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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Friday, May 22

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Friday, May 22

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 Government borrowing reached £62.1bn in April

  • The figure is the highest monthly figure on record and means that the deficit was larger last month than forecasted for the whole year.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that the total borrowing for the year could now top £298bn.
  • The furlough scheme contributed £14bn to the Government’s borrowing in April.
  • The increased borrowing is also down to a reduction in tax receipts as the Treasury has allowed companies to defer payments, whilst VAT in April turned negative as the Government gave back more in repayments than they received.
  • Responding to the figures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP said that if the Government had not provided financial support, the cost to the economy and livelihoods would be much worse.

SAGE has published the key evidence on the safety and impact of reopening schools

  • The documents state that the risk of Coronavirus to pupils going back to classrooms was “very, very small, but it is not zero.”
  • A study published this morning showed that children were 56% less likely to be infected than an adult.
  • SAGE considered seven different scenarios which were then presented to politicians. There investigations showed that opening nurseries and reception classes would have a smaller effect on the spread than primary schools. Both had a smaller effect than opening secondary schools.
  • The Government has not followed any of the seven scenarios precisely but has instead chosen a combination of the suggestions that would see Reception, Years 1 and Year 6 go back to primary school classrooms.
  • In their advice, SAGE stated that the choice of scenarios was less important than maintaining other methods of controlling the virus, such as hand washing and social distancing.
  • The Government has said they will trust headteachers to decide the best course of action for their school.
  • A BBC survey of 99 councils showed that only 20 had advised schools to open on the Prime Minister’s target date.
  • 68 of those councils could not guarantee schools would be reopening on the 1st of June.

World COVID 19 news

  • Brazil’s death toll hits 20,047 as fears grow Latin America could become the pandemic’s next epicentre. President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose social distancing measures and previously dismissed Covid-19 as a “little flu”.
  • The United Nations says aid workers report that war-torn Yemen’s healthcare system has “in effect collapsed” and coronavirus is spreading through the country.
  • China has announced that it will not set any specific targets for economic growth this year as a result of the crisis.
  • The Egyptian government has announced a raft of financial measures to help pay for the economic damage caused by the pandemic. Under a new draft law, every working Egyptian will have 1% deduced from their pay while the elderly will have a half percent cut from their pensions.
  • Ten cabinet ministers in South Sudan are now confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus.
  • Cinemas, museums and theatres have reopened in Denmark.

Private sector updates

  • The British Beer and Pub Association has said that the 2-metre social distancing rule means that only one in five pubs will be able to reopen, whilst a 1-metre rule would allow most to reopen.
  • Facebook plans to permanently shift to a more remote workforce, saying that it expects half of staff will work from home in five to 10 years.
  • British retail sales fell by a record amount in April, by 18.1%, as many stores were closed amid the lockdown. Online shopping, as a proportion of all retail, reached a record high of 30.7% according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • UK restaurant chain Carluccio’s has been bought by Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner owner Boparan Restaurant Group in a deal that will save 30 restaurants and 800 jobs.
  • Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has set out plans for reopening hundreds of pubs once restrictions are eased, with staff wearing face masks, and some indoor seating areas separated by Perspex screens

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • Homeowners in the UK who are struggling financially due to the pandemic will be able to extend their mortgage payment holiday for a further three months or cut their payments.
  • Anyone entering the UK, from 8 June, will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Arrivals in the UK face spot checks from health officials and fines of up to £1,000 if they break the mandatory 14 day quarantine.
  • Health Minister Nadine Dorries has announced £22m in cash grants for mental health, ambulance, social care, learning disabilities, autism and dementia charities.
  • A new anti-body testing programme will begin next week with NHS and care workers being prioritised.
  • UK scientists are to begin testing a treatment it is hoped could counter the effects of Covid-19 in the most seriously ill. The drug involved is known to boost a patient’s stock of T-cells – immune cells that clear infection from the body.
  • Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked people to “use judgement” when lockdown restrictions are eased from Thursday.
  • Australia is seeking an exemption from moves in the UK to bring in a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all new arrivals. It said it had successfully handled the crisis which meant “travellers from Australia would pose a low risk to the world”.

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