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Business News Clarity needed so firms can plan ahead By Dan Harrison


The Government must clarify how it will approach easing Covid-19 restrictions so that businesses can prepare for life after lockdown. That’s according to a report from


Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), which provides analysis of the Government’s coronavirus support measures. The report, titled


‘Mind the Gap’, calls for clarity on how restrictions will be eased when key milestones have been met, so that businesses can plan for the future. While public safety and keeping


pressure off frontline health services “remains paramount”, businesses need to know what happens next, according to GBCC chief executive Paul Faulkner. Firms in the hospitality, leisure


and tourism sectors are in particular need of guidance, amid concerns that events, gatherings and travel could be among the last restrictions to be lifted under a ‘phased’ return. Tracey Stephenson, co-founder


and joint managing director of serviced apartment operator Staying Cool at Rotunda, said: “Birmingham’s tourism economy is dependent on domestic and international visitors coming into the city for cultural pursuits, events and corporate travel. “We are very concerned that, given that these activities were


some of the first things to go as we went into lockdown, they could be the last things to come back online. “We need greater clarity from


Government on what a phased return to ‘normal’ looks like so that we can plan ahead. A prolonged lockdown or some form of half-way house where we are open but empty due to a fear of travelling would also require further Government support.” ‘Mind the Gap’


provides a 10-point analysis of the


coronavirus support measures announced so far, as


well as highlighting areas not covered by existing schemes. It asks the Government to: • Make sure the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is paying out promptly, businesses are not penalised for unintentional errors and employers have early clarity on when the scheme will definitely end • Intervene to ensure that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme is effective and reaching the businesses that need it • Negotiate an extension to the Brexit transition period to reflect the dramatic change in circumstances • Develop support for directors of limited companies payed through dividends and speed up delivery of the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme • Take steps to ensure that grants are issued promptly and small businesses that are not responsible for business rates are receiving


and communication • Prevent severe long-term economic damage by bringing forward transitional measures as lockdown and key Covid-19 schemes end and the new economic reality becomes apparent Paul Faulkner said: “Above all,


safety remains paramount. We have all seen the impact that Coronavirus is having on our country and frontline care services. There are few people who do not either know someone who has lost a loved one to this pandemic or are going through the heart-breaking experience themselves. “The support that has been made


Safety paramount: Paul Faulkner


grant support • Help businesses plan by providing clarity on how the Government will approach easing lockdown restrictions once key milestones are met • Ensure that the grant funding announced for charities reaches front line community organisations • Give local areas leadership over devolved funding to support those businesses that do not qualify for existing support mechanisms • Assist landlords and tenants in dispute through further guidance and encouraging greater dialogue


available to help businesses and charities survive the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. “However, while we welcome its ambition the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce will continue to lobby the Government to fill the gaps in existing support on behalf of our members. “At the heart of it, this crisis is a


crisis of cash as many organisations attempt to wait out the lockdown period. Government schemes are not real for businesses and charities until they are paying out. “The Government needs to focus


on shortening the timeframe between announcing support and that support reaching organisations and finding the simplest and most straightforward means of getting cash – be that grants, loans or other finance – where it is needed.”


Read the full ‘Mind the Gap’ report on www.greaterbirminghamchambers.


‘Plastic tent’ invention could help save lives By Jon Griffin


A potentially major breakthrough in the fight to protect NHS staff and patients from the deadly Covid-19 virus has been unveiled by a Birmingham medical expert. The AerosolShield – a form of


see-through lightweight plastic tent – could save lives as well as ease heartache for family and friends currently being denied the chance of saying goodbye to dying loved ones. The plastic tent, which fits over


patients in a matter of seconds, is being pioneered by Matthew Campbell-Hill (pictured), a senior fellow in novel medical technologies at The University of Birmingham, in conjunction with other leading medical colleagues. Mr Campbell-Hill came up with a prototype of the device within days after being approached


22 CHAMBERLINK May 2020


by a nurse on social media – and now inquiries are flooding in from locations around the world as news of the development spreads. The AerosolShield has already been backed by two £15,000 donations from well-known Midland business investor and Cure Leukaemia co-founder Graham Silk and Watford and former West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster in the early stages of a crowd funding drive to raise £400,000. Already 500 AerosolShields


have been manufactured in the first batch of devices at a cost of £20,000 – and Matt said fund-raisers were aiming to produce 10,000 for the NHS


alone, regardless of potential commercial orders. “We have had major inquiries from the


United States, India, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia but first and foremost we want to concentrate on the NHS.


“We believe that this significantly reduces


risks. Patients must be on oxygen for an extended period and it can stay in place for many, many interventions and many hours.” “The biggest problem is that the NHS is not


being allowed to buy it because of their procurement system. That is very disappointing but it is a case of trying to get through the system. My entire team are working free of charge and I have employed one person externally to collate feedback from clinicians.” The AerosolShield, which essentially reduces


the exposure of clinicians to viral spray emitted by coughing patients, is available for delivery at around £40 +VAT. Matthew said meeting the £400,000


crowdfunding target would enable the manufacture of 10,000 devices for the NHS.


Donations towards the target of 10,000 AerosolShields for the NHS can be made to https://gf.me/u/xwvntx


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