Public Policy

March 23, 2020

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, March 23

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Each day, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest news in the evolving situation. To view the previous summary, please click here.

The Government are set to introduce an amendment to the emergency COVID-19 bill to ensure it has to be renewed every six months

  • Additionally the emergency laws will be withdrawn if MPs withhold approval.
    • This follows multiple cross-party amendments requesting that the bill is reviewed periodically, and should mean that the Bill passes the House of Commons today without a vote.
    • The bill would allow officials to shut airports and detain people on public health grounds, while immigration officials could place people in isolation.
    • The powers were due to last two years – but after some opposition MPs voiced concern, the government has agreed to amend the bill so they have to be renewed every six months.

The Government has announced it would suspend normal rail franchise agreements and transfer all revenue and cost risk to the government for at least half a year

  • Rail franchise agreements are to be suspended to avoid train companies collapsing. Operators will continue to run services day-to-day for a small management fee under an “emergency measures agreement”
    • This would give operators the chance to transfer all revenue and cost risk to the government, and be paid a small management fee to run services.
    • Under the new agreement, fees will be set at a maximum of 2 per cent of the cost base of each franchise before the onset of Covid-19.
    • The government has also announced that all season ticket holders will be able to claim a refund for time unused on their tickets, free of administrative charges. Ticket holders should contact their operator for details.

Letters and texts will be sent to 1.5 million people in England who are most at risk of coronavirus to stay at home for 12 weeks

  • The government has laid out a raft of new measures, including a helpline of the most in need of support, for those considered to be extremely vulnerable.
    • People with specific underlying health conditions, including some being treated for cancer, will be contacted by the NHS this week. They will be asked to go into social-isolation for the next 12 weeks.
    • It was also announced that a new Local Support System will be created to help deliver groceries and medicines for individuals self-isolating who do not have a support network of friends and family.
    • The food and deliveries will be free initially.
    • Members of the armed forces will support this effort. Members of the armed forces are already helping Local Resilience Forums and local councils on their coronavirus response plans.
    • The Army has also been called in to help distribute masks and protective suits to frontline NHS staff.

 Other UK COVID 19 News 

  • All jury trials in England and Wales are to be put on hold, in response to the spread of the virus. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, said no new trials would start and that ongoing trials would be paused while arrangements were put in place so they can continue safely.
  • The NHS has struck a deal with private hospitals to acquire thousands of extra beds, ventilators and medical staff. The agreement will see the private sector reallocate almost its entire national hospital capacity to the NHS. The deal will give the NHS access to 20,000 more staff, 8,000 and some 1,200 ventilators.  Private hospitals will not make a profit under the terms of the agreement.
  • Road users charging schemes London have been suspended to ensure critical workers can travel around.
  • The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has “strongly” requested that companies listed on the London Stock Exchange hold back on publishing preliminary financial statements for at least two weeks. The regulator argued that due to the fast-moving nature of the recent pandemic, companies will not have had sufficient time to properly consider the impact in its reporting and planning.
  • In response to extensive pressure from the British Retail Consortium, and widespread consumer demand, the contactless limit for in-store card transactions will increase from £30 to £45.
  • £500,000 of funding has been made available to innovators who can find digital ways to support people who need help during the coronavirus. The Techforce19 programme is looking for digital solutions that could include providing remote social care, optimising the volunteer sector and improving mental health support. There is funding of up to £25k per company.
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