COVID-19 Updates

ActSmart will be providing regular updates and resources on the Coronavirus.

Watch this space for the latest information and advice tailored for retail businesses.

ActSmart have been working with partner members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC) to bring you the most up to date retail focussed advice, particular credit is due to the Association of Convenience Stores, our leading IRC political advocacy partner, for their input.


COVID-19 Resources


Priti Patel Covid-19 Press Conference

Published 22nd January 2021

The Home Secretary Priti Patel led the Government coronavirus briefing, announcing new penalties for those breaching Covid-19 rules by attending house parties or large gatherings.

The latest coronavirus data was outlined at the briefing including;

  • There have been 37,892 new positive cases since yesterday.
  • Since 19th January, 38,678 people are in hospital with Covid-19.
  • So far, 94,580 people have died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The Home Secretary highlighted the current success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. The NHS are now administering 200 vaccinations per minute and as of today, 4,973, 243 vaccinations have been given in total. The Secretary also countered disinformation surrounding the vaccines, especially amongst BAME communities, stating the vaccines are safe for all and is our best chance to beat the current global pandemic.

Priti Patel announced that from next week, an £800 fine will be introduced and given to those attending house parties. The fine will double for each offence to a maximum fine of £6,400 for parties of more than 15 people.

The National Police Chiefs' Council Chair, Martin Hewitt gave examples of the situations that police force have been facing. He announced that new updated guidance will be given to police forces support them in issuing more fines. The Chair finally urged the nation to comply with Covid-19 restrictions including specifically to wear face coverings in shops unless exempt.

Finally, NHS Regional Medical Director, Dr Vin Diwakar announced new medical vaccination centres opening across the country to offer more vaccinations. He highlighted that there are currently 1000 GP led services, 200 community hubs and several large scale sites administering the vaccine.


New Welsh Retail Regulations

Published 20th January 2021

Following last weeks announcement by the Welsh First Minister that retail premises in Wales will be subject to stricter regulations to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the legislation has now been amended. The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 were laid in Parliament last night and came into force at 00.01 this morning (Wednesday 20th January).

The amendments in the regulations here under point 17A. require all retail stores in Wales to do the following by law, from today;

  • Measures for controlling entry to the premises and limiting the number of customers who are on the premises at one time.
  • Provision of hand sanitisation products or hand washing facilities for use of customers when they enter the premises.
  • Measures to sanitise any baskets, trolleys or similar containers provided for use by customers on the premises.
  • Remind customers to maintain distance of 2m between each other and wear a face covering. This should be done by displaying signs and other visual aids and making announcements on a regular basis.

All retail stores must comply with the amended regulations from today (Wednesday 20th January). The full regulations are available here.


Equality Commission: Face Covering Exemptions for Disabled Customers 

Published 19th January 2021

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to retailers reminding them of legal responsibilities to disabled customers specifically relating to exemptions from face coverings. Following the policy change on face coverings from large supermarkets, EHRC's letter reminds retailers that stores are subject to Equality Act legislation which includes protecting the rights of disabled people and details guidance for ensuring compliance. The Government guidance on face coverings lists qualifiers for exemptions such as; children under the age of 11, physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability and if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading. The Government guidance states that those who have an exemption are not required to provide physical evidence but exemption card templates can be downloaded if necessary.


Scottish First Minister Confirms Lockdown will Continue

Published 19th January 2021

The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that mainland Scotland and some island communities will remain under tier four restrictions until at least the middle of February. The Minister confirmed that the Isle of Barra will move from tier 3 to tier 4 restrictions following a sharp increase of Covid-19 cases. The cabinet has confirmed that schools will not return until the middle of February due to community transmission remaining high. The next review in Scotland will take place on 2nd February. The First Ministers statement is available here.

Scottish Government: Review of restrictions


Vaccine Eligibility Extended

Published 19th January 2021

The Government has begun the next stage of its vaccination programme to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine to the top four priority groups. From Monday 18th January, those 70 years of age and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable will be invited to have their first vaccine, and the Government aims to have administered the first dose to these groups by 15th February. The vaccination has already been offered to care home residents and carers, front-line healthcare workers and those over 80. The Government has asked the public to help the priority groups to get their vaccines. The 3 pledges are: ‘Help out' by supporting friends, family and loved ones with their appointments and volunteering to help those in the community; ‘Join up' urging people to sign up to clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments; and ‘Stay informed' meaning keeping up to date with accurate and trusted NHS advice and making sure to share facts with friends and family.


PM Covid-19 Press Conference  

Published 15th January 2021

The Prime Minister has held a press conference this evening following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant.

The current data shows that;

  • 4,434 new admissions were made to hospital yesterday.
  • Currently over 37,000 Covid patients in hospital.
  • 1,280 deaths since yesterday due to Covid-19.
  • Recent ONS data shows that 1 in 50 people have Covid-19 in the UK.

The Prime Minister announced yesterdays decision to ban all flights inbound from South America and Portugal after Scientists have detected a new variant of Covid-19. In addition, the Government has decided to temporarily close all travel corridors from 04:00am on Monday 18th January. This travel ban applies across whole of the United Kingdom.

The Government has announced that if you come to the UK, you must now retain proof of a negative test that you have taken in the 72 hours before leaving your original destination. Upon arrival to the UK, you must quarantine for 10 day and take another test on day 5 to gain a negative result.

Scientists expect that the 3 MHRA approved Covid-19 vaccines will work against the new variant.

The Prime Minister highlighted that the vaccination programme is going well, with 3.2 million people now vaccinated across the UK. Yesterday, 250,000 in England were vaccinated meaning 45% of all over 80s and 40% of care home residents have received their first dose of a covid-19 vaccine.

Many insurers made to pay tens of thousands of small businesses for Covid lockdown losses

Published 15th January 2021

Following today's Supreme Court ruling tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance payouts covering losses from the first national lockdown.

It is important to note that while this is certainly a victory for many small businesses, this does not now mean that all insurers are required to start paying out. The insurance payout is entirely dependent on the clarity of the policy wording. The case put forward to the Supreme Court was against a small number of insurers and specific policy wordings.

Whilst the case evaluated was a ‘test' case, there is now hope that other insurers with the same/similar wordings will feel that they should also follow the ruling- for both good conscience and to avoid individual litigation.

Read the full story here.


Welsh Government Strengthens Covid-19 Regulations for Retail

Published 15th January 2021

The Welsh First Minister has announced retail premises in Wales will be subject to stricter regulations to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Current legislation, Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 will be amended to ensure retailers are undertaking risk assessments, providing sanitisers for hands and trolleys on entry, limiting the numbers in store at any one time and ensuring social distancing is taking place. The new regulations are expected to be set out early next week. It is also expected that this legislation will apply to retailers with five or more employees.  

Scotland restricts some ‘non-essential' click and collect 

Published 14th January 2021

From Saturday non-essential click and collect retail services will be prohibited in Level 4 areas and further changes will be put in place to how services open for essential purposes operate. Timeslots will be required for collection and people should not enter a store to collect an item. Businesses providing takeaway food will also operate on a ‘non-entry' basis only, meaning customers cannot enter the premises when placing or collecting orders.

Restrictions banning the consumption of alcohol in public places will also be introduced.

In a statement to Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

"The situation we face in relation to the virus remains extremely serious.

"We must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers - this is essential to relieve the pressure on our NHS and to save lives.

"Both individually and collectively, these additional measures - in further reducing the interactions that allow the virus to spread - will help our essential efforts to suppress it.

"At this critical and dangerous moment, please: Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives."


Home Secretary Statement 12.01.21 

Published 12th January 2021
Home Secretary Priti Patel MP gave a press conference this evening. The latest information is below:
  • There have been 45,533 new cases of Covid-19 reported over the last 24 hours
  • In the last 24 hours, 1,243 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test
  • Over 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued to people who have been unwilling to follow the Covid regulations

The Home Secretary stated that a minority of people are putting the health of the nation at risk by not following the rules. In response, the Government is talking to local councils about the role that they should be playing in enforcing the Covid-19 regulations. The Home Secretary also noted that police are also moving more quickly to issue fines.

The Home Secretary said that her message is simple: "If you do not play your part, the police will enforce the regulations and I will back them to do so, to protect the NHS and to save lives."

Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs Council added that there are too many people who are choosing not to comply with the regulations. He also said that there would be more officers on patrol looking to ensure that people follow the rules.


Matt Hancock Covid-19 Press Conference 11.01.21

Published 11th January 2021
This afternoon, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivered a press conference on the Covid-19 Vaccination Delivery Plan to aid combating Covid-19.

The current data shows;

  • 46,169 confirmed positive cases yesterday
  • 32,294 currently in hospital with Covid-19 (increase of 22% on this time last week)
  • Average number of deaths per day is currently 926

Matt Hancock stressed that we are currently at the worst point in the pandemic so far, urging the nation to follow the rules as strictly as possible.

The Health Secretary was pleased to say that the vaccine roll out is proceeding at pace and the Government's aim is to deliver this as fast as is safely possible. So far, 2.6 million doses have been given to 2.3 million people across the UK.

The Health Secretary set out the details of UK's Covid-19 Vaccination Delivery Plan published today. This plan describes how the Government are able to build up a supply of vaccines and how they are planning to deploy them. The plan centres around 4 key areas; supply, prioritisation, expansion and people.

1) Supply - working with UK supply and international stakeholders
2) Prioritisation - starting with the JCVI clinical recommendations for the top four priority groups
3) Expansion - Increasing amount sites where you can get vaccinated
4) People - aim of 80,000 qualified to administer the vaccinations.

To date, 3 vaccines have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and by 15th February the Government aims to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Hancock also confirmed that 96% of people in England currently live within 10 miles of a vaccination site and by the end of January this will be 100% of people.


Prime Minister Statement 07.01.21 

Published 7th January 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP gave a press conference this evening. The latest information is below:

  • There have been 52,618 new cases of Covid-19 reported over the last 24 hours
  • There has been an increase of 10,000 hospitalised Covid-19 patients since Christmas Day
  • In the last 24 hours, 1,162 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test
  • A first dose of the vaccine has been administered to 1.26m people in England, 113,000 people in Scotland,
  • 49,000 in Wales and 46,000 people in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister spoke about the distribution programme for the Covid-19 vaccine and the promise of a slot for vaccination by 15th February for all vulnerable groups, including the clinically extremely vulnerable, care home residents and staff, and everyone aged over 70. The Government plans to have a vaccine appointment available for everyone in the four most vulnerable groups within a radius of 10 miles of their home.

The Prime Minister noted that the Government is working with the British Army to support the vaccine deployment plan - full details of which will be published on Monday.

The Prime Minister also updated on the approval of two new therapeutic drugs that reduce the risk of death for those that are extremely ill, and can reduce the amount of time that patients spend in intensive care by up to 10 days.


The Government plans to increase the number of vaccine doses available, as well as the number of people and places carrying out vaccinations. There will be three main places where people get vaccinated:

  • Local GPs and pharmacists make up 739 sites to date, which will expand to over 1000 by the end of next week.
  • Hospital hubs will be vaccinating care home residents and staff among others. There are now 206 sites, which will expand to 223 by the end of next week.
  • Larger vaccination centres in places like stadiums and other venues, seven of which are due to begin operation next week.

The Government also noted that there are 80,000 people currently trained on how to administer the vaccine, 18,000 of which have already started work.


Prime Minister Statement 

Published 5th January 2021

The Prime Minister held a press conference this evening to provide an update on the vaccination programme for Covid-19.

The current data shows that;

  • There is currently over 1million people in England infected with Covid-19
  • 60,916 new positive cases detected today
  • Patients of hospital with Covid-19 is 40% higher than the first peak in April
  • In the 2 weeks up to 30th December, the positive case rate increased by 70%
  • Current 7 day average of deaths is 522

The Prime Minister announced that with both the Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine and Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine combined, there has currently been 1.1m people vaccinated in England and 1.3m across the UK.

Of those already vaccinated, it includes over 650,000 people aged 80 and above which is 23% of all over 80s. The Prime Minister highlighted that this means that 1 in 4 in one of most vulnerable groups will have significant immunity in 2-3 weeks time.

The Prime Minister stated again that by the 15th of February the NHS has committed to giving vaccinations to everyone in top 4 priority groups identified by the JCVI. There will also be 1000 vaccination sites established across the country by end of this week with an additional 7 opening next week in large venues such as stadiums.

The Prime minister confirmed there will be a further vaccine update on Thursday and daily updates from the Prime Minister will commence from Monday 11th January.


£4.6 billion in new lockdown grants to support businesses and protect jobs

Published 5th January 2021

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak MP has announced new grants for businesses required to close due to the national lockdown restrictions announced yesterday. Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses required to close will be able to access this new financial support on a per property basis derived from rateable value (RV). The support will be as follows: £4,000 for properties with a RV of £15,000 or under; £6,000 for properties with a RV between £15,000 and £51,000; £9,000 for properties with a RV of over £51,000.

For convenience stores and other business that continue to trade a further £594m discretionary fund has also been made available. Retailers wishing to access the discretionary funding should "contact their local authorities". If we receive more information about application processes and criteria for accessing this discretionary funding from central government we will circulate more details.

Additional funding has been allocated to devolved administrations to support "other businesses not eligible for the grants, that might be affected by the restrictions". The Scottish and Welsh Governments have not yet announced how they will allocate the funding.

These announcements do not impact existing grant schemes.


Prime Minister Statement 04.01.21

Published 4th January 2021
Following an increase in Covid-19 cases, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has announced a third national lockdown from 00.01 on Wednesday 6th January. The lockdown will impose the same restrictions as in March and November lockdowns, with the addition of changes to schools and shielding of the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.

The current data shows that;
  • Cases of Covid-19 have increased by 50%
  • 27,000 patients are in hospital with Covid-19

From 00.01 on Wednesday 6th January the following restrictions will be in place;
  • People must stay at home unless they leaving for essential purposes, such as essential shopping, exercise and caring responsibilities.
  • Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people are being instructed to shield again and will receive letters in due course (Updated guidance is expected to be published shortly).
  • All hospitality must close.
  • Takeaway services can remain open but must not sell alcohol.
  • All non-essential retail must close.
  • Close contact services such as beauty must close.
  • Education including Primary, Secondary and colleges will remain closed and online with the exception of vulnerable students and those students of key workers (Education will close from 05.01.20).

The national lockdown guidance is available here. The guidance confirms that all convenience retail including petrol forecourts, off-licences, automatic car washes can remain open.

The Prime Minister reassured the nation that the main difference with this lockdown is that the vaccination programme is underway and current realistic NHS projections suggest by the middle of February everyone in the top 4 priority groups will be vaccinated.

Boris Johnson suggested that schools will hopefully return after February half term and the nation will reach a point where it can return to the regional tier system.

The restrictions will become law at 00.01 on Wednesday 6th January and Parliament will be recalled to debate the restrictions on Wednesday. The restrictions will be reviewed frequently.

Scottish First Minister Statement & Prime Minister Statement at 8pm 

Published 4th January 2021
Following an increase in Covid-19 cases, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced further restrictions from midnight tonight in Scotland.

From Tuesday 5 January, mainland Scotland will move from Level 4 to a temporary Lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. Some islands will remain at Level 3. The restrictions will mean people in Scotland will only be allowed to leave home for essential purposes, such as essential shopping, exercise and caring responsibilities.

From 00.01 on 05.01.20:

  • New laws will be implemented to require people to stay at home.
  • Work from home encouraged where possible.
  • People in the "shielding" category will be advised not to go in to work at all.
  • Outdoor socialising will be with one person from one other household (Children aged 11 and under will not be included)
  • No limit will be placed on how many times people can go outside.
  • Non-essential travel into and out of Scotland will not be allowed.

From 08.01.12:

  • Places of worship are to be closed, group exercise banned, and schools will largely operate via online and remote learning until at least February

Schools closures have been extended for the majority of students until 1st February for nursery schools as well as primary and secondary. However. Children of key workers and vulnerable children can continue to go to school as normal.

The First Ministers full statement is available here. The Scottish Economy Secretary is expected to update the country on business support measures later today.

Finally, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement at 8pm this evening on restrictions in England, which we will provide an update on shortly after. The House of Commons is to be recalled on Wednesday.


COVID-19 Updates - December

COVID-19 Updates - November

COVID-19 Updates - October

COVID-19 Updates September

COVID-19 Updates - August

COVID-19 Updates - July

COVID-19 Updates - June

COVID-19 Updates - May

COVID-19 Updates - April Part 1

COVID-19 Updates - April Part 2

COVID-19 Updates - March