Coronavirus: People staying at home ‘making a difference’ to COVID-19 fight

People staying at home to stop coronavirus spreading faster across the UK are “making a difference”, a top government official has said.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, tried to encourage the public to carry on social distancing as the country enters week two of lockdown.

He said the measures were vital to significantly cut the number of people passing on COVID-19, on the same day the UK death toll rose to 1,415.

It is seven days since Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a historic address to the nation and told the public to stay home to save lives and protect the NHS.

Since then, most businesses have been urged to close and let employees work from home and police have been given powers to issue £60 fines for “non-urgent” travel.

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Trump Said He Was the President of Manufacturing. Then Disaster Struck.

For a leader who has embraced the language of a wartime president, it is as if the Pentagon asked for missiles and bombers but wouldn’t say how many or where they should be delivered.



By David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman

When President Trump came to office, he promised a new day with America’s manufacturers, casting himself as the first president who understood their needs. He toured factory floors, often handing out his signature “Make America Great Again” hats.

Yet in the first national crisis that required harnessing American manufacturing ingenuity and ramping up production of ventilators, perhaps the most crucial piece of equipment for patients in crisis, the White House’s ability to gather the power of American industry crumpled.

It was unable to communicate how many ventilators it would need or how quickly it would need them. Mr. Trump set states off on a mad scramble to find their own, leading to bidding wars against one another. Even today it is unclear who is deciding where the new American production will be directed — to the highest bidders or to the cities that need them most.

A week after praising General Motors and a small ventilator manufacturer, Ventec Life Systems, for their voluntary efforts to combine cutting-edge technology with G.M.’s expertise at supply chains and mass production, the president blew up at the world’s largest carmaker, accusing its chief executive, Mary T. Barra, of moving too slowly and trying to “rip off” the federal government. In fact, G.M. and Ventec had already signed a partnership — without government help — to ramp up production.

Interviews with White House officials, industry executives and outsiders who tried to intervene make two problems clear. Mr. Trump’s first mistake was recognizing the problem far too late, even though his own medical experts had identified a probable shortage of ventilators as a critical problem in late January, as panic set in that the virus was headed to the United States. Had the president acted sooner, thousands of new ventilators would probably be coming off production lines next month, when they are likely to be desperately needed.

And even after the problem was recognized, and the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, took over the process, both the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency struggled to define what was needed, who would pay for it and how to solve the problem of supply chains that stretched across more than a dozen countries.

“We’re going to have plenty,” Mr. Trump said Friday afternoon, declaring that he was invoking the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law, to force the companies to make more. But he gave no numbers — and glided past the complexities of getting between 700 and 1,500 components from more than a dozen nations.

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Pilots' union criticises UK's coronavirus job retention scheme

LONDON (Reuters) – The union representing British pilots has described the government’s scheme to retain jobs through the coronavirus outbreak as confusing, lacking detail and taking too long to help those who are being laid off now.

The British Airline Pilots Association said there were serious technical issues with the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that needed to be fixed now.

“From the scant details we have now, it seems like a terrible mess,” BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said.

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Biden calls Trump's Easter back-to-business goal 'catastrophic'

(Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Wednesday that potential efforts by President Donald Trump to re-open American businesses in time for the Easter holiday could be “catastrophic.”

The governors of at least 18 states, including New York and California, have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the U.S. population, and shuttering many businesses, in a costly effort to slow the deadly pathogen’s spread.

Trump on Tuesday told reporters he would like to see businesses opening their doors again by Easter, which will be celebrated on April 12. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said on Fox News Channel.

Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November election, said a quick return to normalcy could backfire.

“Now he’s suggesting he wants to get the country back opened by Easter,” Biden told reporters on a video conference, warning that it was an arbitrary or symbolic timeline.

“It would be a catastrophic thing to do for our people and for our economy if we sent people back to work just as we were beginning to see the impact of social distancing take hold only to unleash a second spike in infections,” Biden said. “That’d be far more devastating in the long run.”

Biden has been critical of Trump’s response to the coronavirus, saying that a delayed effort to scramble tests and medical equipment meant Americans would be hit harder and take longer to recover. On Tuesday, he said on MSNBC that it “would be a real resurrection” to see American businesses re-open by Easter.

Biden also called on businesses and investors to be guided by “the science of medicine” and “not the science of Wall Street” as they weigh what path is best for the economy.

Trump and his coronavirus team on March 16 put in place recommendations for people across the country to cut down social and professional interactions for 15 days in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Public health experts have said the timing for ending such orders must be flexible and based on medical research.

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Schumer: help for health system, local governments in coronavirus package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday the coronavirus legislation deal agreed to in the Senate includes $130 billion for the U.S. health care system and $150 billion to help state and local governments deal with the pandemic.

Republicans and Democrats agreed on the $2 trillion bipartisan package early on Wednesday, which Schumer said also included strong oversight of large loans to corporations made by the U.S. Treasury. [nL1N2BI04K] “We have greatly strengthened the bill and we’re proud of what we’ve done,” Schumer said in an interview with CNN.

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Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

(Reuters) – The United States could become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said, as the U.S. negotiators reached an agreement on a $2-trillion aid package and India announced a nationwide lockdown in the world’s second-most populous country.

DEATHS, INFECTIONS

** Nearly 421,000 people have been infected across the world and more than 18,800 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

** For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

EUROPE

** Fatalities in Italy surged on Tuesday, dashing hopes the epidemic was easing after more encouraging numbers in the previous two days.

** France’s death toll is much higher than the official tally, which only accounts for those dying in hospitals and does not include those dying at home or in retirement homes, the head of the hospitals federation said.

** More than 170,000 people signed up to help Britain’s National Health Service, and the parliament is set to suspend sitting for at least four weeks.

** Nurses and doctors demanded action after Spain reported its sharpest daily increase in new cases on Tuesday and said about 14% of the nearly 40,000 infections were among health workers.

** Russia’s total number of cases reached 658 on Wednesday with a record daily rise, a day after Moscow’s mayor warned the outbreak in the capital was much worse than official figures showed.

AMERICAS

** The Trump administration sowed confusion over use of a 1950s-era emergency act to procure coronavirus test kits amid severe shortages of equipment for medical workers.

** The virus has killed more than 700 people in the United States and infected over 53,000.

** Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed virus “hysteria” and urged mayors and state governors to roll back lockdown measures that have brought Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to near standstills.

** Mexico temporarily halted the processing of asylum requests from Tuesday, as its cases climbed to 405.

** An emergency aid package for Canadians facing economic harm from the outbreak was stalled.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

** Australia said on Wednesday it would force passengers on a ship into quarantine on a tourist island and refused entry to another vessel, as authorities slapped heavy curbs on movement and officials warned an accelerating number of patients could overwhelm intensive care units.

** Mainland China reported a drop in new cases on Wednesday as imported infections fell and no locally transmitted infections were reported.

** India woke up to a sweeping lockdown of its 1.3 billion people, but the order did not stop crowds of people thronging to stock up at grocery shops and chemists.

** The Indian government banned the export of a key malaria drug, as experts test its efficacy in treating patients with COVID-19.

** Tokyo became the center of Japan’s epidemic as it registered a record 17 new cases on Tuesday. The national tally is 1,214, with 43 deaths.

** Malaysia will extend a two-week restriction of movement order and unveil a second economic stimulus package.

** Thailand recorded 107 new cases on Wednesday, bringing its total to 934, while South Korea’s tally rose to 9,137 with 100 new infections.

** Singapore’s government said on Wednesday it was not ruling out holding a general election during the outbreak.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

** Israelis were instructed on Wednesday to stay within 100 meters of their homes under tightened restrictions that further reduced public transport, required employers to check workers for fever and set sanctions for people who defy rules.

** About half of Iran’s government employees were staying at home on Tuesday as the country’s death toll topped 2,000.

** Egypt has declared a two-week curfew, and those who violate the measure will be penalized under emergency laws, the prime minister said.

** Congo closed its borders and imposed a state of emergency.

** Libya confirmed its first case on Tuesday.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

** U.S. senators and Trump administration officials agreed on a massive economic stimulus bill early on Wednesday, with the Senate set to vote on the $2-trillion package later in the day and the House of Representatives vote expected soon after.

** Asian shares gained on Wednesday in the wake of Wall Street’s massive rebound on the stimulus bill agreement.

** Airlines urged governments to speed up bailouts to rescue the air transport industry as they doubled their estimate of 2020 revenue losses from the crisis to more than $250 billion.

** Seventy percent of people in G7 countries expect their household to lose income due to the outbreak, according to a survey on Wednesday.

** British inflation fell in February, before the crisis hit the country, with a further sharp fall predicted in the next couple of months due to the collapse in global oil prices caused by the pandemic.

EVENTS

** The Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021, the first such delay in the Games’ 124-year modern history.

** Japan’s J.League delayed the restart of soccer matches to May.

** The Cannes Film Festival venue is opening its doors to the town’s homeless who have nowhere to go during the lockdown.

** Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut were spending their final weeks on Earth in quarantine before they are scheduled to blast off on April 9 for the International Space Station.

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Prisoners locked in cells for longer and banned from visitors during coronavirus outbreak

All visits have been cancelled to jails in England and Wales as the outbreak worsens.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that prisons are now operating on an “exceptional delivery model” – used in pandemic situations.

Prisoners will spend more time in their cells to help increase self-isolation among inmates, he said.

Prison gyms have also been closed.

So far 13 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 as have 12 prison staff. Some 4,000 prison workers are currently self-isolating.

POA, the union which represents prison officers, praised the decision to place prisons on immediate lockdown.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: “We have suspended all prison visits in England and Wales for today.

“This is while we ensure safe and secure functioning of our prisons while enforcing social distancing.

“If you have a visit booked today, please do not attend.”

Downing Street said there were “robust and flexible plans” to keep staff and prisoners safe.

Prisons and the Ministry of Justice were examining how the social distancing rules could be complied with.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do recognise the importance of continued contact with family.”

There are around 83,000 prisoners in the UK and 24,000 prison officers.

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Brexit benefits MUST be ‘grasped’ to heal UK after disaster of coronavirus says Labour MP

The MP for Blackley and Broughton is calling for an end to the anti-Brexit rhetoric to aid the country’s recovery from the coronavirus that looks set to plunge the country into a social, economic and cultural black hole. The spread of COVID-19 is increasing at a rapid rate with more than 8,000 in the UK diagnosed with the virus and 422 people dead. The UK economy has suffered a hammer blow after bars, restaurants, businesses and other social spaces were closed and workers lost their jobs in a bid to stop the virus in its tracks.

Writing on the grassroots website Labour List, Mr Stringer today called for the Government to adopt policies that will boost post-Brexit national prosperity.

Noting the immediate impact the virus is having on individuals and families, he wrote: “The Covid-19 crisis in the UK is causing much distress to people right across the country.

“It is inevitable that when life does return to some form of normality, as a nation we will be faced with serious economic challenges.”

Mr Stringer, who has served as a politician since 1997, urged the UK to grab control over its policies to ensure the nations’ well-being in the years ahead, adding “the UK is leaving the EU and therefore it is absolutely essential that policies adopted by the government in post-Brexit Britain boost national prosperity and well-being in years to come, as well as ensure that the UK ‘takes back control’ now that it has left the EU.”

Mr Stringer has joined the Centre for Brexit Policy, which is launching this week.

The think-tank is forming to provide critical policy changes to Brexit and to campaign for an “evidence-based case for a real-Brexit and its benefits”. It aims to play a similar role to the Centre for Policy Studies which aided reforms to the British economy during Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

The group has previously said the coronavirus will transform Brexit negotiations and accelerate the Eurozone financial risks, warning negotiators to get a firm grip of the possible repercussions. But it’s not all doom and gloom, with the group saying it could be mitigated by collaborating with global financial centres.

“The danger is that the resulting slump will blow the lid off deep-seated flaws inside the Eurozone set up 20 years ago. Once the UK leaves the EU’s framework at the end of 2020, this financial risk should be lower for the UK itself and the global financial market and it is more likely that the threat can be mitigated by collaborating with other global financial centres,” it wrote.

The think-tank’s first paper it concluded the economic slump caused by the coronavirus will unveil the flaws in the eurozone set up 20 years ago.

It identified the foundation of the eurozone financial regulatory system is based on toxic country debt that is wrongly treated by the eurozone as riskless liquid sovereign debt.

The impact of the virus on countries like Italy and Spain could be a “financial Chernobyl” with COVID-19 exposing the problems of countries that lack monetary powers to cope with a huge drop in output.

However, for Britain, the think tanks argued fallout from the crisis could be reduced in comparison because it kept the pound and City regulators have protected the global financial centres based in London.

The think-tank is being directed by former Brexit Party MEP and former chief executive of the Mayor’s Fund for London serving under now prime minister Boris Johnson.

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Labour’s Ian Lavery slammed for calling coronavirus crisis ‘great opportunity’ for party

A recording of Mr Lavery’s controversial remarks about COVID-19 was published by the Guidio Fawkes website. Shortly afterwards, Mr Lavery was hit with a backlash on Twitter, with some critics accusing him of making “sick” comments about the epidemic. Mr Lavery said to Labour activists on a call: “’By the way, when something like this happens, we’re going to see lots of our own people dying as a consequence.

 

“But, you know apart from that, it’s going to give the fantastic battalion of Labour Party members, community champions out there, a great opportunity of showing how Labour, and why Labour, is best when it gets on the front foot and best when it brings people together.

“We need to make sure that we do that and community organising – what a great opportunity it’s going to give us.

“Every one of us, every one of our families… relations, friends, organising the communities, because there is going to be lots of people out there that really need our help.”

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen hit out at Mr Lavery’s words.

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Mr Bridgen said: “Ian Lavery literally salivating at the thought of possibly tens of thousands of our vulnerable citizens perishing because he hopes it might breathe life into the dead corpse which is the current Labour Party.

“I am disgusted.

“Labour must denounce his remarks immediately.”

Earlier this month Mr Bridgen began self-isolating after he had come into contact with fellow Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Pro-Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes also took to Twitter to voice his disapproval for Mr Lavery’s choice of words.

He said: “To attempt to use this global crisis that risks the total collapse of our health and social care system as an ‘opportunity’ for partisan point scoring shows the moral vacuum at the heart of the Opposition.

“What an awful thing to say.”

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And another person tweeted: “This comment by Ian Lavery is pretty high up on the ‘sick list’!”

But Mr Lavery hit back at the report, claiming it was misleading.

He said: “Intentionally misleading reporting is really disappointing at a time like this.

“I’ve spoken about the opportunity for people to get out there and help their local communities and those in need.

“Nonsense to suggest otherwise. We all need to do our bit to get through this crisis.”

He later shared another tweet showing a screenshot of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn talking to a group on a video conference.

Mr Lavery said: “Despite what completely misleading articles say, I was extremely proud to rally over 2,000 Labour Party members to go out and help those most in need across all communities.

“We have a battalion of over 580,000 members and we need them to help in this crisis.”

A total of 337 people in Britain have died from the virus and 6,735 have been infected.

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Coronavirus: Government texts the nation with COVID-19 lockdown orders

The government has hammered home its coronavirus lockdown message by texting the nation. 

An SMS message has been sent out to every active UK phone number telling people to stay at home to “protect the NHS” and “save lives”.

Britons were warned new rules are “in force now” with a link to the latest COVID-19 advice, which says no-one should leave their house unless absolutely necessary or they will face a fine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the historic lockdown in an address to the nation on Monday night.

He told members of the public they should only go outside for four reasons: work (if they can’t do so from home), shopping for food or medicines, exercise once a day, to help someone vulnerable, or for any medical need.

A former Met Police chief superintendent, Dal Babu, said the aim was likely to make people understand there is now a “much clearer message” from Downing Street.

He told Sky News’ Kay [email protected]: “Unfortunately the government has been a little bit behind the curve here, because it’s entirely predictable that emergency services – not just in the NHS, but in the police and fire brigade – will become unwell.

“So we need to ensure that we’ve got capacity and ensure people have that clear message about staying in.

“This is about saving lives, this is about people not being selfish, not playing Russian roulette with other people’s health.

“This is about them following the advice – the clear advice we got from the prime minister last night – and staying inside.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove did not help criticism that the government has been sending mixed messages when he admitted he gave the wrong advice about travel for children of separated parents.

He initially said kids should stay in the house they are currently in and not move between residences, but later apologised for not being “clear enough”.

“To confirm – while children should not normally be moving between households, we recognise that this may be necessary when children who are under 18 move between separated parents,” he tweeted. “This is permissible & has been made clear in the guidance.”

Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey said the government had “created a little bit of confusion over the last 24 hours” with its latest coronavirus advice – particularly on which shops should stay open.

Hitting out at Sports Direct for trying to avoid closure, she told Sky News “it shouldn’t be up to bad bosses to decide if they bring their workforces in or not today, the government must make clear direction today for the sake of public safety”.

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