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Keith Rogers, 62-year-old indigenous superstar who is still playing A-grade footty 

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A sprightly 62-year-old Indigenous man from the Northern Territory is still winning Aussie Rules Football matches against men in their twenties.

Keith Rogers doesn’t let his age stop him from making the 700 kilometre round trip to play A-grade matches for the Ngukurr Bulldogs in the NT’s Big Rivers League.

Mr Rogers, who has been playing footy since the 1970s, said the motivation for his age-defying enthusiasm is being a role model for future players.

‘To show the young fellas not to give up too early. Playing footy is very important to show your talent and put you in the spotlight,’ he told the ABC.

Keith Rogers (centre) doesn't let his age stop him from making the 700 kilometre round trip to play A-grade matches for the Ngukurr Bulldogs in the NT's Big Rivers League

Keith Rogers (centre) doesn't let his age stop him from making the 700 kilometre round trip to play A-grade matches for the Ngukurr Bulldogs in the NT's Big Rivers League

Keith Rogers (centre) doesn’t let his age stop him from making the 700 kilometre round trip to play A-grade matches for the Ngukurr Bulldogs in the NT’s Big Rivers League

Mr Rodgers said he has no trouble keeping up with his teammates, some of whom are a third of his age.

‘If there’s a position that needs to be filled, I can go there. They can put me anywhere. I can stick it to them. I can put up with any of these young fellas,’ he said.

Mr Rodgers’ passion for AFL has also taken him to Sydney, Adelaide, and Darwin. 

And he’s lived a colourful life off the footy field as well, having dabbled in radio and studied car mechanics. 

‘I love studying, reading writing, getting knowledge from other people,’ he said.

Before coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March, Mr Rodgers had been studying at Sydney’s Macquarie University. 

But the outbreak sent him back to the Top End, giving him a chance to hit the gym in the lead-up to the local footy season.

Mr Rogers has seen a lot of changes to the sport since he started playing in his late teens. 

‘You train harder, faster, you move the ball much quicker than usual. You’re not allowed to hang back anymore. When it bounces, it gets kicked in goal,’ he said. 

Mr Rodgers said as long as his legs work and he has air in his lungs, he will continue to play footy. 

The 62-year-old has lived a colourful life off the footy field as well, having dabbled in radio and studied car mechanics

The 62-year-old has lived a colourful life off the footy field as well, having dabbled in radio and studied car mechanics

The 62-year-old has lived a colourful life off the footy field as well, having dabbled in radio and studied car mechanics

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Pauline Hanson insists extraordinary rant about Melbourne housing commission residents wasn’t racist

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Pauline Hanson has refused to back down after her extraordinary Today show rant labelling Melbourne’s locked-down housing commission residents ‘drug addicts and alcoholics’ led to her being banned from Channel Nine’s flagship breakfast show.

Nine executives ruled the ever-outspoken One Nation senator had crossed a line when she told host Allison Langdon residents complaining about being locked in their towers should ‘know what it’s like to be in tough conditions’.  

‘Come on Ally, we’ve seen food being delivered there,’ Hanson replied. 

‘A lot of them are drug addicts as well, they are getting their medication, they are alcoholics so they’re being looked after in that way.’

She also said refugees should be accustomed to tough conditions having experienced life in the war-torn countries they came from. 

Within hours Channel Nine announced she would no longer be a regular contributor on the show – with a spokesperson for the network calling her comments ‘ill-informed and divisive’.

But speaking to Sky News’ Andrew Bolt wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Australian flag on Monday evening, Ms Hanson denied claims her comments were ‘ill-informed’ and that they constituted racism.

The senator had attracted heavy criticism for saying refugees living inside the towers should learn English during the controversial interview with Langdon and Stefanovic.

‘As long as I’m a member of parliament, I’m going to keep speaking out and saying what I feel, what needs to be said if we’re going to have a cohesive society,’ she said.

‘I’m up for election in two years time – if they don’t want me, good. Don’t vote for me. That’s as simple as that. Until then, they’ve got me for the next two years and if you don’t like its stiff biccies.

‘I’m not disrespectful to people but I will call out the way I see it which is in tune with a lot of Australians.’ 

She claimed she was only being called racist because people disagreed with her point of view.

‘Having criticism is not racism. I’m not racist and people misuse that word when they disagree with what you have to say,’ she said. 

Pauline Hanson has denied claims her comments about Melbourne's locked down public housing residents were 'ill-informed' and that they constituted racism. She had said refugees should be accustomed to tough conditions having experienced life in the war-torn countries they came from

Pauline Hanson has denied claims her comments about Melbourne's locked down public housing residents were 'ill-informed' and that they constituted racism. She had said refugees should be accustomed to tough conditions having experienced life in the war-torn countries they came from

Pauline Hanson has denied claims her comments about Melbourne’s locked down public housing residents were ‘ill-informed’ and that they constituted racism. She had said refugees should be accustomed to tough conditions having experienced life in the war-torn countries they came from 

Hanson’s rant led to widespread outrage on social media and Channel Nine announced within hours she would no longer be a regular contributor on the Today show.

‘The Today show has advised Pauline Hanson that she will no longer be appearing on our programme as a regular contributor,’ a Nine spokesperson said. 

‘We don’t shy away from diverse opinions and robust debate on the Today show. But this morning’s accusations from Pauline Hanson were ill-informed and divisive. 

Pauline Hanson (left) has been banned from her regular appearance on the Today show after a shocking rant about residents in Melbourne's public housing towers on Monday that led host Allison Langdon to ask: 'Do you have a heart Pauline?'

Pauline Hanson (left) has been banned from her regular appearance on the Today show after a shocking rant about residents in Melbourne's public housing towers on Monday that led host Allison Langdon to ask: 'Do you have a heart Pauline?'

Pauline Hanson (left) has been banned from her regular appearance on the Today show after a shocking rant about residents in Melbourne’s public housing towers on Monday that led host Allison Langdon to ask: ‘Do you have a heart Pauline?’

Hanson labelled people living in nine public housing towers across Melbourne 'drug addicts and alcoholics' in her extraordinary statement on Monday

Hanson labelled people living in nine public housing towers across Melbourne 'drug addicts and alcoholics' in her extraordinary statement on Monday

Hanson labelled people living in nine public housing towers across Melbourne ‘drug addicts and alcoholics’ in her extraordinary statement on Monday

‘At a time of uncertainty in this national and global health crisis, Australians have to be united and supportive of one another. We need to get through this together.’ 

Hanson earlier hit back at the network in an interview with The Australian, saying its decision to axe her as a regular contributor is ‘detrimental’ to free speech. 

‘We’re getting to the point to where you can’t give your opinion. What Channel 9 has done is detrimental to freedom of speech,’ she said.

Some 3,000 public housing residents who have been subjected to a 'hard lockdown' by the Victorian government in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 inside the walls of the towers

Some 3,000 public housing residents who have been subjected to a 'hard lockdown' by the Victorian government in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 inside the walls of the towers

Some 3,000 public housing residents who have been subjected to a ‘hard lockdown’ by the Victorian government in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 inside the walls of the towers

‘Channel 9 is going down the wrong path here. People in Queensland are very concerned about COVID. I’ve been speaking about people coming here and not learning the English language for years … they don’t know what to do.  

‘I really don’t care if I don’t go on Channel 9. I have Facebook followers and speak to people in the street and I go on numerous Sky programs. It’s no skin off my nose.’ 

Hanson claimed the network was sending a clear message to all Australians that those who ‘step outside the boundaries’ will be ‘silenced’.

Hanson said refugees who fled war-torn countries should be able to deal with being locked up. (Pictured: Angry tower residents place signs in their windows showing messages of despair amid total lockdown)

Hanson said refugees who fled war-torn countries should be able to deal with being locked up. (Pictured: Angry tower residents place signs in their windows showing messages of despair amid total lockdown)

Hanson said refugees who fled war-torn countries should be able to deal with being locked up. (Pictured: Angry tower residents place signs in their windows showing messages of despair amid total lockdown)

The senator then took to social media to double down on her remarks.

‘It’s being reported I made ‘a number of controversial comments’ this morning. I’ve gone back over the interview and I’m struggling to see what I said that was so controversial,’ she said. 

Nine’s news and current affairs director Darren Wick said in a statement that Hanson’s remarks were ‘ill-informed and divisive’.

‘The Today Show has advised Pauline Hanson that she will no longer be appearing on our program as a regular contributor,’ he said in a statement.

‘We don’t shy away from diverse opinions and robust debate on the Today Show.

‘But this morning’s accusations from Pauline Hanson were ill-informed and divisive.

‘At a time of uncertainty in this national and global health crisis, Australians have to be united and supportive of each other. We need to get through this together.’ 

Hanson argued other Australians have also been through a similar lockdown, and said it is no different to the housing commission quarantine

Hanson argued other Australians have also been through a similar lockdown, and said it is no different to the housing commission quarantine

Hanson argued other Australians have also been through a similar lockdown, and said it is no different to the housing commission quarantine

Hanson hit out at the 3,000 residents who have been subjected to a ‘hard lockdown’ by the Victorian government in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 inside the walls of the towers.

Many residents have complained at a lack of notice before the lockdown came into force and say they have not been supplied with food or essentials.

The nine public housing towers across Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne are home to some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people, including refugees who fled to Australia from wartorn countries.

‘I saw them taking a truck load of food to them, all the rest of it –  if they are from war torn countries, which some of these people are, they know what it is like to be in tough conditions,’ she said.

More than 3000 tenants in nine buildings were unprepared for the surprise decision and many had been left without groceries

More than 3000 tenants in nine buildings were unprepared for the surprise decision and many had been left without groceries

More than 3000 tenants in nine buildings were unprepared for the surprise decision and many had been left without groceries 

‘Have a look at the facts before you criticise. The governments and all of these … interest groups and everyone will make sure they’re well looked after.’

Hanson rejected suggestions that health authorities and the government should be communicating with residents in their native languages.    

‘Why should we? Why should we put everything out in someone else’s language when you come to Australia,’ she said.

‘We should not be putting out literature in their own language. Learn to speak English when you come here to this country. That’s a big problem that we have in Australia.’ 

‘A lot of these people are from non-English speaking backgrounds, probably English is their second language who haven’t adhered to the rules of social distancing. They all used a lot of the same laundry,’ she said.

Following her rant, Hanson was asked by Langdon: ‘Do you have a heart Pauline?’ 

Hanson went on to say the no-warning lockdown was justified if residents were not practicing social distancing. 

Towers in the suburbs of Flemington (pictured), Kensington and North Melbourne will be closed for five days

Towers in the suburbs of Flemington (pictured), Kensington and North Melbourne will be closed for five days

Towers in the suburbs of Flemington (pictured), Kensington and North Melbourne will be closed for five days

Medical staff wearing PPE holding material about to walk into the Flemington Public housing flats

Medical staff wearing PPE holding material about to walk into the Flemington Public housing flats

Medical staff wearing PPE holding material about to walk into the Flemington Public housing flats

‘Why is it they are in that situation? Why has the government gone to this high-rise building and shut it down? Possibly because a lot of these people weren’t doing the right thing,’ she said.

‘There has to be a reason why they have targeted this set of blocks, apartment blocks. Ask that question.’  

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 8,449

New South Wales: 3,240

Victoria: 2,660

Queensland: 1,067

Western Australia: 618

South Australia: 443

Tasmania: 228

Australian Capital Territory: 108

Northern Territory: 30

TOTAL CASES: 8,394 

DEATHS: 106

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Hanson argued other Australians have also been through a similar lockdown, and said it is no different to the housing commission quarantine.

‘We’ve gone through months of people, the public being locked up. We’ve gone through months where people couldn’t go to the park, gyms, couldn’t go to the park, couldn’t go any where,’ she said. 

‘Australian people have been locked up in their homes for ages.

‘We really need to clean up the COVID-19. Make up your mind. You either want to clean up COVID-19 or you don’t. And you have to make the tough decisions if we are going to get this country back on track.’

The end of Hanson’s year-long role at the Today show comes after she parted ways with Seven News rival Sunrise over a clash with host David Koch about the Christchurch massacre. 

Premier Andrews locked the doors to nine housing towers from 4pm on Saturday amid fears the virus is spreading rapidly within their walls.

The ‘hard lockdown’ will force 3,000 people in towers across Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne to stay inside – with armed police on every floor of every block ensuring they do not leave for any reason over the next five days.

Residents who refuse to be tested for coronavirus could be locked up for as long as 14 days; the same quarantine period as people arriving from overseas. 

‘We do have milk and bread, but if we are going to be in lockdown for 14 days, which is what we have been told, it is not going to last that long,’ Fleming tower resident Thana Sirag said. 

Ms Sirag said she just wants to be treated like other households dealing with the virus.

‘We are put under much more severe circumstances than everyone else, we are being treated like prisoners,’ Ms Sirag said.

Premier Andrews locked the doors to nine public housing towers from 4pm on Saturday amid fears the virus is spreading rapidly within their walls

Premier Andrews locked the doors to nine public housing towers from 4pm on Saturday amid fears the virus is spreading rapidly within their walls

Premier Andrews locked the doors to nine public housing towers from 4pm on Saturday amid fears the virus is spreading rapidly within their walls 

The 'hard lockdown' will see 3,000 people in towers across Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne forced to stay inside Pictured: Police enforce a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington

The 'hard lockdown' will see 3,000 people in towers across Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne forced to stay inside Pictured: Police enforce a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington

The ‘hard lockdown’ will see 3,000 people in towers across Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne forced to stay inside Pictured: Police enforce a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington

Victoria has for weeks been grappling with an outbreak of coronavirus across various Melbourne hotspots.

The state racked up another 74 new cases on Sunday, bringing its confirmed infections total to 2536.

Some 12 Victorian postcodes have been put into stage three lockdown until at least July 29 in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Two of those areas, covering North Melbourne, Hotham Hill, Kensington and Flemington in the city’s inner northwest are home to the nine public housing towers.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the hard lockdown was about the safety of residents as well as the entire state.

‘This is not about punishment, this is about protection for you and your loved ones,’ he said.

‘And then, by extension, it’s about protecting the entire state and we don’t make those decisions lightly.’

Which suburbs are in lockdown? 

 3012 – Brooklyn, Kingsville, Maidstone, Tottenham, West Footscray

3021 – Albanvale, Kealba, Kings Park, St Albans

3032 – Ascot Vale, Highpoint City, Maribyrnong, Travancore

3038 – Keilor Downs, Keilor Lodge, Taylors Lakes, Watergardens

3042 – Airport West, Keilor Park, Niddrie

3046 – Glenroy, Hadfield, Oak Park

3047 – Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana

3055 – Brunswick South, Brunswick West, Moonee Vale, Moreland West

3060 – Fawkner

3064 – Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickelham, Roxburgh Park, Kalkallo  

FROM 11.59 ON SATURDAY JULY 4:

3031 – Flemington, Kensington

3051 – North Melbourne

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Feminist podcaster busted escaping COVID-19 quarantine hotel through a fire exit to buy cigarettes

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An Instagram influencer has been fined after escaping compulsory hotel quarantine through a fire exit.

Sarah Josephine Liberty fled from the Marriott Hotel on Pitt Street in Sydney at about 10pm on Saturday.

The Feminist Friday podcast host arrived in Sydney from Paris on Thursday and was taken to the hotel, where guests are unable to smoke while in lockdown. 

The 39-year-old was confronted by a security guard as she approached a fire exit on Saturday evening and a ‘short struggle’ ensued, police said. 

Sarah Josephine Liberty (pictured) escaped from the Marriott Hotel on Pitt Street

Sarah Josephine Liberty (pictured) escaped from the Marriott Hotel on Pitt Street

Sarah Josephine Liberty (pictured) escaped from the Marriott Hotel on Pitt Street

The Potts Point influencer escaped from hotel security through a fire escape

The Potts Point influencer escaped from hotel security through a fire escape

The Potts Point influencer escaped from hotel security through a fire escape

Ms Liberty was able to escape from the guard through the exit and out of sight onto the street. 

She was found about 150 metres away after a police search in Circular Quay at about 10.45pm, NSW Police said. 

The Potts Point woman was taken to hospital for an assessment, before being transferred to another hotel managed by NSW Health.

She was given a $1,000 Penalty Infringement Notice for not complying with directions under the Public Health Act and breaching the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order.

Police visited Ms Liberty’s hotel room after her escape to find the sprinkler system had allegedly been seriously damaged.

‘Inquiries into the damage are underway and legal action is expected to be taken,’ a NSW police media release reads. 

Ms Liberty uploaded an Instagram post that reads ‘you are stronger than you think’ on Friday after her first night in the Marriott.

Police allege the sprinkler system in Ms Liberty's room in the Marriott Hotel (pictured) was seriously damaged

Police allege the sprinkler system in Ms Liberty's room in the Marriott Hotel (pictured) was seriously damaged

Police allege the sprinkler system in Ms Liberty’s room in the Marriott Hotel (pictured) was seriously damaged

Ms Liberty was found about 150 metres away from the hotel after a search in Circular Quay at about 10.45pm, police said

Ms Liberty was found about 150 metres away from the hotel after a search in Circular Quay at about 10.45pm, police said

Ms Liberty was found about 150 metres away from the hotel after a search in Circular Quay at about 10.45pm, police said

‘These were the words my amazing Sydney GP just said to me, after I called him urgently – after a wave of anxiety hit me when I woke up realising I am going to be locked in a hotel room for the next two weeks,’ her post reads. 

‘And I’ll confess, it brought me to tears. I am strong, but after facing months of confinement in Paris, I just want to run to the ocean, eat Sydney Thai (nothing beats it), and a huge plate of oysters. Instead, I’m in hotel room with instant coffee, weatbix and not much else.

‘Having said that, I understand why confinement is necessary and am so happy to be home. So wish me Bon Courage for the next 2 weeks, and watch out for me when I’m released! I’m a woman on a mission.’

Of the 33,956 people who have gone into mandatory quarantine during the coronavirus period in NSW, Ms Liberty is the only person to be fined for breaching the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order. 

Ms Liberty copped is the first person to be fined in NSW for breaching the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order

Ms Liberty copped is the first person to be fined in NSW for breaching the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order

Ms Liberty copped is the first person to be fined in NSW for breaching the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order

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Genes that raise the risk of dying from Covid-19 ‘were inherited from NEANDERTHALS’

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People may be at a greater risk of dying of coronavirus if they have carry a certain set of genes that was inherited from Neanderthals, scientists have claimed.

Researchers from Germany and Sweden found a specific cluster of genes – sections of DNA – had been linked to an increased risk of Covid-19 death.

In a study of 3,199 hospital patients with the coronavirus in Italy and Spain, other scientists discovered that this genetic signature was linked to more severe illness.

And now Professor Hugo Zeberg and Dr Svante Pääbo have discovered the variation was inherited from Neanderthals that lived up to 60,000 years ago.

It appears to affect the immune system’s response and may cause it to overreact to Covid-19, they suggest, making people more likely to get seriously ill or to die.

Not everyone has those genes – they are most common among people of South Asian ethnicity, among whom it is present in around a third of people. It is less common in Europe, where about eight per cent of people carry it.

But there is no proof the genes are making people more likely to die, the researchers said, cautioning that their study is ‘pure speculation’ at the moment.

Neanderthals were a species that lived alongside humans tens of thousands of years ago and were very similar in appearance and size but were generally stockier and more muscular (Pictured: A replica of a male Neanderthal head in London's Natural History Museum)

Neanderthals were a species that lived alongside humans tens of thousands of years ago and were very similar in appearance and size but were generally stockier and more muscular (Pictured: A replica of a male Neanderthal head in London's Natural History Museum)

Neanderthals were a species that lived alongside humans tens of thousands of years ago and were very similar in appearance and size but were generally stockier and more muscular (Pictured: A replica of a male Neanderthal head in London’s Natural History Museum)

Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo said in their study that having the Neanderthal genetic sequencet, found on chromosome three, is ‘the major genetic risk factor for severe SARS-CoV-2 infection and hospitalization’.

They said the genetic sequence likely entered the human bloodline during cross-breeding with Neanderthals between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago. 

It had first been found in the remains of a Neanderthal found in Croatia some 50,000 years ago, and continues to be found in millions of modern day humans.

Neanderthals were a species that lived alongside humans tens of thousands of years ago and were very similar in appearance and size but were generally stockier and more muscular.

This primitive relative of humans existed for around 100,000 years – much of that time alongside people and breeding with them – before going extinct around 40,00 years ago.

Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo said the Neanderthal genes are most common in people of South Asian ethnicity, particularly Bangladeshis, and considerably less common in Europeans (Pictured: A map of where the genes are most common)

Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo said the Neanderthal genes are most common in people of South Asian ethnicity, particularly Bangladeshis, and considerably less common in Europeans (Pictured: A map of where the genes are most common)

Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo said the Neanderthal genes are most common in people of South Asian ethnicity, particularly Bangladeshis, and considerably less common in Europeans (Pictured: A map of where the genes are most common)

GENES THAT DICTATE BLOOD TYPE COULD AFFECT RISK OF SEVERE CORONAVIRUS 

Another genetic difference that may put people at higher risk of developing severe coronavirus could be one that dictates someone’s blood group, a study in June suggested.

Researchers at genetic testing company 23andMe found that people with type O blood were up to 18 percent less likely to test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Additionally, those who had the blood type, and had been exposed, were up to 26 percent less likely to contract coronavirus.

The team says this indicates a link between the genes that determined blood type and the severity of the virus. People who become seriously ill are the ones who are most likely to test positive, while milder patients may not realise they’re ill.

For the study, the team recruited more than 750,000 participants, including 10,000 who reported having COVID-19.

Individuals with type O blood were between nine and 18 percent less likely than those with other blood types to test positive.

About 1.3 percent of 23andMe research participants with type O blood tested positive for COVID-19.

By comparison, 1.4 percent of those with type A blood and 1.5 percent of people with type B or type AB blood were confirmed to have the virus. 

People with O-type blood who had been exposed to the virus, such as frontline health workers, were between 13 and 26 percent less likely to test positive. 

Among those exposed, 3.2 percent with type O blood tested positive compared to 3.9 percent of people with type A blood, four percent with type B blood and 4.1 percent with type AB  blood.

The findings, which have yet to be peer reviewed or published in a medical journal, held true when adjusted for factors such as age, sex, body mass index and underlying health conditions. 

Researchers identified a variant in the ABO gene, responsible for difference blood types, that was associated with a lower risk. 

‘The study and recruitment are ongoing, with the hope that we can use our research platform to better understand differences in how people respond to the virus,’ a statement on the 23andMe blog read. 

‘Ultimately, we hope to publish our research findings in order to provide more insight into COVID-19 for the scientific community.’

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Professor Zeberg, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, and Dr Pääbo, from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, say that this breeding has left Neanderthal genes in humans that still affect our health to this day.

They said that in the coronavirus pandemic it has had ‘tragic consequences’.

The genetic difference does not affect people of all races equally, the scientists pointed out. 

It is most common in people from South Asia, and particularly those of Bangladeshi ethnicity – more than half the population (63 per cent) carries it, the researchers said.

In South Asia as a whole – which includes India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan – the rate is around 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, this prevalence drops to around eight per cent in European peoples, four per cent among populations in North and South America, and even lower in the Far East.

‘The Neandertal variant may thus be a substantial contributor to Covid-19 risk in certain populations,’ Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo said.

Data from the UK shows that men of Bangladeshi descent are the most at risk of dying from the coronavirus, but medics have still not been able to pinpoint why.

A Public Health England (PHE) report revealed Britons of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of white Brits of dying with the coronavirus. 

This is thought to have been linked partly to higher rates of type 2 diabetes – a Covid-19 severity risk factor – among people of South Asian backgrounds. 

The Neanderthal gene could contribute to this, if the research turns out to be true, but it would not account for the higher risk of death among black people.

People in Britain and the US from black backgrounds have been proven to have higher death rates during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo’s research says the Neanderthal genes are ‘almost completely absent’ in African populations.

Higher death rates for ethnic minorities in the UK and US are thought instead to be down to historic racial inequalities which has left people poorer, with worse health and living in more densely populated areas, making them more susceptible to the virus. 

The researchers could not explain why the Neanderthal genetics seemed to raise the risk of dying if someone caught Covid-19. 

But it’s possible that it used to help regulate the immune system against ancient viruses, The New York Times reported, and now makes the body over-active.

The immune system could be more likely to over-react to coronavirus infection as a result, leading to it attacking the body and making someone seriously ill – a phenomenon which has been observed in critically ill Covid-19 patients.

Professor Zeberg and Dr Pääbo wrote: ‘Currently it is not known what feature in the Neandertal-derived region confers risk for severe Covid-19 and if the effects of any such feature is specific to current coronaviruses or indeed to any other pathogens. 

‘Once this is elucidated, it may be possible to speculate about the susceptibility of Neandertals to relevant pathogens. 

‘However, in the current pandemic, it is clear that gene flow from Neandertals has tragic consequences.’

The research has not been published in a journal but on a website for sharing scientific papers without review, bioRxiv.

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