Coronavirus live blog as it happened: latest as 250,000 volunteers wanted to support NHS as new Covid-19 hospital to open

Follow the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in our live blog below

Scroll down and read our coronavirus live blog as it happens.

Before you do that here are some articles offering practical advice:

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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)

We will be providing live updates until 7pm this evening.

Coronavirus live blog, March 24

Last updated: Tuesday, 24 March, 2020, 18:03

  • 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

Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until next year. 

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed the International Olympic Committee had agreed to a delay.

Abe said: "I proposed to postpone for about a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement."

Chancellor: 'Won't be possible to rescue all jobs and businesses'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak acknowledged it would not be possible to protect every job and save every business during the coronavirus outbreak.

He told the Commons: "There will be challenging times ahead and despite the significant economic interventions that we have put in place, we will not be able to protect every single job or save every single business.

"But I am confident that the measures we have put in place will provide support to millions of people and businesses, and ensure we do get through this, we get through it together and emerge on the other side both stronger and more united."

Wetherspoons founder tells staff to "go work at Tesco"

Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin has told staff to "go work at Tesco" instead as the pub firm warned staff they could face delays over pay.

The company, which employs 40,000 people, shut all its pubs on Friday after Boris Johnson ordered sites to shut until further notice in response to coronavirus.

In a video message to staff, Mr Martin suggested its workers could find employment at supermarkets while its pubs remain shut.

He said the pub group will pay staff for all work done until the shutdown, when its pubs last opened, but will not make any further payments to staff until the Government fulfils its promise to cover 80% of the wages of workers impacted by the virus.

Further steps could still be imposed

Further restrictions could still be imposed in order to curb the spread of the virus, Downing Street said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "If further steps are recommended in order to further contain the spread of this virus then we are not going to rule anything out."

Health Secretary: Police can issue £30 fines for non-compliance

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs "home is now the front line" and that working together, coronavirus can be defeated.

Updating MPs on the effort to tackle coronavirus, Mr Hancock said: "These measures are not advice, they are rules and will be enforced, including by the police with fines starting at £30 up to unlimited fines for non compliance."

Mr Hancock said that "employers should be taking every possible step to make sure that remote working can happen", but added: "I want to be absolutely clear, when people absolutely cannot work from home they can still go to work, indeed it's important that they do to keep the country running."

He said: "We are engaged in a great national effort to beat the virus. Everybody now has it in their power to save lives and protect the NHS.

"Home is now the front line, and in this national effort, working together, we can defeat this disease. Everyone has a part to play."

Government defend allowing construction work to continue

Downing Street defended allowing construction work to continue despite the lockdown measures.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It should continue where it can happen in a way that follows Public Health England and industry guidance.

"We urge employers to use their common sense when managing live projects and ensuring that employees can follow the Government guidance and practice safe social distancing on site."

The spokesman said the Construction Leadership Council had issued guidance to the industry.

Scotland death toll rises to 16

The number of people in Scotland who have died after testing positive for coronavirus has risen from 14 to 16.

Today's figures on recorded cases in Scotland show that coronavirus is most prevalent on the mainland in the areas covered by the NHS health boards for Dumfries & Galloway (17 cases per 100,000 population), Greater Glasgow & Clyde (16 cases per 100,000) and Forth Valley (14 cases per 100,000).

Volunteering a legitimate reason to leave the house

Mr Hancock told MPs that volunteering "is a legitimate reason to travel".

"I just want to make it absolutely clear that for people that are volunteering in the response to Covid-19, people who are caring even with unpaid and informal caring responsibilities, then it is OK to go and do that.

"And you should do that, but you should stay more than two metres away from others wherever possible. But this has to be a practical instruction because of course we need to care for people," he said.

Mr Hancock added: "And I want to make clear that volunteering in the response to Covid-19 is a legitimate reason to travel."

Replacement coverage announced for Glastonbury and Eurovision

The BBC has announced its replacement programming for Glastonbury Festival and the European Song Contest, pledging to “keep the country entertained during these testing times”.

The Somerset music festival had been due to mark its 50th anniversary in June, with Sir Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar all headlining the Pyramid Stage, but it was forced to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In its place, the BBC will broadcast Glastonbury Experience, which aims to “celebrate the spirit of this unique event”.

The broadcaster said it will instead create a weekend of the best in music across radion, television and online, offering audiences performances to enjoy in the comfort of their homes.

Eurovision, which was due to take place in May, will now be replaced with Eurovision: Come Together, and will be hosted by Graham Norton on May 16.

The programme will feature classic Eurovision performances, a look at what would have been in 2020, plus some interviews, including this year’s UK entry James Newman.

Abortion rules will not be changed in response to Covid-19

The Health Secretary has said abortion rules will not be changed as part of the response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Matt Hancock was pressed by MPs after the Department of Health said it would allow women and girls to take abortion pills at home, and for doctors to prescribe them from their homes.

Officials later said this statement, which has now been removed from the department website just hours later on Monday (23 Mar), saying it was “published in error”.

Mr Hancock confirmed in the Commons that the government has “no proposals” to change the law as part of the Covid-19 response.

Health bodies have asked the Health Secretary to temporarily amend the law to ensure a medical professional can sign off abortions, allowing women to access care and not be put at risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus.

The current law requires the signatures of two doctors to certify that the abortion does not breach the terms of the Abortion Act 1967.

Xbox to offer free educational Minecraft content for children in lockdown

Xbox has announced the release of a new range of free educational content in Minecraft for children who have been forced into lockdown at home due to coronavirus.

The new content will be available until the end of June, helping to keep youngsters entertained over the coming weeks.

The new content includes a tour of the International Space Station, learning to code with a robot, visiting famous landmarks in Washington DC, and learning how to be a marine biologist, Xbox said.

The content is to be added to a new Education category in the Minecraft Marketplace, with free educational content both players and parents can download.

Supermarkets to introduce “strong new measures” to help customers shop safely

Shops across the UK that are providing essential goods are to introduce new measures in an effort to keep both staff and customers safe during the coronavirus lockdown.

Limited entry, marshals and protective screens at checkouts are among the measures to be introduced.

Waitrose has responded to the government’s plea for social distancing with a “set of strong, new measures”, stating the number of customers allowed in at any one time will be limited, and a “one in, one out” policy will be operated when it is judged the shop is at capacity.

Customers will also see marshals helping to manage queues outside shops and, if necessary, remind people to respect the two-metre social distancing rule.

Elsewhere, Morrisons has already put up perspex screens and is introducing signage in stores to support social distancing, including floor stickers, posters and banners.

Sainsbury’s also said it is “working through the detail" but expects to restrict the number of people allowed in stores at any one time, and will introduce barriers outside to ensure people queue at a safe distance when waiting to get in.

M&S said customers will see a “greeter” when they arrive at its food stores, to ensure the number of customers in the store at any one time is managed, while trolleys, baskets, screens and all touch points will be cleaned every hour, and deep cleaned every night.

UK to open temporary covid-19 hospital

A new temporary hospital is to be opened in the ExCel Centre in London, the Health Secretary has said.

The new NHS Nightingale Hospital in London will consist of two wards and hold up to 4,000 patients.

Mr Hancock also confirmed that more than 11,500 retired medics are to return to the NHS, including 2,660 doctors and 6,147 nurses.

More than 18,000 medical students are also to join the NHS workforce. 

New hospital to open next week

A new temporary hospital to deal with coronavirus patients will open in London next week.

The Health Secretary said: “We will, next week, open a new hospital - a temporary hospital - the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel centre in London.

“The NHS Nightingale Hospital will comprise two wards, each of 2,000 people.

“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support that they need."

250,000 volunteers wanted to support NHS

The government is calling for 250,000 volunteers who are in good health to help assist with the national effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Secretary has said that some quarter of a million people are being recruited by the government to assist in the fight against the virus, while the ExCel centre in London is to be converted into a new NHS hospital.

Mr Hancock confirmed that more than 35,000 extra NHS staff have already joined up to help, including retired doctors and nurses, and final year medical students.

The volunteers will join the 11,7788 retired NHS staff, which includes 2,660 doctors, 6,147 nurses and more than 2,500 pharmacists.

Page 2 of 3