Omicron is a variant of the same virus that causes COVID-19. First discovered in South Africa on November 26, the full nature of the new variant isn’t fully understood. Although, the latest research suggests:

  • It may be more transmissible. 
  • It presents slightly different symptoms than other known variants.
  • It poses a higher risk of reinfection. Those who have had COVID before, or those who’ve already been fully vaccinated, are still at risk. 

With the arrival of the Omicron variant and the UK infection rates up by 12.1% in the last seven days (December 8 to December 15), the UK Government has made some changes to COVID-19 safety regulations. The new rules took effect on November 30.

Many of the changes will affect small businesses across the UK leading up to the busiest time of year. To help you stay compliant, we’ll outline the latest guidance surrounding:

  • Face masks.
  • COVID passes.
  • Penalties.

Face masks

As of December 10th, wearing a face mask is mandatory in most public places in England, including:

  • Shops and supermarkets.
  • Auction houses.
  • Post offices. 
  • Banks. 
  • Building societies. 
  • High street solicitors and accountants, 
  • Credit unions, 
  • Short-term loan providers.
  • Savings clubs.
  • Money service businesses.
  • Estate and letting agents.
  • Personal care and beauty businesses.
  • Pharmacies.
  • Premises providing veterinary services.
  • Retail galleries.
  • Retail travel agents.
  • Public-facing funeral offices.
  • Takeaways without space for the consumption of food or drink on-premises.
  • Shopping centres.
  • Community centres.
  • Libraries and public reading rooms.
  • Polling stations.
  • Places of worship.
  • Crematoria and burial ground chapels.
  • Visitor attractions and entertainment venues. 
  • Public areas in hotels and hostels.
  • Indoor areas of open-air sports stadiums.
  • Public transport.
  • Cars or small vans.
  • Heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driving lessons and tests.
  • Transport hubs.
  • Motorway service areas.

As a business owner interacting with the public, it’s your duty to enforce the rule of facemasks. You have the right to turn people away if they refuse to wear one and can’t prove they’re exempt.

The rules for face coverings in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland haven’t changed since their most recent updates.  

COVID passes

On Wednesday 15th December, the coronavirus (COVID-19) rules on entering certain venues and events are changing. Now, proof of vaccination needs to be shown to a “responsible person” before entry is allowed. 

What proof is needed?

To get into venues and events, customers must now be able to prove that they’ve been fully vaccinated. If you’re organising an event you can only allow people entry if they can prove one of the following: 

  • They’ve been vaccinated with two doses of an approved vaccine (or one of the single-dose Janssen vaccine).
  • They’ve taken a PCR or rapid lateral flow test within the last 48 hours.
  • They’re exempt from the normal rules. 

Customers can prove their COVID status by using:

  • An NHS COVID pass
  • A valid text or email confirmation from NHS Track and Trace that shows they’ve completed a negative PCR or lateral flow test within the past 48 hours.
  • A COVID pass letter.  

COVID passes are issued differently in each area of the UK, so check the NHS guidance on valid COVID passes in:

What venues are included?

Under the new regulations, the following venues and events need to check COVID passes before allowing anybody in:

  • Nightclubs, dancehalls, and discotheques.
  • Other late-night dance venues.
  • Indoor events with 500 or more attendees.
  • Outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees.
  • Any events with 10,000 or more attendees.

Who is responsible for checking COVID passes?

Every venue and event must have a responsible person whose job it is to make sure the business is compliant with the COVID pass rules. The responsible person is normally the venue manager.

Alternatively, if you’re a self-employed event manager and in charge of the event, the venue manager might assign the responsibility to you. 

Penalties

The UK police have been granted specific powers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. They’re urging the public to be responsible and report anybody they suspect of breaking the rules. As a business owner, it’s good to be aware of these penalties in case a customer refuses to comply with the rules.

Most violations will lead to a warning. But if people still don’t follow the rules willingly, the police can:

  • Tell them to disperse.
  • Tell parents to stop their children from breaking the rules.
  • Issue fines.

Police can also perform arrests if they think it is proportionate and necessary.

England

In England, people ages 18 or over can be fined with increasing severity:

  • £100 for the first offence, lowered to £50 if they pay within 14 days.
  • £200 for the second offence.
  • Double for each further offence, up to a maximum of £6400.

Wales

In Wales, people aged 18 or over can be fined:

  • £60 for the first offence
  • £120 for the second offence.
  • Double for each further offence, up to a maximum of £1920

Scotland

In Scotland, people aged 16 or over can be fined £60 for the first offence, lowered to £30 if they pay within 28 days.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, people aged 18 or over can be fined £200, lowered to £100 if they pay within 14 days.

Working from home

People across the UK are being urged to work from home if they’re able in an attempt to slow the rise of infections. But there’s no sign of furlough schemes being reintroduced any time soon, leaving some businesses stuck in a difficult situation. But, if you can run your business from your house, your best move might be to start working from home to help slow the spread.

Manage your business finances with accounting software

It’s a challenging time for small businesses in the UK, and has been for the past two years. So it’s more important than ever to make the right financial decisions. 

The best way to make the right decisions is with accurate, up-to-date financial information. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.

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