Google searches for 'universal credit', and 'furlough' soar in Britain

Google searches for ‘Universal Credit’, and ‘furlough’ soar as Britons hunt for information on job losses over ‘coronavirus symptoms’

  • Britons are using Google to look up the Government’s guidance on helping firms
  • They are trying to research about how furloughed workers will be kept employed
  • People suffering financial trouble during pandemic searching ‘Universal Credit’
  • But searches for ‘coronavirus symptoms’ have fallen over the past few weeks 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Online searches for terms including ‘furlough’, ‘Universal Credit’ and ‘how to claim benefits’ have skyrocketed as the coronavirus crisis has taken hold in recent weeks.

Britons have been using Google to look up the Government’s guidance on helping firms with furloughed workers to keep them employed but without working.  

People suffering financial trouble during the pandemic are also searching ‘Universal Credit’, with nearly a million trying to claim the benefit in the last two weeks.

But searches for ‘coronavirus symptoms’ have fallen recently from a peak in mid-March when the first restrictions on social gatherings were brought in. 

These graphs show the relative search levels for ‘Universal Credit’, ‘furlough’ and ‘coronavirus symptoms’ over the past month (top) and past week (bottom). They reveal searches for ‘furlough’ have skyrocketed since March 20, while Universal Credit searches are up in the past two weeks. But searches for ‘coronavirus symptoms’ are now falling from a mid-March peak

The term ‘furlough’ is more common in US employment law, but has entered into UK parlance in recent days as ministers unveiled their plan to help stricken businesses.

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will give people 80 per cent of their usual earnings, meaning they can be furloughed rather than laid off from their firm.

Businesses will be able to pay their employees four-fifths of their regular monthly wage, or £2,500 a month, whichever is lower, until at least June 1.

Meanwhile nearly one million Britons have tried to claim Universal Credit in the last fortnight as the coronavirus pandemic batters the UK economy.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has revealed measures over the last two weeks designed to prop up businesses, but many people have had to turn to the benefits system. 

‘FURLOUGH’: These graphs by Google show the interest over the past 30 days (top) and week (bottom) in the term ‘furlough, with figures towards 100 showing the relative peaks of interest

Around 880,000 people applied for Universal Credit in a two-week period, up from the 100,000 applications normally made during this time frame. 

Top 10 coronavirus-related searches in the UK over the past month 

Universal Credit is a project from the Department for Work and Pensions which has replaced six existing benefits with one monthly payment.

Those benefits are child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Meanwhile the Government is coming under increasing pressure over Covid-19 testing as the UK today experienced its biggest day-on-day rise in deaths so far.

A staggering 2,352 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for the virus as of 5pm yesterday, the Department of Health said, up by 563 from 1,789 the day before.

Downing Street said more than 2,000 NHS staff have been tested for coronavirus as the Government faces intense scrutiny over its policy on testing.

Around 8,000 test per days are currently being carried out across the UK even though ministers previously claimed a target of 10,000 tests per day had been hit.

‘UNIVERSAL CREDIT’: Searches for the benefit have increased over the past fortnight with many people suffering financial hardship, but they have dropped off a little since March 26

At present, the focus is on testing patients in hospital, with NHS trusts told earlier in the week they should use up to 15 per cent of any spare testing capacity for staff.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now scrapped that cap, telling NHS hospital labs to use all spare capacity to test their frontline workers.

A letter from NHS England tells trusts to ‘max out’ lab capacity to test staff, adding this ‘means immediate action please to ‘industrialise’ staff swabbing processes’.

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace becomes the fourth Cabinet minister to have self-isolated due to Covid-19.

‘HOW TO CLAIM BENEFITS’: These graphs show how searches for benefits have risen over the past fortnight, although they have dropped off since March 26 to relatively lower levels

The Government has blamed a global lack of reagents needed to carry out tests, though the chemical industry in the UK suggested there were no shortages.

NHS staff have been left frustrated at having to self-isolate just as they are most needed, because tests are not available to show whether they are clear of the virus.

The row over testing comes as 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab became the youngest victim of Covid-19 in England.

In the US, Donald Trump said the UK’s early approach to tackling the outbreak would have been ‘very catastrophic’ if Boris Johnson had not decided to change tack. 

‘CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS’: Searches for ‘coronavirus symptoms’ have fallen over the past few weeks from a peak in mid-March when restrictions on social gatherings were brought in

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