Coronavirus: UK death toll rises by more than 100 in a day for first time

The number of people in the UK to die of coronavirus has jumped by 113, up to 578.

This comes as police were given new powers by the Home Office, meaning those who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules can be arrested.

Officers can also tell them to go home, leave or disperse an area and ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking the law.

Those who refuse to comply could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Second-time offenders could be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.

Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

What happened today

Here are Thursday's most important developments:

Follow the latest news in Friday's live blog

Elton John urges support for independent record shops amid coronavirus outbreak

Sir Elton John has urged people to support independent record shops through the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the shops are a "vital" part of the community and the "life of music".

"Record stores are so important for the community, it is a wonderful place to visit," he said.

"The people behind the counter are so involved in what they do, they're such experts, they love it."

He added: "Lots of these record stores are closed but you can support you local record store by buying online.

"We need these record stores to stay open. They are a vital part of the community, they are a vital part of my life.

"They are the life of music, I adore them and the people who work there are my heroes."

 

Morality rate of coronavirus has not been adjusted 

Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose work helped shape the Government's approach to coronavirus, has said that although the virus is slightly more transmissible than previously thought, they have not changed their assessment of how lethal it is.

Barcelona to cut player wages due to coronavirus

Barcelona are taking measures to cut the wages of their players and staff to reduce the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, the La Liga club said.

All professional players at Barcelona, including six-times world player of the year Lionel Messi, as well as non-playing staff, will face a compulsory wage reduction during the period of lockdown, the club's directors decided at a board meeting held via video conference.

Spain was put into lockdown on March 14 with citizens only allowed to leave their homes in order to conduct essential business. The period is expected to be extended this weekend once the initial 15-day period has finished.

Spain has been Europe’s second-most impacted country by the pandemic behind Italy, with the death toll surpassing 4,000. Over 56,000 people have tested positive for the virus.

Rugby League World Cup to give 20,021 tickets to key workers 

The organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England are to give 20,021 tickets to key workers in recognition of their efforts trying to combat the coronavirus.

Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton made the announcement during an online press conference on Thursday which took place at the same time as a nationwide round of applause for the staff of Britain's National Health Service.

"The team has made the unanimous decision to provide 20,021 free tickets to key workers in the UK as our way of saying thank you," Dutton said.

"The work, effort, dedication and sheer determination needs to be recognised and hopefully we can provide these local heroes and their families with something to look forward to next year."

3.3 million seek US jobless aid

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, almost five times the previous record set in 1982, amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is inflicting on the economy.

Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines.

Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have closed factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they're cutting jobs to save money.

Corona blues

Harry Styles has said that he thinks the coronavirus lockdown will create "a lot of powerful music".

Speaking to Zane Lowe on Apple Music, the singer said that he thought artists could spend a lot of time with "no distractions to sit down and think and stay in their own head and think about everything they have to think about".

He added: "I think in terms of the output that will come from it, I think we'll probably get a lot of self-reflection, a lot of reflection about just the world.

"It gives you an ability to have almost like a bird's eye view of the world and your life.

"I think you get to step out of your routine for a second with the distraction that you usually have."

Macron told EU leaders "survival of European project" at stake in virus crisis 

French President Emmanuel Macron warned his fellow European Union leaders that the coronavirus outbreak risked undoing the bloc's central pillars such as its no-border zone if they failed to show solidarity in this crisis, a diplomat said.

"What's at stake is the survival of the European project," he told the 26 other leaders in a conference call, according to a French diplomat.

"The risk we are facing is the death of Schengen," Macron added, according to the same source.

How shadowy social media groups are spreading myths and conspiracy about coronavirus

Two weeks ago an anti-vaccine Facebook group called ‘We Brought Vaxxed to the UK’ started to disseminate a new and dangerous contagion: misinformation about Covid-19.

It’s posts promote xenophobia, conspiracy theories and erroneous medical information about the disease and how it might be treated.

One post claimed China was using the outbreak to cull the elderly, another suggested hand sanitiser causes cancer and a “probiotic yogurt suppository” was recommended as a cure.

The group is just one of some 50 social media accounts being tracked by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a charity dedicated to preventing false and divisive lies and myths spreading across the web.

You can read more here from our global health security team.

US overtakes China for coronavirus cases

The US has overtaken China to become the country with the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with 81,943 Americans now testing positive for Covid-19.

State-by-state figures published today showed confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US had overtaken the 81,285 cases reported by China, with the biggest outbreaks in New York, New Jersey and California. A total of 1,173 Americans have died from the rapidly-spreading virus. 

Watch: UK holds mass applause for NHS staff fighting coronavirus

 All across the UK streets and tower blocks alike joined together in applauding our NHS and care workers.

Click below to watch some of the highlights:

Sweden keeps schools and borders open in 'huge experiment' on virus 

While much of the world goes into lockdown to stop the disease, in Sweden, life is continuing unchanged - but is it the right approach? Richard Orange has this from Malmö:

Swedish children continued to pour through the gates of their schools and kindergartens on Thursday as the Nordic nation stood increasingly alone in Europe in its approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Shops and restaurants also remained open across the country, with parks and recreational areas packed with groups enjoying the spring sunshine.

Despite a surge in Covid-19 patients and growing dissent among epidemiological experts, the Swedish government’s medical experts were last night standing by their decision not to follow almost all other EU nations by instituting economic and social lockdowns.

You can read the full story here.

Deaths in Ireland rises to 19

The death toll in Ireland has more than doubled after rising by 10.

Queen gives her thanks to those battling coronavirus

The Queen has said the country is "enormously thankful" for the commitment of all those working in science, health and the emergency and public services, as the royal family joined the Clap for Carers public display.

In the message posted on the royal family's official Instagram account, the Queen said: "We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services."

The post featured a video of the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn, who all clapped after Edward paid tribute to workers.

He said: "So from all of us just a huge thank you to so many of you working on the frontline - you're really appreciated keep up the fantastic work."

Why has there been such a jump in the number of UK deaths?

Today there were 113 more deaths reported in the UK from coronavirus.

However, yesterday it was announced that there were 28 - so why the huge rise?

The answer is not that the virus has taken four times as many lives, but rather that the NHS and Department for Health have changed the way they are reporting deaths.

The latest figures are for a 24-hour period, but Wednesday's were only for eight hours, between 9am and 5pm on Tuesday.

Matt Hancock thanks NHS staff

Pandemic deaths could top 1.8 million even with tough response

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe could hit 1.8 million worldwide this year even with swift and stringent measures to stop it, according to a study from Britain's Imperial College published today.

Researchers estimate that tens of millions of lives could be saved if governments act fast to adopt strict public health measures, including testing, quarantining and broad social distancing.

NHS staff numbers to receive a 38,000 boost

More than 38,000 former healthcare professionals and soon-to-be qualified students could join the fight against Covid-19 in the coming weeks, the Government has said.

A total of 15,266 former staff - including 5,117 doctors, 5,605 nurses and midwives and 3,686 pharmacists and other professionals - responded to the "Your NHS Needs You" recruitment drive.

Next week, 5,750 final year medics and 17,000 final year nursing students in England will also be asked to consider starting frontline placements, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The DHSC said young recruits would receive "appropriate support" in their new roles.

Britain claps for our NHS

Around the UK people have just put their hands together for the NHS and care staff who are battling to save thousands of lives.

Glasgow's SEC confirmed as potential site for temporary hospital

The SEC in Glasgow has been earmarked as a potential site for a temporary hospital to provide extra capacity during the coronavirus outbreak.

Military figures were seen at the event campus on Thursday as the Army confirmed the area is a possible location for an NHS field hospital.

An Army spokesman said: "We were on site to advise NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government on the potential for a NHS Scotland facility at the SEC."

Earlier this week, the government announced that NHS Nightingale would be set up in the ExCel Centre in London as a makeshift hospital.

Premier Inn criticised for forcing its managers to act as "security guards" for its empty hotels.

The chain announced on Tuesday that it was closing its hotels for at least three weeks following the Government's lockdown.

Its hourly-paid staff were being furloughed and paid 100% of their wages, but salaried senior staff and managers were having to carry on working protecting empty hotels.

It is understood staff have to take it in turns to work shifts at each hotel to ensure there is an on-site presence 24/7 and they will not be paid overtime if they work above their contracted hours.

A source told the PA news agency: "An assistant manager, head housekeeper and manager, who is responsible for two hotels, have to basically be security guards."

South Africa braces for coronavirus lockdown 

South Africa braced for a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown, joining other African countries imposing strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus across the continent.

Some 57 million people will be restricted to their homes during South Africa's three-week total lockdown which begins at midnight.

Kenya, Rwanda and Mali are some of the African countries that have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus with the continent's confirmed cases creeping towards 3,000 and more than 70 deaths so far.

Although Africa's toll is far lower than in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, health experts say the world's poorest continent is especially vulnerable and the figures likely fall far short of the reality.

Watch: Priti Patel outlines news police powers

Police are to get new powers to use "reasonable force" to escort people home if they defy the Government’s coronavirus lockdown.

Officers will be able to "remove" a person to their home if they are in a group of more than two and refuse to disperse.

Watch below to get up to speed:

Pub industry welcomes chancellor's new support

Before Rishi Sunak announced a swathe of economic measures to help keep the industry afloat, there were warnings that many pubs would be calling last orders for the final time.

However, today's announcement for the self-employed has been welcomed by the industry body.

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:

“85% of pubs are small or medium sized businesses run by independent operators or licensees who are self-employed, so the Chancellor’s support package today is welcome.

“This support announced today is critical. However, ongoing support from Government is still required throughout this crisis to sustain our great brewing and pub sector through this unprecedent lock down, so that when we are through this, pubs can return to being the heart of communities up and down the country.”

How to thank the NHS with tonight's Clap for Carers

The Clap for our Carers campaign will bring together the nation tonight to thank NHS workers who are tirelessly battling the coronavirus pandemic. 

At 8pm, everyone is invited to applaud those looking after our loved ones from their windows, doorsteps or balconies. 

You can learn more here.

France death toll included 16-year-old girl

More on our post from 18:50, Henry Samuel, our France correspondent, has this:

France on Thursday announced 365 deaths in a day - it's worst daily toll since the start of the epidemic.

This included a 16-year old girl, bringing the overall toll to 1,696 with 29,155 cases and 3,375 in intensive care.

Next to close online store

Next has announced it will close its entire online operation from tonight.

Not my words Carol, the words of the British Broadcasting Corporation

 The BBC will use clips from hit shows including The Thick Of It and I'm Alan Partridge to encourage people to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis.

The corporation will also use archive footage from Miranda and The Mighty Boosh to urge viewers to help stop the spread of the illness.

A clip from Armando Iannucci's political satire shows government spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi, ordering an immediate lockdown, with no-one going in or out.

At the end a message appears on screen reading: "Seriously, stay at home. Please help stop the spread."

A classic clip from I'm Alan Partridge shows Steve Coogan's character organising a James Bond film marathon to fill the day.

Its ends with the message: "Set a routine to get through staying in."

The clips included the Steve Coogan character, Alan Partridge Credit: PA Photo/Sky Atlantic/Baby Cow Productions/PA 

France reports new spike in coronavirus deaths, bringing total to 1,696 

French health authorities reported 365 new deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, taking the total to 1,696.

The rise in the number of deaths represents a daily rise of 27%, a marked increase from the previous day with the country now in its second week of lockdown.

In lighter news

Robert Peston appeared to utter an expletive before he asked a question at the Government's daily coronavirus briefing.

The ITV political editor seemed to struggle with technical problems as he dialled in remotely to quiz the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Peston mentioned that his connection to the briefing did not seem to be stable and appeared to say "Oh s**t" when Mr Sunak called on him to ask his question.

Afterwards, Peston retweeted a clip of the moment, and said: "Just to clear up any misunderstanding, screen froze at precisely the moment chancellor turned to me!"

Students told not to return home

University students have been warned that if they have not returned home already, they should now stay where they are.

In a letter to students, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: "While many students will already have travelled home, I know that those of you who have not, or cannot, will be concerned about what you should do now.

"The Government's advice is that students remaining at university in England should now stay where they are and not attempt to travel.

"If you are living in student halls, or private rented accommodation, you should remain there and stay indoors while current restrictions are in force. "

107 more people dead in England from coronavirus

A further 107 people in England who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the number of reported confirmed deaths in England to 521, the NHS said.

Soap to be handed out to combat the virus

Lifebuoy soap and Domestos bleach are due to be handed out to millions of people in the developing world in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

A £100m campaign by Unilever and the Department for International Development will target one billion people in the poorest countries on the importance of hand washing and hygiene as a way of controlling the spread of the disease. 

As well as handing out 20 million hygiene packs Unilever and Dfid will also launch a campaign on hand washing. 

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Many people in the poorest countries lack access to basic hand washing products, such as soap, or are not aware of the urgent need to change their behaviour.”

Prince Charles is 'in good spirits', says David Miliband

David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), has said it was "very reassuring" to hear the Prince of Wales, patron of the IRC's UK arm, "keeping calm and carrying on" when he held a scheduled meeting, via the phone, with Charles.

Mr Miliband told Sky News: "I had a scheduled call with the Prince of Wales yesterday, obviously getting the news in the morning of his coronavirus situation made me wonder whether he would postpone but he went ahead with the call.

"He was in very good spirits, he was obviously very engaged with the situation facing people in the UK."

The former foreign secretary added: "I was very struck about how he was very concerned about the global picture as well as his first priority being in the UK.

"It was very reassuring to hear him keeping calm and carrying on, very determined to make sure that the virus didn't interrupt his schedule, and continuing to express concern both locally and globally."

U.S. preparing guidelines to classify county COVID-19 risk

President Donald Trump said his administration is preparing new coronavirus guidelines that would characterize U.S. counties as high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk.

In a letter to U.S. governors, Trump said state and local leaders could use the guidelines to determine social distancing and other coronavirus mitigation measures. The guidelines will aim "to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus," the letter said. 

UK death toll rises to 578

The number of people in the UK to die of coronavirus has jumped by 113, up to 578.

World powers vow united front on virus as death toll mounts 

World leaders today promised $5 trillion to stave off global economic collapse from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 21,000 people and shut down huge swathes of the globe.

Leaders from the G20 most industrialised nations held crisis talks by video link, pledging a "united front" to fight the outbreak - along with an enormous financial injection to prop up the economy.

"The virus respects no borders," the leaders said in a statement.

"We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic."

 660,680 sign up help the vulnerable in the UK, NHS chief says

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said 660,680 people have now signed up to volunteer to help the vulnerable get through the coronavirus crisis.

"The response we are seeing from the public to join us in our country's greatest time of need is extraordinary, and on behalf of everyone working in the NHS, I would like to thank each and every person who has signed up to volunteer - you will be, without a shadow of a doubt, helping us to save lives," he said.

"These are uncertain times for all of us, but they have shown the kindness of our country, and have highlight once again just how much people value the health service and every single person working in it.

"And to anyone else considering joining the ranks of our new volunteer army: the NHS is always there for you, and now is your time to be there for us, and for each other too."

Britain's lockdown measures might last 6 months and are working, says deputy chief medial officer

Jenny Harries said: "We may see measures of lockdown going forward over the next six months. That would not be an implausible outcome. But I also said I think that as we’re watching the curve, it may be possible... to start moving that,"

More than half a million coronavirus cases worldwide

The number of COVID-19 cases has hit the 500,000 mark.

Social distancing is forcing people to go out to go for a run, according to deputy CMO 

When asked about the negative impact on people's health and mental health, Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, said:

"I might actually put a more optimistic view as well, if people are not going out to work and often that creates quite a stress with travel time, they have more free time to themselves and it might be the best opportunity the whole country has to say, I’m going to use my one exercise a day to ensure that when this is over I am super fit and so is my family.

"And in fact, if you have something restricted, it suddenly becomes quite a pleasurable event so even though you may not have wished to jog along the street before, doing so might actually be quite a relief and quite a positive thing to do."

Lack of tests is not a lack of forethought, says deputy chief medical officer  

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer said, "This is not an issue of a lack of forethought and planning, it is an unprecedented event.

"To even understand how to test for the virus, you need to have the virus.

"This is a brand new event and every country is ordering at the same time."

Italy deaths rise to 8,165

The number of deaths in Italy from coronavirus has risen by 662, up to 8,165.

Meanwhile the number of cases have risen to 80,539 from 74,386.

Self-employed may not get access to relief until June

"It is far to early" to predict when the peak will be, says deputy chief medical officer

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer said that it is "too early" to predict when the peak of the virus will be.

She did say that "we are starting to see some helpful movement," but "we must not take our foot off the peddle."

Self-employed to be given taxable grant of 80 % of salary

Rishi Sunak has announced that self-employed can apply for a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly profits for the last 3 years up to a value of £2500 per month .

It will be open to anyone with up to £50,000 of trading profits who makes the majority of their income form self-employed work.

The chancellor told a press conference: "You have not been forgotten, we will not leave you behind, we will stand together."

Chancellor due to announce package for the self-employed

Rishi Sunak is due to announce further measures to help the self employed.

Head over to our politics live blog as our team unpacks the Chancellor's announcements.

French police inundated with oddball virus queries

"Can my husband spend the weekend with his mistress?"

"A stranger stroked my horse, could he have infected it?"

France's police emergency number has been inundated with queries, some downright odd, since the country went into coronavirus lockdown.

The quick-dial emergency "17" number reserved for matters of a criminal nature, has been abused more than usual with thousands of calls since a period of home confinement for French residents started on March 17, duty officers told AFP.

"People are calling for everything and nothing, because they are bored. Some just want to talk," one policeman said.

In Dijon in the country's east, a woman called the number seeking romantic advice:

"After my divorce, I managed to find someone. But he lives 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from my place. How do I deal with confinement?" she asked an incredulous responder on the other end.

Kenya confirms first coronavirus death 

Kenya confirmed its first coronavirus death, government spokesman Cyrus Oguna has said.

Earlier today, the ministry of health reported three more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected people in the east African country to 31.

Deaths in US rise to 994

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has  reported 68,440 coronavirus cases, an increase of 13,987 cases from its previous count, and said the death toll had risen by 257 to 994.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The total count does not include cases among repatriated citizens from Wuhan, China and Japan.

Russia thanks 'real friend' Jack Ma for gift of a million masks 

Russia has received more than a million masks and 200,000 coronavirus testing kits as a gift from Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma, its Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Calling Ma "a real friend", the ministry said in a statement that the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba had spoken by telephone to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and told him how touched he had been by Moscow's own help for China.

The foundations of Alibaba and Ma said on Wednesday they had sent medical equipment to Russia. The Russian Defence Ministry said Ma's gift had been delivered in a Russian air force plane which had flown from China.

Jack Ma was said to have been touched by Moscow's own help for China Credit: PHILIPPE LOPEZ /AFP

Imperial study shows the scale of pandemic

A new study from Imperial College London has found that if the spread of coronavirus was left unmitigated, it will cause 40m deaths globally in this year alone.

Paul Nuki, our global health security editor, talks you through some of the most talking important points:

Newborn babies test positive for coronavirus 

Pregnant women may be able to pass coronavirus to their unborn babies while they are still in the womb, scientists fear, after three newborns were found to have been infected with Covid-19.

Chinese researchers analysed 33 babies born to mothers with Covid-19 at Wuhan Children's Hospital in January and February and found three infants had tested positive for the virus.

The youngsters, who were all born by caesarean section, have since recovered but experienced several days of breathing difficulties and fever after birth.

Read the full story from Sarah Knapton, our Science editor.

Afghanistan to release up to 10,000 prisoners to slow coronavirus spread

Afghanistan has ordered the release of up to 10,000 prisoners - mostly women, juveniles and sick people - in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said.

The move comes after an increase in local COVID-19 cases and as tens of thousands of Afghans return from neighbouring Iran, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

President Ashraf Ghani's decree was directed at women, young offenders, critically ill patients and inmates aged over 55, said Attorney General Farid Hamidi.

"This is a responsible decision to safeguard the health of the people," Hamidi told a news conference.

"The decree is not for those who have committed crimes against national and international security."

New York deaths rise by 100

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York has said that coronavirus deaths for New York state have risen to 385, up 100 in a single day.

The governor also announced that it was time for the American government to “put politics and partisanship aside” and “do your job,”

In a press conference, he said that once the situation is over, he would give politicians “a piece of my mind.”

This comes as the US Senate passed the stimulus bill after Democrats blocked two earlier versions of the bill this week.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package on Friday.

Officers will initially try to engage and encourage flouters to stop

More from our Home Affairs Editor, Charles Hymas:

Under National Police Chiefs’ Council’s guidance, officers will initially seek to “engage, explain and encourage” people to disperse and only resort to a fine if those fail.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The Prime Minister has been clear on what we need to do: stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.

“All our frontline services really are the best of us and are doing an incredible job to stop this terrible virus from spreading.

“That’s why I’m giving the police these new enforcement powers, to protect the public and keep people safe.”

UK becomes largest global contributor to find coronavirus vaccine

The UK has become the largest contributor to the international coalition to find a coronavirus vaccine after donating £210 million in new aid funding, Downing Street has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the funding during a virtual summit of G20 leaders, Downing Street said.

Mr Johnson said: "While our brilliant doctors and nurses fight coronavirus at home, this record British funding will help to find a vaccine for the entire world. UK medics and researchers are at the forefront of this pioneering work.

"My call to every G20 country and to governments around the world is to step up and help us defeat this virus.

"In the meantime, I want to repeat to everyone that they should stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."

How the fines could ratchet up if you are caught

Here's the analysis from our Home Affairs Editor, Charles Hymas:

People who refuse will face a fixed penalty of £60 if they refuse to go home or disperse, reduced to £30 if they pay it within 14 days.

If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them "where deemed proportionate and necessary."

Repeat offenders will be hit by a doubling of the fine each time, to £120 for a second offence and £240 up to a maximum of £960.

Failure to pay will be a criminal offence and could lead to prosecution by magistrates with powers to wield unlimited fines.

G20 release joint summit

In a joint statement, leaders of the G20 group - including Prime Minister Boris Johnson - promised a "transparent, robust, co-ordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity".

"Tackling the pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts is our absolute priority," they said, promising to do "whatever it takes".

The leaders promised to "expand manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical supplies and ensure these are made widely available, at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible".

Police will be able to arrest people who flout lockdown laws, Home Office says

Police are to get new powers to use "reasonable force" to escort people home if they defy the Government’s coronavirus lockdown, it was announced on Thursday, reports Charles Hymas, Home Affairs Editors.

Officers will be able to "remove" a person to their home if they are in a group of more than two and refuse to disperse.

The regulations, laid before Parliament, say police can "use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise" of this power. 

Officers will also have the power to "direct" parents or carers to ensure their children are taken home.

Spain death toll tops 4,000 

Spain's coronavirus death toll surged above 4,000 on Thursday but the increase in both fatalities and new infections slowed, leaving officials hopeful a nationwide lockdown is starting to curb the spread of the disease.

A total of 655 deaths were recorded in the country in the last 24 hours, bringing the toll to 4,089, the health ministry said.

That however was a 19 per cent increase compared with Wednesday when deaths jumped 738 or 27 per cent.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose 18 per cent to 56,188, the health ministry said. On Wednesday, the increase in cases was about 20 per cent.

Spain currently has the world's second highest death toll from the virus after Italy.

Those breaking lockdown rules could be arrested

People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and could be arrested by police, the Home Office has said.

NHS workers stranded in New Zealand desperate to get home

NHS workers' stranded in New Zealand due to the coronavirus outbreak, say they are "desperate" to return home to help frontline NHS colleagues.

NHS doctor, Sean Thomas, explains: "I'm chomping at the bit to get back."

Travelodge criticised for closing hotels used to house homeless and vulnerable

Hotel chain Travelodge has been criticised after it closed a number of hotels being used to house homeless and vulnerable people, leaving some fearing they would have nowhere to go.

The company said that, acting in line with government coronavirus guidance issued on Monday, it had begun advising councils of its plans to close a number of branches.

It added that it told local authorities to move any temporary residents to one of the 140 of its hotels that remain open.

However, on Tuesday, the Ministry of Housing tweeted: "All hotels, hostels, and B&Bs providing rooms to support people who are homeless through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies should remain open and are not affected by the guidance issued yesterday."

One anonymous housing officer said they were left "scrambling" to find accommodation after being given two hours' warning that one Travelodge was to close.

Travelodge said in a statement: "Travelodge has been obliged to commence the temporary closure of its hotels in line with the instructions from the Government on 24 March 2020."

Police force uses drone footage to shame 'lockdown flouters'

Derbyshire Police decided to share footage of people driving to beauty spots to walk their dogs, take photographs and watch the sunset.

Watch the video below: 

A reminder. 8pm tonight. Clap For Our Carers

Here's what you need to do: 

  1. Wait until 8pm
  2. Go to your doors, windows or balconies
  3. Applaud those working so hard to keep us safe

Six more die in Wales taking death toll to 28

A further six people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales have died, bringing the total number of deaths there to 28, Public Health Wales has said.

Dr Robin Howe, incident director for the coronavirus outbreak at Public Health Wales, also said a further 113 people had tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 741.

Dr Howe said: "Novel Coronavirus is now circulating in every part of Wales.

"Six further deaths have been reported to us of people who had tested positive for Novel Coronavirus, taking the number of deaths in Wales to 28.

"We offer our condolences to the family and friends affected, and we ask those reporting on the situation to respect patient confidentiality."

'Very good reason' to test Prince Charles and Camilla

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer has defended the decision to test the Princes of Wales for coronavirus, saying there were "very good reasons" behind the move.

Dr Catherine Calderwood spoke after news that the heir to the throne had been tested for Covid-19 sparked an angry backlash from some.

While some medical workers who are self-isolating have been unable to get tested to see if they could come back to work, both Charles, 71, and his wife Camilla, 72, were tested on Monday.

The Royal couple are currently staying at the Birkhall estate in Aberdeenshire, with Camilla separating herself from her husband after she tested negative.

Speaking about Charles on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Dr Calderwood said: "I have spoken to the team in Grampian who were looking after the individual.

"My understanding is there were very good reasons for that person and his wife to be tested, and obviously I wouldn't be able to disclose anything else that I know because of patient confidentiality."

Alcohol 'will not help to manage self-isolation stress'

Alcohol is an "unhelpful coping strategy" to combat stress during the coronavirus lockdown, experts have said.

Many turn to substances such as alcohol at a time of stress, experts from the European arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Experts acknowledged that feeling stressed, anxious, fearful and lonely is "natural" at this time.

But they reminded people that using substances such as alcohol "will not help to manage the stress of self-isolation".

Britain in coronavirus lockdown, in pictures

We can't go the the theatre - so the theatre is coming to us

The new lockdown measures mean that going to the theatre is a no-go. 

So the National Theatre have found a way around it. 

Police send family home from beach

Police sent a family home after they were caught having a day out at the beach during the lockdown.

Officers from North Wales Police said they stopped the family from Merseyside as they arrived in Llanfairfechan for a day out on Wednesday and were told to turn around and go home.

Under the new guidelines introduced by the Government to try and stop the spread of Covid-19, the public are being asked to remain at home and only go out for four strict reasons.

US jobless claims surge to record 3.3m in one week as markets slide

US unemployment claims have surged to 3.28m in one week, quadrupling the previous record set in 1982.

Initial claims in the week ended March 21 were up from 282,000 in the prior week and more than quadruple the previous record high of 695,000 in 1982, according to US Labor Department figures released Thursday. 

Economists’ projections for the figure ranged from 1m to as high as 4.4m.

Downward dog – with a dog

Italy might be in lockdown but that hasn't stopped one cute pup and their owner from getting their daily dose of exercise.

This time in the form of some relaxing yoga:

Nothing to see here...

A startled Costco employee in the middle of sanitizing carts spots a customer wearing an underwater snorkeling facemask to go shopping in Philadelphia, US

Credit:  MICHAEL BRYANT /  The Philadelphia Inquirer

Supermarkets to only let 10 people in at a time

Supermarkets will be limiting the amount of people allowed in their shops to as few as 10, new guidelines show today.

Tesco has released detailed information for all its store managers, with 10 people allowed at a time in their smaller shops, and 300 in their superstores.

A Waitrose source told The Telegraph that they are testing capacity limits at the moment with 25 people allowed in smaller stores and 75 in big supermarkets.

Security guards are even being drafted in to the nation's food retailers, to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus epidemic and ensure a one in one out policy in shops which are at capacity.

Helen Horton has more details here.

Britain's second prisoner dies after catching coronavirus

A second serving UK prisoner has died after contracting coronavirus, a Prison Service spokesperson has said.

The 66-year-old man, who was serving at HMP Manchester, died in hospital on March 26.

He had been receiving end-of-life care for an underlying condition before he tested positive for Covid-19.

It comes after an 84-year-old man who was an inmate at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire died in hospital on March 22 after contracting coronavirus.

Stockpiling could lead rats, cockroaches and houseflies to your home

Pest control chiefs have warned of potential rat problems due to stockpiling and hoarding during the coronavirus crisis.

The National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) said buying larger quantities of perishable goods could lead to similar problems created by rubbish piled up due to missed bin collections.

NPTA technical manager John Hope is appealing to the public to be even more vigilant than usual to combat the risks posed by the current circumstances.

He said "good housekeeping" is more vital than ever in order to combat the threat of pests such as rats, cockroaches and houseflies.

New NHS volunteer army target - 750,000

Downing Street has raised the target for volunteers to help vulnerable people through the coronavirus crisis to 750,000 after more than half a million people responded to the call.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the scheme would not close, even though 560,000 have now volunteered to help.

He said: "I think the most recent number I've seen was around 560,000 people who have volunteered so far which is amazing - but we want people to continue to volunteer and if we can reach a number of 750,000 then that would be fantastic."

If you haven't already joined - click here to find out how

More ExCeL-type hospitals being considered

Downing Street has indicated that additional coronavirus field hospitals are being considered around the UK.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said 500 of the additional 4,000 beds created in the NHS Nightingale Hospital being set up in London's ExCel centre will be available for use next week.

Asked if convention centres in Birmingham and Manchester are also being considered, he said: "The current focus is on getting the ExCel centre up and running as the NHS Nightingale Hospital.

"But NHS England is actively preparing for a number of scenarios as the outbreak continues and is working with clinicians and teams of military planners around the country."

Pressed on whether this does mean more across the country, he said: "As I say, we are working with local health services all around the country."

Loss of smell and taste should be added to Covid-19 symptoms, says doctors

Pressure is mounting on health officials to add loss of smell and taste to the official list of symptoms for Covid-19 after increasing numbers of people reported they were suffering from both.

ENT UK, the professional membership body representing ear, nose and throat surgery in the UK, published guidance to patients on Wednesday saying it believed anosmia (loss of smell) and loss of taste were symptoms of coronavirus, adding that it had shared these details with Public Health England (PHE).

It said loss of smell following any viral infection is the second most common cause of smell loss generally and therefore it "is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel Covid-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients."

It added: "There is growing evidence that significant numbers of patients with proven Covid-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia (reduced sense of smell).

"For example, in Germany it is reported that more than two in three confirmed cases have anosmia."

Police force to use checkpoints to stop vehicles

North Yorkshire Police said it will use checkpoints to stop vehicles and ask drivers if their journey is essential.

Officers will ask motorists where they are going, why they are going there, and reminding them of the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker, said: "The new and significant restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on Monday evening spell out very clearly what each and every one of us must do to save lives. The message is clear and the warning stark. Stay at home, save lives.

"These are the lives of the people we know and love. Our partners, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents.

"You may never be in such a position again where your simple actions will lead directly to saving lives."

The force said the checkpoints will be unannounced and could appear anywhere any time.

Pope Francis 'tests negative' for coronavirus

Pope Francis was reported Thursday to have tested negative for the novel coronavirus after a person in his residence was said to have contacted COVID-19.

Several Italian newspapers with reputable sources in the Vatican said the Italian clergyman who got sick had lived for years in the pope's Saint Martha's residence.

Il Messaggero said the person is "one of the pope's closest collaborators, an official of the Secretariate of the State, who was found to have a slight temperature after going in for a routine check".

The daily La Stampa said the unnamed person has been hospitalised in Rome and that his office has been disinfected.

Il Messaggero later reported that the pope himself was tested for the virus and came out clean.

The 83-year-old pontiff has remained largely secluded at his residence since coming down with a cold late last month.

La Stampa said he has been "eating alone in his room for some time" and has food brought to him on a tray by secretaries.

Report coronavirus fake news you see on social media, MPs say

MPs are calling for social media users to pass on examples of coronavirus misinformation they discover online.

Social media firms will be called in to Parliament after the extended Easter recess to explain what they are doing to combat the spread of false information.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman Julian Knight said: "The deliberate spreading of false information about Covid-19 could have serious consequences.

"Much of this is happening on social media through private channels, putting the onus on friends and family to identify whether the information they are seeing is misleading.

"There have been some shocking examples in recent weeks and we want people to send us what they've come across.

"We will call in social media companies as soon as the House returns to explain what they're doing to deal with harmful content like this to help give people the reassurances they need at this difficult time.

"Tech giants who allow this to proliferate on their platforms are morally responsible for tackling disinformation and should face penalties if they don't."

Follow coronavirus guidance or risk arrest, says Police Scotland chief constable

Police Scotland's chief constable has said the vast majority of people are obeying coronavirus guidance to stay at home.

Iain Livingstone hopes new powers to arrest people flouting the rules will be used "very, very infrequently, if at all".

He said Police Scotland officers have seen "overwhelming levels of compliance" from the public since lockdown measures were introduced.

Emergency legislation has been passed to give police the power to arrest those breaching coronavirus guidance, which states people should only leave home for essential food, health and work reasons.

Mr Livingstone said most people were heeding the advice, despite a few cases of "extreme" behaviour, such as a woman accused of deliberately coughing at police officers.

When people are found to be flouting the rules, Mr Livingstone said officers have been speaking to them "to make it very, very clear what the expectations are and why they need to comply with those requirements".

He added: "If they refuse, as I understand some of the legislation that's going to be implemented we would have power to instruct them to return home and to use reasonable force if required.

"If there is continued defiance, the absolute back-stop of a power of arrest. I would expect that to be used very, very infrequently, if at all, but I do think it is important that people know that that power is there."

Teenagers spit at RSCPA officer trying to rescue a swan

A group of teenagers spat in the face of an RSPCA officer as she rescued a swan and shouted "have corona b---h", the animal charity has said.

Welfare officer Leanne Honess-Heather was trying to help the bird, which had got tangled in a fishing line, when five youths aged around 16 approached her.

The incident happened on Saturday close to Rush Lyvars Fishing Lake in Hedon, Hull, when the group came over to see what Ms Honess-Heather was doing, as she struggled with the swan on her own.

Ms Honess-Heather asked them to stand back, which appeared to annoy the youths, she said.

"They seemed to take offence to this, which led to two of the group spitting directly into my face, going in my mouth and eyes, as they yelled 'have corona b---h' at me," she said.

The swan had no longer-term injuries after being cut free from the line, and was released after being checked out by a vet.

The RSPCA said it was providing an emergency-only service to animals through the coronavirus crisis in the wake of Government advice.

Prince Charles 'working at his desk as usual'

Clarence House has declined to give an update on the Prince of Wales' health status after announcing on Wednesday he had tested positive for coronavirus.

But a spokesman said the heir to the throne, who is at his Scottish home Birkhall, was working at his desk as usual.

He added Charles had received hundreds of "get well soon" wishes sent to Clarence House - a mixture of cards but mostly digital messages.

Another 157 die in Iran

James Rothwell in Jerusalem with the latest take:

Iran announced that 157 more people have died from the coronavirus as it imposed a ban on travel between cities, amid fears of a second outbreak of the disease. 

Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesman for the health ministry, said 2,389 new cases have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of known infections in one of the world's wost-hit countries to 29,406. "Fortunately, until today 10,457 of those infected have recovered and been discharged from hospitals," he said, adding that the spread of the new coronavirus and its rate of infection was "growing steadily" in Iran. The Islamic Republic also announced a travel ban in response to fears that celebrations during Persian New Year have led to a new wave of infections, particularly as many people were not heeding government advice on self-isolation. 

"Those who were planning to travel, cancel it right from this moment," one Iranian official urged.

It came as the Israeli government ordered citizens not to travel further than 100 metres beyond their homes, and only leave the house for essential food and medicine.

In Saudi Arabia, officials announced a second death from the virus, while Egypt has begun a two-week curfew. 

Leaders of the G20 are to hold a virtual summit later today, organised by Saudi Arabia, to discuss a global approach to coronavirus.  

First Government BA flight from Peru back in UK

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced that the first Government-chartered British Airways flight from Peru has "landed safely back in the UK".

He said: "We are working urgently with Peruvian authorities to deliver more flights in the coming days."

It came as hundreds of British and Irish tourists in the South American country said they feared being stranded "for months" after new quarantine rules put them on a three-month lockdown, while others said their hostels were due to close at the end of this month.

European lockdown - how UK compares to the Bloc

Analysts from Frontex - the European Border and Coast Guard Agency - have compiled this guide. 

You can compare Britain's restrictions to the rest of Europe:

Remember the children who interrupted their father during a live TV interview? They're back 

Robert E Kelly was delivering a piece-to-camera from his home office. 

First his daughter stormed into the room with a comical march, and then his baby came rolling in.

Well, the family are back on live TV:

Chief Medical Officer asked WHO director 'do you think we are doing the right thing?'

Speaking at a virtual press conference Dr Hans Kluge, director of the World Health Organization, Europe, said he had been in constant communication with prime ministers and health ministers from every government in the region.

He said that yesterday he had been on the phone to Prof Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, who "asked me, do you think we are doing the right thing?"

Dr Kluge didn't divulge what his response to Prof Whitty was. But he said:

"This is the question I get most - are governments doing too few, or too much. I think the straightforward answer is that we know what has to be done and this needs to be done. 

"Suspected cases need to be identified as early as possible, treated with empathy and dignity. Number two prepare hospitals to flatten the curve, get the nurses and pathologists really ready for Covid-19. And third we need everyone in society to really follow social distancing.

"This is a new virus, these issues all evolve."

Around 80% of Wales will contract Covid-19, says Welsh chief medical officer

Wales' chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said an estimated 80% of people will contract Covid-19 "at some point".

"What we've been doing, the strategy in the UK as a whole, has been to suppress that, to delay the onset of that so that the NHS can cope, so that we have time for the NHS to get ready," he said.

"At some point, once the interventions that we've put in place here in Wales and in the UK are lifted, there is a risk that people will then start to become infected again.

"And so the way in which we release those measures will be very critical.

"What we're doing at the moment is watching other countries which have put these quite repressive measures in place, to see what happens when they lift, how quickly can we lift those measures?

"These are all unanswered questions but everybody is vulnerable because nobody has experienced this virus before - it's a new virus to humanity."

Putin putting Moscow in partial lockdown

The latest here from our Moscow Correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva 

Moscow authorities have imposed a partial lockdown in the Russian capital after President Vladimir Putin announced a week off work next week in order to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Sergei Sobyanin, the Moscow mayor, in a statement on Thursday ordered all restaurants, bars and shops, except for grocery stores and pharmacies, to shut down on Saturday and called on Muscovites to stay home.

Moscow will also close some of its most popular parks including the iconic Gorky Parks to discourage large crowds from gathering.

While President Putin in his Wednesday’s address to the nation avoided strong terms to refer to the coronavirus crisis and described the week off work merely as “holiday”, Mayor Sobyanin insisted on Thursday the upcoming week “is not a holiday but a serious measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

“The restrictions imposed today are unprecedented for Moscow’s modern history and will cause a lot of inconvenience in everyday life,” he said. “But trust me: they are absolutely necessary in order to slow down the spread of coronavirus and cut down the number of infections.”

The number of confirmed cases in Russia surged by 182 in the past 24 hours in the biggest daily increase, bringing the total number to 840.

Most of the cases were reported in Moscow, a city of 12 million people.

New 'rapid' tests thanks to German-Northern Irish collaboration

This just in from Justin Huggler in Berlin

A collaboration between a German industrial giant and a Northern Irish specialist firm has developed a new rapid test for coronavirus they claims is much more accurate than those currently available.

Bosch said its new test, developed together with Northern Ireland's Randox Laboratories, delivers results in two and a half hours and is 95 per cent accurate. 

Doctors currently rely on lab-based tests that take 24-48 hours to produce a result. Much quicker home testing kits are available, but there is debate over their accuracy.

The new tests are aimed at hospitals and clinics and offer doctors pre-mixed test cartridges, eliminating the need to send samples to laboratories.

They will be made available from April in Germany, and for the rest of Europe at a later date.

Testing Q&A today at 1pm - put your questions to our experts

Testing for the coronavirus is the hot topic at the moment. What is an antigen test and what is an antibody test? Why can't I do one at home?  And will one be available soon? Home testing would speed up diagnosis and would be vital for doctors and nurses to know whether they are infected and can or cannot return to work. They would also help with the eventual roll out of a coronavirus vaccine.

Anne Gulland, Deputy Editor of Global Health Security, will be answering your questions on testing from 1 p.m. (GMT) today. 

To join the discussion, click here.

60% of cases and 70% global coronavirus deaths in Europe

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said:  "Since we last broadcast over a week ago the number of cases and deaths have tripled in Europe. The rate of increase particularly marked in Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland.

"Over 220,000 cases and 11,987 deaths associated with Covid19 [in Europe]. This means that globally roughly 6 out of 10 every cases and 7 out of 10 deaths reported from our region.

"As we speak the global number of cases in the world has surpassed 400,000.

"From available reports we also know that 1 in 10 infections are in health care workers and many more in quarantine, in itself affecting ability to response.

"We must all take action to protect these courageous individuals as best as we can.

"While the situation remains very serious we are starting to see some encouraging signs that Italy has just seen a slightly lower rate of increase - though it is still too early to say that the pandemic is peaking in that country.

"We need to remain optimistic and physically and mentally healthy - this will be key in overcoming the challenge united."

Gatwick Express 'suspended until further notice'

Govia Thameslink Railway has announced its further-reduced timetable which will be implemented from Monday.

It said: "The Gatwick Express service will be temporarily suspended until further notice, in response to a significant fall in passenger numbers at the airport and to help keep other trains running.

"Southern and Thameslink trains will continue to serve Gatwick with more than adequate capacity to satisfy demand."

Leeds United players and staff agree Covid-19 wage deferral

The Championship team, who were tipped to rejoin the top flight of English football before the pandemic halted the season, have issued a statement saying their players and staff had agreed terms on their wages. 

Read the full statement below: 

Arts Council England announce coronavirus grant

Full details can be found here: 

Staff being drafted for 4,000-bed ExCeL hospital

Health bosses are identifying staff to be rapidly deployed at the new 4,000-bed field hospital being set to manage a surge in seriously ill coronavirus patients, it has been reported.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced earlier this week that the ExCeL site in London will become a temporary hospital equipped with two wards of 2,000 beds to cope with any patient surge in the capital.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported on Wednesday that leaders were "urgently" identifying staff who could be redeployed quickly at the new Nightingale Hospital.

An email from a London trust chief executive to staff, seen by the HSJ, said a response was needed within hours and accommodation could be provided if necessary.

Iran deaths hit 2,234

Iran has reported 157 new coronavirus deaths, raising the total to 2,234. The country has started an intercity travel ban, after officials complained that many Iranians ignored appeals to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

Shop straddling borders half-open and half-closed

A clothes shop straddling the Dutch-Belgian border found itself half-open and half-shut as the two countries pursued different policies to contain the coronavirus pandemic, reports our Brussels Correspondent James Crisp.

The Zeeman store in Dutch Baarle-Nassau, where the border splits streets in half, divided its shop with tape and kept the Dutch side open after Belgium closed all non-essential shops to fight the spread of the virus. 

Dutch shoppers were unable to buy underwear, for example, because the pants and knickers were kept in Baarle-Hertog, on the Belgian side of the border. 

The Netherlands has not closed all non-essential shops but requires them to enforce social distancing measures. 

“The square metres [of the store] in Belgium just follow the Belgian measures. The square metres in the Netherlands, follow the Dutch measures,” Marjon De Hoon, mayor of  Baarle-Nassau said. 

“I needed underwear, but that’s in the Belgian part of the store, so I could not get it,” a Dutch customer told the VRT broadcaster.

The Belgian authorities asked Zeeman to close the store but, because it falls under Dutch law, they are powerless to force the shop to shut entirely. The shop eventually decided to close entirely. 

“We show our solidarity with Belgium by keeping our shop closed on that side,” a Zeeman spokesperson said.

Radio 4's Today programme first to be broadcast with two presenters at home

Nick Robinson thanked the technical staff that helped him and Martha Kearney present the show from their own homes. 

The flagship morning news show is usually recorded live in a studio, as seen below.

Miss Belgium beauty contest cance... no... goes ahead!

As everything else falls foul to the coronavirus outbreak, here's the latest by James Crisp, Brussels Correspondent.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement of the Olympics, the Euro 2020 football tournament and the Eurovision Song Contest but it hasn’t shut down the Miss Belgium beauty contest. 

The annual competition is pressing ahead with its early rounds, despite Belgium being under lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19. 

Rather than hold regional heats, Miss Belgium organsiers want contestants to send in videos of themselves in bikinis to narrow down the field. 

“Normally our provincial preselections take place around this time, but this time we arrange everything by mail,” said chairwoman Darline Devos.

“We ask the girls to forward a video of themselves showing off in bikini. That can be in their living room, or in their garden. That way we can make a good estimate,” she told the Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper. 

The reigning Miss Belgium Celine Van Ouytsel, 23, has been forced to cancel all her public engagements since the Belgian government introduced strict social distancing measures. 

The beauty contest remains popular, despite it acting as a lightning rod for the deep linguistic and cultural divides between French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders. 

Ms Van Ouytsel’s victory in January infuriated francophone Belgians because the winner came from Flanders for the sixth year in a row. Critics sniped that the competition should be renamed “Miss Flanders”.

Line of Duty paused, but will play again

A ray of light in the darkness - Line of Duty will be back. We just don't know when.

The show's star Martin Compston has pledged that the drama will return despite being derailed by coronavirus.

Bosses had to pause filming the sixth series of Jed Mercurio's thriller because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Compston told Good Morning Britain: "The scripts this year ... again, they just seem better than ever.

"We will be back at some point again to get them finished" and it will be "bigger and better than ever".

Sadiq Khan urges key workers to avoid rush hour

The Mayor of London has once again pleaded with the people of the capital not to travel to work. 

 But, on day three of the lockdown, the message was not getting through. 

Come to your doors and windows to applaud the NHS at 8pm tonight

The movement - Clap For Our Carers - has been endorsed by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock. 

 Here's what you need to do: 

  1. Wait until 8pm
  2. Go to your doors, windows or balconies
  3. Applaud those working so hard to keep us safe

Businesses 'forcing' workers to go into work, ignoring lockdown

This is what shadow chancellor John McDonnell is hearing.

G20 virtual coronavirus summit

Leaders of the world's most powerful economies will convene virtually on Thursday to try and coordinate a response to the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has shuttered businesses and forced well over 1.5billion people into home isolation.

The meeting for the Group of 20 nations will be chaired by Saudi Arabia's King Salman.

The kingdom, which is presiding over the G20 this year, said it organized the extraordinary meeting to advance global efforts to tackle the pandemic and its economic implications as people lose their incomes amid closures, curfews and lockdowns.

The meeting comes amid criticism that the world's wealthiest countries have not taken cohesive action to combat the virus or its economic impact on people around the world.

There was sparring this week among foreign ministers from the Group of 7 leading industrialized democracies over whether to call out China as the source of the coronavirus.

The ministers were unable to agree on a US push to identify the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus," in reference to the city in China where it first appeared.

As a result, the foreign ministers opted against releasing a group statement. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among the heads of state who will take part in Thursday's G20 leaders' summit.

The virtual summit will also include leaders from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Labor Organization and others.

Everybody say yeah: The return of Mr Motivator

The BBC has hired Mr Motivator for a new daily programme with Angela Rippon to help the nation keep fit.

HealthCheck UK Live will broadcast on BBC One at 10am.

Using his favourite catchphrases, Mr Motivator (real name Derrick Evans) announced his return with the message: "Everybody say yeah, let's get happy and be wicked at home."

His signing follows the return of Diana Moran, the Green Goddess, to BBC Breakfast.

For more home fitness tips while you are stuck indoors, click here.

Old and frail 'over-burdening' NHS and should stay at home, says ex-Government chief scientist

The Government's former chief scientist Sir David King told the BBC that old people who were also very frail.

"I certainly would advise anyone in the region of 90 or 95 years old who is susceptible for whatever reason not to go into hospital for two reasons.

"One is you that you go into hospital at that age with problems and you may never come out.

"But of course the second reason is you are over-burdening the NHS."

Asked if the old should sacrifice their lives for the young, Caroline Abrahams from Age UK will have already made that "agonising" choice.

She said: "In the end that isn't really a question for individuals and families, it's a question for doctors to make the right decision."

Tesco to limit number of customers to 10 in some Express shops

Here's the latest on the supermarket giant, according to the BBC.

First British prisoner dies after contracting coronavirus

An 84-year-old man has become the first British prisoner to die after contracting coronavirus.

The inmate at HMP Littlehey, a category C male sex offenders' prison in Cambridgeshire, died in hospital on Sunday.

He reportedly had underlying health issues.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "An 84-year-old prisoner at HMP Littlehey died in hospital on March 22.

"Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

"As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman."

As of Wednesday, 19 inmates had tested positive for Covid-19 across 10 jails and four prison staff had tested positive for the disease across four jails.

Three prisoner escort and custody services staff have also tested positive for Covid-19.

NHS staff to be given free parking 

Those working for the NHS will get free parking during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Government will cover the cost. 

Electrical sales soar as people buy laptops and TVs for lockdown

Retailer DixonsCarphone has revealed electrical sales have soared by more than a third in recent weeks as Britons raced to buy laptops and televisions to prepare for the coronavirus lockdown.

The group said overall UK and Ireland like-for-like electrical sales lifted 10% in the 11 weeks to March 21, including a 35% jump in the most recent three weeks.

While all its stores have been closed since March 24, it has seen "very strong" online trading, with UK and Ireland internet sales leaping 72% in the three weeks to March 21.

This is helping offset some of the £400 million in lost store sales expected for the rest of the year due to shop closures, according to Dixons, although it warned profits will still miss forecasts.

Call on Wimbledon next week - but behind closed doors ruled out

The fate of tennis' biggest event will be decided next week. 

But playing behind closed doors has been formally ruled out already. 

Read the full statement here: 

Volunteer numbers now up to 560,000

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says a total of 560,000 members of the public have now answered the Government's call for volunteers to aid the NHS.

Mr Hancock tweeted: "NEWS: Fantastic that 560,000 people have now responded to our call to volunteer to support our NHS to defeat Coronavirus."

UK retail flatlined in February

UK retail sales flatlined in February amid poor weather before the spread of coronavirus was fully felt by high street shops, according to official statisticians.

The Office for National Statistics said sales volumes were flat for the month, slowing down from growth in January as troubled high streets continued to stagnate.

The amount spent by shoppers increased 0.7%, although this also represented a slowdown from the previous month.

Rhian Murphy, head of retail sales at the ONS, said: "Retail sales continued to decline in the latest three months due to weak sales across most store types, with February's bad weather and flooding impacting on footfall.

"A small number of retailers also said that the impact of the coronavirus had affected sales of goods shipped from China."

Sainsbury's to reduce number of customers 

The supermarket chain has introduced a number of new measures. 

They include: 

  1. Limiting numbers of customers in store
  2. Fewer checkouts
  3. Card payments preferred over cash
  4. Elderly, disabled, and vulnerable get priority online slots

Government orders 10,000 ventilators from Sir James Dyson

The Government has ordered 10,000 ventilators to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic, billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Dyson has said.

In an email to staff, the inventor said his eponymous company designed the "CoVent" at the request of Boris Johnson, and promised to donate 5,000 to the international relief effort.

Sir James said teams of engineers had been working solidly on the design since receiving the call from the Prime Minister 10 days ago, and the UK Government had placed an initial order of 10,000 units.

He added: "We have received an initial order of 10,000 units from the UK Government, which we will supply on an open-book basis.

"We are also looking at ways of making it available internationally."

The company is now waiting for the design to receive regulatory approval so manufacturing can commence.

More than half a million people sign up to NHS volunteer army

More than 500,000 people in just over 24 hours have signed up to help the NHS as volunteers during the coronavirus crisis.

The NHS and the Prime Minister have thanked those who have offered to help some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Speaking at Wednesday's daily press conference at Number 10, Boris Johnson said he wanted to offer a "special thank you to everyone who has now volunteered to help the NHS".

"When we launched the appeal last night, we hoped to get 250,000 volunteers over a few days."

The NHS said in a tweet: "Thank you so much to everyone who has signed up to help some of the most vulnerable people in their communities. If you've not signed up and would like to, visit https://goodsamapp.org/NHS."

If you haven't already joined - here's how to do it.

Russia grounds flight

Russia will halt all international flights from midnight on Friday under a government decree listing new measures against the coronavirus outbreak.

The decree published on Thursday orders aviation authorities to halt all regular and charter flights, with the exception of special flights evacuating Russian citizens from abroad.

Japan sets up taskforce - but no emergency declared

Japan will set up a new coronavirus taskforce, the government said on Thursday, as it warned of a high risk of a wide spread of the virus but the economy minister said the government was not thinking of declaring a state of emergency now.

Japan has had 1,313 domestic cases of coronavirus as of Thursday morning, separate from 712 from a cruise ship that was moored near Tokyo last month, broadcaster NHK reported. There have been 45 domestic deaths and 10 from the cruise ship.

"I told Prime Minister Abe there is a high risk of coronavirus spreading widely," Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters after a meeting Shinzo Abe and Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Commuters wearing face masks make their way to work in Tokyo Credit: Getty

Nishimura said Abe told him to "proceed swiftly with setting up the government taskforce" based on Kato's report.

But the government was not considering declaring a state of emergency at the moment, Nishimura said.

Cruise ships told to leave Australian waters immediately

Two cruise ships off the coast of Western Australia have been told to “immediately” leave Australian waters, after the country's worst outbreak of the coronavirus was traced to a cruise liner that docked in Sydney Harbour last week.

Cruise ships have become a flash point for the epidemic in Australia after 147 of 2,700 passengers who disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney later tested positive for Covid-19.

Princess Cruises-owned Ruby Princess is pictured docked at Circular Quay during the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney Credit: Reuters

The outbreak from the Ruby Princess represents the country's worst cluster of the virus, and has sparked anger over why passengers, more than a dozen showing flu-like symptoms, were cleared to disembark without basic health checks.

State authorities have clashed with the central government over the handling of the issue, adding to tensions over matters including virus testing and school closures as the number of cases rapidly rises above 2,550, with 12 dead.

On Thursday, seven of 800 foreign passengers on board the German-operated MV Artania tested positive for Covid-19, and two more were unwell.

$2tn US stimulus passes Senate

The US Senate passed the nation's largest-ever rescue package late on Wednesday night, a $2 trillion lifeline to suffering Americans, depleted hospitals and an economy ravaged by a spreading coronavirus crisis.

The  deal thrashed out between Republicans, Democrats and the White House includes cash payments to American taxpayers and several hundred billion dollars in grants and loans to small businesses and core industries. It also helps hospitals desperately in need of medical equipment and expands unemployment benefits.

The measure cleared the Senate by an overwhelming majority and will now pass to the House of Representatives, which must also pass it before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Courteney Cox admits she is binge-watching Friends during lockdown

Courteney Cox has revealed she is binge-watching Friends while isolating amid the coronavirus outbreak - but admitted she barely remembers being on the show.

The actress played Monica Geller on the beloved sitcom, which remains one of the most popular shows on TV despite finishing in 2004.

Cox appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show, which is off-air due to the pandemic, to discuss how she is keeping occupied amid the shutdown in California.

The Friends cast will soon reunite for a reunion on HBO Credit: Jon Ragel/Reuters

Appearing via a video from her home, Cox revealed she bought all 10 seasons of Friends on Amazon Prime and is busy making her way through them.

"I decided during this time, people love the show so much, I decided to binge watch Friends. I just started season one - it's really good!" she said.

"I don't remember even being on the show, I have such a bad memory. I remember obviously loving everybody there and having fun and I remember certain times of my life I was there but I don't remember episodes."

US death toll passes 1,000

The number of deaths caused by the coronavirus has risen to 1,031 in the United States, with 68,572 confirmed cases nationwide, with a jump of more than 10,000 cases in a single day.

According to a tracker run by the Johns Hopkins University, the US has the third highest number of confirmed cases behind China and Italy, and the US death rate is now 1.5 percent, based on reported cases.

The true number of infected people is believed to be far higher, meaning the real death rate would be lower.

New York is one of the hardest-hit states in the country, with 280 deaths in New York city since the start of the pandemic.

A projection shared with Congress earlier this month said that between 70 to 150 million people could eventually be infected in the US.

If the real mortality rate is one percent, this would result in 700,000 to 1.5 million deaths.

China ramps up border controls

China reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus infections as the epicentre of the epidemic Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose as Beijing ramped up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.

A total of 67 new cases were reported on Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all of which were imported, China's National Health Commission said has said.

The total number of cases now stands at 81,285 and deaths at 3,287, up by six from the previous day.

Mexico suspending non-essential activities

Mexico's deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell says the federal government will suspend all non-essential activities beginning on Thursday.

Mexico registered 475 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, up from 405, and six deaths overall.

White House 'cut China CDC staff by more than two thirds'

Donald Trump's administration cut staff by more than two thirds at a key US public health agency operating inside China as part of a rollback of health and science experts before the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters.

Most of the reductions were made at the Beijing office of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and occurred over the past two years, according to public CDC documents seen by Reuters.

The CDC provides public health assistance to nations around the world and works with them to help stop outbreaks of contagious diseases from spreading globally. It has worked in China for 30 years.

The CDC’s China office has shrunk to around 14 staff members, down from approximately 47 people since President Trump took office in January 2017, the documents show. Four people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the losses included epidemiologists and other health professionals.

Reductions sidelined health experts, scientists and other professionals who might have been able to help China mount an earlier response to the novel coronavirus, as well as provide the US government with more information about what was coming, sources told Reuters.

What happened yesterday

Here are Wednesday's main developments:

  • A family from East Sussex may have been Britain’s first coronavirus victims, catching the virus in mid-January
  • Coronavirus home-testing kits could be available within weeks, health chiefs have said
  • One in three self-employed workers are in line to have the Government pay their wages, the Chancellor said
  • More than 500,000 people have signed up to volunteer with the National Health Service (NHS) to help vulnerable people
  • Prince Charles has tested positive for the virus and is self-isolating at home
  • The UK's death toll rose to 465 and the number of cases is now 9,529
  • The number of people who have tested positive for the virus around the world has passed 460,000, with more than 20,000 deaths
  • A quarter of the world's population is living under some form of lockdown
  • Spain's death toll has surpassed that in China and Italy reported another 683 deaths
  • New York is at the centre of the crisis in the United States as its governor says the number of hospitalisations is much higher than expected