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UK reveals investment plans to give economy boost post-pandemic

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-30 09:25

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks out of an underground tube station in the City of London financial district in London, March 9, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to reveal details of the United Kingdom's post-pandemic economic recovery program on Tuesday that will include heavy investment in schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

Part of the plan announced by Downing Street on Monday pledges a decade-long improvement to school facilities with a massive cash injection allowing construction work to start on 50 projects as soon as September next year.

The prime minister said the government will take "an activist approach to the economy" and that "the cash is there" for long-term investment to help the UK recover from the economic impact of the novel coronavirus crisis.

The government is aiming for projects to utilize modern and green construction methods both to help meet the UK's net zero emissions target by 2050 and also to create highly skilled jobs in the construction sector.

Downing Street recently announced an infrastructure delivery taskforce that will make sure it builds "the right things, better and faster than before".

Labelled Project Speed, the group will be led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and will be tasked with delivering projects "more strategically and efficiently" while cutting down completion times.

The financial impact of the novel coronavirus on the UK has been heavy with the economy shrinking by 20.4 percent in April, the largest monthly fall on record.

The government is also soon expected to publish a list of countries with which "air bridges" could be formed in an effort to boost summer tourism business after the nation's travel restrictions are eased next week.

But the plan received an early blow when the Greek government on Monday said it would extend its ban on direct flights arriving from Britain, pushing the date back to July 15, due to the UK's high number of novel coronavirus cases. Direct flights from Sweden have also been banned by Greece until this date.

As businesses in England prepare for the further easing of the lockdown next week, pubs and restaurants in the Midlands city of Leicester learned they may have to remain closed for two more weeks due to a surge in cases, the city's mayor has said.

There have been 2,987 positive cases in Leicester since the pandemic began, with 866 of those - 29 percent - reported in the two weeks to June 23.

In Scotland, shoppers queued early as non-essential retailers reopened. First Minister Nicolas Sturgeon urged people to act responsibly and "not to squander" Scotland's progress.

In Wales, some pupils are starting to return to school for the first time since March, while Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to move from the 2-meter social distancing rule to 1 meter, with conditions.

It comes as the Republic of Ireland reopened its hospitality sector on Monday in phase three of a four-stage reopening plan.

In a statement, the Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson welcomed the reopening, but said, "the relaxation of restrictions brings a new urgency for personal responsibility".

The UK's National Health Service plans to rebrand its troubled contact tracing app for the novel coronavirus, according to a Financial Times source.

Additions to the app are believed to include a map that would warn about areas with high infection rates. The revamped version with extras would be rebranded as "PPE in your pocket", and its marketing campaign would emphasize the challenges the UK faces.

Meanwhile, those who have been seriously ill in hospital with the novel coronavirus need to be urgently screened for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, leading doctors have said.

The COVID Trauma Response Working Group, led by University College London, highlighted that PTSD, depression and anxiety problems were common with those who have suffered serious illnesses through infectious disease outbreaks.

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