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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, June 18

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, June 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.

Scotland has announced further easing of restrictions

  • From 29 June, all shops except those in indoor shopping centres will be allowed to reopen and face coverings will be mandatory on public transport.
    • On the same date, dentists will be able to reopen for urgent care, contact sports are allowed to restart but behind closed doors, places of worship can open for individual prayer, and the construction sector can continue to restart. Offices and factories will also be permitted to reopen.
    • Marriages and civil partnership ceremonies can resume from 29 June but only outdoors, while playgrounds and zoos could also reopen, but only for people leaving in the surrounding area.
    • However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to delay outdoor restaurants and pubs reopening’s until July.
    • Sturgeon is under intense pressure from the Tories, the tourism trade and business leaders to ease restrictions much more quickly.
    • From today, people who are shielding are allowed to go outside for outdoors exercise – unless they live in a nursing or residential home. And from tomorrow, they can also take part in non-contact outdoor activities such as golf. They can also meet outdoors in groups of up to eight – but they can’t go indoors and they should stick to social distancing rules.
    • For the rest of the population, anyone who lives on their own or with children under 18, can form an “extended household group” with one other household from 19 June, where they can stay overnight and hug each other. This is similar to the social bubble rule in England.

Northern Ireland have announced further easing of restrictions and reduced social distancing between children to 1 metre

  • The social distancing required between children and young people will be reduced to 1 metre when schools reopen 24 August. This is the first significant change on social distancing within the UK.
    • However, the current guidelines of 2 metres distancing will remain in place for adults.
    • From 6 July, hairdressers and barbers will be allowed to reopen.
    • Places of worship can provisionally reopen on a wider basis from 29 June with social distancing measures in place.
    • From 31 July, those shielding will  be told they no longer need to shield but should, instead, take particular care when out and about – and strictly maintain social distancing.

The Bank of England, has announced £100bn in fresh stimulus  as it issues a new report indicating the UK economy will not be as badly hit as earlier predicted

  • The Bank predicted that the economy is on course to shrink in the second quarter by around 20% compared with the final three months of 2019. While this is still historic it is not as extreme as the 27% it predicted in May.
    • The Bank said more recent indicators of economic activity suggested the economy was starting to bounce back: “Payments data are consistent with a recovery in consumer spending in May and June, and housing activity has started to pick up recently.”
    • However there are concerns the recovery will not be quick due to the “prevalence of the virus” in the UK. And the Bank remains wary of there being a second wave in future.
    • The Bank fears that the relatively higher infection rate in the UK will mean that Britons will continue to socially distance, voluntarily, holding back the recovery more than in nations with lower infection rates (e.g. Germany, Denmark etc.)
    • The Bank’s report said companies have mostly cancelled or postponed non-essential investment to preserve cash buffers, with an average cut of investment spending by around half. Some companies reported redirecting investment to finance social distancing measures and facilitate remote working.
    • However most businesses reported low input prices, particularly energy and commodities, which helped to offset a sharp rise in the cost of personal protective equipment.
    • Most non-food businesses reported little scope to raise prices and many offered discounts to clear stocks. However, some businesses operating in the tourism sector said that there might be scope to increase prices if demand is boosted by a “staycation” effect, while demand is limited by social distancing measures.
    • The report came as the bank announced £100bn in extra monetary stimulus which will raise the size of the Bank’s asset purchase programme to £745bn.
    • It also kept the benchmark interest rate on hold at 0.1% – a historic low.
    • The new stimulus will take the form of quantitative easing, with the Government buying up billions of pounds of Government bonds to artificially keep interest rates low across the economy. It follows a £200bn boost to its bond buying programme back in March.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The Government has abandoned  plans for its own centralised NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app in favour of a decentralised model backed by Apple and Google. The Apple-Google design is seen as more privacy-focused, but it will mean epidemiologists will have access to less data. The app will not be ready to roll out before the winter.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to discuss the UK’s quarantine measures with French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to London, with hopes that travel corridors or “air bridges” can be set up with countries with low infection rates, including France, so some travellers can avoid having to quarantine.
  • HM Revenue and Customs has said that it has received more than 3,000 reports of furlough fraud since April, with some workers complaining that they have been made to work while furloughed.
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to Boris Johnson, calling for face coverings to be made compulsory in shops to limit the spread of Covid-19.
  • The Treasury has reportedly blocked plans for private hospitals to tackle NHS backlog of treatments held up by the pandemic. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and NHS bosses are pushing for a £5bn-a-year deal to treat NHS patients in private hospitals and tackle the backlog, but the Treasury is blocking the plan amid concerns that it will not offer value for money.

World COVID 19 news

  • Social distancing rules are to be scrapped in French pre-schools and nurseries to allow all children to return from 22 June. Primary schools in the country will retain a 1 metre social distancing rule.
  • Denmark will allow citizens from the EU and UK with low infections to enter the country from 27 June. A country will be classified as open if it has less than 20 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants a week.
  • The Spanish government has announced that the tourism industry will get a cash injection of €4.25bn (£3.8bn) to help it recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
  • In Germany’s western state of North Rhein Westphalia, around 7,000 people have been placed in quarantine and schools and kindergartens have been closed after an outbreak of Covid-19.
  • In the US 1.5 million people registered for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. Over 45 million have filed such claims in the past three months, peaking with 6.6 million in the week ending 4 April.
  • New York City will begin phase two of reopening on 22 June after improvements in Covid-19 figures. Offices, in-store retail, outdoor dining, hair salons and barbershops are among the businesses allowed to reopen their doors during phase two.

Private sector updates

  • Nationwide, the UK’s largest mortgage lender, has tripled the minimum deposit it will ask for from first-time buyers to 15 per cent of the value of their home because of fears that Covid-19 could cause house prices to fall, leaving owners in negative equity.
  • Energy infrastructure group National Grid has warned of a £400m hit to its underlying operating profit this year from the Covid-19 crisis as its US business in particular is expected to suffer from higher bad debts and greater costs to maintain operations such as isolating critical staff and health screening.
  • National Express has said it will check the temperature of passengers before allowing them to travel when it resumes services next month

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