Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, April 6
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 to remain in hospital
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to St Thomas’s hospital last night for tests, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus.
- Downing Street said it was a “precautionary step” taken on the advice of his doctor.
- Johnson has tweeted that he is in “good spirits” but Number 10 has stopped describing his symptoms as “mild”.
- As the Prime Minister continues to be observed by doctors, Downing Street said it was too early to say whether he would be staying for another night and did not deny that he had been given oxygen treatment.
- They insisted that Johnson remains in charge but the daily coronavirus meeting was chaired by Dominic Raab, who will continue to do so while Johnson is absent.
- Johnson is continuing to work through his red box of papers.
- There will be no cabinet on Tuesday, instead the daily coronavirus meeting will replace it.
Austria begins to lift restrictions as several European nations begin to contemplate exit strategies
- With daily death rates across Europe beginning to fall, several nations have set up expert committees to examine a gradual easing of stay-at-home orders in a way that would avoid a second wave of infections.
- Austria imposed a lockdown on 14 March, and has now seen a drastic falls in its infection rates.
- It has begun charting a path towards reopening the economy, provided the infection rates continue to fall.
- In Austria, the government is planning to let smaller shops reopen on 14 April, with the aim of reopening all shops from 1 May.
- Hotels and restaurants will open step-by-step from mid-May at the earliest and when they reopen, staff will have to wear masks and tables will have to have a specific distance from each other.
- Public events will not be permitted to take place until July.
- Curfews will remain in place and everyone will be required to wear a face masks or mouth and nose covering when on public transport and when in supermarkets.
- The Austrian exit strategy will also include the introduction of tracking apps to trace citizens’ movements and ensure they are not breaking curfew rules. Those who don’t have a mobile phone will be required to wear a special key-ring style device.
- Germany is developing a similar app which will also warn people if they might have had contact with infected persons. Its use in Germany is expected to be anonymous and voluntary.
- The UK is unlikely to begin lifting its restrictions until the infection rate falls significantly. However the new leader of the Opposition Labour party, Sir Kier Starmer, has put pressure on the government to come up with an exit strategy after infection rates decline.
Other UK COVID 19 news
- Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood has resigned after making two trips to her second home during the coronavirus lockdown. Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, will temporarily fill the position. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon will be responsible for appointing a permanent successor.
- The Foreign Office has changed its restrictions to advise against all non-essential travel “indefinitely”. The previous travel ban only ran until 16 April.
- Local councils have been told by Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, to keep parks open unless it is “impossible” to do so, as the government reacts to criticism of high-handed town halls.
- Potential victims of modern slavery are to be allowed to stay in government-funded safe houses for the next three months. Normally, suspected victims are able to access support including accommodation for at least 45 days, after which they would ordinarily be assisted to move on from their accommodation.
- The world’s largest randomised clinical trial of potential coronavirus treatments is underway in the UK. Almost 1,000 patients from 132 different hospitals have already been recruited.
- The government is partnering with leading UK video games firms to spread essential health instructions into more homes across the country. The messaging will be spread via geotargeting and will appear in some of the most popular video games such as Candy Crush Saga, Sniper Elite 4, DiRT Rally 2.0 and Farm Heroes.
- Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Stephen Timms, and Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, have called on the government to ensure workers who have no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status are properly supported during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Nearly 13,000 retired health professionals and students have offered to work in Scotland’s health service to help cope with the extra demands of the coronavirus crisis.
- Key workers in Wales will be given free childcare for pre-school children during the outbreak.
Relevant world COVID 19 news
- The United Nations’ biodiversity chief called for a global ban on wildlife markets – such as the one in Wuhan, China, believed to be the starting point of the coronavirus outbreak – to prevent future pandemics.
- The UN’s World Food Programme is calling for an urgent $350m funding boost to help it keep going in the face of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, which it says threatens millions of people already at risk of food shortages.
- The UK government has brought home 20,000 people from Spain, 13,000 from Egypt and 8,000 from Indonesia – along with another 2,000 people from seven other countries.
- New car registrations for March fell by 44.4% (203,00) compared with March 2019, according to the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
- UK house sales are expected to collapse according to Knight Frank, who warn the number of house sales could go from 1.2 million last year, to just 734,000 this year. They also say that prices may fall by just 3% and then rebound by 5% in 2021.
- Reach, previously known as Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers along with hundreds of regional titles, is to furlough almost 1,000 employees. The group’s management and senior editorial team will see their pay cut too.
- Engineering firm Babcock, one of the UK military’s largest contractors, will manufacture 10,000 ventilators to help deal with the crisis.
- Apple has said it will start making protective shields for medical workers, aiming to produce more than one million a week, first to be shipped to American medical workers, and then distributed globally.
- WHSmith is preparing to raise new equity to get it through the coronavirus crisis.
- BT, the UK’s largest telecoms company, has pledged not to sack or furlough any of its staff for the next three months.