The government is under pressure from police to tighten the lockdown as the Easter Bank Holiday approaches, it has been reported.
But many details of the decision remain unclear, not least because Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in hospital being treated for coronavirus.
The social distancing measures in place are due to be formally reviewed every three weeks.
But the government seems likely to extend the restrictions, and may even bow to pressure from senior figures in the police and tighten them, the Guardian reports.
In Liverpool, the seriousness of the pandemic was brought home once again after NHS worker Barbara Moor died aged 54.
More than 100 people have now died in the city from COVID-19, while in the UK as a whole the number dead rose beyond the 7,000 mark.
Welsh First Minister says “current lockdown arrangements will need to continue”
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he expected his call for the lockdown to continue will be “common ground” at the Cobra meeting.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I don’t think anybody believes that we’re simply going to return to where we were before next week.
“The current arrangements will need to continue, we’ll need to think next week about whether we can fine-tune them in any way.
“I agree it’s important to begin to think now about how we ease the lockdown restrictions eventually, but now is not the moment.
“I didn’t want people in Wales to go into the Easter weekend thinking that after the weekend everything would be back to where it was before, and I didn’t want anybody to think that travelling to Wales for the Easter break was a good idea either.”
Mr Drakeford added: “It’s not an essential journey to come on holiday or to visit a second home.”
NHS has 10,000 ventilators and PPE equipment
The NHS now has 10,000 ventilators available to NHS patients and another 1,500 on order, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Downing Street is “confident” that sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) is now reaching the front line.
Some 33 million items of PPE were delivered to 269 trusts and organisations in England on Wednesday, the PM’s official spokesman said, taking the total to more than 600 million items over the past month.
He said: “We’re confident that enough supply is now reaching the front line, but if there are distribution problems as we deal with very significant increase in demand then we need to address them straight away and that is what we have the phone line for.”
‘No easing of restrictions during Easter’
Downing Street has warned that there must no easing up of coronavirus restrictions over the Easter weekend.
The Government is due to carry out the first review next week of the lockdown measures announced last month to curb the spread of the disease.
Boris Johnson continues to improve
Boris is continuing to improve in hospital.
Number 10 said: “The PM had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care at St Thomas’s hospital.
“The PM and No10 are hugely grateful for the support and thank the NHS staff for the brilliant care he is receiving.”
Scottish deaths near 500
A total of 447 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 81 from 366 on Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
Speaking ahead of a virtual question and answer session with party leaders, she said 4,957 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 392 from 4,565 the day before.
There are 212 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, an increase of 2 on Wednesday.
Ms Sturgeon added that 1,781 are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
Morrisons set to deliver 100,000 food boxes
Morrisons will produce and deliver more than 100,000 food boxes a week aimed at vulnerable and self-isolating people, the supermarket has announced.
The stores, which began producing the boxes for next-day delivery just over two weeks ago, will up production to more than 100,000 per week by next week and a spokesman said it aims to double that capacity over coming weeks.
Chief executive David Potts said: “These food boxes are a lifeline for many customers at this very difficult time and are providing essential food to people that either cannot leave their home or struggle to reach the supermarket.
“They are one of the ways we are playing our full part in feeding the nation.”
The boxes are priced from £30 and are delivered to customers’ doors by DPS.
Charities urge supermarkets to support vulnerable people
Charities representing vulnerable people have written to supermarkets urging them to support those who are unable to leave their home during the coronavirus crisis.
The charities – Blood Cancer UK, British Lung Foundation, Asthma UK, Kidney Care UK, PKD Charity, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – have written to six supermarkets outlining six criteria they want fulfilled.
In the letter to the bosses at Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Asda and John Lewis Partnership, the charities wrote: “As you know, across the UK there are more than 1.5 million people who are shielding, and so are unable to leave their home for at least 12 weeks.
“Many of the people who live with them will also be shielding to help protect them. Given that they are unable to leave their home, it is vital they can access food deliveries.”
They said people who are shielding, and therefore in the “extremely vulnerable” category, should be given the single highest priority, even if they are not an existing customer.
The charities said people who meet the criteria for the “extremely vulnerable” category but have not yet received a letter should be able to access priority slots.
They have urged the supermarkets to make enough priority slots available to make sure everyone in the “extremely vulnerable” category can get a weekly delivery.
The charities are asking the supermarkets to prominently display a button on their website for vulnerable people and their families to easily find out how to get slots.
The charities are also calling on supermarkets to have a phone line for people in the extremely vulnerable category to sort out issues, with enough staff to enable people to get through within 20 minutes.
Nicola Sturgeon not expecting lockdown to end imminently
Nicola Sturgeon has said she is not expecting the Cobra committee to propose any easing of the coronavirus lockdown measures, ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
The emergency meeting, featuring the leaders of the devolved governments, will be chaired by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after the Prime Minister spent another night in hospital suffering from Covid-19.
Scotland’s First Minister told Sky News the meeting is expected to discuss the current coronavirus situation and there is little chance lockdown measures will be changed.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I agree with Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales; I don’t think there is any possibility, any likelihood, of these lockdown measures being lifted immediately, or even imminently.
“We don’t even really have enough data from what has happened so far to know for sure the impact they’re having.
“And, of course, we can see the number of deaths from coronavirus rising.
“So, none of us want these measures to be in place for a single minute longer than they need to be, but it is really important that we stick with it in order to get on top of this virus, make sure we’re slowing down the spread, protecting the health service and of course saving lives.
“So I wouldn’t expect any change coming out of today’s Cobra meeting but we’ll see where the discussions take us.”
“We will get through this together”
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has written a heartfelt and powerful letter to the people of the city as they continue to be hit hard by the worst effects of the deadly coronavirus.
More than 100 people have now died in Liverpool’s hospitals after testing positive for Covid-19, while many more have sadly passed away at the city’s care homes.
More than 350 people are sick with the virus in the city’s hospitals, where exhausted NHS staff are battling to keep them alive.
Mayor Anderson said: “Like you, I love my family I love my city and it is this love that will take us through the next dark days and into the future for us our children and our grandchildren.”
Police could start checking shopping trollies as lockdown continues
A police chief has said his force is only “a few days away” from introducing measures such as road blocks and searching shopping trolleys as people continue to flout the coronavirus regulations.
Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley said a “three-week grace period” is over in the county – and the force will now be issuing fines and arresting people breaking the rules.
He said further measures will also be implemented should people continue to flout the regulations – including “marshalling” supermarkets and checking the items in baskets and trolleys.
Banks to offer financial help during crisis
Banks will be expected to offer customers whose finances have been hit by coronavirus an interest-free overdraft buffer of up to £500 for three months, the City regulator has confirmed.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which had previously consulted on a package of proposals to offer borrowers more stop-gap help, confirmed on Thursday that it will press ahead with the plans.
It also said that firms should offer a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to three months, for consumers negatively impacted by coronavirus.
If someone has a personal loan, credit card, store card or catalogue credit, they can ask for a freeze on repayments for three months. Personal loans also include guarantor loans, logbook loans and home collected credit.
However, interest will continue to build, which could mean paying higher costs in the longer term – so people should only make the request to freeze payments if they need to.
NHS 111 sees huge surge in calls
Figures from NHS England show a big increase in the volume of calls to the NHS 111 service last month.
An average of 95,600 calls a day were made in March 2020, more than double the average of 46,700 a day in March 2019.
Just under a third (30.2%) of calls to NHS 111 last month were answered within 60 seconds. In March 2019 the equivalent figure was 85.0%.
NHS England said service levels for NHS 111 have been affected since the middle of February by increased demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The figures also show the proportion of calls last month abandoned after waiting longer than 30 seconds was 38.7%. The figure for March 2019 was 2.4%.
Families saying “goodbye via Skype”
Absolutely tragic story.
Too many people are dying from Covid-19 to provide the end of life care doctors want to – with families saying their final goodbyes over Skype, an intensive care consultant has told PA.
Dr Ron Daniels, who works at Birmingham hospital, said that doctors, nurses and support staff are in tears on every shift as they pull together in a “war effort”.
Dr Daniels said his own hospital is allowing one relative in when it becomes apparent that a coronavirus patient is towards the end of their life in intensive care.
“Other family members, in consideration for their safety, are encouraged to say goodbye over Skype,” he added.
“There are nurses and doctors and healthcare assistants in tears on every shift, because they care.
“Usually, end of life care involves face-to-face discussions with family, spending time with the patient and for example, being able to touch them and show empathy.
“But wearing PPE has created a barrier to that and there is simply not the luxury to be able to do that, with too many people dying and close family unable to be there.”
Ryanair update on flights restarting
Earlier this week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told Brits to postpone all foreign travel “indefinitely” as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Ryanair will be grounding 90% of their flights in the coming weeks, as they continuing operating on a limited schedule.
The budget airline also confirmed to the ECHO, they are still operating on their earlier policy which suggests flights will not restart until June.
A statement said: “As most EU countries have imposed flight bans or other restrictions, over 90% of Ryanair’s aircraft are grounded for the coming weeks.
“We will comply with these restrictions at all times. We are working with EU Governments to try to keep some minimum flight links open for emergency reasons, even though the passenger loads on these flights is very low.
“We are today (April 6) extending this limited schedule by a week to Thurs 16 Apr.
“Ryanair is operating these flights daily or weekly and all details can be found on the www.ryanair.com website.
“All the aircraft are disinfected daily. With low loads, social distancing is being optimised on-board and we ask all passengers to cooperate fully with our crews who are doing their best in difficult times to maintain vital links to/from Ireland and to/from the UK to facilitate our passengers and their families to deal with emergencies that may require urgent travel over the coming days and weeks.
“Ryanair apologises sincerely for the unprecedented grounding of our aircraft fleet, and any schedule disruptions this may have caused, but we must all work together with EU Governments to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on our citizens and our health services.”
Boots stores to close
The retailer announced that 60 of its least used stores across the country will shut so that colleagues in busier stores can be better supported.
The first wave of 25 stores, all of which are in London, will close tomorrow (Good Friday), with the second wave, including the Liverpool stores, closing by Wednesday, April 15, reports the Mirror.
The stores to close temporarily in Liverpool are the Clayton Square branch and the small Boots store at Liverpool Lime Street station.
The high street chain said most stores closing are in airports and retail parks where there are almost no customers at the moment.
Carer’s plea over autism in lockdown
A Merseyside carer has pleaded with the public not to give autistic people “dirty looks” as they struggle to understand social distancing.
The woman told the ECHO colleagues were being judged by the public when helping them with their daily exercise.
The charity worker explained how autistic people are struggling to understand the lockdown advice when out in the open, and were being overlooked during the coronavirus pandemic.
The care, who wished to remain anonymous, said many autistic patients were “very tactile and like to touch people and objects.”
She said: “In just the last week, I have experienced dirty looks from members of the public when supporting individuals who require 2:1 support to go for a walk.
“These individuals need two members of staff with them when accessing the community and often try to “link” arms with staff as their understanding of social distancing is very limited.
“It may look to some like we are ignoring the guidelines put out there by the government, but what we are actually doing is trying to effectively and safely support an individual.”
Two arrested for ‘licking hands and contaminating food’
Absolutely unbelievable story this.
Police have made two arrests after two men were caught on camera licking their hands in a supermarket and wiping them over meat, fresh produce and fridge handles.
CCTV images were released by police of the shoppers, who entered the Sainsbury’s store in Lancaster Road, Morecambe, at about 1.45pm on Saturday.
The store was thoroughly disinfected and the food had to be destroyed, said Lancashire Police.
Launching the appeal on Wednesday, Inspector James Martin said: “That anyone could think this sort of behaviour is appropriate or amusing even in normal times is beyond me, but at this time of crisis when many people have been faced with empty shelves in some shops is flabbergasting.”
Two men were arrested in Morecambe later on Wednesday, the force said.
Police called to 660 parties
Over in Greater Manchester, police revealed they were called to a staggering 1,132 coronavirus related incidents last weekend.
Greater Manchester Police said they had received reports of 494 house parties, 166 street parties, 173 gatherings in parks and 112 cases of anti-social behaviour or public disorder.
Lockdown rules have banned public gatherings and Brits have been instructed to not leave home other than for essential travel or exercise.
The force revealed the stats ahead of fears lockdown rules could be flouted over the bank holiday weekend.
Amazing gesture from John Lewis
Department store chain John Lewis has teamed up with the British Medical Association (BMA) to deliver care packages to NHS staff at the UK’s busiest hospitals.
The retail giant is also creating a wellbeing area for medics and volunteers at the new NHS Nightingale hospital in east London, PA reports.
The care packages will first be sent to the Nightingale London and major London NHS trusts followed by distribution to other acute hospitals across the UK.
Based on advice from the BMA, the packages include 60,000 items in total, including deodorant, shaving foam, hand cream, antibacterial hand gel and lip balm, as well as snack food, tea, coffee and socks.
City hospitals treating 350 coronavirus patients
There are now more than 350 patients with coronavirus being treated in Liverpool’s hospitals, the ECHO understands.
The number reflects the enormous strain NHS staff are working under as the national death toll exceeds 7,000.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said: “My heart goes out to everyone affected by this virus and to all those NHS staff in our city’s hospitals who are working in incredibly difficult circumstances and putting themselves at risk to try and protect others.
“These numbers we are now looking at show us just how incredibly serious this situation is – and I’m afraid it is only going to get worse.”
Deaths rise in Liverpool
Yesterday saw the highest rise in deaths since the coronavirus crisis began.
The UK saw a rise of 936 deaths with coronavirus, taking the total to more than 7,000.
In Liverpool, a further 14 people were recorded as having died with coronavirus, taking the city’s total to 104.
Of those death 101 were registered by the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Aintree, Broadgreen and the Royal Liverpool Hospitals.
There have been two COVID-19 deaths at the specialist Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital – and one at the Walton Centre, which specialises in neurology.
Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Arrowe Park Hospital, recorded a further 17 deaths, taking the total on the peninsular to 46.
Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals after reported a further 14 fatalities taking the trust’s total to 34.
Four further deaths at either St Helens or Whiston Hospitals have taken that Trust’s total figure to 28.
And three more deaths at the Warrington and Halton Trust takes its total to 17.
Warning over pension scammers
Criminals are looking to cash in on people’s money worries during the coronavirus crisis, PA reports.
Pension savers are being warned to watch out for investment scams promising too-good-to-be true returns.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said scam attempts may increase during an economic downturn as fraudsters look to exploit people’s anxieties and fears.
People and business owners may receive emails, calls or texts from criminals impersonating claims management companies, insurers, pensions providers and other organisations to trick them into providing personal or financial information or money.
Earlier this week, the Financial Conduct Authority said the coronavirus outbreak is exposing people to significant market volatility.
People could make unsuitable investment decisions or be at risk of fraud.
‘Beautiful’ NHS worker ‘deserved better’
Tributes have been paid to Barbara Moore, a patient discharge planner at Aintree Hospital, who died after testing positive for coronavirus.
One former patient described the NHS worker as an “absolute diamond” who “did not deserve to lose her life in this way”.
Lockdown expected to be extended
The lockdown is expected to be extended beyond next week, reports the Guardian, while police urge even tighter restrictions.
A suggestion that schools could reopen was firmly quashed by the government on Wednesday night.
Boris Johnson ‘sitting up’ in bed
Boris Johnson is “improving” and “sitting up in bed”, according to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. However the health of the Prime Minister will continue to be a story of national interest – not least because it is unclear who should take decisions for him in his absence.