News Daily: Coronavirus meeting, DWP discrimination and Labour suspension

By Victoria King
BBC News

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Virus 'delay' phase

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The UK is currently in phase one of its response to coronavirus - the containment stage - but the prime minister will chair an emergency Cobra meeting later to decide whether it's time to escalate matters. That would mean moving into the "delay" phase, which could see the introduction of "social distancing" measures. These could include closing schools, encouraging home working and holding sporting and other events behind closed doors. Ministers will also meet bosses of UK supermarkets to discuss their contingency plans. Ahead of Wednesday's Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak says he is looking at temporary measures to support people who may be unable to go to work or businesses which may suffer as a result of the measures.

It comes after a man in his 60s became the UK's third death linked to the Covid-19 virus. He had significant underlying health problems and had recently returned from Italy.

The Foreign Office is warning Britons to avoid all but essential travel to large parts of northern Italy, where a quarter of the country's entire population is in lockdown. Italy now has the highest number of confirmed cases outside China at 7,375, and its death toll rose from 133 to 366 on Sunday. In China, where the virus first emerged, figures show the spread is slowing.

The NHS is urging the public to use a new online coronavirus service as their first point of contact if they suspect they could be infected. You can also read more about your rights if an event you've got tickets for is cancelled, and here we bust six health myths about the disease.

Discrimination cases

The government department responsible for supporting people with disabilities into work has lost more tribunals for disability discrimination than any other employer in Britain since 2016. BBC Panorama found the Department for Work and Pensions lost 12.5% of cases compared with the average of 3% for employers as a whole. It paid out at least £950,000 in tribunal payments and out-of-court settlements between 2016 and 2019.

Karen Jackson, a leading disability discrimination lawyer, said there appeared to be something "systemically wrong within the culture of the organisation". The DWP said it was "shocked" by the data but was reviewing its processes to ensure all staff were treated fairly.

You can watch the programme at 20:30 GMT on Monday on BBC One.

Labour suspension

The former head of the UK's equality watchdog has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia. Trevor Phillips is being investigated over remarks dating back years, including expressing concerns about Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern British towns, according to the Times. The anti-racism campaigner said Labour was in danger of collapsing into a "brutish, authoritarian cult", but the party insisted it was right to take complaints about Islamophobia "extremely seriously".

Mr Phillips was among 24 public figures who declared their refusal to vote for Labour because of its association with anti-Semitism.

The tax that hits struggling High Streets hardest

By Emma Simpson, BBC business correspondent

Finding a new retailer for a prime spot in Blackpool town centre used to be easy. In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street. Not any more. Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. "We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer," says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor. Business rates, he says, were a factor in Arcadia's decision to pull out, and they're now a big barrier to someone else moving in.

What the papers say

Several of Monday's papers criticise the government's response to coronavirus. "Quarantine farce as Italian planes fly in" cries the Daily Telegraph front page. It's unhappy that passengers on "dozens" of flights from the affected region have not been put into quarantine. The Guardian, too, is surprised that "hours after" the Italian lockdown was imposed, the Foreign Office was still advising it was safe to travel to most of the area. Panic buying in the wake of the outbreak also makes headlines. "Don't be so shelf-ish" pleads the Metro, while the Daily Express reports that shelves across the country have been "stripped bare" of essentials. The Sun is one of a number of papers who use editorial comment columns to call for calm. Elsewhere, the Daily Mirror reports on "Harry and Meg's final salute", claiming the military is to be "central" to their new charitable organisation.

Daily digest

MH17 Trial begins of four men over downed airliner

Idlib "The place we loved and lost"

Domestic abuse Accused police officers "protected", campaigners claim

British Steel Chinese takeover set to be completed

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Lookahead

Today Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond goes on trial accused of carrying out a series of sex offences

15:00 The Duke and Duchess of Sussex carry out their final public engagement as senior royals when they attend the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey

On this day

1994 The IRA fires five mortar shells towards a runway at Heathrow Airport - watch eyewitnesses describe what happened.

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