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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 10 June 2020

New measures to boost digital trade and help turn the UK into a global tech powerhouse
New measures to boost digital trade and help turn the UK into a global tech powerhouse have been announced today (click here) by the International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, answering industry calls for support for UK tech firms.

The new measures will seek to increase tech exports to fast-growing international markets, including Asia-Pacific, strengthen scaleups’ market readiness to export, and attract investment to drive innovation and create jobs.

The measures include the creation of a new Digital Trade Network for Asia-Pacific, which will support UK SMEs to break into the Asian market. The plans also include the launch of a new Tech Exporting Academy, which will provide expert advice to UK scaleups on subject areas essential to expansion, including regulation, intellectual property, and compliance.

The measures are being announced as part of a wider programme of support for UK tech to ensure the industry benefits from trade opportunities, including future free trade agreements (FTAs).

The International Trade Secretary said: “The measures we have announced today will help businesses take advantage of opportunities in fast-growing markets overseas, and provide the support that firms need to grow and eventually ‘go global’.

“I want the UK to be the leading global voice in digital trade and the intellectual driving force in the space, breaking new ground in trade policy and pushing forward innovative new ideas like a global single market for digital trade.”

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The UK is home to a globally renowned tech-sector and we are determined to help it grow further by taking an unashamedly pro-tech approach.
“Through this strategy we will give tech businesses of all sizes and all over the country the tools they need to expand their operations overseas and succeed on the world stage.”

The full range of measures announced today can be found here.

Prime Minister announces additional lockdown easing
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed additional relaxations to the COVID-19 lockdown at today’s Downing Street Press Conference.

Zoos, safari parks and outdoor drive-in cinemas have been added to the list of places able to open from Monday. Places of worship are also permitted to open for private prayer.

In addition, adults living alone in England, including single parents with children under 18, will be able to form a “support bubble” with one other household, the prime minister announced. The updated guidelines come into place from Saturday and are intended to ease the challenges of social isolation during the coronavirus lockdown.

Boris Johnson said the measures are a “targeted intervention” to help those who are most lonely.

“There are still too many people, particularly those who live by themselves, who are lonely and struggling,” he said.

Members of a bubble can stay overnight at each other’s home, and there is no need to stick to the two-metre social distancing rule. The relaxation of the rules does not include those who are shielding.

The bubbles will allow widowed grandparents to visit family members, or have their grandchildren to stay and will also allow single parents to get help with childcare from others.

Additional updates and guidance

Parents returning to work after extended leave eligible for furlough
People on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme even after the June 10 cut-off date. This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees. This applies to people on adoption leave, shared parental leave, and parental bereavement leave. Find out more here.

Migration Advisory Committee seeks views on skills shortages
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is currently seeking evidence from business organisations and employers on what skills are currently in short supply across the UK labour market as part of a review of the shortage occupation lists. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, alongside the main call for evidence, the MAC have created options for businesses to provide more limited evidence or to register that they would have responded in different circumstances. Find out more here.

Sending your forms to Companies House during the coronavirus outbreak
As an emergency response to coronavirus Companies House has developed a temporary online service to upload a number of completed forms and send them to Companies House digitally. Find out which documents you can upload here.

Whole home testing rolled out to all care homes in England
Every care home in England will now be offered a coronavirus test for all residents and staff, even if they have no symptoms. Find out more here. New guidance on the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund is also available for adult social care providers. You can find it here.

Apply for the coronavirus Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund
The Discretionary Grant Fund supports small and micro businesses in England that are not eligible for other grant schemes. Guidance has been updated to includes details on eligibility points. To be eligible, your business should have ongoing fixed property-related costs, and occupy property (or part of a property) with a rateable value or annual mortgage/rent payments below £51,000. Find out more here.

The Basic Payment Scheme: information for farmers, landowners and rural businesses
The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, Country Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) annual revenue claims, close on 15 June. To support applications, the Rural Payments helpline will be open on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June (8:30am-2pm) on 03000 200 301. Find out more here.

Help the government increase coronavirus testing capacity
The government wants help from businesses to increase testing capacity in the UK as part of its strategy to protect the NHS and save lives. It wants to hear specifically from companies who can manufacture and supply:

  • consumables and equipment for coronavirus testing, in particular test kits (such as nose and throat swabs, transport media and vials) and RNA extraction lab consumables (such as reagents, plates and pipette tips)
  • new or existing types of coronavirus tests for antigens or antibodies.
  • public or private sector organisations that can offer laboratory capacity.

Find out more here.