Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, June 17
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.
Speculation over Bank of England COVID-19 response
- The Bank of England is set to announce their latest interest rate decision tomorrow and there has been speculation over its continued COVID-19 response.
- Media reports suggest that the Bank of England will keep interest rates unchanged at 0.1% but extend its quantitative easing programme.
- The Bank Of England is expected to increase its asset purchase programme by at least £100bn as a way to ensure financial market stability.
- The reports came as a record fall in fuel prices, including petrol, pushed the UK’s inflation rate down to 0.5% in May.
Culture Secretary provides update on cultural sector
- At today’s Downing Street Briefing Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden provided an update on the Government’s plans for the reopening of the cultural sectors;
- Dowden said that the Government’s taskforce on restarting sport and culture had made progress regarding the reopening of venues and that the taskforce is preparing to take evidence from experts on how live arts venues can start operating again.
- While the Government recognises that it will be “exceptionally difficult” for theatres to reopen from the start of July, it is exploring how live performances can be made safe during the pandemic.
- Dowden also said that the Government’s aim is for community sport to resume from July at the earliest and that the Government hopes that fans will be able to attend sporting fixtures in person later on this year.
- The Minister’s comments came as Delfont Mackintosh Theatres confirmed today that its productions will not restart until 2021.
Other UK COVID 19 news
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that Dexamethasone, which has been confirmed to reduce COVID-19 fatalities, has started to be used by the NHS. Hancock told the House of Commons today that 240,000 doses of the drug are “in stock and on order“.
- The County Council’s Network has published a report claiming that 39 local authorities are facing a funding shortfall of £2.5bn as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are warning that Council’s could see “large-scale reductions to services” as a result. The Government has said that it is giving Council’s “unprecedented” support.
- The Health Secretary has said that the Government will provide an update on the Covid-19 shielding programme in England “very soon”. Hancock’s comments came after the Health Service Journal reported that the Government was planning to tell clinically vulnerable patients that they no longer need to isolate at home from the end of July.
- The Government is providing 10,000 families in England with free internet access for six months to help disadvantaged youngsters study online. The scheme is in conjunction with BT.
- Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has announced £3million of funding aimed at supporting the mental health of university students in England and Wales.
- London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that he will be left with no choice other than to make significant cuts across the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade, Transport for London and the Greater London Authority due to COVID-19.
- NHS Blood and Transplant has launched a major trail to assess whether convalescent plasma donations can be transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own COVID-19 immune response.
- As domestic football returns in the UK, NHS England’s Director of Mental Health has warned betting companies not to exploit the return of televised football with “reckless” advertising campaigns that could exploit problem gamblers.
World COVID 19 news
- Spain’s Economy Minister has said that the country’s most recent employment indicators suggest an economic recovery in the second half of the year. Figures show that 1 million previously furloughed workers are now back in work.
- Beijing has implemented further restrictions as a spike in COVID-19 cases continues. Residents in 27 neighbourhoods have had travel restrictions reimposed.
- It has been reported in the Irish media that restaurants and bars in the Republic of Ireland that serve food may be able to cut two-metre physical distancing to one metre in certain circumstances when the hospitality sector reopens later this month.
- Germany’s smartphone app to help trace coronavirus infections has been downloaded 6.5m times in the first 24 hours since its launch.
- The United States is seeing a continued rise in new COVID-19 cases. Six US States including Texas and Florida have reported record increases in new cases. However, US Vice President Mike Pence has said that fear of a so called second wave is “overblown
Private sector updates
- A YouGov survey of more than 500 business leaders has found 51% of companies would have to lay off staff within three months if the furlough scheme came to end.
- Housebuilding firm Berkeley has said that the housebuilding and construction industry will need further government support, including a simplification of the planning process, if it is to help the British economy recovery from COVID-19.
- The Mayor of the West Midlands and the Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport have written to the Home Secretary calling for a re-think on quarantine measures. The West Midlands Economic Impact Group, is warning that the measures could have a long-term impact on the West Midlands.
- HSBC has confirmed that it is to resume its plans to cut 35,000 jobs. The company announced the plan in February, but put it on hold due to COVID-19 pandemic.