United Kingdom

Thursday morning news briefing: Ministers push to halt coronavirus panic


Editor's choice

  1. 'Prince Andrew is next' | The mother-daughter duo who brought down Harvey Weinstein
  2. Perils of Brexit-voting professionals | I'm tired of my friends bullying me for being Right-wing
  3. Timothy West interview | 'Taking a wrecking ball to Shakespeare is senseless'

Business and money briefing

Asda 'up for sale' | The US owner of Asda could offload a majority stake in the grocer almost a year after a billion-pound deal with larger rival Sainsbury’s collapsed. Walmart said it was in talks with a small number of interested parties, including private equity houses. Details here.

Sport briefing

Real Madrid 1 - 2 Man City | What a time for Manchester City to claim their greatest Champions League victory. Faced with a ­two-year Uefa banishment and a goal down having gifted Real Madrid the lead, they reversed the contest and their prospects of winning this last-16 tie in five ­glorious minutes. Read the match report and Paul Hayward writes how the historic night blew away Manchester City's shame for a day.

Tonight's dinner  

Cauliflower and sweet potato curry | A fragrant dish of simple vegetables and spices by Angela Hartnett. Read the recipe.

And finally...

Give up online trolling for Lent | Pope Francis has issued a vibrant call on Catholics around the world to give up trolling on social media for Lent, saying believers should observe a fast not just of food but of online insults to get nearer to God in the run-up to Easter. Read his remarks in an address to 12,000 people in St Peter's Square.

If you want to receive twice-daily briefings like this by email, sign up to the Front Page newsletter here. For two-minute audio updates, try The Briefing - on podcasts, smart speakers and WhatsApp.

Schools and offices urged to stay open amid virus fears

Employers are being told not to close offices and schools asked to stay open as the Government attempts to stem rising panic over the ongoing spread of coronavirus. Ministers have warned "over-reaction" could cost Britain dear, with more than 35 schools closing or sending pupils home and office closures affecting hundreds of workers. The warning came as increasing numbers of Britons scrambled to cancel holidays abroad, with major events postponed as outbreaks spread across Europe and more new cases were declared outside China than in it. The Government has engaged in talks with the Rugby Football Union about whether England should follow Ireland's lead and postpone their Guinness Six Nations match against Italy because of the threat of coronavirus. You can view a map showing how the virus has spread around the world.

It comes amid clashes over the safety of more than 160 Britons trapped in a hotel in Tenerife. Spanish health authorities have put the hotel into a 14-day lock-down, but said guests without symptoms can "lead a normal life" as long they stay on the hotel grounds, and take unspecified protection measures. But scientists have said the approach is "totally unacceptable" and risks spreading the disease. Meanwhile, holidaymakers trying to cancel trips to countries with coronavirus outbreaks could be denied refunds because insurers are demanding sick notes from doctors. Read on for details of a Telegraph survey of 11 UK major insurers. This is how Donald Trump has tried to quell coronavirus fears in the US. And here is how the crisis started and how it can grow.

PM to ditch political declaration as EU trade talks loom

Boris Johnson is preparing to tear up part of the Brexit deal as he sets out his "red lines" for a trade agreement with the European Union today. The Prime Minister has made it clear he will not be bound by the political declaration attached to the EU Withdrawal Agreement, which sets out the ground rules for a trade deal. That puts him on a collision course with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who has said the political declaration must be followed to the letter. Gordon Rayner has a summary of how the two sides' negotiating positions compare. It comes as the boss of Heathrow says Mr Johnson risks "walking naked" into post-Brexit trade talks if he refuses to back the building of a third runway. A showdown today at the Court of Appeal will reveal whether opponents of expansion have succeeded in delaying the plan. Read on for details.

Fellowes' football anything but beautiful in new drama

Actors auditioning for Julian Fellowes' new period drama about football may have expected to show at least some flair for the sport. But stars of the series were instead taught terrible play to match the limited skill of 19th century athletes who competed when the game was far from beautiful. Modest moves learned on the playground or the struggles of Sunday league were not wanted on screen, and even the admittedly amateur cast members had to forget their footballing repertoire. And the new Netflix series even needed the help of Manchester United.

News digest

Gallery: The big picture

Amber warning | Johnny Depp leaves the High Court in London after a pre-trial hearing in a libel case where he is suing The Sun over an article that alleged he had been abusive to his ex-wife, Amber Heard. He denies the allegations. Click here for more of the day's best images.