Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 18 Mar 2020

1

Calls for help for renters as £350bn business bailout unveiled

People who rent their homes and workers in the so-called “gig economy” need more economic help during the coronavirus outbreak, unions and MPs are warning. The calls come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday promised £350bn in loans and aid to help UK businesses survive. Mortgage lenders are to offer a three-month amnesty on payments for borrowers affected by the pandemic.

2

Tourists scramble to get home amid worldwide border closures

Travellers around the world are scrambling to find flights home on advice from their governments – with the closure of many borders adding further urgency. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and the UAE have all advised their citizens to return home, as the global total of confirmed coronavirus infections nears 200,000. 

3

Police powers to be increased without Commons vote

New measures giving police, border officials and local authorities emergency powers to handle the coronavirus outbreak are likely to be passed by the Commons without a formal vote this week. The Coronavirus Bill has been agreed between political parties and allows police to detain people suspected of being infected for testing.

4

Grace Millane killer set to appeal

The man who murdered 21-year-old British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand in 2018 is to appeal against both his conviction and his life sentence. Sentencing the 28-year-old killer – who still cannot be named for legal reasons – in an Auckland court last month, the trial judge said he showed a “lack of empathy and sense of self-entitlement”.

5

Alex Salmond: assault charges are ‘political fabrications’

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond told the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday that allegations of sexual assault and attempted rape made against him by nine women are “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose” or “exaggerations”. Salmond denies 13 charges of alleged offences against the women, some of whom are senior officials in the Scottish government.

6

Biden takes key primaries as Sanders flounders

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden yesterday put clear water between himself and rival Bernie Sanders, sweeping to victory in primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Sanders must now decide whether to capitulate and unify the party behind former vice president Biden, or simply carry on promoting his left-wing agenda.

7

Zaghari-Ratcliffe on temporary release from Iran jail

British-Iranian political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been granted a temporary release from the Tehran prison where she has been held for almost four years, as part of emergency measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Iran. The 41-year-old has been fitted with an electronic tag and may not travel further than 300 metres from her parents’ house. 

8

Queen and Philip ‘self-isolate’ at Windsor Castle

The Queen and Prince Philip are decamping to Windsor Castle early for their annual Easter visit as part of coronavirus contingency measures that will see all mass public royal engagements cancelled. Palace officials say the 93-year-old monarch will leave Buckingham Palace on Thursday, a week sooner than originally planned, as “a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances”.

9

Self-isolation ‘very likely to cause divorce spike’

The coronavirus outbreak is “very likely” to lead to a rise in marriage break-ups as couples are confined together for long periods in self-isolation, according to a leading divorce lawyer. Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, who has represented clients include Paul McCartney and Prince Charles, told peers at Westminster that she fears the UK legal system will struggle to cope.

10

Briefing: can you catch coronavirus twice?

The government’s most senior medical advisers have been forced to clarify that people can be infected by the coronavirus more than once.

As the prime minister announced “drastic” new measures to stem the virus's spread, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said that while multiple infections can happen, “they’re rare”.

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