The COVID-19 Pandemic
The speed with which the pandemic has developed across the globe over the past 7 weeks is unprecedented. Below, is a snapshot of where we are today in comparison to the days leading up to a lockdown in the UK which started on 23 March. Of the total number of 3,923 UK National cases recorded on Monday 11 May which tested positive for COVID-19 there were 268 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths. At the end of week 6 (01 May) the total number of lab-confirmed UK cases was 190,584 with a daily number of lab-confirmed UK cases reaching 3,985. While the total number of COVID-19 associated UK deaths was 28,734, more than 10% of the global total, there is a daily total of 288 deaths. As of 20 March globally there had been 234,802 cases worldwide by 11 May this has reached 4,006,257 confirmed cases and 278,892 deaths. However, data indicates that the UK has passed the peak of COVID-19 infections. There has been a 16% decrease in the number of people in hospital with COVID-19, and the ‘R’ value – or rate of infection – is between 0.6-0.9 across the country. Will this change and how quickly if we come out of lockdown. On 20 March the Prime Minister stated that he believed that COVID19 could be brought under control in the following 12 weeks which is by mid-June, are we on track? At the same time he announced that the government was in the process of buying an antibody test for COVD 19 that would give an idea of who has had the disease and is, therefore, resistant to it in the future. He reiterated the need to follow the PHE advice on social distancing. The Prime Minister said that further “lockdown” measures of London were not imminent. Three days later we were in full “lockdown” across the UK and since then he has of course himself had and survived the virus as have many of his cabinet.
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCMENET 10 MAY The legal requirement forcing listed businesses to close (restaurants, attractions, pubs etc) came into force on 21st March. Cafes, pubs and restaurants had to close from the Friday night and this sent the industry into major economic decline. It is not yet clear how they can re-open with distancing in place. In March the government set up a job retention scheme whereby employers can get a grant of 80% of the wages of staff that are not working up to a limit of £2,500 per person, per month. “Furloughing” was extended this week to include June 2020. The hospitality industry is calling for this to be extended into September. VAT for all businesses was deferred at the end of March until the end of June and businesses will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills, but they will still need to be paid. The interest-free period of the Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme was increased from 6 to 12 months and in week 7 a new Business Bounce back scheme has been set-up for SME’s for up to £50,000, interest free for the first 12 months. Self-employed people were told they would be able to access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. Lobbying commenced as the system to claim and the amounts available were both unsatisfactory. The whole area of the self-employed has remained unclear until Monday this week when the government opened up their scheme. You can check if You Can Get Tax-Free Childcare and 30 Hours Free Childcare Following on from last weeks announcement, the Government has produced guidance on whether employees or the self-employed are entitled to this benefit. The Government has published a handy guide as to the status of various provisions of the Coronavirus Act. This will be particularly useful for tracking the status of the provisions as the lock-down ends and the process of reopening the country starts. For example, it tracks powers to issue directions relating to events, gatherings and premises, tax and pension provisions and the protection of business tenancies. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released its updated assessment of the likely impact of the COVID-19 on international tourism on 26 March. Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the UNWTO expected international tourist arrivals to be down by 20% to 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures. As the gravity of the situation started to be realised around the world at the end of March the Hong Kong Government instructed that all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days, the Australian Government announced that only citizens, residents, and family members could travel into the country and The Vietnam Government announced that all incoming travellers will be required to enter centralised quarantine. India closed its borders until May 17 and like a pack of cards countries closed their borders around the globe. On 28 April, following up on previous research, the latest data from the UNWTO showed that 100% of destinations now have travel restrictions in place. Of these, 83% have had COVID-19-related restrictions in place already for four or more weeks and, as of 20 April, so far no destination has lifted them, although some European destinations have announced dates in May. Leaving Lockdown Together The Welsh Secretary has penned an article on the importance of all parts of the UK leaving lock-down together rather than having a regional or national approach. This has obviously been done to convey the official view of Government rather than simply being the musings of the Welsh Secretary so read the article as a policy document. Travel The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said they support the wearing of face coverings for passengers and masks for crew while on board aircraft, however it does not support mandating social distancing measures that would leave ‘middle seats’ empty. In the airline industry, Virgin Atlantic have announced a planned reduction of 3,150 jobs across all functions, ending its operation at Gatwick Airport and that Virgin Holidays will become Virgin Atlantic Holidays due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. The following US airlines have all announced they will require passengers to wear face masks – American Airlines, Delta, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue , Southwest Airlines and United. Carnival cruises plan to relaunch cruises with a phased approach with North American service this summer from 1 August with a total of eight ships from Miami. All other operations in North American and Australian markets will be paused until 31 August. In the hospitality industry, major hotel and lodging companies continued to announce enhanced cleaning regimens to protect and reassure guests including Marriott , Hyatt , Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Airbnb.