COVID-19 NEWS BULLETIN 27th MARCH 2020

Strap yourself in for a bumpy ride, there’s a lot of news today!

PM – tests positive, Matt Hancock showing mild symptoms, 7000 nurses and midwives sign up to return to NHS. Markets fall again.

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British banks must keep lending to businesses through the coronavirus crisis to ensure viable companies do not fail, the government and financial regulators have urged.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, and Chris Woolard, acting CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority have written to the CEOs of UK banks updating them on the COVID-19 situation and requesting they support the economy.

The letter said: 'This will require a willingness to maintain and extend lending despite the uncertain economic conditions. We must ensure that firms whose business models were viable before this crisis remain viable once it is over.'

The Chancellor has made £330 billion available to support the economy during the crisis.

However, there have been concerns about access to the government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the pace at which some banks are supplying emergency credit.

In response, the British Business Bank has now opened the scheme to all lenders who want to participate, subject to an accreditation process.

1. DIT support for UK businesses trading internationally

This advice is for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). It includes:

  • DIT support for UK business trading internationally

  • financial support for business trading internationally

DIT can support businesses by:

• providing assistance with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of their products

• offering advice on intellectual property and other issues with business continuity

British businesses that may face disruption due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID- 19) can visit the dedicated business support website for more information.

This team will discuss the challenges faced by UK businesses at home and overseas to understand how best the department can support them.

Read more on COVID-19 support for businesses from the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy.

1.1 Supply chains affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

If your supply chain has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), DIT can help you to find alternative suppliers. The department has relationships with a global network of businesses across the world and will be able to advise you on the options available.

If you have an advisory or professional services firm that can help UK companies to find alternative suppliers, visit the dedicated business support website for more information.

1.2 International support for businesses involved in overseas projects

If you are operating projects in other countries, follow local guidance and speak to your nearest UK embassy or consulate. Alternatively, you can read the general advice on Overseas Business Risk in the relevant country.

2. Financial support for British businesses trading internationally

The Chancellor announced (17 March 2020) an unprecedented package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses, making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of GDP.

This was on top of a series of measures announced at Budget 2020, where the government announced £30 billion of additional support for public services, individuals and businesses experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.

On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a further workers’ support package to protect millions of people’s jobs and incomes as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus. A new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be set up to help pay people’s wages; Universal Credit and tax credits will also be increased as part of an almost £7 billion welfare boost; and to ease cash flow pressures for UK VAT registered businesses, VAT bills from now until the end of June, will be deferred until the end of the tax year.

On 26 March 2020 the Chancellor announced a scheme to support the self-employed through direct cash grants.

Your business may be able to get support to lessen the cost or financial effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) through:

• the business interruption loan scheme from the British Business Bank as part of the Enable Finance Guarantee

  • changes to Statutory Sick Pay

  • the UK-wide Time to Pay – scheme for tax payment relief for businesses and self-

employed people

  • an increase in the Business Rates Retail Discount in England to 100% for a year,

now expanded to the leisure and hospitality sectors

  • cash support to all business in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) and

funding for Local Authorities in England to support businesses that pay little or no

business rates because of SBRR or Rural Rates Relief

  • the temporary lowering of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for Universal Credit for

those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating following government advice

  • cash grants of up to £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a

rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000

  • grants offered through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme

2.1 Financial support for exporters

UK Export Finance (UKEF) works with banks and insurance brokers to help companies of all sizes fulfil and get paid for export contracts. It provides guarantees, loans and insurance on behalf of the government that can protect UK exporters facing delayed payments or transit restrictions. Help from UKEF:

• if your business is facing disruption due to late payments, UKEF can help ease cash flow constraints by guaranteeing bank loans through its Export Working Capital

Scheme

  • if you are concerned about getting paid, UKEF offers an export insurance

policy that can help you recover the costs of fulfilling an order that is terminated by

events outside your control

  • UKEF can also support finance for overseas buyers through the Direct Lending

Facility scheme, so they can continue to buy your goods and services

  • UKEF has over £4 billion of capacity to support UK firms exporting to China, as well as significant capacity across other markets affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to

help cover these risks.

To find out if UKEF covers your region, email customer.service@ukexportfinance.gov.uk

3. International business travel

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers the latest advice about travelling abroad, including the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

4. DIT coronavirus (COVID-19) business support contacts

If you have questions on international trade and coronavirus (COVID-19) visit the dedicated business support website for more information. There are DIT offices around the world that can offer advice to businesses specific toyour region or country. Contact your local embassy for further information.

5. Government coronavirus (COVID-19) advice and support

The government has set out a COVID-19 Action Plan to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak based on our experience of dealing with other infectious diseases and our influenza pandemic preparedness work. Guidance for UK employers and businesses from the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy offers information on healthcare advice for employers and support for UK businesses.

Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care have up-to- date information on the virus for health professionals and other organisations.

To find out all of the ways you can contact us and our opening times go to

GOV.UK – contact HMRC

For the self-employed, accountants4dentists are on hand to assist you. Follow the link to their website to make your enquiry

https://www.money4dentists.com/accountants4dentists

Background

The UK government’s coronavirus action plan, published on 3 March, set out measures to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak that are reasonable, proportionate and based on the latest scientific evidence. Specifically, it detailed:

  • what we know about the virus and the disease it causes

  • how we have planned for an infectious disease outbreak

  • what we are planning to do next, depending on the course the coronavirus outbreak takes

  • the role the public can play in supporting this response, now and in the future

The plan also includes information on the government’s 4-stage strategy: contain, delay, research, mitigate. It sets out advice for how the public should respond in each stage, including what to expect as the outbreak advances.

It also envisaged that changes to legislation might be necessary in order to give public bodies across the UK the tools and powers they need to carry out an effective response to this emergency. This paper sets out, subject to final approvals, the elements of the bill and the reasons why they are needed.

The development of an effective response to the epidemic requires a number of actions. Some of these involve the use of tools and powers that are set out in statute. The governments of the UK therefore resolved to review and where necessary amend the legislation, to ensure that the UK’s response is consistent and effective.

Some of the proposed changes therefore deal with easing the burden on frontline NHS and adult social care staff, some help staff by enabling them to work without financial penalty, and some support

people and communities in taking care of themselves, their families and loved ones, and their wider community.

The legislation will be time-limited – for 2 years – and not all of these measures will come into force immediately. The bill allows the 4 UK governments to switch on these new powers when they are needed, and, crucially, to switch them off again once they are no longer necessary, based on the advice of Chief Medical Officers of the 4 nations.

The measures in the coronavirus bill are temporary, proportionate to the threat we face, will only be used when strictly necessary and be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.

We have worked closely with the devolved administrations to develop an effective package of measures to support frontline staff and individuals involved in this vital national response.

Contents of the bill

The bill enables action in 5 key areas:

  1. 1. increasing the available health and social care workforce – for example, by removing barriers to

  2. allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers)

  3. 2. easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations

  4. containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers

  5. managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies

The proposals set out in the bill will significantly enhance the ability of public bodies across the UK to provide an effective response to tackle this epidemic. We are therefore aiming for it to reach the statute book and begin to take effect from the end of this month. However, the provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay are intended to have retrospective effect to 13 March.

Increasing the available health and social care workforce

Although we are implementing measures to save lives through delaying and flattening the peak of the epidemic, it is clear that the next few months will present a significant level of challenge for the NHS and anyone working in caring professions. As in all sectors, there will be pressures from increased staff absence, if staff are unwell or self-isolating with their households.

In addition to this, there will be increased numbers of people becoming ill with COVID-19 and some of these people will require medical treatment or need to be admitted to hospital. These additional patient

volumes will place pressure on our NHS. To ensure the best possible level of care is provided to those most in need, we may need to take measures to increase the available health and social care workforce and reduce the number of admin tasks they have to perform so they have more time to spend with patients.

To support this, the bill seeks to:

  • • enable regulators to emergency register suitable people as regulated healthcare professionals, such

  • as nurses, midwives or paramedics. This might include (but will not be limited to) recently retired professionals and students who are near the end of their training. Registered staff can then be used appropriately, with decisions made on a local basis, to increase the available health and social care workforce and enable essential health and care services to function during the height of the epidemic

  • enable regulators to temporarily add social workers to their registers who may have recently left the profession. This will ensure vital continuity of care for vulnerable children and adults

  • enable employees and workers to take Emergency Volunteer Leave in blocks of 2, 3 or 4 weeks’ statutory unpaid leave and establish a UK-wide compensation fund to compensate for loss of earnings and expenses incurred at a flat rate for those who volunteer through an appropriate authority. This will ensure that volunteers do not suffer financial disadvantage as a result of performing a public good. Volunteers play a critical role in the delivery of health and social care services and are particularly important in caring for the most vulnerable in our society, such as the elderly, those with multiple long-term conditions or those suffering from mental ill-health

  • provide indemnity for clinical negligence liabilities arising from NHS activities carried out for the purposes of dealing with, or because of, the coronavirus outbreak, where there is no existing indemnity arrangement in place. This will ensure that those providing healthcare service activity across the UK are legally protected for the work they are required to undertake as part of the COVID-19 response. This is in line with and will complement existing arrangements

  • suspend the rule that currently prevents some NHS staff who return to work after retirement fromworking more than 16 hours per week, along with rules on abatements and drawn-down of NHS pensions that apply to certain retirees who return to work. This will allow skilled and experienced staff who have recently retired from the NHS to return to work, and also allow retired staff who have already returned to work to increase their commitments if required, without having their pension benefits suspended

Easing the burden on frontline staff, both within the NHS and beyond

In the NHS and in other sectors who undertake activities that are vital to keeping the country running safely and securely, we may also face particular increased pressures as a result of staff absence or increased work volumes. This could include those caring for children or in education, protecting our borders, detaining and treating people under the Mental Health Act, supporting local authorities and ensuring national security. By reducing the number of admin tasks they have to perform, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, we will enable these crucial services to continue to operate effectively during periods of reduced staffing.

To support this the bill seeks to:

  • enable existing mental health legislation powers to detain and treat patients who need urgent treatment for a mental health disorder and are a risk to themselves or others, to be implemented using just one doctor’s opinion (rather than the current 2). This will ensure that those who were a risk to themselves or others would still get the treatment they need, when fewer doctors are available to undertake this function

  • temporarily allow extension or removal of time limits in mental health legislation to allow for greater flexibility where services are less able to respond. These temporary changes would be brought in only in the instance that staff numbers were severely adversely affected during the pandemic period and provide some flexibility to help support the continued safe running of services under the Mental Health Act

  • allow NHS providers to delay undertaking the assessment process for NHS continuing healthcare for individuals being discharged from hospital until after the emergency period has ended

  • make changes to the Care Act 2014 in England and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to enable local authorities to prioritise the services they offer in order to ensure the most urgent and serious care needs are met, even if this means not meeting everyone’s assessed needs in full or delaying some assessments. During a pandemic, a lot of people who work in health and social care could be off sick or may need to care for loved ones. This could mean that local authorities, which are responsible for social care, may not be able to do all the things they are usually required to do

Local authorities will still be expected to do as much as they can to comply with their duties to meet needs during this period and these amendments would not remove the duty of care they have towards an individual’s risk of serious neglect or harm.

These powers would only be used if demand pressures and workforce illness during the pandemic meant that local authorities were at imminent risk of failing to fulfil their duties and only last the duration of the emergency. It would ensure that local authorities will continue to be able to deliver the best possible care services during the peak and to protect the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.

• temporarily relax local authorities’ duties in relation to their duties to conduct a needs assessment and prepare an adult carer support plan/young