British gov't to send out food parcels in virus fight

2020-03-30 09:54:02China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

The British government is to send food parcels to people who have been asked to stay at home during the novel coronavirus outbreak and is continuing its efforts to supply front line medical staff with personal protective equipment, a government minister has said.

Speaking at the daily media briefing, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted "we can turn the tide" but added "we all have a responsibility to protect each other".

Earlier the government's leading disease expert said the country may remain in lockdown for three months to allow the authorities to control the spread of the virus.

"We're going to have to keep these measures (the full lockdown) in place, in my view, for a significant period of time – probably until the end of May, maybe even early June. May is optimistic," said Imperial College's Professor Neil Ferguson.

Last week, measures including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and the closure of shops selling non-essential goods were introduced, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Figures released on Sunday took the United Kingdom's death toll for people who had tested positive to 1,228, up 209 on the previous day.

Senior Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told the BBC he could not say when restrictions would be lifted.

"Everyone, I think, does have to prepare for a significant period when these measures are still in place. I wish I could predict when this will end," he said.

In a letter to be sent to 30 million households, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will warn that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

"It's important for me to level with you – we know things will get worse before they get better. But we are making the right preparations, and the more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal … That is why, at this moment of national emergency, I urge you, please, to stay at home, protect the National Health Service and save lives."

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain has suffered its highest daily death rate yet, with 838 deaths recorded overnight, taking the toll to 6,528, and the number of confirmed cases to 78,797, an overnight increase of more than 6,500.

Only Italy, where more than 10,000 people have died, is worse affected. More than 92,000 people have so far tested positive in Italy, but one glimmer of hope is that the rate of infection is slowing down.

On Saturday, France's death toll passed 2,000, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warning "the first 15 days of April will be difficult, even more difficult than the 15 past ones", adding "the fight has only begun".

French patients have been taken to Switzerland and Germany for treatment, prompting Defense Minister Florence Parly to thank "Germany for mobilising to take care of French people and for embodying even greater solidarity: Europe watching over Europeans".

Meanwhile, exactly one year on from when Britain was supposed to leave the European Union, the Times reports officials in London and Brussels as saying there is "zero" chance of a post-Brexit trade deal being agreed by the end of this year, as intended, as the virus outbreak is such an overriding urgent priority.

The UK left the bloc at the end of January 2020, entering a transition phase lasting until the year's end, during which a deal was supposed to be reached.

But the all-encompassing nature of the novel coronavirus means that no meaningful work is being done on the issue, and face-to-face talks have been suspended.


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