Anne Marie's Weekly Column - Covid-19 Update

We are now cautiously returning to a new normal.

Getting back to work

From 1 June, the Government intends a cautious, phased reopening of nurseries and primary schools starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6, and then, from 15 June, ensuring secondary pupils with exams next year get some time with their teachers before their summer holidays. The Government’s intention is also to allow outdoor markets and car showrooms to reopen from 1 June, as the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces.

All other non-essential retail will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare. Announcing these intentions gives schools, teachers, parents and retailers the clarity they need to prepare, so we can begin to reopen our economy and our society in the safest possible way.

Government help for councils

Last week, the Government announced a new £50 million fund for councils across England to prepare for the safe reopening of high streets and other retail spaces, helping to support livelihoods, to get people back to work and customers back to the shops. The £50 million Reopening High Streets Safely Fund will help councils in England introduce a range of safety measures, helping to kick-start local economies, get people back to work and customers back to the shops. It will also support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and temporary barriers. As we begin to slowly return to normality, the re-opening of our high streets will be key to kick-starting our economic recovery.

Government help for businesses

The furlough scheme has been extended until October, but with the amount of support for businesses reducing from 1 August. At that point businesses will take back responsibility for paying pensions and national insurance. From 1 September employers will be required to contribute 10% of the 80% salary with the government paying 70%. The employer’s contribution will increase to 20% from 1 October. The capped total salary will also be reduced.

From 1 July for those coming back part time they will get 100% of their salary 80% from government and 20% from the employer. The government share of this cost will reduce each month in line with the full-time scheme. From 1 August, freelancers will be able to apply for a final self-employed grant again calculated based on three months’ income. The governments contribution will fall to 70% of that monthly income capped at £6,570.

Easing lockdown

Up to six people are now allowed to meet outside, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces - provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart. The evidence shows that the risk of transmission is significantly lower outdoors. It remains the case that people should not be inside the homes of their friends and families, unless it is to access the garden. A welcome step bringing friends and family together.

Testing has now been extended to all symptomatic individuals in England, helping us to continue to monitor the virus and take appropriate action quickly. From today, anyone with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in their sense of smell or taste can immediately report these symptoms and book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus. Expanded testing availability for children aged under 5 will also be available from today, to help support the phased opening of schools and childcare settings in England from 1 June. The new track and trace system is now up and running in Devon which makes us very well placed to beat the virus by containing it.

My next phone-in surgery will be Friday 12th June at 2-3pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.