Coronavirus may have infected 55,000 people in the UK, the country’s top scientific adviser has said. It came as the government warned UK citizens against travelling outside the country, with borders around the world slamming shut and possibly leaving holidaymakers stranded. Boris Johnson has also urged people to work from home and avoid non-essential travel – particularly in London.
Mr Johnson suggested curfews could be introduced and emergency legislation to be introduced today could give police the power to detain people suspected of being infected. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is also expected to announce emergency financial measures to shore up the economy.
In the US, where entire states have closed public schools and ordered venues to shut, Donald Trump said the “new normal” may last until August. And in Europe, officials have unveiled plans to block the non-essential entry of all foreign nationals for a 30-day period in the face of “huge pressure” on healthcare systems. France’s Emmanuel Macron has instituted what he called an unprecedented peacetime clampdown, restricting movement for 15 days and telling citizens: “You will no longer be able to see your loved ones or continue your daily routine.”
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been temporarily released from jail by the government in Tehran because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Her husband confirmed she had been released into the care of her family for two weeks.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “I am relieved that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was today temporarily released into the care of her family in Iran.
“We urge the regime to ensure she receives any necessary medical care.
“While this is a welcome step, we urge the government now to release all UK dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran, and enable them to return to their families in the UK.”
A further 14 people in the UK have died after being diagnosed with coronavirus, bringing the total to 71.
A statement from NHS England said: “A further 14 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 67.
Patients were aged between 93 and 45 years old and had underlying health conditions.
“Their families have been informed.”
As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive.
A further 14 people have died after being diagnosed with coronavirus in England, the Department of Health said, bringing the death toll in the UK to 71. More follows…
Center Parcs has said it is closing all its UK villages from Friday.
“In light of the latest government advice regarding coronavirus, the decision has been taken to close all of our UK villages from 20 Mar – 16 April 2020,” the company said in a statement.
“If you are due to visit during the above closure period we will shortly send you a text and email outlining the options available. We will continue to update our website with our latest stance.
“We recognise that this will be disappointing news for many of our guests and we would like to thank you for your patience and understanding in these exceptional circumstances.”
Center Parcs operates five villages in the UK: Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire; Elveden Forest in Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire.
Planes, trains and buses ‘could be temporarily nationalised’
Airlines, railway operators, and bus companies could be temporarily nationalised to ensure transport keeps running during the coronavirus pandemic, the transport secretary has suggested.
Grant Shapps told MPs that the measure could prevent the firms from “going bust” during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The secretary of state told the Commons that in some cases the government’s response would involve “organisations being run by the public sector”.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 4,275 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 739 cases from its previous count on Monday.
It said the number of deaths had risen by 7 to 75.
The cases were reported by 53 states including District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands.
Charity shops could start closing across the UK in “quite substantial numbers” because they are staffed in large part by elderly volunteers, an association representing the sector has warned.
Robin Osterley, chief executive of the Charity Retail Association, said the “knock-on effect” of the closures would be charities losing out on “substantial” sums of money, which could also impact service users in the long run.
Donald Trump has insisted that the US can be “rolling again” quickly after the coronavirus outbreak if “we do this right.”
Here’s the official advice from the NHS on ibuprofen.
“There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse.
“But until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.
“If you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first.”
Taj Mahal closed in India
India has ordered the closure of the Taj Mahal, its most popular tourist attraction, amid mounting concerns that a lack of testing could mask the scale of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Visitor numbers to the 17th century monument outside the city of Agra were already down after the Indian government ordered a ban last week on all visas for foreign tourists.
Both online and in-store shoppers have been struggling to buy essential items as panic buying sets in amid the coronavirus pandemic, writes Samuel Osborne.
Retailers have faced a chaotic week as they quickly sold out of toilet paper, cleaning products, dried pasta and tinned food.
Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin has said airlines have ‘ground to a halt’ in the US because of the epidemic.
He said the situation was worse than that after the 9/11 terror attacks, when flights were suspended.
Mr Mnuchin has also said the government is looking at sending cheques to US citizens and supporting businesses with staff of 500 or less.
The coronavirus has been called “worse than 9/11” for the airline industry by US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin. During a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Mnuchin spoke about the economic impact Covid-19 has on the airline industry, which has significantly reduced both domestic and international flights as people are implored to stay home.
Independent film and television firms need government help, the sector’s trade association has said.
Pact called for tax relief for small and medium-sized businesses and financial support for freelance and self-employed workers.
It will close its doors from Wednesday until further notice.
France has deployed 100,000 police and set up checkpoints across the country, as the country begins a 15-day lockdown to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, writes Anthony Cuthbertson.
The army has also been ordered to assist with efforts, transporting infected patients to alleviate saturated hospitals.
The US Federal Reserve has been given permission to buy up to $1tn of “commercial paper” – a means of easing the flow of short-term credit – treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has just announced.
Borrowing rates in the commercial paper market have been spiking as more companies have sought to raise cash in the expectation that their revenue will plunge.
The effective shutdown of large parts of the hospitality industry as of this morning – pubs, cafes, restaurants etc – as the government seeks to suppress the Covid-19 outbreak is likely just a taster of the disruption to come, writes Ben Chu.
And the crisis has prompted some to call for a Universal Basic Income as an emergency measure to support those affected.
The White House is “bringing the full weight of the federal government” and the US economy to bear on the coronavirus crisis, Mike Pence has insisted.
“We continue to focus on President Trump’s priorities of testing, prevention and supplies,” the vice president said while detailing the work of his Covid-19 task force.
State health authorities can now authorise labs in their states and ramp up testing, Mr Pence added, and “high-throughput” commercial labs are now being brought into play.
Retailers like Walmart are expanding remote testing facilities, he said.
However, Mr Pence said that testing was not needed for people to know what to do. “We continue to urge every American, over the next 15 days, to put into practice the principles in the president’s coronavirus guidelines.
“By every American practising these principles, we believe that we can slow the spread.”
Germany has told its citizens not to go on holiday, issuing advice similar to that given by the British government earlier today.
Mr Trump said he was due to meet with tourism industry bosses, “as well as industrial supply retailers and wholesalers to discuss their critical role”.