Covid-19 Daily Bulletin
A daily bulletin on domestic and international headlines related to the Covid-19 outbreak.
- Friday’s press conference saw the Prime Minister tell cafes, pubs and restaurants to close that night and not to open again for the foreseeable, but they can still offer take out services. Nightclubs, theatres,gyms and leisure centres were also instructed to close on the same timescale . The government’s press release can be found here.
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak, at Friday’s press conference, announced measures to protect jobs, strengthen the safety net for people that work alone or by themselves, and people who find themselves unemployed:
- Setting up new Covid-19 job retention scheme. Any employer will be eligible for the scheme. They can contact HMRC for a grant to cover the wages of their employees. These grants will cover 80 per cent of the salaries of these retained workers, up to £2,500 per month.
- The scheme will be open initially for 3 months and it will be extended if necessary. There is no limit to this scheme. The treasury will pay as many grants as is necessary. It will be running within weeks and payments hope to be issues by April.
- The business interruption loan scheme will now be interest free for 12 months – not 6. Those loans will now be available from Monday.
- Further cash flow support from the tax system – the Govt will defer the next quarter of VAT payments for firms. No business will pay VAT until the end of June.
- To business: “we in Govt are doing everything we can to support you…. I am asking you to do your best to stand behind your workers.”
- The Govt are going to be launching an advertising campaign over the next few weeks: “please look at that before you make people redundant.”
- “I cannot promise that no one will face hardship”. The Govt will protect you if the worst happens:
- The Government is increasing the standard allowance for Universal Credit for 12 months by £1,000, with thesame amount increase for working tax credit basic element.
- For self-employed people, he is suspending the minimum income floor for anyone affected by Covid This means that self employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
- Announcing that the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January next year.
- For renters, the Govt is announcing £1bn of support by increasing housing benefit and universal credit, so that the local housing allowance will cover at least 30 percent of market rents in your area.
- Saturday’s press conference saw pleas from Secretary of State for Defra, George Eustice, Helen Dickinson, CEO of British Retail Consortium, and Professor Steven Powis NHS Medical Director, to be responsible when shopping and to think of others, particularly of frontline staff who need access to essential supplies to continue to support the nation. It was reiterated that there is more than enough food to go around. Eustice outlined the steps taken by the govt to make this easier.
- The government has also set aside competition laws so that supermarkets can coordinate their efforts locally, sharing staff, delivery vehicles and coordination store opening times.
- The government has taken steps to set aside rules restricting delivery to stores and relaxed restrictions on drivers’ hours so that more goods can be delivered to stores every day.
- The government has waived the plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.
- Supermarkets are recruiting more staff, protecting shopping time for older and vulnerable people and limit shopping hours so that they have more time to restock.
- At Sunday’s press conference, the Prime Minister stated that steps must now be taken to protect the vulnerable and Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government stated that, following the identification by the Chief Medical Officer of people across the country with underlying health conditions particularly at risk of coronavirus, the government writing to the group – around 1.5m in England – and asking them as soon as practical to stay at home for a prolonged period, perhaps as long as 12 weeks. The relevant press release can be found here .
- At a press conference on Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, warned any pubs, clubs, restaurants and gyms that haven’t closed already to do so. She stated that the Scottish Government will have emergency powers within days to force any non-compliers to close, and they will use them if necessary. She asserted that “life should not feel normal”.
- Medics wrote to the Prime Minister pleading for him to “protect the lives of the life savers”. Many have stated that they don’t feel safe at work and many don’t have access to personal protective equipment, and as a result staff feel like “cannon fodder”. More than 4,000 doctors from across the UK signed the letter over the weekend.
- The BBC reported that the NHS struck a deal with private hospitals on Saturday to acquire thousands of extra beds, ventilators and medical staff to fight the coronavirus: 8,000 beds, 1,200 ventilators and 20,000 fully qualified staff will be available from next week.
- The government has said it is up to local authorities to decide whether they close their parks after Hammersmith and Fulham have taken the decision to do so
- The Coronavirus Bill is due to receive its Second Reading today in the Commons
- The BBC reported that Coronavirus cases have passed 300,000 around the world, with more than 13,000 deaths worldwide, whilst 93,000 people have recovered.
- The Independent reported that Germany will ban public meetings of more than two people as the nation works on slowing the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
- Business Today reported that Indian capital Delhi has been placed under lockdown until 31st March following a voluntary 14 hours people’s curfew. The measures include the halting of all domestic and international flights into the city, no public transport apart from a few buses that will have to operate at 25% capacity, and the shutdown of all factories, offices and religious places. The borders of the city with other states have also been sealed.
- In Australia, pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas, casinosand places of worship will be shut from midday today, while restaurants and cafes will have to switch to takeaway only. However, schools and shopping centres remain open.
- US Vice President Mike Pence reportedly tested negative for the virus over the weekend.
- Lockdowns have started across Africa: Nigeria is closing its airports to all international flights for the next month. Sky News reported that now 42 of Africa’s 54 countries are affected.
- The Guardian has reported that m ore than 670 Filipino health workers have been quarantined over fears they were exposed to coronavirus, while others have resorted to using bin bags for protection as case numbers rise across much of south-east Asia.
- Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, on Saturday said the government must go further to provide economic security for everyone affected by the impact of the Coronavirus – including more help for the five million self-employed, protection for workers from losing their jobs, better help for renters, improved social security, and an increase in sick pay which the Health Secretary has admitted is not enough to live on.
- On Saturday, commenting on the government’s latest warning about the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on the NHS, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary John Ashworth said “The rising fatality rate is a sobering reminder that we must all take the social distancing measures seriously and adjust our behaviour. The public also needs clear guidance and direction from the government, so people fully understand how vital these measures now are. Our NHS is coming under the most intense pressure. We need urgent action to scale up intensive care bed capacity, more community testing with NHS and care staff a priority, the deployment of more protective equipment and an expansion of ventilators.”
- Responding to the government’s statement on transport for key workers, Labour’s Andy McDonald, Shadow Transport Secretary, said “Labour backs measures that will keep key workers and freight moving on our railway during this crisis. “There are very few emergency options available in these most difficult of circumstances. The imperative is to maintain a functioning rail network throughout this emergency. However, this is a time limited arrangement by Government in response to a crippling crisis on our railway rather than a long-term solution. Labour welcomes an honest debate on the future of our transport system post-crisis in order to address the fundamental issues with our current networks.”
- The Royal College of Nursing on Friday asked supermarkets to make sure that nursing staff can get the basic necessities they needs to that they can keep on caring for patients as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
- The National Council for Voluntary Organisations published a press release stating that charities across the country are facing imminent collapse as fundraising income dries up, and are calling for a number of commitments from the government including:
- A ‘stabilisation fund’ for all charities to help them stay afloat, pay staff and continue operating during the course of the pandemic.
- Emergency funding for frontline charities and volunteers supporting the response to the coronavirus crisis, especially where they are alleviating pressure on the health service or providing support to people suffering from the economic and social impact of coronavirus.
- Confirmation that charities should be eligible for similar business interruption measures announced by the Chancellor for businesses.
- The National Education Union has called for testing of education staff to be an urgent priority of the government in its efforts to tackle coronavirus, with De Mary Bousted , Joint General Secretary, stating that staff need to know whether or not they have the virus so they know whether they can safely come into work and offer crucial support to the families of key workers.
- In response to Ofqal’s announcement regarding the measures it will take to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled due to coronavirus, NUS Vice-President Juliana Mohamad Noor stated “We hope that they will be working on an approach which reflects the achievement of students fairly, takes into account this disrupted and stressful year and supports them to achieve their potential. We would like to see young people and those affected brought further in to the conversation about the exact process which will be used to determine the grades: it is their attainment and work at stake, and it is vital they are represented in this process.”
- The Association of Residential Lettings Agents published a press release stating that property agents are missing out on the proposed twelve-month business rates ‘holiday’, as they are classified as offices, not retail branches on the high street. ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive David Cox and NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive Mark Hayward have written to the Chancellor urging him to extend business rates relief to property agents and their offices.
- Politico, amongst other news outlets, is reporting that Boris Johnson will be holding urgent talks today with senior ministers and officials, as he considers whether to follow other corona-hit nations with a full lockdown of everyday life .