Coronavirus briefing: Help for self-employed and surge in US cases

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

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Image source, AFP

Help for self-employed

It seems self-employed people are about to get some of the help they have been demanding since the government agreed to pay 80% of the salary of staff kept on by employers during the coronavirus outbreak. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to reveal what's in the package at a press conference later. It comes as MPs criticise banks for asking business owners to put up personal assets such as property - other than their family home - to secure loans. This is despite government promises to cover 80% of losses if the money is not repaid, up to £5m.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered a "special thank you" to those who have volunteered to help the NHS during the outbreak. More than half a million - including 11,000 former medics and 24,000 final-year students - have answered the call. That's more than double the government's recruitment target. Meanwhile, the Royal College of General Practitioners has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to ask whether family doctors should wear protective equipment to examine all patients, rather than just those showing coronavirus symptoms.

We look at how well prepared the health service is for the anticipated surge in cases. That includes a race to acquire ventilators, with the government ordering 10,000 from Dyson. Insiders at the firm, best known for vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, says it has a prototype "ready to go", provided it passes stringent medical tests. Find out which companies are desperately seeking staff as they ramp up their roles in helping the country cope.

Surge in US cases

You can keep up with all the global developments via our live page, which has been reporting how the number of deaths in the US has topped 1,000.

The number of cases in the US had increased by more than 10,000 in 24 hours. One retired physician, 69-year-old Claudia Bahorik, who documented the frustrations in her quest to get tested for the virus, says her case is an example of Washington's failure to implement the "trace, test and treat" mantra of global health bodies. Meanwhile, the US Senate has passed a $2tn (£1.7tn) aid bill, including direct payments of $1,200 to most adults and help for small businesses to pay workers.

Closer to home, our correspondents gauge the mood in Europe's locked-down capitals. The death toll in Spain has risen to 3,434 - surpassing that of China. And coronavirus has triggered the downfall of the government in Kosovo.

Personal stories

As many countries grow accustomed to increasingly stringent lockdowns, personal stories are emerging that demonstrate how dramatically life has changed. For example, the world of dating has got a lot more complicated. One dad tells us how he's told his daughter he's gone to Africa when, in reality, he's self-isolating in a campervan parked in the field next door. And we hear from young gay people forced into isolation with homophobic parents.

How are food supply networks coping?

By Jonty Bloom, business reporter, BBC News,

Continuing pictures of empty shelves at UK supermarkets have sparked ongoing worries about food shortages. The supermarkets are confident that they can cope, not least because there is a limit to how much people can sensibly stockpile. So they believe that shopping patterns should return to normal eventually.

But the coronavirus pandemic has awakened wider fears about the security and strength of the hugely complicated supply chains, or logistics systems, that modern societies depend on. The Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu wrote that “the line between disorder and order lies in logistics”. To test that idea, you only have to look in your kitchen cupboard or fridge. Almost certainly nearly everything in there came from a shop that was stocked by a lorry or van.

One thing not to miss today

Image source, AFP

Listen up

The Coronavirus Newscast hears from reporters patrolling the country's parks to find out whether people are following the government's rules on social distancing. And the Inquiry, on the BBC World Service, asks what lessons can be learned from South Korea, which quickly got to grips with the outbreak and kept mortality rates low.

What the papers say

There is much praise for the more than 500,000 people who have volunteered to help the NHS deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They make up an "army of kindness", according to the Daily Express, while they are "kindhearts" in the Daily Mirror's front-page headline. For the Daily Mail it shows the UK to be "a nation of heroes". Meanwhile, in a thinly veiled dig at the Prince of Wales, who has tested positive, the Daily Star suggests NHS workers are "not amused" by celebrities and royalty "jumping the queue" to be tested ahead of them. The Financial Times says the government is under pressure to test front-line health workers. The Times and Daily Telegraph say testing kits could be available on a mass scale within weeks, while the Guardian and i suggest the government is to announce financial support for self-employed people.

From elsewhere

Need something different?

Away from our virus coverage, we have important journalism from BBC Africa Eye which investigates how foreign powers are allowing secret arms shipments to bring misery to the people of conflict-ravaged Libya. Meanwhile, if you're feeling the effects of being confined to quarters, BBC Ideas has put together a stuck-at-home playlist to help you through the day. And if you're simply in need of a laugh, Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner returns to screens this week. And its stars open up about the show's shenanigans, on and off-screen. Oh, and in case you missed yesterday's news, off-licences have been added to the government's list of essential UK retailers allowed to stay open.