Highlights from the UK government’s press briefings

12th October 2020

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed MPs in the House of Commons and introduced a three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Here is the detailed information for the three local COVID alert levels.

Below are the highlights from the Prime Minister’s speech in the Commons and the evening press conference:

  • The levels of the three-tiered system will be set at medium, high, and very high.
  • The Prime Minister confirmed that non-essential retail, schools, and universities will remain open regardless of the alert level that their local area falls under.
  • Johnson emphasised that these measures will be kept under constant review and will have a four-week sunset clause for interventions in those areas deemed as ‘very high’.
  • At this evening’s press conference, Johnson stated that the majority of the country will for now be at the ‘medium’ level with most areas currently under local intervention being at ‘high’.
  • From Wednesday, local authorities in the Liverpool city region will move to ‘very high’.
  • Johnson added that for areas on ‘very high’ alert, there would be additional financial support for improved contact tracing and more funding for local enforcement.
  • Nightingale Hospitals in the North of England have been ordered to prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients.
  • The UK recorded 13,972 new cases and 50 deaths.

 

30th September 2020

  • Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said that “billions” of PPE items had been stockpiled and ordered, with a high proportion of these items being manufactured within the UK
  • Johnson added that there were now a “large number of tests and hospital beds available” and announced that he would give regular updates to the public through press conferences
  • Prof Chris Whitty, UK’s Chief Medical Adviser, detailed how the R rate was increasing across the country, but that there is a particularly high incidence rate in the North East, North West, and West Midlands
  • Prof Whitty noted that the rise in cases had mostly been amongst younger people and added that school-age pupils were not experiencing increasing rates of the virus in any part of the UK. He stated that the NHS is “absolutely open for business” for all medical complaints
  • In the UK, 453,264 people (7,108 new cases) tested positive for COVID-19, and of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 42,143 have died, an increase of 71 deaths.

 

24th September 2020

The UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlined a ‘Winter Economy Plan’ today and set out the next stage of the economic response. Below are the highlights from his statement in Parliament. You can read the full plan here.

  • The UK Government has now spent £12billion on test and trace
  • Sunak said that the economy will need “more permanent adjustment” as COVID-19 is expected to be here for at least six months.
  • Chancellor Sunak announced a new Job Support Scheme to protect viable jobs and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Job Support Scheme
    • From 1 November 2020, for the next six months, the Job Support Scheme will protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to COVID-19
    • To be eligible, employees work a minimum of 33% of their hours
    • The level of grant will be calculated based on employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
    • For remaining hours not worked, the government and employer pay 1/3 wages each
    • So employees working 33% of their hours will receive at least 77% of their pay
    • This scheme will apply to all small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). For larger businesses, it will only be covered if their turnover has gone down.  
    • All UK businesses will be allowed to apply, even if they did not use the furlough scheme
    • Firms can use it alongside the Job Retention Bonus (for retaining employees currently on furlough)
  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS):
    • An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus. 
    • The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.  
    • An additional second grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April 2021.
  • Bounce Back Loan Scheme
    • Businesses that borrowed under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme will be offered more time and greater flexibility for their repayments under the new Pay as You Grow Scheme – this includes extending the length of the loan from six years to ten, interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available to businesses
  • Other loans: 
    • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders have the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to ten years if it helps businesses to repay the loan.
    • The application deadline for all coronavirus loan schemes – including the future fund – has been extended to 30 November
  • VAT Deferral:
    • Businesses who deferred their VAT will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March next year. 
    • They will have the option of splitting it into smaller, interest-free payments over the course of 11 months 
    • For any self-assessed income taxpayers who need extra help, can also now extend their outstanding tax bill over 12 months from January (those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022).
  • VAT rate for Tourism and Hospitality
    • Government has extended the cut in the VAT rate to 5% until 31 March 2021

 

21st September 2020

Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer - England and Sir Patrick Vallance, UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, delivered the below briefing:

  • From July, cases have increased across all age groups – in addition to increased testing, the testing positivity (percentage of people tested who’s results come back as positive) has also gone up.
  • According to the ONS, 70,000 currently have coronavirus; around 6,000 a day are becoming infected.
  • Sir Patrick said that “speed and action needed” as the epidemic doubles about every 7 days. He added that if the current trend of increased cases continues, by mid-October, we could have 49,000 cases a day. He added that “we need to cut the doubling time and reduce exponential growth”.
  • Sir Patrick said that the antibodies to the virus may “fade over time” and as a result, “vast majority” are still at risk; about 8% of the population – three million – “may be infected and have antibodies” but there are doubts about how long any immunity may last.
  • Prof Whitty said that the high rates of transmission are “highly concentrated”, but there are significant rates of transmission in many parts of the UK, and anywhere where the rate of transmission was falling, is now rising.
  • On vaccines, Sir Patrick said that the UK is making “good progress” and is in a “good position” as it has access to a number of different vaccines going through trials. "Many vaccines have shown that they produce an immune response of a type that ought to be protective. But we don't yet know they will work.” He added that “small groups may have access to them by the end of the year, but wide accessibility is much more likely towards the start of next year”.
  • In the UK, in the last 24 hours, 3,899 have people tested positive for COVID-19, and 18 died. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the UK stands at 394,257. The total number of deaths stands at 41,777.

 

17th July 2020

  • Today, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the ‘next chapter’ of the COVID-19 recovery strategy
  • From 1 August, if the prevalence of the virus remains around or below current levels, the government will take the listed steps:
    • Employers and the workforce:
      • Employers will be given more discretion on how they ensure employees can work safely – this could mean continuing to work from home or returning to COVID-19 workplaces
      • Employers should be encouraging people to get back to work where it is right for that employee
      • Government advice is now to use public transport while encouraging the public to consider alternative means of transport where possible
    • Local Government:
      • Government published the CONTAIN framework which is a guide for local decision-makers
      • From tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers to enable them to react to outbreaks more quickly
      • Councils will be able to intervene to shut down outdoor spaces and premises at short notice
      • Stay at home orders could also be imposed
    • Reopen most remaining leisure settings such as bowling, skating rinks and casinos, subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines
    • High-risk activities and settings such as nightclubs will not reopen and will be kept under review
    • Restart indoor performances to a live audience, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines, subject to the success of pilots that are taking place as soon as possible
    • Enable wedding receptions; sit-down meals for no more than 30 people, subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines
    • Schools, nurseries and colleges to reopen from September 2020
  • The number of daily deaths is continuing to fall
  • The R is between 0.7 and 0.9
  • Johnson said that the “blanket national lockdown” imposed between the middle of March and the end of May was the right thing to do, but now the UK is focused on localised lockdowns.
  • NHS will be granted additional funding of £3 billion to help it prepare for a potential second wave of infections as well as to cope with its usual winter pressure
  • Johnson also declared that the government would increase its testing capacity to 500,000 a day by the end of October 2020

 

9th July 

  • DCMS Secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced that outdoor pools and performances can resume from Saturday with social distancing in place.
  • Dowden stated that beauticians, nail salons, and tattooists will also be able to open on Monday.
  • Dowden added that indoor gyms, sports facilities, and pools will be able to reopen from 25 July and that guidance will be published for team sports to return from Saturday.
  • Dowden explained that scientific studies were being conducted to assess the specific risks in the culture industry.
  • In the UK, 287,621 people (642 new cases) tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 44,602 people have died, an increase of 85 fatalities.

 

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