Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 25 Mar 2020
Government facing calls to curb construction work
The UK government is under growing pressure to stop all non-essential building work during the coronavirus outbreak, with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith among those warning that construction workers’ lives are being put at risk and increased strain placed on public transport. In Scotland, builders have been told to down tools unless they are working on hospitals.
Coronavirus: UK prisoners may be freed
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is considering releasing some offenders from prisons in England and Wales in order to ease staffing pressures during the coronavirus crisis. Buckland told the Commons Justice Committee yesterday that around 10% of prison officers were off work because they are either ill or self-isolating. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that three UK detention centres for migrants are housing people with symptoms of Covid-19.
Asia markets rise as US agrees stimulus package
Markets in Asia recovered slightly this morning following the news that Donald Trump and the US Senate have agreed an economic relief package worth more than $1.8tn (£1.5tn). Markets had also rebounded on Wall Street and in London on Tuesday in anticipation of a package being agreed to protect the US economy during the coronavirus crisis. Trump said yesterday that he hopes to get US businesses reopened by Easter Sunday, on 12 April.
Trump asks international allies for medicine
Donald Trump has appealed in private to allies in Europe and Asia for help obtaining medical supplies to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak in the US, despite publicly insisting that he will not turn to the rest of the world for aid. South Korea has issued a statement describing a phone call on Tuesday between Trump and President Moon Jae-In that focused on the outbreak. Testing kits and other equipment are said to be in desperately short supply in the US.
Benefits system reels from Covid-19 effect
The UK’s welfare state bureaucracy is struggling to cope with a sudden influx of people trying to claim benefits because they have lost work as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Many new claimants spent hours on the phone yesterday trying to reach welfare staff only to be cut off without speaking to anyone. At one point, more than 100,000 people were trying to register online.
‘Don’t use microwave for faster internet’, advises watchdog
Media watchdog Ofcom has produced a list of tips to help keep Britain’s broadband networks up to speed while millions of people are working from home. The advice includes not running a microwave while trying to make video calls or watching HD streaming video. Experts also recommend placing routers as far as possible from other devices that may interfere with the signal, such as cordless phones and baby monitors.
Last survivor of Atlantic slave trade identified
The last surviving slave captured in Africa in the 19th century and brought to the US died within living memory, according to new evidence uncovered by a historian. University of Newcastle academic Hannah Durkin says that Matilda McCrear was captured with other family members at the age of two in west Africa and was then bought by a plantation owner in the US. McCrear died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940, at the age 83.
Car thief imprisoned in BMW by owner
A thief who tried to steal a parked BMW in Bournemouth was left trapped inside the car after the owner spotted him and used the remote locking to activate the vehicle’s deadlock system, magistrates in Poole have heard. Scott Hunt, 45, was found to have stolen a satnav from another vehicle after police turned up and arrested him.
Welsh mountain to be seeded by helicopter
Welsh conservationists plan to restore vegetation to a mountainside by dropping seeds onto it from helicopters, in a UK first. Llantysilio Mountain was left devastated by a fire that raged for two months in 2018. Re-seeding the hill on foot could be dangerous because of instability caused by peat being burned away, according to Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Briefing: pros and cons of the coronavirus lockdown
Boris Johnson has introduced drastic new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, including banning public meetings of more than two people who do not live together.
As people across the country adapt to their new way of living, experts are predicting that the tightened restrictions will have a wide range of both positive and negative long-term effects for the UK.