Thursday briefing: Pay lifeline for self-employed

·8-min read
<span>Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Top story: US Senate passes $2.2tn stimulus

Hello, I’m Warren Murray, taking at least a little bit of the distance out of your day.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce today that the taxpayer will pay self-employed workers up to 80% of their recent earnings. Sunak has been under growing pressure to do more for the UK’s 5 million self-employed after announcing an unprecedented job retention scheme for employees last Friday.

In the last few hours the Senate has voted yes to a $2.2tn economic rescue package that is the biggest of its kind in US history. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on Friday. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, saluted the “bipartisan agreement” and “wartime level of investment”. The minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said: “This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity. To all Americans I say: help is on the way.” Donald Trump has promised to sign the bill – beautifully – when it reaches his desk.

Hong Kong and Japan are bracing for a second wave of infection, with Tokyo’s governor warning of a potential “explosion” in cases. An expert in Hong Kong fears the health system could collapse unless the government brings in a curfew or lockdown-style restrictions.

The world could face food shortages because of protectionist measures by national governments and a shortage of field workers arising from the pandemic, the UN’s food body has warned. Harvests and the outlook for staple crops are good but problems could quickly appear in the coming weeks, Maximo Torero, chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, told the Guardian. “Now is not the time for restrictions or putting in place trade barriers. Now is the time to protect the flow of food around the world.” Gordon Brown, the former Labour PM and chancellor, has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the medical and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A videoconference of the G20 group is due to take place today and Brown says it would have been preferable to have included the UN security council.

To the latest global figures: infections have risen to more than 470,000 and deaths have passed 21,000. 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.

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Christchurch killer pleads guilty – The man who killed 51 people in the New Zealand mosque attacks has abandoned his not-guilty plea. The reversal by Brenton Tarrant came as a shock with the entire country under lockdown. A videolink hearing was held at short notice with Tarrant pleading guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression act. Police have said sentencing will not take place until it is possible for those affected by Tarrant’s crimes to attend, and this will not be possible “for some time” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Why action on carbon can work – International cooperation on ozone-depleting chemicals is helping to return the southern jet stream to a normal state, according to a study that reinforces the scientific view that human action can halt global heating. The powerful wind shapes the weather and ocean currents in the southern hemisphere. It was sent off course – tracking southwards and disrupting weather patterns – by depletion of the ozone layer due to manmade chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. The chemicals, found in fridges, aerosols and industrial processes, were phased out from 1987 under the UN Montreal protocol. The jet stream has since stopped moving south and the “hole in the ozone layer” has shrunk to its smallest size since 1982. Alexey Karpechko, a reviewer of the study, said: “This is good news, definitely. It shows our actions can stop climate change. We can see coordinated action works … we can manipulate the climate both ways: in a wrong way and by reversing the damage we have done.”

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Crisis in Kosovo politics – Kosovo’s government has fallen after only 50 days in power after the prime minister, Albin Kurti, sacked a minister who came from the junior party in the coalition. Parties have two weeks to try to form a new government before an early parliamentary election has to be called. Kurti’s government will continue in a caretaker role. Kosovo was part of Serbia until an 1998-1999 armed uprising by ethnic Albanians triggered a Serbian crackdown. Nato bombed Serbia to force its troops out and in 2008 Kosovo declared independence which Serbia does not recognise.

Coronavirus Extra

In another special edition of our Science Weekly podcast, Nicola Davis speaks to Dr Ian Bailey about the current guidance on taking ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during a Sars-CoV-2 infection, and why there was concern about whether these medications could make symptoms of the disease worse.

The Ugandan musician and politician Bobi Wine has deployed east Africa’s signature rhumba melodies to promote the importance of personal hygiene. “The bad news is that everyone is a potential victim,” Wine sings. “But the good news is that everyone is a potential solution.” Wine and fellow artist Nubian Li exhort people to regularly wash hands, keep a distance and look out for symptoms such as a fever and cough.

Today in Focus podcast: Race to rescue self-employed

Today the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce that the taxpayer will pay self-employed workers up to 80% of their recent earnings to help contain the economic impact of coronavirus. Mark Carins, an Uber driver, and Rob Booth, the Guardian’s social affairs editor, discuss the impact of Covid-19 on gig economy workers and the self-employed.

Lunchtime read: The unlisted – no address, no rights

Without a street address you have no access to credit or bank accounts, a pension or voting rights. But large parts of the world’s population still live off the map, writes Deirdre Mask.


The International Olympic Committee has been accused of putting athletes’ health in jeopardy after two Turkish boxers and their head coach tested positive for coronavirus on returning home from an Olympic boxing tournament. The IOC president, meanwhile, has confirmed a cherry blossom Games in the spring of 2021 is under active consideration for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.

England coach Eddie Jones will be asked to take a pay cut after the Rugby Football Union revealed it is set to lose up to £50m owing to the disruption caused by coronavirus. Premiership clubs are likely to face claims of unlawful deduction of wages amid growing player unrest at the blanket 25% pay cuts imposed. The All England Club will decide at an emergency meeting next week if it is advisable or even viable to hold this year’s Wimbledon tournament. Newcastle fans have accused the club of a lack of flexibility over season-ticket payments for next season. And the Racing Post, the sport’s trade newspaper, will “temporarily suspend” publication of its print edition from Friday.


As G20 leaders prepare for a teleconference meeting on Thursday, the worsening state of the world economy will be high on their agenda. Preliminary data from Singapore overnight shows that GDP shrank 2% in the first quarter of this year, signalling the onset of a global recession. Asian markets didn’t like the number very much with Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai stocks down. The FTSE is also set to open in the red by 1.3%. The pound is $1.186 and €1.086.

The papers

Much praise today for those who have stepped forward to serve. The Mirror welcomes “An army of kindhearts” saying “500,000 sign up as volunteers in virus fight”. The Express lauds a “People’s army of kindness” that comprised 504,303 people when it went to press. To the Mail they are “A nation of heroes”. There’s coverage everywhere, of course, for Prince Charles after he tested positive. “Charles is the latest to be laid low” says the Metro, though by most accounts he is up and about.

The Guardian has “Government fends off criticism with plan to help self-employed” – Rishi Sunak will say more during the day. The front page also draws attention to the deaths of Chloe Middleton, 21, whose family say she had no other health problems; and Kayla Williams, 36, who died at home after being seen by paramedics but not taken to hospital.

The i has “Help for UK’s self-employed unveiled today” while the FT goes with “Pressure rises to speed up virus testing for frontline health staff”. “Mass testing kits a gamechanger” – that’s in the Telegraph, about millions soon being able to determine if they’ve already had the virus. Similarly in the Times, “Hopes rise for virus tests” – the paper says 3.5m kits will be “ordered within weeks”. Our report explains they need to be validated first before becoming generally available.

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