By Powerscourt on 05/12/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 05 December 2020
The UK’s R number is falling while Brexit talks are stalling.
As England begins its first weekend under the new, and somewhat controversial, tiered lockdown system, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 is falling across almost all of England, as well as in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Wednesday saw England switch to the tiered lockdown system, where many regions are under the strictest two tiers, and have had to impose bans on social gatherings, closure of shops and restaurants and restricted travel. As the ONS cite tighter restrictions as responsible for the drop in cases, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a chance to use the news to quieten his most vocal backbenchers who are having some difficulty putting public support behind the new system.
The ONS also pointed out that the highest percentage of those silently carrying the virus are teenagers, reminding people that having the entire family round for Christmas should not be a priority.
These latest findings from the ONS come as the government revealed the overall R number for England is now between 0.8 and 1 (previously 0.9 and 1.1), a figure that suggests the lockdown procedures over the last few weeks have had an impact.
Although the virus appears to be in retreat, this does not mean that the UK is in the clear by any means. The Government itself reported yesterday that the number of deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test result have increased. The total UK death rate now stands at 60,617.
As unemployment rates also continue to increase in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has forecast that the economy will only return to its pre-pandemic size in 2022, slower than many other countries. In a speech yesterday BoE policymaker Michael Saunders stated that they are reviewing the feasibility of taking its benchmark interest rate from 0.1% to below zero, to aid recovery from the COVID-19 crisis or a Brexit hit. It is almost as if the BoE knew the Brexit talks would be stalled yet again, as both parties said they had been unable to reach an agreement yesterday.
The U.S President Elect Joe Biden has stated that he will take the COVID-19 vaccine once it is approved and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced it aims to have half a billion doses of vaccines available for distribution in the first quarter of 2021, and two billion by the year’s conclusion. The WHO is backing the COVAX programme that currently has 189 countries signed up, which plans to vaccinate 20% of those populations at highest risk of infection such as health workers and the elderly. This aims to ease the pressure on health systems around the world and reduce mortality rates. The WHO’s Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, assured a Geneva news conference yesterday that the doses would be “distributed across the countries, in a fair manner.”
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Consumer & Retail
UK Tote Group, the owner and steward of the Tote, the UK’s leading pool betting operator is preparing to diversity into Britain’s football betting market next year. As the gambling industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has raised £20 million from its shareholders to accelerate diversification away from its reliance on horse racing. Since racing resumed in June, following national lockdowns, the Tote has performed strongly and is now looking to expand into football betting and strengthen the company’s balance sheet.
Financials & Real Estate
Credit Suisse, Switzerland based global wealth manager, investment bank and financial services firm, has hinted at lower bonus payouts. In an interview with Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende, Chairman Urs Rohner said “the pandemic is certainly a factor that will be taken into account when determining the variable compensation.” The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be negative on bonus payouts, with Rohner going on to say “it is obvious that after such a year you will not see record bonuses.”
American mass media and entertainment conglomerate Warner Bros., is set to release all 2021 films on HBO Max and in cinemas on the same day. As cinemas across the world remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the news is another blow to the struggling cinema industry. Whilst HBO Max is not currently available in the UK, Warner Bros.’ decision highlights the ever-increasing importance of streaming platforms. The announcement has prompted urgent talks between Odeon owner AMC and Warner Bros. as film studios and cinema chains are increasingly desperate to rebuild their revenues.
IN THE NEWS
Manufacturing delays leave UK with fewer vaccines than hoped – Financial Times
Covid vaccine rollout won’t take strain off hospitals ‘for months’ – The Times
Three-quarters of pubs not reopening because of Covid tier restrictions, poll finds – The Telegraph