14. Weekly Newsletter
PM Confirms Reopening
Following a scheduled review into the upcoming reopening of the UK economy: PM Johnson has concluded that further easing of COVID restrictions will commence on the 12th of April. This signals the return of ‘non-essential’ retail and outdoor hospitality which will come as welcome news to the nations pub-goers. The public can also expect hairdressers, nail salons, theme parks, zoos, gyms, leisure centres and life events (including weddings) to no longer be included within the lockdown laws. Additionally, the ‘stay local’ warning will end and thus allow for domestic holidays to recommence.
The next stage of lockdown easing is anticipated for the 17th of May and may include a legalisation of ‘international travel’. However, the British media has speculated that travel may only be permitted to nations with lower infection rates and higher levels of vaccine take-up. This has led to the Caribbean and the U.S.A. being highlighted for holiday destinations- whereas, Europe appears to be a less imminent prospect.
A continued decline in UK COVID cases is being recorded as just 2,762 cases and 26 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours. This comes with the news that over 31.6m people have now received their first vaccine and over 5.5m inoculated with a second dose- although there are substantial regional variances.
The potential introduction of a ‘COVID passport’ has been indicated by the Government and plans to operate trial runs of this at events such as the FA Cup final, the World Snooker Championship and cinema screenings could cause controversy. Furthermore, UK Government health advisors have warned that a level of COVID restrictions (including mask wearing) could remain in place for years to come.
UK Steel Industry
The UK steel industry generates £1.6bn annually, representing 0.7% of the nation’s manufacturing output, through the approximately 600 businesses involved in the sector. These companies employ around 0.1% (32,000) of the UK’s workforce and produce 8m tonnes of steel per year. However, the sector has experienced dramatic changes over history- from nationalisation to near collapse- with the heavy competition from the alleged Chinese ‘steel dumping’. Liberty Steel are Britain’s 3rd largest steel business, employing 3,000 staff, and are now confirmed to be “many billions” in debt following the collapse of their main financial backer (Greensill Capital). There are public worries about the future of this heavyweight but the owner, Gupta, has committed to keeping all 12 UK plants open.
Prime Minister Johnson started off the month by declaring UK steel a “great national asset” and that all government projects should be buying British to shore up an industry that is of “strategic long-term importance”. During 2019 the Government also laid out a £250m support package, called the ‘Clean Steel Fund’, for British manufacturers which will help decarbonise the industry into the future. Businesses are under significant pressure to improve environmental records as Britain is targeting net carbon neutrality by 2050.