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COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Daily Updates

This page contains daily updates based on information that has been announced in Government press conferences.

General guidance and resources for retailers on Coronavirus is avaialble here: https://www.acs.org.uk/advice/covid-19-coronavirus


6th April

Daily Press Conference

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP gave today’s press conference. These are the highlights:

  • To date, 208,837 people have been tested for Covid-19. Of those, 51,608 people have tested positive, 17,911 have been admitted to hospital and 5,373 have died.
  • The Prime Minister was admitted to hospital as a precautionary measure yesterday (Sunday) due to continued symptoms. The PM will continue to lead the Government.
  • The Foreign Secretary updated on the Government’s efforts to repatriate British people that remain abroad. £75m has been allocated to help with arranging flights for those in other countries.

Job Retention Scheme Updates

Government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been updated. The full guidance is available here and key updates are below.

  • If you made employees redundant or they stopped working for you after 28 February: If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.
  • Shielding Employees: You can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) if they are unable to work from home and you would otherwise have to make them redundant.
  • Employees with caring responsibilities: Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.
  • Apprentices: Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whilst furloughed. However, you must pay your Apprentices at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW/NMW) as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means you must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage. Guidance is available for changes in apprenticeship learning arrangements because of COVID-19.
  • Apprenticeship Levy: The Apprenticeship Levy should continue to be paid as usual. Grants from the Job Retention Scheme do not cover these.

Use of Facemasks

Public Health England has updated its guidance to businesses on the use of facemasks in the workplace, noting that “there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from the use of face masks outside of the clinical or care settings, where they play a very important role.” The full guidance for businesses is available here.

ACS in the Media

ACS chief executive James Lowman appeared on BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning, talking about the response of local shops to the Covid-19 outbreak. The segment also featured Amit Puntambekar (Nisa), Jacqui Dales (SPAR) and Louise Host (SPAR MD). A recording of the segment, which first aired at around 8:15am on Sunday morning is available here. James also appeared today on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme.

 


3rd April

Prime Minister’ Press Conference:

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, led the press briefing today:

  • A video message from Boris Johnson encouraged people to stay at home and follow the government guidance, as good weather is expected this weekend
  • Matt Hancock outlined the two key ways the government are seeking to tackle the outbreak: 1) getting people to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus and 2) increasing the capacity of the NHS to cope with rising demand
  • The latest figures show: 173,784 people have been tested, 38,168 tested positive, 3,605 people have died with coronavirus, including two nurses.
  • Matt Hancock reaffirmed the government’s ‘instruction’ for the public to stay at home and follow guidance

Free School Meals Voucher Scheme

Edenred, who operate the Department for Education’s free school meals voucher scheme, are interested in talking to multiple retailers and symbol group head offices about offering the Government’s voucher scheme worth £15 per week to children that qualify for free school meals. Vouchers can be issued using a digital voucher mechanism or gift card and must be accepted across the whole retail estate. If you would like more information please contact Edward.woodall@acs.org.uk.

Cash Grants for Local Shops

Further information on cash grants available to local shops has been published by the Government confirming eligibility for the Small Business Grant Fund (£10,000) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (£25,000). ACS has produced guidance on the grant fund eligibility here and how you can gain access. For further information please contact steve.dowling@Acs.org.uk

Local Shops’ Experience of Crime

ACS has been asked to share regular updates with the police and Home Office on the frequency and types of crimes experienced by convenience retailer during the Covid-19 outbreak. If you have any information or data that you can share, please make contact with Eleanor.occonnell@Acs.org.uk.

Policing Guidance Published

The National Police Chief Council and College of Policing have issued new guidance to forces on their powers and approaches during the Covid-19 outbreak. The guidance makes clear that the police approach will focus on “Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce”. The guidance makes clear that Environmental Health Officers lead on enforcement with businesses and that the police’s main focus is the regulations relating to individuals.


2nd April

Daily Press Conference

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock MP gave today’s press conference. Here are the highlights:

  • The Government is taking unprecedented action to increase NHS capacity. In the past week, the Government has completed the construction of the NHS Nightingale hospital, with more hospitals being constructed in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.
  • Mr Hancock reported that as of today, 163,194 people have now been tested, with 33,718 testing positive. 12,949 people have been admitted to hospital with the virus, and of those who have contracted the virus, 2,921 have died. The Health Secretary has noted that the rate of infection has been doubling every three to four days.
  • Mr Hancock commended the new Public Health England guidance on PPE for people working on the front line.
  • In addition to the £300m that has been made available for community pharmacies, the Health Secretary announced that the Government is writing off £13.4bn of historic NHS debt to help them cope with increased demand as a result of the virus.
  • Mr Hancock detailed the Government’s approach to testing, announcing that testing for the virus will expand first to NHS staff, then to key workers, and then to the wider community in due course. The Government remains committed to carrying out 25,000 tests per day by the end of April at the latest.

Local Shop Podcast: Keeping Colleagues and Customers Safe

We have recorded a new episode of the Local Shop Podcast, which is available here. This episode features a discussion with ACS Head of Policy and Public Affairs Ed Woodall and Chief Inspector Patrick Holdaway about crime in the sector at the moment, an interview with award winning independent retailer Rav Garcha about recent abuse that he and his colleagues have faced in store, and a preview of the latest local radio campaign with ACS chief executive James Lowman and Emma Bould from the Alzheimer’s Society talking about the importance of supporting vulnerable customers at this time. The Local Shop Podcast is also available on all major podcast platforms (iTunes, Spotify etc).

State Aid Rules

Updated Government guidance has confirmed that the 100% business rates relief for convenience stores in 2020/21 is not subject to state aid rules. This follows a separate update to government guidance on the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) and Retail Grant Fund (RGF) schemes, which states that the SBGF is subject to normal state aid de minimis limits of €200,000 over three years and the RGF is subject to a higher state aid de minimis limit of €800,000 for 2020 under the UK Temporary Framework Scheme for State Aid. More information about these schemes is available via ACS’ Government Support for Businesses briefing.


1st April

Prime Minister’ Press Conference:

The Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, led the press conference this evening.

  • 152,979 people have now been tested, with 29,474 testing positive. 10,767 people have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. To date, 2,352 people have died, an increase of 563 - the highest daily rise in deaths so far. 
  • The Government want to thank the thousands of businesses, large and small, which have worked with staff to ensure they are supported in the days and weeks ahead.
  • Mr Sharma stated that as businesses are doing all they can to support people, Government will continue to do all it can to support businesses. From today, businesses start benefitting from the previously announced £22bn of support in the form of grants and rate relief. 
  • Mr Sharma said that to date, local authorities have now received more than £12bn, with the business secretary making clear that this money should get to businesses as soon as possible.
  • The Business Secretary also said that would be completely unacceptable for banks to unfairly refuse funds to good businesses in financial difficulty at this time.
  • In response to concerns from businesses, the Government are looking at ways to ensure that they can get the support they need. The Chancellor will be saying more on this in the coming days.

Retail Crime

ACS held a conference call today with Chief Inspector Patrick Holdaway, Head of Operations at the National Business Crime Centre (NBCC) along with members of the ACS Expert Crime Group and Responsibility Group to discuss store operations, current crime trends, and police response to COVID-19. Patrick provided an update on the work of the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) who are coordinating the national police response to COVID-19 in order to improve consistency on the ground. If you have any feedback that you would like us to raise with the NBCC, please email Eleanor.O’Connell@acs.org.uk.

National Living Wage Increases and Future Targets

The National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates are increasing today, following recommendations made to the Government by the Low Pay Commission (LPC). The new wage rates are available here. The Low Pay Commission have stated they will consider the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the future of the National Living Wage targets, which is set to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024, by considering two options: 1) Reducing wage rates in a given year, but commit to reach existing targets by 2024 2) Delay the timeframes for meeting the NLW target. ACS will be responding to the LPC consultation on future wage rates.

ACS Advice

See all the latest information and advice from ACS on our COVID-19 webpage here.


31st March

Daily Press Conference

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove MP gave today’s press conference. Here are the highlights:

  • Mr Gove updated on the latest figures on Covid-19. To date, 143,186 people have been tested, with 25,150 testing positive for Covid-19.
  • Yesterday there were 381 recorded deaths, taking the total number of deaths to 1,789.
  • Mr Gove also reinforced the importance of respecting social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the virus.

Contactless Payment Limit Increasing to £45 from April 1st

The limit on contactless payment is rising to £45 from tomorrow (April 1st) to enable more customers to use the facility. WHO and Government guidance suggests that people use contactless payment if they are able to, but stores should still accept cash and regular card payments from those who cannot use contactless payment. An updated poster for retailers is available on our website here.

Updated Template Letter for Critical Workers

We have produced a new version of our template letter for critical workers in response to concerns from members that colleagues were being stopped on their way to work and challenged about their journey. The new letter reflects this, and includes a copy of the letter that DEFRA Secretary George Eustice sent to the food sector last week. The updated letter is available here.

Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill was formally introduced to the Scottish Parliament today and will be debated by MSPs tomorrow. The Bill will allow Scottish stores to deliver food and offer takeaway services, ensure stores which temporarily close will not have to re-apply for an alcohol licence on re-opening, and provide more flexibility for retailers on renewing alcohol licences. Most measures in the Bill will automatically expire after six months, if passed, and can be extended for a maximum of two further six month periods.

ACS in the Media

ACS chief executive James Lowman appeared on LBC radio last night, talking about the non-essential products story. The interview is available here (starts at 11:09pm). James also took part in a round of local radio interviews yesterday afternoon on the same topic.

Rav Garcha has recorded an interview to be aired on Radio 4’s World Tonight programme this evening at around 10pm, sharing his recent experiences of abuse in store and discussing the challenges of sourcing products from alternative suppliers. Rav has also talked to us for the Local Shop Podcast, which will be released tomorrow evening.

As always, please get in touch if you have any questions.


30th March

Prime Minister’s Press Conference

Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary, led the Downing Street press conference today:

  • An outline was provided on what the Government is doing to increase NHS capacity with more staff and equipment
  • Details were shared on supporting hundreds of thousands of British citizens trying to return home
  • The latest data on testing was shared; 134,946 tested, 22,141 tested positive and there have been 1,408 deaths
  • New data on the impact of social distancing measures showed reduce use of public transport, increased hospital admissions, the scale and spread of Covid-19 cases across the UK and the number of deaths in the UK compared with other countries.

Enforcement of Essential Goods

There has been widespread national coverage of ACS’ assured advice on the delivery of essential goods in stores, including The Times (£) and BBC News. Our guidance makes clear that “there are no restrictions on the types of goods that ACS members can continue to sell”. For more information please visit ACS’ coronavirus update here.

Furloughed Workers

ACS has been working with the government to clarify if furloughed workers can work for another employer. We have received clarification that the government will shortly be updating their guidance to confirm that a furloughed worker can work for another employer and still receive the benefit of the coronavirus job retention scheme.

Competition Law

Secondary Legislation has been introduced to temporarily remove some elements of competition law in the food supply chain to allow groceries chain suppliers and logistic service providers to collaborate on limiting purchases by consumers, sharing labour or facilities, coordinating on the range of groceries supplied and other elements. The full Statutory Instrument is available here. We continue to monitor the application of the legislation and are working closely with DEFRA.

ACS Advice

ACS has consolidated our advice guide on compensatory measures for businesses and updated it with the latest information on support for the self-employed, available here. If you have any questions on the guidance or require more information please contact me or a member of the ACS team.


27th March

Daily Press Conference

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove MP gave a short press conference today, noting that to date, over 113,000 people have been tested, and over 14,000 have tested positive. Mr Gove stated that the rate of infection has been doubling every three to four days.

Michael Gove thanked those in the NHS for their work, building on the Clap for Carers mass event last night, and also thanked those in food production and retail providing an essential service.

Secretary of State Praises Food Workers in Public Letter

DEFRA Secretary George Eustice MP has written a letter to the food and drink industry, recognising the enormous contribution of the people running and working in convenience stores.

In the letter, Mr Eustice says: “Everyone working in the food and drink industry has rallied in an extraordinary way to respond to this unprecedented challenge. Having worked in the food industry myself, I am personally enormously proud and thankful for all the work that you have done in recent weeks, and will be asked to do in the weeks ahead. In many cases you are the hidden heroes, and the country is grateful for all that you have done.”

DEFRA are also encouraging critical workers in the food and drink industry to use the letter as proof of their status if they are challenged by police or local authorities when on their way to and from work.

Social Distancing Reminder

We are encouraging all retailers to ensure that they have measures in place to ensure that customers and colleagues adhere to social distancing guidelines (keep 2m apart). We have resources available on our website here, and PHE guidance on social distancing in food businesses is available here.


26th March

Prime Minister’s Press Conference

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, led the press conference this evening and confirmed:

  • Detailed guidance on the operation of the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be published this evening
  • The government will pay self-employed a taxable grant worth 80% of average income, up to £2,500 a month
  • This will be calculated using average monthly profits over last three financial years.
  • Self Employed people will be able to access the support by the beginning of June
  • The support will be limited up to £50k of trading profits and people who make the majority of their income from self-employment

Social Distancing Guidance Published for Food Businesses

Public Health England have published new guidance for food businesses on coronavirus that includes advice on social distancing in retail environments. The guidance suggest retailers use their discretion to decide what is most appropriate for their stores, for example limiting numbers in stores to reduce overcrowding, use of additional signage and using floor markings to show 2 metre distance. ACS has produced signs on social distancing that retailers can use in stores here.

Visits from EHOs on Product Range in Store

We have heard of a small number of retailers who have had visits from Environmental Health Officers, telling them that they’re not allowed to sell ‘non essential’ products like Easter eggs to customers. The following has been Assured by Bucks/Surrey Trading Standards, which makes very clear that this is not the case:  “All ACS members are able to continue trading throughout the lockdown and play a vital role in keeping our communities looked after in these very difficult times.  There are no restrictions on the types of goods that ACS members can continue to sell - in effect you should continue with the stock ranges that you would normally have for this time of year (this includes seasonal goods).”

If you receive a visit from an EHO who raises concerns about your product range, contact us and we will ask Bucks/Surrey to get involved directly.

Police Enforcement of Social Distancing

We have received some reports from members of police officers attempting to enforce social distancing measures in stores. We have contacted the National Business Crime Centre that have clarified that social distancing is not a policing issue.

ACS Advice

ACS has updated and consolidated advice on compensatory measures, employer support and compensatory measures available here.

Coronavirus Act

The Coronavirus Act became law late last night and Parliament is now in early recess until 21st April to restrict the spread of COVID-19. The powers of the Act are time-limited for two years and the Government must publish a report every two months on the use of non-devolved aspects of the legislation. Every six months, the Government must ‘as far as practicable’ make arrangements for MPs to vote to keep the Act’s powers in force, otherwise the powers will fall after 21 days. If Parliament is not sitting, the powers will remain in force.  


25th March

Daily Press Conference

The Prime Minister gave a short press conference today. Here are the highlights:

  • The Prime Minister stated again that it is vital to delay the spread of the disease and reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, which is why the measures to keep people at home whenever possible are in place.
  • The Prime Minister has offered special thanks to everyone who has volunteered to help the NHS. In 24 hours, 405,000 have responded to the call for help.

Three Month Extension to File Accounts

The Government has announced that businesses will be granted a three month extension on filing their accounts as a result of disruption related to Covid-19. As part of the measures, while companies will still have to apply for the three month extension to be granted, those citing issues around Covid-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. More information on this announcement is available here

Off Licences Included in List of Businesses that Can Remain Open

The government has this morning added off-licences and other shops licensed to sell alcohol, including those within breweries, to its list of “essential businesses” that can stay open during the Covid-19 disruption. The list already includes newsagents, convenience stores, petrol forecourts and post offices, among others.

Local Shop Podcast: Interviews with One Stop Mount Nod and Sewell on the Go

We have recorded a new episode of the Local Shop Podcast about the ongoing Covid-19 situation, which is available here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7539806-social-distancing

The episode features conversations with Aman from One Stop Mount Nod and Patrick Sewell from Sewell on the Go on how they’re responding to demand, and what they’re doing in store to adapt to social distancing guidance, as well as a recording from a new round of local radio interviews that ACS chief executive James Lowman has taken part in.

Coronavirus Bill

The Coronavirus Bill is continuing progress in the House of Lords and is expected to pass into law late tonight, before Parliament enters an early recess until 21st April. The House of Lords has been examining the Bill line-by-line and considering recommendations from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and Constitution Committee. Amendments raised so far include a new scheme of statutory self-employment pay and for the Act to expire after three months, with an option to extend its powers in three-month segments. However, as at 4pm, no votes have taken place and no substantial changes have been made to the Bill.   

This Bill will allow the Government to proceed with previously announced policies to:

  • establish a rebate system for retailers to reclaim sick pay costs
  • make sick pay payable from day one of COVID-19 related absence
  • require retailers to share supply chain data when requested
  • order premises to close to help restrict COVID-19
  • postpone all 2020 elections until 2021

The Bill also contains powers for the Government to increase or extend sick pay funding to larger employers and quickly modify National Insurance Contribution rates for employers and workers.  

Supplier Updates

We have created a new page on our website for suppliers to share news and updates with retailers, which is available here. If you are a supplier and would like more information about adding content to this page, please contact Will Nelson (William.Nelson@acs.org.uk)

As always, please get in touch with us if you have any questions or requests for information.  


24th March

 

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock gave today’s press conference, here are the highlights:

  • The Health Secretary reiterated the Prime Minister’s messages from yesterday’s address to the nation, saying that the steps outlined ‘are not requests, they are rules’ and that everyone has a responsibility to follow those rules.
  • The Health Secretary said a quarter of a million people are needed to assist with the national effort to tackle coronavirus, help the NHS and support the vulnerable.
  • More than 35,000 extra NHS staff have already joined up to help fight against the virus, including retired doctors and nurses returning to the service and final year students.
  • Mr Hancock also confirmed that a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital – would be opening at London’s ExCeL centre.
  • Mr Hancock announced that the Government has purchased 3.5m antibody tests, and has shipped 7.5m pieces of personal protective equipment.

Contactless Payment Limit to Rise to £45

UKFinance have confirmed that the limit for contactless payment will be raised from £30 to £45 on April 1st. Consumers are being encouraged to use contactless payment in stores wherever possible as part of wider guidance on social distancing. ACS has notices available for retailers on social distancing measures here: https://www.acs.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-posters-retailers

Coronavirus Bill

The Coronavirus Bill has passed through the House of Commons without any opposition MPs forcing any votes on the Bill’s provisions after the UK Government supported an amendment to review the Bill’s powers every six months, which is additional to time-limiting the powers for two years. This means Parliament will debate powers provided by the Bill in six months and have to vote to allow the powers to remain. The Bill has also been debated at Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bill is expected pass through other stages in the Lords tomorrow and become law by Thursday at the latest.

The Bill will allow the Government to proceed with previously announced policies to:

  • establish a rebate system for retailers to reclaim sick pay costs
  • make sick pay payable from day one of COVID-19 related absence
  • require retailers to share supply chain data when requested
  • order premises to close to help restrict COVID-19
  • postpone all 2020 elections until 2021

The Bill also contains powers for the Government to increase or extend sick pay funding to larger employers and quickly modify National Insurance Contribution rates for employers and workers.  


23rd March 

 

Message from the Sector to Customers and Members of Parliament

ACS has co-ordinated a joint message from the convenience sector to customers, outlining what retailers are doing in response to the coronavirus outbreak and asking for consumers to treat colleagues in stores with respect during this challenging time. The full message is available here. ACS has also briefed members of parliament about the work that local shops are doing in communities across Britain in response to the Covid-19. The letter also reassures MPs that the food supply chain is functioning normally with food still being produced and distributed, and any shortages are due to exceptional demand on some products.

Social Distancing Advice

We have produced materials for retailers to help with social distancing in store. This includes posters on queueing at a safe distance (here) and distancing at till points (here). Additional details on our social distancing advice can be found in our employment guidance here.

Ban on Commercial Tenant Evictions for 3 Months

The Government brought forward emergency legislation to bar evictions of commercial tenants for 3 months, to support firms struggling with rental payments ahead of the quarterly deadline this week. This is not a rental holiday. Landlords are still owed rent and, should this not be paid once this clause of legislation has lapsed, will be able to claim for forfeiture. This approach encourages businesses that are in a position to make their rent payment to do so, whilst providing three months’ grace to those that are struggling.

Coronavirus Bill

The Coronavirus Bill has begun its debate stages in Parliament today. The Bill is being fast-tracked as emergency legislation and is expected to be formally passed later this week. The Bill is relevant for all UK nations. All measures in the Bill will be time-limited for two years. The Bill will allow the Government to proceed with previously announced policies to; establish a rebate system for retailers to reclaim sick pay costs, require food supply chain business to share data when requested and powers for the Government to; order premises to close to help restrict COVID-19.

ACS Advice

ACS has updated briefings on compensatory measures and support for employers to reflect new measures announced by the Chancellor including deferral of VAT payments and the introduction of the job retention scheme. For the latest information please visit ACS’ dedicated Coronavirus webpage here.

CMA Covid-19 Taskforce

The CMA has launched a taskforce in response to the Covid-19 taskforce. One of the key focus areas of the taskforce is to: “Scrutinise market developments to identify harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge.” More details on the taskforce is available here.


20th March

 

  • The PM announced that he is telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow. They can however continue to provide takeaway services to customers. Nightclubs, gyms, cinemas and leisure centres are also advised to close tonight.
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a package of measures aimed at helping workers, including:
    • Coronavirus job retention scheme The government is going to help to pay people’s wages through a Coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer will be eligible for the scheme, and will be able to apply for a grant to cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to £2,500 per month. Workers in any part of the UK can retain their job even if their employer cannot afford to pay them. The scheme will be open for an initial three month period, with no limit to the amount of funding available for the scheme.
    • Extension of the interest free period on loans: The Coronavirus business loan interruption scheme will be interest free for 12 months (previously 6 months). Those loans will be available from Monday.
    • Deferring the next quarter of VAT payments for businesses: No business will pay VAT from now until the end of June. Businesses will have until the end of the year to pay those bills.
    • Strengthening the safety net: Universal credit allowance will be increased by £1000 over the next 12 months. Working tax credit will also be increased by £1000 over the same period.
    • Supporting the self-employed: The Government is suspending the minimum income floor for anyone affected by coronavirus. The next self-assessment payments will also be deferred to January 2021.
    • Raising awareness: There will be a national advertising campaign launching in the coming days to highlight support for businesses.
    • Rental support: £1bn support for renters, local housing allowance will now cover 30% of renting costs

Other developments from the last 24 hours are below:

Critical worker status for convenience store colleagues

The Cabinet Office published the full list of critical workers that will be able to continue taking their children to school if they do not have any other childcare arrangements.

Importantly for the convenience sector, one of the critical worker definitions refers to ‘those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).’ The full list of critical workers is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

ACS has also produced a template letter for colleagues to help them explain their critical worker status, which is available here: https://www.acs.org.uk/sites/default/files/template_letter_for_critical_workers.pdf

CMA Taskforce

The CMA has today launched a taskforce to tackle negative impacts within its remit of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The CMA has urged retailers to behave responsibly and said that it would consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law. The full announcement is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-launches-covid-19-taskforce


19th March

Prime Minister’s Press Conference

  • The PM said we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks, but only if we all take the steps we have outlined to reduce the peak of the virus.
  • The PM asked for businesses to stand by your employees and workers because we will stand by you.
  • Government is in negotiations to buy a so-called antibody test to tell you if individuals have had the disease.
  • There will be a further announcement from the Chancellor tomorrow on support for workers.

School Closures and ‘Key Worker’ Definition

The Cabinet Office has confirmed that the definition of “Key Workers” in relation to school closures will include food retail, distribution and manufacturing workers. This means that colleagues working in your business will be able to have their children remain in school. It will be the responsibility of schools to validate and implement the measure with the support of government guidance. Further information is expected soon.

Competition Law and Supermarkets

  • The government is temporarily relaxing elements of competition law as part of a package of measures to allow supermarkets to work together to maintain food supplies. The move allows retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans. It would also allow retailers to pool staff with one another to help meet demand. The Government will bring secondary legislation next week to come into force immediately.

Single Use Carrier Bag Charge

The Department for Food Environment and Rural Affairs is announcing that from Saturday 21 March, for six months, large retailers (over 250 employees) in England will no longer be obliged to charge 5p for each single-use carrier bag (SUCB) supplied with online deliveries. It is optional for smaller retailers to charge for single use plastic bags, but you may wish to review your existing policy in response to this change of policy. This temporary measure has been taken to help protect the health and safety of customers and delivery drivers. The use of SUCBs will reduce the need for drivers and householders to come into close contact with each other reducing the risk that infection will be passed on and support customers already in self-isolation as the bags will be easier and quicker to collect from the front door.

Coronavirus Bill

The Government are introducing emergency legislation in parliament today in the form of the Coronavirus Bill, the explanatory notes are available here. The Bill provides general powers to the Secretary of State to require information relating to the food supply chain and to issue directions relating to events, gatherings and premises. The legislation allows the Secretary of State to use discretion in enforcing these powers in relation to “preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of coronavirus”.


18th March

  • The Prime Minister confirmed that schools in England will close from Friday until further notice, except for key workers’ children.
  • The Government are asking school to make special provisions for key workers’ children such as health workers, police officers, supermarket delivery drivers. More information will be released on the definition of key workers shortly (we expect this to include food retail and manufacturing sector).
  • The Scottish Government and  Welsh Government have confirmed that schools will be closing from Friday. Similar provisions for key workers are yet to be confirmed. 
  • These  new measures are to deliver the overall objectives of saving lives, reducing the spread of the illness and preventing the NHS becoming overwhelmed.  

ACS Advice and Home Delivery Guidance

ACS has issued new guidance to retailers to help those that wish to offer a home delivery service for customers that are self-isolating – the Home Delivery Guidance for Local Shops is available here.

ACS’ Coronavirus advice page here has been updated with the latest information on compensatory measures for business, support for employers and colleague safety.

Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules: delivery of essential items to retailers

The Department for Transport today agreed to a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking the following journey: Distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centre), From manufacturer or supplier to distribution centre (including backhaul collections), From manufacturer or supplier to store (or fulfilment centre), Between distribution centres and transport hub trunking, Transport hub deliveries to stores. Further details on the announcement are available here.

Coronavirus Bill

The Government will introduce a Coronavirus Bill into Parliament which will give Ministers new powers to respond to the outbreak. The measures in the Bill are temporary (for 2 years), will only be used when necessary, and will be in place as long as required to respond to the situation. Details of the Bill were circulated in an earlier briefing.


17th March

  • The Government is providing Government backed and guaranteed loans totalling up to £330bn, equivalent to 15% of GDP. Any business that needs access to funding can get Government backed loans or credit at attractive terms.
  • For SMEs, there will be an extension of the business interruption loan scheme. Instead of loans of £1.2m, loans will be offered for up to £5m with no interest due for the first six months. This scheme is due to be in place by the end of next week.
  • There will be a cash grant of up to £25,000 for all local shops who have a rateable value of less than £51,000 but are not eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
  • The Government is extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in the retail and hospitality sector, irrespective of their rateable value, for 12 months.
  • The £3,000 cash grant for businesses that are currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief / Rural Rate Relief will be increased to £10,000.
  • Mortgage lenders will offer a three month mortgage holiday for those individuals affected by coronavirus.
  • The Chancellor will go much further in the coming days to develop new forms of employment support to help protect people’s jobs and their incomes.
  • The Chancellor announced that he intends to take further legal action to allow the Government to outline further support where needed

The Chancellor will be addressing the House of Commons at 7pm, where he will set out in further detail the Treasury’s plans to lessen the impact of coronavirus on the business community. 

Support for Businesses in Wales

The Welsh Government has today announced a package of support worth more than £200m for small businesses to help them during the coronavirus outbreak.

Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive 100% business rate relief. This follows the UK Government taking similar action to support businesses in England at last week's Budget. A further £100m will be available for a new grant scheme for small businesses, with details to be confirmed shortly.


16th March

  • Previous advice recommended that people stay at home if they have either a high temperature or a new and continuous cough. During today’s press conference the PM urged people to go further, recommending that if anyone in a household has one of those symptoms, they should stay at home for 14 days and if necessary, ask for help from others for your daily necessities.
  • The PM noted that we are now approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve, and that without drastic action, cases could double every five or six days.
  • Even if people don’t have symptoms, now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel. The PM recommended that people should start working from home whenever they possibly can.
  • The PM also announced that from tomorrow, the Government would no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers.
  • London is ahead of other parts of the country when it comes to the number of cases that have been confirmed to date.

ACS is currently preparing guidance on home deliveries in anticipation of increased demand on local shops in the coming weeks.