Intelligence Bulletin - 22nd September, 2020
The UK Tourism minister has praised the tourism industry in Cornwall and Devon for their response to the pandemic and professionalism and dedication in what has been a very difficult summer period. Mr Huddleston also commented that the government’s Eat Out to Help Out schemes had had a positive impact on the industry and economy, and although some measures would remain in place until next year, he was unable to comment on further support.
The highest daily increase (26) of new cases of coronavirus was recorded in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly since April 30th, when 26 cases were also registered. September 11th saw the first coronavirus-related hospital death in Cornwall recorded since July 2nd.
On Monday 21st September the government’s chief medical adviser warned the country is facing a "very challenging winter period" and critical point in the coronavirus pandemic. If no further restrictions are introduced, the UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October, leading to about ‘200 deaths per day’ a month later. On 20th September a further 3,899 daily cases and 18 deaths were reported in the UK. Prof Whitty added, “We are now going into the seasons... that benefit respiratory viruses”. The government are expected to make an announcement regarding further restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, which may include limiting contact between households.
National analysis and data shows the percentage of businesses that had been trading for more than the previous two weeks was 95% between 7 and 16 September 2020 (a further 1% had restarted in the last two weeks, 4% remained temporarily closed), whilst retail sales volumes (in August) increased by 0.8% when compared with July; an increase of 4.0% when compared with February’s pre-pandemic level. Monthly gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.6% in July 2020 but is 11.7% lower than the February 2020 level, and the UK unemployment rate for the three months to July 2020 was 4.1%; this is 0.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.
According to HMRC figures, some 80,433 employers have returned cash they were given to help cover workers' salaries through the government’s furlough scheme, more than £215m. Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) - or furlough scheme - workers placed on leave received 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. £35.4bn has been claimed under the scheme up until 16 August. The government has rejected calls to extend the furlough scheme when it ends on 31 October, despite warnings that it could trigger a wave of job cuts.
Office for National Statistics figures reveal that nearly two in three workers are commuting again, with the government encouraging workers to return to help revive city centres. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 62% of adult workers reported travelling to work last week, compared with 36% in late May. Business groups have warned that city centres could become "ghost towns" if more workers do not return to offices, impacting small businesses that rely on passing trade from office workers. However, new research released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that working from home could be a permanent fixture for many, following the pandemic with 37% of those surveyed believing staff will regularly avoid the journey into the office following Covid-19 - up from just 18% before the pandemic.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has unanimously voted to hold interest rates at their record low of 0.1%. The BoE said that despite a stronger than expected recovery in recent months, the economy remains around 7% smaller than at the end of 2019. The Bank also warned that the increasing rate of coronavirus infections and uncertainty over the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU threaten Britain’s economic recovery.
The government has introduced new laws which states that people who are instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, and are on lower incomes and cannot work from home, and have lost income as a result of self-isolating, will receive a support payment of £500. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will also start at £1,000. The government states it recognises that self-isolation is one of the most powerful tools for controlling the transmission of Covid-19, and this support payment will ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without worry about their finances. Just under 4 million people who are in receipt of benefits in England will be eligible for the payment, which will be available to those who are required to self-isolate from 28 September and in place via local authorities by 12 October (backdated payments).
Housing charity Shelter and district councils have warned that hundreds of thousands of private renters have fallen into arrears during the coronavirus pandemic or are otherwise at risk of being made homeless as the furlough scheme ends and unemployment rises. Calls for a ban on evictions to be extended or made permanent are being made amid fears it could provoke a surge in homelessness and contribute to a rise in coronavirus infections. Following a temporary government ban on landlords evicting tenants, eviction hearings can restart in England and Wales from 21st September.
Social care and health
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that an additional £546m in funding will be allocated to care homes to help protect residents from winter COVID-19 outbreaks. The funding will pay for PPE such as facemasks, gloves and aprons, and will enable homes to continue paying the full wages of carers and other staff if they develop COVID-19 symptoms.
People visiting care homes in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases will be required to be constantly supervised as part of the Government's adult social care winter action plan. Visits should be limited, and in facilities listed as being an area of intervention, visits should be halted altogether except in "exceptional circumstances".
New monthly interim indicators for Natural England’s People and Nature Survey for England show that almost half the population (46%) are spending more time outside than before COVID-19 (up from 44% in June and 26% in May). With 42% of adults reporting that ‘nature and wildlife is more important than ever to my wellbeing’ and 35% visiting local green and natural spaces more often.