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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, April 21

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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, April 21

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.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that deaths in England and Wales have nearly doubled above what would be expected, hitting a 20-year high

  • The weakly death figures from the ONS revealed that the true number of deaths from Covid-19 in England and Wales was significantly higher in the period up to April 10 than had been previously reported by the government.
    • At the time, the official figures stated that 9,288 people had died from Covid-19 in hospital, however the ONS found the real number was 13,121, 41% more.
    • The discrepancy is because the initial government figures only record those who died in from Covid-19 in hospital whereas the ONS numbers also include those who died in care homes, hospices or their own home.
    • 1,043 Covid -19 deaths took place in care homes in the week up to 10 April up from 217, the previous week. The number of people who died in private homes also more than tripled, to 466.
    • Overall there were 18,516 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 10 April, 2,129 more than the previous week, and 7,996 more than the five-year average.
    • Coronavirus was a factor in 33.6% of all deaths that week, up from 21.2% in the previous week.
    • Some 83.9% of the deaths involving coronavirus that week took place in hospitals, with the rest occurring in care homes, private homes and hospices.

MPs to approve plans for ‘virtual’ sittings of the House of Commons

  • Under proposals drawn up by the House authorities, MPs will be able to contribute to proceedings at Westminster – including questioning ministers – through video links.
    • Screens have been installed in the chamber to allow MPs to speak remotely while the limited number attending in person will be signposted where to sit.
    • No more than 50 MPs will be allowed into the chamber at any given time.
    • They are part of a raft of changes designed to allow Parliament to continue to operate during the coronavirus outbreak, including reduced sitting hours, virtual committee meetings and strict social distancing measures within the Palace of Westminster.
    • The initial cost of development amounts to £148,793 and the running costs for maintaining the system are estimated at £369,267 per month.
    • The new practices will initially operate until 12 May although could remain in place for longer.
    • The new system will not initially be used for debating legislation – which will be confined to those actually in the chamber – however MPs have called for it to be extended to other forms of parliamentary business.
    • It comes as the House of Lords have announced plans to move to an entirely digital format by Thursday.
    • The House of Lords Commission has said it would consider on Monday whether peers would be able to claim their daily attendance allowance for the virtual proceedings.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that the number of job vacancies plunged by 52,000 to 795,000 in the three months to March

  • The ONS also revealed that growth in the number of people on British companies’ payrolls slowed to 0.8% in March from 1.1% in February, according to preliminary tax data.
    • It said the manufacturing and retail sectors reported the largest decline in hiring over the period.
    • Economists also revealed on Tuesday that unemployment increased by 22,000 to 1.36 million in the three months to February, before Covid-19 gripped the UK.
    • Meanwhile, employment for the quarter to February jumped by 352,000 against the same period last year, rising to a record high of 33.07 million. It said this was heavily driven by a jump in the number of women in work, which rose by 318,000 to a record high of 15.73 million.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The government has announced that it is now working with 159 potential UK suppliers to manufacture PPE.
  • That government is giving £20m to the Oxford vaccine team to fund their clinical trials – and they will be trialing a vaccine on people starting on Thursday.
  • The government has launched a new ‘support finder’ tool which will help businesses and self-employed people across the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them.
  • The Northern Ireland executive have confirmed that that all eligible farmers can apply for support under a government scheme to help the self-employed cope with the fallout from Covid-19.
  • The Treasury has said that by the end of yesterday there had been 185,000 applications to furlough workers under the government’s coronavirus job protection scheme. A Treasury spokesman said that 1.3m jobs had benefited as a result, and that the value of the applications was £1.5bn.
  • The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has said that he was “not persuaded” that the government should increase the loan guarantee from 80% to 100%  for small companies.
  • Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said he will have to close Manchester’s Metrolink unless the government offers financial support, because there has been a 95% drop in the number of passengers.
  • Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has spoken to President Trump. He is also due to have a telephone audience with the Queen later this week. However the Prime Minister’s spokesman has insisted that Johnson has not returned to work. Johnson also sent a message of condolence to Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, in relation to the shootings in Nova Scotia.
  • The government’s coronavirus testing co-ordinator, Professor John Newton has said that any front line worker who needs to be tested for the virus should now be able to be tested. Professor Newton said 27 drive-in testing centres were now up and running in the UK and more were planned. But he acknowledged some key workers were finding it difficult to get to drive-in testing centres.
  • Scotland’s justice secretary has announced that there will be limited release of prisoners in order to ease the pressures of Covid-19 on the prison service, some weeks after equivalent moves in England and Wales.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • US President Donald Trump has announced he will temporarily suspend immigration into the US in the fight against the virus and to protect jobs.
  • Germany’s football league, the Bundesliga, could restart as early as 9 May. State leaders and football officials have suggested matches could go on behind closed doors under strict new hygiene measures.
  • Austria has announced that if the number of coronavirus infections stays low, restaurants, cafes and churches will be able to re-open from 15 May. The announcement came after Austria reopened non-essential retail shops last week. Social distancing rules about the size of groups and the number of guests permitted will be announced next week. It’s expected that serving staff will have to wear masks.
  • The UN’s World Food Programme has warned that the Covid-19  pandemic could nearly double the number of people around the world facing acute hunger.

Company updates

  • John Lewis has announced it is furloughing 14,000 staff and cutting its marketing budget. The firm warned of steep sale declines until June, potentially followed by a period of weaker demand. .
  • CBRE has warned that curbs on construction could see just see 10,000 new houses built in London this year. The firm warned that keeping building sites shut until July risks a fall of private house building by more than 50%.
  • Retailer Cath Kidston is to close all of its 60 UK stores, with the loss of 900 jobs. The business will continue to trade online and through its wholesale and franchise businesses.
  • There has been a further warning about the survival of UK airports, with industry experts saying that several airports could close given the severe drop in the number of flights. Nine out of 10 flights have been grounded since the UK went into lockdown.
  • Facebook have said they will stop people listing events that violate local social distancing policies in the US after protests calling for stay-at-home orders to be lifted.
  • Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma says he will donate 100 million masks, one million N95 masks and one million test kits to the World Health Organization.
  • The owner of budget fashion firm Primark has said 68,000 staff have been furloughed across Europe amid the coronavirus lockdown as it revealed a £248m hit for unsold stock as all its stores remain shut.
  • B&Q the DIY retailer, have announced that they are going to open a 14 more of their stores on a trial basis, having opened two over the weekend. Although DIY retailers are classified as an essential business by the government, the retailer decided to shut in March as an extra precaution.
  • Barclays is introducing temporary interest-free buffers of £750 on pre-agreed overdrafts from the start of May which will run to 9 July.

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