“Our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end”

In a significant step toward the ‘new normal’, the Prime Minister announced the next raft of lockdown easing measures in England, commencing from 4 July, including the re-opening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers. The two metre social distancing rule will be modified, moving to a one metre plus rule, from the same date.

Others able to re-open include cinemas, theatres, museums, libraries and theme parks. Those keen to book a summer break will be pleased by the inclusion of hotels, holiday apartments, campsites and caravan parks on the list of properties able to re-open in early-July. ‘Close proximity’ venues, such as indoor gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys and nightclubs, will remain closed.

Two households in England will be able to meet indoors and stay overnight from 4 July. These households will need to ensure social distancing measures are observed.

The Prime Minister addressed the House of Commons, “Today, we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our shops, streets and homes and a new, but cautious, optimism is palpable. But it would be all too easy for that frost to return and that is why we will continue to trust in the common sense and the community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance, to carry us through and see us to victory over this virus.”

Voice of caution

He cautioned, “I will not hesitate to put on the handbrake and reverse some of these changes at local or national level as required.” Professor Chris Whitty, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said the relaxation was a “reasonable balance of risk”, but that the UK would “get an uptick” if people did not take measures seriously.

During the final daily coronavirus briefing, the Prime Minister said task forces were being established to work out how ‘close proximity’ venues can safely reopen. Ad hoc briefings will take place for important announcements.

With the hot weather returning, Boris Johnson warned that spikes in cases overseas should act as a warning to those flouting social distancing rules. Concerns of surging cases in Leicester prompted talks of local lockdown.

In other nations…

Scotland and Wales will maintain the two metre rule for the time being, in Northern Ireland it reduces to one metre on 29 June. Nicola Sturgeon said the downward trend in cases and deaths in Scotland mean she can outline “more clarity on the path out of lockdown”. From 10 July, people in Scotland can meet up with two other households indoors. Hairdressers, restaurants, pubs and holiday accommodation can reopen from 15 July. She reiterated that these are “provisional” dates, reliant on the virus remaining suppressed.

“Uncertainty about the containment of the pandemic remains”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its global growth forecast for 2020 and 2021, predicting a decline of 4.9% in 2020, 1.9% below its last forecast in April. The UK economy is expected to contract more than 10% this year, with a partial recovery in 2021. The IMF stated: ‘As the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Lockdown has become more severe, many governments have stepped up their emergency lifelines to protect people, preserve jobs, and prevent bankruptcies. The steep contraction in economic activity and fiscal revenues, along with the sizable fiscal support, has further stretched public finances, with global public debt projected to reach more than 100% of GDP this year. As the lockdowns are unwound in many countries, policy focus needs to shift toward facilitating recovery, although uncertainty about the containment of the pandemic remains, and elevated debt could constrain the scope and effectiveness of further fiscal support.’

Financial markets fluctuated amidst fears that a resurgence in cases could trigger new restrictions and optimism over improving European economic data. Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank President, said the Eurozone is “probably past” the worst of the economic crisis, but the recovery will be uneven. Boris Johnson is due to set out his plans for a post-lockdown economic recovery on 30 June.

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Financial advice is key, so please do not hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“Together we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetimes”

Last week, the UK’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 40,000, a sombre milestone, and only the second country in the world, after the US, to register the grim statistic. Boris Johnson used the UK-hosted Global Vaccine Summit last week to urge world leaders to come together to find a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Presenting the closing statement, he said, As we make the choice to unite and forge a path of global co-operation, let us also renew our collective resolve to find the vaccine that can in the end defeat coronavirus… Just as Britain has been honoured to host this summit today, you can count on our full contribution as together we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetimes: the triumph of humanity over disease, now and for the generations that follow.

“It is vital that people stick to the rules”

During the Downing Street briefing on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed to the public not to attend any large demonstrations with more than six people, saying he was “appalled” by the killing of George Floyd in the US but, “We are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat… It is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease”. Nicola Sturgeon also urged people in Scotland not to gather for mass protests. Despite these requests, large scale demonstrations continued to take place across the UK.

From 15 June, in England all hospital visitors and outpatients must wear face coverings, and all staff must wear surgical masks at all times. A move that prompted criticism from NHS trust leaders who say they weren’t consulted. From the same day, it will be compulsory to wear non-medical face coverings on public transport in England (with a few specific exceptions, including those with breathing difficulties). Those who do not comply face fines.

With new quarantine rules coming into place on 8 June, the travel industry continues to voice disapproval, warning that jobs will be lost and visitors will be put off by the 14-day isolation period.

Levels of school attendance “highly variable”

For the first time in over ten weeks, some primary pupils in Reception, and Years 1 and 6, returned to schools in England last week. However, head teachers reported “highly variable” levels of attendance, ranging from 40% to 70%. The Welsh Education Minister announced last week that all schools in Wales will reopen on 29 June, to pupils from all year groups for limited periods during the week, with only a third of pupils in school at any one time. In Scotland, the largest teacher’s union has cautioned it is heading towards disputes with some councils over the reopening of schools in August. It looks likely that schools in Northern Ireland will begin a phased re-opening in August.

“Progress remains limited”

Last week, the European Central Bank (ECB) increased its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme by a further €600bn, bringing the total stimulus package to €1.35trn. The ECB substantiated this, “In response to the pandemic-related downward revision to inflation over the projection horizon, the PEPP (Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme) expansion will further ease the general monetary policy stance, supporting funding conditions in the real economy, especially for businesses and households.”

In addition, European indexes received an extra boost, with the ECB’s decision to leave rates steady and the emergency bond-buying stimulus in place. On Friday, global stock markets reacted positively after better-than-expected jobs numbers were reported by the US. The most recent jobs report showed the headline unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May.

Round four of EU-UK trade talks took place on Friday, to no avail. Downbeat assessments were presented from both chief negotiators involved, the UK’s David Frost commenting, “Progress remains limited”, with the EU’s Michel Barnier saying, “We can’t go on like this.”

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Financial advice is key, so please do not hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“There is genuine cause to celebrate a great, British achievement”

At Tuesday’s Downing Street briefing, the Prime Minister announced a significant development in the fight against coronavirus. A low-dose, cheap and widely available steroid treatment, dexamethasone, has been found to reduce the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by one-fifth for those on oxygen.

Boris Johnson praised the British scientists involved and patients who volunteered for trials. He said the drug will be made available across the NHS and that the government has taken steps to secure supplies, adding, “I am delighted that the biggest breakthrough yet has been made by a fantastic team of scientists right here in the UK… there is genuine cause to celebrate a great, British achievement and the benefits it will bring not just in this country but around the world.”

On Friday, the UK’s alert level was downgraded to level three, when the virus is considered in general circulation and a gradual relaxation of restrictions can be actioned. The government is said to be reviewing the 2m social distancing rule.

Preparing for a full return to school in September

The Prime Minister fleshed out details to help England’s school children catch up. Over the next academic year, £650m will be given to primary and secondary schools, plus £350m is pledged to fund a National Tutoring Programme for the most disadvantaged pupils.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that in September, the government was “signed up… to bring every child back, in every year group, in every school.” Williamson said class size limits imposed to curb the spread of the virus could be increased to allow every child to return.

Following Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign, the government made a u-turn, enabling around 1.3 million children to claim free school meals vouchers during the six-week summer holidays.

New test and trace technology required

Matt Hancock said the UK is moving to a test and trace model using technology provided by Apple and Google, abandoning the current coronavirus-tracing app after testing showed it was not effective on Apple smartphones.

Lockdown easing around the UK

On Thursday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced lockdown easing measures, including the reopening of most shops from 29 June. On Friday, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced non-essential shops can re-open from Monday. In Northern Ireland, when schools re-open the 2m social distancing rule will be reduced to 1m to allow full classes to attend.

‘The outlook for the UK and global economies is unusually uncertain’

Last Thursday, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted to increase the size of its bond-buying programme and will pump an extra £100bn into the UK economy to help fight the coronavirus-induced downturn. The MPC also chose to retain interest rates at a record low of 0.1%.

The MPC expressed in their meeting minutes, that the fall in global GDP in Q2 will be less severe than expected and that there are signs that services output and consumer spending are picking up. The minutes cited: ‘The unprecedented situation means that the outlook for the UK and global economies is unusually uncertain. It will depend critically on the evolution of the pandemic, measures taken to protect public health, and how governments, households and businesses respond to these factors.’

US equity markets turned negative on Friday as fears of an increase in infections intensified. News of Apple’s temporary closure of 11 stores in the US as virus cases rise, dampened expectations of a quick economic recovery stateside. European stock markets edged higher on Friday, as hopes for more stimulus to boost the global economy and a reasonably quick rebound remain strong.

Back on the ball

It’s been a long wait for football-lovers, but on Wednesday, the Premier League kicked off again after a 100-day pause. All 92 league games left to play, will do so behind closed doors and packed into 40 days, before the season concludes on 26 July.

Onwards and upwards

We are here to guide you through these uncertain times. Financial advice is key, so please get in touch with any concerns or queries you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“We must do everything in our power to avoid a second peak of infection”

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing last Wednesday, having confirmed the government’s five tests have been successfully satisfied, the Prime Minister announced plans to further ease lockdown restrictions in England. During the briefing he reiterated, “We must do everything in our power to avoid a second peak of infection that overwhelms the NHS – because that would lead to more lives lost, more families in mourning, and more disruption to our economy and way of life”.

To combat loneliness, from 13 June, single adults in England and Northern Ireland can spend time and stay overnight with another household, without observing social distancing measures, in what has been called a ‘support bubble’. The relaxation does not apply to people who are shielding. Boris Johnson also announced that outdoor attractions in England, will be permitted to reopen from 15 June. From the weekend, places of worship opened for individual prayer.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that on 15 June, all non-essential shops in England can reopen, allowing high streets to “spring back to life”. Retailers will need to adhere to safety guidelines and complete a coronavirus risk assessment. If shops fail to follow the guidance, enforcement notices will be issued. In Northern Ireland, non-essential shops are now open, while only essential shops are currently open in Wales and Scotland. The Scottish Retail Consortium has called for the Scottish government to publicise a reopening date for non-essential retailers.

U-turn on school reopening in England

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that plans to bring all primary school pupils in England back to school before the end of term have been abandoned. Williamson told the House of Commons that if schools had the capacity, they could take more pupils if they were able to facilitate it. After it was confirmed most children will not return to classrooms until September, the Prime Minister announced a ‘catch-up programme’ for school pupils in England, with further details due to be outlined this week.

Scottish Education Secretary, John Swinney, is “confident that pupils will return in a limited fashion” from 11 August.

First test and trace data released in England

During the first week of the test and trace system in England, over 31,000 close contacts of people who tested positive with coronavirus, were identified, 85% of whom were successfully contacted and asked to self-isolate. Matt Hancock said it was the public’s “civic duty” to follow instructions given by contact tracers. Baroness Dido Harding, who runs NHS Test and Trace in England, said the system was working well but it “can, needs to and will get better”.

“The crisis will cast a long shadow over the world”

Data from the Office for National Statistics, shows the UK economy contracted by just over a fifth (20.4%) in April – the largest monthly contraction on record. This followed the most recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) outlook, which warned, “The crisis will cast a long shadow over the world”. The data highlighted that the UK is likely to be one of the hardest hit major economies, due to its service-based nature. This news understandably subdued UK markets. Focus now turns to the Bank of England, to see what fiscal measures they may choose to implement.

As concerns about a second spike of infection surfaced last Thursday, particularly in the US, many global stock markets suffered their worst day since mid-March, after a more promising start to the week. Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, ruled out shutting down the US economy again.

Last Wednesday, Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chair, said the pandemic could result in permanent economic damage, indicating further stimulus efforts could be deployed. The Fed expects to hold interest rates near zero and to maintain its current rate of bond-buying.

It’s good to talk

Financial advice is key, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated

“This is a supremely difficult balance to strike”

Further details of the government’s next steps in the fight against coronavirus were laid out in a statement in Parliament on Monday, accompanied by a 50-page three step plan. The Prime Minister continued to emphasise the conditional nature of the plan, “This is a supremely difficult balance to strike…the government is submitting to the House today a plan which is conditional and dependent as always on the common sense and observance of the British people, and on continual re-assessment of the data.”

COVID-19 secure guidelines were issued for UK employers on Monday, to help them get their businesses back up and running, and workplaces operating safely. The guidance covers eight workplace settings which are now permitted to be open, including construction sites and factories.

Increasing divergence

Scotland and Wales have chosen not to adopt the ‘stay alert’ slogan. Ahead of the weekend, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said changes to lockdown would not take place and will be “careful and gradual” when they are. She will share her thinking on the changes to lockdown this week. In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said he did not think it was the “right time” to change to the new message.

Further fiscal measures to support the workforce

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the extension of the Job Retention Scheme to the end of October, confirming that employees will continue to receive 80% of their monthly wages up to £2,500. The government will ask companies to start sharing the cost of the scheme from August.

The scheme will facilitate greater flexibility to support the transition back to work, allowing employers to bring furloughed employees back part-time from August.

On the move again

Last week, in England, the property market reopened for business after the government said estate agents could recommence viewings and home moves could proceed. Official guidance strongly advises online viewings where possible and warns that buying and selling a home will not return to normal.

Testing extended to all care home residents and staff

On Friday, the Downing Street briefing was led by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who announced a further £600m has been made available to care homes in England and that all care home residents and staff will be tested for the virus by June. On Saturday, Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething announced that testing will be extended to all care home residents and staff. In Scotland, staff and residents are tested if there is at least one confirmed case. On Sunday, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, pledged an additional £84m to accelerate the search for a vaccine.

Back to school

Concerns have been expressed over the re-opening of primary schools on 1 June, with unions representing teachers in England conveying fears over safety. At Saturday’s briefing, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he will be cautious, reiterating the government would only reopen schools providing the five tests had been met. He hoped that all schools would put the child centre-stage, “I would hope that any school, wherever it is in the country…is making sure we are delivering the very best for every single child in this country. Making sure we do everything we can do to give them the opportunity to get back in school, get learning and having the benefit of being with their teachers once more.”

Economic undulations

At the end of last week, stock markets responded positively to some solid industrial data from China, as production returned to growth in April. Sterling fell against the dollar on Friday, after third round post-Brexit trade talks between the EU and the UK broke up with little progress. As fuel demand strengthens, crude oil prices increased 7% on Friday to their highest price since March.

Onwards and upwards

We are here to guide and support you through these uncertain times. Financial advice is key, so please get in touch with any concerns or queries you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“It is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous”

Over the bank holiday weekend, the ‘stay at home’ message remained firmly in place, as a range of celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day were held. A nation in lockdown paused in a moment of unity and remembrance on Friday, as a two-minute silence was held.

The Red Arrows flew over the quiet streets of London and socially distanced parties took place up and down the country, to remember and step outside for a moment of respite. Renditions of the wartime classic ‘We’ll Meet Again’ were sung, drawing emotive parallels for many to the current situation.

On Thursday, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary tempered expectations of an imminent end to lockdown, The virus is not beaten yet. It remains deadly and infectious…but because we held firm three weeks ago, we are now in a position to start to think about the next phase in this pandemic.”

The road ahead

After seven weeks in lockdown, the nation tuned in to the address from the Prime Minister on Sunday evening, who outlined the roadmap to reopen society. Boris Johnson started by thanking the nation for their effort and sacrifice so far, continuing, “it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike.”

He unveiled the skeleton of a conditional plan, which will be fleshed out in a statement in Parliament on Monday. He was keen to emphasise “all of this is conditional, it all depends on a series of big ifs.” A new Covid Alert System was detailed, which has five levels and will govern how quickly lockdown restrictions could be eased.

He went on to outline a three-step plan. People who are unable to work from home should return to the workplace but avoid public transport if possible. From Wednesday, people can take unlimited outside exercise. The next step, at the earliest by 1 June, would be for some primary pupils to return to school in England. This stage would also involve reopening shops if the science is supportive. The third step could see some hospitality businesses and other public places reopen no earlier than 1 July. The PM reiterated, “if there are problems, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes. We have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous.”

He added that the time will soon come to quarantine everyone coming into the country arriving by air, more details are expected in the following days. He signed off, “For now we must stay alert, control the virus and save lives.”

The measures in the address apply to England, as most decisions relating to coronavirus and the lockdown in other parts of the UK are made by the devolved administrations.

Trade concerns dissipate

Equity markets were buoyed at the tail end of last week, as more governments around the world gradually began reopening their economies and trade tensions eased as US and Chinese trade representatives revisited the Phase 1 trade deal on Friday.

Market optimism conflicted with economic data as unemployment numbers in the US revealed 20.5 million jobs were lost in April. The Bank of England supported sterling by standing firm on monetary policy, whilst delivering a gloomy economic outlook.

A poignant address

Airing exactly 75 years on from her father King George VI’s address at the end of the Second World War, the Queen gave a poignant address to mark the anniversary. Commending the country’s response to the pandemic she said, “Our streets are not empty, they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.”

Careful navigation

We will continue our considered, measured approach to carefully navigate these challenging conditions. Financial advice is key, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

Last week was a busy one for the Prime Minister. On Monday, he was back at the helm and kicked off by addressing the nation from Downing Street. He thanked the people of this country “for the sheer grit and guts you have shown and are continuing to show.” He warned that the UK is at the point of “maximum risk” and that he would not “throw away the sacrifice of the British people” by easing lockdown restrictions too quickly. 

On Wednesday, just 17 days after he had left hospital, he and his fiancée Carrie Symonds celebrated the birth of their first child. With Paternity leave on hold, the following day he was back on the podium for the daily briefing. The PM said he will set out a comprehensive plan this week, in which details will be provided on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and get people back to work. He said the UK was past the peak of the virus outbreak and talking about the efforts of government, NHS, Public Health England and local authorities, said, “We are throwing everything at it, heart and soul, night and day.”

Testing target met – “an incredible achievement” 

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock confirmed on Friday that the government had met its “audacious” 100,000 tests per day target by the 30 April deadline. Hancock praised all those involved as he confirmed more than 122,000 tests had been conducted on the final day of the month. He hailed the expansion in British testing capability “an incredible achievement”.  

Later it emerged that over 27,000 of the figure came from the tests that have been mailed to homes and 12,800 had been delivered to centres such as hospitals and NHS sites, with no clarity if they have been conducted yet. 

The government’s “next mission” is its test, track and trace operation, work is currently under way to roll it out, the intention being that by the middle of May an initial 18,000 contact tracers will be in place. The COVID-19 NHS app, which is due to be trialled on the Isle of Wight, will be able to tell where the virus is spreading and help control new infections. 

Trade back on the agenda 

At the end of the week, market sentiment was negatively impacted by President Trump’s threat to impose new tariffs on China. The President is threatening trade tariffs to punish Beijing for its alleged failure to contain the virus. Wall Street sold off sharply in response. A slump in energy company stocks led the UK’s FTSE 100 index lower on Friday. 

There were warnings from the European Central Bank’s chief economist that it may take three years for the eurozone to recover fully from the shock of the pandemic, whilst data from the US showed that GDP in Q1 shrank at its fastest rate since the 2008 financial crisis. Bleak assessments of the economic outlook by policymakers across the globe have been accompanied by expressions of determination to keep injecting liquidity into the financial system. On Wednesday, Chair of the US Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, commented: “We are still putting out the fire.” The Fed committed to using its ‘full range of tools’ to support the US economy throughout this crisis.

A national treasure 

Second World War veteran Captain Tom Moore thanked the public for their “very overwhelming” generosity, as his fundraising tally topped £32m on his 100th birthday on Thursday. Among the thousands of birthday greetings was a personalised card from the Queen and a recorded message from Boris Johnson. He was honoured with an RAF flypast and informed of his promotion to honorary colonel. 

Advice makes sense 

We’re here to support you in uncertain times. Financial advice is key, so please do not hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.  

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“We must retain our resolve”

As confirmed hospital deaths from COVID-19 passed the 20,000 mark over the weekend, the UK became the fifth country to reach the tragic milestone.

On Saturday, Home Secretary Priti Patel conducted the daily briefing from Downing Street, she reiterated the message urged several times in the week, for the public to continue their compliance with social distancing rules. This comes as the number of vehicles on the roads increased 2-3% over the past week and the government comes under scrutiny about the requirement to release details of a lockdown exit plan.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged on Thursday, “We must retain our resolve and follow social distancing rules – they are working. To lift the measures too soon and to risk a second peak will be a mistake and undo all the hard work that has been done.”

In his last day leading the government before Boris Johnson takes back the reins on Monday, Dominic Raab talked about the “new normal” we will need to find for the many months it will take scientists to continue their work on a vaccine.

Testing – on track

On Thursday, the Health Secretary announced that all essential workers and their households would be able to book a coronavirus test online from Friday, saying “It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet”. Due to high demand, the website closed on Friday and Saturday as all available slots were booked. Home testing kits are also being rolled out, as ‘test, track and trace’ programmes are hailed as a vital component in the fight against the virus.

Coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, Professor John Newton, has said that testing capacity has increased “exponentially”, and that the UK is “on track” to reach the government’s target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Trials and transport

The first human trial in Europe of a coronavirus vaccine began at the University of Oxford last week.

The trial has over 800 participants recruited from across England. Half of the volunteers will be injected with the COVID-19 vaccine which has been developed and the other half will be given a meningitis vaccine.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that UK officials had reached an agreement with French and Irish counterparts to maintain key goods flows throughout the crisis to ensure the ongoing supply of critical goods across Europe.

Ups and downs

Markets reacted positively at the start of last week as hopes lifted that Californian biotech firm Gilead’s remdesivir COVID cure might be able to effectively combat the symptoms. Hopes faded as the week progressed as trials claimed it was less effective on the severely ill. Global equity indices were more sluggish towards the end of last week, as some US states began reopening businesses, despite health experts’ disapproval and the European Union failed to provide details of its new economic rescue plan. In the UK, dismal retail sales data weighed on the FTSE 100 and various surveys signalled a collapse in April business activity globally.

Crude oil prices dropped into negative territory for the first time ever last week but gained some momentum as the week progressed.

Light relief

On Thursday night, the BBC’s fundraising event ‘The Big Night In’ took place. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak made a cameo appearance, confirming the government would match all donations, pound-for-pound, with the first £20m going to the National Emergencies Trust.

Captain Tom Moore has reached number one with his collaborative charity single ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, making him the oldest artist to top the UK singles chart. Captain Moore, who celebrates his 100th birthday this week, has already raised over £28m for the NHS and continues his fundraising efforts with the fastest selling single of 2020.

Advice is key

We are here to reassure you that we continue to work hard and are here to support you. Financial advice is key, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel”

On Thursday, as anticipated, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed that lockdown measures would be extended for at least a further three weeks, outlining five specific points which the government would need to be satisfied of before considering it safe to adjust the measures:

  • The NHS must be able to cope and provide sufficient care
  • Evidence showing a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates
  • Reliable data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
  • Ensuring the supply of tests and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) could meet future demand
  • Confidence any adjustments will not trigger a second peak.

He went on to justify the continuation of measures, “We’ve just come too far, we’ve lost too many loved ones, we’ve already sacrificed far too much to ease up now, especially when we’re beginning to see the evidence that our efforts are starting to pay off. And your efforts are paying off. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Despite the sombre news of the rising death toll, heart breaking losses for every family affected, there are some positive indicators. The number of people being hospitalised in certain parts of the country is decreasing, some flattening of the curve is evident as social distancing measures begin to feed through. The rate of infection in the community has reduced to under 1, meaning that, on average, each infected person is infecting less than one other person.

Furlough scheme extended

On Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be available for another month until the end of June and would be extended again “if necessary”. Under the scheme, the government covers 80% of workers’ wages up to £2,500 per month. Mr Sunak commented, “With the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures yesterday, it is the right decision to extend the furlough scheme for a month to the end of June to provide clarity.”

“colossal undertaking”

The government continues to face criticism for not providing enough PPE for healthcare workers. As supply challenges persist, thousands of items of PPE are scheduled to arrive in the UK, meanwhile Public Health England has revised guidelines on PPE use.

Alok Sharma, Business Secretary, led the Friday daily briefing and outlined the setting up of a Vaccine Taskforce to accelerate, expedite and coordinate efforts to research and produce a coronavirus vaccine, positioning the UK at the forefront of international efforts to fight the virus. He called producing a vaccine a “colossal undertaking” that would take many months.

Economy and markets

Global markets rallied on Friday as investors were encouraged by President Trump’s plans to reopen the US economy in a three-stage approach. Helping markets shrug off a 6.8% decline in Chinese GDP in Q1, sentiment was also buoyed by Boeing’s announcement it would resume production of commercial jets. Oil prices have been weak, despite the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers announcing a deal to cut output.

Also on Friday, the International Monetary Fund updated its COVID-19 response, ‘Assuming the pandemic fades in the second half of 2020 and that policy actions taken around the world are effective in preventing widespread firm bankruptcies, extended job losses, and system-wide financial strains, the Fund projects global growth in 2021 to rebound to 5.8%. This recovery in 2021 is only partial as the level of economic activity is projected to remain below the level we had projected for 2021, before the virus hit.’

Ray of sunshine

Capturing the hearts of the nation, 99-year-old veteran Captain Tom Moore, has raised over £25m for the NHS, by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. A truly heroic effort. The NHS has invited Captain Moore to be the guest of honour at the opening of the new Nightingale hospital in Harrogate to honour the Yorkshire native’s fundraising efforts.

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Financial advice is essential in the current circumstances. You can rely on us for considered, measured advice to assist you in navigating these uncertain times.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.

“We are making progress in this national battle”

As the lockdown continued over the sunny Easter weekend, the government urged people to have a ‘stay-at-home Easter’. In the UK on Easter Sunday, a sombre milestone was reached, as recorded deaths in hospitals passed the 10,000 mark.

Following a week at St Thomas’s Hospital, including three nights in intensive care, the Prime Minister was discharged on Sunday. In a video message, he paid tribute to the NHS, saying there was “no question” the NHS saved his life. In a heartfelt message he continued, “We will win because the NHS is the beating heart of this country, it is the best of this country, it is unconquerable, it is powered by love.” On the advice of his medical team, the Prime Minister will not be returning to work immediately and will spend time convalescing at Chequers.

Boris Johnson also thanked the millions of people across the country who have been following the rules on social distancing, adding “We are making progress in this national battle against coronavirus.”

“Herculean effort”

A major theme of the week was the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), with many NHS workers saying they still did not have sufficient. On Friday, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said it had been a “Herculean effort” but there was now enough kit for everyone and unveiled a comprehensive plan for addressing shortages.

Last Thursday, Dominic Raab, who continues to deputise for the PM, chaired an emergency Cobra meeting, with senior ministers and officials from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, to “take stock and assess where we are right across the United Kingdom” on social distancing measures. It is highly anticipated that the restrictive measures which were announced on 23 March will continue. At the 13 April Downing Street conference, Raab stated that he does not expect any changes to be made to lockdown measures until the government can be confident they can be made safely. We will learn more later this week once the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has assessed the data.

Further support initiatives

On 8 April, Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced measures to support charities, comprising a £750m package to keep struggling charities afloat during the pandemic. The measures involve cash grants direct to charities providing key services during the crisis.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel took her turn on the podium on 11 April. She disclosed that the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown, and pledged an extra £2 million to domestic abuse services.

“We will come out of this crisis more resilient”

Many major global stock markets gained ground last week, partly bolstered by fiscal and monetary stimulus aimed at cushioning the economic blow of the pandemic. European stock markets gained for a fourth straight day on Thursday, the FTSE 100 led the way. Sentiment was buoyed after the Federal Reserve outlined a $2.3tn program to bolster local governments and businesses. EU finance ministers also agreed a €500bn rescue package for European countries hit by the pandemic.

On 9 April, Kristalina Georgieva, International Monetary Fund Managing Director, released a paper, ‘Confronting the Crisis: Priorities for the Global Economy’, which concluded: “It is this common threat that brings us all together, to harness the greatest strengths of our humanity – solidarity, courage, creativity and compassion. We don’t know yet how our economies and way of life will change, but we do know we will come out of this crisis more resilient.”

Easter message of hope

Following her address to the nation on 5 April, the Queen also released an Easter message over the weekend, “Coronavirus will not overcome us”, the monarch said. Speaking from Windsor Castle and underlining the government’s public safety message, acknowledging Easter will be difficult for us but by keeping apart we keep others safe, she wished everyone of all faiths and denominations a blessed Easter, saying: “May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.”

It’s good to talk

We remain composed and professional and will continue our considered, measured approach to carefully navigate these challenging conditions. Financial advice is key, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with any questions or concerns you may have.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. The past is not a guide to future performance and past performance may not necessarily be repeated.