Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 19 Mar 2020
Asian nations facing ‘imported’ coronavirus cases
China, South Korea and Singapore are reporting a spike in coronavirus cases among people who have recently returned from foreign trips. China’s national health commission has confirmed there were no new domestic cases in the country yesterday, for the first time since the outbreak began – but there were 34 new diagnoses among recently returned travellers.
Call for exams clarity as schools shut down
The UK government’s announcement that schools are to close from this weekend in response to the coronavirus crisis has been met with calls for clarity on what will happen to students whose GCSEs or A levels will be cancelled or postponed. Representative body Universities UK said pupils should not lose the chance to begin degrees this year because of the outbreak.
Fears for North Sea oil industry as price falls
The North Sea oil and gas industry is in a “paper-thin” position as global oil markets plummet towards 18-year lows, a new report warns. The Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) body says the sector, which employs about 250,000 people in the UK, is expected to contract by a third because of the market collapse, which is being caused in large part by reduced demand owing to the coronavirus outbreak.
Alex Salmond trial: Sturgeon met complainant
Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff has told Edinburgh’s High Court that Nicola Sturgeon was present at a 2018 meeting to discuss “retrospective complaints” by one of the nine women now accusing Scotland ex-first minister of sexual assault at his ongoing trial. Salmond is facing 13 charges, including one of attempted rape. He denies the allegations and insisted this week that they were politically motivated.
Beer company BrewDog making hand sanitiser gel
Scottish beer firm BrewDog has begun making hand sanitiser gel at its distillery in Aberdeenshire as part of a push to help people stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak. BrewDog says it will give the gel away for free to local charities and communities. Psychopomp Microdistillery in Bristol, 58 Gin in London and Verdant Spirits in Dundee have also switched production to make hand sanitiser, while luxury goods group LVMH is doing likewise at three of its perfume and cosmetics factories in France.
Italy: funeral services struggle to keep up
Funeral services are struggling to cope in the Italian province hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian reports. Bergamo, in the Lombardy region, is facing a shortage of coffins and those which have been filled are lined up in churches awaiting burial. A funeral director told the newspaper: “A generation has died.”
Dominic Cummings ‘tried to push me down stairs’
A businessman who filed a formal complaint 20 years ago against Dominic Cummings describes the alleged incident in a new BBC documentary about Boris Johnson’s chief advisor that will air tonight. Colin Perry, who worked for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) at the time, claims Cummings tried to push him down a narrow flight of stairs after they clashed during a radio interview. Cummings claimed at the time that they had simply “stumbled into each other”.
National Trust to open parks for free
Conservation charity the National Trust is closing all of its indoor sites in response to the coronavirus outbreak but is to open all its parks, gardens and wild landscapes to the public for free in order to give people “access to open space”. Although the government is advising against social contact, officials currently say people may leave their homes to take exercise.
Playboy magazine binning print edition
US-based magazine Playboy is to become an online-only publication. The spring print edition of the title - founded 67 years ago by Hugh Hefner - will be the last. Bosses at the mag, which went quarterly in 2019, say the decision to stop printing has been hastened by coronavirus-related supply disruption.
Briefing: predictions for families in virus lockdowns
The UK government is trying to stem the coronavirus outbreak by urging households with suspected cases to self-isolate for 14 days - but experts say the nationwide lockdowns may have additional consequences for couples and families.
Side effects of being forced to spend such an unusually large amount of time together are expected to range from a baby boom to a surge in domestic abuse.