Daily Covid-19 Brief: Weekend Update, May 2-4
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.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has said that businesses could be asked to stagger employees’ working hours when the lockdown eases
- Shapps said the move would help to prevent crowded commutes that risked spreading Covid-19.
- Shapps said more buses and trains would run and that he was working with train companies and unions on maintaining social distancing rules. However he added that he hoped to encourage more cycling and walking.
- He also said that the government was “actively looking at” quarantining people travelling from abroad for 14 days.
- However Airline UK, which represents British Airways, Easyjet, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and other UK-based airlines, has warned that a 14-day quarantine period “would effectively kill air travel”.
A new NHS smartphone app to trace the spread of Covid-19 is to be trialled on the Isle of Wight this week before being rolled out more widely later this month
- The NHSX app is part of the government’s test, track and trace strategy and will be central to its efforts in slowing the spread of Covid-19.
- The government intends to use the app and a phone team to carry out the tracing.
- It will be downloaded on to smartphones and use bluetooth technology to work out when other app users are in close enough proximity to potentially spread the virus.
- The data is recorded under an anonymous ID, rather than by the person’s name.
- If someone starts showing symptoms, or tests positive for Covid-19, they are able to share that on the app. The app then sends a notification warning of possible infection to all those phone users to have come in requisite proximity recently.
- Millions of people will be asked to download the app and transport secretary, Grant Shapps said around 50% to 60% of people will need to use the software for it to be effective as he described it as the “best possible way to help the NHS”.
- Shapps also stated that people coming into the UK could be required to download the NHS contact-tracing app.
- Contact tracing has been used extensively in South Korea, Hong Kong and Germany, where outbreaks have been contained more quickly.
Other UK COVID 19 news
- The government has pledged to spend £76m to support the country’s most vulnerable people. The new funding is intended to help vulnerable children and victims of domestic violence and modern slavery.
- Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford has spoken about plans to possibly reopen schools by June. Drakeford said some groups could return earlier than others, citing the examples of year-six children who are due to move up to secondary school and Welsh medium pupils who may not have had opportunities to use the language at home during lockdown.
- The Scottish health secretary had said the number of people in intensive care in the country has fallen below 100 for the first time since March.
- The Scottish government has announced a number of measures to support mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. £105,000 will be provided to the organisation Young Scot to create “a range of digital content on mental wellbeing” and a total of £700,000 will be provided to The Spark, a charity which provides relationship counselling services.
Relevant world COVID 19 news
- About 2.2 million US small business loans worth $175bn (£139bn) have been taken out since 27 April, through a government coronavirus relief package. The programme is designed to help businesses pay employees and stay afloat as Covid-19 crisis. The average size of each Payroll Protection Program loan was $79,000 (£63,189).
- The US government has given emergency approval for the anti-viral Ebola drug remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19. The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) found that remdesivir cut the duration of symptoms in patients from 15 days down to 11.However the trials did not give any clear indication whether it can prevent deaths from Covid-19.
- The Indian government has made it compulsory for all public and private sector workers to use a smartphone app designed to trace people who may have been infected with Covid-19. The Aarogya Setu app alerts users who have come in contact with people later found to have Covid-19.
- Around half of US states have started relaxing lockdown measures but the governor of New York said such a move would be premature in his state, the worst-hit in the country.
- Churches in Germany opened for Sunday services for the first time since the lockdown began in March, but singing is banned to prevent new infections.
- Portugal’s six-week state of emergency has ended, but face masks are now compulsory on public transport and people are still being asked to stay at home where possible.
- South Korea will further relax social distancing rules from Wednesday, allowing public facilities such as parks, libraries as well as schools to reopen in phases. The nation has largely managed to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control.
- Vienna Airport is to offer Covid-19 testing to new arrivals who wish to avoid a 14-day quarantine after entering the country. Tests will be available at the airport in the Austrian capital from Monday and will take around two to three hours, and cost €190 (£170). Until now people arriving at the airport have been required to produce a recent health certificate illustrating a negative Covid-19 result or enter quarantine for two weeks.
- Passengers travelling on Eurostar from the UK must wear a face mask or face covering from Monday in line with guidelines from the French and Belgian governments. Any type of mask is suitable, authorities as long as it effectively covers the nose and mouth. Those without masks may be refused travel. Fines may also be imposed in France and Belgium for anyone without a mask.
- The National Trust could lose up to £200m this year due to the Covid-19 crisis, the charity has said as it appeals to the government for “urgent, practical” support after having to halt a number of projects amid the pandemic
- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says his company Berkshire Hathaway has sold all of its shares in the four largest US airlines. He said “the world has changed” because of the Covid-19.
- Three rail unions, ASLEF, RMT and the TSSA, have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford, and the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, saying this is not the time to lift the lockdown and run more trains. The joint letter said it is “completely unacceptable” to put the lives of passengers and rail staff at risk.