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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 30 April 2020

Roadmap for lockdown exit strategy promised next week
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed today that the UK is ‘past the peak’ of COVID-19 and promised to deliver a roadmap for a lockdown exit strategy next week.

Speaking at his first Downing Street press conference since he contracted the virus, the Prime Minister thanked everyone who had provided support in his absence, and had a special ‘thank you’ for the NHS.

He said there were many reasons to remain hopeful for the long-term, including that the UK is leading international efforts to find a vaccine.

“Today, Oxford University has announced a partnership with AstraZenica to develop a means of inoculating ourselves against the disease,” he said.

“But until this day comes, and we cannot say exactly when it may be, we will have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity.”

He said that next week he would announce a plan for the lockdown exit strategy which would explain how:

  1. we can get our economy moving
  2. we can get our children back to school and into childcare
  3. we can travel to work and make life in workplaces safer

He said the plan would be guided by science and the government would try to build maximum consensus across all parties and across the UK.

The Prime Minister said it remained ‘vital’ that the country does not lose control of the virus and face a second, and even bigger, spike in the virus.

“The country came together in way few of us have seen in our lifetimes to protect the NHS and save lives, “ he said, “and that is why I am convinced we can continue to do this in Phase 2 as well.”

Responding to a question on the whether the government’s view was that ‘the economy will just have to wait’ while lockdown continues, the Prime Minister said that was “totally right”.

He added: “We mourn for every life lost and we mourn for the economic damage as well… and for the dreams people are seeing shattered in their businesses.”

The PM said the government had made “a huge effort” to look after workers, with furlough schemes and loans, and is doing “everything we can”.

But he added: “It is absolutely vital if we are to bounce back as strongly as I think we can that we don’t have a second bout of this, a second bad spike, because that would do lasting economic damage.

“That is why we have to calibrate our measures so carefully, making sure not only to unlock the economy gradually, but to find ways of continuing to suppress the disease.”

Treasury cuts taxes to reduce PPE costs
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals to protect against COVID-19 will be free from VAT for a three-month period from tomorrow (May 1).

The government had already removed import duties from PPE to ensure more essential equipment can get to the front line quicker, and says it believes the VAT holiday will save around £100 million.

More information is available here.

UK just misses its 100,000 daily testing target
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at today’s Press Conference taht 81,611 people were tested for coronavirus yesterday, an increase of almost 30,000 on the day before.

This takes the government 80% of the way to meeting its goal of doing 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by today, the last day of April.

The scheme has been expanded this week to cover those with symptoms unable to work at home (such as construction workers, shop workers, emergency tradespeople and delivery drivers), as well as anyone they live with. People can self-refer or be referred by their employer. Details can be found here.

  • Check whether you are entitled to the grant, using the GOV UK checker tool – click here.
  • Reach out to your council if you think you’re eligible, using the GOV UK find your council tool – click here.

For more information on the schemes, please click here.

Latest information and updates

Ask a question at a coronavirus press conference
Find out how you can ask the government a question at the daily coronavirus press conference here.

The NHS-funded nursing care rate is being increased to £183.92 from 1 April 2020
The NHS-funded nursing care standard weekly rate per person for 2019 to 2020 will increase and be backdated to 1 April 2019. The current rate of £165.56 will increase by 9% to £180.31 for the 2019 to 2020 financial year. Click here for more information.

VAT scrapped on E-publications
Plans to scrap VAT on e-publications fast-tracked and will come into force tomorrow. Click here for more information.

Letter to energy sector
Click here to read a letter from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, to the UK’s energy sector.

Testing for all workers

Eligibility for COVID-19 testing has been expanded to all workers who have to leave their home in order to work. People can self-refer, or be referred by their employer. Details can be found here.

HMRC Webinars: online support for businesses

The government is committed to supporting people, employers and businesses through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and HMRC has a range of online webinars.

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Job Retention Scheme: During this webinar HMRC will cover furloughed workers, who can apply for the scheme, following the rules of the scheme, how much may be claimed, how to claim and what you’ll need to claim. Click here to choose a date and time.
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – How to make a claim: This guides you through making a claim, including the essential information you need, what to do before you make your claim, calculating and processing your claim. Click here to choose a date and time.
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme: Providing an overview of the scheme, this webinar looks at who can claim, when to start paying SSP, employees you can claim for, making a claim, keeping records, and more. Click here to choose a date and time.

If you’ve missed any of the live webinars, you can catch up with HMRC’s series of recorded webinars on HMRC’s YouTube channel – click here.

Resources to support your business

South East Creatives programme
Webinars and workshops: If you are a business or sole trader in the creative, cultural or digital sector, there are a number of webinars coming up to help your business during the COVID-19 crisis from the South East Creatives’ Workshop + Mentoring Online Programme – click here. Workshops are running until the end of September.

Grants: The programme is also still offering grants for creatives across the South East. If you are sole trader or company trading in the creative, cultural or digital sector you could consider applying for a Top-up Grant. If you’re looking to spend between £3k and £4k, South East Creatives could fund 35% of your costs. Click here to find out more.

DASA (Defence And Security Accelerator)
The Defence and Security Accelerator is part of the Ministry of Defence. We provide funding to help innovators develop solutions to Defence and Security problems. At present, we have a £1m fund to support innovation related to COVID19 and have accelerated our review processes to turn proposals around rapidly. If you have a potential innovation, you can submit an outline and request a discussion with your regional Innovation Partner through our website – click here.

DASA has a wide rage of competitions and offers of funding open to businesses including COVID-19 – click here to find out more.

Government Coronavirus Business Support Hub
You can go here to find out all the latest information about what funding and support is available for your business, managing your business during coronavirus and business closures. There is also a new ‘support finder’ tool (available here) to help businesses easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic through a quick and simple online questionnaire. You can find out more about the tool here.

Government Coronavirus Business Support Whatsapp
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 pages. Click here for more information.

Government Business support helpline
Contact the government’s business support helpline for free advice

Phone: 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

HMRC Helpline
HMRC have online help set up to help businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus.

The best way to get help from HMRC on any topic is to contact them online – click here. Alternatively, you can call them on 0800 0159 559

Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the support available:

  • for topics that cover supporting and retaining staff and the self-employed, register to attend future webinars here or watch recorded sessions here
  • for international trade, register here

Coronavirus Business Support blog
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have created the Coronavirus Business Support Blog to help business get the support they need to help with the impact of coronavirus. Click here to find out more.

Find a Job Service
If your business needs more workers as a result of COVID-19, such as those in food logistics, preparation and retail, post vacancies on Find a Job – click here.

Coronavirus support from Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations
Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations are providing coronavirus related  support for specific sectors. Click here to access the full list.