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LACA view

27 Apr 2020


Today the Prime Minister delivered his first speech since returning from coronavirus. The message was clear – there is a plan and the Government will continue to implement it without deviation. The PM said he “won’t throw away all the efforts of the British people to suffer a second wave.” There will be a statement on 7th May on the lockdown.

The PM stated that the UK is beginning to achieve victory in phase one of its strategy and is moving to stage two. He stated that there were signs the UK was passing through the peak. The PM compared the virus to a mugger and said now was the time to “wrestle it to the floor.”

The PM announced that the Government will bring opposition parties in where they can. The PM wants the British to show the same unity going forward as this is “the moment of maximum risk.” Today the PM will chair his first Covid 19 war cabinet meeting since he went into hospital with the virus.

The Chancellor made a statement on the UK economy in Parliament. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new loan scheme which will provide small businesses with new loans worth up to £50,000 backed by a 100% government guarantee. He resisted calls to outline a roadmap to exit the lockdown. He said the UK Government level of support compared well with other countries.

Meanwhile UK businesses contemplate how to begin to re-open with some builders and food places beginning to re-open, some on a limited basis. Figures released yesterday show that 20,732 have died in the U.K. with Coronavirus. NHS England have revealed that there have been an additional 329 deaths in its daily figures.

Daily Press Conference

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, led the daily press conference alongside Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer. The Health Secretary also took the first ever question from the public which will now occur on a daily basis.

When questioned by the BBC, the Health Secretary reiterated that the Government are on track to reach its 100,000 testing target by the end of April, but a lot of work remains to be done. He also stated that the UK has exceeded the number of daily tests that take place in South Korea and are fast approaching Germany.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

  • The Government are working through its action plan to flatten the curve and ensure the NHS has enough capacity to provide critical care for those who need it most.
  • 719,910 tests have taken place so far in the UK, with 37,024 yesterday.
  • 15,051 are in hospital with coronavirus and 21,092 have now sadly died. This is up 360 fatalities on yesterday.
  • 82 NHS colleagues and 16 colleagues who work in social care, have died.
  • A Life Assurance scheme has been set up for NHS colleagues. Families of staff who die due to Coronavirus will receive a £60,000 payment.
  • He paid tribute to perseverance of British public who are in their vast majority staying at home to protect the NHS.
  • Capacity is exceeding need. 42% of oxygen supported beds in the NHS now lie empty.
  • 8 of the 10 Nightingale Hospitals have now been opened across the UK.
  • We have also boosted the workforce by enlisting former workers and students. Staff have been open and flexible to change when it is really needed.
  • A & E attendances have dropped by over 50% when compared on this year last week. If people are worried about other concerning factors, they must continue to come forward and seek help as they normally would.
  • As the number of hospitalisations fall, starting tomorrow, the Government will begin the restoration of other NHS services such as Cancer Care and mental health support. The NHS will always be there to put us in a stronger position in the future.
  • It will count for nothing if we let things slip now and risk a second peak. Stay at home and save lives.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer

  • Gave a reminder of 5 tests for adjusting lockdown: NHS has capacity, sustained fall in daily deaths, rate of infection manageable, operational challenges including PPE and testing are in hand, no risk of second peak.
  • On Transport use change: Traffic volumes on Saturday 25th April are 62% lower than the first week of February.
  • Great majority are honouring the lockdown with mobility by driving or public transport significantly decreased.
  • On new cases:  Despite the number of tests going up the trend is flat and going down slightly.
  • On people in hospital: Big fall in London, but this is decreasing or flat right across the UK.
  • On Critical care capacity: Importantly, this sit reding downwards despite it being gradual. Only 40% of critical care beds in England are now occupied by coronavirus patients.
  • The 7-day rolling average is dropping gradually, but we are not consistently past the peak across the whole country.
  • On Global death trend: UK is following a similar path to France and Spain.

The Chancellor’s Statement

This afternoon, the Chancellor announced a new micro loans scheme to provide bounce back loans.

  • Small businesses can apply for the new Bounce Back Loans, up to a maximum of £50,000, or 25% of turnover.
  • Will be available from 9am next Monday.
  • No complex criteria, just a standard form. Loans will arrive within 24 hours of approval.
  • Government will back this scheme up to 100% and pay the interest for the first 12 months.

The Chancellor refused to back loans up to 100% for the other Government supported business loans schemes.

The Chancellor stated that the economic data shows the severe impact of the virus on the economy.

  • More than 1.5 million additional Universal Credit claims have been made.
  • 500,000 employers have made use of the furlough scheme.
  • 4 million jobs have been furloughed.
  • Survey evidence suggests a quarter of businesses have stopped trading.

He stated that the Government interventions have saved millions of jobs and businesses, but he can’t save every job and every business. He understands and shares people’s anxiety but the most important thing to do is to protect the health of the population. The Government is making progress. If the Government lose control of the virus there will be a second spike.

The Chancellor referred to the support being offered by the UK Government as a bridge over this ‘sharp and significant crisis’, it provides the following:

  • Support for viable businesses
  • Keeps people in their jobs
  • Helps the vulnerable

The UK Government support programmes will preserve the productivity capacity of the economy so when lockdown ends we can come back. The Chancellor stated that the IMF have said that the UK Government response was aggressive and right. The UK Government has worked closely with trade unions, businesses and charities etc to craft the plan.

He reiterated some of the business support that is being made:

  • First payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme have been made.
  • HMRC on track to deliver self-employed support scheme in June and detailed guidance will be made available this week.
  • Almost half of all business premises in England will pay no business rates.
  • Almost 1 million will receive cash grants of either £10k or £25k.
  • 2 million businesses have been offered a VAT deferral. 
  • 2.7 million people will be able to defer their self-assessment.
  • 2 million employers able to access the statutory sick pay rebate.
  • £14 billion of lending through the Bank of England’s financing facility.
  • Over 20,000 Coronavirus business loan interruption scheme loans have been approved.

The Chancellor reiterated that the NHS will get whatever resources it needs. Public services in general have received £16 Billion so far.

Government Announcements/Parliamentary Activity

Business survey shows U.K. business confidence falling

  • The Institute of Directors (IoD) has said the UK Government must provide a plan to end the lockdown. This should include the stages the UK will go through in ending the lockdown in a phased way. The IoD said its members were ‘clamouring for information.’ 
  • A poll of 1,000 Business Directors regarding their perception of prospects for their business in the next 12 months showed a negative rating of -22.
  • This is the first time it has gone negative, the poll has taken place since before the EU referendum. Their net confidence in the overall UK economy showed a negative rating of -69.

Businesses Re-Opening and announcements

  • Housebuilders: Barratt Developments, Bellway and Berkeley Group have each announced that they will be restarting work at some of their sites at different points within the next 2 weeks. Redrow is also preparing to restart work.
  • Airlines: Wizz Air is restarting flights from Luton Airport on 1 May 2020 to European destinations.
  • Restaurants: Leon, Burger King, Greggs and Pret a Manger are each planning to reopen more branches. McDonalds is reported to be planning to re-open some branches in mid May.
  • Whatsapp says it has cut the number of viral messages on its network by 70%. This follows the implementation of restrictions on the number of people a message can be forwarded to that were introduced earlier this month. The measures were taken following claims it was being used to spread misinformation about the virus.
  • Formula One will start the season in Austria on 5 July and stage between 15 and 18 grands prix this year with the opening races behind closed doors.