COVID-19 – Government Announcements

London Business Hub has brought together important Government announcements to keep your business up to date with COVID-19 developments.

COVID-19 support announced in Budget (3 March 2021)

The Chancellor has announced a package of measures to support businesses and the self-employed in the Budget. 

Support includes: 

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021. Employers will be required to make a 10% contribution towards the hours their staff do not work in July, rising to 20% in August and September.
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been extended until September. The fourth grant will cover February to April and be worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500. The fifth grant will be available from July. The eligibility criteria will also be widened to include those who filed a 2019/20 tax return. 
  • A £5 billion Restart Grant scheme will help high street shops and hospitality venues reopen. Non-essential retail businesses will receive grants of up to £6,000 per premises, while hospitality and leisure businesses will be eligible for grants of up to £18,000.
  • Eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, with up to 66% relief for the rest of 2021/22. 
  • A UK-wide Recovery Loan Scheme will make available loans of between £25,001 and £10 million, along with asset and invoice finance between £1,000 and £10 million, to help businesses through the next stage of recovery.
  • Employers will receive £3,000 for each new apprentice hired between 1 April and 30 September 2021. An additional £126 million will be made available to support traineeships. 
  • £300 million has been allocated to extend the Culture Recovery Fund to support national and local cultural organisations. 
  • The 5% reduced VAT rate for the hospitality and tourism sector has been extended until 30 September 2021, followed by an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months. 

Find out more

UK COVID-19 alert level moves from level 4 to level 5 (4 January 2021)

On 4 January 2021, the Prime Minister announced a national lockdown in England and instructed people to stay at home. The restrictions include:

  • Outdoor sports venues, such as golf courses, tennis courts and outside gyms, must close.
  • Non-essential retail, indoor leisure (such as swimming pools and gyms), indoor entertainment (such as cinemas and casinos), and personal care sectors must all close.
  • Hospitality settings, such as bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes must close except for takeaway, click-and-collect and drive-through. However, takeaway alcohol is banned.
  • Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs and guest houses must close and can only open for a guest in limited and specific circumstances.
  • Rules on support bubbles and childcare bubbles will remain as currently, and communal worship can continue to take place.
  • Residents must not stay overnight away from home unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so.
  • Residents must not leave or be outside of their home or garden except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’, such as for work, to buy essentials, for education and care, for exercise, or to visit people in your support bubble. 

Find out more about the restrictions.

Lockdown grants announced

The Chancellor has announced that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000. The grants will be provided on a per-property basis to support businesses through the latest restrictions.

Find out more about the grants.

London moves into ‘tier 2’ (2 December 2020)

London has moved into tier 2 (high tier) following the return to a tiered system of coronavirus restrictions.

The following restrictions apply in tier 2:

  • No mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles. Rule of six outdoors.
  • Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. They must stop taking orders at 10pm and close by 11pm.
  • Reduce the number of journeys made where possible. Avoid travel into ‘very high’ tier areas except where necessary.
  • Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

Find out more about tier 2 restrictions.

The Government has also published a poster to provide an overview of tier 2 restrictions.

Prime Minister outlines COVID-19 Winter Plan (23 November 2020)

The Prime Minister has outlined the Government’s new COVID-19 Winter Plan, which sets out measures for managing COVID-19 through the end of 2020 and into the start of 2021.

Under the COVID-19 Winter Plan, local areas across England will be categorised into a stricter version of the three-tier system of restrictions that operated in England before the current national lockdown began. Each tier will set out the restrictions that will apply after the national restrictions end on 2 December.

On 2 December, across all of England, regardless of tier:

  • The stay at home requirement will end, with travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.
  • Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen.
  • Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume.
  • People will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces – the rule of six will now apply outdoors.

The following restrictions will also come into force depending on the local area’s tier:

Medium tier

  • Rule of six applies indoors and outdoors.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table service only. They must stop taking orders at 10pm and close by 11pm.
  • Avoid travel into ‘very high’ tier areas except where necessary.
  • Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

High tier

  • No mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles. Rule of six outdoors.
  • Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. They must stop taking orders at 10pm and close by 11pm.
  • Reduce the number of journeys made where possible. Avoid travel into ‘very high’ tier areas except where necessary.
  • Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

Very high tier

  • No mixing of households indoors or in most outdoor places, apart from support bubbles.
  • Hospitality venues must close with the exception of takeaway, drive-through or delivery.
  • Indoor entertainment venues must close.
  • Avoid travelling outside the area, other than where necessary.
  • Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

The Government will confirm which areas will fall into which tier later this week.

New national restrictions come into force from 5 November

The following new national restrictions came into force across England on Thursday 5 November:

  • People should work from home wherever possible. Workplaces should stay open where people cannot work from home.
  • Non-essential retail, leisure facilities, entertainment venues and personal care facilities are required to close. A full list of business closures is available here.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services.
  • Everyone must stay home and may only leave for a limited set of reasons. These include for work, for education, for exercise, for medical reasons, to provide care and to shop for essentials.
  • People cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions.
  • Indoor mixing is not allowed outside of your household or support bubble. People can exercise or visit outdoor public places with members of their own household, support bubble, or one person from another household.

The new restrictions will apply across England up to Wednesday 2 December. At the end of the period, the Government will look to return to a regional approach with regard to coronavirus restrictions.

Find out more about the restrictions.

Financial support

The UK Government has set out details of the financial support available for businesses, the self-employed and employees in England affected by the new restrictions.

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (or Furlough Scheme) has been extended until the end of March 2021. Under the scheme, the Government will pay 80% of an employee’s salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Employers will pay employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions. The Government will review the scheme in January to see if the economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more.
  • Businesses required to close due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for grants of up to £3,000 per month.
  • Mortgage holidays will be extended.
  • The third grant under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme covering November to January will be increased, with the self-employed receiving 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.
  • The Government has extended the application deadlines for the following business interruption loan schemes until 31 January 2021: the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Future Fund. Eligible businesses will be able to ‘top-up’ existing Bounce Back Loans should they need additional finance.

Find out more about the support available.


Prime Minister’s statement on three-tier alert system (12 October 2020)

The Prime Minister has set out details of the UK Government’s new three-tier COVID-19 alert system for England. Under the system, regions and local areas in England will be categorised as being on medium, high or very high alert. Each tier will set out the COVID-19 restrictions that apply.

Medium

Where the medium alert level is in place, national restrictions will continue to apply.

  • All businesses can continue to operate in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those that are required to remain closed, such as nightclubs.
  • Hospitality businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses can continue to sell food for consumption off the premises after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru.
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees.
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed.
  • People must not meet in groups larger than six, indoors or outdoors.

High

In areas with a higher level of infections, the following additional measures are in place:

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.
  • People must not meet in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or other space.
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible.

Very high 

In areas with a very high level of infections, the Government will set a baseline of measures that will apply to any local area in this local alert level. This includes:

  • Pubs and bars must close, and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant.
  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space.
  • Wedding receptions are not allowed.
  • People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘very high’ area they are in, or entering a ‘very high’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit.
  • People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘very high’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘very high’ area if they are resident elsewhere.

The Government will consult with local authorities to determine any additional measures that are required in very high alert areas.

The Prime Minister has also announced financial support for local authorities in areas affected by the new measures.

Find out more about the alert levels.

Chancellor outlines Winter Economy Plan (24 September 2020)

The Chancellor has outlined his Winter Economy Plan to protect jobs and support businesses over the coming months. Support includes:

Support for employers and workers

  • A new six-month Job Support Scheme will be introduced from 1 November to protect jobs in businesses that are facing lower demand over the winter due to coronavirus. The Government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand. Employers will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work – but for the hours not worked, the Government and the employer will each pay one-third of their equivalent salary. In order to support only viable jobs, employees must be working at least 33% of their usual hours. The level of grant will be calculated based on the employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
  • The Government will extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant. An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus. The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875. An additional second grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April.

Tax cuts and deferrals

  • The Government will extend the temporary 15% VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors until the end of March 2021.
  • Eligible businesses that deferred their VAT bills will be given more breathing space through the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay back in smaller instalments. Rather than paying a lump sum in full at the end of March next year, they will be able to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year.
  • Self-assessment taxpayers will be able to benefit from a separate additional 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.

Coronavirus loan schemes

  • A new Pay as You Grow flexible repayment scheme will support businesses that took out a Bounce Back Loan. This includes extending the length of the loan from six years to ten, which will cut monthly repayments by nearly half. Interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available to businesses.
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders will be given the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to ten years if it will help businesses to repay the loan.
  • The Chancellor will extend applications for the Government’s coronavirus loan schemes until the end of November. This covers the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Future Fund.

Further coronavirus restrictions announced (22 September 2020)

On 22 September, the Prime Minister announced further national measures to address rising cases of coronavirus in England. The measures include:

  • Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. Staff in hospitality and retail will now also be required to wear face coverings from 24 September.
  • All hospitality venues must operate with table service only, excluding takeaways.
  • Hospitality businesses selling food or drink must be closed between 10pm and 5am from 24 September. This will include takeaways but delivery services can continue after 10pm.
  • Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will now become law from 24 September.
  • Office workers who can work effectively from home should do so.
  • Businesses and organisations will face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure from 28 September.
  • Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must wear face coverings from 23 September.
  • Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will no longer go ahead.

Read more about the measures.

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