Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Saturday 21 Mar 2020
Sunak announces government rescue package for economy
The government says it will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Treasury will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the “unprecedented” measure will stop workers being laid off due to the crisis.
Johnson orders pubs, restaurants and gyms to close
Cafes, pubs and restaurants were ordered to close last night to tackle the coronavirus. Boris Johnson also told nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close “as soon as they reasonably can”. He said the situation would be reviewed each month. There have been 167 deaths in England from the coronavirus outbreak, as well as six in Scotland, three in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.
Coronavirus: one in five Americans told to stay home
Several US states have ordered shutdowns with one in five Americans set to be under a “stay at home” order. Connecticut and New Jersey are joining Illinois and California in ordering residents to stay at home in order to combat the spread of coronavirus. The BBC says this means one in five Americans have been ordered to stay at home.
Australia closes Bondi Beach after defiant crowd gathering
Australia's most popular beach has been closed after hundreds of people gathered there in defiance of “social distancing”. After Prime Minister Scott Morrison had asked Australians not to gather in groups of more than 500 outdoors, a crowd grew at Bondi Beach in Sydney. The beach will now be temporarily closed, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Schools consider unregulated exams in face of cancellations
Some UK schools are exploring the use of unregulated exams to get around the government’s decision to cancel A-levels and GCSEs this summer over coronavirus fears. The Guardian says a number of schools have been discussing the use of qualifications such as international GCSEs known as iGCSEs, or alternatives to A-levels known as Pre-U or international A-levels.
India executes four men convicted of gang rape and murder
India has executed four men who were found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a young woman on bus in Delhi in 2012. Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh had been convicted in a 2013 trial and sentenced to death by hanging, but their execution had been postponed several times due to Supreme Court appeals.
Concern as North Korea fires two projectiles into the sea
North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off the east coast of the peninsula, according to South Korea’s military. The launch is the third this month. Meanwhile, North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of Covid-19 but a top US military official said he is “fairly certain” there were infections there.
The BBC threatened to shut down much of World Service
The BBC came within weeks of shutting down significant sections of the World Service as the government stalled on guaranteeing future funding. The Times reports that Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the director-general, wrote to the foreign secretary in March 2019 warning that redundancies and service closures would occur unless assurances were given.
Alex Salmond trial jury retires to consider its verdict
Alex Salmond’s lawyer has told jurors at the former first minister’s trial that the entire sexual assault and attempted rape case is “murky” and “smells bad”. As the jury retired to consider their verdicts, Gordon Jackson QC said they must use their “rational minds” and acquit the former first minister of all 13 charges against him.
Trump defends senators facing stocks cash-in controversy
Donald Trump has come to the defence of two Republican senators facing investigation for cashing in millions of dollars in stocks just before markets crashed. “I find them all to be very honourable people, that’s all I know,” said the US president of Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler, who have been accused by prominent conservatives of betraying their country.