Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, October 8
Each week, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest weekly news in the evolving situation. To view the previous week’s summary, please click here.
The Government is expected to shut pubs and restaurants in many parts of Northern England next week
- The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly signed off on the measure after a 60% rise in hospital admissions in North-West England in a week.
- Johnson has also reportedly signed off on new financial support for businesses that have been forced to close in local lockdowns within the last 3 months and a simplified system of restrictions in England.
- The financial measures is expected to include wage support for employees that will be more generous than the Job Support Scheme announced by the Chancellor last month, which subsidises a fifth of part-time wages.
- The new system of restrictions divides England into three tiers of escalating severity. Merseyside and other parts of northern England will be placed in the highest tier as some hospitals start to run out of dedicated Covid beds and infections rise sharply. Businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafés in this tier will have to close, with leisure venues and hairdressers also likely to be shut. Schools, universities and other businesses will remain open.
- Areas in the lowest tier the lowest tier must observe national restrictions such as the “rule of six” and the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.
- Areas in the middle tier will have the same national restrictions plus a ban on households mixing. Reports suggest Nottingham will be placed in the middle tier next week.
- The Government’s new three-tier lockdown regime is expected to be announced on Monday and come into force on Wednesday.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced new restrictions for pubs and restaurants across Scotland
- Sturgeon has announced that from 9 October all pubs and restaurants across central Scotland – including in Glasgow and Edinburgh – are to be closed to all but takeaway customers.
- The five areas affected by the strictest rules are: Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran.
- People in these areas are also being asked to avoid public transport.
- In other parts of the country, pubs, bars restaurants and cafes will be able to open indoors until 6pm – but only to serve food and non- alcoholic drinks. They will be able to serve alcohol in outdoor settings until 10pm.
- Cafes which do not have an alcohol licence will be able to stay open until 18:00
- Snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will also close in the five health board areas for two weeks from 10 October.
- And contact sports for people aged 18 and over will be suspended for the next two weeks – with an exception for professional sports.
- Gyms can remain open for individual exercise.
- Sturgeon said the measures will remain in place until 25 October.
- MPs have approved the regulations on the Rule of Six. 17 MPs voted against the regulations, including Conservative MPs Sir Graham Brady and Philip Davies.
- MPs will vote on the 10pm compulsory closing time pubs and restaurants in England on Tuesday. Labour have said they will not vote against the measure.
- The Government has launched a new employment programme, called Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS). The programme, which is backed by £238m investment will see DWP increase its support for claimants to ensure those put forward for the scheme have access to tailored, flexible support. The new programme will see a number of providers offer help, such as CV and interview coaching.
- The Government has announced that businesses affected by local lockdown restriction in Bolton will be granted up to £1,500. Those businesses that have been closed for three weeks will be eligible for the support, with certain criteria outlining how much of a grant they are able to apply for.
- The Department for Education has announced extra resources to support delivery of remote education, including 100,000 additional devices and increased peer to peer support for teachers. The new support includes an additional 100,000 laptops which will be available for certain disadvantaged groups.
- First awards from the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas have been distributed. The £30 million fund for independent cinemas has started to be distributed with 45 cinemas set to share £650,000.
- The Welsh Government has published its COVID-19 reconstruction plan. The plan listed eight priority areas that are being taken, with supporting young people, increased capital investment and tackling inequalities seen as key priority areas. The plan includes a £320 million pledge towards the immediate reconstruction work and will be invested into several projects and schemes within the priority areas.
- The Welsh fund to support freelancers within the cultural and creative sectors has opened, with individuals whose work has “direct creative/cultural outcomes” able to apply for a £2,500 grant.
- Turkey, Poland, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba have been added to the UK quarantine list. However those arriving from the Azores and Madeira will no longer need to quarantine.
- Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced changes to local lockdown rules in relation to adults who live alone, allowing them to form a temporary household bubble.
- The Northern Ireland Executive has introduced local restrictions in the Derry City and Strabane District Council areas. Residents should not attend indoor gatherings, with some certain exemptions. Hospitality venues can remain open for take-away, delivery and outdoor dining. Wet pubs can serve customers outdoors only. Outdoor gatherings are permitted, up to a maximum of 15 people only. The restrictions will be in place for a minimum of two weeks and will be reviewed weekly.
- The Welsh Government have announced a £8m Tenancy Saver Loan scheme for those who are struggling with rent arrears due to Covid-19. The Welsh Government scheme will offer 1% APR loans to be repaid over a period of up to 5 years and will be open to tenants until 31st March 2021.
- The Northern Ireland Executive has announced two new schemes to support Northern Ireland businesses plan for recovery. One will be administered by Tourism Northern Ireland and the other by Invest Northern Ireland and will provide up to £8,000 to eligible businesses to undertake a business and financial review to plan for recovery.
- NAO has reported that the Bounce Back Loan Scheme has been successful in helping small businesses, however the Government faces potential losses of £15bn to £26bn through fraud. BEIS and the British Business Bank (the Bank) expect the Scheme to lend £38bn to £48bn by 4 November, substantially exceeding the assumed £18bn to £26 bn when it launched.
- Demand for rail travel in the UK fell between April and June compared with last year – with 400 million fewer journeys made, according to the Office for Road and Rail. Passenger revenue was just £184m in the period – down from £2.7bn in 2019.
Private sector update
- EasyJet’s chief executive has said the government “urgently needs to step up” with support for the aviation industry as the company warns it faces losses of more than £800m this year. The airline said it expects to fly at just 25% of normal capacity into next year and will be unable to report a profit for the first time in its 25-year history. The carrier has already taken a £600m loan from the government, cut 4,500 jobs, raised £608m from selling aircraft and tapped shareholders for £419m.
- The National Trust is to cut almost 1,300 jobs as it tries to save £100m. The latest job losses come on top of 162 previously announced redundancies after £124m of projects were halted or postponed.
- Cineworld has said it will temporarily suspend operations at all of its theatres in the US, UK and Ireland.