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WA’s team of political and communications experts are producing daily briefings on the COVID-19  pandemic and government response.

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A daily run down of all the key developments from WA's team of public affairs and communications consultants.

Please see below an update on key political developments written at 6pm Friday 27th March 2020 in relation to COVID-19, alongside wider intelligence we have gathered regarding the government’s approach to the crisis.

Today’s major announcement was that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock have tested positive for the coronavirus and are self-isolating while the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty is also showing symptoms and self-isolating. In a statement from Downing Street, number 10 confirmed that the Prime Minister would remain in isolation in Downing Street, and that he continues to lead the government’s response to coronavirus.

Details on further key developments from today are set out below.

  • Further guidance on the Job Retention Scheme has been published.
    • Employers can use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.
    • The associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on a furloughed person’s wage are also covered by government funding. 
    • The guidance also confirmed that those made redundant after 28 February can be reemployed and placed on furlough.
    • Those on furlough will also be permitted to volunteer without risking their pay - and will be able to join the 500,000 members of the public who have signed up to help the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Government has effectively suspended the housing market. With house buyers being advised to postpone their completion dates, and those in the early stages of buying or selling homes being advised to delay purchases; a further consequence of visitors not being allowed into properties, including estate agents, surveyors and potential buyers. 
  • This afternoon’s briefing was delivered by Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove. In his statement he confirmed that government is pledging an additional £210 million of support to accelerate work to find a vaccine to Covid-19. This brings the sum that the UK has pledged to £544 million.
  • Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the NHS indicated that there will be two more “nightingale hospitals” built in Birmingham and Manchester, freeing up 33,000 beds to be made available for Covid-19 cases.
  • Government published its guidance for local councils to support rough sleepers, demanding that local councils house all rough sleepers- and those in hostels and night shelters- by the weekend. Dame Louise Casey, the Prime Minister’s homelessness advisor wrote to the local authorities telling them that “communal night-shelters and any street encampments" must be "closed down for the time being" as they are "high risk" for spreading COVID-19.
  • The current regulations on annual leave are to be relaxed in order to support key industries through Covid-19. Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to coronavirus will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years. The changes will also ease the requirement on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year, meaning critical workers can continue to work without losing their entitlement. 
  • Government has suspended competition laws in order to support Isle of Wight ferry routes. The decision will allow ferry operators to coordinate in order to keep routes open in order to allow essential goods to continue flowing.
  • The Environment Secretary, George Eustice MP has written an open letter to the food and drink industry. In the letter he congratulates the industry for their work and commends their efforts to “keep the nation fed” in the face of the coronavirus.
  • A number of government services have confirmed they have closed access to their buildings and are working at a reduced capacity. This includes the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) whose offices are due to close at 5pm on Friday 27 March and will remain closed until at least week commencing Monday 13 April.
  • The Liberal Democrats have decided to suspend their leadership election until May 2021, leaving the interim leader Ed Davey in charge for another year. The decision comes so that the party can “focus on dealing with the coronavirus crisis.” 
  • The Department for Transport published its guidance on using public transport in light of coronavirus stating that people should only use public transport if they have to and encouraging them to avoid rush hours and busy times if possible.
  • Following enhanced powers granted to the Police to make arrests or give fines to people who are breaking the coronavirus lockdown, a number of forces have adopted tougher policing methods, including the use of drones and motoring checkpoints. 

If you would like to discuss any of its content or how WA can support your organisation’s response to the pandemic, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our dedicated team is focused on tracking announcements on a daily basis and quickly finding out the details behind the headlines from our network of contacts.