COVID-19 ECONOMIC UPDATE

Covid-19 – update, please share widely if you can.

 

I am deeply conscious that the current situation is very worrying for many local people and businesses, especially those dependent on hospitality and tourism.

I have set out the current position below but this will change quite quickly so I will try and update as often as feasible. I have tried to include only the reliable sources of information as there are many voices out there, some of which are not publishing accurate information. Its always worth double checking.

I also want to stress that this is a UK wide response which comes with the support of the devolved Governments, in our case in Cardiff. There are however some issues around pace and certainty which I am pressing WG to address.

I hope this is of some help for now.

Simon Hart

 

 

All publicly available guidance is published here https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response.

No 10 is now be holding daily press conferences to discuss the rolling updates with the Government’s Strategy so I’d recommend everyone following these daily.

Here are some key points:

  • Anyone who lives with someone who has a cough or a temperature should stay at home for 14 days
  • People should start working from home where they possibly can
  • Avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues
  • Only use the NHS when we really need to
  • Government will no longer be "supporting" mass gatherings using emergency workers

Latest Public Health Wales information can be found at this link: https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/

Latest information on prisons policy and Covid 19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-and-prisons

Advice for workplaces can be found here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Link to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s recent statement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/controlling-the-spread-of-covid-19-health-secretarys-statement-to-parliament

Wales Office advice pages:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-individuals-and-businesses-in-wales.cy (Welsh)
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-individuals-and-businesses-in-wales (Eng)

Business Wales has issued a ‘letter to business’ on coronavirus from Ken Skates: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKWALES/bulletins/2816149

Business Wales also now has a dedicated coronavirus advice page: https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice

 

The Chancellor has made further announcements on COVID-19 funding for the Devolved Administrations from the £12bn response plan announced at the Budget last week.

  • Barnett funding on the specific England-only measures announced in the Budget last week (business support and the hardship fund) – We have already shared Barnett numbers at official level to help DAs with their planning and the SG yesterday launched schemes to the value of this amount. 
  • An upfront Barnett share of the whole £5bn Response fund – There is clearly considerable uncertainty about the scale and location of the impacts across the UK, and the extent to which devolved or reserved public services will therefore require additional funding. 
  • This would provide the DAs with the following upfront funding:

Barnett

 

I have also written to the WG (below) to convene an urgent meeting of business representatives and others:

Our nation is in the midst of a health emergency unlike any that this generation has ever faced before.  There has never been a more important time for our Governments to work side by side in the national interest and I am grateful for the constructive, collaborative approach that you and Welsh Government colleagues have taken.

I believe that the time has now come for us to take the next step and draw in others so that we can harness the knowledge and insights of our partners in the private, public and third sectors.  Doing so will also enable us to ensure that we are targeting our efforts in the most effective way at the issues that matter most.  

I propose therefore that we jointly convene an urgent meeting of business representatives, the WLGA, the WCVA, Wales TUC, farming unions and any others that you feel appropriate to consider the key actions we need to take and agree a plan for taking them forward.  My officials stand ready to work with yours to progress this at pace and provide ongoing support to such a group.

 

The Chancellor has unveiled a further £330 billion of guarantees to mitigate the economic effects of the outbreak.

These include: 

  • Government-backed loans for businesses needing help
  • Extension to the Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • Cash grants of up to £25,000 per business in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors
  • Grants of up to £10,000 for 700,000 of the country's smallest businesses
  • Three-month mortgage holiday for individuals

 

If the WG continue with the line ‘waiting for clarity for HMT on funding’, the fact that the Scottish Government have taken action in these areas should put that excuse to bed. 
 

  • I am in touch with Health officials regarding ventilators and what Welsh businesses can do to support the greater demand. If you have any businesses querying how they can help, please ask them to contact: Government Business Support team: 0300 456 3565 / ventilator.support@beis.gov.uk
  • Volunteering – We will be getting more information centralised by tomorrow so that we can direct aspiring volunteers to where they are needed.

 

Sick pay information for businesses

  • People who are advised to self-isolate for coronavirus will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.
  • Coronavirus statutory sick pay is expected to be in the form of a refund. The Treasury says that it is “working with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism as soon as possible for employers reclaiming statutory sick pay”.
  • For the self-employed not eligible for SSP, contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by coronavirus or self-isolating in line with advice from day one of sickness, rather than day eight.

 

Some people have also asked about the experts leading this response. Please see the following CV’s for the UK Government Chief Scientific Advisors who are providing the crucial information to direct the National Strategy in this Pandemic.

 

Professor Chris Whitty.

  • He is simultaneously England's chief medical officer and the UK department of health's top scientific adviser.
  • He is an epidemiologist - meaning his specialty is diseases.
  • Prof Whitty also has experience tackling a virus, having played a leading role advising on the UK response to the Ebola epidemic in 2014 as chief scientific adviser to the Department for International Development.
  • His career in Whitehall has spanned 11 years; he was previously interim chief scientific adviser to the UK government and got his current job in June 2019.
  • Outside politics, he's a practicing consultant physician at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and University College London (UCL) Hospitals.

Sir Patrick Vallance.

 

  • He's the UK government's chief scientific adviser - providing whatever is needed directly to the prime minister and cabinet.
  • His specialty is diseases in blood vessels and the biology of cells that line the interior surface of them.
  • Before joining Whitehall, Sir Patrick was president of research and development at pharmaceutical multinational GlaxoSmithKline from 2012-17, during which over 14 new medicines were approved for use worldwide for diseases ranging from cancer to asthma and HIV.
  • He's also a professor - and has led the division of medicine at UCL.