Speaking today, Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced a lifting on laws to suspend competition rules in the supermarket sector. to help boost supplies amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Boris Johnson‘s advisers have also warned even stricter social distancing measures could be introduced after Britain’s coronavirus death toll surged by 260 on Saturday. Government advisers have said more stringent rules may be rolled out next month if the number of cases continues to rise. The Prime Minister could decide to mirror the measures introduced in Spain and Italy, where officials have banned exercise outside and introduced fines of up to €3,000 (£2,690) for anyone found breaching the rules.
A senior Government adviser told the Daily Mail that should the number of deaths rise significantly over the next few weeks, “greater enforcement” of social distancing policies would be introduced.
This would include “anything that can be done to push it down further” and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On Saturday the number of coronavirus cases in the UK exceeded 17,000 as the Department of Health confirmed 2,510 new cases of the disease, bringing the total to 17,089 people.
The death toll also saw a dramatic rise, from 759 to 1,019 at the time of writing.
Coronavirus UK:Supermarket restrictions lifted
Coronavirus UK: Police have started to enforce the lockdown
London continues to report the highest number of deaths in the country with almost a third, 246, originating in the capital.
Police have already started to enforce the current lockdown measures, introduced by the Prime Minister on Monday, by using road blocks, drones and helicopters.
Officers have the power to fine anyone in breach of the rules, which stands at £60 – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
For anyone found breaching the measures a second time, they will be hit with a £120 fine, rising up to £1,000 for repeat offences.
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Sunday March 29
5.15am update: David Guake discusses the outbreak
David Guake, a former frontbench member under Theresa May, has used his Conservative Home column to discuss COVID-19: “Are you relieved not to be dealing with this?” is a question I am asked quite a lot at the moment. The honest answer is “not really”. I suspect most former Ministers feel a sense that they would rather be back in post, at the centre of things, able to make a difference.
“That said, I feel great sympathy for my former colleagues who are in office. They face far greater challenges than any their recent predecessors faced. There are a range of only bad options, the evidence of the nature of the threat and the advice received by Ministers can change very quickly and there is a strong desire in the media to apportion blame. If something is wrong, someone must be at fault. Ministers will always be high up on the list of candidates.
!Not everything has gone smoothly in terms of communication but sometimes it is necessary to try to convey quite complex messages. The Government has tried to communicate messages that reflect a dynamic situation that moves us along the spectrum from ‘business-as-usual’ towards ‘lockdown’. If, as a society, we can only cope with simple, binary positions we will not be able to respond sensibly to the threat we face.”
Mr Guake revealed his wife Rachel went to a supermarket last week and found the shelves empty because a shortage of workers meant they had not been stacked.
The former Justice Secretary volunteered to help, joking his experience at an Ispwich ASDA in 1991, when he was 19 had prepared him.
Princess Maria-Teresa of Borbourn-Parma was the first royal to die of coronavirus
4.45am update: Spain’s Princess Maria Teresa dies of coronavirus
Spain has confirmed Princess Maria Teresa died of coronavirus on Thursday.
Nicknamed The Red Princess due to her social activism, Maria Teresa was 86.
She is the first royal to due of coronavirus, with a house, Bourbon-Parma being a cadet branch of the Spanish Royal Family.
4.15am update: Derbyshire police dump dye into a lagoon
Harpur Hill in Buxton and its blue lagoon is a popular tourist spot.
Police received reports of people visiting and ignoring official guidance.
Derbyshire Police have dumped black dye in an attempt to deter visitors who want to visit and post pictures.
3.45am update: Malaysia to trial coronavirus drug
Malaysia has been chosen by the World Health Organisation as one of the countries to run trials on Remdesevir.
The drug will be used on coronavirus patients, who will be monitored for their reaction.
WHO took the decision due to Malayasia’s facilities to carry out the research.
Data suggests some US cities will exceed the infection tally in Wuhan
3.15am update: Some US cities worse than Wuhan
If the rate of infection does not stop, New York metro area will have more infections than Wuhan.
Analysis by New York Times concludes the region has had less success at flattening the curve than Wuhan or Lombardy in Italy.
In Baton Rogue, the infection rate is high but the number of infections is still low.
2.45am update: South African police fire rubber bullets
Earlier, South African police fired rubber bullets at shoppers in Johannesburg.
According to Straits Times, the incident occurred on day two of national lockdown with shoppers not observing social distancing guidelines.
Shoppers trampled on each over and a woman with a baby on her back was seen on the ground, with police observed using whips to enforce distancing.
2.15am update: Trump not considering quarantine
Donald Trump is not considering a quarantine for New York state.
He rejected the move for New Jersey and Connecticut as well, viewing them as unnecessary.
He instead issued a “strong Travel Advisory”.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being considered for clemency by Iran
12.45am update: Spain looks for closer China links
Arancha González Laya, Spanish foreign minister says the crisis has bought her attention to the country’s healthcare neglect.
Mrs Gonzalez Laya told South China Morning Post: “As China has a bigger place in the global economy and in global affairs, it feels it has a bigger stake and therefore it exercises bigger responsibilities.
“This is what I think could be one of the results of this crisis.
“China is a bigger part of the world economy; what we need to make sure is that the world economy is a bigger part of the Chinese economy, because this is how we will be able to better manage this interdependence.”
12.15am update: Dyson to build ventilators
Dyson have received an order for 10,000 ventilators from the Government.
James Dyson, the founder, said in a letter to employees: “A ventilator supports a patient who is no longer able to maintain their own airways, but sadly there is currently a significant shortage, both in the UK and other countries around the world.
“This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume.”
Saturday March 28
11.45pm update: Government has record-breaking levels of support
Opinion polling for Bloomberg by Number Cruncher Politics has found the Tory Party approval ratings are at 54 percent – the highest ever achieved by a Tory Government.
Labour has dropped to 28 percent, five percent lower than than the last election.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak enjoy approval ratings of 72 and 77 percent respectively.
11.15pm update: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be freed
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her temporary release from prison in Iran extended until April 18.
She is also being considered for clemency according to reports.
Gursimran Hans has taken over live reporting from Bill McLoughlin.
10.12pm update: Powers agreed by Stormont
Northern Ireland has passed laws enabling the enforcement of social distancing measures in the country.
The regulations came into force on Saturday at 11pm.
First Minister, Arlene Foster said: “These are extraordinary powers for any Government to have to introduce, but we are living in extraordinary times.
“We are asking the people of Northern Ireland to make fundamental changes to how they live their lives. But we are doing this to keep you safe, to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 infection so that the health service has the capacity to deal with those who need their help the most.
The importance of social distancing
9.36pm update: US records first infant death
The US has recorded its first death from an infant who tested positive for COVID-19.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr Ngozi Ezike said: “We must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.
“If not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us.”
9.24pm update: Rhode Island call on National guard
Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US has called on the National Guard to stop all cars travelling from the US.
Governor of the state, Gina Raimondo said: “Right now, we have a pinpointed risk that we need to address, and we need to be very serious and that risk is called New York City.”
9.05pm update: UK Government launches daily check-in text service
People in self-isolation with suspected COVID-19 symptoms are to receive regular check-in texts from the NHS.
Matt Hancock said: “I know all too well that experiencing symptoms can be worrying, but for those living on their own it will be even more so.
“Alongside other measures, this new daily text service will reassure our most vulnerable that they are not alone, and also to help them manage their symptoms.”
8.01pm update: St John Ambulance receives a surge in volunteers
More than 750 St John Ambulance volunteers have offered to help at NHS Nightingale.
Up to 200 first aid aiders per days will assist at the field hospital.
Richard Lee, the charity’s chief operating officer, said: “The clinical skills, resilience and compassion of St John volunteers really matter in a challenging situation like this and we are grateful for their commitment.
“In the coming weeks and months, St John Ambulance will face extraordinary demands, the likes of which our organisation has not faced in peacetime.
“Our resources will be stretched, and our people will be tested, but we will stop at nothing to help beat this virus.”
7.27pm update: “We need more ventilators”
Boris Johnson spoke to Donald Trump on Friday where the former insisted the UK needed more ventilators.
Speaking today, Mr Trump said: “If we make too many that’s going to be OK because I spoke to the Prime Minister of the UK yesterday,” Mr Trump said.
“And before I even was able to get a word out of him… I said, ‘How you doing?’ and he said, ‘We need ventilators’.
“The UK needs ventilators, a lot of countries need ventilators, badly.”
7.15pm update: Inside NHS Nightingale
The construction of NHS Nightingale is expected to be completed next week.
The ExCel Centre has been transformed this week in order to deal with COVID-19 patients.
Pictures today have emerged showing the operation underway in east London.
Coronavirus: Pictures of NHS Nightingale
6.23pm update: France warns “fight has just begun”
In a press conference today, French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe has warned the battle against the crisis has just begun.
He added: “The fight has only just started.
“The first 15 days of April will be much harder than the 15 days which have just passed.”
6.14pm update: Number of deaths rises in Ireland
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland has risen by 14, taking the overall total to 36.
5.56pm update: US approves new test
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a new test that can now detect coronavirus in five minutes.
Abbott Laboratories, who make the kit, says they expect to test 50,000 tests per day.
The test apparently takes 13 minutes to deliver a negative result.
5.23pm update: Italy’s death toll rises
Italy’s death toll has seen a huge increase today as figures state a further 889 people have died taking the total death toll to 10,023.
The number of cases has also risen from 86,498 to 92,472.
Coronavirus: Italy’s death toll rises
5.11pm update: New York governor disputes quarantine
Speaking at a press conference today, Anthony Cuomo, disputed Donald Trump’s claims the state could be placed into quarantine.
He said: “I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine.”
4.54pm update: Annual leave to be deferred
Annual leave will be carried over the next two years in new rules announced by the Government.
In the Government’s latest set of policies, employees will now be able to carry over annual leave due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Alok Sharma said: “We have introduced measures to ensure that workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry that entitlement over into the next two years.
“This will protect staff from losing out whilst providing businesses with flexibility when they need it most.
“Earlier this week, we announced that over four million businesses will be a granted a three-month extension to the filing of their accounts through a fast-track online process.
“Over 10,000 businesses have successfully applied for this intervention.”
4.49pm update: “New York should be quarantined”
Donald Trump told reports today that he is contemplating putting certain areas of the country into quarantine.
He said: “We’d like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined.
“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it, but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine – short-term two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.”
Mr Trump’s comments come as the US reported 112,377 cases of COVID-19 with a further 1,873 deaths.
4.35pm update: UK death toll rises
The death toll has now risen to 1,028.
Scotland has reported 40 death, while Wales has reported 38 and Northern Ireland has 15.
A total of 935 have died in England, with NHS England confirmed the victims were aged between 33 and 100 and all but 13 had pre-existing health conditions.
4.31pm update: Alok Sharma provides update on Boris Johnson
After Mr Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, Mr Sharma insisted the Prime Minister continued to lead the Government.
He said: “He continues to lead the Government’s effort in combating Covid-19, this morning he held a video conference call and he will continue to lead right from the front on this.
“What this has reminded us is that no one is immune and that is precisely why we ask people to follow the Government advice in terms of staying at home where they are able to do that.
“We want to make sure we protect the NHS and ultimately save lives.”
4.15pm update: UK suspends supermarket competition laws
The Government has today announced the suspension of competition regulation in order to allow supermarkets to work together to maintain supply chains.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said today: “I want to thank the many businesses and workers in keeping the economy going.
“You are delivering for our nation during this difficult time.
“We have also brought forward legislation to suspend competition rules in the supermarket sector.”
Additional reporting by Emily Ferguson.
3.02pm update: Do you think UK lockdown will be extended after three weeks?
Boris Johnson introduced a nationwide lockdown on Monday to last for three weeks.
The Government will then review the situation and decide whether to continue the measures – but do you think the lockdown will be extended? VOTE HERE
2.49pm update: Russia to close all of its borders
Russia will close all of its borders to foreigns to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
2.33pm update: Teenager charged for coughing on woman
A 14-year old has been charged after a 66-year-old woman was coughed on and spat at in Tameside, Greater Manchester.
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been charged with one count of assault and will appear at Tameside Youth Court on April 7, Greater Manchester Police said.
Officers were called just before 8.30pm on March 17 to a report that a boy had been coughing and shouting ‘coronavirus’ at a woman in Ashton-under-Lyne town centre.
2.06pm update: UK death toll rises by 260
Another 260 people have died in the UK after testing positive for the coronavirus.
This bring’s the total up to 1,019.
A further 2,520 people tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total to 17,089 cases.
Staff load equipment into London Ambulance Service vehicles in the east car park at the ExCeL London
1.27pm update: New York state centre of US outbreak
The US has overtaken China and Italy as the country with the most coronavirus cases, recording over 100,000.
The state of New York has recorded almost half of the country’s cases, making it the centre of the US outbreak.
12.54pm update: Royal Mint make visors for NHS staff
Engineers at the Royal Mint have started to make visors for NHS staff.
A first batch is already in use at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in south Wales.
From next week it hopes to produce thousands of the plastic shields every day from its nearby Llantrisant base in South Wales.
Leighton John, the Mint’s director of operations, said he was motivated to act because his sister works for the NHS.
He said: “We set our engineers the task of developing essential medical equipment that could be easily made on-site.
“Within seven hours they’d created a medical visor, and within 48 hours it was approved for mass manufacture.”
12.32pm update: Youths to be prosecuted after deliberately coughing on NHS staff
Police have said they will prosecute a group of teenagers who deliberately coughed on NHS staff after claiming they had coronavirus.
Details of the incident was shared on Warrington Police’s Facebook page.
Sergeant Hillyard of Cheshire Police wrote: “We have attended reports of a group of youths coughing at NHS staff stating they have coronavirus. The youths will be prosecuted as will their parental guardians.
“This is an absolutely abhorrent incident involving abuse of our NHS heroes. I will once again urge all parents and persons with parental responsibility to make sure that their children stay inside.
“You too can and will be prosecuted if you fail to keep your children inside.”
The Royal Mint has started manufacturing medical visors for the NHS
12.14pm update: Secretary of State for Scotland has mild symptoms of COVID-19
Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, has said he has mild coronavirus symptoms.
He said in a statement: “In the past 24 hours, I have developed mild symptoms associated with coronavirus.
“In line with medical guidance, I am self-isolating and working from home.”
11.50am update: Europe civil unrest to ‘explode at any moment’
Social unrest could erupt in some of Europe’s largest cities over the next few weeks as people struggle with falling incomes due to the coronavirus crisis, a Red Cross chief has warned.
Francesco Rocca, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told a United Nations news briefing: “We have a lot of people who are living very marginalised, in the so-called black hole of society.
“In the most difficult neighbourhoods of the biggest cities I am afraid that in a few weeks we will have social problems.
“This is a social bomb that can explode at any moment, because they don’t have any way to have an income.”
11.32am update: Man aged 101 survives coronavirus
An Italian man aged 101 has recovered after contracting the coronavirus.
The man, located in the north-eastern city of Rimini and known only as “Mr P” was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being admitted last week and testing positive for COVID-19.
Gloria Lisi, Rimini’s deputy mayor, said that his “truly extraordinary” recovery gave “hope for the future”.
She added: “Mr P made it. The family brought him home, to teach us that even at 101 years the future is not written.”
10.56am update: Death toll in Spain rises by 832
The number of people who have died after testing positive for coronavirus has risen by 832 on Saturday, taking the country’s death toll to 5,690.
A further 8,189 tested positive for the disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 72,248.
10.48am update: Wuhan partly reopens after lockdown
The Chinese city of Wuhan where the coronavirus pandemic bega, has partially re-opened after more than two months of isolation.
People are allowed to enter the city, in China’s Hubei province, but are not allowed to leave, according to reports.
Crowds of passengers were pictured arriving at Wuhan train station on Saturday.
Coronavirus China: Passengers rush to travel to Wuhan on Saturday
10.33am update: NHS Nightingale hospital makes quick progress
London’s Excel Centre, which is being transformed into NHS Nightingale, has already made significant progress.
Once completed, the centre will have 4,000 beds ready to treat coronavirus cases.
10.02am update: UK’s response to coronavirus dubbed a ‘national scandal’
The UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been called a “national scandal” by the editor of the Lancet medical journal.
Richard Horton said: “The UK Government’s Contain–Delay–Mitigate–Research strategy failed.
“[It] now has a new plan – Suppress–Shield–Treat–Palliate.
“But this plan, agreed far too late in the course of the outbreak, has left the NHS wholly unprepared for the surge of severely and critically ill patients that will soon come.”
9.30am update: Police pour black dye into reservoir to discourage visitors
Derbyshire police have poured black dye into a reservoir near Buxton, known as “the blue lagoon”, to discourage people from going there.
It comes after reports people were congregating at the area and swimming in the water.
9.16am update: NHS surgeon dies after contracting COVID-19
A London organ transplant surgeon has died after testing positive for coronavirus, the British Transplantation Society has said.
Adil El Tayar, 63, was admitted to intensive care on March 20 and died on March 25 at West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth, west London.
The doctor, who had been self-isolating since developing symptoms in mid-March, had worked in hospitals around the world including Sudan, Saudi Arabia and south London.
Coronavirus UK: Michael Gove said the number of testing kits is being increased
8.52am update: NHS staff to receive coronavirus tests
Coronavirus tests for NHS frontline staff will be trialled this weekend ahead of a wider roll-out to ensure medics can return to work at a faster rate.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said: “This will be antigen testing – testing whether people currently have the disease – so that our health and social care workers can have security in the knowledge that they are safe to return to work if their test is negative.
“These tests will be trialled for people on the front line starting immediately, with hundreds to take place by the end of the weekend – dramatically scaling up next week.”
8.31am update: Schools in Wales urged to stay open during Easter break
Teachers in Wales have been urged to keep schools open during the two-week Easter break for key workers.
Education minister Kirsty Williams, said: “It takes a community to raise a child and that statement has never been more true. In this time of national need, our school community has stepped up and met the challenge.
“More than 700 schools have stayed open to look after the children of NHS staff, carers, people who are saving lives. I am now asking you to do more and keep schools open during what would have been school holidays.
“It has never been more important for our children and young people to be surrounded by the people they know and trust.
“I am asking you to be flexible, and to offer up some time during the Easter period to continue to support both vulnerable children and the families of our critical workers.”
8.12am update: Italy cases surpass China
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy has now surpassed China’s total.
Italy has confirmed 86,498 cases, while China’s total currently stands at 81,394.
Italy is now second in number of cases to the United States, which surpassed China this week and now has almost 105,000 cases.