Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, January 7
Each week, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest weekly news in the evolving situation.
England and Scotland have joined Northern Ireland and Wales in implementing national lockdowns
- The measures mean that for the first time since May all four UK nations are in national lockdowns.
- In all four nations, non-essential retail and hospitality must close, except for food takeaway services.
- People must work from home unless they’re in a job where they can’t e.g. construction, manufacturing etc.
- Clinically extremely vulnerable people should stay at home as much as possible and only leave for exercise and health appointments.
- In Scotland places of worship must close, however in the rest of the UK they can remain open for communal worship.
- Colleges and primary and secondary schools in all four nations must move to remote learning, except for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
- In England, university students on some courses may return to face-to-face learning. Students who do not study these courses should start their term online until at least mid-February.
- Nurseries and early years providers will remain open in England and Wales but are closed in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However childcare and support bubbles can continue in all four nations.
- In England the lockdown will legally remain in place until 31 March. However the measures will be reviewed on 15 February, with ministers hoping to lift the restrictions and return to a tiered system when half term is over in the week of 22 February.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he hopes to vaccinate almost 14 million of the most vulnerable people by mid-February.
- As of 4 January the UK had vaccinated in excess of 1.3 million people, per capita of population this is the third highest vaccination rate in the world after Israel and Bahrain.
- Currently the UK is vaccinating around 350,000 people a week, to meet Johnson’s target this will need to be ramped up to 2 million a week.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new economic support package
- Sunak announced £4.6 billion in new lockdown grants to support businesses and protect jobs.
- Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000.
- £594 million discretionary fund was also made available to support other impacted businesses.
- It comes in addition to £1.1 billion further discretionary grant funding for Local Authorities, Local Restriction Support Grants worth up to £3,000 a month and extension of furlough scheme.
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that GCSEs and A-Level exams would be cancelled this year with teacher assessed grades taking their place. There was confirmation that no algorithm would be used.
- The NHS has started to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Over half a million doses are available this week. Overall, the Government has secured access to 100m doses of the vaccine. Over 730 vaccination sites have already been established across the UK. Hundreds more are due to open this week, bringing the total to over 1,000.
- The Government has announced a £213m government investment into UK science facilities to enable researchers to respond to global challenges such as Covid-19 and climate change. It includes £27m for researchers at 43 of the UK’s Medical Research Institutes across the UK, providing them with access and upgrades to the latest equipment.
- The Northern Ireland Executive has announced details of the Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme. Rollout of the scheme will commence during the week beginning 11 January. Qualifying pubs will be identified from a list of recipients of the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme.
- The ban on evictions in Scotland has been extended beyond 22 January until at least 31 March. Evictions can only go ahead in limited cases, such as anti-social behaviour.
- Ministers are understood to be considering introducing a requirement for international arrivals to have a negative Covid-19 test before travelling to the UK in order to tackle surging cases. Hauliers would be exempt.
Private sector update
National Express has announced it is suspending its entire national network of coach services from 11 January. The firm said tighter Covid-19 restrictions and falling passenger numbers had prompted the decision – but it hopes to restart services in March. All customers whose travel has been cancelled will be contacted and offered a free amendment or full refund.