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Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 7:00 pm

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Members of a family listen as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a televised address to the nation from inside 10 Downing Street with the latest instructions to stay at home to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image: WHO)

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Coronavirus live blog, March 24

Last updated: Tuesday, 24 March, 2020, 12:29

  • Boris Johnson tells nation "you must stay at home"
  • PM also orders the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods
  • 'Gatherings' of more than two people can be dispersed by police, and fines imposed

Sportswear chains taking different approaches to lockdown

Despite the Prime Minister's ordering of the immediate closure of non-essential goods, Sports Direct has announced it is to keep its stores open.

It argues it is essential in keeping the nation "fit and healthy" during the pandemic, but Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said he cannot see any justification for Sports Direct to stay open.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Gove said he did not did not consider it as essential work, and said Mike Ashley, the chief executive of Sports Direct, should "rescind what he said".

Meanwhile, JD Sports has shut down "essentially all" of its stores across the UK, US and Europe following the spread of coronavirus.

The company said it is experiencing a "major disruption" to business operations but warned current uncertainty means it is too early to provide financial guidance for the year.

It said that its websites continue to accept and fulfil orders, with a "resilient performance" in most territories, but only represented a "comparatively small mitigation" to the impact of profits.

Waitrose introduces social distancing measures to its stores

Waitrose is limiting the number of people who can shop in its stores as it seeks to protect customers and staff.

Measures also includes stickers on the floors of checkouts to manage distance between customers, having marshals in store to enforce the two-metre rule and installing checkout screens to protect staff.

London commuters still "piling onto the tubes and trains"

Images posted to social media have shown passengers packed in to busy carriages on the London Underground on Tuesday morning, despite new measures from the government.

Nurse Julia Harris said she had left for work earlier and changed her route to avoid crowds, but still found the District Line to be busy.

She told the PA news agency: "Seats on the train all had at least one person so people needed to stand and the District Line was busy as well. I still don't think things are improved as a large amount of people are commuting early in the morning.

"It is concerning because I have to come to work. The choice isn't there and my commute is quite long. I worry for my health more on my commute than actually being in the hospital."

Ms Harris said the reduction in Transport for London services meant "you now have more people waiting and piling onto the tubes and trains".

"The issue is key workers aren't just health professionals - I think we under-estimated how many people are needed to keep things running."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: "I cannot say this more strongly: we must stop all non-essential use of public transport now. Employers: please support your staff to work from home unless it's absolutely necessary. Ignoring these rules means more lives lost."

Success of stricter measures reliant on "public acceptance"

GMP chief constable Sir Peter Fahy has been speaking on BBC Breakfast about the new measures brought in by Boris Johnson last night.

He said: "If you compare us to Italy, we have about half the number of police officers that they have. We don't have a paramilitary police force like the Carabinieri. Our police officers are already very stretched.

"It will require a huge amount of public support, public acceptance and public compliance because if officers are going to be dispersing groups they are going to be asking about things like 'is there a power of arrest?' and that will then tie up more and more officers.

"So, really, there is no way that this can be achieved through enforcement alone. It will have to be that the public hugely accept it and the government continues to issue clarification and reinforces the message."

Police will "explain the rules" before taking action

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council, has been speaking to LBC.

Asked how social distancing rules would be enforced by police,  he said it is "not turning into a position that everyone on the streets is immediately dealt with in an enforcement way".

But he said that, instead, officers will seek to "talk to people, explain the rules and, if people do not listen to that, then clearly we have to take action".

Sports Direct stores to now close

Earlier, we noted that Sports Direct were planning to stand defiant in the face of government restrictions, and keep their stores open.

They argued that their shops were essential in keeping the public "fit and healthy" during the coronavirus pandemic, drawing ire from Michael Gove.

Mr Gove has now said: "There was a case today where Sports Direct thought that it would be appropriate for their stores to remain open in order to help people to get exercise equipment.

"We made it clear that was wrong, that that store should not be open. And the management of that store have got the message. Sports Direct will now not be open."

Britain's got Talent finals postponed

The Britain's Got Talent finals will be postponed until later in the year, ITV has confirmed.

Pre-recorded audition shows will air in the next few weeks.

A statement from ITV said: "We have been working with the brilliant production teams at Thames and Syco to find a way of making the live finals work, which were due to be broadcast at the end of May.

"However, in light of the latest government health guidelines and in line with our priority of safeguarding the wellbeing of everyone involved in our programmes, production of the live shows cannot go ahead as planned. The live finals will therefore be broadcast later in the year."

Coronavirus procedures explained

The government implored members of the public to stay at home last night during a televised public broadcast. 

You can leave the house for only a few exceptional reasons laid out here

Should I go to work?

A lot of Biritsh workers are questioning this morning whether their work is deemed "necessary" following the Prime Minister's speech last night. 

Employees have been encouraged to work at home by the government and only travel to work if it is essential.

JPIMedia broke down who is affected by these new measures here.

Taylor Wimpey closes construction sites

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said it has closed its construction sites, show homes and sale sites due to coronavirus.

The company said it has a "large order-book and quality long-term landbank" which provides it with increased resilience.

It said UK operations have "only been meaningfully impacted in very recent days"..

Earlier on Tuesday, competitor Redrow said its sites remain open with "strict precautions in place including enhanced levels of cleaning, additional hygiene facilities and social distancing".

Trump criticised for approach to social distancing measures

President Donald Trump has been criticised for recent comments on social distancing.

The leader of the free world claimed that social distancing measures could be more damaging than the disease itself. His comments came after a Fox News segment which hinted at the "cure" being more deadly than the disease. 

Tom Inglesby, the director of the John Hopkins Center for Health Security responded to the claims tweeting: “In Asia they've slowed the disease by slowing social interaction. Left to its own, this disease spreads from 1 person to about 2.5 people, and then they do the same, and so on. For this disease to stop, we need to make it so that the average person spreads it to <1 other person."

Government sends text message encouraging members of the public to stay at home

The government has text messaged people across the UK explaining new strict social-distancing measures.

Zero-hour contacts eligible for help under job retention scheme

Rishi Sunak is currently taking questions at the House of Commons. 

He has clarified that workers on zero-hours contracts will be helped under the job retention scheme announced last week.

Wales death toll rises by one

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the novel coronavirus outbreak at Public Health Wales, said 60 new cases had tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 478, though the true number of cases is likely to be higher - with coronavirus in every part of the country, Dr Shankar said.

"One further death of an individual who has tested positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has been reported to us, taking the number of deaths in Wales to 17," he said.

"We offer our condolences to the family and friends affected, and we ask those reporting on the situation to respect patient confidentiality."

Downsized Cabinet meet o discuss new measures

The Government's comprehensive spending review has been delayed as ministers focus on the coronavirus outbreak, the Cabinet was told, as it met for the first time using video conferencing.

Only Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty attended in person.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Cabinet received an update from Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, on the coronavirus outbreak.

"Cabinet discussed the extensive range of actions which the Government is taking to tackle the spread of the virus.

"The Prime Minister said it was vital that the public followed the instructions issued by the Government on the need to stay at home.

"The PM said that by staying at home, people would protect our NHS and save lives.

"The Chancellor confirmed to Cabinet that the comprehensive spending review will be delayed so that Government remains focused on responding to the public health and economic emergency.

"Further details of when the comprehensive spending review will be held will be set out in due course."

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