No choice but to go to level four
All of mainland Scotland, including Perth and Kinross, has been placed in level four for the next three weeks.
I know people will be frustrated, worried and angry in equal measure, particularly because the driving force behind the decision isn’t about case numbers here but the rapid spread of the new strain of COVID-19 which led to a rapidly deteriorating and worsening situation in Wales, London and the South East.
In a few short weeks, the number of cases in London went from fairly low to almost running out of control, with the virus forecast to reach extraordinarily high numbers within days if action was not taken.
I understand it can be very difficult to accept new restrictions on the basis that they are preventative, especially when they have had such an impact on people’s hopes and plans over the Christmas period but, believe me, this action is designed to prevent things getting worse - potentially very quickly - as a result of this new strain.
By acting now, we have a chance of keeping this situation under control while the vaccination programme continues to make progress.
We must prevent the new strain spreading as fast as it has elsewhere.
I know that the next few weeks will be exceptionally tough for businesses and I want to help spread the word about three important streams of support that are available, including a further £570 million package established by the Scottish Government specifically to support businesses.
Firstly, staff can still be furloughed via the Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended to the end of April.
Secondly, there is a rolling grant scheme, paid every four weeks in arrears, for businesses required to close or to modify their operations.
The Temporary Closure grant offers £2000 or £3000 depending on whether the business premises has a rateable value of below or above £51,000, with an upper limit of £15,000 in total in any four-week period for businesses operating multiple premises.
Similarly, the Business Restrictions grant offers £1400 or £2100 depending on rateable value and an upper limit of £10,500 in total in any four-week period for multiple premises.
Applications should be made via the council .
Thirdly, there are specific sector funds. This is where the Scottish Government have worked specifically with a certain sector to develop bespoke schemes.
There is quite a wide range of these schemes, in tourism, hospitality and culture to name just a few and the best place to find the latest updates is online at findbusinesssupport.gov. scot/coronavirus-advice
It is said that the darkest hour is just before the dawn, so however down you are feeling about the new restrictions that have been brought in because of the spread of the new variant of the virus, remember that glimmer of hope which gets brighter all the time.
As we say a far from fond farewell to 2020, I look forwards in hope to 2021 and wish all the readers of the Perthshire Advertiser all the very best for the New Year.