Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, March 11
Each week, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest weekly news in the evolving situation.
The Scottish Government has accelerated the easing of some lockdown restrictions
- From 12 March, up to four adults from two households will be able to meet locally in any outdoor space, including in private gardens, for social and recreational purposes as well as exercise.
- People are advised to only go indoors if it is essential in order to reach a back garden, or to go to the toilet.
- On 12 March, outdoor non-contact sports and organised group exercise activities for all adults in groups up to 15 people can also resume.
- From 26 March communal worship will be allowed to restart.
- Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also confirmed that a more detailed timetable for reopening the economy will be set out on 16 March (it will include shops, hospitality, hairdressers, gyms and parts of the tourism sector).
- Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has said that the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will introduce a travel certification to allow people to travel abroad. This could be done by using schemes like the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass or the World Economic Forum’s common pass. Shapps said that he has been having conversations with his US counterparts and “many others around the world” in order to get “travel going again”.
- The Government has extended the ban on commercial evictions for a further 3 months. Residential tenants will also be supported as the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in all but the most serious and the requirement for landlords to provide 6-month notice periods to tenants before they evict will also be extended until at least 31 May.
- The Government has committed £20 million to develop plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links. The Government will also consult on cutting Air Passenger Duty on internal UK flights. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said this is part of his vision to build back better from Covid-19.
- A letter from Secretary of State Robert Jenrick to local authorities, confirms Government measures to support hospitality businesses to reopen safely. Some of the intentions include: extension of pavement licences for a further 12 months. making it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to continue to make al fresco dining a reality with outside seating. tables and street stalls to serve food and drinks.
- The Sports Minister has announced the latest funding from the Government’s Sport Winter Survival Package which will see more than £40m go to support grassroots rugby union clubs and up to £5.5m to support the launch of the men’s Championship competition from this weekend. The Rugby Football Union will distribute the funding in the form of loans and grants for all levels of the men’s, women’s and youth game at grassroots level.
- Passengers travelling abroad will need to carry a new form stating that their trip is permitted under national lockdown rules. The form must be downloaded, signed before travel, and carried or downloaded onto a mobile phone. Officers will be conducting spot checks and have the power to ask travellers to produce a completed form.
- The Welsh Government has invested a further £18.7m through the Employer Incentive Scheme, which will run until 30 September 2021, to incentivise businesses to hire apprentices under the age of 25. Businesses will be able to claim £4,000 for each new apprentice they hire, up from the previous grant level of £3,000.
- The Welsh Government has extended measures to protect businesses from eviction until the end of June 2021.
- The Scottish Government has announced that an agreement has been met with the Scottish Green Party to ensure passage of the Budget through Parliament. The deal will see the phased introduction of free school meals for all primary pupils, an enhanced public sector pay deal, new Pandemic Support Payments amongst other measures.
- The Government has backed a programme to assist 40 of the UK’s leading women innovators to scale up their innovations. Pioneering ideas will receive a £50,000 government grant to scale up their plans.
- All businesses in England are now able to sign up to the government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing programme. Businesses have until 31 March to register for the Government’s workplace testing scheme, which will remain free until the end of June.
Private sector update
- Aircraft-engine maker Rolls-Royce has reported a loss of almost £4bn in 2020, after a £583m profit the year before. The company makes most of its money servicing engines, and the Covid-driven fall in airline travel has slashed revenues. The firm has cut jobs and raised cash from investors to bolster its finances, but expects to burn through another £2bn this year as it restructures its business.
- The John Lewis Partnership has revealed it does not expect to reopen all its department stores as the lockdowns are eased. The company announced last year that it would not pay a bonus to its staff – known as partners – for the first time since 1953 and cut 1,300 jobs amid Covid-19 restrictions on stores.
- Heathrow passenger numbers are down by 92% year-on-year in February. Only 461,000 people travelled through Heathrow Airport last month – its lowest monthly passenger numbers since 1966.
- The supermarket, Morrisons has announced it is to extend its 10% discount for NHS workers until the end of the year.
- Trainline has said train ticket sales plunged by 77 per cent in the year up to March 2021 compared to the previous year. The train and coach ticket travel platform said net sales for the 12 months to the end of February were 23 per cent of levels before the pandemic, with revenues of just £473 million, compared with £2 billion a year earlier.
- The National Lottery has announced that it has awarded £1.2bn to support organisations to cope with the challenges of the pandemic. Projects include supporting the elderly, promoting physical and mental health in the community and combating loneliness and isolation.