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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, May 19

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Tuesday, May 19

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.

UK unemployment figures have shown an increase of those claiming unemployment benefit to 2.1 million in April

  • Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown a rise of 856,000 people claiming unemployment benefits.
  • Prior to the start of lockdown, employment had hit a record high.
  • The number of job vacancies also fell by nearly a quarter to 637,000 in the three months to April.
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has warned that worse is yet to come as the unemployment rate is likely to increase significantly.
  • Separate figures from the ONS showed that UK unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March.
  • Claims for universal credit also hit a record high in the early weeks of lockdown.
  • Research from the Resolution Foundation has shown that the pandemic is hitting younger individuals particularly hard, with more than one in three 18-24 years olds now earning less than when the outbreak began.

The Government is increasing the size of loans available to keep large companies afloat from £50m to £200m

  • The loans however, come with restrictions.
  • Any firm borrowing more than £50m will be banned from paying bonuses and dividends as well as undertaking share buybacks.
  • These restrictions will also apply to all firms taking advantage of the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) and the Treasury and Bank of England will publish a weekly list of all companies benefiting from the CCFF scheme starting from 4th June.

The Government has announced that employers will be able to make claims through the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme from 26th May

  • The scheme will allow SME’s to recover SSP payments they have made to their employees, for companies with fewer than 250 employees.
  • This package was announced at the Budget earlier this year.
  • The claim will be made available online.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP has stated in Parliament that 89% of all Coronavirus deaths have been those aged over 65.
  • The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has outlined that it will take time for people to resume their economic habits and there will be no immediate bounce back of the economy.
  • The Department for Education has announced £37m in funding to help children with special education needs and disabilities in England. £10m of the fund will be directly targeted to those who have been affected by the pandemic.
  • Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has written a 19 page letter to the Prime Minister outlining the failures of the UK’s approach to Coronavirus
  • The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has heard from Professor David Robertson, head of viral genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Glasgow, who has said that Covid-19 cannot be eradicated.

World COVID 19 news

  • France and Germany have proposed a €500bn recovery fund for the EU. The funding would be provided via grants, which has been challenged by Austria who prefer the use of loans to affected nations.
  • Donald Trump has renewed his attack on the World Health Organisation (WHO), calling it a “puppet of China”. President Trump has also sent a four page letter to the WHO where he outlines the bold claims. Responding China has accused the US of trying to distract from its own mishandling of the crisis.
  • The WHO have agreed to hold a global review of their handling of the pandemic.
  • Donald Trump has stated that he has been taking the unproven virus drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent himself contracting the disease.
  • Portugal has reopened cafes, restaurants and many more shops, in a new phase of easing restrictions.

Private sector updates

  • The maker of Lambert & Butler and Gauloises cigarettes, Imperial Brands, has cut its dividend for the first time since 1996.
  • Pizza Express plans to reopen 13 London restaurants for delivery in the next 10 days
  • The restaurants Bella Italia and Café Rouge are on the brink of collapse, with a risk to 6,000 jobs, after the firms owner confirmed intent to appoint administrators.
  • Asda is trialling ‘virtual queues’ outside one its stores in Leeds, a system which would allow customers to log in to the queue remotely and wait in their car before they can enter the store.
  • Retailer French Connection has warned it will run out of cash in the coming months unless sales improve or the firm secures a cash injection.
  • Uber has announced it is making a further 3,000 redundancies in the US, and closing 45 offices, just a fortnight after 3,700 employees lost their jobs. The firm announced rides were down 80% year on year in April.

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