UK Government
• The Government is working with companies worldwide to gain access to the chemical substances needed to ramp up testing.
• Visas for NHS frontline staff that were due to expire this year have been automatically extended, free of charge, by the Government.
• The number of new coronavirus cases in the UK has begun to plateau, although the NHS National Medical Director Stephen Powis has urged the public to keep its “foot on the pedal”.
• 143,186 people have now been tested for coronavirus in the UK, with 25,150 testing positive. As of 5pm on 30th March 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK, 1,789 have sadly died.

Daily Press Conference
Comments by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove
• Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove opened by stating that the numbers on coronavirus cases reinforce the importance of following the Government’s social distancing guidelines in order to slow the rate of infection and build capacity within the NHS.
• Gove stated that more NHS staff are returning to the frontline and more testing is taking place but said that Government must go “further faster”. He acknowledged that a critical constraint is the availability of chemical reagents necessary for testing but stated that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary are working with companies worldwide to make sure that we get the materials we need to increase testing of all kinds.
• He continued to add that we must increase our capacity to provide oxygen to the worst affected. He said that 8,000 ventilators are currently deployed in hospitals, which has increased since the epidemic began, but that more are needed. He said the Government is buying more ventilators from abroad, including from the EU as well as from new sources at home due to the ingenuity of manufacturing companies. He cited Ford, Airbus, F1 teams including McLaren, Rolls Royce, GKN Aerospace and Dyson as companies that are producing new models, before noting that thousands of new units will be distributed to the frontline next week.
• Gove added that oxygen is being provided to patients at an early stage to avert deteriorations in their condition. He said that a team led by UCL and Mercedes Benz will produce 10,000 new C-PAC devices to support those in need, a team at Oxford University is developing related technologies and noted that rapid clinical trials on drugs such as anti-malarials that may help are progressing.
• The Minister thanked the devolved administrations and public service workers for their efforts to bring forward a response to the crisis. He said that a national effort to provide food and prescription drugs to 1.5 million vulnerable people self-isolating is underway and stated that 750,000 volunteers will work to support those in need.
• Gove stated that the Environment Secretary George Eustice and Food and Farming Minister Victoria Prentis will be leading work with food suppliers, retailers, local authorities and voluntary groups to support neighbours in need.
• Gove closed by thanking the military for their support, noting that 3 RAF helicopters are based at barracks in Moray, Scotland to meet requests from NHS boards across Scotland and northern England, with a second team based in Oxfordshire to serve the Midlands and Southern England.
• In response to a question on whether we would see taxes increase once the crisis is over, Gove stated that the Chancellor had taken steps to ensure that the economy can grow in the future. He added that tax matters in the future were a matter for the Prime Minister.

Comments by NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis
• Stephen Powis thanked the staff in the NHS that are working round the clock to pull out all the stops for an expected surge in patients, noting the construction of the NHS Nightingale hospital in East London from a standing start last week.
• Powis presented data to illustrate that the British public are paying attention to guidance and reducing social contact to stop the spread of the virus, noting that transport use has reduced dramatically.
• He said that the number of new UK cases is continuing to rise but has reached a plateau. He stated that this must be met with caution and that we “should not take our foot of the pedal”. This was reiterated whilst presenting data on the UK’s position globally.
• Responding to whether data showed that the UK was on a good trajectory, Powis said that the next two weeks would be critical. He said that there are only “green shoots” at the moment and winter may show a different picture.

NHS frontline workers visas extended
• 2,800 migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics employed by the NHS whose visas were set to expire before 1 October 2020 will have their visas automatically extended for one year by the Government free of charge to aid the coronavirus effort.
• Extensions will also apply to family members.
• The Home Office has also lifted restrictions on the number of hours that student doctors and nurses can work in the NHS.
• More details are available here.

Temporary changes introduced to ‘right to rent’ and ‘right to work’ checks
• Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that landlords and employers are temporarily not required to see original ‘right to rent’ or ‘right to work’ documents during the coronavirus epidemic.
• Effective immediately, prospective renters and workers will be able to submit scanned documentation online, with checks allowed to take place over video calls.
• Full checks will be undertaken when the temporary changes are removed.
• Further details are available here.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma writes to the construction sector
• Business Secretary Alok Sharma has written to the construction sector, thanking them for their support during the coronavirus crisis.
• Sharma reiterated that Government advice was to work from home where possible, but that this was not always feasible in the construction sector. He stated that the Construction Leadership Council had developed Site Operating Procedures and said these would be updated to reflect Public Health England guidance.
• The full letter can be read here.

Status of Phase 1 clinical trials in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
• The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has written to all Phase 1 accredited units conducting early phase clinical trials to seek confirmation that all trials have undergone a risk assessment in relation to coronavirus and the current government advice.
• This action will help to ensure the safety of participants and the public, as well as avoid any adverse impact on the capacity of NHS front line services at this very challenging time.
• More details can be read here.

Voucher scheme launches to support children on free school meals
• Government has launched a new national voucher scheme to ensure that children eligible for free school meals can access meals whilst at home.
• Schools can now electronically provide each eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed.
• Retailers currently enlisted into the scheme include Tesco, Asda and Waitrose.
• Full details can be accessed here.

Government temporarily approves home use of early medical abortion
• Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has temporarily approved two temporary measures to ensure continued access to early medical abortion services during the COVID-19 crisis.
• Women and girls will be able to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 10 weeks in their own homes, without needing to attend a hospital or clinic.
• Registered medical practitioners will be able to prescribe pills from their own homes.
• Full details can be read here.

Public Health England publishes advice for funerals
• Following consultation with faith leaders and funeral directors, Public Health England has advised that the number of mourners at funerals should be restricted to members of the deceased’s household or close family members.
• Any individual with COVID-19 symptoms is advised not to attend, while participants are advised to avoid any rituals that bring them into contact with the body.
• Full details are available here.

Scottish Parliament
• As of 9am on 31st March, there have been 1,993 positive cases of COVID-19 in Scotland, an increase in 430 from yesterday.
• There have sadly now been 60 deaths.

First Minister’s briefing
• First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed that the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill will pass through the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.
• Sturgeon confirmed that just over 6% of NHS staff are absent either due to COVID-19 symptoms or through self-isolation due to a household member showing symptoms. The government expects this number to increase, but key workers in self-isolation would also be tested to allow them to safely return to work.
• The First Minister stated that, due to the emergency situation, the government will not impose a statutory duty upon local authorities to provide free childcare as had been previously planned – she acknowledged that the circumstances make implementing the programme impossible, but the Government remains committed to introducing the scheme as soon as possible.
• The First Minister announced that some funding that has been previously announced would be specifically directed to Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, and that efforts will be made to make these services as widely and immediately available to survivors of domestic abuse as possible.
• The First Minister also confirmed that plans were in place to gain access to private medical facilities, as a means of increasing NHS capacity.
• The Chief Medical Officer confirmed that the spike in cases today was not solely caused by increasing testing – the proportion of positive tests is increasing as well.
• Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Michael Russell, confirmed that the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill will prevent the possibility of evictions for those who cannot pay rent, to provide processes for the functioning of the criminal justice system, and to make sure government business continues operating even while people are unable to physically meet. The Bill contained provision for certain prisoners to be released temporarily, should the number of cases escalate within the Prison Service. This power is not going be used immediately. Violent criminals are excluded from any release programme, and an
announcement would be made if these powers are required to become operational.
• The First Minister confirmed that Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture Fiona Hyslop has been in contact with Edinburgh’s festival organisers today regarding any possible cancellation or suspension of preparations for the summer events.

Scottish Government Announcements
• Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, announced that an extra £15 million of funding will be made available to GP practices, primarily to facilitate them being kept open on both Good Friday and Easter Monday. The remainder will help practices cover equipment, additional staff, and cover for annual leave.

Welsh Assembly
• Public Health Wales have announced that 112 new cases of COVID-19 have now been confirmed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,563.
• They have also announced a further 7 deaths in the last 24 hours, meaning that 69 people in Wales have now sadly passed away.

COVID-19 impact on Rail, Bus and Air services
• The Welsh Government today published a series of measures that the Welsh Government is taking to support the transport sector in Wales.
• A financial support package of up to £40 million will be provided over the next few months in order for rail services to continue at a much-reduced level of service, and to safeguard the future of rail operations across the Wales & Borders franchise. The details of this mechanism are currently being worked through, and it is hoped that these will evolve further in the coming weeks.
• For the bus industry in Wales, the Welsh Government is injecting £29 million in funding, delivered through grants administered at the local authority level, with bus operators being paid monthly up-front. This support comes on a conditional basis, including:
o Scheduled services will operate a foundation timetable (contracts to be agreed with local authorities), sufficient to allow key workers to get to work and those without a car to get to shops for essential food and medical supplies
o No bus will carry more than 50% of its maximum capacity
o To match the offer announced on our train services, all NHS workers who use a scheduled bus service will travel free of charge
o Each operator will provide Government and partners in local authorities with a weekly report showing how every bus in its fleet has met its obligations setting out what routes have been run, what times it arrived at each stop, how many passengers alighted, what the fare each passenger paid, etc.
• On aviation, the Welsh Government has now suspended the Cardiff-Anglesey air service. Additionally, the Welsh Government stated that they will provide a further announcement on Cardiff Airport in the upcoming days. Councils given emergency powers to support NHS with new field hospitals
• Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James has introduced emergency permitted development rights, which will allow local authorities to change the use of buildings or erect temporary structures on their land without planning permission.
• The new powers mean local authorities can use leisure centres as temporary hospitals if they are needed to prevent or control an emergency.

Northern Ireland Assembly
• A total of 586 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded, with an increase of 53 confirmed cases.
• There have sadly now been 28 deaths in Northern Ireland.

Executive Office daily briefing
• First Minister, Arlene Foster, addressed the issue of setting up field hospitals, stating that a decision on locations for such sites will come in the “near future”. Foster confirmed that Health Minister Robin Swann is maximising the capacity of the current estate, and that any model for a field hospital might replicate what has been announced in Scotland (e.g.
exhibition centres).
• Foster thanked the various businesses across Northern Ireland that have been altering their production lines and adapting in order to help equip health care workers with necessary PPE.
• Foster confirmed that the executive held a call with leaders from the Republic of Ireland today, alongside the deputy First Minister and Health Minister. It was agreed that a ‘compelling’ case existed for effective cooperation North-South and East-West in responding to Covid-19.

Statement from the Finance Minister
• Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced Stormont’s budget for the 2020-21 financial year this morning.
• The Minister announced that the executive has received a surplus of £912 million to tackle Covid-19.
• Murphy announced that £100 million of the funding has been allocated to fund a three month rates holiday for all businesses in Northern Ireland.
• Murphy noted that flexibility will be key. As such, a formal budget document is not being published. The Department of Finance is asking ministers to consider their funding requirements ,and will reallocate funding across departments where necessary, in order to best address the Covid-19 situation.
• The Minister confirmed that business rates have been reduced by 12.5%, and that combined with Reval 2020, this will bring about a rates reduction of 18%.
• The Minister stated that today’s announcements will see an increase of 8% in the cash available to Stormont, representing the biggest increase in more than a decade.

Grayling COVID-19 European Briefing
• Grayling is compiling a daily European wide COVID-19 monitoring report, covering all the days political developments across the EU. The briefing is available to view here.