16th April 2020 – United Kingdom 

# Cases $

16/04/2020

New Cases

16/04/2020

Deaths

16/04/2020

Recovered**

16/04/2020

Infected

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

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23:08 White House Briefing

President Trump has begun speaking and is expected to announce his plan for when and how governors should lift lockdown orders in their states. He is joined in the briefing room by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr Deborah Birx, the coronavirus taskforce co-ordinator.

Trump says Americans all over have “joined together in a shared national sacrifice to halt this disease”. He says mitigation efforts prevented worst-case scenarios from coming true. “It’s looking like we will come far under,” projected death toll figures, he continues. He adds that one death is too many, but overall “the peak is behind us”. “A sustained shutdown is not a long term solution,” he says, before outlining the plan for getting American re-opened.

Trump has long been conscious of the impact that the outbreak, and social distancing measures, have had on the US economy. At the briefing, he stresses: “We’re opening up our country… America wants to be open.” “We must have a working economy and we want to get it back very quickly and that’s what’s going to happen.” “We closed our economy in order to win this war. And we are winning it now,” he adds. Individual states will re-open on different schedules, he adds. More than 20 million people in the US have filed unemployment claims over the last four weeks, and experts expect the unemployment rate to hit double digits.

“Every state is different,” Trump says, meaning some may open very quickly but others will need more time. He calls on governors to move “very, very quickly, depending on what they want to do.” He also calls on states to work together with other nearby states to “harmonise their regional efforts,” as several have already done. “We will continue to work with governors to guide them on testing,” he says. Earlier this week, the president was at loggerheads with state governors about who had the ultimate authority to ease restrictions and reopen businesses. He has since agreed that it is a decision for governors to make, and that his powers are limited to issuing guidelines.

“We will reclaim the magnificent destiny that we share and we will carry our nation forward to new heights of glory,” Trump finishes as he hands over to Vice-President Mike Pence. Pence is now outlining the provisions of the White House plan, called “Re-Opening Up American Again”.

Trump has pledged that “the sacrifices our citizens” will be “honoured for generations to come”. He also praised the spirit of bipartisanship that allowed the passage of the massive congressional bailout, and united people across the country. However, it comes hours after he attacked Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter, calling her “an incompetent, third-rate politician”. In that post, he claimed the California lawmaker had deleted a tweet with a video, taken back in February, where she encouraged people to visit San Francisco’s Chinatown to help struggling businesses. He claimed that this meant she was “responsible for many deaths”.

As states work through the three phases, they may allow for more and more employees to return to work in increments, suggests Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus taskforce co-ordinator. Phase three, she says, will be the “new normal” and will still include suggestions that vulnerable people avoid spending time in crowded spaces. Other people can begin to meet in public, but should still adhere to physcial distancing. Gyms, for instance, can open “if they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines,” Dr Birx continues.

“You want to call it the new normal, you can call it whatever want,” says top infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci. “But it’s not game over.” He warns that the virus may rebound, and there could be setbacks along the way. “It may very well be, as we go this cycle around, that there may be this virus that wants to come back us. “But I think we can handle it” until a vaccine is found, he adds.

When asked about protesters who have been rallying against lockdown measures from Michigan to North Carolina to Kentucky, President Trump expresses sympathy for them. “There’s death and there’s problems in staying at home, too. It’s not all ‘isn’t it wonderful to stay home’,” Trump says. He is asked what his message is for the demonstrators, who are demanding their states reopen. “They seem to be protesters who like me and express this opinion and my opinion is just about the same as all of the governors,” he says. He calls on the demonstrators, many of whom carry Trump campaign flags, to heed the guidelines issues by the federal government.

Trump says each of the states are different, and make up a “mosaic” of readiness to reopen. “I call it a beautiful puzzle,” he says of the US map, adding that around 29 states are in good condition to begin reopening soon. On a personal level, he says he knows people who have suffered from the virus. “I have a number of people who were very great people who were just decimated by what happened,” he said. He says one person he knows – but does not name – was dead four days after testing positive for Covid-19. Earlier this week the president paid his respects to a New York real estate developer he knew who died with coronavirus.

A reporter asks Trump when he will resume hitting the campaign trail, and he responds: “I want to make the country better. I don’t care about campaigning.” Critics have accused the president of using the White House briefing room as a campaign soap box. His re-election team continues to hold virtual campaign events.

In a veiled dig at China and the World Health Organization, Trump laments that the US government was not sufficiently warned to prepare for the coronavirus. “I was angry, because it should have been told to us sooner,” says Trump. “People should have told us about this. They should’ve told the rest of the world, too.” Asked if he means China, Trump responds: “I’m not saying anything.” White House memos show he was first warned of the new virus in January. After moving swiftly to ban travel from China to the US, critics say the Trump administration wasted precious time until mid-March.

22:39 Brazil’s health minister sacked for virus response

Brazil’s health minister has been fired by the country’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The pair had been at odds for weeks over their differing views on tackling the virus. President Bolsonaro had publicly criticised Luiz Henrique Mandetta for urging people to observe social distancing and stay indoors. The Brazilian leader disagreed with these measures, instead downplaying the virus as “a little flu”.

A total of 1,924 people have died with Covid-19 in Brazil, while the country has had 30,425 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. However, Brazil tests just under 300 people for every million inhabitants and one group of Brazilian researchers says there could be as many as 313,000 cases in Brazil. The situation is difficult at Vila Formosa in Sao Paulo, Latin America’s biggest cemetery, where workers say they bury about 40 people per day

22:20 Brazil’s gravediggers brace for weeks ahead

At Vila Formosa, Latin America’s biggest cemetery, workers say they are turning over more graves than usual. Workers at the cemetery in the Brazilian city of São Paulo say on an average day they bury about 40 people, but the weekend before last, that figure was about 60. “The municipality bought 5,000 body bags and they’re hiring more people, too,” says gravedigger Manuel Pereira. But they’re bracing themselves for the weeks ahead. Brazil’s health ministry says Covid-19 is not expected to peak in the country until May or June.

21:15 Mayor fined for breaking social distancing rules

A drink and a face-to-face chat are simple pleasures many people crave in these times of social distancing. But we all have to follow the rules, even if you are the mayor of the southern Australian state of Victoria. Warrnambool mayor Tony Herbert has been fined A$1,652 ($1,043, £837) for failing to comply with social-distancing rules in the coastal city. He was caught on camera drinking a beer while stood outside a hotel with three other people on 7 April. Hours before the photo was taken the mayor urged Warrnambool residents to stay at home in a video shared by the city council. The mayor has apologised for his actions, admitting he “made mistakes” on the night.

20:24 US small business lender runs out of cash

The administrator of a US small business lending programme devised to assist companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic says the programme has run out of money. The Small Business Administration said it was unable to accept new applications “based on available appropriations funding.” It has been given the task of managing the $349 billion (£280 billion) programme which grants loans to businesses so that they can pay their employees. The news comes as Congress continues to negotiate further funding to the programme.

20:18 Trump hosts awards event for truck drivers

US President Donald Trump is holding an event at the White House to pay his respects to truck drivers. “In the war against the virus the truckers are the foot soldiers,” the president says as he hands over “awards” – which look like gold-coloured keys – to select truckers who have been invited to speak from the White House grounds. “To every trucker listening over the radio or behind the wheel… I say thank God for truckers,” says Trump. “Truckers keep our economy running – and now, in this time of national need – saving lives,” he adds.

20:07 London mayor tells city: Wear a mask if you leave home

The Mayor of London is calling for the city’s residents to wear masks or face coverings whenever they leave the house. UK public health advice doesn’t recommend wearing masks at this stage. But Sadiq Khan says he lobbied the UK government’s chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance, and chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, in a meeting in Downing Street earlier, calling for the change in advice. He tells BBC London: “The evidence around the world is that this is effective, and I’m lobbying our government, our advisers to change their advice, and I want us to do that sooner rather than later”.

19:53 US First Lady’s call to Carrie Symonds

US First Lady Melania Trump has spoken to Carrie Symonds, the pregnant fiancée of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to the White House. A statement says that during the call, the First Lady offered “well wishes” and “noted that the United States was praying for their speedy and full recoveries”. Johnson is continuing to recover from his coronavirus diagnosis, after spending several days in intensive care. His fiancée was sick in bed with coronavirus symptoms for around a week before she recovered. According to the White House: “Mrs Trump and Ms Symonds expressed optimism that the United States and the United Kingdom would get through this difficult period and emerge stronger than before.”

19:22 Putin postpones Victory Day parade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed the 9 May Victory Day parade because of the coronavirus pandemic. The parade is held annually to commemorate the end of World War Two, with major plans for this year’s event to mark the 75th anniversary. Plans had included 15,000 troops marching in Moscow’s Red Square, along with the latest missile equipment, and it was to be attended by various world leaders. In an televised address to the nation, Putin said: “The risks associated with the epidemic, whose peak has not yet passed, are still extremely high”. Earlier this week, Russian war veterans wrote to the president, asking him to postpone the event. Putin said it would be rearranged for later in the year with June, September and November as potential dates.

18:50 France records 753 deaths, but number in intensive care falls again

France reports another 753 fatalities in 24 hours – bringing its total death toll to 17,920. The country now has the fourth highest number of reported deaths from coronavirus in the world. Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, says the total number of people in intensive care units fell for the eighth day in a row to 6,248 – the lowest point since 1 April. The number of confirmed cases now stands at 108,847, up from 106,206 the previous day.

18:29 UK opposition ‘fully supports’ lockdown extension

The UK government has just confirmed it will extend lockdown measures by at least another three weeks across the country. And they have the backing of their main opposition in Parliament. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says his party “fully supports” the move, adding: “The government is right to do this.” But Sir Keir continued to push for the government to reveal its lockdown exit strategy, saying it would require “mass testing in the community” being ramped up to “hundreds of thousands, if not millions”. The government has set a target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. Sir Keir adds: “I hope they rise to the challenge. And we’ll support them if they can rise to the challenge.”

17:00 UK Press Conference

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has taken his place inside Downing Street and this afternoon’s UK government press briefing is under way. Dominic Raab says: “Step by step, our action plan aims to slow the spread of the coronaviorus so fewer people need hospital treatment at any one time.” The Foreign Secretary says they have been following the science at every stage, and increased capacity for the NHS. He confirms the number of deaths in the UK of those hospitalised with coronavirus has now reached 13,729 and pays tribute to them. “They are heartbreaking losses for everyone affected,” he adds.

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures will be extended for at least three more weeks, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab has announced.

Dominic Raab says there have been indications that social distancing measures in place are showing success. But government advisers say the evidence is “mixed and inconsistent”, and in some settings infections are increasing. He adds: “We still don’t have infection rates down as much as we need to. “Any change to social distancing measures now would risk significant increase in infections,” he says, as well as a second peak and an increase in the number of deaths. As a result, the government will keep the current measures in place for three more weeks.

Dominic Raab says he wants to be “up front with British people” about when the government can relax measures. He lists five points that will influence the government’s decision:

  • Making sure the NHS can cope
  • Evidence showing a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates
  • Reliable data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
  • Being confident in the range of operational challenges, like ensuring testing and the right amount of PPE, are in hand
  • Being confident any adjustments will not risk a second peak

The foreign secretary says he understands people have been comparing the UK’s actions with other countries, but the government will “make decisions at the right time” for us. He continues: “I appreciate the impact is considerable on people and businesses across the country. “We get it, we know it is rough going. Every time I come to this lectern and read out the grim toll, I walk away and think of their sons and daughters going through this right now, their brothers, sisters, grandchildren, all those left behind. “It makes this government focus even harder on what we must do and I know together, united, we must keep up this national effort.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, says it is “highly likely” the average person in the community is infecting one person or less – a so-called ‘R rate’ of less than 1. He says this is an “important change,” but cautions the rate may be higher in areas such as care homes. Displaying the slide above, he says hospital admissions in Great Britain are declining and are “in a good place” – but says it is important to maintain the lockdown to keep this trend. He adds that he expects the number of deaths to “reach a plateau” before it then begins to fall.

Asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg about when the public can see the end of this, Dominic Raab refers to comments made by the prime minister at the beginning of the outbreak, saying this stage should last for three months. “That is broadly still the outline [and] it will be reviewed at the end of the month,” he says. But he adds it would be “irresponsible” to give a definitive timeframe and could “prejudice the evidence” being collected by scientific advisers. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, there is progress, and we must keep up.” Asked why he won’t reveal plans for an exit strategy from social distancing measures, he again says it may prejudice the evidence. “We have got to keep this up,” says the foreign secretary. “What you are doing is working, notwithstanding the death toll – tragic for so many people. “But if we let up now, it will be damaging for public health and the economy.”

The panel is asked why blood survey data to try to predict how many people have had the virus in the UK has not yet been published. Prof Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, says such surveys have been slowed down by lack of reliable tests. He adds there is not yet a good “sampling frame” for the surveys, and it will take 21 days for data to be reliable. He says “we are moving pretty fast” in scientific terms, adding a “crude ranging shot” may be available soon.

A reporter says people from non-white backgrounds are very worried as there are reports they are worse affected by the virus.

Dominic Raab says the government is holding a review into the evidence, and is “on the side of anyone” hit by coronavirus. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty says it is “critical” for them to find out which groups are most at risk so “we can protect them”. But, while it is clear the age of a person, if they have other diseases, and whether they are male can influence how badly they are affected, “being a member of an ethnic minority group is less clear”. Prof Whitty adds: “This is something we are very keen to get extremely clear. I have asked Public Health England to look at it in some detail… then we can look at what we can do next to minimise risk. “But at this point in time, this is not yet clear.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is asked whether measures to protect people in care homes have been adequate. “We’re absolutely gripping this”, he replies, adding that the health secretary set out a plan for the sector yesterday. Asked about “excess deaths” indirectly related to coronavirus, Prof Chris Whitty says the UK will need to “take account of all of those”. He notes that economic deprivation can cause health problems in the long-term as well. He says an analysis of the direct and indirect risks of the virus will be required when the lockdown is reviewed.

Some scientists and commentators have said the public will need to have social distancing measures in place until a vaccine is available. Is that the case? Prof Patrick Vallance says he “completely agrees” that vaccines and therapeutics are “critically important” when it comes to reducing the effects of this disease and reducing transmission. He says the measures in the UK are needed now to get transmissions down to a low level, and “at that point, there may be decisions on which to relax and which not to relax”. Prof Vallance concedes there may be “a number of measures” that have to continue to allow the virus to be controlled until a vaccine comes along. “But that is very different from saying the ones now need to be in place long term,” he adds.

Asked about the rate of transmission within old people’s homes, Sir Patrick Vallance says the average rate may be higher in “certain care settings”. He says it is “not entirely clear” what contribution that is making to the wider picture, but adds, “those numbers need to come down”. There’s also a question on whether the UK has not recommended face masks for everyone because of fears it would lead to a shortage for healthcare workers. Prof Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, says this was “one of the reasons” the WHO advised against general mask use. He says the evidence in favour of general mask-wearing is “weak”, but the issue is being looked at again.

There’s a question about what can be done to reduce cases in the North-West of England, and what might be driving an increase. Prof Chris Whitty says case numbers in the region have been starting to “trend downwards recently,” although the trend is not confirmed. He adds that “quite a few” care home outbreaks have been seen in the region. Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, says the data shows all regions are on the “same sort of trajectory”, and there is “more similarity than difference”.

Asked whether it will be “business as usual” with China after the end of the crisis, Dominic Raab says there “absolutely needs to be a very, very deep dive after the event”. He says there will be “a review of the lessons” and the UK government “can’t flinch from that at all”. But he adds: “The one thing this has taught us is the value and importance of international cooperation.” The foreign secretary says he was on a call with other G7 leaders earlier and there were a lot of questions about the outbreak. “But there has also been good cooperation with the Chinese on the return of UK nationals and the procurement of things,” he adds. “We need to look at all sides and do it in a balanced way. “But we can’t have business as usual, and have to ask hard questions about how the outbreak came about.”

Professor Chris Whitty was asked about the apparent disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups. He said he had asked Public Health England to look at this “in detail” and report back. More than a third of patients critically ill in hospital with the virus are from these backgrounds, research suggests. But he said it was not yet clear why people from BAME communities were more likely to become ill with the virus and die from it. Others have suggested they are more likely to be key workers or in low-paid jobs, which could put them in closer contact with the virus. Some groups are also more likely to have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which could be a factor.

The thorny issue of masks has been raised again, with the UK’s top doctor Professor Whitty saying it’s far more important for healthcare and care workers to wear facemasks than anyone else. The clear message is that people on the frontline are the priority when it comes to masks. But scientific advisers are looking at the evidence on masks again. There is evidence of “a small effect” from wearing masks, but the UK advice has always been that a mask is more useful to people with symptoms than those without – as well as those caring for people with the virus.

16:50 Testing capacity now 35,000 a day, government says

The UK government says it now has the capacity to carry out 35,000 coronavirus tests a day. Earlier this month, England’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, set a target of reaching 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. But halfway through April, the actual number being carried out was just over 15,500 a day. The prime minister’s official spokesman said this was due to a “lack of demand, not a lack of capacity”, adding that the government was now expanding eligibility. But the British Medical Association (BMA) said if the testing available wasn’t being taken up, it was a matter of “communication and accessibility”.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the council chair at the BMA, said: “People need to know where and how they can be tested. “The government must also ensure that it is accessible to all, including those in remote areas, those without cars and people with mobility issues. “The government and NHS England must put greater effort into communicating how healthcare workers can take up this offer, so that dedicated staff can get back to work and save lives.”

16:40 Ivanka Trump travelled out of state during lockdown

The White House has released a statement explaining why Ivanka Trump travelled across state lines even as the federal government she works for was advising people to remain at home. The US president’s eldest daughter and her husband, Trump adviser Jared Kushner, and children travelled to the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey last week to celebrate Passover.

Lockdown orders issued by the mayor of Washington DC, where Ivanka Trump lives, ordered residents on 1 April to only leave the home for “essential” travel. Days earlier she had told her Twitter followers: “Those lucky enough to be in a position to stay at home, please, please do so.” After her travel was first reported by the New York Times on Thursday, the White House attempted to justify her decision.

The travel was to “a closed-down facility considered to be a family home” and the “travel was no different than had she been traveling to/from work,” said the statement provided to US media. “The location was less populated than the surrounding area near her home” in DC, the statement continued, adding: “Her travel was not commercial. She chose to spend a holiday in private with her family.”

16:22 Tiny Andorra hit hard by virus

The landlocked principality of Andorra squeezed between Spain and France has been hit hard by Covid-19. As of Thursday at least 673 residents have come down with the virus and 33 have died, in a country with a population of just over 77,000. A government spokesman told me that six million people visit the tiny country each year – often to go skiing or for duty-free shopping – and that may explain the high infection rate. Due to a lack of medical staff, the government invited 39 doctors and nurses from Cuba to help treat patients. Meanwhile in France, pet shelters have re-opened today despite the lockdown. The nationwide animal charity the SPA had warned that thousands of pets would have to be put to sleep because of over-crowding and a surge in abandoned cats and dogs. Following a public outcry the government backed down, and you can now leave your home in order to adopt a pet.

16:14 ‘There’s absolutely zero dollars’

With over 22m US jobs wiped out in the past few weeks, Americans whose businesses were recently booming have watched the US economy shrink back to 2008 levels. Glenn Hawker, who co-owns a hair salon in Virginia, had planned to expand his business before the virus hit. “There’s absolutely zero dollars,” says the 49-year-old, who now finds himself unemployed.

Because he is an independent contractor, he hasn’t been able to get unemployment assistance. And because his salary is about $75,000 (the cutoff to receive coronavirus bailout funding), he doesn’t expect to receive a stimulus cheque from the government. He has applied for a small-business loan, but is now on a waiting list.

Through the Paycheck Protection Program, as the initiative is known, more than 1.4m loans have been approved. But funds have run low, and Hawker and others have received nothing. “The money that’s there, it’s not there,” he says. But, Hawker tells the BBC, “You can’t just lament about having no money. You have to hustle.”

In the past few days, he’s taken to delivering shampoo to clients and advertising a contest to win free highlights for a year, while he dreams of a day when he can see customers again.

15:49 Police find 17 bodies at US care home

Police in the US found 17 bodies in the morgue of a care home in New Jersey on Monday following a tip-off, according to US media reports. The officers had been told there was a body in the shed at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center II, but when they arrived they found 17 bodies in a morgue designed to hold just four. “The staff was clearly overwhelmed and probably short-staffed,” Andover Police Chief Eric Danielson told CNN.

According to the New York Times, the deceased were among 68 recent deaths linked to the facility and the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I, including two nurses. Twenty-six of those who died had tested positive for coronavirus, while the cause of death for the remaining 42 is unknown. During a health inspection carried out by Medicare in March, the centre was found to be “much below average”. Care homes across the world have been struggling to cope with the spread of the virus.

15:42 UK hospital deaths rise by 861

The number of coronavirus hospital deaths in the UK has risen by 861, bringing the total number to 13,729, according to figures from the Department of Health and Social Care. The Department of Health said that, as of 0900 on Thursday, 327,608 people have been tested, of whom 103,093 tested positive. Overall, 417,649 tests have been carried out, with 18,665 on Wednesday, excluding data from Northern Ireland.

15:37 Self-isolating Navy officer attends solo passing-out ceremony

A British naval officer has made history by passing out of training by himself. Sub Lt Matthew Poxon was unable to make the official ceremony at Britannia Royal Naval College in Devon as he was in self-isolation. A separate parade was held for him, the first solo passing-out in the college’s 157-year history.

“At least I couldn’t be out of step with the rest of my division,” he said. Sub Lt Poxon, from Hampshire, joined the Royal Navy as a rating in 2010 and reached the rank of petty officer before being selected for promotion to the Officer Corps in 2017.

14:45 UK ‘will refuse extension to EU trade talks’

Despite the global pandemic, the UK is still in negotiations with the EU over their future trading relationship – and one side is refusing to extend the timetable. After the UK left the bloc in January, it entered a so-called “transition period” – meaning the UK would continue to follow certain EU rules until the end of the year while the details were hammered out.

Boris Johnson said he would refuse to extend the period past December 2020 – but now figures on both sides of the channel have suggested it should be longer owing to the havoc caused by Covid-19. The UK government isn’t keen, however. The PM’s official spokesman said: “If the EU asks, we will say no,” adding that it would “prolong the delay and uncertainty”.

14:36 US job losses: A decade of growth erased in four weeks

In just a month, the coronavirus pandemic has erased the equivalent of all the jobs created in the US since the 2008-2009 recession. Analysts say the US has not faced such an economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Economists are hopeful unemployment numbers will begin to come down in the coming days, as small businesses get help from the government, and governors discuss how to reopen parts of the country where the virus has peaked. President Trump is expected to announce new guidance for re-opening states ahead of 1 May later today.

As part of a $2tn coronavirus aid package, the federal government has also started sending out economic relief cheques to some 80 million Americans – up to $1,200 per individual and $500 for each child.

However, it’s worth noting the jobless claims do not capture the full picture as not everyone qualifies for unemployment benefits. The self-employed and gig workers have also seen delays in filing for benefits as they only qualified thanks to the March relief bill.

14:26 Police told: Stop people sitting on benches too long

Police have been told to stop people working in parks or sitting on benches for a long time. Guidance to officers in England says neither activity is likely to be a “reasonable excuse” for someone to leave their home during the lockdown. But the advice – from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing – said people can move to a friend’s address for a ‘cooling-off’ period “following arguments at home”. It said such moves must be “genuine” and “measured in days, not hours”. The advice comes from a three-page document designed to help officers enforce the lockdown measures which were brought in three weeks ago and look set to be extended. Part of the guidance spells out that it is acceptable to buy luxury items while shopping, and that driving somewhere to exercise is acceptable as long as “far more time” is spent walking than driving.

14:08 When in Rome… don’t walk your tortoise

Dog-walking near your home is still allowed in Italy, under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. But in Rome police fined a 60-year-old woman €206 (£180) for walking her pet tortoise, Italian media report. Going at tortoise pace evidently gave her more time to linger in the spring sunshine. But now the tortoise’s urban adventures are over. Italians have to fill out a form and carry it each time they leave home, so they can show police why they are outdoors. Italy is the worst-hit European country, with 21,645 deaths linked to Covid-19. About 14,000 people were fined in Italy over the Easter weekend for breaching the lockdown rules, Ansa news agency reports.

13:40 US jobless claims exceed 21 million

More than 21 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past four weeks, new figures show. It is by far the worst run of job losses on record. According to the latest figures from the Department of Labour, new unemployment claims reached 5.25 million in the week ending 11 April. The previous week saw 6.6 million applications.

Much of the US population is under some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the US economy to a virtual halt and forcing businesses big and small to lay off employees. There are projections that the unemployment rate could reach 20% this month. The US has almost 640,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and 30,985 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

13:29 EU’s ‘heartfelt apology’ is a significant admission

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has offered a “heartfelt apology” to Italy for not helping enough at the start of the outbreak. This is a significant acknowledgement from the most powerful person in Brussels. A formal recognition that in the panic of the moment when Italy most needed help, the famed EU “spirit of solidarity” didn’t show itself. It was a difficult thing for Ursula von der Leyen to raise.

But it seems an underlying rancour is still felt by Italians and others who feel there were too few good Samaritans when it counted – in early March, when Italy was the only country that had enforced a lockdown. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urgently requested medical equipment for hospital staff as well as ventilators and testing kits, but it was several days before any European government responded.

Today, the EU Commission president was quick to say things had changed, and that “the true Europe is standing up”. But she added that it was important to “have the courage to stand up and tell the truth”, and not to behave like populists and hide facts. Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio responded on Facebook that the statement was an “important act of truth” that was “good for Europe”.

13:13 Scotland confirms 80 more virus deaths

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has just confirmed 80 more people have died from coronavirus in the country. The latest 24-hour figure brings the total number of deaths in Scotland to 779. At a “virtual” First Minister’s Questions held online, Ms Sturgeon said the lockdown was still “having a positive effect”, as Scottish health authorities were not seeing “sustained increases in the number of people in hospital”.

12:51 EasyJet to leave middle plane seats empty

British low-cost airline EasyJet plans to keep the middle seat on its planes empty to allow for social distancing once the Covid-19 lockdown has been lifted. The airline grounded its entire fleet at the end of March.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said he hoped the seating measure would encourage more people to fly. He said bookings for winter flights were ahead of last year, helped by customers who had rebooked tickets after Covid-19 disrupted their travel plans. The company has faced criticism from customers who have had trouble getting refunds.

12:42 UK government approves first new ventilator

As the coronavirus spread through the UK the government realised it needed many more ventilators, and called on British engineers to create new machines for the front line. The first design has now been approved. Oxford-based firm Penlon worked with other companies – including Formula One racing teams, Ford and Siemens – to get the design finished, and the government has put in 15,000 orders.

Penlon’s Prima ES02 model will begin shipping today, with the first 40 devices heading to a Ministry of Defence base before being delivered to hospitals. Hundreds of units are expected to be built over the next week. The government has promised it will shield manufacturers of new ventilators from the cost of potential legal claims over intellectual property infringements, or personal injury caused by defective machines, according to a report in the Financial Times on Thursday.

12:06 More than 1,600 new cases in Iran

The number of infections in Iran rose by 1,606 in the past day to reach 77,995, Kianush Jahanpur, a spokesman for the country’s health ministry said. The country’s official death toll from the outbreak rose by 92 to 4,869. Iran has suffered more deaths than any other Middle Eastern country. But footage of large numbers of bodies at a morgue in Qom, the city at the centre of Iran’s outbreak, suggest the country is struggling to deal with the numbers of dead. There are fears the true death toll could be far higher than official figures.

11:55 UK farms fly in pickers from Eastern Europe

The first of six specially chartered flights from Romania to London will land on Thursday afternoon carrying 150 people to assist British farmers pick fruit and vegetables. Despite a high profile “Pick for Britain” campaign appealing to students and laid-off hospitality workers to help with the harvest, not enough British workers have come forward.

The six flights were privately chartered by large UK food producers and will land between now and June. The National Farmers Union estimates a shortage of 70,000 seasonal farm workers that has been exacerbated by the Covid 19 lockdown.

Before boarding, the prospective workers will have their temperatures checked, fill out a health questionnaire and be given masks and hand sanitiser. On arrival in the UK, they will be taken by bus to farms in East Anglia to pick lettuce. Mark Bridgeman, the president of the Country Land and Business Association, said bringing in workers from overseas to help meet the shortfall was “the right thing to do if we want to keep the supermarkets stocked”.

11:11 Nine in 10 dead in England and Wales had existing illness

More than nine in 10 people dying with coronavirus have an underlying health condition, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS looked at nearly 4,000 deaths during March in England and Wales where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.

In 91% of cases the individuals had other health problems. The most common was heart disease, followed by dementia and respiratory illness. The average number of pre-existing conditions in those who died was 2.7.

10:40 Guatemala fears rise in cases from US deportees

There are fears that coronavirus could spread further in Guatemala after a number of its nationals who had recently been deported from the US tested positive for the virus. Three quarters of passengers on one flight alone were found to have the virus, the health minister said.

Guatemala has joined El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico in calling for a halt to deportations from the US because of the threat of the pandemic spreading further. Nearly a third of the world’s two million confirmed cases have been reported in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University, while Guatemala has recorded fewer than 200 infections.

10:20 EU offers grieving Italy ‘heartfelt apology’

The president of the European Commission has offered a “heartfelt apology” for letting Italy down at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. “Yes it is true that no one was really ready for this,” Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Thursday morning. “It is also true that too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand at the very beginning. And yes for that, it is right that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology.”

More than 21,000 people with the virus have died in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins University – the highest death toll in Europe. As Italy struggled to contain the outbreak in early March, both France and Germany placed restrictions on the export of face masks – despite warnings from the EU Commission that such actions could undermine the collective response to the virus.

10:10 Merkel praised for her clear, concise style

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is known for her straightforward – at times dry – way of speaking. But amid a global pandemic, her sober style and simple explanations of facts have been widely praised (although most Germans see it as normal). Her clear description – see below – of how small increases in infection rates could overwhelm the country’s health system is quite different in style to some other world leaders.

Merkel announced that as of next week shops under a certain size could open their doors but warned that the country had achieved only a “fragile intermediate success”. Before entering politics, Merkel was a scientist. She trained as a quantum chemist.

09:52 UK ‘to need social distancing until vaccine ready’

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose scientific modelling has guided the UK government’s coronavirus strategy, has said the nation will need to keep up some form of social distancing until a vaccine becomes available. Discussing whether lockdown measures could be eased after another three weeks, Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that will very much depend on quite how quickly case numbers go down, and that does require us to get on top of things like transmission rates in hospitals and care homes.”

The Imperial College London epidemiologist said a ramping up of testing and contact tracing was needed, adding that if lockdown measures were relaxed without something in their place the UK could see a resurgence of transmission. “We will have to maintain some form of social distancing, a significant level of social distancing, probably indefinitely until we have a vaccine available,” he said.

There is currently no proven vaccine for the virus. A team at the University of Oxford said last week it was confident it could have a vaccine working by September, but that it would likely not be ready for distribution until next year.

09:18 US ‘considers reopening’

US President Donald Trump is expected to announce new guidelines on Thursday to allow some states to ease social distancing restrictions. In a White House briefing on Wednesday, Trump said rules for “various states would be announced”, describing the decision as “very exciting”. He added that he had spoken to business and industry leaders, who he said had underlined the need for more protective equipment and robust testing.

The vast majority of Americans are currently under social distancing restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19. There have been almost 31,000 deaths in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University, including nearly 11,000 in New York city alone. There has been controversy around Trump’s authority to enforce or end lockdown measures in states. At a bizarre press conference earlier this week, the president claimed he had “total authority” to lift lockdowns across the country, but he was later forced to accept that the decision lies with state governors.

08:56 Hancock pledges more tests for care workers amid criticism

More than 10,000 UK care home residents have been tested for coronavirus, as well as 1,500 social care workers, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC on Thursday. The government has faced serious criticism over its strategy around protecting elderly care homes during the pandemic. On Saturday social care directors wrote to the Department of Health and Social Carecalling the government’s handling of protective equipment for care workers “shambolic”.

In the letter, seen by the BBC, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services criticised the approaches to funding, testing, personal protective equipment and the shielding scheme for vulnerable people. The government has also come under fire over how long it has taken to increase testing capacity in general. Hancock said that in total there was, as of Thursday, “capacity for 25,000 tests” to be carried out a day in the UK and that “what really matters” is the availability of testing for social care. He said there had now been 27 verified deaths of NHS staff. Responding to the death of nurse Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, he said: “We’re all deeply touched by deaths of nurses like this.”

08:49 ‘Too early’ to lift lockdown – UK health secretary

The UK government is expected to announce a three-week extension to the coronavirus lockdown later today. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he did not want to “waste” the efforts of the public by lifting the lockdown measures too early, because coronavirus would “run rampant once again”. Hancock told BBC Breakfast there would be more detail in the official announcement but that the government had been clear it was “too early to make a change”. “Whilst we have seen a flattening of the number of cases, and thankfully a flattening of the number of deaths, that hasn’t started to come down yet,” he said.

08:33 WW2 veteran completes 100th lap of garden

He’s done it! World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore, 99, has completed 100 laps of his garden in an effort which has raised more than £12m for the NHS. He originally wanted to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together by completing the distance.

08:00 Doctors in Egypt fear PPE shortage

Doctors tackling coronavirus in Egypt have told the BBC they are worried about shortages of protective equipment, and feel their concerns are not being taken seriously enough. But the government says supplies are sufficient, and a doctor at one quarantine hospital said medics there had been able to secure extra masks quickly. As of Wednesday, the Middle East’s most populous country had seen 178 deaths from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, about 13% of those infected in Egypt are healthcare workers.

07:11 All major Indian cities named Covid-19 hotspots

Six major cities, including the capital Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai, have been designated “red zones” for the coronavirus. In its guidelines issued late on Wednesday, the government divided the country into colour-coded zones depending on the level of infection.

Red zones indicate infection hotspots, orange is for zones with some infection, while green indicates an area with no infections. In total, 170 districts of the country have been designated red zones. Apart from Delhi and Mumbai, the cities of Chennai (formerly Madras), Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad have all been marked red. 

So far, officials haven’t designated any green zone areas.

06:57 IMF chief calls for Brexit trade talk extension

The UK and EU should “not add to uncertainty” from coronavirus by refusing to extend the period to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suggested. Managing director Kristalina Georgieva told the BBC that because of the “unprecedented uncertainty” it would be “wise not to add more on top of it”. Asked specifically if she would advise an extension to trade talks, Ms Georgieva said: “My advice would be to seek ways in which this element of uncertainty is reduced in the interests of everybody, the UK, the EU, and the whole world”. As a reminder, the UK formally left the EU on 31 January, but it remains in a transition period up to 31 December – by which time an EU-UK trade deal is supposed to be in place.

06:54 Australia’s schools scuffle continues

As we reported earlier, the schools issue is still a fiery point of contention between federal and state authorities. Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants schools to be up and running – and has repeatedly stressed this is condoned by medical advice. However, states run the schools – and almost all of them, particularly Victoria – have taken the view that full classrooms are too risky. So while schools remain open technically, parents have been advised to keep their children at home if they can.

This has frustrated Mr Morrison, who has regularly referred to his own children attending school in Sydney until term break last week. “I want my kids to go back to school and be taught in a classroom by a teacher,” he said. But parents are fearful and remain confused by the different messages. The debate is likely to carry on as different states resume school terms in coming weeks. Victoria went back yesterday – and 97% of students stayed at home.

06:43 Thailand bungles virus aid package

On Tuesday a crowd of angry, sometimes tearful people gathered in front of Thailand’s finance ministry, to protest their exclusion from a government monthly handout of 5000 baht ($160, £122) for lower-paid workers in the informal sector who have lost their jobs because of the crisis. More than 20 million people applied for the scheme, but only nine million were approved, although the government is allowing people to appeal against their rejection.

Now Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has acknowledged that the scheme, which was supposed to last for at least three months, and was, perhaps optimistically, titled ‘No-one Left Behind’, in fact has enough funding for only one month of payments. Any further payments, he said, would depend on him signing new decrees to approve additional economic stimulus.

The Thai government has promised to spend at least $58 billion, around ten percent of GDP, on various measures to help the ailing economy. One leg of the Thai economy, tourism, has been shattered by the crisis. Another, export manufacturing, has been hit hard. Household debt has risen over the past decade to around 80 percent of GDP, and most Thai households cannot survive without income for long, unless the government steps in.

06:39 Tanzania’s cases jump significantly

Tanzania’s health ministry has announced the country’s biggest rise in coronavirus cases, with 29 new patients. Of those, 26 were detected in the commercial hub, Dar es Salaam, two in the north-western town of Mwanza and one in the Kilimanjaro area. Earlier, the health ministry in the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar announced six new cases – also the biggest rise in the archipelago since the outbreak began. The total confirmed cases in Tanzania is now 88. Unlike many of its East African neighbours, the country has not restricted movement – but has imposed measures limiting some public gatherings.

06:27 Australian PM says greater surveillance needed

Australia is succeeding in flattening the curve but to forge “the road out” of lockdown, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says a “more extensive surveillance regime” needs to be brought in. He praised the extensive testing and contact-tracing system in place, and the actions from states to open testing to anyone with symptoms. “But we need to do even better than that… so when we move to lesser restricted environment we can identify outbreaks very quickly and respond to them.” His government this week proposed a mobile app which would trace the movements of patients – technology also used in Singapore and South Korea – but this has raised privacy concerns.

At least 40% of Australians would need to download the app for it to be effective. “We need the support of Australians,” said the PM. “If we can get that in place, get the tracing capability up from where it is, that will give us more options and Australians more freedom.” Australia has closed its borders and forced a lockdown of non-essential businesses. People are discouraged to leave their homes, but schools, public transport, shops and outdoor areas remain open. The nation has confirmed over 6,300 cases but fewer than 100 were detected this week.

06:21 Ruling party wins South Korea pandemic election

It’s been an election like no other. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, South Koreans yesterday went to the polls. But with strict distancing in place, the vote went smoothly and President Moon Jae-in’s ruling party won a decisive victory. South Korea was one of the first countries hit by the virus outside of China but has since managed to  contain the spread like few other nations. Daily infections are low as is the overall death toll. And the successful response has contributed to the support for the Democratic Party.

06:02 Kenyans attempt to storm out of quarantine centre

Dozens of Kenyans who have been in mandatory quarantine attempted to storm out of an isolation centre in the capital, Nairobi – because of what they say are unbearable conditions. People who entered the country before the closure of borders have been held in isolation. But many have told the BBC they are suffering because of a government directive to extend their stay in isolation. “As of now we have no intention to go back to the quarantine facility. First, on our inability to pay, and secondly because it does not make any scientific sense for our continued stay at the centre,” Simon Mugambi told journalists at the Kenyatta University quarantine centre on Wednesday. “The problem is they have continued to detain us even after posting negative results two consecutive times. The government continues to insist that this is being done at our own cost and we do not have the means to pay.”

05:50 Pakistan eases restrictions for key industries

In an effort to cushion the economic fallout, Pakistan has loosened restrictions for more than a dozen sectors. Industries allowed to operate include construction, cement, fertiliser, e-commerce, packaging manufacturers and a handful of other smaller businesses, the government announced on Wednesday. The country has at least 5,988 confirmed cases and 107 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

05:42 Michigan workers demand lifting of lockdown

One of the latest places to extend its lockdown is the US state of Michigan, which has seen 27,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 1,700 deaths. But Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s extension provoked an angry response from some workers, who blocked roads and demanded the state re-open. 

05:39 Food selfies land Singaporean man in trouble

A Singaporean man who breached his stay-at-home notice to go for a meal has pleaded guilty to exposing others to the risk of infection. Alan Tham flew to Singapore from Myanmar last month and was told to stay at home for two weeks. But instead, the 34-year-old went out to meet his girlfriend for dinner – even posting his meal on social media, where he was criticised by his friends. “Dude. Not a responsible move,” said one commenter, according to a report from Channel News Asia. Photos of his meal later went viral and were reported to police. Sentencing has been adjourned but he could face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to S$10,000 ($6,990) or both.

05:29 MSF launches homeless project in Canada

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontières has launched its first ever project in Canada, to help homeless people infected with coronavirus. It’s a rare move by MSF, which usually works in developing countries or war zones. A facility with 400 beds is to open in the country’s largest city Toronto, MSF told the news agency AFP. The city is thought to have as many as 10,000 homeless, many of them in poor health. Canada has almost 30,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and just over 1,000 deaths so far.

05:06 Beijing sees first local transmissions in weeks

China has seen a slight decline in imported cases and small uptick in local transmissions. On Wednesday, the number of new new local transmissions rose to 12 from ten, with three of those cases in Beijing – the first such infections there in weeks. Imported cases were down to 34, down for the third consecutive day after the country implemented stricter border measures. In recent weeks, imported infections have been China’s main concern – with new cases brought in by Chinese nationals coming across the border with Russia.

04:54 More than 70 quarantined after pizza man tests positive

More than 70 people have been quarantined in India’s national capital, Delhi, after a pizza delivery employee tested positive for Covid-19. None of the 72 people have been tested yet, reported the Indian Express newspaper. “All of them are under home quarantine, and will be tested if they develop symptoms,” officials said. India has just entered its second phase of a lockdown that was recently extended to 3 May. The delivery of food and groceries is allowed.

04:14 Trump asked whether virus came from Wuhan lab

In his Wednesday news conference, President Trump was asked whether the virus emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan – escaping via an intern because of “lax safety protocols”. “More and more we’re hearing the story,” President Trump replied. 

It’s worth noting that while this theory has been circulating on the internet for many weeks, no evidence has been released to support it. The scientific consensus is that the virus was originally hosted by a wild animal and was eventually passed to humans, probably at a market in Wuhan that sold live animals.

04:04 Nicaragua’s president reappears after a month

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has reappeared after being absent from public view for more than a month. In a televised message, Mr Ortega defended his government’s record on coronavirus – saying only one person had died in the country. He said he had not ordered a lockdown because of the economic impact this would have. “In the midst of this pandemic work has not stopped because here, if you stop working, the country dies,” he said. “And if the country dies, the people die.”

Ortega also said the pandemic was a sign from God telling the world it was on the wrong track. A fierce critic of the United States, he said the world should stop buying nuclear arms and military hardware and spend the money instead on hospitals and clinics.

03:58 Rita Wilson’s ‘extreme side effects’ from chloroquine

American singer Rita Wilson, who with her husband actor Tom Hanks, fell sick with the virus last month in Australia, has raised concerns about use of the drug chloroquine. She told American TV channel CBS she felt “such extreme side effects”, when she was given the medication in a Gold Coast hospital.

“I was completely nauseous and I had vertigo. I could not walk and my muscles felt very weak. I think people have to be very considerate about that drug,” she said. Chloroquine, and a related derivative, hydroxychloroquine, have gained attention after US President Donald Trump touted them as effective treatments. But the World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no definitive evidence they work.

03:53 Death toll spikes – but Trump says cases have peaked

The United States has seen its highest daily death toll yet, with nearly 2,600 people with Covid-19 dying in the past 24 hours. That’s not just the country’s highest number – but the highest daily toll of any country worldwide. The figures came after President Donald Trump said “the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases”. He also said the trend put US states in a strong position to re-open the economy and that he would announce guidelines on Thursday.

The Trump administration previously pencilled in 1 May as a possible date to reopen the nation, but the president said some states may return to normality earlier than that. The US has almost 640,000 confirmed cases and more than 30,000 deaths linked to Covid-19.

03:26 Australia jobless stat doesn’t show full picture

The latest job loss numbers have just dropped in Australia – a 5.2% unemployment rate for March, edging up from 5.1% last month. However that figure fails to capture the carnage the virus is wreaking on Australia’s economy – because households were surveyed before restaurants were forced to shut and our borders closed.

We’ve seen thousands of people queuing for welfare across the country, and the economy is set to plunge into its first recession since 1991. That will see unemployment rise to 10% – the forecast released by the treasury this week. That means the most number of Australians without a job in almost 30 years.

03:22 Second Chinese city bans eating dogs and cats

A second city in China has banned the eating of dog and cat meat in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The city of Zhuhai follows the example by Shenzen near Hong Kong – in both cases the ban will go into effect on 1 May. The decision has been welcomed by animal rights activists who hope the pandemic will help to ban consumption of cats and dogs across China.

Thirty million dogs a year are killed across Asia for meat, says Humane Society International (HSI). However, the practice of eating dog meat in China is not that common – the majority of Chinese people have never done so and say they don’t want to.

03:08 Singapore sees highest number of daily cases

Singapore has seen its highest daily spike with 447 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 3,699. Most have been linked to growing clusters in densely-packed migrant worker dormitories. The S11 Dormitory in Punggol – Singapore’s biggest cluster – now has 797 cases. The sharp daily rise is in part down to Singapore’s aggressive testing.

Hundreds of migrant workers living in dormitories – even those who are well – are being tested each day, so its likely we’ll continue to see numbers rise. More than 1,000 migrant workers deemed healthy have already been moved out of these dormitories and placed in other accommodation.

03:02 Thais sell off jewellery as gold price spikes

People in Thailand have been rushing to sell their gold jewellery as the price of the precious metal spiked, and the economy begins to suffer. In Bangkok, people flocked to Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, to trade their bracelets, necklaces and rings for cash. Gold surged to a seven-year high on Tuesday – and many Thais keep gold jewellery as an investment for times of economic hardship.

02:49 Japan lawmaker expelled after cabaret visit

A Japanese lawmaker has been expelled from his party after he visited an adult entertainment club in Tokyo – despite the capital being under a state of emergency. 50-year-old Takashi Takai admitted that he visited the “sexy cabaret club” in Tokyo’s nightlife district on 9 April, said news agency Jiji Press.

He offered to quit the party but the Constitutional Democratic Party declined his resignation offer, expelling him instead. The party’s secretary general said Takai had apologised for his “thoughtless behaviour”. The capital Tokyo and several other prefectures in Japan are under a month-long state of emergency and people have been asked to stay home.

PM Shinzo Abe has especially urged people to refrain from visiting nightclubs and bars to prevent clusters developing.

02:47 ‘Our generation’s Great Depression’

The IMF’s bleak warning echoes other multilateral institutions like the World Bank – but goes a step further – saying that Asia could likely see zero growth this year, for the first time in 60 years. For all of us who lived through the Asian Financial Crisis, these warnings will bring back stark memories of currency crashes, property prices tumbling and millions out of work. Wealth that was built up in decades disappearing in a matter of months. The coronavirus economic crisis will be even worse – our generation’s Great Depression.

The economic crisis this time is different from both the Global Financial Crisis and the Asian Financial Crisis the IMF says, because back then – households could still go out to the shops, and buy things, or eat at restaurants – keeping small businesses alive. This time, that’s not possible. The IMF says governments must help these households and firms survive because the impact of the coronavirus will be “severe, across the board and unprecedented”.

But the reality is only a few countries in the region have that sort of financial firepower to do this. Many are grappling with huge populations, limited financial resources, and the very real possibility of political instability as their people get sick, hungry – or both.

Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.