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Covid-19 Impact Brief: Tuesday, September 22

Covid-19 Impact Brief: Tuesday, September 22

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

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new England wide restrictions

  • The new restrictions come after Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty warned that if the UK continued on its current trajectory it could be facing 49,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October followed by 200 deaths a day a month later. The measures Johnson announced included:
    • Office workers will be asked to work form home if they can. However in key public services and all professions where home working is not possible people should continue to attend their work places.
    • From Thursday all pubs bars and restaurants must operate a table service only, except for takeaways.  Together with all hospitality venues they must close at 10pm. The same will apply to takeaways, though deliveries can continue.
    • There will be new places where face coverings will be required. Face coverings must now be worn by retail staff, taxi and private hire users, and staff and customers in hospitality venues except for when eating or drinking. Fines for first time offences breaking face mask and rule of six will double to £200
    • Covid secure guidelines will become legal obligations – businesses will be fined £10,000 if they break them.
    • The exemptions to the “rule of six” will be cut down. For example, people doing indoor team sports will now not be allowed. And the limit on guests at weddings and receptions will now reduce from 30 to 15. However up to 30 can still attend funerals.
    • Plans for trials to have the public return to sporting events and conference centres on 1 October have been paused.
    • Schools, universities and places of worship will remain open and businesses can stay open in a “covid compliant way”.
    • Those who were asked to shield earlier this year do not need to shield now, except in local lockdown areas.
    • Johnson said people should assume the new rules will stay in force for six months. However when questioned on this Johnson said if the infection rate is driven down then the Government will review the restrictions.
    • Johnson will give a televised address at 8pm to set out more details and is expected to provide a roadmap for the next 6 months.

All of the devolved nations have announced additional restrictions 

  • In Northern Ireland there will be no mixing of households indoors with some exceptions, and no more than six people from two households can meet in a garden the limit doesn’t include aged 12 and under. However drink only pubs are still scheduled to open on 23 September.
    • In Scotland, from Friday people from different households will be banned from visiting other people’s homes. This will not affect indoor public spaces, where six people from two households can still meet.
    • Six people from two households will still be able to meet outdoors, including in a garden, this limit doesn’t include children under 12.
    • However young people in Scotland aged 12 to 18 will be able to meet in groups of six outdoors, with no limit on the number of households they come from.
    • From Friday, pubs, bars and restaurants in Scotland must close at 10pm. The Scottish Government is also now advising against car-sharing with people from other households.
    • The Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, will also give an announcement later today that tightens restrictions. They are expected to broadly with those in England.

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is reported to be considering extending emergency Covid-19 business loan schemes

  • The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce the extension of four state-backed lending programmes until the end of November.
    • Almost £53bn of Government-backed loans have been awarded by commercial banks to businesses since March, with the Treasury guaranteeing 80% of the value of the loans.
    • However, three of the programmes were to close to new applications at the end of this month, while the fourth, the “bounce back” scheme which gives banks 100% Government backing, was due to expire at the start of November.
    • Reports suggest that all four will be extended until the end of November while banks will be allowed to process loans until the end of the year.
    • The Treasury is also expected to extend the future fund, which offers lending to fast-growing start-ups alongside matched-funding from private investors. Firms can borrow up to £5m using loans that are convertible into equity stakes. Almost 600 loans worth £588m have been approved so far.
    • The extension of the schemes comes amid concern of a second wave and that companies could struggle to repay their debts. The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that up to 40% of bounce back loans could default.
    • Meanwhile the Government has announced a new package to support and enforce self-isolation. People will be required by law to self-isolate from 28 September, supported by payment of £500 for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income. New fines for those breaching these rules will begin at £1,000.

Other news

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a new exemption on restrictions for those looking after children under 14 or vulnerable adults. He also announced that two new lighthouse labs would be set up to increase testing capacity. Moreover, testing would be prioritised, with acute clinical care staff and care homes first on the priority list.
  • Ministers have ended the current rail franchising system and a new system will take shape over the coming months. Operators will be moved onto transitional contracts to prepare the ground for a new railway. Franchising  will be replaced with more demanding Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs).
  • From today residents in Wolverhampton, Oadby and Wigston, Merseyside, Warrington, Halton, Lancashire (excluding Blackpool and Greater Manchester) and all parts of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale are not allowed to socialise with other people outside of their own households.
  • The Welsh Government has announced further local restrictions on four more local authorities. Residents of Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport will not be allowed to leave their respective areas without a reasonable excuse, licensed premises will be required to close at 11pm and people will only be able to meet those from outside their household whilst outside. The measures will come into force at 6pm on 22nd September.
  • Screen Scotland has announced a new £700,000 Screen Hardship Fund offering support to those experiencing immediate financial hardship due to a loss of income from the pandemic. The fund forms part of the Scottish Government’s £59 million emergency funding package for the culture sector and is open to sole traders and PAYE freelancers working across certain creative areas.
  • The Government published their Adult Social Care Winter Plan, which set out their plans to continue to provide financial support to the sector through the Infection Control Fund.
  • As part of the £38 million funding announced in July, high growth start-up companies and university spinout projects in Scotland will receive a share of £3 million in funding to help them grow in the wake of Covid-19. The funding will provide grants of up to £50,000 for 41 high growth potential start-ups and up to £130,000 for 16 spinout projects.
  • The Department for Transport has announced that Thailand and Singapore are to be added to the travel corridor list meaning travellers will not have to quarantine. However Slovenia and Guadeloupe were removed from the travel exemptions list.
  • The Scottish Government will introduce support grants of £500 for those on low incomes who have to self-isolate.

Private sector update

  • DIY group Kingfisher said it intended to repay £23m it received in furlough payments after it recorded a 47% increase in profits in the first half of the year. The company will also not be taking the “job retention bonus” of £1,000 per employee offered by the government for keeping on staff, and has repaid the money it borrowed under the Bank of England’s financing scheme.
  • Wetherspoons is planning to cut almost half of its staff at its pubs at six airports across the UK. It is expected that up to 450 jobs will go. The job cuts will take place at Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports.
  • Premier Inn owner Whitbread has said it could axe up to 6,000 jobs because of reduced demand resulting from the pandemic. The group said the proposal would affect 18% of its workforce in its hotel and restaurant brands.

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