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Government and Policy Updates from the New Statesman


In the UK

The government will write off £13.4bn of historic debt owed by hospital trusts to the NHS, Matt Hancock announced in a press conference last night. The health secretary, in his first public appearance since self-isolating with symptoms of Covid-19, also pledged £300m of government money to be made available for community pharmacies.The NHS has confirmed new temporary Nightingale hospitals in Bristol and Harrogate, which will add 1,500 beds. A 4,000-bed facility in London’s ExCel centre is due to open later today.

Hancock also outlined new measures which he claimed will deliver 100,000 tests a day in England before the end of April. These would include antigen tests that show whether people are currently infected, and antibody tests – which have not been clinically proven – to see if people have had Covid-19 and recovered.

While public confidence in the government is high, the government’s strategy is unpopular with some Conservative MPs, and testing in particular may become a key issue.

Meanwhile, almost a million people have successfully claimed Universal Credit in the last two weeks – and the total number of applicants is likely to be much higher.


Around the world

United States: More than 6.65 million people in the US filed for unemployment benefits in the past week. Around 3.3 million people had filed for unemployment the previous week. The US remains

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Germany: Despite evidence that widespread testing is behind the country’s low death rate, Germany has been told by its public health advisory body, the Robert Koch Institute, that its efforts must improve further. Germany’s 500,000 tests a week should increase that to more than a million, or 200,000 tests a day, the institute said.

China:
 A national day of mourning will take place tomorrow for the “martyrs” who died in the fight against coronavirus. The country will observe three minutes of silence at 10am on 4th April while air raid sirens and horns of cars, trains, and ships, “wail in grief”, the state news agency, Xinhua has reported.

Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is under pressure to declare a state of emergency after the country reported 235 new cases of coronavirus, bringing its total to 3,329. The capital, Tokyo, saw its largest single-day rise so far of 97 cases yesterday.

New Zealand: The minister of health, David Clark, has apologised after ignoring his government’s advice to exercise locally. Clark drove 2.3km from his home to go mountain biking yesterday. A member of the public recognised Clark’s van, which is decorated with a large picture of the minister’s face..

Read more on the New Statesman:

Lawrence Freedman uncovers the real reason the government pursued “herd immunity”

Sarah Manavis looks at how the crisis has plunged the sharing economy into doubt

Michael Barrett explains how Covis-19 tests work

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