Public Policy

July 2, 2020

UK Recovery Brief: Thursday, July 2

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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 day’s summary, please click here.

The Government has released details of its school return guidelines

  • Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson announced today that schools and colleges are to reopen in full in September.
  • Detailed new guidance has been published outlining the Government’s plans. The measures to allow schools to return includes:
  • Lifting current restrictions in group sizes ensuring that schools, colleges and nurseries can fully reopen to all children and young people.
  • Asking schools to keep children in class or year group sized ‘bubbles’ and encourage older children to keep their distance from each other and staff where possible. Protective measures such as regular cleaning and handwashing will be promoted.
  • Where there is a positive case in a school or college, the Public Health England local health protection team will advise on the appropriate action, which could include small groups of young people and staff being asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
  • School attendance will be mandatory with fines imposed on parents who do not comply.
  • The National Education Union has criticised the proposals with the Unions General Secretary commenting that the plans “seem more based on hope than science” and that the Government needs to do more to reassure staff who have concerns.

 

Prime Minister warns that furlough scheme “Can’t keep being extended

  • In an interview, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the furlough scheme cannot keep being extended.
    • Johnson commented “You are keeping people in suspended animation. You are stopping them from actually working. I am being absolutely frank with you, we are pushing it out until October but in the end you have got to get the economy moving”.
    • The Prime Minister also said “I think people need to recognise that the particular restrictions that furlough places on you are not, in the long term, healthy either for the economy or for you as an employee”.
    • Johnson also warned the public that flouting rules on social distancing this weekend, when parts of the economy reopen, would risk a return to lockdown. He warned “Do not undo the sacrifices you have made with reckless behaviour … We do not want to see businesses have to close again”.

 

Scottish Government have announced changes to COVID-19 guidelines

  • Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced revisions to Scotland’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
  • The first minister said the 2m physical distancing rule would be reduced to 1m for premises such as pubs and restaurants when the country enters the next phase of its routemap on 9 July.
  • Face coverings will also be mandatory in shops in Scotland from 9 July.
  • From Friday,  children under the age of 12 no longer need to maintain physical distancing from other households.

 

Other news

  • Media reports suggest that the Government will announce tomorrow plans to relax its quarantine measures for international arrivals. The Government indicated that “dozens of countries” will be exempt from a travel quarantine from Monday 6 July.
  • The Welsh Government confirmed today that some pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Wales will be able to reopen outdoors from 13 July. Alongside this, the date for reopening self-contained accommodation has been brought forward to Saturday 11 July and outdoor attractions may be able to open from Monday 3 July.
  • The Prime Minister will give a press conference on Friday evening ahead of an easing of England’s coronavirus lockdown on Saturday, when pubs and restaurants will reopen.
  • The Treasury’s flexible furlough scheme has now come into effect. The scheme gives businesses the opportunity to bring back workers on a part time basis.
  • Over 1,500 music stars including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Paul McCartney have signed a letter calling on the Government to provide specific financial help and a clear timetable for reopening for the live music sector, in order to prevent a “catastrophic collapse”. In response to the letter Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said that DCMS is “pushing hard for these dates & to give you a clear roadmap back”. The Secretary of State said that such a roadmap would “involve very difficult decisions about the future of social distancing”.
  • More than 12,000 jobs were axed across the UK economy over the past 48 hours, with high street retail being primarily effected by the losses. Firms such as John Lewis, Harrods, Harveys and TM Lewin all announced large scale job cuts as a result of COVID-19.
  • The BBC has announced plans to cut 450 jobs in England. The cuts mean that around one-sixth of local BBC staff will lose their jobs impacting regional reporting and coverage.
  • Department of Health figures show that many people in England are still waiting longer than 24 hours for their COVID-19 test results. Data shows that four in 10 tests done by mobile units and three in 10 carried out at regional drive-thru centres were taking longer than that.
  • The Northern Ireland Executive have announced that face coverings will become mandatory on public transport from Friday 10 July. There will be exemptions for those who are not able to wear a face covering for health and medical reasons and for children under the age of 13.
  • Councils in England will now receive a further, un-ringfenced £500 million to respond to spending pressures they are facing. Additionally, where losses are more than 5% of a council’s planned income from sales, fees and charges, the government will cover them for 75p in every pound lost. The government is also bringing in changes so councils can spread their tax deficits over 3 years rather than the usual one.
  • The US President Donald Trump has changed his tone towards the wearing of face masks. He has told reporters that he is “all for masks” and that “sort of liked” how he looked with one on, as it made him “look like the Lone Ranger”.
  • The US unemployment rate also dropped to 11.1% from 13.3% in May. The jobless rate remains historically high, and is far above the 3.5% seen in February before the pandemic reached the US. The US economy added 4.8m jobs in June
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