Coronavirus 1) Sunak announces £350 billion rescue package for UK economy

“Rishi Sunak unveiled an astonishing £350billion rescue package yesterday to try to stave off economic disaster. With coronavirus threatening to wipe out entire industries, struggling firms will be able to tap low-interest loans from a new fund worth £330billion. Another £20billion will pay for a business rates holiday and cash handouts to smaller companies. Business interruption loans will be increased to £5million – up from the £1.2million announced at last week’s Budget – with no interest due for six months. Banks have agreed to offer three-month mortgage holidays for those whose finances are hit by the pandemic. And a law change will allow pubs and restaurants to convert into takeaways without planning consent.” – Daily Mail

  • Government-backed loans for firms to pay employees’ wages – Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak announces three month mortgage payment “holiday” – Daily Mail
  • Supermarkets, pubs, bars and theatres breathe sigh of relief – Daily Telegraph
  • Chancellor attacked for not scrapping council tax or utility bills in coronavirus relief package – Daily Mail
  • “Ban evictions. Now”, demands Corbyn – The Times
  • Laura Ashley collapses as coronavirus hits trading – City A.M.
  • Ministers discuss temporarily renationalising struggling airlines – Daily Mail
> Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Ministers unveil emergency powers bill to contain virus

BORIS Johnson has set up a special war Cabinet to fight the coronavirus crisis as ministers unveiled emergency new powers. Executing a major gear change, the PM threw the government on to a military footing after the true scale of the crisis emerged. He told a meeting of the Cabinet that the nation was “engaged in a war against the disease which we have to win”. Later, at his daily press conference, Boris added: “We must act like any wartime government”. Under the new plan, the PM and his top team of four senior ministers – Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab – will meet daily to coordinate the fight, in a group known as ‘the C-19’. It came as ministers last night unveiled a new law to enact sweeping powers for officials and forces to fight the bug’s spread. They include allowing police and Border Force officers to arrest suspected virus sufferers and put them in isolation.” – The Sun

  • Far-reaching emergency powers to detain people to pass through commons without a vote – The Times
  • Criminal trials over three days suspended – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 3) 20,000 deaths would be a “good outcome”, says Vallance

“Expert advisers to ministers have disagreed about the right answers to coronavirus, the government’s top scientist said yesterday as he warned that more draconian measures might need to be imposed quickly. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, gave evidence to the Commons health select committee and said Covid-19 was “a first in not just a generation but potentially the first for 100 years”. 20,000 deaths would be a “good outcome”… Sir Patrick agreed with Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the committee, that assuming there were 1,000 cases for each known death from coronavirus it suggested an estimated 67,000 cases in Britain.” – The Times

  • Government strategy changes after alternative could leave 250,000 dead – Daily Telegraph
  • Dossier suggests previous government strategy would have precipitated deaths of more than 250,000 dead – The Daily Mail
  • 71 Brits dead and 55,000 likely infected – The Sun
  • 45-year-old father-of-two becomes UK’s youngest victim – Daily Mail
  • Nine-month-old baby the youngest person to catch virus – Daily Mail
  • Deathbed goodbyes should be done over Skype, according to new guidelines – Daily Telegraph
  • One in every 1,000 Britons may already be infected, warns Vallance – Daily Mail
  • Up to 50,000 people are thought to be infected – The Times
  • “Vaccines are the answer to this” but won’t be available for about a year, says Vallance – The Times
  • More than 2,000 (celebrities, nobility and businesses) buy £375 coronavirus testing kits – Daily Telegraph
  • Global infections near 200,000 – The Guardian
  • Many more will die over the coming months, Varadkar tells nation – The Times
  • People with type A blood more likely to catch coronavirus – Daily Mail
  • Women told to stop having IVF – Daily Mail
  • Still unknown what will happen to those released from self-isolation – Daily Telegraph
  • The good news among the coronavirus chaos – The Sun
  • Japanese flu drug “clearly effective” says China – The Guardian

Coronavirus 4) Calls to speed up testing for doctors

“The NHS has admitted it is not testing enough of staff and called for more kits “as a matter of urgency”. On Tuesday, health service leaders urged counterparts at Public Health England (PHE) to establish a new system of staff testing to stem the flow of doctors and nurses with general symptoms, such as coughs, unnecessarily isolating at home. Their absences threaten to undermine efforts to put the NHS on a “war footing” in order to cope with potentially tens of thousands of Covid-19 patients as the outbreak spikes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • NHS demands frontline staff be given priority for tests – The Times
  • NHS doctors fear they’ll die for lack of safety equipment – The Times
  • Public Health England will only test for COVID-19 if people present symptoms – Daily Mail
  • Government introduces employment safeguards to increase health and care volunteers – Daily Telegraph
  • We don’t have enough protective equipment, say staff – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 5) Government struggles to keep schools open

“The government’s efforts to keep schools open are unravelling swiftly with head teachers declaring full or partial closures. Staff shortages have forced schools to act after the number of teachers self-isolating rose. Up to a fifth of teachers are absent in some areas, unions say, adding that the policy to keep schools open is “untenable”. Westminster, the private school in central London, said it would “cease operation with immediate effect for the remainder of term” yesterday. City of London School for Girls announced it would close “in the face of unsustainable pupil and staff absence”. Harrow, meanwhile, closed after a pupil tested positive for coronavirus.” – The Times

  • Johnson hints schools will shut within days – The Sun
  • Government plans to give out free school meals – Daily Mail
  • Social media users start #Covid19Walkout trend
  • Cambridge colleges criticised for asking students to leave – The Guardian
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed for two weeks by Iran – The Times

Coronavirus 6) Debora Robertson: “You are not alone. We are fighting this disease together – and we will win”

“We live in a time of monumental uncertainty. And yet as I sit here, the cherry blossom in my garden is opening on the highest branches. The wisteria buds fatten. The sun breaks through the clouds. I remember staying on a friend’s farm in Yorkshire during the foot and mouth crisis, watching the lambs leap past the kitchen window. As we sipped coffee and looked out at the perfect spring scene, she said, “The worst part is you don’t know when it is coming, or where it is, it is just there, in the air”. And yet- then as now – we all keep buggering on, as Churchill said.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 7) Brits advised not to travel overseas for at least 30 days

“Air travel to and from the UK is likely to be suspended in days after the government warned against all non-essential journeys to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, told British citizens worldwide yesterday to avoid all global travel for at least the next 30 days. The unprecedented advice was made in response to lockdowns imposed in other countries to prevent the spread of the infection.” – The Times

Coronavirus 8) NHS will stop routine operations for months

“NHS hospitals will stop all routine operations for at least three months and clear out thousands of patients without full assessments to free a third of the country’s beds to treat coronavirus. The procedures will be stopped from April 15, it was announced, as the head of NHS England said: “There is no health service in the world that would be able to cope if this virus let rip.” Sir Simon Stevens could not say whether even the social-distancing measures outlined by Boris Johnson on Monday would be enough to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed.” – The Times

  • Over two million operations will be cancelled – The Sun
  • Thousands of operations suspended in Scotland – The Times
  • Bid to free up 30,000 beds – one in three of all NHS beds – Daily Telegraph
  • Concerns about mental health grow – The Times

Coronavirus 9) EU leaders agree to shut down travel into the bloc for 30 days

“EU leaders have agreed to shut down the bloc’s external borders to all non-essential travel for the next 30 days in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision comes after the death toll in the UK soared from 16 to 71 on Tuesday, while in Italy – the European epicentre – there were another 345 deaths, taking its total to 2,503. Tonight the leaders of the European Union’s nations agreed to institute a travel ban that blocks most foreigners from entering the bloc for the next month, with immediate effect.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson must adopt same coronavirus policies as the EU, warns French prime minister – Daily Mail
  • Italy’s death toll reaches 2,503 – Daily Mail
  • Italy records slowest rate of coronavirus infections since outbreak started – Daily Telegraph

Cummings “once pinned a political rival to a wall”, suggests new documentary

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings once pinned a political rival to a wall and threatened them, a new documentary claims. The BBC programme is the first in-depth look at the controversial former director of the Vote Leave campaign and pulls together interviews from more than 20 Cummings’s supporters and critics. Taking Control: The Dominic Cummings Story examines the man at the heart of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government at a time when it is under immense scrutiny over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.” – Daily Mail

My accuser “exaggerate[d]” assault for political reasons, says Salmond

Alex Salmond has told a court that charges of sexual assault made against him were “deliberate fabrications for political purposes” and that he has never forced himself on women “in my entire life”. The former first minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP gave evidence for the first time at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday. He denies 13 charges brought by nine women. Mr Salmond, 65, accused one complainer, a senior government official identified only as Woman A, of exaggerating “just as she encouraged at least five people to exaggerate or make up claims against me”.” – The Times


British troops to be freed “from historical witch hunts”

“LONG-suffering British troops are to be finally freed from historical witch hunts when ministers tomorrow slap a five year time limit on all new prosecutions. Under a landmark new law introduced tomorrow, only the most clear-cut cases that also involve “new and compelling evidence” will be allowed to go forward after the new time guillotine. In addition, a six year moratorium will also be slapped on all civil claims and Human Rights Act legal suits. As well as protecting the nation’s warriors of the future, the new time limits for proceedings against those who served on operations overseas effectively end the threat of legal pursuit for all Iraq and Afghanistan combat vets.” – The Sun

News in brief: