Prime Minister Boris Johnson this afternoon flanked by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries told all restaurants, pubs and cafes to close their doors to the public by end of business tonight.
Nationwide closure from tonight
All venues where social gathering takes place including leisure centres, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms have been ordered to close from tonight until further notice. Johnson said that these steps now had to be taken to combat and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Johnson then went on to say: “The speed of our eventual recovery depends entirely on our collective ability to get on top of the virus now and that means we have to take the next steps on scientific advice. Following our plan we are strengthening the measures announced on Monday.”
He then explained that the closures will take place with the agreement of the three devolved governments, saying: “We are telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight, as soon as they reasonably can, and not open tomorrow”. He did stress that takeaway options from hospitality venues were not included.
There has been much speculation about when this inevitable step would be taken, or if London would be first to see the change, it has been taken and it is UK wide.
At one point he was asked by a journalist from The Daily Mail if he would be seeing his mother on Mother’s Day. Somewhat against the advice he has been repeatedly advocating he said he would be.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak support for businesses and workers
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that he was taking unprecedented measures to stand behind British businesses and protect people’s jobs. Stating that the government will pay 80% of the salaries of people unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, up to £2,500 a month.
The chancellor’s announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the government to ease the strain on British businesses and their employees. Sunak stated clearly: “I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, about not being able to pay the rent or mortgage, about not having enough set by for food and bills.
“I know that some people in the last few days have already lost their jobs. To all those at home right now, anxious about the days ahead, I say this: you will not face this alone.”
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The chancellor has given businesses desperately needed breathing room at this critical moment.
“The deferral of VAT payments keeps money in the pockets of businesses so that they can pay their people and suppliers, and the commitment to cover wages of those unable to work will allow firms to retain jobs if they are forced to reduce their operations.
“The government now needs to go foot-to-floor to ensure that details of the job retention scheme and loan guarantees reach firms on the ground as soon as possible. Given that this situation continues to evolve, ministers must also keep the door open to additional measures to support business cash flow.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the news saying: “This generous package will support our fantastic staff, is very welcome and additionally gives hope to those who have been laid off. This may have saved up to 1 million jobs, but we need it as soon as possible to ensure we can continue to trade.
“While VAT deferrals preserve some cash, we still face rent payments next week before the support is due to arrive. Banks and landlords need to do more to help us bridge the gap towards this generous Government support.
“Damage is being done now, so we need help now.”
Not for the first time in recent days Chancellor Rishi Sunak is looking to be an astute appointment. He has stepped into an economic situation nothing could have prepared him for, he seems to be prepared to take bold decisions, let’s see how he implements them.