NEWS
23/03/2020 07:46 GMT | Updated 23/03/2020 21:22 GMT

Nine Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

UK put on lockdown, cafes and restaurants announce closures, and Tokyo Olympics likely to be delayed. Here's the latest.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

The battle against coronavirus took a major step on Monday as Boris Johnson introduced draconian measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

The prime minister gave a televised address to the nation where he announced people should not leave their homes except for four reasons.

It came as this summer’s Olympics in Japan looks set to become the latest major cancellation due to coronavirus, while the army is being is the be drafted in to help distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline NHS staff.

As of Monday afternoon, 335 people in the UK were believed to have died in the UK after contracting the virus.

Here’s the latest on coronavirus today: 

UK on lockdown

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Boris Johnson has ordered the UK into a near-total lockdown in a bid to stem the number of deaths from the outbreak.

In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister announced that the public will only be allowed to leave their home for:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work only where it is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

Police will issue fines and break up gatherings of those who flout the rules. The crackdown will be last for at least three weeks, with a review at that point.

To further curb the spread of the virus, Johnson ordered the closure of all shops selling non-essential goods,​ including clothing and electronic stores, libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms, and places of worship.

All gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with – will be banned.

All social events will be prohibited​, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.

Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed.

Restaurants and businesses announce closures

PA
Costa Coffee have announced they will temporarily close due to the Corona virus outbreak

The number of high-street restaurants and retailers closing their doors due to coronavirus is steadily growing, with McDonald’s, Nando’s, Subway, Costa Coffee and Card Factory all announcing the news.

On Monday morning, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon called on all shops in the nation not providing essential items to close immediately. 

“My message to shops that are still open is this and it is clear, if you are not providing essential items like food and medicines then please also close now,”she said. 

Sturgeon said that building sites and hair salons should also close.

The following have announced since Sunday that they will be closing:

  • McDonald’s
  • Nando’s
  • Greggs
  • Costa
  • Waterstones
  • Card Factory
  • Subway
  • Primark
  • Pizza Express
  • TGI Fridays
  • Bill’s
  • Patisserie Valerie

Greggs will close its entire store estate from the end of business on Tuesday, saying operating a takeaway service was not enough to maintain social distancing. 

Nandos said in a statement on its website on Sunday that all 420 stores will shut “until further notice”, with takeaway and delivery services also suspended.

The company, which employs around 18,000 people, said it is working closely with its teams across the UK to “make sure that everybody affected is supported during the coming weeks”.

Costa Coffee also announced it would temporarily close the majority of its 2,700 cafes from Monday at 5pm.

A statement posted on its Twitter account said it would try to keep cafes open in hospitals, with NHS staff to receive free coffee for the next two weeks.

The coffee chain said more than 16,000 members of staff at closed stores will be paid their full average weekly pay over eight weeks.

It comes after McDonald’s announced all of its restaurants in the UK and Ireland will close by 7pm on Monday to protect the safety of its employees and customers.

The fast-food chain, which has 135,000 employees in the UK and Ireland, posted a statement about the “difficult decision” to Twitter – adding that stores will close by that time on Monday “at the latest”.

Meanwhile, KFC and Burger King remain open for takeaways, with seating areas temporarily closed.

Rail franchise agreements to be suspended

Rail franchise agreements are to be suspended to avoid train companies collapsing due to the coronavirus, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

Operators are being offered the chance to transfer all revenue and cost risk to the government, and be paid a small management fee to run services.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said it “strongly welcomes” the proposal.

The emergency measures will be in place for an initial period of six months.

The DfT said they will “minimise disruption to the rail sector”.

Allowing operators to enter insolvency would cause “significantly more disruption to passengers and higher costs to the taxpayer”, the department added.

The DfT said passenger numbers have fallen by up to 70%, while ticket sales are down by two-thirds.

Rail timetables have been slashed because of Covid-19.

Anyone holding an Advance ticket will be able to get a refund free of charge, while administrative fees have been waived for season ticket refunds.

Teenagers arrested for ‘coughing in face’ of elderly couple

Three teenagers were arrested in Hitchin on Friday afternoon after allegedly coughing in the face of an elderly couple.

The incident led to an altercation, with a passer-by intervening.

A woman in her 70s was left with a black eye.

Three young men, 16, 18 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm, affray and criminal damage, the BBC reports.

Jury trials in England and Wales put on hold

All jury trials in England and Wales are to be put on hold as part of ongoing efforts to halt the spread of Covid-19.

In a statement on Monday, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, said no new trials will start and that ongoing trials will be paused while arrangements are put in place so they can continue safely.

Earlier in the week, Lord Burnett, the most senior judge in England and Wales, said no new trials expected to last three days or more would go ahead amid the deepening coronavirus crisis.

But, as pressure from members of the legal profession mounted on the government to halt court hearings, the extraordinary step of suspending all new trials was taken.

On Monday, the murder trial of PC Andrew Harper was halted after three jurors went into self-isolation. 

Justice Edis announced the decision to discharge the jury and adjourn the Old Bailey trial with a “heavy heart” after three jurors went into self-isolation.

“I have taken this decision with a heavy heart because I am acutely conscious of the need of those who loved Police Constable Harper (who would have been 29 yesterday) for this process to come to a conclusion,” he said.

“I am deeply sorry for them. I know also that the colleagues who dealt with the events of that terrible night and who have given evidence will also suffer additional distress because of what has happened.”

Teachers fear more pupils could turn up on first day of school closures

Teachers are prepared for a “challenging” situation amid concerns more pupils than expected could turn up on Monday despite schools being officially closed as the UK fights to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Parents have been warned they could be in for “difficult conversations” if they take their children to school when they have an alternative means of ensuring they are looked after.

The Department for Education has urged parents to keep their children at home unless their work is deemed “critical” to the country’s response to Covid-19 and they have no other childcare option.

 

Olympics looks set to be postponed 

The Tokyo Olympics appear certain to be postponed until next year due to the coronavirus, as Canada and Australia said they were looking ahead to a 2021 Games, PA Media reports.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told his country’s parliament on Monday a postponement of the games would be unavoidable if the they cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus impact.

Abe was commenting on the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision, which could include a postponement.

PA Media
Olympics

Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation, comments that fall in line with the view of the IOC.

Abe told parliament postponing the Games – due to start on July 24 – may be an option if holding the event in “complete form” became impossible.

“If it is difficult to hold (the Games) in a complete way a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes’ safety is paramount,” he said.

The Olympics have never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime.

Army to help distribute PPE to frontline NHS staff

The armed forces are being drafted in to help manage and distribute supplies to frontline NHS staff battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC there have been “challenges” with the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) but that he was taking the issue “very seriously”.

NHS England said millions more items of PPE had been delivered over the last few days to hospitals, ambulance trusts and care homes among others.

It follows a letter in the Sunday Times from almost 4,000 NHS workers who called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.

The group said many medical workers are “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating coronavirus patients without appropriate protection, and they called on Johnson to ensure an adequate supply of masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.

NHS England said the army would “play its part” from this week, offering personnel to “help to manage and offload supplies in busy NHS settings” and distributing PPE supplies to the front line.

It said that, if required, schools can ask for “simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or pay slip”.

The government said children of so-called key workers – including medics, police and food distribution staff – are able to attend school so they can be looked after while their parents help in the fight against the virus.

If you’re wondering how to keep your children occupied during school closures, read our list of advice here

Harvey Weinstein tests positive for coronavirus in prison

Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who is serving a prison sentence for sexual assault and rape, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the head of the state corrections officers union.

Weinstein, 68, has been placed in isolation at Wende Correctional Facility, said Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

Powers said he learned that the test came back positive on Sunday morning and is concerned about the corrections officers, who he said lack proper protective equipment. Several staff have been quarantined, Powers said.

Weinstein arrived at Wende Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison east of Buffalo, New York, on Wednesday after being housed at New York City’s Rikers Island jail, Reuters reports.

He was sentenced to 23 years in prison on March 11 for sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress.