15th April 2020 – United Kingdom
# Cases $
Source: Public Health England and news reports. (Public Health England Web Site)
*=Interim Figures / Key: UK USA Other
** A new process for collecting numbers of recovered patients is in development: the figure shown is for 22/03/2020.
$ Cases now include Pillar 2 cases as of 11th April 2020
More information coming soon.
17:56 Baby delivered succesfully as pregnant nurse dies after contracting Covid-19
A pregnant nurse died on Sunday in hospital after contracting Covid-19. Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, 28, worked as a nurse on a general ward at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital for five years. The baby, a little girl, was delivered successfully and is doing well, according to the hospital.
17:33 Merkel eases lockdown measures
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans to ease the country’s lockdown. Social distancing measures will remain in place until 3 May, and Ms Merkel recommended people wear face masks on public transport and in shops. But from next week shops under 800 square metres will be allowed to open. Children will start to return to class from 4 May. According to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country has 127,584 confirmed cases and has reported 3,254 deaths
17:20 Death toll in Italy rises by 578
The death toll in Italy rose by 578 on Wednesday bringing the total to 21,645, the country’s civil protection agency said. 2,667 cases were reported, down from 2,972. The number of new reported cases is the lowest since 13 March. The number of people currently in intensive care is 3,079. The number has been declining for the past 12 consecutive days. Of those infected, 38,092 people have now recovered. Italy’s death toll is the second highest in the world after the US.
17:04 UK Press Briefing
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has taken his place inside Downing Street and gets today’s UK government press conference under way.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock begins by thanking people for staying at home, adding the UK is “slowing the spread” of the virus. He adds that spare capacity in the NHS has reached 2,657 beds, adding “so far” the UK has been able to ensure everyone who needs hospital care gets it. But he adds the UK cannot “let go of the hard work done so far”, and the lockdown will not be lifted “until safe to do so”.
Matt Hancock announces new details of the UK’s plan to cope with coronavirus in care homes. He says “priority drops” of protective equipment for the social care will continue over the next three weeks whilst a new online system is developed. He says the UK will be introducing a “single brand” for social care, to replicate the “famous” blue and white logo for the NHS. Supermarkets will be asked to give care staff the same priority as NHS workers, and the UK will undertake a recruitment drive, with the government paying for “induction training”. “I know that many will answer our call,” he adds.
Matt Hanock also says he has been upset by stories of people dying without their loved ones when they die. He says “new procedures” will allow people “wherever possible” the chance to say goodbye to a relative. He also says the government will prevent so-called “do not resuscitate” orders being applied in a “blanket fashion”.
Dr Angela Maclean, the UK’s deputy chief scientific officer, said the use of all modes of transport are now down to less than a third of what they were before the lockdown was introduced. “This is hard data to show how all of us are staying home,” she said. Dr Maclean said there was a flattening in the number of cases of Covid-19 and “for me that is evidence that what everybody has done together has worked”. “It is having the impact we hoped it would have,” she concluded.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is promising faster supply of personal protective equipment for social care staff and testing for all care home residents showing symptoms. Logistically, this will be very challenging. Both were difficult to achieve across 200 hospitals, but given there are more than 15,000 care homes in England it could take some time to achieve.
Matt Hancock is asked about the government’s commitment to expand testing of staff in social care. He replies that NHS workers are now being tested “regularly”, whilst currently 4,100 social care staff have been “referred for tests”. He says the UK’s testing capacity is being built up “all the time”, and “all those who need it” in the NHS and care sector can get tests.
Asked about why the UK was not discussing easing lockdown measures, as other countries which appear to have passed the peak have begun to do, Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty said: “We have not hit a point we can say confidently and safely this is past the peak and we can think about the next stages.” He said he expected the number of recorded deaths to jump mid-week after a four-day bank holiday weekend. Matt Hancock said it was too early to make changes and the advice remained to everybody to “stay home”.
Good news regarding hospital patients – numbers with coronavirus getting treatment in UK down by 1% in past day with biggest drop – 5% – seen in London. Earlier today NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said it was increasingly confident the NHS could cope with the peak, praising the public for following social distancing rules and staff for working hard under relentless pressure.
Asked whether caring for younger patients has been a priority and older people have died unnecessarily, Matt Hancock replies this is “very obviously not” the case. Prof Angela McLean, the UK’s deputy chief scientific adviser, says the UK must “try everything we can” to make sure new outbreaks do not occur in care homes yet to see cases.
Asked about testing in care homes, Matt Hancock says “in the first instance” only care staff with symptoms will be tested. He adds that those who have a household member in self-isolation will also be tested. “As the [testing] capacity expands, so we will be able to expand that definition of need”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has made a big play of the fact relatives are to be allowed to visit dying family in care homes. This was already allowed, but many care homes have blocked visiting because of concern about spread of virus, partly fuelled by a lack of protective equipment. The same applies to hospitals. It has meant many people with Covid-19 have died without any family or friends around them.
Asked whether regions outside London might take longer to see the curve flatten as infections spread faster in the capital, Dr Angela MacLean said she did not believe this to be the case. “Whilst we said London was two weeks ahead that was mostly on the way up,” she said. Dr MacLean said this was because lockdown measures had come into effect across the country at the same time.
There’s a question about the government’s past commitment to carry out 25,000 tests by mid-April. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says it has been superseded by the new target to reach 100,000 daily tests by the end of this month. Asked if the UK will follow Northern Ireland in extending lockdown measures for three weeks, Matt Hancock says a “formal decision” will be taken after an expert meeting tomorrow.
16:43 WHO chief ‘regrets’ Trump halting funding
In the past few minutes the World Health Organization’s chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has been speaking about US President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding for the organisation. He said the WHO regretted the move, but added: “Our commitment to public health, science, and to serving all the people of the world without fear or favour remains absolute.” Dr Tedros said the agency was “reviewing” the impact of the withdrawal of US funds to “ensure our work continues uninterpreted”.
16:39 Northern Ireland lockdown extended by three weeks
Northern Ireland’s lockdown is to be extended by three weeks, First Minister Arlene Foster has said. New powers to enforce guidelines on people staying at home and businesses remaining closed came into force on 28 March. The powers outlined by the first and deputy first ministers banned gatherings of more than two people and stipulated there should be reasonable excuses for leaving the home, such as obtaining necessities, seeking medical help and exercise. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Lives are being saved by these measures.”
16:23 US retail sales suffer worst drop on record
Retail sales in the US plummeted last month thanks to mandatory business closures and rising unemployment due to Covid-19. On Wednesday, the commerce department said March saw an 8.7% decline in sales, which is the biggest drop since the government began tracking this data in the 90s. Retail sales include purchases online and in stores, as well as at restaurants and bars. The vast majority of the country is currently under stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of coronavirus, with only essential services, like groceries and pharmacies, allowed to remain open. Over 7 million Americans declared they were unemployed in March, according to the labour department.
14:53 UK death toll rises by 761
A further 761 people have died with coronavirus in UK hospitals over a 24-hour period, according to the latest government figures. In total 12,868 deaths have been reported in hospitals across the country.
14:47 China changes focus as Wuhan hospital closes
It’s big news in China today that one of the temporary hospitals built in central Wuhan, where the coronavirus started, has now finally closed its doors. The last patients of the Leishenshan Hospital, which was built in around 10 days in late January, were transferred to regular hospitals on Tuesday. Fewer than 300 patients are now being treated in central Hubei province, a stark contrast to the 10,000 plus who were being treated there in early February. Back in January, millions of people watched livestreams from their homes as the hospital was built, along with the Huoshenshan Hospital. China has now turned the focus on how it is helping the rest of the world. The main broadcaster, CCTV, is carrying reports that chartered flights – military and passenger-turned-cargo planes – are entering the country from all over the world to collect supplies, which China is able to manufacture, as the country slowly adjusts to life after Covid-19.
14:18 UK has ‘no plans’ to stop funding WHO
The UK has “no plans” to follow the US and stop funding the World Health Organization. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the WHO had “an important role to play in leading the global health response” adding that the UK had contributed £75m ($93m) towards efforts to stop the coronavirus. The spokesman did not comment on US President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO. On the issue of UK care workers, Downing Street said 3,300 had been invited to be tested for Covid-19, although it was not known how many had been. Rules would also be changed “straight away” so that patients being discharged from hospital into care homes would be tested for coronavirus before they left. The spokesman said “extensive work” was being done on an exit strategy from lockdown restrictions. But, he said that, for now, the focus needed to be on getting the public to stay at home while capacity is built in the NHS.
14:09 Confirmed global cases near two million
We’re close to reaching another sombre figure in the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of confirmed cases gets near to two million, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the disease globally. Nearly 130,000 people have died and more than 500,000 have recovered, according to the US university’s figures. The US has the most cases, and more than 26,000 people have now died there. The disease first emerged in central China just over three months ago and while it took a month and a half for the first 100,000 cases to be registered, that figure has accelerated since. A million cases were reached on 2 April and that number has now more than doubled.
12:20 Germany set to ease rules on movement from 3 May
As Denmark starts reopening schools for under 11s, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to hold talks with the leaders of the country’s 16 states on when to relax coronavirus restrictions. According to German media, the federal government in Berlin wants restrictions on movement to last until at least 3 May although some shops will be able to reopen under strict rules from 20 April. Germany has not been as badly hit as other countries in Western Europe, with 3,254 deaths recorded by the RKI public health institute, including 285 in the past 24 hours. Austria allowed some shops to open on Tuesday, and Germany may do the same. The talks start at 14:00 (12:00 GMT) so the details may yet change. The crisis plunged Germany’s economy into recession last month.
11:59 International rejection of Trump’s WHO decision grows
China and Germany have added to international condemnation of the decision by President Trump to US halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO). A foreign ministry spokesman said China was “seriously concerned” about the decision, which he said came during a “critical moment” in the pandemic. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “blaming doesn’t help”. He added that one of the best ways to work to stop the spread of the virus was to strengthen the UN and the WHO in the development and distribution of tests and vaccines. The EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said he “deeply regretted” the move, adding: “There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain [and] mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.”
11:49 Heathrow Border Force officer dies after catching coronavirus
A UK Border Force officer who worked at Heathrow Airport has died after contracting coronavirus. The unnamed man is thought to have died last week after feeling unwell at work. The Public and Commercial Services Union has called for all officers to be equipped with protective equipment and described the situation as a “disgrace”.
11:38 Iran’s Guards unveil ‘magnetic’ virus detection tool
The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps has unveiled a handheld device that he said could identify people infected with the coronavirus within 100m (330ft), Tasnim news agency reports. “The basis of this device is to create a magnetic field based on a bipolar virus inside the device, so its antenna can focus on any place within a 100m diameter that is infected by the virus, and identify the infected place in five seconds,” Maj-Gen Hossein Salami was quoted as saying. He added that its accuracy was “80%”, but provided no evidence. Experts say the only reliable way to test for Covid-19 currently is by taking a swab of the nose or throat, which is sent off to a lab to look for signs of the virus’s genetic material. Update 15:15: Observers have pointed out the device was similar to fake bomb detectors sold in the region, for which people have already been detained, as we reported in 2014.
11:16 Japanese city urges citizens to donate raincoats
The Japanese city of Osaka is urging its residents to donate plastic raincoats to help hospitals that are running short of personal protective equipment. Mayor Ichiro Matsui said some health workers had resorted to wearing rubbish bags when treating patients. “If doctors get infected, we can never beat coronavirus,” Mr Matsui said, adding that there was a severe shortage of protective gear. A notice on the Osaka city website said any colour and style of raincoat was acceptable – as long as they were meant for adults, Reuters news agency reported. Osaka has nearly 900 cases, making it the second hardest-hit after Tokyo, according to media reports. A state of emergency was imposed in Tokyo and six other areas, including Osaka, last week. Japan has confirmed more than 8,000 cases and 166 deaths.
10:57 EU seeks ‘gradual approach’ to lifting of lockdown
The European Union has announced its recommendations for member states to come out of lockdown measures, warning countries to be cautious. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the main pre-conditions were for states to have a significant decrease in infections, sufficient capacity in their health system and adequate monitoring and surveillance. Von der Leyen said: “In general, we recommend a gradual approach and every action should be continuously monitored.” The goal of the roadmap is to “ensure a co-ordinated exit from the containment measures”, the commission said. An online pledging conference will be held on 4 May to address funding gaps, she added.
10:35 Trump’s name to appear on benefit cheques
As part of the US administration’s economic response to the coronavirus outbreak, tens of millions of Americans are set to receive cheques worth $1,200 (around £945). But according to US media, President Donald Trump’s name will be printed on every single one. The Washington Post, which first reported the news on Tuesday, says it is the first time that a US president’s name has appeared on a cheque sent out by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The newspaper said the decision could mean delays of a few days before recipients receive the cheques, although a senior official speaking to CNN denied this.
10:15 Queues on Moscow metro as new passes come into use
Russian social media users have been posting videos and photos of close-packed crowds in metro stations across Moscow during the morning rush hour, as the city’s new digital pass system comes into effect. The mandatory high tech passes are meeting low tech, physical police checks with officers inspecting each passenger’s passport, and the QR code on their phone, before letting them through the turnstiles. The long queues have caused a flood of anxious comment online about the risk of spreading coronavirus. That’s just what this new system was supposed to reduce, with tighter controls on who can move about. All essential workers travelling into or around Moscow, including medics and hospital staff, now need to apply in advance for a pass and there’s a steep fine for anyone found without. After rush hour the crowds subsided and there were no obvious police checks at several stations. Officials say since the lockdown the number of people using the metro each day has dropped by some 80%. Already stringent, Moscow’s lockdown measures are getting even tougher as the number of Covid-19 patients continues to rise steeply. A record 3,388 new infections were reported on Wednesday, taking the total to 24,490 across Russia. The government has warned that hospitals in Moscow are already “at their limit” and it’s urgently preparing extra beds.
09:14 Singapore’s foreign workers ‘among the most vulnerable’
In Singapore, the recent spike in new positive tests is largely taking place among foreign workers. They are housed in huge dormitories and often live with 10 to 20 people in one room. The virus clusters in those dorms are spreading fast. “Many of the dorms are now quarantined,” Alex Au of migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too told the BBC. “But that’s like quarantining a cruise ship – in the end, thousands of workers will contract the virus which makes them one of the most vulnerable groups.” It’s a crisis of neglect, he says. “When authorities did their crisis modelling and began implementing social distancing guidelines, it seems they completely forgot that the workers are living in very different conditions to most other Singaporeans.” The city has now begun moving some workers into different facilities to enable social distancing, but Au says it’s a drop in the ocean.
08:35 UK Labour leader ‘worried’ by testing figures
UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says he is worried that the government is “far behind” its own targets for testing. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a “five-pillar” testing plan earlier in April and plans to conduct 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. The government’s latest figures show that 14,892 tests took place on 13 April. “I think Matt Hancock said there would be 25,000 by mid-April but we are currently at under 15,000 so we are missing that target,” Starmer told BBC Breakfast. He said reaching 100,000 by the end of April would involve a “massive ramp-up”. “We’ll support him if he can achieve that but I’m a bit worried we are so far behind. If we are going to go for mass community testing we are talking about testing way in excess of that.”
07:55 We must insist on truth, says US Speaker Pelosi
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has launched a scathing attack on President Donald Trump, hours after he announced the US would halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Americans must ignore lies and start to listen to scientists and other respected professionals in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” she said in a statement. She said the president “ignored… warnings, took insufficient action and caused unnecessary death and disaster”, adding that shortages of tests and protective equipment were threatening lives. “There are important decisions ahead,” she went on to say. “But if we are not working from the truth, more lives will be lost, economic hardship and suffering will be extended unnecessarily and our children will not be safe, happy and learning.”
07:48 ‘Much too early to talk about reversing UK lockdown’
Professor Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London says there are early signs that the UK lockdown is having a “beneficial effect”. The government is expected to announce an extension to the lockdown on Thursday and Prof Openshaw, who has previously sat on their Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that talk of removing measures is premature. “It is much too early to think begin thinking about reversing the lockdown or saying which measures may be lifted,” he said. “At the moment hospital admissions are starting to level off in some parts and slowdown in others. It is not countrywide. It has been worse in London. “The measures introduced would clearly have had a more beneficial effect if they had been introduced sooner but it may be that the effects of the lockdown will greater in those parts of the country that were behind on the curve.”
07:28 India to ease farming restrictions but travel remains banned
A day after extending a nationwide lockdown to 3 May, India has relaxed restrictions on farming, banking and public works. The new rules – which will come into effect on Monday – are expected to ease the supply chain and alleviate the impact on the economy. Under the new guidelines, the government has said agricultural businesses can open. These include dairy, aquaculture, tea, coffee and rubber plantations as well as shops selling farming products. Public works programmes, which are a crucial source of employment for daily-wage earners, will also reopen while following social distancing norms. But heavy travel restrictions remain in place, including no train or flight services and all public gathering – social, political or religious – are still banned.
06:49 Pakistan clerics defy ban on large gatherings in mosques
A group of prominent Pakistani clerics have said that congregational prayers and Friday prayers would continue across mosques in the country. They added that this would occur alongside precautionary measures advised by the government. Authorities have restricted gatherings at mosques to five people or less – but this has prompted backlash from some religious leaders, and several instances of clashes with police trying to enforce the rules. “In the present conditions, five daily prayers along with measures are essential,” religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani told reporters on Tuesday, adding that there would be proper distance between rows and individuals. Pakistan has recorded 5,837 cases and 96 related deaths so far. On Tuesday it extended its lockdown for two more weeks.
06:38 UN’s Guterres defends WHO against Trump
As we mentioned earlier, the chief of the United Nations has criticised US President Donald Trump for wanting to cut funding to the World Health Organization, saying now was “not the time” to reduce resources for the WHO. “Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said. Trump had earlier accused the WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus” and said the US would halt funding pending a review of the situation. Guterres however stressed the WHO was “on the front lines, supporting member states and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services”. “It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”
06:29 German death toll rises beyond 3,000
Germany’s virus death toll has risen to above 3,000. The country’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said 285 deaths over the past day were linked to Covid-19, taking the toll to 3,254. The overall number of positive tests is now at 127,584 according to the official figures. More than half of those people have already recovered though. Later on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss with regional leaders whether to lift some of the measures in place to stop the spread. Several European countries like Austria and Denmark have in the past days allowed some schools and small shops to reopen.
06:19 China retires ‘Thunder God Mountain’ hospital
Remember that video of two Chinese hospitals being built at breakneck speed? One of them, the Leishenshan – or Thunder God Mountain – Hospital in the virus epicentre of Wuhan has now closed its doors after its last patients were discharged and transferred to another facility. The hospital was built as a temporary facility to treat the city’s virus patients. It made headlines when millions tuned in to watch a livestream of it being built – it was completed in just under two weeks. But it won’t be knocked down just yet – it’ll remain on standby for now, though hopefully it won’t be needed. “It was a crucial turning point that the number of patients in our hospital fell to zero,” Wang Xinhuan, president of the hospital, told state media outlet China Daily. The hospital, which has been operating for over two months, saw about 2,000 patients admitted – of which 45% were classed as “serious cases”.
05:42 India releases new guidelines for extended lockdown
A day after the lockdown was extended to 3 May in India, new guidelines from the Ministry of Home Affairs have been relased. They say that all agriculture and farming activities will be allowed after 20 April. Public transport, flights and train services will continue to be suspended except for those carrying health and emergency workers. Schools and universities too will remain closed as well as all religious places of worship and sports facilities. Hospitals and health services will function as usual.
05:34 Australian man jailed for breaking quarantine
A 35-year-old man in Perth has become the first person in Australia to be jailed for breaking strict new social distancing laws introduced last month. Jonathan David was sentenced to six months in jail after he snuck out of a mandatory 14-day isolation in a hotel to visit his girlfriend. He escaped through the hotel’s fire door and took public transport to get there, a court heard. The sentencing magistrate called him “selfish in the extreme”, but suspended five months of his sentence. Several Australian states have enacted strict movement laws, and in recent weeks, police have fined hundreds of people found outside their homes for loitering, hanging in groups, or doing non-essential activities.
05:09 Denmark opens nurseries and primary schools
Denmark will begin reopening nursery and primary schools on Wednesday, as the country takes its first steps towards easing restrictions. New rules mean that children will be kept further apart than usual, there’ll be strict cleaning regimes, and where possible, lessons will be held outside. Other lockdown restrictions remain in place, but the government said the numbers of people in hospital had been falling, and further measures might be lifted soon. Denmark has more than 6,700 positive tests and around 300 deaths. Meanwhile, Germany’s government will discuss a possible lifting of some of its measures on Wednesday.
04:56 China continues to see imported cases
We continue to see China reporting mostly imported cases for another day. Of the 46 new cases on Tuesday, 36 were imported from overseas. The 10 remaining cases were locally transmitted – with the northern border province of Heilongjiang accounting for eight of them. Today’s numbers however, are lower than yesterday’s reported 86 imported cases – 79 of which were imported cases in Heilongjiang. China has recently seen a rise in imported cases as infected Chinese nationals returned from the border with Russia. It’s now closed the border with Russia at Suifenhe, a city in Heilongjiang but this might have come too late. China says Russia has become its largest source of imported cases, with a total of 409 of its infections coming from Russia. There are now 82,295 cases nationally.
04:16 Veteran, 99, raises £4m for NHS
With everyone confined to their homes in the UK, it’s easy for a sense of helplessness to set in. But 99-year-old Tom Moore has managed to keep himself busy with the extraordinary feat of attempting 100 laps of his garden, to raise money for the National Health Service. Even more impressively, after his determination got national and global attention, he has already raised more than $5m (£4m). Mr Moore had hoped to complete the 100 laps of the 25-metre (82ft) loop in his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of the month – but has now said he’ll just keep going. “When you think of who it is all for – all those brave and super doctors and nurses we have got – I think they deserve every penny, and I hope we get some more for them too,” he said.
04:08 Thailand extends flight ban
Thailand has exetended its flight ban to 30 April, local media are reporting. There are some exceptions though, for instance repatriation and other virus related flights, or state and military aircraft. It’s the third time the flight ban has been pushed further. Whoever arrives on the few flights exempt from the ban will have to serve a 14-day quarantine. Thailand has 2,613 confirmed infections and 41 deaths have been linked to Covid-19.
03:33 Life on Estonia’s ‘coronavirus’ island
A European island off the coast of Estonia has been labelled by locals as “corona island” after becoming a hotspot for the virus and being placed into strict quarantine. The first Covid-19 cases on the island of Saaremaa emerged a month ago after a sports event was held there with a team from Italy. Now, health officials estimate that half of the island’s population has contracted the virus.
03:25 Global death toll passes 125,000
In another grim milestone, the deaths of 126,539 people have now been linked to Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The highest toll is in the US with 25,992 deaths, followed by Italy (21,067), Spain (18,255), France (15,729) and the UK (12,107). China, where the pandemic began has officially reported 3,345 deaths linked to the virus.
03:13 New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern to take 20% pay cut
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced she and other government ministers will take a 20% pay cut for six months. Ardern said the move was in solidarity with those who had lost their jobs, suffered pay cuts or were relying on wage subsidies. “If there was ever a time to close the gap between different positions, it’s now,” she said. “This is where we can take action.” Ardern earns a base salary of NZ$470,000 (£226,000; $285,000). The salaries of public sector bosses and other politicians will also be cut, she said. The NZ PM has so far been praised globally for her empathetic leadership and swift action to enact a full lockdown early into the virus’ spread in New Zealand. New Zealand’s economy is set to suffer a significant 7.2% hit this year, the International Monetary Fund has estimated.
03:05 Singapore infections escalate
Singapore has seen yet another spike in positive tests. Over the past day, 334 new infections have been confirmed, taking the total beyond 3,000. The city of 5.6m people also had its 10th death linked to Covid-19. Singapore previously looked like it was in control with more imported infections than local transmission. Since last week though, local cases have skyrocketed. Many of the clusters are among foreign workers who live in often cramped conditions in large dormitories. Many of the dorms are now under lockdown and some workers are being moved to floating accommodation offshore. Authorities have now further tightened the already widespread restrictions to curb the spread. Residents will now have to wear a mask at all times outside their homes. Last week, the government brought in a so called circuit breaker, closing all non-essential business and asking people to stay at home except for essential outtings. Breach of the new regulations coming into effect on Thursday will result in hefty fines which Singapore is known to aggressively enforce.
02:55 Taiwan marks zero virus cases
Taiwan has recorded no new virus cases for the first time in 36 days on Tuesday, a sign that its early prevention methods are working. There are currently 393 cases on the island that is home to around 23 million people. “For the first time since March 9, I am happy to say that we recorded no new cases. The pandemic has not stopped so we shouldn’t let our guard down, but this is something to be happy about,” said its health minister Chen Shih-chung. Taiwan was quick to identify, isolate and trace contacts of confirmed cases. Its success comes as a handful of other countries across Asia are struggling to deal with a second wave of virus cases.
02:54 Trump suspends US funding of WHO
The other big story we’re watching today is President Donald Trump saying the US will stop funding the World Health Organization (WHO) while “a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”. The US is the WHO’s biggest single funder, providing $400m (£316m) last year – just under 15% of its total budget. “Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death,” he said. It has since been pointed out that Mr Trump praised China’s “efforts and transparency” in a tweet in January. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said it was not the time to reduce the WHO’s funding.
02:51 South Korea heads to polls
It’s an election unlike any other. Voters must come wearing masks and stand at least 1m apart. They will have their temperature taken, disinfect their hands and wear plastic gloves. Only then will they be given their voting slip and be allowed to head into the booth to cast their ballot. South Korea’s parliamentary vote kicked off this morning, with some 43.9 million voters in the country eligible to cast their ballots. South Korea has never postponed an election. Even during the Korean War in 1952, the presidential elections went ahead. “This is about our right to vote,” one person waiting in line told the BBC’s Laura Bicker. “Voting is something we must do,” another said.
00:12 US agrees $25bn bailout for airline industry
The US has agreed a roughly $25bn (£19.8bn) rescue package for 10 of the country’s biggest airlines as travel plunges due to the coronavirus. American Airlines, United, Delta and Southwest are among the recipients. The money is to be provided through a combination of low-cost loans and direct grants. Congress had planned for the aid as part of its roughly $2.2tn emergency relief bill last month, but airlines had hesitated over some of the conditions. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday said the airline deal would “support American workers and help preserve the strategic importance of the airline industry while allowing for appropriate compensation to the taxpayers”. “We look forward to working with the airlines to finalise the necessary agreements and disburse funds as quickly as possible.”
Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.