Coronavirus live blog as it happened: pubs and restaurants to close from this evening and as UK death toll rises to 177

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Friday, 20th March 2020, 7:02 pm

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Coronavirus live blog, March 20

Last updated: Friday, 20 March, 2020, 14:32

  • Pandemic's death toll passes 10,000
  • Retired medics in the UK are being asked to return to work to help
  • The Queen urges the country to 'work as one'

Coronavirus 'hotspot' appears in the Midlands

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the Government is looking "very, very closely" at why there is a coronavirus hotspot in the Midlands.

Asked on Sky News about 28 deaths recorded in the West Midlands, Mr Hancock said: "There is a hotspot, not as big as in London, but there is a hotspot in the Midlands.

"It's something that we're looking at very, very closely to find out why, frankly.

"I mean, the spread of a disease like this does tend to be in areas of hotspot and then broadening out from them.

"What we've got to do ... is to respond as well as possible."

Marks & Spencer puts pay rises 'on hold'

Marks & Spencer has put all pay rises on hold and cancelled all discretionary spending as it warned that its clothing and home businesses will take a severe hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer, which said that it was still on track to reach its full-year forecasts until this week, warned that profit before tax is likely to be at the lower end of its predicted £440 million to £460 million due to the "probable very depressed trading in clothing and home".

The business said that its food arm had performed better as customers stock up, however its focus on fresh and chilled food means customers are turning elsewhere for some of their key, long-lasting, products.

Netflix to lower streaming quality in Europe

Netflix will reduce the video quality on its service in Europe for the next 30 days, to reduce the strain on internet service providers.

As more and more people stay at home, demand for the streaming giant's shows and films has increased dramatically.

Netflix said viewers would still find the picture quality "good".

1.4 million vulnerable people to be given 'specific' actions

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that a communication will be sent to around 1.4 million people who are classed as vulnerable to set out specific action for them to take.

He told Sky News: "The first thing we're going to do is set out exactly what conditions that applies to. We expect about 1.4 million people to then get a communication from the NHS to say that they are part of this and what they need to do.

"Many of these people have pre-existing health conditions and so will be very worried right now, and I understand that, and they'll need very specific sets of action - for instance, how do you go about still getting your chemo if you have cancer whilst also social-distancing?

"If you have cancer it's particularly important to stay away from other people, but you also of course have got to keep going with your chemotherapy."

He added: "These are some of the most difficult and challenging cases so we'll be getting in contact with them, but if people think that they are on this list and don't receive a communication from the NHS, then they also need to get in contact.

"So that is under way, the money was announced for it yesterday. A combination of money to the NHS and money to councils because they've got a very big part to play in keeping people safe."

BT to remove all caps on home broadband plans

BT have removed all caps on home broadband plans so that hose self-isolating can access unlimited data.

BT consumer division chief executive Marc Allera said: "Personal and local support is important for every customer, but no more so than our vulnerable customers and their carers - who we are treating as a priority.

"We have specialist teams trained in how to help customers with physical disabilities, mental health issues and a specialist dementia support team, who are doing their very best to ensure those vulnerable customers in isolation get the support they need."

MP to return to work as nurse

The UK government have called upon former nurses and doctors to assist the NHS during the coronavirus crisis - and one MP has answered the call.

Conservative MP fro Lewes, Maria Caulfield, will work as both a nurse and an MP while the country attemps to stem the spread of coronavirus. 

She said it "will be very easy to get back into the swing of things".

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace postponed

The ceremonial of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace and Windsor Castle is being postponed until further notice "in line with Government advice to avoid mass gatherings", Buckingham Palace has announced.

The palace said in a statement that the situation would be "reviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to restarting when appropriate".

Third patient in Wales dies

A third person has died in Wales after contracting coronavirus, the chief medical officer for the country has confirmed.

They were aged 71 and had underlying health conditions, and were being treated at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

Man arrested for failing to self-isolate

A man has been arrested on the Isle of Man after he failed to follow its coronavirus self-isolation rules.

The detention of the man, reportedly aged 26, came after the Crown dependency's Government announced earlier this week that everyone arriving on the island must self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle said anyone breaching the quarantine regulations could face a fine up to £10,000 or three months in jail.

People unable to work because of isolation can obtain doctor's note through new online service

The government have launched a new scheme where people unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service.

Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.

As isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor, this will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they don’t need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.

The notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online. After answering a few questions, an isolation note will be emailed to the user. If they don’t have an email address, they can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to their employer. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.

Lidl to recruit 2,500

Supermarket Lidl has announced plans to recruit 2,500 workers on four-week contracts to help keep up with high demand in stores as customers continue clearing shelves over the coronavirus outbreak.

The grocer said recruits can start immediately and will be paid at least £9.30 an hour, adding "the new hires will be responsible for working together to keep the store clean, tidy and the shelves well stocked so that customers can get the products they need".

Scottish cases up by 56

The number of Scots who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 has jumped to 322.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed the new total, up by 56 from Thursday, as she gave a briefing on coronavirus.

TV presenter comes under fire for encouraging public to 'carry on as normal'

Ant Middleton has come under fire for telling people to "carry on as normal" and not "be a sheep" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Prime Minister has urged the public to socially distance themselves in a bid to "turn the tide" against the spread of the disease.

However, the SAS: Who Dares Wins presenter, who was in the British Special Forces, told fans on Instagram that he does not think the advice applies to him because he is "strong and able".

The comments were criticised by a number of social media users.

Middleton said: "If you are fit and healthy don't be a sheep and lock yourself away."

'Vaccines won't be available until next year at earliest'

Professor Robin Shattock has told the BBC's World at One programme that vaccines against coronavirus will not be made widely available until "at the earliest" next year.

He said: "The first part of that testing is to check that it's safe in humans in small numbers, and again induces the right sort of immune response.

"That will take, even if we do things very quickly, two to three months. The next stage would be to ramp it up and start looking whether the vaccine actually can prevent infection in the wider community.

"You need to produce the data to show that a vaccine works and how well it works before you can then get a licence to then sell that as a product.

"So, globally, vaccines are not going to be made widely available, at the earliest, until next year and it may be later if its a global solution requiring manufacturing."

Aldi and Asda announce recruitment drives

Following in the footsteps of Co-op and Lidl Aldi and Asda have announced recruitment drives. 

Aldi is looking to hire 9,000 new workers, including 4,000 permanent jobs, to help keep shelves filled during the coronavirus outbreak.

The supermarket added that all nappies and paper products, including toilet and kitchen roll, will now be restricted to two items per customer. All other products will remain restricted to four items per customer, with a few exceptions.

Asda, meanwhile, has announced plans to hire more than 5,000 temporary employees laid off due to Covid-19, working with 20 national companies to bring staff from industries including food and travel at risk of losing their jobs.

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