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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, June 4

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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, June 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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the Global Vaccine Summit in London today

  • Representatives from more than 50 countries, including 35 heads of state or government, attended the virtual event to raise money for the GAVI vaccine alliance, a public-private global health partnership.
    • Leaders of private sector organisations and civil society, also took part in the virtual event.
    • The summit aims to raise at least £6 billion, to immunise 300 million children by 2025. Part of the event will also raise funds to ensure access to a Covid-19 vaccine is universal.
    • Johnson confirmed the UK will contribute £1.6bn to the Gavi vaccine alliance over the next five years.
    • US President Donald Trump appeared at the summit via a pre-recorded video from outside the White House.
    • Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang also spoke at the event, but Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to attend.

The Bank of England promised nearly £2 billion in Covid-19 funding to some of the UK’s biggest airlines

  • Ryanair, British Airways, Wizz Air and easyJet, were all lent hundreds of millions of pounds as they were forced to ground most of their planes during the pandemic.
    • Ryanair and EasyJet have received loans of £600 million each, with BA owner IAG and Wizz Air both accessing £300 million.
    • The Bank of England said that 53 businesses had been promised they could borrow under its Covid-19 loan scheme, as it published a full list of all borrowers.
    • The list includes defence company Chemring and paint giant Akzo Nobel.
    • The single biggest loan of £1bn had gone to German company BASF – the world’s largest chemicals producer.

Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts the Government will spend £132.5bn on Covid-19 policy interventions, up 7.5% on previous estimates last month

  • The OBR expects spending on furlough schemes and grants to the self-employed to cost an estimated £132.5bn in the current financial year, rising from £123.2bn at the last update on 14 May.
    • Breaking down some of the costing estimates, it said the furlough scheme bill is expected to increase by £4bn compared with last month’s estimates.
    • The gross costs for the furlough scheme is cut from £63bn to £60bn, once the new arrangements are brought in from August which see employers contribute to furloughed staff bills.
    • But tax receipts from the scheme have been revised down, bringing a net cost of £54bn versus £50bn in the previous estimates.
    • A final self-employment grant due to launch in August is also included, bringing the estimated total cost for the payments to £15bn, up from £10.5bn.
    • Other costs added include £100m for removing import duties on medical products and a further £100m on bringing VAT to 0% for PPE.
    • All other estimates were left unchanged from the 14 May update.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The Government has announced that face coverings on public transport will be compulsory from 15 June in England. Passengers who do not comply will be fined. There will be exemptions for young children.
  • The Government has announced that it would provide guarantees of up to £10 billion to Trade Credit Insurance schemes. The scheme will be available on a temporary basis for nine months, backdated to 1 April 2020, and running until 31 December 2020, with the potential for extension if required.
  • Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has promised that every young person in the UK will be guaranteed an apprenticeship. The announcement came after he warned that it was “inevitable” that there would be “many, many job losses”.
  • The Government has announced £7 million of funding for more than 11,000 vulnerable pupils who attend Alternative Provision and have missed out on additional support due to the pandemic. The funding will boost support to year 11 pupils making the transition from secondary school into post-16 education, work, or training to combat the concerns that many will become unemployed after completing their GCSEs.
  • Business secretary, Alok Sharma has started self-isolating and is awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test after he began to feel unwell in the House of Commons chamber yesterday.
  • The Government has confirmed that of the 67,000 tests sent to the US, almost 30,000 tests were returned void.
  • The Government has ruled out running the school meal voucher system in England over the summer holidays. However there will be a £9m programme offering some pupils activities and meals.
  • From 8 June vulnerable people shielding in Northern Ireland will be allowed outdoors.
  • The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said an agreement reached in March allowing firefighters to assist ambulance services, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable and move the bodies of the deceased has been extended until July and could last until the end of August. A number of other activities have been agreed, including assembling personal protective equipment and training care home staff in infection, prevention and control.

World COVID 19 news

  • The EU is preparing to use an emergency €2.4bn fund to make advance purchases of promising Covid-19 vaccines. The move was discussed at a meeting of EU ambassadors, after Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands said they were speeding up negotiations with pharmaceutical companies.
  • The German government will provide a stimulus package worth €130bn (£116bn; $146bn) to kick-start the economy. The package, to be spread into 2021, includes a €300 payment per child for families and a six-month cut in the VAT rate, from 19% to 16%. The government is also earmarking €7bn for hydrogen technology to help cut carbon emissions.
  • 1.8 million people made unemployment claims in the US over the past week. The rate of increase in joblessness has slowed down, but the number of people out of work still remains very high – since late March 42 million Americans have filed for benefits.
  • The European Central Bank has boosted its pandemic emergency support program by €600bn to €1.35 trillion (£1.2 trillion), and extended it until the end of June 2021. Under the pandemic support program, the ECB buys corporate and government bonds and other financial assets from banks, which helps to lower long-term interest rates and keep credit flowing to the economy.
  • Turkey plans to resume flights to 40 countries this month – and has reached provisional reciprocal agreements with 15 countries. Germany, Switzerland, South Korea and Qatar are among the destinations for flights starting this month.
  • China has announced that foreign airlines blocked from operating in the country over Covid-19 fears would be allowed to resume limited flights, lifting a de facto ban on US carriers. This comes a day after Washington ordered the suspension of all Chinese travel into and out of the US.

Private sector updates

  • Car dealership Lookers has announced it will cut up to 1,500 jobs with the closure of more showrooms in the UK.
  • The SMMT trade body has said only 20,000 new cars were registered in May – down 89% year-on-year – in the worst May performance since 1952.
  • Luxury carmaker Aston Martin has announced 500 redundancies, a week after naming a new chief executive.
  • The chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), Marc Crothall, has written to the Scottish government asking ministers to consider changing social distancing guidance from keeping 2 metre apart to 1 metre.
  • Debenhams has announced it will reopen 50 stores in England on 15 June, with a further 70 stores to follow later the same week.
  • Another 261 drive-thru McDonald’s restaurants are reopening today, bringing the total to more than 920 across the UK and Ireland.
  • Ryanair is still processing 35 million refunds. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary admitted customers are still waiting for refunds because “we are dealing with an unprecedented record backlog of cancellations”.

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