Coronavirus

The media today are highlighting several aspects of the Covid-19 virus.  The Telegraph has a warning for the elderly.

Elderly people will be warned to stay at home as the coronavirus crisis worsens, with advice to visit relatives now before “social distancing” policies are introduced.
Next week, ministers are expected to announce that Britain has reached the point where all hope of stopping an epidemic has been lost.
It is feared that the outbreak could follow the pattern seen in other European countries.

The Sun also reports a forthcoming warning for older people.

ELDERLY Brits will be told to stay inside and avoid mass gatherings at the height of the coronavirus crisis, it emerged today.
Boris Johnson said the over 65s were “particularly vulnerable” and ministers were looking at specific guidance to make sure they don’t catch the deadly bug.
The PM revealed even he was concerned about members of his family.
He told ITV’s This Morning: “We are all worried… about both my parents. We all have to think about it.”
Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, said “when this starts to run” older people may be told to go into self-isolation from “public environments”.
He told MPs this morning: “We may make advice for older citizens to avoid crowded areas, which might include [Parliament].”

And the Mail reports the advice should go out next week.

Elderly people could be confined to their homes next week as the government ramps up its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ministers are expected to advise people to visit elderly relatives as soon as possible before ‘social distancing’ policies are introduced in which British pensioners could be warned to stay at home and will likely be told to avoid crowded areas.
Two people have died from the virus on British soil so far, both of whom were elderly. On Thursday evening a woman in her 70s, became the first person in the UK to die after being diagnosed with Covid-19 while at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

Men could be worse hit, says the Mail.

Men are 65 per cent more likely than women to die from coronavirus, according to statistics.
Figures from the World Health Organization and Chinese scientists have revealed that 1.7 per cent of women who catch the virus will die compared to 2.8 per cent of men, even though neither sex is more likely to catch it.
More than 98,000 people around the world have now been diagnosed with the virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, and at least 3,383 have died.
Some experts have put the higher risk among men down to higher smoking and drinking rates – both habits weaken the immune system, making people more likely to get ill.

But a heartless professor has said the virus might be beneficial, reports Yahoo News.

A coronavirus pandemic would be “quite useful” as it would take out hospital bed blockers, a former Scottish government official has said.
Professor June Andrews said Covid-19 would allow hospitals with delayed discharges to function as “these people would be taken out of the system”.
The former director of the Scottish Government’s Centre for Change and Innovation admitted that while her comments sounded “horrific”, they were an honest assessment of what could happen.

The Mail reports sporting events could be curtailed.

Sports events could be restricted to crowds of just 500 people if the coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate, under emergency plans drawn up by the government.
The governing bodies of major sports were briefed about the contingency earlier this week and have been summoned to a meeting of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Monday to discuss the logistical implications of limiting attendances.
The government’s official advice that there is no need to limit mass gatherings remains unchanged, but their position is under constant review and sports bodies have been warned that substantial restrictions on attendances may become necessary.

And warnings over upcoming holidays are reported by the Mail.

Holiday plans of thousands of Britons have been thrown into jeopardy due to Italy’s ongoing coronavirus crisis after the UK foreign office changed its advice for travellers to Italy.
British holidaymakers who have booked trips to  Italy feel ‘torn’ on whether or not they should go on their trips and risk catching the coronavirus or stay home and lose their money.
New travel advice from the UK government, announced Thursday night, warned anyone returning from the entire country feeling ill should self isolate.
Previously the warning had been just for the north of Italy.

The Mirror is one of the media reporting cases at Heathrow.

BRITISH Airways has confirmed two of its baggage handlers have tested positive for coronavirus.
The staff members are understood to have been working at Heathrow Airport and have now been placed in self-isolation.
The news will spark fears over how many items of luggage the workers may have handled while carrying the virus, which can survive on plastic surfaces for up to three days.
The total number of Brits infected with coronavirus today hit 163 after 47 positive tests in the last 24 hours.

The Express also has the story.

TWO British Airways baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport have been infected by coronavirus.
British Airways said the two staff members are recovering at home.
The airline said in a statement: “Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that two members of our staff have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.”
The members of staff are baggage handlers who work out of Heathrow Airport.
Handlers of baggage do not usually interact with passengers, working behind the scenes to transport luggage to and from planes.

The Times reports that a vaccine is a long way off.

The country faces a national security risk because it has nowhere capable of manufacturing a coronavirus vaccine when one is found, scientists have said.
A reliance on foreign vaccine suppliers will make the UK vulnerable to a potential second wave of Covid-19 as well as future pandemics, experts said. They called for urgent investment in production capacity.
Researchers around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, which has claimed more than 3,450 lives.

And the Mirror says the homeless could be badly hit.

Ministers must act “urgently” to come up with a plan to help combat the spread coronavirus among the homeless “before it becomes a crisis”, charities and politicians have warned.
The government has not published information on what homeless people should do if they become infected.
Standard NHS advice encourages people to wash their hands regularly to reduce their risk of contracting the virus and self-isolate if they fear they have become infected.
But for rough sleepers, regular access to hot running water and soap could prove a serious barrier.

An assurance by the health minister has been challenged in the Mail.

Supermarkets today cast doubt on suggestions from ministers that food could be delivered to millions of quarantined coronavirus sufferers in a major outbreak.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night that the government was working closely with retailers to ensure that people who self-isolate at home can get essential supplies.
Experts warned that up to one in five people could be off work at the peak of a crisis, that could involve huge numbers of deliveries.
But one supermarket group told the BBC that they did not believe there would be enough capacity. ‘We can’t switch a whole load of new vans on overnight,’ a source said.

The Times says it was an out-and-out lie.

Supermarkets have accused Matt Hancock of lying after the health secretary claimed that the government had been in discussion with them about getting food to people who were self-isolating.
Mr Hancock told viewers of Question Time on BBC One on Thursday that the government was in talks with the supermarkets on the issue. “We are working with the supermarkets to make sure that, if people are self-isolating, then we will be able to get the food and supplies that they need,” he said.
A senior executive of one supermarket chain accused Mr Hancock of lying. “I am really angry about it,” he said.

BBC News reports the claim that Mr Hancock’s words were ‘made up’.

Supermarkets have cast doubts on an assurance from the health secretary that food supplies would not be disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
On Thursday, Matt Hancock said: “We are working with the supermarkets to make sure that, if people are self-isolating, then we will be able to get the food and supplies that they need.”
But supermarket sources said they had not discussed getting food to homes.
One executive said he was “baffled” by the suggestions.
An executive told BBC business editor Simon Jack: “Matt Hancock has totally made up what he said about working with supermarkets. We haven’t heard anything from government directly.”

And the Mirror says supermarkets won’t be able to handle demand.

SUPERMARKETS have warned today they wouldn’t be able to cope with deliveries for people self-isolating against the coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the government was working closely with retailers so those self-isolating could get essential supplies.
Experts have already warned the killer virus could leave one in five people off work at its peak – which could result in massive deliveries.
One supermarket group said they didn’t think they had the ability to meet the demands.

Trade talks

Away from the coronavirus, the Express reports a Tory MP’s comments that we’re doing OK in talks with the EU.

THE UK is in the driving seat in Brexit trade talks because the EU needs a deal more, a Conservative MP has warned.
The two sides began crunch talks earlier this week in what promises to be an intense and bruising ninth-months of back-and-forth post-Brexit negotiations. But deep cracks in talks are already starting to appear, with huge disagreements between the UK and European Union over demands for what they want in the final agreement. Boris Johnson is pushing for a comprehensive Canada-style deal – which would eliminate most import taxes but still require some border checks – as well as demands over fishing, state subsidies and standards.

Boris could face the same problems as his predecessor, claims the Express.

BORIS JOHNSON may face the same issue of his Theresa May during Brexit negotiations, an expert has warned.
The first round of Brexit negotiations concluded on Thursday as Michel Barnier warned of several “divergences” between the two sides. Despite the warning from the EU’s top negotiator, he still said a deal could be possible by the end of the year.
However, Mr Johnson has been warned by Simon Usherwood, professor of politics at Surrey University, he could face the “same issue” as his predecessor.
Although the Prime Minister has a greater majority in the Commons, ultimately he could face a “bumpy road” going forward if he fails to maintain the support of his backbench.

Scotland

Wee Burney’s plans to rejoin the EU could be in jeopardy, says the Express.

SCOTLAND is hoping to re-join the EU after winning a second independence referendum – but Nicola Sturgeon’s plan will be almost impossible to deliver as a surprising country will almost definitely block its entry, Lord David Owen told Express.co.uk.
Britain officially left the European Union on January 31, but not everyone in the UK has given up on EU  membership. Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly rejecting her independence calls, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon remains defiant. The SNP leader believes Scots are being “dragged” out of the bloc against their will.
While Brexit might have made the case for Scottish independence stronger, though, it has also made it practically more difficult.

Social care

The problem of how to care for the elderly is vexing politicians, says the Independent.

All MPs and peers have been asked to come up with solutions to the social care crisis, after Boris Johnson admitted his claim to have a plan was untrue.
In an extraordinary letter, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has asked them all to “share their views” – with the aim of kickstarting talks in May.
The move comes after the prime minister acknowledged he had no proposals, despite claiming – as he entered No 10 last summer – to have a “clear plan to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.

The health secretary has challenged Parliamentarians to come up with a plan, reports the Guardian.

Matt Hancock has written to MPs and peers, urging them to help secure a cross-party consensus on reform of the adult social care system, as the government commits to finding an answer to the ongoing problem.
In his letter, the health secretary says he is determined to find a sustainable solution to the problem of people being hit by large costs that are hard to plan for when their loved ones require social care.
“We know this will not be easy,” Hancock said in his letter. “The number of reports that have been published in recent years with different suggested approaches shows how difficult it is to reach agreement on the best way to reform the social care system.”

Cash

Cash or card?  But is cash available?  The Independent reports.

Poorer communities at risk of becoming “cash deserts” as banks and post offices close are being promised a new law to ensure people can still obtain notes and coins.
The chancellor will commit to the legislation in next week’s Budget, amid a growing recognition that the surge in digital payment methods poses dangers for vulnerable groups.
In a separate move, Rishi Sunak is also expected to announce the abolition of the so-called “tampon tax” at the end of the year – when the post-Brexit transition period ends – removing VAT on women’s sanitary products.

The Express reports there could be new laws involved.

NEW laws to protect the right to use hard cash are to be unveiled. The major boost for millions of Britons who rely on notes and coins will be announced in next week’s Budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said last night: “People across Britain work hard for their money, with millions relying on coins and notes to make their daily payments. That’s why, at next week’s Budget, I’ll be making sure they can continue to access and spend their earnings in whatever way they want.”
The rapid disappearance of many bank branches and free-to-use ATMs has fuelled concerns about people’s ability to continue accessing coins and notes.

Child sexual abuse

The Mail claims a top cop prioritised his officers over children.

The police chief who led Scotland Yard’s bungled VIP child sex abuse inquiry failed to investigate two lying conspiracy theorists to save his force from embarrassment, it was claimed last night.
The pair made false statements backing claims by fantasist ‘Nick’, real name Carl Beech, about a murderous Westminster paedophile ring that the Met had described as ‘credible and true’.
Their testimony in 2015 prolonged Operation Midland and the agony of those falsely accused by Beech for months.
Ex-Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Steve Rodhouse later conceded during an inquiry into Midland that the accusers – known as A and B – had told ‘deliberate’ lies to his officers.

Huawei

A 5G network for the Chinese company is still on the cards, says the Times.

The rebellion against Boris Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei to build part of Britain’s 5G network grew more serious yesterday as the Commons defence committee opened an inquiry into the Chinese tech company.
Mr Johnson is facing the first significant test of his authority since his election triumph in December. The inquiry comes as rebel Tories join opposition parties to demand firmer action to limit Huawei’s  market share.
The inquiry will look into security of the provider’s equipment and the effects on British alliances with  allies such as the US.

The Guardian says a group of MPs is to reject the company.

A group of eight Conservative rebel MPs, including four former cabinet ministers, have put down an amendment calling on the government to eliminate all Huawei technology from the UK’s mobile phone networks by the end of 2022.
Led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, David Davis and Damian Green, the rebels hope to stage a show of strength – although it is not clear whether they can attract the 44 votes needed to threaten Boris Johnson’s majority.
There are some claims they could threaten the government if all opposition parties supported them, but one rebel source told the Guardian the true number of Tory malcontents was in the 30s, not enough to force a defeat.

And Reuters reports an investigation into security.

Britain’s parliamentary defence committee will investigate the security of the country’s 5G mobile network, the group of lawmakers said on Friday, amid continued concerns about the role of Chinese company Huawei.
In January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to grant Huawei a limited role in Britain’s 5G mobile network, frustrating a global bid by the United States to exclude the firm from the West’s next-generation communications systems.
The security of 5G will now be subject to an inquiry by a sub-committee of the parliamentary defence committee, it said.

Boris’ Tories could be revolting over the issue, says the Independent.

Boris Johnson is facing his first major Commons rebellion as a group of senior Conservatives mount a bid to ban Huawei from the UK’s 5G infrastructure by 2022.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and a group of senior MPs have tabled an amendment to legislation due in parliament on Tuesday, which would lock out “high-risk vendors” such as Huawei from the network by the end of 2022.
While Mr Johnson commands an 80-strong majority, the group – which includes former cabinet ministers David Davis, Damian Green and Owen Paterson – expects dozens of Tories to back it, potentially inflicting a defeat on the government.

World War 3

And if coronavirus and Brexit are not enough, the Express quotes a Soviet threat of war.

NUCLEAR warfare with the United States is now a real “option” according to Russia’s foreign minister.
Maria Zakharova has accused the US of continuing to “modernise” its current nuclear capability in an attempt to “expand its eventual” use. Speaking on Friday, the spokeswoman Russian foreign ministery claimed a nuclear conflict is becoming more likely.
She said: “Washington is not just modernising its nuclear forces, but is striving to give them new capabilities, which greatly expands the likelihood of their use.”
Ms Zakharova said the US is “considering a nuclear conflict as a real political option”.

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