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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, March 30

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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Monday, March 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.

The opposition Labour party has called for all businesses and sectors not critical to the response against COVID 19 to close

  • Labour has asked for the government to produce a list of all businesses and sectors that are critical to the national response against coronavirus and order all other firms to close.
    • So far the government has only ordered the closure of non-essential retail businesses and places of leisure such as pubs, restaurants and gyms.
    • The government has allowed all other businesses that require employees to travel to work to remain open so long as they observe social distancing rules.
    • However, Labour is concerned that too many businesses were remaining open despite being unable to implement the government’s social distancing rules.
    • Some European countries, such as Ireland, Italy and Spain, have imposed more stringent conditions, only allowing key workers to travel outside their immediate neighbourhoods. Some firms in critical industries have begun issuing passes to staff in case similar rules are imposed in the UK.
    • While the government have not ruled out increasing restrictions in the future they first want to determine the effectiveness of the current measures, the results of which will not be seen for 2-3 weeks.

The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has announced a £1.1bn “fighting fund” to help tackle the Covid-19 crisis

  • £500m of this will be an “economic resilience fund” to help businesses, charities and social enterprises who are going into hibernation or have cash-flow problems. It will consist of two main elements:
    • The first is a new £100m Development Bank of Wales fund which will be available for companies experiencing cash flow problems and will provide loans of between £5,000 and £250,000 at favourable interest rates.
    • Businesses will also be able to benefit from a £400m emergency pot providing grants of £10,000 for micro-businesses employing up to nine people and grants of up to £100,000 for small and medium sized firms with between 10 and 249 employees.
    • The new fund builds on the £1.4bn business support package announced by the Welsh government on 18 March, which provides a year-long rate relief holiday for all but the largest premises in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and grant-support for more than 70,000 small businesses.
    • Drakeford said the money had come from all areas of government but one specific cut he highlighted was the funding for post-Brexit trade missions. He also said EU funding intended to be spent on projects in Wales would be channelled into the new pot.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • The government has pledged £75 million to help UK nationals stranded overseas to get home. British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan Airways have all agreed to partner with the government to charter rescue flights when there are no other routes available. In countries where people were still able to board commercial flights, the government has urged them not to wait as they would be able to switch carriers at no extra cost.
  • The prime minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, is self-isolating after showing symptoms of coronavirus.
  • 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against coronavirus.
  • A breathing aid that can help keep patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week by the Mercedes Formula One team, together with University College of London. It will help reduce the need for ventilators.
  • Thousands of EasyJet and Virgin airline staff are being offered work in the new NHS Nightingale Hospital in London’s ExCel Centre. Those who sign up will support nurses and senior clinicians at the coronavirus field hospital in east London.
  • The government are set to cap the number of UK and EU undergraduates that each university in England can admit for the academic year in September. It is part of an effort to avoid a free-for-all on admissions, with institutions plunged into financial uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It will be the first limit on numbers since the university admission cap was lifted in 2015.
  • Rail operators Southeastern and Great Western Railway (GWR) have been handed new direct-award franchises by the government in a move designed to ensure travel can continue for essential workers. These agreements will run concurrently with the emergency measures announced last week which will see government temporarily take on the revenue and cost risk associated with individual franchises.
  • Specialist units have been set up across government to combat misinformation about coronavirus. According to the government, up to 70 incidents a week are being identified and resolved.
  • The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee will convene remotely on 31 March so that charities can address MPs over the level of government support needed to ensure their survival.
  • Regulations have been suspended to fast-track supplies of PPE to NHS staff. The government has eased administrative requirements and barriers to imports.
  • Business Secretary Alok Sharma eased requirements to ensure an increased availability of hand sanitiser. New companies will now be able to produce and distribute safe hand sanitiser within a matter of days.
  • Mental Health charities have been given £5m to expand support services. Public Health England have also launched guidance that will give tips on how to look after wellbeing and mental health during the crisis.
  • The government has laid an order to revoke the regulations of the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (General Levy) review 2019. The levy rates will, therefore, not be increasing on 1 April 2020. However further increases from April 2021 would be informed by a wider review of the levy.
  • The government has agreed measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers through COVID-19. All providers have agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported.
  • Northern Ireland’s executive has announced the temporary early release of some sentenced prisoners. It comes despite the fact that there are currently no confirmed COVID 19 cases in the region’s prisons.
  • Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that the SEC Centre in Glasgow will be turned into a temporary hospital to treat300 additional Covid-19 patients. The new field hospital will have the potential to be expanded to accommodate more than 1,000 patients.
  • NHS Scotland will suspend breast, cervical and bowel screening to help it cope with the COVID 19 outbreak. The suspension will be reviewed within the next 12 weeks.
  • Ex civil-servants with emergency planning experience have been drafted in to No 10 to help with the coronavirus response.
  • The public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing has been postponed because of Coronavirus.
  • The Prince of Wales is out of self-isolation, seven days after it was reported he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Official figures for deaths from COVID 19  in the UK could be pushed further upwards on 31 March by a change in the way numbers are gathered. Current death statistics are from hospitals only, however from 31 March, the figure released by the Office for National Statistics will also include cases where patients die in their own homes.

Relevant world COVID 19 news 

  • The EU released a list of the “critical workers” it said must be allowed continued freedom of movement across its internal borders, despite emergency coronavirus measures. The guidelines were put out as the European Commission tries to maintain unity and rules across the bloc, after some member state governments took unilateral steps to restrict the inflow of EU citizens.
  • The Tokyo Olympic Games will take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021, after they were postponed last week by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organisers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Company updates

  • EasyJet has grounded its fleet of over 330 aircraft for at least two months, saying 4,000 of its 9,000 UK staff will be furloughed initially for two months from 1 April.
  • JCB is reopening one of its factories to make part for a new ventilator designed by Dyson.
  • Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse has appointed administrators, putting 2,400 jobs at risk.
  • Restaurant chain Carluccio’s has also gone into administration, blaming “challenging trading conditions”.
  • Mothercare have delayed the start of their franchising deal with Boots due to Covid-19. Last December, Mothercare announced it had struck a deal with Boots to become its exclusive franchise in the UK.
  • Uber has said it will provide 200,000 free trips and 100,000 meals to NHS staff working on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. The ride-hailing company will provide trips up to the value of £15, as well as £10 Uber Eats vouchers, to anyone with an NHS email address.
  • Nordstrom is manufacturing 100,000 masks that will be distributed to healthcare workers looking after patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

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