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UK coronavirus death toll rises to 1,408

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of people who have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the United Kingdom rose to 1,408, according to figures released on Monday, an increase of 180, a smaller rise than the previous set of numbers.

The figures are accurate up to 17:00 local time on March 29.

The previous increase saw the death toll rise by 209.

There are a total of 22,141 positive cases as of 0900 local time on March 30, the health ministry said.

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Britons warned some coronavirus lockdown measures could last months

LONDON (Reuters) – Some lockdown measures to combat coronavirus in Britain could last months and only be gradually lifted, a senior medical official said on Sunday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the situation will get worse before it gets better.

Britain has reported 19,522 confirmed cases of the disease and 1,228 deaths, after an increase of 209 fatalities as of 5 p.m. local time on Saturday compared with the previous day, the health ministry said.

“The important thing is this is a moving target,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said.

“If we do well it moves forward and comes down and we manage all our care through our health and care systems sensibly in a controlled way and that is what we are aiming for,” she told a news conference.

“This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months but it means that as a nation we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we are all doing until we are sure that we can gradually start lifting various interventions.”

Her warning came as Johnson wrote to 30 million households in Britain urging them to stick to strict rules to prevent the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) from being overwhelmed by a surge in cases.

“We know things will get worse before they get better,” Johnson said. “At this moment of national emergency, I urge you, please, to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

The number of tests being carried out has hit 10,000 a day, senior minister Michael Gove said and authorities are trying to acquire more ventilators.

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Britain has placed an order for thousands of the devices to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford (F.N), Airbus (AIR.PA) and Rolls-Royce (RR.L).

The repurposing of industry echoes Britain’s Second World War effort, with housing minister Robert Jenrick saying that all parts of the country are now on an “emergency footing” as strategic coordination centers are established.

“This is an unprecedented step in peacetime,” he said.

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Britain orders 10,000 ventilators in fight against coronavirus: source

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford (F.N), Airbus (AIR.PA) and Rolls-Royce (RR.L) as part of efforts to fight the coronavirus, an industry source told Reuters.

Governments around the world are trying to boost the number of ventilators – mechanical breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs – available to their health services.

The equipment is crucial for the care of people who suffer lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But they do not necessarily save people.

An announcement is due on Monday, the source said.

British media previously reported the news. A spokeswoman at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office declined to offer an immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Britain’s publicly funded National Health Service has a little more than 8,000 ventilators at its disposal, senior government minister Michael Gove said on Sunday.

The government is boosting capacity through agreements made with the private sector and overseas suppliers as well as domestic production.

“We’ve done a deal with (vacuum cleaner company) Dyson, which means that – provided all the appropriate tests are passed – we can have an additional 10,000 ventilators,” Gove said.

“There are other companies, from McLaren to Rolls-Royce and others, who are changing the way in which they manufacture in order to join in the national effort to increase the ventilator capacity available.”

McLaren said its Formula One car-making, data and electronics operations are fulfilling a number of tasks to help with the crisis, including making components.

“McLaren Automotive is facilitating duplicating and expanding the production of existing devices to meet demand …(and) is designing bespoke trolleys on which the ventilators are fixed for use in clinical settings.”

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UK's William and Kate urge mental health wellbeing during coronavirus outbreak

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince William and his wife, duchess Kate, urged people on Sunday to take care of their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

“The last few weeks have been anxious and unsettling for everyone. We have to take time to support each other and find ways to look after our mental health,” read a post on their Kensington Palace Twitter feed.

“By taking simple steps each day we can all be better prepared for the times ahead.”

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UK's Gatwick airport to shut one of its two terminals as virus hits demand

LONDON (Reuters) – London’s second-busiest airport, Gatwick, said on Friday it would shut one of its two terminals next week following a collapse in flight numbers and government restrictions on unnecessary trips.

The north terminal, used by carriers including EasyJet, will shut from April 1.

“Gatwick is a resilient but also responsible business and during these extraordinary times we need to take unprecedented measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and passengers, while also shielding the business from the impact of coronavirus,” the airport’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said.

The terminal will stay shut for at least a month, the airport said, with the situation being kept under regular review.

The closure of the terminal comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson order people to stay at home to halt the spread of coronavirus on Monday. Non-essential shops have also been told to close.

A decision will be taken on reopening the terminal when airline traffic increases and government public health advice – including on social distancing – is relaxed, the airport said.

Scheduled flights at the south terminal will run between 1400 and 2200 BST (1300 and 2100 GMT), with the runway only open for emergency landings and diversions outside those hours.

Airlines have slashed schedules due to travel restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus and a week ago easyJet said it would ground most of its flights, only operating essential services on some routes since Tuesday.

London’s City Airport said on Wednesday it would close until the end of April, and Heathrow, the busiest in Europe, has started to shrink its operation to remain open throughout the crisis for some passenger flights and a surge in cargo activity.

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UK has 8,000 ventilators and another 8,000 on the way, junior minister says

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain currently has about 8,000 ventilators with another 8,000 on order to come into the health system in a week or so, junior health minister Edward Argar said on Thursday.

“That’s 8,000 in and 8,000 being ordered, being manufactured and shipped and they should be coming in stream over the coming week or two and into the future depending on the speed with which we can get them manufactured and installed,” he told BBC TV.

He said other manufacturers had also responded to an urgent appeal to manufacturers to supply the National Health Service with additional ventilators. On Wednesday, vacuum cleaner-maker Dyson, billionaire founder James Dyson said the government had ordered 10,000 units from his company.

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UK struggling with coronavirus tests amid global shortage

LONDON (Reuters) – Testing as many people as possible for the coronavirus is vitally important but a global shortage of the materials needed is causing a supply bottleneck, British medical authorities said on Wednesday.

Not all staff working within Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) are being tested, a major concern for health workers and a cause of mounting criticism of the government’s response.

“We do not have sufficient testing and this is a global problem because basically every country is wanting this new test, for a disease that wasn’t actually being tested for anywhere three months ago,” said Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, at a news conference.

“There is a global shortage and that’s a bottleneck for us,” he said, speaking alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street.

Taking questions from reporters by a video link, Johnson batted away a series of criticisms on the clarity of his advice to the public, his efforts to help self-employed people, and the speed with which he had acted to stem the spread of the virus.

One reporter asked simply: “Can you honestly say that the government is coping?”

Johnson replied: “We will cope and we are coping, very well indeed under the most challenging possible circumstances,” adding that the government had moved with extraordinary speed to prop up the economy.

“I genuinely don’t think there’s been a time in our history in the last century … when the government of this country has put its arms around so many people to get us through a very tough time. We will get through it and we will get through it together,” he said.

Britain has bought 3.5 million antibody testing kits – largely used to determine if someone has already had the virus – and is currently making sure they work before distributing them.

Whitty said they will first be used to test health workers, and contradicted a different health official who had earlier said they would be available for the public to buy within days.

On the issue of help for self-employed people, Johnson said that was more complex. The finance minister is expected to announce measures on that topic on Thursday.

Whitty said he was not sure how well the NHS, which struggles with staff shortages at the best of times, would be able to cope.

“This is going to be a close-run thing — we all know that — and anybody who looks around the world can see this is going to be difficult for every health system,” he said.

“We do think that if everybody sticks to staying in your household unless absolutely essential this … will be probably manageable by the NHS but we cannot guarantee that,” he added.

Whitty also said that the modeling being used by the authorities was based on the assumption that a lot of people would still have to go to work, despite government orders that people should stay at home unless it was absolutely necessary to leave.

The government appealed on Tuesday for 250,000 volunteers to help the health service cope with the crisis, and Johnson said on Wednesday 405,000 had already come forward.

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What is lockdown? Britons, including senior minister, are confused

LONDON (Reuters) – The minister tasked with explaining lockdown to Britons sowed more confusion on Tuesday as he contradicted himself on children moving between households, was unclear about the status of construction sites and said toy and clothes deliveries could carry on.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ratcheted up Britain’s attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus on Monday, announcing strict curbs on ordinary life. He ordered people to stay at home, shops to close and all non-essential interaction to halt.

Senior minister Michael Gove appeared on radio and television shows on Tuesday to say people “wherever possible” should stay at home to try to prevent the state-run NHS health service being overwhelmed.

But when asked if people could order toys and clothes online and have them delivered, requiring work by distribution center workers and drivers, Gove said: “yes”.

The government’s restrictions say that people should only travel to work when “absolutely necessary”.

Gove had to correct the advice he gave on air about whether children of separated parents could move from one household to the other, initially saying it should stop but then saying it was allowed.

Major construction work could also continue, he said, but work in homes that involved “intimate contact” with the householder would not be appropriate, he told ITV, adding that the rules were “clear”.

Photographs on Tuesday showed builders congregating at sites such as housing developments.

“Construction work that takes place in the open air on new sites, that is appropriate,” Gove said.

Later on Tuesday, London’s transport authority temporarily suspended work on construction sites for the capital’s new Crossrail project.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, a candidate to be leader the opposition Labour Party, said the government urgently needed to provide more clarity, including a tightly defined list of workplaces.

“There’s a whole range of essential functions, and then there are non-essential functions like ordering nice things online,” she told BBC radio.

When asked about people who did not do an essential job, but whose employer insisted they went to work, Gove said: “Wherever people can work from home, they should.”

Britain has lagged other European countries in introducing strict curbs on ordinary life.

Italy, where more people have died as a result of the epidemic than anywhere else, ordered the closure of all industrial production and almost all private and public offices on Sunday.

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Action too late? UK's Gove says people must do everything possible now

LONDON (Reuters) – History would judge whether Britain had acted too slowly to stop the spread of the coronavirus but the important thing now was to follow new restrictions, senior minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday instructed people to stay at home, with limited exceptions, and avoid gatherings. Asked whether the rules should have been issued earlier, Gove said the government had taken appropriate steps on the advice of experts.

“I think the most important thing now is not to look back but to do everything that we can in order to ensure that the instructions that have been put in place are followed,” Gove told Sky News.

“People will form their own judgement at some point in the future, what I am concerned about now is making sure that we do everything possible to protect the NHS and that means wherever possible people should stay at home.”

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UK PM Johnson orders Britons: you must stay at home

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Britons on Monday to stay at home to halt the spread of coronavirus, imposing curbs on everyday life without precedent in peacetime.

All but essential shops must close immediately and people should no longer meet family or friends or risk being fined, Johnson said in a televised address to the nation.

Johnson had resisted pressure to impose a full lockdown even as other European countries had done so, but was forced to change tack as projections showed the health system could become overwhelmed.

Deaths from the virus in Britain jumped 54 to 335 on Monday as the government said the military would help ship millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to healthcare workers who have complained of shortages.

“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home,” Johnson said in a televised address, replacing his daily news conference.

They would only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for basic necessities, exercise, for a medical need, to provide care or traveling to and from work where absolutely necessary.

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“That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home,” he said, adding that people should not meet friends or family members who do not live in their home.

“If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings,” he warned.

The new measures here would be reviewed in three weeks, and relaxed if possible.

“These rules are not optional,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said.

The opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he supported the measures, and police chiefs said the moves were sensible, and that they would be working with the government on how to enforce them.

The government will close all shops selling non-essential goods, Johnson said, including clothing stores, as well as other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.

The British Retail Consortium said shop owners understood the gravity of the situation.

The tougher tone followed evidence at the weekend that many were ignoring official guidelines about social distancing as they flocked to parks and beauty spots.

Under the new measures, the government will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public who do not live together, and stop all social events​, including weddings and baptisms but not funerals.

Parks would remain open for exercise but gatherings would be dispersed, Johnson said.

Later on Monday, Britain’s lower house of parliament is expected to approve emergency legislation giving authorities sweeping powers to tackle the outbreak, including the right to detain people and put them in isolation to protect public health.

“Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses,” Johnson said in his address.

Earlier, in a letter pleading with him to increase PPE supplies, more than 6,000 frontline doctors warned they felt like “cannon fodder” and were being asked to put their lives at risk with out-of-date masks, and low stocks of equipment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been issues but promised action was being taken. He said the army would drive trucks throughout the day and night to get supplies to medical staff.

“It’s like a war effort – it is a war against this virus and so the army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we can get the supplies to protect people on the front line,” he told the BBC, saying the health service now had 12,000 ventilators, 7,000 more than at the start of the crisis.

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