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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Friday, June 19

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Friday, June 19

Each day, our Public Policy team will be reporting on the latest news in the evolving situation. To view the previous day’s summary, please click here.

The UK’s coronavirus alert level has been downgraded from four to three

  • Under level three, the virus is considered to be “in general circulation” and there could be a “gradual relaxation of restrictions”.
  • The decision to reduce the alert level followed a recommendation by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister has announced a £1bn fund to help children in England catch up on missed teaching

  • The most disadvantaged pupils will have access to tutors through a £350m programme over the next academic year.
  • Primary and secondary schools will be given a further £650m to spend on one-to-one or group tuition for any pupils they think need it.
  • Head teachers welcomed the funds, but said more details were needed.
  • Shadow education secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said the plans “lack detail and appear to be a tiny fraction of the support” needed.

UK debt has outstripped the economy for the first time since 1963

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures confirmed the severe impact the virus was having on public finances.
  • The Government borrowed £55.2bn in May, nine times more than in May 2019 and the highest figure since records began in 1993.
  • The record borrowing sent total Government debt up to £1.95trillion, exceeding the size of the economy for the first time in 50 years.
  • Income from tax, National Insurance and VAT all dived in May amid the Covid-19 lockdown as spending on support measures soared.

Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has announced lockdown measures will start to be eased over the coming weeks

  • From 22 June the following changes take place:
    • Non-essential retail shops will be allowed to open.
    • Private prayer in places of worship where social distancing is maintained and gatherings do not take place will resume.
    • The housing market will restart by enabling house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed.
    • The restrictions lifting on outdoor sports courts will be removed, but social distancing must be maintained. No contact or team sports will be allowed
    • *Non-professional elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, will be allowed resume training.
  • In addition and provided they can do it safely, schools in Wales will reopen on 29 June.
  • From 6 July, the “stay local” guidance to only travel within a five-mile area will be lifted, provided Covid-19 cases continue to reduce. In the meantime, if people have a “compassionate reason” to visit a family member who doesn’t live locally they can do so.
  • From 13 July, self-contained accommodation, such as cottages and static caravans, will be able to start taking bookings.
  • The Welsh government will be considering whether to ease restrictions on personal care services (hairdressers and beauty salons), holiday accommodation, pubs, cafes and restaurants on the 9th July.

UK retail sales jump as lockdown is eased.

  • UK retail sales volumes jumped 12% in May compared with the all-time record falls in April during lockdown, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
  • Sales were still down by 13.1% on February, before the Covid-19 lockdown began.
  • Non-food stores saw the biggest jump in sales – up 42% as DIY stores and gardening centres opened their doors in May.
  • Meanwhile, online sales rose to their highest proportion on record. They accounted for 33.4% of total spend, compared with 30.8% in April, the ONS said.
  • Despite the rebound seen in May, retail sales still remain well below pre-lockdown levels.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The Government is planning to relax travel quarantine restrictions in early July for some people arriving in the UK. An announcement around travel corridors with a number of European countries is expected 29 June.
  • The Government has extended protection to businesses hit by Covid-19 to prevent them being evicted over the summer.
  • A study has found that among people in the UK admitted to hospital with Covid-19, South Asian people are most likely to die.

World COVID 19 news

  • Indian officials have re-imposed a lockdown in the southern city of Chennai (formerly Madras) and three neighbouring districts.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes that hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses could be produced by the end of the year and be targeted at those most vulnerable to the virus.
  • The top US health expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said the US does not need to enforce more lockdowns to contain the virus.
  • Leaders of EU countries are to hold a videoconference later on Friday to try to resolve divisions over a coronavirus recovery fund. Several northern European nations are opposing part of the EU Commission plan which involves offering €500bn (£450bn) in grants to countries worst affected by the pandemic.
  • Restaurants and gyms in Singapore have reopened.

Private sector updates

  • UK Banks have been told by the FCA to give even more time to millions of people struggling with credit as a result of the Covid-19.
  • Cineworld has announced plans to reopen cinemas across England on the 10 July.

London Marathon organisers say they have not given up hope of staging the event on 4 October.

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