All today’s news is to do with the current coronavirus pandemic.

Dry run

In an exclusive report, the Telegraph says the government hushed up the findings of a dry run of the problem.

The NHS failed a major cross-government test of its ability to handle a severe pandemic but the “terrifying” results were kept secret from the public, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
Ministers were informed three years ago that Britain would be quickly overwhelmed by a severe outbreak amid a shortage of critical care beds, morgue capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE), an investigation has discovered.
Codenamed Exercise Cygnus, the three-day dry run for a pandemic carried out in October 2016 tested how NHS hospitals and other services would cope in the event of a major flu outbreak with a similar mortality rate to Covid-19.
The report on Cygnus’s findings were deemed too sensitive by Whitehall officials to be made public.

The Telegraph reports how the virus was reported to COBR.

Ministers from across government were seated, ashen faced, in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR). On a large flat screen, epidemiologists from Imperial College London were showing a slide which detailed the scale of the epidemic that was enveloping Britain.
The first cases of the virus had been confirmed in south east Asia two months previously. Britain reported its first cases, imported from returning travellers, a month later. Now there was widespread and sustained domestic transmission and the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global pandemic.
But it was not the pandemic itself that was causing those gathered in Whitehall to grimace but the nation’s woeful preparation. The peak of the epidemic had not yet arrived but local resilience forums, hospitals and mortuaries across the country were already being overwhelmed.
There was not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for the nation’s doctors and nurses. The NHS was about to “fall over” due to a shortage of ventilators and critical care beds. Morgues were set to overflow, and it had become terrifyingly evident that the government’s emergency messaging was not getting traction with the public.

Treatment

Survivors’ blood could be used to treat sufferers, says the Telegraph.

Blood donated by patients who have recovered from Covid-19 will imminently be used as part of efforts to treat victims of the disease in NHS hospitals, The Telegraph can disclose.
Senior officials said the health service will start giving hospital patients plasma from those who have recovered from coronavirus, “in the very near future”, after the move was approved by the UK’s medicines watchdog.
The disclosure comes days after the US Food and Drug Administration approved a similar move in America, where doctors can now carry out “convalescent plasma” transfusions for patients with serious infections.
The approach, which was used in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, relies on the fact that the blood of patients who have recovered contains antibodies which can fight the virus.

Testing

Healthy NHS staff could return to work if their tests are negative, reports the Times.

The government faces fresh pressure over its repeated promises to “ramp up” coronavirus testing as it emerged that its latest drive to help NHS workers will initially involve only 800 frontline staff.
Michael Gove, minister for the Cabinet Office, announced the plan on Friday to prioritise antigen testing for health workers, which would allow healthy staff who have been in contact with an infected person to return to work. But health officials said yesterday that it could be several weeks before testing can begin. The NHS has more than 1m staff.

Crime

But some criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic, says the Times.

Police are responding to burglaries at shops and pubs across deserted city and town centres as criminal gangs begin to take advantage of the lockdown.
Many forces are carrying out night patrols in “ghost town” urban centres as burglars shift their focus from residential homes to unoccupied commercial properties.
A spate of such burglaries occurred last week in Manchester, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Glasgow, after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced the closure of all nonessential businesses.
London has not been as severely affected because the capital’s centre has remained “relatively busy” despite the lockdown, according to Metropolitan police sources.

Yahoo News reports criminals trying to extort money from a motorist.

A female driver has been pulled over by fake police officers who tried to issue a £60 fine for unnecessary travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The carer was driving through Brandesburton, East Yorkshire, on Friday, at around 9.30am when two men signalled for her to stop.
The scammers, dressed in black zip-up hoodies, carrying walkie-talkies and wearing earpieces, demanded the woman pay an on-the-spot penalty in cash.
She refused to pay £60 and drove off.

Lockdown

It’ll get worse yet.  The PM is to write to everyone, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson is warning every household he could impose even stricter lockdown measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak as it inevitably worsens.
The Prime Minister, who is self-isolating with Covid-19, is writing to every address telling people the closer they adhere to the rules “the sooner life can return to normal”.
Stressing the “national emergency”, the letters will land on doorsteps after the number of people to have died in UK hospitals surged past 1,000, increasing by 260 in 24 hours.

He’ll reiterate advice to stay home, reports the Mail.

Boris Johnson is writing to every household in the UK to urge the public to obey the lockdown and stay home during the coronavirus ‘national emergency’.
The Prime Minister, who is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, will warn ‘things will get worse before they get better’ as he stresses the need to stay indoors to support the NHS by slowing the spread.
At an anticipated cost of £5.8 million, the letters will land on 30 million doorsteps along with a leaflet spelling out the Government’s advice following much public confusion.

It could last for months yet, reports the Times.

Britain must remain in full lockdown until June if it is to avoid the worst effects of the coronavirus, the government’s leading epidemiology adviser warned last night.
As the virus claimed its 1,000th life in the UK — a doubling of the death toll in just three days — Professor Neil Ferguson said in an interview that the entire population could need to stay at home for nearly three months.
Boris Johnson said yesterday that the pandemic crisis would “get worse before it gets better”.
Senior figures in government have been more optimistic, suggesting the restrictions could be eased sooner than June, with the peak of the crisis predicted to come in the week of April 12 with as few as 5,700 deaths.

Isolation

But for how long?  A week could not be long enough, says the Independent.

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock will risk infecting others with coronavirus by failing to isolate for long enough, a doctor and Labour MP is warning.
Rosena Allin-Khan criticised the government for failing to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines – that people with the disease should stay at home for 14 days, even after their symptoms disappear.
Instead, the prime minister and the health secretary – quoting NHS advice – have both said they will go back to work in just seven days after testing positive.
“This is deeply worrying,” Ms Allin-Khan told The Independent. “I just don’t understand why we don’t play it safe and follow the WHO guidelines.”
The GP, who has drawn praise for heading to the front line of her local London hospital to help it cope with the crisis, added: “I will make this point every single day until government advice changes.

NHS Staff

The Sun has an exclusive report on the mental health of some nurses and doctors.

NHS STAFF battling Covid-19 are already being hit by a shocking rise in mental health problems, the Sun on Sunday can reveal.
One of the country’s largest health support groups say calls and messages to their services leapt nearly 90 per cent last week.
The Laura Hyde Foundation say the relentless workload, lack of proper safety kit and fear of catching the deadly virus are pushing many to the brink of breakdowns.
They are now calling for a new, dedicated hotline to support healthcare workers battling coronavirus.

New hospitals

Pictures of the new field hospitals are emerging.  The Mail calls the preparations ‘incredible’.

Incredible images from inside the ExCeL Centre show construction work to transform the exhibition centre into London’s emergency coronavirus hospital is underway.
The ExCeL London Centre is being refitted to create thousands of new beds for COVID-19 sufferers, complete with oxygen, ventilators and other key equipment in the battle against the deadly virus.
The exhibition centre, in East London, will become the NHS Nightingale Hospital, creating an impressive 4,000 beds.
Before the scale of the crisis became clear, the UK was believed to have had one of the lowest proportions of intensive care units in Europe, but NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens says 33,000 beds are now available for COVID-19 patients.

And further medical facilities could emerge at health clubs, says ITV News.

Health clubs could be turned into emergency hospitals as part of the government’s latest attempt to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, ITV News has learned.
The David Lloyd Leisure Centre chain is in talks with the government about converting “a handful” of its largest gyms into emergency medical facilities.
The clubs are currently unused following restrictions introduced by the Government to control the pandemic. Whitehall officials believe some of its largest leisure centres could offer the space required.
A spokesperson for the fitness group confirmed discussions were underway.

Deaths

Those needing intensive care are most likely to die, says Yahoo News.

The mortality rate for patients put in intensive care after being infected with Covid-19 is running at close to 50%, a report has revealed.
Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) showed that of 165 patients treated in critical care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since the end of February, 79 died, while 86 survived and were discharged. The figures were taken from an audit of 775 people who have been or are in critical care with the disease, across 285 intensive care units. The remaining 610 patients continue to receive intensive care.
The high death rate raises questions about how effective critical care will be in saving the lives of people struck down by the disease. As a top priority, the NHS is opening field hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester, which will incorporate some of the biggest critical care units ever seen in Britain.

Numbers of those who have died are still soaring, reports the Mail.

Britain’s coronavirus death toll rocketed by 260 to 1,019 today as the UK suffered its worst day yet and saw a huge spike in victims.
Across the country a total of 120,776 coronavirus tests have taken place, and a whopping 17,089 have come back positive for Covid-19.
Panic has gripped the nation as it was revealed that today’s total number of deaths is 34 per cent higher than yesterday’s and today has seen the largest daily increase since March 18, when the total shot up from 71 to 104.
However, there has been a slight improvement in the daily rate of new cases. A further 2,510 patients were diagnosed with the virus today, a drop of 411 from the 2,921 new patients diagnosed yesterday.

How many more will die?  The Independent reports the comments of a health boss.

Keeping the number of coronavirus deaths below 20,000 will still be “a good result” for the UK, a health chief says, as he urged the public not to become “complacent”.
Stephen Powis distanced the NHS from a new study predicting the UK is on course for 5,700 deaths fatalities – far lower than originally predicted – suggesting it was far too low.
“If it’s less than 20,000, that would be a good result, although every death is absolutely a tragedy,” he told a Downing Street press conference.
And he added: “We shouldn’t be complacent about that. Although that would be a good result, it will only happen if we stop the transmission of the virus.
“It doesn’t happen by luck, it’s not just chance – it’s because of the actions that you take, I take, we all take, to reduce the transmission of the virus.”

We are being encouraged to help in the fight, says the Guardian.

Every citizen in the United Kingdom must play a part if the number of deaths from coronavirus are to be kept below 20,000, the national medical director has said.
The call for a national effort to reduce deaths came as the total who have died rose by 260 since Friday to 1,019. In total, 17,089 have tested positive in the UK.
At the daily press conference on Covid-19 at Downing Street, Prof Stephen Powis said: “If we can keep deaths below 20,000 we will have done very well in this epidemic.”

The Mirror reports the current death toll of the predictions.

If there are less than 20,000 deaths in the UK from coronavirus then ‘we will have done very well’, the country has been warned.
Today the UK death toll from Covid-19 reached 1,019.
NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powis, speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing alongside Business Secretary Alok Sharma, insisted it’s “possible to get on top of this virus”.
Last week Boris Johnson, who is in self-isolation after himself contracting the deadly bug, said the UK could ‘see the pandemic off’ in 12 weeks.

Mental health

But it’s not only physical health that’s being tested, reports ITV News.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have lent their support to a Public Health England (PHE) initiative to support people’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
PHE has launched new guidance on how to look after your own wellbeing – as well as that of children and other dependants – during strengthened stay-at-home measures.
The guidance offers tips on staying in touch with loved ones using video calls and social media, as well as establishing a healthy sleep pattern or starting a new hobby.
It comes as mental health minister Nadine Dorries – who was herself diagnosed with Covid-19 – also announced an additional £5 million in funding to leading mental health charities to expand their services.

Channel Tunnel

Why is the link between the UK and the EU still open?  The Mail reports:

The Channel Tunnel has remained open despite France battling an ‘extremely high surge’ in Coronavirus cases with 319 new diagnoses in just 24 hours.
Trains between London and Paris were still running after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the ‘epidemic wave’ was sweeping his country with ‘remarkable strength’.
France’s coronavirus death toll today hit 2,314 and the number of confirmed cases reached 37,575, up 4,611 on the day before.
Mr Philippe added: ‘It is submerging our care system and our hospital system with remarkable strength.

China

The eventual repercussions could hit the global epicentre of this pandemic, says the Mail.

Boris Johnson’s allies turned on China over the coronavirus  crisis yesterday, as Britain’s death toll from the epidemic reached four figures.
Ministers and senior Downing Street officials said the Communist state now faces a ‘reckoning’ over its handling of the outbreak and risks becoming a ‘pariah state’.
They are furious over China’s campaign of misinformation, attempts to exploit the pandemic for economic gain and atrocious animal rights record.
The Prime Minister, who now faces Cabinet calls to reverse his decision to let controversial Chinese firm Huawei build large parts of Britain’s new 5G telecoms network, today warns that the epidemic is likely to worsen in the coming weeks – but that he expects the British ‘spirit’ to overcome the crisis.

National Lottery

Lottery funding will be used to help people, says the Mail.

The National Lottery is set to join the fight against coronavirus by distributing up to £300million in funds to support the most vulnerable across the UK during the crisis.
An initiative has been put together which will see charities and voluntary organisations receive a cash injection over the coming months in order to provide services for those most susceptible to the rapid spread of deadly covid-19.
The news, announced by the National Lottery on Friday, comes at a time when the organisation is projected to end the financial year with record ticket sales.
National Lottery has described the move as ‘the UK’s biggest non-governmental contribution to the efforts in local communities to combat covid-19.
Additions reserves are now needed wherever possible, after the death toll jumped by 181 in a single day on Friday to mark the largest daily increase.

The Queen

An exclusive report in the Sun claims Her Majesty may be at risk.

A ROYAL footman in regular contact with the Queen has tested positive for coronavirus — raising fresh fears for Her Majesty.
The servant, whose duties included walking the monarch’s dogs, has been sent home and is self-isolating in the hope of fighting off the virus.
Dozens of other royal household staff have had home tests for coronavirus although all of them have come back negative.
But there was still concern over how close the 93-year-old Queen has come to those potentially infected with the virus.
One royal insider said last night: “Everyone is terrified, not just for themselves but also for the Queen and the Duke.
“If everyone around them hasn’t been tested yet they should be and I’m sure they will be. There is a palpable sense of fear in the air at the moment.”

Rugby

Sport could be helped, reports the Telegraph.

Premiership rugby clubs are to receive a multi-million pound coronavirus bailout from the Government after opting to put their players on sabbatical during the crisis, The Telegraph can reveal.
County cricket clubs are also discussing following suit after being told doing so would also allow them to access funds made available under the coronavirus job retention scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak just over a week ago.
Some lower league football clubs have already placed their players on what is being called ‘furlough’ – which will see the Government pay 80 per cent of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – with others expected to follow after the Treasury confirmed salaried athletes were eligible under the scheme.

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