Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, June 3
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 to ‘take back control’ of Government’s COVID-19 strategy
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly to ‘take more direct control’ of the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis amid growing criticism of its response.
- Johnson will command two committees, one covering strategy and the other operational delivery, to continue the fight against the pandemic. Number 10 has confirmed that the Prime Minister will now appear at least once a week at the weekday Number 10 COVID-19 briefing.
- The reports come as the Government has struggled in the wake of the Dominic Cummings row and its messaging change to ‘Stay Alert’.
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today accused the Government of mismanaging its response to COVID-19, warning the Prime Minister that he has to “get a grip” on his handling of the pandemic.
- At today’s Prime Ministers Questions, Boris Johnson confirmed that vulnerable MPs and those aged over 70 will be able to take part in voting in the House of Commons by proxy. Johnson also announced that all COVID-19 tests will be turned round within 24 hours, by the end of June.
Reports suggest Government is planning a “green industrial revolution” as part of COVID-19 economic response
- Speculation has continued over the next stage of the Government’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Times reported today that the Chancellor is planning a “green industrial revolution” to help to create jobs for people who are made redundant because of the pandemic.
- The Treasury is apparently preparing to increase Government investment in clean energy as part of an economic stimulus package which is planned for next week. A fund to help re-skill workers in green jobs such as insulation upgrades, offshore wind and carbon capture is also being considered.
- Other measures apparently being considered includes giving employers who hire new staff a national insurance holiday, increasing benefits, raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing the living wage for care workers.
Government releases further details of travel quarantine plan
- The Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed details of the Government’s travel quarantine plan today. From 8 June, almost all arrivals to the UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
- Telling the House of Commons that “pandemics have no boundaries”, Patel said that the measures will be regularly reviewed starting from June 28. As part of this review the Government says it will take into account the impact on the economy and aviation sector. The Government is keeping the policy of so-called ‘air bridges’ under review.
- Border Force will undertake checks at the border and may refuse entry to any non-resident foreign nationals who refuses to comply with these regulations. Under the plans, leaving isolation prematurely in England could result in a fine of up to £1,000 or prosecution.
- There is a limited list of exemptions which includes, essential healthcare workers, road haulage workers and essential energy network workers.
- The move has been met with criticism from across the political spectrum, with many questioning its effectiveness, and the potential effect it may have on the economy.
BEIS Select Committee launches ‘Post-Pandemic Economic Growth’ inquiry
- The House of Commons BEIS Select Committee has announced a ‘super-inquiry’ titled “Post-Pandemic Economic Growth”. The inquiry is looking into the options available to the Government to help secure the economic recovery from COVID-19, covering investment, industrial strategy, jobs, skills, exports and sustainable growth
- The inquiry will include a series of sub-inquiries that will examine issues such as devolution and ‘levelling up’, the role of Government as a shareholder or investor in businesses in the future and measures to rebuild an environmentally sustainable economy.
- The Committee is welcoming submissions on the initial terms of reference for the overarching inquiry. The deadline is Wednesday 15 July.
Other UK COVID 19 news
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that regulations covering lockdown measures will be reviewed every 28 days, rather than the previous 21 days. The Government says that the change will allow Ministers to assess the impact of previous changes.
- A leaked report suggests that the NHS test and trace system tracked down less than half of positive patients’ ‘contacts’ in the first three days of its launch. The Government says that weekly statistics on the systems performance will be released shortly.
- Scientists at London Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital and Kings College are running a trial to see if Ibuprofen can help COVID-19 patients. The team believe that it could help treat breathing difficulties and avoid the need for a ventilator to be used in serious COVID-19 cases.
World COVID 19 news
- Italy has reopened its borders with European Union states and has ended a 14-day quarantine requirement for arrivals. The country has also ended travel restrictions between regions, as it hopes to encourage tourists back for summer holidays.
- Similarly, Germany will lift a travel ban for EU member states plus Britain, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from 15 June as long as there are no entry bans or large-scale lockdowns in those countries.
- Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist has said that Sweden “could have done better” in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Chinese Government has said that reports that it delayed sharing information about COVID-19 with the World Health organisation is untrue.
- The World Health Organisation has said that the number of COVID-19 cases in Russia is starting to decline. The WHO’s Russia representative said that the organisation is starting to see a “good, albeit slow, decline”.
Private sector updates
- According to the British Retail Consortium, shop prices fell by 2.4% in May compared to 1.7% in April – the highest rate of decline since 2006.
- Brewers Heineken and Asahi have resumed beer production amid hopes that pubs could reopen within the next month. The Government is currently working on a blueprint to allow pubs and bars to reopen.
- The Restaurant Group, one of Britain’s largest restaurant operators has told staff that many of its Frankie & Benny sites will not be opening post-lockdown as many sites are “no longer viable to trade”.
- Teleconferencing company Zoom has reported profits of $27m in the last quarter and has said it expects sales as high as $1.8bn (£1.4bn) this year – around double what it forecast in March.