Mike Ashley Kept in Check by Government

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on the 23rd of March, all non-essential retailers have been ordered to shut down by the government. Measures introduced by the PM are aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in order to contain the disease at levels which the NHS can manage. With pubs, clubs and restaurants closed prior to the announcement, other businesses, such as McDonald’s and Nando’s followed suit voluntarily and ceased trading prior to the announcement. However, following the announcement, Sports Direct billionaire owner Mike Ashley had attempted to ensure his retail outlets remain open through the virtual lockdown. After the PM’s statement was broadcast, reports circulated that Sports Direct bosses were planning to flout the government’s lockdown order. Within half an hour, bosses had written to all their staff, arguing that the provision of sports and gym equipment is a vital service, more acutely required during times of widespread social distancing.

However, despite the circulation of the email and initial insistence to stay open, on Tuesday March 24, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group backtracked. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, “Sports Direct thought it would be appropriate for their stores to be open in order to help people get exercise equipment. We made it clear it was wrong and that the stores should not be open. The Frasers Group’s original email had insisted, “we are uniquely well-placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis and thus our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will remain open where possible…”

In his statement, Boris Johnson ordered the British public to a virtual lockdown, placing stringent restrictions on movements and activities. According to the new rules, people are only allowed to leave the house to shop for basic necessities, essentials and medicine. Moreover, there has been a ban placed on the assembly of more than two people in public.

Major Food Outlets to Close

Across all of the UK, McDonald’s will close all 1,270 of its restaurants by the end of Monday in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. The fears of the spread have continued to limit everyone’s actions. Social distancing is being encouraged which has resulted in people working from home ad a lot of businesses and events to be put on suspension or hold for now.

Nando’s has also closed nearly all 400 of its restaurants across the UK too until further notice. The Coffee chain Costa has also joined in with the closure of its branches too.

Government’s Advice

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said restaurants and cafes must close, excluding some specific takeaway food places. This is all due to the impacts of the restrictions being imposed on the country regarding social distancing and self isolation. With the cases across Europe, UK are trying to do its best to prevent the damage potentially caused by a greater outbreak from Coronavirus. The government have proposed to provide billions of pounds in loan money for businesses that will go through struggles due to the pandemic. Furthermore, the government are thinking of adding more restrictions to properly reduce to migration of people within the country.

Impacts of Businesses Closing

McDonalds employs around 135,000 people in the UK, where the majority are employed on zero-hour contracts. The company has announced to their staff that they will receive full pay for their scheduled slots until early April. Similar is said for some of the other food places which are currently closing too. Coronavirus has put nearly everything on hold and eventually, the lack of productivity will begin to stagnate the economy overall. The government are already takin quite the hit, having to reimburse businesses which have been affected by the lack of staff coming into work.

McDonalds, Nandos and all these are stores are emphasising the need to maintain a safe social distance between others. This echoes what the government is setting out to hopefully encourage the general public to listen to the advice provided.

Coronavirus and Self-Isolation: What does the law say about working from home?

According to recently announced new measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the UK government has advised that all those who can work from home should. However, with not everyone able to work from home and the fact that self-isolation could mean fourteen days away from work, its unclear to many what will happen. Moreover, in light of recent changes in the Budget, some amendments to the sick pay system could mean many simply don’t have the incentive to stay at home and risk infecting others. In this post, we take a look at where you stand with regards to coronavirus isolation, working from home and time off work.

Firstly, the government has advised everyone who can work from home should do so. Employers are to give workers clear guidance as to how this is to be practiced. Usually, it is the responsibility of the employers to assess an employee’s domestic workplace. In the current climate, this will be unfeasible. What is clear is that working hours must be defined and staff should receive their normal pay.

If you’re being told by your employer to work from home, it is they who are responsible for supplying you with equipment with which to work. They are also responsible for detailing what is it to be used for. Running costs, such a phone bills, should be arranged at the earliest opportunity. Usually, the employer should explain how the expenses system works.

If you’re unable to work from home, some employers have been asking staff to take unpaid leave. According to the law, employers are entitled to tell works to take holidays if they decide to close for business, for a period of time. However, employers are required to give twice as much notice as the period of the closure and the leave being taken. For one week, two weeks’ notice will be required. While it is impossible for everyone to work for home, the government has advised that if one person displays symptoms of the coronavirus, the whole household must self-isolate for a period of fourteen days.

The Costliest Epidemics in History

Against the backdrop of the currently developing coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic, we take a look back at some of the costliest epidemics in human history. Along with millions of lives, these outbreaks were responsible for financial and economic implications which shaped the world we live in today. As the human race enters a period of uncertainty and many questions remain unanswered, we take a look back in history to see the resilience mankind has shown in the past.

The Black Death

The “Black Death” which struck across the globe in the 14th century was by far the largest global pandemic in history. Claiming tens of millions of lives all over the globe, the 14th century bubonic plague came to be known as the Black Death as its victims would turn black. Between 1347 and 1351, the plague outbreak is estimated to have killed between 75 and 100 million people. Starting in southwest Asia, it reached Europe in the mid-14th century. Apart from the lives it claimed, the plague had a lasting impact on the shape of the European economy, with labour prices increasing manifold.

The Spanish Flu

Caused by a deadly subtype of the H1N1 virus, the Spanish Flu was at its peak between 1918 and 1920. In a matter of eighteen months, it is estimated that the outbreak claimed between 50 million and 100 million victims. With 500 million infected, the ongoing First World War exacerbated its spread. Ultimately, the deadly virus played a role in bringing about an end to the equally deadly conflict.

SARS Outbreak

Between the end of 2002 and 2003, the highly infectious coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, plunged Asia and Canada into chaos. After starting in Hong Kong in November 2002, it was all but contained by July 2003, after claiming almost one thousand lives. Economists have estimated that the SARS outbreak cost the world economy around $40 million.

British Supermarket’s Urge Shoppers to Stop Stockpiling

The coronavirus pandemic has caused chaos and mayhem in almost every corner of the globe. In the United Kingdom, the pandemic has resulting in thousands of shoppers hoarding and panic buying in fears of a complete UK-wide shut down. But British food retailers have appealed to shoppers urging them to stop panic buying during the coronavirus outbreak. They explain that purchasing more than they need would mean others will be left without. The current survival of the fittest approach taken by some irrational members of the public should not be disadvantaging those who are already vulnerable in this coronavirus outbreak.

The Most Vulnerable Suffer due to Stockpiling

Social media has seen a plethora of pictures displaying the empty rows of shelves in the United Kingdom’s busiest supermarkets. Items such as dried pasta, toilet rolls, canned food, and hand soaps have been noted as particularly sought after. This has led to shelves being left under stocked for days on end. Some suggest that this panic buying has increased since the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those showing even mild symptoms of having the virus should self-isolate for at least seven days. This is only half of the time required for self-isolation by every other country in the world and the UK itself up until just a few days ago. This can cause issues to the most vulnerable people in society, such as old people, who cannot afford to stockpile for reasons of health or safety.

Supermarkets Working Closely with the Government on Coronavirus Pandemic

The major British food retailers said in a letter they all signed, that they were working closely with the government and suppliers to keep the supermarkets up and running and to keep the shelves fully stocked. They did say that they would only experience short-term shortages of certain products if the stockpiling continued.

Coronavirus Panic Buying

The coronavirus pandemic has sent shoppers into a frenzy, with panic buying witnessed across the nation’s supermarkets. Initially, items such as hand sanitisers and soap were the first to be sold out, as panic buyers swept supermarket shelves clean. Then came the toilet roll frenzy, with the valuable commodity now in scarce supply. However, with fears of quarantine, isolation and the threat of workplaces turning employees away, frenzied shoppers have begun to stockpile staple food goods. Despite government pronouncements encouraging shoppers not to panic buy, shelves across supermarkets have been cleared, with photos emerging of aisles in complete disarray. As a result of coronavirus stockpiling, supermarket chains have restricted sales of essential food and household items. Items subject to the restrictions include anti-bacterial gels, wipes, sprays, dry pasta, UHT milk and some tinned vegetables. Shoppers’ favourites, amid the coronavirus stockpiling chaos, have also included toilet roll, kitchen roll, long life milk, pasta, beans, soap, painkillers, deodorant, cleaning supplies, bottled water and cereals. Alongside Tesco, other supermarket and high street chains have subjected products to purchase restrictions, including Boots, Waitrose and Aldi.

No Need for Alarm

Despite the panic buying, experts have advised that the paucity of stocks will only be short term. Chair in logistics and transport at Cardiff Business School told the BBC, “Whilst there might be empty shelves at the moment in the shops, over the next week or so, we will see them replenish. The supply chain will start to deliver stuff through to the stores and hopefully this shortage – which is fairly short-term – will clear and everything will be back to normal again.” The supermarket industry has likened the panic buying spike in trading to the Christmas period, detailing that trading has reached 70% of the levels witnessed during the lead-up to the festive season.

Oil Prices Crash and Send Global Stocks Tumbling

Current oil prices have crashed 30% and sent the US 10-year Treasury yield below 0.5% as crude suffers biggest fall since first Gulf war. Saudi Arabia launched a price war over the weekend following the collapse of its oil-cutting alliance with Russia.

Price War on Oil

Oil prices crashed by almost a third after Saudi Arabia launches an aggressive price war, sending rattled stock markets plunging into a rush as investors sought havens. Crude was on track for its biggest one-day drop in price. The last time a drop this significant happened was in the 1991 Gulf war.

The Saudi move threatens to swamp the oil market with supplies just as the coronavirus outbreak hits demand. Saudi Arabia will raise production and offer its crude at deep discounts. This will be done in order to win new oil customers next month.

Effect on International Oil Market

The price crash ricocheted through equity and bond markets around the world. European stocks decreased when the market opened, with London’s FTSE 100 down at least 6%. This is on track to be London’s worst day since the 2008-09 financial crisis.

Oil prices fell as much as 30% when the markter opened today. But later Brent trimmed losses down to 25.2% at $33.90 a barrel of oil. The sell-off for West Texas Intermediate sharpened to a decrease of 27.3% to $30 a barrel for oil.

Oil Investors

Investors now face the prospect of the 10-year yield of the US Treasury soon joining government bonds in Europe and Japan in negative territory. The yield stood at 1.5% just 18 days ago. This demonstrates the full extent of the fall in oil prices and its international effects.

Equities were already deeply affected by the coronavirus epidemic which has brought the world economy to near a recession. Fears are that the panic of the coronavirus epidemic will hit global economic growth.

Bank of England warns insurance boards about Groupthink

Insurance company board members with a set of different skills per individual drastically lower the risk of “groupthink”. The Bank of England also advised that firms should try to follow the requirements of the diversity policy to make sure they add some range within the workers available. When attracting members, a need for diversity is high as it provides the board with a good amount of skills to tackle a lot of different problems.

Insurers and other financial firms ‘should seek a broad set of qualities and competencies when recruiting the management/governing body’ stated a letter from four executive directors of the Prudential Regulation Authority. They also acknowledge the fact that the compliance to some of the rules regarding policy has to improve a lot more for it to be implemented successfully. They also stated that diversity at the top was ‘still not universal’ which goes to show that the fundamentals of some of the policies set are not really pushed out or shown in example from the firms and board members themselves.

Groupthink

Groupthink is a psychological sensation that happens within a group when the push for harmony in a group results in illogical decision-making. When people in large groups seek to have great chemistry between each other, sometimes there is a lenience of people agreeing with each other too much. The lack of conflict and want for consensus decisions to be made leave gaps for lesser amounts of critics more and evaluation when it comes to breaking down some ideas.

Groupthink is a construct of social construct of social psychology but has major influences in the fields of communication studies, political sciences, management and so on. The harm that preventing diversity breeds is the decline of creativity and the creation of different ideas.

Bitcoin Fraud: An Australian Online Finance Scam

Four Australian victims have been swindled with bitcoin that was ran out of a Kiev call centre. The victims were scammed out of an estimated $100m. The financial fraud operation had at least twenty Australians customers registered on its books.

Vulnerable Victims

One of the victims, Kate, could barely afford the initial cost of $250 that she was first convinced to invest in a website called CryptoMB. The person who had persuaded her called himself William Bradley. Kate was just one of the thousands of victims who were defrauded by the “boiler-room” operation. The scheme consisted of salespeople, like William Bradley making phone calls to potential scam victims from a call centre. The scam was exposed today, 1/3/2020, in an investigation that was conducted by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and its media partners.

Another victim told news reporters that he lost about $1,000 through CryptoMB. He spoke with a salesperson identifying himself as Colin Taylor, who called from a UK phone number this time. He is left without savings after he tried to withdraw money from his balance. The company website disappeared, his money was gone, and his life was ruined.

OCCRP Investigation 

The investigation concluded that the total losses wheeled out of the victims from around the world was close to $100m. They also discovered that the company behind the fraud, Milton Group, had a team of 140 ‘salespeople’ working the phones at the call centre. The call centre was based in Kiev.

A whistle-blower from inside the scam itself supplied internal documents on the scheme. The documents showed thousands of interviews, including 20 Australian customers; they were all registered to their books.

The investigation conducted interviews with the victims of this crime. These showed that they were sometimes ripped off by multiple internet finance scam operators who use similar techniques. These do not appear to have any other links with each other.

Coronavirus Financial Meltdown

Recorded as the worst since the financial crisis of 2008, last week global stock markets plummeted to record lows not seen for more than a decade. As Coronavirus spreads and new cases are reported in places far-flung from the original outbreak in Wuhan, China, fears of a pandemic loom large. Meanwhile, the global economy has started to show major signs of being another victim of the Coronavirus. So far, airlines and travel companies have borne the brunt of the latest financial chaos, with news of the spread of the deadly virus triggering widespread panic-selling.

Bosses of British Airways’ parent company IAG have warned that the deadly Coronavirus outbreak could push airlines who are already struggling “over the edge.” Alongside the signalling of alarm at IAG, Easyjet also confirmed a massive drop in demand for flights in and out of Italy. Also, Finnair warned profits were in jeopardy due to the spread of the virus, while United Airlines halted all services to Japan and South Korea. Furthermore, the government of Saudia Arabia also announced a closure of pilgrimages to Mecca, in order to help contain the spread of the virus. The impact of the virus has thus steadily resonated across the global economy.

As markets closed for the weekend on Friday, total losses resulting from the spread of Coronavirus were estimated at £4.6 trillion. Airlines and travel companies have been the hardest hit so far, with industry leaders reporting staggering losses. IAG, which owns British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingues, lost almost a quarter of its value which equates to around £3 billion. While the values of IAG’s shares fell by around 8.4%. Other companies affected by what seems to be a growing crisis include Tui whose value has fallen by 30%, Easyjet which has lost 27% and Ryanair which fell by 20%.