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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 17 December 2020

Hastings and Rother to move into Tier 3

Hastings & Rother will move to Tier 3 from 00:01 Saturday (19 December), Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

Mr Hancock made the announcement to the House of Commons earlier today. This announcement means, from Saturday, Hastings & Rother will be under the same coronavirus restrictions as Kent, Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea.

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant and Surrey (except Waverley), will also be in tier three from Saturday, Mr Hancock also announced today.

Only two areas have moved down a tier – Bristol and North Somerset to tier two and Herefordshire from tier two to tier one.

Find out more on what you can and cannot do in Tier 3 areas.

The Health Secretary said the UK had “come so far” in fighting COVID-19 and “mustn’t blow it now”.He said: “As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control. It’s so vital everyone sticks at it and does the right thing, especially over this Christmas period.”

Mr Hancock also told the Commons Kent was the county worst-affected by COVID-19 in England, and urged people to act with “serious responsibility”.

“The only way we can get it under control is for people in Kent to essentially behave as if they have the virus and are trying not to pass it on to somebody else. Be really cautious in Kent. It is the area of the country which has the biggest problem both in terms of case rates and in terms therefore of the huge pressures on the NHS in Kent.”

You can read Mr Hancock’s statement to Parliament here.

Furlough scheme extended to end of April 2021

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has today announced the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021.

In a move the government says will give businesses and employees certainty into the New Year, the government will continue to contribute 80% towards the wages of staff furloughed. Employers will only be required to pay wages, National Insurance Contributions (NICS) and pensions for hours worked; and NICS and pensions for hours not worked.

The Chancellor has also confirmed the government-guaranteed COVID-19 business loan schemes until the end of March.

Today’s announcements come as the Chancellor confirmed the date of the next Budget, which will take place on 3 March. The government has said the Budget will deliver the next phase of the plan to tackle coronavirus and protect jobs.

The Chancellor said: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.

“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support, as well as implementing our Plan for Jobs.”

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, added: “While our loan schemes have provided a vital lifeline to millions of firms across the country, we know business owners need additional certainty as we head into the New Year.

“Extending government-backed loan schemes will give companies right across the UK the finance they need to support, protect and create jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”

You can read more on the furlough scheme extension here.

Additional updates and guidance

Extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
This scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021. The full guidance for claims from November onwards, including how you can check if you’re eligible and how to calculate and make a claim online, is available.

Import tariffs suspended on COVID-19 products to fight virus
Tariffs have been suspended on a wide range of goods in the fight against COVID-19 including face masks, gloves and other protective equipment.

What you can and cannot do in areas in Tier 1 and Tier 2 local restrictions
Check updated information on visiting venues and added links to guidance on which businesses and venues are permitted to be open in both Tier 1 and Tier 2:

Working safely during coronavirus updates

  • For restaurants, pubs, bars and takeawayguidance on Tier 3 restrictions to clarify that customers can enter the premises to place or collect any type of order between 5am and 11pm has been updated.
  • Labs and research facilities page has been updated to clarify that workplace canteens open to staff only do not need to collect data for NHS Test and Trace
  • Shops and branches – Updated guidance to clarify that betting shops must keep a record of all customers, visitors and staff and that workplace canteens open to staff only do not need to collect data for NHS Test and Trace

PPE portal – How to order PPE
Eligible health and social care providers can order PPE through the portal to meet the increased need that has arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current order limits for different types and sizes of eligible health and social care providers is available to view.

Health and wellbeing of the adult social care workforce
This page has been updated to reflect current guidance on health and wellbeing and the new local tier restrictions. This advice is for those working in adult social care on managing their mental health and how employers can take care of the wellbeing of their staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

Guidance for businesses and organisations on how to recognise, contain and report incidents of coronavirus
This page has been updated with a section ‘Early outbreak management action card example’.