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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 21 April 2020

Government backs UK scientists and industry to mass-produce world’s first successful COVID-19 vaccine
The government has pledged more than £40 million to support the UK’s leading scientists and manufacturers develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking at today’s Downing Street Press Conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said human trials would be starting this week, as work was accelerated, and he announced more than £40m in funding to support two projects for clinical trials.

“The upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it,” he said.

“In the long run, the best way to defeat the virus is a vaccine,” he said. “The UK has been at the forefront of the global effort and spent more money than any other country on the global search for a vaccine and two leading advances are taking place here at home, at Oxford University and Imperial College.

“Both projects are making rapid progress and I have told the scientists we will do everything in our power to support them. At the same time, we are investing in manufacturing capability so if either of these vaccines work, we can make it available for British people as soon as humanly possible.

“The virus is a powerful enemy, but the power of human ingenuity is stronger.”

New Coronavirus business support finder tool launched to signpost businesses to the right grants, loans and funds
A new ‘support finder’ tool launched today by the government will help businesses and self-employed people across the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new online platform on gov.uk asks business owners and the self-employed to fill out a quick and simple online questionnaire. They will then be directed to a list of all the financial support they may be eligible for. You can find out more about the tool here.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Businesses of all shapes and sizes play a vital role in our economy, which is why we want to make it as easy as possible for all of them to access our wide-ranging package of financial support during this challenging time.”

Industry steps up to the UK Government PPE and ventilator challenges
Support from the UK’s manufacturing industry is about to deliver a new stream of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for the NHS and other key workers.

Speaking at today’s Downing Street Press Conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock thanked the more than 8,000 companies who had come forward to offer support in manufacturing PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). And he said that the government had already identified 159 potential UK manufacturers who were starting to come onstream.

“I have said many times I am determined to get people the PPE that they need,” he said. “This is a 24/7 operation; the biggest cross-government operation I have ever seen and I am grateful to all my colleagues across the government for their tremendous hard work on this.”

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 businesses have contacted the government offering support in the production of ventilators since Prime Minister issued the challenge on 16 March.

Today the government confirmed that having reviewed all offers of support specifically relating to ventilators against the MHRA specifications, it is now working with a number of organisations and consortia on the accelerated production and distribution of different types of ventilators.

Manufacturing of prototypes, both new designs and modified existing designs, is commencing. Once this is completed extensive testing to demonstrate they are safe, and meet clinical requirements, will follow.      

In the short term, production and distribution of ventilators across the UK is expected to ramp up significantly. If you have any queries relating to the ventilator challenge, email ventilatorchallenge@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Government letters and statements

  • Click here to read a letter from the Economic Secretary, John Glen, to front line staff working to provide essential banking services.
  • Click here to read a letter from James Brokenshire and Lord Stephen Greenhalgh in response to the Fire Brigades Union on the government’s actions to support fire services.
  • Click here to read a letter from the Local Government Minister Simon Clarke to councils thanking them again for their efforts responding to the coronavirus pandemic and setting out further details of additional funding
  • Click here to read the Biometrics Commissioner statement on the use of symptom tracking applications, digital contact tracing applications and digital immunity certificates.

Additional new guidance

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Rishi Sunak unveils the final details of CLBILS – click here to view.

Vulnerable groups set to benefit from improved legal aid support
Some of the most vulnerable people in society, including victims of domestic abuse, will be given enhanced support through their legal aid after changes unveiled today (21 April 2020) – click here to view.

Business support packages: latest updates

The Coronavirus Business Support Hub is now available at gov.uk/business-support.

The government has also launched a Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp which is now updated with business support advice. Text ‘hi’ to 07860064422 via Whatsapp and there are business support measures highlighted under option 5 with the relevant links to gov.uk pages.

Be the Business Webinar – future proof your business
In-depth discussion with practical advice and resources that can help your business. Find out more here.

Funding and support

  • Financial support for businesses – click here
  • Claim for your employee’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – click here
  • Apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – click here
  • Defer your VAT payments – click here
  • Prevent your business from being evicted – click here

Support for the retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery sectors

  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 – click here
  • 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England – click here

Self-employed people and sole traders

  • Claim a grant through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme – click here
  • Self-employment and Universal Credit – click here
  • If you cannot pay your tax bill on time – click here
  • Carry out work in people’s homes safely (tradespeople) – click here
  • Drivers’ hours rules relaxations – click here
  • Negotiate a mortgage payment holiday – click here

Your responsibilities as an employer

  • What you need to do and how to keep your employees safe – click here
  • Claim for your employee’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – click here
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): employer guide – click here
  • Claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – click here
  • Find out what to do if your employee needs time off to look after dependants – click here
  • Which expenses are taxable if your employees work from home – click here
  • Apprenticeships: how they can continue – click here
  • Guidance for Tier 2, 4 and 5 visa sponsors of people affected by coronavirus – click here

Managing your business during coronavirus

  • Cleaning your workplace safely – click here
  • Handwashing advice posters – click here
  • Rules that have been relaxed to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic – click here
  • Construction sites and safe working – click here
  • Farmers, landowners and rural businesses – click here
  • Food businesses – click here
  • Freight transport businesses – click here
  • Medical and healthcare industry – click here
  • Shipping and sea ports businesses – click here
  • Supported accommodation, residential care and home care – click here
  • Transport businesses – click here

Business closures

  • Businesses that must close – click here
  • If you’re staying open for business: safe working guidance – click here
  • Closing holiday accommodation to temporary residents – click here

Can your business offer Coronavirus support?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) hub
A new hub containing guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), and infection prevention and control (IPC) is now available, containing information for both health and social care settings and other workers and sectors. Click here for more information.

The hub also links to the Cross-government UK-wide PPE plan to ensure that critical PPE is delivered to those on the frontline. This includes a new ‘Make’ strategy of encouraging UK manufacturers to produce PPE. We would welcome support from manufacturers who wish to offer their production facilities where they can meet the required specifications for use by the NHS and care sector – click here. New offers can continue to be made via www.gov.uk/coronavirus-support-from-business.

Help the government increase coronavirus (COVID-19) testing capacity
There is a hub (click here) for businesses seeking to help the government increase testing capacity in the UK as part of its strategy to protect the NHS and save lives. It includes a raft of information, including specification for the required antibody test and guidance about the criteria laboratories need to meet to partner with a local NHS trust. Businesses can provide support in a number of ways:

  • Help supply materials and equipment – click here
  • Help supply complete testing methods – click here
  • Help provide laboratory capacity – click here
  • Help provide new testing methods in 4 key areas – click here

Can your business offer further support?
The UK Government is looking for businesses who can offer support in the multiple areas and has set up an online tool where businesses can register. To offer support click here.