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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 31 July 2020

COVID-19 lockdown easing put on hold
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has postponed tomorrow’s opening of further leisure businesses by at least two weeks.

Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and other remaining close contact services, along with indoor performances, were due to begin opening tomorrow, however due to rising coronavirus infections across England, this will no longer happen until 15 August at the earliest.

Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will also no longer be permitted and pilots of larger crowds in sports venues and conference centres have been paused.

Wedding ceremonies will however be allowed to take place, in accordance with COVID-secure guidelines.

The announcements were made today after Health Secretary Matt Hancock imposed restrictions on gatherings across the north west of England, with data from the Office for National Statistics estimating there were now 4,900 new infections every day, up from around 3,000 per day on 14 July and 2,000 per day at the end of June.

Mr Johnson said: “We can’t afford to ignore this evidence. We know that the steps we are taking will be a heavy blow to many people – to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted, or who now cannot celebrate Eid in the way they would wish, I am really, really sorry about that. But we simply cannot take the risk.

“We will of course study the data carefully and move forward with our intention to open up as soon as we possibly can.”

Mr Johnson said businesses in the areas impacted by last night’s announcement should continue as before. The pause on shielding across the country will also continue as planned.

New measures on the wearing of face coverings were also being introduced.

Mr Johnson said: “We will also extend the requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship. We now recommend face coverings are worn in these settings, and this will become enforceable in law from 8 August.”

The full transcript of Mr Johnson’s announcement can be found here.

£20 million in new grants to boost recovery of small businesses
Thousands of smaller businesses in England are set to benefit from £20 million of new government funding to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government has announced.

Small and medium sized businesses will have access to grants of between £1,000 – £5,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice to help them get back on track.

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP said: “We have always said that we would stand behind our businesses and communities as we rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic. This new funding does exactly that.

“Businesses will be able to use these new grants to pay for the expertise, equipment and technology they need to adapt, recover and rebuild.

“Small and medium sized businesses are the beating heart of communities; they provide employment and contribute significantly to local economies and we are determined to give them the support they need to continue to thrive.”

Today’s announcement builds on a £10 million package announced by the Minister earlier this month to help to kickstart the tourism industry and support the visitor economy.

The support will be fully funded by the government from the England European Regional Development Fund and distributed through Growth Hubs, embedded in local areas across England. More information is available here.

Innovate UK latest funding opportunities
Innovate UK regularly announces new funding opportunities. A selection is below. More opportunities are available on the Innovate UK website.

The Sustainable Innovation Fund
Innovate UK has launched a new fund to help cutting-edge companies of all sizes recover, grow, and drive a re-building economy. The £191 million fund will also support new green innovations, unleashing the sustainable industries of the future along the way.

EUREKA: healthy ageing
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £2 million to develop digital health technologies in partnership with organisations from EUREKA countries.

Designing sustainable plastic solutions
Competition to win funding for early-stage, human-centred design projects to reduce plastics’ harm to the environment, increase productivity and grow the UK economy.

Deployment of energy efficiency technologies in industry
Organisations can apply for a share of up to £30 million for grants for energy efficiency projects that reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions.

Manufacturing made smarter: digital supply chain, feasibility studies
UK registered businesses can apply for funding towards feasibility studies into digital technologies to transform supply chains in UK manufacturing.

Automotive Transformation Fund expression of interest: July 2020
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £1 billion for R&D and capital projects that help industrialise the electrified automotive supply chain at scale in the UK

Additional updates and guidance

Further details of the Job Retention Bonus announced
Further details of how jobs will be protected through the government’s new Job Retention Bonus were unveiled by HMRC today.

New law to ensure furloughed employees receive full redundancy payments
Government brings in law to ensure furloughed employees receive statutory redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate.

Extra university places for vital courses announced
Over 9,000 additional places approved at UK universities for courses to deliver vital services and support the economy.

More businesses set to benefit from government loan scheme
Previously businesses which were classed as ‘undertakings in difficulty’ were unable to access CBILS because of EU rules. From today, businesses in this category and which have fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £9 million can apply to CBILS.