COVID-19 weekly business update: 24th February 2021

Please find below this week’s business update and SCG Public Dashboard for Covid HERE

Pandemic overview
This week, the Government set out its roadmap for easing restrictions, with the earliest possible dates for the gradual lifting of the current national lockdown. The Prime Minister confirmed that all schools and higher education facilities will begin re-opening for students from 8 March. The ‘stay at home’ order remains in place until 29 March, at the earliest, when outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed. However, many restrictions will remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make. Despite the recent reductions in infection rates, there can be no complacency in London. Significant pressures still exist within the NHS, including in intensive care. Public Health England continues to test and monitor for new Covid-19 variants of concern. In order to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of some of these variants, and in order to suppress them, NHS Test and Trace has started surge testing in some areas of London where cases of the variants have already been detected.  

  • In the most recent week of complete data, 12 February to 18 February, 7,779 cases were identified in London, a rate of 87 cases per 100,000 population. This compares with 11,461 cases and a rate of 128 for the previous week.
  • In the same set of data, 69,092 cases were identified in England as a whole, a rate of 123 cases per 100,000 population. This compares with 84,217 cases and a rate of 150 for the previous week.
  • Up to and including 14 February 2021 1,460,122 people in London had received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 63,066 had received two doses.
  • You can see the full latest epidemiological data here and the latest SCG dashboard is attached.

 Government Updates

  • BUSINESS SUPPORT: The government has published its latest round of business grants data today (24 February), showing the government funding delivered to each council in England to support their local businesses. The government has issued clear guidance to local authorities to ensure that funds are paid out as quickly as possible to those that need it.
  • BUSINESS SUPPORT: The Government’s guidance document ‘Business support package for January 2021 lockdown’ has been updated with details of the next payment cycle covering the period 16 February to 31 March. 
  • EDUCATION: To accompany Monday’s school return announcement, the DfE has announced a further education recovery package for children and young people, involving a £700 million plan to help young people catch up on lost learning due to the pandemic. 
  • VACCINE PASSPORTS: The Government is considering options for ‘vaccine certification’. Vaccine passports have been discussed by other nations and travel operators as a way to safely reopen international leisure travel. The Government has also hinted some form of domestic vaccine passports may allow for hospitality and entertainment to reopen. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will lead an official review into the issue.
  • REMINDER: NHS Test and Trace have a new portal for employers with a headcount of 50+ that require their staff to attend their place of work (rather than work remotely) to request rapid lateral flow tests for their organisation. A new postcode finder is now available to help smaller organisations direct their staff to local authority testing services here.

GLA updates

  • Responding to the Government’s announcement, the Mayor of London said: “I welcome the publication of the Government’s roadmap today, which shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel and provides more information for Londoners about what the next few months may look like if we continue to make progress reducing the spread of the virus. The health of individuals and the health of our businesses are intertwined.” 

·        Applications to the Mayor’s Resilience Fund are now open. The £1 million fund will support innovative businesses in tech and other sectors to respond to some of the key recovery challenges facing the capital. Other news and updates

  • EMPLOYMENT: ONS employment data released this week showed there was a 157% increase in claims between March 2020 and January 2021, reaching a total of 485,000 claims in London. For the three months ending December 2020, the highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK was in London (7.0%). All regions saw an increase in the unemployment rate compared with the same period last year, with London seeing the largest increase, at 2.7 percentage points.
  • BUDGET: Reporting ahead of the Budget suggests the stamp duty holiday may be extended to the end of June. The chancellor is also expected to extend the furlough scheme, which is due to conclude on April 30, over the same period. The business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will also be extended at a cost of just under £1 billion a month, along with the VAT cut for hospitality and tourism at an estimated cost of £200 million a month. 
  • TRAVEL: The limits to foreign travel included in the roadmap have been criticised by those in the sector. The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will report on April 12 with recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as possible. 
  • ENTERTAINMENT: In response to the roadmap announcement, London’s theatres have announced plans to reopen in line with the guidance from 17 May. 

Business group responses to roadmap announcement 

  • London Chamber of Commerce and Industry – LCCI respond to lockdown easing plan link
  • Association of Leading Visitor Attractions – “Today’s roadmap has brought closer alignment, less time gaps between different parts of tourism, but the loss of Easter is significant” link
  • Confederation of British Industry –  “The roadmap set out today…offers hope that the country can get back to business in the coming months.” link
  • British Retail Consortium – BRC respond to prime minister’s roadmap link
  • London First – Reskilling plan needed for those who have lost their jobs, says London First link
  • Trade Union Congress – The government must stop dithering and extend the full furlough scheme for at least the rest of 2021 link
  • New West End Company – Prime Minister announces roadmap to lift lockdown in England link
  • Federation of Small Businesses – Small firms urge Chancellor to deliver on “whatever it takes” pledge as road map brings some clarity link
  • Creative Industries Federation – The Federation responds to the Prime Minister’s Roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions link
  • Institute of Directors – IoD welcomes irreversible plan to end lockdown link
  • UKHospitality – UKHospitality reaction to roadmap announcement link
  • Croydon Business Improvement District – Government publishes four-step roadmap to ease restrictions link
  • Night Time Industries Association – “We are pleased to hear within the Prime Minister’s statement the inclusion of a timeline for night time economy businesses…” link

 Key links and resourcesGLA: – GLA coronavirus news feed London Councils: – Latest London Councils information and messaging. Transport for London: – Safer travel guidance and advice.NHS: – Latest NHS information and advice about Covid-19 including Social distancing, Testing and tracing, Self-isolation and Vaccination. PHE: – Up to date coronavirus campaigns and resources Key data sourcesUK Government: Official UK Government website for data and insight on Coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes a UK summary, an interactive map of the latest picture across the UK and the ability to view data for a specific area within the UK. GLA:–covid-19–cases – A summary of key data for London based on Public Health England daily updated data on confirmed cases of COVID-19 and related data published by NHS and Office of National Statistics.ONS: – Latest data and analysis on COVID-19 in the UK and its effect on the economy and society.