UK food banks ‘preparing for worst’
Charity food banks in Britain are “preparing for the worst” as the government starts winding up emergency aid measures put in place to cushion the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on millions of workers and low-income households, Reuters reports.
An extra weekly payment of £20 (US$27) to support the country’s poorest families will be cut next month, and more than a million workers face an uncertain future as Britain becomes the first big economy to halt its Covid jobs support scheme.
Food banks, which hand out staple goods from dried pasta to baby food, are especially concerned about the loss of the top-up to the Universal Credit (UC) benefit, which is claimed by almost 6 million people, according to official statistics.
The British move comes as other countries start wrapping up state aid programmes announced last year as Covid battered the global economy.
In the United States, pandemic unemployment benefits that supported millions of jobless, gig workers and business owners came to an end in early September, a month after a moratorium on residential evictions expired.
Australia and Canada have also announced plans to end income subsidies in the near future.
A British government spokesperson said the income benefit increase was always intended to be temporary and had been effective in softening the pandemic’s impact on family finances, adding that the focus now was on helping people back to work.
Nationwide, more than 800,000 people will be pushed into poverty by the benefit cut, according to British think-tank the Legatum Institute.
A fifth of the benefit’s claimants said they would “very likely” need to skip meals once the uplift is withdrawn, found a survey of more than 2,000 people carried out for the Trussell Trust.
A similar number said they would struggle to afford to heat their homes.
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Britain’s charity food banks are “preparing for the worst”, Reuters reports, as the government starts winding up emergency aid measures put in place to cushion the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on millions of workers and low-income households.
Meanwhile in Australia, the Victorian state of Melbourne has reported its highest one-day case total of the pandemic so far, as its Delta outbreak overtakes infections in the neighbouring state of New South Wales.
More on these stories shortly. In the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:
- Latvia has reported 1,203 new coronavirus cases – the country’s highest daily figure since February. It is the first time infections have crossed the threshold of 1,000 since May.
- There have been 1,847 new coronavirus cases in Lithuania over the past 24 hours, the country’s statistics office has said – the highest number of cases since early January.
- The number of Covid fatalities recorded in Scotland hit the highest level since February last week, with 165 deaths registered that involved Covid-19, 30 more than the previous week.
- Slovenia has temporarily suspended use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine while it investigates the death of a 20-year-old woman. Health minister Janez Poklukar said the benefits of receiving the vaccine “continue to outweigh the risks”.
- Singapore has reported 2,268 new cases – its highest number since the pandemic began. Its previous highest daily increase was 2,236 reported on Tuesday.
- The UK has reported 36,722 new cases, an increase on Tuesday figure of 34,256. It also report 150 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
- Merck & Co’s experimental oral Covid-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir is likely to be effective against known variants of the coronavirus, the company has said following laboratory studies.
- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is in advanced talks with vaccine manufacturers to purchase further vaccine doses for its members after reaching a deal with Sinovac to buy 8.5 million vaccine doses for 2021 and some 80 million doses next year.
- Cuba reported 5,617 new cases – the first time since July that the island has reported fewer than 6,000 new cases. It also reported 48 more deaths from the virus.