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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, December 10

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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, December 10

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

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has announced a mass testing programme for all secondary school children in parts of London, Kent and Essex

  • Hancock said mass testing will be deployed in secondary schools in seven boroughs  of London, Kent and Essex with highest Covid rates.
    • Hancock said the rise of infection rates is being driven by secondary school pupils but cases among the adult population largely remains “broadly flat” for now.
    • Hancock added that community testing is now being deployed in 100 council areas across England.
    • From today people told to self-isolate through the Covid app will be able to get the £500 payment if they qualify.
    • The Government has also announced hospital upgrade projects funded by a £600m investment package.

The Scottish Government has announced eleven Level 4 restriction areas will be moved down to Level 3 following decline in the Covid Infection rates

  • The areas include Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, East and South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
    • The measures mean restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars can open indoors and outdoors for the consumption of food and non-alcoholic drinks. Alcoholic drinks cannot be served. Last entry is 17:00 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 18:00.
    • All retailers will also be allowed to open as well as all indoor and outdoor visitor attractions such as museums, galleries, educational and heritage attractions, zoos and aquariums can open providing there are physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.
    • Colleges and universities can operate using a more restricted mix of face to face and distance learning.
    • The Scottish First Minister also announced that Angus, Inverclyde and Falkirk will drop a level going from 3 to 2, with Dumfries and Galloway Council areas going to Level 1 restrictions.
    • The easing of restrictions will come into force at 6pm on Friday, 11 December.
    • The Scottish Government will also consider a move to level 2 for Edinburgh and Midlothian next week.

The Scottish Government has announced an extra fund of £1.8bn to support health, transport and businesses and prepare for Brexit. 

  • It includes around £600 million for health and social care, including the vaccination programme, test and trace and the £500 bonus for health and social care workers.
    • Support for business and the wider economy totalling £570 million.
    • An estimated £139 million of previously announced funding for government, bringing the overall support package to councils to more than £1 billion.
    • Around £500 million to support transport services and cover pandemic-related income shortfalls within organisations such as Police Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.
    • £330m of the expenditure, which will be used to meeturgent demands for the pandemic and Brexit.
    • The latest allocation brings the total received by the Scottish Government from the UK Government to £8.2 billion.

Other news

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been given to the first NHS patient. The phased vaccination programme will see patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, are among the first to receive the jab.
  • UK travellers could be barred from entering the EU from 1 January as travel rules associated with being part of the EU expire and pandemic restrictions block entry.
  • All secondary schools and further education colleges in Wales will close from Friday in an attempt to tackle the spread of Covid-19.All classes will move online from 14 December.
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said gross domestic product (GDP) rose 0.4% month-on-month in October. But growth pared back significantly from 1.1% in September. The ONS added that the economy still remained 7.9% below pre-pandemic levels. The economy is expected to contract in November.
  • The Government announced that the business evictions ban has been extended until March 2021. There will also be a review of commercial landlord and tenant legislation, this will seek to address concerns that the current framework does not reflect the current economic conditions.
  • Northern Ireland Ministers have outlined a package of measures that will come into effect at the end of the two week circuit breaker. From 11 December, shops, hairdressers, restaurants, places of worship and hotels will be able to re-open. Wet pubs will remain closed, and an additional financial package will be put in place. Current arrangements for private gatherings will remain the same, apart from temporary arrangements over Christmas.
  • The Welsh Government has confirmed that the self-isolation and quarantine period will be reduced from 14 days to 10 days as of 10 December.
  • The new Local Connections Fund worth £4m to tackle loneliness will benefit book clubs, walking groups and various community projects through grants worth £300-£2500. It is made up of £2m from the Government and £2m from The National Lottery Community Fund. Funding will be available to small charities and community groups in England with an annual income of £50,000 or less. The Fund will be split into two rounds, with applications in January 2021 and summer 2021.
  • Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the extension of the Self-Isolation Support Scheme to include parents and carers of children required to self-isolate, who are also on low incomes. A £500 support payment will be paid to those who meet the schemes criteria.
  • A fund of £4.2m has been announced by the Government today to extend Covid-19 responses by major children’s charities, as well as plans to create a National Centre for Family Hubs to improve families’ access to essential services. This additional funding will reach an estimated 15,000 more children and young people, as well as 11,000 parents and carers in need of extra help.
  • The Welsh Government has announced funding of £227m to expand health professional workforce training places in Wales. The funding marks a £16m increase from last year, and includes £9m being allocated to help fund training across all education and training programmes for healthcare professionals, an extra £5m to be used to support GP training numbers and an increase of £0.8m for the pharmacy training budget across Wales.
  • Wholesale food and drink businesses who sell to hospitality, on-trade or public sector clients who have seen sales fall by 20% or more since Covid-19 will be targeted by a new £5m fund, the Scottish Government have announced. Applications to the Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund opened on 5 December.
  • The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund worth £10m has been announced by the Scottish Government, offering interest-free loans to tenants struggling with rent payments as part of a range of support being made available for those who have been affected by the pandemic. Loans will cover a maximum of nine-months’ worth of rent arrears, as another option to those who cannot access other means such as benefits.
  • The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on the Government to provide greater support for the city following reports from City Hall that London’s economic output is predicted to fall by £44 billion this year. Khan called for an extension of the business rates holiday beyond March and further support for jobs and those sectors which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, including hospitality, culture and construction.
  • Individuals undertaking specific business activity which would deliver a significant benefit to the UK economy will no longer need to self-isolate when returning from non-exempt countries, as well as some journalists, TV production staff and certain arts and sportspeople. Penalties for breaching the self-isolation rules when returning from listed countries have increased from £1,000 for a first offence to £10,000 for subsequent offences.

Private sector update

  • The British Beer & Pub Association says overall sales across all pubs in the UK this weekend were 84% lower than last year. In the same survey of its members, the BBPA also found that just 4 in 10 pubs opened across the UK this weekend. And that due to the low levels of trade they experienced, just over half of pub operators (53%) already now expect to close more pubs in the coming weeks.
  • Ocado, the online grocery specialist has hiked its profit outlook after tightened COVID-19 restrictions since last month boosted trading. Sales for the three months to 29 November rose 34.9% to £579.6m. Ocado switched to a partnership with Marks & Spencer in September, ending a tie-up with Waitrose.
  • Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have confirmed their stores will be open on 26 December. Meanwhile, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Pets at Home and toy store The Entertainer have said they will be closed on Boxing Day. Morrisons have said it’s working on the day would be voluntary, with staff getting double pay. Sainsbury’s is reducing hours after requests from staff and said most workers would have the day off.

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