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Members of a family listen as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a televised address to the nation from inside 10 Downing Street with the latest instructions to stay at home to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image: WHO)

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Coronavirus live blog, March 24

Last updated: Tuesday, 24 March, 2020, 18:03

  • Boris Johnson tells nation "you must stay at home"
  • PM also orders the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods
  • 'Gatherings' of more than two people can be dispersed by police, and fines imposed

Trump criticised for approach to social distancing measures

President Donald Trump has been criticised for recent comments on social distancing.

The leader of the free world claimed that social distancing measures could be more damaging than the disease itself. His comments came after a Fox News segment which hinted at the "cure" being more deadly than the disease. 

Tom Inglesby, the director of the John Hopkins Center for Health Security responded to the claims tweeting: “In Asia they've slowed the disease by slowing social interaction. Left to its own, this disease spreads from 1 person to about 2.5 people, and then they do the same, and so on. For this disease to stop, we need to make it so that the average person spreads it to <1 other person."

Government sends text message encouraging members of the public to stay at home

The government has text messaged people across the UK explaining new strict social-distancing measures.

Zero-hour contacts eligible for help under job retention scheme

Rishi Sunak is currently taking questions at the House of Commons. 

He has clarified that workers on zero-hours contracts will be helped under the job retention scheme announced last week.

Wales death toll rises by one

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the novel coronavirus outbreak at Public Health Wales, said 60 new cases had tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 478, though the true number of cases is likely to be higher - with coronavirus in every part of the country, Dr Shankar said.

"One further death of an individual who has tested positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has been reported to us, taking the number of deaths in Wales to 17," he said.

"We offer our condolences to the family and friends affected, and we ask those reporting on the situation to respect patient confidentiality."

Downsized Cabinet meet o discuss new measures

The Government's comprehensive spending review has been delayed as ministers focus on the coronavirus outbreak, the Cabinet was told, as it met for the first time using video conferencing.

Only Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty attended in person.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Cabinet received an update from Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, on the coronavirus outbreak.

"Cabinet discussed the extensive range of actions which the Government is taking to tackle the spread of the virus.

"The Prime Minister said it was vital that the public followed the instructions issued by the Government on the need to stay at home.

"The PM said that by staying at home, people would protect our NHS and save lives.

"The Chancellor confirmed to Cabinet that the comprehensive spending review will be delayed so that Government remains focused on responding to the public health and economic emergency.

"Further details of when the comprehensive spending review will be held will be set out in due course."

Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until next year. 

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed the International Olympic Committee had agreed to a delay.

Abe said: "I proposed to postpone for about a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement."

Chancellor: 'Won't be possible to rescue all jobs and businesses'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak acknowledged it would not be possible to protect every job and save every business during the coronavirus outbreak.

He told the Commons: "There will be challenging times ahead and despite the significant economic interventions that we have put in place, we will not be able to protect every single job or save every single business.

"But I am confident that the measures we have put in place will provide support to millions of people and businesses, and ensure we do get through this, we get through it together and emerge on the other side both stronger and more united."

Wetherspoons founder tells staff to "go work at Tesco"

Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin has told staff to "go work at Tesco" instead as the pub firm warned staff they could face delays over pay.

The company, which employs 40,000 people, shut all its pubs on Friday after Boris Johnson ordered sites to shut until further notice in response to coronavirus.

In a video message to staff, Mr Martin suggested its workers could find employment at supermarkets while its pubs remain shut.

He said the pub group will pay staff for all work done until the shutdown, when its pubs last opened, but will not make any further payments to staff until the Government fulfils its promise to cover 80% of the wages of workers impacted by the virus.

Further steps could still be imposed

Further restrictions could still be imposed in order to curb the spread of the virus, Downing Street said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "If further steps are recommended in order to further contain the spread of this virus then we are not going to rule anything out."

Health Secretary: Police can issue £30 fines for non-compliance

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs "home is now the front line" and that working together, coronavirus can be defeated.

Updating MPs on the effort to tackle coronavirus, Mr Hancock said: "These measures are not advice, they are rules and will be enforced, including by the police with fines starting at £30 up to unlimited fines for non compliance."

Mr Hancock said that "employers should be taking every possible step to make sure that remote working can happen", but added: "I want to be absolutely clear, when people absolutely cannot work from home they can still go to work, indeed it's important that they do to keep the country running."

He said: "We are engaged in a great national effort to beat the virus. Everybody now has it in their power to save lives and protect the NHS.

"Home is now the front line, and in this national effort, working together, we can defeat this disease. Everyone has a part to play."

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