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Coronavirus 1) Global markets plunge amid virus fears

“The global markets suffered their worst day since the financial crisis of 2008 in a sell-off dubbed the new Black Monday amid growing alarm over the effect of coronavirus on the world economy. Hundreds of billions of pounds of wealth vanished in a few hours yesterday as the odds on a global recession dramatically shortened. Britain is now reporting more daily cases than China. Boris Johnson urged the country “to pull together in a united and national effort” to beat the virus as government efforts to control its spread were about to be stepped up. Anyone with even a minor cough or cold is likely to be told to self-isolate at home for a week in the next stage of official advice. Separate guidance is being drawn up for the elderly under which they could be advised to avoid public gatherings. The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned: “Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real.” – The Times

  • Investors warned of a bumpy ride after shares lose £125bn – The Times
  • City experts say Bank will slash interest rates – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Italy puts all 60m people into quarantine

“Italy’s entire population of 60 million people have been placed in quarantine in a desperate attempt to halt the spiralling coronavirus epidemic. Announcing the decision yesterday evening, the prime minister said that the shock measure would come into effect this morning, limiting the movement of people throughout the country. “We know how difficult it is to change our habits,” Giuseppe Conte said at a press conference, “but there is no time.” The move extends the quarantine, or red, zone set up on Sunday, which covered 16 million Italians living in the region of Lombardy and 14 neighbouring provinces in the north where the virus began its spread in February.“ – The Times

  • Supermarket plan to beat shortages and panic buying – The Times
  • Why Britain could be weeks away from an Italian-style lockdown – The Times
  • UK could be on lockdown within weeks – The Sun
  • People with coughs and colds will be told to self-isolate – Daily Telegraph
  • Italy shows how fast coronavirus can spin out of control – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Johnson defends virus strategy as death toll rises to five

“Boris Johnson said on Monday that the UK is making “extensive preparations” to step up the country’s coronavirus response, as the government’s medical and scientific advisers warned it could spread “really quite fast” across the country. Speaking from Number 10 Downing Street, the prime minister defended the government’s approach as it confirmed it was still in the “contain” phase of combating the virus, having been advised not to rush to the “delay” phase in order to help the National Health Service. But Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said that within the next 10-14 days the UK will “probably” be in a “situation where we say everybody who has even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self isolating for seven days afterwards”. A total of 319 people in the UK have now tested positive for coronavirus, up from 273 on Sunday. Five British patients have died from the virus owing to underlying health conditions.” – FT

  • UK braced for coronavirus epidemic as cases hit 273 – FT
  • How coronavirus could affect Britain next – The Times
  • Scientists create safe virus to help boost immunity – The Times
  • NHS announces plan to combat coronavirus fake news – The Guardian
  • Latest advice – HM Government
Comment
>Yesterday:

Budget 1) As Sunak set to shore up businesses hit by coronavirus

“The Chancellor is expected to announce financial handouts for businesses affected by coronavirus in Wednesday’s Budget, as the London stock market suffered its biggest crash since the financial crisis. Rishi Sunak will use his first Budget to bring in a package of measures to limit the economic impact of the virus. The Treasury has discussed underwriting bank loans to encourage lending to businesses that are affected by the fallout from coronavirus. Small businesses could be given loans at cheap interest rates, similar to measures introduced after the financial crisis. A source close to the talks told The Telegraph: “The long-term aim is making sure profitable businesses don’t go bust.” A “hardship fund” could also be set up to provide cash help for those businesses that are worst affected by the epidemic, two sources told the Telegraph.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson’s handling of virus crisis put in spotlight – FT
Comment
  • The Budget speech is the Government’s chance to define Johnsonism, Mark Wallace – the i
  • Sunak is the right man to face the economic challenges ahead, William Hague – Daily Telegraph
  • The government must convince the markets it has the resources to prevent the coronavirus crisis becoming a financial crisis, Leader – The Times
>Today:

Budget 2) Chancellor to make ‘job tax’ cut in Budget

“Rishi Sunak will announce a cut in the ‘jobs tax’ in Wednesday’s Budget in a major boost for Britain’s businesses. He will raise the Employment Allowance from £3,000 to £4,000 next month, giving an immediate reprieve to firms struggling with hikes to the minimum wage and coronavirus. It means all firms will not have to pay Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) – known as the ‘jobs tax’ – on the first £4,000 of their annual bill. The move was promised in the Tory manifesto but there were fears that it could be delayed after a tax break for firms who employ veterans was pushed back until next year. But The Sun understands the employment allowance threshold will be raised as promised from next month. The extra £1,000 buffer is designed to help firms cope with the rise in the minimum wage following last year’s radical decision to raise the minimum wage to £10.50 by 2025.” – The Sun

  • Sunak will use £70million from Budget to make community sentences longer – The Sun
Comment

Last minute talks fail to halt rebellion over Huawei

“Eleventh hour talks between ministers and Tory grandees last night failed to halt a Commons revolt today over Huawei. Boris Johnson’s new government faces its first rebellion over the Chinese telecoms giant’s involvement in the new 5G network. A powerful group of senior Conservative backbenchers are demanding the PM sets a time limit to remove its equipment from the network within three years, by the end of 2022. But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden refused the demand during a tense meeting with rebels, lead by ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith. Instead, Mr Dowden pleaded for more time to help an alternative market provider emerge. Ministers will today promise the Commons they will look again at the issue in the Telecom Security Bill in the summer, in a move that will fail to satisfy the rebels.” – The Sun

UK to table Canada plan before EU talks restart

“Britain will table its plans for a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU before the next round of negotiations, the government has announced. Michael Gove, the chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, who advises on policy development, said that the government would put forward a series of draft legal texts as Britain attempts to take the initiative in talks. It is likely to highlight the distance between the two sides on issues such as regulation and fisheries. Demands yesterday by the EU for the UK to “make up its mind” on the kind of post-Brexit deal it wants were treated with disdain by Downing Street. Brussels has called for a “level playing field” in areas such as workers’ rights, environmental protections and state subsidies. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said that the UK needed to think about the economic trade-offs it was willing to accept if it broke away from EU rules.” – The Times

Starmer silent on Labour’s suspension of Phillips

“Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of failing to show leadership after he refused to weigh in on the “Orwellian” suspension of Trevor Phillips. Lord Mann, a prominent former Labour MP, criticised Sir Keir, the frontrunner in the contest to become the next Labour leader, for refusing to intervene in the row over Mr Phillips, an anti-racism campaigner who is a member of his constituency party in Holborn & St Pancras. “It is the role of elected leaders to make the big calls, and an allegation of this kind against one of your longserving members is of that order,” Lord Mann said. “You either welcome the investigation or you defend your local member.” The Times revealed yesterday that Mr Phillips, the former head of Britain’s equalities watchdog, faced expulsion from the Labour Party for alleged prejudice against Muslims. Lord Mann said the move was totally unfair. “There’s only one word to describe this action — it’s Orwellian.” – The Times

Comment
>Yesterday:

Salmond ‘pounced’ on woman, trial hears

“Alex Salmond stripped naked and lay on top of a Scottish government official after a dinner at the first minister’s residence, a court was told. The woman said that she felt “hunted” by Mr Salmond, who was then the first minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, during an alleged incident in which he is accused of trying to rape her. On the first day of his trial over accusations of sexual assault, the woman, who is no longer an official, claimed that he “full-on pounced” on her after an evening of drinking at a dinner at his official residence, then stripped off her clothes and pushed her on to a bed. By then, she told the court, he was naked.” – The Times

News in Brief

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