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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 1

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 1

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.

Some of the UK’s biggest banks have bowed to pressure from the Bank of England to scrap dividend payments

  • Banks, including Barclays, Lloyds, and NatWest, have suspended their dividends and withheld bonuses to senior staff in order to save money.
  • It came after the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) requested that they suspend dividend plans, including outstanding dividend plans from the last year.
  • The banks were due to pay out billions to shareholders, but the measures mean that they will not be returning money to shareholders via dividends, or buying back their own shares, until the end of the year.
  • By agreeing to the regulator’s formal request on dividends, the banks have avoided being subjected to formal action.
  • But the decision to cancel last year’s pay-outs, which are worth £7.5bn, will prove unpopular with some investors in particular retail shareholders who rely on the pay-out for their income.

The Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service have announced the temporary release of pregnant prisoners

  • The prisoners will be released from today and must be deemed not to pose a high risk of harm to the public.
  • Prisoners in Mother and Baby Units meeting the same risk assessment will also be released with their children.
  • The prisoners will be subject to license conditions, required to stay at home and wear an electronic tag.
  • They will be immediately recalled to prison if any of those conditions are breached or further offences committed.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick has said the UK is aiming to increase the number of tests for coronavirus to 25,000 a day by the middle of April. It comes as the government has stated that it is working with industry to address a shortage of chemicals required for coronavirus testing kits.
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that certain medical imports deemed critical to the UK’s response to coronavirus will not be subject to customs duty or import VAT. These measures will last until 31 July 2020.
  • Scotland’s justice secretary has withdrawn a proposal to suspend jury trials in Scotland due to lack of cross-party support. The measure was part of emergency coronavirus legislation, which was debated by the Scottish Parliament today.
  • More than a third of English councils have suspended collections of garden waste as they struggle to pick up rubbish amid staff shortages.
  • The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee announced that community pharmacies are to receive £300m cash injection to alleviate cash flow issues caused by coronavirus.
  • Thousands of high street firms are beginning to receive £25,000 cash grants and will be exempt from business rates from today – as they begin to benefit from a £22bn package. The smallest businesses in these sectors are also beginning to receive one off grants of either £10,000 or £25,000.

Relevant world COVID 19 news 

  • The European Commission has proposed a short-time work scheme to avoid mass lay-offs across the EU during the pandemic. The scheme is modelled on Germany’s Kurzabeit programme. Under the German scheme, the government pays part of a worker’s wages when companies cut their hours during a slowdown to prevent them from losing their jobs. More details of the proposal are to be announced at a later date.
  • The heads of the WTO, WHO, and the UN have warned that the world risks facing a food shortage if authorities fail to manage the continuing coronavirus outbreak properly.

Company updates

  • British American Tobacco is working on a COVID-19 vaccine using proteins extracted from tobacco leaves. The firm’s US bio-tech subsidiary is in pre-clinical testing, and says it’s vaccine is being developed on a not- for-profit basis.
  • Airbus, Heathrow Airport and Rolls-Royce Holdings are lobbying the Government to support Virgin Atlantic, warning the airline could collapse following a slump in demand.
  • The Corporate Finance Network has warned that almost a fifth of UK SME’s are at risk of going under in the next month unless they can access the emergency support promised by the Government.
  • Boots and community initiative the Hygiene Bank have teamed up to help support NHS staff working in hospitals across the UK by donating over 200,000 toiletries for their personal use.
  • A major Bank of America study has found that about 11 million people across the UK have downed tools and that the economy could shrink by a third as COVID 19 forced employers to shut down shops, factories and offices to slow the spread of the pandemic. However most are not thought to be unemployed due to the Chancellor’s Job Retention Scheme.
  • Nearly half of all major UK insurers have now stopped selling travel insurance as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect trips worldwide.

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