From today, following the daily address by the Prime Minister, we will be doing a daily update on Covid-19 .
The message from the PM’s press conference was that people should stay home to reduce the demands placed on the NHS. However, some will of course need to continue going to work and that is built in to the modelling. Testing for the virus will be rolled out as quickly as possible when the accuracy of tests is confirmed and not before then. The UK has done more testing than most other European countries.
The Government had, the PM believed, taken the right steps at the right time and he rejected criticism he had implemented a lockdown too late. The Government are looking at who is profiteering from this crisis and the legislative framework around this as occurred after the FWW. The measures to help the self-employed will be announced tomorrow, the delay is because they have complex arrangements.
Tonight Parliament will go in to recess, one week early, returning on April 21 after the Easter break. During recess the winner of the Labour leadership contest should be announced on Saturday 4th April, if the race is not postponed. The Chancellor has written to banks urging them to keep lending. Updates to the existing guidance on business rates relief and which business need to stay shut has been released.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce support measures for the self-employed tomorrow. G7 Leaders will hold a joint-summit tomorrow which will focus on handling the economy during the Coronavirus conference.
The heir to the throne Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus. Professor Sharon Peacock, Director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England has stated that an antibody test could be ready for the general public to be tested in Boots or at home within days. 405,000 people have responded to the Health Secretary’s request for people to volunteer to help the NHS.
PM announcements at PMQs
In the last PMQs before recess the chamber appeared sparse today for what could have been Jeremy Corbyn’s last appearance at PMQs as Leader of the Opposition, with the House of Commons due to enter into an early Easter recess tonight and the Labour leadership debate still rumbling on.
The MPs that attended today left plenty of room between them on the backbenches as per the Government advice to leave two metres between each other in the workplace. The questions also ran on for an extra half hour today owing to the exceptional circumstances.
The Prime Minister came under pressure regarding the provision of personal protective equipment for NHS workers, help for the self employed, the decision to allow construction work to go ahead and steps to help Britons overseas to return home in the final PMQ’s before recess.
The Prime Minister confirmed that the lock down measures were being kept under review and that a package of measure to help the self-employed and the charitable sector was being looked at. The Government was operating a massive repatriation operation for Britons overseas.
The Prime Minister also stated that non-essential businesses that were still operating would face sanctions and steps were being taken to address those profiteering from the crisis. Construction work can continue but should only be undertaken in accordance with Public Health England Guidance.
Personal protective equipment would be rolled out by the end of this week to all care homes, in the last 24 hours 7.5 million pieces of equipment have been delivered. Testing will be ramped up with 25,000 tests per day, with NHS and social care staff being given priority.
PM Press Conference
PM has followed scientific advice to implement the right measures at the right time. NHS has limited numbers of Doctors and nurses and specialist equipment. Vital to delay the spread to reduce the number needing treatment at any one time.
The message is to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. The UK is coping very well under the most challenging circumstances. Won’t roll out the tests unless they are accurate, if none accurate won’t roll out any.
The PM thanked everyone who has followed the rules and the NHS and all the public services. He offered a special thank you to all the volunteers. In 24 hours 405,000 people have responded to the call for volunteers, the Government expected 250,000 over a few days.
The PM noted that the measures to support people in employment are exceptional. On the percentage of the population that have had the virus the experts confirmed that they did not know yet.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty
- There are sufficient tests currently to test people in intensive care and in hospitals.
- Testing NHS and other critical workers who are self-isolating is the next priority. This is difficult due to a global shortage of the tests.
- Testing will then be rolled out to the wider public to people with mild symptoms.
- The antibody test which will tell people that they’ve had the virus is “quite close” and “being evaluated this week”.
- No test is better than a bad test, so evaluating tests is important.
- The modelling for the Government’s approach factors in people going to work who can’t work at home.
- 97,000 tests have already been enacted.
- Finding out what proportion of people get the virus without symptoms is an early priority.
- If everybody sticks to the advice, the virus will probably be manageable by the NHS.
Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance
- The delay in testing, if tests were to be inaccurate, is worth it until they’re accurate.
- The level of infection across the wider UK population is unclear, that’s why it’s important to get the tests in place.
- There are people who have to go to work, e.g. the NHS. It’s then important to break transmission in the workplace by instructing workers to stay two metres apart where possible.
Chancellor issues call to banks to continue lending
A joint letter by HM Treasury, the Bank of England and the FCA on the virus and bank lending has been sent to the CEO’s of UK Banks. It details the Government and Bank of England’s measures to tackle the crisis and makes requests of banks on lending.
The letter urges banks to “maintain and extend lending despite the uncertain economic conditions.” They state “We must ensure that firms whose business models were viable before this crisis remain viable once it is over. This includes firms not covered by CBILS or CCFF.”
- The Department for Transport (DfT) has granted an MOT temporary exemption so that if your MOT is due from 30th March 2020 you will automatically receive a SIX-month extension.
- The DfT stated that “you must still keep your car in a roadworthy condition and garages will remain open if you need repairs.”
- HM Treasury have confirmed that the Business rates retail discount will be extended to estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls.
- HM Treasury has stated that the ‘Temporary Transitional Power’ will be retained so it can be used by UK regulators for the 2 years after the end of the transition period. This will allow the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority to phase in changes to the UK’s regulatory requirements so firms can adjust in an orderly way.
- The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed a £500 million hardship fund to provide council tax relief for vulnerable households.
- The Cabinet Office and MHCLG have provided further Business and Premises to close Guidance, off licences and bicycle shops among other businesses have been granted an exemption and allowed to remain open. The extra guidance also relates to work carried out in people’s homes saying it continue under certain conditions.
- Companies are to receive a 3-month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19 to help companies avoid penalties.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for employees, employers and businesses. Overnight the Government clarified the expanded retail discount guidance for local authorities. The update states that hereditaments that were not eligible for percentage small business rate relief are excluded from the small business grant fund.
- The Government has launched a COVID-19 information service on WhatsApp which aims to provide "official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about coronavirus" and "reduce the burden on NHS services."
- HM Treasury has announced a new consultation on ‘preventing abuse of the R&D tax relief for SMEs’. This closes on 28/05/2020.
- The Foreign Office has launched a Whatsapp based travel information advice update service for people to share with their family overseas.
- The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is reportedly considering releasing some prisoners early to alleviate pressure on jails. Thousands of staff are unavailable, whilst many inmates are showing symptoms.
- The MoJ is looking very closely at 50 pregnant inmates and 9,000 people on remand. There were 3500 prison officers off yesterday, 10% of the workforce, and this is likely to go up.