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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, May 18

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, May 18

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.

Enforced quarantine measures at the UK border expected to be unveiled this week are to cover arrivals by sea, car and international rail, as well as air

  • Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has said  a ‘blanket’ 14-day quarantine for travellers to the UK would start in early June.
  • The enforced quarantine will apply to travellers from all countries with the exception of Republic of Ireland.
  • However Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, has said that a 14-day quarantine period will be mandatory for all passengers arriving at Irish ports and airports, including those travelling from the UK.
  • Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden said that the government is still in talks with France over whether French travellers should be exempt from a requirement for a 14-day quarantine.
  • Shapps stated that the government would later consider the case for excluding other countries, where there were low incidents of Covid-19.
  • The quarantine rules being imposed on new arrivals to the UK will be reviewed every three weeks.
  • It is understood that road hauliers will be exempt  and will not be required to self-isolate for two weeks. Hauliers will not be tested at the border, at least initially, but will be required to provide contact details.
  • Scientists researching Covid-19 may also be exempt.
  • The remaining exemptions will be agreed at a cabinet committee on international Covid-19 issues chaired by Michael Gove. These will include those engaged in “work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations”.
  • Air travel is down 99% year on year, maritime passengers are down 88.7% and international rail travellers 94%. Eurostar is down to one service to Paris and Brussels a day for essential travel.
  • Shapps added that 43,500 staff had been furloughed from the airlines and another 2,600 from airports

Cross-channel ferry operators and other freight firms, including Eurotunnel, are to get £35m in financial support to ensure the continued supply of “vital” food and medical supplies to the UK

  • The cash injection will support routes operated by Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O, Seatruck and Stena.
  • UK ministers said the intervention would protect 16 key routes between the UK and France and between Britain and Northern Ireland, which were at risk due to the pandemic.
  • Those in line for support over the next nine weeks include:
    • Portsmouth-Santander
    • Portsmouth-Cherbourg
    • Dover-Dunkerque
    • Dover-Calais
    • Tilbury-Zeebrugge
    • Hull-Zeebrugge
    • Harwich-Hoek van Holland
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it would “protect the movement of goods and services in and out of the UK, safeguarding the flow of supplies across the UK”.
  • He said the agreement was part of joint efforts by the UK, France and the Republic of Ireland to minimise economic disruption.

Scotland has announced plans to ease lockdown on 28 May

  • The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has announced that measures in Scotland could begin to be lifted from 28 May.
    • The Scottish government will publish more details on Thursday of its “phased approach” to easing the lockdown restrictions.
    • The first minister said this would mean people could meet someone from another household as long as social distancing is maintained.
    • More outdoor activities and sports like golf and fishing will also be allowed People will also be able to sit in the park.
    • Garden centres and recycling facilities will be opened.
    • The move will also see the resumption of some outdoor work.
    • Ms Sturgeon said more information would also be given about when schools might reopen.
    • The measures would put Scotland broadly in line with England. However Northern Ireland and Wales are still taking a more cautious approach.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The government has announced that anyone over five with symptoms is now eligible for a test. This will apply to the whole of the UK.
  • Loss of smell or taste has now been added to the official list of symptoms that may indicate Covid-19 in the UK. Until now, people were only advised to self-isolate to prevent the spread of infection based on their symptoms if they had a fever or a cough.
  • More than two million claims for grants worth £6 billion have been made under the government’s support scheme for self-employed workers.
  • Hancock says 21,000 contact tracers have now been hired by the government including 750 healthcare professionals.
  • Network Rail has introduced around 3,000 more trains per day however social distancing means that capacity is constrained to about 10 to 13 per cent of normal levels. Train operators have put in place one-way systems at stations, floor markings with social distancing reminders, new cleaning measures and security staff for crowd control .
  • TV companies have agreed guidelines for producers to follow to allow television programmes to start filming again in a way that minimises the risk from coronavirus. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says this should enable TV production to start again in the coming weeks.

World COVID 19 news

  • The World Health Organization’s held its annual World Health Assembly. There has been a  joint EU-Australia draft resolution calling for an inquiry into the origins and spread of the virus. This needs the backing of two-thirds of the 194 members of the assembly before a resolution can be put forward. So far at least 116 nations have given their support.
  • Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, has declared his support for an international review of the global response to the Covid-19 response – but only once the crisis has fully passed.

Private sector updates

  • Carmakers, including BMW, are in negotiations with the government and the EU about subsidies to help boost demand for new vehicles following lockdown. Last week BMW joined Daimler, Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover to ask Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s executive vice-president for the green deal, to ask for a stimulus.
  • The Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport has urged the Government to restart flights between “low-risk countries”, and said that a 14-day quarantine scheme for travellers coming into the country could only be in place for a “relatively short period of time”
  • Intu, which operates a number of major shopping centres, has warned that it could default on its debts unless its lenders give the firm breathing space. The firm said its shopping centres would remain “semi-closed” until June 1 at least.
  • Ford has resumed operations at its engine plants in Dagenham and Bridgend, meaning all of its European factories are now back at work. And in Luton, the Vauxhall van factory has also reopened with half its usual staffing. The companies say they intend to prevent the spread of the virus using a range of measures, such as face masks and temperature checks. For a small number of roles where it is not possible for workers to keep two metres apart, they are using plastic shields.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is facing insolvency and the risk of closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has called for more financial support to be given to creative institutions.
  • Ryanair chief accuses UK of mismanaging coronavirus crisis. Michael O’Leary described the UK’s planned introduction of a 14-day quarantine period for travellers arriving from abroad as “idiotic and unimplementable”.

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