Thursday briefing: Lockdown likely to be extended

Alison Rourke
Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Top story: PM spends third night in intensive care

Good morning and welcome to this briefing of the top stories, with me, Alison Rourke.

Dominic Rabb is expected to signal this morning that lockdown measures will remain in place beyond next week, in the first key decision to be taken with Boris Johnson in intensive care, where he has spent a third night. There is heightened concern that any suggestion of loosening restrictions could have an immediate impact on the Easter holidays, with concerns a growing minority will flout the law during the break. At least five police chief constables want tougher measures brought in. A new study on China’s experience of the virus warns that restrictions can’t end until a vaccine is found. “Without herd immunity against Covid-19, cases could easily resurge as businesses, factory operations, and schools gradually resume,” said Prof Joseph T Wu from the University of Hong Kong, who co-led the study. Our Science Weekly podcast explores how it is possible to lift a lockdown, and you can read the measures in place to enforce restrictions around the world over Easter.

At home, Britons are being urged to help raise £5m for NHS staff with One Million Claps appeal, as part of the third “clap for carers” tonight. Meanwhile domestic abuse helplines are reporting a 25% surge in calls.

The US has again recorded its highest one-day death toll, with 1,858 fatalities. New York retains its grim position as the worst-hit city, with more than 4,000 deaths in total. But the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx, said there was cautious optimism that mitigation efforts were working, raising hopes the US could defy the projected death toll of 100,000-240,000. African Americans are being hit hardest, with data showing they are dying in disproportionate numbers.

As global cases approached 1.5 million, the World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told world leaders not to politicise the coronavirus, in an apparent rebuff to Donald Trump, who has accused the WHO of being “China-centric” and failing in its initial response to the pandemic. Tedros said politicising the debate would lead to more deaths: “If you don’t want to have many more body bags then you refrain from doing it.”

Here is our latest at-a-glance summary and we will have all the developments throughout the day on our coronavirus live blog.

There’s more in our Coronavirus Extra section further down … and here’s where you can find all our coverage of the outbreak – from breaking news to factchecks and advice.

* * *

Sanders pulls out – Bernie Sanders has withdrawn from the Democratic presidential challenger race, opening the way for Joe Biden to take on Donald Trump. The 78-year-old Vermont senator announced his exit from the campaign in a live-streamed event from his home, capping what has been an extraordinary rise from relative obscurity to standard-bearer of the American left. “I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders said. He made it clear Biden would be the Democratic nominee and that he would actively throw his support behind the former vice president. Columnist Bhaskar Sunkara says Sanders may be out but his political revolution is not over.

* * *

Cardinal George Pell – Victims of child sexual abuse should not be dissuaded from coming forward as a result of Australia’s high court overturning the jury conviction of Cardinal George Pell on historical child sex abuse charges, experts said. It would be unfortunate and legally wrong if the message in the community was that the high court’s ruling has weakened the strength of, or point in, bringing such cases to court or making properly founded allegations,” Prof Gideon Boas, from Melbourne’s La Trobe university said. “The bottom line is that the ruling will have little or no effect on civil cases and limited effect on future criminal cases.”

* * *

Ostrich eggs mystery – The British Museum is set to reexamine decorated eggs, including ones that date back to the bronze age, to understand their origins and design. “Thousands of years before Easter, people were already decorating eggs. We are now closer than ever to cracking the conundrum of who created the eggs and who coveted them,” said the project leader, Dr Tamar Hodos of Bristol university.

Coronavirus extra

In our 100 days that changed the world series, the Guardian reports on the cluster effect – how social gatherings were rocket fuel for Covid-19’s spread, including at Australia’s Bondi Beach. Nicole Badstuber asks, with millions of plane flights grounded, is the pandemic the moment we give up our addiction to flying. A new sitcom in Spain – billed as the first of its kind on primetime TV – is set to tackle the quirks of life in lockdown and in New Zealand, the sale of sex toys tripled when Jacinda Ardern announced the country’s month-long lock down. And if you are worried about Zoom’s privacy problems you can read our guide to video-conferencing alternatives.

Today in Focus podcast: Coronavirus: 100 days that changed the world (part 1)

What began as a mystery virus at a Chinese market in December swiftly became a global crisis. The Guardian’s Michael Safi and Patrick Wintour recount the first 100 days as coronavirus took hold, upending the lives of billions of citizens

Lunchtime read: The sound of Antarctic icebergs melting

It was mid-January, the peak of the Antarctic summer, when the Guardian’s global environment editor, Jonathan Watts, joined a pole-to-pole expedition by scientists and campaigners on two Greenpeace ships. The journey to map the frozen continent’s ecosystems also recorded the changing underwater landscape, and the sound of melting icebergs: “We were so close to the ice that this ancient fizz was surprisingly loud. Though we humans never hear it above the surface, this is the sound the Antarctic makes every summer. And as the planet heats, the sound is getting louder.”

Sport

The new head of UK Athletics has said any employee who does not share her vision for “ethical success” will lose their job, and there are “definite plans” to hand over a 2015 internal report into Alberto Salazar’s relationship with Mo Farah. Two of Britain’s biggest Olympic sports – cycling and athletics – have become the latest to announce plans to furlough staff because of the coronavirus crisis. The 20 Premier League captains have reached agreement on the formation of a charitable fund to help those most closely involved in tackling the pandemic. It is hoped they will raise in excess of £4m.

The Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, has said his team would support serious changes to Formula One race weekends so the season can take place. Domestic cricketers in England have waived £1m in prize money as part of a deal brokered with the 18 first-class counties and the England and Wales Cricket Board. And the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival cited the presence of Boris Johnson at an international rugby match shortly before the race meeting was due to begin in a letter explaining why it was going ahead despite concerns about the Covid-19 outbreak. And a Florida man has filed a lawsuit against Tiger Woods and his caddie, claiming he suffered injuries from the caddie pushing him out of the way during the Valspar Championship that Woods played two years ago.

Business

Half a billion people could be pushed into poverty as economies around the world shrink because of the coronavirus outbreak, a new study has warned. Research by the United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research shows developing countries could be set back by up to 30 years. “The impact will be quite devastating,” said co-author Andy Sumner, international development professor at King’s College London, who warned of a “poverty tsunami”.

Asian shares rose on hopes the pandemic is nearing a peak and that governments will roll out more stimulus measures, while expectations of an oil production cut agreement bolstered crude prices. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.6%, following a strong Wall Street close. Shares in China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged late last year, rose 0.54%. Australian shares were up 1.52%. FTSE futures rose 1% in Asian trading. The pound was buying €1.140 and $1.240.

The papers

The front pages are largely focused on the prospect of a lockdown extension. The Guardian splashes with “Lockdown to be extended as daily death toll tops 900” and the Times has “Britain told to brace for weeks more in lockdown”. The Telegraph says “Ministers delay lockdown move until Johnson’s health improves”. The Mirror and the Express have identical headlines: “Lockdown: no end in sight”, while the i has a slight variation: “No end to lockdown in sight”. The Mail tells its readers to “Get set for weeks more lockdown”. The Sun has a tribute to NHS workers who are pictured underneath a rainbow, with the headline: “On the side of the angels”.

The FT goes it alone, leading on Sanders quitting the US presidential race “Biden clear to take on Trump”, and “Wall Street urges caution as bullish investors rush into recovery bets”.

Sign up

The Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.

For more news: www.theguardian.com