Lunchtime summary: A&E attendance down, budget deficit up

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New figures released this morning show that A&E attendance is less than half its normal level, as people put off visiting hospital. For months, health officials have warned of the devastating indirect impact of the pandemic on health services, and their words are now borne out in the data, which also shows that more people are waiting more than six weeks for diagnostic tests such as MRIs and colonoscopies than any time in the past 12 years.

On the economic impact of the virus, the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the UK's budget deficit could reach levels not seen since the Second World War. The group’s modelling suggests the deficit could reach £294.8bn in 2020-21, or 15.2 per cent of GDP. At the peak of the financial crisis, the deficit reached 10.2 per cent of GDP.

In other news, the boss of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi has caused outrage by suggesting the US had a "right" to the largest pre-orders of the company's vaccines because the country had helped fund the research, while in Hungary, a senior civil servant said the nation's emergency coronavirus laws, which have essentially handed Viktor Orbán unlimited power, could be lifted next month.

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