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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, October 1

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Thursday, October 1

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.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has announced new restrictions for the Liverpool City Region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough

  • The new rules will come into effect 00:01 BST on Saturday and are as follows:
    • Recommendation against all social mixing between people in different households.
    • Regulations to be brought in to prevent social mixing between different households anywhere apart from outdoor public spaces such as parks and outdoor hospitality settings.
    • Recommendation people should not attend professional or amateur sporting events as spectators.
    • Recommendation people only visit care homes in “exceptional circumstances”.
    • Guidance against all but essential travel, such as going to work or school.
    • The Government has offered  £7m for local authorities to deal with increased Covid-19  restrictions.
    • It comes after similar restrictions came into place in Wigan, Stockport, Blackpool and Leeds on 26 September with residents and visitors no longer allowed to mix with people outside their household or bubble.
    • Hancock also announced the restriction in Bolton will now follow with the rest of Greater Manchester, meaning that pubs will be allowed to reopen but that people are banned form socialising with other households indoors.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has set out plans to reform the training and skills system in England

  • The plans include a £2.5bn National Skills Fund and £1.5bn in capital funding to upgrade colleges.
    • Adults without an A-Level or equivalent will be offered a free, fully-funded college course from April, paid for through the National Skills Fund.
    • Higher Education loans will be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes.
    • Apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs to take on apprentices, and great flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.
    • The Government is also committing £8 million for digital skills boot camps; expanding pilots in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and introducing programmes in four new locations. From next year, boot camps will be extended to sectors like construction and engineering.
    • Earlier this year the Government launched its free online Skills Toolkit, to help people train in digital and numeracy skills. This is being expanded today to include 62 additional courses.
    • More details of the reforms will be set out in a further education white paper later this year.

Other news

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised MPs votes “wherever possible” on England or UK-wide Covid-19 rules before they come into force, although for some urgent regulations, he said this would not be possible. His comments follow concern from Conservative MPs, as well as opposition parties, over a lack of parliamentary scrutiny. The promise came before MPs voted by 330 to 24 in favour of extending the Coronavirus Act for another 6 months.
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made a statement in the Commons on the return of students to universities, he said the Government would work with the sector to ensure students could return home for Christmas and that in-person learning would be ended early if necessary.
  • The NHS Covid-19 app has received 14 million downloads in England and Wales since launching, with 6 million downloads on the first day alone. The app is designed to form a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service. The app also saw more than 1.5 million venue check-ins recorded on 26 September.
  • Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that over 100 towns in England will be given up to £1 million to kick start regeneration projects. The funding, which will range from  £500,000 up to £1 million per town, will be used to support projects such as new green spaces, the creation of pop-up businesses spaces, pedestrianizing streets to encourage walking or cycling and creating of new community hubs.
  • From today pub, bars, restaurants and cafes in Northern Ireland will be subject to an 11pm closing time. No alcohol or food can be served after 10.30pm.
  • Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced further localised restrictions in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham following a rise in Covid-19 cases. From today at 6pm, residents of the respective local authorities will not be able to leave these areas without a reasonable excuse and will only be able to meet those they do not live with outdoors.
  • The Scottish Government has announced that people on low incomes will be eligible to receive a £500 grant if asked to self-isolate. This grant will be targeted at people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship. Applications are due to open from 12 October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund.
  • Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab  has announced £6.3m of new funding to tackle the health and economic impacts of Covid-9 across South East Asia.
  • The Scottish Government has announced £1.1bn in additional funding for health and social care. The funding will be allocated to NHS Boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships to help them meet Covid-19 related costs, such as additional staffing and PPE.
  • The UK Department for International Trade has launched a new dedicated Trade Hub to help Scottish businesses in Scotland to utilise global networks, expertise and influence, as well as credit agency UKEF.
  • The Welsh Government has announced a further £140 million of funding for Welsh businesses. £80 million of this funding will be made available to businesses making the transition to the “economy of tomorrow”, with £20 million of this funding ring fenced to support tourism and hospitality businesses struggling during the winter. The remaining £60 million will be allocated to support businesses that have been impacted by local lockdown restrictions.
  • In an address to the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged £571m to a new global vaccine-sharing scheme, COVAX. Of the £571m contribution, £500m will be for developing countries to protect themselves.
  • Care homes are to be given free iPads to help residents to stay connected with loved ones this winter in a manner that will reduce the spread of the virus through unnecessary visits. Up to 11,000 iPad tablets, worth £7.5 million, will be distributed to care homes across England and will be used for both contact with loved ones and access to digital health services including virtual appointments for residents.
  • The Cabinet Office has announced that departments will consider the value to society that suppliers provide when assessing new public procurement contracts. The “social value model” which departments will assess contracts on includes support for the COVID-19 recovery, tackling economic inequality, fighting climate change, reducing waste, and driving equal opportunity.
  • The Northern Ireland Executive has announced £29 million of support for the culture, language, arts and heritage sectors impacted by the pandemic. The funding will be delivered in parallel to the development of a Culture, Arts and Heritage Strategy. £40 million of funding has also been allocated to councils to help address their financial pressures as a result of the crisis.
  • The Scottish Government has published a £24 billion Draft Infrastructure Investment Plan. Covering the five years from 2021-22 to 2025, 20226, the plan will help stimulate Scotland’s green economic recovery from the pandemic. It includes investment to decarbonise business, industry and buildings, the provision of new health facilities and schools and support for manufacturing innovation.

Private sector update

  • Rolls-Royce has announced it will seek to raise billions of pounds to bolster its finances after a “sharp deterioration” in civil aerospace because of the pandemic. The plane engine maker will tap shareholders for £2bn (€2.2bn) through a rights issue and the remainder will come from issuing new bonds. The company has already borrowed £2bn from the state.
  • Royal Dutch Shell is to cut up to 9,000 jobs over the next two years  due to falling oil prices and as part of an effort to restructure for the shift to green energy. The Anglo-Dutch oil group, which employs about 83,000 people globally, said that it expected the job losses to help it to deliver annual cost savings of $2-$2.5 billion.
  • TSB is to cut one seventh of its workforce and close a third of its branches in a drastic move to adjust to changing customer behaviour caused by the pandemic. The bank said it was shedding 969 jobs and shutting 164 branches.
  • Morrison plans to create more than 1,000 jobs to pick and pack orders for its products sold on Amazon. The grocer said it would recruit additional workers to process orders from more than 50 stores around the UK.

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