If this was a normal weekend, sports fans in the UK would be looking forward to watching football’s FA Cup quarter-finals, the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix and England’s First Test against Sri Lanka in cricket.

Needless to say, none of those events is going ahead due to Covid-19, forcing sports addicts to find virtual substitutes.

The Football Manager online simulation game has been used by some soccer clubs to fulfil their fixtures and keep fan interest alive, while Southampton challenged Norwich City to a game of noughts and crosses via Twitter. Football Manager 2020 hit a record for online players via Steam last Sunday and on Wednesday, it was made free-to-play for a week.

EA’s Fifa 20 has been used by Spanish footballers to play fixtures, with more than 60,000 watching Real Betis against Sevilla, while Leyton Orient has challenged other teams to a Fifa 20 tournament called the UltimateQuaranTeam.

In motor racing, sports stars took on esports professionals in a virtual Australian Grand Prix last Sunday, which was streamed on YouTube.

British bookmakers offer virtual racing, a product created when the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK caused horseracing fixtures to be cancelled. They say it is proving popular, with real racing now halted till the end of April. That means the cancellation of the biggest race of the year, the Grand National on April 4, but there may yet be a virtual one to bet on.

The Internet of (Five Coronavirus) Things

1. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon cut back streaming
We asked yesterday whether the surge in online streaming could break the internet, but Netflix. YouTube and Amazon Prime have since responded to a request from the EU and are throttling back the data throughput of their services, with YouTube showing videos in Standard Definition as the default. Netflix said its measures should reduce its load on European networks by around 25 per cent.

2. California to use drones to police lockdown
A police department in California plans to use drones equipped with loudspeakers and cameras to enforce a coronavirus lockdown. Chula Vista police bought two $11,000 drones made by the Chinese company DJI and plans to rig them up with speakers and night vision cameras. 

3. Crispr comes up with 4x faster test
Mammoth Biosciences has used Crispr gene-editing tech to come up with a Covid-19 test that can produce a result in 30 minutes and be the size of a pregnancy-testing kit. Elon Musk has said Tesla is working on producing ventilators, although he has admitted defeat in trying to keep his car factory open. There have been protests at Amazon warehouses in the US, France and Italy after it tried to run normal shifts despite positive cases of Covid-19.

4. Texting misinformation pandemic 
An uptick in text-message misinformation, capitalising on coronavirus panic with misleading medical advice, is spreading largely via private, encrypted messages, making it difficult to curb. US officials believe China or Russia could be behind the campaign.

5. Coronavirus comment
Richard Waters says Big Tech has the cash to expand after the crisis and regulatory threats are likely to recede. The author Yuval Noah Harari says many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life and we face a choice between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. 

Tech tools — Nokia 8.3 5G phone

This may be no time to launch a smartphone, especially as No Time to Die, the Bond movie set to promote Nokia’s latest handset has been delayed till later this year. Yet brand owner HMD Global went ahead anyway with the launch yesterday of the Nokia 8.3 5G phone. Nokia says its first 5G phone supports more bands than competitors, meaning it can be used in more countries. As a quantum of solace in difficult times, it is also much cheaper than some of its €1,000+ rivals, at €599 for the 64GB version. It features a quad-camera array on the back, which includes a main 64-megapixel sensor, for your eyes only. 

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