The Prime Minister has been accused of “wasting precious days on a junk strategy” which saw him resist calls to implement stringent social distancing measures such as those in many European countries and continue down the road of “mitigation”. A shocking report by a team who have been advising the government on the epidemic found that Mr Johnson’s approach would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.
The document was published by the Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team.
The government’s policy included self-isolation for anyone showing symptoms and their family but stopped short of restrictions on wider society.
Britons witnessed Mr Johnson’s dramatic U-turn on Monday, as he told Britons to avoid pubs, restaurants and theatres and advised anyone who can work from home to do so.
Experts laid out in their report how the mitigation strategy “focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread – reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe diseases from infection”.
They concluded that this approach was “unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits” of the healthcare system.
They predicted up to 250,000 deaths could result from the policy.
The report said: “In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days.”
New data on what the demand on intensive care units will look like, based on the crisis in Italy and in the UK so far, helped experts make their predictions.
Critics were quick to slam Mr Johnson for pursuing such a strategy, calling it “extraordinary” and “incredible” that it took his team so long to realise it would not work.
Labour MP David Lammy said: “This is extraordinary and terrifying.
“All government models and data must be published. Peer review and scouting from scientists has never been more vital.”
Professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial, told reporters on Monday: “We were expecting herd immunity to build. We now realise it’s not possible to cope with that.”
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2.14pm update: 12 more test positive in Wales
2.11pm update: Intensive care patients are priority – Vallance
Sir Patrick Vallance has said the priorities are patients in intensive care and in cluster outbreaks in communities.
2.05pm update: 20,000 Brits will die – Vallance
Sir Patrick Vallance has said his estimate is 20,000 Britons will die of coronavirus.
1.33pm update: Police threaten to arrest coronavirus protesters outside No10
Police have threatened to arrest protesters who have staged a demonstration outside Downing Street against the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Campaign group Pause the System has send an activist dressed as Lady Justice to the Prime Minister’s residence to draw attention to his response to the epidemic.
The person is wearing a gold painted hazmat suit and a blindfold, in the image of Lady Justice.
In one scale sits a bouquet of white flowers, to represent those already lost of COVID-19 in the UK.
In the other scale, sits gold bars, to represent the priority that the UK government is giving to the economy over the lives of our loved ones.
A sign at their feet reads “Economy over our Loved Ones. In front of the gates two further protestors, also dressed in hazmat suits, hold a banner saying “Pause the System.”
James Ozden, a spokesman for the group, said: “We are trying to exercise our democratic right to protest, in order to highlight the government’s criminal neglect, but we are being prohibited.”
Pause the system claims that the government is not taking necessary action to help protect UK citizens. They want Britain to announce stringent social distancing measures by halting non-essential businesses and school closures.
Spokeswoman Marina Patterson, said: “Yesterday, Boris Johnson asked ordinary people to work from home ‘where they possibly can’, but he offered no financial support for ordinary working people to do so, putting us and our families at risk of infection.
“Because people cannot afford to stay at home, hundreds of thousands of people could die.”
12.40pm update: Euro 2020 postponed until next summer
Norway’s football association announced the postponement.
12.35pm update: Britons advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad for 30 days – Dominic Raab
11.51am update: Tory MP tells constituent to ‘get a life’ over coronavirus sick pay
An MP has apologised for telling a constituent to “get a life” when she was questioned about the level of statutory sick pay available to coronavirus sufferers.
Conservative MP Pauline Latham said she was “in a state of distress” at the time she sent the message.
The Mid Derbyshire MP said she was responding to a message which “pushed me over the edge” but was “very sorry I reacted so hastily”.
The Conservative MP was asked by Twitter user MHughes “is £94 a week SSP … enough to live on?”
“How could you manage on it?”
Ms Latham responded: “Get a life.”
But in a subsequent post, the MP said: “I must apologise for the Tweet to a constituent over the weekend. At the time, I was in Spain in a state of distress having just visited my brother who is suffering from acute dementia.
“Very sadly, we could not bring him home to the UK because of coronavirus. At this time of stress, I received a Tweet from what I perceived to be a keyboard warrior and it pushed me over the edge.
“I am very sorry I reacted so hastily.”
The Government has come under pressure over the level of financial support available to workers who contract coronavirus or are required to self-isolate.
The current level of statutory sick pay is £94.25 a week.
11.25am update: Holidaymakers isolated at Portuguese hotel after guest tests positive for coronavirus
Tourists at a hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira were being isolated after a Dutch guest tested positive for the coronavirus, the regional government has said.
The infected guest arrived last Thursday at the Quinta do Sol hotel in Funchal, the largest city in Madeira.
Local media said the hotel has around 120 guests.
“We all need to be aware of how serious this situation is in the face of the great challenge that lies ahead,” president of Madeira’s regional government Miguel Albuquerque told a news conference.
11.22am update: Northern Irish supermarket prioritises older shoppers
A Northern Irish supermarket opened one hour early on Tuesday to allow older customers to shop safely and avoid coronavirus-related panic buying, sparking similar moves south of the border in Ireland.
The west Belfast store of the Iceland chain of supermarkets will continue to open at 8am each day, reserving the first hour for elderly customers, after worried shoppers began rushing to grocery stores last week jostling to buy essentials that have flown off shelves.
Older shoppers, some with family members to help and one carrying a walking stick, queued up next to each other at the Kennedy shopping centre before the shutters came up.
“I thought it was a great thing that they did this morning, it saved the rush and was nice and relaxed,” said local resident Mary Heaney after buying some groceries.
James McDonnell, who only had to pick up a few items, said he hoped other shops would do the same.
“There were too many pictures of older folk stalking aisles empty because everybody was in panic buying. This is a great idea,” he said.
11.02am update: Iran confirms 1,178 new cases in past 24 hours
This brings the total number of cases in the Islamic Republic to 16,169.
10.58am update: Chancellor to deliver ‘economic update’ to Parliament this evening
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will make a statement to Parliament titled “Economic update” at around 7pm.
Last week, Mr Sunak announced help for businesses threatened with collapse by the spread of coronavirus, and is on Tuesday due to unveil further measures after the government ramped up its response to the outbreak.
9.59am update: ‘I’m terrified’ – Doctor’s chilling account of fighting coronavirus in UK hospital
An NHS doctor working on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus has exposed the “terrifying” experience of treating a ward full of patients, some of whom will die, in a damning assessment of the government’s grasp on the crisis.
The anonymous doctor told of their waning fatih in the country’s leadership after Public Health England pared back official advice to medics on what protective clothing to wear while administering care to Covid-19 patients.
Writing in the Guardian, the doctor who works on the infections diseases unit in a major UK hospital, explained how last week they donned full personal protective equipment (PPE) including a surgical gown, tow pairs of gloves, FFP3 mask and a visor.
But this week medics have been advised to ditch the full suit and just opt for a normals surgical mask, ordinary medical gloves and a plastic apron.
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9.30am update: Sri Lanka bans all incoming flights for two weeks
Sri Lanka said on Tuesday it will ban all incoming flights for two weeks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Flights already in the air will be allowed to land and passengers to disembark, said Mohan Samaranayake, a spokesman for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
9.29am update: Philippine Airlines to suspend flights as coronavirus spreads
Philippine Airlines said on Tuesday it will halt its international flights starting March 20 as the country’s main island is placed under enhanced quarantine measures.
The flag carrier started canceling all domestic flights on Tuesday after the government imposed a month-long quarantine in the capital and nearby provinces.
Philippine Airlines said flights will resume flights on April 13.
9.27am update: Georgia bans minibuses, restricts services of gyms and swimming pools
Georgia banned minibuses and restricted services of gyms and swimming pools in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country’s prime minister said on Tuesday.
Giorgi Gakharia told reporters that the measure would come into force from March 18.
The country has reported 34 cases of coronavirus.
One patient has recovered while more than 1,000 people with suspected infections remain in quarantine, authorities said.
8.29am update: London underground trains to be scaled back
Sadiq Khan is considering drastically reducing the public transport services available to Londoners as the coronavirus crisis escalates.
Over 407 cases have been confirmed in the city.
Mr Khan said there is no longer any need for “rush hour services” during the week as many Britons are working from home.
He said while he was determined to make “a good public transport service available for those who need it” such as medical workers, Transport for London is “moving towards a Saturday-type service”.
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8.17am update: Health secretary Matt Hancock to set out coronavirus emergency legislation this afternoon
8.12am update: Iran frees thousands of prisoners
Iran has temporarily released about 85,000 inmates, including political prisoners, amid the spead of the coronavirus, a spokesman for the judiciary has said.
8.05am update: London hospitals will not cope with epidemic, warns Sadiq Khan
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that hospitals in the capital will not be able to cope with the coronavirus crisis.
During an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he was questioned on whether London hospitals are adequately prepared for a rise in the number of coronavirus cases.
Mr Khan said: “The short answer is no, that’s one of the reasons why the government strategy was contain and delay to get us as near as possible to spring and summer to free up capacity in the NHS.”
He added that he is concerned, due to issues around business support, people may feel they need to keep working even if under the advice they should be isolating.
He said: “My concern about the lack of support for businesses is people may, for understandable reasons, choose to work to put food on the table rather than self-isolate.”
He added: “That’s why we need government support now.”
He said the government must help businesses now, following measures being enacted in France, Canada and Germany.
“What the Government has got to do is one of two things – either clarify and confirm it’s a ban so these businesses can claim for insurance or make sure these businesses are given some help whether that’s cashflow issues, help with rates, with rent, with charges,” he added.
“What the government should be doing now is the things that Macron’s doing, the things that Trudeau is doing, the things that Merkel is doing, now.”
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