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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, December 3

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, December 3

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

The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BionNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use

  • 800,000 doses of the vaccine will be made available across the UK from early next week with 10 million doses expected by the end of the year.
  • In theory this should be enough to give a first dose to everyone over the age of 75, as well as health and social care workers.
  • However transporting the Pfizer-BionNTech contains a number of logistical challenges including the fact that it has to be stored in temperatures of -70c and can only be moved a finite number of times.
  • Additionally, with Christmas and New Year holidays taking out the final week of the year, it may be challenging for all 10 million doses to end up in the arms of the vulnerable until January.
  • Meanwhile the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have updated advice on the priority groups for vaccination. They are:
    • residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
    • all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
    • all those 75 years of age and over
    • all those 70 years of age and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
    • all those 65 years of age and over
    • all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
    • all those 60 years of age and over
    • all those 55 years of age and over
    • all those 50 years of age and over
  • England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam has said 99% of deaths and hospital admissions could be avoided if everyone on the first priority list takes the newly approved coronavirus vaccine.

The Welsh Government has announced a new series of restrictions for the hospitality and leisure sectors in Wales

  • From Friday 4 December, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm, they will only be able to provide takeaway services.
    • Travel between Wales and tier three areas in England; level three and four areas in Scotland and the whole of Northern Ireland will not be allowed from 6pm on 4 December.
    • The Welsh Government has also announced a £340m support package. The £340m of support funding will be split into a £160m Restrictions Business Fund and a £180m sector-specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme, which will be used to support businesses affected by the new restrictions.

Other news

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the Government would be giving a “one-off payment of £1,000 in December to wet pubs”.
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, has announced plans to minimise travel disruption over Christmas, including clearing roadworks from 778 miles of roads and postponing rail engineering works. The details are here.
  • The Government has announced plans to make grading next year’s GCSEs and A levels more generous, so students are not at a disadvantage compared to previous years. At the end of January students will get advance notice of some of the topics features in their GCSEs and A levels. They will also be given exam aids, in recognition of the time lost in the classroom. Where students cannot sit all their papers, there will be a system to ensure they get a grade.
  • The Government has announced an extension of opening hours for Christmas shopping. Retailers will now be able to extend their daily opening hours from Monday to Saturday in the run up to Christmas and through January.
  • The DEFRA Winter Support programme worth £16m Government will be delivered through charity FareShare to allow over 4,000 charities across England to distribute food to people struggling as a result of the pandemic.The programme aims to provide over 7,600 tonnes of food over the winter months
  • MPs voted on and passed the new tiered system that will apply across England. 291 MPs voted in favour of the regulations, whilst 78 voted against. 53 Conservative MPs voted against the regulations.
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a one-off payment of £500 for Scotland’s health and social care staff. A pro-rated payment will be made as soon as it’s practicable to all NHS and social care workers employed from 17 March 2020. This includes nurses, porters, doctors, care home staff and hospice staff.
  • The Government will supply 2.7m vulnerable people with a winter supply of Vitamin D, as clinically at-risk people have spent more time indoors this year and at higher risk of deficiency.
  • The Scottish Government has announced a £100m Winter Plan for Social Protection, and will address domestic abuse and digital exclusion. The Winter Plan for Social Protection also includes £15m of flexible funding for local authorities entering Covid-19 protection level 4, which can be used to pay for food and essentials.
  • The Government has secured 2m more doses of the Moderna vaccine, bringing the UK total to 7m, enough for around 3.5m people. The Government has now secured 357 million vaccine doses from 7 different developers.
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a new £15 million Apprenticeship Employer Grant. The scheme will provide: £5,000 for employers taking on or upskilling a 16 to 24-year old apprentice, and for those aged up to 29 years who are disabled, care leavers and Minority Ethnic £3,500 for employers taking on or upskilling an apprentice aged 25 plus. As part of the £60 million Young Person’s Guarantee, Pathway Apprenticeships will provide a new route into the workplace.
  • Provisional data from police forces in England and Wales showed police recorded crime is 9%  lower than in the same period in 2019.
  • Schools and colleges in England facing staffing and funding pressures will be able to claim through a new short-term Covid workforce fund which will be backdated to the beginning of November and will cover the current half term.
  • Estonia and Latvia have been removed from the travel corridor list. The Pacific Islands (Samoa, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands), Bhutan, Timor-Leste, Mongolia and Aruba have been added to the Government’s travel corridor list following a decrease in risk from coronavirus in these destinations.

Private sector update

  • Sainsbury’s and Aldi have said they will hand back a combined £540m of business rates relief they received as support during the pandemic. Asda has said it will return £340m. These chains follow Tesco and Morrisons, who promised to repay £850m between them. It means the grocers will collectively return more than £1.7bn.
  • The Premier League and English Football League (EFL) have agreed a £250m rescue package to help ease the financial challenge faced by EFL clubs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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