Top story: Stocks fall sharply after Xi warning on economy
Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories to start the week.
Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, has eased the lockdown that has been in place since 23 January by announcing that non-symptomatic people requiring medical operations will be allowed to leave the city. In another possible sign of improving conditions, Chinese media said that six cities in Hubei province, including Huanggang and Jingzhou, reported no new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, while 24 out of 31 other Chinese provinces also recorded no rise. However, the situation appeared to be deteriorating in other parts of the world as South Korea reported another 161 cases overnight. Flights into the locked down city of Daegu have been suspended while Air New Zealand said it was putting its service to Seoul on hold.
Stock markets, meanwhile, have taken a battering in the wake of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s comments that the outbreak would have a “big impact” on the country’s economy. Shares in Seoul plunged more than 3% and heavy losses are expected when trading gets under way in Europe and the US later. The jittery mood was not helped after experts warned earlier that the tipping point where the world would not be able to stop a pandemic was getting closer because of the spread of the virus to the Middle East and Europe. Turkey and Pakistan have closed borders with Iran, where eight people have died after contracting the virus. In Italy, authorities have imposed draconian measures to try to contain the spread of the virus in 11 towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto as the country notched up its third fatality.
Patel denials – An informed security source has denied reports that intelligence chiefs have lost confidence in the home secretary, Priti Patel. The source said Sunday Times reports at the weekend were “simply untrue” and that she was getting the same information from the agency as any other home secretary. It comes in the wake of a series of stories claiming that Patel has had difficult relationships with officials during her ministerial career. Her allies believe she is being targeted because officials do not like being challenged.
Malaysia drama – Malaysia’s prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has resigned on a day of political drama. Mahathir, who is 94, took office in May 2018 when he defeated Najib Razak. Would-be leader Anwar Ibrahim earlier accused Mahathir of plotting to bring down the ruling coalition.
Labour vote – As Labour party members begin receiving ballot papers for the leadership election today, the frontrunner, Sir Keir Starmer, has pledged to give leading shadow cabinet posts to his rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. Speaking at a hustings event in Durham, Starmer said they were both excellent candidates and suggested that all three represented the future of the party. “Whichever one of us actually wins this, what you are seeing on display here is the leadership of the Labour party,” he said. Most members will be able to vote via email, but paper ballots will be available as well. The vote closes on 2 April with the result to be announced two days later.
Bin death warning – At least seven people are known to have died in the last five years as a result of sleeping in bins and being crushed when the rubbish is emptied, the waste industry says, as it highlights a deadly consequence of Britain’s growing homelessness problem. Bosses also say there were 109 near misses between April and December last year as destitute people increasingly seek shelter in large, enclosed rubbish containers.
Diabetes risk – A growing obesity crisis means a record number of people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and with it an increased chance of a heart attack or stroke. To tackle the problem, the NHS is going to make a radical new liquid diet available to patients which will put type 2 diabetes into remission. A pilot scheme will see 5,000 patients restricted to 800 calories per day for three months. They will then have another nine months of support to help them maintain weight loss.
Caught in a storm – Hundreds of British holidaymakers stranded in the Canary Islands after a sandstorm may be able to return home today after airports reopened. The storm coated the islands in yellow dust and reduced visibility to zero on Sunday leaving tourists stuck. Flights from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, North and South Tenerife airports were grounded but airports were beginning to reopen this morning.
Today in Focus podcast
Manchester City’s fortunes changed dramatically with the takeover by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi. But after years of success, Europe’s governing body has banned the club from its most prestigious tournament, the Champions League. David Conn explains why. Plus: Alok Jha on the ethics of gene editing.
Lunchtime read: Ioan Gruffudd on Weinstein and Hollywood
Ioan Gruffudd is about to return to our small screens as the serial rapist in ITV’s The Liar. He talks to Emine Saner about how playing the part sometimes reduces him to tears (“you have to numb yourself”), his pride in his wife for outing an allegedly predatory Harvey Weinstein (“she wanted to say ‘This is definitely his modus operandi’”), and how he wears make-up so that selfies with fans don’t end up making him “looking like shit”.
Tyson Fury is “almost sure” he will face Deontay Wilder for a third time rather than Anthony Joshua in an all-British four-belt unification fight, after Fury earned the world’s respect with his WBC heavyweight win over the American in Las Vegas. Manu Tuilagi’s barnstorming performance helped soften up Ireland in their Six Nations clash at the weekend, as Eddie Jones’s team give a glimpse of what they are capable of. Defending Women’s Six Nations champions England made it three wins from three against previously unbeaten Ireland with a clinical 27-0 victory in Doncaster.
Antonio Rüdiger has said racism won when no one was punished for allegedly racially abusing him at Tottenham in December. Mikel Arteta believes the in-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is leaning towards staying at Arsenal after playing a significant role in the team’s improvement. Bruno Fernandes vowed to help Manchester United “conquer” the race for a Champions League place following his impressive display in Sunday’s victory over Watford. Manchester City and Chelsea, the Women’s Super League top two, drew 3-3 in an enthralling, fluctuating game from which Chelsea emerged with their unbeaten run intact. And Patrick Reed of the US won the World Golf Championship in Mexico, finishing one shot ahead of fellow American Bryson DeChambeau.
Public spending is expected to rise above £1tn for the first time as the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, prepares to deliver an expansionary budget next month. The Resolution Foundation says spending will reach about 40% of GDP by the end of the current parliament, passing the height of Tony Blair’s Labour government and taking Britain back to levels last seen in the 1970s. The FTSE100 is seen heading lower this morning by more than 1%. The pound is on $1.294 and €1.195.
The Covid-19 outbreak is the lead for several papers with the Guardian leading on “Time running out to contain coronavirus, experts warn” and the Telegraph a similar “Coronavirus pandemic alert as UK and Italy hit”. The FT says “Italy locks down 10 towns as fears rise for global coronavirus spread” and the i has “Four new coronavirus cases among cruise ship evacuees”.
The Mail claims an exclusive with a government plan to “Train nurses to do surgery” and the Express is also focused on health with “Diabetes alert as 2 million more at risk”. The Times says “Patel ‘livid’ after claim she has lost trust of MI5” while the Mirror splash headline is “Horrifying”, above an investigation into US chlorinated chicken.
The Scotsman says “Sturgeon vows she will lead party into the 2021 election” and the Sun says “Viva lash Vegas”, about British boxing fans celebrating Tyson Fury’s win.
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