Asos has been criticised by staff who say they are scared to come to work at its distribution centre because they are not being sufficiently protected during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 98% of more than 460 workers who took part in a survey carried out by the GMB union said they felt unsafe at the group’s warehouse in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, even after new safety measures were introduced last week. About 4,000 people are employed at the warehouse with an average 500 working each shift.
The coronavirus pandemic could cause UK economic output to plunge by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of the year and unemployment to more than double, according to dire forecasts. The deepest recession since the financial crisis is now all but unavoidable, according to analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), after businesses shut up shop and consumer spending fell dramatically as a result of lockdown restrictions. – Guardian.
"Life in Britain will not return to normal for six months, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned, as ministers begin preparing the public for an extended period of lockdown. At the government’s daily press conference, Jenny Harries said that strict social distancing rules may have to be in place for between two and three months. But she added that it would be a further three months before all restrictions were lifted, and even then there were likely to be “bumps” as new clusters of cases of coronavirus were identified.
The government has put the brakes on the housing market until the coronavirus restrictions are over, telling people to delay their home moves if possible and not to allow new viewings. In new guidance, the government said it was urging buyers and sellers to “adapt and be flexible” by agreeing new moving dates. – Guardian.
Gordon Brown has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The former Labour prime minister, who was at the centre of the international efforts to tackle the impact of the near-meltdown of the banks in 2008, said there was a need for a taskforce involving world leaders, health experts and the heads of the international organisations that would have executive powers to coordinate the response.
The online shopping platforms eBay and Amazon Marketplace are failing to crackdown on a surge in profiteering by sellers due to the coronavirus, a consumer group has warned, after its investigation uncovered a wide range of products on sale at “extortionate” prices. Which? found “consistent overpricing” of household items, including cleaning products, hand sanitiser, thermometers, baby formula and tampons, which have all been in high demand since the coronavirus outbreak but in short supply in supermarkets and pharmacies.
Thousands of workers from across the country will continue to gather on the Hinkley Point C nuclear site – but work on the £106bn HS2 project could be halted – amid differing approaches in the construction industry to physical distancing aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. Some of the 4,000-strong workforce at Hinkley, Britain’s biggest construction project, have raised concerns over an outbreak of coronavirus at the Somerset site after the government shut down restaurants, pubs and schools to contain the outbreak elsewhere.
Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak to extend his coronavirus bailout to the UK’s five million self-employed people, with gig workers threatening legal action against the chancellor’s current “discriminatory” policy and a survey suggesting half would keep working if they had symptoms. On Friday, Sunak said self-employed workers could access £94. 25 a week in universal credit, but he gave a far more generous deal to employees of 80% of salaries, capped at £2,500 per month.
Boris Johnson has said he is prepared to bring in a full lockdown to tackle coronavirus including "restrictions on people’s movements" if they do not act “responsibly” and follow social distancing guidelines. The prime minister raised concerns that people are ignoring the public health guidance after huge numbers flocked to parks, beaches and markets. - Sunday Times.
Mortgage holders clamouring to obtain a “payment holiday” during the coronavirus crisis are waiting hours to get through to Britain’s banks, and many have given up. Twitter has been deluged with complaints from customers unable to speak to someone at their bank. Some claimed they were waiting for as long as three and a half hours. Many expressed their anger at the lack of a simple online form that could be used to request a payment holiday. – Guardian.
Taxpayers would have to foot the bill if another tour operator followed Thomas Cook into insolvency, the National Audit Office has warned, after a tourism industry fund that paid out £481m to repatriate and refund holidaymakers hit by the collapse was left severely depleted. In a report on the shock demise of the 178-year-old tour operator last year, the NAO said the state had already borne £156m in costs, a figure it said was likely to rise in future. - Guardian.
Britain’s banks have revealed how they are going to implement Rishi Sunak’s promise of “payment holidays” of up to three months. In guidance issued after the chancellor pledged mortgage support for households affected by the coronavirus, UK Finance, the trade body for the major banks, set out how households can apply. – Guardian.
Energy companies have started preparing emergency plans to cope with coronavirus disruption, including the possibility of operating with only a fifth of their usual staff numbers. The UK’s regional energy networks held talks last week with government ministers, senior officials and the energy regulator over plans to maintain the energy system’s power lines and gas pipes if 80% of their staff are unable to work. – Guardian.
Manufacturers are urging the UK government to take action to help limit the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic after research showed that exports have slumped to their lowest level in three years. A survey of more than 300 companies by manufacturers’ body Make UK and business advisory firm BDO, carried out before the recent escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, indicated the sector had ground to a standstill at the end of 2019. Since then, while the domestic picture had begun to improve slightly, exports had already fallen sharply in response to a downturn in world trade, a situation likely to be exacerbated by current events.
Airlines have axed more flights and demanded urgent government action to help offset the financial impact they are facing from the coronavirus outbreak, as they struggled to digest the impact of Donald Trump’s travel ban to the US from Europe. Shares in the crisis-hit sector tumbled further after the US said it would block foreign nationals arriving from the EU Schengen zone. Many lost about 15% of their value, and are now down more than 50% in the last three weeks.
A fresh round of high street bloodletting is expected after major chains, who are closing stores and shedding jobs, were overlooked by emergency business rates cuts. The government took the step of scrapping bills for small business owners including shops, restaurants and nightclubs in the coming year so their finances would be better able to cope with coronavirus-related upheaval. – Guardian.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has spelled out details of the dramatic increase in its production that prompted Monday’s huge falls in global stock markets and is regarded as a targeted attack on the US shale oil industry. The state-owned oil firm Saudi Aramco said in April, when a three-year Opec deal with Russia expires, it would increase output from 9. 7m barrels per day (bpd) to 12. 3m, flooding the market and bringing oil prices lower. - Guardian.
Food delivery and digital subscription services are witnessing a surge in sales while department stores, fashion chains and restaurants are taking a hit, as consumers opt to stay in with a takeaway to avoid the recent storms and the coronavirus outbreak. In the latest blow to retailers already suffering from the shift to online shopping, more than a quarter of shoppers said they were avoiding high streets and other busy places because they were afraid of contracting the bug, according to a survey by debit and credit card operator Barclaycard.
The chancellor is under pressure from industry groups to resist the temptation to fund coronavirus spending with tax hikes on business when he delivers the budget on Wednesday. The RAC said a majority of drivers wanted Rishi Sunak to freeze fuel duty for the 10th year following intense speculation that he plans to increase the duty on petrol and diesel by 2p a litre. – Guardian.
Prudential is set to reveal plans for a partial float or sale of its American insurance business as an activist investor circles. The FTSE 100 giant is expected to outline its intention to offload a stake in Jackson, which has four million customers in the US, alongside its annual results on Wednesday. Jackson, founded in Michigan in 1961 and owned by the Pru since 1986, would be worth between $6bn (£4. 5bn) and $10bn, according to insiders, although it would be towards the lower end of that range today given the cut in US interest rates in response to the coronavirus and the flight to safety that pushed yields on 10-year US Treasuries to a record low of less than 0.