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Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, May 7

Daily Covid-19 Brief: Thursday, May 7

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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give speech on plans to ease lockdown at 7pm on Sunday

  • Johnson has indicated that some restrictions in England could be eased from Monday.
  • However Downing Street have said that any relaxation to social distancing measures next week will be “very limited”.
  • Reports suggest changes could include unlimited exercise, the return of some sports, park picnics, and the opening of pub and cafe gardens – but people would still be required to remain two metres apart.
  • The move could also see the government scrap its “stay home, save lives” slogan for “stay safe, save lives”, and encourage people to wear face coverings on public transport and in crowded places as some return to work.
  • Reports have suggested that Johnson will confirm the 1 June as a start date for schools to reopen, beginning with children aged 10 and 11 in year six.
  • Other primary year groups are expected to follow shortly after, and then for years 10 and 12 – the first years for GCSE and A-level courses respectively – to also return to secondary schools.
  • However both the Welsh and Scottish governments have indicated that schools in Wales and Scotland will not reopen on 1 June, regardless of decisions in England.

The Bank of England have said the UK economy is heading towards its greatest recession on record, “dramatically reducing” jobs and incomes

  • The Bank of England predicted the economy would shrink 14% this year, the sharpest annual contraction since 1706.
  • The economy is predicted to shrink by 3% in the first quarter of 2020, followed by an unprecedented 25% decline in the three months to June.
  • While UK growth is expected to rebound in 2021 with 15% growth, the size of the economy is not expected to get back to its pre-virus peak until the middle of next year.
  • This is based on the assumption that social distancing measures are gradually phased out between June and September and on cautious consumers voluntarily maintaining social distancing until mid-2021.
  • The Bank predicted that unemployment will climb from 4% to 9% this year and expect average weekly earnings to shrink by 2% this year, reflecting the fall in wages for furloughed workers.
  • However Bank of England Governor, Andrew Bailey said he expected any permanent damage from the pandemic to be “relatively small”.

Other UK COVID 19 news 

  • It has emerged that nearly half a million protective gowns for UK health workers do not meet safety standards. The gowns were flown-in from Turkey but after inspection they are now sitting in a government warehouse.
  • Banks provided nearly £1.4bn to small and medium-sized companies as part of the  government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) last week. It brings the total to more than £5.5bn since the scheme opened.
  • Figures published by the ONS have shown that black people in England and Wales are more than four times more likely to die with Covid-19 than white people. It also found people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and mixed heritage had an increased risk of death compared to those from white backgrounds.
  • The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced the London Street space plan which will create new cycle lanes and wider pavements to accommodate increased demand for walking and cycling, and to enable members of the public to maintain physical distancing. Similar measures are to be implemented in Greater Manchester in the next few weeks.

Relevant world COVID 19 news

  • The UN has launched a $6.7bn (£5.5bn) appeal to help stem the spread of the Covid-19 in the world’s most vulnerable countries. Senior official Mark Lowcock warned the pandemic could cause “multiple famines”.
  • Nearly 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last week. That brings the number of jobless claims to some 33 million since mid-March, when Covid-19 led to shutdowns nationwide.
  • Poland has postponed Sunday’s presidential election amid the outbreak. The postal-only ballot will now take place “as soon as possible”, but is likely to not happen until at least June.
  • The Netherlands has outlined how it will slowly lift its restrictions over the next four months. Primary schools and beauty salons open on Monday, with secondary schools joining them on 1 June, restaurants and bars on 1 July, and professional sports and sex work will be allowed to restart on 1 September.
  • New Zealand is to permit indoor and outdoor gatherings up to a maximum of 100 people next week, including weddings and funerals. Playgrounds, gyms, pools and public courts will be allowed to open in line with public health guidance, and professional sports matches would take place behind closed doors. Bars, restaurants and schools would also reopen, and workers will be able to return to their offices. It comes as New Zealand is close to eradicating the virus within its borders.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved requests for emergency pandemic aid from 50 countries for a total of about $18bn, and is trying to work quickly through the remaining 50-plus requests.

Company updates

  • The owner of British Airways, IAG, has reported a £1.5bn loss due to Covid-19, warning that passenger demand may not recover until 2023.
  • BT has scrapped its dividend in order to free up money to invest in building 5G and next generation full-fibre broadband across the UK.
  • EDF Energy is in discussions to reduce the output at its Sizewell B nuclear plant in Suffolk in response to a 20% fall in energy use during the lockdown.
  • Retailer Debenhams will shut a further five stores, putting 1,000 jobs at risk. In total 16 of 142 stores have closed in the past month.
  • Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has announced that passengers travelling through Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports will be required to cover their faces and wear gloves from today.

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