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UK coronavirus news LIVE: scientists issue stark death toll warning over outbreak as Chancellor set to unveil new financial measures for virus-hit businessess

News › UK Coronavirus: The symptoms  Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil new funding measures for coronavirus-hit businesses Close The latest headlines in your inbox Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a new package of support for businesses hit by the coronavirus outbreak less than a week after announcing £12 billion of emergency funding…

Coronavirus: The symptoms 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil new funding measures for coronavirus-hit businesses

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a new package of support for businesses hit by the coronavirus outbreak less than a week after announcing £12 billion of emergency funding in the Budget.

It comes after Boris Johnson on Monday unveiled unprecedented peacetime measures – including calling on people to stay away from pubs, clubs and theatres  – to try to control the spread of Covid-19.

The Imperial College Covid-19 response team – which has been advising ministers warned around 250,000 people will die in Britain  unless more draconian measures are adopted to protect the population.

The stark warning came after the death toll of people with coronavirus in the UK reached 55.

Follow our LIVE updates here…

Live Updates


2020-03-17T09:12:07.850Z

Former foreign secretary David Miliband criticised a lack of international co-ordination to tackle the coronavirus and warned that Brexit and Donald Trump “multiplies the dangers”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“I’m afraid it speaks to the age that we’re in that there really is no international co-ordination of an effective kind at the moment – it’s each country for itself and often it feels like each family for itself.

“That, of course, heightens the danger.”

He warned of President Trump dropping the US’s traditional leading role and the UK not having a place at the EU table because of Brexit.

“That multiplies the dangers,” said Mr Miliband, who is now chief executive of the International Rescue Committee.

He said China sees itself as the leader now and highlighted a case from private industry where a Chinese businessman is sending face masks to Italy.

“So you are seeing a shift in the balance of power, a vacuum, if you like, being filled, and that’s obviously got long-term consequences,” he said.


2020-03-17T08:50:26.183Z

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer insisted the stricter measures to tackle the coronavirus had not been introduced too late.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told the BBC:

“We are following the science very carefully and consider the measures we announced yesterday have been announced at the right time – not too early and certainly not too late.

“We don’t rule out taking further measures if these are necessary but much of this depends on how the next two weeks play out.”

Prof Van-Tam warned that closing schools may have unintended consequences for the workforce and the spread of the virus if children are looked after by grandparents.

“This is a carefully balanced decision that can’t be taken quickly or lightly and needs to be given very serious scientific scrutiny and thought over the coming days,” he told the Today programme.


2020-03-17T08:49:44.856Z

Professor Neil Ferguson said the Government had got the timing about right but warned there was no time to lose.

Asked if more draconian measures should have come earlier, he told Today:

“I think we are still behind the epidemic seen in other European countries, so there’s always a balancing act involved in these sort of measures in order to balance the impact of those measures, the costs on the economy against the impact on the epidemic.

“I overall think we have got the timing about right.

“I think we’re about three weeks or so behind Italy, two weeks behind France and Spain, so we are making these decisions in a more timely manner than other European countries but certainly there wasn’t any time to lose.”

Prof Ferguson said closing schools and universities could stymie the spread of the coronavirus but warned of uncertainties and negative impacts of such a move on the NHS.

He told Today:

“From a purely epidemiological perspective, we think with a lot of uncertainty that closing schools and universities would further reduce transmission.

“I have to say we don’t fully understand whether children are transmitting this virus in the same way they transmit other viruses but, assuming that, it would have an impact.

“It would also have a number of negative impacts, particularly on health system capacity – a lot of nurses, a lot of doctors have school-aged children.

“So what’s currently happening is there’s a very thorough review of what a likelihood of school closure would be.”


2020-03-17T08:47:45.776Z

Camden Police issue a warning.. 


2020-03-17T08:40:24.680Z

Some events along the Tokyo 2020 Olympic relay route have been cancelled to prevent crowds forming


2020-03-17T08:39:03.856Z

A scientist who worked on key research informing the Government on the coronavirus outbreak said there is “no option” but to adopt the “more draconian strategy”.

Asked about the research, which warned that 250,000 deaths were possible without action, Professor Neil Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“We have no reason to believe that’s not what would happen if we frankly did nothing, and even if we did all we could just to slow but not reverse the spread we would still be looking at a very large number of deaths and the health system being overwhelmed.

“Initially when we came up with these sort of estimates they were viewed as what’s called a reasonable worst case, but as information has been gathered in recent weeks from, particularly Italy, but other countries, it’s become increasingly clear it’s not the reasonable worst case, it’s the most likely scenario.”

Prof Ferguson, from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College NHS planners, said calculations from NHS planners on how much they could surge capacity in critical care played a key role in the research.

“Whilst they are planning a major expansion of that – cancelling elective surgery, building new beds, getting new ventilators – it just isn’t enough to fill the gaps that would be left,” he said.

“We are left with no option but to adopt this more draconian strategy.”


2020-03-17T08:36:17.283Z

London streets and Tubes deserted as commuters heed PM’s virus warning

Empty carriages on usually heaving commuter routes marked London’s first morning after Boris Johnson urged drastic new measures to battle the coronavirus.  The Prime Minister yesterday gave his starkest advice yet, asking Londoners to pay “special attention” to the situation.  This included encouraging more people to work from home – guidance which appears to have been heeded.  Near empty Tubes and trains in the capital highlighted the shift-change in people’s plans.


2020-03-17T08:30:27.840Z

Neil Wilson, at Markets.com, said he remained “dubious about any rallies having legs” as market turbulence is set to continue.

He said:

“Until there is better knowledge of the situation on the ground, until the economic damage is known, and until we see a genuine spike in cases in the US and Europe, volatility levels will remain extremely high.”

He added that City speculation is mounting over possible action by regulators to shut markets temporarily.

“There had been chatter that regulators would start to think it’s time to call a halt to this, that they will step in to shutter stock markets for a limited period in an attempt to regain control of the situation,” he said.

“Jay Clayton, the SEC boss, said otherwise, but it remains a possibility.”


2020-03-17T08:30:12.660Z

Queues for hand sanitizer at boots Islington today


2020-03-17T08:26:53.420Z

London’s transport network could be massively scaled back in the coming weeks, Mayor Sadiq Khan has said.

“What we may do over the course of the next few days is go to a Saturday or Sunday service during the week and then maybe even scale that down even more over the course of the next few days and weeks,” he said.

But he added that a “basic public transport service” is needed for frontline workers including medics, firefighters and police officers.


2020-03-17T08:26:13.090Z

London mayor Sadiq Khan on GMB this morning…


2020-03-17T08:23:31.333Z

Sadiq Khan said Monday’s Cobra meeting had included discussions on provision for the care of the children of healthcare workers, as well as around children who receive free school meals.

He also called for frontline NHS workers to be prioritised in terms of testing for Covid-19.

He said:

“If it’s the case that the tests are being rationed, can we make sure we triage so NHS workers, those in the front line are being tested to make sure they’re not, for the sake of safety, taking themselves from the front line to self-isolate when actually there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be working if they’ve been tested.”


2020-03-17T08:21:13.523Z

The FTSE 100 Index rebounded by nearly 2% – up 100.1 points at 5251.4 – soon after opening, following steep losses on Monday.

The gains came amid hopes of joined-up global action to combat the coronavirus crisis, after leaders of the G7 group of countries agreed late on Monday to co-ordinate their response to the pandemic.


2020-03-17T08:19:25.683Z

Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, a spokesman for its judiciary said on Tuesday, in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

“Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners … Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” said Gholamhossein Esmaili.

On March 10, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus. 


2020-03-17T08:15:26.690Z

Sadiq Khan urges Londoners to follow PM’s new Covid-19 advice

London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged Londoners to heed the coronavirus-tackling advice given by Boris Johnson after it was revealed the capital is weeks ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of case numbers. The Prime Minister on Monday said “drastic action” is needed in the UK as he suggested a raft of social distancing measures including asking people to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres. “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact and to stop all non-essential travel,” Mr Johnson said.


2020-03-17T08:11:53.223Z

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam insisted there is a large “stockpile” of safety equipment for NHS staff who will be prioritised for testing so they are not needlessly kept away from frontline work.

He told BBC Breakfast:

“We will want to keep as many of our healthcare workers as fit as we can and able to work and we will prioritise testing to ensure healthcare workers are not unnecessarily kept in isolation conditions when that’s not needed.

“We have for a long while planned to be ready for such an event, we have very large stockpiles of personal protective equipment which are being released to the NHS over a period of time in order that there will be enough for our healthcare workers.”


2020-03-17T08:11:36.953Z

A school in Derbyshire has been forced to close due to the new Government guidance concerning self-isolation.

Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, a secondary school in the town of Dronfield, closed on Tuesday after a “significant number” of staff could not go into work.

A short alert from Derbyshire County Council said:

“School closed due to a significant number of staff who will not be able to come to school following the Government announcement regarding self-isolation.”


2020-03-17T08:11:25.450Z

Prof Van-Tam said that isolation for 12 weeks applies to all those who would be given the flu jab, other than children.

Asked specifically about asthma sufferers, he told BBC Breakfast:

“I don’t want to go into enormous detail into every single risk group but we are saying it is the people who are offered flu vaccines, other than children, who fit into that risk category, people for whom the advice is very strong about social distancing.”


2020-03-17T08:06:23.443Z

Asked if London’s hospitals are going to be able to cope and if they have enough ventilators, Mr Khan said:

“The short answer is no, that’s one of the reasons why the Government strategy was contain and delay to get us as near as possible to spring and summer to free up capacity in the NHS.”

He added that he is concerned, due to issues around business support, people may feel they need to keep working even if under the advice they should be isolating.

He said:

“My concern about the lack of support for businesses is people may, for understandable reasons, choose to work to put food on the table rather than self-isolate.”

He added:

“That’s why we need Government support now.”


2020-03-17T08:05:13.353Z

Prof Van-Tam said new stricter advice for the “extremely vulnerable” will be coming in the next week or so.

He told BBC Breakfast:

“It is strong advice for the over-70s and there will be in the next week or so an announcement over people who are extremely vulnerable irrespective of their age where the advice is even stronger about staying in the home.

“What I want people to do is take away that this advice is very strong and to the extent possible you should ask a neighbour to do food shopping for you, or a friend.

“And keep these visits to places where you can come into contact with other people as low as you can reasonably keep them.”

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