Apparently, they, and previous administrations, were warned years ago that a global issue as devastating as Covid-19 was on the cards. Instead of practising a strategic reaction to such a disaster, or even having appropriate plans, policies and taskforces in place for such an occurrence, the powers-that-be didn’t place enough importance on being forearmed. Consequently, once the coronavirus struck, no one really knew what to do.
As well all know, a national lockdown was imposed on March 23rd 2020 and everything, apart from the NHS and essential businesses stopped. Only certain businesses could open – supermarkets, takeaways and similar food suppliers. The fallout of this affected some well-known brands, it wasn’t just small businesses that suffered.
With the bounce-back loan scheme, rates relief, a freeze on VAT and other measures, a proportion of businesses managed to survive. They made it through and kept their staff - the latter, paid through the furlough scheme.
Now most businesses’ doors have re-opened and revenue has once again begun to flow, we’ve seen huge spikes in the number of Covid-19 infections nationwide. If the R-rate isn’t brought below 1, will this mean a second lockdown? How would businesses cope if they had to do it all over again?
Though this does sound like a major cause for concern, let’s take a step back. The number of infections may have risen from what it was a month or so ago, but it doesn’t mean that we are heading for a national lockdown. That strategy was to ensure the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed, and to date, despite a higher infection rate, hospital admissions remain relatively stable.
Secondly, the government has other measures to try, in order to stem the infection rate, such as local lockdowns, curfews and restricting the number of people engaging in specific scenarios, such as the Rule of Six when mixing with people who are not in our immediate family inside our homes.
Local lockdowns have already been imposed in Leicester, Birmingham and Bolton because cases in these areas escalated. This saw non-essential businesses close again, with schools and workplaces shutting down too, for a period of two weeks. After this time, each area was reassessed, and the local lockdown either continued or there was an easing of the rules.
From a health point of view, this is what needs to be done to prevent an uncontrollable escalation of the virus. However, for small, local businesses that have only been open for a matter of weeks, a local lockdown may not be good news.
In the last week, the government have introduced a new measure for businesses subject to a local lockdown. They will receive a grant of £1,000 for every three weeks that the business is subject to closure. Larger businesses will receive £1,500.
The grant is intended to prevent businesses folding and to safeguard jobs. This money is also in addition to the other measures already in place, e.g. the furlough scheme.
Said Business Secretary Alok Sharma: “No business should be punished for doing the right thing. This package will offer additional breathing space for businesses that have had to temporarily close to control the virus.”
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