Coronavirus briefing: Chancellor extends support for self-employed

Monday, May 4, 2020

The government are giving daily briefings on the measures being taken in the UK in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keep this page updated for all of the latest information.


May 29 - Chancellor extends support for self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the income support scheme for 2.3 million self-employed people will be extended for a second and final grant.

It follows pressure from 113 MPs who warned many will not be able to return to work despite the easing of lockdown.

Mr Sunak said the final grant will work in the same way as the first, offering a single instalment of 70 per cent of three months worth of average monthly profits up to £6,570.

Meanwhile, employers have been asked to start contributing to the cost of the government's furlough scheme.

The taxpayer will continue to pay 80 per cent of salaries but from August employers will be asked to pay National Insurance and Employer Pension contirbutions.

In September, the government will pay 70 per cent and employers will pay 10 per cent and in October, the government will pay 60 per cent and employers 20 per cent. The scheme will then close.

Mr Sunak announced that 38,161 people have now died, up by 324 since yesterday.


May 28 - PM announces lockdown changes

Boris Johnson has announced the government’s next steps in easing coronavirus lockdown rules, which will come into force on Monday, June 1.

People will be able to meet in groups of up to six, provided they do so outdoors and maintain a two-metre distance - meaning Britons will be able to see more than one parent at a time, unlike before.

The Prime Minister said the change also allows people to meet in private gardens, instead of only in public outdoor spaces.

“I cannot and will not throw away all the gains we have made together and so the changes we are making are limited and cautious,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the government was able to make the changes because it was satisfied that all five tests required for it to do so were being met.

He confirmed that nurseries and schools will being a phased reopening on Monday, firstly for Reception, Year one and Year six classes.

Secondary schools will begin providing face-to-face teaching to Year 10 and 12 students from June 15, if the data allows.

Outdoor retailers and car showrooms will reopen from Monday and other non-essential retailers will be allowed to do so in a fortnight, provided the tests are still being met.

Mr Johnson said a total of 37,837 people have died, up 377 since yesterday.


May 27 - NHS test and trace launched

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has today launched the government’s NHS test and trace system in England, which begin tomorrow mornign at 9am.

He said: “NHS test and trace means we can start to replace the national lockdown with individual isolation for those who have been in contact with the virus and local action where it’s necessary to respond to a flare up.

The system will work by those with symptoms firstly getting a test. If they test positive, they will work alongside an NHS clinician to identify the possible movements of the virus and who else may have been infected.

Those who may have been infected will then be told to isolate to “break the chain of transmission”, whether they have symptoms or not.

From tomorrow every person who displays coronavirus symptoms will be eligible for a test.

Scotland and Wales are still working on a test and trace system, while Northern Ireland already has one in place.

Mr Hancock confirmed that 37,460 people have died with coronavirus across all settings in the UK, up by 412 deaths since yesterday.


May 26 - No new deaths reported in Northern Ireland


Matt Hancock has confirmed that no new coronavirus deaths were recorded in Northern Ireland yesterday, the first time since March 18.

The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing he was “very encouraged” by the news and paid tribute to his Northern Irish counterpart, Robin Swann, and NHS colleagues.

“While the news may not be this positive everyday, I look forward very much to working with them to keep the virus under control in Northern Ireland,” he added.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths recorded across the UK yesterday was 134 - the lowest for six weeks according to Mr Hancock - bringing the total across all settings up to 37,048.

Mr Hancock also announced that contracts had been signed to manufacture two billion items of personal protective equipment in the UK, and said a new trial of and antiviral drug was showing “promising early results”.


May 25 - Retail to reopen next month if guidelines met

All shops across England will be able to open next month if they can meet the coronavirus guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, Boris Johnson has announced.

The Prime Minister said outdoor markets and car showrooms would be able to open from June 1 if they are safe to do so.

All other non-essential retailers - such as those selling clothes and books - will be allowed to open from June 15, provided the guidelines are met along with the government's five tests for easing the lockdown.

Mr Johnson told the daily Downing Street press conference that the risk of transmission is lower in outdoor areas, where social distancing can be easier to enforce.

Earlier this month, garden centres were permitted to reopen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.


May 22 - Two week quarantine for international arrivals

Home Secretary Priti Patel has confirmed that international arrivals to the UK will now be told to self isolate for 14 days.

She said the measure is being introduced at this point because falling domestic transmission of coronavirus means new arrivals carrying the disease will have a “much bigger impact.”

The new measures will come into force from June 8 and those arriving in the UK will have to provide contact and address details so that officials can carry out spot-checks to ensure compliance.

Those who break the rules could face fines of £1,000.

“We will not allow a small minority, a reckless minority, to endanger us all,” Ms Patel said.

Exemptions exist for road hauliers and medical officials, and the common travel area with Ireland will be unaffected

Ms Patel confirmed that a total of 36,393 people have died in the UK across all settings, up by 351 since yesterday.


May 21 - 10 million antibody tests to be rolled out from next week

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said more than 10 million coronavirus antibody tests will begin to be rolled out in the UK next week.

They will be distributed in a phased way, starting with healthcare staff, patients and residents. Devolved administrations are responsible for how the prioritise testing.

An antibody test shows whether a person has ever been infected with Covid-19, even if they are not currently.

It could help researchers to work out whether those who have tested positive for the virus have a degree of immunity to it.

A sample investigation indicated that 17 per cent of people in London and five per cent of the population in the rest of the country have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

Mr Hancock said: “History has shown that understanding an enemy is fundamental to defeating it. In this latest fight, our ingenuity and our brilliant scientists and our scientific curiosity are what will keep us one step ahead of this virus.”

The UK coronavirus death toll now stands at 36,042, up by 338 since yesterday.


May 20 - British public raise £800 million

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said the British public has matched Captain Tom Moore’s generosity in fundraising for the fight against coronavirus.

“Incredibly, it now looks as if British people and businesses have now contributed over £800 million and that’s just through national fundraising campaigns alone.

“And a great deal more has obviously been raised at local levels,” he said.

Mr Dowden also confirmed that a government support scheme for small and medium-sized charities will open for applications this week.

The Coronavirus Community Support Fund will start with £200 million of government funding.

Mr Dowden confirmed that 35,704 people have died with Covid-19 in the UK, an increase of 363 fatalities since yesterday.


May 19 - Furloughed employees urged to help farmers

Environment Secretary George Eustice had urged workers who have been furloughed due to coronavirus to help British farmers in this year’s harvest.

He said that travel restrictions meant only a third of the seasonal workers from Romania and Bulgaria who usually carry out the work were currently in the UK.

“This year we will need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home,” he said.

The government has launched a new Pick for Britain website that seeks to connect job opportunities from growers and employers with those looking for work.

“We believe that those who are furloughed may be getting to the point that they want to lend s hand and play their part. They may be wanting to get out and  they may be wanting to supplement their income with an additional job,” Mr Eustice added.

A total of 35,341 have people have died with coronavirus across all settings in the UK, up by 545 since yesterday.


May 18 - Anyone over five with symptoms can get tested

Anyone over the age of five who is displaying coronavirus symptoms can now receive a test by booking online, the government has said.

It comes as the government expanded the list of official Covid-19 symptoms to include the loss of taste or smell.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the development in the House of Commons today, and it was reiterated by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during the Downing Street briefing.

Mr Raab also restated that 21,000 contact tracers, including 7,500 health care professionals, had been recruited in England to help track people who have come into contact with infected individuals.

Confirming the government’s latest figures, he said 34,796 people have now died across all settings, an increase of 160 fatalities since yesterday.


May 15 - Care homes to receive 'intense' NHS support

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said new measures will ensure more support for care homes in tackling coronavirus.

He said the government is assigning every care home in England with a named NHS clinical lead for to assess residents and support staff with clinical advice.

“This is the most intense support and scrutiny that care homes have ever received,” he said.

He said also said that all care home residents and staff, regardless of symptoms, will be tested for coronavirus beteween now and early June.

Local authorities are also now required to conduct daily reviews of care homes.

Mr Hancock confirmed that 33,998 people have died with Covid-19 across all settings in the UK - an increase of 384 since yesterday.

He concluded: “Thanks to the collective efforts of everyone watching, we have passed through the peak but there is still a long road ahead so stay alert, control the virus and save lives.”


May 14 - Lockdown makes way for transport upgrades

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced almost £2 billion to upgrade road and rail infrastructure, to ensure the UK is “ready to bounce back” from coronavirus.

He said the package includes £1.7 billion for local roads to make them safer and relive pressure on public transport.

Mr Shapps said the government had already completed hundreds of projects while the nation has been locked down, including more than £200 million worth of improvements by Highways England and £550 million by Network Rail.

“Whilst the country has been in down time, with the roads and railways quiet, we have been busy getting on with essential work fixing the nation’s infrastructure so we can recover faster when the time comes.”

He said transport and construction workers who had been “grafting very hard”, had done so in accordance with Public Health England guidelines.

Mr Shapps confirmed that 33,614 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 across all settings, up by 428 since yesterday.


May 13 - Housing market reopened

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has today announced new guidelines to “restart, reopen and renew” the UK’s property market.

As of today anyone in England can move house, provided they follow government’s advice.

This means estate agents offices can reopen, house viewings are permitted, show homes can open and removal companies and other essential part of sale and letting processes can restart.

House viewings should be carried out virtually but this is not possible, people have been told:

- Viewings should be by appointment only and open house viewings should not be taking place

- Speculative viewing are highly discouraged

- All parties should follow strict social distancing guidelines

- All internal doors should be opened where possible

- The current occupier should vacate the property

- All involved in the process should wash their hands

- Once the viewing has taken place, all surfaces in the property including door handles should be thoroughly cleaned

Those who are self-isolating or have the virus should not be moving house.

Those who are clinically vulnerable or shielding should “consider very carefully” their personal situation.

As of today, a total of 33,186 people have died with Covid-19 across all settings.


May 12 - New guidance for safe working

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has announced new guidelines for employers and staff so ensuring workspaces are safe as staff begin to return amid the coronavirus crisis.

The documents published today include advice such as:

- Carrying out a Covid-19 risk assessment

- Putting up barriers or screens in shared spaces

- Creating fixed teams or partnering to minimise contact between staff

- Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment in between use

Mr Sharma said the government had made an extra £14 million available for the health and safety executive budget.

He concluded: “To employers I say, use this support and guidance to know you are doing the right thing and work with your unions and workers to keep each other safe.

“And to workers I say, we are looking out for you. We want you to feel confident that you are financially supported and returning to a safe workplace.”

According to Mr Sharma, a total of 32,692 people have died with Covid-19 across all settings, up 627 since yesterday.


May 11 - Boris Johnson explains ‘stay alert’ message

Boris Johnson has expanded on the government’s “stay alert” message after a day of accusations that the new slogan caused confusion.

The Prime Minister said that staying alert meant continuing to stay at home as much as possible for the “vast majority of people”.

“But there are a range of other actions we are advising people to take as we modify our measures,” he said.

These include:

- Working from home if you can

- Limiting contact with other people

- Keeping your distance if you go out (two metres where possible)

- Washing your hands regularly

- Wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and where it is difficult to keep a distance

- If you or anyone in your household has symptoms, you all need to self isolate

People are now allowed to meet one other person from outside their household, providing they meet outdoors and a two metre distance is maintained.

A total of 32,065 people have died with coronavirus across all settings in the UK, up by 210 since yesterday.


May 10 - First changes to lockdown announced

“This is not the time simply to end lockdown this week,” Boris Johnson has said as he announced the first small changes to social distancing laws in the UK.

The Prime Minister unveiled his conditional plan for the easing of lockdown in a special address this evening.

He said from this week people who cannot work from home should be “encouraged” to go to work if they can do so safely and they should avoid public transport if possible.

From Wednesday people can take “more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise”, allowing people to sit in local parks, drive to other destinations and play sports, but only with members of their own household.

Mr Johnson warned that fines will be increased for those who do not obey social distancing while out in public.

He said the phased reopening of shops and primary schools could begin from June 1 at the earliest and that parts of the hospitality industry could open in by July at the earliest.

“I must stress again that all of this is conditional, it all depends on a series of big ifs,” the PM said.

Those arriving into the UK by air will be subjected to a period of quarantine.

The new government message is “Stay alert, control the virus and save lives”.


May 8 - £16m fund for food charities

Environment Secretary George Eustice has announced a £16 million fund to support frontline food charities in distributing goods to vulnerable people.

He said: “The economic impact of coronavirus means vulnerability is not just about physical access to food. For some there is also financial vulnerability.”

The money will be used by charities Fair Share and Wrap to support and increase the food redistribution work that they already carry out to around 5,000 frontline charities, including refuges, homeless shelters, and rehabilitation centres.

A total of 31,241 people have died across all settings in the UK, up by 626 since yesterday.

Mr Eustice addressed speculation over what plans to ease lockdown Boris Johnson may unveil on Sunday, saying: “In the meantime, in spite of the sunny bank holiday, it is vitally important that we continue to abide by current restrictions.”


May 7 - PM to outline lockdown ‘milestones’

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the government’s easing of lockdown measures will be set against different “milestones”.

Boris Johnson will announce the details on Sunday, as the nation looks towards its eighth week of enforced social distancing laws.

Mr Raab said: “The Prime Minister has been directing ministers and our teams of officials right across government to carefully develop a roadmap for the next phase.

“It contains appropriate measures to be taken at appropriate milestones, subject to very clear conditions.”

Mr Raab gave no detail as to what the next stage of lockdown could look like but said the next steps would be “sure footed and sustainable”.

He said that the rate of infection (R value) was between 0.5 and 0.9 but warned that the virus was “not beaten yet” and remained “deadly and infectious”. He added that the government will always retain the option to tighten restrictions again.

A total of 30,615 people have died with coronavirus in the UK.


May 6 - Daily testing falls to 69,000

The number of coronavirus tests carried out in the UK yesterday was 69,463, just days after the government announced it had reached its 100,000 daily target.

It is the fourth day in a row that the amount of tests carried out has fallen below Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s target since it was met at the end of April.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed today that 30,076 people have died with Covid-19, an increase of 649 since yesterday.

Presenting the statistics, Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England said: “There are many different ways of looking at death, it is far too early to say how this will eventually result for how countries have faired in this epidemic.”

She said it could take up to a year to compare statistics accurately.


May 5 - UK must adapt to ‘new normal’ in next phase of lockdown

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned that the next phase of coronavirus lockdown “won’t be easy”.

In the coming days Boris Johnson will set out how social distancing measures will change as in order to restart the economy while minimising the risk of a second peak.

Mr Raab said today that the country will have to “adjust to a new normal”.

“We’ve never experienced anything like this first stage of Covid-19 in terms of the scale of the lives lost but also the lockdown that it has required.

“And as we go forward, we want to make sure that next phase is more comfortable, is more sustainable and prevents lasting damage to jobs and livelihoods.

“But we need to be under no illusions, the next stage won’t be easy,” he said.

A total of 29,427 have died with coronavirus in the UK, up by 693 since yesterday.


May 4 - Tracking app to be piloted on Isle of Wight

The government’s coronavirus contact tracing app is to be piloted on the Isle of Wight from tomorrow, Matt Hancock has said.

Setting out the new test, track and trace programme he said it would “hunt down and isolate the virus so it is unable to reproduce”.

“Creating this system is a huge national undertaking of unprecedented scale and complexity,” the health secretary added.

The app works by using bluetooth proximity information to alert the user when they have been in close contact with someone who has reported Covid-19 symptoms.

He urged islanders to download the app, saying: “I know the people of the Isle of Wight will embrace this with enthusiasm because by embarking on this project and by embracing test, track and trace, you will be saving lives.”

A total of 28,734 people have died with the virus in the UK, an increase of 288 since yesterday.

Mr Hancock noted that he expected that figure to rise again, since reported figures were generally lower after a weekend.


For earlier government updates, click here.

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