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News Daily: Coronavirus latest, hospital pressures and childcare cost

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Italy outbreak spreads

Image copyright AFP

The UK is warning against all but essential travel to parts of northern Italy at the centre of a growing coronavirus outbreak. Four schools in England have closed so they can be deep cleaned after pupils returned from ski trips, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock says there are currently no plans to stop flights from Italy to the UK.

Italy has put 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto into lockdown and the country has so far seen more than 300 cases and 11 deaths. Austria, Croatia and Switzerland have confirmed their first cases - all linked to the Italian outbreak - but neighbouring nations have decided against closing borders at this stage.

Numbers of new infections have been declining in China, but the director general of the World Health Organization has said the escalation in other countries is "deeply concerning". In Iran, the infection of the country's deputy health minister has fuelled fears the true scale of the outbreak there is much greater than the 100 cases officially declared.

Sport is feeling the impact of coronavirus too, and Ireland's health minister has said his country's Six Nations game against Italy in Dublin on 7 March should not go ahead because it would "constitute a significant risk" to public health.

How close are we to a pandemic? Our health correspondent takes a look. Here's everything you need to know about symptoms and safety precautions, but what are your rights if you have to miss work?

Hospital pressures

It's already widely documented that A&E units have struggled this winter and this video gives an insight into that. But new BBC research has looked at delays after A&E, and it shows nearly a quarter of patients in England waited more than four hours on trolleys and in corridors before they could be found a bed on a ward during December and January. Pressure in the system is also creating a backlog outside hospitals with one in seven patients brought by ambulance facing long waits before being handed over to hospital staff.

The Royal College of Nursing said its members were being forced to provide vital treatment in corridors and side rooms, while the Nuffield Trust warned there was "little in the tank" to cope with the coronavirus.

NHS England says hospitals are facing unprecedented demand - something BBC Reality Check has examined - but the government insists more money going into the system will make a difference.

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Price of care

Parents in England, Scotland and Wales are paying 5% more on childcare for under-twos than a year ago - and 4% more for two-year-olds - according to a report. Those increases are much higher than the general rate of UK inflation, currently 1.8%. Children's charity Coram, which produced the report, argues the system of subsidy and free entitlement is too complicated, meaning some families are missing out on help. The government says it is investing in the system and creating more places.

'How do I convince the Home Office I'm a lesbian?'

By Kirstie Brewer, BBC News

Angel fled Zimbabwe in fear for her life after police found her in bed with another woman five years ago. It's taken most of the time since then for her to convince the Home Office that she is gay and will be persecuted if she returns. But how do you prove something you spent your life trying to hide? "How do I know I am a lesbian? How old was I when I knew? Who did I tell?" Angel recalls being asked. "It is as if the Home Office expect a date and time." For seven hours, the interviewer picked at the threads of her life story.

Read the full article

What the papers say

The front pages focus on the accelerated spread of the coronavirus across Europe. The Daily Telegraph reveals details of plans for "mass testing" by GPs in the UK under a new "surveillance" system by Public Health England. The Guardian highlights what it calls "growing confusion" after the health secretary and chief medical officer expressed different advice for British people intending to travel to northern Italy. The Daily Mail warns of "virus panic in schools". According to the Financial Times, fears about the virus and weak economic growth mean some key decisions could be put off. It says proposals to raise taxes on high-end properties, curb pension tax relief and raise fuel duty may be missing from next month's Budget. Elsewhere, the Times reports that the government is to consider whether to reduce the size of the army in a review due to be announced later.

Daily digest

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Lookahead

Today Scottish government holds a conference to discuss the country's drugs crisis

Today In the first trial of its kind, Thomas Hanlon is due to appear in court accused of causing death by dangerous driving after his E-bike hit a pedestrian

On this day

1987 The Church of England's ruling body votes in favour of allowing the ordination of women priests - watch the BBC News report.

From elsewhere

How ultrarunners are pushing the human body beyond all limits (Wired)

Civil service tension is exactly what Dominic Cummings and his allies want (New Statesman)

Big tech is testing you (New Yorker)

How dating became a marketplace (The Atlantic)

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