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Twitter name change to discourage tourists

Visit Brighton, the official Brighton and Hove tourist board, has changed its name on Twitter to DoNotVisitBrighton #StayAtHome.

It comes after thousands of beachgoers defied the government's social distancing advice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stringent new rules on Monday meaning people should only leave their homes for limited purposes during the coronavirus pandemic.

They include being allowed to take daily exercise but the Coastguard said beaches should only be used by those who lived close to them.

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Free DAB radios for over 70s

DAB digital radio

Vulnerable people aged over 70 are to be offered free DAB digital radios as millions are forced to stay in their homes and isolate because of the coronavirus outbreak.

BBC local radio is teaming up with manufacturers, retailers and a loneliness charity in order to ensure as many people as possible have access to news, information and companionship.

It will be giving away DAB digital radios to people nominated by local radio listeners as part of the BBC’s Make A Difference campaign, which was launched in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

It is running across all 39 BBC local radio stations in England and is aimed at connecting communities.

From Monday, anyone can nominate someone for a free radio by completing an online application form at

Centre set up to distribute food supplies

Distribution centre
Eastbourne Borough Council

Eastbourne Borough Council has set up a distribution centre to supply food parcels to 2,000 vulnerable residents in the seaside resort.

Sourcing food supplies that would have normally been used by now-closed hotels and restaurants, the food parcels include items such as pasta, baked beans and tea bags.

Council leader David Tutt said “I am incredibly proud of the way council employees are responding to this crisis and putting the interests of our residents first and foremost."

The South East joins Clap for Carers tribute

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

At 2000 GMT last night, people came out of their houses and opened their windows to applaud NHS staff tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

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Clap for our Carers

Set your alarms for 20:00 this evening when a big round of applause is planned to thank NHS staff for working tirelessly during the coronavirus outbreak.

People at attractions across the South East, including the i360 tower in Brighton, will be among those taking part in the applause.

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Free parking for health and care workers and volunteers

Parking sign
Getty Images

Parking charges on roads across East Sussex have been suspended for those delivering essential health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic, the county council has announced.

Health workers, social care workers and official NHS volunteers will be able to park for free in on-street bays, a council spokesman said.

Workers parking for free will need to display a copy of their ID on their dashboard while those volunteering for the NHS are being asked show evidence they are official volunteers.

Karl Taylor, assistant director of operations at East Sussex County Council, said: “We appreciate the vital work NHS staff, social care workers and NHS volunteers are doing at this time, and want to make it as easy as possible for them to care and support our residents.”

New chief constable will need to "hit the ground running"

Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne
Katy Bourne

The new chief constable of Sussex Police will have to "hit the ground running" to deal with social tensions brought about by coronavirus.

This was the message from Katy Bourne, Sussex police and crime commissioner, who has put out a national call for a successor to Giles York, who steps down in the summer.

Mrs Bourne said: “The new chief constable will be arriving just after the anticipated peak of the coronavirus infection which may undoubtedly bring social tensions and a rise in some crime types.

“So she or he will have to hit the ground running and get a grip straight away.”

Mr York has led the force for six years, during a time of change and stretched resources.

Mrs Bourne said: “Now we find ourselves in a global fight against Covid-19, police forces like Sussex are part of the front-line so I am looking for a chief constable who can continue to lead Sussex Police through unprecedented times.”

As well as being able to earn the confidence of the public and galvanise staff and officers during the pandemic, the new chief constable will be expected to make the county "a hostile environment for criminals", she added.

NHS nurse stranded in Cambodia returns to UK

NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter
PA Media
NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter

An NHS nurse who had been stranded in Cambodia and called on Boris Johnson to help get her home has landed back in the UK.

Cheryl Baxter said she “had a few tears” when she arrived back at her front door in St Mary’s Bay in Kent on Thursday morning after her ordeal in South East Asia.

Mrs Baxter works in Hastings where she is head of the Conquest Hospital’s Covid-19 ward, and is looking forward to rejoining her colleagues soon.

Speaking after she and her husband Ivon arrived home, she said the whole experience was a “mental roller coaster”.

Mrs Baxter, 52, and her husband had been travelling before the UK pandemic commenced and were due to fly home on March 22 via Bangkok.

But as the coronavirus crisis intensified, they had huge trouble securing the right medical certificates to fly home, with different agencies demanding different papers.

She said: “My worst fear was that Bangkok would shut down, then we would be stuck for how long.

“My other fear was either of us would become unwell out there.”

NHS nurse Cheryl Baxter
PA Media
Mrs Baxter with her boarding passes

More changes to rail timetables

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

Further changes to the region's rail services will come into effect from Monday, including the suspension of the Gatwick Express until further notice.

Operator Govia Thameslink says there's been a significant fall in passenger numbers, with the airport now served only by regular Southern and Thameslink services.

Gatwick Express train at airport
The Gatwick Express service is suspended until further notice

The company says this will release staff to help keep other essential rail services running.

Passengers are being asked to travel only if their journey is essential, and to check the new timetables before they leave.

Extra bus services for key workers

Enhanced bus services are being introduced in parts of East Sussex to enable key workers to get to work at hospital.

Brighton & Hove Buses will operate an enhanced Sunday service between 30 March and 4 April, with earlier journeys on most routes.

The company says the move is to enable staff to get more easily to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

It added early morning journeys after NHS staff relayed their needs.

Coronavirus: Popular science centre closes

The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux
The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux

The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux near Eastbourne has announced it has closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The interactive domed science centre said in a message on its website that it did not know when it will reopen.

It said: “This decision was made in the light of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recent UK government advice, which our charity has been carefully monitoring and following.

“The safety and well-being of our visitors, staff and volunteers is our absolute priority during this difficult time.”

People who have booked group visits and upcoming events will be contacted when the centre returns to work.

MP calls for government to be held to account "remotely"

Amanda Akass

Political Editor, BBC South East Today

MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle
PA Media
MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle

In his first appearance in the House of Commons since returning from coronavirus isolation, Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said closing down parliament early without a means of carrying out debates online is "foolhardy".

Hove's Peter Kyle also told MPs he is "extremely concerned" about the implications of Parliament being closed down early.

He said people would appreciate the irony that builders are continuing to work with the sanction of government but that the government is shutting parliament and "stopping our ability to scrutinise in the normal way".

He says normally in times of crisis parliament would be recalled. He is calling for "extraordinary" new measures to be brought in so "we can remotely hold the government to account".

In response the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said parliament is not being closed down, the date of return is set and that hasn't changed.

He claims the business scheduled for the final days is not pressing so it's reasonable to suspend it.

On Monday, for example, they were planning on discussing relief of rates on public toilets. He says it was therefore reasonable to suspend parliament as this business is not essential.

NHS staff offered free Albion tickets when football season resumes

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

NHS staff are to be offered free tickets to Brighton and Hove Albion matches when professional football resumes.

The club says it will reserve at least 1,000 tickets for health workers and their families, either at a single match or spread across several fixtures.

The Amex Stadium
Getty Images
NHS workers will attend the Amex stadium for free when football resumes

The club is calling on other sides in the Premier League, English Football League and Scottish and Northern Ireland leagues to make similar gestures.

AFC Bournemouth has already said it will.

We fully appreciate football is the last thing on anyone’s minds at this moment, but we feel this is a small way in which we can show our gratitude for those NHS staff on the frontline who are fighting the battle on behalf of all of us and give them something to look forward to."

Paul BarberBrighton and Hove Albion chief executive

All football has been suspended until at least 30 April, with the Football Association saying the season could be extended "indefinitely"

Brighton are launching their telephone campaign on Thursday

Brighton are launching a telephone campaign to check in on elderly fans who are self-isolating because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fruit and veg growers call for workers to 'feed the nation'

Fruit picking
PA Media

UK growers have launched a recruitment drive, calling for a modern-day "land army" to prevent millions of tonnes of fruit and veg going to waste.

Farmers need 70,000 workers to cover the jobs usually carried out by seasonal migrants, according to the British Growers' Association.

The key workers will still adhere to social distancing rules in the fields.

The National Farmer's Union (NFU) said temporary workers would "contribute to the health of the nation".

Travel and movement restrictions caused by the pandemic have left a "serious labour shortage" as the picking season starts.

Adverts appearing in newspapers and across social media will use the slogan "Feed Our Nation" from Tuesday.

Cambridgeshire-based grower, G's, which produces celery and lettuce for major retailers, is offering £400 a week to temporary workers.

The firm said it had "more than 2,500 vacancies across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Sussex and the West Midlands".

Find out the latest rail travel advice

Many rail operators are running pared back services to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, including Southeastern - which operates in London, East Sussex and Kent.

To find out more, click on the link below...

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Town crier in Covid-19 battle call

Worthing Town Crier, Bob Smytherman
Worthing Glamour Club

Residents of a seaside town have been called upon to "summon your antibacterial shields" and stay home to fight coronavirus.

Streaming live on Facebook, Worthing town crier Bob Smytherman, dressed in his full regalia, addressed people in the West Sussex town.

The 52-year-old, who is also a councillor for Worthing Borough Council and West Sussex County Council, boomed: “All ye England engaged in battle against the Covid-19 virus, and that includes all citizens of the world.

“This is a war like no other fought before in our lifetime, or even in history.

“Summon your weapons, your antibacterial shields, your human concern.

“Engage the battle fully and pray for a winning outcome."

The speech was written by one his counterparts in the US and sent to town criers around the world.

Finishing his speech, Mr Smytherman cried: “God bless our frontline warriors against Covid-19, and God save the Queen."

Beach car parks to close due to coronavirus

The beach at Camber Sands
Camber Sands

Car parks that serve the popular Camber Sands beach in East Sussex will be closed until further notice to discourage large numbers of people travelling to the area.

In an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, visitors will no longer be able to use any of the beach’s car parks including Camber Western, Camber Central and Old Lydd Road from the end of today.

The decision was taken after a “worryingly large number of people” headed to the beach over the weekend, despite the government’s advice on social distancing, a council spokesman said.

A spokesman for Rother District Council said: “We appreciate people need to get exercise and fresh air at this time, but the number of people visiting the beach from outside the area at the weekend posed a serious risk to public health.

“In light of the Government’s advice, we feel we have no other option but to temporarily close Camber’s car parks to discourage people from further afield travelling to the beach, and ensure the safety of residents and our staff.

“Our parks will remain open for the time being although, as with all of our services, this will be kept under constant review. We would urge people to take Government advice seriously, to not gather in groups and avoid contact with people who are not in your household.”

Former Eastbourne MP 'stuck' in New Zealand

Former Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd
BBC News

Former Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd has tweeted that he is “stuck” in New Zealand, where he has been holidaying with his partner.

Mr Lloyd said Singapore was not accepting transit flights so they could not fly home.

He added: "Spent ages on the phone to consulate. No answer. I know there are an awful lot of Brits in the same boat. I hope UK Gov sorting repatriation."

New Zealand has become the latest country to announce a full lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

All public venues will close over the next 48 hours, as will most shops, except supermarkets and chemists.

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Church hosts communion and hymns on Skype

A church in Brighton is to hold communion over Skype this weekend in order to overcome restrictions on public gatherings.

The Village Metropolitan Community Church is asking worshippers to prepare a glass of wine and bread at home and then join the service via webcam.

Churches and cathedrals across the country are live-streaming services after being instructed to close for three months because of coronavirus.

But, the Village Metropolitan Community Church said using Skype will allow it to hold an interactive communion service.

Rev Michael Hydes said: "If you are just watching a streaming service you do not get that same connection, that same social interaction."

The service will also include sing-along hymns, Rev Hydes added.

"Alas, we cannot all sing together as the system can't handle so many voices at once - but if we mute our microphones we can all sing along," he said.

The first e-service will take place on Sunday at 18:00 GMT.

City council leader calls for calm and supermarket rationing

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

The leader of one of the South East's largest local authorities has joined calls for people to stop panic buying.

Nancy Platts, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, also urged people to only buy specialist foods, such as gluten free products, if they genuinely need them.

Nancy Platts, leader, Brighton and Hove City Council
Nancy Platts urged an end to panic buying

She has already written an open letter to the city's supermarkets, asking them to ration what shoppers can buy and help elderly customers more.

Speaking at the council's policy and resources committee, she also praised community efforts in the face of the crisis, and said the finance team had written to local businesses about the help being offered by the government.

Sussex MP to go back to nursing

Lizzie Massey

BBC Live reporter

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield has pledged to return to nursing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before becoming involved in the Conservative party, Mrs Caulfield worked at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital, before going on to the Royal Marsden in London.

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Coronavirus: Two major events cancelled in Eastbourne

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

The Magnificent Motors and Beer and Cider by the Sea events, due to take place in Eastbourne, have both been cancelled.

The borough council said it made the decision along with the emergency services, because of the resources it would require.

Magnificent Motors had been scheduled for the first weekend of May, and Beer and Cider by the Sea on the final weekend of that month.

People who have bought tickets will be offered refunds.

Today's South East news website headlines

Getty Images

The Argus: Coronavirus: Panic-buying at Newhaven Sainsbury's

Kent Online: Sainsbury's stores open for the over 70s and vulnerable people only for first hour

Get Surrey: Nine more coronavirus cases in Surrey

Chichester Observer: Coronavirus: Chichester farmers’ market called off

Eastbourne Herald: Coronavirus: Don’t forget charities in Eastbourne

Crawley and Horley Observer: Hazelwick School in Crawley closes with immediate effect

Worthing Herald: Lancing school crossing campaign takes a step forward

Mid Sussex Times: Coronavirus: Mid Sussex charity urgently needs young volunteers to help elderly

Brighton & Hove News: Two held after £80k burglary at Hove shop

Hastings Observer: Motorcyclist dies in A21 collision at Sedlescombe

Brighton & Hove Independent: Crown Prosecution Service South East moves into Brighton Police Station

Seaside art gallery to temporarily shut due to coronavirus

Art gallery
Towner Eastbourne
Towner art gallery

A seaside art gallery has announced it is to temporarily close to the public due to coronavirus.

Officials at the Towner in Eastbourne say the gallery will be off limits to the public from 17:00 GMT on Wednesday 18 March.

It means its scheduled exhibitions, cinema and events programme, both on-site and off-site, will not go ahead as planned. Refund options for those who have booked tickets will be available “in due course”, the Towner’s director Joe Hill said.

He added: “We thank you for your support and understanding and very much look forward to welcoming you back to Towner Eastbourne in the not too distant future.”

Coronavirus: Council cancels meetings

Sue Nicholson

BBC News

Council sign
East Sussex County Council HQ

East Sussex County Council is to cancel its public committee meetings as the authority reacts to the coronavirus pandemic.

The authority confirmed it would be cancelling all its meetings from next Tuesday until further notice.

It has already cancelled several meetings previously scheduled to take place over the next two weeks.

However, a full council meeting will still go ahead on Tuesday as it will centre on the introduction of “temporary measures”, which the council says will allow “essential business to be conducted in the event of disruption or suspension of formal meetings due to Covid-19”.

In a report to be considered by the council's governance committee ahead of the meeting, officers are recommending a number of changes be made to the council’s constitution.

Coronavirus hits tourism hard

Bob Dale

BBC Live reporter

Tourism officials in Hastings say the resort is being hit hard by coronavirus.

They say the first sector to feel the impact was the town's language schools, with many countries now banning students from travelling abroad.

Following the government's advice this week, several of the town's attractions have also closed or cancelled events.

White Rock Theatre, Hastings
The White Rock Theatre has cancelled all shows until further notice

Tourism supports over 15,000 jobs across 1066 Country, and contributes over £660m to the local economy. I know that a number of tourism businesses are already having to lay off staff, or not recruit their seasonal workers as they would normally be doing this time of the year."

Kevin BoormanManager, 1066 Country Marketing

Customers who have bought tickets for events are being asked to be sympathetic to venues, and accept postponements rather than ask for refunds.

Brighton Festival cancelled over coronavirus

Brighton Pavillion
Getty Images

Brighton Festival has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The music and arts festival was due to take place in late May, but has been called off in order to meet the government's advice on social distancing, organisers said.

More than 120 events had been planned and discussions are underway to see if some can still take place at a later date or in a different format.

Refunds are available, but the festival - a registered charity - is encouraging people to donate some or all of the ticket price to support its future.

The pandemic will have a "profound effect" on the city's culture and economy, chief executive Andrew Comben said.

Festival director Lemn Sissay said the cancellation was "a huge blow for us all", but added that it was "inevitable given the severity of what we all face".

Severe accident: A27 West Sussex eastbound

BBC News Travel

A27 West Sussex eastbound severe accident, from A270 Upper Shoreham Road Southwick to A293 Portslade.

A27 West Sussex - A27 closed eastbound from Southwick to Portslade, because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe disruption: A27 East Sussex westbound

BBC News Travel

A27 East Sussex westbound severe disruption, around Coldean Lane Hollingbury.

A27 East Sussex - A27 in Patcham partially blocked and it's very slow westbound around Hollingbury, because of a break down.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time