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Coronavirus news you might have missed overnight: UK applauds NHS workers and self-employed welcome support package

The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos across the UK and around the world.  

Here’s your morning briefing of everything you may have missed overnight about the fight against Covid-19

UK erupts in applause for NHS workers handling coronavirus crisis

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People across the UK have joined in a mass round of applause from their doorsteps to thank NHS staff working through the coronavirus crisis.

The national “Clap for our Carers” event was coordinated to show appreciation to healthcare workers risking their own lives in treating those infected.

Similar events have been held in Europe, with citizens on lockdown in France and Italy standing on their balconies to applauding medical staff.

‘Millions will sleep easier tonight’: Self-employed workers welcome coronavirus support package

Business groups and trade unions have welcomed new financial support for self-employed workers unveiled by the chancellor on Thursday.

However, some said the funds – which may not be delivered until June – would come to late for many hairdressers, childminders, freelancers and taxi drivers whose incomes have collapses as a result of the coronavirus.

In a much-anticipated move, Rishi Sunak announced that the self-employed would receive grants worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits up to £2,500 a month, matching the government support given to employees on PAYE.

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

An additional 115 people have died in the UK over a 24 hour period after contracting the Covid-19 coronavirus, bringing the overall total in the country to 578, the Department of Health has announced.

The department added that the number of confirmed cases had risen to 11,658 on Thursday, up by more than 2,000 from the 9,529 instances reported the previous day.

The latest deaths were people between the ages of 32 and 102, healthcare officials confirmed. All but two, who were aged 71 and 86, had underlying health conditions.

London scrambles to avert ‘armageddon’ as half of nation’s Covid-19 patients are in capital

A coronavirus surge is already hitting London – where more than half of England’s infected patients are being treated.

The NHS is scrambling to avert the worst-case scenario, described as “armageddon”, when the virus reaches its expected peak in seven to 10 days.

It is hoped that the newly assembled temporary hospital at east London’s ExCel centre will be able to bear the brunt of the surge, with NHS leaders ruling out shipping patients elsewhere in the country, so that Covid-19 can be better contained.

US now has most cases in the world, overtaking China

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reaches more than 82,000, including nearly 1,200 deaths, the US now has more cases than any other country.

The latest global health data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows the US eclipsing hard-hit countries Italy and China as the nation struggles with a consistent response after delayed efforts to take the mounting Covid-19 crisis seriously.

On Thursday, Margaret Harris with the World Health Organization warned that the US was likely to become the world’s viral epicentre as the number of cases escalated in several states, including New York, which spiked to more than 33,000 cases.  

Boris Johnson blames administrative error for failure to sign up to EU equipment help scheme

Downing Street has blamed an administrative error for the UK’s failure to sign up to an emergency EU scheme to help procure vital medical equipment to fight coronavirus.

After an outcry about the refusal to take part in the programme, a government spokesperson claimed that “initial communication problems” meant the UK was confused about whether it could take part.

The claim from No 10 comes despite EU officials being clear in public from early on that the UK could be involved, with a spokesperson stating on 19 March that Britain was “eligible to participate” because it was in the Brexit transition period and is thus being treated like a member state.

Critics accused Boris Johnson of taking an ideological stand against participating in the EU scheme, a charge which No 10 denies.

Lockdown should be ‘opportunity’ for UK population to get fit, says deputy chief medical officer

The British public could use their daily exercise session permitted during the coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity to get “super fit”, the deputy chief medical officer for England has suggested.

Appearing at a Downing Street press conference, Dr Jenny Harries also insisted the UK must “not take our foot off the pedal” as social distancing measures were beginning to have an impact on the spread of Covid-19.

Couples urged to think carefully before having baby during crisis

Couples with “time on their hands” during the coronavirus lockdown should consider using contraception, Scotland‘s chief medical officer says.

The need for maternity services cannot be paused, and people should ask themselves whether the time was right to have a baby, Catherine Calderwood said.

Pregnant women are more likely to become severely ill with flu when they are pregnant, according to the New Scientist, partly because pregnancy suppresses the immune system, and because in the later stages, the foetus can squash organs, including the lungs.

Alcohol is ‘unhelpful coping strategy’ for coronavirus lockdown, WHO says

Alcohol is an “unhelpful coping strategy” for the possible stress and isolation of coronavirus lockdown, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert has warned.

The UN agency acknowledged that many turn to drugs and alcohol in times of crisis, as a new survey suggested the pandemic has caused nearly two thirds of adults in the UK to feel anxious or worried.

But using substances to cope “can make things worse”, cautioned Dr Aiysha Malik, a technical officer at WHO Europe’s mental health and substance abuse department.

It is also vital that drug and alcohol services remain accessible throughout lockdown, Dr Malik said, as those with substance use disorders may face a higher risk of relapse.

NYC hospital staff reveal ‘unthinkable’ working conditions and explain what they want the public to know about coronavirus

Doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City have revealed “unthinkable” working conditions to The Independent while the state grapples with a severe shortage of life-saving medical supplies.

As the city finds itself at the core of an unfolding nationwide crisis, with more confirmed Covid-19 cases than anywhere else in the country, hospital staff and medical volunteers in New York are resorting to sewing their own makeshift face masks while fearing they will soon contract the novel virus due to a lack of proper protocol.

“My colleagues and I are re-using N95 masks for days at a time, which was unthinkable before,” A resident physician at Mount Sinai Hospital said on Thursday. “Look, we’re doing things that at any other time would be considered unsafe practice and that we would be called out for. But there’s simply no other option given the volume that we’re dealing with. We were not prepared for this.”

Biden releases new campaign video criticising Trump’s coronavirus response

Joe Biden has released a new campaign video, attacking Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic attack ad, paid for by Joe Biden for President, track’s Mr Trump’s response to the pandemic from the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the the US on 22 January to 22 March, two months later.

The video shows Mr Trump claiming to have the outbreak under control in January, saying “it’s going to disappear, one day it’s like a miracle it will disappear.”

It then skips to 28 February, where Mr Trump is still downplaying the outbreak, telling reporters that “now the Democrats are politicising,” and “this is their new hoax.”

As the number of cases start to rise, the president responds to a question asking him how he’d rate his response to the outbreak, saying: “I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job.”

Crime plummets across US amid lockdown

Crime has plummeted in some of America’s biggest cities, after millions were ordered to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Without crowded public spaces, transport use and open businesses, criminals have almost nowhere to commit offences. That comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US exceeded 55,000. 

New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have all recorded a drop in crime since measures to deal with the outbreak were introduced. 

US Navy ship quarantined in Guam after 23 crew-mates found to be infected

All 5,000 US Navy sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier will be tested for coronavirus after 23 members of the crew tested positive for the virus. 

The San Diego-based ship will be quarantined in Guam while the sailors are tested for the virus. 

McClatchy DC reported that the ship was on deployment in the Pacific and had just completed a visit to Da Nang, Vietnam, on 9 March. The first infected sailors were identified 15 days later.

Millions of Americans face coronavirus pandemic with no running water

Millions of Americans across the country face an additional hardship in their efforts to protect themselves from the coronavirus — lack of access to running water.

A 2016 survey of utility companies published by Food & Water Watch revealed that as many as 15 million people, or five per cent of households, could be without running water in any year.

With the first line of defence against the coronavirus pandemic being hand washing, people are struggling to maintain basic levels of hygiene to avoid getting ill, often relying on bottled water.

Five Russian government staff members test positive for Covid-19, reports say

Even with coronavirus raging through Europe and the Americas, Russia’s leadership has confidently rejected the prospect of an emergency at home. 

Vladimir Putin certainly has reason enough to be sanguine about the situation. The number of confirmed cases has yet to accelerate out of control, and his government has acted decisively on a number of fronts from contact tracing to closing its borders. 

But on Thursday night the Kremlin was being tested by reports that the coronavirus had made its way to the heart of government. 

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