Coronavirus briefing: UK construction worker warning and India lockdown

By Victoria King
BBC News

  • Published

If you want to get this briefing by email, sign up here

Should the UK do more?

Image source, Terry Dolzyc

Everyday freedoms in the UK have been significantly curtailed, but questions remain over who should and shouldn't be leaving the house. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said those who cannot work from home should carry on going to work, but there's upset about the numbers of people still packing on to public transport, especially the London Underground. Construction workers are thought to be a significant part of the problem, and Labour and others want the government to shut all non-essential building sites down. That's already been done in Scotland.

There are now more than 8,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK - although the true number is likely to be far higher. Some 422 of those patients have died.

Prisons are feeling the strain, with a growing number of cases and falling staff numbers due to sickness and self-isolation. The justice secretary says some offenders could be released early from jails in England and Wales to ease pressures. Significant problems are also being reported in the benefits system after an "incredible" number of claims in recent days due to the economic fall-out of the pandemic.

The latest efforts to beef up the NHS include a huge makeshift field hospital in east London, capable of treating 4,000 patients. Retired medics have also answered the call for reinforcements in their droves.

Around the world

Two very different messages coming from leaders on opposite sides of the world on Wednesday. India has locked down its 1.3bn citizens for 21 days in an effort to tackle the virus. The prime minister ordered "a total ban on venturing out of your homes" and correspondents say there's been widespread panic buying. India's poorest will likely be hit hardest.

Contrast that with the latest remarks from the US president. Donald Trump told a press briefing he was beginning "to see the light at the end of the tunnel" and he hoped the US would shake off coronavirus by Easter. That was even as New York's governor was striking an increasingly desperate tone, warning the illness was spreading faster than "a bullet train". The World Health Organization has warned the US has the potential to become the new epicentre of the pandemic.

Coronavirus has now affected more than 190 countries worldwide. On Tuesday, as anticipated, this summer's Olympics were postponed. See athletes' reactions to the news. The BBC's chief sports writer, Tom Fordyce, stays positive though, saying the rescheduled Games will be a carnival that no-one will take for granted ever again.

Follow the latest updates from around the world via our live page. And we've gathered all you need to understand the crisis here.

What about the young?

Our social lives have taken a hit thanks to social distancing, but many are coming up with creative ways to carry on remotely. The BBC has spoken to young people passing the time with virtual movie nights, digital happy hours and birthdays on video messaging platforms. Hundreds of thousands of children are also taking part in daily "PE lessons" with fitness trainer Joe Wicks via YouTube. Speaking of the young, health experts are warning that they shouldn't see themselves as invincible - even though much of the focus has been on the threat posed by coronavirus to the elderly. Here we look closely at the risks to young.

What this crisis reveals about the US - and its president

By Nick Bryant, BBC News, New York

Nations, like individuals, reveal themselves at times of crisis. In emergencies of this immense magnitude, it soon becomes evident whether a sitting president is equal to the moment. So what have we learnt about the United States as it confronts this national and global catastrophe? Will lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who have been in a form of legislative lockdown for years now, a paralysis borne of partisanship, rise to the challenge? And what of the man who now sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, who has cloaked himself in the mantle of "wartime president"?

One thing not to miss today

Image source, Reuters

Listen up

The latest episode of the BBC's Coronavirus Newscast sees the team talk to personal finance guru Martin Lewis about the impact of coronavirus on your pocket. You might also like to listen to a special edition of Radio 4's The Food Programme answering your questions about cooking and eating at this time.

What the papers say

The front pages focus on the NHS, with the i calling it the biggest week for the health service since it was founded in 1948. The Sun welcomes a plan to recruit 250,000 health volunteers to help tackle coronavirus, describing it as the "National Help Service". The Daily Mirror believes the transformation of the ExCeL Centre in east London into a huge field hospital should be a "wake-up call for those still in denial about the horror that is to be unleashed". The Guardian warns there is a risk the massive NHS recruitment drive will be undermined by doctors quitting because of fears about inadequate protective equipment. In the Financial Times' opinion, it is inexcusable that frontline staff members are dealing with virus patients "dressed in paper masks and their own aprons".

From elsewhere

Need something different?

Wednesday is the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery. To coincide with it, the BBC's Sean Coughlan has spoken to the grandson of a woman recently discovered to be the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. Elsewhere, read about the entrepreneur who couldn't buy the products she wanted for her hair, so set up a company to sell them instead. We also have a couple of entertaining videos to recommend. The first, from BBC Ideas, asks what Oscar Wilde can tell us about Kim Kardashian. The second is titled "There's treasure in your toilet and it can help the planet." With headlines like that, how could you not give them a watch?