The United Kingdom has suffered its heaviest 24-hour loss of life yet in the novel coronavirus outbreak after figures released by the National Health Service on Wednesday showed 938 people had died in hospital overnight, taking the overall total to 7,097.
Speaking at the daily media briefing, Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Defence, said statistics showed that new UK cases of the virus are “not accelerating out of control”, with hugely reduced numbers of passengers at major railway stations being a significant contributing factor. She also said the graph of demand for critical care was starting to flatten out, showing another encouraging sign.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak added that despite “unprecedented” measures to protect the economy, public health would always be the government’s priority. Growth, he conceded, would suffer a “significant impact”, and not every business could be protected.
He then gave an update on the condition of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who remains in intensive care, where his condition is “improving”. He is “sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team,” Sunak said.
He also announced details of a new 750 million pound ($929 million) fund to help the charitable sector, which is struggling because of the shutdown of many of its funding streams.
“There are over 170,000 charities (and) we will not be able to match every pound of funding they would have received this year,” he said.
“Charities teach us the lesson that the simplest acts have the potential to change lives. At this time, when many are hurting, tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives. It gives us hope, makes us stronger and reminds us we depend on each other.”
A weekly survey on the impact of COVID-19 on British business has revealed companies are struggling to access government financial support.
The British Chambers of Commerce, or BCC, said just 1 percent of respondents had managed to secure a loan under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, with 7 percent receiving grants offered to small businesses.
Six percent of companies revealed that they had already exhausted their financial reserves, and increasing numbers say they plan to furlough staff members.
“We are pleased that the chancellor is listening and responding to our calls to strengthen the existing support,” said BCC Director General Adam Marshall.
“Improvements to the CBILS scheme should help more businesses get access to the cash they need over the coming days and weeks. This could be the difference between survival and insolvency for many firms.”
Britain’s housing market is also suffering, with a reported 70 percent slump in agreed sales since the start of the crisis, and Britain’s employment sector is feeling the pinch too, as for the first time in 11 years, hiring of new staff has almost ground to a halt.
Figures released by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, or REC, and accountants KPMG, showed permanent placements fell at the fastest rate since February 2009, with temporary positions barely any better.
Lockdown measures have seen many companies cancel or postpone planned recruitment. “The coronavirus pandemic has put the labor market on pause,” said REC chief executive Neil Carberry.
But one sector that has benefitted is nursing and care, with a surge in demand for temporary and
Meanwhile, a cross-party group of more than 60 members of Parliament is calling on overseas National Health Service staff to be given indefinite leave to stay in the UK for their efforts in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.
The group, led by Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine and Labour’s shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, has just one Conservative member.
A letter sent to Home Secretary Priti Patel asks her to say that “those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it”.
Last week Patel announced overseas NHS staff whose visas were due to expire in October would be given an automatic one-year extension, but the MPs want more.
“If someone is prepared to risk their life for this country, they must be allowed to live in it,” said Jardine. “This is not just a gesture — it is our moral responsibility.”
Elsewhere, figures from the two biggest economies of the eurozone illustrate how much economic impact the on-going pandemic is having there.
Germany’s GDP is projected to shrink by 10 percent in the three months to June, its biggest fall since national accounts began in 1970, and the Banque de France said France’s GDP will suffer a first quarter reduction of 6 percent, its biggest shrinkage since World War II.