Great Britain

Coronavirus news: 20,000 retired NHS staff to return to fight outbreak as government warns partial lockdown could last six months

The UK could remain on partial lockdown for six months, deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries has said, warning of a second peak if such measures are ended too quickly.

Boris Johnson has written a letter to every household in the UK to urge the public to stay at home during the coronavirus “national emergency”, raising the possibility of even stricter lockdown measures being introduced.

The prime minister also announced that 20,000 retired NHS staff have volunteered to return to the health service, as it prepares for its most challenging week ever with the number of Covid-19 patients set to increase significantly.

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Makeshift wards, made up of converted old clinic spaces, offices and surgical theatres holding 33,000 extra beds, give hope of maximising capacity to help patients needing life-saving treatment.

The number of UK deaths reached 1,228 on Sunday, after 29 more deaths were recorded. It is the second largest day-on-day rise in the number of deaths reported since the outbreak began.

In the US, the number of fatalities doubled in two days to surpass 2,000. There are now more than 660,000 coronavirus cases across the globe, and more than 30,000 people have died.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's coronavirus liveblog.

Boris Johnson will write a letter to every household in the UK to urge the British public to listen and obey lockdown measures to ease the burden on the NHS.

His letter will warn people that stricter rules may be imposed, and anyone who breaks them will be subjected to a fine.

More details of the letter here:

'We are going to have to accept we can’t save everyone'

The number of coronavirus infections in the UK are expected to worsen, with predictions that patient numbers could double every few days.

The NHS is preparing to face its toughest week so far in the crisis, as concerns mount over the risks of safely staffing extra beds and treating patients who need help to breathe. There are also fears large numbers of staff could fall ill themselves.

London is expected to be worst-hit within the next 10 days, with the rest of the country following behind in the first few weeks of April as the outbreak inevitably spreads.

Read Shaun Lintern's report here:


"My main message to you is simple: thank you."

Matt Hancock has written an open letter of thanks to social care workers for their tireless work in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

"I am acutely conscious that you, along with colleagues across the health and social care system, are on the front line caring for and supporting people in incredibly challenging circumstances," he wrote.

"Many of the people you care for will be in groups that are at higher risk from Covid-19 and I know that you will have naturally felt concerned for them.

"My main message to you is simple: thank you."

The health secretary praised the workforce for "going the extra mile" to ensure vulnerable people are cared for while heeding Government social distancing advice on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

"We will do all we can to make your lives easier during this period, including, for example, making parking on council-owned on-street spaces and car parks free for those who work in social care," he added.

"We are committed to doing whatever is needed; that promise applies just as much to social care as it does for the NHS."

Reporting by PA

Hollywood star Nico Santos 'devastated' after stepfather succumbs to Covid-19

Actor Nico Santos, who starred in Crazy Rich Asians, revealed his stepfather has died from coronavirus and his mother is still fighting the disease.

He said the loss of his stepfather was "devastating" and was "gutted" that "the pandemic has kept my family apart".

Roisin O'Connor has the story here:

Americans in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should "refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days"

Donald Trump has issued a "strong Travel Advisory" warning Americans not to make "non-essential travel" for the next two weeks, but stopped short of quarantining coronavirus-hit hotspots.

The US president initially said on Saturday he might impose a ban on travel in and out of New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

But he later tweeted on Saturday night: "A quarantine will not be necessary."

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US, has rocketed past 46,000.


How long will the lockdown last? It depends on the public's behaviour, says Michael Gove

Michael Gove has said the length of the lockdown in the UK "is not fixed" and depends on the "behaviour" of the British public.

In an interview with Sky News, the Cabinet minister said there are "different projections" on how long the country will remain under lockdown to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

He said: "But it's not the case that the length of the lockdown is something that is absolutely fixed.

"It depends on all of our behaviour. If we follow the guidelines, we can deal more effectively with the spread of the disease."

The public appear to be heeding the government's rules and are staying home, he said, as the number of people on public transport and footfall in supermarkets and other stores have reduced.

"We keep things under review in order to ensure that if there are further steps they can be implemented," he added.

Free food parcels delivered to help people with severe health conditions

Thousands of vulnerable people have begun receiving free food parcels as part of the UK government's "social shielding" strategy.

The first consignment of 2,000 boxes containing pasta, cereal, fruit, tea bags and toilet roll were left on doorsteps to help those who cannot leave their homes.

Peter Stubley reports on the story here:

"It's heartbreaking if people think that because they're young and fit and healthy, they can congregate"

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has reiterated that people must listen to the Government and stay home to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Dr Katherine Henderson told BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday: "Unless people do stay home, we won't be able to save as many lives as we should.

"We actually really need people to listen to the Government message on this. It's heartbreaking if people think that because they're young and fit and healthy, they can congregate.

"But they don't know who their friends are maybe in contact with, an elderly relative, and if they give them coronavirus, they will suffer much more than a young person might.

"So stay home, save lives, it's a standard message, we've got to get people to do it."


Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the NHS has reached its target of carrying out 10,000 coronavirus tests a day ahead of time.

He tweeted:

Michael Gove has blamed "communication confusion" after the UK government missed the deadline to join an EU scheme to procure extra ventilators.

Earlier this week, Downing Street said the UK decided to pursue its own ventilator scheme rather than join the EU's scheme.

But a No 10 spokesman explained that officials did not receive emails inviting the UK to join and it could join future schemes.

Speaking on the BBC's Marr programme, Mr Gove said: "There was some confusion over our involvement in that scheme, but I've talked to senior figures in the NHS and they've reassured me that there is nothing that we can't do as an independent nation that being part of that scheme would have allowed us to do."

Asked whether an email was received by the Government, he said: "There was some communication confusion, I don't know all the details of that, but I do know having talked to senior figures in the NHS that there's nothing that participating in that scheme would have allowed us to do that we have not been able to do ourselves."

Read political sketch writer Tom Peck's thoughts on the issue below:

"Many, many thanks to everyone in Australia who looked after us"
Tom Hanks has updated fans after returning home with his wife Rita from their coronavirus ordeal.

Both Hanks and his wife tested positive for Covid-19 while filming a new Elvis Presley biopic in Australia, and were quarantined for two weeks.

They have since recovered and returned to Los Angeles.



Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has announced stricter measures to keep people at home as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

No more than two people are allowed to gather in a public space at any one time under the new measures.

Public areas including playgrounds, outdoor gyms and skate parks have been ordered to close.

Shopping malls will remain open, but Mr Morrison said: “When you are going out for shopping, you should be going for just stuff you need and do it and get home.

"It is not a time for browsing. It is not a time for catching up with friends or bumping into people and having a long conversation.”

Spain coronavirus death toll surges past 6,000

Spain's coronavirus death toll has risen by 838 overnight, raising the total to 6,528 from 5,690 on Saturday.

The Spanish Health Ministry said the number of positive Covid-19 cases has risen to 78,797.

Nazanin Zhaghari-Ratcliffe's temporary leave from prison in Iran has been extended by two weeks, her husband has revealed.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife’s father had been told her two-week furlough had been extended until 18 April. 

Chiara Giordano has the story here:



The Royal Voluntary Service has announced the number of people who have volunteered to help the NHS in the fight against Covid-19 has reached 750,000 - three times the initial target.

Within two days after the target was increased from 250,000 - a goal which was hit in less than 24 hours - volunteers reached three-quarters of a million.

The drive has been temporarily paused while the RVS processes applications and works with the NHS to let the volunteer army hit the road running.

Read Boris Johnson's letter to the UK in full here:

An early study of critical care outcomes has found the mortality rate of coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care is close to 50 percent.

The report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) shows that out of 165 admissions to critical care units, 79 patients have died and 86 were discharged.

The study includes data on all positive cases of coronavirus that were reported to the centre up to midnight on 26 March. Cases were reported from 285 critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are taking part in an ICNARC programme.

A further 609 patients were last reported as still being in intensive care.

It says the early data submitted shows that: "Of the 775 patients, 79 patients have died, 86 patients were discharged alive from critical care and 609 patients were last reported as still being in critical care.

No detail of the other case was given.

The study shows that 70.5% of those admitted to critical care with Covid-19 were men, and 29.5% were women.

An NHS spokesman said: "It's widely recognised that no healthcare system in the world could cope if this virus really took hold and NHS services are going to come under pressure, which is why the NHS has already created the equivalent of 50 hospitals of extra capacity, with 33,000 beds freed up to deal with coronavirus, and a new hospital - the NHS Nightingale - set to open this week in the London Excel centre.

"The public need to help NHS nurses and doctors to deal with coronavirus, by staying at home and self-isolating, as well as continuing to wash your hands and practise good basic hygiene."

Reporting by PA


"Once again, we seem to be seeing a phenomenon of less makeup = more morality rearing its dewy-skinned head – a strange equation where not wearing cosmetics becomes shorthand for a kind of breezy, no-nonsense and therefore aspirational approach to life."

Kate Townshend explains why she still wears her favourite lipstick while working from home:

China relaxes coronavirus restrictions, allows flights from Hubei to resume

Airline flights from Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, have reportedly resumed.

On Sunday, the first flight took off from Yichang, a city in the Hubei province, heading towards the eastern city of Fuzhou with 64 passengers, reported state-owned agency Xinhua News.

Airports in Hubei were scheduled to see 98 departing flights on Sunday, said the news agency.

Access to Wuhan and other cities in Hubei via train, flight or car was suspended on 23 January when China first imposed the lockdown.

A train attendant wearing a protective face mask stands on a train to Wuhan
Wuhan was where the first Covid-19 cases were reported in December and majority of infections and deaths in China were concentrated there.

The Chinese government has been gradually relaxing lockdown restrictions since the Communist Party declared victory over the outbreak.

Wuhan's train station was reopened on Saturday, with subway and bus services resuming.

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