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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, February 26

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, February 26

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

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced a framework for the easing of Lockdown restrictions in Scotland

  • From 15 March:
    • All primary school years can return along with more senior secondary pupils who will return part-time.
    • 12 -17  year old outdoor non-contact group sports can resume.
    • The limit on outdoor mixing between households will increase to four people from two households.
  • From 5 April:
    • The stay at home restriction will then be lifted and any final school returns will take place.
    • Household gatherings can increase to six people from two households.
    • Communal worship may restart in limited numbers.
    • Some retail will be allowed to reopen, with an expansion of what is defined as essential retail and an easing on click and collect restrictions.
  • From 26 April:
    • Scotland will then return to a ‘levels approach’ with all of Scotland moving to at least level 3. This means a phased-reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, some hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers.
  • A further report will be published mid-March with more detail on sequencing of reopening the economy from late April onwards.

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced a package to aid the education recovery for children and young people

  • The package will cost £700m. The recovery plan will focus on an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings and summer provision for those pupils that need it most.
    • It includes a new one-off £302 million Recovery Premium for state primary and secondary schools, building on the Pupil Premium to help schools to bolster summer provision for their students, for example laying on additional clubs and activities, or for evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils from September.
    • £200 million will be dedicated to support a National Tutoring Programme for primary and secondary schools and to support language development in the early years.
    • A further £200 million of the fund will be available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools.
    • Meanwhile the Government has confirmed that GCSEs and A-levels cancelled in England will be replaced by grades decided by teachers. Schools can determine grades this summer by using a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays.

Other news

  • Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, is leading a review into issues relating to a vaccine passport. The Government is considering using  the NHS app to become a digital Covid vaccination certificate. The certificate will likely be needed for international travel as other countries will demand proof of vaccination. However the Government is divided on whether to allow businesses to demand to see the app to ensure staff and/or customers were at lower risk of infection, given concerns around potential discrimination.
  • The UK unemployment rate, in the three months to December 2020, was estimated at 5.1%, 1.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous quarter. New analysis by age band shows that the 18 to 24 years age group has seen the greatest decrease in pay rolled employees since February 2020.
  • The Treasury has announced that the Levelling Up Fund will be extended to the rest of the UK. The Levelling Up Fund was announced at last year’s Spending Review, but was initially just across England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will now all benefit from at least £800 million of investment by the UK Government for town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects. This in addition to the initial £4 billion announced for England through the fund.
  • The Welsh Government has set out how it plans to “reconstruct and rebuild Wales’ economy. The plan is set out in the Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission, which outlines a focus on supporting firms to innovate and diversify, speeding up business decarbonisation and investing in climate resilient infrastructure. Furthermore an additional £270 million to support business through the Development Bank of Wales.
  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has unveiled a £1 million Resilience Fund which will support innovative businesses in tech and other sectors and is now open to applications. The Fund, delivered in partnership with Nesta and funded by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), will provide grants of up to £50,000 to develop solutions to help the city emerge stronger from Covid-19.
  • The Government has announced a multi-million pound support package for women’s sport as part of the latest round of the Sport Winter Survival Package. Funding will go towards football, netball, badminton and basketball. £2.25m has been confirmed for women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship and £4.2m of funding has been allocated to netball. There is a further combined £4m of funding for badminton and basketball. Women’s sport is also to be prioritised for 250,000 free Covid-19 testing kits for elite sports.
  • Since August last year, £7.8bn has been provided to councils through Local Restrictions Support Grants, Christmas Support Payments and Additional Restrictions Grants.
  • A £290m plan to help Northern Ireland’s economy recover from the impact of the pandemic has been unveiled. The plan is wide-ranging with four key areas: Skills, research and development, green recovery and investment, trade and exports. The plan includes ideas like amending the age criteria for apprenticeships so that more people can apply, as well as increasing the maximum number of students in Northern Ireland by 5% over the next three years. It also contains two initiatives announced last year – a high street voucher scheme to support “bricks and mortar” businesses which was delayed, and a “Holiday at Home” voucher scheme to boost the tourism sector.

Private sector update

  • Primark owner Associated British Foods has said it hopes to offload millions of pounds worth of clothing stock when its shops reopen in England on 12 April. The High Street giant does not offer online sales and expects to have lost £1.1bn in sales due to the latest lockdown closures. It plans to sell more than £400m of last year’s stock to help plug the gap.
  • Holiday firms and airlines have reported a surge in bookings since the plan for easing lockdown was unveiled. The UK’s biggest holiday firm, Tui, said bookings for foreign trips jumped 500%, while UK-based holiday firms Hoseasons and said it sold a record 10,000 breaks. EasyJet reported a 337% surge in flight bookings and Jet2 an 1,000% increase in bookings.

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