Coronavirus briefing: UK crackdown and WHO warning on 'accelerating' pandemic

By Victoria King
BBC News


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UK cracks down hard

Image source, Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

First it was advice, now it's an order. Boris Johnson has issued a stark message to the country: "At this moment of national emergency... stay at home." Speaking after the UK death toll reached 335, the prime minister introduced unprecedented restrictions on everyday life, meaning people must leave their house for one of only four reasons - to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where "absolutely necessary", to shop for essential items, and to fulfil any medical or care needs.

Shops selling non-essential goods have been told to shut, along with libraries and children's playgrounds, and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited. The restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks and police will have the power to enforce them, including through fines. Read the prime minister's statement in full and get a more detailed breakdown of the new rules.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg says it's still not quite the kind of total crackdown seen in other countries, at least not yet - no curfews, for example - and there will be a time on the other side of this crisis to analyse whether the government made the right decisions at the right time.

A reminder here of the symptoms of coronavirus and how you can minimise your risk. And here we answer 10 of your most-asked questions.

Latest worldwide

The World Health Organization says the pandemic is "accelerating", with more than 360,000 cases globally and more than 16,000 deaths. But WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was still possible to "change the trajectory" with rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies.

Many other nations have now imposed lockdowns along the lines of that in the UK. France is strictly limiting physical exercise and closing outdoor markets, and South Africa's government is preparing for the worst. India is stopping all domestic flights, but there are particular fears surrounding one textile city.

In Italy, the worst-hit country, the latest daily increase in deaths was the smallest since last Thursday, raising hope that stringent restrictions on public life are starting to have an effect. The BBC's Sima Kotecha describes the haunting experience of Rome under lockdown.

In the US, where 481 people have died, state governors and city mayors are pleading for more help from the federal government. However, the BBC's Anthony Zurcher explains why the president may be having second thoughts about following suit with a large-scale lockdown.

Our live page has all the latest developments, while health correspondent James Gallagher looks at when and how life might return to normal.

A closer look at business

Coronavirus is an economic emergency as well as health one, and our colleagues in BBC Business have pulled together the guidance on how to apply for government business support. Lots of measures have been announced, but still, freelance and self-employed people tell us they feel forgotten.

Companies are attempting to help in the fight against the disease. Carmakers are answering calls from governments to help make more ventilators and face masks, while several tech giants are teaming up to accelerate delivery of testing kits. At the opposite end of the economic scale, we meet some of the workers keeping our essential services running.

US-China contagion: The battle behind the scenes

By Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

It is clearly not a good time for the world and it is not a good time for relations between the US and China. President Donald Trump has repeatedly chosen to call the coronavirus the "Chinese virus". The president and his secretary of state have both denounced China for its failings in the initial handling of the outbreak. Meanwhile, social media in China has spread stories that the pandemic has been caused by a US military germ warfare programme. But this is not just a war of words, something more fundamental is going on.

One thing not to miss today

Image source, Getty Images

Listen up

In the BBC's latest Coronavirus Newscast, Adam Fleming and the team discuss the newly imposed lockdown. Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussain joins them to offer some tips for cooking while cooped up.

What the papers say

The drastic measures announced by Boris Johnson are reflected in dramatic headlines. "End of freedom", the Daily Telegraph declares. "Britain shuts up shop", the Daily Mail says, while the Sun has a picture of a giant padlock with the headline "House arrest". As the Financial Times puts it, the prime minister has been "forced to close Britain". While there's widespread support for the measures, there's also a feeling that, as the i puts it, the prime minister has dragged his heels. The Guardian says he significantly "escalated his language" after days of being accused of "sending mixed messages about what the public should do". Leo McKinstry, writing in the Daily Express, says the imposition of these "savage rules" will have been particularly difficult for the PM, who is "an optimistic liberal at heart, with a deep suspicion of the big state", but he had no alternative.

From elsewhere

Need something different?

Amid all the gloom, lose yourself in some beautiful wildlife photography, including stunning drone shots of seals and sheep. The 2020 Tokyo Games may be in doubt, but watch the teen figure skater from Latvia with Down's syndrome who dreams of competing at the 2021 Special Olympics. Our business desk have a couple of pieces you might find interesting too, including this one looking at whether synthetic fish grown in a lab could eventually replace the real thing. And if you're finding yourself stuck in a lot of video meetings these days, this fun film offers you seven tips to make them work.