NEWS
24/03/2020 07:52 GMT | Updated 24/03/2020 21:21 GMT

Ten Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

Sports Direct performs a quick U-turn, Donald Trump wages battle on science and those lockdown guidelines explained. Here's the latest.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest official figures show:

  • 8,077 people in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus
  • 422 people had died as of Tuesday. 

Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus today: 

We’re in lockdown – here’s what that actually means

From today, people in the UK must stay at home, and there are only four reasons why you should leave your home. 

  • The first is shopping for basic necessities, which includes food and medicine and must be “as infrequent as possible”
  • You can also leave to take one form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk, or cycle. But it is restricted to exercising alone or with members of your household.
  • The third reason is a medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person (this includes moving children under 18 between their parents’ homes).
  • Finally, travelling to and from work is acceptable, but only “where this absolutely cannot be done from home”.

The guidance is explicit that these are “exceptions”, and even then people must keep it to a minimum and ensure they are two-metres apart from anyone outside of their household.

Tens of thousands of non-essential shops are to close. Other premises being shuttered are libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship.

Hotels and campsites will now join pubs, cafes and restaurants in being closed to slow the disease’s spread.

And, while parks will remain open for exercise, all social events including weddings and baptisms will be stopped. Funerals, however, can continue.

Here is a full guide to the lockdown.

A snap poll by YouGov found “crazy high” levels of public support for the measures.

And if you’re wondering how to get through it - here’s some advice from people living in countries where lockdowns have been in place for some time already. 

The Tokyo Olympics are off

The Tokyo Olympic Games has been delayed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a joint statement, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said that the Olympics would be rescheduled “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021” in a bid to protect athletes and fans. 

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present,” the statement said. 

Police deploy 500 cops to enforce non-essential travel ban 

British Transport Police tonight ordered 500 officers to patrol the rail network and warn passengers they should only use trains or the Tube for essential journeys. 

The decision by BTP’s assistant chief constable Sean O’Callaghan represents the first high-profile policing of Brits’ behaviour since Boris Johnson declared a a lockdown could be enforced. 

“We strongly urge the rest of the public to do the right thing and help us save lives by staying at home and slowing the spread of the virus,” O’Callaghan said in a statement. 

It comes after images of packed London Underground carriages emerged on Monday stoked fears coronavirus could easily spread on public transport.  

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley sparks massive backlash

Politicians hit out at Sports Direct for trying to keep stores open after Boris Johnson ordered non-essential shops to close, with Labour’s chairman telling company majority owner Mike Ashley to “take some responsibility” and “shut up shop”.

Management justified keeping stores open on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset during a national shutdown, according to an email seen by the PA news agency.

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, wrote to all workers within 30 minutes of the PM’s decision to shut down all non-essential retailers.

But on Tuesday morning the retailer performed a quick U-turn, Sand confirmed it would not open its stores to the public.

Supermarket worker ‘spat at’ in panic buying row

A supermarket worker was spat at by a customer attempting to stockpile Pot Noodles while another was told: “I hope you get the virus and die,” as panic-buying blighted the nation’s response to coronavirus.

An eyewitness described the scene at a packed branch of Asda in the Wirral, Merseyside, on Saturday, as a man in his 30s attempted to buy more than the three Pot Noodles allowed by the store.

A woman in her 40s working behind the checkout attempted to enforce the rules, brought in to ensure stocks could be maintained, “and the gentleman objected to it and spat at her”, according to businessman Andy Smith, who was in the store.

The man then left the store without buying anything in a shocking incident that was barely registered by shoppers.

“Everyone was so wrapped up in making sure everybody can get a bog roll or a Pot Noodle rather than actually having a bit of community spirit,” Smith told HuffPost UK.

“It’s massively troubling.”

Donald Trump continues putting the stock market before scientific advice

Donald Trump’s, ahem, trump card heading into this year’s presidential election was the stock market which has seen unprecedented growth during his time in office – until the fear and uncertainty around coronavirus wiped it all out.

Despite health experts urging against a rush back to normalcy, Trump and his allies have begun hinting they want to relax social distancing policies next week amid the ongoing outbreak. 

“We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump told reporters at a press briefing on Monday.

“We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems.”

Trump acknowledged there were trade-offs, but claimed, without apparent evidence, that if closures stretched on for months there would be “probably more death from that than anything that we’re talking about with respect to the virus”.

On the face of it, with the death toll worldwide mounting and more and more countries rushing to impose draconian restrictions on their people, this seems crazy – and it is.

But viewed through the prism of the stock market, it makes sense – the president is trying to calm investors and claw back some of his political capital.

Black and minority students could lose out if grades are based on predicted results

Parents, teachers and students fear that Black and minority ethnic, working-class and other marginalised pupils could be penalised by the decision to award predicted grades to students instead of regular exams this summer.

Following the closure of schools and cancellation of examinations due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Education confirmed teachers would award marks in place of GCSEs and A-levels.

But that could disadvantage the same groups of students already under-represented at top universities.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, even a number of Black educators described being marked down in their predicted grades when they were at school before going on to gain higher grades.

You can read the full story here.

China to lift restrictions in area at centre of outbreak

China will lift restrictions on movement in most areas of Hubei province on Wednesday, ending a lockdown of the area brought on by the coronavirus.

People who are cleared will be able to leave the province after midnight on Tuesday, PA Media reports.

Restrictions on the hardest-hit city of Wuhan will remain until April 8.

China barred people from leaving or entering Wuhan and the wider province on January 23 as Covid-19 began spreading to the rest of China and overseas during the Lunar New Year holiday, when many Chinese travel.

Hubei has had almost no new infections for more than a week.

Construction workers are still being crammed onto tubes

For the second day in a row, pictures of people crammed onto the London Underground have raised questions about the effectiveness of the government’s latest coronavirus advice issued amid an unprecedented lockdown of the UK.

Just hours after Boris Johnson told all Brits to travel to and from work only “where it is absolutely necessary”, pictures circulated on social media showed social-distancing rules being seemingly thrown out the window during Tuesday’s commute.

While many are no doubt key workers such as NHS staff, many of those working on the multitude of construction sites in the capital have also been forced to travel to work.

Trade unionist Dan Dobson told HuffPost UK: “Over a million working in the construction industry are registered as self-employed. At the moment as it stands, there is no support from the government for any of those people.

“If they were to stay at home they would have no income to pay their rent or general household bills. Until the government bring in protections for those self-employed, then they’re not going to have a choice.”

And finally some positive news...

British manufacturers are collaborating in order to make 30,000 badly needed ventilators for the NHS.

Around 5,000 will be ready in a fortnight and the rest in a few months, potentially easing one of the most worrying shortages facing the hugely under pressure NHS.

The collaboration, formed under the name of Ventilator Challenge UK includes Airbus and GKN, the Formula One team McLaren, Siemens and the medical equipment manufacturers Smiths and Penlon, The Times reports.

And on top of that, some 7,500 former NHS workers have said they will return to the service to help battle the outbreak. They include around 5,633 nurses and midwives, and 1,930 doctors.