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16 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Morning briefing: As coronavirus reaches its peak, what next?

By Samuel Horti

Good morning. As the government prepares to announce a three-week extension to lockdown measures later today, thoughts are turning to how ministers will ease the current set of restrictions. Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said yesterday that the virus was “probably reaching the peak overall” – but senior government sources have told the Guardian that ministers do not yet have a co-ordinated plan for lifting the lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s absence had delayed the strategy, they said, and different cabinet ministers are working on separate theories within their own departments. One plan prioritises reopening schools, giving younger people more freedom or relying on antibody tests to determine who can emerge from lockdown measures. Nadine Dorries, a health minister, tweeted that the country could only “exit full lockdown” once a vaccine was in place, something a European Union agency has warned could take a year.

The Times reports this morning that the government’s scientific advisers are considering a plan which would segment the nation into different risk groups, allowing young healthy adults to return to work first. The Sun reports that a joint report from Conservative peer Lord Gadhia and GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Jonathan has advised ministers that restaurants, coffee shops and estate agents should be among the first businesses to reopen.

Lastly, a team of experts led by Professor Ed Bullmore, head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, has said the coronavirus could have a long-term impact on mental health, both among the general population and Covid-19 patients. “The pandemic is clearly having a major social and psychological impact on the whole population, increasing unemployment, separating families and various other changes in the way that we live that we know are generally major psychological risk factors for anxiety, depression and self-harm,” Bullmore said. 

Global updates:

World: Debt payments for the world’s poorest countries will be suspended, G20 finance ministers agreed last night. The move is part of a $200bn plan to tackle the coronavirus that also includes extra funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Asia: The IMF has warned that growth in Asia may stall for the first time in nearly 60 years because of coronavirus. The region may fare better than other parts of the world, the IMF said, but the “severe and unprecedented” economic shock would be worse than either the global financial crisis or the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans to reopen some schools and businesses in light of the nation’s slowing infection rate, which she called a “fragile intermediate success”. Teaching at schools would resume from 4 May, initially for students in their final year of primary or secondary school. Hairdressing salons would also be allowed to reopen on the same day, while shops of up to 800 square metres, as well as bookshops, bike stores and care dealerships, can open from 20 April.

China: Beijing saw its first local transmission in weeks yesterday. Imported cases fell again, but local transmission in the nation cases ticked up from ten to 12.

Singapore: The country saw its highest daily rise in cases on Wednesday, with 447 people testing positive, bringing the total number of cases to 3,699. Many are linked to migrant workers living in close quarters. 

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