NHS

ITV News
A national salute is set to take place to honour the hardworking NHS staff who are trying to battle coronavirus. In a gesture of thanks to the frontline healthcare heroes, everyone across the nation has been invited to join a a mass round of applause from their doorsteps, windows and balconies on Thursday at 8pm. The Clap For Carers campaign, which started online, is being staged because “during these unprecedented times they need to know we are grateful”, according to the organisers. The Wembley Arch, the Principality Stadium, the Royal Albert Hall and Lincoln Cathedral are said to be among some of the landmarks which are set to be lit up in blue during the salute. It is part of the \#lightitblue campaign which has been organised by members of the events and entertainment industry as a way to say thank you.

Independent
Coronavirus demand on intensive care units should peak in two and a half to three weeks’ time at a level which will not overwhelm the NHS, a leading scientist has told MPs. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, whose shock report warning of 250,000 deaths if politicians did nothing spurred Boris Johnson to order the nationwide lockdown, said that current measures should limit UK fatalities to a maximum of 20,000 – and potentially “substantially lower”. He said politicians will face crucial decisions in three to four weeks’ time on whether to risk lifting restrictions on movements and social contact, which could see a possible resurgence in Covid-19 infections or to maintain the lockdown for as long as a year.

Breitbart
A senior scientist from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the decision to lock down the UK and efforts to increase capacity at intensive care units means that the NHS may be able to cope with the worst part of the pandemic. Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson told MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on Wednesday that the measures will help turn the outbreak “from a growing epidemic into a declining one”. He said: “With this current strategy being adopted now we think that in some areas of the country ICUs will get very close to capacity but it won’t be breached at a national level.

Times
It is six months since Boris Johnson promised that £13 billion would be invested in “the biggest programme of hospital building in a generation”. Had he known what was to confront Britain a little more than 100 days after the general election, he might have been moved to double the pledge and then add a few billion more. Could the NHS have been better prepared for Covid-19? There is only one answer emerging from the warzones of its wards, where medical staff complain of being treated as “cannon fodder”, and older doctors, who are more at risk of serious illness if they contract the virus, are said to be increasingly worried.

Mail
Working in an NHS hospital, you get used to gruelling 13-hour shifts that leave you wrung out from exhaustion.  Yet somehow, even when things are difficult, my colleagues and I have always coped.  Until now.  For in the past two weeks, since coronavirus struck the hospital where I work in the south of England, chaos has descended.  The reason? Just as our hospitals face their biggest challenge in a century, vital staff – from doctors and nurses to cooks and cleaners – are being unnecessarily kept away from the front line.

Volunteers

Sky News
More than half a million people have signed up to the NHS volunteer scheme – double the original target which was set on Tuesday. Some 504,303 have agreed to take part in the initiative, Sky News understands. Speaking at the government’s daily COVID-19 news conference earlier, Boris Johnson said he wanted to offer a “special thank you to everyone who has now volunteered to help the NHS”.

ITV News
The prime minister has said 405,000 people have volunteered for the NHS through the coronavirus crisis. The announcement comes after the Government asked 250,000 people to come forward to help the health service as it faces its biggest challenge since its inception. Mr Johnson, speaking at the daily press conference inside Number 10, said he wanted to offer a “special thank you to everyone who has now volunteered to help the NHS”.

EU

Breitbart
Italian authorities have seized a shipment of 1,840 manual respirators and other supplies in the port of Ancona that was heading for Greece in order to help fight the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. The seizures were carried out by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a police division under the authority of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, under a prohibition for companies to sell medical devices overseas during the coronavirus crisis. The truck containing the medical supplies was stopped by authorities after it had passed a number of security checks before it was about to head to Greece.

Coronavirus law

Independent
Draconian emergency powers to help ministers deal with the covid-19 pandemic have become law, as the Queen granted the legislation royal assent. It comes after both the Lords and the Commons passed the unprecedented 329-page bill in just three days, bringing into force the Coronavirus Act 2020. It will see the powers of ministers, councils, police, health professionals and coroners temporarily strengthened during the UK’s current lockdown, which is designed to stall the spread of the potentially deadly illness. Ministers, for example, will now have the ability to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings during the outbreak of the virus, “in any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft, any moveable structure and any offshore installations and where necessary, to close premises”.

Testing

Telegraph
The Government has announced that Britons will be able to conduct coronavirus antibody tests at home within a matter of days with finger-prick kits that will be available from Amazon and Boots. But what are these tests – and do they work? An antibody test can detect if a person has had the coronavirus before and has since recovered. The test, carried out by a device that pricks your finger for blood, works this out by testing your blood for coronavirus antibodies to see if they have already beaten the virus and gained some immunity to it. It can do this in about 15 minutes.

Times
A home finger-prick test for the coronavirus will be offered to millions of people and delivered by Amazon if checks this week show that it works. Those who have been tested could be allowed back to work if they have recovered and the tests show that they are immune, offering Britain a gradual route out of the lockdown. If evaluation reveals that the test is accurate, NHS staff would be offered it in the next few weeks, with the general population gaining access online and in pharmacies.

Death toll

Times
The virus death toll could end up being “substantially lower” than 20,000 with most of the fatalities in people who would have died later this year anyway, a government adviser has said. Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College scientist whose research precipitated tougher government measures last week, told MPs: “It [the deaths of those who would have died anyway] might be as much as half or two thirds of the deaths we see, because these are people at the end of their lives or who have underlying conditions.”

Borders

Mail
Priti Patel has called for UK borders to be closed to stop people arriving from coronavirus hotspots. The Home Secretary is seeking support for her plans to stop passengers being able to fly in to the UK from countries with high levels of infections such as Iran, the US and China. Mrs Patel believes flights from virus hotspots should not be allowed when the country is on lockdown to prevent its spread, The Daily Telegraph reported. The lack of a travel ban in the UK is in stark contrast to policies in the EU and the US, which have closed their borders to travellers from many other countries.

Hospitals

Sky News
Officials are looking to convert around 10 more sites across the country into makeshift coronavirus hospitals similar to the ExCel exhibition centre in London, Sky News understands. Military planners are already examining five locations in support of the Department of Health and Social Care, a Whitehall source said. They would not confirm any of the areas, but said they would likely include major cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle. A second source with knowledge of government planning for the COVID-19  pandemic said the aim was to convert between eight to 10 sites into hospital facilities.

Self-employed

Telegraph
One in three self-employed workers are in line to have the Government pay their wages amid the coronavirus crisis after Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, warned that all five million could not expect “blanket cash subsidies”. On Thursday, Mr Sunak will announce an emergency package for the self-employed, nearly a week after setting out 80 per cent wage subsidies for employees.  The Treasury has spent days deliberating how to best target the self-employed people who need help most. One option is to offer a similar subsidy to the one given to employees, but with a lower cap than £2,500 to make the bailout more affordable.

BBC News
Self-employed workers facing financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus are set to be offered a package of support from the government. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil the measures later. He set out plans for 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers last week – and the PM has said he wants similar protection for freelancers. However, Boris Johnson added he could not promise the UK would beat the virus “without any kind of hardship at all”.

Mirror
Measures to help self-employed people through the coronavirus outbreak will be announced tomorrow afternoon, the Mirror understands. Treasury sources say Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce the long-awaited package at the daily Downing Street press conference on Thursday. It comes after days of complaints that Britain’s 5million self-employed people have been left high and dry in the Covid-19 outbreak. Self-employed people aren’t eligible for either Statutory Sick Pay or an 80% wage guarantee scheme that’s being offered to full- and part-time workers. Instead they have been forced to claim Universal Credit.

Sky News
A coronavirus bail-out for the self-employed is being unveiled by the chancellor after pressure from MPs, but handouts could go to only one in three of the five million who work for themselves. Rishi Sunak will announce an emergency package at Boris Johnson’s daily Downing Street news conference, promising help for groups such as builders, taxi drivers, hairdressers and childminders. But while he will promise to match the 80% of earnings he promised staff employees last Friday, the monthly cap is likely to be lower than the £2,500 in that coronavirus scheme because many self-employed pay less tax.

Sun
MILLIONS of struggling self-employed workers will have to wait until the end of May to get emergency wages from the government. Rishi Sunak will reveal today the tough news that coronavirus bailout cash won’t be available for them for at least eight further weeks. In a bid to prioritise the nation’s most needy, The Sun can also reveal the Chancellor will target the emergency help at low and middle earners only. The bitter sweet pill comes as Mr Sunak unveils his long-awaited package of support for the nation’s own bosses.

Guardian
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce that the taxpayer will pay self-employed workers up to 80% of their recent earnings to help contain the economic impact of coronavirus, as 470,000 extra benefits claims sparked warnings of an “unemployment crisis”. Sunak has been under growing pressure to do more for the UK’s 5 million self-employed after announcing an unprecedented job retention scheme for employees last Friday, that will see thousands paid to stay at home. It comes as Covid-19 claimed the life of a 21-year-old woman from Buckinghamshire, according to her family, and Britain’s deputy ambassador to Hungary, who was 37.

Mail
A ‘huge’ package of potentially hundreds of billions of pounds of support for the self-employed will be unveiled today after ministers came under pressure from MPs.  Boris Johnson said that while the Government was ‘putting our arms around’ every worker, he could not guarantee that the self-employed would not face ‘any kind of hardship at all’.  But the Prime Minister said he wanted to get ‘parity of support’ so the self-employed could have similar levels of protection to workers with jobs.  He told the Commons yesterday: ‘There are particular difficulties with those who are not on PAYE schemes… I think the whole House understands.

Illegal immigration

Mail
Dozens of migrants were given coronavirus tests before being detained by the Border Force on entry to the UK today, as 169 people were intercepted trying to cross the English Channel, despite the state of national lockdown. It is understood 95 people, including nine who identified as children, were taken into the Port of Dover and handed over to immigration  officers, after being tested for Covid-19.  Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, has now called for any migrants coming into Kent to be taken straight into quarantine for 14 days.

Fox News
United Kingdom immigration officials have detained and tested nearly 100 migrants attempting to enter the country Wednesday during the coronavirus  outbreak, a report says. Five boats carrying 84 migrants – some of whom were photographed wearing face masks – were intercepted in the English Channel early this morning, according to The Daily Mail. They later were taken to the Port of Dover for processing. Elsewhere, 14 people were rescued by French officials after their boat became adrift following its departure from the coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, the newspaper added.

Motoring

Independent
The government has granted drivers a six-month extension to their MOT because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Motorists who have an MOT due from Monday 30 March will not have to do anything and will automatically be given a six-month extension. However, vehicles must still be kept in a roadworthy condition, with garages remaining open for essential repair works, and prosecutions for unsafe vehicles still possible. The new change applies to car, motorcycle and vans. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We must ensure those on the frontline of helping the nation combat Covid-19 are able to do so.

Mirror
Motorists will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing, allowing them to continue essential travel, the Government has announced. All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MOT test will be exempted from needing a test from 30 March. Lorry, bus and trailer annual MOTs have also been suspended for three months because of the coronavirus outbreak. Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work, transport minister Grant Shapps said. Under government guidelines, people should stay at home and avoid travel.

Trains

Independent
London Underground carriages were crowded for a second consecutive day early on Wednesday, despite Boris Johnson’s decision to put the UK on lockdown, as a row erupted between the government and city mayor Sadiq Khan over service levels. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick insisted more Tube trains should be running to prevent NHS workers travelling “cheek by jowl” with others during the coronavirus  outbreak. “We think that can be resolved by laying on more trains and we are urging the mayor of London to do so,” the minister told BBC Breakfast.

Booze

Times
Off-licences have been added to the list of essential shops that can stay open during the pandemic after reports of supermarkets running out of beer and wine emerged. The last-minute addition was made yesterday after the government initially said that only off-licences that doubled as corner shops could remain open. The list of essential businesses has been updated to include “off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries”. The decision came after reports of supermarkets running out of beer, wine and spirits.

Star
Off-licences, public loos and credit unions will stay open after being added to the list of “essential shops” during the coronavirus shutdown. The updated list clarifies which businesses can stay open after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the shutdown of “non-essential” stores in the UK in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. Other shops and stores that will stay open include cash points, car rental services, banks and post offices. Boris Johnson had already announced that supermarkets, pharmacies and newsagents were allowed to stay open as they are classed as essential.

Prince Charles

Mail
The Queen and Prince Philip face a nervous wait at Windsor Castle after Prince Charles today revealed he has tested positive for coronavirus. The Prince of Wales, 71, has a ‘mild’ form of the illness and is on the Balmoral estate with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who has tested negative and is without any symptoms of the virus, which has killed 435 and infected 8,200 more in the UK so far.  The Queen and Philip had already travelled to Windsor Castle before the announcement from Clarence House today, after moving to the royal estate last Thursday.

ITV News
Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus, Clarence House has announced. The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus. A source said both remained in good spirits and that the prince was up and about and not bedridden, while the medical advice is that it is unlikely to escalate into a more serious case. Buckingham Palace have said the Queen “remains in good health” and last saw Charles on the morning of March 12. The Duke of Edinburgh was not with the Queen at Buckingham Palace when she last met Charles, the palace confirmed.

Sun
DR Hilary has said Prince Charles is “not out of the woods yet” after he tested positive for coronavirus. Clarence House confirmed the 71-year-old royal is infected with COVID-19, but has only got mild symptoms. Dr Hilary told The Sun today: “Prince Charles, aged 71, has tested positive. I would like to know how he managed to get a test by the way when healthcare professionals on the front line are still not able to get tested. “It’s absolutely right that healthcare professionals are in the forefront of testing. “So when one of the members of our monarchy is affected with this yes this could affect anybody.

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