Royal health worry: Heir-to-the-throne tested for coronavirus after going into quarantine

Queen Letizia’s daughter Princess Leonor underwent testing following news one of her classmates had been infected with COVID-19. Princess Leonor has since received a negative test for COVID-19. 

However, the 14-year-old will continue to quarantine on a preventive basis, according to a palace source.

Reported by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Princess Leonor “will comply with the quarantine that, as a preventive measure, was recommended by the school where she is studying”.

According to the guidelines issued by her private school, Santa Maria de los Rosales, the heir to the Spanish throne will be able to return to her class at the end of next week.

Princess Leonor started her fourth year at this institute last Wednesday. 

royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

Princess Leonor underwent testing following news one of her classmates had been infected with COVID-19 (Image: GETTY)

royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

Princess Leonor is 14 while her sister Sofia is aged 14 (Image: GETTY)

Her sister, 13-year-old Princess Sofia, joined her at the same school two days later to begin her third year.

Just a few hours later, news broke Leonor may have come in contact with a coronavirus patient, as one of her classmates tested positive.

School management sent families of all pupils an email informing them of the coronavirus case but reassuring there was “no cause for alarm”.

Only children who had been in contact with pupils in the classroom affected needed to self-isolate, the school said, while “the rest of the students of the school can and should go to their classes without much concern”.

READ MORE:  Queen Letizia channels down to earth Kate Middleton

royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

Princess Leonor and Princess Sofia attend the same school (Image: GETTY)

Having been in contact with her elder sister, Sofia must also undergo a 14-day quarantine.

To create an environment as safe as possible for children and school staff, Spanish authorities have created small bubble groups of children attending school. 

This will prevent, the local Government hopes, spreading the infection among too many people should anyone within the bubble get COVID-19.

The number of pupils in each classroom has also been slashed and strict hygiene measures have been implemented to protect children and teachers.

Spain was one of the worst-hit European countries during the spring and is currently going through a second wave of infection.

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royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

King Felipe and Queen Letizia during an engagement on Wednesday (Image: GETTY)

royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

Queen Letizia’s daughters are both self-isolating (Image: GETTY)

Provisional data shows the country recorded 11,193 new cases and 239 new deaths yesterday alone. 

While their daughters self-isolate, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia continue to carry out their royal duties.

King Felipe inaugurated on Monday in Madrid an exhibition on the National Geographic Institute.

On Tuesday, he met with the governor of Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

Princess Leonor is the heir apparent to the Spanish throne (Image: EXPRESS)

Queen Letizia was photographed on Monday while she presided over the opening of the school year in two towns in Navarra. 

Together, Queen and King headed yesterday to Zaragoza to mark the 125th Anniversary Of ‘El Heraldo De Aragon’ newspaper.

This event was particularly poignant for the Queen, who before marrying into the Spanish Royal Family was a successful broadcast journalist.

royal news queen letizia daughter princess leonor coronavirus spain cases king felipe

Queen Letizia and King Felipe visiting Zaragoza (Image: GETTY)

While the King’s daughters are in quarantine, his father remains in the United Arab Emirates, where he travelled in secret on August 3.

The former king, Juan Carlos I, suddenly left the country last month while his finances are under scrutiny in a major corruption probe.

Juan Carlos denies any wrongdoing and has said he is available if prosecutors need to interview him.

He stepped back from public duties in 2014, paving the way to the coronation of Felipe.     



Royal health worry: Spain's heir to throne in quarantine- Queen Letizia's daughter at risk

The eldest daughter of King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain, Leonor, is to undergo a 14-day quarantine after one of her classmates tested positive for COVID-19. Princess Leonor, and the rest of her class, will not be allowed to leave her home while self-isolating and will be monitored for symptoms. 

But the 14-year-old isn’t the only member of her family forced to self-isolate.

As Leonor was joined in school on Friday by her younger sister Sofia, the younger daughter of Felipe and Letizia will also need to quarantine.

The Spanish Royal House announced the young royals will follow the protocols put in place by the country’s health organisations.

Princess Leonor, the heir presumptive to the Spanish throne, returned to her school, the Santa Maria de los Rosales in Madrid, on Wednesday, to attend her fourth-year. 

Spanish authorities have created small bubble groups of children in schools to avoid the amount of people students come in contact with and limit the infection.

Classes have been slashed in number and strict measures have been implemented to protect children and teachers.

However, several classes have already been ordered to quarantine due to positive cases.  

READ MORE: Queen Letizia channels down to Earth Kate Middleton as mum drops children at school

According to the national Education Minister, Isabel Celaà, 53 schools out of the 28,600 in Spain had already experienced positive cases by Thursday, three days after the beginning of term.

Spain has been one of the European countries most hit by coronavirus during the spring and is currently going through a second wave of infection.

On Friday, the country recorded 4,708 positive cases, bringing its total to 566,326, the highest in western Europe.   

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The country has also mourned 29,747 deaths since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

News of the quarantine for the two young princesses came at an already difficult time for the Spanish Royal Family.

The former king, Juan Carlos I, suddenly left the country last month while his finances are under scrutiny in a major corruption probe.

The monarch who helped Spain transition from a dictatorship to a democratic society travelled in secret to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 3.

After days during which Spaniards were left wandering on the whereabouts of the 82-year-old, his spokesman confirmed he was staying in the Middle Eastern country.

Juan Carlos had previously revealed his intentions to leave Spain to his son Felipe in a letter.

Explaining he was making the decision “in the face of the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating”, 

King Juan Carlos said he hoped his son could continue carrying out his duties as monarch with “tranquillity” despite the scandal.

Juan Carlos denies any wrongdoing and has said he is available if prosecutors need to interview him.

The former king had stepped back from royal duties in 2014, when he handed over the crown to his son Felipe.   



Parents worry they'll experience separation anxiety from kids as they return to work

And one in four admitted to feeling a need to ‘wrap their children in cotton wool’ as they return to their old routines.

The study, commissioned by self-care company Perrigo UK and Ireland, also found four in 10 parents have found comfort in being able to protect their family’s health while at home.

As a result, 60 per cent think it’s a good idea to take extra precautions as they return to ‘normal’.

Laure de Brauer, a spokeswoman from Perrigo UK and Ireland, said: “We’ve all experienced a heightened awareness of our families’ health in recent months.

“It will be a learning curve for us all to feel comfortable again, but many parents are finding peace of mind in taking extra precautions to keep their families healthy.

“We believe self-care is vitally important, particularly in these uncertain times, so it’s encouraging to see consumers feeling empowered to take their wellbeing into their own hands as much as possible.”

The study also revealed nearly half of parents worry their kids will fall unwell when returning to school or nursery, with 14 per cent concerned their children will get head lice.

And 17 per cent fret about how a new routine might affect their sleep.

As a result, 34 percent have been making sure their medicine cabinet is well stocked with over the counter medications.

Mums and dads have also been taking hand sanitiser to work and packing it in their child’s school bag or boosting their youngster’s immune system with vitamins.

The research, conducted via OnePoll, found the average parent has already spent over £20 on preventative health measures to protect their family for their return to ‘normality’.

Benjamin Rice-Jones, a spokesperson for Abidec, one of the brands under the Perrigo umbrella, said: “It’s great to see parents considering how prevention is better than cure, and trying to build up their children’s immunity as much as possible.

“It’s amazing how just taking little steps every day to build up immunity can make such a difference to both parent and child.”

But it’s not just their kids’ health that parents are anxious about – three in 10 parents are worried that they themselves will get ill when they return to the office. And 22 per cent are afraid their sleep will be affected by their return to work.

Farah Ali, superintendent pharmacist at Warman-Freed, Perrigo’s leading pharmacy, said: “This study shows that the concept and benefits of self-care are taking hold among Brits.

“Certainly, I would always advocate to families to look for OTC self-care solutions for the prevention and cure of common ailments.

“This should always be a first step. And in these uncertain times, this is truer than ever before.

“Having the ability to look after yourself and your dear ones will definitely help families navigate ‘separation anxiety’ as we return to a new normal.”



Royal worry: Fears of new Harry and William rift over ‘Netflix Princess Diana documentary’

On Wednesday Netflix announced it had agreed a deal with Harry and Meghan to produce a number of shows for the streaming platform. These will reportedly include documentaries, films and programming for children.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror one royal insider said these could include an in-depth documentary about Princess Diana, Harry and William’s late mother.

However they warned this could create new tensions between the two brothers.

Diana was killed in a Paris car crash one year after completing her divorce from Prince Charles.

The insider said: “The Sussexes are discussing making a feature documentary on Princess Diana’s family history and heritage.

“It is early stages but it is looking like it could happen.

“It will work as a tribute to Diana and build on all the incredible charity work she has done.

“Netflix would also love to make a documentary about Diana and it is something they have been pushing for.”

Last month a new book about Harry and Meghan’s departure as senior royals, ‘Finding Freedom’, was published.

READ MORE: Ellen DeGeneres’ blunt snub to Meghan Markle exposed

Meghan and Harry announced they were planning to stand down as senior members of the Royal Family back in January.

Instead the Duke and Duchess vowed to become “financially independent” and said they would split their time between North America and the UK.

Recently the couple purchased a new £11.2m home to the north of Los Angeles.

The luxury property comes complete with a swimming pool, tennis court and children’s cottage.

On Wednesday Ted Sarandos. Netflix chief content officer, spoke about how pleased the company is to be working with the Duke and Duchess.

He said: “Harry and Meghan have inspired millions of people all around the world with their authenticity, optimism and leadership.

“We’re incredibly proud they have chosen Netflix as their creative home – and are excited about telling stories with them that can help build resilience and increase understanding for audiences everywhere.”

The news was also warmly welcomed by Meghan and Harry themselves.

In a statement the couple commented: “Our lives, both independent of each other and as a couple, have allowed us to understand the power of the human spirit, of courage, resilience and the need for connection.

“Through our work with diverse communities and their environments, to shining a light on people and causes around the world, our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope.”



Keir Starmer crisis: Damaging poll will worry Labour as Boris Johnson EXTENDS his lead

The Savanta ComRes survey, published today, suggests Boris Johnson has actually opened up a 13-point lead over Sir Keir when it comes to the person seen as making the ‘best Prime Minister’. The poll suggests Mr Johnson is currently on 43 points, with Sir Keir on 30 points – meaning the Prime Minister has actually added to his lead by four points.

Savanta ComRes Associate Director Chris Hopkins told Express.co.uK: “Keir has made a good start but the challenge that he has is that the Conservative Party has quite a lot of electoral rope from the electorate.

“Attitudes change well before voting behaviours do, so what we are seeing is Conservative fortunes dropping in terms of attitudes and even how is Boris is doing.

“But nothing is shifting in voting intention.

“It goes to show how much capital the Tories have from the electorate – they can go from disaster to disaster but people are not going to vote for the Labour Party yet.

“Sir Keir has not quite had that breakthrough yet where people know who he is.

“Everybody knows Boris but not everybody knows Keir so the key for him is getting his name out there.

READ MORE: Jeremy Corbyn could be booted out of Labour by Keir Starmer NEXT MONTH

“But when he does get his name out there, when he goes get his face out there, he really does have to have a positive impression.”

The poll also suggests Mr Johnson’s Conservatives have a five-point lead over Labour, despite the fallout from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Tories are on 42 percent (one point down on last month) while Labour are on 37 percent (unchanged).

The Liberal Democrats, in the process of electing a new leader, are on seven percent, up one point, with other parties, including the SNP, Plaid Cymru and those in Northern Ireland, accounting for the remaining 14 percent.

A Savanta ComRes spokesman explained: “This lack of movement in voting behaviour is offset by falls in favourability and approval.

“The government’s general net favourability of -7 is the lowest since the Savanta ComRes Political Tracker began back in May, while approval of the government’s handling of the pandemic is at an all-time low looking at a rolling 7-day average from our coronavirus daily tracker.”

Mr Johnson’s personal favorability rating remains in negative territory at -1, while Dominic Raab (-2) and Matt Hancock (-5) have also seen drops.

By contrast, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s personal rating remains the strongest at +25, albeit it five points down compared with July.

With Gavin Williamson in the firing line in recent days over his A Level results U-turn, Savanta ComRes have suggested the issue of education was likely to take centre stage in recent months.

With recent news surrounding changes to exam results in the UK have made headlines, Savanta ComRes’ Political Tracker suggests the public are more negative than confident about the state of the education system over the next 12 months, with 39 percent believing things will get worse during that time.

Sir Keir was elected Labour leader in April, beating Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey to the job.

Assessing his performance last week, Ian Hernon, author of ‘Anti-Semitism and the Left’ and a former Labour Party member who is also a persistent critic of Sir Keir’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, told Express.co.uk: “At the moment he is dull – but maybe that’s a good thing against the clown we have got as Prime Minister, who was fine bungling around on Have I Got News for You, but as Prime Minister during the COVID crisis not so much.

“The Red Wall seats in the north, a lot of them I know very well, loaned the Tories their vote and that was largely because of the Corbyn factor. They would like to vote Labour.”

Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,083 UK adults online between August 14 and 16.



MOT tests in major ‘cause for worry’ as more than half of drivers choose to delay checks

MOT test extensions mean drivers who were due a test between the end of March and end of July issued a six month extension to their certificates. A new YouGov poll commissioned by The Motor Ombudsman has revealed the majority of owners decided to take up the delay and have not had their car checked at all. 

Over a quarter of those who have pushed their tests back also admitted to not carrying out regular maintenance checks despite government advice. 

The analysis found that 56 percent of those surveyed had prolonged taking their vehicle to a garage for its annual test. 

Just over a third of these said they would be getting a test done before the newly extended due date with one in five admitting they have got a test done ahead of schedule. 

The DVSA has recently issued a warning for road users to get their test booked as soon as possible due to an expected rise in demand. 

READ MORE: MOT test backlogs will make garages ‘very busy’

The agency has revealed they expect a surge in interest for tests around September, October and November as drivers who had their test delayed fight for slots. 

But research from The Motor Ombudsman has revealed there was not a sense of urgency among consumers to get their tests booked in, with just 29 percent saying they had booked in a new date. 

Three quarters of road users polled said they had taken government advice and performed regular safety checks to ensure their car was safe on the roads. 

But only 42 percent said they were continuing to conduct regular checks with 30 percent saying they had previously done so. 

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These checks include looking at key functions such as the oil levels and tyre pressures to ensure that recommended levels have been met. 

The data revealed motorists in Scotland aged over 55 were the most conscientious to conduct vehicle maintenance.

Drivers aged between 25 and 34-year-olds living in the South were the least likely to conduct checks with just 27 percent admitting they had done. 

Bill Fennell, Managing Director of The Motor Ombudsman said there was “cause for worry” with many unsafe cars on the road.

He said: “The results of our study and wider industry data clearly shows that there is cause for worry, due to the number of potentially unsafe cars on the road that have not had their MOT. 

“This is compounded by the concern that the recent government announcement has created very little impetus to buck this trend.” 

The analysis was similar to recent data from the DVSA which revealed that nearly 4.9million Class 4 tests for passenger vehicles were conducted between 1 April and 30th June. 

This was a decline of more than 50 percent when compared to the 10.3million tests undertaken in the same period a year earlier. 

Mr Fennell has also urged road users to take their car for a test “as soon as possible” to ensure drivers get a test booked in. 

He has warned that a large build up of tests could leave MOT garages “unable to cope at a later date” which could leave many caught out.

His comments come just days after KwikFit revealed they had already noticed a surge in demand for tests with many appointments being filled.

Mr Fennell said: “If their personal situation allows, and with many garages and repairers once again opening their doors following the lifting of recent lockdown restrictions, we are urging consumers to take their cars for the annual assessment as soon as possible. 

“This means that they will have a better chance of securing a booking, and will also help to alleviate a large build-up of outstanding tests that could leave MOT stations unable to cope at a later date.”   



Why Android phone users will never have to worry about battery life again

“Quick Charge 5, our fastest and most versatile charging solution, will enable consumers to enjoy their devices for longer periods of time, without worrying about the time required to recharge,” said Ev Roach, VP Product Management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “We are proud to expand our technology portfolio and make accessible 100W+ charging a commercial reality.

“We work closely with manufacturers to create industry-leading devices that meet consumers’ demand for more immersive and accessible mobile experiences.”

Along with being faster, Quick Charge 5 is also 70 percent more efficient than Qualcomm’s previous Quick Charge 4 system. And don’t worry about your phone melting when it’s being boosted as Qualcomm is boasting that despite the blazingly fast charging speeds, it also keeps extreme safety measures in mind.



Spanking has declined in America, study finds, but pediatricians worry about impact of pandemic

“This article is really impressive … and corresponds with our view that there’s been a generational change,” said child abuse pediatrician Dr. Robert Sege, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on corporal punishment.

“Younger people tend not to hit their children,” said Sege, who was not involved in the new study. “As we’ve woken up to the issues of domestic violence and intimate partner violence there’s been a growing rejection of any sort of violence within the home, including spanking.”

The new analysis used data from the Monitoring the Future study, a national survey of 25 consecutive groups of graduating high school seniors between 1993 and 2017. Each group was reassessed 17 years later, at about 35 years of age. The study excluded those without children or with older children and focused on parents with at least one biological child, adopted child or stepchild age 2 to 12 years living at home part time or full time.

Spanking can lead to relationship violence, study says

Some 50% of parents reported spanking a child in 1993; By 2017 that number was down to 35%. While excellent news, that number is still too high by standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018.

The pediatricians’ group suggests adults caring for children use “healthy forms of discipline” — such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits and setting expectations — and not use spanking, hitting, slapping, threatening, insulting, humiliating or shaming.

“Parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child,” said Sege, who directs the Center for Community-engaged Medicine at Tufts University in Boston.

Stress of the pandemic

Schools, after-school programs and day care centers are typically the “canary-in-the-mine” reporters of potential home-based violence.

Required by law to report signs of abuse, such as bruises, cuts, broken bones and emotional signals, society has relied on mandated reporters such as teachers and child care workers to alert authorities and trigger investigations. (Doctors, nurses and police officers are also mandated reporters.)

About half of world's teens experience peer violence in and around school, UNICEF says
The pandemic has closed many of those avenues of reporting, leaving child advocates in the dark about what might be happening at home. One preliminary study during the first six weeks of the pandemic, by the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development, or RAPID, project of the University of Oregon, found an immediate increase in both caregiver stress and emotional and behavioral issues in children.

Since then, emotional and mental difficulties have appeared to ease for children and their parents, the survey found, with key exceptions: Stress indicators in lower-income and single-parent households were continuing to increase as the weeks went by; often the impact was hardest for people of color.

To uncover what is happening across the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Prevent Child Abuse America will begin a longitudinal study in August of how parents across the country are coping.

“We plan to really look deeply at what are the positive experiences that children are receiving? What are their adverse experiences and how are parenting practices changing during all of it?” Sege said.

When it comes to school, harsh parenting can backfire

“All of us who care about children are very concerned about what happens if the extra benefits, the unemployment benefits and all of those things no longer exist,” he added. “The extent that families are able to cope, it’s been because they have economic support — they’re not being evicted. They’re able to get food on their tables.”

Spanking increases violence in kids

Making sure that Americans don’t revert to corporal punishment is key, experts say. An increasing amount of research shows that the end results of corporal punishment may not be positive.

“The point of disciplining a child is teaching that child self-regulation when Mom and Dad aren’t around,” Sege said. “Spanking doesn’t accomplish that.”

A meta-analysis of 75 studies on spanking found that it contributed to aggression, mental health and social esteem problems and antisocial behavior in children, which carried into adulthood.
These are the countries where spanking is illegal
Other studies have found children who are corporally punished also experience academic problems in schools and cognitive deficits and were more likely to be violent toward women later in life.
“What you see is a positive correlation between spanking and higher levels of behavior problems. If it was effective you should see the opposite,” Rebecca Ryan, a developmental psychologist and associate professor at Georgetown University, told CNN in a prior interview.

Data from around the world supports that stance.

Youth are less violent where corporal punishment is banned, a 2018 analysis of data from 88 countries, territories and protectorate states found.
“Societies that have these bans in place appear to be safer places for kids to grow up in,” said lead study author Frank Elgar, an associate professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal, in a prior interview.

Many argue that corporal punishment is required, Sege said, to “teach a child right from wrong, and if we don’t use corporal punishment, children will run wild.”

If that was correct, Sege said, “you would expect the international outcome to be more violence among youth once a country bans corporal punishment. That is not what the evidence here is saying.

“When parents and schools model violence, it tends to increase the willingness of children to fight, to get physically violent themselves,” he said.

“My hope is that studies like these will convince people spanking and other punishments are not necessary to raise well-mannered kids.”

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

Botswana virus: Experts worry outbreak that killed 400 elephants 'could cross into people'

Officials have verified 281 elephant carcasses since the first bodies were discovered two months ago but conservationists fear the actual death toll could be closer to 400.  The deaths have been concentrated in an area of more than 3,000 square miles in Botswana’s Okavango Delta which is home to about 18,000 elephants.

Poaching and anthrax have been ruled as possible causes and there has been no drought, another mass killer of elephants.

But researchers have reported seeing elephants looking confused, wandering in circles and falling onto their faces before dying.

And conservationists fear an unknown pathogen – a novel elephant virus – could be behind the mass deaths.

Referring to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Niall McCann, director of conservation for the charity National Park Rescue, said: “We are currently living with a zoonotic spillover event.

“The absolute worst case is that this could turn into another one. It is incredibly important to rule out the prospect of this crossing over into people.

“Yes, it is a conservation disaster – but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis.

“The whole environment needs to be sampled — the vegetation, water and soil. All the tissue of the carcass, the muscle, blood, brain, spleen.”

Test results from samples sent to Zimbabwe to determine the cause of death of hundreds of elephants are being studied but experts are waiting for more results from South Africa next week before sharing findings with the public.

Oduetse Kaboto, a senior official in the environment and tourism ministry, said: “We have to wait for another set of results and reconcile the two to see if they are saying the same thing before we come to a definitive conclusion

“We are hoping the second set of results will come in next week and that’s when we should be able to communicate to the public the cause of deaths.”

Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency in London, said: “There is real concern regarding the delay in getting the samples to an accredited laboratory for testing in order to identify the problem – and then take measures to mitigate it.

“The lack of urgency is of real concern and does not reflect the actions of a responsible custodian.

“There have been repeated offers of help from private stakeholders to facilitate urgent testing which appear to have fallen on deaf ears. And the increasing numbers are, frankly, shocking.”

Dr Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, said: “We are aware of the elephants that are dying. Out of the 350 animals we have confirmed 280 of those animals. We are still in the process of confirming the rest.”

Although the number of deaths so far represents a fraction of the estimated 130,000 elephants in Botswana, there are fears more could die if authorities cannot establish the cause soon.

Chris Foggin, from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, which conducted the tests on elephant samples from Botswana, said only that country’s government could share the findings.

The Botswana wildlife department said the government contacted neighbours Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Zambia but they had not seen similar elephant deaths.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow from 80,000 in the late 1990s.



Botswana virus: Experts worry outbreak that killed 400 elephants 'could cross into people'

Officials have verified 281 elephant carcasses since the first bodies were discovered two months ago but conservationists fear the actual death toll could be closer to 400.  The deaths have been concentrated in an area of more than 3,000 square miles in Botswana’s Okavango Delta which is home to about 18,000 elephants.

Poaching and anthrax have been ruled as possible causes and there has been no drought, another mass killer of elephants.

But researchers have reported seeing elephants looking confused, wandering in circles and falling onto their faces before dying.

And conservationists fear an unknown pathogen – a novel elephant virus – could be behind the mass deaths.

Referring to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Niall McCann, director of conservation for the charity National Park Rescue, said: “We are currently living with a zoonotic spillover event.

“The absolute worst case is that this could turn into another one. It is incredibly important to rule out the prospect of this crossing over into people.

“Yes, it is a conservation disaster – but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis.

“The whole environment needs to be sampled — the vegetation, water and soil. All the tissue of the carcass, the muscle, blood, brain, spleen.”

Test results from samples sent to Zimbabwe to determine the cause of death of hundreds of elephants are being studied but experts are waiting for more results from South Africa next week before sharing findings with the public.

Oduetse Kaboto, a senior official in the environment and tourism ministry, said: “We have to wait for another set of results and reconcile the two to see if they are saying the same thing before we come to a definitive conclusion

“We are hoping the second set of results will come in next week and that’s when we should be able to communicate to the public the cause of deaths.”

Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency in London, said: “There is real concern regarding the delay in getting the samples to an accredited laboratory for testing in order to identify the problem – and then take measures to mitigate it.

“The lack of urgency is of real concern and does not reflect the actions of a responsible custodian.

“There have been repeated offers of help from private stakeholders to facilitate urgent testing which appear to have fallen on deaf ears. And the increasing numbers are, frankly, shocking.”

Dr Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, said: “We are aware of the elephants that are dying. Out of the 350 animals we have confirmed 280 of those animals. We are still in the process of confirming the rest.”

Although the number of deaths so far represents a fraction of the estimated 130,000 elephants in Botswana, there are fears more could die if authorities cannot establish the cause soon.

Chris Foggin, from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, which conducted the tests on elephant samples from Botswana, said only that country’s government could share the findings.

The Botswana wildlife department said the government contacted neighbours Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Zambia but they had not seen similar elephant deaths.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow from 80,000 in the late 1990s.