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UK

As a wave of infections sweeps back over Europe, many of its countries are forced to reintroduce restrictions on work, leisure and education.

England is set to endure a month of restrictions, beginning Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December, similar to European countries such as France and Germany that also announced national restrictions in response to a surge in infections. This comes as a result of revised health projections that reflect stark warnings of hospital beds filling rapidly and deaths expected to increase.

Across the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are following their own restrictions. Northern Ireland has extended its school break for an additional week (totalling two weeks) and bars and restaurants are closed for four weeks. Wales has been following a ‘fire-break lockdown’ which is due to end today. People will be able to form household bubbles again and meet in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants when Wales’ restrictions end.

Scotlands measures are in effect from today and include a 5-tiered system. Each borough has currently been graded between levels 1-3, with level 3 areas including Glasgow and Edinburgh. As a result, over half of Scotlands population is placed in tier 3 which means alcohol will not be permitted to be sold indoors or outdoors in hospitality, all hospitality settings are required to close by 6pm and people advised on not leaving their local area.

In England, all non-essential shops such as restaurants, gyms, places of worship, entertainment and beauty facilities will all have to close on Thursday for one month. People will be told explicitly to stay at home with the exception of work which cannot be done from home, outdoor exercise, essential shopping and education. People will be allowed to meet one other person from another household outside in a public place but not in their homes or gardens. Conversely to Belgian rules, schools in England will remain open.

The United Kingdom reports 18,950 new cases in 24h with a total of 1,053,864 cases since the epidemic broke out. This Monday November 2, 2020, 136 deaths in 24h, leading to a total of 46,853 deaths have been reported. England is about to go back into lockdown until December 1, and other European countries are making always stricter measures to try and stop the new Covid-19 rise. 


BELGIUM

Belgium went into a second ‘reinforced’ lockdown on Monday 2nd November, due to continue to the 13th of December at the very least. Like in England, half term holidays have been extended til the 15th November. Restrictions vary between the Brussels-Capital, Flemish and Walloon regions. Curfews and mask regulations differ as follows: In the Brussels-Capital Region, there is a curfew from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM and a mask must be worn at all times. For Flanders, the curfew is midnight to 5:00 AM and a mask but be worn on public transport, in busy places, and on streets where local authorities made it mandatory. Lastly for Wallonia, the curfew is from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM and a mask must be worn on public transport, in busy places, and on streets where local authorities made it mandatory.

Shops deemed non-essential have closed, and social gatherings outlawed. Restaurants, bars and cafes are closed, with takeaway running until 10pm. All higher education will now be online, and teleworking is mandatory unless it is not possible.  

Belgium has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in Europe. The country has been struggling to come up with a unified and coordinated approach to the pandemic, and has been juggling the economic interests of the north of the country with the situation in southern Wallonia, the worst-hit region.

Belgium reports – as of November 2 – 11,789 new cases have been reported in 24 hours taking it up to a total of 441,018 cases, as hospitalisations are peaking like for the first wave. There have been 108 deaths in 24 hours, taking it to a total of 11,737 deaths. Belgium is following France and is placed back into lockdown stating for a month, from Monday November 2 to December 13, with assessment on December 1.


Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.

See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/

By Yasmine Lingmann

Business closures. Curfews. Social gatherings controlled. Face masks. Zoom fatigue. These are just a few of the consequences we are all having to accept in this never-ending Corona driven mess. But students are arguably one of the worst affected groups for two main reasons: they are the least likely to experience anything but mild symptoms, and these measures are therefore sacrificial; and the crucial opportunities and experiences needed for students to thrive and pave their way in the competitive world we live in are being snatched beneath our eyes- deteriorating the nations’ future workforce and economy.

I started working for the British Chamber of Commerce in July, right in the midst of it all, in a team of 6 student interns on our Erasmus year abroad as part of our university degree. Our interviews were held online during lockdown, with hopes that things would soon resume back to normal so that we could move to Brussels for the year. It’s now our third month of working remotely, having only met our colleagues virtually. This being said, we are lucky. As a team we have managed to get on despite only meeting online, and our colleagues have been nothing but accommodating and understanding. Many of our friends at university have had their year abroad cancelled altogether, or are unable to work remotely; having to settle for online learning courses that do not in any way make up for the loss of their Erasmus plans. Not only this- many of us are unable to receive the grant we have been promised, leaving students with little money to make the most of the year. Everything we had hoped for- exploring a new city, developing our foreign language skills, networking with professionals and learning from watching colleagues at work- has been taken away from us.

British students are paying the same price this year for worse educational development, economic prospects and social progression. With freshers struggling to settle in their new environments and unable to socialise: mental and physical health are at risk. This is the cohort that has already undergone significant hardship: they missed their last few months of school or college, were unable to sit their exams, and, many of whom were allocated A-level grades that in some cases bore no resemblance to what they had been predicted. University students have already been home from university since March and lost lecture hours due to teacher strikes throughout the year. Although the physical health of students is at low risk from Covid-19, their emotional, educational and economic wellbeing have been jeopardised more than any other age group’s.

The impacts this will have on the wider society are huge. In terms of domestic students, Resolution Foundation has revealed that more than a third of 18-24 year olds have been furloughed or lost their main job since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Employers are seeking 32% fewer entrants on apprentice or school leaver programmes than originally planned for this year, while graduate jobs have been cut by 12%. Internships and placements will also slump by 40%. There are already half a million young people unemployed and more than a million displaced from sectors most affected by Covid-19. The Institute for Employment Studies think that that in the medium term youth unemployment could exceed 2 million. A wide range of research suggests that spending more than six months unemployed at this age can have a significant long-term impact on their careers. Organisations such as Youth Employment UK are fighting to address the consequences Covid-19 will have on the wages and job prospects of ‘Corona Class of 2020’.

International students have been deeply impacted, too. This is significantly problematic given that in 2018/19 teaching of overseas students generated an estimated surplus of £1.7 billion or 43% in England and Northern Ireland combined, home student numbers have remained relatively static. China is by far the largest source of international students with just over 120,000 in 2018/19. Travel restrictions, as well as virtual lessons causing many students to defer or drop out, have caused a large fall in demand for British higher education from overseas. The short term and long term income generated by higher education to the national economy will continue to fall if changes are not made.

This being said- businesses are responding. According to a study done be LSE in July 2020, over 60% of firms adopted new digital technologies and management practices; and around a third invested in new digital capabilities. These process and product innovations are generally considered to have had a positive impact on performance, and businesses expect to maintain them post-crisis. This ‘Virtual Revolution’ offers many opportunities to technology prone students and according to most firms, will increase employee productivity rather than reduce the need for employees over time. Therefore, students can and should continue to be offered opportunities, and businesses will actually save more by doing so.

The Coronavirus Cohort will gain the strength and drive that businesses seek in their employees. This disruption will create new opportunities: a generation of students that have no choice but to adapt and innovate. Firms will need to give a helping hand to students through internships and work experience in order to get the economy back on track- but this effort is guaranteed to pay for itself for many years to come.


Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. 
We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period. Click here to register: https://www.britishchamber.be/upcoming-events

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