Suspension of regulations to fast-track supplies to NHS staff and in turn protect companies hit by COVID-19

New measures have been announced by the government to enable further support to be offered to frontline NHS staff, and further support for businesses under the pressure due to the pandemic. Pupil Barrister at Kings Chambers, Shaylla Shabbir,  summarises their effect.

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The government has been criticised for not supplying NHS staff with protective equipment, the new regulation will now, according to the government support both the NHS and businesses. In order to equip NHS staff with personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser, administrative requirements will be relaxed and barriers to imports of essential tools will also be put in place.

By reducing regulatory regulatory requirements, new suppliers and businesses that produce ingredients for hand sanitiser and PPE will now be able to access the market, which will in turn increase the supply of these goods.

Both Brewdog and Ineos are two of the companies that have confirmed they will be using their production facilities to create hand sanitiser. This comes after the HMRC confirmed manufacturers of hand sanitisers and gels will have their applications for denatured alcohol fast-tracked.

Efforts to boost availability of essential supplies involve temporary measures including:

  • asking the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities to fast-track PPE through the product safety assessment process and prioritise this activity over other market surveillance activity
  •  allowing PPE equipment providing protection against COVID-19 which lack the CE mark onto the market provided products meet essential safety requirements
  • ·providing new guidance for local authorities and ports and borders enforcement officers on the import and safety testing of hand sanitiser

Changes will also be made to allow UK incorporated companies to undergo a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, which will give companies facing these circumstances, some breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency. This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue.

Wrongful trading provisions will also be suspended retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months. This is so company directors can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability

The government will introduce legislation to ensure those companies required by law to hold Annual General Meetings will be able to do so safely, consistent with the restrictions on gatherings. Greater flexibilities are to be introduced for companies, including holding AGMs online or postponing the meetings.

This measure follows an announcement earlier this week that companies would automatically and immediately be granted a three-month extension to the filing of their accounts following a fast-track online process.

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