On Monday, the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, announced that Wales will enter a “fire-break” lockdown for 17 days starting from Friday 23rd October at 6pm, ending on 9th November 2020.
He said that the idea of the fire-break is to be a “short but sharp to have a maximum impact on the virus”.
So, what are the new rules in Wales?
- People must stay at home, except for very limited purposes, e.g. exercise;
- Work from home wherever possible;
- You must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with (indoors or outdoors);
- No gatherings will be allowed outdoors (no Halloween, fireworks/Bonfire night, or other organized events);
- All non-food retail, hospitality businesses (including cafes, restaurants and pubs, unless they provide take-away or delivery services), close-contact services (hairdressers, beauticians, tattooists) and events and tourism businesses (e.g.hotels) must close
- Community centres, libraries, and recycling centres will close
- Face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces, which remain open, including on public transport and in taxis.
What it means in practice is:
- Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support;
- Non-essential travel in and out of Wales should stop;
- Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half-term;
- Secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in years seven and eight and for the most vulnerable children. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams but other pupils will continue their learning from home for an extra week;
- Universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning;
- Students will have to stay in their university accommodation and not travel home;
- NHS and health services will continue to operate;
- Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.
At the end of the fire-break, the First Minister confirmed that there will be a new set of national rules introduced which will outline how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses will operate going forwards.
Does my business have to close?
A full list of businesses that need to close has not yet been published. However, the guidance at the moment is that all non-essential businesses will close. In effect, we are going back to how things were in March, with the exception of schools and childcare providers staying open.
What about my employees?
The Job Support Scheme (JSS), that was recently announced, has been amended to include businesses that are told to close. This scheme is available for the wider public from 1st November 2020 for a period of 6 months. However, if your business has been closed, after 9th October 2020, you can use this scheme.
If your business has been forced to close, you can receive a grant per eligible employee to pay them up to two-thirds of their normal pay (capped at £2,100 per month). More information is available here.
What do I need to pay?
The JSS grant is there to cover the employees pay and payroll taxes. The grant is not to be used to pay Class 1 employer NICs or pension contributions.
What support is available for my business?
If your business has been told to close for the fire-break, then you may be able to make a claim under the Local Restrictions Support Grant Scheme. This scheme will mean that if your business is legally required to close due to a nationally-imposed local lockdown, then you can receive up to £3,000 per month
Businesses affected by the fire-break will be supported with a new £300 million fund, which will open next week:
- Every business covered by small business rates relief will receive a £1,000 payment;
- Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which have to close and occupy premises with a rateable value below £50K will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000;
- There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses that are struggling.
Am I eligible for any of these additional discretionary grants?
If you’d like to check if you’re eligible for any of the other grants that are available, you can use the two links below. You’ll need to answer some questions about your business, but this will enable you to see what help and support is available to you.