Coronavirus live updates: stock markets plunge as infections pass 110,000 | World news





The former UK chancellor, George Osborne, has urged the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to use this week’s budget to introduce immediate measures to help individuals and smaller companies cope with the economic shock of the coronavirus, saying he would expect the UK to see an upsurge in cases in the coming weeks.

The Guardian political correspondent Peter Walker reports that Osborne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:


I’m not an epidemiologist, but I can’t help noticing that the UK cases are quite like the Italian cases were two weeks ago. And they’ve gone and sealed off the whole of northern Italy, and an enormous city like Milan has been closed. I’m not saying we will be there, but we could be there in the next two or three weeks. If I was chancellor I don’t want some complicated scheme that’s working in six months’ time. I need to use the tools that are available to me right now.

Ideas could include direct cash grants to people such as the self-employed, to “create an incentive that if they feel ill they stay at home”, and for smaller businesses with low cash reserves to be let off national insurance or other taxes for a period, Osborne said.

The argument over longer-term fiscal rules could be set aide while the economy dealt with “a very short, sharp shock to the system”, he added.

Asked if he would be nervous if he was in Sunak’s shoes, Osborne added:


I’m not sure I’d be nervous. I think this is what chancellors and the Treasury are for. They are there to deal with events, and in any period of time there’s going to be things thrown at you. This is exactly why we have a well-oiled democracy and a strong government.

George Osborne

George Osborne. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

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The EU council, the Brussels institution that brings together diplomats and ministers from the member states for policy-making, said this morning it would hold only essential meetings due to coronavirus – and officials have suggested everyone avoid “handshakes and kisses”.

Meanwhile, the former prime minister of Romania, Dacian Cioloș, who leads the Renew group in the European parliament, is seeking either the suspension of the chamber or a substantial reduction to its agenda. The session this week has already been moved to Brussels rather than Strasbourg because of the epidemic.

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Iranian state-linked media have announced that 16 people have died from alcohol poisoning in the south-western city of Ahvaz, the latest in a wave of deaths apparently driven by the mistaken belief that alcohol is a vaccine against the coronavirus. Alcohol is banned in the country but is still illegally imported or brewed at home – the latter occasionally resulting in deaths from bad batches.

The head of Iran’s crisis management authority, Ismail Najjar, is the latest official who has contracted the virus, which has infected 6,500 people according to Iran’s official tally. Nearly 200 people have died, including at least 49 people over the weekend.

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The German government has decided on a raft of measures to soften the blow of the corona irus on Europe’s largest economy, as the number taken ill rose to 1,112 on Monday, reports the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent, Kate Connolly.

The measures include giving bridging loans to businesses and extending their tax payment deadlines as well as partially compensating employers who are forced to introduce reduced working hours to allow them to continue paying their employees’ wages.

In an emergency meeting that went on into the night, the Christian Democratic Union and their junior partners, the Social Democrats, who make up the grand coalition under Angela Merkel, said the measures – including a €12.4bn state investment package – were meant to ensure that Corona does not completely upend the German economy.

It has already done considerable damage, with the German stock index, the DAX taking a severe hit, the nation’s flagship airline, Lufthansa forced to cut its flights by half in an attempt to cope with the collapse in ticket sales, and large scale conferences and trade fairs, such as the international tourism fair, the ITB, and the Leipzig Book Fair having been cancelled. Bundesliga matches are likely to soon follow the list of cancelled events, after health minister Jens Spahn yesterday recommended that all gatherings involving 1000 people or more should be banned.

The likelihood that schools and universities in the regions hardest hit – such as the western state of North Rhein Westphalia, which has 484 cases – will close in the coming days is growing, particularly if the number continues to rise.

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Israel is considering forcing anyone arriving in the country, from any part of the world, to self-isolate for at least 14 days, reports the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes. Its government has already imposed some of the most stringent rules globally to block the spread of the virus.

The potential move has also been interpreted domestically as a measure to avoid irking the country’s close ally and benefactor in Washington, Donald Trump. Israel already requires travellers arriving from more than a dozen countries to spend two weeks in home isolation, effectively killing off incoming tourism.

Following outbreaks in the US, pressure has been building to add the country to the list. But rather than extending the rules specifically on US travellers, and risk an angry backlash from the White House, Israel might broaden its policy out to the entire planet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, after Israeli media reported the country was considering barring visitors from parts of the US, such as New York and California.

The Israeli government has still not made a decision, although it could be announced in the coming hours.

Health authorities have said that the number of coronavirus cases in Israel jumped from 25 to 39 over the weekend. Around 80,000 Israelis are already in self-isolation.









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Worldwide coronavirus infections near 110,000.

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