Coronavirus live blog as it happened: all UK schools closed from Friday and positive cases in UK rise by over 600

Follow the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in our live blog below

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 8:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 6:05 pm

Scroll down and read our coronavirus live blog as it happened.

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Few commuters wait on the platform during the rush hour at Clapham Common in London (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

We will be providing live updates until 5pm.

Coronavirus live blog, March 18

Last updated: Wednesday, 18 March, 2020, 17:35

Jeremy Corbyn implores government to increase testing

Mr Corbyn said: "The World Health Organisation said test, test, test and we should be testing, I believe, on an industrial scale."

He said 10,000 tests per day is "nowhere near even the number of people working in the NHS and the care sector", adding: "It is a massive undertaking and I wish there was a greater sense of urgency from the Government in getting this testing available for all staff.

"NHS staff are obviously on the front line and many are scared because the guidance has been changed to say they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for patients."

Mr Corbyn added: "We shouldn't be scaring doctors and nurses - is there a policy for them to have full protective equipment or not? Because I believe it should be the case."

Mr Johnson replied: "On testing, to reassure him, we're moving up to 25,000 a day."

SNP Westminster leader calls for emergency "universal income scheme"

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford pushed Mr Johnson to introduce an "emergency universal income" scheme.

He said: "Thousands of people are already losing their jobs, it's happening today. Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

"We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills, they are worried about keeping a roof over their head.

"In the last financial crisis the banks were bailed out but ordinary people were not. Prime Minister you have it within your power to protect people's incomes and provide them with peace of mind."

Mr Johnson agreed to hold talks with supporters of the universal income scheme, adding: "I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

"It is very important that as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and everybody else that no-one - whatever their income - should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case."

Scottish schools to close on Friday

Nicola Sturgeon has just announced that all schools in Scotland are to close at the end of this week.

She said:  "I want to be as open and transparent as possible. "My view is that it is now inevitable that we will close schools and nurseries.

"My planning assumption now is schools will close to pupils at the end of this week and I wanted today to give parents notice of that now."

She added people should not assume schools will reopen after the Easter break and she could not promise they will open before the summer holidays.

Scottish death toll rises to three

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that a third patient has died as a result of coronavirus. 

She said: "It is with sadness this afternoon that I have to confirm the death of one more patient."

She added that her thoughts were with the families of those who have died.

As of today, there are 227 confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 across Scotland.

Positive tests in UK climbs to 2,626

The number of people to test positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday is 2,626, up from 1,950 at the same time on Monday, according to the gov.uk website.

A total of 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, with 53,595 negative results.

Positive tests in UK climbs to 2,626

The number of people to test positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday is 2,626, up from 1,950 at the same time on Monday, according to the gov.uk website.

A total of 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, with 53,595 negative results.

UK education secretary to speak at 5pm

UK education secretary Gavin Williamson is to make a statement in the House of Commons at 5pm tonight. 

This speech will come in the wake of Scotland and Wales announcing the closure of schools and nurseries from Friday. 

Prime Minister to host Cobra meeting

The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of Cobra on Wednesday afternoon before his daily press conference.

The Sage committee of scientists is also meeting to consider the latest information on the spread of the virus.

Boris Johnson to speak at 5pm

Boris Johnson will hold his daily press briefing at 5pm and will be joined by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries OBE.

Wetherspoons pubs will remain open

All Wetherspoon pubs will remain open, but customers will pay by card, avoid standing at the bar and sit at alternate tables, the company announced.

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