The leader of Kent County Council is encouraging everyone to stay safe this weekend as further lockdown restrictions are lifted.
For the first time since March, businesses that were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic are reopening.
KCC, with its partners, has been supporting Kent business with a helpline since March which received over 7,000 enquiries, totalling over 2,500 hours of advice and providing over £315 million worth of grant funding.
The helpline, which will be available for a further three months, and Trading Standards have received a high volume of enquiries from businesses asking about the new regulations and guidelines and how they can make sure they are following them correctly.
KCC and partners have assisted them with details about which COVID-19 social-distancing and safety guidelines they should follow, how to make changes to store layouts, including fire regulations and how to make sure a store is safe.
KCC Leader Roger Gough said: “We want to make sure our county’s businesses are ready to bounce back after an extremely tough and challenging few months.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on the Kent economy. Overall, it is estimated that Kent and Medway faces an output loss of around £5.3 billion in 2020.
“Almost all sectors of the economy will be affected by this, although the impact on hospitality and tourism, retail and the cultural sector is especially severe.
“We acted quickly to ensure economic mitigation measures were in place and by the end of May, the Kent Districts and Medway had paid some £307 million to local businesses through the Retail and Hospitality Grants Scheme and the Small Business Grants Fund.
“Work is also underway to re-launch the Kent and Medway Business Fund, to offer loans up to six years interest-free.
“We’re working on a draft Economic Recovery Plan looking forward to the next 18 months to set out the actions that KCC will take to support economic revival and longer term sustainability and resilience.”
Shops that can reopen from tomorrow (July 4) include pubs, hairdressers, cafes and restaurants.
To help support cafes and restaurants, businesses that are due to renew their licence for outside tables and chairs will have their licence extended until the end of August by Kent Highways.
This goodwill gesture comes as the government switches the responsibility for street furniture licensing from Kent County Council to district and borough councils.
Mr Gough added: “We want to remind people to continue following national Government guidelines around safe social distancing measures and today we launched our Protect Kent and Medway campaign to do just that.
“Our active travel schemes have seen spending of £1.6 million specifically to invest in walking and cycling initiatives across the county.”
In addition, Kent County Council will start a phased reopening of its own services with libraries offering a new ‘Select and Collect’ service from July 13 and weddings resuming tomorrow (July 4).