UK: In his now regular daily briefing, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced further measures to tackle coronavirus by ordering the closure of hospitality venues, such as cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Earlier in the week, Johnson had called for the British public to simply “avoid” such venues but in Friday’s briefing, he ordered all nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close “as soon as they reasonably can, and not to reopen”.
The Prime Minister said: “The more effectively we follow the advice we are given, the faster this country will stage both a medical and an economic recovery in full.”
Announced in the same press conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed “unprecedented” measures to help protect jobs with the launch of a coronavirus job retention scheme.
The scheme, backdated to the start of March, will cover 80 per cent of salaries up to £2,500 a month for those unable to work due to coronavirus shutdowns.
Companies and organisations can apply for a grant from HMRC to cover the wages of its furloughed staff.
Sunak said: “Today I can announce for the first time in our history the government is going to step in and pay people’s wages”, adding that there would be “no limit” on the amount of funding available for the scheme.
The government will continually assess the situation on current closures “to see if we can relax any of these measures”.
Lex Butler, chairman of HBAA, the events and hospitality association, commented on the news: “With his financial support initiatives today, the Chancellor has thrown welcome life belts to every business in the hospitality and events industry to keep them afloat. But, with so many on the verge of sinking, especially now that bars and restaurants are all ordered to close, it is vital that these funds reach the businesses urgently.
“It may be too late for some,” added Butler.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association [MIA], said: “[We] welcome this comprehensive package as a result of the industry’s ongoing collective request for financial support for the business meetings and events sector. We continue to seek recognition for the struggles this sector is facing so, it was reassuring that this announcement covers all businesses.
“Despite the promises made, it remains unclear whether properties such as hotels and attractions are expected to continue without disruption to guests, staff and business.”
“It is good news that the financial measures will include our sector for the next three months and safeguard the continued employment of our talented workforce,” she added.