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Coronavirus: More firms now see value of digitalisation, says Iswaran

More businesses are seeing the value of increased digitalisation in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said yesterday.

While the Government has long encouraged companies to intensify the use of digital technology in their processes, the coronavirus has brought into stark relief its relevance and merits at a time when businesses have had to act to minimise disruptions in the face of the virus, he said in an interview on Money FM 89.3.

“Right now, businesses see the value proposition – whether it is working remotely (or) transacting with business partners around the world,” he told co-hosts Elliot Danker and Ryan Huang.

The current situation has also helped employees to understand why digital technologies are both relevant and useful, he added.

Digital technology has also helped the Government manage the crisis, he said, citing the Gov.sg WhatsApp service that has given Singaporeans “reliable information in a timely manner (that) also enables them to navigate all the other information they are receiving on a daily basis”.

“We think these and many other digital sources of information and ways of communicating with our broader population (are a) key part of not just battling the crisis, but also preparing ourselves for the next phase of digital evolution in Singapore’s economy,” he said.

A myth that needs dispelling, he said, is that digitalisation applies only to some, when such technologies cut across every sector. Even traditional businesses in Kampong Glam and Little India are using digital technologies, whether for payments or to interact with their logistics providers, he noted.

Both businesses and workers need to view digitalisation as a journey, not something where one needs to “jump into the deep end in one fell swoop”.

“What you can do is work on it (by) taking incremental steps, but have an overall strategy that takes you to the end point in terms of the kind of capabilities you need.”

Asked about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), which took effect last October, he said Covid-19 has vindicated what the Government said when it introduced the anti-fake news legislation.

It had argued that people today get information from a variety of digital sources, information from digital sources can be very viral and fake information can cause dire consequences.

Pofma “has actually proven to be very effective in the course of Covid-19, although it is very, very unfortunate that people still persist in pervading falsehoods even in these very trying times, and it causes fear and panic in our population”, he said. “So, we have to move swiftly and decisively to deal with such fake news or falsehoods.”

He pointed out that the Government’s promptness in quashing early instances of fake news – such as debunking rumours in January of Woodlands MRT station being closed because of a suspected Covid-19 case – has “had a salutary effect”. “Even in private messaging services… what I find is the instinct now is for people to ask the question, ‘Is this fake? Is this real?’ ” Mr Iswaran said.

This is a very good instinct, he said, “because what it means is people realise they need to question the source, the authenticity of the information and its reliability”.

Newspapers and the media remain an important source of accurate information, he added.

“The media plays a very important role, (and) the mainstream media remains one of the key sources of information people rely on.”

When Singapore enters the general election season, the Government will ensure people get reliable and truthful information for citizens to exercise their vote in a well-informed way, he said.

“The experience in other countries has shown that, in particular, in an (election) hustings period, there is more froth, especially on social media, in the digital realm, and a lot more misinformation starts to spread,” he said. “So, the key is ensuring our citizens are well informed, they understand the facts clearly and we are able to debunk the falsehoods quickly.”

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‘Get Brexit done!’ Boris Johnson told NOT to seek EU delay amid coronavirus outbreak

The overwhelming majority of Express.co.uk readers believe the Prime Minister should not seek an extension to the transition period beyond December 31 amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey of more than 15,000 readers has found almost nine-in-ten people believe the UK and the EU should adhere to the current timetable to agree upon a future trading relationship. The poll conducted on Tuesday March 31 between 8.33am and 10.00pm asked 15,548 people “Should Brexit be delayed due to coronavirus outbreak?”.

A huge 89 percent (13,808) believed there should not be a delay and voted no.

Just 10 percent of participants (1,573) said there should be a delay and voted yes.

Meanwhile one percent (167) readers remained unsure and voted don’t know.

A number of Express.co.uk let their feeling known in the comments section and insisted there has already been too many delays and a further extension would hit UK taxpayers in the pocket.

One user wrote: “There is no advantage to be gained by delay, in fact there is much to be lost including more contributions from UK taxpayers.

“After the present health crisis we need to be looking forward, not looking back or trying to have a foot in both camps.”

A second reader said: “The EU agreed the timetable it’s their problem if they now think it’s not long enough, and guess what if they were given an extension that to wouldn’t be long enough either, all they want is to keep the UK tied to them and of course keep the money coming in.”

A third angry user wrote: “No deals or delays just get Brexit done and dusted no more delays.”

Meanwhile a fourth simply said: “NO, NO, and NO again.”

Downing Street has constantly reiterated the UK would not seek a delay and the legal text state Britain will end the transition period on December 31.

However talks between the UK and Brussels have hit a huge stumbling block as the global health crisis continues to escalate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the latest high profile figure to be been struck down by COVID-19 and has been self-isolating since last Friday.

Britain’s Brexit negotiator David Frost has also had a period of self-isolation, meanwhile EU chief Michel Barnier was also diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

Across Europe there are more than 330,000 infections reported on the continent and nearly 21,000 deaths.

David McAllister, the EU Parliament’s UK trade co-ordinator, said Brussels is ready to extend the transition period.

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He said: “The EU has always been open to extending the transition period. The ball is now clearly in the British court.

“The United Kingdom would have to submit an official request.

“So far, the UK government has constantly rejected such an option. Under the current circumstances, London should carefully re-examine a prolongation.”

On Monday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have shared legal texts and they are the subject of informal discussions between ourselves and the EU commission.

“I would expect those sorts of conversations to be carrying on this week.

“The structure of the negotiations has changed to reflect the current situation with regard to coronavirus, so there are more continuous discussions taking place rather than the set rounds which were originally envisaged.”

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David Cameron’s failures led to Brexit victory says voters

Whilst the nation voted to cut ties with the European bloc in June 2016, it took years to thrash out the details and sever a relationship once and for all. Although the UK and the rest of the world have recently been thrown headlong into a pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has continued to vow he will ‘Get Brexit Done’ by the end of the year. But there still remains debate as to what moment in political history was the most significant in contributing to Brexit victory.

An Express.co.uk poll has revealed, however, that the majority of respondents believe it was former prime minister David Cameron’s botched EU agreement in 2016 that sealed the deal.

The poll offered Express.co.uk readers five momentous moments in history to choose from which may have led to 17.4 million people backing Brexit.

It asked: “Which of these five key moments in history led to Brexit victory?”

The options outlined in the poll were:

– February 1992 – Maastricht Treaty signed
– September 1992 – Black Wednesday
– December 2007 – Lisbon Treaty signed
– 2009 – European debt crisis begins
– February 2016 – David Cameron’s EU reform deal fails

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Out of 2,047 respondents to the poll, an overwhelming 56 percent (1,129) of people believe David Cameron’s failed EU reform deal was responsible for Brexit victory.

This is compared to the 27 percent (558) of people who cite the Maastricht Treaty as the reason Britain turned its back on the European bloc.

13 percent (249) of people attribute Brexit to the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, with five percent (92) believing the 2009 European debt crisis was to blame.

Less than 1 percent of people believed the Black Wednesday crash of 1992 led to Brexit.

The poll ran from 3pm to 9.30pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

And Express.co.uk readers were vocal in elaborating on their belief that Brexit victory was a direct result of David Cameron’s failed EU reform deal in February 2016.

One Express.co.uk reader wrote: “There was already a very large following in support of a referendum on the issue but it was the EU’s treatment of the rather inept David Cameron with his begging bowl that finally convinced people we really needed to get out.

“Those who had hitherto been uninterested in what went on over the Channel, suddenly woke up to the fact that our elected government was no longer in charge of our country.”

Another said: “No fondness for Cameron, but having the EU pat him on the head and treat him like a naughty pet poodle for me at least, puts the last nail in the EU’s coffin.”

And a third remarked: “I think Cameron’s failure clinched it for many.”

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However, looking further back, many laid responsibility at the feet of former Prime Minister John Major, who signed the Maastricht Treaty in February 1992.

One wrote: “Major signing away our sovereignty with the Maastricht Treaty was the beginning of the end.

“If Europe had remained a group of trading countries and not a political bunch led by an unelected commission, things would have been fine and Brexit would never have been needed.”

Another said: “John Major must take a large amount of blame followed by Blair. Cameron never had any intention of doing a deal as he is pro EU.”

But for some, narrowing Brexit down to one reason was too difficult of a task.

An Express.co.uk reader wrote: “It was a mixture of events and a gradual erosion of Sovereignty and our ability to handle our own affairs.

“Namely the loss of our freedom to choose our direction and decide our own future.”

Another said: “ALL of the reasons mentioned contributed to our Brexit vote!

“We have been seething and simmering since Heath lied and took us in.

“It has become progressively worse with EVERY treaty that was signed by our supposedly BRITISH governments.”

And a third remarked: “All of the above, and more!”

The signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 is widely believed to have sowed the seeds of discontent that led to Brexit.

Tory Prime Minister John Major signed the treaty which gave the European Commission more powers and paved the way for the Euro.

It is said to have been the catalyst for a split within the Conservative Party which would last for many years.

Later in the year, Black Wednesday was viewed as a disaster, when Mr Major was forced to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

The Lisbon Treaty in 2007 replaced the rejected EU constitution – it intended to make the EU more transparent, however many were unsatisfied with the powers the bloc was able to wield.

The treaty was shortly followed in 2009 by a European debt crisis.

Most notably, it was Greece which struggled to pay back the money its Government had borrowed, alongside Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain.

The EU was forced to step in to bailout some of the countries, which led to unrest and annoyance within the bloc.

Brexit, however, finally culminated in the announcement of a referendum by former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Cameron campaigned to stay in the European bloc, however was forced to resign when the vote did not go his way.

Mr Johnson has said Britain will exit the European Union with or without a deal by the end of the year.

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Trump says coronavirus guidelines may get tougher; one million Americans tested

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that federal social distancing guidelines might be toughened and travel restrictions with China and Europe would stay in place as he urged Americans to help fight the coronavirus with tough measures through April.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said more than 1 million Americans had been tested for the coronavirus, which he called a milestone.

The president announced on Sunday that the recommendations, which include encouraging people not go gather in groups larger than 10 and to avoid dining in restaurants or bars, would be through the end of next month after initially being put in place for 15 days to curb the virus’s spread.

“The guidelines will be very much as they are, maybe even toughened up a little bit,” he told reporters on Monday.

Trump, who has faced criticism for playing down the pandemic in its early stages, urged everyone to follow the restrictions.

“Every one of us has a role to play in winning this war. Every citizen, family, and business can make the difference in stopping the virus. This is our shared patriotic duty. Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days and this is a very vital 30 days,” he said.

White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Deborah Birx said federal guidance was important because all states were facing the same levels of risk.

“When you look at all of the states together, all of them are moving in exactly the same curves,” she said. “That’s why we really believe this needs to be federal guidance, so that every state understands that it may look like two cases, that become 20, that become 200, that become 2000, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he expected a coronavirus outbreak in the fall as well, but he said the nation would be better prepared to respond.

Trump said his administration would take a look at a suggestion from former Food and Drugs Commissioner Scott Gottlieb that all Americans wear a mask when out in public to help halt the spread of the virus.

“After we get back into gear … I could see something like that happening for a period of time, but I would hope it would be a very limited period of time,” he said.

Trump said the United States had begun to acquire personal protective equipment from overseas.

“We’re getting it from all over the world and we’re also sending things that we don’t need to other parts,” he said.

Trump said he had just spoken with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and that the United States would be sending Italy about $100 million worth of medical supplies that are not needed in the United States.

Trump lauded an announcement from Ford Motor Co and General Electric’s healthcare unit that they would be producing 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.

He also noted that General Motors and other U.S.-based companies would be making ventilators as well. “As we outpace what we need, we’re going to be sending them to Italy, we’re going to be sending them to France, we’re going to be spending them to Spain … and other countries as we can.”

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Coronavirus: MPs demand ‘Army-style’ compensation for NHS workers who die from COVID-19

A group of 50 MPs have written to Boris Johnson to call for compensation for the families of those who lose their lives on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus.

At the weekend, NHS consultant Amged El-Hawrani – an ear, nose and throat specialist – was confirmed as the first frontline hospital worker in the UK to die after contracting coronavirus.

Two other doctors – Dr Habib Zaidi, a GP from Essex, and Dr Adil El Tayar, an organ transplant specialist who had been volunteering in an A&E department in the West Midlands – are also reported to have died with COVID-19 symptoms.

In their letter to the prime minister, which has also been signed by 1,150 members of the public, the cross-party group of MPs called for a compensation scheme similar to that offered to by the Armed Forces.

They said the families of those who lose their lives should be offered a lump sum, a guaranteed income, and child payments to eligible children under the age of 18.

The government should also offer a contribution towards funeral costs, the MPs said.

They want the compensation scheme to be open to the families of those classified as key workers, such as NHS and social care staff as well as teachers.

Their letter states: “Those on the frontline of this battle against coronavirus are heroes.

“However, the risks to themselves and their families that they are taking on a daily basis are not recognised as much as they should be.

“They are putting their lives on the line, and we believe that they deserve to be protected.

“Just like members of our Armed Forces, they should know that if the worst happens, the state will help their families.

“It is what they need, and what they deserve.”

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Biden Faces a Cash Gap With Trump. He Has to Close It Virtually.

Joe Biden’s campaign and top donors are racing to reimagine the ways they raise money as worries grow that the coronavirus could choke off contributions from donors big and small.


By Shane Goldmacher

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is working the phones with top donors while cloistered in his Delaware home. His digital team is searching for the right tone to ask small contributors for cash during the sharpest economic downturn in their lifetimes. And his finance operation is plotting how to keep the checks coming when catered parties for big contributors are on hold — indefinitely.

Top Biden fund-raisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. And in nearly two dozen interviews, they expressed deepening concern that the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs.

The coronavirus shut down much of the American economy just as the former vice president took control of the Democratic presidential race, upending his plans to consolidate support among party donors who had previously supported other candidates and diminishing his ability to replenish his cash reserves to compete with President Trump’s well-funded re-election campaign.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared committees. Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million, after accounting for debts.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has not said how much money he has raised since mid-March, when the virus began taking its toll on the country, but multiple fund-raisers said that giving was slowing and that they were reluctant to make aggressive requests for cash at this fragile moment, as the campaign itself readies for a 100 percent virtual and digital operation.

These should be some of the busiest and headiest days for Mr. Biden and his fund-raising team in normal times, now that he has knocked out all of his rivals but Senator Bernie Sanders, who trails by a nearly insurmountable 300 delegates. But instead he has found himself holed up in Wilmington, Del., and limited so far to three video fund-raisers from a makeshift studio installed in the retrofitted rec room of his house.

“It is definitely harder to raise money now,” said Mathew Littman, a former Biden speechwriter in California who is organizing a video fund-raiser and recently started a separate super PAC to raise money to support Mr. Biden in Western states. “The fun aspect of the fund-raiser is taken out of it.”

“You have to be very sensitive to what’s going on with people’s lives,” Mr. Littman added. “This is definitely a much softer pitch than it was two weeks ago because the economy is going to be in either recession or a depression for a bit.”

Some top fund-raisers said the notion of thumbing through call lists of friends to raise money for politics during an unprecedented economic and health crisis was tone deaf. Others are simply focused elsewhere right now. They are investors who have seen their portfolios hammered, business owners trying to triage their holdings and take care of their employees, philanthropists with links to cultural institutions at risk of collapse, or even health care systems bracing for the virus’s full impact.

“You don’t fund-raise now,” Ed Rendell, a Democratic former governor of Pennsylvania and a Biden supporter, said in an interview a week ago. “I haven’t called anyone for money in the last 10 days and I don’t intend to. Not while people are confined to their homes. I just don’t think it’s appropriate. Plus, people are worried about money.”

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Labour elects new leader: A look back at Jeremy Corbyn’s highs and lows

Jeremy Corbyn has been a mainstay throughout a turbulent four-and-a-half years years for the UK and the Labour Party.

But his meteoric rise to frontline politics will be remembered for its own volatility.

As the Labour leader stands down after losing the 2019 general election and a new leader is elected this weekend, Sky News looks back at his highs and lows.

3 June 2015 HIGH: Enters Labour leadership race

Jeremy Corbyn – a veteran left-wing backbencher – joined the race to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader in June 2015.

The Islington North MP promised to stand on a “clear anti-austerity platform” and to “give Labour Party members a voice in this debate”.

His first hurdle was to gain the backing of at least 35 Labour MPs in order to make the final leadership ballot.

Mr Corbyn managed this with just minutes to spare and was helped by around 15 MPs who – despite not supporting his leadership bid – nonetheless lent him their support in an attempt to widen the debate.

These included former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett and Sadiq Khan, who would go on to become London mayor.

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U.S. Congress eyes next steps in coronavirus response

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three days after passing a $2.2 trillion package aimed at easing the heavy economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Congress was looking on Monday at additional steps it might take as the country’s death toll approached 3,000.

Democrats who control the House of Representatives were discussing boosting payments to low- and middle-income workers, likely to be among the most vulnerable as companies lay off and furlough millions of workers, as well as eliminating out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus medical treatment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would work with Republicans to craft a bill that could also provide added protections for front-line workers and substantially more support for state and local governments to deal with one of the largest public health crises in U.S. history.

More than 160,000 people in the United States have been sickened by the fast-spreading respiratory virus that causes COVID-19. It has prompted widespread closures of schools and businesses across the nation and thrown millions out of work.

Pelosi, the top U.S. Democrat, said she did not expect new legislation to be completed until sometime after Easter, which is on April 12.

“We must do more to help our helpers in this moment of national crisis,” she told reporters on a conference call, adding that delays in producing ventilators and medical protective equipment “will cost lives that should not have to be lost.”

Republican President Donald Trump’s administration signaled that it might seek congressional authorization for more funds for a small-business loan program.

That could open the door to negotiations on additional measures Democrats are seeking. While the Republican-controlled Senate ignored some of the Democrats’ ideas when crafting the $2.2 trillion bill enacted last week, Democratic initiatives could gain traction if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in coming weeks.

‘PHASE FOUR’

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, has said he was not sure if it was necessary to augment the first three packages totaling over $2.3 trillion with a fourth bill. A spokesman was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

But an aide to the House Appropriations Committee, which must provide funding for some of Washington’s response to the coronavirus, said the Democratic-led panel was in the early stages of work on “phase four” of response legislation.

Other ideas being floated were the opening of a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and steps to lower health insurance premiums, as well as financial assistance to help laid-off workers keep temporary health insurance.

Democrats also have spoken of the need to shore up infrastructure for telecommunications, electricity and water systems. The shortcomings, Democrats said, have been underscored by the virus outbreak as students in some regions lack internet capability to take online classes during school closures, for example.

Congress is trying to respond to the crisis even as its normal operations are interrupted, with most lawmakers advised to stay in their home states. The Senate is in recess until April 20 and the House at least until then.

Pelosi was advised by the Congress’ attending physician to take no particular action after she was in contact with Representative Nydia Velazquez, who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, according to Pelosi aide Drew Hammill. Pelosi, who just turned 80, is in the age group considered at high risk for the illness.

Hammill said on Monday the contact was deemed to be “low risk.”. At least six members of Congress have said that they contracted the novel coronavirus.

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Colorado lawmakers’ return to the Capitol unclear amid pandemic

Colorado’s legislative session didn’t resume Monday — the date lawmakers originally set for the coronavirus recess to end — but disagreements over how to handle the extension left uncertainty about what’s next.

Senate and House Democratic leaders clashed over whether lawmakers needed to return to the Capitol in person to extend the recess until April 13 — in line with Gov. Jared Polis’ order for residents to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But some Republicans were also reluctant to sign onto a letter to adjourn for that length of time.

And on Monday, the Senate and the House took two different approaches — the House adjourned until Thursday because the Colorado Constitution allows for a three-day recess without formal agreement from both chambers. The Senate, however, postponed indefinitely based on another interpretation that allows the General Assembly to remain adjourned without setting an exact date, leaving some Senate Republicans wondering if they would have to return on Tuesday to postpone again.

House Speaker KC Becker, who was not in attendance Monday, told The Denver Post that because there are a lot of questions about priorities, the budget and the length of the session, it would be hard to suspend the session for another two weeks without some answers.

So, on Sunday night, a letter that was expected to be signed by the majority of lawmakers to extend the suspension was scrapped and an executive committee meeting planned for Monday morning canceled. Instead, a handful of lawmakers in each chamber met to hear Senate President Leroy Garcia and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett announce the postponement.

Lawmakers are waiting for the Colorado Supreme Court to rule whether the legislative session can span 120 calendar days during the year or whether those 120 days must be consecutive. Becker, D-Boulder, said it was clear the legislature could suspend for an additional three days without further action, and she hopes the Supreme Court will come to a decision by then.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty right now about how to proceed and when we proceed, and when we do proceed, what are we going to be working on,” Becker said.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, however, said the decision to return Monday just to adjourn temporarily was only for a technicality and puts people at risk. The legal advice lawmakers received is that they could simply wait to return when they were ready to come back in session and the letter was just meant to explain to the public what they were doing, he said.

“Our caucus didn’t want to come in,” Fenberg said, adding that neither chamber was expected to have a quorum Monday.

He said regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the question will remain about when lawmakers should resume the session, so he didn’t believe a return Monday was necessary.

“I think it’s also important to model the behavior to tell our own constituents to follow,” Fenberg said.

That’s why Senate President Leroy Garcia didn’t specify a date of return. In this type of emergency, based on legal advice, he said he believes the Senate can leave that question unanswered until it’s safe to return.

“We find ourselves in an unprecedented time in this pandemic and the reality is we should not be convened in this close quarters, this building,” Garcia, D-Pueblo, said.

Some lawmakers also want to figure out their role and priorities after Congress’ passage of a stimulus package that will bring Colorado at least $2.2 billion, Becker said.

Those are decisions that might otherwise be left to the governor.

“This is a way that we can be adjourned for less time and potentially come back and do work,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Parker Republican.

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Coronavirus: Government relaxes abortion rules during COVID-19 crisis

Women unable to access a clinic will be able to use abortion pills at home as the government temporarily relaxes rules during the coronavirus crisis.

The Department for Health and Social Care will soon be issuing updated guidance in a move welcomed by medical bodies and healthcare charities.

Under the updated guidance, women who need a medical abortion up to ten weeks will be able to hold a telephone or online consultation with a doctor.

They will then be able to use abortion pills at home.

The change in abortion rules is being time limited for two years or until the coronavirus crisis is over.

The move had initially been announced last week, but government officials later said it was “published in error”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock subsequently told MPs there were “no proposals to change any abortion rules” as part of the COVID-19 response.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) welcomed the government’s now changed stance on Monday.

She said: “We welcome the confirmation we have received today that the government will re-instate telemedicine for early medical abortion in England.

“This will prevent tens of thousands of women from having to travel needlessly to clinics and will also enable many of our healthcare professionals to provide teleconsultations and prescriptions from the safety of their own homes.”

But Ms Furedi added her charity remains “extremely concerned” about the ability of women in other parts of the UK to access abortion care during the pandemic.

“In Northern Ireland, abortion care is now lawful, but services have not yet been established and telemedical abortion care is not permitted under the regulations produced by the government last week,” she added.

“As a result, women are being forced to travel hundreds of miles via ferry and public transport to clinics in England at a time when they are also being told to stay at home to save lives.

“We urge policymakers to now implement similar measures to permit telemedical abortion services in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

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