News Daily: Coronavirus spreading, UK housing gap and Whitehall tensions

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Pandemic fears grow

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The colourful Venice Carnival draws thousands of visitors to the city every year

Coronavirus has now spread to 29 countries, with more than 2,500 deaths in mainland China where it first emerged. BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh says the situation looks like the early stages of a pandemic, with the virus spreading in the community in multiple parts of the world.

There are several hotspots right now. South Korea has the largest number of confirmed cases outside China, while North Korea has quarantined foreigners. Italy has the highest number of cases in Europe, and Iran has confirmed 43 in multiple cities and eight deaths. In the UK, four passengers flown back from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have now tested positive, bringing the total number of cases in Britain to 13.

Fergus Walsh says the NHS is well able to cope with the UK situation as it stands and can isolate and treat patients in specialist centres. If a pandemic is declared, he explains, it will still be important to limit the speed of spread of the virus, and if countries can hold it somewhat at bay until the end of winter, there's a hope that warmer temperatures will reduce the time it can survive in the air, as we see with seasonal flu.

Here we have a comprehensive guide to coronavirus, including what you can do to limit your risk.

Mind the gap

The housing gap - the difference between the current stock and the number needed for everyone to have a decent place to live - is more than one million homes, according to BBC research. At current building rates it will take at least 15 years to close that gap. A lot of the pressure falls on people renting privately, and according to a survey of 2,000 people for the Affordable Housing Commission, one in four of those in unaffordable accommodation feel their mental health has suffered as a result. The government says it's committed to delivering a million more homes over the next five years.

In the latest of our in-depth guides, BBC Briefing, we've looked closely at the whole UK housing situation. Pressed for time? Read six key facts on the sector.

Whitehall tensions

Home Secretary Priti Patel has criticised media reports that MI5 bosses are holding back security information and intelligence from her because of a lack of trust in her abilities. The government has also strongly rejected accusations of bullying of civil servants within her department.

Last week, Ms Patel was accused of trying to force out the most senior Home Office civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, but on Sunday, a government spokesman insisted the pair were focused on delivering their department's "hugely important" policy agenda despite being "deeply concerned" about "false allegations" in the media. The Home Office also said Ms Patel and MI5 had "a strong and close working relationship".

The allegations come amid wider reports of tensions between the civil service and the government over recruitment and treatment of staff. The Cabinet Office is recruiting a new civil servant to oversee HR policy.

'We are trapped in the house that killed our son'

By Tanya Gupta, BBC News

When Kye Gbangbola and Nicole Lawler moved into their house on the banks of the River Thames in Surrey, it looked like the perfect place to raise a family. Sixteen years later, it stands as a reminder of Zane, the son they lost, while their fight for answers continues over what caused his death. On 7 February 2014, Mr Gbangbola spent the evening working upstairs in his study, where he was writing to the Environment Agency requesting an urgent meeting about the effects of several weeks of flooding, which had left the basement of the house under water.

What the papers say

The coronavirus outbreak gets widespread coverage. The Guardian highlights a warning from experts that the world is fast approaching a tipping point, with the disease outpacing efforts to contain it. The Daily Telegraph front page features a participant in the Venice carnival wearing a protective mask. The Financial Times opts for a similar image, reporting that "economic worry" due to the virus is growing. Elsewhere, there is speculation about the upcoming Budget, with the Daily Mail highlighting analysis which suggests Boris Johnson will "splurge" more than Tony Blair did, with spending rising above £1tn for the first time. The Times, meanwhile, has more on that Priti Patel story, reporting that she has demanded a "formal leak inquiry" into what she describes as "hostile briefings" by officials in her department. Finally, Tyson Fury's win in the ring on Saturday still makes headlines, including "Viva Lash Vegas" from the Sun.

Daily digest

Salazar Fresh questions over banned coach's links to Mo Farah

Venue safety Bombing victim's mother makes appeal

Redundancy Public bill hits seven-year high

Climate change Schools are failing us, say campaigning pupils

If you see one thing today

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If you read one thing today


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