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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, April 7

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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, April 7

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.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is to take on some prime ministerial duties after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care on Monday

  • Johnson asked Raab, who is also the First Secretary of State, to deputise for him “as necessary” just before he went into intensive care.
    • According to reports there has been no change of condition in Johnson’s health since he was admitted to intensive care.
    • No10 have stated that Johnson does not have pneumonia and he has not been ventilated, however he did need four litres of oxygen in intensive care, suggesting that he was in better health than many such patients generally.
    • In Johnson’s absence, Raab will now lead the government’s day-to-day running of the coronavirus response.
    • Raab will also chair the National Security Council and will have the power to authorise military action.
    • However, Raab will not have the power to hire or fire anyone, nor will he attend the weekly audience with the Queen on the PM’s behalf.
    • If Raab was also to also become incapacitated than Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, would take over.
    • Cabinet Office Secretary Michael Gove has stressed that any decision to ease the current lockdown arrangements would be made by the Cabinet collectively and not unilaterally by Raab.
    • On 13 April, the first three weeks of the UK’s lockdown is due to be reviewed. There is a widespread agreement across government that it will need to be renewed for at least another three weeks.
    • However by mid-May, if there is a continuous fall in the infection rates and Boris Johnson is still incapacitated, tensions may arise within government over when and how to begin lifting the lockdown restrictions.

Schools to remain open over Easter to look after vulnerable children and those of key workers

  • The government is offering £25,000-75,000 per school as additional funding to cover the cost of keeping schools open and additional cleaning costs.
    • The government will also continue to provide free school meals to all eligible children over the Easter holidays. This will be done through vouchers or other local schemes.
    • The government has also published a list of recommended online education resources to help children learn at home, which can be found here.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is self-isolating at home, because a family member is showing symptoms of coronavirus.
  • The House of Commons Commission has spoken with digital, broadcasting and procedural experts to develop a virtual House of Commons, if it is required, at the end of the Easter recess. The aim would be for MPs to be able to take part in questions times, urgent questions and ministerial statements.
  • The Welsh government has announced a Third Sector COVID-19 Response Fund worth £24m. It will support charities and third sector organisations financially through the crisis and help more people to volunteer.
  • Northern Ireland’s three airports have been in discussions with the Department for Transport about their continued operations. Currently only two commercial flights are operating between Northern Ireland and London. The Northern Ireland Executive has stressed to the Transport Secretary that the airports need “urgent  support”.
  • Bank of England’s Term Funding Scheme now has additional incentives for SMEs. The scheme is designed to incentivise eligible participants to provide credit to businesses and households to bridge through the current period of economic disruption caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • The latest government figures show that air traffic in the UK is down 92% on the same day in 2019, while rail travel is down 95%,  and road volumes were down 71%. Bus passenger numbers are now down 88% and London Tube journeys are down by 94%. Cross-Channel Eurostar journeys are now just 1% of last year’s numbers.
  • Thousands of small shops across England are set to each lose out on £15,000 in government grants because of an “anomaly”. Businesses with a rateable value of exactly £15,000 will not receive either small business rates relief nor the £25,000 available in government grants they would be eligible for if their valuations were £1 higher.
  • The UK government has issued guidance to councils in England saying that they need to prioritise “black bag” bin collections as services come under pressure because of coronavirus.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • The EU’s 27 finance ministers are to hold a video conference where they expect to strike a deal to use the eurozone’s 410-billion-euro ($443-billion) bailout fund. However they are expected to put aside a proposals by Italy and Spain to issue “coronabonds” to pool public borrowing due to strong opposition from Germany and the Netherlands.
  • China says it has recorded no deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, that’s the first time since the outbreak peaked.

Company updates

  • The Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates banks, pension providers, mini bond holders and smaller asset managers, has warned that a number of financial firms could collapse due to the crisis, saying its focus is in “the coming weeks and months will be to anticipate where those failures may occur.”
  • Zoopla says that the number of new property sales in the UK has fallen by 70% since 23 March.
  • EasyJet has announced it has received a £600m loan from the Treasury and Bank of England’s emergency coronavirus fund, alongside plans to borrow £407m from commercial creditors to ensure its liquidity.
  • Waitrose has said it is scrapping its policy that forced employees who had to self-isolate to make up lost hours at a later date.
  • Primark is to create a fund to help pay wages of garment workers in third world countries following the firm’s decision to cancel tens of millions of pounds worth of clothing orders.
  • WhatsApp has put heavy restrictions on forwarded messages to try to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. From today, messages that WhatsApp thinks are “frequently forwarded” can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.

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