Staffordshire will soon be moving from 'Medium' to the 'High' in the Covid19 alert levels system. Dates will be confirmed shortly but it is expected that by next week, our status will have changed.
The reasoning behind the change is because cases across Staffordshire continue to rise rapidly and it is better to take action now than to see our NHS and care systems overwhelmed.
That means there are a few differences you will encounter to the current status, the biggest difference is on households mixing indoors. Once we move into Tier 2 (High) you should not be meeting people socially in any indoor setting unless you live with them already or they are part of your 'support bubble'. Support bubbles include shared custody childcare.
Businesses will also need to take steps to ensure that customers are not meeting socially in their premises with others from outside of their household or support bubble. Yes that sadly means for a short while, you will not be allowed to meet your friends for a swift pint, cinema show or meal.
Everyone should also seek to reduce the number of journeys they make wherever possible, work from home if they can and not visit people in care homes unless there are exceptional circumstances. The latter one is particularly disappointing but care homes are taking steps to keep families and friends in touch, so do contact them for ideas and updates on your loved ones.
In addition, the current medium tier restrictions also continue to apply, including the pub and food curfew between 10pm-5am (delivery services, click and collect and drive throughs can still be used), premises taking visitors should also continue to take customer and staff data to help NHS Test and Trace.
All of these measures will be reviewed in 14 days and a further decision will be made on whether to extend them or not.
- New grants: local authorities have been issued funding to provide support to businesses in Tier 2 areas which are not legally closed but are facing tough times because of the restrictions. For more information, contact Tamworth Borough or Lichfield District Council.
- Local authorities have also received discretionary funds to support businesses that do not fit neatly into hospitality or leisure categories affected by Tier 2 but are still encountering challenges.
- The JSS Open Scheme: This is an enhanced Job Support Scheme to help businesses with the restrictions in Tier 2 areas retain their employees. All employees need to work at least 20% of their hours, the employer pays 4% and the Government pays 49% of the wage.
- The above may mean a deduction in pay for some, which is why Universal Credit continues to take on claimants who would ordinarily be working above the threshold but are not currently. If you are in need of work or seen your wages drop, contact the Universal Credit team for further advice and if eligible, a full application (www.gov.uk/universal-credit).
- The increase in Universal Credit and Housing Allowance remains in place until it is reviewed in April next year.
- Restrictions remain in place on home evictions. The local authority will help you at any point if you are at risk of homelessness.
- A grant extension has been introduced for the self-employed small businesses using the SEISS scheme. It represents 20% of three month earnings from November to January. Eligibility is refined to check whether your trade is suffering lower revenues as a result of Covid19 so make sure you have this data on hand when applying.
- Previous schemes still run including the Bounce Back Loans, VAT Deferral, Mortgage Holidays, Kickstart Employment Scheme
- More funding is being given to support Public Health initiatives to keep transmission of Covid19 low.
For the latest and most up to date information on Covid19, guidance and support information for your work sector visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus
To see the latest cases in our area visit https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/cases and use the drop down menu to see the local authority of interest.
If you have any symptoms and need to book a test click here or call 119 and follow the instructions.