UK government to fly tens of thousands of Britons back to UK
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced plans to transport tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad back to the UK.
The UK government has come to an arrangement with some airlines to fly home UK citizens from “a range of priority countries”, starting this week on special charter flights after many commercial airline routes have been cancelled.
Partner airlines include British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan. The government has designated £75m to support flights and keep costs down for those returning to the UK.
US passes $2tn disaster aid bill
The US Senate has passed a $2tn disaster aid bill, the largest in US history.
This includes a payment of $1200 to American adults who earn $75000 or less, and $500 per child.
The bill will also include a $500bn fund for companies, an additional $350bn in loans for small businesses and an increase in unemployment aid.
There have been 68573 COVID-19 cases in the US, and 1036 deaths. President Donald Trump has stated that he wants the country to “reopen by Easter”.
South Africa braces for lockdown
South Africa will enter a 21-day lockdown as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country reaches 709.
From midnight tomorrow, citizens will be instructed to remain in their homes, only leaving to buy food and receive medical care. All shops, with some exceptions including supermarkets and banks, will close and only health workers and those working in the emergency and security services will be permitted to work.
It is now estimated that around 20% of the world’s population is under lockdown.
US White House and Senate reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package
In the US, the White House and the Senate have agreed an economic stimulus package worth more than $1.8 trillion to combat the economic fallout of Covid-19.
Full details of the deal will not be published until later on Wednesday. However, it is expected to cprovide support to workers laid off due the virus and increase unemployment assistance.
The package also includes money to bail out industries that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis and provide emergency loans to small firms.
US markets had risen on Tuesday in anticipation of the deal. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed 8% higher on Wednesday and the FTSE 100 index had risen more than 1%.
New Zealand declares national state of emergency over Covid-19
New Zealand has declared a state of national emergency over the Covid-19 outbreak as cases continue to rise.
The National Emergency Management Agency announced that anyone “not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of your household.”
Essential services will continue, including food and healthcare shops, however schools will close and all public events are banned. Public transport and domestic flights will be restricted to those working in essential services.
India under lockdown for 21 days from midnight of 24 March, says PM Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address today announced that the entire country will be under lockdown for the next 21 days starting midnight tonight.
PM Modi said: “There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.”
He also announced an emergency financial package of Rs150bn ($1.97bn) for healthcare.
So far, over 500 coronavirus cases and ten deaths have been reported in the country, according to the figures released by the Union Health Ministry.
UK Government announces closure of non-essential businesses
Last night, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced more stringent, semi-lockdown measures for the UK to encourage social distancing.
These included only allowing people out of their homes to shop for basic necessities, exercise once a day, any medical appointments and to go to work if absolutely necessary.
To the end of discouraging people from leaving their houses for any other reasons, the UK Government closed all non-essential shops, including clothing and electronics retail stores, hair and beauty salons, and markets, except those selling food.
The police and other relevant authorities will be given powers to enforce these social distancing rules, including issuing out fines.