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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 22

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 22

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.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has made a statement to the House of Commons outlining the current state of affairs in relation to COVID-19

  • Hancock highlighted that there were over 10,000 beds currently free in the NHS, which was why he wanted to open up hospitals “safely and carefully” to other health cases (including 3,000 critical care beds).
  • Hancock stated that social distancing measures would only be relaxed once there was no risk of a second peak alongside other measures.
  • The Government is currently in talks with 159 UK based potential suppliers of PPE, with the biggest and most reliable offers being considered first.
  • A potential vaccine that has been developed by Oxford University and Imperial College London will begin trails tomorrow.
  • Stated that contact tracing would be introduced at “large scale” in time, once testing was up and running at full capacity and said that digital and technological innovators were being worked with to create and improve the tracing app.

The first PMQs since Parliament returned from recess has taken place, with MPs delivering questions via video link to First Secretary of State Dominic Raab

  • New Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer made his debut at the dispatch box to challenge Mr Raab on the Government’s handling of the crisis, particularly around testing for healthcare workers and PPE provision.
  • During PMQ’s Dominic Raab vowed that the UK would hit its testing target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, a five-fold increase on current numbers.

 Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The UK continues to defend its failure to join the EU medical equipment scheme. Health Minister Helen Whately stated it was “very frustrating” that “an email went astray”, dismissing the previous claim that it had been a political decision not to take part.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to President Trump yesterday afternoon where they agreed on the importance of a coordinated international response to coronavirus, including through the G7 and discussed continued UK-US cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. The leaders also committed to continue working together, including signing a free trade agreement as soon as possible.
  • A new public campaign launched by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has been announced. It means that charities that help combat loneliness will be a priority category of the £750m charity funding package announced by the Chancellor on 8 April.
  • Transport for London will run out of money by the end of the month unless the Government steps in, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said.
  • An RAF plane carrying protective equipment has arrived in the UK after days of delays.
  • The Post Office has redesigned its overnight travel money delivery service to get cash to the most vulnerable people in England.
  • Labour and Putney MP, Fleur Anderson MP, has led efforts in Parliament to deliver a warning to the Government about protecting dental practices during the COVID-19 outbreak. 101 MPs from 7 parties have signed a letter calling on the Government to act. It builds on polling from the British Dental Association that says that 70% of practices say they can only remain financially stable for three months or less.
  • More than 100 UK opposition MPs and peers have called on the UK Government to make regular payments to all adults in the country to stave off a deeper economic crisis after the coronavirus lockdown ends.
  • In Northern Ireland, more than 3,000 small businesses are yet to apply for a grant of £10,000, whilst those that have applied still await the money.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • The US has frozen immigration and will stop issuing green cards for 60 days, with President Donald Trump saying this would protect American jobs during the outbreak.
  • The US state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government and the ruling Communist Party over what it calls deliberate deception leading to the global Covid-19 pandemic. China has called the lawsuit “absurd”.
  • Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said that Donald Trump’s botched handling of the Covid-19 crisis has left the US looking like a third world country and on course for a second Great Depression.
  • US President Donald Trump has demanded Harvard University pay back nearly $9m (£7.3m) in coronavirus relief aid.
  • This year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be held in Rwanda, has been postponed due to the pandemic.
  • Spain’s Prime Minister aims to ease the country’s lockdown in May through a slow and gradual easing of restrictions. The PM has requested a third extension to the state of emergency until 9th May.
  • Officials in Iceland have announced a new package to support businesses and groups suffering in the pandemic.
  • South Africa has unveiled $26bn Covid-19 relief package.
  • The famous Bondi Beach in Australia will be reopened to swimmers and surfers next week after a month-long closure. It follows the reopening of a few neighbouring beaches on Monday.
  • The world is at risk of widespread famines “of biblical proportions” over the virus, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warns.
  • A clinical test of a Covid-19 vaccine has been approved in Germany, the country’s Federal Institute for Vaccines has said.
  • Lithuania will start to ease coronavirus lockdown measures this week after they were imposed last month to prevent the spread of the virus.

Company updates

  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published further details on its approach to merger investigations during the COVID-19 crisis. This included guidance on merger assessments, which stressed that there had been no relaxation of rules with the “overall approach to assessing whether a merger gives rise to competition concerns remains[ing] unchanged”.
  • More than 70% of firms have furloughed staff in response to the lockdown, according to the British Chamber of Commerce. The BCC further warned that 59% of firms reported they have a maximum of three months of funds in reserve, warning of a growing cash crisis.
  • Laura Ashley is reopening one of its factories in Wales to make medical clothing and cubicle curtains for the NHS. They plan to make 3,000 NHS workwear outfits a week.
  • Consumer group Which? has said that 20 of the biggest UK airlines and travel firms are breaking the laws by not refunding customers for travel cancelled during the lockdown. Many operators are offering vouchers or credit notes instead of refunds. The travel industry estimates that up to £7bn could be owed for cancelled trips.
  • The Government is considering bailing out rail and tram networks in London, Liverpool and Manchester as revenues have collapsed along with passenger numbers.
  • Insurer Hiscox is facing coordinated legal action from over 100 nightclubs, pubs and bars over non-payment business interruption insurance claims. Business owners say that they have been told that policies sold pre-Covid-19 do not cover the pandemic.

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