Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 26 Mar 2020

1

US coronavirus cases surge to almost 70,000

More than 1,000 Coronavirus-related deaths have now been reported in the US as the number of confirmed cases in the country climbs the more than 68,000. Meanwhile, the death toll in Spain has overtaken that in China, reaching 3,647 as of this morning. In the UK, a 21-year-old woman with no underlying health conditions has died after contracting the virus.

2

Home-testing kits for virus to reach millions in UK

The UK government has bought 3.5 million home-testing kits for the Covid-19 coronavirus and is ordering millions more, Public Health England has announced. The finger-prick antibody tests are being evaluated this week and should then become available to NHS staff, while members the general public will be able to get the kits from Amazon or Boots chemists. The tests should enable key workers to find out whether they have had the virus and are safe to go back to work. 

3

UN warns that pandemic may lead to global food shortage

Protectionist measures introduced by governments in response to the coronavirus outbreak could lead to food shortages around the world within weeks, with the problem exacerbated by a shortage of workers in fields, the United Nations is warning. Nations including Kazakhstan and Vietnam have banned the export of staple crops in order to protect their own food supplies, and some governments are threatening new export tariffs.

4

Sunak to unveil support package for freelancers

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil a financial package today aimed at helping the UK’s five million self-employed workers get through the coronavirus crisis. Sunak outlined plans last week to pay employees 80% of their salaries, capped at £2,500 a month, but freelancers can so far only access £94.25 a week in universal credit benefits and defer their self-assessed tax payments.

5

Dyson contracted to make 10,000 ventilators

The UK government has ordered 10,000 medical ventilators designed by vacuum maker Dyson. The Wiltshire-based company’s experts designed the new type of ventilator in response to a call on behalf of the NHS, with the breathing aid machine now set to undergo stringent medical tests. The NHS has just 8,000 ventilators but needs at least 30,000 to deal with an anticipated flood of coronavirus patients.

6

Man pleads guilty to New Zealand mosque murders

A 29-year-old Australian accused of deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch a year ago has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder. Brenton Tarrant also admitted the attempted murder of another 40 people, and one terrorism charge. Tarrant, who had previously denied the charges, appeared via video link at the hearing in Christchurch High Court, because of coronavirus restrictions.

7

Key scientist predicts NHS will cope thanks to lockdown

The scientist whose research prompted the UK government to move to a strict lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak has said that the measures should mean the number of UK deaths will be “substantially lower” than the 20,000 initially predicted. Imperial College Professor Neil Ferguson said he and his colleagues were “reasonably confident” that the NHS could cope with the crisis.

8

Bored at home? Help digitise UK rainfall records

The Met Office and a team at Reading University are inviting people stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown to pass the time by helping to digitise 200 years of rainfall records. The hand-written documents have been scanned but cannot be machine read – so volunteers are needed to transcribe the values into spreadsheets.

9

New study shows females in most species live longer - and reveals why

Females in most mammal species tend to live for longer than males, just like their human counterparts, a new study has found. Researchers from University Lyon 1 studied 101 different animals including sheep and elephants and discovered that females lived an average of 18% longer than males in more than 60% of the species studied. In humans, females tend to live around 7.8% longer. The team say the different is not because of slower ageing, but rather because of a lower risk of death in adulthood for females. 

10

Briefing: what will happen when China lifts its coronavirus restrictions?

Chinese health authorities have announced an easing of lockdowns in Hubei province, the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement comes as other parts of the country are ramping up curbs against imported infections, which experts believe now pose the biggest threat of a second wave of Covid-19 in China.

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