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Covid-19: What commentators are saying

UK Office of National Statistics puts ‘excess’ death figure during Covid pandemic at 55,000

As the UK has climbed the tables that count the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in each country, it has become obvious that it is one of the worst affected countries globally.

The UK has passed countries that suffered severe early outbreaks such as China, Italy and Spain in numbers of coronavirus deaths. Whilst the quality of official data varies dramatically between countries, the only assessment for the UK governments’ response to the pandemic is now poor.

As the UK government has rightly pointed out, however, the true test of the damage done will come from the statistics that measure the total number of excess deaths above the usual average. By that measure, according to the ONS, the UK has now exceeded 55,000 additional deaths since the beginning of the year.

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4:29 pm

Covid-19 will accelerate workplace automation, say business leaders

The majority of professionals expect the Covid-19 pandemic to accelerate the adoption of workplace and industry automation.

This is according to a survey by Internet of Things company Pod Group, which found that 73% of the 500 UK business leaders surveyed believed that Covid-19 will spark a new wave of automation.

Workplace automation refers to the use of software to automate part of a workflow, carrying out tasks that may be repetitive or mundane, the types of tasks humans are not well-suited to but robots are.

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2:06 pm

Covid-19 contact-tracing app risks excluding those without smartphone access

The digital divide may exclude vulnerable people from the Covid-19 tracing app, according to cybersecurity company Anomali.

A study conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Anomali surveying thousands of people across the UK has revealed that several hurdles may stand in the way of the app making a difference in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Half of respondents said they know at least one person who does not have the technology, such as a smartphone, needed to use the Covid-19 tracing app.

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4:32 pm

Coronavirus business recovery: Three data-driven steps

The uncertain and fast-changing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic is an uncomfortable rollercoaster ride for business leaders.

But as the situation stabilises, organisations need to focus on how they are going to rise to the challenge of safeguarding the long-term viability of their business in the ‘new normal’.

By optimising existing data and analytics processes, automating tasks, reducing total cost of ownership of data platforms and embracing artificial intelligence, business leaders can maximise their chances of emerging from the Covid-19 crisis on a positive trajectory of profitable growth.

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4:30 pm

London job vacancies fell by 23% in the week before lockdown easing

Job vacancies in London dropped by 23% during the week ending 10 May.

This is according to real-time statistics from Broadbean Technology, a recruitment software company.

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the start of a lockdown ‘exit strategy’, job vacancy levels have fallen in the UK by 9%, suggesting that recruiters are exercising caution.

Read more here. 

 

4:11 pm

Coronavirus digital health passport to be supplied to 15 countries

Manchester-based cybersecurity firm VST Enterprises has signed a deal with digital health company Circle Pass Enterprises (CPE) to create a digital health passport designed to make it easier for individuals to return to work after the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The two companies have partnered to create “the world’s most secure digital health passport”, known as Covi-pass, and will work with governments and the private sector to deploy the technology to 15 countries around the world.

The Covi-pass will work using a colour system of green, amber, red to indicate whether the individual has tested positive or negative for Covid-19 and relevant health information.

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1:41 pm

Healthcare organisations are being targeted by state-backed hackers, governments warn

Government agencies in the UK and US have issued a cybersecurity warning for healthcare organisations over a rise in attacks by hackers with nation-state backing.

UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have advised staff to change passwords to three random words to make them more difficult to guess, and implement two-factor authentication.

The two agencies said that ‘advanced persistent threat’ (APT) groups, typically nation state or state-sponsored groups, are targeting such organisations likely with the aim of gaining information about the coronavirus outbreak.

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6:10 pm

London tech recruitment slumps 57% during pandemic

Recruitment for permanent technology roles has fallen by 57% in London during the coronavirus pandemic, according to recruitment firm talent.io.

Across Europe as a whole, 38% of companies are freezing most or all of their tech recruitment.

Firms have also been scaling back during the economic downturn, with tech companies Lyft, Bird, Eventbrite, Groupon, Magic Leap and Yelp among some of the firms that have made job cuts.

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4:02 pm

Investment in UK startups hit £663m in first month of lockdown, led by tech sector

British startups raised £663m investment in the first month after the country went into lockdown, with the tech sector seeing the most activity, according to new research released today by Plexal and Beauhurst.

The total value of investments has increased by 34% compared to the same period in 2019, but deal numbers were down by 39%.

However, nearly 263 small businesses are currently in administration and 707 are in liquidation. The week after lockdown was announced in the UK saw the lowest level of investment since w/c 28 March 2016.

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6:00 pm

How to build a secure remote working organisation

The recent impact of coronavirus has placed massive strain on businesses all around the world, changing working culture virtually overnight to make remote working an urgent priority.

What quickly became clear, however, is not all companies were in a position to enable their employees to work remotely at such short notice.

While remote access greatly benefits productivity, if the organisation is not equipped with the proper security tools, it leaves them vulnerable to a number of threats. So, what can organisations do to ensure their employees are working securely from any location, no matter what disruptions may arise?

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5:32 pm

Tips for scaling up VPNs to meet the remote working surge

The current Covid-19 pandemic is heralding a seismic shift in the way businesses work. Many companies have been required to switch to wholly remote working practices.

When it comes to working remotely, most people imagine they will need a computer and an internet connection. For an individual employee, that’s enough, but for a company, it also requires a solid virtual private network, or VPN for short. It is arguably the most essential piece of infrastructure.

A VPN is designed to mitigate against the risk of an insecure network that could threaten business continuity or intellectual property issues.

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4:10 pm

Future Fund: The tech sector reacts to UK Chancellor’s plans to help startups

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has pledged £1.25bn to support UK startups struggling to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic, including funding for high-growth companies and a “Future Fund”.

This £500m Future Fund, created in in partnership with the British Business Bank, will see the UK government provide £250m.

£750m of support for research and development-intensive small and medium-size businesses will also be available through Innovate UK’s grants and loan scheme.

Organisations from across the UK start-up ecosystem warned that previous measures  did not go far enough to support startups.

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3:19 pm

“The mental health challenges are really significant”: How the switch to remote working is impacting wellbeing

Due to lockdown measures imposed in many countries due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many non-key workers have made the rapid switch to working from home for the first time, a significant change for both employers and employees.

Although the flexibility to work from home, driven by technology, may be something a growing number look for in a job, many now find themselves away from their routine, increasingly isolated or juggling other commitments.

Along with the current state of worry and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, this may lead to employees experiencing new mental health challenges.

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5:06 pm

Coronavirus layoffs expected by almost half of companies

Layoffs in response to the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus are either expected or have begun happening at 44% of companies, according to a survey conducted by Verdict.

The survey was answered by 1,136 of Verdict readers, who primarily are from the US, the UK, India and Canada, and who primarily work in technology, finance and related industries.

The survey, which ran from 25 March to 15 April on our website, found that 24% of respondents expected their company to conduct layoffs as a result of the coronavirus, while 20% said this had already begun to happen.

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5:32 pm

Living with a pandemic: How networks can support the transition to a new normal

As the Covid-19 pandemic has taken hold over the past few weeks and months, it has become clear that we are facing an unprecedented situation on a global scale.

One of the most crucial components in enabling this ‘new normal’ to succeed has been the continuation of fast and reliable telecommunication networks.

In the space of a few short weeks of working ‘statically’ at home, this has become a secondary priority for operators who now need to ensure there is enough network capacity throughout the entirety of the day. It’s a situation compounded at weekends as people stay at home rather than go out, or travel to see friends and family.

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6:13 pm

How to place employees on furlough leave: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The coronavirus is affecting businesses right around the world. From retail to hospitality, many firms have had to make the tough decision to put staff on furlough leave in a bid to protect themselves and preserve jobs during this crisis.

For companies based in the UK, there are a range of funding measures and support schemes available. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, in particular, provides a crucial lifeline to both employers and employees.

But when it comes to furloughing an employee, this is something many businesses won’t have done before. In order to do this and receive funding from the government, there are several things businesses must be aware of and do. Here’s everything you need to know as an employer.

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6:11 pm

Vodafone app turns your phone into a coronavirus-fighting supercomputer

Want to do your bit to help fight the coronavirus pandemic? Thanks to Vodafone and Imperial College London all you need is a smartphone and the DreamLab app.

By pooling the processing power of thousands of phone owners it creates a virtual supercomputer that researchers say can carry out millions of calculations.

And the more people that download and switch on the app each night, the more calculations the researchers can complete – increasing the likelihood that scientists can glean useful insights to help treat coronavirus.

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10:47 am

Startups: Five ways to find funding during the pandemic

We live in unprecedented times as the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe from East to West. Economic inactivity globally is at its highest for almost a century, and the consequences will be long-lasting, well after the virus subsides.

There is no doubt that we face a difficult trading environment that will only get worse. Investor activity will not be as prolific as it was just a few months ago, as funds become more internally focused, and concentrate on stress-testing their portfolios, and banks field a jump in demand for loans.

And yet amid all the market uncertainty, the world is still awash with investable cash: all of which will eventually find a home. Those with capital have their sights on the other side, and are looking for the innovative startups that will lead us through this crisis and beyond.

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10:19 pm

Global GDP may drop by 1% in 2020, says Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs expects global real gross domestic product to contract by about 1 per cent in 2020, a sharper economic decline than in the year following the 2008 global financial crisis.

“The coronacrisis or more precisely, the response to that crisis — represents a physical (as opposed to financial) constraint on economic activity that is unprecedented in postwar history,” the investment bank said in a note to its clients published late on Sunday according to India Today.

7:36 pm

OECD expects economic fallout to be felt ‘for a long time to come’

Speaking to CNBC, the OECD’s secretary general, Angel Gurria, stated: “What you have is an economic effect now that, very clearly, is going to be prolonged beyond the period of the pandemic.”

“We’ll hopefully get rid of the pandemic in the next two or three months and then the question is how many unemployed (will there be), how many small and medium-sized enterprises will be in a very, very severe situation if not disappeared by that time.”

“Life, and economic activity, is not going to be normalized any time soon,” he said. “We’re going to have the impact of this crisis for a long time to come.”

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