Wednesday briefing: Trump baffles with 'over by Easter' aim

Warren Murray
Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Top story: Covid-19 deadline ‘beautiful’ says president

Good morning – Warren Murray scrolling through the news with you as Britain begins its second day under coronavirus lockdown. Here is my colleague Peter Walker’s calm and gathered video reminder of what you can and can’t do today.

Donald Trump has delivered another bombshell by arguing there should be an easing of coronavirus restrictions in the US by Easter. Despite much of the rest of the world choosing to accelerate measures to control the spread – and the World Health Organization warning the US is in grave danger of a rapid escalation in severity – Trump said he picked the “beautiful” deadline out of his head as he claimed, without apparent proof and in contradiction of experts, that the nation is nearing the end of the fight against the virus. In the US overnight the Senate has reached a deal on a $1tn stimulus package. In China the premier, Li Keqiang, has warned provincial leaders they had better not be covering up new cases just for the sake of keeping the increase at zero. The dramatic turnaround in China’s coronavirus statistics is being questioned by experts as travel restrictions are relaxed in Hubei province, where the pandemic started.

The massive NHS recruitment drive for retired former staff and volunteers risks being undermined by the prospect of doctors quitting over lack of protective gear, groups representing frontline staff say. The Doctors’ Association UK and Royal College of Nursing have both said there are serious shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). The army has been called in to help deliver millions of pieces of PPE since the weekend and 200 different hospitals were due to receive extra kit overnight. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, acknowledged the problem and said more than 7m pieces of PPE had been shipped in the past 24 hours. The international verdict on Boris Johnson and his overall handling of the pandemic has been damning, with responses ranging from bafflement and disbelief to anger. Politicians, scientists and commentators greeted the PM’s conversion on Monday night to the need for stronger measures.

The latest developments are at our 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 fact checks and advice.

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Midweek catch-up

> Alex Salmond is expected to sue the Scottish government over the alleged role of its senior officials in his prosecution for sexual assaults, his allies have disclosed. The former first minister was acquitted on Monday.

> A teenager who lured a “gentle, kind-hearted” sales assistant to a remote spot on a Grindr date and stabbed him to death has been locked up for a minimum of 24 years. Alex Davies, 18, was murdered in Parbold, Lancashire, by Brian Healless, also 18.

> In South Korea police have bowed to enormous public pressure and named the alleged leader of a sexual blackmail ring on the app Telegram that blackmailed dozens of women and underage girls into sending degrading and sometimes violent sexual images of themselves.

> The comedian Nish Kumar has talked about being pelted with a bread roll and booed off the stage at a charity gig after he made political jokes. “I just think anytime as an adult, you’re flinging bread at someone, you’ve taken leave of your senses.”

> The Tony award-winning playwright Terrence McNally has died aged 81 of complications from coronavirus infection. The writer of Kiss of the Spider Woman and Frankie and Johnny had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after surviving lung cancer. We trace his life in pictures.

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Allen hopes Dylan Farrow will ‘reach out’ – Woody Allen has written that he “would welcome Dylan [Farrow] with open arms if she’d ever want to reach out”, in his recently published memoir Apropos of Nothing. In 1992 Allen was accused of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter Dylan, then aged seven, by her adoptive mother, Mia Farrow, after he separated from her. Allen denies the allegations and was not charged after two investigations. Dylan Farrow renewed the allegations in 2014 and has been supported by Ronan Farrow – Allen and Mia Farrow’s son – while her older adopted brother Moses has defended Allen. In extracts published in the New York Times, Allen writes: “One of the saddest things of my life was that I was deprived of the years of raising Dylan and could only dream about showing her Manhattan and the joys of Paris and Rome.”

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Step change – Get out there for that government-approved stroll: higher step counts are associated with a lower risk of early death, a study has found. The target of 10,000 a day is often cited. The study found that compared with 4,000 steps per day, taking 8,000 steps was linked to a 50% lower risk of death while taking 12,000 steps per day was linked to a 65% lower risk of death.

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Lemur tale – Twin ring-tailed lemurs have been born at Chester zoo. The endangered primates were born to mother Fiona and father Dog on 2 March and have just begun to venture outside.

One of the baby lemurs clings to its mother at Chester zoo. Photograph: Chester zoo/PA

Mike Jordan, director of animals and plant collections at the zoo, said: “Ring-tailed lemurs are one of the planet’s highest primate conservation priorities, so we’re absolutely thrilled to see two tiny babies born into the group here at Chester.”

Coronavirus Extra

While “looked-after” pupils with recognised safeguarding and welfare needs can still attend school, the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield warns that more than two million others on the threshold of social services’ attention – but not currently getting help – are at risk during the lockdown. “These children are in families that are already unstable and this crisis is going to put them under even more pressure,” says Longfield. “School tends to provide one, and often two, hot meals a day … and gives professionals direct line of sight to children. All this is lost if a child isn’t in school.”

Small brewers say they have been dealt a “devastating” blow after the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, refused to cancel monthly beer duty payments, prompting warnings that thousands of jobs are at risk. They say the requirement to keep paying thousands of pounds threatens their survival given that off-licences and pubs have been ordered to shut and there are “zero orders coming in”.

And lockdown is far from being curtains for twitchers: we may be stuck indoors but the skies can be a source of wonder for birdwatchers. Experts reveal what’s out there, where to look – and how to get competitive about it.

Today in Focus podcast: Fake news goes viral

An avalanche of misinformation, fake news and hoaxes is occurring online as people seek information on the coronavirus crisis. The Guardian’s media editor, Jim Waterson, examines where the falsehoods are coming from.

Lunchtime read: ‘It blew my mind’

The makers of the remarkable new feelgood documentary Crip Camp reveal how a hippy summer camp for disabled youth launched a generation of activists – and charmed the Obamas.


Britain’s leading athletes have endorsed the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021, but what now for the Games? The Guardian’s chief sports reporter Sean Ingle gives the inside story of how the IOC went from “no plan B” to postponement in little more than a week – yet with hopes of eventual resurrection. The Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, has donated €1m towards providing medical equipment for the fight against the coronavirus in his home country Spain.

The Football Association has told clubs at steps five and six of the non-league pyramid that their season “must end immediately” due to the coronavirus, according to now-deleted tweets by the Essex Senior League on Tuesday. The anticipated third bout between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will be pushed back from 18 July due to the coronavirus pandemic and possibly rearranged for October. And the Hundred faces the prospect of being pushed back to a 2021 launch date should the coronavirus pandemic reduce this year’s English cricket season to two months or fewer.


The oil price could fall to $10 a barrel, analysts warn, as the world begins to run out of storage space for the huge amounts of crude now being pumped by large producers despite falling demand. The huge US stimulus package promised by Donald Trump has finally passed the Senate but it might not be enough to rally stock markets despite Tuesday’s biggest one-day rise on Wall Street since 1933. The Dow is set to rise just 0.35% later today while the FTSE100 sees a 0.84% jump. The pound is languishing on $1.183 and €1.094.

The papers

The Guardian has “Doctors and nurses in threat to quit over safety”, saying they are lacking protective kit just as the government calls for 250,000 volunteer “NHS responders”. Our picture lead is the story of Marita Edwards, 80, believed to be the first UK victim to have died from a hospital-acquired coronavirus infection. The Sun has “National Help Service” as the call goes out for assistance.

The Times goes with “Call for army of volunteers” and shows army trucks crossing Westminster bridge carrying medical masks to a hospital. “Biggest week for the NHS since 1948” is the i’s splash headline above a picture of soldiers hefting boxes of supplies. “The enforcers” is what the Metro calls police who are shown breaking up a group on the street – “some idiots even out having barbecues”, the freesheet fumes. Its main story is “A hospital for 4,000 next week” as the ExCel in London’s Docklands is repurposed.

“Please stay at home … for me” – the Mirror pictures four-year-old Mila who is receiving chemotherapy. “Tests for millions will help beat virus” – that’s the Express talking about 3.5 million antibody tests that will allow health authorities to work out who has already had the coronavirus and is immune (our story here). “We cannot protect every job and business, Sunak admits” in the FT. “Police to use persuasion rather than punishment” says the Times, and Boris Johnson is shown from the back with gesticulating hands visible as he presides over a cabinet meeting by online videoconference.

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