AstraZeneca has suspended global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, widely regarded as world’s leading candidate against the virus, after an unexplained illness in a participant. 

The British drug maker’s shares have fallen in today’s trading amid slimmer prospects for the early rollout of an inoculation to combat the global pandemic. Its vaccine is being developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford, and has been described by the World Health Organisation as probably the furthest developed of all potential candidates. 

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Shares in AstraZeneca fell by as much as 3 per cent in early trading, but clawed back much of those losses as the day progressed.  

AstraZeneca has paused patient trials to allow an independent committee to review safety data. The group and its partners are also working to minimise any potential impact on the development timeline. 

Businesses in England that must shut down because of local coronavirus lockdowns will be able to receive grants of up to £1,500 per property every three weeks, the UK finance ministry has announced. 

“No business should be punished for doing the right thing, which is why today’s package will offer additional breathing space for businesses that have had to temporarily close to control the virus,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said.  

Business in England with a rateable value of less than £51,000, or with annual rent or mortgage payment of less than £51,000, will be eligible for £1,000 for every three weeks of local lockdown. Those with a rateable value, annual rent of mortgage payment of £51,000 of more will be eligible for £1,500 every three weeks. 

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Any businesses still closed at a national level, such as nightclubs, will not be eligible for the local lockdown grants. The money will be distributed by local authorities. 

A statement from HM Treasury added: “The UK Government has guaranteed that the devolved administrations will receive at least £12.7 billion on top of their March Budget settlements to help them with their response to Covid-19 this year, with £6.5bn for the Scottish Government, £4.0bn for the Welsh Government and £2.2bn for the Northern Ireland Executive. 

“The Barnett Formula will apply in the usual way to any additional funding provided to departments in relation to this intervention.” 

Scotland’s professional bodies have rallied behind a new initiative to deliver free advice to help small businesses recover from the coronavirus crisis. 

The Recovery Advice for Business scheme, supported by Scottish Business Network and hosted by the Enterprise Nation website, will give small firms access to free one-to-one advice from experts from a range of disciplines. Advice will focus on the key areas of accounting and finance; team building; planning strategy and pivoting; marketing, PR and social media; and technology and digital tools. 

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The initiative is backed by the Government and supported by some of Scotland’s largest professional and trade bodies, including Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Scotland (CIPD), the Law Society of Scotland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS), ICAEW Scotland and Business Gateway. 

The scheme is being launched today in Scotland, and has been running in England since July. “Hundreds” of advisors have signed up in Scotland, with each offering at least one hour of free advice per month until the end of this year.