Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak to deliver cash injection for UK
- UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver a massive cash injection to the UK’s vaccine programme in his Budget
- COVID-19 vaccine passports could be introduced this summer to enable Brits to holiday abroad
- Pubs, bars and restaurants will have access to GBP 5BN in recovery grants
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak mulling over a “Shop Out to Help Out” scheme
Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to deliver a massive cash injection to the UK’s COVID-19 vaccine programme in his Budget statement on March 3rd 2021.
According to recent reports, Mr Sunak will pump an additional GBP 1.65BN into Britain’s Coronavirus vaccination programme to help the country achieve its target of offering the entire adult populations their first vaccine shots by July-end.
The Treasury has hailed the forthcoming cash injection as a “shot in the arm” for the UK’s vaccine rollout, which has been a much-needed win for Britain after bungling its response to the pandemic.
Rishi Sunak also pledged to invest a further GBP 33BN into coronavirus vaccine testing and research to help protect the UK against mutant variants, which have become a growing cause for concern in recent months.
It comes as health officials attempt to track down an unidentified person in England who has tested positive for the more lethal Brazil variant of COVID-19, with five other people across the country already infected.
Mr Sunak also promised to pump GBP 28M into the Vaccine Taskforce’s existing funding to give the team greater capacity to acquire COVID tests and identify new strains of the virus more efficiently.
An additional GBP 22M will be dedicated to a so-called “world-leading study” to test the effectiveness of combinations of various vaccines to see whether this will offer a higher degree of protection against the virus.
The testing and development funding will also seek to discover whether there is any value in giving people a third vaccine shot.
According to data published by the National Audit Office (NAU), the UK government has spent GBP 12BN on its vaccine programme thus far, albeit it seems to have been effective as the country’s infection rate continues to decline alongside the vaccine rollout.
Recent figures posted by GOV.uk revealed that more than 20 million UK residents have now been inoculated against COVID-19. NHS England is now focusing on vaccinating all over-60s, who are next on the priority list.
Speaking on the UK’s vaccination campaign, Rishi Sunak said it was “essential we maintain this momentum.”
The Chancellor is also reportedly mulling over introducing COVID vaccine passports this summer for domestic and international purposes as he believes this could help spur economic recovery and support to the travel and aviation industry.
COVID vaccine passports could be introduced this summer
Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the government was considering introducing COVID vaccine passports or vaccination certificates to facilitate international travel for vaccinated Britons.
While some people have slammed COVID vaccine passports as discriminatory, it would be a massive boost for Brits considering a holiday abroad this year.
The EU is also considering introducing vaccine passports to enable European travel. However, there appears to be a mixed opinion over the ethics of vaccine certificates, with some MEPs fearing that it will discriminate against those who are not yet immunised.
That said, even if EU leaders launch vaccine passports, the EU Commission said it would “need at least three months to create the technical basis for such documents.”
It comes as a disappointment to Brits hoping to travel to Europe as it’s unlikely that the scheme will be available by May 17th – the target date for when the UK government will permit all non-essential travel.
European leaders also appear to be at odds over adopting an EU-wide approach or implementing nationwide vaccine passports.
Greece, which relies on tourism to boost economic growth, has called for EU-wide vaccine passports to ensure it can benefit from international travel this summer.
Discussions between Greece and the UK over introducing a digital “Green Pass” to facilitate travel between the two countries are already taking place.
However, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said that unvaccinated Brits would still be able to travel to Greece this summer, providing they present a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure at the border.
UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, is also leading a review on domestic vaccine passports, which would allow vaccinated people entry into currently closed entertainment venues, pubs, bars and restaurants.
After dismissing the need for vaccine passports for domestic use, Mr Johnson backtracked on his statement. He said that ministers are reviewing the scientific, moral, philosophical and ethical questions about using domestic vaccine certificates.
Several ministers are advocating the controversial passports, arguing that they could give Brits greater domestic freedoms while helping entertainment and hospitality venues reopen.
The news comes amid reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver GBP 5BN in grants to hospitality firms at next week’s Budget.
Pubs, bars and restaurants could have access to GBP 5BN grants
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to offer hotels, gyms, pubs, bars and restaurants up to GBP 18,000 per premises at his March Budget statement on Wednesday to give hospitality businesses a fighting chance when the UK economy reopens.
According to the Treasury, more than 200,000 firms will be eligible for grants, which will be awarded based on their rateable value.
Eligible non-essential stores will also be offered up to GBP 6,000 per premises in financial support to boost their post-lockdown recovery.
However, Mr Sunak warned that tough decisions must be made to tackle the government’s ballooning debt and bring public finances to a more sustainable level.
During an interview with the Financial Times, the Chancellor said he plans to “level with people” in his Budget statement about the pandemics economic cost.
When asked about whether he planned to raise taxes, Mr Sunak refused to give anything away. However, he did say that the Treasury was considering reintroducing a similar scheme to the Eat Out to Help Out for high street retailers.
Will a Shop Out to Help Out scheme be introduced?
In an interview with Times Radio, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Treasury is examining the benefits of introducing a Shop Out to Help Out scheme.
On paper, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offered people the chance to receive 50% off their meals at participating restaurants, was a huge success. However, the benefits were short-lived as the second wave of restrictions that followed reversed the scheme’s progress.
In that sense, it’s easy to see why Mr Sunak may not be considering an Eat Out to Help Out scheme or the equivalent for high street stores in the interim.
Mr Sunak also noted that consumption recovered relatively quickly when the economy reopened the initial time, “which could give us some optimism for the future.”
However, influential think-tank The Resolution Foundation has urged the Chancellor to introduce a Shop Out to Help Out voucher scheme to aid the struggling high street and additional funding for businesses and an extension to the furlough scheme.
Mr Sunak is due to deliver what is probably one of the most crucial Budget’s in UK history on Wednesday.
While financial markets, individuals and businesses will be nervous, reports that Mr Sunak will upgrade recovery forecasts for the UK economy has triggered positive gains for the FTSE 100.
London’s FTSE Index is higher by 1.22% or +79.30 points at 6,562.73 – near pre-pandemic levels at the time of writing.