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41 dead in China virus outbreak; Nepal, Australia and Japan confirm cases

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The death toll from China’s outbreak jumped on Saturday to 41 from 26 a day earlier as the Lunar New Year got off to a gloomy start, with many transport links and tourist sites shut, while confirmed its first four cases.

More than 1,300 people have been infected globally with a virus traced to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Health authorities around the world are scrambling to prevent a pandemic.

Hu Yinghai, deputy director-general of the Civil Affairs Department in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, made an appeal on Saturday for masks and protective suits. Hospitals in the city have made similar pleas.

“We are steadily pushing forward the disease control and prevention … But right now we are facing an extremely severe public health crisis,” he told a news briefing.

Vehicles carrying emergency supplies and medical staff for Wuhan would be exempted from tolls and given traffic priority, China’s transportation ministry said on Saturday.

Wuhan said it would ban non-essential vehicles from its downtown starting Sunday to control the spread of the virus, further paralysing a city of 11 million that has been on virtual lockdown since Thursday, with nearly all flights cancelled and checkpoints blocking the main roads leading out of town.

Authorities have since imposed transport restrictions on nearly all of Hubei province, which has a population of 59 million.

In Australia, three men, aged 53, 43 and 35 in New South Wales were in stable condition after they were confirmed to have the virus after returning from Wuhan earlier this month, the state’s health minister, Brad Hazzard said.

“The community needs to understand that it is being well handled,” Hazzard said, urging calm.

A Chinese in his 50s, who had been in Wuhan, was also in stable condition in a Melbourne hospital after arriving from on Jan. 19, Victoria Health officials said.

State-run Global Television Network reported in a tweet on Saturday that a doctor who had been treating patients in Wuhan, 62-year-old Liang Wudong, had died from the virus.

It was not immediately clear if his death was already counted in the official toll of 41, of which 39 were in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.

U.S. coffee chain said on Saturday that it was closing all its outlets in Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, following a similar move by McDonald’s in five Hubei cities.

PROTECTIVE SUITS

In Beijing on Saturday, workers in white protective suits checked temperatures of passengers entering the subway at the central railway station, while some train services in eastern China’s Yangtze River Delta region were suspended, the local railway operator said.

The number of confirmed cases in stands at 1,287, the Health Commission said on Saturday.

The virus has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Malaysia, France, the United States and

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it had 63 patients under investigation, with two confirmed cases, both in people who had travelled to Wuhan.

While China has called for transparency in managing the crisis, after cover-up of the 2002/2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), officials in Wuhan have come in for criticism over their handling of the outbreak.

In rare public dissent, a senior journalist at a Hubei provincial newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party on Friday called for a “immediate” change of leadership in Wuhan on the Twitter-like Weibo. The post was later removed.

REINFORCEMENTS TO WUHAN

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new an “emergency in China” this week but stopped short of declaring it of international concern.

Human-to-human transmission has been observed in the virus.

China’s Health Commission said it had formed six medical teams totalling 1,230 medical staff to help Wuhan.

Hubei province, where authorities are rushing to build a 1,000 bed hospital in six days to treat patients, announced on Saturday that there were 658 patients affected by the virus in treatment, 57 of whom were critically ill.

The newly-identified has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.

It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing.

Most of the fatalities have been in elderly patients, many with pre-existing conditions, the WHO said.

NEW YEAR DISRUPTIONS

Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China, though some health officials and experts have questioned the effectiveness of such screenings and of the lockdown.

Health officials fear the transmission rate could accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel before and during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which began on Saturday, although many have cancelled their plans, with airlines and railways in China providing free refunds.

The virus outbreak and efforts to contain it have put a dampener on what is ordinarily a festive time of year.

Sanya, a popular resort destination on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, announced that it was shutting all tourist sites, while the island’s capital city, Haikou, said visitors from Wuhan would be placed under 14-day quarantine in a hotel.

Shanghai Disneyland was closed from Saturday. The theme park has a 100,000 daily capacity and sold out during last year’s Lunar New Year holiday.

Beijing’s Lama Temple, where people traditionally make offerings for the new year, has also closed, as have some other temples and the Forbidden City, the capital’s most famous tourist attraction. Sections of the Great Wall near the capital were also closed off.

First Published: Sat, January 25 2020. 15:48 IST

Source: Business Standard

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Victims of Continental Wealth Management scandal take fight to court

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Pension scam victims yesterday gathered outside a Spanish court at the start of a major criminal prosecution of alleged fraudsters accused of fleecing Britons of millions.

After the failure by UK authorities to take action, campaigners launched a private prosecution on the Costa Blanca where many of the rogue schemes operate.

Victims of the now defunct ex-pat-run Continental Wealth Management (CWM) and its associates arrived at the court in Denia where initial hearings were heard in front of a judge.

Battle: Victims including Karen O’Hagan, third from right, and Les Hutchings, fourth from left, at court

Battle: Victims including Karen O’Hagan, third from right, and Les Hutchings, fourth from left, at court

Battle: Victims including Karen O’Hagan, third from right, and Les Hutchings, fourth from left, at court

They included widow Karen O’Hagan, a former buyer in the City of London, who lost £63,000 of her RBS pension after the death of husband Peter. 

She had been told by CWM staff that transferring the money was the only way to protect it for her two young children if she also died.

Les Hutchings, 67, a retired bus driver originally from Blackpool, also lost almost all his £102,000 pension after CWM put it into high-risk investments with hefty fees, despite having requested low-risk investments.

Former government pensions adviser Stephen Ward is one of nine defendants in the case along with ex-model Jody Smart, the former director of CWM, who is accused of living a life of luxury and funding her fashion label through the company.

The defendants are each accused of falsifying commercial documents, disloyal administration and fraud. In the first round of hearings they or their lawyers are expected to be questioned by the prosecution lawyer and by a lawyer acting for the judge.

The case is being brought on behalf of 17 victims of the alleged scam as a representative sample, who between them lost about £2.5 million.

Campaigners bringing the case say the true number of victims is about 750 and the total amount lost over £30 million.

If convicted, the defendants could be ordered to pay back a substantial sum to victims. They could also be jailed.

A Mail investigation has exposed how tens of thousands of workers lost up to £10 billion between them in UK schemes registered with HMRC and the Pensions Regulator.

This official registration led Army veterans, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, care workers and teachers to believe everything was above board — until their money vanished.

Savings scandal: The Government belatedly tightened regulations on UK- based schemes, but swindlers moved abroad and began using overseas pension vehicles recognised by HMRC

Savings scandal: The Government belatedly tightened regulations on UK- based schemes, but swindlers moved abroad and began using overseas pension vehicles recognised by HMRC

Savings scandal: The Government belatedly tightened regulations on UK- based schemes, but swindlers moved abroad and began using overseas pension vehicles recognised by HMRC

Under the scheme said to be linked to Mr Ward, hundreds of workers thought it was safe to put their nest eggs in foreign retirement funds recommended by CWM. They did this because it was recognised by HMRC and therefore appeared ‘official’.

But the victims allege their money went into high-risk and often toxic investments that paid huge commissions to the British ex-pats running the company and their business associates.

Mr Ward, who lives in a Costa Blanca villa with pool and also has a Florida real estate empire, did not work for CWM. 

However, his company, Premier Pension Solutions, is accused of arranging scores of transfers of retirement funds on its behalf.

He was organising many of them around the time he was an adviser on the 2014/15 Taxation of Pensions Bill, having previously been a government expert on other financial matters.

Mr Ward also wrote the Tolley’s Pensions Taxation manual —described as the bible of the pensions industry — for 2015/16 and 2016/17 and contributed to pension textbooks for the Institute of Financial Services.

The Mail revealed last month he was linked to five rogue schemes. The Pensions Regulator described him as ‘reckless’ and showing a ‘lack of integrity’ after more than 90 workers lost £6 million in retirement funds in the London Quantum scheme.

The Government belatedly tightened regulations on UK- based schemes, but swindlers moved abroad and began using overseas pension vehicles recognised by HMRC.

Operating abroad also allows them to cold-call potential customers — a tactic outlawed in the UK this year because of its use by conmen. Rogue financial advisers can also levy huge commissions, also banned here.

Despite many complaints to Action Fraud and police, victims complained about a lack of action by the authorities against those behind rogue schemes.

Lawyer Antonio Bertomeu, who is bringing the CWM case on behalf of victims, said: ‘Unscrupulous people have been able to deceive honest, hard-working people to the point of losing their savings and putting their retirement pension at risk.

‘We hope the Spanish justice system will act quickly and decisively so this does not happen again in Spanish territory.

‘British citizens believed that their pensions were safe, because behind all these movements there were authorisations from the British authorities.’

Campaigner Angie Brooks, who has brought the case, said many victims of other scams were expected to come to Spain to support the prosecution.

She said: ‘The Denia Criminal Court has given hundreds of victims of Continental Wealth Management hope there will be justice. ‘We have lead complainants who have put their hearts and souls into representing the interests of many other victims.’

Miss Smart has previously denied ever dealing with clients or having anything to do with the running of CWM other than promoting it in the Spanish media.

Mr Ward and Ms Smart, who are due to appear in court in April, did not respond to requests for comment.

investigations@dailymail.co.uk

 

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Drinks giant Diageo warns it is on course to take a £200m hit from the coronavirus fallout

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The closure of bars and restaurants across Asia triggered by the coronavirus outbreak looks set to hit drinks group Diageo’s profits to the tune of up to £200million.

The company, which is the world’s biggest spirits maker, said cancelled conferences, postponed events, restaurant and bar closures, and a ‘substantial reduction’ in banqueting, had all started to take their toll on its bottom line.

Diageo expects a hit to its net sales of between £225million and £325million for the year, while operating profits could be between £140million to £200million lower than expected.

Financial hit: Drinks giant Diageo has warned that the coronavirus could hit its annual profits by up to £200million

Financial hit: Drinks giant Diageo has warned that the coronavirus could hit its annual profits by up to £200million

Financial hit: Drinks giant Diageo has warned that the coronavirus could hit its annual profits by up to £200million 

Outbreak: The coronavirus outbreak is affecting people and businesses around the world

Outbreak: The coronavirus outbreak is affecting people and businesses around the world

Outbreak: The coronavirus outbreak is affecting people and businesses around the world

The FTSE 100 index continued to fall deeper into the red this morning and Diageo, which is also listed on the blue-chip index, has seen its share price fall by 4.32 per cent or 130.25p to 2,881.75p.

At present, the FTSE 100 is down 1.45 per cent or 101 points to 6,916.  

In a stock market statement, Diageo said: ‘Public health measures across impacted countries in Asia Pacific, principally in China, have resulted in: restrictions on public gatherings, the postponement of events and the closure of many hospitality and retail outlets. 

‘Several countries and many businesses have also imposed restrictions on travel.

‘It is difficult to predict the duration and extent of any further spread of the COVID-19 outbreak both in and outside of Asia.’ 

The drinks group said it had seen ‘significant’ disruption since the end of January, which it expects to last until at least March. 

But the group is expecting a gradual improvement in sales, returning to normal levels towards the end of its financial year in June.   

The group said the outbreak had also triggered a ‘significant reduction’ in international travel, particularly in Asia. This means the number of drinks Diageo sells at transport hubs like airports has been on the slide.   

Impact: Trade in London's Chinatown area has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Impact: Trade in London's Chinatown area has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Impact: Trade in London’s Chinatown area has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak 

‘Recovery of passenger traffic is assumed to be gradual, resulting in weaker performance for the remainder of fiscal 2020’, Diageo said.

The Asia Pacific region accounted for over 20 per cent of Diageo’s sales last year. 

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: ‘The problem is for the likes of Diageo is that once the consumption picks up again in affected regions in China and beyond, you don’t then go and buy two bottles of Scotch instead of your normal one (most people anyway).’ 

The coronavirus woes come as a further blow to Diageo, which warned over full-year sales last month due to a backdrop of global uncertainty.

It cautioned that full-year sales are expected to be on the lower end of forecasts of between 4 per cent and 6 per cent growth after being affected by volatility in world markets.

Other corporate giants including Apple and Nike have already warned that the coronavirus looks set to hit their bottom lines.  

Retail fallout: Other corporate giants including Apple and Nike have already warned that the coronavirus looks set to hit their bottom lines

Retail fallout: Other corporate giants including Apple and Nike have already warned that the coronavirus looks set to hit their bottom lines

Retail fallout: Other corporate giants including Apple and Nike have already warned that the coronavirus looks set to hit their bottom lines

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We sold our Chester family home to rent a flat in London in our 50s

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Rising numbers of Britons will still be renting in retirement — but for some, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Statistics released this month show that over a decade, the number of those renting ahead of retirement has gone from one in 20 to nearly one in ten.

Yet we have spoken to older tenants who can afford to buy, but rent for the flexibility and even luxury owning a home does not always offer.

Downsized: David and Clare White gave up their Chester home for a luxury flat in London

Downsized: David and Clare White gave up their Chester home for a luxury flat in London

Downsized: David and Clare White gave up their Chester home for a luxury flat in London

There has also been a jump in the number of top-end properties being built to rent. They are usually flats owned by pension companies or large developers who employ professional management companies to run them.

They are modern and offer extras such as a gym, concierge service and communal lounges.

Previously, these types of properties were available only to buy. But increasing numbers of so-called purpose-built rented homes are popping up all over the country. 

There are 35,000 in the UK and a further 110,000 are being developed, according to the British Property Federation.

David and Clare White certainly didn’t expect to find themselves renting in their 50s. But after their children left for university, they decided to sell their family home in Chester and move to London.

David, 58, a management consultant, needed to be nearer the capital for work while Clare, 55, wanted a move.

David, 58, a management consultant, needed to be nearer the capital for work while Clare, 55, wanted a move. Pictured: the couple in their rented flat in Wembley

David, 58, a management consultant, needed to be nearer the capital for work while Clare, 55, wanted a move. Pictured: the couple in their rented flat in Wembley

David, 58, a management consultant, needed to be nearer the capital for work while Clare, 55, wanted a move. Pictured: the couple in their rented flat in Wembley

They settled on an apartment in a new, upmarket development in Wembley, North-West London.

Clare, a retail assistant, says: ‘We chose to rent because we didn’t know what the next stage of our lives would hold and we love the freedom. 

‘We don’t have to worry about maintenance and the complex is really sociable. The only downside is that we are limited on space.’

However, such upmarket rental properties come with an expensive price tag. 

The smiling couple enjoy some wine after a tough day in the city, with Wembley stadium visible from the balcony of their flat

The smiling couple enjoy some wine after a tough day in the city, with Wembley stadium visible from the balcony of their flat

The smiling couple enjoy some wine after a tough day in the city, with Wembley stadium visible from the balcony of their flat

Residents can expect to pay from £1,595 to £3,670 a month for one of the 1,500 luxury flats like David and Clare chose.

The cost includes John Lewis furnishings, Samsung appliances, parking and all utility bills except for council tax.

Prices vary around the country, but typically they are 11 per cent higher than local rents, according to property agents JLL.

In Salford, apartments in Clippers Quay cost between £900 and £1,500 a month, including wi-fi, while tenants of Bow Square, Southampton, would pay between £850 and £1,350, with utilities on top.

In Salford, apartments in Clippers Quay (pictured) cost between £900 and £1,500 a month, including wi-fi

In Salford, apartments in Clippers Quay (pictured) cost between £900 and £1,500 a month, including wi-fi

In Salford, apartments in Clippers Quay (pictured) cost between £900 and £1,500 a month, including wi-fi

Over a decade the proportion of those aged between 55 and 64 who are privately renting has almost doubled to 9.3 per cent, Office for National Statistics figures show.

Meanwhile, the percentage of 65 to 74-year-old renters has risen from 4.6 per cent to 6 per cent. More than 5 per cent of over-75s are tenants, up from 3.8 per cent.

A third of people in their mid-30s to mid-40s were tenants in 2017 — compared with fewer than one in ten 20 years previously.

Charity Age UK estimates there are now 750,000 over-60s in England living in rented homes, and MPs have predicted by 2046, there could be more than 1.5 million pensioners renting.

Retirement villages are also open to renters as of last year. The apartments are easily accessible for those who may rely on walking aids or wheelchairs. 

Care can be received at home for an extra fee.The change follows criticism that these homes are hard to re-sell.

David and Clare White certainly didn't expect to find themselves renting in their 50s. But after their children left for university, they decided to sell their family home in Chester and move to London

David and Clare White certainly didn't expect to find themselves renting in their 50s. But after their children left for university, they decided to sell their family home in Chester and move to London

David and Clare White certainly didn’t expect to find themselves renting in their 50s. But after their children left for university, they decided to sell their family home in Chester and move to London

Eye-watering service charges of more than £400 a month and annual ground rent have put off future buyers — meaning homeowners, or loved ones who have inherited the properties, have to discount the price heavily.

Inspired Villages has opened its schemes to renters, and more recently McCarthy & Stone announced plans to do the same.

But again, the price tag is steep. Singles renting from Inspired Villages will pay £660 a week and a couple sharing, £911. 

Benefits included are utilities, breakfast, a three-course meal a day, daily flat cleaning, laundry and maintenance.

Residents also have free access to a gym, pool, exercise classes and social events. Joe Oldman, policy officer for housing at Age UK, says: ‘[Renting] used to be for students and young professionals, but it has changed from a short-term solution to a long-term living arrangement for many.’

While retirement rental homes are often priced high, the industry is looking at ways to bring costs down, he adds.

Experts say villages tend to pop up in areas such as London, Bristol and Edinburgh, which have seen the biggest house price rises, as downsizers will have substantial equity to cover costs.

But homeowners who find themselves renting in later life will need to remember they will not have property equity they can fall back on in retirement, and have to be able to pay their rent from pension income. They also won’t have a home to pass on when they die. 

A drawback faced by older tenants who rent from individuals rather than companies is difficulty getting a home adapted for mobility needs, an issue Age UK has teamed up with National Landlords Association to address.

Lynn Anderton, 58, began renting after her marriage ended. She has lived in the same three-bedroom house on the Wirral for 12 years, paying £500 a month.

At first Lynn, a life coach, saw renting as a temporary solution, but she now enjoys the freedom it offers.

‘I realised I didn’t want the responsibility of a mortgage,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t in secure employment at the time and although I had some money from the sale of the property, I wasn’t in a good place to take something on.

‘Because I don’t own the house I can think about it as a home, not an asset I have to improve.’

However, she admits she has not yet given much thought to how she will afford the rent in retirement. 

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