NEWS
17/03/2020 07:53 GMT | Updated 17/03/2020 16:53 GMT

Ten Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

The NHS is to suspend non-urgent elective surgery, 407 new people have been diagnosed in the UK, and the Queen has cancelled her garden parties. Here's the latest.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

Concerns over the coronavirus pandemic have led to major changes around the globe as the rate of infection grows.

The number of people to test positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday is 1,950, up from 1,543 on Monday, the Department of Health said.
A total of 50,442 people have been tested with 48,492 negative results.

The Department of Health said on Tuesday that 71 people in the UK are known to have died after testing positive for the virus. A second Scot and a second person in Wales were confirmed to have died, along with 14 in England.

Here are the key developments you need to know today:

Queen cancels garden parties

Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday that changes were being made to the Queen’s diary “as a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances”.

Garden parties at the palace planned for May have been scrapped, with invitees expected to attend next year instead, and the Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel on April 9 will not go ahead.

The monarch will leave Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle a week earlier than planned, on March 19, and the palace said “it is likely” she will stay there beyond the Easter break.

She will be based at her favourite home with a reduced household and will be following appropriate advice, a source said.

Suspension of public worship 

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York has called on the Church of England to suspend public worship to help stem the spread of Covid-19. 

But they said that far from having to “shut up shop”, the Church of England must face the challenge by becoming a radically different kind of church rooted in prayer and serving others.

The Archbishops expressed the desire that church buildings may, where practical, remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.

They also invited clergy to maintain the ancient pattern of daily prayer and, where possible, the eucharist – live streaming their worship if they have the resources to do so.

Non-urgent elective surgery suspended

NHS England is suspending non-urgent elective surgery to free up beds for coronavirus patients, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has said.

Sir Simon told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee operations would be suspended from April 15 at the latest for at least three months.

“In readiness for the likely influx of more coronavirus patients, we are going to be taking concerted action across the NHS,” he said, calling for the freeing up of “up to a third of the general and acute beds – perhaps 30,000 of those general and acute beds – for coronavirus patients”.

He said they were also working intensively with community health services and social care to “unblock” some of the discharge processes, and with community and independent hospitals to bring back capacity for coronavirus patients. 

Government to unveil new financial measures 

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Boris Johnson urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contact on Monday.

Boris Johnson’s government is set to announce more financial measures to assist the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, in response to concerns that latest warnings could harm businesses.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to appear at the Downing Street news conference later today, the BBC reports.

Business leaders - from transport bosses to pub and restaurant owners - have been calling on the government to help them amid the crisis. 

Leaders of the hospitality industry are calling for immediate action to support it financially after Johnson advised people not to go out but stopped short of ordering entertainment venues to close.

The British Beer and Pub Association has written to Mr Johnson, demanding urgent steps are taken to prevent mass job losses and permanent pub closures.

Meanwhile, Charlie Cornish, the boss of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, warned the coronavirus outbreak is “the greatest threat the UK’s travel sector has ever faced.”

It comes as cabinet minister Oliver Dowden said he was staying at home after a family member developed coronavirus-type symptoms.

The culture secretary said on Twitter: “A member of my family currently has #covidー19uk symptoms so in line with government advice I will be remaining at home.

“I’m feeling fine and will of course be working on @DCMS priorities in these very challenging times, and continuing to support my constituents in Hertsmere.”

Parents are taking their kids out of school

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As of Monday evening, the UK government has resisted pressure to close schools amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Growing numbers of parents concerned about the spread of coronavirus are choosing to ignore official advice by keeping their children off school to protect their health and that of vulnerable relatives.

Mother-of-three Jazmine Parham, from King’s Sutton, told HuffPost UK she mulled over the situation over the weekend before deciding to keep them off school starting this week.

“We are a very high risk family and I just cannot take the chance of my children getting ill with coronavirus themselves or them being carriers and giving it to high risk members of the family,” she said.

The government has so far resisted pressure to close schools in the same way other countries have done to tackle the spread of Covid-19 – but there is mounting unease at the escalating situation, which has led to some parents taking the decision into their own hands.

Iran releases 85,000 prisoners

Iran has temporarily freed around 85,000 prisoners – including British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a spokesman for its judiciary has confirmed on Tuesday.

“Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners... also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” said Gholamhossein Esmaili.

On March 10, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus. 

Gatwick job losses and airlines cut flights

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Airlines are responding to the outbreak.

Gatwick Airport said it had laid off 200 staff as part of “decisive action to protect the business”.

It will also be closed to flights between midnight and 5.30am with immediate effect, except for emergency landings.

The airport’s chief executive Stewart Wingate and his executive team will take a 20% salary cut and waive any bonus for the current financial year.

Virgin Atlantic will also cut four-fifths of its flights and has asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave

Ryanair and EasyJet are grounding most of their fleets, while BA owner IAG is to cut capacity by 75%.

Norwegian Air has cancelled thousands of flights and more than 7,500 staff will be made redundant.

Holiday company Tui,  the UK’s biggest travel company, has suspended “the vast majority” of its holidays, while P&O Cruises and Cunard have cancelled all cruises until April 11.

Hundreds of Brazilian prisoners escape

Hundreds of prisoners broke out of four Brazilian jails on Monday, the day before their day-release privileges were due to be suspended over the coronavirus outbreak.

The Sao Paulo state prison authority said it could not say how many inmates had escaped as it was “still tallying the exact number of fugitives.”

Local media reported that as many as 1,000 had fled from four jails – Mongaguá, Tremembé, Porto Feliz and Mirandópolis – ahead of the lockdown.

Supermarkets tackle panic buying 

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Thousands of Brits have been panic buying in response to the outbreak and growing uncertainty.

Scores of shoppers have been panic-buying essentials, including toilet paper, as fears intensify over the spread of Covid-19.

Retailers have since reported a rise in abuse of staff as a result, despite supermarkets calling for calm from shoppers.

This has prompted retailers to take a stand.

Tesco is imposing a maximum purchase limit (five per customer) on items including anti-bacterial products, dried pasta and UHT milk.

Boots and LloydsPharmacy have limited the sale of hand sanitiser.

And an Iceland store in west Belfast said it’s opening between 8-9am for the elderly, starting this Tuesday, so they can get what they need.

Shutdowns announced 

Read more: The Devastating Effect Coronavirus Is Having On The Entertainment Industry.

Odeon cinemas have all closed following guidance issued on Covid-19.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the cinema chain said: “Following government guidelines Odeon cinemas are closed until further notice.

“If you have pre-booked tickets online these will be refunded automatically.”

Cineworld and Picturehouse has announced the closure of all its cinemas across the UK starting from Wednesday and in Ireland starting on Tuesday until further notice. Vue cinema chain is also closing all 91 of its cinemas from today until further notice. 

The Royal Albert Hall has announced it has closed its doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, as has the Barbican.

The Tate has announced its museums will be closed from this evening through to May 1. There are four Tate galleries: the Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, the Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. 

The National Portrait Gallery in London will close temporarily from March 18, as will the British Museum and the Natural History has closed its buildings in South Kensington and Tring.

The BFI Southbank will be closing “effective immediately” and  Center Parcs has said it is closing all its UK villages from Friday.