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1 June 2020

Hiscox Action Group member says FCA update ‘reinforces’ decision to opt for arbitration lawsuit

The FCA gave an update today on the timeline it expects to meet for its business interruption test case.

It also highlighted 16 insurers that will participate in the High Court procedure to represent 17 policy wordings the regulator believes will bring the most amount of clarity to the market.

But Hiscox Action Group (HAG) co-founder Daniel C Duckett believes the process could go on for months if the decisions in the test case are appealed, reinforcing its choice to seek redress through an expedited arbitration claim.

Speaking to NS Insurance, he said: “This doesn’t affect our plans at all. In fact it reinforces our decision based on their extremely lengthy timeline.

“With a hopeful court date in late July that could last at least two weeks, that would push an initial decision into August,” he said.

“This doesn’t take into account the appeals process, which would again push a final decision back months or potentially years.

“The HAG firmly believe the insurance industry will push back until all avenues are exhausted in an effort to dissuade claims.

“We are instructing our members that the Financial Ombudsman Service route will be stayed pending that outcome, so complaints may not be heard for quite some time.”

Read the full story

1 June 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Global Covid-19 confirmed cases passes 6m | Latin America continues to spread as US, Asia and Europe peak

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 6,185,000, with over 372,000 deaths and 2,648,000 recoveries.

In Europe, Asia, and the US, coronavirus has likely peaked as recoveries rise and the number of new infections decline.

In Latin America the pandemic continues to spread. Brazil is now the fourth highest country in the world by death count. As the largest country in South America, it remains an area of major concern as cases continue to rise, and the availability of testing and treatment remains limited.

In the US, protests swept the nation over the weekend, leading to mass gatherings nationwide – creating potential hotspots for disease spread.

Despite the positive trends seen in moving past the peak of the pandemic, the risk of a second wave remains high.

Qatar currently has the highest incidence rate of disease in the world at nearly 2,000 cases per 100,000 population and is one of the hardest-hit regions in the Middle East.

Topias Lemetyinen, MPH, managing epidemiologist at GlobalData

 

1 June 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: FCA selects 17 policy wordings for scrutiny in BI test case for July – while RSA reaffirms expected £25m claims impact from pandemic

The FCA has selected 17 policy wordings for its test case to be brought to the High Court in July. The regulator believes the representative samples picked will give the best chance of providing clarity to the market on the wide range of disputed business interruption policies held in the UK. Given the nature of the case, the FCA said the list is not exhaustive and urged all insurers to check their policy wordings against those it intends to test, to see if theirs will be impacted by the outcome of the case. After collecting this information, it said it intends to publish a list of all the relevant insurers and policies that may have impacted wordings in early July.

British insurer RSA has said it doesn’t expect to alter its Q1 estimate of losses incurred due to claims related to Covid-19, despite being a part of the FCA test case for business interruption insurance disputes. The insurer said in its first-quarter trading update this year it expects to take losses of £25m net of reinsurance, stretching across policies for travel, wedding cancellation and commercial lines business interruption. In a statement today, it addressed its inclusion in the FCA test case in relation to its estimated losses. “Market share has not been a determining factor in selection, and RSA’s inclusion is not representative of its market share on the relevant policy wordings,” it said.

29 May 2020

Insurers paying high amounts in Covid-19 claims will be less resilient to pandemics, says analyst

Insurers set for high Covid-19 based payouts will be hit harder by catastrophe claims towards the end of the calendar year.

This is according to GlobalData senior insurance analyst Daniel Pearce, who said the recessionary impact of the pandemic will have a range of impacts on insurers’ balance sheets that make them less resilient to catastrophes.

“The combination of natural catastrophes, volatility in financial markets and economic recession will put the insurance industry under considerable strain.

According to Pearce, the full impact will not be known until later in 2020 – once the majority of natural catastrophes pass and the severity of the economic implications become clearer.

But he said it’s not just claims, but also the affect on investments held by insurers that could have an impact on finances.

“Insurers’ exposure to financial markets through the investments they hold has been negatively impacted, as financial markets globally have fallen to unprecedented levels,” he added.

“Combining this with record-low interest rates, which have been set to provide some relief to economies anticipating recession, means the pressure on insurers’ balance sheets has increased dramatically.

“The economic impact will not only be felt through financial market volatility but also the potential downturn in the demand for commercial insurance as economies slide into recession and businesses are forced to close.

“With the hurricane and typhoon season yet to arrive for 2020, the insurance industry is braced for a turbulent future.”

29 May 2020

Thailand life insurance industry to decline in 2020, but future growth expected by analysts

Thailand’s life insurance industry, which has witnessed decelerating growth rates since 2015, will decline in 2020 owing to the prevailing challenges aggravated by the macroeconomic impact of Covid-19.

This is according to GlobalData insurance analyst Madhuri Pingali, who included the cost of technical and practical changes required to meet the new reporting standard set out by IFRS 17 in a list of challenges faced by insurers in Thailand.

“Life insurers in Thailand have been under pressure due to systemic challenges such as low awareness, aging population, declining GDP growth rate and prolonged low-interest environment,” she said.

“Downward revision in insurance prices due to the introduction of new mortality rates and the new regulatory framework, especially the implementation of IFRS 17 and 9, are set to further exacerbate the problems.”

GlobalData estimates that life insurance premiums will decline for the second consecutive year by 1.6% in 2020.

But the industry is expected to recover from 2021 and is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.1% from 2019 and 2024.

Pingali referenced the recent increase in the sale of Covid-19 related life insurance products to suggest the roots of this recovery is already being seen in Thailand.

“The projected GDP contraction in 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak is expected to reduce personal savings, leading to a decline in the life insurance business in 2020,” added Pingali.

“The spike in the sale of Covid-19 insurance products in the last couple of months indicates that despite the immediate setback, the industry stands to benefit in the long-term due to increase in consumer awareness following the outbreak.”

29 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: Fraudulent broker arrested for selling unregulated car insurance to NHS workers | Former White House health policy advisor says Covid-19 will be a test of ACA safety net

A man was arrested yesterday by the City of London Police for allegedly acting as a ‘ghost broker’, selling fraudulent car insurance, and recently offering the same to NHS workers at a discount. On Wednesday 27 May 2020, officers from the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) executed a search warrant at an address in Luton and arrested a man, 25, on suspicion of Fraud by False Representation. The man is suspected of advertising fraudulent car insurance services unregulated by the Financial Conduct Authority via social media.

An article on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Association from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt suggests that job losses caused by the pandemic will test how effective the Affordable Care Act is as a safety net. The firm’s executive vice president for special initiatives served as senior health policy advisor to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services between 1993 and 1995. He wrote: “The current economic crisis could be the ACA’s test of how well it can catch people who fall out of the employer health insurance system. The ACA has the potential to cover a large share of people who lose job-based health insurance, but this crisis may also expose weaknesses in the law’s design, how it has been implemented, and how it has been weakened by the Trump administration.”

28 May 2020

Government fast-tracking e-scooters onto UK roads could create opportunity for insurers

The UK government plans to quicken the pace of introducing electric scooters onto roads, and GlobalData insurance analyst Jazmin Chong believes this could create both challenges and opportunities for insurers.

“Due to the rapid launch of e-scooter trials, and fears of overcrowding on public transport in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the popularity of e-scooters could soar.

“However, the UK Government might not have the appropriate time to pass the much-needed regulation insurers require to cover these vehicles.

“This would leave a market opportunity for UK insurers that can deliver pay-as-you-go insurance services and overcome legal barriers in a time of crisis.”

The government wants to make e-scooter rentals available to the public in the same way they are in countries like Belgium and France, in order to give people an alternative to public transport, which they want travellers to avoid.

London-based insurer Zego has signalled a desire to insure new mobility vehicles in the past, and currently providers coverage for the fleet of Amsterdam-based Dott.

As of yet though, the insurtech hasn’t been able to insure fleets of e-scooters in the UK simply because they’re not legal to ride outside of private land.

28 May 2020

Why are insurers facing legal challenges over their business interruption policies?

The insurance industry has been rocked by accusations it hasn’t honoured contractual obligations to pay out on business interruption (BI) claims, and is leaving businesses without a lifeline when they need it most.

In a recent case, a ruling in the state of New York favoured Sentinel Insurance Co in its dispute with luxury publication Social Life Magazine through a decision that Covid-19 can’t cause property damage, and so the publication’s property-based business interruption cover was unlikely to trigger.

But while BI coverage was never created to respond to a pandemic, the wording in policies that do extend to non-damage risks like virus and disease is leaving them open to legal challenges, some of which will be funded by third parties betting on a victory for the claimants and a return on their investment.

Two examples are the Hiscox Action Group (HAG) and Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA) – both of which expect to bring lawsuits against their respective insurers soon.

The HAG will do this with backing from Harbour Litigation Funding, while HIGA and its legal representative Mishcon De Reya, which is also representing the HAG, are still in talks with third party funders.

We’ve put together this explainer to help understand the type of wording that’s vulnerable to legal action.

28 May 2020

Cyber and fleet coverage two of the few avenues for growth in insurance, says analyst

As UK businesses have adapted to the Covid-19 lockdown situation by selling more products online, the opportunity to address their increased cyber risk with insurance has also grown.

This is according to GlobalData insurance analyst Yasha Kuruvilla, who believes cyber coverage is one area that could see growth as the industry expects to struggle in others.

“Retailers will hold more digital records of sensitive personal information, including payment details, than ever,” he said.

He also cited a report from Shape Security, which found hackers account for more than 90% of login attempts on e-commerce websites, as evidence of the risk online sellers face.

For firms operating delivery services, he expects the number of vehicles in fleets to grow too, presenting another area for potential insurance growth.

“This may not translate into new policies for large retailers that are more likely to already have cyber and fleet insurance products in place.

“However, some SMEs have explored the online channel in order to generate some sales during the lockdown.

“With online sales increasing in popularity, it is likely that some of these will make online sales a lasting feature, opening the door for new insurance policies to be sold.”

28 May 2020

Almost half of UK SME owners fear their business is at risk of permanent closure, says survey

Nearly half of all small and medium sized enterprise owners in the UK fear their business is under threat of closure due to the impact on trading caused by Covid-19 and the country’s lockdown measures.

This is according to a new survey from insurer Simply Business, which found 41% of owners were concerned the pandemic would force them to close, and 4% responding that they’d already folded – a figure Simply Business suggested represents 234,000 SMEs when the results are generalised to the UK’s 5.8 million SMEs.

In financial terms, the survey calculated the total impact of Covid-19 will exceed £69bn ($84.5bn), a figure extrapolated from respondents’ estimates that the pandemic will cost them £11,779 each on average.

Simply Business UK CEO Alan Thomas said: “No business has been able to escape the impact of the pandemic – and that’s no different for small businesses and the self-employed.

“Yet they are the lifeblood of the economy, and with many of these at risk of permanent closure, so much is at stake for our local communities and wider economy.”

Simply Business surveyed 3,700 SMEs across the UK for its SME Confidence Report. 

Read the full story

28 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: New York’s Times Square goes dark in support of businesses with unpaid interruption claims | Tower Insurance to cut 108 jobs as business goes digital

New York’s Times Square is famed for its bright lights created by streets full of billboards, but the lights went out for one minute at 9pm last night (27 May) in support of businesses fighting to claim insurance money. The action was organised by the Business Interruption Group (BIG) – a collection of restauranteurs that banded together with lawyer John Houghtaling of legal firm Gauthier Murphy & Houghtaling. It was supported by Times Square Alliance and the NYC Hospitality Alliance to raise awareness about denied business interruption claims. “This is to symbolically show that the insurers are turning the lights out on businesses,” said Houghtaling.

New Zealand firm Tower Insurance is making 108 of its staff redundant, a move it says was made to capitalise on the trend of customers buying digitally rather than through an agent. “People want to do more digitally and are choosing to become Tower customers because of this,” CEO Richard Harding said in a statement to 1 News. He continued: “In March almost 60% of our new business came in through our digital channels and with our new self-service portal, have had over 40% of claims lodged online in March. The growth we are achieving through digital channels and the number of customers now choosing to interact with us online shows that digital is the way of the future. Our strategy has always been to grow our business from our existing cost base, however, the current recessionary environment means that future growth will now be lower than we had planned for, and to offset that, we need to reduce our costs.”

The US Travel Association has lent its support to a new bill introduced by congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney on Tuesday (26 May) that seeks to establish a Pandemic Risk Insurance Act akin to the government-backstopped insurance programme the country has to respond to terrorist attacks. The association’s vice president for public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes said: “9/11 exposed the need for terrorism risk insurance, and since the impact of coronavirus on the travel industry has been nine times that of 9/11, it is very sensible to offer a similar backstop for pandemics. This measure will go a long way in giving businesses the confidence they need to reopen, which will be vital to a rapid, robust and sustained economic recovery.” The US Travel Association joins the National Retail Federation, American Society of Association Executives and Nonprofit New York, among others, in support of the bill.

27 May 2020

Illinois to get business interruption insurance taskforce if new bill gets approved

An amendment made by Illinois representative Kelly M. Burke has proposed the creation of a task force in her state to study the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses, and the potential need for changes to interruption cover.

The proposal was made on 21 May through an amendment to the Government Emergency Administration Bill, and stated that the task force shall include a representative based in Illinois from a national trade association that represents insurers who hold a significant amount of commercial insurance market share.

The task force would have no more than 10 members appointed from the Illinois Department of Insurance as well as the wider industry, and would report its findings and recommendations for legislation to the state Governor and the General Assembly by December 31, 2020, and be dissolved on the same date in 2021.

The bill and its amendment were approved by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly on 23 May and await final sign off from state Governor JB Pritzker.

27 May 2020

New York court rules in favour of insurer, agrees Covid-19 didn’t cause physical damage

A legal case fought in the US over business interruption insurance claims during the Covid-19 pandemic has turned out favourably for the insurer, according to a law firm.

Carlton Fields insurance coverage attorney Andrew Daechsel highlighted a decision made by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York at a 14 May hearing.

In Social Life Magazine Inc v Sentinel Insurance Co, a magazine publisher had sought a preliminary injunction – an expedited ruling that would require the defendant-insurer to pay the company’s business interruption claim if the case was resolved in the plaintiff’s favour.

But the presiding judge Valerie Caproni denied the publisher’s argument that the coronavirus had caused “on-site property damage,” on the basis “it damages lungs – it doesn’t damage printing presses.”

According to Daechsel, the plaintiff’s counsel argued Covid-19 could cause property damage because “the virus, when it lands on something and you touch it, you could die from it”.

Judge Caproni responded: “That damages you. It doesn’t damage the property.

“You get an ‘A’ for effort, you get a gold star for creativity, but this is just not what’s covered under these insurance policies.”

27 May 2020

ABI’s Huw Evans refutes claims that insurers have failed customers affected by Covid-19

Association of British Insurers director general Huw Evans has hit back over claims that insurers are failing customers financially hit by Covid-19.

“Far from failing our customers”, he said insurers in the UK expect to pay at least £1.7 billion in claims as a result of Covid-19, including over £900m to businesses and £275m to people claiming on travel insurance.

His comments came in response to an open letter written by Covid Claims Group founder James Ollerenshaw, supported by more than 700 businesses, which claimed insurers had “abrogated responsibility” through denying to pay out on policies with extended coverage for interruption caused by non-physical damage.

In his response letter, Evans said: “With regard to SME purchase of non-damage business interruption extensions, I can assure you that each claim is being examined on a case by case basis by ABI members.

“Where the policy wording allows for a claim to be paid, it will be – hence the £900m our members expect to pay swiftly and with interim payments wherever possible.

“This will be on top of the average of £7.8 billion paid by insurers each year to SMEs and larger businesses for day to day risks such as fire, flooding and employee accidents.”

27 May 2020

Reinsurers will struggle to earn their cost of capital in 2020, says Fitch

Credit assessor Fitch Ratings says the global reinsurance sector will not earn its cost of capital in 2020.

The measure is used to assess the return a reinsurer needs to accumulate in order to pay both its debt interest and provide returns to shareholders.

According to Fitch, the financial performance of reinsurers will be hit by mortality claims and losses from event cancellation, business interruption, credit and surety insurance, as well as by financial market disruption linked to the economic impact of lockdown measures.

After conducting a sector ratings review and coming to the conclusions above, Fitch downgraded the financial strength rating of industry giant Swiss Re from AA- to A+, and Mexican reinsurer Reaseguradora Patria from A- to BBB+, with the new ratings assessed as stable for both.

In its report, Fitch’s analysts said: “The main driver for the negative rating actions was deteriorating financial performance.

“Based on our pro-forma analysis, we continue to view the global reinsurance sector’s capitalisation as strong on average, with pro-forma capital ratios not much weaker than those at end-2019.

“We expect capitalisation to hold up in most cases and not be a major driver of rating actions.”

27 May 2020

Covid-19 daily insurance update: New York representative introduces pandemic backstop bill to congress | AXA to cover two months of restaurant’s lost income after losing court case

New York representative Carolyn B. Maloney has introduced the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA) bill to congress. The legislation proposes a government backstop to reimburse insurers for 95% of their claims costs where they’re linked to a pandemic. According to reports, more than 24 US business organisations, including the International Franchise Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers, have endorsed the bill. Maloney also has support from the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers and insurance firm Marsh & McLennan. the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), and Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, have opposed the bill. Instead they’re attempting to raise the profile of their own plan, which would see the government take on 100% of the risk and pay out through the existing infrastructure within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Maloney is currently seeking a Republican co-sponsor to increase the chance of bipartisan support for the bill in congress.

French insurance giant AXA has been forced to pay two months of lost income to Paris restaurant owner Stéphane Manigold to cover the interruption to his four eateries caused by Covid-19. The insurer lost its case fought to uphold the denial of a payout to Manigold last week, and AXA has since said it will appeal the decision. Despite this, CEO Thomas Buberl signalled a desire to engage with policyholders with similar coverage and avoid further court battles. He said: “These contracts represent less than 10% out of total contracts with restaurant owners and I am confident that we will find a solution. We want to compensate a substantial part of these contracts, we want to do it quickly.” With ongoing legal battles in the UK and US between hospitality businesses and their insurers, it’s likely the outcome of AXA’s appeal will be watched closely by those hoping the decision will be upheld and set a precedent that will cross borders.

 

27 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: US nears 100,000 Covid-19 deaths | Brazil could overtake as worst-hit country

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 5,518,000 with over 346,700 deaths and 2,232,000 recoveries.

In the US, there are over 1,662,000 cases and over 98,000 deaths. However, Covid-19 deaths in the US are on the decline.

Brazil’s daily incidence is reported to be second only to the US and may become number one globally if the increasing incidence trend continues.

Daily incidence rates also continue to rise in Peru and Chile, making these three South American countries in the top six countries in terms of daily incidence rates.

In Japan, the state of emergency has lifted and marks the official end of the restrictions.

The prime minister ended the state of emergency after a month and a half. Japan currently has more than 16,500 cases and over 800 deaths.

Nanthida Nanthavong, MPH, epidemiologist at GlobalData

26 May 2020

Federation of European Risk Management calls on EU to address gap in business interruption catastrophe risk

The Federation of European Risk Management (FERMA) has called on the EU to create a resilience framework for addressing uninsurable catastrophes like the current pandemic.

The primary concern the organisation is looking to address through its proposal is the gap in business coverage caused by exclusions for non-damage interruption.

The resilience framework proposed by FERMA would function on four levels:

Enterprise-level risk management: anticipation, prevention, identification and mitigation of risks

Transfer of risk to private insurance and reinsurance markets, developing enhanced coverage for NDBI (non-damage business interruption)

National Member state pool guarantees

European Union support for, and coordination between national governments

FERMA president Dirk Wegener said: “This holistic approach supported by the insurance sector, national governments and EU institutions would ensure that the resilience framework has the capacity to benefit all businesses, from small and medium-sized enterprises facing immediate liquidity issues, to the largest transnational corporations concerned with supply chain and trade disruptions.

“We now aim to deepen discussions with the EU, the Member States and the insurance sector, and to develop solutions for both short-term crisis management and long-term business resilience.

“FERMA members have expertise and experience in the field of business interruption that we want to contribute to the future resilience of European business.”

26 May 2020

Fitch Ratings says business interruption lawsuits could impact credit ratings

Global credit assessor Fitch Ratings says court rulings on business interruption disputes could impact the credit quality of insurers in the UK non-life sector.

The firm said claimants may win in certain court actions if the relevant policy wording is “loose” – something those seeking to push lawsuits are betting on – exposing companies to unexpected losses.

It issued the updated guidance on ratings after conducting a stress test, in which the main stressor was the impact of potential liability exposure, particularly in relation to event cancellation and business interruption claims.

Fitch previously put both Beazley and Hiscox on Rating Watch Negative (RWN) – meaning they could potentially have their ratings downgraded – but both have since raised equity by releasing additional shares, and had their ratings affirmed as stable in response.

Fitch’s report said: “Subsequent to the initial rating actions, Hiscox and Beazley raised new capital of 20% and 15%, respectively, through the issuance of new ordinary shares.

“As a result, we revised the Outlooks back to Stable. Hiscox and Beazley remain exposed to potential coronavirus-related underwriting losses.

“In our view, both Hiscox and Beazley now have sufficient capital buffers to withstand a potential increase in pandemic-related claims”

Fitch added in its commentary on the report that it expects both business interruption and event cancellation claims caused by Covid-19 to impact underwriting in 2020, but will peak in 2021, especially where legal action is required.

26 May 2020

NFU Mutual gives car and small van customers free RAC home breakdown cover

NFU mutual has given its UK car and small van insurance customers free national recovery and home breakdown coverage in response to a 78% rise in home starts recorded by the RAC.

Customers will have temporary access to cover for breakdowns that occur at, or within, a quarter of a mile from their home, as well as the recovery of the vehicle, driver and passengers if it can’t be repaired at the roadside.

NFU Mutual also temporarily extended the RAC coverage of small vans to include emergency roadside assistance and recovery of the vehicle, driver and passengers.

“During these challenging times, many of our private car customers haven’t been using their vehicles as frequently, and flat battery starts are expected to rise over the next few months.

“We want to ensure our customers aren’t disadvantaged for acting responsibly by staying at home and driving less, which is why we are giving them home and national recovery cover at no extra cost, in addition to the Mutual Assist RAC cover they already receive as standard.

“For our customers who live in remote areas of the countryside without access to a nearby garage, this could be a lifeline.”

The move comes after RAC data revealed a 78% increase in home starts between 23 March and 11 May.

The coverage extensions will be available to both existing customers and those who buy private car or van insurance before August 31, when the temporary benefits are removed.

26 May 2020

Admiral urges drivers to remain vigilant as it sees collisions with parked cars increase

Welsh insurer Admiral has reported an increase in the number of insurance claims caused by drivers crashing into parked cars since the UK lockdown began.

The Cardiff-based firm said 29% of the claims it received since 23 March, the date the government made it mandatory for all but key workers to stay at home, have been related to a driver hitting an unattended car.

In the six weeks prior to this date, it recorded a figure of 19% for this type of claim, and Admiral said the increase has made it the most likely accident to be reported by its customers.

Admiral head of claims Lorna Connelly said: “Regardless of how many cars are on the roads, it’s important that drivers remain vigilant at all times and stay alert to their surroundings while behind the wheel.

“If you do hit another vehicle or wildlife, it’s important to contact your insurer as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Admiral did see other types of claims decrease, and appears to still expect a general decrease in the number of claims recorded during lockdown.

Read the full story

26 May 2020

Morning briefing: Shops to reopen in England | WHO stops testing Trump-backed drug for Covid-19

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

Global: There are almost 5.5 million Covid-19 cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, which has counted a total of 5,495,061 confirmed infections. The death toll stands at 346,232.

Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The WHO has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients due to safety concerns.

UK: England’s outdoor markets and car showrooms can reopen from 1 June, as soon as they can meet guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as he urged the public to spend money in stores when the curbs are lifted.

US: The White House brings forward Brazil travel restrictions by two days, amending the timing to 11.59pm ET on Tuesday, 26 May.

The Trump administration said sufficient quantities of Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW Covid-19 test and Quidel Corp’s Sofia 2 instruments exist to support 200 million US tests per month.

Latam Airlines Group SA, Latin America’s largest air carrier, sought bankruptcy court protection in New York after the Covid-19 pandemic grounded flights across the region.

Indonesia: Indonesia deployed hundreds of thousands of army and police personnel across the vast archipelago to enforce social-distancing rules, after a record surge in infections in the past week cast doubt on plans to reopen Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Australia: Australia will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, but added the country will continue its discussions with neighbouring New Zealand for a trans-Tasman safe travel zone.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia will revise curfew times this week, and lift it entirely across the Kingdom with the exception of the holy city of Mecca starting 21 June, state news agency reported in a statement early on Tuesday.

Germany: Germany threw Lufthansa a €9bn (US$9.8bn) lifeline on Monday, agreeing a bailout which gives Berlin a veto in the event of a hostile bid for the airline.

Iceland: Iceland eased its national alert against the coronavirus on Monday, allowing for public gatherings of up to 200 people and night clubs and gyms to reopen as the country nears complete recovery from the outbreak.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong International Airport will open for some transit services from 1 June, chief executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.

China: China reported seven additional coronavirus cases by the end of 25 May, with all of them from abroad, according to a statement from the National Health Commission. Of the seven cases, five were reported in Inner Mongolia.

26 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: Irish insurer FBD under fire over business interruption claims – while pressure mounts on Australian motor firms to give rebates

Republic of Ireland firm FBD Insurance will be part of a court case to be heard in October after several businesses disputed their claim for business interruption caused by Covid-19. According to The Journal, they all dispute FBD’s refusal to indemnify them, as well as its stance that the policy of insurance does not cover the Covid-19 pandemic. One firm claimed to be losing €30,000 per week since it was forced to close, with another claiming to be losing €56,000. Three firms will be featured in test actions in October, meaning the results of each case will set a precedent for similar cases.

Motor insurance firms in Australia are facing growing pressure to give customers a rebate on their insurance while they’re driving less. According to data from Apple, the number of driver requests on its Maps app dropped by 73% below normal levels during the peak of lockdown in mid-April. Consumer Action Law Centre insurance policy officer Tom Abourizko told The New Daily: “With fewer cars on the road due to Covid-19 restrictions, it’s likely car insurers will get a significant windfall due to fewer car accidents. Insurers generally require consumers to notify them of any relevant change in circumstances, and if that change increases the risk of a claim, it normally results in an increase in premiums.” Seven insurers in the country have taken action to give premium relief to customers using a range of methods.

Reports suggest New York representative Carolyn B. Maloney will hold a press conference this week to introduce a bill that, if approved by congress, would put in place a government backstop for 95% of claims caused by future pandemics. Insurance industry groups the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), and Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, are disputing the bill. Instead they’re attempting to raise the profile of their own plan, which would see the government take on 100% of the risk and pay out through the existing infrastructure within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

22 May 2020

Celebrity lawyer Mr Loophole calls on government to make cycling insurance mandatory

Motoring lawyer Nick Freeman has called on the UK government to make it mandatory for cyclists to have insurance in place if they are to use their bikes on the road.

The legal professional, who is better known as Mr Loophole for his propensity to help celebrities dodge speeding charges using technicalities, made the comments on TalkRadio alongside suggestions that cyclists be made more identifiable to bring them under the same level of scrutiny as other road users.

“Lack of cars has allowed a culture of toxic cycling to prevail on our empty roads as some riders claim the highways as their own,” he said.

“It has made some cyclists ride with a sense of dangerous entitlement.”

The Covid-19 lockdown has led to a boost in cycling and the buying of bicycles, with many, including the PM Boris Johnson, expecting the activity to continue among the population once the measures are lifted.

If that prediction comes true, both cyclists and drivers will have to coexist safely on the road, and Freeman believes insurance must be part of the plan to ensure that.

He told TalkRadio he is lobbying for changes that would require cyclists to have insurance and be punished for breaking road laws with penalty points.

22 May 2020

Aviva expects £160m impact on claims due to Covid-19, with limited BI exposure

British giant Aviva said in a Q1 trading update that it expects take a £160m hit from claims related to Covid-19.

The firm estimates it will receive business interruption claims amounting to £200m, but that its exposure to paying out will be limited because most policies won’t include cover for Covid-19.

This is despite the fact that it is one of two insurers facing legal action from Hospitality Insurance Group Action – a conglomerate of businesses looking to get financial redress for their denied claims through the court system.

Aviva CEO Maurice Tulloch said: “Aviva had a solid first quarter of trading. General Insurance sales increased 3% and we had a strong performance in Life Insurance where new business increased 28%.

“Based on analysis as at 30 April, our estimate of the Covid-19 claims impact on general insurance, incorporating notified and projected claims, is £160m net of reinsurance.

“At 31 March, our estimated solvency ratio remains strong at 182% and incorporates Covid-19 related impacts.

“The economic outlook remains uncertain and will affect our business, however the strength of our capital and liquidity means we are well positioned to manage this crisis and continue to support our customers.”

 

22 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Brazil to overtake Russia as second worst-hit country by Covid-19 | India cases rising fastest in Asia

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 5.11 million, with over 333,000 deaths and 1.95 million recoveries.

Cases have been rising sharply in Latin America, with Peru, Mexico and Chile each continuing to experience a record number of daily cases or deaths.

Meanwhile, Brazil is set to overtake Russia with second most number of cases in the world after the US.

Cases in India are rising at the fastest pace in Asia with a record number of daily new cases.

Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, is reporting a sharp rise in new cases and will be the one to watch in the near future.

Indonesia is struggling to keep the spread of infection under reasonable control compared to neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Bishal Bhandari, PhD, senior epidemiologist at GlobalData

22 May 2020

Insurance organisations reject PRIA, claiming pandemics are “not insurable risks”

Three insurance industry trade bodies in the US have rejected the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA) in favour of their own proposal that the government carry all of the primary risk of an outbreak, and seek reinsurance privately to divest some of it.

Representative groups the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), and Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, all signed off on the plan.

The proposal advises that the government use the infrastructure set up by the FEMA programme to administer payouts, and was released to counter a bill expected to be put forward to congress by NY representative Carolyn Maloney, advocates a risk-sharing agreement between the government and insurers, with the state acting as a backstop.

NAMIC president and CEO Charles Chamness said: “Pandemics simply are not insurable risks; they are too widespread, too severe, and too unpredictable for the insurance industry to underwrite.

“As we’ve seen in the past few months, pandemics are a national problem, and we need a national solution.”

22 May 2020

Why are Hiscox, Aviva and QBE facing lawsuits over their business interruption insurance?

The insurance industry has been rocked by accusations that it hasn’t honoured contractual obligations to pay out on business interruption claims, and is leaving firms without a lifeline when they need it most.

But while some of the contracts involved in policyholder disputes are, to an extent, ambiguous, others leave little room for discussion.

Hiscox, QBE and Aviva are among the insurers looking down the barrel at lawsuits in the coming days and months.

NS Insurance took an in-depth look at why some insurers are more vulnerable than others to lawsuits, and the key is in how their wording can be interpreted.

Read the full story

22 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: America gets first glimpse of 2021 health insurance rates – while BIBA hits back at Mactavish over critical report on brokers

The first potential rates for health insurance customers in the 2021 have been released by insurers in Vermont, Washington, and Oregon — giving an idea of what coverage might cost in 2021. According to Yahoo! Finance, almost every insurance company that referenced the pandemic stressed the unprecedented level of uncertainty for 2021, due to Covid-19. Vermont’s insurers proposed increases of 6.3% for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and 7.3% for MVP, compared to last year’s rates. Yahoo! said that MVP estimated Covid-19 was responsible for 1.6% of the 7.3%, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont didn’t mention coronavirus as a factor. Oregon insurers’ expectations ranged from a 3.5% decrease to an 11.1% increase, with Washington presenting an even more varied picture.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) has hit back at claims made in a report from insurance governance consultancy Mactavish, which said brokers had a “huge conflict of interest” because they receive 80% of their income from insurers. The representative body for brokers said its members “closely follow” the FCA guidelines on managing conflicts of interest, and called Mactavish “opportunistic” for its assertion that Covid-19 had “brutally exposed” problems in the market regarding brokers’ commission, and said the firm’s report was “designed to allow them to gain from these published opinions.” Mactavish’s business model is based on advising consumer businesses in disputes with insurers.

22 May 2020

Morning briefing: Immunity certificates back on the cards in UK | Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll continues to spiral

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

UK: Ministers are, once again, considering handing immunity certificates to people that have antibodies to coronavirus to exempt them from social distancing rules, according to The Times. Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed “systems of certification” were being worked on for those who have recovered from the virus. The news comes after he revealed mass antibody testing would begin next week, beginning with key workers. The science remains a sticking point – we do not yet know for sure that those with antibodies are immune to a second infection. The paper also reports that anyone that has come into close contact with a coronavirus-positive person will be asked to isolate for two weeks, regardless of whether they have symptoms, as part of the government’s contact tracing scheme that’s due before 1 June.

Another group who will be told to self-isolate for 14 days are those arriving in the UK, under plans that will be revealed by Home Secretary Priti Patel later today. Any passengers coming in by plane, ferry or train will have to provide an address where they will quarantine – otherwise, the government will arrange a place for them to stay. Police will carry out spot checks at residences, and anyone flouting the rules faces a minimum £1,000 fine. People from the common travel area, which includes Ireland, are exempt, as are certain professions such as freight drivers and some doctors. Ministers were previously considering an exemption for France, but the idea has been abandoned. The rules are expected to come into effect next month.

Lastly, two intriguing testing stories broke overnight. First, the Guardian reported that a coronavirus “spit test”, which involves spitting into a tube rather than a throat swab, will be trialled on 5,000 police and army staff because of concerns over the accuracy of swabbing. Experts have long-pushed the government to consider the tests because they are far easier to administer. Second, the Telegraph reports that the government has double-counted tens of thousands of coronavirus tests – a story confirmed by the Department of Health. Testing numbers have been consistently higher than the number of people testing, and one of the reasons is tests that involve both a saliva sample and a nasal swab are being counted twice.

China: China will not set a GDP goal at this year’s annual Two Sessions law-making event – the first time it has failed to do so since it began publishing such targets in 1990.

Australia: Australia has called for an exemption from the UK’s upcoming two-week quarantine for incoming visitors. Under government plans, only people from the common travel area, which includes Ireland, are exempt.

Brazil: The coronavirus crisis shows no signs of abating in Brazil, which yesterday reported a record one-day death toll of 1,188, taking the total number of deaths above 20,000.

Indonesia: Indonesia recorded 973 new infections yesterday, its biggest one-day rise.

US: Around 2.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, taking the total since the pandemic took hold to just under 39 million.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

Despite 50,000 excess deaths, Britain’s most vulnerable areas remain at risk from Covid-19

Secret data and the future of public health: Why the NHS has turned to Palantir

The case for Commonwealth: What happens when natural disaster follows disease?

Why has Kerala been so successful in tackling the coronavirus?

 

21 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Worldwide confirmed Covid-19 cases pass 5 million

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 5,000,000, with over 328,000 deaths and 1,900,000 recoveries.

In Europe and North America, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in majority of the countries.

In Latin America, Peru, Mexico, and Chile each continues to experience a record number of daily cases or deaths.

Peru has the second most number of cases after Brazil in Latin America. Cases in India are increasing at the fastest pace in Asia with a 30% increase in cases since last week.

After facing the brunt of Covid-19 in the UK, London has reported a steep decline in daily new cases with no new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

This is a positive development, but it remains to be seen if this decline in new cases will continue in the near future.

Bishal Bhandari, PhD, senior epidemiologist at GlobalData

21 May 2020

Law firm says North Carolina BI lawsuit could ‘set the tone’ for similar action

A lawsuit filed in North Carolina against insurers for the denial of business interruption coverage is “one to watch” in the US because it could set the tone for similar legal action, according to a law firm.

The approach taken in some cases filed in other jurisdictions allege that government shutdown orders were issued in direct response to evidence of physical damage to property, and so loss of income should be covered under business interruption insurance.

But Jennifer Welch, a litigation and insurance coverage attorney at law firm Cranfill Sumner and Hartzog, said the approach taken in the North Carolina lawsuit – filed by a group of restaurants and bars against various insurers – is quite different.

It means how the case is judged will be of interest both to insurers and the legal community.

“Some of the policies at issue allegedly exclude coverage for losses ’caused directly or indirectly by . . .  virus’, while others do not.

“According to the complaint, however, none of the policies exclude coverage ‘for damages caused by public fear and commotion and/or governmental action implemented in an effort to prevent the arrival of the virus or to mitigate the spread of the virus as opposed to damages caused by the virus itself.’

“The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that coverage exists under the policies, but it does not include claims for bad faith.

“This case could set the tone for similar lawsuits that may be filed in North Carolina in the coming months,  so it will definitely be one to watch.”

21 May 2020

Motor insurer Sabre reports ‘extremely volatile’ premiums due to Covid-19

British motor cover provider Sabre Insurance has reported that Covid-19 has caused extreme volatility in its premium volumes, as well impacting the amount of quotes issued to consumers.

The firm said premiums were down 5% year-on-year, at £43.7m over the twelve months ended 31 March, and new business quotes were down 25% since the coronavirus lockdown began.

In its Q1 trading update, Sabre also pointed to competitor pricing and a lack of car sales during lockdown as reasons for the volatility.

Chief executive Geoff Carter said: “With market volatility expected to continue at least until the current social distancing measures start to ease, and probably for several months thereafter, it remains difficult to forecast the full-year premium outcome with any certainty at this stage.

“However, we are confident that the year-on-year reduction in premium written reflects the temporary and unique market conditions and volatility.”

21 May 2020

Bajaj Allianz CEO says 2020 will be ‘a year of survival’

The boss of insurance giant Allianz’s Indian branch says 2020 will not be a year of significant growth, but “a year of survival” for insurers in the country.

Bajaj Allianz life insurance CEO Tarun Chugh said the widescale impact on India’s economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will make it less likely for people to spend money on insurance premiums.

“I think this is a year of survival, not everybody is likely to invest (in policies) when the GDP (gross domestic product) is not likely to do good. This year will not be a year of significant growth” Chugh told the Press Trust of India.

“Premium for policy will actually come down. Overall on the premium for the life sector, I don”t think it will grow at all.”

Chugh added that the current situation will push insurance companies to adopt to digital and virtual means of product selling going forward – something GlobalData’s Pratyusha Mekala recently predicted.

“Web aggregators such as Policybazaar have reported 20% growth in sales of life insurance products in March 2020,” she said.

“However, growth from online channels is unlikely to prevent contraction in the overall life insurance business.”

His comments appear to square with the views of analysts from GlobalData, who predict the Indian life insurance sector is expected to contract by almost 1% during 2020, caused by disruption to the bancassurance and agency channels, which account for over 90% of insurers’ new business.

21 May 2020

ABI boss says paying claims not covered by BI policies would threaten insurers’ solvency

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) director general Huw Evans has said that paying out on claims that fall outside of the scope of business interruption policies would threaten the solvency of insurers.

His comments came in response to a letter sent to ABI chair and Allianz CEO Jon Dye by One Voice Group – a coalition of 50,000 pubs and 2,000 brewers – urging insurers to engage with the group because “the vast majority of our pub sector businesses have taken a policy including business interruption”.

In the letter, written by the group’s chairman Stephen Gould, it was claimed that industry survey data found that 1% of hospitality businesses, 3% of British Institute of Innkeeping members, and 4% of British Beer and Pub Association member companies have received a positive response from their insurer.

In a response letter, Evans said: “I can, of course, appreciate the desire to see insurers make compensation payments outside of policy terms, especially given the very difficult situation facing the hospitality sector.

“However, the scale of the problem would see the cost of such payments easily run into billions of pounds for which the insurance industry has not collected premiums or reserved.

“Such goodwill gestures could therefore only be delivered at risk to insurer solvency and require insurance executives to breach their legal and regulatory responsibilities to do nothing that will endanger the financial safety of the company.”

Responding to the expressed view that businesses were due a payout because the majority took out interruption coverage, Evans pointed to the fact that the majority of coverage was written for “day-to-day risks” such as damage to premises from fire or flood, motor accidents, supplier failure and employee harm.

“Such policies are not designed to cover a global viral pandemic of a kind we have not seen in over 100 years in this country and nor were your members charged for such cover,” he added.

21 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: Aviva expects to pay out £160m in claims related to Covid-19 – while Mactavish says brokers’ conflict of interest has led to ‘generic’ business interruption policies

The UK’s largest insurer Aviva has said it expects to pay out £160m for insurance claims related to Covid-19 after some of the cost is taken by its reinsurance partners. According to its trading highlights, life insurance sales grew by 28% to £12.3bn, compared to 2019 figures of £9.6bn, while it recorded a 3% increase in general insurance premium from £2.3bn to £2.4bn. Aviva was identified yesterday as one of two insurers facing legal action from Hospitality Insurance Group Action and its representative Mishcon De Reya. In its trading update, the insurer said it estimates business interruption claims totalling £200m, but added that the “vast majority” won’t pay out for Covid-19 disruption.

A report from insurance governance advisor Mactavish Group has revealed that 80% of brokers’ income comes from insurers, with 20% coming from clients. The firm announced the findings along with its opinion that they show a “huge conflict of interest”. The paper, entitled Broker Conflicts, also suggested that much of a broker’s revenue is directly linked to the price of premiums, so they benefit when insurance costs rise, which Mactavish said is currently happening “partly because of the Coronavirus crisis”. The consultancy also believes intermediaries have increasingly started to use over-standardised policy terms, which are often pre-defined as part of a broker scheme or facility that sees them work with “a small group of preferred insurers on mutually beneficial financial terms”. It believes This has led to the increased use of generic policies that are often not adapted for client needs, an issue it said has been “exposed” by the issue around business interruption claims that has prompted several lawsuits.

21 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Mexico, Chile and Peru are countries to watch as they experience record Covid-19 case totals

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 4,900,000, with over 323,000 deaths and 1,690,000 recoveries.

Brazil accounts for most of the daily confirmed cases in Latin America. However, countries to watch will be Peru, Mexico, and Chile as each continues to experience a record number of daily cases.

Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Chile have each set a record high of new daily cases. In Europe and North America, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in majority of the countries.

It has been accepted that children are not the group most at risk from Covid-19.

However, as schools have started to reopen in Europe, it remains unclear whether they are “super-spreaders” and transmit the infection even if they are asymptomatic.

Bishal Bhandari, PhD, senior epidemiologist at GlobalData

21 May 2020

Morning briefing: UK antibody tests to begin next week | largest daily increase in global Covid-19 cases so far

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

UK: The government will today announce that NHS and social care staff are to be offered coronavirus antibody tests as early as next week, according to the Guardian. Hundreds of thousands of workers will be offered the test, which requires a blood sample and is carried out in a laboratory. Staff in closest contact with Covid-19, such as those in intensive care, will be given priority. The test will determine whether the person had coronavirus in the past – but scientists do not know definitively whether the presence of antibodies provides immunity against a second infection, or if it does provide immunity, how long it will last. Scientists will monitor the results of the tests to see whether those with antibodies catch the virus again. The move brings the prospect of mass antibody testing closer, but the government is still yet to approve a finger-prick home test kit, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said would be a “gamechanger”.

The National Audit Office (NAO) today revealed that ministers have overruled their most senior civil servants on spending decisions 11 times since the start of pandemic. On each occasion, ministers forced through spending pledges despite being challenged by their permanent secretaries and without usual value-for-money checks. Only 75 such decisions have been taken over the past 30 years, according to the Institute for Government. The NAO found the government has pledged more than £124bn in extra spending to tackle the pandemic, higher than the £123bn forecast last week by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Lastly, the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare leaders, has warned the government is running out of time to introduce a track and trace strategy if it wants to avoid a second spike of infections. It said lockdown measures should not be further eased until a plan was in place. The government says a tracing system will be ready by 1 June – but without a crucial NHS app, which is still being trialled on the Isle of Wight.

World: The number of worldwide Covid-19 cases rose 106,000 yesterday – the biggest increase yet over a 24-hour period, as the World Health Organisation warned the virus was beginning to spread rapidly in poorer nations. The number of global confirmed cases has reached five million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US: The reopening of businesses in Connecticut, Kentucky and Alaska mean that all 50 states have begun easing lockdown measures to some degree.

Japan: Japan will lift its state of emergency in Osaka and two other prefectures where infection rates have slowed.

Mexico: Mexico recorded 424 coronavirus-related deaths yesterday, its highest single-day tally. The previous record was 353 deaths on 12 May.

Greece: Greece will reopen for tourists on 15 June, when seasonal hotels will be allowed to open, the government has said. International flights will be welcomed from 1 July.

India: Domestic flights will begin running again in India on Monday, 25 May. The government has said that it will not be viable to keep middle seats empty.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

Too little, too late, too flawed: The BMJ’s indictment of the government’s response to Covid-19

The tragedy of Tye Green Lodge care home is a parable of government neglect

The Great Moving Left Show: How the pandemic could transform British politics

Why now, more than ever, we should bask in the glory of wasting time

I wistfully remember my last meal out pre-lockdown – at a Greek restaurant full of interesting wine

Coronavirus has changed every mundane detail of our lives – including email etiquette

 

20 May 2020

Analysts expect South African insurers to take a hit to GWP in 2020

Gross written premium (GWP) in South Africa is set to decline in 2020 as businesses shut up shop and the country’s economy falters, says an analyst.

GlobalData insurance analyst Deblina Mitra believes businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, facing a standstill in activity, will cause a slowdown for insurers.

“South Africa responded early to the pandemic, and entering lockdown before there were many cases will help its recovery,” she said.

“However, the country had already experienced a recession in 2019, so this will further weaken its economy.

“Considering the adverse economical impact, insurers need to brace for not just potential claims but also a general decline in business.

“One area for growth will be in cyber insurance. The potential threat associated with cyber incidents during the pandemic is expected to promote the need for cyber insurance products in the country.”

According to GlobalData forecasting, the total value of GWP in the South African market is expected to decline by 3.1% in 2020, rather than the 3.4% increase expected before the pandemic hit.

The industry is then expected to recover, with analysts predicting a 1.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) up to 2023.

20 May 2020

German insurer launches legal notice cover for firms trading online during Covid-19 pandemic

German insurance firm Signal Iduna has released a legal notice insurance product to protect companies forced to trade online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The coverage was designed by London-based insurtech KASKO and will ensure that any businesses pivoting to online sales save themselves stress and money in unwanted fines if they miss important disclaimers.

KASKO co-founder and CEO Nikolaus Suehr said: “This product can make a big difference to small businesses as they move their operation online in the time of crisis.

“We’re really proud of the work we have done, and know that this product will make a difference.”

According to KASKO, 47% of German online retailers have been fined for not having fully compliant websites, and for businesses moving online during the Covid-19 challenge, the average fine they risk receiving for missing key information is up to €2000.

The insurance costs customers €24.99 per month, which will cover an initial review by Signal Iduna’s partner law firms and costs associated with legal and court expenses, dunning fees and third-party damages, up to €100,000.

20 May 2020

GlobalData economic forecast: Global economy to shrink by 1.9% in 2020 – with western Europe dropping by up to 10%

The global economy is now expected to shrink by 1.9% in 2020, according to experts from GlobalData.

Western Europe and the US are still expected to bear the brunt, with Italy’s GDP forecast to contract by 10% over the year.

France’s GDP is predicted to shrink by 8.6%, the UK’s by 8.2%, Spain’s by 7.9% and Germany’s by 6.6%.

Those forecasts are slightly worse than GlobalData was forecasting a week ago.

The US’ estimate has been revised upwards, however, with the country seeing a steady decline in Covid-19 cases and deaths.

GlobalData now predicts the US economy will shrink by 5% across 2020 – slightly less than the 5.3% predicted a week ago.

Latin American countries, where the numbers of Covid-19 cases are now surging, are also expecting an economic downturn. Mexico’s economy is expected to contract by 7% in 2020, Peru’s by 4.1% and Brazil’s by 4%.

China and India are among the few countries predicted to still see economic growth this year.

 

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

We are using exclusive dynamic figures provided by GlobalData analysts to track key economic indicators in major world economies hit by Covid-19.

Deaths from the virus are plotted alongside the indexed performance of each country’s major stock exchange and the number of “active jobs” – jobs open for applications across all major industries.

Figures are tracked daily from 1 March 2020.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

20 May 2020

South African giant Discovery releases Covid-19 risk tracking tool

South African insurance giant Discovery has announced several new product enhancements and services its policyholders in the country will be able to use to monitor and assess their risk of developing complications when suffering from Covid-19.

The firm said it developed the enhancements after comparing emerging experience from other parts of the world along with its own data – both of which it believes highlight the importance of regular screening, appropriate testing and understanding and managing an individual’s health risk.

Discovery South Africa CEO Hylton Kallner said: “We have undertaken the analysis to create an accessible Covid-19 risk assessment tool, that will be released on the Discovery app and the website helping people to understand their risk for Covid-19, to know their health risks that increase the likelihood of hospitalisation, and access funding for testing and health monitoring for those at a high risk for complications.”

“Members will be able to complete the assessment over time and keep track of their history. When testing is recommended, the assessment tool guides them to an online doctor consultation in a network.”

According to Discovery, high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and body mass index are leading risk indicators of developing complications.

“We want to help members on all health plans to understand and manage these factors to mitigate the risk of complications from Covid-19,” added Kallner

“From June, any result from a Vitality Health Check that places someone at a high risk for complications will trigger a referral for advice through one online doctor or nurse consultation in the network, which the Scheme (Discovery Health Medical Scheme) will fund in full.”

Discovery South Africa lists more product enhancements here

20 May 2020

Nearly 40,000 coronavirus deaths in England and Wales, ONS says

About 50,000 more people than expected have died in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, writes Nicu Calcea.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning show an estimated 49,647 “excess” deaths occurred from 14 March to 8 May, with 39,071 of those attributed to Covid-19.

The good news is the number of weekly deaths, both caused by the virus and overall, is now at its lowest since the start of April.

While all regions in England and Wales experienced a decrease in deaths attributed to Covid-19, the north-west overtook London for the first time as the epicentre of the outbreak with 597 deaths in the week to 8 May.

The number of people dying in care homes has also been falling for two consecutive weeks, with 1,666 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in the first week of May compared to 2,423 during the previous week.

However, the share of care home deaths that were attributed to Covid-19 has had a small bump, with 39% of deaths now linked to the disease.

The UK as a whole has recorded about 55,000 excess deaths, ONS statistician Nick Stripe told the BBC.

20 May 2020

Hospitality Insurance Group Action focuses legal action against QBE and Aviva

Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA) has confined its planned group action lawsuit over denied business interruption claims to two insurers – QBE and Aviva.

Legal representative Mishcon De Reya – which is also handling a group action against Hiscox – is calling on all hospitality industry businesses with relevant policies to join the group action by 5 June.

The firm plans to move forward on 10 June, with the aim of issuing a claim as soon as possible thereafter.

According to the Mishcon, the relevant wording can found within the following:

Aviva: Material Damage & Business Interruption Policy

QBE: Hotel Insurance Policy, Leisure Combined Policy, Business Combined Insurance Policy and Nightclub and Late Night Venue Policy

HIGA is now writing to all its applicants inviting only those policyholders with these insurers and specified policies to confirm that they remain interested in participating in a funded group claim.

Mishcon said the firm is still in negotiation with third parties to obtain legal funding.

Read the full story

20 May 2020

How has Covid-19 impacted global expansion strategies? Tell us your views in new NS Media Group survey

The Covid-19 crisis is causing companies to rethink their global expansion strategies.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates global foreign direct investment flows will contract by as much as 40% over the next year.

But is the impact equal across all sectors and geographies? Where will companies pull back from, and where will tomorrow’s opportunities most likely be found? How are companies changing their modes of entry for new markets in order to adapt to the current conditions?

NS Media Group — which is set to launch a dedicated information service focused on corporate cross-border expansion — is running a short survey to help answer these questions and would like to hear directly from executives in multinational companies involved in overseas investment decisions as to how corporate strategies are evolving.

This is an essential piece of research to better understand the impact Covid-19 is having in global business and investment.

Take part in the survey here.

20 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: Insurers face accusations they reneged on business interruption agreements – while today marks the deadline for firms to submit evidence for the FCA High Court test case

The Night Time Industries Association has claimed that it has heard “countless stories” of insurers giving written confirmation to policyholders that they’re covered for coronavirus-related losses, and then denying a claim later down the line. In one example, that of security services firm Senate Group, it’s claimed the insurer Hiscox sent a written confirmation in February before the lockdown that said it would pay out up to £100,000. Despite this, the Bermuda-based provider has denied Senate Group a payout, and others, claiming its “core policy wordings do not provide cover for business interruption as a result of the general measures taken by the UK government in response to a pandemic”.

The channel for submitting evidence to the FCA for consideration when it brings a test case on business interruption issues to the High Court closes today, according to the regulator’s website. On 15 May the FCA put out a call for evidence from any business with a disputed claim it believed should be paid, and was denied wrongly. Each of these cases will be assessed by a legal team led by Herbert Smith Freehills partner Paul Lewis, before they’re brought to the High Court for a ruling. The regulator has said that the outcome of the ruling will only be legally binding on the claimants and insurers involved in the test case, and will not prevent others from taking legal action over a denied claim. The aim however, is for the outcome of the case to provide “persuasive guidance for the interpretation of similar policy wordings and claims,” according to the FCA.

20 May 2020

Morning briefing: UK track and trace system runs into problems | 60m people could be pushed under poverty line by pandemic

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

UK: The government is coming under mounting pressure to roll out a track and trace system that, clearly, isn’t yet fit for purpose. The Guardian reports that the system, which will involve more than 20,000 contact tracers as well as an NHS app, will not be ready until June – Health Secretary Matt Hancock initially said it would go live in mid-May. Multiple government scientific advisers warned last night that schools should not open until an effective system is in place and working well.

Even leaving track and trace aside, more and more councils are saying they intend to keep schools closed for the start of next month. The BBC says at least 11 councils have expressed opposition to the date – the Guardian claims it’s 18, representing 1,500 primary schools. However, opposition from the British Medical Association appears to be softening. The organisation said schools can reopen on 1 June if it is “safe to do so”, and that there is “growing evidence that the risk to individual children from Covid-19 is extremely small”. Meanwhile, Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), admitted her union’s opposition to the 1 June opening was a “negotiating position”.

Lastly, a BBC Radio 4 documentary has told of the pressure care home managers came under to accept patients from hospitals who were potentially carrying Covid-19. A 2 April government directive called for a national effort to clear hospital beds, while two councils wrote to care homes suggesting that extra funding was conditional on them taking patients from wards. Susan Mckinney, who runs 14 care homes in the north-east, recalled: “We had an incident on 10 April where twice we rang the hospital saying ‘we can’t accept this person back, we need them tested, we need a negative test so we know what we’re dealing with,’” she said. “They turned up at the door in an ambulance and refused to go away. There was a sort of stand-off at the door of the home… We were threatened with the police if we did not let this person in.”

World: The pandemic could undo three years of alleviating inequality and push 60 million people below the poverty line, the head of the World Bank has warned.

US: President Donald Trump said that having the highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide was a “badge of honour” because it showed the US had the best testing system. He also called a US study showing that hydroxychloroquine had limited effectiveness against coronavirus a “Trump enemy statement”, after he revealed he was taking the drug as a precaution.

Brazil: Brazil recorded its highest daily rise in both deaths and cases. It reported 17,408 new cases and 1,179 deaths in a 24-hour period, taking the official death toll to 17,971.

India: India recorded its biggest one-day spike in infections, with 5,200 new cases. It has begun to ease what was one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

Singapore: A man has been sentenced to death via a Zoom call for his role in a drug deal – the first case where capital punishment has been delivered via a remote, virtual hearing. The country also set out a phased approach to ending its partial lockdown from 1 June.

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged employers to consider a four-day working week to allow people to travel the country and achieve a better work-life balance.

Fiji: Fiji has asked to be included in the travel “bubble” between New Zealand and Australia, which is allowing free movement between the two countries.

South Korea: High schools in South Korea reopened today. It marks the beginning of a phased reopening of the country’s school system.

Netherlands: Bars and restaurants will reopen on 1 June provided customer numbers are limited and people follow social distancing measures, the government said.

Canada: Canada and the US have extended their border closure for non-essential travel until 21 June.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

Reopening schools is a question of logistics, not of risks

Why the Covid-19 crisis will force the UK to rewrite the economic rulebook

Coronavirus is introducing the pitfalls of Universal Credit to many new claimants

Senior but still citizens: we should not disregard the contribution of elderly in this pandemic

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer stood up to Trump. Can she stand up to her own people?

 

19 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: True impact of Covid-19 in Africa unclear – but demographics could spare it from high death toll

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 4,810,000, with over 319,000 deaths and 1,790,000 recoveries.

In Europe, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in the majority of countries, except Russia, which continues to experience an increase in cases.

Brazil, in Latin America, and the US, in North America, account for most of the reported daily confirmed cases in that continent.

There are ​about 85,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 Covid-19 deaths in Africa. A low death toll had raised hopes that Africa may be spared worst of this pandemic, until recently.

​A World Health Organisation model estimated that although cases might rise exponentially to at least a quarter of a billion people infected in Africa this year, countries on the continent will have fewer deaths than Europe and the US because of its younger population ​and lower comorbidity prevalence, such as diabetes.

​However, current reported death tolls likely do not accurately reflect the true extent of the outbreak’s impact in Africa due to testing limitations.

Bishal Bhandari, PhD, senior epidemiologist at GlobalData

19 May 2020

200,000 UK workers caught up in cross-border rule differences – new ONS data

More than 200,000 “cross-border” workers could be caught up in different Covid-19 rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, writes Michael Goodier.

Some 130,000 people cross between England and Wales alone for work, new data analysis shows.

Wales now has stricter rules than England on exercise – and unlike its neighbour, has not encouraged people who are able to return to work, and can not work from home, to do so.

A total of 89,900 people who live in Wales work in England, while 40,500 people who live in England work in Wales.

A further 42,000 people cross the Scottish and English border for work, with the vast majority of those living south of the border.

The Scottish government has also maintained stricter Covid-19 lockdown rules than those announced by Boris Johnson last week, and has not encouraged people to return to work.

A further 75,000 people live in the UK but work outside of the UK, the data shows.

The new analysis was based on statistics collected annually by the ONS.

Separate data suggest that one in six UK workers are in construction and manufacturing – industries in which people could now be returning to work in England.

19 May 2020

Contraction in South Korean economy to hit sales in several insurance lines, says analyst

Recent economic contraction in South Korea is expected to heavily impact sales in several lines of insurance, says analyst.

GlobalData’s Pratyusha Mekala stated that a decrease in the country’s national output in manufacturing and international trade will have the biggest impact.

“The export-led South Korean economy contracted by 1.4% in the first quarter of 2020, as compared to the previous quarter.

“Contraction in key sectors like manufacturing and international trade is expected to heavily impact insurance sales of motor and marine, aviation and transit business lines.”

Mekala added that motor insurance sales will be further reduced by a reduction in vehicle manufacturing, pointing to the view of the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, which said $34bn could be needed to restore business operations among motor manufacturers over the next three months

The bancassurance and agency channels, which account for more than 50% of industry premiums are another area hit by Covid-19, as people are less inclined to buy in person.

But despite all of the reasons Mekala believes the sale of insurance will take a hit, she said providers of general coverage “may not get equally impacted” due to lower expected claims.

“Motor insurers are expected to register lower claims due to the restricted mobility, while health insurers are expected to face lower claims due to the predominant role of public healthcare in the current outbreak,” she added.

19 May 2020

Australians reject private health insurance as Covid-19 stops them accessing services

New statistics from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have found a quarterly decrease of 9,760 people holding private medical insurance.

The largest drop was recorded among those aged between 30 and 34 – which account for 9,565 of those rejecting the cover.

The drop has coincided with government rules to prioritise emergency hospital care and pause non-vital elective surgeries to manage the impact of Covid-19, a measure that was partially lifted at the end of April and is expected to be eased further this month.

Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE has previously blasted insurers for not cutting premiums while people are unable to use the full range of services they pay for – but industry association Private Health Care Australia (PHCA) said providers expect a raft of claims now those restrictions have been lifted.

PHCA CEO Rachel David said: “Health funds must remain well capitalised and prudentially sound throughout and beyond the Covid-19 crisis to fund the backlog of elective surgeries and allied health benefits.”

If insurers do record higher-than-usual profits because of the situation, however, she said providers “would look to pass that onto members.”

19 May 2020

Fujitsu insurance boss warns of cyber risk increase if employees continue home working after Covid-19

The insurance boss of technology giant Fujitsu has warned that home working will become standard practice beyond Covid-19, leaving firms exposed to cyber risk that likely won’t be covered under their existing policies.

The company’s EMEA Insurance CTO Manan Sagar believes the increased risk could threaten the recovery effort of countries as they seek to bounce back after the pandemic.

“There will be a ‘new normal’ when society emerges from the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“Businesses will not only have to increase their reliance on online channels, they will also be providing their employees with a transformed workplace where working from home will become regular practice, rather than a welcome option.

“Most insurance policies are designed to cover traditional property and casualty losses where customers and employees transact from physical sites.

“Such policies offer minimal or no coverage to cyber-attacks”

Sagar believes this presents a challenge to the insurance market, which will need to embrace technology partners to address the gap in insurance.

“This gap doesn’t just leave businesses exposed, it risks de-railing society as we attempt to emerge from this global pandemic,” he adds.

“The insurance sector needs to work with technology sector and the government to reduce the likelihood and severity of cyber-attacks, because no amount of social distancing will be able to help if a large scale cyber-attack was to happen.”

19 May 2020

Covid-19 forces a rethink of global supply chains

As companies across the world are forced to examine the cracks in their supply chains in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are also having to reassess where they locate their on-the-ground operations.

A total redrawing of the global investment map is a distinct possibility.

Companies appear to be using this time to examine what has gone wrong in their supply chains and how to side-step these issues in the future.

For many, there is a strong focus on diversifying their manufacturing out of China to alleviate their reliance on the country, with many left struggling after their Chinese manufacturers shut down during the onset of Covid-19.

But what will the post-Covid supply chains look like? And how easily can companies revise their strategies? Ruth Strachan investigates.

19 May 2020

UK unemployment claims rise by 69% – highest rate on record

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has increased to 2.1 million in April 2020 – up 856,500 in a month, and the highest level since 1996, writes Nicu Calcea.

The figures, released this morning by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), shows the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or searching for work under Universal Credit rules has increased by 69.1% in just one month.

This is the largest jump the DWP has ever recorded.

Rural and tourist areas have been hardest hit – with unemployment triple or quadruple what it was a year ago in some parts of Cumbria, Devon and Snowdonia.

UK unemployment statistics by region

The region with the largest increase in unemployment claims was the south-west, where the numbers almost doubled. Meanwhile, the West Midlands saw the smallest increase of 50.9%.

A breakdown of the figures by parliamentary constituency showed the claimant count stood at 1,690 in Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria – up 312% compared to the 410 it stood at in April last year.

East Devon was up 265%, Dwyfor Meirionnydd in Snowdonia up 259% and central Devon up 249% on a year-on-year basis.

Around 1.5 million people claimed Universal Credit between 13 March and 9 April alone, over six-times more than last year.

This figure doesn’t reflect just unemployment — some self-employed and furloughed employees could also claim Universal Credit.

Hiring has also suffered from the coronavirus lockdown. The number of vacancies available has gone from around 865,000 in April 2019 to only 351,000 this year, meaning those without a job will find it even more difficult to find one.

19 May 2020

Urban Jungle gets £2.5m investment despite Covid-19

London-based insurtech Urban Jungle has raised £2.5m in new investment and is targeting growth despite the current pandemic.

The new round was contributed to by private equity firm Eka Ventures, alongside former Prudential UK CEO Rob Devey and Octopus Group CEO Simon Rogerson.

The total investment reached by Urban Jungle is now £6.2m, and Devey has also joined the company’s board as a non-executive director.

Urban Jungle CEO Jimmy Williams said: “We are still focused on growth, despite the pandemic, and will be using this funding to bring in more operational staff and expand our reach.

“Despite the lockdown, our business has remained robust, although the nature of claims has changed somewhat.

“There have been fewer phones stolen or lost as people aren’t going out much, but there’s been a lot more tea and coffee spilt on laptops.”

Read more about Urban Jungle

19 May 2020

Value of companies trading on London Stock Exchange dropped by £842bn amid coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped off billions in values of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) amid extreme volatility and mass sell-offs, according to new data.

Values of shares in Europe’s second largest stock exchange, the seventh biggest globally, plunged by £842bn to £3.08tn between December and April.

AksjeBloggen, which compiled the data from Statista, said these losses amount to the worst quarter since 1987.

The financial impact of Covid-19 followed the slowest year for fundraising activity on the LSE in more than a decade – following concerns over a slowing global economic environment hit by US-China trade tensions, weak Eurozone growth and prolonged Brexit uncertainty.

The April valuation marks a more than 30% drop in three years, with the figure standing at £4.58tn at the start of 2017, while the number of companies listed on the LSE has fallen from 2,262 to 2,020 in the same period.

AksjeBloggen said the doom has shown signs of a slight recovery. Although market cap dropped from £3.83tn in January to £3tn in March, it increased by £80bn in April.

19 May 2020

GlobalData daily report: Where are Covid-19 deaths still rising?

Western Europe and America might have “passed the peak” – but many countries around the world are still very much fighting a rising tide of Covid-19.

Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Peru, India, Pakistan and Indonesia have all seen daily death figures rise, when calculated as a seven-day rolling average.

The rise in South America and elsewhere means that global figures are only going down slightly week-on-week, despite big falls in Europe.

In the past seven days, 32,151 people died after being tested positive for the disease, according to the latest data from John’s Hopkins University.

That compares to 34,793 over the previous week. At least 318,481 people have now died from the disease worldwide.

Covid-19 daily report

19 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: AM Best says insurers are well-capitalised to withstand the pandemic – while the industry donates $320m to charities helping those affected by the disease

AM Best has said that insurers are well-capitalised to withstand the financial impact of Covid-19 after modelling a stress-test on Monday. The ratings agency said the majority of insurers and reinsurers performed well in the test, and their capital levels provided an adequate buffer against a potential shock to their balance sheets. Those writing risk for health and life insurance were hit hardest due to their exposure to mortality risk. AM Best added that depending on how visible legal disputes over insurance issues become, some may have their reputations hit, which could also impact balance sheets.

AM Best also reported in collaboration with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) that charitable giving to help combat Covid-19 reached $320m. IICF CEO Bill Ross said: “I am pleased to say that over 90 companies have been identified or reported to us. Working with the Insurance Information Institute, they have estimated that over $220 million has been granted to Covid-19 and an additional $100 million has actually been contributed internationally.”

The Hiscox Action Group (HAG) expects to bring a lawsuit against the Bermuda-based insurer “within days”, as it got the the green light from its legal representative and secured litigation funding. The announcement comes after law firm Mishcon De Reya, which will bring the action on behalf of the HAG, said it has a “good chance” of winning the lawsuit — a claim it made after reviewing the contract disputes of its more than 400 members. This finding, the HAG said, was enough to secure agreement to cover the costs of its lawsuit, after it had been in the final stages of negotiation with Harbour Litigiation Funding.

19 May 2020

Morning briefing: UK unemployment soars by record total | Plans for ‘air bridges’ could enable summer holidays

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

UK: The Labour-run council in Bury has become the first local authority in England to declare that primary schools in its area will not open on 1 June, regardless of government guidance.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics released this morning showed the number of people claiming unemployment benefits soared by 856,000 in April to just under 2.1 million. It’s the single biggest monthly jump on record, and means the claimant count is now at its highest level since 1996.

The government is in “active discussions” to create so-called “air bridges” with other countries that would allow free travel back and forth over the summer, possibly without any quarantine period. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the government was considering the reciprocal measure with countries that have a low viral reproduction rate.

Finally, the Guardian reports that vulnerable workers will not be exempt from the scaling back of the government’s furlough grant scheme from August. Chancellor Rishi Sunak favours a universal approach to paring back the scheme, rather than creating specific rules for different sectors of the economy, the paper reports.

US: President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) unless the United Nations body makes major reforms and shows independence from China within 30 days. Trump also said that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that is unproven against Covid-19 and may cause heart problems, as a precaution.

Taiwan: Taipei yesterday pulled the country’s bid to become a member of the WHO, saying a two-day convention of the body’s assembly should be used to debate the pandemic response. It will table its bid at a later date.

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is considering giving New Zealanders an extra public holiday to boost domestic tourism. “My message to Kiwis is, come and experience your own backyard,” she said.

Brazil: Brazil has overtaken the UK in coronavirus cases, with more than 255,000 confirmed infections. It now has the third highest case load in the world, behind Russia and the US.

Europe: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have joined forces to call for a €500bn (£448bn) fund for European Union countries hardest hit by Covid-19. The European Commission would borrow money from the markets and hand out cash as grants, gradually repaying debt from the EU’s budget, they said. It marks a change of heart for Merkel, who previously opposed the idea of shared European debt.

Turkey: Turkey will impose a four-day lockdown starting on Saturday, covering the Islamic religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, during which large groups typically gather. It’s the country’s most severe restrictions since the start of the pandemic.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

The government is taking a necessary gamble on the Oxford vaccine

Coronavirus makes the Immigration Bill look like an even worse idea

Why Covid-19 should change the conversation on migrant workers

 

18 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Daily confirmed Covid-19 cases rise in Latin America, India, Russia and Brazil

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 4,720,000, with over 316,000 deaths and 1,750,000 recoveries.

Latin and North America continue to see a rise in daily confirmed cases, whereas in Europe, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in majority of the countries.

Russia continues to experience a surge in cases, ranking second in the world behind the US.

India, the second most populous country in the world, has seen rise in daily confirmed cases, which has prompted it to extend the lockdown by two weeks.

This pandemic has also hit indigenous population in Brazil, raising concerns about how quickly the disease had spread through remote vulnerable communities with poor access to healthcare facilities.

Bishal Bhandari, PhD, senior epidemiologist at GlobalData

 

18 May 2020

Which? survey finds almost 70% of travel insurance customers have pending Covid-19 cancellation claims

A survey released by consumer advice firm Which? found almost 70% of its members who submitted a travel insurance cancellation claim in early April were still awaiting a decision from their provider.

In its sample of 391 claimants, the company reported 19.95% had their claims accepted, 12.28% had theirs rejected, and 67.77% hadn’t been given a decision on whether their policy will pay out.

Which? said many of its members that hadn’t made a claim were offered vouchers from their travel providers, instead of cash, and warned consumers that accepting these, or credit notes, as compensation, invalidates the possibility of making a claim against a cancellation policy.

The consumer advocacy firm said legally, consumers should be able to reject vouchers and get cash refunds instead, but many holiday firms are ignoring this rule.

It added after speaking to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) that policy providers will likely advise customers to pursue this legal right as the first port-of-call before making a claim.

The ABI told Which?:  “Where travel operators have a legal obligation to refund customers, insurers expect them to honour that legal agreement.

“Insurance cancellation cover kicks in when no other safety net is available with insurers expecting to pay out £275m in cancellation costs due to Covid-19.”

 

18 May 2020

Covid-19 could drive use of drone inspections in assessment and loss adjustment procedures

The era of Covid-19, social distancing and quarantine measures will be a driver for the increased use of drones by insurance companies, as the technology’s value becomes a necessity.

This is according to GlobalData senior insurance analyst Beatriz Benito, who believes the pandemic will change the way people and businesses interact, and that contactless drone inspections will become even more valuable to the industry.

“Drones are particularly useful for inspecting large-scale and difficult-to-reach infrastructure, as well as vast areas of land,” she said.

“The value proposition of drones had centred on the speed and safety they offer in loss adjustments, which ultimately resulted in operational efficiencies and cost savings.

“At a time when many insurers have been badly hit by the pandemic, technology that has the potential to bring operational savings is likely to lure the industry.

“On the other hand, customers will benefit from quicker claims processing and faster payouts.”

As the current situation means that walking through a damaged property with a policyholder may no longer be feasible, Benito said the benefits drone technology can bring to the industry are being highlighted more than ever before.

According to GlobalData’s latest Quarterly Tech Trends survey, 35% of firms in the insurance industry said they were investing in drone technology.

However, a larger proportion of firms (68%) expect the technology to have a disruptive influence on the sector.

18 May 2020

UK cities are awakening as lockdown is eased

A surge in walking and driving was witnessed in Britain over the weekend after the government eased lockdown restrictions, writes Nicu Calcea.

The new rules — combined with warm spring weather — led to movement rates rising to 60% of pre-Covid-19 levels on Saturday.

That compares to nearer 30% towards the end of March.

Numbers have been edging up since then – with the Bank Holiday weekend on May 8-10 showing an increase in walking in particular, ahead of the lockdown restrictions being partially lifted.

Since Wednesday, people have been allowed unlimited exercise and can drive to other destinations in England such as beaches or parks.

Data from Apple Maps shows easing the restrictions had a clear and immediate effect.

The chart below shows how many requests for directions were made in the UK each day up to May 16. Data for May 11-12 is not available.

Public transport activity has registered only a slight increase and is now at around 20% of pre-coronavirus levels.

UK drivers made 25% more requests for driving directions from Wednesday to Saturday last week compared to the week before, and 70% more than the same days the week lockdown started.

Despite the easing of the lockdown, the government recommends people should continue working from home and avoiding public transport whenever possible.

18 May 2020

Hiscox to face £40m lawsuit from action group ‘within days’

Bermuda-based insurer Hiscox will face legal action “within days” over £40m ($49m) of denied UK business interruption claims, according to Mishcon De Reya — the legal counsel of the Hiscox Action Group (HAG).

After assessing how viable a group action lawsuit would be, Mishcon said the group had a “good chance” of success — advice that secured a deal from Harbour Litigation Funding to cover its legal costs.

Mishcon opted for a “expedited arbitration claim” — a type of commercial lawsuit that avoids the public court system in favour of a ruling by a sole arbitrator to speed up the process.

The legal firm also believes Hiscox could be on the hook for further costs if it can prove the insurer violated a piece of legislation governing claim payments.

Read the full story to learn why the HAG believes it can’t wait for the FCA to bring its test case to the High Court.

18 May 2020

Insurance industry launches £100m Covid-19 charity support fund

The UK insurance and long-term savings industries has launched a £100m ($122m) fund to help charities dealing with the current and long-term fallout of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 Support Fund currently has £82.5m in contributions from across the industry, and was launched in accordance with the Charities Aid Foundation and a network of partners, including the National Emergencies Trust.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the money will be donated to the following causes:

Community-based charities that are under unprecedented strain

Charities supporting the most vulnerable – in particular, families and children living in the greatest poverty, and older people in isolation

Initiatives to promote wellbeing and mental health across society

The fund is supported by members of the ABI, The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), Lloyd’s of London and The London Market Group (LMG).

The donations have been announced as the industry faces unprecedented pressure over claims for business interruption claims, and among the donors is Hiscox, which is under threat of legal action.

 

18 May 2020

Covid-19 cities and regions: North-west England close to overtaking London as UK ‘epicentre’ | Illinois close to New York for daily cases total

The number of new daily Covid-19 cases had continued to drop in the most affected regions in Europe and America, with most new cases recorded in Mexico and some South American countries, writes Nicu Calcea.

Illinois has overtaken Massachusetts as the third most affected region in the US, with the number of daily new cases there quickly approaching those in New York.

In the UK, where restrictions were slightly eased on 13 May, the north-west of England has now recorded 23,610 cases of Covid-19 and is set to overtake London as the epicentre of the outbreak with numbers.

Lombardy, the most affected region of Italy, has witnessed more modest decreases in the number of new cases compared to the rest of the country.

Italy’s shops and cafes have reopened on Monday after 10 weeks of lockdown.

Madrid has also seen a slight uptick in the proportion of Spain’s new Covid-19 cases.

 

Monitoring the cities at the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak

Cities – with their high population density, young and mobile demographics, and developed public transport systems – are particularly susceptible to rapidly-spreading viral outbreak.

Here we drill down into subnational Covid-19 figures to show which areas are seeing disproportionate numbers of Covid-19 cases.

While different countries count at different administrative levels, the pattern is clear: London and Madrid are “regions” in their own right, while New York State includes New York City and Lombardy covers Milan.

This chart is currently being updated weekly with the latest figures – although some countries have a slight delay in publishing the very latest case numbers by region or state.

Covid-19 regional comparison chart

18 May 2020

Covid-19 to shake up decisions on corporate locations

Businesses looking to move operations to new geographic locations face multiple challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the corporate site selection process has never been more complicated.

Investors are looking to diversify their global footprints amid the Covid-19 pandemic in an attempt to eliminate concentration risks.

However, transforming a company’s operations and deciding on new site locations requires extra resources, at a time when cost-cutting is at the top of the agenda for most organisations.

With investors seeking to minimise their losses amid the current turmoil, expanding to new locations has become of secondary importance for some.

However, for those moving forward with site selection, the ban on international travel is another barrier to overcome.

Sofia Karadima explores how corporate decision-makers are navigating the new environment for site selection in an article you can read here.

18 May 2020

Covid-19 daily insurance update: Hiscox Action Group legal representative responds to FCA call for evidence | Tinhat data shows mobile phone insurance claims down 57% in March

Legal firm Mishcon De Reya, which is representing the Hiscox Action Group in its business interruption dispute, has called the FCA’s move to collect evidence from UK companies with disputed claims “encouraging”. But despite this, it urged firms to continue filing claims if they believe they’re due a payout, because the terms of the FCA’s high-court ruling will not be legally binding for parties outside of its test case. The regulator put out a call for the following evidence on Friday (15 May):

  • Your (or your representative’s) arguments as to why you consider cover should be available in cases where you consider your insurers have not responded appropriately to a claim
  • The wording of the policy that has not responded
  • Brief relevant facts of the case

 

New data from mobile phone insurance MGA Tinhat has shown that claims among its customers were down more than half (57%) for the month of March, compared to the number reported at the same time last year. The firm also reported that new sales of mobile coverage were down by 23% on the same basis, something Tinhat said coincided with findings from researcher Strategy Analytics, which revealed global shipments of new phones in March fell by 38% on the same month last year. Tinhat did add however, that while theft and loss claims are down, the number of policyholders dropping their phones down the toilet have risen during lockdown.

18 May 2020

Daily Covid-19 report: Global deaths continue to fall – but rising in parts of South America

The daily rate of deaths attributed Covid-19 has continued to fall.

Most countries worldwide – including the US and the UK – are now on a downward trajectory of new deaths.

On the other hand, some South American countries are struggling to control the outbreak, with Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador all seeing the number of deaths rise, when looking at a rolling average.

At least 315,185 people have died from Covid-19.

Covid-19 daily report

18 May 2020

Morning briefing: Could the UK have world’s first coronavirus vaccine?

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

UK: Nearly half the UK public could have a vaccine available to them by September, the government said over the weekend. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said a new partnership between Oxford University researchers and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca meant 30 million doses could be produced by September, if – and it’s a big if – trials prove successful. Vaccines would be available to the UK public first before being sold to developing nations “at the lowest possible cost”. The news came as the government announced an extra £84m funding for researchers at both Oxford University, which is furthest along with its vaccine trials, and Imperial College London.

It’s less good news on the government’s contract tracing system – Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s pledge to have the “whole thing up and running by the middle of this month” is slowly disintegrating. The government had said it would recruit 18,000 contact tracers by today, 18 May, and over the weekend, cabinet office minister Michael Gove said just over 17,000 had been signed up. The programme would be operational by the end of the month, he said. The Guardian reported that people who applied to become contact tracers were told recruitment was on hold “while the government considers an alternative” to the NHS contact tracing app.

Lastly, Britain’s train operators have begun ramping up their services in anticipation of more people returning to work. Network Rail is adding about 3,000 more trains per day, but social distancing will keep capacity below 13% of normal level. One-way systems are in place in stations, some seats on trains will be taped off, and extra security staff will help with crowd control. Some operators are only allowing people to board if they have a reservation, and Avanti West Coast said it will not allow carriages to become more than a third full. The government last week encouraged people to return to work if they couldn’t work from home, but warned against the use of public transport unless absolutely necessary.

US: Unemployment could reach 25% in the US and GDP could drop by more than 30% in the second quarter of the year, the chair of the Federal Reserve has warned.

Japan: Japan has entered recession for the first time since 2015. GDP fell an annualised 3.4% in the first three months of the year. GDP is expected to shrink by an annualised 20% or more during the second quarter of the year.

Italy: Most businesses in Italy, including bars, will reopen today for the first time in two months. Over the weekend, the country recorded its lowest number of new daily cases since March, with 145 infections.

Spain: Spain recorded 87 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, the lowest number in two months. People living outside Madrid and Barcelona are now free to meet in groups of up to 10.

India: India recorded its highest daily rise in new cases, with 5,242 new cases. It comes as the country has extended its lockdown but began to ease some restrictions across the country, allowing some non-essential shops and businesses to reopen. The total number of cases is now above 96,000, with around 56,000 active infections.

China: Pollution in China is now higher than at this point last year, after it dropped considerably during the coronavirus lockdown, the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has found. It said the rebound was likely due to a restart of industrial activity.

Cambodia: Cambodia’s last remaining Covid-19 patient has now been treated and released from hospital, leaving the country officially virus-free.

Brazil: The mayor of São Paulo has warned the city’s health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are at around 90% capacity and could run out of space in two weeks, he said.

Taiwan: Members of the World Health Organisation assembly will vote today on whether to include Taiwan, which has been barred from the group since 2017 because of opposition from China.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

Covid-19 might prove a “Goldilocks crisis” forcing the world to confront its problems

Should I return to work at school?

“F**k the nation’s morale”: Premier League return plans expose its detachment from reality

“It’s a grief process for us all”: How to care for a mourning nation

What Hannah Arendt can teach us about work in the time of Covid-19

15 May 2020

Fairfax-backed Indian insurtech targets 30% growth in 2020 despite Covid-19

Indian insurtech Digit Insurance has laid out a growth target for 2020 of between 25% and 30%, despite the impacts of Covid-19.

The company, which is backed by Indo-Canadian billionaire investor Prem Watsa through his firm Fairfax Holdings, said it sees health and motor insurance as the primary drivers for growth.

Digit Insurance head of marketing and online sales Vivek Chaturvedi told The Hindu Business Line that growth in its motor book is likely to be subdued while the country is in lockdown.

But despite this, he still expects the company to outgrow the wider general insurance market in the country, with one reason being its plan to target small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

“While the economic growth may come down this fiscal, we should still be doing better than the industry,” he told the Indian news outlet.

“While the Indian economy runs on SMEs, insurance penetration is low.

“After Covid-19, there is a big demand among SMEs for group health products for their workers.

“However, for their factories, that piece of insurance is not there, and that will be a focus area for us,”

Digit Insurance provides online-only insurance coverage for travel, mobile phones, bikes, cars, homes and medical needs.

15 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Covid-19 cases surge in Latin America and Russia | Concerns over spreads in refugee camps

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 4,444,000, with over 302,000 deaths and 1,588,000 recoveries.

In Europe, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease, while Latin America and North America continue to see a rise in daily cases.

In Asia, daily cases continue to decrease in the majority of countries, while Russia continues to experience a surge in cases, ranking second in the world behind the US.

In Bangladesh, the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in crowded refugee camps.

About one million refugees have taken shelter, raising concerns about how quickly the disease can spread through vulnerable communities.

Natasha Karim, MPH, managing epidemiologist at GlobalData

15 May 2020

Liberty Mutual reports $247m in investment losses, with a further $576m ‘unrealised’

American giant Liberty Mutual has reported $247m in investment losses on its public equities portfolio, amid the market volatility caused by Covid-19.

The insurer reported the figure in its Q1 results for 2020, along with a further $576m in unrealised losses.

These further losses were recorded on its fixed-income investments – typically government or private bonds – but will only be considered ‘realised’ if they’re sold by Liberty Mutual.

The unrealised losses, along with a net-income drop of $150m on the same period in 2019, contributed to a 2% reduction in equity for the firm.

Addressing the potential for further losses in its statement, Liberty Mutual said: “Looking ahead we expect the insurance impact to be similar to what we have experienced for a moderately sized catastrophe loss.

“The lines of business we expect to be the most exposed to losses related to the pandemic include trade credit, general liability, workers compensation, and event cancellation, among others.

“With respect to business interruption, we do not expect to have material losses based on the contractual language in our policies.”

15 May 2020

Two firms say Covid-19 lockdown hasn’t increased home accident claims, yet

Two major UK home insurance companies say they’ve seen no increase in accidental damage claims since the lockdown began.

Both LV= and Direct Line told NS Insurance they haven’t seen the expected jump since the UK-wide lockdown began in 23 March.

This despite a recent warning from insurance price comparison firm GoCompare that consumers undertaking DIY, or allowing indoor ball games, among other risk-inducing activities, needed to ensure they were covered for accidents.

Direct Line said it’s too early to tell what impact the UK lockdown has had on claims for accidental damage in the home, and LV= believes its own customers may be delaying making them until they’re comfortable having somebody in their house to make repairs amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“During the lockdown period, we have seen a similar number of accidental damage claims in the home, with laptops, chest freezers and bikes topping the list of items claimed for,” said LV= general insurance claims director Martin Milliner.

“Now that lockdown measures are being gradually lifted, we would anticipate claims to rise over the coming weeks, as people become more accepting of tradespeople working in their homes safely.”

Read the full story

15 May 2020

FCA business interruption test case to be “legally binding” on insurers

The FCA has ramped up its plan to seek a judgement on the issue of business interruption disputes by bringing a test case to the high court.

According to its announcement today – which did not disclose which insurers would feature in the case – the result of the test case will be legally binding on all parties.

The regulator’s goal is to provide “persuasive guidance” for the interpretation of similar policy wordings and claims brought to court or considered by the Financial Ombudsman Service and the FCA when both look at whether insurers are handling claims fairly.

The FCA statement said: “The coronavirus pandemic will have affected policyholders in different ways.

“The issues relevant to the intended proceedings will therefore be wide-ranging and complex.

“We recognise that the intended proceedings will better achieve our consumer protection and market integrity objectives if they cover as broad a cross section of policies and issues as is compatible with an expedited court process.”

Given the need for a “wide-ranging” sample of policies, the regulator called on policyholders with unresolved business interruption (BI) disputes to engage in the process if they want their specific issues to be involved in the test case.

It advised policyholders to submit their issues by Wednesday 20 May, as it want to bring the case to court as soon as possible.

The FCA said its legal team will be led by Paul Lewis, partner at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, and will include a “leading counsel highly experienced in insurance issues”.

A member of one of the biggest challengers to an insurer recently, the roughly 300-strong Hiscox Action Group, recently told NS Insurance the regulator had made contact with the group – although the FCA is yet to confirm whether it will feature in the test case.

The regulator added in its statement that the test case will not prevent policyholders or groups outside of it from pursuing litigation against their insurers.

15 May 2020

World passes 300,000 coronavirus deaths

At least 302,418 people have died from Covid-19 so far, according to the latest statistics published by Johns Hopkins University.

The figures are likely to be an undercount, as they do not include people who have died without being tested for the disease.

The grim milestone means that the epidemic has now overtaken the 1812 Russian typhus outbreak and the 1812–1819 Ottoman plague in terms of the raw number of people killed.

Deaths appear to be falling in the UK, though the US and Italy have both seen a slight uptick in the number of people killed over the last two days.

Covid-19 daily report

 

15 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: British Dental Association seeks legal action over business interruption claims | Louisiana senator withdraws proposal for retroactive pandemic coverage

The British Dental Association (BDA) is exploring legal avenues after insurers refused to pay its members’ business interruption claims. The organisation claimed 70% of its members said they could only remain financially stable for the next three months. International law firm Brown Rudnick is examining policies affecting dental practices to assess how viable legal action would be. It is now working with grassroots BDA members who have organised on social media to gather relevant evidence, and hopes the conclusion from Brown Rudnick will allow them to engage with the FCA, as the regulator seeks a high-court ruling on business interruption claims.

Republican senator Rick Ward has pulled a proposal to force insurers in the state of Louisiana to cover business interruption claims on a retroactive basis. Ward’s bill would have made it mandatory for insurers in the state to pay out on business interruption claims made since March 11, regardless of whether they had an exclusion for disease or pandemic risk. After being faced with resistance in the Senate from Louisiana insurance commissioner Jim Donelan, who said insurers couldn’t afford that scale of pay outs, the proposal was removed from the bill.

French giant AXA recorded a 60% decline in UK commercial and retail motor claims since the Covid-19 lockdown began, the Insurance Times has reported. The news comes after other insurers in the country recorded claim reductions of up to 70%, which has coincided with calls for them to pass on some of the savings to consumers who are making them possible by staying off of roads during lockdown. Admiral and LV= have made moves to compensate policyholders for their part, but the rest of the industry has neglected to do the same, instead claiming drivers can call and adjust their policies to reflect the decreased risk they pose.

15 May 2020

Morning briefing: UK doctors gagged over face masks | 190k Covid-19 deaths projected in Africa

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

UK: NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking out about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, the BBC reports. At one trust, a newsletter sent to staff said they should avoid “commenting on political issues, such as PPE” – while another trust put up posters in staff areas that said hospital workers should not make “public appeals for equipment”. One doctor who posted about shortages online told Newsnight they were hauled in front of a panel of senior managers. “They kept on feeding me what felt like government type of lines, saying ‘this hospital has never had PPE shortages’ – which I know to be factually untrue. And that essentially I should stop causing a fuss.”

The UK’s second-largest teachers union has threatened local authorities with legal action if staff are forced to return to schools on 1 June. The NASUWT, which has 300,000 members, claimed that government guidance for schools was not stringent enough, and said that teachers have a legal right to refuse to return unless they are given the same protections as other frontline workers. Union leaders are meeting government scientific advisers later today to discuss its concerns, particularly over PPE and social distancing in the classroom.

Finally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing a “much more interventionist drive” to reduce obesity in the UK, the Times reports. Evidence has suggested obesity might be linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes, and Johnson is convinced the reason he ended up in intensive care was his own weight.  The PM believes the pandemic is the ideal time for a new campaign on obesity, exercise, and cycling to work, the report says.

Africa: Nearly 250 million people in 47 African nations will catch coronavirus over the next year, and up to 190,000 people will die, according to a World Health Organisation projection. The forecast, which omitted five countries, will have a lower death rate than in Europe or North America, the research said.

China: China marked one month without reporting any coronavirus deaths. Four new cases were reported today, all within the north-eastern province of Jilin, where some lockdown measures have been reintroduced.

Mexico: Mexico reported a record number of cases in a 24-hour period yesterday, with 257 deaths and 2,409 infections. It brings the total number of cases to nearly 43,000.

Brazil: Brazil passed 200,000 confirmed cases last night, giving it the sixth highest case load in the world. It has reported 14,000 deaths.

Bangladesh: A Rohingya man became the first person to test positive in the country’s huge refugee camp that is home to nearly one million people. The Rohingya have gathered there after fleeing Myanmar.

Europe: The European Commission has halted the delivery of 10 million face masks from China after some were found to be faulty. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania today open their borders to one another, but anyone crossing over must quarantine on arrival.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

Why ancient pandemics may hold the key to our future survival

Why the much-discussed “R” is not the magic number

It’s time to have a grown-up conversation about schools reopening

What Hannah Arendt can teach us about work in the time of Covid-19

Rutger Bregman: “It’s a wonderful time to be a social democrat”

14 May 2020

World Insurance Report: Covid-19 is accelerating digital adoption

The World Insurance Report 2020, released today, says Covid-19 will accelerate the use of digital channels already observed across all age groups.

Authors Capgemini and Efma believe the increasing popularity of buying online has been amped up by the lockdown, meaning insurers will have to find better ways to segment the market and attract new customers.

“If age and tech-savviness are no longer consumer differentiators, will the customer preference curve be flattened? Not likely,” the report said.

“While online reviews and ratings influence around 60% of purchase decisions, about 40% of shoppers still seek input from traditional sources such as sales staff, agents and brokers.”

“Around 40% of customers are willing to pay more for a firm’s brand name, but approximately 60% prefer value for money and will buy from a lesser-known brand.

“That’s why it is essential for insurers to determine policyholders’ distinguishing characteristics, beyond tech-savviness, to segment accordingly, and to more fully understand the dynamics of the customer base.”

The authors suggested social media behaviour and shopping preferences define what behaviours consumers exhibit when buying insurance, separating them into the four categories below:

Capgemini and Efma separate insurance buyers into four categories (Credit: World Insurance Report 2020)

14 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: Covid-19 cases rising in some Latin American countries

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached more than 4,364,000, with over 297,000 deaths and 1,560,000 recoveries.

In Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Chile will be countries to watch as each continues to experience a record number of daily cases or deaths.

To date, the daily mortality reached all-time highs in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru.

Additionally, Brazil set a record high with 11,385 new daily cases,  and surpassing France’s total cases.

In Chile, a significant spike of more than 60% increase in daily new cases triggered a total lockdown of the nation’s capital.

In China, Wuhan launched its mass testing drive in response to a resurgence of cases observed over the weekend.

While some residents are supportive of this initiative, others are concerned over further spreading the infection while waiting in long lines.

Natasha Karim, MPH, managing epidemiologist at GlobalData

14 May 2020

GlobalData economic report: Decline in UK jobs market appears to be slowing

The coronavirus crash in the jobs market appears to be starting to taper off in several badly-hit industries.

Figures from data analytics firm GlobalData show that while the jobs market has contracted since 1 March, in recent weeks the number of available jobs remained flat in the hardest hit sectors.

All the sectors tracked have witnessed jobs shrink – but some have escaped more lightly than others.

The statistics show the number of travel and tourism jobs available for application has fallen to a fifth of what it was on 1 March.

However, jobs in the oil and gas sector have dropped just over 30% compared to 1 March.

 

Tracking the economic sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Covid-19 has had a major, ongoing economic impact across the globe; but that impact is not uniform across different industries.

While some economic sectors have seen business rapidly decline, others have – to date – been more stable. Some have even seen an increase in demand.

This chart aims to give a broad overview of which sectors are suffering the most since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

It uses exclusive dynamic intelligence provided by GlobalData to track the number of jobs open for applications, across the world, across 19 economic sectors.

The summary chart shows the six which have seen the biggest percentage drop in these “active” jobs.

Economic sector impact chart

14 May 2020

UK budget deficit to be highest since 1945

The UK’s budget deficit is set to reach levels not seen since the end of the Second World War, according to a new scenario put forward by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Its model suggests that the percentage of GDP taken up by net borrowing – commonly known as the budget deficit – will reach 15.2% in 2020/21.

That’s an increase compared to the scenario it published last month, which suggested the national budget deficit would reach 13.9% of GDP.

At the peak of the financial crisis, the UK’s budget deficit only reached 10.2% of GDP.

Net borrowing is expected to reach £294.8bn in 2020/21.

That’s more than five-times higher than the level predicted in the budget forecast before the UK entered lockdown, when it was £54.8bn.

The Office for Budget Responsibility also estimates the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cost the government £56bn in gross spending – up from the £42bn predicted last month.

Looking at the total national debt, its new scenario expects it to reach 95.8% of GDP – levels not seen since 1963.

That was revised up slightly from 94.6% predicted in the model last month.

14 May 2020

British drivers quoted lowest car insurance premiums in four years, as Covid-19 reduces claims

Price comparison website comparethemarket.com has revealed average quotes given through its service are at their lowest price point in four years.

According to its data, the average premium quoted on the site was £722 ($881) in April 2019, but was £679 ($830) in the same month just passed in 2020 – an annual decrease of £43 ($52).

The firm has seen a decline of £33 ($40) in car insurance prices from March to April, as well as a total fall of £56 since February – when the effects of the Covid-19 began to take hold in the UK.

Head of motor insurance Dan Hutson said: “As the Government lockdown has led to fewer cars on the road, there has been a drop in claims, possibly allowing some insurers to offer lower prices to customers.

“The latest reductions in car insurance costs are good news for drivers and should help to ease some pressure from those who are concerned about their household finances.”

One particular beneficiary the price comparison firm highlighted was younger drivers, who typically pay the highest premiums in the market.

“Drivers aged between 17-24 stand to benefit most from the latest reductions in car insurance prices, as premiums for this age group have dropped by £69 month-on-month during April, a total decrease of £154, or 12%, since February,” Hutson adds.

“With young drivers facing higher driving costs than any other age group, and 63% of those aged 16-24 having previously said they will no longer be able to afford to run a car if motor costs rise, this reduction in premiums should go a long way in keeping our younger drivers on the road.”

14 May 2020

Law firm says US businesses are starting to take aim at brokers over business interruption claims

American legal firm Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath says business interruption customers that anticipate their policy wording may be airtight against legal action over claim denials have begun to take aim at their brokers.

Covid-19 has led to legal action against insurers across the country, as businesses believe they should be able to claim on their policies as they’re forced to close.

But traditional policies in large part only respond to physical property damage, and in the few cases where additional cover does include state-mandated shutdown due to diseases, some policies include a list of named illnesses, with unlisted items excluded.

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath points to three new cases that reveal some are now looking to rope in brokers as they seek to litigate:

Sean Boutros, M.D., P.A. v. Sentinel Insurance Co. Ltd.

John’s Grill v. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

Ybarra Investments, Inc. v. Scottsdale Insurance Company.

In all three cases, plaintiffs sought business interruption coverage after their businesses were forced to shut down due to Covid-19, and all three sued the insurer and the broker they bought through.

More information on the cases is available here

14 May 2020

FCA releases new measures to help insurance customers suffering financial difficulty

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has released new measures for insurers aimed at giving targeted relief to customers suffering from financial difficulty during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The regulator, which will introduce the new rules on 18 May, suggested insurers could do the following (among other things):

• Reassess the risk profile of customers, as this may have changed because of coronavirus and there may be scope to offer customers materially lower premiums.

• Waiving cancellation and other fees associated with adjusting customers’ policies.

• Consider whether there are other products they can offer to better meet the customer’s needs and revise coverage accordingly

To illustrate the last bullet point, the regulator gives the example of a motor insurance customer who might no longer need associated add ons, like coverage for their keys, or whether they could be moved from fully comprehensive cover to third party fire and theft to reduce costs.

Along with these suggestions, the regulator reiterated its expectation that insurers grant payment deferrals of between one and three months for customers that request them because of financial difficulty.

Where a payment deferral is not considered appropriate, it said firms should promptly offer other ways to provide temporary relief to the customer, including (but not be limited to) accepting reduced repayments, rescheduling the term, waiving missed or late payment fees and permitting a customer to amend their repayment date without any cost.

As well as urging insurers to advertise the options available to those struggling financially, the FCA said any interest rates on instalment payments should be reconsidered in line with the regulator’s expectation insurers treat customers fairly during the pandemic.

It noted in the announcement that many UK insurers are already taking steps to address the needs of these customers.

14 May 2020

Number of patients waiting more than six weeks for a diagnostic triples

The number of people waiting six or more weeks for a diagnostic test in England almost tripled in March 2020 alone as Covid-19 saw hospital postpone “non-urgent” treatment, writes Nicu Calcea.

New figures from NHS England show that, by the end of March, 85,446 patients had been waiting six or more weeks for diagnostic tests and procedures – up from 29,832 in February and 26,483 in March 2019.

The data covers a series of 15 different medical procedures including MRIs, heart tests, colonoscopies and gastroscopies.

While the total number of people waiting for tests actually fell in March, the percentage waiting for more than six weeks shot up above 10%.

The tests with the highest increases in the share of patients waiting for them were bone density scans, non-obstetric ultrasounds, and hearing tests.

The NHS Improvement Plan, put into motion in 2004, set a milestone that no one should wait for more than six weeks for a diagnostic test by March 2008.

The number waiting for more than six weeks is the highest since then.

14 May 2020

Do these stats show why Covid-19 kills more people from BAME backgrounds in UK?

Black people are almost four-times as likely as white people to have no access to gardens, patios or balconies, writes Michael Goodier.

That’s according to new data released by the ONS out today, which shows that one in eight homes in Britain has no garden.

Access to outdoor space – which studies have shown can benefit mental health – has become even more crucial during lockdown, as people have been forced to remain at home.

However, the new data shows there are large regional and demographic differences across Britain when it comes to accessing outdoor space.

Some 37% of black people have no access to outdoor space at home, compared to just 10% of white people.

Several recent datasets have suggested people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

ONS data released on 7 May showed that even after adjusting for age, black men were 4.2-times more likely to die a Covid-19 related death than white men, and black women were 4.3-times more likely to die than white females.

How job types relate to household gardens

And in today’s data, the ONS found that people in “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed were almost three-times as likely to have no garden compared to those in managerial, administrative, or professional jobs.

Londoners also lose out – more than a fifth (21%) of homes in the capital have no access to a private or shared garden.

The gardens that do exist in London are also the smallest in the country – 197 sq m on average, compared to 332 sq m across Britain as a whole.

However, those in the capital are most likely to have a park nearby – with 44% of Londoners living within a five-minute walk of a park, compared to 28% of people across Britain.

14 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: Lloyd’s of London expects insurers’ losses to hit $203bn – while broker duo proposes collective to address “super perils” like pandemics

Lloyd’s of London expects the total losses to the non-life insurance sector caused by Covid-19 will be $203bn – including $107bn in underwriting losses and the remaining $96bn lost through drops the value of investment portfolios. The world’s oldest insurance market said the underwriting losses alone will be on a par with the combined losses of three catastrophic windstorms in 2005 (hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma), one of the most costly years on record for claims. Lloyd’s CEO John Neal said the marketplace alone is expecting to pay $4.3bn in claims.

Two business leaders of the insurance broking sector have proposed the creation of a collective within the insurance industry, which would need government backing, to pre-empt and reinsure “super perils” like pandemics. Insurtech founder James York, who created online insurance marketplace Worry+Peace, along with Society of Insurance Broking non-executive director Liz Foster, came up with the idea. The duo launched its call-to-arms in the form of Totus Re – a website that contains an explanation of its ambition.

Swiss giant Zurich Insurance said it expects the cost of Covid-19 on its property and casualty book to be $750m, after already receiving claims amounting to $280m in Q1. Despite this, the insurer believes the underwriting impact will classify it as an earnings event, not a loss event, meaning it gains more in premium than it pays out in claims. Zurich CFO George Quinn said the firm’s diverse portfolio of risk and capital position will allow it to manage the challenge of Covid-19.

14 May 2020

Global Covid-19 death total set to top 300,000

The number of deaths from Covid-19 around the world rose by 5,255 yesterday to a total of 297,197.

There have been 33,342 deaths over the last seven days – down slightly from 36,166 the previous week.

 

Covid-19 daily report

 

14 May 2020

Morning briefing: UK home testing kits could be on the way | WHO warns Covid-19 may never go away

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world.

World: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said coronavirus “may never go away”. “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.

UK: Public Health England has approved the UK’s first coronavirus antibody test kit. Antibody tests will be crucial in determining who has previously had the virus, and up until now, the government had not found a reliable kit. Now, ministers are reportedly negotiating with the Swiss company Roche to buy millions of units and potentially roll out the lab-based tests – which are said to be 100% accurate – nationwide.

Meanwhile, health experts have warned that restarting NHS services could take months, and could potentially be a bigger challenge than tackling the first wave of the virus. Later today, health think tanks the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund will give evidence to a committee of MPs, and ahead of the meeting they warned about the impact of exhausted staff, the lack of personal protective equipment and difficulties managing the risk of infections, which will “severely limit capacity for many months”.

Lastly, the Guardian reports that social care directors in England warned ministers about the dangers of a pandemic to the care home sector in 2018. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Service, a representative body, warned that “demand for personal protective equipment could rapidly outstrip supply” and called for better infection control protocols. “We are not aware of whether government departments picked up on any of the recommendations set out,” it told the paper.

Europe: The European Parliament will today meet to discuss Hungary’s new coronavirus laws, including one that gives Prime Minister Viktor Orbán power to rule indefinitely by decree. Orbán will not attend the EU meeting.

Russia: Moscow officials said that the deaths of most coronavirus patients are due to other causes. The city attributes less than 40% of coronavirus patient deaths to Covid-19, they said. Russia has the world’s second-highest number of confirmed cases but has recorded just 2,212 coronavirus-related deaths.

Japan: Japan is today expected to lift a state of emergency in 39 of its 47 prefectures.

New Zealand Finance minister Grant Robertson has announced a NZ$50bn (£26.7bn) fund to reduce unemployment to pre-coronavirus levels within two years. The fund equates to around 17% of national GDP. He called it “the most significant financial commitment in modern history”.

US: President Donald Trump has criticised Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease experts, for warning reopening state economies too early could cause a second spike of infections. Fauci’s comments were “not acceptable”, Trump said, adding that Fauci wanted “to play all sides of the equation”.

Australia: Australians lost nearly 600,000 jobs in April, but official unemployment figures only rose by one percentage point, to 6.2%, because many people left the work force entirely.

China: The city of Wuhan has begun its campaign to test every resident in the city, following a small flare up of infections.

 

Read more on the New Statesman:

As we pass the pandemic’s peak, the NHS needs to adjust to life in the shadow of Covid-19

As lockdown is loosened, those with the least are being asked to bear the greatest risk

Dreaming of Covid-19

The problem with our response to Covid-19 wasn’t that we didn’t have a plan – it was the opposite

Why everyone should watch the BBC’s Covid-19 special Hospital

Pandemics and the politics of time

How plagues change the world

For one in ten of people, returning to work could be particularly dangerous

13 May 2020

Zego to offer flexible coverage for UK van fleets, as Covid-19 lockdown increases delivery demand

London-based insurtech Zego has expanded its partnership with insurer RSA in order to offer flexible coverage to delivery, courier or trade van fleets, up to 200 vehicles.

The announcement comes as demand on the UK’s delivery and courier fleets has increased in response to UK lockdown measures introduced to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Zego said through adopting a usage-based policy, a van fleet owner whose vehicles are not on the road will never pay more than a base subscription rate.

The insurtech added that if the business experiences a sudden increase in demand, its costs will be capped at an agreed limit, so insurance costs align with workload and revenue.

Zego director of enterprise Gianluca Uberti said: “We have been working in partnership with RSA to deliver flexible policies for individual drivers for the past few years and I am thrilled that we’ve been able to build on this partnership to provide cover for van fleets.

“From today, we’ll be able to offer van fleet owners access to a unique insurance product, which provides them with truly flexible, usage based insurance, at a fair price.”

An additional statement from RSA partnership director John Dawe included mention that the partnership will result in more insurance products in the “immediate and longer term future”.

13 May 2020

UK consumers are feeling more positive about Covid-19, according to new survey

The UK population is feeling more optimistic about the future, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 British consumers by data and analytics company GlobalData found 34.9% expect the coronavirus situation to improve over the next month.

Sofie Willmott, lead analyst at GlobalData, said: “Following seven weeks in lockdown, the British public are starting to feel more optimistic about the future.

“Just 8.5% expect the situation to get a lot worse over the next month in stark contrast to almost 30% of consumers in April.”

Q2RET0061
Improved sentiment may benefit non-food retailers as consumers start to return to their new normality, which will hopefully give some confidence around their income and financial situation.

However, with many workers still on furlough leave or without a job, as reopening plans for non-essential stores and the hospitality and service industry are still to be confirmed depending on the virus’ progression, most consumers will remain cautious with their discretionary spending.

Willmott added: “Although consumers are starting to feel more confident that the Covid-19 situation will improve, the new socially-distanced reality still feels very much unknown.

“Retailers will need to instill confidence in UK shoppers to bring them back into non-food stores by implementing rigid safety measures to protect both visitors and staff.”

13 May 2020

Euler Hermes says government backstop will help maintain supply chains hit by Covid-19

Euler Hermes says the UK government’s scheme to backstop trade credit insurers will allow businesses to trade confidently and aid in their financial recovery.

The scheme will involve the state sharing a portion of the risk taken on by trade credit cover specialists like Euler Hermes, acting as their reinsurer – although the government hasn’t outlined what percentage of the risk it will bare.

Earlier this month, analysts at Morgan Stanley estimated that trade credit insurers around the world could endure losses of up to $46bn, 30% of which would be paid by the reinsurance market.

The government said it stepped in “to prevent the withdrawal of credit insurance, or premiums increasing to unaffordable levels” in the UK, which Euler Hermes welcomed.

Euler Hermes UK and Ireland CEO Milo Bogaerts said: “Ensuring UK businesses can continue to trade in confidence while they recover from the effects of the crisis is essential.

“This temporary reinsurance support creates a protective shield for credit-insured clients during this crisis.

“It will ensure that essential coverage remains in place and liquidity maintained across the supply chain.”

Germany, France, and Canada have made similar moves to protect trade in their countries.

13 May 2020

GlobalData epidemiologist report: World approaching 300,000 deaths but 1.5 million people have recovered

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,278,000, with over 292,000 deaths and 1,502,000 recoveries.

As nations continue to gradually lift lockdown measures, new clusters emerge in regions once commended for their mitigation efforts, including South Korea, Wuhan in China, and Singapore.

In South Korea, more than 100 new cases were reported over the weekend in a popular Seoul nightlife district; in Wuhan, six new cases were confirmed over the weekend after more than a month, prompting the city to order testing for all residents; and in Singapore, more than 23,000 cases were linked to migrant worker dormitories at the end of April.

Brazil continues to experience a surge in confirmed cases, with 178,214 cases that surpass the 173,289 cases in Germany, and draw closer to the 178,349 cases in France.

Additionally, Brazil records its highest death toll to date with 881 confirmed deaths.

Natasha Karim, MPH, managing epidemiologist at GlobalData

13 May 2020

New from CityMetric: Why US municipal elections are a show that must go on, somehow

In local elections across the United States, such as for city council races, candidates face a bizarre new world.

Canvassing, rallies, and meet-and-greets are out. Direct mail may even be looked upon with suspicion.

Hollowed out local media institutions struggle to cover these races in normal times, and now their few reporters are stretched even thinner.

For candidates whose names don’t generate the kind of buzz seen in state-wide or national elections, the end of in-person campaigning is a severe blow to their ability to meet voters and raise money.

“Honestly, there’s no substitute for person-to-person, face-to-face contact in a small election,” says Mark Nevins, a political consultant with the Dover Group, who specialises in direct mail campaigns.

“This has really changed the way campaigns are forced to find ways to communicate with voters – and not for the better.”

Many local candidates don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if the pandemic will wane by the fall.

Most large US cities are governed by Democrats, meaning primary elections this spring and early summer are more competitive than November’s general election.

American cities also can’t exercise the option pursued by their English counterparts, where this year’s mayoral elections are being postponed until 2021 in the hopes that things settle down by then.

Over at CityMetric, Jake Blumgart reports from one such city, Baltimore, Maryland, where candidates for local offices are writing an entirely new campaign playbook on the fly.

Read the full story here.

13 May 2020

Marsh says Covid-19 likely to increase commercial insurance prices

Marsh expects the global price of commercial insurance to continue on an already upward trend in 2020, fuelled by the impact of Covid-19.

Global commercial insurance prices rose 14% in the first quarter of 2020, marking the tenth consecutive quarter of price increases.

The figures were given in Marsh’s Q1 Global Insurance Market Index, alongside comments suggesting the first-quarter impact of Covid-19 had been insignificant for prices, but that would likely change during this year.

Dean Klisura, president of global placement and advisory services at Marsh, said: “Pricing was trending higher in the first quarter, prior to any meaningful impact from losses associated with Covid-19.

“We do expect, however, that Covid-19 will have a meaningful impact on pricing for the balance of 2020.”

Read the full story

13 May 2020

Global Covid-19 deaths continue to fall – but watch out for Brazil

The USA is now clearly past its peak, looking at a rolling average of new deaths from Covid-19.

The UK has also made progress in bringing its number of deaths down, although along with France saw a slight uptick yesterday – likely due to undercounting over the weekend.

While the global daily death toll trends downwards, this isn’t the case everywhere.

One country to watch is Brazil, which is now recording more daily deaths than any country other than the US, and is still on an upwards trajectory.

 

Covid-19 daily death totals: are we “flattening the curve”?

While every nation is giving regular updates on deaths linked to the virus, it can be difficult to interpret this data.

Daily death totals are volatile and can fluctuate rapidly from day to day; countries can change the time they report, or their methodology, leading to sudden and abrupt change.

In the charts below we smooth out the data by using a rolling three-day average of deaths.

Each day is plotted against the average number of new deaths reported over the previous three days. The percentage increases (or decreases) are plotted separately.

The charts cover the countries with the highest number of deaths overall, excluding China – where daily confirm deaths have slowed to a trickle – and Iran, where the data may not be reliable.

The charts start at the point each country passed 1,000 Covid-19 deaths in total.

Covid-19 average daily deaths chart

 

13 May 2020

Analyst expects decrease in life insurance sales in India due to Covid-19 lockdown

The Indian life insurance sector is expected to contract by almost 1% during 2020, caused by disruption to its biggest sales channel.

As people stay at home while the country is in lockdown, GlobalData insurance analyst Pratyusha Mekala said the bancassurance and agency channels, which account for over 90% of insurers’ new business, have been “severely impaired” by the affects of Covid-19.

“Premium from new business accounts for 42% of the life insurance market. As a result of lockdown, life insurers reported decline of 32.6% in new business premium in April 2020 against the same period last year,” she added.

“State-owned market leader Life Insurance Corporation of India registered a decline of 32% in premium from new business, while private life insurers have seen a decline of 33.3% during the same period.”

India’s life insurance market is still expected to grow by 7.7% in 2020, but this would be a drop on 2019’s 8.8% figure – a 0.9% decrease.

Mekala said insurance companies are attempting to push online sales to offset the adverse impact, but that their efforts are unlikely to make a huge difference.

“Web aggregators such as Policybazaar have reported 20% growth in sales of life insurance products in March 2020,” she said.

“However, growth from online channels is unlikely to prevent contraction in the overall life insurance business.”

13 May 2020

Covid-19 daily report: Global deaths continue to fall but Brazil reports most rapid increase

Daily new deaths from Covid-19 continue to fall in most countries with the largest outbreaks.

Worldwide, the US is continuing to see the highest number of new deaths from Covid-19, followed by the UK – however in both countries the figure is falling.

Brazil is currently experiencing the most rapid spread of the disease, with 808 new deaths yesterday, up from 571 the week before.

Although the raw number of deaths in many countries rose yesterday compared to Monday, that is likely to do with the “weekend effect” – a lag in data collection over the weekend.

At least 291,942 people have now died from the disease worldwide.

Covid-19 daily report

13 May 2020

Covid-19 insurance daily update: UK government to backstop trade credit insurers – while GoCompare warns of increased home insurance claims during lockdown

The UK government has said it will guarantee business to business transactions by reinsuring trade credit coverage – a type of insurance that pays out to cover a loss if a buyer defaults on payment. The temporary arrangement will mean the government will share the losses with insurers, who are currently raising premiums on the cover to reflect the increased risk of default presented by Covid-19. The Association of British Insurers, along with the British Chambers of Commerce, have welcomed the move.

Insurance comparison firm GoCompare has warned that certain activities families are engaging in during lockdown to entertain their kids or make a household improvement could increase the risk of a claim. The company commissioned research that found just under a quarter (22%) of families with school-age children have invented new games to keep their kids entertained, and 15% said their kids have been playing ball games indoors. GoCompare said it’s unsurprising, given those statistics, that 11% of parents of school-age children admitted that their kids have damaged their home, or its contents, during lockdown. It also urged families to ensure that their home insurance included cover for accidental damage, as a claim might be rejected if amateur DIY or the kick of a ball is at fault.

13 May 2020

Morning briefing: Tax hikes to foot UK coronavirus bill | Wuhan to test all 11m residents | Record daily Covid-19 deaths in Mexico and Brazil

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world today.

UK: A leaked Treasury document suggests Chancellor Rishi Sunak may need to hike income tax, freeze public pay and end the pension triple-lock to foot the bill for the coronavirus pandemic. The document, obtained by the Telegraph, predicts the UK’s budget deficit will reach £337bn in 2020 – the March Budget predicted a £55bn deficit. Tax rises and spending cuts that raise up to £30bn could be required to fund the increased debt, and may be announced within weeks, the document says. In the worst-case scenario, the deficit will reach £516bn this year, requiring £90bn in cuts and tax rises, while the Treasury’s most “optimistic” scenario forecasts a £209bn deficit.

The news comes as the government officially lifts lockdown measures for the first time. From today, people can exercise outdoors as much as they want and meet a friend in the park, while those that can’t work from home are encouraged to resume their commute, avoiding public transport when possible. Scientists at University College London have said eight million people with underlying health issues should be exempt from the government’s back-to-work plans to avoid a deadly second spike of infections. In a new study published in the Lancet, they said people with conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart problems – about a fifth of the working population – should stay home.

One set of businesses allowed to reopen today are estate agents, a move designed to kickstart the stalled housing market. Removal firms and conveyancers can return to business, show homes can open and councils can restart construction in residential areas in staggered shifts. Anyone buying a house can now view properties again, creating a bizarre situation whereby people can visit a strangers’ home, but not see their family. It is estimated that 450,000 buyers and renters have moving plans on hold.

Europe: An uneven economic recovery from the pandemic would be an “existential threat” to the European Union, the bloc’s economic commissioner has said.

Mexico: Mexico recorded 353 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, the largest daily rise in the country by far. The number is nearly 100 more than its previous record from last week.

New Zealand: New Zealand will today move into a “level two” alert from level three, allowing retail stores, restaurants, cinemas and public spaces to reopen. Mass gatherings are limited to 100 people. Funerals were supposed to be restricted to 10 people, but the government has amended its rules so that 50 mourners can gather.

Singapore: Singapore will test all 323,00 migrant workers living in cramped dormitories for coronavirus, authorities have announced. Infection numbers have spiked among the workers, fuelling a second wave of infections in the country.

Brazil: The country has recorded its highest daily death toll to date, with 881 new deaths. Infection numbers have now passed 177,000.

China: The city of Wuhan will test all of its 11 million residents, local media has reported.

India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a $270bn economic stimulus package for workers and small businesses, worth about 10 per cent of national GDP.

 

Read more on the New Statesman

The 2% fall in UK GDP shows why radical economic policy is needed

Rishi Sunak has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – but it can’t last forever

It’s achieving growth, not paying off the debt, that will be difficult after Covid-19

Covid-19 has exposed the limits of the politics of individualism

Why Poland’s “ghost election” sends a warning about its democracy