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Hundreds take to the streets demanding Spanish PM resign over poor handling of coronavirus

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On Thursday, demonstrators carrying Spain’s national flag walked for more than an hour on Calle Larios, in Malaga, chanting slogans against the government. Spain allowed the protest to continue as they ease lockdown restrictions.

Signs calling for Mr Sanchez and his entire government to resign were the most popular slogans heard throughout the demonstration.

Francisca Torres, who attended the protest with friends, told ABCandalucia: “It is a shame the situation to which this government has led us.

“They have not managed this crisis properly.”

The peaceful protest saw numerous members of the National Police and a group of them in the Plaza de la Constitución receiving a huge ovation from participants.

José Gutierrez said: “I work in the hospitality industry and the situation is unbearable, especially here in Malaga, where tourism is key.”

Malaga isn’t the only region in Spain that has seen anti-government protests after demonstrators convened in Madrid earlier this week and other Spanish cities to protest the government’s handling of COVID-19.

The protestors also demanded the resignation of Mr Sánchez, with some claiming the country has turned into a dictatorship.

The demonstrators objected to the government’s growing powers to tackle the coronavirus, which they claim has resulted in a “government by decree”.

At 9pm each night protestors have taken to banging pots and pans to signal their disapproval of the lockdown and the Socialist-led government that imposed it.

The protests have also spilt out into the streets of many Spanish cities, including Madrid, Galapagar and Valencia.

The police have steadily increased their presence to prevent confrontations and stop the protestors from blocking streets – as they did in the first few days of the demonstrations.

Protestors also started targeting the homes of government ministers, such as Pablo Iglesias, the government’s second Vice President, and the country’s transport minister José Luis Ábalos.

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Much of Spain is now in Phase One, which allows some degree of social interaction and the reopening of some businesses, but Madrid still remains in Phase Zero – and has had few restrictions eased.

Mr Sanchez has also won the vote to extend lockdown until June 7 according to local Spanish media.

“The alarm state and the de-escalation plan did work. It will not last a day longer than necessary,” said Mr Sánchez.

“No one has the right to waste what we have achieved among all.”

Minister Adriana Lastra added: “We still have many uncertainties, but also many certainties.

“We know that without our responsibility, all that sacrifice will not be enough.

“We have already seen outbreaks in some territories.”

The two-week lockdown extension will run until June 7.

This week, Spain’s daily death toll fell to 48, marking the first time it has dipped below 50 since March.

The overall death toll was 27,940 while the number of confirmed cases rose by 482 to a total of 233,037, the ministry said.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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China sparks fury over coronavirus disinformation – ‘How can we trust them?’

Last night experts warned that Beijing’s behaviour must affect the extent to which the West deals with China in future. China first alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak on December 31. Analysis of Chinese English social media traffic shows how, between January 1 and February 10, China was reposting supportive messages from the WHO based on misinformation from Beijing that coronavirus “does not transmit readily between people”.

Posts assessed by cyber-security company Recorded Future also emphasised economic stability and China’s role in addressing the crisis.

This changed on February 11, however, as the first reports of COVID-19 on cruise ships emerged, and the death toll began to rise.

According to a report by the Henry Jackson Society, Beijing began to “shift the blame for the pandemic away from the Chinese government, highlighting the prominence of [president] Xi Jinping as the leader of effective response, and shifting from China as the source of the pandemic to China as a global leader in its response”.

The effort ramped up on March 9, since when “Chinese overt influence accounts have published more than 32,000 posts related to COVID-19.

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There have been three themes, the report found.

The first was China has successfully managed the outbreak and its response should be the model for containing the virus.

The second is that the West is using COVID-19 as a tool to contain China’s rise.

While the third is that the dangers of COVID-19 are unclear and its government is not at fault.

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Yesterday, just hours after China observed three minutes’ silence for its 3,326 COVID-19 dead, Matthew Henderson, head of the Henry Jackson Society’s Asia programme, said: “China has been managing the crisis with disinformation, and its behaviour must affect the way we deal with Beijing in the future.”

He added: “On December 31, the day Beijing spoke toWHO, China’s health department issued a statement saying there were only 27 victims and that there was no sign of human-to-human contact.

“In fact we know that, behind the scenes, Chinese virologists had already expressed deeper fears.

“China spoke of lockdown but it didn’t happen until the third week of January.

“In the meantime, five million people were allowed to travel.

“Had Beijing been truly transparent from the start it’s categorically clear there would be no global pandemic today.

“How can we trust a nation that behaves like this with important infrastructure projects?”

Blame should also be levelled at WHO, he said: “In its emergency committee meeting on January 23 WHO decided, based on Chinese claims, not to declare novel coronavirus an Event of International Concern.”

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Sweden coronavirus strategy: Why is Sweden not in lockdown?

Swathes of Europe are currently under strict lockdown measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. But Sweden is currently carrying on as usual, with bars, restaurants and sports clubs remaining open.

Despite the neighbouring countries of Denmark and Norway closing down, Sweden has only recently introduced measures to close down universities.

Gatherings of more than 50 people have also been limited, but no businesses have been closed down like in other countries.

As of March 30, the country has recorded 110 deaths as a result of coronavirus.

COVID-19 cases in Sweden are starting to increase, with 3,700 confirmed infections.

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So why is Sweden bucking the current trend in its approach to tackling coronavirus?

Sweden’s Public Health Agency lead epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, told CNBC: “My view is that basically all European countries are trying to do the same thing — we’re trying to slow down the spread as much as possible to keep healthcare and society working … and we have shown some different methods to slow down the spread.

“Sweden has gone mostly for voluntary measures because that’s how we’re used to working.

“And we have a long tradition that it works rather well.”

There is a high level of trust in the advice given by the authorities in Sweden.

Mr Tegnell added opinion polls show the Swedish public are largely in favour of the current approach to tackle COVID-19.

He said: “The incline (in infection and death rates) in Sweden is less steep than in many countries and that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve.”

If coronavirus cases rapidly increase like is the case with other European countries, such as Italy and Spain, Sweden may be forced to harden its current strategy with stricter measures.

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Dr Emma Frans, an epidemiologist based at Swedish medical university The Karolinska Institute, told the BBC there needs to be “clearer instructions” on public interaction.

She said: “I think people are prone to listen to the recommendations, but in this kind of critical situation, I am not sure that it’s enough.”

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy has been told by its prime minister Giuseppe Conte to prepare for a “very long” lockdown.

Italy has enforced one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to tackle the spread of the virus, which has rapidly increased to 97,689 cases as of March 30.

Italy also has the highest coronavirus death toll of any other country, with 10,779 deaths.

Following measures introduced last week by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK has recently come under stricter social distancing measures.

Under rules in the UK, people are no longer allowed to leave their homes unless it is to purchase essentials or to take daily exercise.

People can travel to work if it is absolutely necessary, but are being advised to work from home.

Gyms, clubs, bars and restaurants have all closed.

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