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

Further Covid-19 related support for announced for businesses

Published 23rd October    

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has made an announcement in the House of Commons regarding further Covid-19 related support for businesses.

The Chancellor reiterated that a regional, tiered approach is the right way to control the spread of the virus and the evidence supports this strategy.

After setting out the economic support for businesses who are legally required to close yesterday, the Government want to extend support to businesses who can stay open but are facing profound economic uncertainty, particularly in tier 2 areas. For example, due to the impact of health restrictions on businesses has been seen as significant.

The further support was announced in three steps;

  1. A new grant scheme for businesses facing tier 2 restrictions - This will provide direct cash grants centrally funded but distributed by local authorities. Funding will be allocated to local authorities based on their local hospitality and leisure sectors with a 5% top-up to distribute to other businesses affected by local restrictions that remain open. Local authorities will have discretion on retailer applications. The funding is enough to provide all hospitality and leisure businesses a grant worth £2,100 for every month that tier 2 restrictions apply. Grants can be backdated to the start of August.
  2. To protect jobs, the Government will provide more generosity to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) which begins on 1 November - two changes will be made to the scheme. Firstly, colleagues will be no longer required to work 33% of hours but 20%. Secondly, the employer contribution will be reduced to 5%. The Job Retention Bonus Scheme is unaffected.
  3. Increased contributions to incomes of the self-employed - doubling from 20% to 40% for the next round of the self-employment income support scheme to a £3,750 maximum. The next round will cover November to January with another grant to follow covering February to April.

More information on the announcement can be found here.


Local COVID alert level update for Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Lancashire

Published 22nd October   

Following discussions between local leaders and the government which today concluded without an agreement, Greater Manchester will move from local COVID alert level high to very high from 00.01 on Friday 23 October. Lancashire will move from local COVID alert level high to very high from Saturday 17 October. South Yorkshire will move from local COVID alert level high to very high from 00.01 on Saturday 24 October.

This means that new measures will come into place including:

  • people must not socialise with anybody they do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events
  • people must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue
  • all pubs and bars must close, unless they are serving substantial meals
  • betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas will close
  • people should try to avoid travelling outside the very high alert level or entering a very-high alert level area, other than for work, education or for caring responsibilities or to travel through as part of a longer journey
  • residents should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, and others should avoid staying overnight in the very high alert area


Kickstart Employer Guidance Published

Published 14th October 

The Department for Work and Pensions has published further guidance on the Kickstart Scheme, which is funding new job placements for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit. Retailers can apply for funding, which will cover 100% of the relevant statutory minimum wage rate for 25 hours per week for up to six months as well as associated employer National Insurance and auto-enrolment pension costs. An additional £1,500 payment will be made to the employer per placement to support with setup costs and employability training.

The guidance clarifies that placements under the Kickstart Scheme must start by the end of December 2021 and cannot reduce working hours for other colleagues. A Kickstart application must be for at least 30 placements, with retailers seeking to offer fewer placements needing to go through a kickstart gateway. Kickstart gateways will complete due diligence checks on retailers applying for funding, for example asking about changes to the workforce over the past six months, and can be found to begin applications here.


Devolved Update

Published 14th October 

Bangor has been added to the list of areas with local Covid-19 restrictions in Wales, following a sharp rise in cases.

Residents will not be able to leave the city of Bangor but travel for work is exempted and a list of FAQs is here. This in addition to national measures in Wales preventing the sale of alcohol beyond 10pm and requiring face coverings to be worn in all indoor areas. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP is widely reported to be drawing up a three-tier system to direct local Covid-19 restrictions, similar to England and following tighter restrictions in the central belt. Scottish Government Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has also announced a £25m National Transition Training Fund to support workers aged 25 and over at risk of redundancy to develop skills to expand their job opportunities, particularly in industries where labour market growth is expected. The Fund will be targeted towards employees in sectors most affected by Covid-19.

PM introduces three-tier system

Published 9th October 

Following the recent statement by the Prime Minister, a three-tier system has been introduced in efforts to control the spread of Coronavirus.

The Prime Minister stated that current evidence shows that the R rate is between 1.2 and 1.5 and the amount of cases of Covid-19 have quadrupled in the last 3 weeks. The Government is however reluctant to enter another full national lockdown and instead is introducing a three-tier system to simplify and standardise the previous local lockdown approach.

The three-tier approach is;
Medium - (current national measures) including rule of six and 10pm curfew.

High - (Current interventions in many local lockdown areas) Aim to reduce household to household transmission by banning all mixing in households (excluding social bubbles), rule of 6 also applies outdoors. Most areas currently subjected to local lockdowns will move into high alert tier straight away.

Very high - Prohibit all mixing of households both inside and outside (excluding social bubbles), full closure of hospitality. Potential closure of leisure and close contact services.

The Test and Trace app will show which alert applies in each area and this information can also be found via the government online resource by entering your postcode.

The Prime Minister confirmed that all retail, schools and universities will remain open despite the level of alert but this subject to constant review.

Following meetings with local authorities and officials, from Wednesday, Merseyside region will be in high alert meaning full closure of hospitality, a ban on all household mixing both indoors and outdoors, closure of gyms/leisure centres.

To provide further support, the Government will extend the current jobs support scheme to any business required to close and providing a cash grant of up to £3000/month subject to qualifying criteria such as RV. The Government will also provide Local Authorities with £1bn of additional support.

The newly set out regulations are being voted on in Parliament tomorrow and will be implemented from Wednesday.

Finally, the Prime Minister is due to address the nation at 7pm this evening but we expect that there will not be any further updates.


Business Support for Covid-19 Restrictions Expanded

Published 9th October

The Government's Job Support Scheme will be expanded to protect jobs and support retailers required to temporarily stop trading because of coronavirus restrictions.

Businesses required to shut will be paid monthly grants based on rateable value; £1,300 for sites below £15,000 RV, £2,000 per site for stores between £15,000 - £51,000 RV and £3,000 for larger sites. The expansion means that businesses required to shut due to local or national measures will have two-thirds of colleague wages paid by the Government. Retailers would not be required to contribute to wages in these circumstances but must cover National Insurance and pension costs.

The UK-wide scheme will begin on 1st November and last for six months with an interim review in January. A HMRC claims service will be launched in December with payments made in arrears. The original Job Support Scheme announced during the Winter Economy Plan and Job Retention Bonus are unaffected. Further guidance will be published shortly. 


Local restrictions update

Published 8th October 

There are now 11 different local restrictions placed upon varying cities and areas witin England, including Greater Manchester, Leicester, North East of England, Lancashire, Blackpool, Blackburn with Darwen, Merseyside, Halton, Warrington, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

To view information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak on any of these locations visit the government website here.


New restrictions for England likely next week

Published 8th October 

Businesses are advised to prepare for coronavirus restrictions to be further tightened in parts of England early next week, with the closure of bars and restaurants a possibility. There could also be a ban on overnight stays away from home in some areas.

Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester have the highest infection rates in the country. These areas will be placed into the top tier of restrictions, possibly as early as Monday, in a new system called the Local Covid Alert Level.

Scotland Restrictions update

Published 7th October     

Following the First Minister Nicola Sturgeons' speech this afternoon, a series of new restrictions have been introduced in Scotland (only) in an attempt to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

  • The new restrictions that will come into effect on Friday 9th October are;
    Social distancing measures in shops must ensure that there is a 2m distance between people
  • Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to serve customers indoors from 6am to 6pm for food and non-alcoholic drinks only
  • Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6pm, but only for residents and without alcohol
    Bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to the existing curfew time of 10pm

There are also additional restrictions for the central belt (Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran), including:

  • All licensed premises must close (with the exception of hotels serving residents) although takeaway services will still be permitted
  • Cafes that do not have an alcohol licence will be able to open until 6pm
  • Public transport is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary

The restrictions for both the central belt and wider Scotland will be in place from Friday October 9th until Sunday October 25th.


Single-Use Plastics Ban Takes Effect

Published 5th October    

The single-use plastics ban has now come into effect in England as part of Government's 25 Year Environment Plan. Retailers are no longer permitted to supply or sell single-use plastic straws, cotton buds or drink stirrers to customers. Goods purchased before 1st October may still be sold as leftover supplies until 1st April. From July, retailers will also not be able to sell drinks products with single-use plastic straws attached to the packaging. Guidance on the ban can be accessed here.

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