It’s hard to remember the great sense of optimism with which we started 2020. By the end of January there were two confirmed cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 in this country. Now there is very little around in the way of light relief and it is clear that the whole world is facing a very serious crisis.
Despite the speed with which this has come upon us, and the great worry it is causing, the kindness, resourcefulness and community spirit of our people is already very apparent. In addition to the dedication shown by our emergency services, and in particular the NHS, there are genuine heroes on every street, helping family and neighbours and organising support networks for their local areas.
Even though our part of the country has not been affected as badly as some yet, we must all play our part in reducing the rate at which the virus is spreading. That means avoiding close contact with people where that is possible, be it on public transport, at a place of work or in a social setting. It will not always be possible but if we all try where we can it is obvious how much that can stop the virus being passed on. Where a member of a household is displaying related symptoms such as a persistent new cough or a temperature they should be isolated for a week and the rest of the household should self-isolate for two weeks. Those with health conditions or age that make them vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus should self isolate entirely.
Clearly these changes to our lives will be a great concern to many inxluding workers and business owners. If there were a course of action that could have saved lives without the impact on the economy then it would certainly have been taken. On Tuesday the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a massive package of measures that will help businesses and people get through the next few months financially. Full detail of how these will work will be with you soon but the help will be there in days rather than weeks.
Measures to support all sizes of business include making Government guaranteed loans available on good terms with the first six months interest free. All retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in the country will have a complete break from business rates for the next 12 months. Grants to small businesses will increase to £10,000 and up to £25,000 in some cases. Regulations will be changed to allow restaurants and pubs to provide a takeaway service without a planning application. There will also be mortgage payment holidays.
If you have run a food or related business in Somerset and could run a delivery service it might be a great way to support local people who are vulnerable at this time as well as helping with cashflow. At this time of social distancing we must be closer than ever in other ways.