Boris Johnson coronavirus latest: Raab gives update on self-isolating PM

Mr Johnson, who is reported to have mild symptoms of the infection, has been chairing the daily morning tele-conference meetings of ministers and officials held to direct the Government’s response to the health emergency. Speaking at last night’s Number 10 coronavirus media briefing, the Foreign Secretary said: “The Prime Minister chaired the 9.15am meeting and was full of vigour and giving us the leadership we need and we’re a united Cabinet team in terms of leading the country through this crisis.”

Asked about his own health, Mr Raab said: “I’m feeling terrific, thank you very much.”

Mr Johnson is expected to hold a Cabinet meeting this morning, which will be held via a video conference link.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Mr Johnson was continuing to lead on the virus response while holed up in Number 11, where he occupies the upstairs flat.

“He is chairing the daily meetings using video conferencing facilities, he is working from the Chancellor’s office, he has been able to do everything he needs to do to lead the coronavirus response,” said the spokesman.

He added that it was a matter for individuals to decide whether they felt fit enough to be able to work from home while suffering coronavirus symptoms.

All Cabinet ministers have been instructed to work from home where possible in line with the Government’s coronavirus advice.

Mr Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds, who is six months’ pregnant, left Downing Street about 10 days ago because of concerns about the possibility of infection and is currently reported to be self isolating at her south London home.

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Colorado lawmakers’ return to the Capitol unclear amid pandemic

Colorado’s legislative session didn’t resume Monday — the date lawmakers originally set for the coronavirus recess to end — but disagreements over how to handle the extension left uncertainty about what’s next.

Senate and House Democratic leaders clashed over whether lawmakers needed to return to the Capitol in person to extend the recess until April 13 — in line with Gov. Jared Polis’ order for residents to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But some Republicans were also reluctant to sign onto a letter to adjourn for that length of time.

And on Monday, the Senate and the House took two different approaches — the House adjourned until Thursday because the Colorado Constitution allows for a three-day recess without formal agreement from both chambers. The Senate, however, postponed indefinitely based on another interpretation that allows the General Assembly to remain adjourned without setting an exact date, leaving some Senate Republicans wondering if they would have to return on Tuesday to postpone again.

House Speaker KC Becker, who was not in attendance Monday, told The Denver Post that because there are a lot of questions about priorities, the budget and the length of the session, it would be hard to suspend the session for another two weeks without some answers.

So, on Sunday night, a letter that was expected to be signed by the majority of lawmakers to extend the suspension was scrapped and an executive committee meeting planned for Monday morning canceled. Instead, a handful of lawmakers in each chamber met to hear Senate President Leroy Garcia and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett announce the postponement.

Lawmakers are waiting for the Colorado Supreme Court to rule whether the legislative session can span 120 calendar days during the year or whether those 120 days must be consecutive. Becker, D-Boulder, said it was clear the legislature could suspend for an additional three days without further action, and she hopes the Supreme Court will come to a decision by then.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty right now about how to proceed and when we proceed, and when we do proceed, what are we going to be working on,” Becker said.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, however, said the decision to return Monday just to adjourn temporarily was only for a technicality and puts people at risk. The legal advice lawmakers received is that they could simply wait to return when they were ready to come back in session and the letter was just meant to explain to the public what they were doing, he said.

“Our caucus didn’t want to come in,” Fenberg said, adding that neither chamber was expected to have a quorum Monday.

He said regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the question will remain about when lawmakers should resume the session, so he didn’t believe a return Monday was necessary.

“I think it’s also important to model the behavior to tell our own constituents to follow,” Fenberg said.

That’s why Senate President Leroy Garcia didn’t specify a date of return. In this type of emergency, based on legal advice, he said he believes the Senate can leave that question unanswered until it’s safe to return.

“We find ourselves in an unprecedented time in this pandemic and the reality is we should not be convened in this close quarters, this building,” Garcia, D-Pueblo, said.

Some lawmakers also want to figure out their role and priorities after Congress’ passage of a stimulus package that will bring Colorado at least $2.2 billion, Becker said.

Those are decisions that might otherwise be left to the governor.

“This is a way that we can be adjourned for less time and potentially come back and do work,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Parker Republican.

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Covid-19 Aid: Aviation sector, which is critical to economic recovery, to get $750 million aid package

SINGAPORE – Singapore will retain a minimum level of air connectivity even as airlines continue to ground flights amid the Covid-19 pandemic so that Singaporeans can return home and supply lines for essential goods stay open.

It is also critical to keep the aviation sector going so that the economy can pick up again when the time comes, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on Thursday (March 26), as he unveiled a $750 million aid packge for the industry.

He said: “Our aviation sector has significant linkages to the rest of our economy. If it collapses in a crisis, it will be very hard for the aviation industries to rebuild after the crisis is over, and the recovery of the rest of the economy will be impeded.

“We must therefore ensure that this temporary shock to our air hub does not become a permanent one.”

The aviation and tourism sectors have been the most badly hit by the outbreak.

As part of the Supplementary Budget, firms in the aviation sector will be able to tap an enhanced wage subsidy programme that will see the Government co-fund up to 75 per cent of wages for local workers. The support for the aviation sector will cost the Government more than $400 million.

In addition, the sector will get a $350 million enhanced aviation support package – more than three times the $112 million package announced earlier – to help them get over the “single biggest shock” the global aviation sector has ever experienced, Mr Heng said.

As part of the support extended, firms will get a total of 75 per cent wage offset for the first $4,600 of monthly wages, for their employees.

The $350 million aviation support package will fund measures to reduce costs for airlines, ground handlers and cargo agents so that they can continue to operate.

Airlines will get substantial cost savings on various fronts.

From April to end-October, they will get a 10 per cent landing charge rebate for all scheduled passenger flights landing in Singapore and 50 per cent rebate on rental paid for airlines’ lounges and offices within Changi Airport’s terminal buildings.

They will also get 100 per cent rebate on parking charges at Changi Airport from August to October – an extension of the rebate announced in the previous Stabilisation and Support Package.

Ground handlers will get rebates on rental paid for their lounges and offices within Changi Airport’s terminal buildings. Meanwhile, the cargo sector will get additional rebates on landing charges and rent, on top of what was previously announced.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will also allow Singapore carriers and the airport operator to partially or fully defer payment of certain fees to CAAS between April this year and March next year. The value of the deferred fees is about $140 million.

More details will be provided to companies by Changi Airport Group and the CAAS.

Mr Heng noted that the profound impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the economy will be felt for years to come.

“State support for the private sector where there are critical national interests at stake is not unprecedented,” he added, citing previous examples in Europe and United Kingdom.

“We will support our aviation sector to ride out the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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U.S. House leaders plan to pass $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill Friday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected the chamber to pass an estimated $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill when it meets on Friday, after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the unprecedented economic rescue legislation on Wednesday evening.

“Tomorrow we’ll bring the bill to the floor. It will pass with strong bipartisan support,” Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters.

The legislation will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks once the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passes it and Republican President Donald Trump signs it into law, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The Republican-led Senate approved the bill – which would be the largest fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – by 96 votes to zero late on Wednesday, after days of intense negotiations between Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

The unanimous Senate vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington, underscored how seriously members of Congress are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system reels.

The unanimous support also increased the bill’s chances of easily winning approval in the House.

The package is intended to flood the country with cash in an effort to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying pandemic that has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 70,000.

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The U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

Pelosi said there was no question more money would be needed to fight the coronavirus. She said House committees would be working on the next phase in the near term, even if the full chamber is not in session. Lawmakers have been told to be on call for possible votes.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also backs the relief plan passed by the Senate. But he wants it to be allowed to work before deciding whether more legislation was needed.

“This will be probably the largest bill anybody in Congress has ever voted for,” he told reporters.

Only two other countries, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases than the United States. The World Health Organization has warned that the country looks set to become the global pandemic’s epicenter.

The massive coronavirus rescue bill follows two others that became law this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the total $4.7 trillion the federal government spends annually.

Trump has promised to sign the bill as soon as it passes the House.

Pelosi said House leaders were planning a voice vote on the rescue plan on Friday, but would be prepared for other contingencies. She had said that if there were calls for a roll-call vote, a ballot recorded by name, lawmakers might be able to vote by proxy, as not all would be able to be in Washington.

“If somebody has a different point of view (about the bill), they can put it in the record,” she said.

There was some opposition. Republican Representative Thomas Massie said he opposes the bill, and was uncomfortable with the idea of allowing it to pass on a voice vote, rather than recording every House member’s position on it.

“I’m having a real hard time with this,” Massie said on 55KRC talk radio in Cincinnati.

McCarthy predicted the measure would pass Friday morning following a debate.

The $2.2 trillion bill includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of families.

The legislation will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

And it includes $400 million to expand voting by mail and early voting in every state, amid some concern that coronavirus could interview with November’s general election. The virus has already postponed some of the primary elections, or nominating contests, to pick which Democrat will oppose Trump as he vies for re-election.

The House has 430 members, most of whom have been out of Washington since March 14. Many want to return for the vote, but it would be difficult for all to attend, given that at least two have tested positive for the coronavirus, a handful of others are in self-quarantine, and several states have issued stay-at-home orders. There are five vacant House seats.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Thune, missed Wednesday’s vote because he was not feeling well. His spokesman said Thune, 59, flew back to his state, South Dakota, on a charter flight Wednesday, accompanied by a Capitol Police officer and wearing a mask.

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After Senate vote, massive U.S. coronavirus bill moves to the House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill sent the unprecedented economic legislation to the House of Representatives, whose Democratic leaders hope to pass it on Friday.

The Republican-led Senate approved the massive bill – which would be the largest fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress – by 96 votes to none late on Wednesday, overcoming bitter partisan negotiations and boosting its chances of passing the Democratic-majority House.

The unanimous vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington, underscored how seriously members of Congress are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system reels.

“When there’s a crisis of this magnitude, the private sector cannot solve it,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Individuals even with bravery and valor are not powerful enough to beat it back. Government is the only force large enough to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing.”

The package is intended to flood the country with cash in a bid to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 900 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000.

It follows two others that became law this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the total $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.

Republican President Donald Trump, who has promised to sign the bill as soon as it passes the House, expressed his delight on Twitter. “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!” he wrote.

Only two other nations, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases than the United States. The World Health Organization has warned the United States looks set to become the epicenter of the pandemic.

The House’s Democratic leaders announced that they would have a voice vote on Friday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she backed the bill, and was open to passing more legislation if needed to address the crisis in future.

The House Republican leadership is recommending a “yes” vote.

The massive bill, worth more than $2 trillion, includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of families.

The legislation will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

There had been some debate about whether all 430 House members, most of whom have been out of Washington since March 14, would have to return to consider the bill. That would have been difficult, given that at least two have tested positive for coronavirus, a handful of others are in self-quarantine and several states have issued stay-at-home orders.

There are five vacant House seats.

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Singapore Airlines expected to receive support from Temasek Holdings amid Covid-19 outbreak

SINGAPORE – Singapore Airlines (SIA) is considering corporate action supported by Temasek Holdings, amid the current coronavirus outbreak, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (March 26).

“I welcome Temasek’s decision to lend support to SIA. SIA is an outstanding airline and strategic asset for Singapore,” Mr Heng told Parliament on Thursday when he unveiled the Resilience Budget to provide a second round of measures to help firms and individuals affected by Covid-19.

“Through the government support for the aviation sector, and if necessary more direct support measures, we will make sure that SIA is able to come through this in good shape,” he said.

Mr Heng added: “The SIA group sits at the heart of our aviation system and anchors our position as an air hub. In 2019, SIA accounted for over half of passenger traffic and cargo tonnage in Singapore.

“As the main hub carrier, SIA links us to the rest of the world. Many foreign airlines choose to come to Changi because they can tap on SIA’s connectivity to the rest of the region.”

He said: “A diminished SIA will undermine our air hub’s ability to recover from the crisis. Air travel will eventually resume when Covid-19 comes under control. Until then, SIA will need liquidity to tide over this outbreak.”

In this regard, SIA will benefit from the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme and the enhanced Aviation Support Package which will help reduce its operating expenditure, he said.

The airline has announced that it will slash 96 per cent of its capacity as countries, including Singapore, tighten their borders.

Analysts have suggested that SIA could receive support in the form of a working capital loan or subsidies.

SIA called for a rare trading halt pending an announcement on Thursday morning, days after it said it would ground almost its entire fleet and seek more financing as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline did not provide details to the stock exchange on the topic of the planned announcement.

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U.S. Congress, negotiators reach deal on $2-trillion coronavirus aid package

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators and Trump administration officials have reached an agreement on a massive economic stimulus bill to alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, White House official Eric Ueland said early on Wednesday.

“We have a deal,” Ueland told reporters after days of negotiations on the package, expected to be worth $2 trillion.

The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, was expected to speak on the Senate floor shortly about the agreement.

The text of the pact was not expected to be available until later on Wednesday.

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The package had been expected to include a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families, as well as $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and $75 billion for hospitals.

It aims to cushion the economic blow from a pandemic that has killed more than 660 people in the United States and sickened more than 50,000, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led states to order 100 million people – nearly a third of the population – to stay at home.

The money at stake in the stimulus legislation exceeds what the U.S. government spends on national defense, scientific research, highway construction and other discretionary programs.

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'Dilly-dallying around': Testy U.S. Senate nears coronavirus relief vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tempers boiled over in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers moved toward another vote on a far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package even though Republicans and Democrats said they were still at odds over details that had stalled the package over the weekend.

Both sides said they were close to an agreement on the massive bill, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said carried a $2 trillion price tag. But they remained at odds over provisions to help businesses, as well as the amount of money to provide to hospitals and state and local governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other Republicans angrily accused Democrats of trying to take advantage of the crisis to advance their political agenda with unrelated provisions. McConnell said the Senate, controlled by President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, would hold another procedural vote on the package after it fell short on Sunday.

“This is not a juicy political opportunity. This is a national emergency,” McConnell said as the Senate opened its session.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer suggested the vote would again fall short unless the measure included more guardrails to avoid misuse of the $500 billion earmarked to help struggling industries.

“Our goal is to reach a deal today and we’re hopeful, even confident that we will meet that goal,” Schumer said. He said the upcoming vote would be “irrelevant” if negotiations were not complete.

Republican Senator John Thune angrily accused the Democrats of “dilly-dallying around.”

“The country is burning and your side wants to play political games,” Thune said.

Mnuchin said the two sides made progress on Monday morning.

“We knocked off a bunch of things on the list already and we’re closing in on issues,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer’s office. He did not give specifics.

U.S. stocks fell on Monday as the coronavirus forced more U.S. states into lockdown, eclipsing optimism from an unprecedented round of policy easing by the Federal Reserve.

The bill represents a third effort by Congress to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic that has killed at least 428 people in the United States and sickened more than 34,000, leading state governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.

The measure includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Republicans said Democrats were seeking to add unrelated provisions, such as expanded tax credits for wind and solar power and increased leverage for labor unions.

Democrats said Republicans were also trying to add provisions that would exclude nonprofit groups from receiving small-business aid, and extend a sexual abstinence-education program that is due to expire in May.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, released her own version, which would add billions of dollars to help states conduct elections by mail.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the chamber, short of the 60 votes they need to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus threat has affected their ranks. Republican Senator Rand Paul said he tested positive for the virus on Sunday, and several others have self-quarantined as a precautionary measure. Republicans only mustered 47 votes in a procedural vote on Sunday.

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Coronavirus: Seb Corbyn, Labour leader’s son, self-isolating over symptoms

Jeremy Corbyn’s son is self-isolating amid the coronavirus outbreak, Sky News understands.

Seb Corbyn – who works for shadow chancellor John McDonnell – is following the government’s advice for anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Sources said he has not recently been in direct contact with Mr McDonnell or his father, the outgoing Labour Party leader.

Parliament has been put under special measures to stop the virus spreading as MPs continue debating and voting.

All tours have been cancelled and many staffers are being allowed to work remotely.

Health minister Nadine Dorries was the first MP to test positive for COVID-19, followed by Labour backbencher Kate Osborne, while several others are also self-isolating after showing symptoms.

The government and many in the opposition want the House of Commons to remain open as the coronavirus crisis continues so any new measures can be properly scrutinised.

New laws that will hand emergency powers to ministers will be looked at by parliament on Monday, with Downing Street planning to rush them through the Commons in a single day.

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