UK COVID-19 Measures: UK Prime Minister’s Daily Press Conference
Latest COVID-19 Measures Announced at The UK Prime Minister’s Daily Press Conference - 8th April 2020
While his condition is said to be improving, the Prime Minister is to spend his third consecutive night in hospital tonight. Accordingly, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak held today’s Coronavirus press conference from Downing Street, during which he announced new measures to support the charities sector. News also emerged today that a second Nightingale Hospital, in Birmingham, is to open on Friday, with another to follow in Manchester “in the next week or so”.
Government Daily Covid-19 Press Conference
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was joined in the daily press conference by Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser Angela McClean and National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis.
He began the briefing by updating the public on the Prime Minister’s condition, reporting that while he remains in intensive care, his health is improving. Mr Johnson is said to be sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the team.
The Chancellor’s key announcements tonight centred on new measures to support charities. He stated that everyone in society depends on each other for care, including charities and foundations. He announced a scheme to provide £750 million for charities that are on the Coronavirus frontline. £370 million of this is to be reserved for small local charities. In England, this will be administered through organisations such as the National Lottery Communities Fund, whilst Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive this through the Barnett formula. £200 million will be supplied to hospices and other organisations including St. John’s Ambulance and those supporting the vulnerable and disabled. In addition, Mr Sunak promised to match donations to the BBC’s ‘The Big Night In’ fundraiser in association with Children in Need and Comic Relief later this month. The government will kick this off with an initial £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust.
Professor McLean reported that a 94% footfall drop in Network Rail stations at the end of March shows that the count of new cases was not accelerating out of control. She reminded viewers that while hospital attendance will respond more slowly to the infection rate, the rate of increase is slowing and beginning to flatten. In some parts of the country, the rate of increase in patients in critical care has flattened, however we have still seen a 4% increase across the country. Finally, although the death rate continues to rise, McLean warned that this statistic has long reporting lags compared to other figures.
Mr Powis opened by affirming his support for the charities sector and the support it provides the NHS. He also reminded the public that the NHS is ready to respond to other emergencies such as a stroke or heart attack, and they should still contact the emergency services in this case.
Questioned on government decisions on relaxing social distancing measures, Mr Sunak revealed that the COBRA committee will meet tomorrow to review lockdown procedures. On questions regarding the vulnerability of state to abuse, Mr Sunak reminded viewers that measures including “robust verification and auditing processes” have been made to counter fraud, except where it is excessively cumbersome.
When questioned about whether it was in the UK’s best economic interests for the Brexit transition period to end in December this year as planned, the Chancellor outlined that the UK is now negotiating trading arrangements, and that David Frost held talks earlier this week. Mr Frost will speak with his counterpart later this or next week.
Prime Minister remains in intensive care, with Dominic Raab standing in
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to spend a third night in the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital for “close monitoring”. He remains clinically stable and has been “responding to treatment”.
The Prime Minister is understood to have experienced breathing difficulties on Monday afternoon. It was revealed that he had remained conscious throughout. Though he has not been put on a ventilator, he has been receiving standard oxygen treatment in the intensive care unit where he continues to be closely monitored.
A review of social distancing measures will take place next week. The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab currently has the authority to take major decisions on immediate security issues but does not have the power to make changes to Cabinet. In the event that Mr Raab also falls ill, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is the next in line to assume these responsibilities.
Total UK COVID-19 Cases
|Most recent 24hr period||Cumulative total|
|Tests conducted||14,682 (excl. Northern Ireland)
|Confirmed cases||5,492 (excl. Manchester and Leeds)||60,733|
Summary of UK COVID-19 Business Support Schemes
Beginning with the measures announced in the Budget on 11th March, the UK Government has announced a series of economic interventions aimed at supporting employees, employers and businesses through the uncertainty and potential loss of income resulting from the Covid-19 crisis and the restrictions on business activity as a result. The Government has established a business support web portal with details on eligibility and how businesses can apply for support. A summary of those measures of potential relevance to FTI Consulting clients is listed below.
Employment Retention Measures
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Employers can claim 80% of their usual monthly wage costs for furloughed employees, limited to £2,500 per individual, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrollment employer pension contributions on that wage. The temporary scheme will be open to all UK employers for at least three months, backdated to 1st March 2020. The scheme is expected to be operational by the end of April.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate: The Government will refund eligible Statutory Sick Pay costs to all employers with fewer than 250 employees. This applies to any claim arising as a result of Covid-19, including precautionary self-isolation, and is limited to two weeks per employee. While existing systems are not designed to facilitate such employer refunds, the Government is working to establish a repayment mechanism as soon as possible.
Self-employed Income Support Scheme: Most self-employed workers will be able to apply for a grant of up to 80% of average monthly profits from the last three years, capped at a maximum of £2,500 per month. The scheme will cover three months’ earnings with the first lump sum payments anticipated in June. The scheme will be open to those with trading profits of up to £50,000 in 2018-2019 or an average annual trading profit of up to £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. At least half of a claimants’ income must come from self-employment.
Bridging Loans to Mitigate Against Business Disruption
COVID-19 Commercial Financing Facility: The Bank of England’s Covid-19 Commercial Financing Facility is intended to support large companies of investment grade standing. Loans, though the purchase of commercial paper of up to one year maturity, will be provided to support short term liquidity, mitigating against cashflow disruption. The scheme has been extended to include those businesses that are too large to qualify for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (see below) but will need to have had a short or long-term rating of investment grade, as at 1 March 2020, or equivalent.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: To support small business access to bank lending and overdrafts, the Government is guaranteeing 80% on loans provided through the scheme up to an individual value of £5m (subject to a per lender cap on claims). Most UK businesses with turnover of under £41 million will be eligible. The scheme is being facilitated by the British Business Bank through participating partners (which includes most high street banks). For borrowers, no interest will be charged for the first twelve months of the loan, which will be paid by the Government. The Government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee. As of April 3, the Government has extended the scheme so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to remain operational.
Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme: The Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to offer loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million. This is intended to give banks the confidence to lend to more businesses which are impacted by coronavirus. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month.
Bank of England Term Funding Scheme: The Bank of England has introduced a new Term Funding Scheme with additional incentives for small businesses financed by the issuance of central bank reserves. Over the next 12 months, the scheme will offer four-year funding of at least 5% of participants’ stock at interest rates at, or very close to, Bank Rate.
Extension Period on Filing Accounts: Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. While companies will have to apply for this extension, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted one. Applications can be made through a fast- track online system which will take 15 minutes to complete.
Grant Funding measures
Small Business Grant Funding: Individual grants of £10,000 will be made available through local authorities to businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) that already pay little or no business rates.
Tax Relief Measures
VAT Deferral: The Government has deferred VAT payment demands for the next quarter, meaning that no business will be required to pay outstanding VAT until the end of June. Businesses will have until the end of the year to reconcile any accumulated tax debts.
Support for Businesses Paying Tax: HMRC have established a dedicated Covid-19 helpline to support businesses and self-employed individuals unable to meet tax demands. Bespoke Time to Pay arrangements will be offered to those businesses with a legitimate need and support their recovery while navigating temporary financial challenges. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty due to Covid-19.
Deferral of Self-Assessment Payment: Income tax payments due under Self-Assessment on 31st July 2020 will be deferred until 31st January 2021. All self-employed individuals will be eligible.
Sector-Specific Support Measures
Cash Grant for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure: A cash grant of up to £25,000 will be made available to businesses in England operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000. Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.
Business Rates Holiday for Retail/Hospitality/Leisure venues: A 100% business rates holiday will be applied from 1st April for a period of one year to all retail, hospitality and leisure venues, including shops, pubs, restaurants and theaters. There is no limit to rateable values.
Business Rate Holiday for Nurseries: Nurseries in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. This will apply to properties that are occupied by providers on the Government’s Early Years Register and are wholly or mainly used for the provision of nursery education.
Support Package for Charities: Charities across the UK will receive a £750 million package of support to ensure they can continue their work during the coronavirus outbreak. This will include hospices.
Supermarket Competition Law: To address a spike in public demand, the Government has waived a selection of competition laws to allow supermarkets and food retailers to coordinate activities such as opening times, product resources and the pooling of staff.
Extension Period on Filing Accounts: Businesses can apply for an additional three months to file accounts with Companies House to help avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of Covid-19. Applications can be made through a fast-track online system.
Business interruption Insurance: The Government has confirmed that the business impact of Government measures to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus provides sufficient grounds for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover in place.
Protection for commercial tenants: The Government has guaranteed that commercial tenants who are unable to meet rent demands due to a fall in income as a result of the measures to deal with the Covid-19 crisis will be protected from eviction for a period of three months. Tenants will still be liable for accumulated rent after this period.
Flexible Insolvency rules: Changes will include allowing businesses undergoing restructuring to continue trading and receive supplies. There will also be a temporary suspension of wrongful trading provisions for company directors to remove the threat of personal liability, which will apply retrospectively from 1st March.
Gender Pay Gap Reporting Suspension: The Government Equalities Office has suspended the requirement for eligible businesses to report gender pay gap data for the reporting year 2019/20.
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