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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 15 October 2020

Government confirms Essex to move to high COVID alert level

The government has confirmed Essex will move to the high COVID alert level alongside London at midnight on Friday 16 October.

The move comes after Essex County Council, with the support of partners and MPs, applied to the Secretary of State for Health for the local alert level for coronavirus to be raised from the ‘Medium’ to the ‘High’ level. It made the appeal, saying its district rates ranged from 50 to 101 per 100,000 people, and were doubling every week. Information on the rates and the research which led to their request can be found here.

The ‘high COVID-alert’ status means that for the districts which make up the county council area of Essex (which excludes Southend-on-Sea), the following measures will be in place:

  • people must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • 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. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.

The measures will be reviewed every 14 days to consider whether they are still appropriate.

Speaking in Parliament, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know that these restrictions are difficult for people. I hate the fact that we have to bring them in. But it is essential that we do bring them in, both to keep people safe, and to prevent greater economic damage in the future.

“When a virus is moving fast, we cannot stay still. And if we act collectively, we know we can control the virus, because we have done it before.”

Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “We welcome the government’s announcement today regarding Essex moving to tier two, the high COVID alert level.

“We understand that the move to the high COVID alert level may affect people’s lives and businesses and we understand the very strong feelings about this. However, we have a duty of care to the people of Essex, and we firmly believe that this is the best route to minimise disruptions, to save lives – not just for those with the virus, but for other patients as well – and to protect businesses.”

You can read Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement to Parliament on COVID alert local areas here. The government announcement can be found here.

More information is available on the GOV.UK website around specific restrictions which apply to the high alert level.

UK’s most promising scientists backed by £109m government investment to bring pioneering ideas to market

Up to 100 of the UK’s up-and-coming science and research leaders will benefit from a £109 million cash boost to convert their innovative ideas to transformational products and services, the government has announced.

Tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges, including climate change and terminal disease, each scientist and researcher will receive a share of £109 million to develop their ‘blue sky’ solutions to global issues such as food supply, cancer diagnosis and dementia treatment.

The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme, which is run by UK Research and Innovation, helps universities and businesses in the UK recruit, develop and retain the world’s best researchers and innovators, regardless of their background. They can apply for up to £1.5 million to support the research and innovation leaders of the future, keeping the UK at the cutting edge of innovation. 

Round 6 of the Future Leaders Fellowships is currently open to applications.

Additional updates and guidance

HMRC Employer Bulletin (October 2020)
HMRC has released its latest Employer bulletin, which includes all of the latest COVID-19 updates to help you continue to meet your payroll obligations to HMRC, including recent government announcements of additional support for businesses and employees.

Test and Trace Support Payment scheme: claiming financial support
If you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate on or after 28 September 2020, you’re under a legal obligation to do so, and could be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. This guidance sets out who can claim support and explains how to apply.

New hotline launched to report COVID fraudsters
A new hotline has been launched to stop fraudsters illegally targeting COVID stimulus schemes. In an initiative between government and the independent charity Crimestoppers, the public can now call a new COVID Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) anonymously and free of charge to report suspected fraudulent activity.

Updates to the COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)
The CCFF provides temporary direct support to investment grade firms with short-term cash-flow problems and is designed to ensure that firms accessing government backed CCFF financing are able to repay. To ensure the CCFF continues to meet its objectives, the Treasury has introduced a new access review process.

Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace
Guidance has been updated to add further clarification on the venues in scope of the policy. Guidance has also been added for hospitality venues on how to verify whether an individual has checked in on the NHS COVID-19 app.