Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, January 28
Each week, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest weekly news in the evolving situation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to unveil a lockdown exit plan on the week commencing 22 February
- It comes after several backbench Conservative MPs put pressure on the Prime Minister to publish a route out of lockdown.
- However Johnson said that there was not yet enough data to work out when opening society would be safe. He confirmed that from the week commencing 22 February, after Parliamentary recess, the Government intended to set out the results of a review into vaccination efficacy and its effect on potential lockdown easement.
- The Government hasn’t yet determined what exactly the metrics and criteria will be for unlocking. However Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that any unlocking will be dependent on the progress of the vaccination programme and a sustained fall in both hospitalisations and deaths rather than cases.
- Schools are likely to be the first area to reopen however Johnson has said that it would not be possible to reopen schools immediately after the February half-term.
- Johnson added that he hoped it would be safe to begin the reopening of schools from 8 March 2021.
- However many scientists believe that at best it may only be possible to reopen primary schools at that time.
- Johnson also announced that £300m of new money would be provided to schools under the catch-up programme, and a long-term plan would be developed to ensure that pupils could make up their learning through the course of Parliament.
The Government has introduced a hotel quarantine policy for arrivals from Covid hotspots
- UK residents arriving in the UK from Covid hotspots will have to quarantine in Government-provided hotels for 10 days.
- The measures will apply to UK residents coming from most of South America, southern Africa and Portugal, amid concern over new variants of the virus. Non-UK citizens from these “red list” countries were already subject to a travel ban.
- Arrivals will be escorted from the airport and transported directly into quarantine. Travellers arriving in the country will have to cover the cost of staying in the hotel, which could be around £1,500.
- Home Secretary Priti Patel added that going on holiday was not a valid reason and individuals wishing to travel would need to make a declaration, which would be checked by carriers close to departure.
- In addition to this, police checks at home addresses will be increased to ensure arrivals are complying with self-isolation rules.
- Labour and the SNP wanted the Government to go further by introducinga mandatory for all arrivals.
- Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said the ‘red list’ of countries are being reviewed with more countries likely to be added.
- The Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan has announced that employers can now apply for a £1000 cash boost to assist them to take on new trainees. The cash will be available until the end of July 2021. Businesses offering new traineeship opportunities will receive the £1,000 bonus for every trainee they take on with up to a maximum of 10 trainees.
- Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that unemployment in the UK has risen from 4.9% to 5%. In the three months leading to November, those aged 25 to 34 had a redundancy rate of 16.2 per 1,000, which marked a fivefold increase on the same period a year earlier.
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £794 million investment package to reopen 2 rail routes closed more than 50 years ago. The new funding includes £760 million for the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail. £34 million has also been announced to reopen the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964. This announcement forms part of the Government’s commitments to build back better from the pandemic.
- The Northern Ireland Executive has announced that it will begin vaccinations of 65-69 year olds next week with the intention of offering a vaccine to everyone over 65 by the end of February. Northern Ireland currently has the fastest vaccination rate of the UK nations.
- Three new funds amounting to £7.3m to support travel agents, brewers and indoor football centres has been announced by the Scottish Government. Local authorities can invite them to claim grants of £10,000 or £25,000, with up to £30,000 for the largest brewers. Councils will brief around 400 eligible businesses on their potential entitlement, and owners do not need to apply or contact their local authority.
- The Government has confirmed that steps 3-6 of the National League system will receive up to £10m of funding to protect the immediate future of approximately 850 clubs over the winter period. The funding will be provided in grants and will be distributed through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
- The Scottish Government has allocated £30m of funding for students experiencing hardship in the pandemic. £20m will go towards students in need of extra help, and another £10m for universities and colleges for income lost in rent. The Scottish Funding Council is also repurposing £5 million of student support funding towards discretionary funding for FE students in the college sector.
- The UK will offer its genomics expertise to identify new variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 to countries who do not have the resources to do so.
- Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds has unveiled a £26.1m Large Tourism and Hospitality Business Support Scheme. The scheme will provide additional financial support to help these businesses meet fixed costs and overheads associated with the survival of their businesses and the protection of jobs. It will be open to businesses that have a total Net Annual Value of £51,001 and above which meet a particular criteria. Eligible businesses will receive a one-off grant.
- Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced a £290m package to support a range of sectors including tourism, education and transport. £16m has been allocated to support the tourism and hospitality sector, with £18.1m for education and childcare support. So far over £120 million has been issued to over 11,000 businesses through this scheme.
- The Welsh Government has announced a further £3 million for projects which support, improve and deliver everyday goods and services in Wales. It will be used across sectors deemed as being at the “heart of local communities”, such as care and health services, food, housing, energy, tourism, construction and retail.
Private sector update
- Asda has hosted the first dose of vaccine to be administered at a supermarket in England. Vaccinations with the Oxford and AstraZeneca injection were being rolled out from the superstore in Cape Hill, Smethwick, in the West Midlands with up to 240 jabs a day set to be given.
- Budget airline EasyJet expects to operate no more than 10% of its flight programme between January and March due to increasingly strict travel regulations. It said its revenues plummeted 88% at the end of 2020, with turnover slumping to £165 million. EasyJet has also confirmed that 1,400 UK jobs were cut as it slashed its workforce by up to 30% to reduce costs.
- New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMTT) show that the number of new cars built in the UK last year fell by nearly a third (29,3%) to less than a million, the lowest total since 1984, with similar impacts on the domestic and overseas market.