Coronavirus live blog as it happened: all UK schools closed from Friday and positive cases in UK rise by over 600

Follow the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in our live blog below

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 8:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 6:05 pm

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Few commuters wait on the platform during the rush hour at Clapham Common in London (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Coronavirus live blog, March 18

Last updated: Wednesday, 18 March, 2020, 15:34

Measures introduced for PMQs

Today's Prime Minister's Questions looks set to be an eerie affair.

Tory MP Michael Fabricant has said that:  "The whips have now wisely asked that in order to ensure that we follow the advice being given to the public,

"It has been decided that only people on the order paper should be in the Chamber for both Northern Ireland and Prime Minister's Questions."

Could UK be put on lockdown?

Many of you are asking if the UK will be put on lockdown like the rest of the UK.

Alex Nelson provided a no-nonsense explainer on the pressing question here.

BBC announce a 'series of changes to' output

 The BBC have announced a "series of changes to our output" to "help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained".

It said: "We will do everything we can to maintain Breakfast, the One, Six and Ten (O'Clock News) and ensure they continue to perform a vital role on BBC One."

BBC Director-General Lord Hall said: "We also will do everything from using our airwaves for exercise classes for older people, religious services, recipes and advice on food for older people and low-income families, and should schools close, education programming for different age groups.

"We will also be launching a whole new iPlayer experience for children. And of course there will be entertainment - with the ambition of giving people some escapism and hopefully the odd smile.

BBC announce a 'series of changes to' output

 The BBC have announced a "series of changes to our output" to "help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained".

It said: "We will do everything we can to maintain Breakfast, the One, Six and Ten (O'Clock News) and ensure they continue to perform a vital role on BBC One."

BBC Director-General Lord Hall said: "We also will do everything from using our airwaves for exercise classes for older people, religious services, recipes and advice on food for older people and low-income families, and should schools close, education programming for different age groups.

"We will also be launching a whole new iPlayer experience for children. And of course there will be entertainment - with the ambition of giving people some escapism and hopefully the odd smile.

Jeremy Corbyn quizzes PM on emergency measures for renters

Speaking at PMQs leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has quizzed the PM on whether he will bring forward measures to help rime protect private renters from eviction.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Yesterday, the Chancellor unfortunately offered nothing to the 20 million people living in rented homes, including 3 million households with children. They're worried, they're worried sick that they can't pay their rent if they get ill, lose pay or feel they need to self-isolate.

"It is in the interests of public health, of the health of all of us, that people don't feel forced to go to work in order to avoid eviction when they know themselves they may be spreading this terrible disease. So will the Prime Minister now confirm that the Government's emergency legislation will protect private renters from eviction?"

Mr Johnson responded: "I can indeed confirm that we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, that is one thing we will do, but it is also important as we legislate that we do not simply pass on the problem so we'll also be taking steps to protect other actors in the economy."

Jeremy Corbyn implores government to increase testing

Mr Corbyn said: "The World Health Organisation said test, test, test and we should be testing, I believe, on an industrial scale."

He said 10,000 tests per day is "nowhere near even the number of people working in the NHS and the care sector", adding: "It is a massive undertaking and I wish there was a greater sense of urgency from the Government in getting this testing available for all staff.

"NHS staff are obviously on the front line and many are scared because the guidance has been changed to say they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for patients."

Mr Corbyn added: "We shouldn't be scaring doctors and nurses - is there a policy for them to have full protective equipment or not? Because I believe it should be the case."

Mr Johnson replied: "On testing, to reassure him, we're moving up to 25,000 a day."

SNP Westminster leader calls for emergency "universal income scheme"

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford pushed Mr Johnson to introduce an "emergency universal income" scheme.

He said: "Thousands of people are already losing their jobs, it's happening today. Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

"We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills, they are worried about keeping a roof over their head.

"In the last financial crisis the banks were bailed out but ordinary people were not. Prime Minister you have it within your power to protect people's incomes and provide them with peace of mind."

Mr Johnson agreed to hold talks with supporters of the universal income scheme, adding: "I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

"It is very important that as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and everybody else that no-one - whatever their income - should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case."

Scottish schools to close on Friday

Nicola Sturgeon has just announced that all schools in Scotland are to close at the end of this week.

She said:  "I want to be as open and transparent as possible. "My view is that it is now inevitable that we will close schools and nurseries.

"My planning assumption now is schools will close to pupils at the end of this week and I wanted today to give parents notice of that now."

She added people should not assume schools will reopen after the Easter break and she could not promise they will open before the summer holidays.

Scottish death toll rises to three

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that a third patient has died as a result of coronavirus. 

She said: "It is with sadness this afternoon that I have to confirm the death of one more patient."

She added that her thoughts were with the families of those who have died.

As of today, there are 227 confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 across Scotland.

Positive tests in UK climbs to 2,626

The number of people to test positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday is 2,626, up from 1,950 at the same time on Monday, according to the gov.uk website.

A total of 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, with 53,595 negative results.

Positive tests in UK climbs to 2,626

The number of people to test positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday is 2,626, up from 1,950 at the same time on Monday, according to the gov.uk website.

A total of 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, with 53,595 negative results.

UK education secretary to speak at 5pm

UK education secretary Gavin Williamson is to make a statement in the House of Commons at 5pm tonight. 

This speech will come in the wake of Scotland and Wales announcing the closure of schools and nurseries from Friday. 

Prime Minister to host Cobra meeting

The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of Cobra on Wednesday afternoon before his daily press conference.

The Sage committee of scientists is also meeting to consider the latest information on the spread of the virus.

Boris Johnson to speak at 5pm

Boris Johnson will hold his daily press briefing at 5pm and will be joined by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries OBE.

Wetherspoons pubs will remain open

All Wetherspoon pubs will remain open, but customers will pay by card, avoid standing at the bar and sit at alternate tables, the company announced.

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