By Hallum Cowell
This week the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to spread throughout the UK and the rest of the world, with major changes to the lives of millions of people.
In the UK, major lockdown began on March 23, and is set to last at least three weeks. After those three weeks the government will review their policies and the lockdown could continue if the virus is still a major concern. The current government advice is that people should only leave their homes for exercise near their homes once a week and only shop for essentials.
The lockdown was brought in following a report from Imperial College London that the old strategy could lead to 250,000 deaths. The Government is now aiming to keep the death toll below 20,000 by taking steps to stop the spread.
The government has also instructed anyone showing Coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate for at least a week. Now that the lockdown is official, the police have the power to fine those breaking quarantine and break up large groups.
As a consequence of the lockdown which saw non-essential shops close and people working from home where possible, many people have been left out of work and making less money than before. To mitigate this, the Government has announced a number of aid packets including subsidies for those whose places of work have closed so they can continue to be paid sick leave, as well as measures to cater for people who are self-employed. Statutory sick pay (SSP) is what the Government is subsidising, however those on zero hour contracts may not be eligible for SSP. The Trade Union Congress has estimated that there are at least two million workers who are not eligible for SSP.
While the Government has revealed plans for temporary mortgage freezing there is currently no word on those paying rent.
The current pandemic has had a major effect on public services such as the NHS and the police force who are finding it harder to allocate their resources in this time of crisis. This week retired hospital and police staff were asked to return to work to help alleviate the manpower shortage. In Wales final year medical students including nurses and midwives are being offered paid roles in the NHS.
Temporary hospitals are also being built in the Greater London Area, Manchester and Birmingham. The aim is to have these set up by mid-April.
On March 27, it was confirmed that Both Prime Minister Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have tested positive for the virus. The Prime Minister is reported to be showing mild symptoms. If he becomes incapacitated, Dominic Rabb will temporarily lead the country in his absence.
As of 8pm Friday night it is reported that 759 people have died from the virus in the UK and there are 14,543 confirmed cases.
The global economy has continued to suffer from the effects of the virus as shops remain closed and revenue remains almost non-existent. Virgin Atlantic is the newest addition to the long list of airlines suffering under the crisis, with hints it will be seeking a bail out over the weekend. Restaurant chain Carluccio’s is also facing collapse, putting 2000 jobs on the line. The stock market is also facing the strain with governments all over the world looking to bail out these markets to prevent collapse. In the United States, the White House’s eyes remain locked on Wall Street with stock markets going from weakness to strength then back again throughout the week.
The rest of the world is also taking action to combat the pandemic. China, where the virus originated, has banned all foreign visitors from entering the country, an approach also being fostered in India. The United States, which as of March 26 has the most confirmed cases in the world, has advised its citizens to not travel outside the country. This news came after the United States began ramping up their testing.
The United Nations currently estimates that 87% of people enrolled in school or college have been affected by school closures and that 160 countries have closed their schools.
The decision was also taken this week that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games would be postponed to 2021.