Public Policy

December 17, 2020

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, December 17

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Each week, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest weekly news in the evolving situation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has provided an update on England’s tier system

  • Hancock announced that tier 3 measures would be introduced from 00:01 Saturday morning in the following areas:
    • Bedfordshire
    • Buckinghamshire
    • Berkshire
    • Peterborough
    • Hertfordshire
    • Surrey (except Waverly)
    • Hastings and rother on the Kent border
    • Portsmouth
    • Gosport
    • Havant
  • However the following places were able to go down a tier from 00:01 Saturday morning:
    • Bristol – tier 3 to tier 2
    • North Somerset – tier 3 to tier 2
    • Herefordshire – tier 2 to tier 1
  • The announcement came after Greater London, parts of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire were moved to Tier 3 on 16 December.
  • Hancock said that hospital admissions were up by nearly half in the east and south-east of England.
  • Hancock also stated that over 200 vaccination sites were now open across the UK.

 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced plans to implement a third lockdown in Wales

  • All non-essential retail, including close-contact, leisure and fitness centres will close on Christmas Eve.
    • All hospitality will close at 6pm on Christmas Day, with tighter restrictions on household mixing, staying home, holiday accommodation and travel will be in place from December 28th, after the five-day Christmas period.
    • The First Minister urged everyone who can to work from home, saying it is one of the most important actions to stop the spread.
    • All secondary schools have been asked to move to online teaching for the last week of term.
    • The Welsh Government has also announced plans to roll out serial testing in schools and colleges in Wales from January.
    • The plan would see pupils and staff identified as close contacts of someone who has received a positive test asked to either self-isolate as normal or to take a lateral flow test at the start of the school day for the duration of the self-isolation period. Those who tested negative would continue to be allowed to attend school as normal.
    • Separately Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian to move from Level 2 to Level 3 restrictions effective from 18 December. All other local authorities in Scotland will remain in their current levels.

 

The UK and devolved Governments have issued a joint press release with guidance and recommendations for the Christmas period

  • They advised that restrictions such as “three households can meet on five days” should be viewed as the maximum, not the target.
    • People are advised to stop unnecessary social contact outside their immediate households as soon as possible, and for at least five days before meeting other households over Christmas.
    • If they do intend to form a bubble over Christmas, it should be kept small and visits should be kept as short as possible.
    • Overnight stays should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
    • For those over 70 or clinically extremely vulnerable, it is especially important to consider the risks and to observe the guidance.
    • The Welsh Government has tighten its Christmas rules slightly limiting the number of households who can meet to two plus an individual from a third household.

 

Other news

  • Almost 138,000 people across the UK have received their first dose of the vaccine. In 7 days, there have been around 108,000 vaccinations in England, 18,000 in Scotland, 7,897 in Wales and 4,000 in Northern Ireland. Weekly statistics will be published from next week.
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that passengers arriving from locations not featured on the government’s travel corridor list can take a private test 5 full days after leaving the non-exempt place in order to release themselves from self-isolation on receipt of a negative test result. This is available as an option for all passengers arriving into England by plane, ferry or train.
  • The Department for Transport has decided to delay the normal annual January change to rail fates until 1 March 2021. Regulated fares will then increase by RPI+1, a 2.6% rise, which is the lowest actual increase in four years.
  • The Education Secretary has announced that every secondary school and college in England, including special schools, will have access to rapid Covid-19 tests, following the success of recent pilot schemes. Staff in secondary schools will be eligible for weekly tests, and students will be eligible for daily testing for seven days if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive. From January, those in the same bubble don’t need to self-isolate if they agree to daily testing.
  • The Welsh Government has announced a freeze of the non-domestic rates multiplier for 2021-22 to ensure that, prior to applying any reliefs, there is no increase in the amount of rates businesses pay next year.
  • The Welsh Government has announced that it will put forward emergency legislation to suspend evictions from social and private rented accommodation between 11 December and 11 January.
  • Nine more venues will become temporary courts to provide sufficient capacity and reduce delays, as part of an extra £30m investment to bring in means to address outstanding court cases, bringing the total investment to £110m. It will bring the number of Nightingale courtrooms to 40.
  • Updated clinical advice from the UK Chief Medical Officers has reduced the self-isolation period from 14 days to 10 days.
  • The Scottish Government has announced £750,000 in funding to help NUS Scotland and more than 30 student associations to provide welfare support for students.
  • More than £165m in repayable finance has been announced as part of Culture Recovery Fund. Meaning the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery has passed its £1bn milestone. Plans for the rest of the £1.57bn Fund will see £300m in grants and £100m in loans to support organisations’ transition back to usual operating from April 2021.
  • The Transport Secretary has announced that Botswana and Saudi Arabia added to the travel corridor list of exempt countries, while the Canary Islands have been removed from the exempt list.

 

Private sector update

  • The Train operator GWR – which runs services between London and the South West – has said it will cancel at least 105 services between 17 December and Christmas Eve after Covid-19 outbreaks at its depots. In addition, there will be an amended timetable for services between 21-27 December. Customers with bookings for affected services will be contacted, the company said, with alternative arrangements planned.
  • UK bar chain Revolution Bars has posted a statutory pre-tax loss of £31.7m, compared with a loss of £5.6m the previous year up to 27 June
  • British Airways is permanently cutting 13 long-haul flight routes from its summer 2021 schedule. BA said it is also suspending flights to Sydney, Bangkok and San Jose until October 2021.
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