Brexit

Reuters
Britain and the European Union have exchanged draft legal texts containing their proposals for how relations between the two sides should work after the end of a Brexit transition period on Dec. 31, a British government spokesman said on Wednesday. Britain formally left the bloc on Jan. 31, but under the terms of an exit agreement most practical aspects of how Britain interacts with the 27 EU member states have remained unchanged. “This evening the UK and EU have exchanged draft legal texts. We are sharing ours in confidence as a negotiating document, as part of the ongoing negotiating process,” the British government spokesman said

Independent
Boris Johnson has been accused of “putting his head in the sand” over the threat posed by the coronavirus outbreak to a Brexit deal, after saying he has no intention of extending talks with the EU. The prime minister is coming under growing pressure to ditch his self-imposed deadline of 31 December to reach a trade agreement with the remaining 27 states or take Britain to a no-deal Brexit on disadvantageous World Trade Organisation terms.

Corona/NHS

Telegraph
NHS hospitals outside London are at greater risk of becoming overwhelmed during a major coronavirus epidemic, according to new analysis. Rural areas will be hit hardest by a national shortfall of hospital beds as the virus outbreak sweeps across the country, modelling seen by The Telegraph suggests. Meanwhile, senior doctors warned that elderly and frail people may be denied critical care if hospitals run out of room. Health chiefs are discussing plans to “move the goalposts” so priority is given to younger patients with better survival chances, it is understood.

Mirror
An A&E doctor today confronted Boris Johnson and urged him to “act now” to protect NHS staff in the coronavirus crisis. Tooting Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan – who works shifts in her local hospital – said the government must secure safety equipment for NHS staff. And she begged Boris Johnson to provide more protective equipment for doctors on the frontline of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Her question came after reports that UK hospitals are beginning to run out of vital equipment needed to protect nurses and doctors from catching coronavirus from infected patients.

Corona/EU

Breitbart
The president of the European Commission admitted that leaders in the EU “underestimated” the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, as the bloc has closed its external borders to foreign travellers. On Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen said that Europe is now the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic and that measures which seemed “drastic” and “draconian” just weeks ago are now necessary to fight the spread of the killer virus. “I think we all, who are not experts, initially underestimated the coronavirus. But in the meantime it has also become clear that this is a virus that will keep us busy for a long time,” von der Leyen told the German newspaper, Bild.

Independent
France has criticised Boris Johnson‘s slow response to coronavirus and said it could ban British nationals if the UK does not implement containment measures in line with the rest of the continent. Across Europe countries have ordered the shutdown of bars, restaurants, cafes, schools and cultural institutions like cinemas, with many imposing restrictions on unnecessary travel.  But in the UK the government has taken a soft-touch approach and only belatedly issued advice to avoid gatherings and travel – which seems to have gone unheeded by many.

Express
THE rapidity with which borders across Europe were closed in the face of the escalating coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent announcement that the EU was banning all non-essential entry of all non-EU nationals, and Germany’s bombshell decision to bar EU visitors, have exposed the inherent contradictions of the Schengen Agreement guaranteeing free movement, experts and politicians have said. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel this evening confirmed it was shutting its borders, two days after Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced new rules on Monday which only EU residents, family members and essential staff – healthcare workers and medical experts – would be exempt from.

ITV News
Wednesday is the day that Europe officially became the new epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis, with the number of deaths by midday today reaching 3,421, compared with 3,384 for Asia. The numbers are rising fast in Europe, while the rate of increase slows in China, South Korea and elsewhere. Italy’s hopes that the death rate may have plateaued have been dashed this evening, with news of 475 new deaths in the last 24 hours and 4,207 new cases confirmed. These are big increases in both figures, and come despite the draconian lockdown across the country. The total death toll is now just below 3,000.

Breitbart
Italy has hit its highest daily coronavirus death toll yet, as 475 people have died in the last 24 hours alone — bringing the nation’s overall death toll to nearly 3,000 on Wednesday. Newly released data from Italy’s Civil Protection reveals that the country’s death toll has jumped from 2,503 deaths on Tuesday to 2,978 on Wednesday, as well as from 31,506 confirmed cases on Tuesday to 35,713 on Wednesday. Italy — Europe’s hardest hit country by the Chinese virus — has been on a nationwide lockdown while the coronavirus death toll and confirmed cases continues to rise, most of them heavily concentrated in Italy’s northern regions.

Fox News
A locked-down Spain continued to edge closer to Iran as health officials announced Wednesday more than 2,500 coronavirus cases were recorded overnight, bringing up the tally well past 13,000. Health officials reported there were 2,538 additional COVID-19 cases across Spain since Tuesday, bringing the rally to at least 13,716. There have been at least 558 deaths nationwide. That’s up from the at least 11,178 cases and 309 deaths in the country announced Tuesday by Spanish health emergency center director, Fernando Simón. Spain remains the fourth most coronavirus infected-nation, edging closer to Iran in third with at least 16,169 cases recorded Wednesday morning.

Yahoo News
A small town in northern Italy has reportedly stopped all new coronavirus infections as part of a successful experiment. Vò, near Venice, was one of the 11 towns and villages at the centre of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak and began the trial at the start of the pandemic in Europe. The experiment involved blanket testing of the town’s entire population of 3,300 people and the imposition of very strict quarantine on those infected and their contacts. Italian news reports suggest the town has not registered new cases since Friday.

Corona/legislation

Standard
Emergency legislation to tackle the coronavirus outbreak is set to be published after Boris Johnson announced the closure of schools and cancellation of exams. Health Secretary Matt Hancock will on Thursday table the Emergency Coronavirus Bill that sets out measures aimed at slowing the spread and supporting the NHS and workers in the Commons. The legislation will be presented as the Army prepares to help out in the crisis and Londoners faced the prospect of greater restrictions, with the capital suffering a faster spread of Covid-19.

Corona/shops

Times
Online supermarkets buckled under the pressure of unprecedented demand yesterday as panic buying continued to grip the country. Internet services crashed or were withdrawn under the weight of the rush while shoppers emptied shelves of everyday staples in some stores. By yesterday evening Ocado, which operates only on the internet, took the unprecedented step of closing its website until Saturday after earlier making customers wait in a virtual queue to gain access. The company had already suspended its smartphone app and stopped accepting new customers.

Corona/schools

Times
Boris Johnson has ordered the first nationwide shutdown of schools in British history to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Exams were cancelled as schools and nurseries prepared to shut their gates indefinitely from Friday with only the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils able to attend basic facilities. Pupils were left in limbo as Mr Johnson took the unprecedented step and indicated that grades would be awarded through an alternative system, but failed to set out details.

Sky News
Schools across the UK will close from Friday until further notice, the education secretary has announced. Speaking in the House of Commons, Gavin Williamson also confirmed that exams and assessments would not be held this academic year. It comes after a further 32 coronavirus-related deaths in England, taking the total number in the UK to 104. Mr Williamson told MPs: “I want to provide parents, students and staff with the certainty they need. “After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed until further notice.

Mirror
Schools across the UK will shut their gates from Friday in a landmark move to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Millions of British children will be sent home – meaning their parents are forced to stay home too to care for them. And sending children to live with grandparents is not an option because they are most at risk from COVID-19. It will radically alter millions of parents’ lives – and mean GCSEs and A-levels are cancelled leaving millions of teenagers in limbo. But not all children are being told to stay away from school.

Mail
All schools in England will close on Friday along with those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in the UK.   Boris Johnson announced the bombshell move this evening and said that when school gates shut at the end of the week they will not reopen for the foreseeable future.  However, a skeleton operation will be kept in place across the country so that the children of key workers – including NHS staff, police officers and supermarket delivery drivers – can be looked after and enable their parents to continue to work.

Telegraph
Boris Johnson has been forced to close schools and draw up plans to lock down London after a sudden surge in coronavirus infections. The Prime Minister announced that A-level and GCSE exams this summer have been cancelled as schools prepare to shut their doors “until further notice” for the first time since the Second World War. Some classrooms will be kept open to look after vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers such as NHS staff, emergency workers and delivery drivers.

Corona/London

Telegraph
Boris Johnson insisted Britain remained a “land of liberty” but refused to rule out a draconian lockdown for London that is expected as early as the weekend. The Government is drawing up sweeping plans to enforce the emergency closure of restaurants, bars, pubs and cinemas in the capital and restrict the use of public transport to only essential “key workers”. The measure would put hundreds of thousands of people out of work and effectively turn London into a ghost town.

iNews
New rules to enforce coronavirus quarantine in London are set to be introduced within days to stop people flouting official advice. The capital has been hit worse by Covid-19 than any other part of the UK, with nearly 1,000 confirmed cases in London so far. Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that the Government would bring in “further and faster measures” to slow the spread of the illness. Some businesses could be forcibly closed and there may be restrictions on travel, similar to those seen in other European countries.

Times
Boris Johnson has asked government departments to draw up plans for a lockdown of London to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The Cabinet Office has written to departments asking for recommendations about restrictions, how they could be implemented and how to ensure “compliance”. The measures, which are being described as a “shielding plan for London”, could be introduced as soon as next week and see businesses closed and restrictions placed on travel. Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, is taking the lead on the policy.

Sun
TWENTY thousand troops are ready to join the fight against coronavirus as “superspreader city” London faces a total lockdown as early as Friday. The armed forces are poised to step in to take over hotels and run them as hospitals as the UK’s death rate spirals and Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to deploy sweeping shutdown measures.  The death toll from coronavirus has now reached 104 in the UK with confirmed cases up to 2,226.

Mail
The Army has put 20,000 troops on standby as Boris Johnson hints London could face a total lockdown within days amid fears the ‘superspreader city’ is the engine of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak after the daily death rate doubled to 33 in 24 hours. The Prime Minister refused to rule out the possibility of ‘further and faster measures’ to control the spread of the virus on the busy streets of the capital, where the epidemic is running ahead of the rest of the country. He said ‘ruthless’ enforcement of so-called social distancing measures – such as working from home and avoiding social gatherings in pubs, cinemas and restaurants – was needed.

Buzzfeed News
Text messages and pictures have been spreading rapidly on WhatsApp on Wednesday claiming that the British army has been deployed on the streets of London ahead of a lockdown to fight coronavirus. However, there is no evidence of the military being used to impose a lockdown, nor are there any known plans for that to happen. Multiple Londoners said on Wednesday that they received WhatsApp messages about the “lockdown”. Some contained only text while others were accompanied by images apparently showing “evidence that the UK military are on the way to enforce a lockdown”.

Star
Nearly all shops and public transport could close in London by the weekend in the most major move yet by authorities amid the coronavirus crisis. TFL is closing 40 underground stations and will run a vastly reduced service for key workers only in a partial shutdown of the capital’s public transport system. Meanwhile sources at Whitehall say most shops will close under the plans are being considered by the Government, it is reported this evening by Sky News.

Telegraph
Dozens of stations on the London Underground network could be closed from Thursday following the outbreak of Covid-19.​ Up to 40 stations which do not interchange with other lines could be closed, while the Waterloo and City line and Night Tube services will not run from Friday. Buses in the capital will be reduced and people are being urged “not to use public transport for anything other than essential journeys”.

Mail
Angry commuters today urged Transport for London to increase the number of Underground trains during rush hour as up to two million Britons continued to travel in and out of the capital during the coronavirus outbreak. Travellers said today they are still being packed in on rush hour services amid concerns over a lack of solid Government advice on travelling during the coronavirus outbreak, as TfL confirmed it is now ‘matching service levels to the actual demand for travel’. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Night Tube could be cancelled.

Corona/scam

Telegraph
The elderly are being targeted by criminals who are exploiting their fears over coronavirus to defraud them as they self-isolate, police chiefs say. Senior officers have revealed reports of fraudsters knocking on the doors of the elderly and vulnerable, offering to buy their food for them and claiming they are licensed by the Government before then running off with their money or credit cards. In Wakefield, a local councillor posted a warning to her constituents after cases of the gangs turning up on the doorsteps of the elderly or at care homes offering to do their shopping to protect them from the coronavirus before stealing their money.

Sun
SCAMMERS are knocking on people’s doors with fake coronavirus tests to get into their homes. There are also reports of thieves trying to rip off quarantined pensioners by offering to shop for them before stealing their cash.  The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau revealed earlier this month it had received reports of 21 cases of by COVID-19-related fraud. Crooks are targeting unsuspecting residents to rip them off as the COVID-19 crisis escalates. Victims have been conned out of more than £800,000 in the last month.

Corona/rail

Telegraph
Ten thousand troops are on standby to combat coronavirus with plans to run hotels as hospitals and man roadblocks if required. The new Covid Support Force, made up of Regular and Reserve units, could be doubled to 20,000 if necessary, the Defence Secretary has announced. Although no requests have so far been made from other Whitehall departments, the MoD says it is ready to backfill police in counter-terrorism tasks as well as routine duties such as roadblocks.

Corona/cure

Telegraph
Hopes that the experimental drug remdesivir could cure patients of coronavirus were raised after a 79-year-old Italian man who had tested positive was given the all-clear following treatment. The broad-spectrum antiviral was developed by US drug firm Gilead for Ebola and was used to treat the Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey when she suffered a relapse 18 months after being cleared of the disease which she contracted while volunteering in Sierra Leone.  Currently remdesivir is being tested in five Covid-19 clinical trials including by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) on 13 patients hospitalised after contracting coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Corona/immunity

ITV News
The UK is “very close” to having a Covid-19 test that can tell if someone has already had the respiratory disease and it immune to it, the Government’s former chief scientific advisor has said. The science and technology allowing the development of this test is progressing “at the speed of light” compared to how it would have several years ago, Professor Sir Mark Walport told ITV’s Peston. The Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation said that such a test would be “very important” as it would allow health care workers to be tested to see if they are immune to coronavirus, having already had the respiratory disease, allowing them to work with those who are infected.

Corona/troops

Times
Soldiers are preparing to drive oxygen tankers around the country to supply hospitals as 20,000 military personnel have been placed on standby. The Ministry of Defence has established a new “Covid support force” to assist public services across the UK, the defence secretary announced last night. An extra 10,000 troops are being held at high readiness, on top of the 10,000 always on standby. Troops are preparing to “back fill” roles in police forces, the prison service, and the border force if staff in these services fall ill.

ITV News
Up to 20,000 service personnel are to form part of a Covid Support Force, the Defence Secretary has announced. Around 10,000 troops are held at “higher readiness” in case of a civil emergency, and this figure will be doubled in the effort to support public services following the coronavirus outbreak. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was “fully engaged” with all levels of Government to work out how the military can provide a support role over the coming weeks and months.

Star
Brits could see 20,000 soldiers flood the streets, taking over hotels and turning them into hospitals and driving oxygen tankers among other measures as the fight against coronavirus sees London go into lockdown. The new “Covid Support Force” will see troops step in as major shutdown measures are brought in, restricting travel and seeing thousands of Brits self-isolate while the Government is looking at powers to keep people at home.

Corona/Scotland

BBC News
The Scottish government has confirmed it is no longer planning to hold an independence referendum this year. Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said the plans had been “paused” due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the move would allow the government to focus all of its resources on the health crisis. In a letter to the UK government, he said: “It follows from this that a referendum will not be held this year.”

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