Political overview – 12th October 2020

13th October 2020, 10:26 am

UK Government  


Prime Minister’s statement – House of Commons


Note: The following measures apply to England only.

Comments of relevance

  • The Prime Minister began his statement by echoing many of the comments made earlier in the day by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam, noting that the number of coronavirus cases across the UK have quadrupled in the last three weeks, and that more people are now in hospital with Covid than on 23rd March. The PM said he understood there were arguments from members across the House on how best to proceed, but argued that a continued balanced was the only way to safely bring the virus under control and keep many in their jobs.
  • To simplify measures currently in place, England will adopt a three-tier alert system:
  • Medium
    • Most of England will fall under the “medium” category, which encompasses most of the national restrictions currently in place. This includes adherence to the rule of 6 and hospitality venues closing at 10pm.
  • High
    • This will apply to local areas which have implemented additional measures over the last few weeks. Indoor mixing between different households or support bubbles indoors will be prohibited, whilst the rule of 6 will apply outdoors.
    • Areas already subject to local restrictions will automatically move into the high alert level, whilst the PM added that Nottinghamshire, east and west Cheshire, and a small area of High Peak will also move into high alert category.
  • Very high
    • Areas under the very high alert level will see, as a baseline, pubs and bars forced to close, whilst social mixing indoors and in private gardens will be prohibited.
    • The PM noted that further restrictions on the hospitality, leisure, entertainment, and personal care sectors could also be introduced, but education and retail sectors will remain open.
    • Johnson stressed that areas falling under the very high category will receive additional financial support from the government, including paying two thirds of employees’ salaries to those firms who are forced to close under the expanded Job Support Scheme.
    • The government will also support businesses forced to close with increased cash grants – which will rise to £3,000 per month.
    • Johnson said that local authorities in the Liverpool City Region would move into the very high alert level from Wednesday, meaning pubs and bars, as well as gyms, betting shops, leisure centres, adult gaming centres and casinos will be forced to close.
  • Continuing, the PM noted that regulations for these measures will be expected to pass through Parliament by Wednesday – whilst the new measures would also remain under constant review. A four week “sunset clause” will apply to areas under the “very high” category, and a postcode tool will become available on the gov.uk website to ensure people can easily find out what category they are under. Local authorities across the UK will also receive an additional £1bn of government funding on top of the £3.6bn towns fund to tackle the virus and support local areas.
  • The PM finished by warning that “the weeks and months ahead will continue to be difficult and will test the mettle of this country. I have no doubt at all that together we will succeed.”


Welsh Government updates


  • The First Minister has today suggested that Wales is at a ‘tipping point’ with the virus, with warnings today that Wales is heading towards the peak it experienced in the Spring, as Wales is now experiencing more than 100 cases per 100,000 people.
  • At the moment, 2 million people (over two thirds) of the population in Wales are under localised lockdown restrictions, covering all but four of Wales’ local authority areas in their entirety. These restrictions include:
    • people are not allowed to enter or to leave or remain away from the Blaenau Gwent County Borough area without a reasonable excuse
    • people will no longer be able to form, or be in, an extended household
    • all licensed premises have to stop serving alcohol at 10pm
    • people must work from home wherever reasonably practicable
  • At today’s press briefing, the Health Minister Vaughan Gething stated that the Welsh Government was considering a ‘circuit-braker’ lockdown in order to get case numbers down to manageable levels.
  • Whilst there were no new measures announced today, it is evident that the Welsh Government are waiting to see the details of the level of financial support for people in areas with the highest levels of restrictions before announcing any restrictions that would close down areas of the economy, such as hospitality.
  • The Welsh Government have criticised a perceived lack of action on Westminster part in relation to restricting travel into Wales from areas in England which are subject to local restrictions. We can expect further action from the Welsh Government in this area.


Scottish Government updates


Building on last week’s announcement regarding restrictions for the hospitality sector in Scotland, the First Minister today (Monday 12th October) stated that this week the Scottish Government will introduce regulations to extend the mandatory use of face coverings in indoor communal settings (e.g. staff canteens, corridors in workplaces).


Comments of relevance from Wednesday 7th October press conference

  • Sturgeon announced a number of new restrictions that will predominantly impact the hospitality sector and will be in force from Friday 9th October at 6pm until Sunday 25th October:
    • Particular restrictions will be put in place for five health board areas, including:  Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley. Here, all licensed premises will be required to close during this time.
      • Businesses impacted by these restrictions will still be allowed to offer a takeaway service
      • Cafes that do not serve alcohol will be permitted to remain open until 6pm.
      • In the Central Belt, Sturgeon has urged people to avoid using public transport “unless it is absolutely necessary”. Whilst there are no mandatory travel restrictions, people should refrain from traveling outside their local area and others shouldn’t visit there “unless they need to”.
    • In the rest of Scotland, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to operate indoors, from 6am until 6pm daily, serving food and non-alcoholic drinks only.
    • Hotel restaurants can serve food and non-alcoholic drinks beyond 6pm, but only for guests.
    • Pubs, bars and restaurants outside the central belt of Scotland will be able to serve alcoholic drinks in outdoor settings, but not indoors.
  • Elsewhere, Sturgeon announced new restrictions around entertainment, with snooker and pool halls, bowling alleys and bingo halls to close for the same 16 day period.
  • Gyms can remain open, however only for individual exercise – indoor classes will not be permitted. Contact sport will be suspended for those ages over 18, with an exception for professional sport.
  • The Scottish Government will make available £40 million to support businesses impacted by these new restrictions.
  • Looking forward, the Scottish Government will extend regulations regarding mandatory use of face coverings indoors – from this weekend, shops will be required to return to 2 metre social distancing and one-way lane restrictions.
  • The Scottish Government is reviewing its broader guidance for all sectors, and will also be reviewing its testing strategy in the coming weeks.
  • The Scottish Government intends to publish a ‘strategic framework’ that will show the different levels of restrictions that could be implemented in the future, and will put this to a vote in the Scottish Parliament at the end of this month.


Northern Ireland Executive Office updates


  • Ministers in Northern Ireland are considering imposing further lockdown restrictions as infection rates continue to rise across the country.
  • Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed at today’s press conference that a scientific paper was presented to the First and Deputy First Minister on Sunday night which calls for urgent action to be taken in order to protect lives.
  • It is understood that Thursday’s scheduled executive meeting has now been brought forward and further restriction can be expected over the coming days in response to this situation.
  • The R number in Northern Ireland is now estimated to be at around 1.5.
  • The most recent restrictions were introduced nationally on 22 September and prohibit the indoor mixing of households indoors ,with limited exceptions. The “rule of six” has also been adopted in Northern Ireland.
  • Speaking today in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Economy Minister Diane Dodds warned that £500 million will be required to create an economic recovery fund in order to support businesses over the coming period.
  • Health Minister Robin Swann previously announced a new Covid-19 surge plan for Northern Ireland. The new framework is aimed at preparing the country’s NHS for a second wave and aims to learn from earlier months of the pandemic. Individual localised surge plans have also been published by each NHS Trust. More Information here.


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