Coronavirus, or COVID-19, emerged in the city of Wuhan, China in December 2019. It has since spread to more than 100 countries across the world.
Symptoms of coronavirus include a cough, high temperature and shortness of breath. Those most at risk are older people and those with existing heath conditions such as diabetes or heart and lung diseases.
The UK is currently in the "delay" phase of its response. This is the second phase of the Government's four-part plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
What does this mean?
On March 23, the UK Government granted powers to the police to prevent public gatherings, and to break up groups of more than two people. It has told people that they cannot leave their homes, or they face a fine.
The only exceptions to the stay-at-home rule are:
Shopping for necessities
One trip out for exercise per day, either alone or with someone from your household
Medical needs, or care of a vulnerable person
Travelling to and from work, but only if absolutely necessary.
The Government has also written to 1.5million of the most vulnerable people in the country (those with underlying health conditions) asking them to remain isolated at home for 12 weeks.
Schools across the UK are closed, except for the children of "key workers" (see the full list) and children who are deemed to be vulnerable.
The Government has also closed all shops which sell non-essential items, cafes, pubs, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theatres, leisure centres and gyms.
Support for businesses
In the Budget statement of March 11, the Chancellor announced a package of measures to support businesses, employers and employees who are affected by the coronavirus. These include refunding the cost of 14 days’ statutory sick pay per employee for businesses with fewer than 250 people, a “Business Interruption Loan Scheme”, and a dedicated helpline for those in financial difficulties and with outstanding tax liabilities.
In two subsequent announcments, on March 17 and March 20, he revealed extended measures to help the country through this period of uncertainty. These include:
Government-backed and guaranteed loans amounting up to an initial £330billion, which is 15 per cent of UK GDP
Increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, to £5million, with the first 12 months being interest free
A business rates "holiday" for 12 months for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries, irrespective of rateable value
Cash grants of up to £25,000 for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries with rateable values of between £15,000 and £51,000
Cash grants of up to £10,000 for the smallest businesses
Support for local authorities and the devolved governments
Pubs and restaurants can provide takeaways without needing planning permission.
On March 20, the Chancellor also announced extra measures to ensure businesses can keep staff in work. These include:
A coronavirus job retention scheme, through which the Government will provide grants to cover up to 80 per cent of the wages of those not able to work due to the virus, up to £2,500 per month. This scheme will be backdated to March 1 and will be open for an initial period of three months, with no limit on the funds available.
VAT payments being deferred for the quarter to June.
Mortgage lenders have also agreed to payment "holidays" of up to three months for those experiencing financial difficulty due to coronavirus.
Support for the self-employed
On March 26, the Chancellor announced that self-employed people who face financial difficulties will have 80 per cent of their monthly wages covered by the Government, for an initial period of three months, and capped at £2,500 per month.
The Government will calculate the amount based on average monthly profits over the past three financial years, and it will be open to those who are already self-employed and who have a self-assessment tax return for 2019; it will apply to those with trading profits of up to £50,000 a year.
Although more research is needed to determine how COVID-19 spreads, we know that good hygiene practices can help contain the virus. You should:
Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds – including when you arrive at work or at home
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or a sleeve (not hands) when you cough or sneeze
Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash hands afterwards.
Updated: March 26, 2020, 5.30pm
Posted: 3/11/2020 1:27:03 PM