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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, January 14

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, January 14

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

Scotland and Wales have tightened their lockdown restrictions  

  • Further measures to limit non-essential contact will be brought in by the Scottish Government this weekend, meaning those in mainland Scotland will be told to remain indoors except for absolutely essential reasons.
    • Click and Collect services will be restricted in mainland Scotland, along with prohibition on the sale of alcohol in public places.
    • Meanwhile the Welsh Government formally extended their lockdown meaning school and college students will continue to learn online until the February half-term.
    • Non-essential retail, hospitality venues, licensed premises and leisure facilities will remain closed, with measures strengthened to close all showrooms but they will still be able to operate click and collect arrangements.
    • The Welsh Government is also reviewing whether retailers will need additional measures to protect people in store, as well as what employers need to do to protect people and help people work from home.

The Government has published its UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan, focusing on supply, prioritisation, places and people

  • By the end of January, the Government plans to reach the capacity to vaccinate several hundred thousand people per day by establishing: (1) 206 active hospital hubs; (2) around 1,200 local vaccination service sites, including PCNs and pharmacies; and (3) 40 vaccination centres.
    • The programme will be expanded so that all adults can be vaccinated by the autumn.
    • The plan came as the NHS opened seven vaccination centres, including in London, Bristol and Manchester.
    • Ministers are also looking at the “possible options” to deliver Covid-19 vaccines around the clock, but have been unable to put a date on the rollout.
    • Separately the Government has confirmed that community testing will be expanded across all local authorities in England to test asymptomatic people.
    • Local authorities will be encouraged to target testing to people who cannot work from home during the national lockdown.

The Government has published it’s Remote Education Framework aimed at supporting schools and colleges with delivering education for pupils who are learning from home.

  • The Government has announced the provision of a further 300,000 laptops and tablets to support disadvantaged children and young people learn at home. The total number of devices delivered to schools now stands at over 700,000.
    • The new allotment of 300,000 devised is funded by another £100m which takes the total amount of Government investment supporting disadvantaged children with technology during the pandemic to £400m.
    • Separately the Labour Party has criticised Government’s plans which will see nurseries and childcare providers lose funding for each child that does not attend during lockdown. The latest data shows that attendance in early years settings is about 50%.
    • Labour warned this could result in nearly 19,000 early years providers closing before summer 2021.

Other news

  • The Home Secretary, Priti Patel has said the Government will not announce new Covid-19 restrictions for England this week, but did not rule out further measures being announced next week.
  • UK-bound arrivals from South America and Portugal are to be banned from 04:00 GMT  on 15 January over concerns about the Brazilian Covid-19 variant. This measure does not apply to British and Irish Nationals and third country nationals with residence rights – but passengers returning from these destinations are required to self-isolate for ten days along with their households.
  • Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins has said regulations requiring arrivals to England to show proof of a negative test will still come into force on 15 January as planned, but that there will be a “grace period in terms of fines being administered over the weekend”.
  • The Government has announced that dormant assets across the insurance and pensions, investment, wealth management and securities sectors are set to be unlocked to support communities across the UK with Covid-19 recovery. There is the potential for more than £800m to be made available to good causes, social investments and environmental issues.
  • A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November – the highest number since records began.
  • The Government has confirmed free school meal provisions will continue during February half term as they did during Christmas.
  • The United Arab Emirates has been removed from the travel corridor list. The decision has been made following a significant acceleration in the number of imported cases, along with the number of reported new cases over the past 7 days, which have risen in the UAE by 52%.
  • In Scotland, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has announced a top-up grant for hospitality, retail and leisure facilities impacted by Level 4 restrictions in the form of one off payments. In most cases, businesses already eligible for existing payments will be automatically eligible for the new top-up grant.
  • The UK Government has met its £250m match aid target into COVAX, the global vaccines facility by successfully raising $1bn from global donors to support vulnerable countries across the world. The money will help distribute one billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to 92 developing countries this year.
  • In Northern Ireland, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced an extension to the Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme (NSESS). It is delivered in the form of a £3,500 one-off taxable grant, and is available to those who commenced trading as self-employed between 6th April 2019 and 5th April 2020. In a small amendment to the eligibility criteria, businesses seeking the grant must have trading profits below £50,000 for 2019/20.
  • Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced extra Covid protections for rough sleepers and renters . Backed by an additional £10 million in funding, all councils in England are being asked to redouble their efforts to help accommodate all those currently sleeping rough and ensure they are swiftly registered with a GP, where they are not already. For renters, there has been an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions for all but the most egregious cases until at least 21 February, with measures kept under review.

Private sector update

  • According to the British Retail Consortium, the last four weeks of 2020 saw the footfall fall by 43.3% in comparison to the same time in 2019. Footfall on High Streets declined by 49.5% year on year, which was the worst performing location type for the fifth consecutive month.
  • Budget airline Norwegian says it has axed its long-haul network due to the “profound” impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The move will lead to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.
  • Primark has said it could lose more than £1bn-worth of sales if the lockdown store closures continue until the end of February. At the moment, 305 of Primark’s 389 global stores are closed – including all 190 of its UK stores. And unlike rivals such as Asos, it has no online operation to fall back on. Primark’s sales fell 30% to £2bn in the 16 weeks to 2 January.
  • Coach and tour operators have seen an unexpected growth in bookings in the past fortnight. Industry figures have put the rise down to growing “vaccine confidence” about 2021. TUI, the UK’s largest tour operator, says 50% of bookings on its website are currently by over-50s, which was previously a smaller market for the company. National Express’s coach holiday businesses say bookings made by those 65 and over have increased by 185% in the last fortnight compared with last year.
  • Iceland (the supermarket) is recruiting 3,500 temporary staff to help cope with increased demand over lockdown. It wants to add 1,000 drivers and 2,500 shop staff to its workforce. The firm has seen a huge spike in deliveries as customers are encouraged to stay at home.

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