UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Number of COVID-19 infections in UK tops 5,000 as 233 die

By March 21, 2020 No Comments
A paramedic is seen wearing a protective face mask

More than 5,000 people in the UK have now been infected with coronavirus.

It comes as the number of COVID-19-related deaths has risen to 233 after 53 more fatalities were announced in England.

NHS England said the patients who died were aged between 41 and 94 and all had underlying health conditions.

Wales’s number of dead has risen to five, Scotland’s now stands at seven and Northern Ireland’s remains at one.

There has been a rise in the number of confirmed cases by 1,035 in a day to 5,018.

The latest figures come after Boris Johnson ordered the shutdown of cafes, pubs, restaurants and gyms as efforts were ramped to halt the spread of coronavirus.

It coincided with a warning by the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that young people are “not invincible” and can still be killed by the infection or be confined to hospital “for weeks”.

Schools across the UK have also now closed, except for children of key workers, in the battle to contain the pandemic.

Boris Johnson says he will ask all pubs, clubs and cinemas to close from tonight.

PM: Pubs, clubs and cinemas to close

In a bid to help the economy survive the pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the government would step in to pay people’s wages, with grants that will cover 80% of the salaries of retained workers – up to £2,500 a month.

He also said he would defer the next quarter of VAT payments for businesses until the end of June, in a £30bn injection into the economy.

In a further step, Mr Sunak pledged £1bn for renters by boosting housing benefit and Universal Credit, and added that the welfare payments’ “generosity” would be increased to allow the local housing allowance to cover at least 30% of market rents.

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Economists have said the cost of the plan to cover most of the wages of workers whose jobs are under threat could run into billions of pounds a month.

The move has been largely welcomed by trade unions and employers in the face of growing concerns about a major economic recession and mass job losses.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “As a sector employing nearly one million people, the chancellor’s support package… on staff wages will safeguard thousands of livelihoods and help closed pubs try to get through this difficult period.”

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TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was a “breakthrough” and praised the chancellor for showing “real leadership”.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell argued Mr Sunak had not gone “far enough or fast enough”.

The government has also faced criticism that its rescue package did not cover freelancers, contractors and the self-employed.

Listen to “Coronavirus: Getting the message across – whatever it takes” on Spreaker.

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Treasury Chief Secretary Stephen Barclay has said providing protection for the incomes of the self-employed would be “operationally” difficult to deliver.

But he said they would benefit from measures such as the deferral of self-assessment tax requirements, the holidays for mortgage payers and the strengthening of the welfare “safety net”.

In other developments:

:: The deaths in Italy have risen by 793 in a single day to 4,825

:: 8,000 more hospital beds and 20,000 extra staff join COVID-19 fight

:: Expert says new symptoms could be loss of taste or smell

:: Panic buyers ‘should be ashamed‘, says NHS boss