Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, May 27
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 has announced that a new test and trace system will launch tomorrow
- The new NHS test and trace programme will involve 25,000 contact tracers and an additional 25,000 people working to process tests.
- Tracers will hunt down anyone who has been within two metres of an infected person for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.
- These people will be asked to isolate at home for 14 days even if they do not have symptoms.
- The Government does not plan to fine those who refuse to obey the isolation order but ministers do have the power to sanction people if necessary.
- The NHS app, trialled on the Isle of Wight, is not expected to be launched tomorrow.
- It comes as the Government announced yesterday that it is prepared to implement local lockdowns in areas of England if there are “flare-ups” of Covid-19 as part of the test and trace system.
- Communities secretary, Robert Jenrick said restrictions could be introduced at “a micro level” and would target schools and workplaces in a localised area.
- Under Government plans the Joint Biosecurity Centre will identify changes in infection rates – using testing, environmental and workplace data – and advise chief medical officers.
- Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set out their own plans for testing and tracing.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce a series of changes to the furlough scheme this week
- Sunak is expected to unveil details intended to stop companies from furloughing additional employees working full-time in future and instead bring them back to work on a part-time basis.
- It came as new Treasury figures revealed that one million UK businesses have claimed £15 billion from the furlough scheme to cover the wages of 8.4 million staff.
- The Treasury also revealed that UK banks have funnelled more than £27 billion to companies as part of three state-backed loan schemes since Covid-19 pandemic.
- Reports suggest the Treasury is considering a cut-off date for the furlough scheme after which no employees would be allowed to join the scheme.
- Draft plans being worked on are expected to require employers to start paying 20% of the salary from 1 August, meaning that the Government contribution for each employee would fall to 60%. Those rates would apply to both full-time and part-time workers.
- Employers would also be expected to pay national insurance contributions.
- As well as changes to the furlough schemes, the Treasury is said to be considering the future of the self-employment income support scheme that pays two million people up to £2,500 a month.
- HMRC has revealed that more than £6.8 billion has been claimed via 2.3 million applications from those who are self-employed and unable to work.
- The scheme is due to end in five days’ time. However, some form of extension is expected.
Other UK COVID 19 news
- The Government have signed deals with more than 100 new suppliers of PPE from around the world. The Department of Health and Social Care have said that a new team has been established to secure new supply lines from across the world and will continue to strengthen and diversify the supply chain.
- Work has restarted at Crossrail’s eastern and western stations. Physical works stopped on all Crossrail construction sites when the PM announced the lockdown in March.
- The Government has confirmed there will not be a formal review of penalties handed out for childcare-related travel. It came after the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the Government would look at the issue when responding to a question from the public at Tuesday’s daily briefing
- According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest report, energy investment is expected to fall 20% or around $400 billion, compared with last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, funding was set to rise by 2%. Fossil fuels are hit hardest, with a 30% funding drop expected for oil and a 15% fall for coal. Meanwhile, investment in renewables is down 10%.
- Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has confirmed there will be a public inquiry into Scotland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
World COVID 19 news
- The European Commission has set out a major recovery fund worth €750bn (£670bn; $825bn) to help the EU tackle an “unprecedented crisis”.
- Under the proposal the European Commission would borrow the funds from the market and then disburse two-thirds in grants and the rest in loans to cushion the unprecedented slump expected this year due to Covid-19..
- Under the commission’s blueprint, Italy would get €82bn in grants, Spain €77bn, France €39bn, Poland €37bn and Germany €29bn.
- The money would be raised by the EU borrowing on capital markets on a far bigger scale than ever before, meeting a key demand from France and Germany, but provoking opposition from Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden who are opposed to shared debt.
- The recovery fund package comes in addition to the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-27, which the Commission proposed should be set at €1.1 trillion.
- France has announced an €8bn plan to revive France’s auto industry. President Macron said the package would include €1bn in subsidies to encourage purchases of electric and hybrid cars and set a target of France producing a million green cars annually by 2025.
- Today marked the start of Spain’s 10 days of national mourning for the victims of the outbreak. More than 27,000 people have died in the country, which has recorded 236,259 cases.
- New Zealand expects a plan for safe travel with Australia in June. The neighbours have been discussing the possibility of a travel bubble between them as both have slowed the spread of Covid-19 to very low levels. New Zealand has also reported a fifth consecutive day of no new cases of Covid-19.
- Greece will allow travellers from about two dozen countries including Germany, Cyprus and Israel to visit from mid-June without having to be quarantined. The list will not initially include the UK due to its higher infection rate.
- Switzerland has unveiled plans to reopen its borders to all its neighbours except Italy.
- France, Italy and Belgium have begun to halt the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with Covid-19, amid questions about the safety of the generic anti-malaria drug.
Private sector updates
- Halfords is to reopen 53 stores for the first time since lockdown after trialling physical-distancing measures.
- Greggs plans to reopen 800 UK stores from mid-June following a successful trial of reopening’s using safety measures in the north-east this month.
- Corner shops and independent grocery stores, including Spar, Londis and Budgens, have seen trade soar by 63% during the lockdown – more than twice as much as the fastest growing grocery chain, the Co-op.
- McDonald’s will reopen 975 more UK branches for drive-thru or deliveries from 4 June.
- British Land, which owns a number of UK shopping centres, has reported annual losses of £1.1bn.
- John Lewis plans to reopen two stores on 15 June, in Kingston and Poole, followed by 11 more three days later. Others may follow depending on the demand.
- Google has announced plans to begin the phased reopening of offices around the world from July.
- British grocery sales rose by 14.3 per cent during the 12 weeks to 17 May – the fastest rate since comparable records began in 1994, data shows.
- Zoopla said demand among buyers had soared 88% after the property market reopened