Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 24 Mar 2020

1

Britons ‘under house arrest’ as coronavirus restrictions tightened

Boris Johnson last night announced strict new curbs on life in the UK to slow the spread of coronavirus. Addressing the nation directly, the prime minister said people may only leave home to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, to shop for essential items, and to fulfil any medical or care needs. Shops selling non-essential goods have been told to shut, while police will disperse gatherings of more than two people who do not live together and may impose fines.

2

Spanish army finds care homes ‘abandoned’

Spanish prosecutors are investigating after soldiers tackling the coronavirus outbreak found residents abandoned in several care homes, with some dead in their beds. Meanwhile, an ice rink in Madrid is to be used to store bodies because municipal funeral services are not able to collect them owing to a lack of personal protective equipment for staff.

3

Sports Direct abandons plans to stay open during lockdown

Sports Direct bosses have ditched plans to keep the high-street chain’s stores open during the coronavirus lockdown, following a flood of criticism. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which also includes Evans Cycles, wrote to all of its workers last night telling them to come to work as usual despite Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down all non-essential retailers. The company argued that it was providing a vital service in providing home exercise equipment, but has backed down amid a backlash from politicians, industry groups and consumers.

4

Alex Salmond ‘faces new inquiry’ after being cleared by jury

Former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is facing a fresh police inquiry after being found not guilty by a jury at Edinburgh’s High Court yesterday of 11 sexual assault charges and a charge of attempted rape, The Times reports. The newspaper says the new investigation relates to complaints by four women about his behaviour in London while serving as a Scottish National Party MP. 

5

Woman charged with murder after car crash

A 28-year-old woman has been charged with murder following a car crash in west London in the early hours of Tuesday in which a 54-year-old pedestrian was killed. The driver of the car is said to have left the vehicle following the crash in Acton and attacked another man, who was not seriously injured. Suspect Rhian Beresford is due to appear before magistrates later today.

6

New York to trial Covid-19 therapy using blood

Health officials in New York state are planning to start two new experimental therapies to fight the coronavirus outbreak. In one, plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from the Covid-19 disease will be transfused into sufferers. In the other, antibody testing will be used on survivors to judge when they can safely return to work.

7

Mozambique: insurgent group seizes gas town

A group of Islamist insurgents in Mozambique has seized control of a northern town where foreign companies are working on a £52bn natural gas project. Residents of Mocimboa da Praia say the group attacked overnight and took control of an army base. The insurgents have blocked all exit routes and inhabitants are not able to leave the town.

8

Laura Ashley to close half its branches for good

Struggling clothing and furniture retailer Laura Ashley is to close almost half of its 147 stores in the UK for good, putting 721 jobs at risk, after going into administration. The firm, which will continue to operate 77 shops as it tries to find a buyer, and has blamed the “immediate and significant impact” of the coronavirus outbreak for the collapse.

9

Car firms to start making ventilators and masks

Leading car manufacturers including Ford, GM and Tesla are to begin making vital medical equipment needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Car plants in the US, Asia and Europe are being converted to produce ventilators and face masks amid worldwide shortages, but some experts have cautioned that the materials and components needed to produce such equipment are “highly specific” and require “specialised know-how”.

10

Briefing: how Britain will be forever changed by coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak is having a drastic effect on everything from the healthcare sector to flexible working and how we socialise – and many of these effects are likely to far outlast the current crisis.

As history professor and writer Yuval Noah Harari and others have noted, the past suggests that some of the emergency policies launched to respond to this crisis are likely to remain in place. So how could Covid-19 change Britain forever?

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