Covid-19: What governments are saying
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Coronavirus: A timeline of how the deadly COVID-19 outbreak is evolving

6:19 pm

UK government to fly tens of thousands of Britons back to UK

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced plans to transport tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad back to the UK.

The UK government has come to an arrangement with some airlines to fly home UK citizens from “a range of priority countries”, starting this week on special charter flights after many commercial airline routes have been cancelled.

Partner airlines include British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan. The government has designated £75m to support flights and keep costs down for those returning to the UK.


10:47 am

US passes $2tn disaster aid bill

The US Senate has passed a $2tn disaster aid bill, the largest in US history.

This includes a payment of $1200 to American adults who earn $75000 or less, and $500 per child.

The bill will also include a $500bn fund for companies, an additional $350bn in loans for small businesses and an increase in unemployment aid.

There have been 68573 COVID-19 cases in the US, and 1036 deaths. President Donald Trump has stated that he wants the country to “reopen by Easter”.


5:51 pm

South Africa braces for lockdown

South Africa will enter a 21-day lockdown as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country reaches 709.

From midnight tomorrow, citizens will be instructed to remain in their homes, only leaving to buy food and receive medical care. All shops, with some exceptions including supermarkets and banks, will close and only health workers and those working in the emergency and security services will be permitted to work.

It is now estimated that around 20% of the world’s population is under lockdown.

11:32 am

US White House and Senate reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package

In the US, the White House and the Senate have agreed an economic stimulus package worth more than $1.8 trillion to combat the economic fallout of Covid-19.

Full details of the deal will not be published until later on Wednesday. However, it is expected to cprovide support to workers laid off due the virus and increase unemployment assistance.

The package also includes money to bail out industries that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis and provide emergency loans to small firms.

US markets had risen on Tuesday in anticipation of the deal. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed 8% higher on Wednesday and the FTSE 100 index had risen more than 1%.

10:59 am

New Zealand declares national state of emergency over Covid-19

New Zealand has declared a state of national emergency over the Covid-19 outbreak as cases continue to rise.

The National Emergency Management Agency announced that anyone “not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of your household.”

Essential services will continue, including food and healthcare shops, however schools will close and all public events are banned. Public transport and domestic flights will be restricted to those working in essential services.

5:45 pm

2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to a date no later than summer 2021, announced  International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese organisers.

The coronavirus pandemic has compelled the Olympics, which was scheduled to begin from 24 July and end on 9 August this year, to be postponed for the first time in its 124-year modern history.

In a statement, the IOC said: “In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

5:35 pm

India under lockdown for 21 days from midnight of 24 March, says PM Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address today announced that the entire country will be under lockdown for the next 21 days starting midnight tonight.

PM Modi said: “There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.”

He also announced an emergency financial package of Rs150bn ($1.97bn) for healthcare.

So far, over 500 coronavirus cases and ten deaths have been reported in the country, according to the figures released by the Union Health Ministry.

9:57 am

Trump promises faster FDA approval of Covid-19 treatments

With the Covid-19 pandemic reaching 250,000 cases on Friday and numbers rising quickly in Europe and the US, the search for treatment options and vaccines is more pressing than ever. In a press conference on Thursday, President Trump promised to remove barriers to allow faster drug approval for promising agents against Covid-19 by the FDA, mentioning the drug chloroquine in particular.

Read more here

9:41 am

UK Government announces closure of non-essential businesses

Last night, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced more stringent, semi-lockdown measures for the UK to encourage social distancing.

These included only allowing people out of their homes to shop for basic necessities, exercise once a day, any medical appointments and to go to work if absolutely necessary.

To the end of discouraging people from leaving their houses for any other reasons, the UK Government closed all non-essential shops, including clothing and electronics retail stores, hair and beauty salons, and markets, except those selling food.

The police and other relevant authorities will be given powers to enforce these social distancing rules, including issuing out fines.

11:48 am

UK government invest £20m to map mutation of Covid-19

The UK Government has created the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium to map the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country using whole genome sequencing.

Comprised of experts from the National Health Service, public health bodies, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and academic institutions, the consortium will use its £20m of government funding to analyse the genetic code of Covid-19 from samples taken from confirmed UK cases.

By understanding the whole virus genome of Covid-19 in various different people, public health bodies can assess how the virus is changing and spread, as well as whether different strains of the virus are emerging.

The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “Genomic sequencing will help us understand Covid-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions.

“The UK is one of the world’s leading destinations for genomics research and development, and I am confident that our best minds, working as part of this consortium, will make vital breakthroughs to help us tackle this disease.”

Wellcome director Sir Jeremy Farrar added: “Rapid genome sequencing of Covid-19 will give us unparalleled insights into the spread, distribution and scale of the epidemic in the UK.

“The power of 21st century science to combat this pandemic is something that those going before us could not have dreamt of, and it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to first understand, and then limit, the impact of Covid-19.”

4:05 pm

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls for citizen curfew to fight coronavirus

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged people to opt for a self-imposed citizen curfew on 22 March (Sunday) from 7am to 9pm, in a preparatory move to fight the pandemic coronavirus Covid-19 in the country.

In his address to the nation, the prime minister urged people not to step out of their houses during the curfew, stating: “The citizen curfew will go towards proving our self-restraint and help us in future situations.”

The government has decided to set up a task force under Finance Minister to ensure all measures are undertaken to cut down economic difficulties by making timely interventions to cater to all economic sections of the society.

The world is witnessing a severe crisis, something that was not seen during the two World Wars, and although most crises are currently restricted to a few countries or regions, this crisis impacts all, the prime minister added.

The last few days has seen the citizens of this country behaving as if nothing has happened and all is fine. However, such an impression is not appropriate, and every citizen has to stay alert and be healthy.

The Government of India is keeping a close eye on this situation and the track record of the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister also urged citizens to follow social distancing as an effective way of containing the spread of the virus. Given that there is no cure or vaccine yet, social distancing is currently the best practice.

Senior citizens have been urged to stay away from gatherings and public places as they are vulnerable to coronavirus.

The prime minister also appealed to citizens to try avoid visiting hospitals for routine check-ups and rather call on their doctors over the phone for a consultation so that the healthcare system is not overloaded.

He also told citizens not to panic and begin hoarding groceries as the supply of all these items will not be disrupted.

The prime minister added: “This crisis is so big and global that all Indians need to combat the situation with resolve. Saving ourselves from COVID-19 needs to be the primary priority in our lives. The human race and Indians need to win this fight.”