The Spectator

Covid-19 update: UK lockdown sends nearly a million applicants to Universal Credit

Covid-19 update: UK lockdown sends nearly a million applicants to Universal Credit
A ‘sealed pod’ used by the Scottish Ambulance Service to helivac Covid-19 patients.
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News and analysis

  • Almost a million people have applied for universal credit in the first two weeks of the government lockdown, nearly ten times the normal number.
  • UK Covid-19 deaths rose by 569 yesterday, bringing the total to 2,921 – the largest daily increase, up six from yesterday’s figures.
  • One in five small businesses could fold over the next month, due to collapse in demand and difficulties in accessing loans, according to research by a group of accountants.
  • No lockdown please, we’re Swedish: Fredrik Erixon’s letter from Uppsala.
  • British Airways is suspending the employment of 35,000 staff. There have been no redundancies as of yet.
  • Donald Trump has said America should prepare for a ‘horrific’ couple of weeks and has warned the stockpile of defensive equipment is almost empty.
  • The COP26 climate talks due in Glasgow in November have been postponed.

The final furlough

With every day that goes by, the full implications of Covid-19 – both the number of deaths and the economic effects – are becoming clearer. US unemployment is up by 6.6 million, almost one million Britons have applied for Universal Credit in the past fortnight and the ONS reports that 27 per cent of UK businesses have already fired or furloughed staff. Meanwhile, a new survey from the British Chambers of Commerce shows nearly half of British companies plan to furlough the majority of their employees. It was also announced that one in five small businesses is now projected to shut its doors over the next month. That’s up to one million firms that can’t get access to the cash they need to stay afloat, or don't see the point in taking a government loan with no clear plan on how they’d repay.

‘They haven’t got any of the basics – beer, wine, gin, vodka...’

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Quotes of the day

‘Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid. Now that this situation has affected everyone without exception and is global, there is no alternative to joint action in the spirit of partnership and mutual help.’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirming the Russian delivery of medical equipment to the US.

‘Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.’ President Donald Trump discussing Russia’s ‘humanitarian aid’ to the US at a White House press conference. 

Covid-19 in data

Is the UK’s Covid-19 death rate accelerating? Professor Oliver Johnson of Bristol university thinks otherwise and presents the below chart.


Will social distancing kill Covid-19? A team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine claims that social distancing has reduced contact between people in Britain so much that the Covid-19 epidemic will no longer be able to sustain itself. In a study yet to be peer-reviewed, the team asked 1,300 candidates to fill in an online form listing how many people they have come into contact with in the past 24 hours. They then compared it with old data relating to how many people we encounter during normal times. From this, the team calculates that the ‘reproduction number’ – the number of people each infected person goes on to infect – has fallen to between 0.37 and 0.89 (with a central value of 0.62). Any reproduction number lower than one should mean that the epidemic soon dies away. Professor John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who led the research said: ‘if we see similar changes across the UK population, we would expect to see the epidemic to start to decline.’


  • Shipping companies are taking a severe hit from Covid-19, as demand falls, manufacturing halts and factories shut down. Unlike other industries, these companies often aren’t eligible for government aid.
  • New figures from Nationwide Building Society show UK house prices rose by three per cent in March – but that we should brace for very different figures in the short to medium term, as the housing market comes to a halt.

Photo of the day

A ‘sealed pod’ used by the Scottish Ambulance Service to helivac Covid-19 patients.

Coronavirus abroad

  • On Wednesday, Spain reported 950 deaths – the highest daily increase on record worldwide. The number of people who have died in Spain, testing positive for Covid-19, has now passed 10,000.
  • South Africa is ramping up testing by sending teams door-to-door in the country’s townships; this news comes as renowned South African virologist Gita Ramjee – famous for her contribution to battle the HIV crisis – died with Covid-19.
  • Ursula von der Leyen has called for the next European Budget to be the ‘new Marshall Plan’ which would be ratified ‘together as a European Union for the European people’. The EU’s next long-term budget is from 2021 to 2027.
  • Australia has given free childcare to one million families who are involved in ‘critical jobs’ for six months in the hopes of keeping businesses operating. The government will pay 13,000 childcare centres the equivalent of £780 million upfront for three months.
  • Vladimir Putin will deliver a televised address to his nation this evening about the coronavirus situation. Russia currently has 3,548 confirmed cases and 30 deaths.
  • The bosses of Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler held crisis talks with Angela Merkel regarding the struggling German car manufacturing sector. Volkswagen say it’s still spending €2 billion a week despite having suspended production.
  • Shenzhen has passed a law banning the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat which will come into effect on 1 May. It’s the first Chinese city to do so and follows the countrywide ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals as a result of the coronavirus.

More from The Spectator

Coronomics: Ordinary remedies won’t be enough for a surreal crashKate Andrews

Britain’s coronavirus testing is bogged down in bureaucracyMatt Ridley

Spain and Italy have been abandoned by the EURoss Clark

How to understand – and report – figures for ‘Covid deaths’Dr John Lee

The worrying surge in Universal Credit claims – James Forsyth