By Powerscourt on 20/06/2020
UK Government borrowing reached its highest level on record in May, with national debt climbing above 100 per cent of national output for the first time in almost 60 years. The £55.2bn figure was nine times higher than in May last year and the highest since records began in 1993, underlining the severe impact the virus is having on public finances.
However, retail sales in the UK provided a glimmer of hope for the future yesterday with data showing a strong bounce back last month. ONS figures showed a 12% increase on April’s record falls, well above economists’ forecast of a 6% rise. The rise was largely attributed to the continued surge in online retail sales which saw growth of nearly 20% in May, pushing the channel to now account for a record 33.4% of total UK retail sales.
The UK’s Covid alert level was downgraded yesterday from 4 to 3 as SAGE, the Government’s scientific advisory body, said the outbreak is receding each day by about 2% to 4%.
In further good news, speculation continues that the two metre rule in the UK is set to be relaxed from 4 July with the hospitality sector allowed to resume the same day. A Government source last night revealed that scientific advisers were now ‘totally comfortable’ with reducing the restriction, providing other precautions remain in place. There are hopes that the move will enable an ‘alfresco revolution’, facilitated by fast tracked approval for outdoor eating and drinking.
School class “bubbles” could also be increased in size in order to get more children back to school. Children returning to school are currently taught in protective “bubbles” of 15 pupils who are kept apart from other children in the school but the Government is keen to double class sizes to 30 in September.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
The Times reported Britain’s biggest supermarket chain is resisting pressure to axe a £1.6 million bonus for its departing boss, David Lewis, “as shareholders prepare to inflict a humiliating defeat on the grocery giant.” Tesco could lose the vote on its remuneration report at next week’s annual meeting. The revolt comes after Tesco changed the way it calculates executive bonuses by axing Ocado from the list of companies it compares itself to.
Industrials & Transport
Reuters reported on Friday evening that Airbus is extending furlough programs for 5,300 employees in the U.K. and Spain to cope with the impact of the Covid-19. In the United Kingdom, the period of furlough for about 2,200 Airbus workers will start on July 20 and end on Aug. 9, according to the statement.
The US biotech company is to start trialling a coronavirus pill on patients who test positive for Covid-19 but do not require hospitalisation according to the Financial Times. The drug, codenamed EIDD-2801, had cleared Phase 1 safety trials and is now recruiting patients for the next stage of testing to determine whether it could fight the virus.
Apple has announced it is once again closing almost a dozen stores in the US because of a recent rise in coronavirus infections in the south and west, as some of the first states to ease their lockdown restrictions have shown sudden increases in new cases. The company named 11 locations in four states that will close, including six locations in Arizona, where daily new cases have spiked to 2,519, versus fewer than 300 in late May. Other locations to close are in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.
According to The Telegraph, the private school has unveiled its own test and trace system which could see individual boarding house wings locked down to get all students back to the classroom in September. The school intends to purchase its own supply of antigen and antibody testing kits so that any pupil or teacher who displays symptoms can be swiftly isolated and tested. The school has written to parents outlining its blueprint on how it intends to fully reopen after the summer holidays. It is the first fee-paying institution to announce its reopening plans, with others expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
IN THE NEWS
Wall Street erases gains as Apple store closures spook investors – Financial Times
Prospering in the pandemic: the top 100 companies – Financial Times
Leaked rules show how pubs, restaurants and hotels will reopen in England – The Times
Airport coronavirus testing to end quarantine rule – The Times