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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 8

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Wednesday, April 8

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.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new package of support for charities during the COVID 19 crisis

  • Sunak has announced £750m of funding for the charity sector, £370m of which will support small, local charities working with vulnerable people.
  • The measures were announced after the DCMS Committee warned that charities face losing up to £4 billion in income and if nothing is done many will face insolvency within weeks.
  • In England, the support will be provided for organisations through the National Lottery communities fund.
  • The government will also allocate £60m of this funding through the Barnett Formula to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • It will also provide a further £360m directly to charities to help them provide essential services and support vulnerable people.
  • Up to £200m of those grants will support hospices, with the rest going to organisations like St John Ambulance and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, as well as charities supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse or disabled people.
  • The government will also match pound-for-pound whatever the public donates to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal, starting with at least £20m to the National Emergencies Trust appeal.
  • The measures were announced after 26 ex-cabinet ministers, including Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, and Esther McVey, called for an emergency hardship fund for charities.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has updated its guidance for furloughed workers to allow some to undertake additional work “if contractually allowed”

  • The UK government will no longer block furloughed employees from taking on additional work during the coronavirus crisis
  • The change comes after industry groups sought clarification of furloughed workers’ status.
  • The new guidance states that “if contractually allowed, your employees are permitted to work for another employer whilst you have placed them on furlough.”
  • The farming industry welcomed the move, they said that the change would help pave the way to hire local workers for some 70,000 to 80,000 seasonal harvesting roles normally filled by migrants, who are unable to travel this year.
  • However the new guidance does not go as far as the social care sector would like as people could not temporarily join the NHS workforce unless their contract allowed.
  • It comes as new research by the Resolution foundation found that the government’s Job Retention Scheme could cost between £30bn-£40bn three times the size of the initial estimates, with potentially half of companies putting staff into the scheme.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “responding to treatment” for coronavirus and remains clinically stable in an intensive care unit.
  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma has written a letter to the manufacturing industry making clear that there are no restrictions on manufacturing continuing under the current rules.
  • The first patients have been admitted to London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital, which was built to help the city deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The Scottish government has announced an extra £5m in emergency financial support for students at Scottish colleges and universities facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has confirmed the lockdown will not be lifted next week in Wales. The UK government are also likely to extend the lockdown measures which are due to be reviewed next week.
  • A new system of boarding buses is being trialled in London to reduce contact with drivers. Transport for London announced it will launch a pilot scheme which will see passengers using the middle door to board, amid growing concern over the safety of drivers following the deaths of at least nine in the UK due to Covid-19.
  • Psychiatrists, doctors, MPs – including ex-cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith have called for all gambling advertising to be halted in the UK during the coronavirus crisis.
  • Tens of thousands of workers in the UK hospitality industry face receiving only half their wages from the government’s coronavirus job support scheme after the tax authority said service charge would not be included. The charge, usually 12 to 15 per cent of the total that is added to bills in hotels and restaurants, is paid directly to employees and usually comprises between 30 and 50 per cent of waiters’, chefs’ and sommeliers’ pay.
  • Airlines will be able to defer the payment of charges for air navigation services in UK and European airspace for the months of February-May 2020 for up to 14 months.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • After 16 hours of talks, EU finance ministers failed to agree an economic response on Wednesday. Northern EU member states like the Netherlands and Germany fear they’ll end up carrying other countries’ debts, while hard-hit nations in the south like Italy and Spain say not enough is being done.
  • Mauro Ferrari, the president of the European Research Council, has resigned, he criticised the EU for rejecting his proposal to set up a large-scale scientific programme to fight Covid-19.
  • The Bank of France said that the country’s economy shrank by about 6% in the first three months of 2020, the worst contraction seen since 1945. In Germany, gross domestic product is set to shrink by almost 10% between April and June, according to a report by five top economic institutes prepared for the German government.
  • Iran has urged the IMF to accept its request for a $5bn (£4bn) loan to help combat the pandemic. The US has said Iran might use it to counteract sanctions. Iran is among the countries worst hit by Covid-19, with 64,586 cases and 3,993 deaths reported.
  • China has officially lifted the months-long lockdown in the city of Wuhan in China – where the coronavirus pandemic started. However some neighbourhoods of the city have been placed back in quarantine .
  • The US recorded the most coronavirus deaths in a single day in the world with 1,736 fatalities reported on Tuesday.
  • The European Commission has proposed extending the bloc’s restriction on non-essential travel from outside the EU until 15 May.

Company updates

  • A new coronavirus testing lab has opened at Cambridge University, a joint collaboration between the two of the UK’s largest pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.
  • British Gas has said it will furlough 3,800 workers, with the firm’s parent company Centrica topping top up the remaining 20% for its staff.
  • Online clothing retailer Asos has raised £247m from investors after launching a call for cash to help it cope with the crisis.
  • The Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) has warned that there is a growing crisis in the car financing market, with many people unable to afford leasing deals. They said the number of forbearance requests has grown significantly in recent weeks. The UK car leasing market is estimated to be over £75 billion.
  • BMW is the latest carmaker to start producing face masks, aiming to make several hundred thousand masks per day in Germany.
  • Twitter’s CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey pledge to donate $1bn in equity from a separate company to a coronavirus relief fund.
  • Tesco has said that “significant panic-buying” in recent weeks cleared its supply chain of certain items as sales jumped by 30%. The supermarket giant said supply has now stabilised across the group as it reported its latest annual figures.
  • Marks & Spencer is donating thousands of specially branded ‘We are the NHS’ t-shirts to form part of the uniform pack for the new NHS Nightingale hospital’s London team – making it easier to identify the doctors, nurses, staff and working there.
  • The UK’s largest travel firm, Tui, has cancelled all its beach holidays for the next five weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Channel 4 will cut its content budget by £150m in a bid to navigate through the coronavirus crisis.

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