The government is placing different restrictions on areas in England dependent on the increase or decrease in coronavirus per region
As the coronavirus cases rise nationwide, the government is now taking urgent steps to prevent the spread of the virus and control the pandemic. Boris Johnson has announced a new three-tier plan to enact tougher lockdown rules on areas where transmission rates are the highest cause of concern. But, what will this mean for small and medium businesses in England?
Speaking at the House of Commons today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new three-tier strategy that will see different parts of England placed in different categories depending on the infection rates within the region. Areas with the highest level of coronavirus cases will face the toughest restrictions – and Liverpool has now placed under the highest tier. From Wednesday, all pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres and betting shops in Liverpool will be shut down until further notice.
Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, who appeared alongside the Prime Minister, told the Commons it was a balancing act of two harms – one for the society and the economy and one for health of the nation. If we damage the economy we damage long term health, and if we damage health we damage the economy… so getting these right is critical, he said. The three-tier includes the medium tier, which covers most of the country and consists of the current national measures including the rule of six and 10 pm curfew. The high tier reflects many of the current local restrictions where people should not mix with others from different households or support bubbles. The rule of six still applies to public spaces and private gardens. The very high tier applies to areas where transmission rates are the highest. Pubs, bars, gyms, betting shops, casinos, adult gaming centres and any indoor social spaces will be banned. Groups of six can still meet up outdoors, but additional restrictions will be imposed following discussion with local leaders. Mr Johnson announced today: “I’ve spoken to local authorities in the Liverpool city region and they will move into the very high alert level from Wednesday. Pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres, betting shops, casinos and adult gaming centres will all close.
Areas currently in Tier 1 include everywhere in England including London. However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the capital could more to further restrictions as this week due to a “rapidly increasing” number of cases. A spokesperson for the mayor said: “As of today, London is at ‘medium’ in the government’s new alert levels. However, Londoners should understand that this could change very quickly – potentially even this week.”
Areas in Tier 2 include areas in Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Warrington, Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, the West Midlands, Leicester, Nottingham and parts of North East England including Newcastle, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland, Durham and Northumberland. Meanwhile, the Liverpool City Region is currently under Tier 3 restrictions ‘ the toughest lockdown measures in England. Measures will be under “constant review” with a sunset clause in place with reviews every four weeks.
SMEs form the backbone of the UK’s economy, and it is vital they get the support they need during the localised lockdowns. According to a recent survey by law firm Fladgate, one in three small businesses do not expect their business to survive beyond a year. Meanwhile, one in five SMEs said their business is already in distress.
This should be seen as a loud Mayday call by UK SMEs. As the bedrock of the UK’s economy, any recovery plan must address the needs of these firms, Jeremy Whiteson, of Fladgate, said. Government support cannot and will not continue forever. Private investment, therefore, presents a long-term and sustainable solution for troubled SMEs.
The new localised restrictions come after the government decided a local lockdown approach will be more effective than another national lockdown. It is unclear how small businesses will survive another lockdown, as thousands of companies must now adhere to the new rules which are dependent on the transmission of cases in the area at a given point of time. SMEs should enact measures to ensure a swift transition back to remote working, or be forced to close for business in the event their area is placed on a higher tier.