By Powerscourt on 06/12/2020
Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 06 December 2020
As vaccine distribution begins, will the rush to approve and deploy pay off?
The largest vaccination programme in UK history begins this week, giving the NHS one of its greatest challenges to date. The first Covid-19 vaccine jab is expected to happen on Tuesday, just a day after the first batch of the Pfizer BioNTech shot arrives from Belgium.
The UK may be the first western country to approve and deploy a Covid-19 vaccine but criticism from global experts hasn’t exactly been mute. President-Elect Joe Biden’s newly appointed Chief Medical Advisor Dr Fauci, on The Takeout podcast this week said “I love the Brits… they’re good scientists, but they just took the data from the Pfizer company and instead of scrutinizing it really carefully, they said, ‘OK, let’s approve it, that’s it.’ And they went in with it”. Dr Fauci then (sort of) retracted the statement in another interview later on, however.
The European Medicines Agency also suggested earlier this week that the UK had prioritised speed when approving the vaccine, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock spent his media appearances falsely claiming the speedy approval was only possible “because of Brexit” when, in fact, the EU could have used the same emergency approval route but are choosing not to.
As a nation, the UK is about to find out what Brexit really means – a deal or no deal with the EU. Johnson’s 2019 General Election campaign used these talks as its main slogan “Get Brexit Done” was plastered everywhere but they are currently not moving, mainly due to disagreements on “fish, a level playing field and governance”. The talks are set to continue today in a last-ditch attempt to reach a compromise.
Any deal with the EU will also affect the delivery of vaccines to the UK, particularly those from countries within the EU. The Observer notes that UK military aircraft are being prepped to deliver the vaccines from Belgium, predicting disruption to road, rail and sea routes for all sectors after the Brexit deadline on Dec 31st.
Over in Russia, they began their Covid-19 voluntary vaccination programme yesterday, with teachers and doctors at the front of the queue. More than 2.4 million cases have been recorded in Russia so far, meaning the public are reportedly keen to take the Sputnik V shot which has shown 95% efficacy in second interim data.
Some sunnier news from the UK’s commonwealth mates in Oz – they have recorded 37 consecutive days without any new infections and from midnight Australians can now gather in groups of up to 100 people, that’s one big Christmas barbie.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES SAYING?
Despite a vaccine on the horizon, airline companies are still feeling the pinch caused by the coronavirus. Lufthansa will have shed 29,000 staff by the end of the year and the German airline will cut another 10,000 jobs in its home country next year as it struggles to cope with the coronavirus. Citing unnamed company sources, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper said that Lufthansa would cut 20,000 jobs outside of Germany, while it is also selling its catering unit LSG, which employs 7,500 people, bringing the total staff down to 109,000.
The airport has suggested they may resume paying out dividends from 2022, in the region of around £400m per year down from £600m. Heathrow said they “should no longer be in a crisis mode and a normal business would expect dividends to resume during this period.” This follows the request for a bailout in which Heathrow claimed that without such support they would have to curtail investment and would face an inevitable increase in the cost of borrowing.
Consumer & Retail
Mike Ashley could save the company and the 12,000 jobs in the balance as he is once again deciding whether to intervene and buy Debenhams. The business fell into administration at the on-set of Covid-19 and Ashley’s eleventh hour move could save the 242-year-old business from liquidation.
The Harrods boss, Michael Ward, has said in an interview with the Sunday Times that Covid-19 has been one of his toughest challenges yet, after the company had to put 3,500 staff on furlough at the height of the pandemic. With a large stock of goods left unsold, the business made the novel decision to open an outlet shop on a short-term lease at the Westfield London shopping centre in Shepherds Bush. Ward ended with the admission that it will take Harrods “several years to rebuild.”
IN THE NEWS
Here’s what the office of 2021 should look like – Financial Times
Superpowers play dirty in fight to gain Covid vaccine supremacy – The Times
Matt Hancock Interview: ‘I’m a freedom-loving Conservative… I can’t wait to get us back to living by personal responsibility’ – The Telegraph