Thursday briefing: Panic in Wuhan as city is locked down

Martin Farrer
<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

Top story: Police stop people leaving stricken Chinese city

Morning everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you a taste of the best stories and features from the Guardian this Thursday morning.

Residents of Wuhan have been thrown into panic after authorities placed the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak into lockdown, banning all outgoing modes of transport and advising people not to leave unless it was an emergency. People reported that supermarket shelves were being emptied and local markets sold out of produce as residents hoarded supplies and locked themselves at home amid an outbreak that has left at least 17 people dead and infected almost 600 more across China, Asia and the US. Petrol stations were also overwhelmed by demand as drivers stocked up on fuel and it was reported that pharmacies had sold out of face masks. Videos posted online showed highway routes out of the city had also been blocked and special police forces were seen patrolling railway stations. “I am a bit panicked because before the government said it wasn’t serious so no one thought it was a big deal,” said Wang Ying, 26, a government worker.

In the US, doctors are using robots to treat a man in Washington state who contracted the virus after visiting China. Pacific nations that are just recovering from a deadly spate of measles are now ramping up biosecurity measures to cope with possible cases of coronavirus. Follow how the outbreak has developed and spread at our timeline here.

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‘Sardonic message’ – The United Nations has called for US authorities to investigate evidence that Jeff Bezos, the Amazon boss and owner of the Washington Post, had his phone hacked by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The UN special rapporteurs – Agnès Callamard and David Kaye – were “gravely concerned” about the apparent targeting of Bezos and what appeared to be an “effort to influence, if not silence, the Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia”. The rapporteurs, who are investigating the death of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018, said a WhatsApp account in the prince’s name sent two messages to Bezos revealing confidential information about Bezos’s private life. A message sent in November 2018, shortly after Khashoggi’s murder, included a “sardonic message” along with a picture of a woman resembling a woman with whom Bezos was conducting an affair. The rapporteurs also warned world leaders in Davos who might be meeting Saudi delegates that their electronic security was “fragile”.

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‘Hopeful vision’ – Rebecca Long-Bailey says Labour has to appeal to aspirational voters with a more “hopeful vision” if it is to win another election as she steps up her leadership campaign. Speaking to the Guardian for the second part of our series on the future of the party, the candidate identified as the heir to Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of leftwing politics says “the only way we ever win” is by appealing to a broad coalition of voters. She praised the policies in the party’s much-criticised manifesto but hinted that strategists failed to present them with one clear message and suggested she would shake up Labour’s organisation. We also look at what the election loss means for Momentum, the 40,000-strong organisation that rose to prominence in the party during the Corbyn era.

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Trump ‘cheat’ – The lead prosecutor at the impeachment trial of Donald Trump has described the case as a national crisis and said the president tried to “cheat” his way to re-election. But although Adam Schiff evoked constitutional history and the global promise of US democracy to outline his case against the US president on day two of the trial in Washington, Republicans remained unmoved about the need for any new evidence. Here are five key takeaways from the day. As he prepared to return from Davos, Trump stepped up his bid for another term by indicating he would increase the number of countries subject to a travel ban to the US, cut Medicare payments and attend an anti-abortion event.

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Judge ‘outdated’ – Family court judges could be forced to undergo training on the appropriate way to deal with sexual assault cases after a woman complained about a judge’s “outdated” views on what constituted rape. The woman has won an appeal after judge Robin Tolson said her allegations of domestic sexual violence were “untrue”, and that she was “not raped” because the woman “took no physical steps” to stop the man.

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Firefighters killed – Three Americans have been killed after an air tanker they were flying crashed while tackling bushfires in New South Wales. The plane went missing in the Snowy mountains area near the border with Victoria as fires flared again in Australia amid soaring temperatures. Many American and Canadian firefighters have been in Australia to help during the fire emergency. Follow all the latest updates at our blog here.

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Herculaneum with the Mount Vesuvius volcano in the background
Herculaneum with the Mount Vesuvius volcano in the background. Photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

Roman ruined – Scientists studying human remains from Herculaneum, one of the Roman towns buried after the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, have found that the heat was so intense that one victim’s brain turned to glass. Experts say the vitrified brains belonged to a man of about 25 who was found in the 1960s lying face-down on a wooden bed under a pile of volcanic ash. Brain tissue is rarely discovered intact but they believe that temperatures reached 520C during the eruption, igniting body fat and vaporising soft tissue.

Today in Focus podcast: Peak meat – is veganism the future?

Marco Springmann, a public health expert, tells Anushka Asthana why cutting out animal products is the best route to a healthy diet – and why veganism is good for the planet. Plus: Alex Hern on the Guardian’s exclusive story of how the Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos, allegedly had his phone hacked after receiving a WhatsApp message apparently sent from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Lunchtime read: Can Harry and Meghan become influencers-in-chief?

Harry and Meghan
Harry and Meghan

They are instantly recognisable, already have millions of online followers and until recently worked for a very well-known firm. So it seems a no-brainer that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will be able to make a comfortable living as online “influencers”, monetising their fame on social media through product endorsement and the like. But although some digital and marketing experts think the couple can take their place alongside the likes of the Obamas in the influencer elite, others aren’t so sure. Elle Hunt checks out what’s in store for the semi-detached royals.


Manchester City made inadmissible submissions to Uefa over financial fair play in 2014 and were reported for not making their bank statements available, the Guardian can reveal. Burnley have a famous first win at Old Trafford since 1962, but the loss for Manchester United spoke of their callowness and inability to turn possession into goals. The Australian Open needs some drama that does not involve sodden red dust falling out of the sky or players choking on polluted air – and Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka will surely provide it on day five. In rugby, the report that led to Saracens being relegated found the club’s owner, Nigel Wray, broke the rules by entering into ventures totalling £1.3m with England players Maro Itoje, Billy and Mako Vunipola and Chris Ashton. Tom Kohler-Cadmore accepts he was “100% in the wrong” to be part of the sordid WhatsApp group that emerged during Alex Hepburn’s rape trial and is now trying to prevent young cricketers from doing the same.


Elon Musk is on course for a $50bn payout after his technology company, Tesla, surged in value past the $100bn mark. The worsening coronavirus outbreak in China sent Asian stocks tumbling again overnight. Shanghai shares were worst hit, dropping 2.75%, while Hong Kong was down 1.9%. The FTSE100 is on course for a small dip at the opening later this morning. The pound is up at £1.312 and €1.185.

The papers

Many papers lead with the threat to Britain from the coronavirus outbreak in China. The Mail says “UK on killer virus alert”, the i has “Britain on virus alert as medics fear global pandemic”, the Metro goes with “China virus ‘on the way here’” and the Sun says “World war flu”.

The Guardian leads again on the sensational Jeff Bezos story, splashing with “UN demands inquiry into ‘hacking’ of Amazon boss”. The Telegraph also likes this story and says “Saudi crown prince tried to ‘intimidate’ Amazon chief”.

The Times has a story from Davos saying “Britain heads for clashes with US on three fronts”, while the FT has the same one: “UK-US relations turn sour after war of words on trade and tariffs”. The Express leads with “Boris: I want to cut taxes”. The Mirror prefers to mark the sad death of Terry Jones with a tribute from fellow Python Michael Palin: “Terry fought dementia with laughs to the end”.

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