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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, June 11

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, June 11

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.

Tory backbenchers have called on the Government to drop the 2m social distancing rule in England

  • MPs, including former cabinet ministers Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green, have urged the Government to reduce the 2 metre rule to 1 metre in line with line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
    • The MPs warned of dire economic consequences, with public transport running quieter than necessary and pubs, restaurants and cafes unable to stage a proper recovery or even open.
    • It comes after the Government’s chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested the two-metre social distancing measures were not a hard and fast “scientific rule”.
    • It has been reported that Prime Minister, Boris Johnson told ministers that the two-metre rule would be reduced in England soon even if the devolved nations rejected the measure. The reduction of the distancing rule could coincide with the reopening of pubs next month.
    • It has also been reported that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, indicated to backbench Tory MPs in a 1922 committee meeting that he also wants to cut the two-metre social distancing rule.
    • Sunak also reiterated his eagerness to invest on infrastructure, digital connectivity and higher education.
    • Sunak also reportedly addressed Tory concerns about China, saying that Britain had to protect itself. He added that the Government needed a more “formal regime” to protect the UK’s intellectual property and ensure that the Government was notified of foreign takeovers.

Detailed figures on the Governments furlough scheme have been published

  • Data by HMRC and the ONS revelled that around 1.1 million businesses have claimed cash to help support their staff by 31 May.
    • In England, 6.5 million jobs had been furloughed by 31 May, dominated by London and the south east, at more than one million each.
    • Around 628,000 workers have been furloughed in Scotland, 317,000 in Wales, and 212,000 in Northern Ireland, the figures show.
    • Wholesale and retail businesses were the worst hit, claiming £3.3bn for 1.6 million workers.
    • The hospitality sector was also badly hit, with accommodation and food services companies furloughing 1.4 million people, and claiming £2.6bn in furlough cash.
    • The data also included a regional breakdown revealing that nearly a fifth of people in some areas of the UK have been furloughed from their jobs.
    • 25,400 people have been furloughed in Tottenham, north London, making it the worst-hit parliamentary constituency in the country as just under 18% of people  are furloughed.
    • Meanwhile, Crawley, close to Gatwick airport in West Sussex, is the worst-hit local authority by proportion of population. The figures show that 20,000 people, or 17.8% of the local population, including children and pensioners, have been furloughed.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Education secretary Gavin Williamson has told MPs that schools will close over the summer holiday months, with Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson confirming this would also apply to key workers’ children.
  • A&E attendances at hospitals in England were down 42% last month compared with a year ago. A total of 1.3m attendances were recorded in May 2020, down from 2.2m in May 2019. NHS England figures also show that a total of 79,573 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in April 2020, down from 199,217 in April 2019 – a fall of 60%.
  • New Department for Transport guidance have advised airline passengers not to take any hand luggage on flights as part of measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.
  • The education secretary has announced a roll-out of T-Levels as 88 new education providers have been selected to deliver the courses. He has said this will play a role in the Covid-19 recovery.
  • The Government has provided the British Council a £60m bailout to save it from collapse. The British Council promotes cultural relations and educational opportunities overseas.
  • The justice secretary has announced that the probation services in England and Wales will be fully restored to public ownership and control.
  • The Scottish government has brought forward a £11.4m of discretionary fund, aimed at helping those unable to claim benefits while still studying, to the summer. It was not originally expected to be released until the start of the new academic year.

World COVID 19 news

  • Finland’s government have said restrictions on leisure travelling to and from neighbouring Baltic and Nordic countries will be lifted from Monday, but Sweden will not be included.
  • The US Labour Department reports more than 1.5 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the last week. It’s a drop from the week before, when 1.8m claims were filed, but remains high. It brings the total number of unemployment benefit claims since mid-March to 44.2 million.
  • Egypt will allow international flights and foreign tourists to travel to some of its coastal areas that have been least affected by coronavirus from 1 July.

Private sector updates

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered e-commerce giants Amazon and eBay to stop selling a number of unsafe or unproven pesticides and disinfectants, including products falsely marketed as anti-Covid-19.
  • German airline Lufthansa says 22,000 jobs could go as it restructures as part of a €9bn ($10bn; £8bn) state bailout.
  • Up to 1,800 jobs are under threat at the Macdonald Hotels chain, which has 31 properties across the UK.
  • In Northern Ireland, Canadian firm Bombardier Aerospace said it would be cutting 600 jobs – as part of 2,500 redundancies across its global operation.
  • Heathrow airport has warned that it could cut  25,000, partly due to the UK government’s two-week quarantine policy for arriving passengers and the collapse in passenger numbers.
  • Travel firm Tui has extended the suspension of holidays for customers from the UK and Ireland due to Covid-19 travel restrictions to 10 July.

Cambridge University has announced a £1m bursary programme targeted at helping UK adults whose careers have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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