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UK ramps up virus response

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The UK is waking up to a new reality as strict curbs on public life are recommended to try to slow the spread of coronavirus. Without them, our health correspondent James Gallagher explains, scientific modelling showed the country was on course for a “catastrophic epidemic” with up to 260,000 deaths. The hope is that if everyone takes the steps demanded that figure can be limited to the thousands or tens of thousands. Currently, it stands at 55.

Read the new advice in detail here, but in a nutshell, everyone is being urged to avoid unnecessary social contact, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs and restaurants. Sport has effectively been cancelled. If one person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days. And by next weekend, those with the most serious health conditions must be “largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks”. Schools will not be closed for the moment, but that is being kept under review.

There has been anger from many in the leisure industry because the prime minister advised people to stay away from pubs, theatres and music venues while not forcing premises to close. The latter route could have given them financial protection. The sector will be listening closely when the chancellor announces more economic aid measures later. Help for the airline industry, crippled by travel bans and a collapse in demand, is also expected to be included.

We have a wealth of information for you on coronavirus, all collected here. Among the most important pieces right now: what is self-isolation and social distancing, what are your rights to work from home and how can I protect elderly relatives?

Latest global picture

The situation is escalating around the world too. The European Union’s external borders will be closed to travellers from Tuesday and France and Germany have announced enforced lockdowns, stricter than that in the UK. French President Emmanuel Macron has deployed more than 100,000 officers to police the measures and punish any infringement. The US has also introduced sweeping restrictions and President Trump has warned the crisis could last all summer. Africa has seen a sharp rise in cases too.

The head of the World Health Organization is urging all countries to step up their testing programmes. Meanwhile, scientists around the world are fast-tracking research into coronavirus and in the US, the first human trial of a vaccine has started.

We can’t possibly bring you the full global picture here, so please check out our live page for much, much more.

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Need something different?

Understandably, very serious news is dominating our agenda right now, but let us point you towards some alternatives if you need them. If you’d like something uplifting, why not read about the amputee footballer dreaming of playing for England, or the Indian photographer documenting an unusual love story that looks beyond appearances? There’s also the story of a trailblazing female playwright keeping black history alive.

Less uplifting, but certainly interesting, read about the supposedly valuable fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have turned out to be fakes.

Reducing brain damage in sport without losing the thrills

By Sooraj Shah, BBC Technology of Business reporter

From football to F1, professional sport has become more aware of the impact it has on the brains of athletes. The US National Football League (NFL) has acknowledged that it concealed the dangers of concussion from players, leading to a settlement with ex-players that is expected to cost the NFL more than $1bn (£800m) over a 65-year period. But damage to the brain is difficult to manage because it’s difficult to measure. Often the effects are not felt until decades after players retire. So here is where new technology might help.

Read the full article

What the papers say

The implications of the new UK coronavirus restrictions are set out in stark headlines. “Time to get anti-social” says the Metro, while “Britain shuts up shop” is the Daily Mail’s take. The Sun says Boris Johnson has put up the closed sign on Britain – and Mother’s Day this weekend is, in effect, cancelled. The Daily Star has a unique take as always, picturing Macaulay Culkin with the headline “Home Alone”. The Guardian says the UK has brought in “unprecedented peacetime measures”. The Daily Telegraph agrees it’s “a dramatic escalation”, but it points out that the UK’s actions are still short of many other nations because they are officially voluntary. The paper also says there’s confusion among parents after the government decided against shutting schools. Finally, the Daily Express tries to rally its readers with the headline: “We can do it together.”

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From elsewhere

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