Public Policy

March 24, 2020

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, March 24

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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 days summary, please click here.

The government has ordered all non-essential retail stores to close

  • This includes clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
    • The government will also close hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers)
    • Deliveries of “non-essential” goods such as toys and clothes can continue
    • All major construction work will also be allowed to continue, however the government recommends that employers should try and enforce social distancing.
    • It comes after both London Mayor, Sadiq Khan and Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon argued at a COBRA meeting yesterday that all construction should halt but they were overruled by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
    • Other exceptions to the government rules include:
      • Supermarkets and other food shops;
      • Restaurants, cafes and work canteens – but only for food delivery and takeaway services;
      • Health shops, pharmacies including non-dispensing pharmacies;
      • petrol stations;
      • bicycle shops and home and hardware shops;
      • laundrettes and dry cleaners;
      • garages and car rentals;
      • pet shops;
      • corner shops, newsagents, post offices, and banks

The government has announced strict new social distancing measures to try and limit the spread of COVID 19

  • People in the UK have to stay at home, except for: shopping for basic needs; exercising a maximum of once a day; travelling to and from work which cannot be done at home and any medical need
    • All public gatherings of two or more people are banned – except when essential for work, or when those people live together (eg a family with children going to the shop)
    • This includes all social events, such as weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals
    • Non-essential shops and public places must close – this does not include parks, but does include playgrounds and other “communal spaces” within them
    • Police officers will be given powers to enforce the new rules – people caught breaking the new rules will be fined £30 and might end up in court if they refuse to pay. The amount of the fine is also under review and could rise.
    • However children under the age of 18 will be allowed to travel between the homes of separated parents
    • Volunteers who deliver food to vulnerable people, will also be allowed to continue their activities.

The Coronavirus Bill passed its final reading in the House of Commons without a formal vote, and has now gone to the House of Lords

  • In addition to the amendment that gave MPs the power to review the bill every 6 months, other amendments included:
    • A new clause intended to safeguard public health by ensuring every person in the United Kingdom is able to access NHS care without incurring a financial penalty or immigration sanction.
    • An amendment that uprates statutory sick pay to the level of 90 per cent of the worker’s normal earnings and makes provision for maximum and minimum rates.
    • An amendment on how to identify and help support those who are victims of human trafficking and slavery during the outbreak.
    • An amendment which requires local authorities to discharge their Care Act duties and in particular meet needs for care and support which would currently be ‘eligible’ needs where it is reasonably practicable for them to do so.
    • An amendment to extend the notice period for evictions from two months to three for the vast majority of renters – meaning landlords can still serve notice and claim possession at the end of that period.
    • However the Bill offers no protection to residents who can be evicted without notice – such as those in temporary housing or lodgers.
    • The government has promised to end evictions in social and privately rented housing during the coronavirus pandemic. And sources claimed that  it was possible other draft bills are under consideration.

Other UK COVID 19 News 

  • The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has decided against creating a specific support package for the aviation industry. In a letter to airports and airlines, he said the government is prepared to enter into negotiations with individual companies once they have “exhausted other options” such as raising cash from existing investors.
  • The UK government has asked mobile companies to send an alert to everyone in the UK telling them to heed the new nationwide lockdown rules. It is the first time ministers have called upon all the UK’s mobile operators – including O2, EE, Three and Vodafone – to send a mass broadcast that will reach as many as 60 million people across the country.
  • Prisons in England and Wales have been put on immediate lockdown with all visits cancelled. The new additional restrictions inside jails will mean inmates generally being locked up – but allowed to access showers, phones and exercise – with social distancing restrictions in place.
  • The Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have taken the decision to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting deadlines for this year.
  • The UK’s supreme court has adapted to physical distancing by holding its first ever remote, live hearing.
  • The DWP are moving 10,000 existing staff to focus on processing a rise in new claims and an increased demand for support over the phone. Access to jobcentres will be limited from today, with only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access DWP services by other channels invited to attend.
  • Transport for London have announced that they will temporarily suspend all construction sites, including Crossrail.
  • The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has announced that special flights are being set up to get Britons stranded abroad because of the coronavirus, home. Raab said Singapore had agreed to be the transit hub where people stuck in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Peru could fly through on their way back to the UK.
  • Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has announced that 11,788 former health staff have agreed to return to help with the COVID 19 crisis. They include 2,660 doctors, more than 2,000 other clinical staff and 6,147 nurses. He added that 5,500 final year medical students and 18,700 final year student nurses will be going into work early.
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that they are looking for 250,000 “NHS volunteers” to help national health service employees with “shopping, delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded”.
  • A new hospital is to be established in the ExCeL centre, an exhibition centre in east London. The new NHS Nightingale Hospital will consist of two wards and hold up to 4,000 patients.
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