22nd March 2020 – United Kingdom
HMV – Closed until further notice
John Lewis – Closed until further notice.
Kurt Geiger – Closed until further notice
McDonalds – from Monday 23rd March 2020.
Miss Selfridge – Closed until further notice
New Look – Closed until further notice
Primark – Closed until further notice
River Island – Closed until further notice
Timpson – Closed until further notice
Topshop – Closed until further notice
20:47 McDonalds restaurants to close across UK and Ireland
All McDonalds restaurants across the UK and Ireland will close by 19:00 GMT on Monday 23 March. The fast food giant said the decision was “not taken lightly” and was made “with the well-being and safety of our employees in mind, as well as in the best interests of our customers”. In a post on Twitter, they thanked their “brilliant employees for their hard work” and said the restaurants would re-open “as soon as it is safe”.
20:19 EU to stockpile masks and ventilators for member states
The EU has decided to create a stockpile of medical equipment such as masks and ventilators to help those member countries who are struggling to secure supplies in the battle against coronavirus. The European Commission said it would finance 90% of the stockpile, which will distributed to countries that need most.
The announcement comes amid criticism that the EU is not doing enough to support the many states dealing with a rising death toll from Covid-19. In addition, the EU continues to help members bring back their citizens who are stranded abroad because of the outbreak. Up to 75% of the cost of repatriation is covered by the EU, providing the flight repatriates citizens of more than one member state.
19:40 Why has Italy been so badly affected?
Italy has been hit hard by the virus. It’s now at the epicentre of the outbreak, and the country’s president has urged other countries to learn from its struggle to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The number of recorded deaths there recently overtook those in China, where the virus originated last year. Italy reported 651 coronavirus deaths on Sunday and saw its toll for the past month reach 5,476, the highest in the world. So why has Italy been so badly affected? A number of possible reasons have been mooted.
Some studies point to the large number of elderly people in the worst affected regions, such as Lombardy in the north. Italy also has the oldest population in the world after Japan with some 23% of people there over the age of 65. This matters because the virus is especially dangerous for older people.
The vast majority of Italy’s fatal cases involved elderly people with at least one pre-existing condition, officials say. The average age of the first 3,200 people who died was 78.5.
Experts also say a large proportion of 18-34s live at home with these older people, which increases the risk of the virus spreading. Another factor that may help explain Italy’s crisis is the length of time the virus has been active.
Some health officials believe it arrived in Italy long before the first case was officially confirmed in late February. It likely spread undetected through northern Italy, possibly for several weeks.
19:20 French death toll rises by 112 to 674
The death toll from coronavirus in France has increased to 674, after another 112 people were confirmed to have died over the past 24 hours. “The virus kills and it is continuing to kill,” said health official Jerome Salomon on Sunday. A total of 16,018 cases have been recorded in France, but the figure is widely believed to be an “underestimate”, Mr Salomon warned. France has been in lockdown since Tuesday, with only essential trips outside permitted. Mr Salomon urged the people to show “patience”.
18:52 Placido Domingo tests positive for coronavirus
Opera singer Placido Domingo has tested positive for coronavirus. The 79-year-old Spanish tenor wrote on his Facebook page that he was in self-isolation with his family, but remained “in good health”.
“I experienced fever and cough symptoms therefore deciding to get tested and the result came back positive,” He urged his followers to wash their hands frequently and keep their distance from one another. “Together we can fight this virus and stop the current worldwide crisis,” he continued.
The opera star recently resigned as general manager of the Los Angeles Opera following allegations of sexual harassment. He has since publicly apologised to his accusers. Spain is struggling to contain Europe’s second worst outbreak of the coronavirus after Italy, with over 28,000 cases
18:36 18-year-old with underlying conditions dies in England
The latest figures for coronavirus-related deaths in England included a person as young as 18, the NHS says. In total 37 people with the virus died today in England, all in vulnerable groups including with underlying conditions. There were another seven in Wales, three in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland.
18:24 ‘It’s insensitive. It’s arrogant’: NY governor berates residents
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo chastised New York City residents for defying official health guidance and continuing to socialise in large groups.
“It’s a mistake. It’s insensitive. It’s arrogant. It’s self-destructive,” Mr Cuomo said on Sunday.
“This is not a joke, and I am not kidding,” adding that he shared New Yorkers’ frustration at having to stay inside. “I’m even getting annoyed with the dog.”
Mr Cuomo has cancelled all non-critical surgeries in the state as cases across New York continue to soar. There are at least 15,168 confirmed cases – a jump of 4,812 since Saturday – and 114 deaths, Mr Cuomo said.
At least 38 of New York City’s over 9,000 cases are those inside prisons, including 21 inmates. Activists have urged early releases to lower population densities within the facilities.
Already, prisons in Los Angeles and Ohio have allowed for hundreds of early releases and New York’s mayor has said the city will look to release “vulnerable” inmates.
18:12 First US senator tests positive
US Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for the virus, his office has announced. The Republican from Kentucky is the first member of the upper chamber of Congress to announce he has Covid-19.
Several members of the House of Representatives have already tested positive for the virus. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and Utah Democrat Ben McAdams announced they were in self-quarantine earlier this week.
17:52 German Chancellor Angela Merkel quarantined
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine after meeting a doctor on Friday who has since tested positive for the virus, her spokesman said. She was told about the contact after a press conference on Sunday in which she announced further measures to try to curb the spread of coronavirus. Her government banned meetings of more than two people outside work and home for two weeks.
17:15 Italy reports 651 new deaths
Italy has reported 651 new deaths from coronavirus, taking the total number of dead to 5,476, the government says. The total of new deaths from coronavirus in Italy in the last 24 hours – 651 – is lower than the number reported in the previous day – 793. According to the government, the number of confirmed cases has risen from 53,578 to 59,138, a 10% increase. This is the lowest rise in percentage terms since the contagion came to light on 21 February, according to Reuters news agency.
17:11 England Press Conference
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants to thank the country for the collective effort, NHS workers, people in social care, and those who work in supermarkets for keeping Britain going. He adds he wants to thank those who did not visit their mothers on Mothering Sunday. “Thank you for your sacrifice.” ….. “The reason we are taking these unprecedented steps… is of course that we have to slow the spread of the disease and save thousands of lives.”. He says that the country has now reached the stage where special steps need to be taken now to protect those especially vulnerable.
Mr Johnson says that the shielding of around 1.5 million vulnerable people will do more than many other measures to reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the UK. He says it is crucial that people understand that tomorrow the schools are closed for almost all families. And he says that, while he wants people to enjoy outdoor spaces, people must follow social distancing advice. “Don’t think that fresh air in itself provides some sort of immunity,” he says.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick says the public owes it to the most vulnerable to stay at home and so help the NHS to save lives. The new shielding measures will:
- involve up to 1.5 million people who are most at risk of being hospitalised by the coronavirus
- advise these groups to stay at home for at least 12 weeks
- include people with specific cancers, transplants and with other underlying health conditions
“If you are one of these people I want to reassure you… you are not alone,”. Mr Jenrick says people living with one of the 1.5 million most vulnerable will not have to follow the same strict guidelines. Carers – formal and informal – can continue to visit but must follow guidelines from Public Health England. For those without a care network close by, a major national effort will create a support system – including pharmacists, supermarkets and local authorities. Food parcels, for example, will be left on the doorstep.
Mr Jenrick says the UK’s military planners will be involved in supporting the shielded – and that everyone will have the opportunity to volunteer in the coming weeks. “This will be a very worrying time for people with these health conditions,” he says. “Let’s guarantee that they are never alone.”
Mr Johnson says the government has already taken “draconian” steps such as closing schools and pubs, bars and restaurants. “It is very important for people’s mental and physical wellbeing that they should be able to get out and exercise,” he says, adding not everyone has a private open space. “That is why parks and open spaces are absolutely crucial.” He says that – despite this – people must follow social distancing advice otherwise “there is no doubt” that the government will bring forward further measures.
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, says it has been a “hugely complex task” to determine and contact those who will be advised to shield themselves for 12 weeks. She says they are being careful, and thus may “slightly over-estimate” the number of people in this category – which has been estimated at 1.5m. She pledges that people’s individual conditions will also be factored in however when determining whether they need to be shielded.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick says the vulnerable who will be shielding for 12 weeks will get a phone number to ring if they need support with getting food or medicine. He says he hopes that food parcels will be arriving towards the end of next week, and will become a “more sophisticated product” over time.
Boris Johnson is also challenged about a perceived clash of advice on playgrounds, and asked about how practical it is to keep children two metres apart. In reply, the prime minister says the scientific advice is that the health value of keeping parks open outweighs closing them. However he repeats his threat that the government will look at “further measures” if people don’t behave “responsibly”.
Asked what the “further measures” relating to social distancing are and when they might be implemented, Mr Johnson says people “do not need to use their imagination to see where the government may have to go”. He mentions the kind of measures seen elsewhere. In Europe, governments have implemented lockdowns and restrictions on movement. “I don’t want to do that, I have tried to explain the public health benefits [from] the sense that you can go out,” Mr Johnson says. He says the ability to go out can only be preserved if people act responsibly. “If we can’t do that I am afraid we are going to need to bring forward tougher measures.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries also warns against a “direct comparison” between virus case rates in Italy and the UK, saying this should be done with “caution”. She says that the case fatality rate is around 10% in Italy, as opposed to 4% in the UK – but it depends how cases are counted. She says there are differences in testing, with more serious cases being tested in the UK, for example. She adds that they feel the eventual mortality rate for the virus will be around 1%.
Asked again about enforcing a lockdown, Mr Johnson says the effect of such measures in Europe is not yet known. “The answer is always to be guided by the science,” he says. “You’ve got to impose these interventions… at the moment they can have the maximum effect.” He says the introduction of curfews and prohibitions on movement must only come “at the right moment”.
16:58 Police Scotland begins shutting down pubs
Police in Scotland have begun forcing pubs and clubs to close. Emergency closure orders are being enforced on licensed premises which are in defiance of the UK prime minister’s order to close last week, according to Police Scotland.
In a statement, the force said officers are visiting those premises to implement compulsory 24-hour closures, which it said can and will be repeated if necessary. It follows First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning those pubs that have not closed that there would be emergency legislation brought in to force them to do so this week.
16:54 Germany bans meetings of more than two people
Germany has announced further measures to try to curb the spread of coronavirus, banning meetings of more than two people outside work and home for at least two weeks.
16:04 Production suspended for Coronation Street and Emmerdale
Production of TV soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale will be suspended on Monday, ITV has announced. The UK broadcaster said enough episodes have been recorded to see both soaps through until “at least the early summer”. But it said it had now made the decision to halt production to protect the health and well-being of staff. A reduced transmission schedule for both soaps will begin on 30 March.
15:38 A new symptom?
Health authorities in France have said in recent days that they are observing a possible new symptom of Covid-19 – the loss of a sense of smell (known as anosmia). The head of the French health service, Jerome Salomon, has said “the sudden disappearance of smell” in patients who did not have a blocked or runny nose appeared to be a symptom, albeit a rare one. He said a loss of taste was an even rarer symptom and that both seemed to be more prevalent in young people with the virus.
ENT UK, which represents ear, nose and throat specialists in the UK, has suggested that anosmia be added to the current symptom criteria for people to self-isolate. “There has been a rapidly growing number of reports of a significant increase in patients with Covid-19 infection presenting with loss of smell in the absence of other symptoms,” it said in a statement with the British Rhinological Society. Other doctors have cautioned that the research is not yet developed enough.
In the UK the NHS guidance is to self-isolate if you have either a high temperature or a new, continuous cough
15:31 Karachi residents ordered to stay at home
In Pakistan, the entire province of Sindh, which includes the country’s largest city Karachi, is going into lockdown from midnight for two weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Residents will only be allowed out of their homes for essential purposes. All offices and shops other than pharmacies and those selling food items have been ordered to close.
Karachi, the commercial heart of Pakistan, is normally a heaving metropolis of around 15 million people. There have been more than 600 cases in Pakistan so far. The bulk of the country’s coronavirus cases consist of people travelling back from neighbouring Iran, though there have been an increasing number of instances of community transmission in the city of Karachi.
Sindh province is controlled by an opposition party. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has opposed a nationwide lockdown saying it would cause too much harm to those on low incomes.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Afghanistan has reported the first coronavirus-related death – a 40-year-old patient in Balkh province.
14:49 Northern Ireland confirms second death
A second coronavirus-related death has been confirmed in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health says. So far, there have been 108 cases of coronavirus there.
14:36 Scotland News Conference
Nicola Sturgeon says the figure of those who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Scotland – now 416 – is believed to be a significant underestimate. She says the military has had to help transport a patient from a Scottish island to the mainland for treatment. “If we all do the right things now, we will reduce that impact and save lives,” she says.
Ms Sturgeon says life should not feel normal right now and she asks the public to consider if their lives feel normal – and if it does, whether they need to make changes. She reiterates advice for safe distancing of two metres (6ft) and says events such as a wedding receptions are among those which should not take place.
Nicola Sturgeon says some pubs and bars chose to stay open on Saturday night, telling those establishments: “Close now”. She says emergency powers will be activated in the coming days to force licenced premises to close.
The first minister says hotels and B&Bs “should not be accepting visitors” and she warns against visitors flocking to the Scottish Highlands for walks. She says the decision to close schools was taken for health reasons and that the number of children attending school this week must be kept to a minimum. “The higher the number of children in childcare settings the higher the health risks for all of us,” she says. NHS staff will be prioritised and there are only so many places to go around, she adds.
Ms Sturgeon says the most clinically vulnerable people in Scotland – around 200,000 people including cancer patients – will be contacted and offered a range of support. Some of these people will be given strict instructions to self isolate, she adds. She says the “extraordinary efforts this group will have to go through to protect themselves” should demonstrate to healthy people how serious the situation is.
Nicola Sturgeon’s news briefing is now over. She was also asked why she was not pursuing a policy of complete lockdown, and said the government would keep “under review” different powers and steps. She says it is clear that everyone should consider everytime they are planning on coming into contact with others whether that contact is neccessary – she says if it is not neccessary they should not do it. “If the shop is crowded my advice would be not to go in it,” she adds. “I appeal to the public to follow the advice that is being given”. Also speaking at the conference, Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood says the measures brought in in Scotland “all have a scientific basis to them”. She says the “society-changing” measures are “vital” to keep down avoidable deaths, adding that their best estimate for the death rate of the virus now is 1% – but notes this is higher in older and vulnerable groups.
14:20 Delhi goes into lockdown
The Indian capital Delhi has been placed under lockdown until 31 March. The announcement on Sunday evening came hours after the entire country observed a voluntary 14-hour “people’s curfew” proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The measures include the halting of all domestic and international flights into the city, no public transport apart from a few buses that will have to operate at 25% capacity, and the shutdown of all factories, offices and religious places. The borders of the city with other states have also been sealed.
A colonial-era law that prohibits the gathering of more than four people has also been invoked, and authorities say those violating it will be punished. Only a few essential workers have been exempted, including pharmacists, chemists, municipal staff and media personnel.
14:05 Scotland confirms three more deaths
Three more patients in Scotland have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 10, the Scottish government confirms.
13:39 London borough to close parks
Hammersmith and Fulham has become the first London borough to announce it will be closing its parks to combat coronavirus. The borough council says the parks will be closing their gates at 19.00 GMT this evening until “further notice”.
Current UK government advice on social distancing for the general population says people should avoid “large and small gatherings in public spaces” – but does not explicitly say parks should be closed. It also says most people can go for a walk or exercise outdoors, if they stay more than two metres from others.
13:23 Spain sets up hospital in Madrid conference centre
A makeshift hospital has been set up a a conference centre in the capital Madrid, a city that is bearing some of the highest infection rates. The hospital will be fitted with 5,500 beds, making it the biggest facility of its kind in Europe. Its director, Antonio Zapatero, told El Mundo newspaper that 300 people will be move there this weekend.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned on Saturday that the worst is yet to come, comparing its impact to Spain’s civil war in the 1930s. “We have yet to receive the impact of the strongest, most damaging wave, which will test our material and moral capacities to the limit, as well as our spirit as a society,” he said. The virus has already claimed the life of a policeman, and health care workers now account for over 10% of infections. With so many frontline staff at risk, concerns have been raised about the ability of hospitals to cope with so many new patients. As part of efforts to shore up the healthcare system, around 14,000 doctors and nurses have been brought out of retirement to help.
13:04 Sainsbury’s amends special opening times
British supermarket Sainsbury’s has changed its new opening time policy for the elderly and vulnerable and NHS staff. The chain now says it will open half an hour earlier for all NHS staff each day at 07:30 GMT – while special shopping times for the elderly or at-risk will continue to be every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 08:00-09:00.
It follows feedback that allowing NHS staff to shop at the same time as those who are vulnerable from the coronavirus might put them at risk.
12:24 Iran refuses US offer of aid
Iran’s Supreme Leader has rejected America’s offer of aid to help the country with its battle against coronavirus. In a televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US was Iran’s “most evil enemy” and hinted at a conspiracy theory, also voiced by some Chinese officials, that America was responsible for the pandemic. “I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?” Mr Khamenei said. “Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”
Without offering any evidence, he also alleged that the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means”. Other Iranian officials have also accused America of hypocrisy for offering aid while refusing to lift heavy sanctions.
Iran has become one of the worst-hit countries in the world since the coronavirus outbreak began, and it has recorded the highest number of cases in the Middle East – more than 21,600. The official death toll has also risen to 1,685. But there are concerns that the actual number of infections and deaths in Iran is higher.
Today, French medical charity MSF said it was establishing a 50-bed emergency centre in Iran’s Isfahan province to assist with relief efforts. Alongside Britain and Germany, France is already contributing a medical aid package to Iran, amid rising political tensions.
11:40 Disease-related deaths rise to over 1,700 in Spain
Spanish authorities have reported 394 new virus-related deaths since yesterday, bringing the national total to 1,720. The rise compares with 324 new deaths on Saturday.
Over 3,600 new cases have also been confirmed. Officials say 28,572 have been infected since the outbreak began – 2,575 people have recovered.
Behind Italy and China, Spain has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. The majority of deaths have been reported in the country’s capital, Madrid.
10:59 Wales virus deaths rise by 7
A further seven patients in Wales who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total to 12, chief medical officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton said. It takes the number of deaths in Wales to 12 – all were in the high-risk category, either over 70 or with underlying health conditions.
10:50 UK ‘has ordered millions of antibody tests’
Robert Jenrick is also asked about efforts by the UK government to ramp up production of ventilators for hospitals. He says prototypes for the machines have been received, and he hopes some will come into hospitals “very quickly”. He also reveals that the government has ordered millions of antibody testing kits – which will be able to tell people if they have had the virus. He says these will be made available “in the coming weeks”.
10:40 Only critical workers should use tube, says London mayor
The worst-affected part of the UK from the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is London – with the capital’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, telling the BBC the city is “weeks ahead of the rest of the country”. He says Londoners should not leave their homes “unless you really have to”, and public transport should not be used unless “essential”. Asked if the tube should be closed completely, Mr Khan says he is keen to keep some trains running so “critical workers” can get to work. “Nobody else should be using public transport,” he adds.
He says he has been lobbying ministers to make sure people aren’t “confused” about the social distancing advice being given. “This isn’t advice as far as i’m concerned – these are instructions and these are rules that we should all obey to stop people dying,” he adds.
10:22 Australia to close pubs and restaurants
Australia is going to close pubs, clubs, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and places of worship from Monday, with cafes and restaurants having to switch to takeaway only.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the measures after a national cabinet meeting. Home delivery services will continue running and supermarkets will remain open. Schools are not being closed nationwide but some states have suggested they might do so. The number of confirmed cases has risen sharply in Australia in recent days, reaching 1,315.
10:19 ‘This won’t be over in 12 weeks’ – UK cabinet minister
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is asked about the PM Boris Johnson’s comment earlier this week that the UK can “turn the tide” on the virus within 12 weeks. Asked what that means, Mr Jenrick repeats that the UK can “turn the tide” in this period, but adds: “Nobody is pretending this will be over in 12 weeks”. He says the UK has taken the right steps so far to tackle the virus, but adds: “If there are further steps we need to take, we will take then”.
09:45 ‘At least a year’ for virus vaccine – WHO expert
Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, says it will take “at least a year” to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he says however there has been “good progress” in developing drug treatments, with a number of trials under way. But he adds it is important that doctors are allowed to develop evidence that treatments actually work and are safe.
09:32 Millions stay at home in India curfew
Hundreds of millions of people in India have stayed indoors in response to the government’s call for a lockdown to combat the transmission of coronavirus. The 14-hour curfew saw cities across India deserted.
Domestic flights were halted and Indian railways have cancelled all passenger services till the end of the month, from Monday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the lockdown – not mandatory – would strengthen the fight against Covid-19. India has registered 341 cases, with five deaths.
Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.