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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, May 4

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, May 4

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 drafted possible post-lockdown workplace rules, ahead of a formal announcement of more detailed plans on 10 May

  • The draft calls for workplaces to reduce hot-desking and urges employers to minimise numbers using equipment, stagger shift times and maximise home-working.
  • The draft stated that additional hygiene procedures, physical screens and the use of protective equipment should be considered where maintaining distancing of 2m (6ft) between workers is impossible.
  • The guidance covers the whole of the UK – but devolved governments have the power to make their own decisions on how businesses get back to work.
  • The government has also drafted several preliminary documents on best practice to return to work after lockdown is lifted.
  • The documents cover workers in seven different settings: hotel and restaurant staff; those who work in other people’s homes; factory workers; people working outdoors; people working in vehicles; shop workers; and office workers.
  • Builders and shop workers will be encouraged to communicate via radio rather than face to face, employees will be told to work side by side or facing away from each other, and staff will be paired together if they work in close proximity.
  • Businesses with more than five employees must produce a written risk assessment of working conditions for their staff if they wish to reopen during the pandemic.
  • Shielded “extremely vulnerable” people will be banned from any work that isn’t carried out at home. Businesses must help non-shielded “vulnerable” people work from home where possible, or take extra care enforcing social distancing around them in the workplace.
  • Extremely vulnerable individuals are defined as those with specific medical conditions, such as various cancers.
  • Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is set to announce more detailed plans for how the lockdown will be lifted on 10th May.

A request by UK universities for a £2bn bailout has been rejected by the government

  • Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has instead said that institutions could continue to charge the full £9,250 annual tuition fee for undergraduates even if campuses remained closed and face-to-face classes were suspended in the autumn.
  • However universities must maintain high standards of online teaching.
  • The government will also bring forward £2.6bn in tuition fees that universities would have received at the start of the next academic year, as well as £100m in research funding.

The UK has co-hosted an international conference today to drive forward the global race for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests

  • The virtual Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference, is also co-hosted by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the European Commission.
  • The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, urged countries to “pull together” and share expertise as he confirmed the government’s pledge of £388m in aid funding for research into vaccines, tests and treatments.
  • This includes £250m for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop vaccines against coronavirus – the biggest such donation to the fund by any country.
  • Meanwhile European leaders have pledged support for a plan to raise €7.5bn (£6.6bn) to find a coronavirus vaccine.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Businesses including sole traders and limited companies are from today able to apply for “bounce-back” loans of £2,000 to £50,000, which are 100% guaranteed by the government.
  • NHS England is urging the public to continue attending all vaccination appointments to prevent outbreaks of serious diseases, such as measles and mumps.
  • A specialist taskforce has been created to lead the next phase of the government’s support for rough sleepers during the pandemic. Spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey, the taskforce will work with councils plans to ensure rough sleepers can move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over.
  • The NHS Nightingale hospital in London – the 4,000-bed emergency hospital set up within days in the ExCel centre, will be put “on standby” with no new Covid-19 admissions expected in the coming days.
  • The government has announced a £14m fund to help zoos and aquariums look after their animals in the face of pandemic closures.
  • The government has now published a list of the experts who have participated in meetings of Sage, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, as well as other expert groups that have been giving advice to the government on Covid-19. The details are here.
  • Labour is urging the government to plan to stockpile masks, in case official advice on wearing them changes. It comes as defence secretary, Ben Wallace, stated that ministers were trying to source as many masks as possible in case they change the advice to recommend the public wears them.
  • A new drug developed by UK scientists to treat Covid-19 patients is being trialled at University Hospital Southampton.
  • 800,000 employers have now used the government’s job retention scheme to furlough 6.3 million jobs to a total value of £8bn.
  • The government has promised to cover all local councils’ Covid-19 expenses. This  includes the additional cost of social care, extra cost for housing to support rough sleepers, and extra cost to education services to protect vulnerable children. Extra cash has also been sent to lower tier authorities which have suffered “irrecoverable losses” because they have lost car park and leisure centre fees.
  • The Scottish government is set release up to 450 prisoners early due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • A leaked US report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic. The DHS paper says China increased imports and cut back exports of medical supplies, while downplaying the severity of the outbreak. The report is also cited as saying China didn’t inform the World Health Organization properly in January so it could order medical supplies from abroad.
  • The European Commission has given the green light to 7 billion euros in French state aid to national carrier Air France to cushion the economic fallout from the pandemic.
  • After eight weeks in lockdown, Italy has lifted some of its restrictions. People will be able to visit relatives, parks have reopened, and bars and restaurants can do takeaways. About four million people are expected to go back to work, although face masks will be mandatory at work and on public transport
  • New Zealand reported no new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, marking the first time the country recorded zero cases since its outbreak took hold in mid-March.
  • The US Supreme Court will hear court arguments over the phone for the first time in its history. Audio from the proceedings will also be live-streamed.

Company updates

  • Asda has offered priority delivery slots to thousands of care homes for the next six months and donated 250,000 face masks to protect workers and residents.
  • Queen’s University Belfast has received funding to develop a rapid diagnostic test for Covid-19. A trial there aims to find a highly accurate test which can show results within an hour, eliminating the need to send kits to a laboratory.
  • Cruise operator Carnival will resume some services in North America this summer, while extending a temporary suspension in services elsewhere in North America and Australia as it looks to gradually restart operations.
  • GE is cutting another 10,000 aviation jobs around the world as it prepares for an 80 per cent slump in air traffic in the second quarter and production cuts by aircraft manufacturers that will stretch into next year and beyond.

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