Deaths

Mail
The UK recorded another 563 coronavirus deaths today (Wednesday), making it the worst day so far in the devastating COVID-19 crisis. The increase takes the country’s total death toll to 2,352 – today’s surge is 48 per cent larger than yesterday’s increase of 381 fatalities and pushes the total up by 31 per cent in a day. And 29,474 people have now tested positive for COVID-19. The UK is the fifth hardest-hit nation in Europe and eighth in the world. Wales today recorded 29 new deaths caused by the coronavirus along with a further 16 fatalities in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland. 486 victims were declared in England and 11 remain unaccounted for.

Sun
THE UK coronavirus death rate has shot up by another 50 per cent today (Wednesday) – after 563 people died in a single day. The total number of patients who have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus has gone up from 1,789 to 2,352. That is the biggest day-on-day increase for the second day running. Yesterday, the death rate had already doubled on the day before, as 381 more patients died. The Department of Health today confirmed another 563 had died – meaning the rate has increased by another 50 per cent. The worrying trend suggests the spike in deaths is getting steeper.

ITV News
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases around the globe will exceed one million in the coming days, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. The announcement comes as figures revealed the number of deaths globally has doubled in the last week, with the UK recording 563 in one day. The global health body said it was concerned by the “near exponential” growth in the number of confirmed cases around the world. Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of deaths is close to reaching 50,000. He said: “As we enter the fourth month since the start of the pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection,” he said.

Infections

Sun
CORONAVIRUS may have already infected more than 1.7million Brits, new NHS figures suggest. Data from NHS 111 online reports thousands of people were registered as potential cases through web and phone assessments. From March 18, 1,496,651 people had registered online with symptoms that could fit with the virus, with another 243,543 assessments made through NHS 111 and 999 calls. However this may not mean each call or web assessment was for a different person, concerned unwell Brits may have used various channels for help. Coronavirus is likely to peak over Easter — causing the worst holiday disruption since World War Two. Tens of thousands of people in Britain will be infected by the killer bug in the coming weeks, health officials warned.

Star
The deadly coronavirus may have already infected more than 1.7 million Brits, according to new NHS data. NHS 111 online date shows thousands of people were registered as “potential cases” in phone and web assessments. Since March 18, nearly 1.5 million people had registered online with symptoms that could fit with the virus, with another 243,543 assessments made through NHS 111 and 999 calls. However, it is unclear whether calls and online assessments are individual people – Brits could have used more than one channel to report their symptoms. This comes after claims that UK could be heading for 1,000 deaths-a-day by this weekend.

Lockdown

Mail
The UK’s lockdown appears to be blocking the spread of the coronavirus so well that it could drive the outbreak to an early end, scientists say. Researchers say each infected patient may now only be passing COVID-19 on to 0.62 others, on average, down from 2.6 each before people were forced to stay at home. A virus must have a reproduction number – known to scientists as an R0 (R-nought) – of more than one for an outbreak to be able to carry on. If it’s prevented from spreading on at least a one-to-one ratio it will quickly run out of new victims and the epidemic will come to an end if the R0 can be kept down.

City AM
The UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures should “lead to a substantial impact and a decline in cases” in the coming weeks, a new study said. The research by scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) concluded that the coronavirus lockdown would help delay the spread of the virus but said there would be a lag before the impact of the measures was felt. “This projected decline in incidence will not occur immediately as there are significant delays between infection, the onset of symptomatic disease and hospitalisation,” the study said. They study was focused on whether strict social distancing measures would have an impact on the reproduction number of the virus – that is the average number of secondary cases generated per case.

Clap for NHS

Sun
THE Sun today calls on readers to show their respect and appreciation for the NHS by again applauding them — and on every Thursday of the coronavirus crisis. We want the public to open a window or head to the garden or balcony to hail our hero medics at 8pm. You can even turn your house blue in support — like 200 UK landmarks including Tower Bridge, the White Cliffs of Dover and Angel of the North near Gateshead. Millions took part in last Thursday’s first clap and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, in isolation with the illness, said: “It was incredibly moving to see the country  come together to thank our NHS heroes. “I’m fully behind any effort to make sure they know just how much we value them.”

Testing

Times
A British entrepreneur who has been running coronavirus tests for local GPs in Oxfordshire has called on hundreds of small laboratories across the country to begin testing frontline healthcare workers. Mike Fischer, 69, the director of a medical research laboratory in Abingdon, has launched a recruitment drive to persuade other laboratories to volunteer their help with testing despite not having formal approval. For the past two weeks, he has put his laboratory to work testing samples taken from local healthcare workers. He said that there was “nothing very special about our lab” or the PCR testing machines it has and that many others could be taking the same approach.

Mail
A medical researcher says he has developed a test for COVID-19 that can produce results within five minutes and could cost as little as £2 per kit. Currently, suspected patients have to wait 48 hours for results, with some reporting wait times much longer than that. But with scientists around the world clamouring to produce a reliable, quick and cost-effective test for the coronavirus, Professor Maneesh Singh from Hull believes his company, Biocel Analytics, has come up with a unique method. It involves the field of infrared microspectroscopy, which is used to identify and study the contents of chemical substances.

Independent
Just 2,000 NHS frontline staff forced to stay home due to coronavirus have been tested to see if they can return to work, Downing Street has admitted. The figure – a tiny fraction of the 125,000 staff believed to be self isolating – emerged as the government faced mounting criticism for its failure to move to mass testing for Covid-19. Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle told a Downing Street press conference that officials hoped hundreds of thousands of staff would be tested “within the coming weeks”. But ministers were unable to give clear answers on how quickly they can ramp up antigen tests, which show whether someone has the disease.

BBC News
Testing is the solution to “unlock the puzzle” of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. Mr Johnson was speaking after it was revealed only 2,000 out of some half a million frontline NHS workers in England had been tested. The PM said the government needed to “massively ramp up” testing so that NHS staff who are self-isolating unnecessarily could return to work. It came as the UK had its biggest daily increase in deaths – 563. As of 17:00 on Tuesday, the overall number of deaths from the virus in the UK was 2,352.

Telegraph
Ministers were on Wednesday night unable to answer basic questions about when Britain’s testing regime for coronavirus is to be increased dramatically in scale to allow the country to plan its exit from lockdown. After days of mounting concerns over the growing testing crisis, it is still unclear when NHS workers are to be tested, when mass testing for the population is to be rolled out or even whether the Government has a plan to end the nation’s quarantine. Wednesday’s death toll from the virus was 563, overtaking France’s highest daily figures and bringing the total number of deaths in the UK to 2,352. Asked repeatedly at the Downing Street press conference  about why Britain lags behind other nations in testing, Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, said “increasing testing capacity is absolutely the Government’s top priority”, but failed to explain when the numbers would increase. There is understood to be frustration within government over Public Health England, which is responsible for testing and is not thought to be rising to the challenge.

Times
Boris Johnson has been forced to shift strategy on the government’s testing regime for coronavirus after criticism of the slow pace of checks being carried out on frontline NHS staff. Private laboratories are now being drafted in to do the tests where before these were being performed through a centralised process. The prime minister accepted last night that mass testing was the way out of the crisis and said in a tweet that it would “eventually unlock the puzzle of coronavirus”. Hospitals revealed yesterday how they had to beg for testing supplies from vets and brew their own chemicals to check staff because of shortages.

ITV News
Testing is a “side issue” when it comes to reducing the number of deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said, suggesting instead that the focus must remain on social distancing. The Government has come under increasing pressure to ramp up testing for Covid-19 and on Wednesday it emerged just 2,000 frontline NHS England staff have been tested. On the same day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to increase testing, saying “this is how we will defeat Covid-19 in the end”. Speaking on ITV’s Peston, Professor Jonathan Van Tam said social distancing is the key to reducing the rate of infection, rather than testing. He said: “What matters is slowing the rate of new infections. “And the only way you can slow the rate of new infections, irrespective of whether they’re tested or not, it’s a bit of a side issue to be truthful with you, what’s important is the social distancing, stopping people coming into contact, so that the rate of new cases slows.”

Ventilators

Independent
Only 30 new British-built ventilators will be delivered to the NHS next week to treat coronavirus patients, the government has admitted. Cabinet office minister Michael Gove told a press conference on Tuesday that the “first of thousands” of new devices manufactured in the UK would be sent to the front line next week but he did not specify how many would be in the first delivery. Officials admitted on Wednesday that the first batch will only include 30 ventilators, with hundreds more expected in the coming weeks. The NHS currently has around 8,000 ventilators to treat coronavirus patients but another 30,000 devices will be needed to cope with the expected peak of the outbreak in April. Downing Street said 30 new ventilator devices would be delivered to the NHS next week from Oxfordshire-based firm Penlon, as part of a consortium including Ford, Siemens, Mercedes, McLaren and Meggitt.

Parliament

Independent
Parliament should be able to operate “virtually” to allow MPs to scrutinise the government during the coronavirus crisis, the Commons speaker said. Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs should still be able to take part in prime minister’s questions and grill government ministers if the UK “is still in the grip of the coronavirus crisis” when the Commons is due to return after the Easter recess. In a letter to Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Lindsay said he had ordered officials to look at technological solutions to use in the Commons chamber if the continuing spread of coronavirus means MPs would be at risk in parliament. It comes after more than 200 MPs wrote to the Commons clerk John Benger to call for a form of remote oversight amid fears the government is ducking scrutiny of its handling of the crisis.

Guardian
The government is to set up a virtual parliament to allow MPs to scrutinise its response to the coronavirus crisis following demands from the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, and opposition parties. The move was announced on Wednesday night amid mounting concerns that the government has failed to get a grip on the crisis, with claims that health workers’ lives are at risk because of a lack of protective equipment and a shortage of tests for the virus. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, announced the move in a statement that said the government and parliament hoped appropriate technology would be in place by 21 April, when MPs are due to return to Westminster.

Express
THE GOVERNMENT has announced plans to set up a virtual parliament which will allow MPs to fulfil some of their roles as the coronavirus pandemic continues, it has been claimed. In a letter on Wednesday to the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle urged the government to consider implementing such a plan as a way for MPs to ask questions to government officials. He wrote that MPs are being ‘swamped’ with questions from distressed constituents, and that “responses to these questions cannot wait for the House to sit again.” Parliament is currently in recess until April 21 provisionally, after it closed early for Easter amid coronavirus fears. However, the return date is not set in stone and could be pushed back further if the recess is extended.

MoD

Sky News
Britain is calling up 3,000 reservists for a six-month mobilisation to help in the fight against coronavirus and is putting their civilian employers on notice. Only part-time soldiers, sailors, airmen and Royal Marines with specialist skills, such as in engineering, logistics and accountancy, will be activated. Those in the NHS and other frontline services already involved in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will not be asked to switch into a military uniform. The reservists will be part of what is being called the COVID Support Force on top of 20,000 regular service personnel. It lifts to 23,000 the potential pool of military personnel available for the government’s coronavirus response.

ITV News
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is calling up 3,000 military reservists to carry out tasks such as providing “support for the NHS” as part of the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis. The MOD says it has “contacted employers” to advise them of the next step in their “intelligent mobilisation” of Reserve Forces during the outbreak. The department said only reservists with “specialist skills that meet specific requests for help” from the Government will be required. In an update posted on the Government website, the MOD said the reservists would be deployed for tasks including “providing additional medical and logistical support for the NHS”.

EU

Breitbart
A group of Italian politicians have warned that the European Union will “cease to exist” if countries in the bloc refuse to increase funding to the nations hardest hit by the Chinese coronavirus. On Tuesday, mayors and other politicians from Italy took out a full-page advertisement in a German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, criticising the Netherlands and Germany for refusing to back so-called “coronabonds” to underwrite the debt accumulated by Italy and other coronavirus epicentre countries in the European Union. “Dear German friends, with the coronavirus the shared history of the Western world has once again taken centre stage,” the Italian politicians wrote. “Today the EU does not have the means to respond to the crisis in a united front. If it does not prove that it exists, it will cease to exist,” they warned.

Times
Europe’s highest court will continue to rule over British legal disputes until a final Brexit deal is agreed, the UK’s most senior judges said. Courts in the UK will be obliged to refer cases involving unclear EU laws to the European Court of Justice until the country fully leaves the union, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday in a case relating to a mistake over VAT charges. The ruling will infuriate Brexiteers who have demanded that EU legal jurisdiction over cases is brought to an end. Lord Hodge, the deputy president of the Supreme Court, said, however, that current case law did not provide a clear answer in a dispute over EU law.

Times
Hungary is turning into the EU’s first fully fledged autocracy, critics have warned, after its prime minister assumed the indefinite power to rule by decree and protests grew against a nationalist curriculum imposed upon schools. The emergency powers presaged an assault on the free press, analysts said, and the state takeover of retailers and energy and healthcare companies, some 140 of which are already being monitored by military “task forces”. Under the so-called “omnipotence” law, Viktor Orban, who has governed for a decade, will be able to take measures without parliamentary approval for as long as he sees fit. “Calling the Orban government an autocracy is by no means an exaggeration,” Koloman Brenner, deputy parliamentary leader of the opposition party Jobbik, said.

iNews
Hungary’s rightwing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appears to have  laid bare his dictatorial instincts by using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to pass a sweeping bill that allows him to rule by decree indefinitely. The Government insists that the new law is needed to combat coronavirus, even though the country registered a total of just 492 Covid-19 cases and 16 deaths. But the power grab seems designed to silence Mr Orbán’s enemies: elections are suspended, parliament can be sidestepped, existing laws can be ignored, and journalists face up to five years jail for spreading “misinformation”. Hungary’s draconian measures are part of a wider pattern in countries like Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia.

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