Eight Coronavirus Developments On March 15 2020

Over-70s to be asked to self-isolate "within weeks", and supermarkets plead with the public to avoid panic buying. Here's the latest.

Coronavirus is dominating the headlines as the number of cases grows each day.

According to official figures published on Sunday afternoon, 1,372 people have now tested positive for the virus – an increase of 232 on Saturday’s figures.

Thirty-five people are now known to have died after contracting Covid-19.

Here are the latest updates:

Over-70s to be asked to self-isolate for up to four months

Elderly people will be asked to self isolate, the health secretary has said.
Elderly people will be asked to self isolate, the health secretary has said.
Biserka Stojanovic via Getty Images

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Sunday morning that people aged over 70 will be asked in the coming weeks to self-isolate for up to four months in order to protect them from the coronavirus.

Asked if that was in the government’s plan, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “That is in the action plan, yes, and we will be setting it out with more detail when it is the right time to do so because we absolutely appreciate that it is a very big ask of the elderly and the vulnerable, and it’s for their own self-protection.”

Pressed on when the measure will be introduced, he said: “Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely.”

The elderly population are most at-risk from Covid-19, with the overwhelming proportion of deaths occurring in older people, or those with underlying health conditions.

Hancock also confirmed that ministers were seeking to give police powers to arrest and forcibly quarantine people who are sick with the coronavirus but are not self-isolating.

“We are going to take the powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health, yes, and that’s important,” he told the Andrew Marr Show.

“I doubt that actually we will need to use it much because people have been very responsible.”

Deaths in Spain double in 24 hours

A woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks in an empty central street during partial lockdown in Madrid.
A woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks in an empty central street during partial lockdown in Madrid.
Sergio Perez / Reuters

Deaths from coronavirus in Spain have more than doubled in a day to 288, with infections at nearly 8,000, authorities in the country said.

The country, which is now the worst affected country in Europe after Italy, is set to go into nationwide lockdown on Monday.

A number of airlines, including Jet2 and Ryanair have either cancelled or greatly reduced the number of flights to destinations in Spain.

On Friday a spokesperson for the Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the Spanish regions of Madrid, La Rioja and the municipalities of La Bastida, Vitoria and Miranda de Ebro.

Pubs could close as part of social-distancing measures

friends at a pub toasting, having a good time, birds view
friends at a pub toasting, having a good time, birds view
Henrik Sorensen via Getty Images

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops could close in the UK in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Asked if the UK could follow Italy and Spain in introducing the measures, health secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “We haven’t ruled that out.

“We will do what is necessary because the top priority is to protect life and you do that by protecting the vulnerable and protecting the NHS.”

On Sunday afternoon it emerged that pubs in the renowned Temple Bar area of Dublin would close their doors with immediate effect, after it “proved impossible to follow the public health advice to limit numbers”.

In a statement, Temple Bar Company said: “In the interest of public health and following advice from An Garda Siochana and the health authorities The Temple Bar Company and its members have today decided that all pubs and nightclubs in Temple Bar will close their premises voluntarily with immediate effect.

“And will do so until further advice by the relevant authorities.

“This decision was taken in light of the experiences of members of The Temple Bar Company over the last few days when it proved impossible to follow the public health advice to limit numbers and adequately implement measures to control social distancing.

“Members of The Temple Bar Company felt it was inappropriate to request the diversion of Garda resources away from more pressing needs.

“As part of the effort to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 virus, The Temple Bar Company will intensify its disinfecting and power-washing of the streets and public spaces in the Temple Bar area as required.”

Wales reports 34 new cases

Customers queue to get into a Costco store in Cardiff on Sunday.
Customers queue to get into a Costco store in Cardiff on Sunday.
Matthew Horwood via Getty Images

Public Health Wales has confirmed 34 new cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number confirmed in the country to 94.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the coronavirus outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “We are working with our partners in the Welsh Government, the wider NHS in Wales, and others now that we have entered the ‘delay’ phase.

“This is now not just an attempt to contain the disease, as far as possible, but to delay its spread.”

People no longer need to contact NHS 111 if they believe they may have contracted coronavirus but instead, anyone with a high temperature or new continuous cough should stay at home for seven days.

“They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days,” Dr Shankar said.

Testing will focus on cases admitted to hospital, and based on symptoms and severity.

Foreign Office advises against ‘all but essential’ travel to US

The FCO has warned UK travellers to avoid visiting the US.
The FCO has warned UK travellers to avoid visiting the US.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Foreign Office has advised against “all but essential” travel to the US after Trump’s European travel ban was extended to the UK and Ireland.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are advising against all but essential travel to the USA following the US government announcement imposing restrictions on travel from the UK (and Ireland) effective from midnight on Monday March 16 EST (4am GMT on Tuesday March 17).

British nationals with journeys planned and citizens already in the US are advised to contact their airlines or tour operators.

Supermarkets plead with customers to avoid panic buying

Panic-buying has led to empty shelves in supermarkets nationwide.
Panic-buying has led to empty shelves in supermarkets nationwide.
Ollie Millington via Getty Images

Supermarkets have penned an joint letter to customers urging them not to panic buy, as shelves across the country emptied on Saturday.

Retailers have been hit by increased demand as social-distancing measures are introduced and self-isolation becomes an increasingly likely prospect in the UK.

Signed by giants such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl, the letter states: “There is enough for everyone if we all work together,” warning that panic buying could “mean that others will be left without”.

They added: “Those of us with online delivery and click-and-collect services. are running them at full capacity to help you get the products you need when you need them.

“We thank all our colleagues in stores and supply chains who are working day and night to keep the nation fed.”

Hundreds of scientists criticise accuse government of “risking lives”

Scientists have accused the UK government of risking lives.
Scientists have accused the UK government of risking lives.
Yves Herman / Reuters

Hundreds of scientists working across a range of disciplines in the UK have accused the government of risking “many more lives than necessary” in its approach to coronavirus.

An open letter signed by 229 scientists, none of whom are leading experts in the science of the spread of diseases, called for tougher policies to tackle the spread of Covid-19 including increased social-distancing measures.

The letter comes a day after it was revealed that ten more people had died in England from the coronavirus, bringing the total UK death toll to 21.

The signatories also criticised a statement made by Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the government, about controlling the spread of the infection to achieve immunity within the population managing the spread of the infection to develop “herd immunity”.

The Department of Health told the BBC that Vallance’s comments had been misinterpreted.

The government has been criticised for its approach to the virus, with many members of the public asking why more restrictive measures seen in countries such as Italy and Spain – where full lockdowns are in place – have not yet been imposed.

The open letter penned by the scientists argues that more aggressive social distancing measures would “dramatically” reduce the speed at which the disease spreads through society – sparing “thousands of lives”.

Donald Trump tests negative for virus

Trump has tested negative for Covid-19.
Trump has tested negative for Covid-19.
Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images

US president Donald Trump has tested negative for coronavirus, according to his personal physician.

The White House released the test results on Saturday night after Trump told reporters hours earlier that he had taken the coronavirus test, following days of resisting being screened despite the fact that he had been in recent contact with three people who have tested positive for the virus.

The US president told reporters at a White House briefing on Saturday that he had his temperature taken and it was “totally normal”, shortly before stepping into the room to discuss the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

The pandemic has now infected more than 2,200 people in the US and caused at least 50 deaths.

Trump had multiple direct and indirect contacts with people who have since tested positive for the virus, including three people he spent time with last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

The Brazilian Embassy in Washington said late on Friday that the country’s charge d’affaires, Nestor Forster, tested positive after sitting at Trump’s dinner table.

Trump, after days of insisting that he was not exhibiting symptoms of the virus, relented after being pressed by reporters about his resistance to testing when multiple politicians and countless citizens across the country who have had the same degree of exposure have not only tried to get tested, but also chosen to try to avoid potentially infecting others.