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UK coronavirus could last until Spring 2021 say officials

Matt Hancock: expects more disruption

Britain’s coronavirus crisis could last until Spring 2021 and see nearly eight million people hospitalised, according to a briefing paper for senior NHS figures.

The document, seen by The Guardian newspaper, details how it will impact key staff in the NHS, police and fire brigade.

It says that up 80% of the population could be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% may require hospitalisation.

Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, has previously described the 80% figure as the worst-case scenario and suggested that the real number would turn out to be less than that.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “The public will be seriously concerned about the contents of this document. It reinforces why it is now urgent that the government is completely transparent about its strategy and explains what it is doing to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

“The report indicates the scale of the preparations and public expenditure support required. 

“We need the government to produce a fully costed, comprehensive options plan now.”

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had not ruled out following other countries by ordering the closure of restaurants, bars and other shops to prevent the virus spreading.

He said efforts to fight the virus would “dirsupt the lives of almost everybody” in the country.

Reports suggest anyone over the age of 70 will soon be asked to stay at home for up to four months to shield themselves from the outbreak.

US Fed acts

Late on Sunday the US Federal Reserve launched a $700bn assets purchase plan and cut interest rates by almost 1% to between 0.25% and zero in an effort to boost the US economy. It is the second cut by the Fed in a week.

In a statement, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), said: ‘The committee expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.

“This action will help support economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation returning to the committee’s symmetric 2% objective.’

Trump at first media rally

Donald Trump: welcomed Fed’s move

The move from the central bank won quick support from president Donald Trump, who tweeted:  ‘It makes me very happy and I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve. That’s a big step and I’m very happy they did it.’

The dollar was down on the news, with the yen and euro rising. US futures, which began trading at 6pm EST on Sunday, fell 3.7% within 15 minutes following the news.

The Fed’s moves follow a tough week for global markets. The S&P 500 rose strongly on Friday after Mr Trump unveiled a package of measures. Despite the dramatic late rally, the S&P still finished the week 8.8% down and 20% down from its highs of February 19. 

Shoppers urged not to panic

Britain’s supermarkets are urging shoppers not to buy more than they need amid concern over stockpiling. There have been calls for supermarkets to set aside a part of the day when they open to older and more vulnerable shoppers only and impose more stringent limits on how many items individuals can buy

The Scottish government is advising that overseas school trips should be cancelled, but that schools should remain open.

Recruitment agencies expect widespread lay-offs among staff in the hospitality, travel and retail sectors and reduced hiring for permanent jobs across the economy.

Social media users reported quieter than usual trains travelling to cities including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Coronavirus deaths in Italy rose by 368 to bring the total to 1,809,

Italian officials confirmed the jump today, as the national lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte earlier this month rumbles on another week.

The stark reality of the growing toll of fatalities emerged in a local Lombardy newspaper which revealed that on 9 February it posted a page and a half of obituaries. Its 13 March edition contains 10 pages of death notices. In the village of Bergamo bodies are kept in churches awaiting burial as the mortuary and hospital are full.

Spain has recorded 2,000 new virus cases and more than 100 deaths in 24 hours.

The US has extended its travel ban to the UK and Ireland effective from midnight on Monday 16 March EST or 4am on Tuesday 17 March GMT, prompting travellers to seek early flights and creating chaos at airports. About 3.8 million British citizens visit the US every year. 

Under the restrictions, American citizens and green card holders are still allowed to return home, but will be funnelled to 13 airports and subjected to health screenings and quarantine orders. 

Austria has banned gatherings of five people or more as part of a series of new, tighter restrictions to “starve” the coronavirus.

The government is also closing restaurants from Tuesday, and is telling people not to leave the home apart from to go to work, get food or other necessities, or to help people. People have also been banned from entering Austria from the UK.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned earlier this week that up to 70% of the country’s population – 58 million people – could contract the virus.

France will reduce long-distance train, bus and plane travel on its territory. It has already shut cafés, restaurants, schools and universities

Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency, barring almost all travel to and from the country.

Shops, pubs and restaurants to share £320m rescue package

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