General Business Help & Support News 13.12.2021

Below is our weekly roundup of changes to government support information generally and for businesses, employers and the self-employed.

New deals to future proof vaccine rollout in light of new variant

The UK government has signed new contracts to secure the supply of vaccine stock to future proof the country’s vaccine programme.

The new contracts with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were accelerated in light of the new variant, as part of the ongoing efforts to ensure the government is doing everything it can while scientists across the world learn more about Omicron. These future supply deals include access to modified vaccines if they are needed to combat Omicron and future Variants of Concern, to prepare for all eventualities.

The agreements signed through the Vaccine Taskforce are building on existing partnerships with the vaccine companies and will see the government procure a total of 114 million additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for 2022 and 2023. This is in addition to the 35 million additional doses of Pfizer/BioNTech ordered in August for delivery in the second half of next year, and the 60 million Novavax and 7.5 million GSK/Sanofi doses expected in 2022.

See: Government agrees new deals to future proof vaccine rollout in light of new variant - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

MHRA approves Xevudy (sotrovimab), a COVID-19 treatment found to cut hospitalisation and death by 79%

Another COVID-19 treatment, Xevudy (sotrovimab), has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after it was found to be safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection who are at an increased risk of developing severe disease.

Developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology, sotrovimab is a single monoclonal antibody. The drug works by binding to the spike protein on the outside of the COVID-19 virus. This in turn prevents the virus from attaching to and entering human cells, so that it cannot replicate in the body.

See: MHRA approves Xevudy (sotrovimab), a COVID-19 treatment found to cut hospitalisation and death by 79% - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Support and manage disability and health at work

Many employers are currently facing challenges in recruiting the people they need to help their business thrive. It has never been more important for those employers to keep and develop the people they already have.

It’s therefore crucial that businesses have the tools they need to prevent long-term absence and avoidable job loss because of ill health or disability.

The UK Government is testing a new online service for employers which provides advice and guidance on managing health and disability in the workplace. This explains your legal obligations and good practice.

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This may be particularly helpful for smaller businesses without an in-house HR function or access to an occupational health service.

By taking part, you will receive free information and guidance on disability and health-related employment issues. You could use it to help manage a current case, or simply take a look around the site to see what’s useful and identify improvements.

However you choose to take part, your feedback will be vital in the future development of the service. You will make a real difference, ensuring the new service is user-friendly and meets the needs of your business and your employees.

See: Support and manage disabled employees and employees with health conditions at work – Support and manage disabled employees and employees with health conditions at work – GOV.UK (dwp.gov.uk)

Minimum standards for private sector providers of COVID-19 testing

There are revised minimum standards for private providers of COVID-19 to reflect travel testing changes that came into force from 30 November.

See: Minimum standards for private sector providers of COVID-19 testing - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

All adults to be offered COVID-19 boosters by end of January

All eligible adults in England aged 18 and over will be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine by the end of January.

Following advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), everyone who is currently eligible - including those aged 40 and over, health and social care workers and those at increased risk from the virus due to health conditions - will be able to book their jab from three months after their second dose, meaning an additional 7 million people over 40 are now eligible.

The government and the NHS are urging younger people to wait until they are called forward by the NHS – with the more vulnerable continuing to be prioritised for their booster, to top up their immunity to the virus as soon as possible.

See: All adults to be offered COVID-19 boosters by end of January - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Changes have been made in the guidance for shops, branches, and close contact services. Information has been added on new measures introduced in response to the Omicron variant.

See: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

UK Government tightens travel rules again

In what is now becoming a weekly event the government has added Nigeria to the travel red list from today 6 December. Currently, the majority of cases in the UK have links to overseas travel from South Africa and Nigeria, and over the past week, 21 Omicron cases reported originate from Nigeria.

A temporary travel ban will therefore be introduced for all non-UK and non-Irish citizens and residents who have been in Nigeria in the last 10 days, meaning they will be refused entry into the UK. This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through Nigeria while changing flights.

People over 12 travelling to the UK from any country from 7 December will need to take pre-departure test (LFD or PCR) as close as possible to departure and not more than 48 hours before travel to slow the importation of the new Omicron variant. A negative test is required to travel.

The government states these are temporary measures that have been introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK and will be examined at the three-week review point on 20 December.

See: Tests required before travel to UK and Nigeria added to red list - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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