The majority of Covid-19 restrictions came to an end in Jersey yesterday – but it appears as though Islanders are greeting so-called ‘freedom day’ with caution.
Stage seven of the Island’s reconnection roadmap has allowed nightclubs to reopen, stand-up drinking to resume and has lifted the limit on attendances at large events. The working from home guidance has also ended and it is no longer a legal requirement to wear a mask in indoor public places, except in ports and on public transport. Although a number of stores are known to be proposing to encourage shoppers to wear face coverings even though it is no longer a legal requirement.
Some business owners say that ‘freedom day’ could lead to a late summer boom in revenue for the Island’s hospitality and events industries, but others are facing staff shortages which have prevented them from fully reopening.
The Joint owner of JB’s Brewhouse and the Lido said ‘I think a lot of people are going to try to make up for lost time, the event space at The Lido has become fully booked since Freedom Day was announced and we are seeing a lot of interest for autumn events. As for JB’s, we have seen so many requests for ping pong that I think we will see the next Olympic ping pong champion come from Jersey. The government’s financial support schemes have helped us to survive and now it is so important that businesses are strong and healthy as we enter 2022.’
Jayson Perfect, group managing director of Liberation Group, said: ‘We are all excited about the fact that lockdown restrictions across Jersey [have been removed], allowing our guests to enjoy vertical drinking and ordering from the bar once again ‘However, the wellbeing of our teams and guests is still of paramount importance so we will continue with many of the processes we’ve had in place throughout the pandemic to ensure their safety is at the forefront of everything we do.’
A spokesperson for the States police said: ‘With certain restrictions lifting this week, we have planned some extra patrols over the bank holiday weekend. We realise that a lot of people will want to take advantage of their new found freedom and our aim is to make sure everyone remains safe while enjoying their time out with friends.’
Meanwhile Jersey is ready to start a booster vaccination programme in response to a forecast rise in Covid-19 cases. The Island’s new director of public health, Professor Peter Bradley, who Is also the new chairman of the Island’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) has said that while the jabs remained effective, a booster programme was being planned.
Speaking after international research indicated that vaccine efficacy wanes after several months he said ‘it was important to take a balanced approach in the next phase of combatting the virus. We would anticipate a rise in infection rates over the next 6 months but we have to balance the fact that the majority of those who are vaccinated will get much milder effects, and the need to give people the freedom to enjoy their lives’.
It has also been confirmed that Dr Ivan Muscat will retain his position of Deputy Medical officer of Health and will continue his lead roles in response to the Pandemic. Health Minister Richard Renouf said ‘The expanded public health function would receive additional funding as part of the ‘Jersey Care Model’ to support prevention and early intervention, allowing islanders to stay well’.
In Jersey there are currently 312 islanders with Covid-19 of which 10 are in hospital.
After turning green mid-morning, the FTSE 100 was up 11 points to 7,136, but at noon today, it has yo-yoed back in the red and was down 3 points to 7,121.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.29%, after the benchmark US stock index fell 0.58% on Thursday. Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.3%, and Dow Jones futures moved 0.26% higher.
European markets are mixed. The DAX is higher by 0.06%, while the CAC 40 is leading the FTSE 100 lower. They are down 0.43% and 0.07% respectively.
Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Shanghai Composite gained 1.14%, while the Nikkei 225 led the Hang Seng lower. They fell 2.07% and 0.27% respectively.
NHS staff shortages in England
Experts warn that the NHS’s chronic staff shortage is getting worse, as new data shows that the number of job vacancies in June increased by 10,000 compared to a year ago. NHS Digital data, published on Thursday, shows there were 93,806 full-time equivalent vacancies across the NHS in England at the end of June this year.
This is a 23% increase from the 76,082 vacancies at the end of March and a 13% increase from the 83,203 vacancies registered at the end of June last year. It is the highest number of vacancies since the end of December 2019.
Mortimer, who is the deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation and also the CEO of NHS Employers, said that a “significant and sustained” long-term investment must be made to increase the number of health and social care workers in the next expenditure review.
Universal Credit cut to go ahead
The scheme that was introduced in response to the pandemic, a temporary £20 increase to universal credit payments – will officially end on the 6th of October.
Despite the pressure from various departments within the party to make the increase permanent, Boris Johnson has said that the government will continue to implement plans to cut universal credit.
Boris Johnson said earlier this week that his “strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets”.
Car production lowest in 65 years
A trade organisation said British car production fell sharply last month, which was the industry’s worst performance in July since 1956. From the global shortage of microchips to employees affected by the so-called pingdemic, only 53,438 cars were produced that month.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported that that was a drop of 37.6% compared to July last year. Sales of second-hand vehicles, however, are soaring. The total vehicle production so far this year is 552,361, which is nearly one-fifth higher than in 2020, but still 28.7% lower than the pre-pandemic level in 2019.
New cars typically contain dozens of microchips, also known as semiconductors, but the shortage has put pressure on many automakers, who compete directly with technology companies and the consumer electronics industry for supply.
Goldman Sachs analysts predict that the automotive industry will be hit hard by the shortage of chips, and the operating profit of global automakers will decrease by as much as £14 billion in 2021.
SMMT also revealed that UK car exports fell by 37.4% in July, with only just over 45,000 cars being exported overseas.
The car industry is an important part of the British economy, with a turnover of £78.9bn, employing approximately 180,000 employees in the manufacturing industry and 864,000 employees in the broader supply chain. Over 30 manufacturers produce approximately 70 car models in the UK.
Bitcoin continues to recover
As the cryptocurrency continues to rebound from the steep drop, the price of Bitcoin has surged above £36,480 for the first time in three months. After the crackdown in China and Tesla’s decision not to accept it as payment anymore, the coin fell sharply in May.
Bitcoin has risen 81% since January, when it was trading at only £22,200. On Monday, it rose nearly 3% to £36,700, while another popular digital currency, Ethereum, rose more than 4% to £2,458. This comes after PayPal announced that it would accept UK customers buying, selling and holding Bitcoin and other digital currencies, as it plans to expand its crypto services outside of the US.
Pubs selling less pints this bank holiday
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) is urging the government to invest in the industry to help it close the revenue gap, since most of the restrictions have been lifted.
An industry body said that this bank holiday, pubs will be serving an estimated 6 million pints less, compared to the same period in 2019. The BBPA stated that its members are expected to lose £25million in revenue from pint sales, which is 10% less than the income from the same bank holiday before the arrival of Covid in 2019.