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London MP denies racism accusations over coronavirus comment

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Bob Stewart's Facebook post

A south-east London MP has been accused of racism after he referred to coronavirus as a "foul Chinese illness".

MP for Beckenham Bob Stewart rejected the accusation and said he had not wanted to "score points".

In a post published on his Facebook page this weekend, Mr Stewart wrote: "In truth most people who contract this foul Chinese illness seem to brush it off with a bit of a cough, a higher temperature and a headache.”

The comments drew criticism from residents and political figures in the borough.

Angela Wilkins, the opposition leader at Bromley Council, commented: "I think I can safely speak for all Labour for Bromley members in absolute condemnation of these ignorant and racist comments from Bob Stewart."

Mr Stewart said: "It was not a rascist comment.

"My grandfather died of Spanish Flu in 1919 and I used the words Chinese Flu in respect of where the virus originated, not denigrating the Chinese people.

"As a constituent e-mailed me and thought I was being rude about the Chinese I deleted the word ‘Chinese’ because that was not my intention.

"I was not trying to score points; simply to say where the illness seems to have originated."

Coronavirus: Walthamstow Garden Party cancelled

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Walthamstow Garden Party has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The free annual event, organised by the council, the Barbican and Create London, was planned for 18-19 July in Lloyd Park.

However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the government banning all public events for the foreseeable future, the “difficult decision” has been made to cancel.

A statement on the event’s website reads: “We know this is very disappointing not only to everyone who was looking forward to enjoying the festival but to those who have worked so hard on the event so far.

“With the backing of the Barbican and Arts Council England and in collaboration with the London Borough of Waltham Forest and Create London, we will support our partners and explore new ways of working together, both over the festival weekend and beyond.

“Every year we are blown away by the bold ideas and creativity of the Walthamstow Garden Party network, and now, more than ever, this creativity is needed to help us process and make sense of what is happening.”

Those involved are invited to share ideas by emailing

Severe disruption: A503 London both ways

BBC News Travel

A503 London both ways severe disruption, from Isledon Road to A1201 Blackstock Road.

A503 London - A503 Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park closed one way street from Finsbury Park Station to Twelve Pins Traffic Lights, because of crane operation.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Coronavirus death toll in London now over 400

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

A third of the latest deaths in England linked to Covid-19 have happened in hospitals in London, according to NHS figures.

Fifteen people are said to have died from the coronavirus at King's College Hospital, while eight patients have died at both Croydon and St Guy's and Thomas' NHS Trusts.

It brings the total amount of deaths in England to 1,284 - and an analysis of NHS figures show 407 people in London have died from the coronavirus.

NHS England said patients also died at hospitals in Lewisham, Greenwich, St Helier, Chelsea, Westminster, Homerton, Kingston as well as in hospitals run by the Royal Free and Imperial NHS Trusts.

Figures of confirmed cases in London will be published by Public Health England later today.

'Dramatic rise' in Londoners claiming benefits, says mayor

Sadiq Khan

The number of Londoners claiming benefits has "dramatically increased" during the coronavirus outbreak pandemic, the mayor of London has said.

Sadiq Khan has written to the prime minister, urging him to extend Universal Credit and remove restrictions on claimants.

The government has temporarily removed the minimum income requirement for Universal Credit so more people impacted by the virus can claim.

The system requires a five-week wait for the first payment. Ministers insisted last week that this waiting period would remain in place.

Nationally, 477,000 people signed up for Universal Credit in the nine days to 25 March – almost double the total for the highest month of claims last year.

Mr Khan called for immediate payments as “the most vulnerable people in our society are being pushed into debt”.

Migrant Londoners who are now out of work are “at real risk of homelessness,” Mr Khan said.

“I am also particularly concerned about survivors of domestic violence with no recourse to public funds, who will face additional challenges to fleeing abuse and seeking out support during this time.

“They are unable to access the welfare safety net they need, despite paying into the system through taxes."

Grenfell tower wrapping replacement work paused

Grenfell tower
Getty Images

Work to replace the wrapping around Grenfell Tower is to be paused due to concerns about coronavirus, the government has announced.

In February, workers had begun changing the wrapping which has covered the block since the 2017 fire which killed 72 people.

In a statement, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the work had been "paused to avoid staff going on-site or using public transport".

It added that re-wrapping had "progressed well" since it started while "the remaining ‘older’ wrapping on the lower floors is in good condition".

"We do not believe pausing the re-wrapping is a cause for concern, but the team is happy to take any questions you might have," the department said.

Two London councils trying to house all rough sleepers

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Waltham Forest and Redbridge councils say they are working hard to house all their rough sleepers after new coronavirus instructions from the government.

Last week, local councils were asked by the government to find housing for rough sleepers by the weekend to allow them to self-isolate and prevent the spread of the pandemic.

Redbridge Council, which previously allowed an Ilford day centre to remain open to support rough sleepers, has now set up a “special facility” at the Ryedale Care Centre.

Waltham Forest Council, meanwhile, is “working hard” to find accommodation for all rough sleepers and encourages residents to notify Streetlink if they see anyone still sleeping rough.

Figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) show there were more than 100 rough sleepers in Redbridge at the end of last year.

Cabinet member for housing and homelessness Cllr Farah Hussain said on Friday that staff were “working around the clock” to house everyone.

London hospitals 'struggling' with NHS staff sickness

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Sign to key workers

Around one in four NHS doctors are off work sick or in isolation, the head of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has said.

Leading expert Prof Andrew Goddard revealed there were signs of a slowdown in Covid-19 hospital admissions.

He said about 25 per cent of the doctor workforce is off, either with coronavirus or because a family member or housemate is ill.

"At the moment, we think it's more doctors self-isolating with family members, though there are some off sick themselves," he said.

"This is really impacting a lot in emergency departments and London is in a much worse position than elsewhere at the moment, but it will come to other places.

"Birmingham is also struggling."

Prof Goddard said hospital wards across England "are going from normal wards to Covid wards very quickly.

"Some hospitals are really at the limit. Within London it's very, very difficult at the moment, you can't underestimate how difficult it is."

Police stop M1 driver on 180-mile trip to see friends

A driver has been caught flouting lockdown procedures after setting out on a 180-mile round trip to pick up a friend from London.

police jacket
PA Media

The driver, from Spalding, was stopped on the M1 by Hertfordshire Police at the weekend.

When officer asked what they were doing they told officers they were en route to London to pick up a friend before driving to Peterborough to see others.

Writing on Twitter the force said: "REALLY is this essential? Come on people COVID19 is a KILLER, STAY AT HOME."

Barnet Council announces changes to bin collections

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Blue bins in Barnet will be emptied every fortnight as the council operates with a reduced number of staff due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The temporary move to fortnightly recycling rounds is designed to ensure black refuse bins continue to be collected every week.

This week, the blue bins will be emptied on the usual collection day but will not be collected the next week, Barnet Council said.

Collections will resume on the week beginning 13 April.

People who do not have blue bins can still put out their recycling in clear sacks.

Barnet Council says it will monitor Government updates and review the waste collection situation in mid-April.

Garden waste collections will go ahead every fortnight, with the £70 annual charge for the rounds due to begin on 6 April.

Council leader Cllr Dan Thomas warned last week that “significant changes” to council services were likely as only the most essential staff are now able to travel due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Met quash rumours of NHS staff being 'targetted' by criminals

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Met Police have quashed rumours that NHS staff are being deliberately targeted by criminals.

In recent days, the Met said it has been made aware of two cases where hospital staff in Camden and Islington have had mobile phones taken from them by young men on bikes.

But, a spokeswoman said there is currently no evidence to suggest those thefts were targetted - and seems to be down to "opportunistic thieves".

"Detectives from OperationVenice are investigating incidents of mobile phone snatches in Camden and Islington in recent months," she said.

"We have no reason to believe that any specific demographic are being targeted; rather these appear to be opportunistic thieves targeting an area with a high footfall.

"Police in Camden and Islington are working closely with Operation Venice to target those committing these offences, using a number of tactics; and have arrested a number of individuals and seized bikes and stolen property.

"These measures, along with an increased police presence in the area, have seen a reduction in offences since the operation began."

Earlier today on BBC Breakfast, England's chief nursing officer Ruth May spoke about recent reports of abuse towards staff after doctors and nurses at hospitals in Greenwich, Lewisham and central London were "mugged for their ID badges".

She added: "Our NHS and social care staff are pulling out all the stops in the face of an unprecedented global health threat, so I am shocked at some of the stories I am hearing of NHS staff being assaulted, spat at or attacked for their ID badges.”

Meanwhile, Met detectives are still investigating a burglary at Great Ormond Street Hospital last Monday.

Laptops and a mobile phone were stolen from the nursing staff only area and the Met said anyone with information is asked to call 101.

Coronavirus: Grounded planes and deserted airport terminals

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Planes at airport

Pictures of major airports around the UK show they have been left almost empty as demand for air travel has plummeted following the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

Various travel bans have caused many airlines to massively scale back flights, resulting in abandoned terminal buildings.

On Monday, EasyJet said it would be grounding its entire fleet and it would be encouraging staff to work at the new NHS Nightingale Hospital in east London.

Jonathan Hinkles, the chief executive of regional airline Loganair, said bookings had fallen by 75 per cent.

Gatwick Airport to close North Terminal

Easyjet at gatwick

Gatwick Airport is set to close its North Terminal on 1 April, as demand plummets due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airport, which served 46 million passengers last year, also said its runway would only be in use between 1400 and 2200 for scheduled and repatriated flights.

It will remain available for emergency landings and diversions outside these hours.

Gatwick Airport announced last Tuesday that 200 jobswere being lost in order to "protect the business" against the impact of coronavirus.

Chief executive Steward Wingate and his team will take a 20% salary cut and waive any bonuses for the current financial year.

London City, the inner-city airport favoured by business travellers, is closing to all commercial passengers from March 25 until the end of April.

Sign appreciating NHS appears in Romford

Facebook/Sarah Gregory

The sign has appeared on a fence outside Queen's Hospital in Romford town centre, according to Sarah Gregory who posted it in an open Facebook group.

It is likely to be the latest example of messages put up across the country in support of medics tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus: Suspect Tasered after coughing at officers

A man has been Tasered after deliberately coughing over police officers as they sat in a car and claiming he had Covid-19.

The Metropolitan Police firearms command said on Twitter that the suspect had walked up to officers in a car in Haringey, north London, and “shouted that he had coronavirus before deliberately coughing saliva all over them”.

View more on twitter

He then began to physically attack them, officers said, before he was Tasered and arrested.

The suspect was later tested for the virus and found not to have it.

Last week director of public prosecutions Max Hill warned the public that using Covid-19 as a threat against emergency workers would be treated as a crime that could lead to up to two years in prison.

Deliberately coughing at other key workers such as supermarket staff could be prosecuted as a common assault, which could mean up to six months in prison.

Dozens of cabin crew have signed up for NHS Nightingale help

NHS Nightingale

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said about 100 cabin crew have so far expressed an interest in volunteering at the new Nightingale Hospital in east London.

"The latest help is coming from our airline crew and I'm very grateful that they're going to be part, if they volunteer of course, they will be part of our team, supporting our healthcare professionals and making sure we are able to care for our patients coming through our doors," she told BBC Breakfast.

"So far, we've got about 100 or so that have already expressed an interest to be working as part of our healthcare team.

"Obviously our doctors, nurses, our physios, all of them will be leading the healthcare of our patients.

"These people, along with our St John Ambulance volunteers, along with our many, many other support staff, will be working as a team at the Nightingale Hospital."

UCL engineers work with Mercedes F1 team to make ventilators

Fergus Walsh

Medical correspondent

James Tye/UCL

A breathing aid that can help keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week.

University College London engineers worked with clinicians at UCLH and Mercedes Formula One to build the device, which delivers oxygen to the lungs without needing a ventilator.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices are already used in hospitals but are in short supply.

China and Italy used them to help Covid-19 patients.

Forty of the new devices have been delivered to ULCH and to three other London hospitals. If trials go well, up to 1,000 of the CPAP machines can be produced per day by Mercedes-AMG-HPP, beginning in a week's time.

You can read the full story here.

'Wimbledon will decide to cancel' - German Tennis vice-president

Wimbledon organisers will announce the cancellation of the event this week because of the coronavirus pandemic, German Tennis Federation (DTB) vice-president Dirk Hordorff said.

All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) officials said last week the event, due to start on 29 June would not be played behind closed doors and postponement was not without significant risk and difficulty.

"Wimbledon has stated that they will have a board meeting next Wednesday and will make the final decision there," Hordorff told Sky Sports Germany.

"I am also involved in the bodies of the ATP and WTA. The necessary decisions have already been made there and Wimbledon will decide to cancel next Wednesday. There is no doubt about it. This is necessary in the current situation.

"It is completely unrealistic to imagine that with the travel restrictions that we currently have an international tennis tournament where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world would travel. That is unthinkable."

A sign reading 'The Championships Wimbledon'
Getty Images

Met Comissioner: Coronavirus police powers should be 'last resort'

Cressida Dick and Met Officers
Getty Images

New powers to enforce coronavirus lockdown rules should only be used as "a last resort", the head of the Met Police has told officers.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, said her approach is to "help educate and encourage" the public to comply with the tightest restrictions seen in peacetime in the UK.

Dame Cressida told LBC: "We are all getting used to the new restrictions and I've been very clear that in the first instance I want my officers to be engaging with people, talking to people, encouraging them to comply.

"Explaining, of course, if they don't understand - already we have had examples of people who simply hadn't quite heard all the messages - and, only as a very last resort with the current restrictions, using firm direction or even enforcement."

Her comments came after a number of forces were accused of being overzealous in their approach to the new rules.

South Wales Police hit out at MP Stephen Kinnock for visiting his father, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, on his birthday.

London scientist says 'coronavirus outbreak slowing down'

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Prof Neil Ferguson
House of Commons
Prof Neil Ferguson speaking at the Science and Technology Committee at the House of Commons

The coronavirus epidemic in the UK appears to be starting to slow down, according to a London-based scientist who has been advising the Government on the outbreak.

Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said the slowing of the spread of Covid-19 was the result of the social distancing measures brought in by the Government.

"In the UK we can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators - less so deaths because deaths are lagged by a long time from when measures come in force," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"But if we look at the numbers of new hospital admissions, that does appear to be slowing down a bit now.

"It has not yet plateaued, so still the numbers can be increasing each day but the rate of that increase has slowed."

London councils in plea for protective equipment for care homes

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Council leaders across London are warning that care homes are struggling to cope without enough protective equipment and clothing for staff.

PPE for health workers
PA Images

Ealing Council leader Julian Bell told BBC Radio London his local authority had a delivery of some supplies on Friday but they would only "last for a few days".

"Other boroughs across London have had a challenge. Greenwich put out a plea to the public," Mr Bell said.

"So I'd like to ask nail bars, construction companies in Ealing to donate some to the council to make sure our staff get the protection they need."

Severe disruption: A102 London both ways

BBC News Travel

A102 London both ways severe disruption, between Greenwich and Poplar.

A102 London - A102 Blackwall Tunnel in Greenwich closed in both directions between the Greenwich junction and the Poplar junction, because of technical fault.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Uber to give free trips and food to NHS workers

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

UberEats in Wembley
PA Media

Uber is to provide 200,000 free trips and 100,000 meals to NHS staff serving on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company says it wants to help reduce the pressure on the "heroes" helping affected patients.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi hopes the free trips will be a "small way" to help the nurses, doctors and support staff of the NHS as they work "tirelessly" day and night.

Uber says the free trips are up to a value of £15, while the meal vouchers are worth £10.

Labour MP working as doctor in south London hospital

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan
Getty Images

Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan is also a doctor and has just finished a night shift at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London.

She told Sky's Ridge on Sunday programme she has been seeing more people in their 30s and 40s who were previously fit and healthy coming in with Covid-19 symptoms.

"No single group of people are immune," the A&E doctor said.

"Let's roll out mass testing, it's worked in South Korea and Germany.

"I'm disappointed we're not able to test NHS and care staff at the moment."

Birmingham has the most coronavirus cases in England

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Birmingham Library

The Birmingham City Council area has the most coronavirus cases in England, according to new figures released by the Department for Health. (London's cases are calculated borough by borough, rather than as a single figure.)

The city has 428 confirmed cases of Covid-19 - only the Aneurin Bevan health board area in Wales has more, with 482 cases. Hampshire (384), Glasgow and Clyde (376) and Sheffield (361) make up the rest of the top five across the UK.

London now has 5,299 cases with only the boroughs of Kingston-upon-Thames (66), Sutton (82), Richmond-upon-Thames (83) and Barking and Dagenham (93) having fewer than 100 cases.

More than 1,000 people are now known to have died from coronavirus in Britain.


London has more than a third of latest coronavirus-linked deaths

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

ExCeL centre
London Ambulance workers continue to work outside the new temporary NHS Nightingale hospital

Over a third of the latest confirmed deaths from coroanvirus in England happened in London, new NHS figures show.

NHS England says 96 people have died at various NHS trusts across the capital - including 16 at the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

It is the same trust area where the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in London on 13 February - after a woman had returned from China and felt unwell.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust has seen 15 deaths linked to coronavirus and the Hillington Trust in west London has recorded 12 deaths.

Other NHS trusts with numbers of deaths in double figures include Portsmouth with 13 and Birmingham with 12.

Efforts stepped up to turn ExCeL Centre into NHS Nightingale

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Rows upon rows of cubicles hastily erected in London's ExCel centre show the expected scale of the explosion in numbers of coronavirus patients.

ExCeL Centre

Soldiers and trade contractors are converting the exhibition centre, which usually hosts spectacles and conferences, into the first of the NHS Nightingale hospitals.

The effort should see the temporary facility in the Docklands open its doors this week to its first patients, with capacity ultimately reaching 4,000 beds.

Initially 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen will be used to treat the seriously ill.

The NHS will build more temporary hospitals in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.

Severe disruption: A101 London southbound

BBC News Travel

A101 London southbound severe disruption, from Limehouse to Rotherhithe.

A101 London - A101 Rotherhithe Tunnel in Rotherhithe closed southbound from the Limehouse junction to the Rotherhithe junction, because of a break down.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Hammersmith and Fulham parks to reopen

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Hammersmith and Fulham council has decided to reopen its parks - less than a week after it had to close them because of social distancing measures brought in by the government.

Hammersmith and Fulham council

The parks were closed last Sunday amid public health concerns that thousands of residents could catch coronavirus because people were failing to observe social distancing rules.

On Thursday, emergency laws were passed meaning police could fine people who don't follow the social distancing regime.

Following the new legislation, Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan said it meant visible patrols in the borough's parks could be set up and the parks could reopen.

Severe disruption: London both ways

BBC News Travel

London both ways severe disruption, from Crispin Street to Artillery Passage.

London - Artillery Lane in Shoreditch blocked in both directions from the Crispin Street junction to the Artillery Passage junction, because of a police investigation. Diversion in operation - Bus route 106 is affected.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Transplant surgeon dies in London from coronavirus

Thomas Mackintosh

BBC London News

Adil El Tayar

An organ transplant surgeon has died from coronavirus, the British Transplantation Society says.

Adil El Tayar, 63, worked in various hospitals around the world, including in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and south London.

Dr El Tayar died on Wednesday in intensive care.

You can read the full story here.

Severe disruption: A102 London northbound

BBC News Travel

A102 London northbound severe disruption, from A2203 Blackwall Lane to A13 East India Dock Road.

A102 London - A102 Blackwall Tunnel in Greenwich closed and queues northbound from the A2203 Blackwall Lane junction to the A13 East India Dock Road junction, because of an obstruction.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Coronavirus: Deserted London landmarks seen from above
Some of the city's most popular landmarks are devoid of the usual crowds as people stay indoors to help combat coronavirus.