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The lockdown measures will not be lifted next week, the Welsh government said today, raising the prospect the same could happen across the UK.
It comes as the death toll in England increased by 828 in a single day, while Wales reported 33 new fatalities.
The comments from the Welsh government run ahead of the UK Government, which said this lunchtime simply that the lockdown will be reviewed next week. Boris Johnson initially said the lockdown would be reviewed after three weeks, which falls on Easter Monday.
His spokesman said today: “I have always said that it should not be on a specific day but yes it [the meeting] will be on or around the three week mark. We have said there will be an update and there is no change to that timetable.”
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today it was “perfectly reasonable to say that the lockdown is going to need to continue for a while and we don’t need to take this decision at the beginning of next week”.
Separately Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, said that the peak of the crisis would be a week on Sunday, rather than this Sunday as Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week.
Follow the live updates:
Benefits of lockdown are starting to show
Prof Powis said now is not the time to be complacent with social distancing as we are beginning to see the positive effect of it on the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are beginning to see the benefits, I believe (of following government measures), but the really critical thing, I believe, is that we have to continue following instructions, we have to continue following social distancing, because if we don’t, the virus will start to spread again.
“And if it starts to spread again in a week or two’s time, we will be seeing a set of figures which are not going in the direction that we want to see them, we will see increased pressure on the NHS, we will see increased numbers of deaths.
“So this is not the time to become complacent, it’s not the time to think that the job is being done, this is the time to continue everybody continuing, whether you’re me, whether you’re a member of the public, frankly if you’re a football team, to continue to keep with social distancing and ensure that the hard work and the hardship that everybody is no doubt encountering leads to those benefits”
Emergency packages designed to minimise risk of fraud
Sunak said he is confident the emergency packages have been designed to “minimise the risk of fraud”.
He said the schemes are being designed “at pace” but many decisions have been made “deliberately to counter fraud”.
“That has actually influenced some of the design choices we’ve made.
“That means some people might fall between through the cracks, it means people are saying, ‘Can you not do it this way, can you include us?’, and the reason we’ve not been able to do that is to protect against exactly that, exactly the risk of fraud or spurious claims that we won’t be able to verify.
“So I’m confident the decisions we’ve made will minimise the risk of fraud.”
Brexit continues, says Mr Sunak
When asked if the UK should still be leaving the EU after the coronavirus related recession, Mr Sunak responded that Brexit will continue.
“We have left the European Union, that has happened,” he said.
Negotiations on the terms of Brexit and future are ongoing, Mr Sunak added.
Schools unlikely to reopen anytime soon
Data and science suggest it is too soon to say whether schools will reopen before the summer holidays, admit officials.
No end to lockdown in sight
According to Rishi Sunak, continuation of the nationwide lockdown will be addressed during a Cobra meeting tomorrow morning.
However, a Government review on ending the lockdown will be based on data and evidence provided by scientists, which will not be available until next week. This means the lockdown is unlikely to end before then.
“There will be a Cobra meeting tomorrow chaired by the first secretary of state,” Mr Sunak said.
“To talk about the approach to the review, we committed that there would be a review in or around 3 weeks.
“This will be based on the evidence and data provided by SAGE that will only be available next week.
“I think we should focus on the here, now and the present. Our priority right now is to stop the spread of this virus.”
The Chancellor finished by reiterating that people should continue to follow lockdown advice.
People urged to continue seeking emergency help
Professor Stephen Powis urged people needing emergency treatment to continue to seek help “just as you always have done”.
“The NHS has worked night and day to surge capacity to manage coronavirus but it’s also there for you if you have symptoms of a stroke, symptoms of a heart attack.
“Indeed if you have any emergency condition whether it’s a sick child, whether it’s a mother in pregnancy who’s worried about movements of the baby, you should be seeking emergency services just as you always have done.
“They are there for you and, although we are focusing on coronavirus, it’s important we continue to focus on other emergency conditions.”
Impact on our economy will be ‘severe’
When questioned on the possibility of a recession, Rishi Sunak responded that he cannot deny the impact of the coronavirus on the economy will be “severe”.
“I can’t stand here and say I will save every single job and every single business,” he said.
“In spite of what are unprecedented measures in scale and scope, I can’t stand here and say I can save every single job, protect every single business or indeed every single charity.
“That’s just simply not possible.”
London sees highest total of hospitalised patients
Angela McLean, the deputy chief government scientific adviser, is now speaking.
She brings an analysis of the number of coronavirus patients hospitalised across the UK.
McLean says the highest number of hospital beds used for the coronavirus are in London, followed by the Midlands.
The rate of infection is “definitely getting slower” and “looks like we’re beginning to get towards a flat curve”, McLean adds.
The number of patients in critical care has risen by just four per cent in the last 24 hours, which is good news.
Sunak announces £750 million funding for the charity sector
Rishi Sunak has announced a funding boost to the charity sector as it struggles to cope with the coronavirus.
The chancellor thanked the sector for “holding together our social fabric”, before announcing they will receive £750 million in support.
£60 million of this will go to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Mr Sunak said that no other sector embodies such a spirit of community, which is vital during the pandemic.
“The simplest acts have the potential to change lives,” he said. “We need the gentleness of charities in our lives.”
PM remains in intensive care but ‘is sitting up in bed and doing well’
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is holding today’s coronavirus press conference.
He begins by addressing both the record breaking death toll and the prime minister’s condition.
According to Mr Sunak, Boris Johnson remains in intensive care but has been sitting up in bed and is “doing well.”
“He is receiving excellent care from the NHS team at St Thomas’.
“He has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.”
Daily government briefing begins – watch live
Hospital death toll sees record daily rise of 938 to 7,097
As of 5pm on 7 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,097 have died. That is a rise of 938, up from 6,159 the previous day – the highest day-on-day rise so far.
As of 9am 8 April, 282,074 tests have concluded, with 14,682 tests on 7 April.
232,708 people have been tested of which 60,733 tested positive.
Tomorrow marks 100 days since coronavirus alert
In today’s WHO press briefing, Dr Tedros shared the news that tomorrow will mark 100 days since the World Health Organization was alerted to the first cases of “pneumonia with unknown cause” in China.
Care for patients ‘fundamentally compromised’ by PPE shortage
A lack of protective equipment for nurses is “fundamentally compromising” the care they can give patients, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.
Nurses’ safety is also being put at risk, the union warned.
Despite repeated assurances that more personal protective equipment (PPE) is on the way, the RCN said that the kit is not reaching the front line.
Nurses are still being forced to share equipment, buy their own or reuse kit, according to the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair.
In a letter to the parliamentary Health Committee chairman, and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Dame Donna said that nurses are being forced to choose between their sense of duty and the safety of themselves and their families.
“Nursing staff are at the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dame Donna wrote in the letter, dated April 6.
“The distribution and adequacy of PPE has led nursing staff to share equipment, buy their own supplies or to reuse single-use PPE. Although there are announcements that millions of pieces of PPE are being distributed, they aren’t reaching the front line across all health and care settings.”
Global shortages of PPE have led to shortfalls on the NHS front line as medics try to care for the rising tide of patients with Covid-19.
Turkey delivers aid to five Balkan countries
Turkey has delivered medical supplies to five Balkan countries to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Update on the Forestry Commission’s working practices during the coronavirus outbreak
The Forestry Commission’s has shared what they will be doing to take precaution during the coronavirus outbreak:
In common with most organisations dealing with the effects of Covid-19, the Forestry Commission is following government guidance and taking all steps necessary to protect our staff and help prevent the spread of the virus.
We know that many people rely on our services. We aim to continue our normal operational work as far as it is safe to do so – both for us and others.
As the situation continues to develop, we will keep our operations and advice under review in light of any new advice from government.
Site visits have been suspended. This will be reviewed as government advice changes. The suspension also applies to site visits for grant applications. If you have recently submitted a claim, we will contact you directly once we have finalised our position.
Private forestry operations can continue.
Businesses should also look to advice published by trade associations and similar groups on how to apply government guidance to their sector.
MPs launch inquiry into the Department for Work and Pensions’ response to the coronavirus
An inquiry into the Department for Work and Pensions’ response to the coronavirus outbreak has been launched by MPs.
They want to understand, among other issues, how well the Universal Credit (UC) system is working given the unprecedented number of new claimants.
The department confirmed it had received more than a million claims for the benefit since March 16.
This compares with approximately 55,000 “in a normal week”, according to the department’s permanent secretary Peter Schofield.
He added, in a letter to Labour MP and committee chairman Stephen Timms, that calls to the UC helpline had been “extremely high” with about 1.8 million between March 23 and 27.
Mr Schofield also said: “On the 30 March and 31 March we received 2.2 million and 1.8 million calls respectively.”
Join the debate: When should the coronavirus lockdown end?
Ministers and their officials may not want to talk about easing the lockdown yet as coronavirus infections and deaths mount, but they will need to decide what to do once the increasingly imminent peak is passed.
With Boris Johnson locked in his own personal battle with Covid-19, his deputy Dominic Raab will have to work out with the rest of the cabinet how to return the economy and society towards normality.
There is no consensus about how to deliver an exit from lockdown, variously called ” Lexit ” or “Loxit”, but a number of approaches are emerging.
Asa Bennett explains what they are here.
The UK should be ready to manufacture a potential coronavirus vaccine
The Science and Technology Committee has heard the UK should be ready to manufacture a potential coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.
Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, told MPs: “As part of the UK’s life science industrial strategy, investments have been made by the UK state that would be very helpful in building a vaccine manufacturing capability.
“These are around the country, they link to the private sector as well.
“And a great consortium of BIA members have made proposals which have been adopted by Sir Patrick Vallance and the UK Government which anticipate exactly this.”
Asked whether these facilities would be available for use during the Covid-19 crisis, he added: “We hope so.”
Mr Bates said everything could not be done to scale, but added: “There is capacity and that has been linked, and being invested in and being organised, ready to go, should a vaccine candidate become available.”
Coronavirus could trigger the ‘deepest recession of our lifetimes’
Global trade growth is expected to plummet by up to a third in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Trade Organization has said, warning that the numbers would be “ugly”.
“World trade is expected to fall by between 13 percent and 32 percent in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world,” the WTO said in a statement.
There were a wide range of possibilities for how trade would be hit by the “unprecedented” health crisis, it added.
WTO chief Roberto Azevedo warned the downturn “may well be the deepest economic recession or downturn of our lifetimes”.
Channel Four to cut budget by £150m
Channel 4 will cut its content budget by £150 million in a bid to navigate through the coronavirus crisis, it has been announced.
The channel said: “This reflects both the difficulties of producing programmes and films in the current environment, as well as some extremely difficult decisions to delay or cancel some content across Channel 4, E4 and More 4 across the year.”
The news comes after the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News announced they are going into liquidation amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The London-based publications released a statement on this morning stating that the liquidation could be finalised in the next two to three weeks.
Can we still eliminate Covid-19?
It’s not clear if Covid-19 will become endemic as we cannot predict the “destiny” of the outbreak, according to Professor David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist.
The new coronavirus outbreak is on trajectory to continue transmitting “for a time” but it unclear whether it will become a seasonal infection, he said today.
Citing the situation in China, Prof Heymann, who led the global shutdown of the Sars outbreak in 2003, said that despite “severe lockdown measures” the virus has not been eliminated:
“It would be nice if this could be eliminated. But it looks like – and we’re watching very closely, what’s happening in China – it looks like it hasn’t been eliminated from China.
“If that’s the case, under these severe lockdown measures, then it may be that it can’t be eliminated as it is now.
“We can’t really predict the destiny of a new and emerging infection. At present, we can only say that it’s in populations now, and that it looks like it’s on a trajectory to continue transmitting for a time, but we just don’t know what will happen in the long-term.
“We know that some influenza viruses enter human populations and transmit quite significantly. And then they disappear.
“So you know it’s not really clear that this virus will become endemic, as did HIV has some seasonal influenza.
“But you know, every day, the chances are more and more that it may at least linger longer than we hope.”
Chocoholics look away…
Supermarkets have had to cut back on Easter eggs as they focus on filling empty shelves with essential products, Laura Onita reports.
The number of Easter-themed confectionary goods, such as chocolate Easter eggs, out of stock at mainstream supermarkets has more than doubled to almost 25pc, compared to the same week before Easter Sunday last year.
There are also fewer ranges, down by 3pc than in 2019, across all grocers except Ocado, new data from analysts at Edge by Ascential has shown.
Moreover, the level of unavailability last week is equal to the levels seen three days before Easter last year.
All supermarkets had greater levels of unavailable Easter confectionery except for Sainsbury’s, which had restrictions in place allowing shoppers to purchase a maximum of three Easter eggs. However, the cap was lifted this week.
Easter eggs may not be as abundant this year because supermarkets focused their efforts on restocking shelves with essential items such as pasta, rice, antibacterial soap or lavatory roll.
You can find on this story, as well as all the latest markets updates, over on our business liveblog.
Tim Farron in self-isolation
The former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has announced via Twitter that he is “self-isolating as a precaution” after experiencing a fever and persistent cough since Saturday.
“NHS 111 have now advised that it’s likely that I do have coronavirus and so I will continue to be in self-isolation for the rest of the week,” he wrote.
Good news round-up
Harriet Barber has some more positive news for you this afternoon:
- Two pregnant women diagnosed with coronavirus in Peru have given birth to healthy babies who have tested negative for the disease. Both mothers are in good health though still receiving treatment.
- Scout volunteers are producing personal protective equipment for NHS staff using 3D printers. They’ve already supplied over 100 visors to local hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, and care homes in the South West.
- The tour buses of rock stars are being sent to London hospitals to provide a place for staff to rest.
- And in cuter news – a London-based couple spent about four hours crafting a miniature art gallery for the enjoyment of their nine-month-old gerbils…
More than 20,000 NHS staff and families tested for coronavirus
Downing Street has said the most recent figures show 14,006 coronavirus tests were carried out on Tuesday in England, Scotland and Wales.
The Government has set a daily target of 100,000 tests to be achieved by the end of April.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the total number of tests conducted at drive-through sites for NHS staff has now reached 9,069.
In all, more than 20,000 NHS staff and their family members have been tested for the disease.
Watch: Wuhan begins to lift lockdown but uneasiness remains
Health authority chief fired after announcing cuts to hospital beds
Henry Samuel has the latest from France:
The head of eastern France’s health authority, Christophe Lannelongue, has been fired for saying that the region’s hospital in Nancy would continue on its “trajectory” to cut 154 hospital beds and 598 posts – a plan put in place before the epidemic broke – despite hospitals reaching saturation.
“I’m doing my job. I was only following ministerial orders,” he said by way of explanation.
Olivier Véran, the health minister, stipulated that “all hospital reorganisation plans are obviously suspended until the great consultation that will follow [the epidemic].”
President Emmanuel Macron last week pledged a major overhaul of France’s hospitals and a massive plan to support staff and improve conditions after months of strikes by doctors and nurses who warned that the lauded health system was on its knees.
Northern Ireland: death toll rises to 78
The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in a hospital setting in Northern Ireland has risen to 78, with five more reported on Wednesday.
There were 84 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total in the region to 1,339, according to the Public Health Agency.
Ambulance Service warn of ‘alarmist’ Whatsapp voice note
The South East Coast Ambulance Service has warned that an “alarmist” voice message is being shared across Whatsapp that is filled with incorrect information.
In a post on Twitter, the service urged people to “disregard the message and not share it further”.
Throughout the outbreak, misinformation has spread far and wide – with the World Health Organization warning that they are fighting an “infodemic” as well as an epidemic.
Mass burial captured by drone in New York City as morgues pushed to limit
Drone footage has captured the moment a mass burial appears to be taking place on Hart Island. The island is where the city buries its unidentified and unclaimed bodies.
The mayor did not confirm this burial was of victims of coronavirus but has suggested temporary burials might have to take place and Hart Island is the place historically used for this.
Coronavirus patients develop neutralising antibodies within two weeks
A new preprint study published today has found that the vast majority of patients developed antibodies that neutralise a coronavirus infection within 10-14 days of the onset of illness.
Experts not involved in the research have said the paper, which looked at 175 patients in Shanghai, “is an important and timely contribution”.
Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, UEA, explained:
“What the authors have done is measure antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2 [the virus] in 175 Covid-19 recovered patients who had mild symptoms. The authors used a particularly sensitive and specific neutralising antibody test. The main findings are:
- The antibody tests only became positive somewhere between 10 and 15 days after the onset of illness – this is not that surprising as this is the time that antibodies to many infections become positive. It provides further evidence that if we do manage to role out antibody tests, people should wait about 2 weeks after becoming ill to test themselves.
- The other main finding is that many people only have low (30%) or medium-low (17%) levels of antibody. This has relevance to the current debate about antibody tests in the UK. If many people only produce low levels of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 then any community test would need to have high sensitivity. This provides further insight about why community antibody tests in the UK have not yet been authorised for use.”
Wales: 33 more fatalities reported
Public Health Wales said 33 more people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in Wales to 245.
Dr Robin Howe, from Public Health Wales, also said 284 new cases have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 4,073, adding that the true number is likely to be higher.
Dr Howe said case numbers would be “lower than usual” on Thursday as officials move back the time when they count new cases.
England: coronavirus death toll rises 828 to 6,483
England’s hospital death toll from the novel coronavirus rose 828 to 6,483, the health service said on Wednesday.
The health service said 46 of the 828 patients, aged between 35 and 96 years old, had no known underlying health condition.
Just joining us? Here’s a quick overview of everything you need to know.
In the UK:
- Boris Johnson, who is in intensive care at St Thomas’s Hospital in Central London, is “clinically stable and is responding to treatment”, his official spokesman said today.
- The Welsh government has said that lockdown measures will not be lifted next week, but Number 10 have not specified whether a three week review of the stringent measures take place in the absence of the Prime Minister.
- Downing Street also announced that the second NHS Nightingale Hospital, built at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, will be opened on Friday.
- The UK’s Job Retention Scheme – which sees employees furloughed and 80 percent of their wages paid by Government – may cost £30-40 billion over three months, three times the size of initial estimates, new analysis has shown.
- The Jewish Chronicle, which describes itself as the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper, is to seek liquidation due to a collapse in income during the coronavirus outbreak.
- A man has been jailed for three months after being caught stealing surgical masks from a south London hospital.
- The British Veterinary Association has clarified that only cats from households where members are self-isolating or are infected with the coronavirus should be kept indoors during the pandemic.
Elsewhere across the globe:
- WHO officials have denied that the body is “China-centric” and said that the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding, after an attack from Donald Trump. The President said he would potentially put contributions to the UN agency on hold.
- Mainland China has reported 62 new cases, up from 32 a day earlier. It comes as some lockdown measures were finally lifted in Wuhan, where the outbreak first emerged, overnight.
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed the planned lifting of a three-week lockdown on April 14 ‘is not possible. A report has warned that 400 million Indians are at risk of falling deeper into poverty because of coronavirus-related distruption.
- Italy has closed its ports to migrant shops because of the coronavirus epidemic.
- The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Spain rose for the second consecutive day, as 757 people died over the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 14,555.
- The president of the European Union’s main science organisation quit last night over frustration at the EU response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Toyko has seen it’s largest daily rise in coronavirus cases amid confusion over the city’s coronavirus emergency, which was announced yesterday.
- A minister in South Africa has been put on “special leave” for two months, one of which will be unpaid, after she broke the rules of a countrywide lockdown and had lunch with a former official.
- The number of cases in Africa has surpassed 10,000 and Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency.
Jeremy Hunt: ‘Perfectly reasonable’ to assume lockdown will continue for some time
The former Conservative foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he does not think the nationwide lockdown restrictions will be lifted next week.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, the chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee said:
“As we’ve seen from Italy and other countries, you don’t get a peak and then an immediate reduction, you stay at that peak level for some time.”
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that the lockdown is going to need to continue for a while and we don’t need to take this decision at the beginning of next week.”
Singapore reports largest daily jump in cases
Singapore’s Health Ministry confirmed 142 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 1,623. It’s the largest daily jump in cases to date, Reuters reports.
Forty of the new cases were linked to foreign worker dormitories, the health ministry added in a statement.
No hunting, swimming or surfing: New Zealand’s strict measures are winning praise
New Zealand’s strict social distancing regimen is being held up as a model for keeping the spread of Covid-19 under control, with hunting, swimming and surfing all banned, and case numbers dwindling, writes Giovanni Torre.
As of Wednesday, New Zealand had 969 confirmed cases, 241 “probable cases”, 282 recovered cases, just 12 people in hospital with Covid-19, and one death from the illness.
While the population of New Zealand is just under five million, three million tourists visit every year, and it could have been a very different story.
Modelling released at the end of March predicted that, in the worst-case scenario, more than two-thirds of New Zealand’s population would get sick, 146,000 people would be hospitalised and 27,600 would die.
Professor Michael Baker, a New Zealand epidemiologist, said that his country had the “most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world at the moment” and is “a huge standout as the only Western country that’s got an elimination goal” for Covid-19.
Read the full article here. And watch the country’s Prime Minister respond to a question asking whether the Easter bunny is a “key worker” here”
German foreign ministry restricts use of Zoom due to security concerns
The German foreign ministry has restricted use of the video conferencing service Zoom, saying in an internal memo to employees that security and data protection weaknesses made it too risky to use, the newspaper Handelsblatt has reported.
The memo added that since the system was in widespread use among the ministry’s international partners, it was currently impossible to ban its use entirely and that in crises employees could use it on private machines for professional purposes.
“Based on media reports and our own findings we have concluded that Zoom’s software has critical weaknesses and serious security and data protection problems,” read the memo cited by Handelsblatt.
Netherlands: cases surpass 20,000
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 969 to 20,549 as of Wednesday, health authorities said, with 147 new deaths.
The country’s total death toll from the disease is now 2,248, the Netherlands’ National Institute for Health (RIVM) said in a daily update
‘Allow young people out of lockdown early to get country moving’
Allowing young people aged between 20 and 30 out of lockdown early could help get Britain moving again and avoid an “extraordinary recession”, business experts have said.
As the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told the daily press conference that the epidemic curve appeared to be “flattening off”, speculation is growing as to how the UK can escape from its lockdown.
Researchers at the University of Warwick calculated that allowing 4.2 million young adults to resume their daily lives would boost the economy by £13 billion, while shielding more vulnerable age groups.
Older adults could then be allowed out of lockdown later, through a strategy of staged release using antibody testing to identify those who had already recovered from coronavirus.
Our Science Editor, Sarah Knapton has the full story here. She’s also answering all your coronavirus questions in today’s lunchtime Q&A.
Boris Johnson’s condition remains stable
Catherine Neilan reports in from today’s Downing Street lobby briefing:
The Prime Minister is “clinically stable and is responding to treatment” at St Thomas’s Hospital in Central London, his official spokesman said today.
Boris Johnson remains in ICU and is able to “contact those he needs to”, guided by the advice of his NHS team.
The spokesman was tightlipped on other areas relating to the PM’s condition including whether his temperature has started to fall or whether he is taking parts in a clinical drugs trial.
Downing Street has also said that the second NHS Nightingale Hospital, built at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, is to be opened on Friday.
You can find more updates from the briefing over on the politics liveblog.
India: lifting lockdown ‘not possible’
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed the planned lifting of a three-week lockdown on April 14 ‘is not possible’, Joe Wallen reports.
Mr. Modi made the announcement during a video conference with leaders of opposition parties. Several state governments – including Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh – had already requested Mr. Modi to extend the curfew.
There has been a surge in COVID-19 infections in India during the lockdown with yesterday seeing the highest single-day casualty rate since the outbreak began.
The world’s second-most populous nation has now recorded 5,194 cases and 149 deaths. After the number of coronavirus cases in the state of Maharashtra crossed 1,000 today, the authorities in Mumbai became the first in India to make wearing face masks mandatory in public.
Wales confirms lockdown will not be lifted next week – but No. 10 will not comment
Here’s the latest on the UK lockdown from Christopher Hope, our Chief Political Correspondent:
The lockdown measures will stay in place and not be lifted next week, the Welsh government said today.
Julie James, the Welsh Housing and Local Government Minister, said today:
“It’s almost two and half weeks since we asked people to stay at home to work from home whenever they can.
“These measures will stay in place next week. We have taken these measures because by working together we can stop the spread of this virus.”
The comments from the Welsh government run ahead of the UK Government which said this lunchtime simply that the lockdown will be reviewed next week.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said when he introduced the lockdown on March 23 that it would be reviewed after three weeks, which falls on Easter Monday.
His spokesman said this lunchtime:
“I have always said that it should not be on a specific day but yes it [the meeting] will be on or around the three week mark. We have said there will be an update and there is no change to that timetable.”
Separately Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, said that the peak of the crisis would be a week on Sunday, rather than this Sunday as Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week.
Two days ago Welsh First Minister minister Mark Drakeford also said he expects the coronavirus lockdown measures to continue beyond the original three-week period.
Jewish Chronicle liquidated due to coronavirus outbreak
The Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News are being liquidated and their staff made redundant after their parent company ran out of money as the coronavirus pandemic devastates the media industry, the Guardian has reported.
France: ‘We’re worried about our friends in America’ due to high obesity rates
Being overweight is a major risk for people infected with the new coronavirus and the United States is particularly vulnerable because of high obesity levels there, France’s chief epidemiologist said on Wednesday.
Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the epidemic, said as many as 17 million of France’s 67 million citizens were seriously at risk from the coronavirus because of age, pre-existing illness or obesity.
“This virus is terrible, it can hit young people, in particular obese young people. Those who are overweight really need to be careful,” Delfraissy told franceinfo radio.
“That is why we’re worried about our friends in America, where the problem of obesity is well known and where they will probably have the most problems because of obesity.”
Tokyo sees biggest daily jump in infections as coronavirus emergency begins
Tokyo recorded 144 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, its biggest daily jump since the start of the pandemic, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike said.
Total infections in the Japanese capital stand at 1,339, said Koike, a rise that helped carry the nationwide tally to 4,768, according to an evening report by public broadcaster NHK.
The rise follows the declaration of a state of emergency aimed at containing the outbreak yesterday in Tokyo, Osaka and five other hard-hit areas.
A day after it was announced, commuters were still heading to work packed into trains in Tokyo, with some expressing confusion over how best to restrict their movements, Reuters has reported.
Revised death toll in Scotland
New statistics show that 354 people are suspected to have died with coronavirus in Scotland since the outbreak began last month, PA has reported.
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) statistics published on the Scottish Government website on Tuesday show 296 recorded deaths.
But the Scottish Government announced last week that they would also publish details from the National Records of Scotland, which would look at deaths registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, and can include possible or expected cases of the virus.
The new figure covers a period from March 16 to April 5.
Despite the changes, HPS will continue to publish daily figures on the number of deaths, tests and positive cases.
Minister disciplined for ‘lockdown lunch’ in South Africa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa put the communications minister on “special leave” for two months, one of which will be unpaid, after she broke the rules of a countrywide lockdown and had lunch with a former official.
Mr Ramaphosa acted after a picture of Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams at the lunch emerged on social media, angering South Africans confined to their homes during the 21-day lockdown that started on March 27.
According to the rules, people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential tasks like buying food or seeking medical help. Police arrested more than 17,000 people during the first few days of the lockdown, many for violating the lockdown.
“The president strongly believes that no one, including the minister, is above the law,” Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, Khusela Diko, said.
Man jailed for stealing face masks from hospital
A man has been jailed for three months after being caught stealing surgical masks from a south London hospital.
Lerun Hussain, 34, was sentenced to 12 weeks at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 7 April following the incident at King’s College Hospital, the Metropolitan Police said
Police were called to the hospital in Denmark Hill, Lambeth, on Sunday 5 April. Hussain had been detained by hospital security staff after he stole three face masks and was arrested on suspicion of theft.
Later that same day Hussain was charged with theft.
He appeared at Croydon Magistrates’ Court yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to theft and was sentenced that same day to three months imprisonment.
Do you need to quarantine your cat…?
The British Veterinary Association has clarified its advice for cat owners during the pandemic, after reports this morning that the furry pets should be kept inside for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
The BVA said only cats from households where members are self-isolating or are infected with the coronavirus should be kept indoors.
In a statement likely to come as a relief to many pet owners, the organisation stated it is not advising that all cats be kept indoors during the coronavirus crisis.
You can read the BVA’s full statement here:
Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier heads home
France’s sole aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is to return home early from the Atlantic after around 40 crew members displayed coronavirus symptoms, Henry Samuel reports.
The sailors are under medical observation, said the defence ministry, and those with symptoms have been placed in isolation.
None have shown signs of serious illness, it insisted.
“As of today, a screening team with test means will be sent aboard the aircraft carrier to investigate the cases that have arisen and to hinder the spread of the virus on board the ship,” the ministry said.
With a capacity of around 2,000 sailors, the carrier had been deployed in the Atlantic as part of a NATO exercise after having participated in Operation Chammal, whose aim is to contain the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
“It was decided to bring forward its return to Toulon, initially scheduled for 23 April,” said the statement.
Watch: Migrants stream across the Pakistan and Afghanistan border
Thousands of Afghans streamed across the Pakistan border to their homeland on Tuesday, overwhelming authorities who had opened the frontier after more than two weeks of restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19, Ben Farmer reports.
Video from the Torkham border crossing near the Khyber Pass showed large crowds of Afghans running through, apparently bypassing official attempts to check paperwork and enforce quarantine.
Local media reports said as many as 5,000 people crossed in the rush, skipping document checks and regulations. Some 1,000 Afghans had earlier crossed on Monday, the first day the border was reopened, before border guards again closed the gateway.
But as thousands camped outside Torkham approached the gateway on Tuesday, guards had no alternative but to let them through.
Is the virus sweeping through the political class in African countries?
Adrian Blomfield has the latest from Nairobi:
Kenya’s newspapers this morning are dominated by claims, attributed to unnamed sources, that 17 MPs and senators have tested positive for Covid-19. It is certainly possible. The virus has swept through the political class in other African countries.
Six cabinet ministers in Burkina Faso have tested positive for the virus, as have two governors in Nigeria and the chief of staff to the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari. The ex-president of the Republic of Congo and the former prime ministers of Libya and Somalia are among those who have died of the disease.
But there is scepticism about the claims in Kenya.
Parliamentarians I have spoken to in both houses of the Kenyan parliament say all the tests they or their colleagues have undergone have returned negative. Some suspect a government plan may be afoot to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of government spending as the coronavirus epidemic in the country unfolds, especially if new money is made available by debt moratoriums or an increase in international aid.
We expect the subject will be raised this afternoon when Kenya’s ministry of health gives its daily coronavirus press briefing. Kenya has so far recorded 172 confirmed cases of the virus and six deaths.
Today in photos
Our picture desk have pulled together some of the most powerful photos from across the globe:
New York, USA:
Baroness Fall: Downing Street is a ‘tardis’ where anyone could have infected others
David Cameron’s former deputy chief of staff described Downing Street as “a set of small houses together, a bit like a tardis, on the inside there are lots of rooms, a bit higgledy-piggledy”.
“There would have been intense meetings, probably in the Prime Minister’s dens, so were they all getting a bit close to each other in those meetings? It looks that way,” she told Sky News.
She said COBRA was a room with lots of screens in it, and said “it’s possible they did all infect each other, I don’t know”.
Responding to reports that Professor Neil Ferguson, may have given Boris Johnson the virus, Baroness Fall said this was “not a blame game”, adding that the “infection is everywhere”.
She said that a lot of very difficult decisions were being made and it was “vital” and “important” that they had been meeting in order to “talk and way up more issues”.
Follow all the latest political updates over on our politics liveblog.
WHO: ‘It’s absolutely essential that we work closely with China’
Speaking at a virtual press conference this morning Dr Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the World Health Organization’s director-general, has denied claims by President Trump that the agency is “very China-centric”.
Dr Aylward said:
“[China] is such an important partner of the international crisis that we’re facing right now – this virus appears to have emerged out of Wuhan. It’s absolutely essential that we work closely with China to understand this disease.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to China, [to] work with the Chinese to understand this. It has just been such an important part of managing what is an extraordinarily devastating public health crisis.
“That’s the approach we would take with every single country – it’s got nothing to do with China specifically, it happened to be the place where this started.”
Donald Trump wrote on Twitter yesterday that the WHO “really blew it” and threatened to withdraw funding – sentiments he repeated at a press conference last night. The comments have received widespread criticism.
Pandemic could push 400 million Indians deeper into poverty
Here’s the latest from Joe Wallen in India:
Approximately 400 million Indians – around one-third of the population – are at risk of falling deeper into poverty because of coronavirus, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation.
Almost 90 per cent of Indians work in the informal sector, typically without a monthly contract, insurance or sick pay. The ongoing three-week total lockdown has devastated the livelihoods of millions of Indians, leaving them without a source of income.
The Delhi Government is already providing free meals to 1.2 million of its citizens who are unable to work, do not possess financial savings and would otherwise starve.
With its economy already ailing before the pandemic, the ILO report suggests coronavirus will have a generational impact on Indian social development.
The great escape
A 101-year-old woman escaped from lockdown in a nursing home in Germany to visit her daughter, Justin Huggler reports.
In a real-life echo of the bestselling novel ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’, the woman broke out of a nursing home in Braunschweig on Monday in order to be with her daughter on her birthday.
The pensioner, named only as Ursula K under German privacy laws, escaped through the fire exit.
It was her daughter’s 72nd birthday but Ursula K had been prevented from spending it with her by the lockdown.
Locals noticed her wandering the streets and called police. When they found her she denied being resident at the nursing home and gave her daughter’s address instead.
“It’s difficult for mum and me to separate. We miss each other very much now, in times of Corona,” her daughter, Marianne S, told Bild newspaper.
Ursula K only moved to the nursing home two weeks ago and was not used to being alone, she explained.
Police took the 101-year-old to her daughter’s home and let her wish her a happy birthday — but only from the window of the police car.
“When she got back, she was satisfied. She’s fine,” the manager of the nursing home said.
On the bright side…
Harriet Barber has your morning dose of much-needed good news:
- Former University of St Andrews students who are now based in China have donated 11,000 face masks to the University to protect Scottish health workers this week. Testing kits and infrared thermography equipment has also been offered by the alumni in a show of solidarity.
- In Belgium a chocolate feast is still on the cards this weekend after the country’s famous chocolate-makers have donated 10 million Easter eggs and treats to care home residents and workers who look after young and vulnerable people.
- Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, is donating more than a quarter of all his wealth to “disarm this pandemic”. The $1 billion donation ranks as the biggest single contribution to fighting coronavirus.
- A “Portable priest” who goes by the name Pat Allerton is hoping to spread some Easter joy by visiting residential streets in London and delivering a prayer and hymn through a speaker.
WHO: Testing not lockdown ‘key to stopping this’
The situation in Europe remains “very concerning” and governments must give “very careful consideration” before relaxing measures, according to the World Health Organization’s regional director,
Speaking at a virtual press conference this morning Dr Hans Kluge said “we still have a long way to go in the marathon.”
“A dramatic rise in cases across the Atlantic skews what remains a very concerning picture in Europe,” he added.
At the same event Dr Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the WHO director-general, said that the “the key to stopping this” is not through lockdowns, but through testing, isolation and contact tracing.
“We are in the middle of a war, here – a very, very serious war that we are only beginning to understand.
“We have to accept we are in a situation and we have to do everything we can to save lives, reduce transmission, and get societies back to the new normal way of functioning.”
New figures from Spain, Iran, Russia and Indonesia
A flurry of countries have updated their daily figures this morning:
- The number of daily coronavirus deaths rose for the second consecutive day, as 757 people died over the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 14,555.
- The overall detected cases in the country rose to 146,690 from 140,510 on Tuesday.
- The death toll has climbed to 4,003 with 121 more deaths in the past 24 hours, a Health Ministry spokesman has told state TV.
- Total infections has risen to 64,586.
- The number of coronavirus cases in Russia rose by more than 1,000 for the second day running, taking the total to 8,672, the crisis response centre said this morning.
- Five more deaths were reported, taking total fatalities to 63.
- 218 new infections have been reported, taking the total to 2,956, a health ministry official announced.
- There have also been 19 new coronavirus deaths, taking the total to 240.
Ethiopia declares state of emergency
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has declared a state of emergency in the country to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
“Considering the gravity of the #COVID19, the government of Ethiopia has enacted a State of Emergency,” his office wrote on Twitter.
The country has so far confirmed 52 confirmed Covid-19 cases and two people have died,
Naples pizza makers are revolting
Naples may be the home of pizza but home deliveries are not allowed, unlike other parts of Italy, and now pizza makers are in revolt, Nick Squires reports.
Italian regions have a high degree of autonomy and while home deliveries of pizza and other takeaway food is allowed in some places, it is forbidden in Campania, the region around Naples.
Now pizzaioli, or pizza makers, from some of the most celebrated pizzerias have launched an appeal to the governor of the region under the hashtag #iovoglioriaprire or “I want to reopen”.
They want the right to deliver pizzas to people’s homes. Naples and Campania have been treated unjustly, they argue. The owner of a chain of pizzerias said his branches in Tokyo and Milan are able to deliver pizzas, but not the one in Naples.
“Food is the lifeblood of Naples, you can’t shut us down like this,” said Alessandro Condurro, the owner of a pizzeria called Michele.
The art of Neapolitan pizza-making was recognised by Unesco in 2017.
Italy closes ports to migrant ships due to Covid threat
Italy has closed its ports to migrant shops because of the coronavirus epidemic, Reuters has reported.
The government decided late last night that ports cannot be considered safe and have said that will charity migrant boats will not be able to dock.
The decision was taken after German non-profit organisation Sea-Eye picked up some 150 people off Libya and headed towards Italy.
“For the entire duration of the national health emergency caused by the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Italian ports cannot guarantee the requisites needed to be classified and defined as a place of safety,” the decree said.
Although the national emergency is set to end on 31 July, the deadline could be extended.
Private labs claim PHE is refusing to share blood samples
Public Health England is hampering the development of accurate antibody tests by refusing to share vital blood samples from Covid-19 patients, private laboratories have claimed.
The tests, which have been heralded as a potential “game changer” by the Prime Minister, are used to confirm whether an individual has previously had a coronavirus infection and may now be immune.
But private laboratories have claimed that Public Health England (PHE) has not responded to multiple requests asking for blood samples from Covid-19 patients, despite interventions from the former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
These blood samples are required to validate the antibody assays.
According to leaked correspondence shown to The Telegraph, John Bell, a professor from Oxford University who is advising the Government about antibody tests, is among those who has not received assistance from official sources.
Read the full story here.
Africa surpasses 10,000 cases
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has risen to more than 10,000 and caused more than 500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The first case arrived in Africa on 14 February in Egypt and since then a total of 52 countries have reported cases. Initially these infections were mainly confined to capital cities, but a significant number of countries in Africa are now reporting cases in multiple provinces.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said:
“Covid-19 has the potential not only to cause thousands of deaths, but to also unleash economic and social devastation. Its spread beyond major cities means the opening of a new front in our fight against this virus.
“This requires a decentralised response, which is tailored to the local context. Communities need to be empowered, and provincial and district levels of government need to ensure they have the resources and expertise to respond to outbreaks locally.”
Read more: Adrian Blomfield and Peta Thornycroft on how Africa’s Covid response has evolved.
Watch: Wuhan celebrates end of lockdown with light show
The city where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged has celebrated the end of an 11 week lockdown with a light show.
The Chinese city of Wuhan paid tribute to their healthcare workers, troops and police officers who worked tirelessly throughout the last three months to look after the 11 million residents.
The city, which was the worst affected in China, was put on total lockdown, with public transport shut and roads barricaded. At midnight on Wednesday 8th April, the lockdown was lifted, and Wuhan’s residents were able to move freely again.
Read more: The first look inside Wuhan, from Sophia Yan.
Head of EU’s top science body quits over pandemic response
The president of the European Union’s main science organisation quit last night, the European Commission said, over frustration at the EU response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mauro Ferrari, who became head of the European Research Council for a four-year mandate on January 1, submitted his resignation on Tuesday, which the commission said was effective immediately, Reuters reports.
Ferrari made a statement to the Financial Times, which first reported the resignation, saying: “I have been extremely disappointed by the European response” to the pandemic.
He cited institutional resistance and bureaucratic infighting in the EU’s complex structures to his proposal for a big scientific programme to fight the coronavirus: “I arrived at the ERC a fervent supporter of the EU… the Covid-19 crisis completely changed my views.”
The ERC was established in 2007 to fund top European scientists and had a budget of 1.86 billion euros in 2018. It awards grants to projects proposed by experts, rather than following political directives, according to its website.
Blood from recovered Covid victims helps patient come off ventilator in just two days
A coronavirus patient was able to come off ventilation just two days after receiving the blood plasma of people who have recovered from the virus in a breakthrough described as “remarkable” by scientists, Sarah Knapton reports.
The first trials looking at whether antibodies of people who have successfully fought the virus can help others do the same found that all 10 severely ill patients made a speedy recovery.
The treatment, known as convalescent plasma (CP) therapy, was used during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic before vaccines or antivirals were available.
Read the full story here.
Trump: WHO ‘called it wrong’
US President Donald Trump sharply criticised the World Health Organization on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the new coronavirus outbreak and saying he would put a hold on U.S. funding for the agency.
“They called it wrong. They really – they missed the call,” the president said at a press conference last night. “And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric rejected the criticism of the WHO, which is led by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“For the Secretary-General, it is clear that WHO, under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, has done tremendous work on Covid, in supporting countries with millions of pieces of equipment being shipped out, on helping countries with training, on providing global guidelines – WHO is showing the strength of the international health system,” he told reporters.
Mumbai extends lockdown
India’s financial hub Mumbai is set to extend lockdown measures until at least April 30 as authorities race to expand testing to stem the spread of coronavirus cases in the city, our correspondent Joe Wallen is reporting.
A 21-day nationwide lockdown that Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in late March to fight the epidemic is officially set to end on April 14, three senior officials told Reuters.
But Mumbai, with a population of more than 20 million, has become India’s coronavirus epicentre. The metropolis and its suburbs have reported 782 positive cases and 50 deaths, the latest health bulletin said on Wednesday.
“In Mumbai cases are rising too fast. In just 24 hours 100 cases were reported on Tuesday,” said a senior state government official. They added that the trend was alarming and an extension of the lockdown for at least another two weeks was necessary to stop the virus from spreading in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
Watch: What does being an NHS volunteer actually involve?
Daniel Heath is one of the 750,000 people who signed up to join the army of volunteers to help relieve pressure on the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Heath, from Haverhill near Cambridge, explained that on his first two days he delivered prescriptions to an elderly couple and made a phone call to another elderly lady:
1.4 million cases globally
Taking a quick break from the morning headlines – here are the latest global figures:
- Worldwide, 1,431,900 cases have now been confirmed – although experts estimate that this is a huge underestimate as potentially millions of people with symptoms have not been tested
- At least 82,195 people have died – with Italy’s outbreak still the deadliest. But the number of new cases has continued to drop in the country in recent days.
- Meanwhile France has reached the grim milestone of 10,000 deaths and new case in Spain climbed by 5,400 yesterday, after five days of declines.
- The virus toll in New York City is now more than 1,000 deaths higher than that of the deadliest terror attack on US soil, which killed 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall
- In Britain deaths reached nearly 6,200, after a one-day increase of almost 800. There are now 55,242 infections in the UK.
The interactive map below has a full breakdown, or you can head over to our coronavirus live tracker for more detail on what the numbers really mean.
Inside Wuhan as city tries to return to normal
Our China correspondent Sophia Yan has this report from Wuhan, the city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak, which has been in lockdown since January 23. Today, many of those measures are finally being lifted:
The sun is shining, customers queue at a goose restaurant and in a nearby park gardeners tend to the flowerbeds.
Spring has arrived in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus emerged late last year, and people trickling outdoors for the first time after months of lockdown are eager to return to normal life.
But it’s a gradual process for the city of 11 million, reawakening to a world that is both familiar and strange. Neighbours delighted to run into each other again, for instance, must now chat over the whir of trucks spraying disinfectant along the streets.
Despite overwhelming relief that the worst of the pandemic seems behind them, unease hangs over the city as residents struggle to reach a verdict over the government’s handling of the outbreak.
“Ordinary people like us will never know the truth,” Long Menglei, 30, whose mother-in-law was severely ill with the virus for weeks, told The Telegraph.
Read the full dispatch here.
Coronavirus peak ‘in 10 days’, says Sadiq Khan
This just in from our Political Correspondent Christopher Hope:
Asked during an interview on BBC Radio whether the lockdown should be lifted next Monday, Khan said: “I think we are nowhere near lifting the lockdown.
“We think the peak, which is the worst part of the virus, is still probably a week and a half away,” he added.
Furloughed employees could cost Government £40bn – three times the estimate
The UK’s Job Retention Scheme – which sees employees furloughed and 80 percent of their wages paid by Government – may cost £30-40billion over three months, three times the size of initial estimates.
According to analysis by the Resolution Foundation alongside British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) figures on take-up, nearly a fifth of smaller businesses plan on furloughing all their staff. Half of companies are putting “most” of their staff into the scheme.
The Treasury initially estimated a 10% take-up, but the new figures suggest that far more firms are planning to use it.
Using the new numbers, it is estimated that between 8million and 11million people will be furloughed, according to the think tank Resolution Foundation.
This would cost the Government between £30-£40bn over three months – roughly similar to the amount the government spends each year on police and safety.
Tui cancels holidays
Travel firm Tui has made a number of changes to its holiday programme.
Beach holidays up to and including May 14 and Marella Cruise holidays up to and including May 31 will no longer operate.
A spokeswoman said: “We are constantly monitoring the situation and will start taking people on holiday again as soon as we are able to do so.”
‘Portable priest’ offering mobile church service in London
A vicar is hoping to lift the spirits of Londoners by offering a mobile church service in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“Portable priest” Pat Allerton has been visiting residential streets in the capital to deliver a prayer and play a hymn through a speaker amid mass closures of places of worship.
The 41-year-old, who says he is observing social distancing and regards the travel as essential, holds a 10-minute service from his car at a different spot every day.
“It’s just a community activity and it’s not as if we’ve got a lot else to do, why don’t you just join in,” he told the PA news agency.
“Come to your window or your doorway and join in the singing, be part of your neighbourhood and community for that brief moment.”
Today’s front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, Apr 8.
Leading doctors call for ban on gambling adverts
Several of the nation’s leading doctors have called for all gambling advertisements to be banned until the end of the coronavirus lockdown.
According to the group, which includes British Medical Association chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul and Royal College of Psychiatrists president Professor Wendy Burn, the gambling industry needs to “realign its moral compass” and help protect people from financial turmoil.
In a letter to The Times, the group wrote: “Too much spare time and a lack of distractions during the lockdown have placed many more people at risk of gambling beyond their means, particularly the half a million people suffering with gambling disorders and the two million people already showing harm from gambling.
“The gambling industry must now do its bit by stopping all advertising during this crisis to protect people from financial harm.”
In response, the Betting and Gaming Council told the paper: “There is not a shred of evidence to support these alarmist calls. The inconvenient truth is levels of gambling have plummeted during Covid.”
Cambridge University lab set up to help Government reach testing target
A new coronavirus testing laboratory is to be set up at Cambridge University to help meet the Government’s target of 100,000 tests per day.
The university is collaborating with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline on the facility at the university’s Anne McLaren laboratory.
In a joint statement, posted on the university’s website, they said: “This facility will be used for high throughput screening for Covid-19 testing and to explore the use of alternative chemical reagents for test kits in order to help overcome current supply shortages.
“Alongside this new testing facility, AstraZeneca and GSK are working together to provide process optimisation support to the UK national testing centres in Milton Keynes, Alderley Park and Glasgow for Covid-19, providing expertise in automation and robotics to help the national testing system to continue to expand capacity over the coming weeks.
“While diagnostic testing is not part of either company’s core business, we are moving as fast as we can to help where possible – with a focus on providing our world class scientific and technical expertise – working both with the Government’s screening programme and alongside the wider life sciences sector and specialist diagnostic companies.”
Smartphone app to be used in hunt for Covid-19 treatements
Scientists looking into treatments for coronavirus are hoping to use the collective power of a network of smartphones to help boost research.
The DreamLab app, developed by the Vodafone Foundation, uses the collective power of a network of phones to analyse huge amounts of information in a much shorter space of time.
The technology will be used by researchers from Imperial College London hoping to identify how existing drugs and food-based molecules could help patients with or recovering from Covid-19.
The app, which was launched in 2017, has previously used as part of cancer research.
Driver ‘bored’ during of lockdown goes for drive – crashes into fence
A motorist crashed into a metal fence while allegedly out for a drive because they were bored, creating more work for emergency services in the coronavirus lockdown.
The Ford Fiesta came off the road while on a non-essential journey in Chelmsford in Essex on Tuesday.
Essex Roads Policing Unit South wrote on Twitter: “Driver of this car was bored so went out for a drive!
“Us and the ambulance crew are both really busy and don’t need extra work.
“Another person breaching the regulations.
“Please don’t please stay home.
“Driver has been reported.”
London ‘has capacity to deal with peak’, says Mayor
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city, which is a hotspot for coronavirus in the UK, has “got the capacity now to deal with our needs” in terms of critical care beds.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast from his home, Mr Khan said: “A few weeks ago we started planning for the worst, which is a peak where we would need in London around 8,000 intensive care unit beds.
“To give you a scale of the challenge, we normally have across the whole of London about 800 intensive care unit beds with ventilators, oxygen and those sort of things. Because of the brilliance of the NHS, Army planners, and many others we’ve opened the Nightingale Hospital.
“We’ve got the capacity now to deal with our needs. At the moment, thankfully, we’re nowhere near reaching 8,000.
“At the moment we’ve still got 25%, about there, capacity within the NHS (in London) before we even go to Nightingale, so it demonstrates the can-do attitude of not just Londoners but those around the country who have helped us get ready for the peak of this virus.”
Summary of news events from around the world
- The virus toll in New York City is now more than 1,000 deaths higher than that of the deadliest terror attack on US soil, which killed 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall
- In Wuhan – the Chinese city of 11 million that was the first to go on lockdown – tens of thousands of people streamed out of town by plane and train alone as harsh restrictions on movement were finally lifted
- In Britain deaths reached nearly 6,200, after a one-day increase of almost 800
- In France, the number of dead climbed to more than 10,300
- In Spain, new deaths on Tuesday rose to 743 and infections climbed by 5,400 after five days of declines
- In Italy authorities appealed to people ahead of Easter weekend to abide by a lockdown now in its fifth week, even as new cases dropped to a level not seen since the early weeks of the outbreak
- Across the US, the death toll topped 12,900, with nearly 400,000 confirmed infections – some of the deadliest hot spots were Detroit, New Orleans and the New York metropolitan area
- In Wisconsin, after a legal battle that reached the US Supreme Court, voters were asked to ignore a stay-at-home order to participate in its presidential primary
- President Donald Trump threatened to freeze US funding to the World Health Organization, saying the international group had “missed the call” on the pandemic
Border jams delay toilet paper supply
As several European borders limit travel to stop the spread of Covid-19, two of the world’s biggest pulp makers say transportation logjams are delaying shipments of the raw material – the only ingredient in the toilet paper that people are hoarding to weather quarantines.
In March, countries including Norway, Germany and Spain shut their borders to non-essential travel. Freight can still pass through, but enforcing the new rules holds up deliveries to cargo trains and vessels bound for warehouses and factories in North America and China.
As a result, Finland’s Metsä Fibre and Sweden’s Södra Cell International told Reuters that truckloads of pulp going through Europe are getting caught in traffic jams for hours, or even a couple of days.
Warning over condom shortage
A global condom shortage is looming as the coronavirus pandemic shutters factories and disrupts supply chains, the world’s top maker of the contraceptives said, with the United Nations warning of “devastating” consequences.
Malaysia – one of the world’s top rubber producers and a major source of condoms – imposed a nationwide lockdown last month as infections surged to the highest level in Southeast Asia.
The UN is also sounding the alarm, with its sexual and reproductive health agency warning it can currently only get about 50-60 percent of its usual supplies due to virus-related disruptions.
The agency, which works with governments worldwide to support family planning, said a key concern was being able to ship condoms to where they were needed quickly enough – and warned the poorest and most vulnerable would be hit hardest if stocks run low.
“A shortage of condoms, or any contraceptive, could lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies, with potentially devastating health and social consequences for adolescent girls, women and their partners and families,” said the spokesperson.
There could also be an rise in unsafe abortions and an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, the agency said.
Rio’s Carnival seamstresses on a mission
Rio de Janeiro’s samba schools usually spend the year furiously sewing costumes for the city’s blowout Carnival celebration. Now, nimble fingers are working to protect lives instead, making medial outfits for hospital workers.
Dr. Wille Baracho on Tuesday carried rolls of fabric into the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school’s workshop in the Vila Vintem favela. Inside, seamstresses perched on plastic chairs busily transformed beige and pale yellow fabric into medical wear.
The initiative started with Baracho and one of his colleagues at a nearby hospital emergency room where they have seen a shortage of materials. Both happen to sit on Padre Miguel’s board and saw a chance to redirect labor. The city joined in, donating thousands of yards of fabric, and the seamstresses set to work on Friday.
“We have some friends who died already, some who are on leave or sick with the disease,” Baracho said, adding that he has found it more fulfilling to produce medical garb than the normal glittery costumes. “I think everyone here would say that. Carnival is a different happiness: fun, a pleasure. This is a mission.”
Turkish president under pressure as Covid-19 spreads rapidly
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up measures to stem rapidly growing cases in Turkey but his refusal to impose a full lockdown to keep the economy afloat is drawing criticism.
With gatherings banned, restrictions on intercity trips, and the obligation to wear masks almost anywhere, Mr Erdogan has imposed a series of tough measures but thus far resisted calls for a complete confinement.
What’s alarming is the fast spread of the disease in Turkey, which reported its first official case on March 11. The number of cases is doubling in every few days: From 7,400 on March 28, it reached 15,000 on April 1 and exceeded 30,000 on Monday, according to official figures.
South Korea to tighten border controls
South Korea plans to take further steps to tighten border controls to slow infections imported from abroad as outbreaks worsen in Europe and the US.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, during an anti-virus meeting on Wednesday, Seoul will suspend visa-free entries and visa waivers with countries imposing entry bans on South Korean nationals and employ further restrictions to repel foreigners traveling on “unnecessary and non-urgent purposes”.
South Korea has been enforcing two-week quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad since April 1.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported 53 new cases of and 8 more deaths, bringing national totals to 10,384 infections and 200 fatalities.
Hong Kong extends restrictions
Hong Kong said on Wednesday social-distancing restrictions including the closure of some bars and pubs and a ban on public gatherings of more than four people would be extended until April 23.
The government said a “drastic” more than two-fold spike in the number of cases over the past two weeks to 936 meant the move was necessary. Four people have died of Covid-19.
The global financial hub has also extended indefinitely a two-week closure of its airport to foreign arrivals that was due to end on Tuesday.
Singer John Prine dies from Covid-19 complications
Grammy-winning singer John Prine, who wrote his early songs in his head while delivering mail and later emerged from Chicago’s folk revival scene in the 1970s to become one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, died on Tuesday. He was 73.
Prine was hospitalised on March 26 suffering from symptoms of Covid-19 according to his wife, Fiona Whelan Prine, who was also his manager.
The New York Times reported that Prine’s death was caused by complications of Covid-19.
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Infected Peruvian women give birth to healthy babies
Two pregnant women diagnosed with the new coronavirus in Peru have given birth to babies who have tested negative for the disease, a hospital in the capital Lima said on Tuesday.
The first of the children was born on March 27 and the second on March 31, both through cesarean sections on the advice of doctors to avoid complications, the Rebagliati Hospital in Lima reported.
“Fortunately, there has been no vertical transmission, that means that there has been no contagion from mothers to newborns,” said Carlos Albretch, a doctor in the family unit of the hospital.
US death toll continues to climb
Nearly 2,000 people died in the US in the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8:30pm Tuesday (0030 GMT Wednesday).
The record daily figure of 1,939 brings the total number of deaths in the US to 12,722, which is approaching tolls in the worst-hit countries so far – Italy with 17,127 dead and Spain with 13,798.
New York state also reported 731 new deaths on Tuesday, its biggest jump since the start of the outbreak, dampening some of the cautious optimism officials have expressed about efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
The state, which as been recording more than 500 deaths a day since late last week, has now recorded a death toll of 5,489.
The spike came as President Donald Trump threatened to cut US funding to the World Health Organisation, accusing it of bias towards China during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Ecuador prepares emergency burial ground
Ecuador’s government is preparing an emergency burial ground on land donated by a private cemetery in Guayaquil to address a shortage of burial plots.
As of Tuesday, the country had 3,995 confirmed cases and 220 deaths, with 182 more deaths suspected of being linked to the virus. The outbreak has sparked a shortage of wooden coffins, prompting some people to bury their relatives in cardboard boxes donated by cemeteries.
Large lines of cars carrying coffins waited outside private cemeteries across the city this week, as families waited for hours for a chance to bury their deceased relatives. The outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals and emergency services, with some families keeping dead bodies in their homes for days.
The government, which last week began storing the bodies of victims in giant refrigerated containers until graves were prepared, is aiming to bury some 100 people a day at the cemetery in northern Guayaquil, which has the capacity for some 2,000 plots.
Wuhan city further eases restrictions
The central Chinese city of Wuhan began allowing people to leave on Wednesday for the first time since it was locked down 76 days, despite fears of a second wave of infection if such restrictions are eased too soon.
China sealed off the city of 11 million people on Jan. 23 after it became clear that the flu-like virus that had emerged in the city in late 2019 was highly contagious and potentially deadly.
The first train to carry departing passengers out of the city left at 00:50 a.m. (1650 GMT), and outbound highways were opened to vehicular traffic around the same time.
Steep rise in at-home deaths in NYC
The daily tally of New York City residents who died at home exploded from 45 on March 20 to 241 on April 5, according to Fire Department of New York data – suggesting the city may be significantly undercounting Covid-19 deaths.
Asked about the fire department numbers at a press conference on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that deaths at home haven’t been fully accounted for.
“It’s right to assume the vast majority are coronavirus related,” he said. “And that makes it even more sober in the sense of how many people we are losing, how many families are suffering, how real this crisis is.”
Plan to evacuate stranded Kiwis and Aussies from cruise ship
Uruguay said on Tuesday it has authorized a humanitarian flight to evacuate Australian and New Zealand passengers stranded on an infected cruise ship.
About 128 of the 217 people on board the Australian-owned Greg Mortimer – including passengers and crew – have tested positive for the deadly virus.
Six of those have been taken off suffering from a “life-threatening” illness for treatment in the capital Montevideo.
Trump shakes up press team
President Donald Trump shook up his communications team on Tuesday, replacing his press secretary and adding new staffers as he grapples with the pandemic.
Stephanie Grisham, who had held the titles of press secretary and White House communications director since last June, is out. She will be rejoining the first lady’s office in a new role as Melania Trumps’s chief of staff.
Kayleigh McEnany, a top Trump campaign spokeswoman, will take over as his fourth press secretary. Also heading to the White House: Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. She will lead strategic communications, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decisions had not been formally announced.
Wisconsin voters wait hours at polling stations
Thousands of Wisconsin voters waited hours in long lines outside overcrowded polling stations on Tuesday, ignoring federal health recommendations so they could participate in a presidential primary election that tested the limits of electoral politics in the midst of a pandemic.
Thousands more stayed home, unwilling to risk their health during a statewide stay-at-home order, but complained that the absentee ballots they had requested were still missing.
News from around the world
- US President Donald Trump says the coronavirus is hitting African Americans harder, according to data on the pandemic.
- The US Embassy in Russia says a plane carrying Americans home has taken off from Moscow
- Guatemala announced that a third deportee has tested positive after being flown home by the US
- France‘s national health director announced that the country has reached the grim milestone of 10,000 deaths
- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has suspended the rotation and deployment of peacekeepers and international police until June 30
- Norway says it plans to open kindergartens from April 20 in the first stage of a gradual lifting of the country’s lockdown
- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has appealed to his nation to keep sticking to social distancing rules ahead of the Easter weekend, when the Netherlands usually draws large numbers of tourists
- Turkey‘s health minister reported 76 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll in the country to 725
- India has gifted 10 tons of essential life saving medicines to the neighboring Sri Lanka
- Italy‘s number of new cases has continued to drop with 3,039 new cases in a 24-hour period
- The UN‘s labor organisation estimates the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost in the second quarter alone from the Covid-19 outbreak
Summary of our top stories
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson still in intensive care and concern growing on who will make key decisions as lockdown call looms, here is a round-up of our top stories:
- Boris Johnson’s battle against coronavirus is being overseen by UK’s leading lung doctor
- Rishi Sunak has been named successor number two amid claims that Michael Gove was ‘deliberately’ overlooked
- Questions have been raised over the extent of Dominic Raab’s powers while deputising for Boris Johnson
- Britain’s coronavirus death toll surges by a further 786 with three doctors are among the latest victims
- Second home owners have been accused of sneaking in under cover of darkness during the coronavirus lockdown
- Blood from recovered coronavirus victims helps patient come off ventilator in just two days
- The UK peak in coronavirus deaths is expected within a week, according to latest Telegraph modelling
- Take an exclusive look inside Wuhan as city at heart of coronavirus outbreak returns to normal