actions” were aimed at saving as many lives as possible, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

Varadkar had earlier warned that Ireland’s intensive care units would be at capacity within a few days given the rate of spread of coronavirus. Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland rose to 2,121 on Friday from 1,819 a day ago, with 22 deaths.

I’m appealing to every man, woman and child to make these sacrifices for the love of each other. To begin each day knowing that ever single inconvenience will save lives. Show that you care for your family and friends: Stay home,” Varadkar told a news conference.

“There isn’t much more beyond this I think that we could do in terms of further restrictive measures.”

Ireland had previously closed schools, universities, pubs and most non-essential retail in a gradual ramping up of restrictions over the last two weeks.

Other fresh measures include restricting public transport to essential workers, with travel for all severely restricted beyond two kilometers from the radius of their own home.

Despite the announcement that the restrictions will be introduced from midnight, the list of workers and premises deemed as essential will not be published until Saturday, a government spokesman said.

“GO FURTHER”

Ireland’s chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, said the initial measures were working with the increase in the total number of cases slowing down compared to what they might have expected but that “does not tell us that the worst is over.”

Holohan had expressed particular concern on the number of intensive care admission – 59 at the last count on Wednesday, representing over 10% Ireland’s capacity – and that community transmission accounted for 52% of all cases.

“We think we see signs that are encouraging us, that this is helping. But we think we need to go further,” he said.

“We think in the early course of this infection, with the support that we have had from the public, that with these additional strengthening measures, we can drive the infection back out of the community and more into households.”

Ireland significantly increased income support for those who had already lost their jobs or were at risk of joining them this week. A government official reported “unprecedented demand” for the payments earlier on Friday.

The applications for the special pandemic unemployment benefit and regular jobseekers payment equated to 10 months worth of normal claim load in just 10 days, Elizabeth Canavan, an assistant secretary at Varadkar’s department, said.

In a bid to slow an unemployment surge a state-funded think tank warned could hit 18% by summer from 4.8% last month, the government will pay 70% of workers’ wages for struggling firms and is urging many to re-employ staff already cut.

Some 11,200 firms applied for the assistance by 1300 GMT, just hours after the opening of he scheme, the head of Ireland’s tax authority, Niall Cody, told national broadcaster RTE.

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DJ says elderly should ‘sacrifice themselves to coronavirus’ to save economy

A DJ has said elderly people should "sacrifice themselves to coronavirus" to save the economy.

Glenn Beck, 56, says they should carry on as normal and keep working to ensure the economy survives.

His comments come despite repeated warnings that they are the most at risk of the deadline COVID-19 bug.

Speaking from his home in Dallas, he said: "I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working.

"Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country. Because it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country."

The anti-abortion campaigner, who sees abortion as "evil", is in the high risk category himself.

He said: "In Italy they’re saying if you’re sick and you’re 60, don’t even come in. So I’m in the danger zone."

President Donald Trump has vowed to reopen the US by April 12 in time for Easter after stating that "the cure (for coronavirus) cannot be worse than the solution."

Despite warnings from health experts President Trump, aims to boost the economy by opening the US within a few weeks.

So far there have been 65,797 cases and 935 deaths.

Currently the USA has placed a lockdown in a number of states – a growing number of places have a "shelter in place" order.

Mr Trump has banned all travel from from Europe in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ban covers all of mainland Europe and is in place for the next 30 days.

The UK government has advised all citizens who are over the age of 70 to stay indoors, which could possibly be for up to four months.

This is in a bid to protect them from the outbreak and to prevent spreading of the disease that has gripped the world.

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Islamic State gunman kills 25 in attack on Sikh house of worship in Kabul

A lone Islamic State gunman rampaged through a Sikh house of worship in the heart of the Afghan capital Wednesday, killing 25 worshippers and wounding eight, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said.

The gunman held many worshippers hostage for several hours while Afghan special forces, helped by international troops, tried to clear the building. At least one of the dead was a child.

Within hours, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Christchurch mosque attacks: Gunman changes plea to guilty

Brenton Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist, is accused of killing 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019.

The Australian man accused of killing 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand in March last year entered a surprise guilty plea to all 51 charges of murder at a special session of a Christchurch court on Thursday.

Brenton Tarrant, who appeared by video link, also pleaded guilty to 40 charges of attempted murder and a terrorism charge, public broadcaster TVNZ said.

More:

  • Call to prayer, nationwide moment of silence to remember Christchurch victims

  • Who were the victims of the Christchurch attack?

  • Attack inquiry findings delayed because of complexity of case

The 29-year-old had previously pleaded not guilty and was due to face trial in June.

New Zealand’s worst-ever mass shootingtook place on March 15 last year when the lone attacker targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch, broadcasting his attack live on Facebook.

The court will now sentence Tarrant on all 92 charges, but did not provide a date for the sentencing. The gunman was remanded in custody until his next court appearance on May 1, TVNZ said.

New Zealand is now in a month-long lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the hearing took place with minimal staff, lawyers and media in the court, which placed a one hour embargo on the news so that family members and victims could be informed.


101 East

New Zealand’s Dark Days

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