By Powerscourt on 16/08/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 16 August 2020
There was good news for toddlers, gamblers and culture vultures in England yesterday as businesses such as soft play centres, casinos and live performance venues reopened across the country. City workers who have enjoyed the novelty of working from home for an extended period of time will also be cheered by the news that large financial institutions such as PwC have drawn up plans for 50-60% of their staff to work flexibly on a permanent basis after the pandemic has passed, according to today’s Mail on Sunday.
Elsewhere, research by the Institute for Public Policy Research to be published next week will show that thousands of lives may be lost to cancer in the UK because 250,000 patients were not referred to hospital for urgent checks, according to today’s Sunday Times. The result is that Britain could reverse a decade of progress in tackling the disease with survival rates predicted to slump, the study found. Cancer charities have said that the findings highlight the deadly consequences of services being “derailed” by the pandemic.
Across Europe, as governments continue to impose new restrictions on people crossing their borders from certain neighbouring countries, there are mounting concerns that the continent’s second coronavirus wave is under way. After a spike in infections in France and Spain over the past week, Germany announced yesterday that it had seen its biggest daily rise in COVID-19 cases in more than three months.
Further afield, Brazil is emerging as a potentially critical player in the search for a vaccine, according to the New York Times. The scale of the outbreak in the country, where the virus has killed more than 105,000 people to date, has presented a unique opportunity to vaccine researchers. According to a recent report from the World Health Organisation, three of the most promising and advanced vaccine studies in the world are relying on scientists and volunteers in Brazil.
Finally, the scramble to return to the UK from France and Holland before yesterday’s 4am deadline reportedly resulted in a big spike in private jet hires. The FT quoted Alain Leboursie, head of sales at private jet broker LunaJets, as saying: “Every time there is another quarantine or lockdown it is insane. People are rushing to get information if it is still possible to fly, and if it is to get an aircraft to get out.”
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Retail & Consumer
Debenhams has appointed advisers specialising in winding up struggling retail businesses in case the department store fails to find a buyer according to The Telegraph. In April, after the pandemic forced stores to close the retailer collapsed into administration. Just last week Debenhams confirmed 2,500 job cuts, following on from hundreds of positions being axed at its headquarters. In a statement, Debenhams said it was “trading strongly, with 124 stores reopened and a healthy cash position. Administrators have initiated a process to assess ways for the business to exit its protective administration.”
Patrick Dardis, the chief executive of pub group Young’s, said he is “calling time on working from home” in an interview with Mail on Sunday. After an evening stroll through deserted Central London, which he described as a “scary sight'”, Dardis is determined to “galvanise the Government into getting Britain back to work'”. He warned: ‘If our high streets are as empty as they are now this time next year, our country will be bankrupt; it will be in a shocking state. The Government needs to level with the British public about this, because while working from home might feel nice at the moment, the capital represents about 30 per cent of the UK’s GDP.’
Manchester Airport Group
Manchester Airports Group have requested the HM Revenue & Customs to waive £30m of business rates after the “aviation industry’s plea for a financial lifeline was rejected by the Treasury” according to The Sunday Times. The biggest British-owned airports operator, which served 42 million passengers a year before the pandemic struck, said airports had been “turned away by the government” and that it “had been left with no option other than to approach the Valuation Office Agency, part of HMRC.”
The Sunday Times reported Travelodge has launched a desperate bid to stop angry landlords moving to rival hotel groups after slashing rents. Travelodge’s landlords were given a break clause as part of a recent CVA. The chain has since sent a presentation to hotel owners to try to dissuade them from defecting. Travelodge’s presentation warns that defection could result in extra costs and threaten rental returns. “There is significant potential for revenue to decline under a new operator,” it says. The move comes as Nick Leslau, who owns more than 120 of Travelodge’s hotels, is thought to have hired advisers to find buyers.
Financial Services & Real Estate
Mail on Sunday revealed PricewaterhouseCoopers is preparing for 50-60% of its staff to work flexibly on a permanent basis after the pandemic. That means around 13,000 of PwC’s 22,000 UK staff could work some days each week from home, and some days in its London offices or one of its 18 regional ‘hub’ offices.
IN THE NEWS
Banks step up plans to close branches and cut jobs in blow to Covid-hit high street – The Telegraph
First Into the Virus Slump, China Is Proving the Fastest Out – Bloomberg
A-level exam results chaos to end in court battle – The Sunday Times
Cities feel the strain as workers defy PM’s call to return to offices – The Telegraph