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Coronavirus Update

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Good morning and welcome to this week’s Friday Brief. We have a shorter FB this week, focussed on issues to do with the Coronavirus, and Government and Business’ response to it.

Yesterday the Government announced that Social Distancing restrictions will be maintained for at least another three weeks, until the 7th May. The latest guidance to manufacturers on how to operate during this time is here. The text of letter that Business Secretary Alok Sharma wrote last week to manufacturers, clarifying that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing, is here. The hub for more general guidance to business is here.

There has been media attention this week on the relatively slow, although accelerating, roll out of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, CBILS. If you have experienced frustration or outright rejection of an application under the scheme, please let the MTA’s head of External Affairs, Paul O’Donnell, know at podonnell@mta.org.uk We may be able to suggest other routes, and the information that we receive is hugely useful to us in making Government aware of the needs of SMEs. Paul would also appreciate any feedback on the state of the Trade Credit Insurance market to feed into Government, who are monitoring the situation with an eye to what happened in the financial crisis when it dried up almost entirely.

Important changes were made to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme during the week with the Chancellor changing the date from which employees had to have started with a particular new employer from the 28th of February to the 19th of March, this should capture those ‘new starters’ who were not eligible for the scheme previously. You can read about the change in full here. There is a new, very simple, explanation of the scheme, in the form of a letter from the CEO of HMRC, aimed at employees here, and some case studies of how it is working here.

There was another development this week in respect of the deferment of Import VAT, which was not included in the original package of deferments. After representations for business organisations, including MTA, there is now new guidance to the effect that HMRC will be empowered to make decision about deferments on a case by case basis. Duty Deferment Account holders should contact the Duty Deferment Office 03000 594243 or by email cdoenquiries@hmrc.gov.uk . Those without that facility are asked to contact HMRC through the usual channels or through this email address custdebtrr.customspolicy@hmrc.gov.uk . Companies will be asked to provide an explanation of how Covid-19 has impacted their business finances and cash flow.

Changes were announced yesterday which will help businesses avoid being struck off the Companies House register as they deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Find out more here.

Finally, this week has seen the first significant deliveries of ventilators produced in response to the emergency to UK Hospitals, and yesterday saw the regulatory acceptance of the first device designed specifically for the Crisis.  You can find more about the consortium which has led both developments, and which has engaged many MTA members, here.

An updated version of the specification for Ventilators, setting out the clinical requirements based on the consensus of what is ‘minimally acceptable’ performance in the opinion of the anaesthesia and intensive care medicine professionals and medical device regulators, has been published here.