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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, June 15

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, June 15

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 Government has launched an official review into the two-metre social distancing rule

  • The review will involve economists and scientists and will be completed “in the coming weeks”, possibly before a decision is taken about when pubs and restaurants can reopen.
    • Although the Government has previously stated that pubs and restaurants might be allowed to fully reopen by 4 July, there is speculation that this may be pushed back by a few weeks and that pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to serve customers outdoors from 4 July.
    • The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is understood to believe that the number of cases is still too high to reduce the 2-metre rule and to fully reopen pubs and restaurants by 4 July.
    • Government scientists have estimated that the risk at one metre is up to ten times bigger than at two metres, but have agreed that this increase becomes less important as the absolute risk of being near an infected person decreases with falling cases.
    • Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, has insisted that balancing jobs in the hospitality sector against driving down cases is an inherently political trade-off that cannot be delegated to scientists.
    • The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is  understood to be keen to reduce the 2 metre rule, saying it would be “the difference between three quarters and maybe a third of pubs opening for example.”

The Treasury Committee have published a  report looking at the gaps in support of the Government’s Furlough Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme 

  • In particular, the report looked at the impact of Covid-19 on the newly-employed, the newly self-employed and freelancers, as well as directors of limited companies who take a large part of their income in dividends.
    • They concluded that although the Chancellor has “acted at impressive scale and pace”, over a million people have lost livelihoods and are locked out of the main support programmes.
    • Those locked out of support included people recently employed in a job, self-employed workers who started their business in the past year or generate annual trading profits of more than £50,000, and freelancers or staff on short-term contracts in industries such as television and theatre.
    • The committee called on the Treasury to extend the cut-off date for the furlough scheme to 31 March, conduct an “urgent review” to figure out how to support newly self-employed workers and remove the “arbitrary” £50,000 cap on profits for the self-employed.
    • They also said officials “must find a way” to support directors of limited companies who rely on dividends for their income and urged the Government to provide freelancers and those on short-term contracts with assistance similar to the furlough scheme.

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has hinted that a temporary VAT cut could be an option if there is no uptick in non-essential retail sales

  • It has been reported that the Treasury is considering either a blanket or a targeted reduction in consumption taxes to provide an emergency stimulus to retailers.
    • However no decision will be made until data such as credit card receipts reveal whether shoppers are spending again.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • A new drug, TRV027,  which could prevent the formation of deadly blood clots in Covid-19 patients is set to be trialled in the UK, as scientists continue the search for an effective treatment against the virus.
  • The Welsh government will make an announcement on the reopening of non-essential retail stores on 19 June after a review. In the meantime, the Welsh government is recommending businesses prepare for reopening and ensuring 2m social distancing rules can be enforced in their stores.
  • The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs have announced that sewage monitoring is being established across the UK as part of an advance warning to detect new outbreaks of Covid-19. The new approach is based on recent research findings that fragments of genetic material (RNA) from the virus can be detected in waste water.
  • More than 3,000 extra police officers and transport workers will be deployed today to ensure that passengers wear face coverings on public transport.
  • The Transport Committee has called on the Government to introduce a temporary six-month suspension of air passenger duty payments and 12-month business rates relief for airlines and airports across the UK.

World COVID 19 news

  • India is to convert another 500 railway carriages to create 8,000 more beds for Covid-19 patients in Delhi, amid a surge in infections. Nursing homes will also be requisitioned for extra bed space.
  • France will allow travellers from almost all European Union countries to enter from 15 June. Visitors from other continents would be allowed to enter from 1 July. But travellers from Spain, along with those from the UK, will have to quarantine because of their own restrictions on French arrivals.
  • Spain will reopen its borders to travellers from the European Union and the UK from 21 June.
  • Denmark has announced a swathe of economic stimulus measures, including cash handouts and support for companies.. About 60bn kroner (£7.2bn; $9.1bn) will be paid out from a frozen holiday allowance fund. Citizens on public health benefits will separately get a 1,000 kroner stipend, and 10bn kroner have been set aside for struggling companies.

Private sector updates

  • BP have said it expects oil prices to be lower than expected from now until 2050, as governments speed up plans to cut carbon emissions in the wake of the pandemic. The oil giant said it would therefore revise down the value of its assets by as much as $17.5bn (£13.8bn).
  • Johan Lundgren, the CEO of EasyJet, said he would feel “100% safe” flying on full planes as the airline resumed a limited number of flights after a 10-week hiatus, with passengers and crew wearing masks and planes being regularly deep-cleaned.
  • Ikea has said it is planning to repay salaries paid by governments around the world under furlough schemes. It is set to repay nine governments, including the US and Ireland. But it will not include the UK because, although the furniture chain furloughed 10,000 workers there, it said it did not claim any money from the government’s job retention scheme.
  • Jaguar Land Rover plans to cut more than 1,000 UK jobs, after the business fell to an annual loss on the back of a £500m Covid-19 hit between January and March.
  • Travis Perkins, the builders’ merchant and DIY supplier, plans to lay off 2,500 employees and close 165 stores across the UK.

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