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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, March 31

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, March 31

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.

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has provided more details of the emergency powers she plans to put before the Scottish Parliament

  • The Scottish government is pushing through a swathe of emergency powers in a new bill expected to be approved in a single day by MSPs on 1 April.
  • The bill will include banning landlords from evicting tenants who cannot afford rent and extending detention times for people with mental illnesses.
  • The bill also includes emergency powers on prisoner release and the suspension of trial by jury.
  • Scottish lawyers have attacked plans to suspend jury trials in Scotland, describing the proposals as “premature, disproportionate and ill-advised.”
  • Sturgeon said the jury trial measures were necessary to ensure that serious criminal trials did not halt entirely because juries were unable to sit during the crisis.
  • Sturgeon also emphasised  that “clear points of scrutiny” were being built into the legislation, and that the bill was developed in discussion with opposition parties.
  • Sturgeon also announced a funding boost for Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has announced that NHS visas will be extended until the end of the year

  • Nearly 3,000 migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics plus their family members are to have their visas extended for a year to assist the fight against coronavirus
  • The extension will apply to around 2,800 NHS staff whose visa is due to expire before 1 October.
  • The Home Office said it has also lifted the restriction on the amount of hours student nurses and doctors can work in the NHS.
  • Pre-registered overseas nurses who are currently required to sit their first skills test within three months and to pass the test within eight months, will now have this deadline extended to the end of the year.
  • This will give overseas nurses more time to pass their exams, whilst they spend the immediate term working on the frontline.
  • The Home Office also announced that from 1 April no member of the public will have to pay for 101 non-emergency calls to the police.
  • The extension to NHS visas will be automatic, there will be no fee attached and it will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Fifty MPs from various parties have written to Boris Johnson calling for the creation of a coronavirus compensation scheme for frontline workers during the crisis

  • The letter called for staff “who die as a result of contracting Covid-19 while performing frontline duties” and would include a lump sum up front,
  • They also called for a guaranteed income for the worker’s family and child payments to eligible children under 18.
  • The letter, shared on Twitter by Liberal Democrats MP Layla Moran, was also signed by Labour MP Jess Phillips, the Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, and Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker.
  • Johnson has previously stated the NHS staff on the frontline will be recognised  for their sacrifice, but he has not set out any specific packages.

The DCMS Select Committee have met remotely to discuss the impact on COVID-19 on the charity sector

  • Those giving evidence include CEO of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Karl Wilding and CEO at St John’s Ambulance, Martin Houghton-Brown.
  • According to a new survey, almost half of charities supporting vulnerable children in London will be forced to close within six months due to a collapse in income caused by coronavirus, unless they get additional support from the state.
  • The National Council for Voluntary Organisations estimates the charitable sector is set to lose at least £4.3 billion in income over the next 12 weeks.
  • The charities said vulnerable children in London are more likely to go hungry during the outbreak due to the loss of free school meals and parental earnings, and a shortage of staple foods like rice, pasta and tinned produce.
  • The government has now officially launched a national voucher scheme for children eligible for free school meals. Schools can now provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools.
  • Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Friday that the government was preparing a package of financial support for charities, but no details have yet been released.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Business Secretary Alok Sharma has written a letter to the construction sector assuring them that they can continue to travel to work.
  • More than 100 MPs have signed a letter by the Labour MP Chi Onwurah calling for the House of Commons to move online for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • UK police officers have been told to be consistent with their approach to ensure people are following social distancing measures. It comes as some forces have been criticised for the way they have handled the new powers. The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said officers should first “engage, explain and encourage” people to follow the new public health regulations, and “only as a last resort, enforce”.
  • Sales of groceries in the UK in March beat all previous records as shoppers stocked up for a long period at home. Year-on-year supermarket sales grew by 20.6% over the past four weeks.
  • Public Health Wales has urged the country’s 440,000 smokers to quit now to reduce the risks from Covid-19 and said it has seen a rise in the number of people asking for help to stop.
  • The government have confirmed that women’s homes and the homes of registered medical practitioners will be classed as approved places for early medical abortions.
  • Bus companies are to be promised hundreds of millions of pounds to deal with plummeting passenger numbers this week in the latest bailout since the start of the COVID 19 crisis.
  • Around 50 army officers from NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps have deployed to London to help fight the COVID 19 pandemic. The group includes military planners from the British armed forces as well as French army staff who are serving at the NATO headquarters in Gloucester.

Relevant world COVID 19 news 

  • Eight countries have asked the EU to support road transport firms hit by the coronavirus outbreak and halt work on reforms to truck drivers’ working conditions they said would leave the vulnerable companies worse off. The transport ministers of Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta and Romania said the bloc should stand up for transport firms as it has already taken steps to help struggling airlines.
  • The World Bank has warned the pandemic is causing “unprecedented global shock” that could cause China’s growth to come to a standstill while driving 11 million more people in East Asia into poverty.
  • US Congress has set aside $50bn for airlines, with half the money offered as loans in exchange for not mandating leave of absence for employees until at least 30 September.

Company updates

  • Nationwide, one of the UK’s biggest mortgage lenders, announced it will now only offer home loans to those with 25% equity or more, ruling out first-time borrowers or existing homeowners with little equity.
  • Swissport, WFS, Dnata and Menzies, the four firms which manage 90% of ground operations at airports in the UK, have said they are at risk of going under given most passenger flights have currently been suspended.
  • British Airways have announced they are suspending all flights to and from London Gatwick airport. BA continues to fly on a reduced timetable from Heathrow. Shares in IAG, which owns BA, have more than halved since the beginning of March.
  • WPP, the world’s largest advertising company, has announced a £2bn savings plan, including pausing its £950m share buyback scheme, and making up to £800m in savings this year.
  • Royal Dutch Shell has warned that it expects to take a hit of up to $800m (£650.7m) in the first quarter due to a slump in the price of oil amid the coronavirus crisis and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
  • Post Office Travel Money, the UK’s largest foreign currency provider, has suspended the ability to buy travel money online as well as its branch pre-order service.
  • Supermarkets Aldi, Morrisons and Waitrose are easing restrictions on the number of items customers can buy. The limits had originally been introduced to stop people panic buying.

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