21st 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. The figure shown is an estimate based on a three week recovery time line.
$ Cases now include Pillar 2 cases as of 11th April 2020
More information coming soon.
22:56 Whire House Briefing
Trump is joined in the White House briefing room by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The briefing comes as the US is faced with over 816,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 44,000 deaths caused by the virus.
Trump starts the briefing sending condolences to virus victims and their families. He notes that around 20 states, representing around 40% of US population, are now making plans to “safely re-start their economies”. “The country wants to get back to work,” Trump says. To date, there are over 816,000 Covid-19 cases and 44,000 deaths from the virus in the US.
Trump praises the $480bn bailout package that was passed earlier today by the Senate, saying it will help struggling workers. The bill goes to the House next, where Trump predicts it will find “tremendous support”. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the bill includes $310bn for the small business loan programme, which ran out of funds last week. He adds that it also includes an “unprecedented amount of money for testing”. The bill will also boost a separate small business emergency grant and loan programme by $60bn, give $75bn to hospitals and $25bn to a new coronavirus testing scheme.
President Trump says Harvard University, which has an endowment of around $40bn, will return the $9m in loans it got from a government programme intended to provide money to struggling small businesses. He made the remark after a reporter asked about Shake Shack, a restaurant chain that said it would return the funds it got from the Small Business Administration. Other major companies have been criticised for taking the money, which quickly ran dry after it was tapped last week.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says some large companies may be forced to return the small business loans that they received from the federal bailout. “The intent was not for companies that have liquidities and plenty of resources,” he says. Companies that do not return the funds will face “consequences” that could be “quite significant,” he says.
Trump says there will be a 60 day ban on immigration in order to protect jobless Americans. After 60 days, US officials will evaluate “any extension or modification” that will be “based on economic conditions at the time,” he says. It will “only apply to individuals seeking permanent residency” and not “to those entering on a temporary basis”, Trump says.
In a typical year, nearly 1 million green cards are issued in the US, granting immigrants legal permanent residence and the opportunity to apply for American citizenship. The majority of green cards – roughly 70% – go to those with relatives living in the US, according to a 2018 report from the US Senate. For employment-based green cards, a common form of the residency status, roughly 80% are issued to those already in the country, shifting from a temporary visa to permanent residence. The US also grants temporary employment through approximately 20 different visa programmes. These visas cover a wide range of jobs and skills, like those with “highly specialised knowledge” – including tech and engineering jobs – and temporary and seasonal agricultural workers. In 2016, there were 750,000 of such visas issued across all categories.
Trump says: “We continue to gain ground in the war against the invisible enemy. “And I see light at the end of the tunnel. I actually see a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. “And we’re starting the process. We’re starting a very, very powerful important process. “We see that people are very anxious. They want to get going, they want to get back to their jobs. They want to make money. They want to care of their families. “So the light is getting brighter and brighter every day.”
Coronavirus taskforce coordinator Dr Deborah Birx says some major metropolitan areas appear to have passed their peaks for infections. But she cautions that some cities have yet to see “the light at the end of the tunnel due to hospitalisations and deaths”. She says that urban areas in New York, Rhode Island Connecticut, Detroit are doing “quite well”. She also says New Orleans is nearly back to its baseline for new infections, while there are also improvements in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, Nashville, Baltimore, Indianapolis and St Louis, but in the Washington DC metro area “we do not see a decline yet”. However, “we will continue to see mortality and deaths among our American citizens particularly in our cities as they begin to move past peak because deaths will lag,” she says. Birx also says that the US mortality rate is the lowest of anywhere in the world.
Trump says the US “must first take care of the American worker” while explaining reasons for the temporary green card ban. “As we all know, millions of Americans sacrificed their jobs in order to battle the virus and save the lives of our fellow citizens,” he says. The president says the government has a “solemn duty” to ensure Americans regain their jobs. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labour flown in from abroad,” he says. “We want to protect our US workers and I think as we move forward we will become more and more protective of them,” he adds.
Trump says that his executive order stopping new permanent residency to the US is being written now and is expected to completed by White House lawyers tomorrow for him to sign. It will contain “certain exemptions” he says, without specifying what they will be. “It’s something we have to have in this country,” he says. He pledges for it to be a “strong order”.
Trump says his 60-day ban on new permanent US immigrants may be extended depending on how the US economy is doing. He says it could be extended for 30 days, “or much longer” than that. He also suggests that he could sign a secondary immigration order “if we want”, without specifying what it could contain. After being asked about seasonal farm workers, many of whom are migrants, Trump says that “farmers will not be affected”.
Trump is asked if his shutdown on immigration is an extension of his 2016 campaign promise to curtail all immigration to the US – both legal and illegal. “No, no, I want people that are in this country, I want our citizens to get jobs,” Trump responds, adding: “I don’t want them to have competition.” “I want the American worker to be able to get jobs,” he says. “I don’t want them to compete right now, there’s a big difference when you have a full economy.”
Trump says he has doubts about Florida’s ban on golfing, which has affected several of the clubs that the president owns. “That one I’m not sure I agree with,” says Trump. He adds that “it’s a tough policy but it’s a state policy.” Some Trump properties have been forced to furlough workers, reporters note.
Trump notes the coronavirus emerged in the middle of his trade war with China, arguing no one has been tougher on China than him. “And all of a sudden out of nowhere comes the invisible enemy,” he says, referring to the pandemic. He also told reporters: “We think we know where it [coronavirus] came from. We’ll be talking about that, probably a lot.” Some US media have reported that US intelligence believes the virus leaked from a Wuhan virology facility with lax safety protocols, which China has denied. Trump told journalists he won’t discuss intelligence briefings. And that’s the end of the White House briefing.
A second wave of coronavirus cases could be even worse than the first as winter flu puts further strain on hospitals, a senior US disease expert has said. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued the warning on Tuesday as several US states prepared to reopen their economies. “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told the Washington Post. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he added. Redfield described the recent anti-lockdown protests that saw hundreds of people across the US flouting social-distancing rules as “not helpful”.
Opposition to Trump’s green card ban has been swift from two pro-immigration groups, as one might expect. Ali Noorani, of the National Immigration Forum, wrote on Twitter that “immigrants account for 17% of healthcare workers and 24% of direct care workers ” in the US. “It is unfortunate the president would rather scapegoat the other than building a consensus that helps all of through this crisis,” he wrote. The American Immigration Council tweeted that “Trump’s actions are designed to distract and divide us from the fact that America now has the highest death and infection from the coronavirus”. The American Civil Liberties Union’s immigration expert, Andrea Flores, wrote: “Xenophobia is not a public health response.”
22:39 US Senate passes new $480bn relief package
The US Senate has unanimously passed a $480bn relief budget that includes new funds for small business loans and protective gear for hospital workers. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives before going to Trump, who has urged lawmakers to approve it quickly. The US Congress has now approved stimulus funds of nearly $3tr to help the country’s 22m newly-unemployed workers. On Twitter, Trump said lawmakers will address funding for state governments – who are also reeling from a steep decline in tax revenue – in their next round of budget talks.
22:36 ‘Something sweet during a sour time’
In Fort Collins, Colorado, restaurant worker Emily Edmonds has been helping out key workers by delivering them pies. “Having food show up on your doorstep can brighten even the worst kind of day,” the 29-year-old told the BBC. “There’s no better way to spend your time than to do good things for people. “It may not change the world, but for those people who are working on the front lines, I couldn’t think of people more deserving of some kind of sustenance. “I just wanted to get people something sweet during a sour time.”
22:27 Dutch primary schools to reopen next month
Primary schools and daycare facilities in the Netherlands are to reopen next month as the government cautiously eases the country’s partial lockdown. Pupils will return in stages from 11 May – with smaller classes of children attending on alternate days – in the first tentative step towards a return to normality for a nation that’s lost at least 4,000 people.
Bars and restaurants will remain closed, except for takeaways. Beauticians, hairdressers and most other close-contact professions won’t be allowed to reopen yet, and visits to relatives in care homes are still banned. Professional football won’t kick off again until September. And summer music festivals have been cancelled. The social distancing rules won’t be relaxed until the impact of the virus on the health service is considered “manageable”.
While the number of people being transferred to Dutch intensive care units (ICUs) has been lower than feared, the pressure on hospitals remains intense, although the country appears to have flattened the upward curve in admissions.
22:09 US approves first at-home testing kit
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the country’s first at-home coronavirus test kit. LabCorp, the company that produces the test, says it will prioritise distributing it to medical workers first. Patients must stick a cotton swab up their nostril, then submit it to the company for the sample to be tested. The kit, called Pixel, currently costs $119 (£97).
Allowing patients to use it themselves means the risk of infecting clinicians declines, officials say. Top US disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has repeatedly said that the US will require testing at two or three times the present rate in order for people’s lives to begin to return to normal.
21:53 185,000 firms applied for UK furlough scheme by midnight on first day
The government’s furlough scheme opened for applications on Monday, with 185,000 businesses applying on the first day. The scheme helps firms deal with the impact of coronavirus by paying towards the wages of people who can’t do their jobs. More than half of firms are expected to use the scheme for at least some of their workforce, and 1.3 million workers have been furloughed so far. Find out more here about how furlough works, who is most likely to be affected, and which firms are applying.
21:43 Wisconsin reports seven virus cases linked to voting day
The US state of Wisconsin has confirmed that at least seven people were infected with coronavirus when they went to polling places two weeks ago to vote in the presidential primary election.
Voting went ahead on 7 April, despite the governor’s order for people to remain at home to control the virus’s spread. Democrats pushed for a voting delay, but courts backed Republicans who argued the vote had to go ahead as scheduled.
The state’s health commissioner told local media on Tuesday that six of the new cases involved Milwaukee voters. The other was Milwaukee poll worker.
Wisconsin voters were forced to wait in long lines after many polling stations were closed. In Milwaukee, 180 locations were reduced to just five.
Democrats are pushing for more mail-in ballots to be used in coming elections, but Republicans largely oppose absentee ballots. Donald Trump has suggested that increased turnout from easing balloting restrictions could harm Republican candidates.
21:32 New twist in UK row over EU equipment scheme
There has been another development in the row over why the UK initially refused an invitation from the EU to join a scheme to obtain medical equipment to fight the coronavirus. The government faced criticism last month for not taking part in the scheme. Ministers denied claims that anti-EU sentiment played any role in the decision and instead blamed a “communication confusion”. But earlier today the foreign office’s top civil servant, Sir Simon McDonald, told MPs that ministers had been briefed on the scheme but took a “political decision” not to take part (you can watch the clip above).
Now – a few hours after Downing Street suggested Sir Simon had “misspoken” – the civil servant has issued a retraction. Sir Simon said his comments were wrong and had been made “due to a misunderstanding”. Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier on Friday said the UK had actually now joined the scheme but it had “yet to deliver a single item” of equipment. The UK has left the European Union but is in a transition period during which it is able to participate in such schemes.
21:18 FC Barcelona to sell stadium naming rights for Covid-19 fight
FC Barcelona will be offering sponsorship naming rights to their famous Nou Camp football stadium for the first time in the 2020-21 season – with all proceeds going to help the fight against Covid-19. “We consider it vital at this time of humanitarian crisis to use all of the resources available to fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences,” said club first vice president Jordi Cardoner.
In the UK, both the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London and Brighton’s Amex Stadium are being used as coronavirus testing sites, and Manchester City have opened up their conference rooms and executive boxes to be used by the NHS. Meanwhile Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium is being used as a storage and distribution centre for medical materials.
21:10 Ireland extends ban on mass gatherings to September
Major public gatherings of more than 5,000 people will remain banned in the Republic of Ireland until at least 1 September. Large gatherings have been restricted since 24 March. The government said on Tuesday that local authorities had been advised not to consider licences for any such events. It means no major sporting fixtures or concerts will take place in the country this summer. On Tuesday the government confirmed there had been 44 more coronavirus-linked deaths in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total to 730. Some 388 new cases have also been confirmed, with the total now 16,040.
20:36 Trudeau promises assault weapons ban – when the virus permits
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will push a ban on assault weapons through parliament, but that timing is up in the air because of coronavirus. Trudeau said his government was on the verge of introducing legislation before parliament was suspended on 13 March due to the virus and concerns about social distancing. The issue was raised during his Tuesday press briefing in light of the shooting in Nova Scotia over the weekend, which killed at least 19 people, making it Canada’s deadliest mass shooting. “The tragedy in Nova Scotia reinforces how important it is for us to move forward on gun control,” he said. Police have not said whether the suspected gunman, who was killed by police, obtained his weapons legally or not. On Monday the House of Commons agreed to have regular video meetings, but only one in-person meeting a week, which could delay legislation.
19:58 WHO: No evidence for virus lab release
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said evidence indicates the coronavirus is of animal origin, dismissing reports it was produced in a Chinese laboratory. Last week US President Donald Trump said his administration was looking into unsubstantiated claims that coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan. Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province, saw the first cases of Covid-19 late last year. On Tuesday, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said all evidence suggested the virus was “not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else”. “It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin,” she told a WHO media briefing in Geneva. How the virus was transmitted from animals to humans is not yet clear, she added. “It most likely has its ecological reservoir in bats – but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be seen and discovered,” she said.
19:08 Global coronavirus cases exceed 2.5m
There have now been more than 2.5 million coronavirus infections worldwide. The current figure stands at 2,501,156, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US. The death toll currently stands at 171,810.
19:02 UK denies ‘political decision’ to snub EU over medical kit
The row over why the UK failed to sign up to the EU’s medical equipment procurement scheme has been resurrected today with an appearance before MPs by the head of the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald. Last month the government was criticised for not taking part in the scheme to bulk buy medical equipment that could be used to tackle the coronavirus.
Ministers -including Michael Gove- were forced to deny that anti-EU sentiment had played a part in the decision. There were also claims of missing emails and a communication confusion. But today Sir Simon McDonald,appearing via video link, told MPs it was a deliberate decision by ministers to turn down the invitation from Brussels. “It was a political decision, our mission briefed minsters on what was available, and what was on offer, and the decision is known,” he said. This prompted a robust response from the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, at the Downing Street news conference. He said that he had spoken to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, and as far as he knew there had been no political decision not to participate. He revealed that he had now accepted an invitation from the EU to join that particular scheme which he said had not yet delivered a single item of medical equipment. And Whitehall sources have since suggested Sir Simon “misspoke” and that a clarification of his remarks will be forthcoming.
18:56 Missouri sues China for ‘sinister campaign of malfeasance and deception’
The US state of Missouri is suing China, the Chinese Communist Party, and other government officials over what it calls a “sinister campaign of malfeasance and deception” which, it claims, led to the global Covid-19 pandemic. In a court filing on Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt argued that China’s early actions led to an “unnecessary and preventable” outbreak. The federal lawsuit seeks damages for “the enormous loss of life, human suffering, and economic turmoil” that has occurred in the state.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office called the move “historical”. But the lawsuit will face significant legal and procedural obstacles. US law, for instance, gives foreign governments sweeping immunity from such actions. Missouri may be less concerned with securing monetary damages, however, than with scoring political points and pinning blame on China for the devastating health and economic consequences of the pandemic.
18:45 UK government official admits repatriation response ‘not ideal’
More than 1.3m travelling Britons have been helped to return to the UK on commercial flights after the global lockdown, according to the civil servant at the head of the Foreign Office. Sir Simon Macdonald told MPs that an additional 12,124 British nationals had been repatriated via 64 special government charters from 20 countries. He told the Foreign Affairs Committee there remained “tens of thousands” of Britons – many in the Indian subcontinent – who still want to return to the UK. Many Britons and their families have complained about poor communication and a slow response from the Foreign Office during the crisis, and Sir Simon acknowledged there had been “problems” with the department’s initial reaction.
“There were real problems that many calls were not getting through,” he said. The Foreign Office response had at times been “not ideal”. And he told the MPs he was “sorry” that some of their constituents had been left in a difficult position. But he told MPs that for every complaint the Foreign Office had received, it had also received about 20 expressions of thanks. He also accepted that it had taken longer to get Britons home compared to citizens of some other countries. But he defended the decision made by ministers to focus on getting Britons on commercial flights and delaying special charter flights until they were really needed. He said this protected the taxpayer from having to pay for a huge number of flights that could be covered by travel and insurance companies.
18:32 New York governor travels to Washington to talk ‘testing’
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has delivered his daily briefing from the city of Buffalo, before departing for Washington DC to meet President Trump at the White House. Cuomo said 478 deaths had been recorded in New York state in the previous 24 hours, the lowest total in more than two weeks. He noted that only 7% of total virus cases were outside the New York City region, and that some parts of the state “do not have a Covid issue”, so hospitals there will be able to resume elective surgeries soon. He said that “some economies” around the state could soon reopen. The governor said that the subject of his meeting with Trump would be testing. He added that states will take charge of testing samples, but the federal government should be responsible for sourcing the kits and providing them to the states.
18:18 US Congress nears new bailout agreement
The White House and Congress are nearing a deal to approve a new US aid package worth around $470bn (£380bn). If approved by the Senate, as expected later on Tuesday, the bill will be taken up by the House as early as Thursday. Much of the money covers a programme providing loans to small businesses – last week the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it had already spent its entire $350bn budget bailing out firms disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats had sought new protections for food assistance and other state-level social safety net programmes, but the deal is not expected to approve funding for their wish-list.
18:14 Italy’s active cases fall for second day
There’s encouraging news from Italy, where the number of current coronavirus cases has dropped for the second consecutive day. As of Tuesday, there were 528 fewer active cases in the country, bringing the total down to 107,709, Italy’s civil protection agency said. Yesterday, Italy reported its first reduction in the number of people currently positive for the virus since the outbreak began. BBC Rome Correspondent Mark Lowen said the drop in active cases was “good news”, but stressed that “Italy is still losing too many each day”. The country’s death toll jumped to 24,648 on Tuesday, a rise of 534 in the past 24 hours. That’s an increase of 80 compared to Monday, when 454 deaths were reported. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it would be “irresponsible” to fully reopen the country when the lockdown ends on 4 May. “I would like to be able to say, let’s open everything. Right away,” Conte wrote on Facebook. “But such a decision would be irresponsible.” He said Italy would reopen in line with “serious scientific policy”, suggesting it would be a gradual process.
18:07 Captain Tom opens new UK field hospital
Captain Tom Moore – the 99-year-old British war veteran who raised over £27m for the NHS – has opened a new field hospital in Yorkshire. A virtual ceremony was held to open the 500-bed facility at Harrogate Convention Centre, the first of seven field hospitals built outside a city. Captain Tom, as he is affectionately known, appeared via video link at the opening on Tuesday. The Yorkshireman raised the huge sum by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday, Speaking earlier, he told the BBC: “For me to be opening a new hospital in Harrogate is outstanding. “All the people in that area have done so well to produce a new hospital in such a short time.” He celebrates his 100th birthday on 30 April.
18:01 Appeal for volunteers for UK vaccine trial
The UK has announced it is giving more than £40m to two British projects searching for a vaccine for coronavirus – with one trial to start this week. One of those projects, led by Imperial College London’s Department of Infectious Diseases, is appealing for volunteers. In a tweet, the college’s trust said it was looking for healthy people aged between 18 and 55, and that successful applicants would be paid up to £625 for taking part.
17:59 ‘Recovering’ Boris Johnson holds phone call with Donald Trump
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told US President Donald Trump that he is “feeling better and on the road to recovery”, the White House has said. In a phone call a short while ago, the two leaders discussed the need for an international response to the coronavirus pandemic and a post-Brexit trade deal, Downing Street said. The US added that they also reaffirmed their close co-operation “to reopen global economies and ensure medical care and supplies reach all those in need”. Mr Johnson is also expected to speak to the Queen in another telephone call later this week, for the first time in three weeks.
17:04 UK Press Conference
The UK government press conference has started, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock giving the opening statement.
The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has begun today’s daily coronavirus briefing by saying: “At the heart of our plan is ensuring NHS capacity is always ahead of need. “If you or someone you love needs hospital care with covid-19, then you will always get that care.” He says the plan to slow the spread of the virus is working – but there is still some way to go.
Hancock says PPE delivery is happening on an “unprecedented scale” and the government has delivered more than a billion items. The supply of PPE is something that the UK government has been criticised on in recent days. Hancock says they are “working to improve the delivery system” and they have a “diverse range of suppliers”. He says the government has had 8,331 offers of PPE and they are “investigating every one” but the “reality is not everyone who approaches us can deliver on their offers in scale”. He says they are also working with 159 UK manufacturers. “I am determined to get people the PPE they need.” Here our health team look at whether the NHS has enough PPE – amid concern over supply of protective equipment.
On a vaccine for Covid-19, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says: “I am certain we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.” He says the UK has “put more money than any other country on a vaccine search”. He mentions trials at Oxford and Imperial College London universities, saying they are “both promising projects” making “rapid progress”. He says the government will be giving £20m to the Oxford team to fund their clinical trials – and they will be trialing a vaccine on people starting on Thursday.
Dr Van-Tam is speaking about key trends in the statistical data relating to social distancing, new infections, hospital admissions, weekly death rates and global comparisons. In terms of new recorded cases, the deputy chief medical officer says there are clearly day-to-day variations. But he points out that the numbers “remain high” and there has not been an “enormous downturn” in the rate – suggesting that the UK is still facing a “situation of danger”. He goes on to suggest that the number of people in hospital with the virus in London peaked on 10 April and has since continued to fall. But he says there is not similar evidence that this is happening elsewhere in the UK, adding that there is currently a plateau and while he expects the curve to fall, this is not yet taking place. He talks about the difference between the number of people recorded as having died with the virus in hospitals and the number of fatalities in all settings, including care homes – a gap illustrated by figures from the Office for National Statistics earlier. He says people need to be “very careful” about comparing the two figures – saying “We are not comparing apples with apples, we are comparing apples with pears.”
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg asks Health Secretary Matt Hancock about protective equipment for front-line staff. The government says it has received more than 8,000 offers from companies saying they can start making PPE – but it has been criticised today for apparently not responding to some of those offers. Mr Hancock says they have been working to get PPE to those who need it on the front line, especially after a big increase in demand a month ago. “We are doing everything we possibly can,” he says. Earlier, Labour said that “lots” of British firms who offered to produce PPE for the NHS have heard “nothing back” from the government. One businessman told the BBC his offer of 450 visors a day apparently went ignored.
The ITV’s Robert Peston asks about potential changes to the government’s advice on the use of face masks and what he suggests are problems with testing, particularly getting swabs to laboratories. Mr Hancock says he has been asked about masks “many times before” and suggests that ministers will be “guided by the science as always”. He notes that the Sage committee discussed the issue today and he looks forward to hearing their recommendations. Dr Van-Tam says that if the evidence changes then officials will consider it but insists that it will be ministers who will be briefed first. On testing, Mr Hancock says it is “terrific” that total testing capacity has risen to over 39,000 – which he says is ahead of target. One of the benefits of this capacity being met is that a greater number of front-line workers, not just in the NHS, can be tested. On this issue, Dr Newton concedes that drive-through centres are not ideal for some people and officials are looking at a range of options to make it easier for NHS staff to be tested.
Another fall in patients in hospital with coronavirus across the UK – down to 17,700 – is another sign that the UK is over the worst of the peak. At one point the numbers topped 20,000 – and with another 12,000 beds free in hospital to treat patients there is still plenty of capacity. Health Secretary Matt Hancock also says there are nearly 3,000 intensive care beds available. That is a staggering number. At the start of March there were just 900, but since then overall capacity has been doubled.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is asked about protective gear for front-line staff again. As we mentioned in an earlier post, the government said today it had received 8,000 offers of PPE supply from companies. “The number of items that are needed are absolutely vast,” Mr Hancock says. “We are always trying to improve the processes we have in place to make purchases.” He says they have had to “sort out the credible offers” from those that are not, giving the example of companies formed only days before coming forward and seeking public funding. “Nevertheless we want to engage with all those companies that can help us in the national effort,” he says.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is trying to get on the front foot on personal protective equipment, saying the government is in talks with a diverse range of suppliers abroad. He says there is a “global shortage”, but says the key will be being nimble with officials working “day and night” to get more equipment into the country. Earlier this week it was announced a deal had been struck with a Chinese supplier to provide 25 million gowns, enough for over six months. But NHS managers have been saying they will only be happy when they see the kit in the country – after delays and unreliable supply of equipment in recent weeks.
The health secretary is now asked what the UK is doing to tackle alleged Chinese disinformation campaigns and “conspiracy narratives” designed to “exonerate” Beijing from criticism over its handling of the pandemic in Wuhan. Mr Hancock says he has not seen any reports about this or evidence implicating the Chinese authorities. But he says there is clearly disinformation about the origins of coronavirus and potential treatments on social media which must be confronted – adding the public have a right to expect truthful and factual information. Our Science Editor Paul Rincon has examined the claims, dismissed earlier today by the World Health Organization, that the virus escaped from a lab in China.
The Mirror’s Pippa Crerar returns to the subject of whether the UK opted out of the EU’s ventilator procurement scheme for political reasons, as the Foreign Office’s top official Simon McDonald has suggested. She says McDonald and Hancock, who earlier distanced himself from this claim, “cannot both be right’ and asks which one we should be believing. The health secretary says there has been speculation about e-mails not being answered. But he says the decision came to his desk and he recommended the UK did take part in the scheme as an associate member – that is the “long and the short of it”. And he insists missing out on the scheme has had “absolutely zero” impact on the UK’s access to the equipment, because the scheme has not yet delivered any items to its participants.
And finally there is a question from Reuters on the statistics released by the ONS today, which showed that deaths in England and Wales have hit a 20-year high. Mr Hancock says reports saying coronavirus deaths are “40% higher” in the UK than the previously reported data is “not an accurate representation of those (ONS) figures”. He says the ONS figures are measured differently from the statistics released daily on hospital deaths. Mr Hancock goes on to say that there were “two absolutely critical tasks” at the start of this crisis – to get the virus under control and flatten the curve, and also to make sure the NHS was not overwhelmed. “We have achieved that,” he says. Mr Hancock finishes by saying that finding a vaccine for coronavirus is “the top priority” and adds he is “delighted” one is going into human clinical trials this week. But, he says, “there is a huge amount still to do”.
16:49 Flight containing 19 tonnes of medical equipment to land in the UK shortly
While we wait to hear more about the consignment of PPE that is expected to leave Turkey for the UK, there’s news that another consignment of personal protective equipment from Shanghai, China, is expected at Heathrow Airport shortly. The cargo-only Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 flight contains 19 tonnes of medical equipment and PPE and 28,000 individual items including approximately 6,000 protective gowns and more than 20,000 ventilators. The airline says it is operating eight cargo-only flights this month, in partnership with the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care. Since 3 April five flights have already arrived, carrying more than 80 tonnes of PPE, including 3.5 million individual items.
Virgin Atlantic says the consignments have included 50 ventilators, 1.8 million face masks, 600,000 face shields and visors, a million disposable gloves, 38,000 items for eye protection, and 75,000 protective coveralls and isolation gowns. Yesterday, Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson said in an open letter to staff he was asking for a commercial loan, believed to be £500m, from the UK government to save the airline from collapse. Virgin Australia has also entered voluntary administration – making it Australia’s first big corporate casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
16:38 Shipment of PPE from Turkey expected in UK later
The BBC has been told the first batch of Turkish personal protective equipment (PPE) destined for the UK has arrived at Istanbul Airport and is now in the process of clearing customs. An RAF aircraft which flew out to Istanbul last night is expected to be loaded with the protective equipment for the NHS later this afternoon. Quality control checks on the equipment would normally be carried out before the aircraft is loaded. Once the checks have been made and the equipment has been loaded, the RAF plane will return to Brize Norton. The Ministry of Defence is not confirming details or timings.
16:26 UK opposition: Gap between government thinking and reality on PPE
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour party, says that there is a gap between the government’s words and reality in relation to the delivery of protective equipment (PPE) to health and care workers treating patients with coronavirus. In an interview with the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, Sir Keir said: “It would be a struggle for any government to get exactly the right kit to the right place at the right time. “But what we’re seeing here is an increasing gap between what the government says or thinks is happening and what the front line are telling us.” He added: “And this gap has to be closed as soon as possible because people are putting their lives literally on the line when they’re going to work – they need the proper equipment in the right place.” The government has been under increasing pressure on the issue, as health workers continue to report PPE shortages. It has repeatedly said it is doing all it can to ensure supplies.
16:21 UK hospital death toll rises by 823
A further 823 people have died in hospitals across the UK in a day, taking the total to 17,337 – latest government figures show. The number of cases has also increased by 4,301 in 24 hours, bringing the total of 129,044. Meanwhile, 18,206 tests were carried out on Monday, the government said. Ministers have set a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. The latest death figures do not include those in the community, in places such as care homes. There is a longer time lag in that data but you can find the latest here. Health officials have previously warned against over-interpreting daily figures of people dying, with many hard-pressed hospitals understandably not reporting deaths over a weekend until the middle of the following week.
16:12 Austria to reopen bars and restaurants in May
Thousands of Austrian shops reopened last week – albeit with strict rules on social distancing and face masks made mandatory nationwide – as the country eased its lockdown. Now Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says that if the number of coronavirus infections stays low, restaurants and cafes will be able to re-open from 15 May. Social distancing rules about the size of groups and the number of guests permitted will be announced next week. It’s expected that serving staff will have to wear masks. Religious services will also resume, while schools will slowly reopen in a step-by-step process from the start of May. The chancellor said Austria was moving faster than other countries towards something like a new normality. But he warned that the government was ready to slam on the brakes if infections start to rise again.
15:30 UK MPs return to social distancing in the Commons
UK MPs have returned to the House of Commons after an extended Easter recess amid the coronavirus crisis. But there is a difference – MPs must maintain a 2m (6ft) distance from each other, helped by tape markings on the floor, and there are also markings on the famous green benches. Their first move is to discuss a motion allowing a “hybrid” Parliament, with some MPs in the chamber and others connected via video link. We have more on this in our story here. Meanwhile, peers in the House of Lords have already approved new measures and the House’s first virtual sitting has begun.
14:57 Wales death toll rises by 25
A further 25 people have died with coronavirus in hospitals in Wales, taking the total number to 609, according to the latest daily figures. Public Health Wales (PHW) said there were an extra 304 new cases since the last count, taking the total to 7,850. The true number is likely to be higher as most people with symptoms are not tested. Find the latest on deaths outside of hospitals here. Daily updates for Northern Ireland and across the whole UK are expected shortly.
14:32 England death toll rises by 778
A further 778 people who tested positive for coronavirus in hospitals in England have died over a 24-hour period, NHS figures show. It takes the total number of hospital deaths to 15,607. The latest death figures do not include those in the community, or in places such as care homes. There is a time lag in that data but you can find the latest for England and Wales here. Daily figures for the entire UK are expected later.
14:19 Number of people facing acute hunger could nearly double – UN
The coronavirus pandemic could nearly double the number of people around the world facing acute hunger, the UN’s World Food Programme has warned. “The number of people facing acute food insecurity stands to rise to 265m in 2020, up by 130m from 135m in 2019, as a result of the economic impact of Covid-19,” the WFP said its projections had shown. The warning came as the WFP and other partners released a new report on food crises around the world. The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises found that food insecurity was already on the rise last year before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.
14:06 UK government committed to 100,000 tests a day target
The government is “absolutely standing by” its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of April, Downing St has said – despite capacity being lower than 40,000 on Monday. The prime minister’s spokesman said the total capacity for tests was currently 39,250 per day. In the 24 hours until 09:00 on Monday, 19,316 tests were carried out.
The government also reiterated its plans to review the advice on face masks. Currently, the government only recommends their use in health and social care settings, but some other countries have recommended them for the general population. As announced last week, the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) is meeting to consider “further evidence” on the effectiveness of face masks, Downing St said, and the government will set out its position once it has reached a decision.
13:49 ‘Not true’ UK government ignored manufacturer on PPE
The government has had more than 8,000 offers from suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE) and is prioritising those of “larger volumes”, Downing St says. Amid criticism that companies have not had offers taken up, the prime minister’s spokesman said the government needed to make sure they met safety and quality standards. The spokesman said it was “not true” that the government had ignored one particular company, Veenak, saying “they registered the offer on April 5th and would have got an immediate response.”
“We are working as hard as we can with international partners to bring PPE in and at the same time trying to increase domestic supply,” he said. Regarding a consignment of PPE from Turkey, the government was “continuing to work to ensure this shipment is delivered as soon as it is ready.” There had been consternation after the government said the shipment would arrive on Sunday, but it turned out not to be ready.
13:36 NFL quarterback Brady breaches lockdown rules
With sports facilities closed around the world, athletes are struggling to stay fit, but NFL quarterback Tom Brady has fallen foul of lockdown rules in Tampa, Florida – by training in a public park. During a Facebook Live chat on Monday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said a parks worker “saw an individual working out in one of our downtown parks, she went to tell him it was closed – and it was Tom Brady.”
Neither Brady, 42, nor his American football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has responded publicly and US media has reported that Brady was not fined. A tweet from the official City of Tampa account then said: “Sorry @TomBrady! Our @tampaparksrec team can’t wait to welcome you and our entire community back with even bigger smiles — until then, stay safe and stay home as much as you can to help flatten the curve.”
13:24 Scotland death toll rises by 70
The number of people who have died in hospitals in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus has risen by 70 in a day, to a total of 985. So far, there have now been 8,672 confirmed cases of the virus in Scotland – an increase of 222 over 24 hours. These numbers do not include deaths in the community, in places such as care homes. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was cautiously optimistic that the increase in cases was stabilising. UK-wide figures are expected later.
13:09 PM Johnson to speak to Queen
The prime minister is expected to hold an audience with the Queen at some point this week, Downing Street has said. The telephone conversation will be the first between Boris Johnson and Her Majesty for three weeks, as he has been ill with coronavirus. The prime minister is also due to speak to President Trump this afternoon.
Downing Street said the call would be an opportunity for an update on the response to the virus by G7 countries – currently chaired by the US – and to “thank the president for the messages of support that he has sent” during Mr Johnson’s illness. The prime minister is “continuing his recovery at Chequers and not formally doing government work,” his spokesman said. He has been “receiving updates from No 10 on the coronavirus response and has spoken with the first secretary of state [Dominic Raab] and senior members of his team.”
13:01 Testing available for every UK frontline worker, health chief says
Any front line worker who needs to be tested for the virus should now be able to be tested, the government’s coronavirus testing co-ordinator, Professor John Newton, has told the BBC. In an interview with BBC health editor Hugh Pym, Prof Newton said 27 drive-in testing centres were now up and running in the UK and more were planned. But he acknowledged some key workers were finding it difficult to get to drive-in testing centres. Government scientists are also now delivering testing swabs to hospitals and other work places so testing can be carried out there. In addition they are delivering test kits to people’s homes so people can take their own swab. Professor Newton says the testing scheme has been extended to all front-line workers. As well as NHS staff and care home workers, this includes police officers, prison officers, teachers and other front line key workers. Health secretary Matt Hancock has set a target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April. Asked whether this would be met Professor Newton said: “You would need to talk to the secretary of state about his target. But we are confident we have the lab capacity to deliver the testing service the country needs.”
12:47 Pamplona’s bull-running festival cancelled
Spain’s famous annual San Fermin bull-running festival in July has been cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis. “As expected as it was, it still leaves us deeply sad,” said acting mayor Ana Elizalde in a statement from the local Pamplona town hall. The festival, which draws thousands of participants and was made famous in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”, has seldom been cancelled in its history. It is the second major European tourist event to be cancelled today after it was announced that Oktoberfest, the famous annual German beer-drinking festival which sees six million people travel to Munich, will not take place.
12:31 Critics of lockdown in Russia protest online
Quarantine rules in Russia have forced critics of the government to use online platforms to voice dissent. Opponents of the lockdown have used Russia’s popular search engine Yandex and its Maps services to leave comments on particular locations. Comments are normally about traffic, but in this campaign include, “how do we pay our mortgage?” and “we are hungry, what do we do?,” in a show of dissatisfaction.
Metropicket, a rights movement which held protests outside Moscow’s metro stations every Friday before the lockdown, held its first Zoom protest on 17 April, with demonstrators holding posters up to cameras at home. Another opposition event is planned for 28 April on YouTube.“Holding a street rally right now would be irresponsible, but we want to try something other than boring petitions, addresses or Facebook posts,” prominent journalist and campaigner Ilya Azar said on Facebook. It comes with US Democratic governors asking the White House to urge Americans to obey stay-at-home orders amid anti-lockdown protests stoked by President Donald Trump.
11:06 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe prison leave extended
British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her temporary leave from prison in the Iranian capital Tehran extended for another month. The 41-year-old was released from Evin prison on 17 March because of the coronavirus outbreak. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been at her parents’ home in Tehran since being freed but is required to wear an ankle tag and remain within 300m of the property. Her husband, Richard, says she is “very relieved” but there is no news yet on whether she will be granted clemency. She was jailed in 2016 on spying charges that she has always denied.
10:58 WHO employee killed in gunfire in Myanmar
An employee of the World Health Organisation has died and a government official injured in Myanmar’s Rakhine state after their car was hit by gunfire, authorities have confirmed. The man was a WHO employee who worked as a driver. The BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports that the car, marked as a UN vehicle, had been collecting Covid-19 samples and was on the way back to Yangon when the attack took place on Monday. The incident occurred in an area which has seen several clashes between the military and insurgents from the Arakan Army, who have escalated their campaign for self-rule in Rakhine state in the past two years, our correspondent says. One of the poorest regions in the country, Rakhine State relies heavily on international assistance.
10:31 Nigeria sorry for ‘mistakes’ at presidential aide’s burial
The Nigerian government has apologised for “mistakes” made during the burial of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, who died from coronavirus. A funeral was held for Mr Kyari on 18 April in Abuja, but images have been shared of people huddling around his grave. Officials have admitted the service was inconsistent with government rules on public gatherings and social distancing in the city.
Authorities have refrained from a nationwide lockdown, but strict measures have been in place since 30 March in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states. Most businesses have been forced to close because of the new rules, and the government has banned large gatherings and all but essential travel. Over 665 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Nigeria, along with 22 virus-related deaths.
09:59 Three in 10 deaths linked to virus in England and Wales
More than three in 10 deaths in England and Wales are linked to coronavirus, figures show. The Office for National Statistics said in the week ending 10 April, the virus was mentioned on 6,213 death certificates. It pushed the total number of deaths in that week to over 18,000 – the highest weekly total since the start of 2000.
09:38 India rescues tourists stuck in cave amid lockdown
The foreigners are from five countriesImage caption: The foreigners are from five countries
Officials have rescued six tourists who were living in a cave in the foothills of the Himalayas following the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The four men and two women had moved to a cave in Rishikesh after they were stranded in the country with very little money. Air, rail and road transport have been suspended since 24 March. The six foreign nationals have tested negative for Covid-19 and have been moved into quarantine, officials said.
09:25 MPs advised to stay at home as Parliament resumes
UK House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has urged MPs to “stay at home” as Parliament returns following the Easter recess. New working arrangements have been put in place including reduced hours and virtual committee meetings. Sir Lindsay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My advice is please stay at home, let’s do it remotely. “Those that insist on coming – we can have up to 50, I’m not expecting 50
09:10 Germany cancels Oktoberfest
Everyone’s favourite beer drinking festival Oktoberfest will not be taking place in its capital Munich this year, the German state of Bavaria has said. The event, which was due to take place from 19 September to the 4 October, is typically attended by around six million people. The cancellation is going to be a huge blow to Munich’s economy. Reuters say that the festival generates more than €1 bn ($1.07 bn; £0.87 bn) for the city each year.
08:50 Sri Lanka remembers Easter bombing amid lockdown
Church bells have rung out across Sri Lanka, marking one year since more than 250 people were killed by a group of suicide bombers. But there are no other large-scale events planned to remember the men, women and children killed – from worshippers celebrating Easter in church to tourists enjoying hotel breakfasts.. In a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Sri Lanka has been observing a curfew since March.
08:21 Twenty held for preventing India doctor’s funeral
At least 20 people have been arrested in south India for violently preventing the burial of a prominent doctor who died with Covid-19. Dr Simon Hercules’ friends and family were attacked by a mob with sticks and rods when they took his body to a burial ground in Chennai on Sunday night. Resident nearby were worried that burying bodies of patients who died with coronavirus would help spread the disease, police said. One of his friends had to quietly bury him in the early hours of Monday without any family members present. “He was not shown even basic humanity. Even his wife and son couldn’t be there to say goodbye,” Dr Pradeep told the News Minute website.
07:41 Lifting of lockdowns must be gradual – WHO
As many countries seek an end, or partial end to their lockdowns, the World Health Organization has once again given a warning that this should be a gradual process. Premature relaxations may lead to a surge of new Covid-19 infections, the organisation said on Tuesday. “At least until a vaccine, or a very effective treatment, is found, this process will need to become our new normal,” Takeshi Kasai, Regional Director for the Western Pacific said, adding that lockdown measures have proved effective.
Any governments that are thinking of easing measures should plan to do it in stages while continuously monitoring the situation, he added. “Individuals and society need to be ready for a new way ofliving,” he said. Countries like Japan and Singapore have seen recent surges in new infections, prompting concerns over a second wave of Covid-19 cases.
07:25 Australia PM deplores attacks on Asian Australians
Earlier, Australian PM Scott Morrison spoke out about the spate of attacks in recent weeks on Asian people in Australia, telling people to “stop it”. Videos and posts shared on social media have shown street attacks on Asian people, and racist graffiti in Chinese communities. Many appear to blame Chinese people for the spread of the virus in Australia.
However very few of Australia’s infections have come from China. Instead the majority have come from travellers from North America, Europe or via cruise ships. Mr Morrison said he wanted to “remind” the public that the Chinese-Australian community had effectively self-isolated during the first weeks of the virus’ presence in Australia. “They were the ones who first went into self-isolation, they were the ones who were returning from family visits up into China … It was through their care, their patience that actually Australia was protected in their first wave.”
07:16 Trump ban faces ‘certain legal challenge and political furore’
President Trump’s tweet announcing his intention to sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States came as a surprise. In the absence of any further explanation or elaboration from the White House, there are many questions about the practicality and legality of such a move. It is not clear whether an executive order has been drafted and if so, when the president intends to act. It seems certain that there will be an immediate legal challenge and political furore. Mr Trump’s critics are saying it is an attempt to detract from the failings of his administration’s response to Covid-19, while his supporters are welcoming the move as necessary to protect Americans.
07:00 Germany’s latest figures as restrictions ease
Germany reports 1,785 people tested positive over the past day, taking the overall official number to more than 143,000 cases, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The deaths of 194 people have so far been linked to Covid-19 and the overall death toll stands at 4,598. The new numbers are a slight increase in new infections after two days of declines. The government has said the virus is tentatively under control and is allowing some smaller shops to reopen and some school years to resume classes this week.
06:29 Indonesia bans Ramadan mass exodus
Indonesia’s president has banned the mass exodus of Muslims at the end of the Islamic fasting month Ramadan, to try and curb the spread of coronavirus. But it’s a move that experts say comes too late. Nearly one million people in the country are thought to have left Jakarta and returned to their hometowns and villages. And many of them have done so weeks before Ramadan begins later this week. For many in the world’s most-populous Muslim-majority nation, it is unthinkable not to return to their families back home, Indonesians have a unique ceremony during Eid called halal-bi-halal, a social gathering where people ask for mutual forgiveness from each other.
On Eid, which falls at the end of May this year, football fields, parking lots, and neighborhood alleys would usually be transformed into outdoor mosques to host mass Eid prayers, where many would flaunt their new clothes and prayer dresses. However, health experts are warning it could be a disaster given the lack of testing and proper healthcare facilities in remote areas. “During Ramadan we are supposed to be joyful, but some of us will end up in hospital, and some of us will die, because of circumstances that we can actually prevent,” says epidemologist Pandu Riono of the University of Indonesia.
06:17 Half a million Australians have applied for payments
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed 517,000 Australians have applied for unemployment welfare in the past month. He’s previously described the economic impact of the pandemic as immense. The government has predicted around 10% of the workforce, or 1.4 million people, will be jobless by mid-year. However, speaking in Canberra, the PM and medical authorities reiterated that Australia “had a sustained and consolidated flattening of the curve”. “We have to stick to our plan. Our plan is working,” Mr Morrison said. Most of the current lockdown measures will remain for another few weeks, but he announced some re-opening of non-emergency medical services, with elective surgery and IVF among those able to resume in a week.
05:48 Crew evacuated off virus-hit ship
Remember the Ruby Princess cruise ship – the virus-hit vessel which docked in Sydney last month and let off 2,700 passengers without tests? Well now at least 21 deaths have been linked to the ship, and there are multiple criminal and government investigations. In addition, more than 200 of the 1,000 crew on board the vessel have now caught the virus. They’ve been stuck on board the ship for the past four weeks – with many progressively getting sicker. But 49 crew members – from the US, UK, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand – will be taken off the ship today and flown to their home countries on Wednesday. However repatriation still hasn’t been organised yet for the hundreds of other crew stuck on board. The ship is due to leave Australian waters on Thursday and head to the Philippines.
04:25 Virgin Australia victim to ‘worst aviation crisis in history’
Virgin Australia’s chief executive has given a press conference where he said the firm had sunk in “the worst aviation crisis we’ve ever seen in our history”. “We’re not immune to that,” said Paul Scurrah. Indeed, all airlines are suffering now because of the global travel bans. But in some good news – the firm’s administrators said they had already received interest from 10 different investors. There were no plans for redundancies among the 16,000 workforce, they said.
Virgin’s comments came shortly after Australia’s treasurer reiterated that Canberra had no plans to bail out the airline. Josh Frydenberg said there were still market options on the table. “Virgin Australia is a very good airline performing a very important role and this is a difficult day for its staff, for its suppliers, and for the aviation sector more broadly,” said the minister. “But the government was not going to bail out five large foreign shareholders with deep pockets who, together, own 90% of this airline.”
03:42 Hong Kong extends restrictions
As we’ve mentioned, Hong Kong has just announced it will extend its restrictions aimed at tackling the spread of the virus by 14 days. On Monday, the territory recorded no new virus cases for the first time in nearly two months. Overall, there have been 1,025 positive tests and four deaths in Hong Kong. Social distancing measures will now remain in place until 7 May. Public gatherings of more than four people are banned while entertainment venues, bars, cinemas and gyms are closed and foreign arrivals at the airport have been suspended.
03:34 Trump to suspend immigration into the US
US President Donald Trump has said on Twitter that he will temporarily suspend immigration into the US as a result of the “attack from the invisible enemy” – a term he has used before to refer to the coronavirus:
03:03 Australia in a spin after Virgin collapse
Good morning from Sydney, where Australia’s second airline slumping into voluntary administration is dominating discussion. Virgin Australia’s collapse had been flagged for weeks now, sparking calls for the government to part-nationalise the airline to support 16,000 workers and overall tourism. But while Canberra has repeatedly said it wants two airlines serving Australia’s vast landmass, it has been loathe to support one commercial airline over another. The government did not want to spend taxpayer dollars on saving a firm part-owned by Etihad, Singapore Airlines, two Chinese airlines and Richard Branson’s Virgin group. Yesterday, the billionaire offered his private Caribbean island to the UK government as security for a bailout for Virgin Atlantic.This morning, he released a video praising Virgin Australia’s 20 years of operation, and warning against Qantas – the national carrier- gaining a near-total hold of the market. In a glimmer of hope for the industry, the rate at which Australia has suppressed the virus suggests domestic flights could resume earlier than expected. Only a few dozen new cases were reported overnight.
02:39 US deaths rise above 42,000
The number of deaths linked to Covid-19 in the US now stands at 42,094, by far the highest toll globally. The same goes for the number of confirmed infections which is more than 784,000. But despite the continuing spread in some parts of the country, several states are easing lockdown restrictions or are planning on doing so shortly. South Carolina has allowed retail shops, including department stores, to reopen and Georgia will allow places like gyms and hairdressers to open from Friday, followed by restaurants and cinemas on Monday. Most businesses in Tennessee will reopen on 1 May. In all three states though, social distancing measures will remain in place. There have been protests across the US against state restrictions.
Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.