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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, February 18

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, February 18

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

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is to set out a roadmap out of lockdown for England on 22 February

  • Johnson has stressed that the lifting of restrictions will be cautious and will be driven primarily by data rather than dates.
    • However many scientists are increasingly optimistic about the data and have suggested that some restrictions could be lifted sooner rather than later, especially with regards to schools and outdoor activities.
    • It has been reported that internal Government papers reveal that the lifting of restrictions will be in conjunction with a mass covid-19 testing regime.
    • The reported blueprint suggests that after the reopening of schools on 8 March, students in higher education and further education could be back in mid-April, with non-essential shops reopening at the same time.
    • In late April, hospitality venues, hotels, leisure facilities and some sporting venues will be allowed to reopen.
    • In early May, entertainment venues and more sporting facilities will be allowed to reopen.
    • However all of it will be provisional on the hospitalisation and infection rate.
    • Meanwhile the Scottish Government will set a framework for the route out of lockdown on 23 February.

Shielding list expanded by 1.7 million people as the Government has pledged to vaccinate all over-50’s by end of April

  • A new algorithm has been used to identify up to 1.7 million people who may be at high risk of Covid-19. They have been advised to shield until the end of March.
    • The technology analysed a combination of risk factors based on medical records, to assess whether somebody may be more vulnerable than was previously understood.
    • The 1.7 million have been moved up the priority list to receive a vaccine, although 800,000 of this group have already received a vaccine.
    • It came after the Government announced its intention to offer the first does of the vaccine to all over-50’s and to everyone with an underlying health condition by the end of April.
    • However at current vaccination rate the Government should reach this target before the end of March, although the Government may be taking account the need to administer the second does of the vaccine to the over-70’s.
    • This comes after the head of the UK vaccine taskforce, Clive Dix, said he was confident that every adult in the UK could receive both doses of the vaccine by the end of August.

Other news

  • Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that the ban on bailiff evictions – which was introduced at the start of the pandemic – has been extended for another 6 weeks  until 31 March. Landlords are also required to give 6-month notice periods to tenants before starting possession proceedings, meaning that most renters now served notice can stay in their homes until at least August 2021.
  • Lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland have been extended until 1 April. Another review of the measures will take place on 18 March. But children in primary 1 to primary 3 (aged four to seven) will go back to school in Northern Ireland on 8 March.
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed  that pre-school children, pupils in primaries 1, 2 and 2 and a limited number of senior phase students will return to school on 22 February. Sturgeon hopes the second phase of school re-opening in two weeks’ time, but warned that it is unlikely there will be any further return to school before 15 March.
  • The UK Treasury has provided a further £300m for the Northern Ireland Executive. The funding will be used towards the Covid-19 response. It can be used this year or carried forward into the 2021/22 financial year.
  • The Scottish Government has announced £125m for the long-term unemployed who have had access to work affected by the pandemic. The fund includes £70m for 16-24 year olds and £35m for skills and retraining. There will also be £20m for helping the long-term unemployed into work.
  • The latest figures have revealed that more than three million rapid Covid-19 tests have been conducted in English schools since 4th January. The Government has also confirmed that 97% of schools and colleges are now ready to deliver tests when staff and pupils are allowed to return.
  • The Government has announced that it will re-award current contacts and grants to institutions that support thousands of children amounting to £42m. £27m of it will be to support the Family Fund which supports low-income parents raising children with serious illness or disabilities with the cost of equipment, goods and services.
  • Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes has announced that councils across England have been allocated £125m funding to provide support for domestic abuse victims and their children. The new fund has been established to ensure victims and their children are able to access “lifesaving support in safe accommodation”.
  • The Home Office has announced that police forces in England and Wales will be reimbursed with £60m to support increased enforcement of Covid-19 rules. £58m of the money will help pay for costs incurred by police due to the pandemic, including overtime. Some forces will also assist with further increased presence and enforcement of regulations at airports and ports. Forces involved in these efforts will receive a share of £2m to help cover the cost.
  • Haris Theoharis, the Greek tourism minister has said discussions are under way with UK Government with the aim of letting travel restart later in the year. He confirmed that vaccine certificates are part of the discussions – and would negate the need for travellers to get a negative Covid test before they depart or then have any further tests once they arrive.

Private sector update  

  • Barclays has reported a 30% fall in pre-tax profits to £3.1bn for 2020 – down from £4.3bn in 2019. Nonetheless the bank announced it would resume dividends, with a payment of 1p per share to shareholders – after regulators permitted this in December. The bank has been one of the biggest providers of emergency loans during the pandemic, having given some £27bn worth to businesses. It has also provided more than 680,000 payment holidays globally for customers with mortgages, credit cards and loans.
  • Online greeting card retailer Moonpig has said it expects full-year revenue to almost double, helped by robust demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm reported its “strongest ever trading week” in its history in the run up to Valentine’s Day

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