29th March 2020 – United Kingdom
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22:58 Trump announces expansion of rapid testing
President Trump says that a new test has been approved to get Covid-19 results within five minutes. “The deployment of rapid testing… will ultimately defeat the virus,” he said from his daily White House briefing. “We will defeat the virus.” He said an anti-viral drug was being administered to 1,100 patients in New York. “Let’s see how it works, we may have some incredible results,” he said. Mr Trump then praised a new technology that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says can sterilise used masks, before he discussed potential treatments. “The vaccines are moving along very rapidly. The vaccines are an answer,” he said.
Mr Trump alleges that some states and medical groups are “hoarding” ventilators and other critical medical supplies. “Many of the states are stocked up… some of them don’t admit it,” he said. He added that hospitals “can’t hold them if they think there might be a problem weeks down the road”.
Trump says that the national guidelines for social distancing will be extended for an additional month until 30 April. The initial 15-day guidance was set to expire tomorrow, on 30 March. “Social distancing, that’s the way you win,” he says, adding that the US “will be well on our way to recovery” by June. The president had previously said he wanted the US economy to re-open by Easter which falls on 12 April. Trump says the “peak” of recorded deaths in the US is likely to hit in two weeks. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won,” he says. “That would be the greatest loss of all.”
Taking questions from reporters, Trump says that he “doesn’t want high approval ratings” for his response to the coronavirus outbreak. “I see numbers, they don’t matter to me,” he says, adding that “victory” over the outbreak is what matters. Earlier on Sunday, Trump issued a series of tweets, quoting an article from the New York Times which called the president’s daily briefings a “ratings hit” and compared its viewership to that of reality series The Bachelor.
Trump said the state-by-state application of social distancing, depending on how serious their outbreaks levels were, would not happen as his expert advisers “don’t like that”. Mr Trump had floated the idea earlier this week as a way of getting the US economy up and running again.
21:31 Deliveroo to make free meals available to NHS
The food delivery service Deliveroo says it will make half a million meals available to NHS staff for free during the coronavirus crisis. The London-based company has already received pledges of 350,000 free meals from partner restaurants to provide to frontline workers. Pizza Hut is offering 300,000 meals, while Itsu and Lewis Hamilton’s plant-based Neat Burger restaurant have also made donations. Meanwhile, a campaign to provide hospital staff with hot meals backed by actors Matt Lucas, Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory has received over £400,000 ($497,000). A similar campaign called Meals for the NHS has raised more than £250,000.
21:22 Czech medical aid arrives in Spain
A Spanish Air Force plane carrying medical supplies donated by the Czech Republic has landed in Madrid. The aircraft, which touched down at Torrejón air base on Sunday, was stocked up with 10,000 protective medical suits and 90 respirators. The delivery was organised by Nato at the request of Spain, which has the second highest death toll from the virus in the world. Another delivery of a similar number of Czech medical suits will be made to Italy on Monday.
Nato, a transatlantic military alliance, thanked the Czech Republic for its “generous bilateral aid”, describing its contribution as “solidarity in action”. Spain and Italy are the two worst-affected countries in Europe.
20:51 ‘I don’t see any virus flying around!’ – Belarus leader
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has laughed off the suggestion that his country should try to stem the spread of the coronavirus, because he can’t see the virus “flying around”. Speaking to a TV reporter at an indoor ice hockey match, he also claimed that crowds at the match were fine because the coldness of the stadium would prevent the virus from spreading. There is no evidence that this could be the case and the coronavirus cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Unlike most of Europe, Belarus has not placed any restrictions on sports events. “There are no viruses here,” Mr Lukashenko said. “You haven’t seen them flying around, have you? I don’t see them either! This is a fridge. Sport, particularly the ice, this fridge here, that’s the best antiviral cure!”
20:46 UK PM: 20,000 staff to rejoin NHS
About 20,000 retired doctors and nurses are set to return to the NHS, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson thanked them for responding to the government’s appeal for them to return. Letters were sent to more than 65,000 retired NHS workers in England and Wales last week, asking them to come back. Mr Johnson is currently self-isolating at his home in Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus.
20:19 Nigeria’s president orders lockdown of cities
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a lockdown of the capital Abuja and the country’s largest city Lagos. In a televised address to the nation, he ordered the “cessation of all movements” in the cities for two weeks from 10:00 GMT on 30 March. He said the measures would also apply to Ogun State. “All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes,” he said. “All businesses and offices in the area should be fully closed.” He also said a special fund of $40 million had been set aside to help deal with the pandemic. Nigeria has 97 confirmed cases of the virus and one death.
19:36 Bolsonaro in denial and out on a limb
As the world tries desperately to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is doing his best to downplay it. Just days ago, he clearly demonstrated his prioritisation of the economy over isolation measures favoured by the rest of the world: “People are going to die, I’m sorry. “But we can’t stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents.”
And unlike fellow right-wing leader US President Donald Trump, there’s little sign of an about-turn from Mr Bolsonaro – a politician who has always railed against the establishment. But in these times of crisis, people don’t want to listen to a blame-game. They need a problem to be solved – and fast.
19:24 New isolation centres in Republic of Ireland as death toll rises
The Republic of Ireland has seen 10 more deaths in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of people to have died to 46. There is now a total of 2,615 confirmed cases in the country. The figures were reported after personal protective equipment (PPE) arrived from China and it was announced that a Dublin hotel and conference centre will be the first of a series of new coronavirus centres for isolation and stepdown care. Similar facilities are to open in other urban locations, including Cork, Limerick and Galway.
19:04 Moscow tightens restrictions
Authorities in Moscow have tightened restrictions on the movement of people in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, meaning residents can only leave their homes for urgent and limited purposes. From Monday, people in the Russian capital will only be allowed to leave their homes to seek urgent medical help, go to work if they are required to, shop for basic necessities such as food and medicine and throw out household waste. On his blog, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin also said people can walk their pets “no more than 100 metres from their place of residence”.
18:48 France’s deaths rise by 292
France has reported 292 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, bringing the total to 2,606, AFP news agency reports. The country has the fifth highest number of deaths in the world after Iran, China, Spain and Italy, figures show.
17:55 New York Governor: state cases surge by 7,195 overnight
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has reported 7,195 new Covid-19 cases across the state, bringing the total of New York cases to 59,513.
New York is now the heart of the US coronavirus outbreak, home to just under half the total cases across the country. As of Sunday, 965 death were linked to the virus across the state. Nursing homes make up one quarter of these deaths, Cuomo said.
Cuomo said that 76,019 health workers have volunteered to help with the crisis as New York hospitals are pushed beyond capacity. Naval hospital ship USNS Comfort is set to dock in New York on Monday, to assist with the state’s overflow, providing 1,000 beds and federal officials to treat non-coronavirus patients.
The death count will continue to rise, but the “doubling rate is slowing”, Cuomo said. “And that is good news.”
17:51 Czech ministers row over elderly care
A row over the provision of coronavirus supplies in care homes has engulfed the Czech Republic’s government. On Friday, the government said cases of coronavirus had been reported in six homes for the elderly. It prompted unions to criticise the lack of protective equipment.
Over the weekend, health minister, Adam Vojtěch, and interior minister, Jan Hamáček, have been arguing on social media about who was responsible for distributing respirators and protective equipment to such facilities. BBC Prague correspondent Rob Cameron said the row could develop into a major scandal, placing strain on the coalition government. He reported that at one home for the elderly, the coronavirus had infected six staff and 20 residents, one of whom had died.
A similar case caused controversy in Spain, where soldiers found elderly patients in retirement homes abandoned. So far, there have been 2,697 confirmed infections and 13 deaths from coronavirus in the Czech Republic, figures show.
17:36 Syria confirms first death
Syria has confirmed its first death from coronavirus, according to the country’s state media. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the conflict in Syria, which has killed over 380,000 people, has weakened the country’s health system. Just 64% of hospitals and 52% of primary healthcare centres that existed before 2011 are still functioning in the country.
17:34 German state finance minister found dead
The finance minister for the central German state of Hesse has been found dead, police say. The body of 54-year-old Thomas Schäfer was found on a railway line in the town of Hochheim near Frankfurt on Saturday morning. Investigators presume the CDU politician’s death was suicide based on the circumstances, police said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Mr Schäfer had announced state financial assistance for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic, German media reported. In a video message, Hesse’s state premier Volker Bouffier reportedly alluded to the challenges Mr Schäfer was facing in dealing with the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis. Other German politicians have expressed their shock at Mr Schäfer’s death, including CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
17:14 Italy deaths continue unabated
Italy recorded 756 new deaths in the past 24 hours – bringing the total to 10,779. This also marked the second successive fall in the daily number of recorded deaths. For context, there were 889 on Saturday and more than 900 on Friday. More widely, the number of people who have tested positive for the virus in Italy rose on Sunday to 97,689 from a previous 92,472. That is the lowest daily rise in new cases since Wednesday. At least 13,030 people have recovered from the virus, officials said.
16:13 UK Press Conference
Mr Jenrick says the virus is “indiscriminate”. “We each have a part to play by staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives”. He says he will announce two new measures, the first to ensure “every corner in the country” can protect against the virus.
Mr Jenrick says the government “will not stop” to get personal protective equipment to frontline workers. “We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without thee. right protective equipment,” he adds. He says distrubution teams are getting PPE around the UK. And that 42.8 million gloves, 142,000 gowns and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors have been delivered to 58,000 “health care settings”, including hospitals and GP surgeries. He says every further deliveries will soon have been sent to all social workers.
The communities secretary addresses those 1.2 million people who have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks. He calls on those without local support to register for help on the government’s website. He says the NHS can deliver medicine, and distribution teams can deliver food – to those who request it. He says 50,000 food parcels are being sent out this week. He says: “I want you to know, that you are not alone – we are here to support you as long as you need us”.
The minister thanks key workers and the 750,000 people to have signed up to help the NHS. He says “there’s going to be work to be done” across the country during the crisis, and he asks people to “play your part”. “When this is done – and it will be done – we all want to proud of the part we played together”. Mr Jenrick and England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries will now take questions from the media – via video calls.
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “tide would turn” against the virus in 12 weeks, and a reporter asks if this is still the same. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick says: “Nobody is pretending this will be over in a few weeks. “But what the prime minister said in the past, and what I will reiterate today, is if we all play our part, if we all follow the very clear medical advice… then we can turn the tide of this virus.” Dr Jenny Harries says the virus is like a “moving feast” and when we see it tackled is “dependent on the actions we take as individuals and collectively as a population”. She says she hopes the “proof of that will come in two to three weeks” when experts can see if the measures put in place have worked.
Robert Jenrick is asked what he thinks the coming week will look like after a warning letter from the PM that things could get worse. The housing secretary says everyone in the UK has “the power to influence the course of events”. He says if people “want to protect lives and protect the NHS” then they “must take heed of the medical advice”. He adds: “This is on all of us. We all have a responsibility to protect each other. We just need to follow the advice in the days and weeks ahead.” Both pay tribute to Dr Amged El-Hawrani, who became the first frontline worker to die from the virus. Dr Jenny Harries also says there will be more guidance published shortly for NHS workers and social care workers.
Paul Brand from ITV News asks Dr Harries if current measures in place will continue beyond three weeks. She points out the UK has only had one week of the measure and that the prime minister said the situation would be “reviewed” after the three weeks. But she adds it would be “quite dangerous” to then revert to normal life. “If we stop then all of our efforts will be wasted,” she adds. She says that measures may be reduced gradually over time. Dr Harries says it might be three to six months before we see the longer-term impact when it can be assessed if we can start to “get back to normal”. “And it is plausible it could go further than that”, she adds.
Dr Harries is asked to elaborate on her comments about the length of the UK’s “lockdown”. She says she did not say the measures would last six months. “This is a moving target,” she explains. She says scientists are expecting the daily number of deaths to “get worse” in the next week or two. She adds that timing is “really important” and called on people to follow the government’s advice. And says that the measures will be in place until “we’re sure we can start lifting various interventions”. Mr Jenrick is asked whether people should report people for about flouting current measures. He says there a “moral obligation” on people o protect each other and urged people to stay at home.
Dr Jenny Harries is asked whether the large number of deaths in recent days was expected. She says: “Sadly the answer is yes, it is as expected. “It is not an easy position to stand on a platform and say we expect large numbers of people to die… but it is a pandemic and an unprecedented event.” Dr Harries warns she is “expecting that number will increase for the next week or two”. But, “if we keep doing what we are doing” with social distancing measures, she says she “anticipates… it will start to drop”. She adds: “We just need to watch it carefully, hold tight for a week or two, keep doing what we are doing, and then come back and ask me the question again.” Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick again avoids divulging what specific stronger measures could be put in place if the current tactics don’t work. He says: “If we all follow the measures, there is every reason to believe we can turn the tide of the virus. “Of course, if those measures prove insufficient or the public are not complying, then we will have to consider further options but that is not our intention.”
A final question comes from Kate Proctor of the Guardian. She asks how much the UK will spend to help get British citizens back home from overseas – and whether the RAF will be used to help. The communities secretary says protecting citizens overseas is a “top priority” and that the prime minister has been speaking to world leaders to help arrange their return. Mr Jenrick says the UK “haven’t ruled out” chartering repatriation fllghts to get people back. He adds that the government is focused “100% on trying to save lives here”. Mr Jenrick brings today’s briefing to a close.
15:33 100,000-200,000 Americans could die – Dr Fauci
The coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, the government’s top infectious diseases expert warned on Sunday. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s State of the Union that millions would be infected by the virus.
Dr Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, added, however: “I don’t want to be held to that … It’s such a moving target that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people.”
15:19 Plane crashes in the Philippines
We’re not sure if this is coronavirus related or not yet, but a plane has crashed at Manila’s main airport in the Philippines. Local media reports say the plane was heading for Japan and was carrying medical personnel and a patient. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, confirmed his fire and medic teams had been dispatched to the scene.
He said the plane exploded as it was taking off from the runway. The plane was carrying eight passengers including medical staff, flight crew and a patient along with their companion, he added. We’ll bring you more updates as we get them.
14:46 New York mayor: City will run out of supplies in 1 week
Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio says that his city will run out of critical medical supplies – including ventilators – by next Sunday, 5 April. “Here in New York City, it feels like a wartime environment,” he told CNN. New York has become the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak. Across the state, at least 52,000 people had tested positive as of Saturday – more than one third of the cases across the country. At least 728 people have died, 672 of them within New York City. “This is going to be a long crisis,” de Blasio said. “We should get more girded for the sheer timeline here.”
14:03 UK deaths rise to 1,228
There have been a further 209 deaths in the UK, taking the number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK to 1,228, latest figures show.
The latest figures show there have been a further 209 deaths over the past 24 hours. That’s slightly lower than Saturday’s rise of 260. The vast majority of those – 190 – have come in England. Wales has reported 10 new deaths, there have been a further six in Northern Ireland, and one in Scotland. The Department of Health and Social care said there were now 19,522 confirmed cases in the UK.
13:30 Death toll rises in Netherlands
The death toll in the Netherlands has risen by 132 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total up to 771. The total number of cases in the country, which has a population of about 17 million, has also risen by 1,104 to a total of 10,866.
13:15 Dutch recall 600,000 defective masks from China
Officials in the Netherlands have recalled hundreds of thousands of protective masks, which were imported from China and distributed to hospitals, because they don’t meet quality standards. The Dutch Health Ministry told AFP news agency that 1.3 million masks were delivered on 21 March. About 600,000 of the masks had already been distributed to healthcare workers.
“The rest of the shipment was immediately put on hold and has not been distributed,” the ministry said in a statement. The problem was either that the masks didn’t close over the face properly, or were fitted with defective filters.
13:09 Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prison leave extended
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s temporary leave from prison in Tehran has been extended by two weeks, says her husband. The British-Iranian charity worker was released from Evin prison on 17 March because of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran. Richard Ratcliffe also said his wife’s file had been put forward to the Iranian prosecutor general for consideration for clemency. The 41-year-old was jailed in 2016 on charges of spying, something she has always denied.
12:31 India’s Modi apologises for lockdown
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Indians for forgiveness after imposing a lockdown. Amid criticism over the lack of planning ahead of the shutdown which was introduced with less than four hours’ notice, Mr Modi apologised for the impact in his weekly radio address.
“Possibly many would be angry at me for being locked in their homes. I understand your troubles but there was no other way to wage war against coronavirus. For a country like India with a population of 1.3 billion it is a battle of life and death and we have to win it.”
12:10 Swiss death toll reaches 257
The Swiss death toll has risen by 235 in a day to 257, Reuters news agency quotes the country’s health agency as saying. The number of confirmed cases has increased to 14,336 from 13,213, it said. This places Switzerland among the top European countries by number of cases, behind Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the UK.
12:00 Grim milestone – 30,000 deaths worldwide
A total of 30,982 people have died of coronavirus globally, with 669,312 confirmed cases, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
11:06 South Korea introduces new quarantine rules for overseas arrivals
South Korea says all overseas arrivals will have to go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Foreigners can be deported and South Korean citizens will face fines if they do not comply with the measures, which will come into force on 1 April. All arrivals must download the quarantine app on their phones, which monitors their symptoms and movements. Around half of the country’s new coronavirus cases in recent days have been people coming in from abroad.
10:47 Spain death spike continues unabated
Another 838 people died in Spain in the past 24 hours, the health ministry has announced – the highest daily rise in fatalities so far. It brings the number of deaths from the virus to 6,528. The total number of those infected rose to 78,797 from 72,248.
10:39 ‘Confusion’ over EU ventilator scheme
The UK Government missed the deadline to join an EU-wide scheme to get extra ventilators because of “communication confusion”, according to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.
Earlier this week Downing Street said the UK had decided to pursue its own plan rather than joining the EU’s procurement scheme, which will use the EU’s buying power to purchase more stock. But Downing Street later said that officials did not get emails inviting the UK to join. The EU has said the UK can still take part. Asked whether an email was received by the government, Mr Gove said: “There was some communication confusion, I don’t know all the details of that.” He added: “I’ve talked to senior figures in the NHS and they’ve reassured me that there is nothing that we can’t do as an independent nation that being part of that scheme would have allowed us to do.” Remember Brexit? The UK has left the EU – but remains in a transition period during which it is expected to reach its own trade arrangement with the 27-member bloc.
The UK currently has 8,000 ventilators available and has placed orders for another 8,000, but there are concerns about capacity in hospitals as the spread of the virus worsens.
09:55 UK government ‘needs to clarify’ essential work
UK opposition Labour Party is calling for the government to be “crystal clear” over which firms and are considered essential and should remain open during the lockdown. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “I’m asking the government to provide absolute clarity about what sorts of work are essential, and which are not.” He says many non-essential workers are being “forced” to go into work where they are unable to observe social distancing advice, adding that many workplaces are not observing the 2m rule.
09:52 Australia: Public gatherings of two people
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced more restrictions, including limiting public gatherings to just two people. People should only go out when necessary, and those over the age of 70 should stay home, he added. All playgrounds and outdoor gyms parks will be closed from Monday.
The country’s chief medical officer has also said he is confident Australia is testing the majority of cases in the country.
09:39 Italy ‘getting closer’ to peak
Italy’s Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri says he thinks the country is nearing the peak of its outbreak. Italy is the world’s worst hit country, with more than 10,000 deaths.
Mr Sileri told the Andrew Marr Show that in one week’s time – or 10 days “maximum” – the country would see a drop in positive cases. He also played down criticism that the Italian government didn’t enforce the country’s lockdown fast enough. He said the government had “acted fast” and was “very unlucky” to have several outbreaks in the Lombardy region, which he described as a “very active” part of Italy.
09:07 UK lockdown ‘could last until June’
Tough measures to tackle the outbreak in the UK have been in force for nearly a week – but a leading government adviser has warned they may need to remain in place until June.
Imperial College London Professor Neil Ferguson told the Sunday Times: “We’re going to have to keep these measures (the full lockdown) in place, in my view, for a significant period of time – probably until the end of May, maybe even early June.” He added that even if the lockdown was lifted, people would probably still need to abide by social distancing measures for months to come.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told Sky News that the length of the measures was not something that was “absolutely fixed”. He said: “It depends on all of our behaviour. If we follow the guidelines, we can deal more effectively with the spread of the disease.”
08:34 Portugal gives migrants residency
Portugal has announced that it will approve all applications for legal residence by migrants, because of a backlog of cases made worse by the coronavirus. All asylum seekers who’ve begun their applications will now be eligible for resident status. Officials described it as “an act of solidarity at a time of crisis”. The country has reported about 5,000 infections and 100 deaths.
08:10 NYC ‘avoid travel’ warning
We’ve been reporting about US President Donald Trump’s initial suggestion for – and later reversal – of a policy to quarantine New York.
Hours later, health authorities urged 8.6 million people of New York City, the hardest-hit municipality, and others in the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut millions of NYC residents to avoid non-essential travel for 14 days, citing “extensive community transmission”.
The rate of infections there has been surging. The number of confirmed American deaths has now passed 2,000 – more than double the level two days earlier.
Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.
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