Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, May 26
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 Chancellor has announced plans to bail out UK companies whose failure would “disproportionately harm the economy”
- Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has stated that he has authorised a bailout plan, “Project Birch”, to save strategically important companies.
- The aviation, aerospace and steel industry are all facing acute problems from the pandemic.
- Project Birch would be utilised by companies who have exhausted all other options, including other available Government loan schemes.
- The preferred option is to extend loans to these struggling companies, rather than taking equity stakes, whilst ensuring that the taxpayer was at the top of the hierarch of creditors. Other options include state loans advanced which then convert to equity.
- Unions and business groups have backed the Government’s plans, as has the Shadow Chancellor, Dr Anneliese Dodds.
- Virgin Atlantic, Loganair, Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel are already in discussions with the Government over funding. Whilst Aston Martin is also exploring further Government options.
- Meanwhile, there is growing concern that struggling companies will be unable to repay much of the government-backed loans that have been handed out so far.
- Addressing these concerns, the Treasury has said it is working on how to tackle the “debt-burden” that is being accumulated, with conclusions likely to be drawn up in the autumn.
- Talk of a widespread nationalisation of companies has drawn concern from Conservative MPs, however former Chancellor Alistair Darling stated that this would be sensible to ensure the taxpayer gets its fair share of the success.
- Former Treasury Minister and ex-chief economist at Goldman Sachs has been in discussions with officials about the creation of a public-sector-owned funding body to take on stakes in businesses that are “inherently stable.”
All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen on June 15th in England
- Making the announcement the Prime Minister stated that the move was “contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus” and retailers will have to adhere to new guidelines.
- Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to open from the 1st of June.
- The Government also announced a £50m Reopening High Streets Safely Fund for councils across England to prepare for the safe reopening of the high street and other retail spaces.
- The money will support practical safety measures including new signs, street markings, and temporary barriers to prepare businesses in high streets, town and city centres, beachfronts and promenades to comply with the government’s safety regulations. Councils will also be able to use the money for local marketing campaigns to attract consumers.
- The money will be allocated to councils on a per capita basis.
- Responding to the guidance, the British Retail Consortium welcomed the announcement and said it provided “much-needed clarity on the route ahead.” The Confederation of British Industry also welcomed the news, saying they would work with retailed to open “safely and securely.”
Other UK COVID 19 news
- Douglas Ross MP has resigned from his position as Under Secretary of State for Scotland over the ongoing Dominic Cummings story. Stating he cannot defend the special advisers actions to his constituents.
- The SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, the Green Party and the Alliance Party have written to the Government calling for senior adviser Dominic Cummings to be removed from his post. Notably, the Labour Party have not signed the letter.
- The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme – which was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Budget – opened for applications this morning.
- The UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) is urging the government to restrict access to beaches until lifeguard patrols return, after two people died in separate incidents on the Cornish coast yesterday.
- A drug treatment that appears to shorten recovery time for people with coronavirus is being made available on the NHS. Remdesivir, an anti-viral medicine that was originally developed to fight Ebola, has been approved by the MHRA to be used on selected hospital patients.
- The Scottish government’s “test and protect” scheme will go live on Thursday. Anyone in Scotland with any of coronavirus’s three main symptoms should apply for a test.
- The Government have confirmed £300m for local authorities to develop their plans for identifying and containing potential outbreaks in workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools. This is part of the test and trace programme which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said will go live on 1 June.
- Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has revealed plans provide thousands of long-term, safe homes for vulnerable rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic. The commitment is being backed by £160 million this year and will support many of the thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation to move on to more sustainable, long-term housing.
- The Government has released guidance on the resumption of elite sporting training and competition as part of Phase 2 of the Recovery Plan.
World COVID 19 news
- Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
- The US has brought forward new travel restrictions on Brazil as cases rise sharply in the South American country.
- The German government will take a 20%, €9 billion, stake in struggling airline Lufthansa.
- The Czech Republic is opening its border crossings with Austria and Germany today – although restrictions on who is allowed to enter the country remain.
- The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is set to reopen its trading floor on Tuesday after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Japan has lifted its state of emergency, but warned it could be reimposed if infections picked up. Limits on regional travel will be lifted on 19 June
- Saudi Arabia will lift its curfew across the country on 21 June, with the only exception being the holy city of Mecca.
- Spain says foreign visitors will no longer have to undergo a two-week quarantine from 1 July.
Private sector updates
- Costa Coffee have announced they will resume accepting reusable cups on June 4th. Other outlets such as Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Pret a Manger have stated they will keep their ban (in place since March) in place.
- Latin America’s largest airline has filed bankruptcy protection in New York after the coronavirus pandemic grounded flights across the region.
- Nando’s says it will reopen a further 54 restaurants on Wednesday for delivery and collection services across the UK and Ireland.
- Car manufacturer and Formula 1 team McLaren plan to make 1,200 employees (around a quarter of its workforce) redundant due to the collapse in demand for motorsport events.
- Toyota has resumed production at their plant at Burnaston.
- John Lewis is planning a phased reopening of its stores, using lessons it has learned on social distancing from the partnership’s Waitrose shops.
- Bombardier, Britain’s biggest train manufacturer, has told the Government it is “unable to continue production” without state support due to halting work during lockdown.