Coronavirus is dominating the headlines as the number of cases grows each day.
Here are the main developments you need to know today.
World Health Organisation says Europe is now epicentre of coronavirus outbreak
World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said that Europe is now “the epicentre of the pandemic”.
The continent now has more reported cases of the virus and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China, said Dr Tedros in a press conference on Friday.
More than 5,000 people have died worldwide after being diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Ghebreyesus called the death toll a “tragic milestone” and said there was a major funding gap for potential coronavirus vaccines.
The UN agency is launching a solidarity response plan which will allow people and organisations to pledge money for the coronavirus fight.
UK local elections postponed until 2021
Prime minister Boris Johnson has postponed the May 7 local and regional mayoral elections for 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A government spokesperson said: “We will bring forward legislation to postpone local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections until May next year.
“We will also work with the devolved administrations to ensure that they have the necessary powers to do the same.”
The first coronavirus patient in Scotland dies
A patient who had been diagnosed with coronavirus has died in Scotland, the country’s chief medical officer has confirmed.
Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “I am saddened to report that a patient in Scotland who has tested positive for coronavirus has died in hospital. I offer my deepest sympathy to their friends and family at this difficult time.”
She said the patient had been being treated by Lothian Health Board, and was an older person who had had pre-existing health conditions.
“No further information will be available to protect patient confidentiality,” Calderwood added.
Jeremy Hunt criticises UK’s ‘concerning’ approach
The PM also said school trips abroad should be stopped while people over 70 with serious medical conditions should not go on cruises.
Some medical experts have described the UK’s plans as “balanced” and “sensible”, but Hunt has spoken out about his surprise and concern about what he called a “national emergency”.
Asked about the decision not to cancel large gatherings yet, he told BBC Newsnight: “I think it is surprising and concerning that we’re not doing any of it at all when we have just four weeks before we get to the stage that Italy is at.
“You would have thought that every single thing we do in that four weeks would be designed to slow the spread of people catching the virus.”
He added that he was “personally surprised that we’re still allowing external visits to care homes”.
Foreign Office advises against ‘all but essential’ travel to parts of Spain
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against “all but essential” travel to parts of Spain as coronavirus cases in the country edge closer to 4,000.
To date, Spain has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases globally, with 91 deaths recorded in the country.
Now, the government has warned Brits against travelling to Madrid, La Rioja, La Bastida and Vitoria in the Basque Country and Miranda de Ebro.
It comes after the Spanish health ministry designated these places as areas of community transmission, with authorities shutting down schools, theatres and day care centres for the elderly in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Gatherings of more than 1,000 people have also been banned, while a number of museums in Spain have closed their doors.
The UK government has advised Brits with travel plans to Spain to contact their airlines and tour operators.
St Patrick’s Day celebrations cancelled in London
As the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise, London mayor Sadiq Khan announced on Friday that St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the capital had been cancelled.
In a statement, Khan said that key performers and people in the annual parade were no longer able to take part “due to the ongoing threat of coronavirus”.
“London’s Irish community makes a huge contribution to our great city,” he said. “I recognise that the unavailability of key performers and parade participants leaves no choice but to cancel.”
The news comes days after Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar announced all St Patrick’s Day parades and festivals in the Republic of Ireland would not go ahead because of Covid-19.
Celebrations in Belfast have also been scrapped.
Meanwhile, MCM Comic Con in Birmingham – which was due to take place next week – has been postponed until June because of coronavirus fears.
Sports world reels as football matches and London Marathon postponed
The Premier League and English Football League have suspended all games until April 3 as social-distancing measures to tackle coronavirus are ramped up.
It follows the news that Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi have contracted the virus.
Three Leicester players are also being tested, while Everton announced on Thursday that the squad was in self-isolation after a player reported symptoms consistent with the virus.
Championship, League One, and League Two fixtures will all be affected by the postponement, which was announced on Friday morning.
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have also postponed all matched until April 3.
All matches in UEFA competitions, including the Champions League and Europa League, will not take place next week due to the coronavirus, the governing body has also announced.
The 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon has also been postponed and will now take place on October 4 this year, organisers said.
Event director Hugh Brasher said: “The world is in an unprecedented situation grappling with a global pandemic of Covid-19 and public health is everyone’s priority.
“We know how disappointing this news will be for so many – the runners who have trained for many months, the thousands of charities for which they are raising funds and the millions who watch the race every year.”
‘There will be deaths’ in prisons, warns president of the Prison Governors Association
Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, said inmates were likely to die as the spread of coronavirus worsened in the UK.
She said prison governors would “attempt to keep [family] visits going for as long as they can”, while weighing up the public health risk to prisoners and managing staff shortages due to employees self-isolating or being off with illness.
Albutt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have approximately 85,000 people in our prisons and prisons are overcrowded, so when you have a lot of people in a small area, transmission of disease will obviously be easier.
“Coupled with that, we have a significant ageing population – the vulnerable groups, the people the Government keeps telling us will be more susceptible and more ill with this virus.
“Listening to the Government’s specialists yesterday, they are saying the mortality rate is below 1% but in the vulnerable groups it is higher.
“Well, in prisons we don’t completely mirror society with our demographic of prisoners so we do have a higher number of people in the vulnerable groups, so they will be ill and there will be deaths.”
Justin Trudeau’s wife tests positive for virus
In a statement Thursday, the prime minister’s office said: “Following medical recommendations, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was tested for Covid-19 today. The test came back positive.”
“She is feeling well, is taking all the recommended precautions and her symptoms remain mild,” read the statement, which also indicated she’d be staying in isolation.
Earlier Thursday, his office issued a statement that Grégoire Trudeau began “exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms including a low fever late last night” after returning from a speaking engagement in London.
“She immediately sought medical advice, and is being tested for the COVID-19 virus. She is self-isolating at home awaiting test results, and her symptoms have since subsided,” read the statement.
Those results were positive, so the prime minister, who is in “good health with no symptoms,” is taking the “precautionary measure” of isolating himself for 14 days.
Trudeau will reportedly not be tested because he currently has no symptoms, but his scheduled meetings for the rest of the week have been postponed.
Satellite pictures reveal mass graves dug by Iran
Satellite pictures of mass graves dug in the Iranian city of Qom have fuelled fears that the country has been hit harder by the virus than authorities are willing to admit.
First published by the New York Times, the images reveal that a large new section of the Behesht-e Masoumeh had been excavated in February. Two trenches, measuring approximately 90m, have also been dug, The Guardian reports.
According to the latest official health ministry figures there are more than 10,000 confirmed cases and 429 people have died – but it is widely believed that this number falls far short of the true extent of Covid-19′s impact on the county.
A legislator from Qom accused the health ministry of lying about the figures back on February 24, as the trenches were being dug, claiming there had already been 50 deaths in the city alone despite claims from government that just 12 had died at that time, The Guardian reported.
Iraj Harirchi, the nation’s deputy health minister, was seen to be sweating a coughing through a press conference held to “categorically deny” the allegations, and the next day it was confirmed he had tested positive for thee virus.
Mount Everest closed off amid outbreak
Nepal has closed all of its Himalayan peaks including Mount Everest this climbing season because of fears of the coronavirus outbreak, a government minister said on Friday.
Tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai said expeditions to all peaks in the March-May spring season had been suspended.
“It is as a precaution for that,” he added, when asked it its was because of the coronavirus.
Nepal has confirmed just one case of the coronavirus - a student studying in China on a trip home - out of 450 people tested.
The suspension of expeditions in Nepal will affect hundreds of foreign climbers now preparing for the spring season, a window or relatively good weather between the end of the bitterly cold winter and the rainy season, which begins in June.
Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 8,850m, is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet. China announced the closure of its side of the mountain on Thursday.
“This is disappointing news for both our expedition leaders and our clients who have trained for months for this year’s climb,” Lukas Furtenbach, of the California-based guiding company Furtenbach Adventure, said.
Adrian Ballinger of the Alpenglow Expeditions company said he understood the decision.
“While cancelling a climb is never an outcome we want, this time, it’s the responsible thing to do,” Ballinger said in a statement.
“A Covid-19 outbreak at base camp would be dangerous and potentially devastating,” he said.
You can’t kiss the Blarney stone anymore
People will no longer be allowed to kiss the Blarney Stone in Co Cork due to the coronavirus.
According to Irish mythology, whoever kisses the stone is endowed with the “gift of the gab”.
In a tweet, Blarney Castle said: “For the first time in our history the kissing of the Blarney Stone has been postponed until further notice.
“The castle & gardens are still open and we would like to reassure all our visitors that we are doing everything possible to provide a safe experience.”