COVID-19 – Government Announcements

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

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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