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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, April 30

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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, April 30

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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that he will unveil a plan next week on how the UK will exit the lockdown

  • In his first press conference since recovering from Covid-19, Johnson announced he will publish a comprehensive plan to exit the lockdown next week
  • The plan will cover three things; how to restart the economy; how to get children back to school; and how to get people into work.
  • Johnson stated that the plan will be “guided by science” and he will attempt to “build maximum political consensus”. However, Johnson reiterated five key tests must be met before a reopening can be considered.
  • The five tests are; protecting the NHS and its ability to cope, a sustained fall in deaths, a sustained fall in the infection rate, ensuring the challenges of testing and PPE are tackled; and ensuring there is no second peak.

 The government is pushing to meet a deadline for carrying out 100,000 tests a day, but ministers admit they seem unlikely to reach the target today

  • Health Secretary, Matt Hancock had pledged to reach the target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April – but only 52,000 tests were carried out on Tuesday.
  • However the UK does now have the capacity to test almost 80,000 people a day.
  • Justice Secretary Robert Buckland admitted that the government would probably not meet it’s target today but will likely meet it within the next few days.
  • The ultimate goal of the government is to eventually be able to conduct 250,000 tests per day.

The Scottish government has announced that all families of frontline NHS Scotland staff who die as a result of Covid-19 will receive financial support

  • The announcement came after England and Wales announced similar schemes earlier in the week.
  • The Scottish government will pay a total lump sum of twice the staff member’s annual earnings and a continued pension to surviving partner or dependent child in the event of a death in service.
  • The median NHS Scotland wage is £36,241.

 Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma has written a letter thanking workers in the energy sector for their efforts to keep essential services operational.
  • Plans to scrap VAT on e-publications have been fast tracked by seven months and will come into force tomorrow, in an attempt to boost readers and publishers during the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • The government has announced it will be spending up to £35 million in newspapers on Covid-19 communications advertising over the next 3 months in support of the newspaper industry.
  • Researchers say the preliminary results from UCL trials to treat Covid-19 with the drug Remdesivir are “really promising,” and  suggest it can help people recover from Covid-19 more quickly. However they acknowledged that there was “a little way to go”.
  • Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has stated that it is highly unlikely that there will be a loosening of lockdown restrictions on 7 May.
  • The government is to step up its campaign to find British workers to pick fruit and vegetables during the lockdown. Environment, food and rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble said farms currently had sufficient seasonal labour. But he said the campaign to plug the gap left by having fewer pickers from abroad would be “escalated” next month.
  • New video technology is being introduced to enable criminal trials in crown and magistrates courts to be conducted securely over remote video links during the pandemic.
  • More than 3,000 additional officers have joined police forces under the recruitment pledge that formed a centrepiece to Boris Johnson’s election campaign to recruit 20,000 more police officers.
  • The Labour Party are calling on the government to introduce a strategy for intermediate care to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in care homes by people who are discharged form hospital.
  • From tomorrow, PPE purchased by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals will be free from VAT for three months. It is hoped that this move will save care homes and businesses over £100m.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • South Korea – which at one point had more than 900 new cases a day – has reported no new local transmissions
  • The Eurozone’s economy shrunk by 3.8% in the first quarter. It comes as the United States economy contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of the year. It’s greatest contraction since the 2008 financial crash.
  • New data showed that French GDP contracted by 5.8% in the first three months of 2020, while Italian and Spanish GDP shrank by 4.7% and 4.1% respectively during the same period.
  • Germany’s unemployment rate increased to 5.8% in April, up from 5% in March meaning that Germany’s overall unemployment increased by 373,000 to 2.64 million in April.
  • In the past week, 3.8 million more people filed for unemployment in the US, bringing the total number of Americans made jobless up to some 30m over the past six weeks.

 Company updates

  • Lloyds Banking Group’s profits have fallen by 95%, posting pre-tax profits of £74m for Q1 2020. The bank warned of a worst-case scenario in which GDP shrinks by 7.8% this year with a 5% fall in house prices.
  • AstraZeneca will manufacture and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford if the treatment proves effective. However the development of the vaccine could take at least a year, according to scientists.
  • Tour operator Tui has cancelled all beach holiday packages on or before 11 June, affected an estimated 1 million people. The firm has also postponed the launch of Tui River Cruises until late November.
  • Retailers Oasis and Warehouse are closing all stores and ceasing online shopping after administrators failed to secure a rescue deal for the brands, with a loss of 1,800 jobs.
  • In a leaked memo, British Airways has told its staff that its Gatwick airport operations may not reopen after the pandemic. The memo also suggests a quarter of BA’s 4,300 pilots are set to be made redundant.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority said it will investigate a surge in complaints about refunds and cancellations relating to weddings and private events, holiday accommodation, and nurseries and childcare providers following accusations that firms are refusing to issue refunds.
  • The International Energy Agency have said global carbon emissions are set to drop a record 8% this year because of lockdowns around the world. Global electricity demand is set to decline by 5% – that’s the largest drop since the 1930s Great Depression. However renewable energy are on track to deliver a record-breaking 40% of the global electricity market in 2020.
  • The British Independent Retailers Association has stated that a fifth of high street stores plan to stay closed permanently after the Covid-19 lockdown unwinds.
  • Pret a Manger is to reopen a further 20 of its shop kitchens from tomorrow, offering takeaway and delivery only via Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats. It is also rolling over a 50% discount for NHS workers until 15 May.
  • Manchester United are set to donate 60,000 prepared meals to NHS staff helping fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Research by the Construction Leadership Council found that only one in 10 construction companies that applied for emergency finance as a result of disruption caused by Covid-19 had been successful. Three in 10 applicants had been rejected while six in 10 were still waiting for a decision.

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