Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 31 Mar 2020

1

Warning to police about enforcing virus rules

UK police forces are being urged to be “consistent” in enforcing new rules aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak, in guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing, the BBC reports. Some forces have been accused of enforcing social distancing measures too strictly, with former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption warning that Britain is in danger of becoming a “police state”.

2

Foreign Office announces £75m plan to fly stranded Brits home

The UK government is to spend £75m on charter flights to bring home Britons stuck overseas as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Airlines including BA, Virgin and easyJet are also working with the authorities to fly citizens home on commercial flights. Announcing the plan at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said an “unprecedented” number of UK travellers were trying to return.

3

Trump: US in good shape to meet epidemic peak

President Donald Trump has insisted that the US will be in “very good shape” in terms of the number of ventilators available by the time the predicted peak in coronavirus cases in the country hits in two weeks’ time. Trump, who was criticised for initially downplaying the pandemic, has invoked presidential powers to instruct car firms to make the medical devices, and says that at least ten companies are on the job. The US now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, with almost 165,000 as of Tuesday morning. 

4

UK government ‘to limit university admissions’

Strict limits on the number of students that each university in England can recruit are set to be imposed by the government “in an effort to avoid a free-for-all on admissions” when the academic year starts in September, The Guardian reports. The restriction is being proposed in response to a funding crisis facing universities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and would be the first such limit since the admissions cap was lifted in 2015.

5

New blood test ‘can check for 50 types of cancer’

Scientists have unveiled a new blood test that can identify more than 50 types of cancer, often before any symptoms emerge, and is accurate about positive results more than 99% of the time. Researchers from the US and UK have trialled the test on more than 4,000 blood samples and say it could be used “on a population scale”, after clinical studies are complete.

6

Two adults and two children found dead in Sussex

Police investigating the deaths of two adults and two children found dead in a home near Chichester in West Sussex have announced that officers are not “seeking anyone else in connection with the incident”. Detectives started a murder inquiry after the four bodies were found on Sunday evening, alongside a pet dog that had also been killed. The victims are believed to be from the same family.

7

Garden centre firms to destroy millions of plants

Companies that supply garden centres and other shops with ornamental plants say they are facing financial ruin as a result the restrictions on trade during the coronavirus outbreak – and will bin millions of shrubs, trees and other plants over the next few weeks. The Horticultural Trades Association is asking the government for financial assistance of up to £250m to help the industry avoid collapse.

8

Houseparty app offers $1m for proof of ‘sabotage’

The makers of the Houseparty video messaging app – enjoying a surge popularity amid coronavirus lockdowns worldwide – are offering a $1m (£810,000) reward to anyone who can prove they were the victim of a smear campaign. Rumours have circulated that downloading the app could lead to users’ other online accounts being hacked, a claim that the company denies.

9

Alpine glacier records murder of archbishop in 1170

Researchers have uncovered a link between a glacier in the Alps and the 1170 murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket by knights loyal to Henry II. Scientists examining ancient ice from the glacier say they have detected a spike in lead pollution that is believed to be the result of a boom in lead mining and smelting in the UK to provide roofing at monastic institutions built by Henry to atone for the murder.

10

Briefing: five key coronavirus questions

Almost three months have passed since the world’s first coronavirus-related death was reported, yet many key questions remain unanswered about the deadly infection and its effects.

Here are five of the biggest mysteries.

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