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Further easing of lockdown and two-metre social distancing rule to be reviewed – Channel 4 News

After thirteen weeks in lockdown could an easing of restrictions be on the horizon? If today’s newspaper reports are to be believed the Prime Minister is ready to end the ‘big national lockdown’.

That could mean pubs in England open their beer gardens and some restaurants and cafes could open their outside spaces too. There may also be a change to social distancing rules. But businesses say they’re still unclear about exactly how they can operate.

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has coronavirus destroyed more jobs than the Great Recession? – Channel 4 News

More Brits claimed unemployment benefits in April 2020 than did even in the worst months of the last financial crash.

We’re going to look at what we know so far about the effects of coronavirus and lockdown on joblessness.

How many people have been furloughed? Which parts of the country have been hardest hit? And is it possible that the economy could bounce back when restrictions are eased?

How many people have been made unemployed since lockdown?

The best estimate we have so far of how many people have lost their jobs since the lockdown started is the “claimant count”. The figure is published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) every month and estimates the number of people on unemployment benefits like Jobseekers’ Allowance or Universal Credit.

The latest stats show a dramatic leap in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits: from 1.2 million in March to 2.1 million in April. That’s a rise of about 850,000 in a single month.

How does this compare to previous crises?

Early indications suggest that the unemployment associated with the coronavirus and lockdown is already more severe than the aftermath of the 2008 crash. At its peak, that crisis saw 4.9 per cent of adults claiming unemployment benefits (in October 2009 and January 2010).

A decade later, the figure for April 2020 is 5.8 per cent, up from 3.5 per cent the previous month. The graph is pretty striking:

What about when we look further back? The claimant count reached a staggering 10.6 per cent in the spring of 1986 – which remains the highest level since records began in 1971. And the recession of the early 1990s saw 9.9 per cent of UK adults on unemployment benefits for a number of months.

How many workers have been furloughed?

It’s worth bearing one very important fact in mind when comparing the coronavirus with other economic shocks: unlike in previous downturns, the UK government has taken the unprecedented step of paying the wages of private sector employees in a bid to preserve jobs.

Some 8.7 million British workers have been furloughed since the current crisis began – around a quarter of the workforce.

Under the terms of the furlough scheme, employees receive 80 per cent of their usual wages, up to £2,500 a month, from the government. A further 2.5 million claims have been made under the “Self-Employment Income Support Scheme”.

Both schemes are set to continue until October, though employers will be asked to cover some of the costs from August.

We will never know for certain what would have happened if the government had not intervened – but it seems likely that the lockdown would have put many more in the dole queue if they hadn’t.

Which regions of the UK have been hardest hit?

Every region of the UK saw the number of people claiming unemployment benefits increase as a proportion of the population between March and April – with the North East, Wales and Northern Ireland particularly hard-hit.

So what effect have these changes had on the overall proportion of people claiming unemployment benefits?

The North East, which already had the highest rate of claimants before lockdown began, remains at the top of this unhappy table. Some nine per cent of adults in the region claimed unemployment benefits in April 2020, according to ONS experimental data – up from 5.9 per cent the previous month.

The graph below shows each region’s figures for March (in purple) and April (in pink).

Proportionately, the South East (excluding London) has the lowest claimant count of any region as a proportion of its population: 4.5 per cent. Though it too has seen a significant rise since March, when the figure was 2.4 per cent.

What can we expect from the rest of 2020?

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has produced some initial estimates of what the rest of 2020 might hold for the UK economy. The analysts are keen to stress that these are “broad-brush” predictions and should be treated with caution.

With these caveats in mind, the OBR estimates that UK GDP – the combined value of all the goods and services in the whole economy – will fall by 35 per cent in the second quarter of this year, before rising by 27 per cent in the three months after that.

It’s hard to convey in words how unusual both of these changes would be, so let’s put them in context with a graph that stretches back 50 years:

The OBR estimates that the UK unemployment rate could rise to 10 per cent in the second quarter of this year, before declining slightly to 8.5 per cent in the following three months.

Here’s how that looks in historical context:

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Communities battling dual enemies of poverty and coronavirus – Channel 4 News

The lockdown has forced many of us to reflect on what it is that really matters to us. With work taking a backseat it could be family, neighbourliness perhaps or even a sense of community.

Across the country people have been offering time and support to those most in need. When the NHS sought volunteers, hundreds of thousands quickly applied.

In Chorley, Lancashire, a dedicated hub has been set up by the council to channel a new spirit.

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International Dawn Chorus Day celebrated amid lockdown – Channel 4 News

It has become a soundtrack to lockdown: not the wailing sirens or the helicopters overhead – but the melody of birdsong at sunrise, now sounding clearer than it has been for decades, in a world that has ground to a halt.

Today, the first Sunday in May, the height of spring – marks International Dawn Chorus Day – the sound of birdsong giving people around the world some distraction from the stress and anxiety of lockdown – and a reminder to many that life does and will go on.

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Fears for workers excluded from government’s furlough scheme – Channel 4 News

17 Apr 2020

The Government has today extended its multi-billion pound support scheme to pay an 80 per cent wage subsidy to firms forced to furlough their staff during the crisis.

Now the Government has today extended its multi-billion pound support scheme to pay an 80 per cent wage subsidy to firms forced to furlough their staff during the crisis. It will now run until the end of June.

But there are gaps – hundreds of thousands of workers who were about to start a new job were not eligible. After pressure from campaign groups, the government this week extended that cut off date. But experts say huge numbers of workers are still excluded.

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13-year-old boy among victims of coronavirus – Channel 4 News

1 Apr 2020

A 13-year-old boy, from south London, described by his family as a “loving son” with a “heartwarming” smile

A 13-year-old boy, from south London, described by his family as a “loving son” with a “heartwarming” smile, a 19-year-old chef who had moved to the UK from Italy and an NHS nurse whose relatives say he “always went beyond the call of duty” – these are some of the people who have died after testing positive for Covid-19.

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The government’s reasoning for social distancing – Channel 4 News

16 Mar 2020

Our health and social care correspondent was at today’s briefing at Number 10, where the Prime Minister told people they should stop all non-essential contact and travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Our health and social care correspondent was at today’s briefing at Number 10, where the Prime Minister told people they should stop all non-essential contact and travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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Turkey opens borders for refugees and migrants to travel to Europe – Channel 4 News

Hundreds of refugees and migrants are gathering on Turkey’s border with Greece after Turkey said it would no longer prevent them from crossing towards Europe.

Buses have been seen transporting people from Istanbul as Turkey attempts to put pressure on the EU to provide more support for refugees coming from Syria.

In Syria itself, tensions remain high after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed this week and fierce fighting continues as the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels try to halt the advance of Russian-backed government forces.

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A Chancellor is gone before he’s even delivered a Budget. That’s not meant to happen.   – Channel 4 News

13 Feb 2020

Dominic Cummings’ push to decide who works in the Special Adviser tier across government and his desire to lash the Treasury to No. 10 has led to one of the biggest reshuffle upsets in living memory.

Dominic Cummings wanted to get rid of Sajid Javid for some time. It looked like he had lost that war and Whitehall sources were briefing overnight that Mr Javid would keep his job. But Dominic Cummings’ push to decide who works in the Special Adviser tier across government and his desire to lash the Treasury to No. 10 has led to one of the biggest reshuffle upsets in living memory.

Dominic Cummings and his allies wanted a Treasury relationship with No. 10 that was very distant from the Brown/Blair (2 centres of power) model. In an hour long chat this morning with Sajid Javid, the Prime Minister insisted that what he had in mind was the Osborne/Cameron (equals) model. But George Osborne had his own advisers who were very much his choices for the job. No. 10 did not crawl all over George Osborne’s Budgets before they were formed. I’m told that Mr Javid came away from No. 10 with the impression they had a very different relationship in mind, more servant/master.

Even without the many disagreements there have been while Sajid Javid has been at the Treasury (is he giving a speech or not, what are the current Spending controls, who should run the Bank of England and many more), there has been a hostility to the Treasury in Dominic Cummings’ mind for a long time. The Treasury was portrayed as the enemy in the Vote Leave camp in 2016 and in the years after that they and their offspring around Whitehall were blamed for softening Brexit beyond recognition.

As recently as the HS2 announcement in the Commons on Tuesday, Boris Johnson mentioned how the Treasury was forever against the best and most worthwhile projects when they were in their early phases.

The very fact Sajid Javid’s conversation happened in No. 10 not in the Prime Minister’s Commons office tells you this wasn’t meant to happen like this. In the Commons office, those who were meant to go were asked in one by one for chats with the PM. He sat with his adviser Ed Lister and the Chief Whip and two others on one side of the meeting room table. One he sacked said he was on “great form,” effusively thanking them for their role in his government but repeatedly saying “we need to make changes.” One other line this ex-minister recalls hearing was: “”We’ll look after you.”

Sajid Javid’s meeting wasn’t in that conveyor belt of gloom but in No. 10 itself. Did Dominic Cummings always secretly hope that he could jettison the Chancellor at this late hour or just chasten and reduce him? For his part, the PM persisted for one hour trying to persuade Mr Javid to stay in his job. Mr Javid decided he would not have credibility if he did it on the terms offered.

No. 10 has asserted control but risks looking chaotic. It has a new Chancellor with weeks left to draft a Budget at a critical juncture in the nation’s history.

Is it now a government that will spend more than it would have done under Sajid Javid? Is it a government in which “challenge” is accepted? One who was sacked today said to me: “I’m free of the Downing Street Thought Control Police.”

When the reshuffle started, Dominic Cummings wasn’t getting the dramatic re-jig he truly wanted. He still hasn’t got the re-design of Whitehall he pondered but he has got a mighty scalp.

Will some reflect that the last few hours are not the way things should happen? In his blog, Dominic Cummings recently advertised for outside brains to join the government and make his brain redundant. But, to some, today looks like a centralising mission to entrench government by one brain alone. And it is a brain that has dark thoughts about much of the machinery of British politics: the parties, the officials, institutions like the judiciary and more besides.

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Brexit no detour for migrants hoping to cross Channel to UK

CALAIS, France (AP) — Migrants and refugees waiting by the French side of the English Channel say Brexit hasn’t derailed their determination to cross over to pursue better lives in Britain.

Mingled alongside police officers in the French port of Calais, hundreds of people live in squalid conditions and watch for a boat or truck to carry them to their dreams as stowaways.

Many of them came to Calais from former French colonies such as Ivory Coast and Niger, only to have their asylum requests rejected by French authorities.

The northern French city, laced with high fences and a wall, is the place in France closest to Britain. There are two regular cross-Channel transportation routes from Calais that draw migrants, the Eurotunnel and ferries to Dover, England.

A desire to curtail immigration played a role in the U.K.’s 2016 vote to pull out of the European Union, which guarantees EU citizens the right to live and work in any of the member countries.

Brexit taking effect late Friday doesn’t appear so far to have dented the will of the desperate people from outside Europe who made it to Calais to make an end run into Britain. They bide their time playing soccer and keep warm by building small fires.

“For us, (Brexit) doesn’t change anything,” a man from Ivory Coast said. “We are still living this (dire situation) with the same desire to get to England because France does not want us. We are sick of that.”

The man would not give his name because he feared it might hurt his chance to seek asylum.

A migrant from Gambia who would not give his name for the same reason expressed his anguish by singing a reggae song he composed with the lyrics, “Living in this jungle, yeah, living in this jungle yeah, we don’t have nowhere to go and nowhere to stay.”

At one point, thousands of refugees and migrants congregated in Calais, assembling a huge makeshift camp dubbed “The Jungle.” French authorities eventually cleared and closed it. Neither repeated sweeps nor increased security in the area has stopped the flow of people.

“The situation is pretty bad here, It always has been. I personally don’t think anything will change,” said Clare Moseley of the non-governmental organization Care 4 Calais.

“The things they are fleeing from are worse than anything that can happen here,” Moseley added.

So Brexit or not, migrants still wait and hope that at some point they will ride a lucky opportunity across the expanse of water, although chances are slim.

French border police and maritime officials patrol northern France by land, sea and air, combing beaches, dunes and coastal waters to catch the increasing number of people attempting to get across the Channel in small boats.

Britain has pressured France to do more to stop those attempting the dangerous trip and financed a renewed deterrence operation over a year ago.

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