Coronavirus impacts UK budget 2020; Khan welcomes measures


Sadiq Khan welcomed the government’s budget measures to tackle coronavirus as he met with the UK’s chief medical officer.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £5billion emergency fund to help the NHS fight Covid-19 – and said that cost could rise further if necessary.

He also committed £7bn for workers and businesses taking an economic hit from the virus.

But the Mayor of London said after a decade of austerity the UK was “particularly poorly placed to weather this storm”.

His warning comes as:

  • The number of coronavirus cases in the capital has passed 100 – with 104 patients now testing positive
  • London’s Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden is self-isolating for coronavirus after a trip to Rome
  • City Hall officials are planning for a potential change to the date of the Mayoral election on 7 May
  • 12 community clinics, 19 drive-through services, and 12 home visit teams are testing for the virus in the capital
  • TfL yesterday announced an increased cleaning regime to keep Londoners safe on public transport

The government’s budget included a £1bn boost to benefits, and guaranteed sick pay for all workers who have to self-isolate.

Minimum income for Universal Credit will be temporarily scrapped so self-employed people can access benefits – and everything can now be done over the phone, so sick workers can easily get cash.

Business rates for all retailers will be scrapped this year, and the smallest businesses already getting full relief will be given a £3,000 cash grant.

The Mayor said he was “pleased to see” the government take action – but he warned that austerity has made the UK economy less resilient.

He said further action from government “may yet be needed” to tackle the epidemic.

But Mr Khan said he was “reassured” by his meeting with chief medical officer Chris Witty that plans are in place for a worsening outbreak in London.

There are now 104 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the capital, with Kensington and Chelsea the worst affected borough.

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Many workers are now self-isolating – including Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden, who is working from home as a precautionary measure after a holiday in Rome.

A spokesperson for the Deputy Mayor for policing and crime said Ms Linden remains in “close contact” with the Mayor’s Office for Crime and Policing “and is carrying out her role and responsibilities from home during this short period”.

London’s Deputy Mayor for fire and resilience, Fiona Twycross, said City Hall officials are now planning for a delay to the Mayoral and London Assembly election if coronavirus gets worse.

Ms Twycross told the Assembly’s health committee that officials were discussing the 7 May vote with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

She said “at present we have not been given any indication that it will be postponed”–  but said Government would ultimately take this decision in the coming weeks.

The Deputy Mayor said the GLA was now planning for a potential change to the election as part of their preparations for the virus.

But Mayoral health advisor Professor Paul Plant said he was “very clear” that at present “the risk is low” for members of the public in the capital.

He said medical experts were focused on “making sure the population is aware of what they can do so the risk remains low”.

Professor Plant said advice given on a a daily basis is “based on the current situation” but “we are looking to the future as well”.

And Ms Twycross, said it was “not helpful” for cities or regions to come up with their own approach to the virus.

She said City Hall viewed Public Health England as “a single point of truth” and all their advice would follow this expert medical guidance.

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