Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 15
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.
House of Commons Speaker has set out plans for a “Virtual Parliament”
- The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has outlined plans for a “Virtual Parliament” after the Easter recess on 21 April.
- The move is designed to allow MPs to scrutinise the Government while social distancing measures are in place.
- Under the plans, MPs could take part in PMQs, urgent questions and statements via video link when they return to Parliament. Remote voting would take place and parliamentary business would be broadcast over video link.
- The House of Commons Commission is set to vote on the proposals tomorrow. It is thought that the Committee is likely to approve the plans, before MPs vote on the changes next week.
- Similar ‘virtual proceedings’ have taken place in both the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies in recent weeks as legislatures look to keep business going despite social distancing rules.
The Government has promised more COVID-19 tests for care homes residents and staff
- The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock confirmed today that all care home residents and staff with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested for coronavirus as laboratory capacity increases.
- The Government had been under pressure to act following increasing concern over the high death toll in care homes and criticism for an apparent lack of support for the care sector.
- COVID-19 testing will be made available to all symptomatic adult social care staff, their family members and care home residents.
- Tests will also be provided to all residents admitted to care homes from hospital and, eventually, from the community. The timescales for the scaling up of care home testing has not yet been announced.
- The measures confirmed today are expected to be outlined further in the government’s COVID-19 social care action plan which will be released tomorrow.
- The news came as, Jeremy Richardson, the head of one of Britain’s largest independent providers of elderly care homes – Four Seasons, said he believed the rate of infections or suspected infections of Covid-19 across such homes was running at up to 70 per cent.
Other UK COVID 19 news
- Labour Party Leader, Sir Kier Starmer has called on the Government to publish an exit strategy to the current lockdown as soon as possible. However Labour would support any Government decision to extend the lockdown. Starmer also said he is “worried” that the Government is behind schedule on plans to conduct 100,000 tests a day by the end of April
- NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and other NHS trusts in England, have stated that they expect hospitals to be able to cope with an expected peak in COVID 19 cases. The Health Secretary said today that spare capacity in the NHS has reached 2,657 beds.
- Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will deputise for the Prime Minister at the G7 coronavirus meeting which is to be held on Thursday.
- The Government has given formal approval for construction to begin on the first phase of the HS2 rail project today, despite lockdown measures.
- UK Finance has announced that the banking and finance sector has lent over £1.1 billion to small and medium-sized businesses so far through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Total lending under the scheme has grown by £700 million in the last week, an increase of 150 per cent.
- On 16th April, the Health and Social Care Committee will be questioning the Secretary of State Matt Hancock about the management of the Coronavirus outbreak. The meeting will begin at 10am.
- Following calls for the membership of the Government’s SAGE Committee to be made public, the Government has stated that membership information will not be released. A Government spokesperson confirmed that much like details of the Government’s COBRA Committee, membership of SAGE will not be disclosed in order to allow frank discussions.
- The head of Universal Credit has promised that the first batch of record numbers of new benefit claimants will be paid in full and on time as planned next week. This is despite the loss of around a fifth of benefits staff to self-isolation.
Relevant world COVID 19 news
- US President Donald Trump has announced that he is planning to halt the United States of America’s funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO):
- In his daily press briefing yesterday, the President announced that he would stop US funding, stating that the World Health Organisation had “failed in its basic duty” in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Trump has accused the agency in recent weeks of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the virus after it emerged in China. The US is the body’s largest single funder, giving it more than $400m in 2019.
- The President’s decision has been met with criticism. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led the criticism stating that now was “not the time” to reduce resources for WHO operations.
- The decision is seen as an attempt by Trump to deflect from the US’s handling of the pandemic and part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to curtail China’s growing global influence.
- Germany is looking to extend lockdown rules that have been put in place as a result of COVID-19, with one eye on an exit strategy:
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to hold talks with the leaders of the country’s 16 states on when to relax coronavirus restrictions.
- According to reports, the federal government in Berlin wants restrictions on movement to last until at least 3 May although some shops will be able to reopen under strict rules from 20 April.
- Supermarket chain Morrisons has announced that it is offering a 10% discount to NHS workers until at least June 12th. The discount will start from tomorrow.
- Facebook has deleted two groups which have been accused of promoting baseless conspiracy theories linking 5G towers to the coronavirus outbreak. The “Stop 5G UK” and “Destroy 5G Save Our Children” pages, which together had more than 62,000 members, were removed after being highlighted in the press.
- Concepta, a fertility tracking company, has announced it has outsourced standard manufacturing so its facilities can be used to manufacture COVID-19 test kits. The firm has relocated production of its pregnancy test kits and has partnered with Abingdon Health, so that its facilities can focus on making COVID-19 antibody tests.
- H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, said today that it had started producing protective aprons at a supplier and would deliver one million aprons to the Swedish healthcare system over the coming two weeks.