Lockdown latest: new restrictions and support for businesses

Governments unveil more support measures to help businesses impacted by the latest lockdowns.

A new lockdown

First minister Nicola Sturgeon also introduced enhanced Level 4 restrictions for mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye, beginning at midnight on 4 January and continuing until at least the end of the month. These rules return the nation to a similar level of restrictions as experienced in March 2020, Sturgeon said, adding that further changes could be required as the country seeks to curb virus cases.

In both nations, people should only leave their homes for essential reasons. These include going to work if that work cannot be done from home, shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine, religious worship and daily exercise.

The law already requires many businesses in certain sectors to close in Level 4. We now need every business to look again at their operations, to make sure every single function that can be done by people working at home is being done in that way

Nicola Sturgeon
First minister of Scotland

Update on grants for businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £4.6bn package of new lockdown grants for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors across all devolved administrations. This package is in addition to existing business rates relief and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April.

The ‘one-off top-up’ grants will be worth up to £9,000 per property, with the level of grant funding determined by the business property’s rateable value:

  • businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under will receive a grant worth £4,000
  • businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant worth £6,000
  • businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 and over will receive a grant worth £9,000

The grant funding will be provided by local councils, and will sit alongside existing available grants worth up to £3,000 for closed businesses, and up to £2,100 per month for impacted businesses once they reopen.

A further £594m is also being made available to support businesses outside of these sectors, and can be applied for through local authorities.

Sunak said this new cash injection “will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen”. Full information is available at GOV.UK.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government announced its own one-off top-up grants for hospitality, retail and leisure firms impacted by restrictions, on top of existing grants made via the Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF). Eligible businesses will receive a one-off grant of:

  • £25,000 for larger hospitality businesses
  • £6,000 for smaller hospitality businesses
  • £9,000 for larger retail and leisure businesses
  • £6,000 for smaller retail and leisure businesses

The Scottish government said that, in most cases, eligible businesses that have already applied for a four-weekly payment from the SFBF will get an automatic top-up.

For the majority, it explained, this top-up will be combined with the next tranche of SFBF payments due to be given to businesses on 25 January.

Firms that have not yet applied for either of these funds are encouraged to do so as soon as possible through their local authority website. Find your local authority here.

Full details of the top-up grants are available at Gov.Scot.

Rules within the regions

The rules surrounding which businesses are allowed to open are broadly the same as under the Tier 4 restrictions that were put in place by the prime minister in late December, with ‘non-essential’ retail, hospitality and ‘close contact’ personal care businesses among those that must remain closed. In England, restaurants can continue to offer food deliveries and takeaways but the sale of alcohol is now banned, and outdoor sports venues – previously allowed to open under Tier 4 restrictions – must close. Full details of England’s lockdown rules are available here.

Sturgeon urged businesses in Scotland to take the situation as seriously as they did in March 2020. “The law already requires many businesses in certain sectors to close in Level 4,” she said. “We now need every business to look again at their operations, and to make sure every single function that can be done by people working at home is being done in that way.” Full details of Scotland’s lockdown rules can be found here.

In Wales, lockdown measures that have been in place since 28 December will continue to be reviewed every three weeks but are unlikely to change for the rest of January, after first minister Mark Drakeford told the BBC he did not see “much headroom for change” in the face of mounting pressure on the NHS. Details of the rules currently in place in Wales can be found at here.

In Northern Ireland, where a six-week lockdown began on 26 December, new restrictions are also expected to be announced. Details of the rules in Northern Ireland can be found here.

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