More lockdown restrictions set to be eased to boost UK economy

·3-min read

More parts of the UK’s economy could be given the green light to reopen, a day after the Chancellor announced an emergency support package to protect against the coronavirus recession.

People in Scotland are awaiting news on Thursday about whether the country can move into the next phase of its lockdown easing, allowing drinkers to enjoy a pint inside pubs, diners to go to restaurants and customers to return to hairdressers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to give a statement to the Scottish Parliament outlining when and how measures will be lifted, although she has suggested that not all restrictions will be eased at the same time.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce whether the country can move into the next phase of its lockdown easing (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce whether the country can move into the next phase of its lockdown easing (Andrew Milligan/PA)

It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a sweeping package of measures on Wednesday including giving firms which have furloughed staff a £1,000 bonus to keep workers in jobs.

While warning that “hardship lies ahead”, he insisted no-one will be left “without hope”, as he revealed plans to cut stamp duty, slash VAT on food, accommodation and attractions to 5% and give diners a discount to support pubs and restaurants.

Speaking in the Commons Mr Sunak said his plan would help protect livelihoods after the economy contracted by 25% in just two months.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies will give its initial analysis of the summer economic update on Thursday.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma is also due to appear before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee about the response to coronavirus.

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Ahead of the publication of weekly test and trace data, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has suggested taxi drivers and people arriving at airports as well as NHS staff could be subject to mass testing in efforts to identify asymptomatic people and their contacts.

Mr Hunt, now chairman of the health and social care committee, said certain groups within the population, as well as people in particular parts of the country, could be tested to try to better track Covid-19 infections.

Speaking during an online conversation with Royal Society of Medicine president Professor Sir Simon Wessely on Wednesday, he said: “I think looking at healthcare staff, looking at taxi drivers is another group, airport arrivals is another group.

“I think we need to think about mass testing amongst groups of the population as well as parts of the country like Leicester and so on, as our best way of finding out where the asymptomatics are and feeding them into the system so that their contacts can be isolated.”

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Meanwhile a report has concluded that extremists have exploited the pandemic to “breed hate” through “dangerous conspiracy theories”.

Sara Khan, who leads the Commission for Countering Extremism warned of fake news spread by far right and far left groups as well as Islamists during the outbreak and said the impact of “extremist propaganda and disinformation to our democracy cannot be overstated”.

The Government adviser’s report called for the Government to make sure its ongoing response to the pandemic, and future crises, takes into account the “significant threat of hateful extremism and the dangerous narratives spread by conspiracy theories”.

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