UPDATED – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

No doubt this is a challenging time for everyone. During this pandemic the UK government is making recommendations such as “social distancing” and, where possible, asking people to work from home. Additional recommendations were recently made in “The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020” legislation. As a result, we are aware that some of our Tenants will not be able to continue trading while the country goes on lockdown to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus.

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As a company acting responsibly, we want our Tenants to be aware of the reasons why it is so important to observe the government’s recommendations.

Firstly, “…research suggests that the new coronavirus has a fatality rate among infected people that is 6–16 times higher than common flu.” This is significant and important to note.

Secondly, not everyone who catches the coronavirus (COVID-19) displays symptoms i.e. they remain asymptomatic. One study concluded that as many as 86% of cases went undocumented due to people being asymptomatic. As such, you might have the virus and not know, spreading it to others and being none-the-wiser.

Thirdly, it is impossible to know for certain who is vulnerable to the virus and who will need intensive care after contracting it. It has been noted that about 20% of those who contract COVID-19 will become seriously ill. From what we have seen to date, the virus can seriously affect the young, the middle aged and old alike.

Lastly, the coronavirus is very contagious, as noted in a recent article in the New Scientist magazine here.

Thus, with the higher mortality rate of COVID-19, the fact that the majority of people who contract the virus do not display symptoms and with it being contagious, we all need to be aware that anyone could potentially be a carrier. In order not to unwittingly increase the rate of transmission of the virus, we need to remain mindful of our social interactions so that undue strain is not placed on the NHS while they help those who are already ill. Slowing the spread of the virus allows the NHS to provide effective and safe care to those who need it presently. Plus it prevents those who are susceptible to the virus from falling gravely ill and even dying. It also keeps the NHS staff safer by not inundating them with patients needing urgent medical attention. The best way to do this is to adhere to the government’s recommendations.

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The government’s advice on what to do in England during the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

For those of our Tenants specifically wanting to know whether they can continue trading or not, we recommend you review “The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020” legislation here and then seek advice from your solicitor or company executives.

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There are some provisions that the UK government are currently putting into place to help businesses and companies during these difficult times. We have compiled a list of the ones that we know about here:

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1) Companies to receive 3-month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19

Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.

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2) Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Use this scheme if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.

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3) Business rates: expanded retail discount – guidance

Guidance on the operation of expanded retail discount 2020 to 2021 coronavirus response, announced at Budget 2020.

N.B. While this document is meant to offer guidance to local councils, it still provides a good idea about the provisions that should be made for local businesses during this pandemic. If you need to find out who your local council is, please click here.

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4) The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is now available through participating lenders

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) provides financial support to smaller businesses (SMEs) across the UK that are losing revenue, and seeing their cashflow disrupted, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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5) Check if you’re eligible for the coronavirus Local Restrictions Support Grant

The Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG) supports businesses that have been required to close due to temporary COVID-19 local lockdown restrictions imposed by the government. This was updated on 29th October 2020, in lieu of the second imminent lockdown.

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IMPORTANT! – If any of our Tenants are going to shut up shop following the government’s recommendations, we must kindly ask that:

i) You let us know ASAP. You can do this by using the contact details listed here.

ii) Where possible, we ask that you visit your premises at least once a week to inspect and keep an eye on things. One of our Tenants is using a web-cam to monitor their shop while they are closed, which we feel is acceptable given the government’s advice to date.

iii) When re-opening your premise, our Buildings Insurance underwriter has asked that you review their guidance information leaflet regarding risk management, which can be found here.

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UPDATE! – In May the government released a document on their website that outlines their strategy for coming out of lockdown. It discusses a plan for when various types of businesses will be able to begin trading again and alludes to what criteria will dictate their decisions and the timing for this. It also makes reference to economic and social support to maintain livelihoods and restore the economy, as well as discusses what you can do to remain safe outside of your home. This document can be found here.

When lockdown measures begin to ease in the UK and businesses and employees (who cannot work from home) return to the workplace, we strongly recommend that any of our Tenants who are returning to their premises review the ‘Health & Safety Executive’ (HSE) webpage for “Working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak” before doing so. This can be accessed by clicking here.

Despite the UK’s recent departure from Europe, we would also recommend that our Tenants review the risk assessment information provided on the ‘EU Agency for Safety and Health at Work’ website, as it provides a useful interactive tool that can help identify, assess and manage the risks posed by COVID-19 to ensure that businesses and workers return to a safe and healthy environment. This can be accessed here.

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For further advice and information on the coronavirus pandemic, please visit the UK government’s dedicated webpage by clicking here.

Lastly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. A comprehensive list of these can be found here.