Coronavirus

Times
Britain recorded its biggest jump in coronavirus cases yesterday with clear signs that the infection is now spreading freely in this country, increasing the risk of an epidemic. Thirty-two more patients were confirmed in England, three times more than in previous days, plus two in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland, taking the UK total to 87. A ban on handshakes is being considered and Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said the government was poised to accept that the virus could no longer be stamped out in Britain.

Sun
CORONAVIRUS cases in Britain have seen their biggest daily spike to date with the number of confirmed infections now at 87. It comes as companies Sony and Nike shut down their UK offices in London and Sunderland and ordered deep cleans of their buildings last night. At least four of the new cases involve patients infected within the UK as health experts warn a ‘significant pandemic’ could be just weeks away. The 34 new cases represent the biggest 24-hour hike in the virus as its spread appears to be accelerating.

Telegraph
Coronavirus has mutated into two strains, one which appears to be far more aggressive, scientists have said, in a discovery which could hinder attempts to develop a vaccine. Researchers at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, discovered the virus has evolved into two major lineages – dubbed ‘L’ and ‘S’ types. The older ‘S-type’ appears to be milder and less infectious, while the ‘L-type’ which emerged later, spreads quickly and currently accounts for around 70 per cent of cases. Genetic analysis of a man in the US who tested positive on January 21, also showed it is possible to be infected with both types.

Yahoo News
Two strains of coronavirus have been discovered since the outbreak began in December, Chinese scientists have said. The two types of Covid-19 are infecting people and making their way around the world. Researchers believe most people have caught the most aggressive form of the disease. More than 94,000 cases of coronavirus had been recorded at the time of writing, and 3,219 people have been killed as a result of contracting the illness. Experts from Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institute Pasteur of Shanghai said 70 per cent of people who have tested positive for coronavirus had the more aggressive strain of the two.

Mail
The Houses of Parliament could shut their doors or allow MPs and Lords to vote remotely in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus. Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has held talks with England’s Chief Medical Officer to discuss plans for if the outbreak gets worse. MPs yesterday suggested holding debates by video link and introducing electronic voting so politicians do not need to travel to Westminster. There are particular concerns about how the virus could affect members of the House of Lords, who have an average age of 70. More than a hundred peers are over 80 years old.

Sky News
Parliament could shut its doors for months under emergency government plans to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. It follows the UK’s biggest day-on-day increase in cases, with 87 people now confirmed to have the disease. MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee are due to question England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty on Thursday as to how well prepared the UK is to deal with the impact of a possible global pandemic. Downing Street has confirmed that Boris Johnson is in talks with the parliamentary authorities about a possible shutdown if the outbreak continues to get worse.

Independent
Emergency discussions have taken place in Westminster over a possible shutdown of parliament if it becomes necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus. Chief medical officer Chris Whitty  briefed Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on the risks on Monday this week, but no decision has yet been taken on whether to send MPs home. And Boris Johnson suggested that an announcement could be made within days on possible alternatives to MPs gathering at Westminster, such as electronic voting and debates by conference call. Ordering a halt to large gatherings – from football matches to concerts to parliament – is one option on offer to public health officials to prevent the spread of the illness if it becomes established in the UK.

Times
Parliament may be suspended for five months to prevent MPs from spreading coronavirus across the country. Britain edged closer to an epidemic yesterday with the biggest daily jump in cases leaving 87 people confirmed as infected. Three of the 36 new cases were intensive care patients who had not travelled recently, suggesting that the virus is already spreading more widely than thought in this country. King’s College Hospital in south London confirmed that two recent patients had tested positive. With public bodies boosting preparations for months of disruption, plans are being drawn up that would mean the Commons and Lords not returning after Easter.

Mail
Medical appointments via webcam, allowing lorry drivers to spend more time on the road and measures to speed up funerals are included in a ‘beast of a bill’ the Government is to introduce to tackle coronavirus. The emergency legislation will also include sick pay for quarantined workers from day one and steps to allow more witnesses in court cases to appear via videolink, it was revealed today as the number of UK cases soared to 85. Plans being lined up to be enshrined in law by the end of the month include laws to allow teachers and pupils go to different schools if theirs close, allowing more lessons to continue, according to the Evening Standard.

Sun
A CRUISE ship has been quarantined off the coast of Greece after a previous tourist on the ship tested positive for coronavirus. Some 2,300 passengers – including 39 Britons – have been told to remain on the MSC Opera after being urgently called back from excursions which they were told was due to a “security problem”. The tourist, from Austria, travelled on board the cruise liner last week before departing in Genoa, Italy. But it wasn’t until after he disembarked and began showing symptoms, that he tested positive for the deadly bug. A letter to passengers from Captain Pietro Esposito read: “I have just learned – and I wanted you to know straight away – that we have been contacted by the Austrian Health Authorities who have informed us that a previous passenger who sailed with us last week on MSC Opera, has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Mail
Goldsmiths College has confirmed a guest visiting their student accommodation has tested positive for coronavirus – but the institution will remain ‘open as normal’.   The case was discovered at one of its seven halls of residence, Chesterman House accommodation, on Tuesday. In a statement issued today Goldsmiths, which is part of the University of London and whose Chancellor is Princess Anne, said the student who the guest was visiting had been put into self-isolation as a precaution. The college in New Cross, south east London, said in a statement: ‘A guest visiting a hall of residence used by Goldsmiths students has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Independent
Emergency measures will be introduced to increase statutory sick pay for individuals by providing payments from the first day off work rather than the fourth amid the coronavirus outbreak.  Speaking at prime minister’s questions, Boris Johnson said the government would introduce legislation to ensure that people self-isolating are protected financially.  Under the existing system, those off work due to illness can claim £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks, but only once an individual has been off work for four or more days in a row.  It comes as the government published its action plan to deal with the increasing cases of coronavirus in the UK and pressure to compensate employees who are following health advice in not turning up to work.

Mirror
Emergency laws to widen statutory sick pay will be rushed in to help people with coronavirus, Boris Johnson announced today. The Prime Minister revealed the £94.25-a-week payment will soon be available from day one of sickness or self-isolation – not after four days of sickness as it is now. But Jeremy Corbyn  slammed the changes for not going far enough – because a £118-a-week income threshold is still in place that blocks sick pay to 2million low-paid workers.  Sitting near Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Mr Johnson faced groans of fury at Prime Minister’s Questions as he said those poor workers can claim Universal Credit instead.

EU

Express
THE EU has sent a chilling warning to Boris Johnson, just days after the two sides entered the first stage of post-Brexit trade talks. Katarina Barley, Vice President of the European Parliament, has hit out at Boris Johnson’s claims on Britain’s future post-Brexit.   The EU chief particularly fears Boris Johnson could turn the UK into a tax haven for companies – something the Prime minister has denied. She told German news site T-Online: “Why should we give you unlimited access to our single market if you try to outdo us with such competitive advantages at the same time? “We like you, but we’re not stupid.” Ms Barley continued her tough approach and warned if the UK wants to purse its desire to gain competitive advantages over the EU, Brussels will not grant Britain access to the single market.

Express
THE UK has issued a furious warning to Emmanuel Macron’s primary trade demand, insisting EU vessels will see their access to UK fishing grounds reduced and that there is no prospect of using the industry as a “bargaining chip” in talks. Environment Secretary George Eustice said the UK has a “strong hand” in negotiations, and claimed Germany and other EU countries who don’t have a strong interest in British waters would prevent France from derailing trade talks over the issue. He also confirmed the Government has increased its fleet of patrol vessels to monitor UK waters after reports French fishermen could block cross-channel ports with huge trawlers if they saw their access to British fishing grounds restricted.

Yahoo News
European Union vessels will see their access to UK fishing grounds reduced and there is no prospect of using the industry as a “bargaining chip” in trade talks, George Eustice said. The Environment Secretary said the UK had a “strong hand” and claimed that Germany and other EU countries without a strong interest in access to British waters would prevent France from derailing trade talks over the issue. He confirmed that the Government had increased its fleet of patrol vessels to monitor UK waters and officials played down the impact of a possible blockade of French ports by the country’s trawlers if they saw their access to British fishing grounds restricted.

Reuters
Britain is optimistic it can reach agreement with the European Union over future fishing rights by July as it is not asking for anything extraordinary, environment minister George Eustice said on Wednesday. Britain left the bloc at the end of January and has begun negotiations on a trade deal to govern future ties. The British government wants a separate agreement on fishing which sets out a process for annual negotiations on total catch. The EU wants continued reciprocal access to British waters and longer-term stable fishing quotas, with a deal on fisheries by July 1. “I am optimistic,” Eustice told a committee of members from parliament’s House of Lords when asked about the prospects of reaching such a deal.

BBC News
British firms exporting fish to the EU will face “some friction” after the post- Brexit transition period ends, the environment secretary has said. George Eustice told a Lords committee companies would “probably” need to fill in health and catch certificates when selling into the EU’s market. But he insisted the UK had a “strong hand” over access to its fishing waters in a deal with the EU. The issue could be an early flashpoint in trade talks, which began this week. The UK wants future access to its fishing waters for EU vessels to be negotiated on a yearly basis, under an agreement similar to the bloc’s existing deal with Norway. But the EU wants to “uphold” existing access to British waters for vessels from member states, to avoid “economic dislocation” for their fishermen.

Northern Ireland

Guardian
The UK will have a “catastrophe” on its hands unless Boris Johnson and cabinet ministers stop repeatedly claiming that there will be no checks in the Irish Sea as part of the special Brexit arrangements, manufacturing leaders and local politicians have warned. “If they don’t there is going to a horrible crash at the end of this year, and if not, then in four years,” said Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of the business group Manufacturing Northern Ireland. Speaking at a debate on Northern Ireland protocol at the Institute for Government thinktank in London on Wednesday, he added: “We are potentially facing some pretty catastrophic outcomes if we don’t get this right.”

Foreign aid

Times
Boris Johnson has secretly moved to strip the Department for International Development of its power to determine how the overseas aid budget is spent, The Times has learnt. In a move that critics claim will politicise Britain’s humanitarian assistance programme, senior managers at Dfid have been told that their staff working overseas will report directly to the Foreign Office. Country directors, responsible for allocating British aid to regional projects, answer directly to Dfid in London at present. But in a memo to senior staff Downing Street said that in future they would have to report to the British ambassador in each country instead, allowing the Foreign Office to influence local aid spending.

Priti Patel

Mail
Boris Johnson heaped praise on Priti Patel at PMQs today despite fresh claims she bullied civil servants. Ms Patel was seated next to Mr Johnson for PMQs as he voiced ‘confidence’ in her and said she is doing an ‘outstanding job’. Challenged by Jeremy Corbyn on the issues, Mr Johnson said it was right that complaints were being looked at by the Cabinet Office.  But he added: ‘The Home Secretary is doing an outstanding job – delivering change, putting police on the streets, cutting crime and delivering a new immigration system – and I’m sticking by her.’

BBC News
Boris Johnson has told MPs he is “sticking by” Home Secretary Priti Patel, following further allegations of bullying against her. Claims she mistreated staff would “of course” be investigated, he said at Prime Minister’s Questions. But he hailed Ms Patel as an “outstanding” home secretary who was “delivering change”. The Cabinet Office is investigating several allegations about Ms Patel’s behaviour, which she denies. The home secretary, who sat next to Mr Johnson at PMQs, has not publicly commented on the allegations.

Independent
Boris Johnson has said he was “sticking by” his home secretary Priti Patel after a senior official at the overseas aid department reported a “tsunami” of bullying allegations. Jeremy Corbyn said the PM “had no shame in defending bullying in his own government”. It comes as a spokesman for Mr Corbyn claimed government staff had contacted the Labour party over the last 24 hours with more “information and allegations” of bullying against Ms Patel. Meanwhile, environment secretary George Eustice warned the EU that the Royal Navy will protect British waters from European fishing boats after Brexit, and a poll shows most Tory party members don’t accept human activity is responsible for climate change.

Education

Guardian
An alliance of headteachers, school governors, councils and unions are to lobby the chancellor for a further £5.5bn a year to help schools in England to avoid financial difficulties and cuts. The coalition, involving almost every significant organisation involved in state schools – including the National Governors Association and a bipartisan group representing both Conservative and Labour-led councils – is writing to Rishi Sunak  before next week’s budget seeking additional funds, with a focus on “woefully underfunded” provision for pupils with special education needs and disabilities (Send).

FlyBe

Times
The budget airline Flybe collapsed today after its fragile finances were dealt a terminal blow by a slump in bookings linked to coronavirus. All flights operated by the troubled carrier were cancelled in the early hours of this morning and its aircraft were impounded. The collapse into administration means that the majority of Flybe’s 2,400 staff have been made redundant. It also triggers huge uncertainty for passengers, with tens of thousands stranded at airports across the UK and mainland Europe today without a flight. Passengers have been told to make their own way home.

BBC News
UK airline Flybe has gone into administration, putting 2,000 jobs at risk, after a bid for fresh financial support failed. The carrier said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on demand for air travel was partly to blame for its collapse. Its website now advises customers to “not travel to the airport” unless they have arranged an alternative flight. Exeter-based Flybe narrowly avoided going bust in January. In a letter to the airline’s staff, chief executive Mark Anderson said: “Despite every effort, we now have no alternative – having failed to find a feasible solution to allow us to keep trading.

Mail
Regional airline Flybe has collapsed leaving passengers stranded at the wrong airports as planes are impounded.  The regional carrier narrowly avoided going bust in January, but has continued to lose money until it went to the wall last night. A drop in demand caused by the coronavirus ‘made a difficult situation worse’ for Flybe and the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed in the early hours that the firm had ceased trading ‘with immediate effect’. Passengers on the low-cost European carrier last night told of how they were kicked off planes after hours waiting on the tarmac for take-off.  Many have been left stranded in the wrong city with no means of getting home as seizure notices are placed on planes across the country including in cities such as Manchester and Glasgow.

Save the Children

Mail
Save the Children UK was yesterday accused of jeopardising public faith in the whole charity sector through its mishandling of sex claims against senior managers. Regulators published a damning report into ‘serious failures’ at the charity and said it had let down its staff and its supporters when it failed to investigate the complaints adequately. The Charity Commission said Save the Children UK (SCUK) broke its own regulations after three women complained about the behaviour of its then chief executive Justin Forsyth.

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