16th March 2020 – United Kingdom – 1,543 (+152) Cases ¦ 55 (+20) Deaths

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22:09 ENGLAND’S SOCIAL DISTANCING ADVICE

Public Health England has published more details about the social distancing recommendations announced earlier by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It says those aged over 70 and pregnant women are among those who should “stringently” follow the advice on avoiding non-essential use of public transport, working from home and not having friends and family to visit.

And it warns that anyone under 70 with a range of underlying health conditions is also at increased risk of suffering “severe” illness. The conditions it lists include:

Chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis
Heart disease
Kidney disease
Hepatitis
Chronic neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone disease
Those with a weakened immune system as a result of treatment for HIV and cancer
People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis
It also gives some tips to people on how to look after their mental health in the tough weeks and months ahead. It says people shouldn’t fear going for a walk outdoors if they stay more than 2 metres from others.

Other advice includes:

Spending time doing favourite hobbies, such as reading or cooking
Eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking, alcohol and drugs
Keeping windows open to let in fresh air and getting some natural sunlight

France to mobilise 100,000 police to enforce lockdown

France will deploy 100,000 police officers to ensure that people abide by restrictions on movement to avoid the spread of coronavirus, its interior minister has said.

Christophe Castaner said people who venture outside their homes will have to justify their reason for doing so.

Speaking at a news conference, he said people may be fined if they break the rules.

Exceptions will be made in some circumstances, including for travel between home and work, Mr Castaner said.

“Too many people still disregard the health instructions given,” Mr Castaner said.

His announcement comes after French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a series of drastic new measures designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

From Tuesday, people should stay at home unless they are buying groceries, travelling to work, exercising or seeking medical care, Mr Macron said.

21:18 Foreign tourists have 72 hours to leave Philippines

Authorities have started implementing the lockdown in ManilaImage caption: Authorities have started implementing the lockdown in Manila
Foreign tourists intending to leave the Philippines from international airports in the country’s main Luzon region have been given 72 hours to do so, starting from 16:00 GMT today.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier announced that Luzon, which has an estimated population of more than 50 million people and includes the capital city, Metro Manila, is to be placed under strict “enhanced community quarantine” until 12 April.

The British embassy in Manila says “a small number” of British nationals are affected. On Sunday, Britons were advised against all but essential travel to the Philippines.

The government says the country currently has a total of 142 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 12 deaths.

But Dr Manuel Dayrit, the country’s health secretary during the SARS outbreak of 2003, believes the number is relatively low compared with other countries because not enough preemptive testing has been taking place.

“We are actually limited by the fact we are not doing any testing for COVID-19 in the community,” Dr Dayrit told BBC News.

“We are only testing the patients that show up in the hospitals usually with pneumonia, so we can only speculate how extensive community spread is.”

21:04 Grand National cancelled

Aintree Racecourse has announced that this year’s Grand National on 4 April will not take place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Grant National is one of the key events in the horse racing calendar and attracts an estimated global TV audience of 600 million.

In 2019 bookmakers said about £150m ($184m) was bet on the race.

20:35 Russia bans entry to foreigners until May

Russia has temporarily banned all foreigners from entering the country, following other nations worldwide in restricting travel over the coronavirus pandemic.

The ban will come into effect on 18 March and will remain in place until 1 May, the government said on Monday.

Exceptions will be made for diplomats and permanent residents. Some 93 cases of the virus have been reported so far in Russia.

Russia has been accused of spreading disinformation about the new coronavirus outbreak on social media. It has flatly denied those allegations.

It has also been slow compared to other countries in starting testing. This has led to speculation that the real number of cases is much higher than reported.

Russia’s government says up to 100,000 testing kits are being produced daily to start testing in large numbers.

20:15 Dow closes with biggest drop in three decades

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has closed 12.9% down, in another sign that markets fear a global recession could be on the horizon. It’s the biggest percentage daily drop since the outbreak began, and the largest in one day since the Black Monday crash in 1987.

Markets dropped around the world today despite a Federal Reserve interest rate cut in the US and co-ordinated action by central banks around the world to shore up confidence.

The Dow closed as President Trump said a US recession could be on the horizon and that the virus outbreak could last until August.

The other main US indexes – the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq – also plunged 12% in trading on Monday.

20:15 US recession could be on horizon – Trump

President Trump has said the US could be heading for a recession due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Reporters at the White House press conference are deliberately putting empty seats between them, in a social distancing effort.

The US government has faced strong criticism for its slow pace of testing. Mr Trump said that before instituting mass testing, South Korea had experienced “tremendous problems and great numbers of death”.

“This is something that is an invisible enemy,” he said, adding that there was now a cross-party effort to fight it.

“My focus is on getting rid of this problem. This virus problem. After that everything else is going to fall into place.”

“We’re gonna back the airlines 100 percent. It’s not their fault its nobody’s fault,” he continued, but added: “Unless you go to the regional source.”

20:00 European Union to shut borders – Macron

In his press conference just now, the French president announced that the European Union would be closing its external borders on Tuesday.

We knew this drastic measure was set to be discussed by the EU’s 27 leaders but were not expecting Mr Macron to announce it this evening.

It remains unclear if all states have formally agreed to it.

Earlier, the EU Commission chief Ursula Von der Leyen said she was proposing temporary restriction on “non-essential travel to the EU” for an initial period of 30 days.

She said EU citizens and long-term residents and their family members would be exempt, along with workers who commute across borders, those delivering goods and those involved in the fight against the coronavirus.

The UK government would not be obliged to apply the ban, and UK citizens would not be affected by it, says the BBC’s Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming.

The UK has left the EU but is currently in a transition period.

Several EU states including Germany and Spain have already announced border closures with EU neighbours.

19:51 US outbreak could continue until August – Trump

  • The outbreak in the US is expected to last until “July or August, perhaps longer”, Mr Trump says
  • US residents are advised to avoid bars, restaurants and public spaces, as well as unnecessary travel
  • People should avoid gathering in groups of more than 10
  • But Mr Trump said there were no current plans for a nationwide quarantine – suggesting that people in the US are already self-isolating
  • White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr Deborah Birx issued an appeal directly to millennials, asking them to limit social contact. “They are the core people that will stop this virus. We really want people to be separated,” she said.
  • Dr Birx also warned against socialising even if people feel well. “We know that there is a large group of infected people who are asymptomatic, who continue to spread the virus,” she said

19:40 Swiss army mobilised for first time since WW2

Switzerland is mobilising its army in the campaign to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to support hospitals and other social infrastructure. This follows a declaration of a state of emergency to last until 19 April. The last time the Swiss army was mobilised was at the start of World War Two

19:14 France to be locked down from Tuesday

France will go into enforced lockdown from Tuesday midday, French President Emmanuel Macron has said in a national address from the Elysee Palace.

All residents have been ordered to stay at home, and can only leave for essential reasons.

Movements will be very severely limited, he said,

“We are at war,” the president said numerous times.

President Macron is announcing a raft of measures as he puts France on a war-footing to fight the virus.

Here are the key details:

  • All non-essential movement to be banned from Tuesday midday for 15 days; residents must stay at home
  • Punishments for those flouting the regulations
  • Army to be used to help transport the sick to hospital
  • Military hospital to be used in Alsace, near German border
  • Borders to be closed in agreement with other European Union countries
  • Second round of local elections postponed
  • No business, regardless of size, will be allowed to fail

18:43 Canada Closes Borders

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada is closing its borders to international travel as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide. Starting Monday only those whose permanent residence is in Canada or who are Canadian citizens will be permitted to cross the border, with a few exceptions.

Trudeau said U.S. citizens will be permitted to enter Canada “at this time” along with immediate family members of Canadian citizens, air crew and diplomats. However, anyone coming into Canada is subject to a basic medical screening which requires them to acknowledge that they are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days if they are coming from outside Canada.

All flights to Canada will be directed to one of four major airports in the country, which are located in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to handle the testing. All passengers on flights schedule to arrive in Canada will be screened for sickness symptoms and will not be allowed to enter the country if they show any signs of illness.

Trudeau’s announcement did not go into detail on how those attempting to cross the border via border crossing like the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor tunnel will be screened. However, the Canada Border Services Agency has been instructed to screen all incoming visitors.

17:40 Germany follows France in closing many public venues

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a series of sweeping self-distancing measures in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus in the country. While in the UK, people are being urged not to go to pubs and restaurants and other places of social contact, they are not being forcibly closed. Germany, like France and other western European countries, is going about things differently.

Speaking at a news conference, Mrs Merkel said said most shops would be closed along with other public venues such as bars, clubs, theatres and swimming pools. Restaurant opening hours will be limited, with rules setting out a minimum distance between tables enforced, she said.

On the question of travel, Mrs Merkel has said that people in Germany should not undertake personal trips either in or out of the country. It is not yet clear whether this amounts to a total ban on travel. Mrs Merkel said the government would attempt to minimise the economic impact of these measures. She said the G7 – the world’s seven largest economies – had agreed to cooperate to on this front.

17:21 Italy reports 349 new deaths

As the UK government ramps up measures to tackle the virus, Italy has just released an update on the impact there.

There has been a jump in deaths of 349 in less than 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities in the country to more than 2,100. It now has nearly 28,000 confirmed cases of the virus, an increase of 3,233 since Sunday.

16:55 UK ‘approaching fast growth part of the virus curve’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is approaching the “fast growth part of the upward curve” in the coronavirus outbreak.

He says without “drastic action”, cases could double every five to six days. As as a result, the government is asking for people to begin avoiding all unnecessary social contact. “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel,” the prime minister says.

  • Anyone who lives with someone who has a cough or a temperature should stay at home for 14 days
  • People should start working from home where they possible can
  • Avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues
  • Only use the NHS when we really need to

London is a few weeks ahead in terms of the virus curve than other places – meaning transmission is happening more rapidly, the PM says. For this reason, he says, those in the capital need to be especially cautious. The government, he continues, recognises that the “very draconian” measures he has outlined will be “asking a lot” from the everyone.

UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance echoes the PM, saying he recognises the social distancing measures laid out “are not easy”. However they are designed to delay transmission and keep people safe, he says. “They will have the effect if we all do it.” He says it “may be necessary” to think about school closures but only “at the right stage” of the outbreak.

The UK has faced criticism for so far imposing less stringent measures than other countries in Europe, including our closest neighbours. But Sir Patrick defended the government’s policies, saying the UK was implementing stricter measures at an earlier stage than “some” other countries based on where we are in terms of the virus’s spread.

Chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty says the UK’s overall and single aim is to reduce deaths from the spread of the coronavirus. Overall, the chances of dying from the virus are very low, he says. But as well as “direct deaths” from the virus, there will also be a “significant number” of other deaths as a result of hospitals being “overwhelmed”. The government is working to reduce this “overall effect” on the NHS, he says. Measures taken against the spread of the virus can also cause “negative impacts” on people’s health. However new measures have the ability to “very significantly” pull down the peak of the virus.

15:58 US Supreme Court shuts for first time since 1918

The US Supreme Court – which had already closed its doors to the public due to the rapidly-spreading coronavirus – has announced that it will not hear legal arguments this month.

The suspension of trial arguments marks the first time since 1918 that the Supreme Court has taken such a drastic move.

In announcing the decision, the court cited previous closures during the Spanish flu in the early 1900s and the yellow fever outbreak in the 18th Century.

There were several major cases set to be argued before the top US court, including one regarding the battle over President Trump’s efforts to shield his tax returns and financial records.

Most Supreme Court justices are elderly, putting them among the population most at risk from Covid-19.

Under the US constitution, the Supreme Court and other federal courts make up one of three branches of the federal government. The others are the legislative branch (Congress) and the executive branch (White House).

15:33 Michigan closes public businesses

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an order CLOSING all public accommodation businesses including gyms, theaters, bars, spas, coffee shops and more until the end of the month. Restaurants must close to dine-in service but can continue to offer carry-out and delivery orders.

15:10 EU considering ban on travel into Schengen area

The EU is considering banning all non-essential travel into the Schengen borderless travel zone by citizens of non-EU countries, according to a diplomatic note seen by the BBC. But this ban would not apply to citizens from the handful of EU member states that are outside the Schengen area (such as Croatia, Ireland, Cyprus or the UK – which is treated as a member state during the Brexit transition period.)

Non-EU citizens who had residence rights in the EU would still be allowed entry. Trips deemed “essential” could include those involving healthcare workers, transit passengers or people travelling for important family reasons.

This proposal has not been published or approved by the member states yet, hence why details are quite sparse.

14:36 UK records 171 more cases

The total number of people in the UK to test positive for the virus has risen to 1,543, according to the latest Department of Health figures.

On Sunday, the ministry said there had been 1,372 positive cases.

Some 44,105 people have now been tested, with 42,562 negative results. The UK says it will publish more figures on coronavirus cases later this afternoon.

It’s worth noting that many possible cases are not being tested.

The government is not testing people who are self-isolating with mild symptoms.

14:27 British horse racing to go behind closed doors

Horse racing in Britain will be held behind closed doors from Tuesday until at least the end of March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Racing in England had continued despite the outbreak, with the Cheltenham Festival recording an attendance of 251,684 across four days last week.

“We are following the government’s advice to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining business activity, and will continue to do so,” said Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority.

13:46 US stock market plunges

The US stock market has temporarily halted trading, after the S&P 500 index dropped 8% on opening. It’s the third time in six days this has happened.

The so-called “circuit breaker” is triggered automatically for 15 minutes when stocks fall 7% in morning trading.

The plunge comes despite central banks around the world announcing a co-ordinated effort to ease the economic and financial effects of the coronavirus.

The US has cut interest rates to almost zero and launched a $700bn stimulus programme in a bid to protect the economy.

But despite this there were steep falls across the major indexes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 9%.

13:43 First death in Wales confirmed

The chief medical officer for Wales has confirmed the country’s first death from the virus.

Dr Frank Atherton said the patient was 68 and was being treated at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital. They had underlying health conditions.

“I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their request for privacy is respected,” Dr Atherton said.

Another 30 people have tested positive for the virus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed UK cases to 1,402. More than 40,000 people have been tested.

13:24 Steep rise in infections and deaths in Netherlands

Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have risen by 278 to 1,413, according to the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM).

The death toll rose by four to 24 from Sunday, it said.

13:14 Princess Anne to continue engagements

Last week, the Queen confirmed she was cancelling two trips due to the coronavirus outbreak.

But her daughter, Princess Anne, is keeping calm and carrying on.

The Princess Royal, who turns 70 in August, will go to the Addington Equestrian Centre in Buckingham later in her role as vice patron of the British Horse Society.

The society says it is taking extra measures to keep the 300 guests safe, saying: “We’re doing exactly what the government has advised.

“We have additional hand sanitisers and we’re encouraging people to wash their hands.”

13:06 Car manufacturers asked to make ventilators

Car manufacturers are the latest firms to be asked to contribute to the fight against coronavirus.

The UK government is asking the likes of Rolls Royce, Ford and Honda to help build medical equipment, including ventilators, amid growing concern about a shortage of the life-saving equipment.

Downing Street says it wants the manufacturing sector “to come together to help the country”.

13:01 Macron denies rumours of lockdown in France

Emmanuel Macron has denied claims that a lockdown in France is imminent.

The French President is due to deliver a televised address to the nation this evening, while an announcement on EU border controls is due “in the coming hours”.

There’s speculation that Mr Macron will use the address to announce measures similar to Italy and Spain, which have both already mandated curfews and home isolation for all residents.

The government denies this, AFP news agency reports.

All non-essential businesses in France – including restaurants, cafes and bars – have already been closed in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As of Sunday the country had more 5,000 cases, and 127 people had died.

12:36 New cases of coronavirus in Wales

Public Health Wales say another 30 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number to 124.

12:29 No plans to ration food in UK, Downing Street says

Downing Street has said that plans to ration food will not be included in the government’s proposed emergency legislation.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out further details tomorrow.

The prime minister’s Official Spokesman said that retailers were taking “all necessary steps” to ensure there is continued food supply

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George Eustice is due to meet the major supermarkets this afternoon

12:08 BBC delays licence fee charges for over-75s

Plans to charge over-75s BBC licence fees have been postponed until August in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

The BBC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced the move in a joint statement.

“Changes to the TV licence for people aged over 75 had been due to come into effect on 1 June. But during this time we do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change,” it read.

“The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.

“Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC Board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. Our current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.”

12:00 Iran death toll reaches 853

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 853, with 129 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry official has tweeted.

A total of 14,991 people have been infected, making it the third most affected country after China and Italy.