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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, March 18

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, March 18

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

European Commission has threatened to block exports of Covid vaccines to the UK as the NHS warned of a reduction of vaccine supply from April

  • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has said that if Covid vaccine supplies in Europe do not improve, the EU “will reflect whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate”.
    • Von der Leyen said she was simply calling for reciprocity, she said the EU has exported 41 million vaccines including 10 million to the UK, however no vaccines have been exported from AstraZeneca factories in the UK to the EU.
    • The EU has a mechanism which allows its member states to ban exports of vaccines, which was triggered by Italy to block a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia.
    • The UK does not have an equivalent ban but it does have a contract with AstraZeneca giving it first option on all vaccines produced in the UK. The UK has made it clear that AstraZeneca can export from its two UK plants but only once its British orders are fulfilled.
    • The UK has cautioned the EU against an export ban. EU leaders are expected to discuss whether to proceed with an export ban at a summit on 25-26 March.
    • Meanwhile the National Health Service (NHS) has advised local trusts and clinics against first vaccination bookings for those aged under 50 with no underlying health conditions unless they’re health or social care workers. This is due to an expected reduction of vaccine supply in April.
    • The shortage in supply is due to a delay in a delivery from India of five million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses and because a batch of 1.7 million doses had to be delayed because of the need to retest its stability.
    • However the Government is still expected to be ahead of schedule in meeting its target of offering the first dose of a vaccine to all over 50’s by 15 April.
    • However the supply shortage means that second doses for the over 50’s will be prioritised ahead of first doses for the under 50’s in the month of April.
    • At the current vaccination rate the Government was expected to be six weeks ahead of its target of offering all adults the first does of the vaccine by the end of July, but the supply shortage may mean that this is no longer the case, although the Government is still expected to be slightly ahead of schedule.
    • The April vaccine supply reduction is not expected to have an impact on the road map out of lockdown, as potential supply shortages were already factored into the calculations.

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has announced  a roadmap out of lockdown

  • From 5 April – click-and-collect retail services, garden centres, homeware stores, and hairdressers can reopen.
    • From 26 April hospitality venues will be able to serve people outdoors in groups of six from three households until 10pm, with alcohol permitted. Tourist accommodation will be able to reopen, subject to restrictions.
    • On the same date libraries, gyms museums and galleries will reopen and the limit on weddings and funerals will be upped to 50.
    • From 17 May, up to four people from two households will be able to socialise indoors in a private home or public space.
    • On the same date, outdoor adult contact sport and indoor group exercise will restart and cinemas, amusement arcades, and bingo halls will reopen.
    • From beginning of June, up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a home or public place and up to eight people from three households could meet up outdoors.
    • Attendance at events will be permitted, subject to capacity constraints.
    • From the end of June all lockdown restrictions are to be lifted.

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced further easing of lockdown restrictions

  • In Northern Ireland all Primary 4 to Primary 7 pupils will return to school from 22 March.
    • Year 8-11 pupils will return to the classroom after the Easter holiday on 12 April, subject to a review of the public health situation at the end of March.
    • From April 1, 10 people from two households can undertake outdoor sporting activities. Sports such as golf and tennis can resume in small groups of individuals from two households, however club houses and sport facilities including changing rooms, showers, kitchens, meeting rooms must remain closed apart from essential toilet facilities.
    • From 1 April up to six people (including children) from two households may meet outdoors in a garden. While garden centres and plant nurseries will be allowed to operate a contactless click and collect service.
    • From 12 April the numbers who can meet outdoors in a garden will increase from six to ten (including children) from two households.
    • On the same date contactless click and collect service for all non-essential retail can resume.
    • Sports training to by sports clubs affiliated with recognised Governing Bodies, in small groups of up to 15 people can also resume but all indoor spaces must be closed except for essential toilet facilities.

Other news

  • MPs will vote on whether to renew Covid-19 restrictions for another six months next week on 25 March.
  • The Government has announced an extra £6.6bn for the NHS to help it deal with the waiting lists that have built up during the pandemic. An extra £341m has also been announced  for adult social care which will help with infection control and testing to allow more of those in care to see loved ones.
  • More than £50m has been provided to local councils to help low-income families pay for food and essential utility bills this Easter. New funding comes in addition to the £170m already allocated since December.
  • Scottish Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced two new city funds totalling £4 million. Each city local authority has been invited to submit proposals focused on recovery planning to the £2 million City Centres Recovery Fund. A further £2 million Regional Recovery Fund is calling for proposals focused on maximising local job creation, as well as accelerating delivery of City Region and Growth Deal investment and developing regional recovery plans.
  • Remote working locations have been confirmed across Wales, to fulfil the Welsh Government’s ambition that 30% of the Welsh workforce will eventually work away from the office.
  • The Welsh Government will fund a £500 bonus payment for NHS and social care staff to recognise their contributions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Mayor of London has announced £544m of investment into the capital. The investment will be spent on creating jobs and revitalising local areas.
  • Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced £178m in new business support grants. The schemes include a £50,000 grant for large businesses and £25,000 manufacturing businesses unable to access grant funding during the first lockdown. It also includes top-up payments of £5,000 and £10,000 for businesses which received grants during the first lockdown but are not eligible for one of the current schemes.
  • The Welsh Government has announced an extra £150m to support businesses in Wales. The support will be provided to businesses in the hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail sectors that pay non-domestic rates and will operate as a top up to the Restrictions Business Fund. Businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will receive an extra £4,000 grant payment whilst those with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £500,000 will receive £5,000.
  • The Mayor of London has announced a £250,000 boost for creative freelancers in London. Up to 50 freelancers in the performing arts will be able to collaborate with cultural organisations to improve working conditions. The programme will inform the development of a new Freelancers Charter. The Charter will set out standards for what freelancers should be able to expect from employers, will draw on best practice, and will focus on culture and creative industries

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