Displaying items by tag: Government
Two major business groups have written to the governments in Dublin and Belfast to urge coordination in the recovery from coronavirus. The CBI and its Irish equivalent, Ibec, said that an economic reboot will need ‘the highest level of cooperation, coordination and joined-up thinking’. They highlighted the importance of integrated supply chains across the border and Irish Sea, stopping short of requesting a synchronised exit from the lockdown. There have been political differences at Stormont on the level to which an all-island approach should be taken to coronavirus. The two groups say that it is in everyone's interests to have experts on both sides of the border regularly communicating on their respective plans for economic revival and recovery, including all-island business and cross-border employment. They add, ‘It would be helpful and worthwhile for parallel conversations to take place between the two islands, with the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish council providing appropriate formal frameworks for such discussions’.
China filed a patent for a drug seen as one of the best potential weapons against coronavirus the day after Beijing confirmed coronavirus was transmissible to humans. The revelation that it moved so fast fuels concerns about a cover-up of the pandemic when it erupted and suggests that China’s understanding of the virus was far more advanced than the impression given in public. The chairman of the US foreign affairs select committee joined the growing global call for a full, independent inquiry into China’s role, saying, ‘It is quite clear there is an awful lot that we do not know about the emergence of this disease and the responses to it. We all need to learn the lessons of the outbreak so that the international community can respond better in the future.’ Leaked documents showed that China’s officials knew they faced an epidemic but delayed warning the public for six days.
There are 15,517 care homes in England, and 200 hospitals. HC-One, operating 350 homes, had 311 coronavirus deaths. The Methodist Homes Association reported 210 deaths in 131 homes. However the official statistics at the same point recorded only 217 coronavirus deaths in care homes in England and Wales. Pray for the Care Quality Commission to investigate and update recorded deaths daily from the 15,517 residential and nursing homes. Care workers see up to twenty clients during a shift. The Government's advice to residential care is almost the same as for hospital workers: single-use disposable gloves, aprons, and face masks. Pray for speedy delivery of these nationally. The government now promises that care home residents who develop symptoms will be tested. Care providers are reporting at least a quarter of their staff in isolation. Pray that the Government is able to keep its promise to recruit 20,000 social care staff by July and test the vulnerable for coronavirus.
The Eurozone is in a deep recession. Unemployment figures are spiking to unprecedented highs and debt levels are soaring. It is an economic crisis on a scale not seen since the Second World War, or the Great Depression. Onlookers have watched individual countries retreat into national self-righteousness and mutual finger-pointing in a very un-united attitude that threatens the survival of the EU and will not solve anything. Then, finally, after weeks of wrangling, EU finance ministers managed to reach a deal - to the relief of most. Let us pray that the €500 billion package to help countries hardest hit by the pandemic will succeed in implementing an economic plan. See also
On 8 April Rishi Sunak announced that the Government has promised an extra £750 million coronavirus funding for frontline charities across the UK. The support package will ensure that they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak. The Government will also match funds with whatever the public decides to donate to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal on 23 April, starting with a contribution of at least £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust appeal. Mr Sunak said, ‘Our charities are playing a crucial role in the national fight against coronavirus, supporting those who are most in need. It is right that we do everything we can to help the sector during this difficult time.’ Among the charities that will benefit will be those supporting domestic abuse victims, end of life hospices, foodbanks, those delivering food or essential medicines, and those providing financial advice. Pray for the administration between departments identifying priority recipients to flow smoothly and speedily.
In this crisis, the Government has released 350 people from immigrant detention. But hundreds more are still being held in removal centres, pending ‘imminent’ deportation; human rights charities are calling for them all to be released. On 25 March the High Court was told by Detention Action that under British law the Government cannot continue to detain these people if they are not about to deport them. The case is vital as detainees are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, living in big groups and unable to take ‘social distancing’ measures. They are living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, with people displaying symptoms of the virus kept in the detainee population, and some even undertaking functions such as cleaning or serving food.
Many people over 70, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions are now in voluntary lockdown, taking personal responsibility to stay away from potential infection. Continue to pray for their protection and peace of mind. The nation should avoid gatherings and crowded places, including pubs, clubs, theatres, underground and even the workplace if they can work from home. Pray for a calm response to these government requests. Most schools are shut ‘to reduce social contact throughout society’. Children of ‘key workers’ and those who receive free meals or depend on school for food and security will be catered for in some classrooms with a skeleton staff. Pray for any ‘anomalies’ in these provisions to be speedily resolved, for example teachers who are parents with school children at home. Pray for wise government strategies and for parents presented with childcare issues. Some stay-at-home parents will struggle financially. May government provisions be adequate for these and other vulnerable groups.
Israel’s government has approved emergency regulations to enable the Shin Bet to perform mass surveillance of phones belonging to Israelis who contracted COVID-19. This is not to monitor quarantined people, but to track the movements of those found to be coronavirus carriers, to see with whom they interacted in the 14 days before they were diagnosed. Those who were contacted will receive SMS messages instructing them to enter home quarantine. Netanyahu announced the use of these digital counterterrorism measures, as one of several drastic steps to curb the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. He acknowledged that the digital measures might interfere with people’s privacy, but he argued that Taiwan has successfully used similar means in order to stop the coronavirus spread. Public criticism and warnings by human rights groups mean that authorities must limit these measures to only thirty days.
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has been warned by campaign group Right to Life that if the government introduces abortion that surpasses what is legally required, the group will take legal action. The current proposals would allow abortions on demand for any reason up to either 22 or 24 weeks, but abortions for disabilities, including Down's syndrome and cleft lip, would be available up to birth. A poll has shown that 58% of Sinn Féin voters and 54% of DUP voters want their country’s new abortion laws to allow a termination only when the mother’s life is at risk. Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, as outlined in the proposed framework.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his first Budget in the House of Commons on 11 March. Parts of it appear to have been written at the last minute as coronavirus spreads across the nation. His spending plans include a £5bn emergency response to support the NHS and other public services with statutory sick pay for all who choose to self-isolate, even if they don't have virus symptoms. Benefit claimants will be able to claim sick pay on day one, not after a week, and there is a £500m hardship fund allocated to help vulnerable people. To try to save businesses from liquidation, firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks, and small firms will be able to access ‘business interruption’ loans of up to £1.2m. Business rates will be abolished for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000.