COVID-19 Insurance Update: 6 July 2020

Our latest thinking into the insurance impacts arising from the ongoing crisis is offered against England entering Phase 3 of its recovery plan, with large parts of the economy opening for socially distanced service for the first time since early March.

The UK government has also published plans for schools, colleges and nurseries to return in full in September with restrictions on group sizes gradually lifted. Meanwhile, 59 countries - including France, Germany, Italy and Spain - will be exempt from England's quarantine requirements from 10 July.

The Treasury has announced a £1.57 billion fund for the UK's arts and cultural sector, covering theatres, galleries, museums, heritage sites, cinemas and music venues, many of which are excluded from the latest easing of restrictions.

Further measures and initiatives are anticipated in the Chancellor’s 'economic statement' on Wednesday 8 July, with announcements expected to include a £111m fund for new traineeships, a temporary cut to stamp duty and an expansion of the number of job centres and 'work coaches'.

In the Financial Conduct Authority COVID-19 test case, insurers have submitted their defences and the second Case Management Conference was heard on 26 June (taking over five hours). It was held that there will be no expert evidence on the prevalence of COVID-19 across the UK at the trial, and an eight day court hearing is scheduled to start on 20 July.

We start our analysis of events following ‘“Super Saturday,” when pubs, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers and cinemas welcomed customers for the first time in months - providing they adhered to COVID-secure guidelines. To assist these businesses, the UK government has issued guidance documents, including around the requirements to collect personal data. We consider the practicalities of safely managing such data. Where will the data be recorded? How will it be kept secure and who will be able to access it?

It’s not just the hospitality industry preparing to reopen. Employees are also starting to return to their office desks. Another of the government documents includes specific guidance on “working safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres”. This document makes it clear that all businesses must undertake their own risk based approach when considering whether to re-open workplaces.

Many businesses are not yet in a position to welcome back their entire workforce, but are taking slow steps towards ‘business as usual’. To assist this transition, from 1 July 2020 employers have had the option to be more flexible in their approach to furlough. Whilst it remains possible to continue to fully-furlough staff, the most significant change to the regime is the new ability to flexibly-furlough staff, meaning employees can return to work part-time and remain furloughed for the remainder of the normal working time.

On 19 June 2020 the UK government published its long awaited Code of Practice for commercial property relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist landlords and tenants who have found themselves in an unprecedented financial situation due to the pandemic. The overriding objective of the Code is for landlords and tenants to work together in ‘good faith, reasonably and flexibly’ and to co-operate and collaborate with one another transparently.

The raft of new COVID legislation has raised a debate in the UK as to whether further government action (beyond the sections 11 to 13 of the Coronavirus Act 2020) is needed to protect healthcare professionals providing NHS care during the pandemic from civil claims, by providing additional protections. We examine the approach to indemnifying healthcare professionals in respect of clinical negligence claims arising out of COVID-19 globally and consider what options are available in the UK.

As the nation applauded the NHS’s 72nd birthday, the strain on both NHS and private healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns as to how clinicians not only have to deal with the pressures of a pandemic but also how they grapple with the continuing demand of non-COVID-19 patients. Here we consider the role of technology in helping to alleviate some of those pressures during the pandemicand its potential ongoing application.

We hope you enjoy this update and welcome your thoughts and observations.

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